Monday, March 29, 2010

Top Ten Reasons BYU Grads Make Great Soldiers

By Sara Israelsen-Hartley Deseret News Published: Friday, March 26, 2010 10:37 a.m. MDT

As Gen. David Petraeus began his remarks at BYU Thursday night, the commanding general of U.S. Central Command shared his sense of humor by reading the following list, which was received by waves of laughter and applause.

General Petraeus' Top 10 reasons BYU grads make good soldiers:

10 — They have already been on many a mission.

9 — Army chow is no problem for folks accustomed to eating green Jell-o and shredded carrots.

8 — It's not a problem if they don't know what rank someone is, they just refer to them as Brother or Sister so-and-so.

7 — They never go AWOL. They just call it being less active.

6 — They will seize any objective swiftly if you tell them refreshments will be served.

5 — They know how to make things happen. In fact if you ever need a base built quickly in a barren wasteland, stride out to where you want them to start, plant your walking stick down and say in a loud voice, "This is the place."

4 — They have innovative ideas for handling insurgents — like assigning them home teachers.

3 — They always have a years' supply of provisions on hand.

2 — They are the world's most reliable designated drivers.

1 — They understand how far Iraq has come over the last seven years, and they think that Iraq's old spot in the "Axis of Evil" can now be filled by the University of Utah.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Elfing around Grampa-Santa's Neighborhood

One of the fun ways of sharing my rich Santa experience with the neighbors has been to invite 8-18 year olds along to be elves of their own design.

This Santa team of elves is led by Ohio Santa Bill Dieterle

The only direction I give my excited little neighbors as the coach of our little rag tag band of elfin goof balls is that inside the house where the party is being held, they cannot talk! They can only pantomime and sometimes remain motionless to direct everyone's attention to Santa.

In the theater being crazy or dancing around at innapropriate times is called UPSTAGING or DRAWING FOCUS and it's easier said than done, especially for neighborhood amateurs.

The following notes may offer some suggestions for Grampa Team Building. Let me know with an email if you picked up on any of the little nuggets I share herein.

Much in the same way George Bush had a cute nickname for nearly everybody he hired or met, one of the fun things about "ELFING" is to make up your own nickname and do your own costume.

Like Charlie Chaplain put together his own tramp costume from the costume closet on the lot at Mack Sennet's studio: (Fatty Arbuckle's too big pants and Harold Lloyd's too small coat) One of my Santa bags has an afgan vest, a striped red and white elf style "footy" P.J.s Assorted elf caps and hats, a white gorilla mask with luminous green see through 3-D eyes and on and on.

Our oldest son, Jeffrey, 34, retired quite a few years ago as ZAPPER the Reindeer Ranger was named Snippit when he was a little guy. When he turned 16 and got his drivers' license he "graduated" to a red beret with an antique reindeer pin, black coveralls and combat boots. He was santa's driver and the Clausonian body guard.

Sally, now 32, played Sammi wore a Canada Sweat shirt complete with maple leaf and a little version of my own Santa Hat. (Sally went along at 14 when I, as a computer trainer, taught a group of IBM executives how to make Powerpoint presentations. She dressed up and was most professional. I was so proud of her that day---still am! She has learned to meet the public long before shebecame an Opthamalogic Tech working for several Eye Doctors at the Salt Lake Clinic. She got her start interacting with the public as one of my little elves.

Sproket was really our neighbor Scott McLean. I remember visiting the late James Johnson and his extended family down the street at their home on Thanksgiving with Sproket. Scott wore my big black frosty hat, yellow snow glare goggles, the striped elf PJs and the Afgan vest sent to us by the late Larry and Hazel Parker.

The Parkers were my folks best friends during WWII. They all gathered at Milo and Delma Howe's home about once a month to cut everybody's hair--well the boys anyway. Larry and Hazel were my scout leaders. They both died in Botswana after traveling the world --Scotland, Afgan and several South African Universities. He was one of the world's leading experts on Wool. I prize the little trinkets and costume pieces they sent us from all over the place and the memories of the great family they represent. Their son Daryl is a Dentist in Green River Wyoming. His younger brother Lyle is a Podiatrist in Southern California)

Scott and I skulked around the neighborhood together that Thanksgiving day in costume, waving at family gatherings and occasionally dropping in to jump start the Christmas season. He was 11 then. I wore a Santa cape like Jolly Old English Santas wear. What fun!! Scott graduated in political science in Florida and has gone on to become one of the up and coming political operatives for Democratic candidates around the country. He's also tall, dark and handsome and about to be married to a great gal in Pennsylvania.

We've had same age friends of both son and daughter elf with us and the effect of a silent elf is really interesting to our young client/party goers. The No Talking attracts little ones especially. The pantomime is fun to watch for all the skill it builds in the elf, and all the fun the child on the visit has. Moving slowly and being quiet make the elfs especially "MAGICAL"

The Bed ridden end of a Romantic Elf's Adventure!

Once I travelled to Utah County and one of my favorite boy elves was the only one to come with me. He was taken with the daughter of the hostess and when I picked up on it, I kidded her for wanting to marry the little guy (who was her own age--maybe 5th grade at the time)

That's where I pioneered Santa's ALMOST MARRIED GAG* that I used often on stage with the Osmonds in Branson,Missouri, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and all over the country. The little audience interaction closed my 10 minute contribution " in place of intermission". During my "act" Marie went backstage to change her dress and get a drink 'a water before coming out and doing the second half of their wonderful production entitled, "The Magic of Christmas!"

The upshot of our elfing visit was, when it came time to leave the little church where we had the family party, the Elf fella had disappeared! I found him in a dark hallway french kissing the little daughter of my friend the hostess. He was a smooth talker even at that young age. No wonder he can negotiate a deal on auto parts or with real estate principals. He started young with me.

Well, the next day he came down with a fever and my wife and I realized that he had "picked up" a little bug from his junior love interest. (And you thought mononucleosis was a college affliction!)

The lesson of all this for good Grampas is clear, a point I've made before. For their little grams, especially at a young age, Grampas can be MAGIC! Grampas can keep that magic alive or break the trust in so many different little ways.

Boris Pasternack expressed it a little differently. The nobel laureate author of Dr. Ziavago wrote, "all women are mothers of great men-it isn't their fault if life disappoints them later."

Grampa: if you do disappoint, and we always seem to, somewhere along the way, make amends and build that trust and simple magic again for your near and dear. JRH

P.S. *More about the nuts and bolts of the ALMOST MARRIED GAG on Santa's Electric Sleigh Blog (not yet operational, but building) If you're a Santa and would like to find out more about these unique and interesting things, send me an e-mail and I'll be glad to respond. I plan to give away all my Santa secrets.

Luther Burbank, the prize winning biologist, once said that, " If you happen to get a new idea don’t build a barbed wire fence around it and label it yours. By giving your best thoughts freely others will come to you so freely that you will soon never think of fencing them in."

In the early days of Microsoft the Bill Gates team gave away the idea of Microsoft Excel and all the codes and secrets they had developed inside the company. Independents added lots of useful bells and whistles and knocked Lotus off the top spot in the competitive spreadsheet field.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gramfather Lecturer or Grampa Coach?

It's time, again, for Celebrity Apprentice. It's amazing the leadership lessons for Grampas and Grammas that you can glean from this experience. Cyndi Lauper was the Project Manager last week. The men won. This week Cyndi's the lecturer, make that weird unrelated story teller.

My late friend Ron Brown called that elderly tendency to bore your near and dear JIBBERING. Older people suffer from it. It's a cry for help; a direct connection between the unrestricted brain and unrestricted lips. Kids and gramkids of jibberers learn patience and how to divert attention to shiny objects to help them stop. It's a disease unsuccessful sales people become afflicted with, cuz after all, " if you're TELLIN' you ain't SELLIN'!"

Even gramparents who usually have all their faculties functioning drift into semi-senility starting with the words, "Did I ever tell you about the time I . . . ?" Grampas who take this approach generally don't wait for an answer--positive or negative they just jibber on, and the little gram rolls his/her eyes, tunes out, looking for cobwebs up in the corners of the room or something. More mature gramkids will "vote you off" their internal team. Trust and love suffer. It isn't pretty.

On the TV show, the comic Sinbad led the men's team this week, and though he is pretty loose and not well oranized, he had the wisdom to ask a few questions of his team. He could have used a flow chart and followed up on details--something his manager and personal assistant do for him.

It was too little too late. The victorious men's Rock Solid Team from last week lost this week. (The same skills that have driven Sinbad to the top as a ridiculing and really very funny comic weren't the same skills to manage a well motivated, well directed team. Sinbad ended up being voted off!)

Listening is the primary skill of a saavy, coaching grampa. If you're intense, learn to be easy, relax, develop trust and, when all the cues you sense coming from the small gram are right, ask a simple question (open ended if possible like a variation of the "How do you feel about that? question) then, respectfully, shut up and listen.

All Communication is "Sales"
Somebody always "buys" !

The story is told of a jewelry salesman who welcomed a couple into his store and invited them to sit down to review diamonds. In this situation, as he had done in thousands of similar moments he spread the stones out on a black velvet cloth and asked the couple to look at all the cuts and choose the two or three they liked.

Disaster struck when he lifted their first choice with a pair of tweezers to show them how it sparkled in the strategically placed mini-spot light. He squeezed just a bit too hard and the pressure on the diamond made it slip out toward the ceiling, as if it were jet propelled.

The three of them looked up, open mouthed as the diamond soared up and dropped, into the open mouth of the salesman.

If he hadn't swallowed it it wouldn't have been so bad. Everybody laughed tight little laughs and the couple left, never to come back. The stone? It eventually passed and was put back on the shelf after it was thoroughly cleaned. Eventually it was sold to another shop that didn't know it's history.

The moral to this story is simple for salesmen of every stripe and particularly Grampas prone to the occasional jibber: If you're gonna "make the sale", you ought to keep your mouth shut.

As Santa, I stumbled on a technique 30 years ago that still serves me well in many ways. I'll explain more about this when Santa's Electric Sleigh Blog gets up and going, but for now, consider this:


As I enter a family party as the Jolly Old Elf, I've learned to come in without saying a word.

So many Santas want to make a boisterous entrance with BIIIIGGGG Ho Ho Hos. It scares the little kids and intimidates the fragile senior citizens. Early in my senior elfin career I noticed that if I came in quiet little miracles almost always happen.

As a rule, I show up on the lawn and appear to be frozen through the front window. I ask the hostess to open the drapes early in the evening so the kids will spot me and gather at the window. The excitement is palpable. I'm at a distance. Little kids can be curious at a distance.

Then my hostess is coached to send out older kids to escort Santa into the party. ("I've had pre teens wading through the snow in their bare feet to do it! It's so funny to watch!

Soon I'm standing there as if frozen, holding all my bags of props and presents. I've tipped the adults to listen with me and the questions start.

Little kids often start with real concern: "Don't you tawk, Santa?" one cute toddler asked me once. "Are you sick?"

Such a question gives me important cues: This little girl is a true believer. Wavering kids especially babes in arms are intrigued by a silent santa. They follow the cue of the true believers and buy into the reality of Santa from the second I enter a room quiet. I didn't have to say one word while all this happens around me.

Any clues, Grampa? I don't recommend you, as yourself give your tiny grams the silent treatment, but let this anatomical hint guide you the next time you visit: Because you have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak.

My friend, actor James Arrington, is currently head of the Film and Cinematic arts Department at Utah Valley State University. He and his kids used to call me the "Mystical" Santa because I woiuld show up at his home and stare through the window until the kids spotted me. The illusion is that I appeared, as if by magic. Excitement increases as I make my way to the door, slowly push it open and just stand there. Of course Santa has a mandate to do such things (with proper prior permission from parents).

To paraphrase another saying about the quality of church meetings, "In every Grampa-little gram relationship there should be better telling and less of it and better listening and more of it! Let love guide your ears, friend. JRH

By the way, the Joke's on Me!

Blogs encourage a little jibbering. Here's a post script: One night I popped into Dr. Omar and his wife Nancy Kader's home in Orem, Utah during the Christmas Season late in the 1970s.

It was late-ish (between 9:30 and 10:00 PM on a weekend) I hadn't called ahead. Omar was assistant dean of BYU's College of Humanities and has gone on to bigger and better things in Washington, D.C.. Nancy is a nurse who then managed the Scott Matheson campaign for Governor in Utah County. They had three young sons between 5 and 12 back in the day.

Though it was my first time in the Kader home, I knew enough to gently open the front door and then wander down the hall, drag the kids out of bed to the piano in the family room. I banged out "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" on the keyboard and got everyone to sing and clap. I went through a little dialogue with everyone. Nancy found a camera and took pictures. It was a great success, or so I thought.

Nancy got the kids back to bed and Omar walked me out to my VW Bus/Sleigh.

"Thanks, Jon, er I mean, Santa!" he began, " I don't know how to tell you this but, well, we had your helper Santa drop by about an hour ago. (and with a big smile he said," But you were BETTER!")

Have fun listening, Grampa! JRH

Grampa's Loving Roots to Shoots

I've always loved this Family Tree painting by Norman Rockwell. It's a fun way to point out to even a bright four year old. Print this one in color if you can (so he/she can take it with as a treasure or bring it up in a full screen on your computer and begin to help them love finding out where they come from.

One of the most important things a grampa can do: nurture a love in your gram shoots for your mutual ancestors. (The earlier the better!)

You may have heard about Primate Ressearcher Jane Goodall's Roots to Shoots program. I learned about it on her interview with Bill Moyers on public television last week. "The power of youth is global" is what we're all about. As Grampas, that's what we're about. Dig into it and let me know with an email to (Copy and paste this address into your email program)

The name of Ms. Goodall's foundation reminded me of the second most popular use of the Internet: Researching your ancestors. For the last fifty years of my 63 (2010), genealogy has been important, but dry as dust.

The very young, (and Wannabe Grampas like me) are impressed with the fun end of genealogy--old pictures, rusty civil war swords. The nuts and bolts of genealogy is practiced by folks like my Genalog-a-holic college buddy, Barry Ewell.

Barry and his family live in Riverton, Utah. He is a Senior Marketing Manager for IBM. He is a writer and researcher with extensive genealogical experience in internet and field research, digital and software resources and mentoring genealogists. Research interests include Eastern U.S., United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Germany, and Russia. Barry makes genealogy live

Well, that was something I've managed to put off, year after year 'til now.

Maybe like you

Three very well produced

One of the new products on the market that will help is a computer software

It's so important it's described in the last book of the Old Testament.


There's some new software out there with the title

Boyd K. Packer's computer/Football analogy

Gardening is the oldest skill known to man. I personally grew up in a home where we had a garden every year, but weeding it and nurturing it was more a chore than a labor of love.

Gramps can research the growing season, pick the plot and plan the layout. (Depending on the age of the gramchild. Younger ones can watch and learn





Thirty years ago there was a push in our community to grow a garden. A sister in law smiled when we kidded her about the weeds that had taken over her garden.

"We were told to grow a garden. Nobody said anything about weeding it!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grampa's discipline with LOVE Techniques

Ever thought about what you would do when you're alone with a dear little gram and something "occurs" that requires a "Teaching Moment"

Can I be any more indirect?

Suppose little Johnny, (age 4 to 6) has climbed up the mantle and willfully thrown off one of Gramma's heirloom vases during an overnight visit at Grampa's House.

What does a good Grampa Do? (Remember parents aren't there. The situation requires some behavior modification.)

There are a number of right answers, but here's one technique that modern parents and gramparents (2010) seem to favor.


Dr. Brian Pead, currently Administrator of Davis School District in Layton) had a little antique deacons bench in the entry hall away from the rest of the house. He used it with his younger kids from the time they could grasp right and wrong.

1. He sat with them on the little bench and discussed the situation in calm and loving terms encouraging them to talk about what happened - all in loving neutral terms without using right or wrong labels.

2. He asked the child how he felt about what happened and gently waited for responses. (Calmly talking about it encourages introspection and clear communication) Sometimes another child or circumstance may have caused the "crisis"

3. "What could you do to make it better?" Brian would ask.

4. Once the child has outlined the situation, Brian approaches the discussion with, "What would you do differently next time?" (This is the second question supervisors and managers use to encourage communication. The first question is: 'What went well?' These neutral questions start focusing on the good and focuses on how to learn from the experience to improve "next time!"

5. The final step in this TIME OUT PROCESS is to internalize the results of the discussion and think about it. Brian usually asks, "You know this bench is a good place to take some time out and think about what you can to to improve if this happens again. How long do YOU think you should stay here? A convenient clock is nearby. The child then begins to negotiate the time length of his time out. (Boy, is that a great skill to carry into the real world)

NOTE: Everything works to build a better relationship between parent (or grandparent); gentle, unstressed communication, trust and negotiation skills. The quiet gentle example the adult sets in this situation, modeling mature behavior is one of the best parts of this process.

The "Time out" technique as Grampa Brian applied it with his own children in their early years can always be adapted based on age and understanding.

Any thorough reader of this blog know about the six little neighbors who just moved away from the other side of our duplex. Their time out experiences involved being sent, or taken to Mom and Dad's bedroom to "Cry out" their frustration. Gramma Rosie and I enjoyed hearing their faint cries through the concrete block wall. We got pretty good at being able to tell by tone and style which one of the little grams were in there. Alone, without an audience, it didn't last long. Even at a very early age, taking the time to give special attention and talk about CONSEQUENCES will pay dividends.

Little Joe is the rambunctious one of that group. You can read more about him here Gramkids Next Door 'cept they moved away! As author of this blog I loved to talk to Joe's Mom, Ellen to collect Joe stories. (We always love Peck's Bad Boy, yes?) Ellen's reaction to me, which colors her relationship with this child in particular is, "Joe's one of my favorites. I've learned to enjoy the different way he looks at life. Chris and I chuckle at some of the things he comes up with!"

How different that some parent's description of their child as the agressive one of the bunch, the disobedient, the maverick. Instead of a negative label, Ellen described him in terms of her positive attitude towards him. What a terrific way to train your own attitudes and give an adventuresome, unique child like Joe lots of room to grow without labels.

How far we've come in disciplining children. My late Grandfather Walter Howe suffered under the lash of a big bullwhip wielded my Great Grandfather on their ranch. Walter turned my father Milo over his knee and beat them with a belt. Dad did that to me, but only once or twice. I may have playfully smacked our kids on the bottom as they were coming up. All these discipline techniques are ACTIONABLE under current law.

It reminds me of a "Psychology Today" cartoon of an angry parent wailing on a crying child over his knee. The caption reads, "I'll teach you to hit other kids!" (This isn't exactly the very cartoon I saw, but it illustrates the concept.

The Old Testament teaches that the FEAR of God is the beginning of understanding. Over the years I've come to change out the word FEAR with the word RESPECT. " Time Out" really lends itself to this process.

If you, Grampa and the child are alone, away from the rest of the family, firm, gentle communication is always better. The last thing you want to happen is for the little beloved victim of your violence to go home and through tears tattle that you hit him. Don't risk the end of your contact with the child by protective parent(s), or worse damage the trusting relationship between you and the gramchild.


Finally no discussion of "discipline" would be complete without sharing an insight from the late Brother VanOrman, an elderly Canadian former elementary school teacher. One day after church in his gentle croaking voice he shared the "Shoelace Technique" with me.

One of his duties in his little Lethbridge school was to supervise the playground--break up the inevitable fights and continue teaching getting along skills, even during recess.

"Two little children really got into it. Brother VanOrman recalled. "Punches were thrown. As I remember a little blood spattered. A little black eye started swelling." He smiled in the telling.

"I ambled over and gently took each child by the hand. In as kind a voice as I could, I explained that I'd like to try an experiment. (It was the first time I'd ever done it) I took the two shoe laces out of my shoes, tied them together and then loosely tied the left hand of one to the right hand of the other."

"Now you could pull out of this little shoe lace if you want to, but for the rest of recess I'd appreciate it if you stayed together and got better acquainted. Suprisingly both children agreed that they would. Maybe they were so glad they didn't get sent to the principal's office that they would try my little shoelace experiment." the gentle Grampa remembered.

"When the bell rang, both of them came up to me, still tied with my shoelaces," he said.

"Mr. Van Orman, thanks! Because of your shoelaces, we're best friends!" one of them said grinning.

"The other nodded with a big smile on his face, as I gently untied the shoelaces and sat down to thread them back into my shoes. I guess the shoelace experiment worked." Grampa VanOrman concluded.

Grampa's disciline can be enlightened, clever and almost fun. The key is changing attitudes and helping launch the little grams into polite society with a desire to obey "the rules!" Dallin Oaks taught that it is the parent's job to launch their children. Sometime that takes a while. Gramparents can help fill the boosters, strap their little astronauts onto the rocket with a sense of obedience and adventure, and encourage that process through loving regular and gentle communication.

Sometimes the launching process lasts well beyond leaving home. Good luck, Grampa, as you embark on the concept of discipline. As a society we've progressed past the bullwhip, the belt, the switch, a stick or spanking with a mean-spirited hand. The only touching should be a hug! JRH

PS - For more terrific grampa guidelines check out How to Discipline Your Child, With Love

Friday, March 19, 2010

15 Ways to Serve God Through Serving Others

Good Grampas know that their service to their gramkids is generally inspired by two things: Love for their little grams and their parents and the occasional "nudge" from above. Here's a list of fifteen concrete things you can do to serve your near and dear. The lists is compiled and written by guest contributor from Guide

To serve God is to serve others and is the greatest form of charity: the pure love of Christ. Jesus Christ said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34). This list gives 15 ways in which we can serve God by serving others.

1. Serve God Through Your Family

To serve God starts with serving in our families. Daily we work, clean, love, support, listen to, teach, and endlessly give of ourselves to the members of our family. We may often feel overwhelmed with all that we must do, but Elder M. Russell Ballard gave the following counsel:
"The key... is to know and understand your own capabilities and limitations and then to pace yourself, allocating and prioritizing your time, your attention, and your resources to wisely help others, including your family..." ("O Be Wise," Ensign, Nov 2006, 17–20).
As we lovingly give of ourselves to our family, and serve them with hearts full of love, our acts will also be counted as service to God.

2. Give Tithes and Offerings

One of the ways we can serve God is by helping his children, our brothers and sisters, through paying a tithing and a generous fast offering. Money from tithing is used to build God's kingdom upon the earth. Contributing financially to God's work is a great way to serve God. Money from fast offerings is directly used to help the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, sick, and afflicted (see Matt 25:34-36) both those locally and world wide. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has helped millions of people through their amazing humanitarian efforts. All this service has only been possible through both the financial and physical support of many volunteer as people serve God by serving their fellowman.

3. Volunteer in Your Community

There are countless ways to serve God by serving in your community. From donating blood (or just volunteering at the Red Cross) to adopting a highway, your local community has great need for your time and efforts. President Spencer W. Kimball counseled us to be careful not to select causes who's primary focus is selfish:
"When you select causes to devote your time and talents and treasure to, be careful to select good causes... which will produce much joy and happiness for you and for those you serve" ("President Kimball Speaks Out on Service to Others, New Era, Mar 1981, 47).
You can easily become involved in your community, it only takes a little effort to contact a local group, charity, or other community program.

4. Home and Visiting Teaching

For members of the Church of Jesus Christ, visiting each other through the Home and Visiting teaching programs is a vital way we have been asked to serve God by caring for one another.
"Home teaching opportunities provide a means by which an important aspect of character may be developed: love of service above self. We become more like the Savior, who has challenged us to emulate His example: 'What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am' (3 Ne. 27:27)..." (Russell M. Nelson, "Shepherds, Lambs, and Home Teachers," Ensign, Aug 1994, 15).
As we give of ourselves in the service of God and others we will be greatly blessed.

5. Donate Clothing and Other Goods

All throughout the world there are places to donate your unused clothing, shoes, dishes, blankets/quilts, toys, furniture, books, and other items. Generously giving of these items to help others is an easy way to serve God and declutter your home at the same time. When preparing those things you are going to donate it is always appreciated if you only give those items that are clean and in working order. Donating dirty, broken, or useless items is less effective and takes precious time from volunteers and other workers as they sort and organize the items to be distributed or sold to others. Stores that resell donated items usually offer much needed jobs to the less fortunate which is another excellent form of service.

6. Be a Friend

One of the simplest and easiest ways to serve God and others is by befriending one another.
"As we take the time to serve and be friendly, we’ll not only support others but also build a network of support for ourselves. Make others feel at home, and soon you’ll feel at home..." (Kimberly Webb, "On Your Own but Not Alone," Ensign, Jun 2007, 25–27).

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
"Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes" ("The Virtue of Kindness," Ensign, May 2005, 26).
Who doesn't love and need friends? Let's make a new friend today!

7. Serve God by Serving Children

So many children and teenagers need our love- and we can give it! There are many programs to become involved with helping children and you can easily become a school or library volunteer. Imagine what the Savior "would do for our children if he were here. The Savior’s example... [applies] to all of us—whether we love and serve children in our families, as neighbors or friends, or at church. Children belong to all of us" (Michaelene P. Grassli, "'Behold Your Little Ones'," Ensign, Nov 1992, 92).
"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God"(Luke 18:16).
Jesus Christ loves children and so too should we love and serve them.

8. Mourn with Those that Mourn

If we are to "come into the fold of God, and to be called his people" we must be "willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort..." (Mosiah 18:8-9). One of the easiest ways to do this is to visit and listen to those who are suffering. Carefully asking appropriate questions often helps people feel your love and empathy for them and their situation. Following the whisperings of the Spirit will help guide us to know what to say or do as we keep the Lord's commandment to care for one another.

9. Follow Inspiration

Several years ago when hearing a sister talk about her sick daughter, who was isolated at home because of a longterm illness, I felt prompted to visit her. Unfortunately I doubted myself and the prompting, not believing it was from the Lord. I thought, 'Why would she want a visit from me?' so I didn't go. Many months later I met this girl at the house of a mutual friend. She was no longer sick and as we talked the two of us instantly "clicked" and became close friends. It was then that I realized that I had been prompted by the Holy Ghost to visit this young sister. I could have been a friend during her time of need but because of my lack of faith I had not heeded the Lord's prompting. We must trust the Lord and let Him guide our lives.

10. Share Your Talents

Sometimes in the Church of Jesus Christ our first response when we hear that someone needs help is to bring them food, but there are so many other ways we can give service. Each of us have been given talents from the Lord that we should develop and use to serve God and others. Examine your life and see what talents you have. What are you good at? How could you use your talents to help those around you? Do you enjoy making cards? You could make a set of cards for someone who's had a death in their family. Are you good with children? Offer to watch someone's child(ren) in a time of need. Are you good with your hands? Computers? Gardening? Building? Organizing? You can help others with your skills by praying for help to develop your talents.

To serve God is to serve others and is the greatest form of charity: the pure love of Christ. Jesus Christ said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34). This list gives 15 ways in which we can serve God by serving others.

11. Simple Acts of Service

President Spencer W. Kimball said:
"God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom... In the Doctrine and Covenants we read about how important it is to '...succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.' (D&C 81:5.) So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds!" ("Small Acts of Service," Ensign, Dec 1974, 2).
Sometimes all it takes to serve God is to give a smile, hug, prayer, or a friendly phone call to someone in need.

12. Serve God Through Missionary Work

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ we believe that sharing the truth (through missionary efforts) about Jesus Christ, His gospel, its restoration through Latter-day prophets, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is of vital service to everyone. President Kimball also said:
"One of the most important and rewarding ways in which we can serve our fellowmen is by living and sharing the principles of the gospel. We need to help those whom we seek to serve to know for themselves that God not only loves them but he is ever mindful of them and their needs. To teach our neighbors of the divinity of the gospel is a command reiterated by the Lord: 'It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor' (D&C 88:81).

13. Fulfill Your Callings

Members of the Church are called to serve God by serving in church callings.
"Most of the priesthood bearers I know... are eager to roll up their sleeves and go to work, whatever that work might be. They faithfully perform their priesthood duties. They magnify their callings. They serve the Lord by serving others. They stand close together and lift where they stand....

"When we seek to serve others, we are motivated not by selfishness but by charity. This is the way Jesus Christ lived His life and the way a holder of the priesthood must live his" (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Lift Where You Stand," Ensign, Nov 2008, 53–56).
Faithfully serving in our callings is to faithfully serve God.

14. Use Your Creativity- It Comes from God

We are compassionate creators of a compassionate and creative being. The Lord will bless and help us as we creatively and compassionately serve one another. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:
"I believe that as you immerse yourselves in the work of our Father, as you create beauty and as you are compassionate to others, God will encircle you in the arms of His love. Discouragement, inadequacy, and weariness will give way to a life of meaning, grace, and fulfillment. As spirit daughters of our Heavenly Father happiness is your heritage" ("Happiness, Your Heritage," Ensign, Nov 2008, 117–20).
The Lord will bless us with the needed strength, guidance, patience, charity, and love to serve His children.

15. Serve God by Humbling Yourself

I believe it is impossible to truly serve God and His children if we, ourselves, are full of pride. Developing humility is a choice that takes effort but as we come to understand why we should be humble it will become easier to become humble. As we humble ourselves before the Lord our desire to serve God will greatly increase as will our capacity to be able to give of ourselves in the service of all our brothers and sisters.

I know our Heavenly Father deeply loves us- more than we can imagine- and as we follow the Savior's command to "love one another; as I have loved you" we will be able to do so. May we find simple, yet profound ways to daily serve God as we serve each other.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Grampa's Gotta "Grab & Growl!"

Through the years little phrases have crept into our mutual vocabulary. Not only are we finishing each other's sentences with this little sub language, it is something that's uniquely OURS! (Twins supposedly develop their own secret language. Anyone coming to our house would think these terms are our unique Howe family expressions)

For example:

CRIDDLES are the little bits of unwanted trash around the edges of a room or under the sofa. In the Criddle Spirit, I took to the LDS General Conference address by Elder L. Tom Perry about his mother's instructions to clean the corners and the middle of the room will take care of itself. The talk went on to talk about cleaning out the corners of our lives with repentance.

LONG SKINNY KAHNA is a narrow closet that holds school supplies, extra folders, well organized paper supplies of all kinds, our hair cutting tools and the extra heating pad. The name has a history. When 3 year old daughter Sally attended a production of the late Robert Peterson's "Man of LaMancha" she minunderstood the star's character name (Alonzo Quihana) It came out as Long Skinny Kahna. The name stuck.

MADE UP CUSS WORDS: "Mussledorf", "Crummy Buttons" and "Bindersnatch" are the only three I can remember. One night we had an impromptu Family Home Evening on swearing. We decided as parents to make up words as an alternative to the popular accepted four letter variety. None of them mean anything specific. They're general nouns to have in reserve to mutter under your breath or scream out loud at the peak of your frustration. Frankly, I don't remember the kids ever using any of them. Likely too uncool! We did, then we'd all dissolve in laughter.

GRAB & GROWL is all about fixing your own dinner from left overs. "What," she asks me, "are your hands broken?" I think it comes from Gramma Rosie's side of the family. beyond that, just dunno! I always ask sometime during the day--hopefully no more than once--what we're having for dinner. If she's not feeling well or she's accomplished a bit too much and has collapsed on the couch with a heating pad, her feet up, I'll get the Grab & Growl message.

GRAMPA'S COOKING HISTORY: I burned some kind of omlette made to impress my newly wedded spouse in when we were first married. She sayes I cooked the little disaster on heat set too high and ruined her favorite frying pan. I admit that I like too many spices all at once. I add barbeque sauce or tasty salad dressing way too early. Most always, I'm stuck with my own put together out of the fridge meals. They're often too dry and always too strong. My own Grab & Growl generally leads to just Grin & Eat it Mah-self!

For the last 30 plus years I am allowed to heat up TV dinners in the Miker-O-Wave (as they refer to it in some of our favorite Britcoms like "Grace and Favor") She'll accept me turning on the kettle for her herbal tea, but I can't remember a single time since that charred fry pan incident in 1973 that she'd eat anything I "fixed"!!! Oh Thank Heaven and the Relief Society for their carry-in sustenance when Rosie had eye problems and couldn't see to get to the stove. (I got so many lovely dinners, I had to run a spread sheet to figure out which dishes to return with my thank you notes) JRH

Grampa and Gramma's YOU BUG ME Sessions

Early on in our marriage when I was a student at BYU in Provo Utah, Rosie and I learned to iron out the wrinkles in our relationship with what she came to call YOU BUG ME Sessions.

There have never been any written rules but, in love, we could share our "This is how I feel about what you're doing" Anything seemed to be allowed. I could raise my voice (sometimes more than just a bit) She could cry. We tried holding hands during our exchanges as one psychologist suggested and that did a lot to increase our love. It also allowed me to lower my voice some. Tears seemed to be a bonus, especially mine.

Nowdays, with me constantly underfoot in retirement in her house (isn't it always her house?) these little levelings come spontaneously, and, it seems, a little more often.

I really haven't kept track, but as I charged downstairs to cool off, I shouted back up the stairs, "Count this as YOU BUG ME session number 5,280. We've only been married 37 years (since 1973) That works out to about 2.7 YOU BUG ME Sessions a week for each of the 1,924 weeks we've lived under the same roof together. Maybe that's a little much. We've only held these informal courts of appeal every couple of weeks.

What makes it work is that later in the same day, before we pray, we return to civility. Sometimes we even kiss and make up.

Good luck to you if this little bit of shared experience helps you, Grampa.

Remember we make our own luck. Remember too that I'm no psychologist. I have no shingle to hang, no professional advice to give. I'm just trying to be a funny guy with something funny to share. Wisdom goes down a little easier if it's mixed with a little humor. JRH

See Grandpa and Grampa Lizard

Grampa as Newly Hired Multimedia Wizard!

Hooray! After 18 months of unemployment, I finally have a JOB!

It's more of a contract, really, but I'm working for what we call "Teeny Money" and I'm tickled spitless. (Interesting that today is the same day President Obama is signing the jobs bill at the White House.) Schedule and registration details are listed below the video.

No matter. I'd rather teach than eat (and I love to eat!)

I was recommended as a Multimedia instructor in the Continuing education department of Highland High School here in Salt Lake City by an old friend who wants to take the class. She called and said they were going to drop it if they couldn't find an instructor. (I'm living proof that networking works. Every job I've ever had was as a result of a referral by a good friend.) Thanks, Carol!

She knew I was unemployed, or rather spending more than full time on this blog. The pay is, "interesting" I get to keep half of all the tuition. If I want to make more than an honorarium, I should invite my friends to pay between $40 and $65 to spend a few nights improving their computer skills. (Schedule and details are listed below)

It feels GREAT to get back to work. In The United States our self esteem is all wrapped up in our work--what we do, where it fits in the peckin' order. I'm told that blue collar workers, skilled tradesman in Germany are treated as professions: Doctors, Lawyer, Professors. I've taken many classes, but never jumped through the hoops necessary to hang a qualifying sheepskin on our wall.

If you remember Kevin Kline's wonderful movie called simply "Dave" He plays a presidential impersonator who gets to do the job for real, for a while. He develops a full employment program as the substitute president based on his 9 to 5 job as the owner of an employment agency in suburban Virginia. The line I love from that show is Dave's encouragement to his new clients, "It's Thursday and EVERYBODY works on THURSDAY!" (Of course, he changed the day depending on what day it was!!)

Here's a little welcome video I produced in about ten minutes using a new program (new to me). It's called Photoshop Elements 8. It will give you an idea of where we'll all be learning together Sirry, no sound on this one. Do look for the little disappearing cartoon animals.

Here's the schedule of three different multimedia classes, (note two different web classes. It's the same class. Because of demand it's scheduled twice.) These classes are arranged chronologically by start date

WEB DESIGN (The first of two sessions)

DATE: Mar. 23 to May 04

DAY: Tuesday evenings

TIME: 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

PLACE: Highland

COST: $65

AGE: 16 and up

INSTRUCTOR: Jon Robert Howe

Learn to design and create your own website using html, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Photoshop. As part of the class, you will create banners, make links, format tables, and insert and prepare graphics for web use.


DATE: April 12 to May 17

DAY: Monday evenings

TIME: 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

PLACE: Highland

COST: $65

AGE: 16 and up

INSTRUCTOR: Jon Robert Howe

Class covers the basics of each of the Ms Office programs: MS Word, Excel and Power Point. Learn to create, edit, and produce documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

WEB DESIGN (If you missed the first session)

DATE: Apr. 15 to May 20

DAY: Thursday evenings

TIME: 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

PLACE: Highland

COST: $65

AGE: 16 and up

INSTRUCTOR: Jon Robert Howe

Learn to design and create your own website using html, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Photoshop. As part of the class, you will create banners, make links, format tables, and insert and prepare graphics for web use.


DATE: May 11 to May 25 (3 nights)

DAY: Tuesday evenings

TIME: 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

PLACE: Highland

COST: $40

AGE: 18 and up

INSTRUCTOR: Jon Robert Howe

Photoshop Elements photo-editing software combines power and simplicity so you can easily manage and protect all your photos and video clips, make your photos look extraordinary, and share amazing stories in unique print creations and web experiences. This version of Photoshop is designed for the home photographer. Download from your camera, organize your photos, and prepare and edit them for printing.

I'll be off on Wednesdays soaking my feet (Just like good Grandparenting, you have to BE there, at each elbow helping them catch up with the rest of the class.) That's a lot of patient dancing around. It's been about 10 years ago since I taught did this for New Horizons Computer Learnng Center and Alpha Computer Solutions I loved it then, of course in those days I was teaching for eight hours every day.

I loved my platform teaching experience, and like any teacher working hard to earn his "salt", I learned grundles of software and hardware tricks that I, in turn, passed on to thousands of students (and learned to use to my own advantage). The best advantage of this training is speed. I have discovered that I can turn out pretty good printed material and higher quality blogs, websites and my own improved photography in jig time. So can you!

If you get this message in time and you haven't already signed up, call Suzanne Hammond, Continuing Education Director at Highland High School 801-4814891 or email her at

If you see this post after the fact, send me an e-mail at and put the words "Grampa Wizard's Continuing Education Update?" in the subject line. If I do a good job, I may be asked to teach these things again next fall, so keep in touch!

Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you pour your purse into your head no one can take it from you." See you in class! JRH

Monday, March 15, 2010

TV Can't Love You Back!

My dad's little brother quickly grew older after his retirement in his own comfy recliner of affliction. It became a self imposed comfort zone, a prison of his own making. He let whatever was on TV wash over him day in, day out. In his prime he had been a great lawn rancher, a pretty fair carpenter/handyman and the spotless keeper of a gleaming basement. The painted and polished floor just shone!

He and his wife (one of my favorite aunts) drove quite a distance to see a play I was in: I was the wizard in "Once Upon a Mattress" directed by Scott S. Anderson in SLCC's Grand Theater. (Scott and I were in the musical Camelot together. He was King Pellinore to Craig Clyde's Arthur. I was squire to Lancelot. Scott went on to direct several fine LDS Films including an excellent autobiographical look at his LDS Mission to Holland entitled, "The Best Two Years")

Still in my flowing costume and comedy makeup, I went out to meet the family in the lobby with my parents and our whole family in Salt Lake City. As we visited, I couldn't help but notice how figity my uncle was; I remember how he kept beggin' my aunt to go home to his TV; back to his comfort zone and his recliner of affliction.

We've coined a phrase that should be etched into a brass plaque or stitched on a colorful sampler: "Television is almost a good substitute for real life." lol My sad little uncle disintegrated into a habitual dependent on the plug in drug. So do so many others.

Sesame street taught the alphabet and numbers to little children it baby sat. Teachers of the early grades came to hate the public TV show that was supposedly doing such good work. Why? The fast pace and bright colors shortened ever tighter attention spans--and bright children especially would get bored when teacher didn't move on to something else within 60, 45, 30, and 10 seconds.

Early on we taught our kids that boredom is your own fault. If you're bored find something fun to do. Dani crochets beautiful creations. Sally knit andi cooks with TV often keeping her company in the background. Both of them have found productive pleasure in studying for advanced degrees. I write with TV running nearby, but most of the time I mute the sound and glance at the pictures and closed captioning. Jeff is careful to avoid TV, almost at all costs. He makes a conscious effort to tinker with his computers in the winter and tinker with his "fleet" (an old green truck and a newer sports car) in the warmer months.)

By the time Sally left home her mother and I were so proud that she had a dozen turkey dinners, "Under her belt!" from the time she could get up to the stove, she was helping mom with meals. She graduated to larger more complex fare. She and her little family will never starve. In contrast I know a young woman currently going through a divorce. She is the oldest of more than several younger sisters. Her mom and dad work, and you'd think she would have learned how to do the cooking and cleaning that our mothers and grandmothers mastered to keep their chappie happy!

Nope! Our sweet young lady friend can make a pretty fair green bean casserole and chicken noodle soup. That's it! Buffalo wings and pizza are her favorite fruits. In her case and so many others, TV was NOT an acceptable substitute for real life.

Gramma Delma, my own sweet mom, turned out to be a terrific cook. She took an ag extension course and wowed people with her beautifully decorated cakes. It wasn't always that way. When she was coming up through the great depression, Great Gramma Lilly (her mother) wouldn't let her cook anything in the kitchen. Their thought was that food was so dear and, frankly, so scarce that little kids like my willing mother couldn't afford to waste that food experimenting. Delma was almost in high school when she was invited next door to play with a new easy bake oven. Her first "dish" was a little cake baked under the light bulb inside the little toy when she was in her late teens. She married Handsome Milo and began her experimenting at the stove, making up for lost time in the prosperous forties and fifties.

Oh, Take me back to the rusic life of pioneers, up in the mountains with no running water, except a spring; no electricity except the kind you manufactured between each other; no contact with the outside world except for a traveling peddler to bring you the news. Neighbors didn't have time to hang out every morning with a cuppa joe. They were scratching out their living on the land.

On the special occasions when neighbors came to visit, you treasured the rare experience. Love on the frontier seemed to be a little easier than today when high tech substitutes for human relationships.

No, it may keep you company; it may become the background sound track for so much of your life but TV can't love you back. It's a lesson Grampa can help their more addicted gramchillins learn early. Good grampas can help their families find other fun things to do.

Loving magic, props they can keep (just their size), big muscle games will all help, but a loving Grampa (and Gramma) being there just enough to be missed when they're gone--that's the ticket!

Long after we were poor college students we were members of the working poor, struggling to keep our rented roof over our heads and a little wholesome food coming in. Vacation? Disneyland? Not even dreamed about! Not even saved for! As parents, neither one of us could work up the courage to get away from our low paying jobs.

Family members helped out. My brothers offered little trips to the ocean or Cheyenne frontier days. My great relatives provided transport, bed and board and mostly fun and most imporant LOVE! We seemed so poor we couldn't pay attention, let alone give them a little spending money.

Our great kids told me they didn't feel like charity cases, but they were. My bad!! Then Gramma and Grampa Howe (Milo and Delma) showed up in their gleaming 1957 Cadillac with a trunk full of fun!

My dad was an engineer on the Union Pacific railroad from Laramie to Cheyenne East and Rawlins West. During most all those years he kept busy and brought in some extra money fixing and selling bicycles in the three garages behind our house. (He even rented tandem bikes to the college students!) He knew bikes!

When these two great gramparents came that day, Jeff and Sally were 11 and 9 years old. Grampa brought bikes for each of them, bikes that he had freshly painted and lovingly pinstriped. They were "previously owned" but polished, cleaned and lubricated into excellent condition. Nothing gave Grampa Milo more pleasure than seeing his two favorite gramkids in Salt Lake City cruising around the big empty medical center parking lot across the street from our little duplex--racing and cruising on the bikes he had built, tweaked and polished just for them.

That same trip, Gramma brought a homemade rope machine and a big roll of bright yellow-orange twine. It smelled like a hay field. We all gathered in the backyard and made a bunch of jump ropes. (I used to think my dad had a high metabolism, but there was more. That day we learned that jumping his own ropes was one of Grampa Howe's secrets to staying lean and.....well.....loving!

TV can't love you back but you can, Gramps! Make some simple plans and then help them find something else to do with you! JRH

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Can You choose their Friends?

Can Grampa or parents choose their kids' friends? Nope!

Countless examples of this principle abound. But what can you do? Quite a bit, actually.

CAUTION: Experts say the training process must occur between the ages of 3 and 5. The worst time to begin to teach kids and gramkids is AFTER they've brought home someone you have concerns about.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (quoted by John Taylor, Millennial Star, 15 Nov. 1851, p. 339"

"By chosing the Lord first, choosing your friends become easier." Elder Ronald Rasband in an LDS Church wide fireside given at BYU March 7, 2010 talked about mentoring and receiving mentoring by the friends you choose. (See and/or listen to the whole talk) This link will become active as soon as BYU Speeches makes it available.

Are some kids weeds?

When our Sally was working her way through seventh grade, she brought home a new friend. Gramma Rosie got them both involved in baking cookies. During that first visit we found out this little gal was a latch key kid. Her single mother didn't get home til late and she had a lot of time to cruise the nearby mall.

This girl was clever and even by seventh grade she "knew a few things." Sally, who has long since moved past this experience called her mother and told her that her new friend wanted to take Sally along on a trip to the mall. Rosie gave permission, with a word about being careful and honest. (She had a mother's intuition about this new friend long before she found out the whole story)

An hour later Sally was back home with quite a story to tell. The new friend had learned to specialize in "five finger discounts." She had turned her free time waiting for her mom to finally get home into free stuff--ear rings, cosmetics and the odd scarf or glittering top. She bragged to Sally that she never got caught.

Too much free time. Not enough appropriate busy. Too little structure. Poor single Mom who couldn't supervise and provide structure, working to just keep a roof over their heads. Sad, eh? and To Sally's credit she felt way uncomfortable. She spoke her mind and told her new found thief.

My dear Rosie asked Sally if she wanted to continue "hangin' with this little lady?"

Sally thought a minute and a minute more. She hadn't had to make a decision like this before. Then she began to talk through the decision with her mom as coach! (That's the way it's done)

Lynn Stevens, master real estate sales trainer, practitioner and national speaker said this: "When you get the prospect to talk through a decision and make it, they're buying. You're not selling. That's the best way. Grampas take heed. Asking a good question gently and waiting for an answer will draw a trusting gramchild out, if they're old enough to make a good decision.

Eventually Sally decided on her own to cool their friendship. Still say hi at school, but avoid co-conspiracies at the mall.

Later I asked Rosie, "Are some kids weeds?" It got her thinking, but in this case she thought Sally made a great choice!

Little Lessons where the Rubber meets the Road

The founder of Boys Town, Father Flanagan once said, "There is no such thing as a bad boy!" (or girl) It all depends on how much time and patience you as their leader are willing to spend, and of course so many other things.

On the other hand, I recall a little Primary lesson by Lorna Harrison in the Laramie, Wyoming ward where I grew up. Her message was unforgettable. Said she to all of us on little chairs, "If you drop a glove into the mud, the glove gets muddy, the mud doesn't get glovey."

These little sayings at just the right age, long before unloved tweens or teens glom onto your precious little relative, will plant the seeds for a good discussion. The good news is the first confrontation usually comes with parents. You as Gramparents will likely catch your youngster on the rebound. This is when that time honored principle of Grampa joining forces with the child against the parents comes into play.

No need for shouting matches, Grampa. Engage your little loved ones early, teach them correct principles about the value of wonderful friendship with little stories and sayings like these, Then settle back to see those seeds bloom when they meet a challenge. JRH

Grampa's favorite thing to do WHILE watching TV

Seen any good TV lately? I used to watch till I drifted off, but with this blog I have become a multi-tasker. After all those years in radio ignoring the top forty music to produce the news, I'm blogging more now and really enjoying it while Gramma Rosie's favorite chick flicks and reality shows go merrily on. I rarely look up until I can't quite think of the right word.

I've produced some fairly decent video projects. My semi-invalid Gramma Rosie and I watch a ton of television. Former Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz once described me with a racist joke. It was embarrassing in the Nixon administration. It describes me pretty accurately. Butz said something like, "Dis man say to hisself, 'I gits up early, I works hard and when I sits down, I goes to sleep!' " If you know the joke, I left out some of the ugly bits. I edited content to suit your tender sensibilities.

I have a one and a half wide recliner we wanted to call gthe Grampa Chair that has become my Recliner of Affliction, especially when it comes to television. It works better than chloraform. When I can't take it any more, I sit there to relax a little and watch TV. Somewhere way past midnight I wake up to an empty living room and a dim light on to guide me to sleep in a proper bed.

There's a lot of GREAT TV. For example, we like Both NCIS series, The Good Wife, Castle, and Mercy. I think we'll get to like the show that premiered tonight (7 mountain on NBC). It's a revival of the old Beat the Clock program with Bud Collier called MINUTE TO WIN IT. I love it for the Reindeer Games I develop for my Santa visits. After the traditional magic, I've morphed our Santa into a reality game show host. The challenge has been coming up with new games for families I've visited for more than 20 years. (See Santa's Electric Sleigh/Reindeer Games ) .

WARNING: at this writing I haven't yet put our Santa blog into action, so if you're interested in such things, send me a comment below. Include your e-mail address and I'll get back to you with a few of the better ways Santa can use to teach families how to play big muscle games just for fun! Anybody can run a cheesy little table game. Kids love to get up and move in fun! That's what "Big Muscle" games are all about.

Do you have some inside information on tricks you use to keep gramkids entertained and learning? Send me a comment below! JRH

Grampa's hidden skill: QUESTIONS

As I write this I'm watching Celebrity Apprentice on NBC. What caught my ear was Sharon Osbourne whining about not being able to lead on Cyndi Lauper's women team. She just said, "I'd love to tell everyone to 'shut up' and tell them 'Here's what we're gonna do', but you just can't!" Sharon is the first to admit she doesn't play well with other people. A close look at her husband, Ozzie and her children will give you some insights.

Sharon never heard of shadow leadership. It's the skill most young marrieds don't have the life experience to apply to their own young unions. One marriage I know disintegrated into a non trusting contest in who got the last word. It lasted eight years. It's over for a lack of shadow leadership in at least one of the spouses. Success in this situation is all about love, trust and skillful listening. High emotions and soap opera drama sink a lot of married boats. Too bad!

Grampas can teach, often by example, how to make relationships work. Trust me, if Grampa's still with Gramma he has something to good to share. Its about time and love and calm. Stealthy Grampa Skill is quite a bit further down the priority list.

By the way, Sharon Osbourne figured it out, asking leading questions to Cyndi as Project Manager and moving the ball up the hill toward the goal. With all the radio interviews and skillful fund raising by members of the team to wealthy doners, I'm guessing that they win. Compared to the men, they already have a line out the door.

Smart Grampas learn to avoid "telling" at all cost. It's a time honored principle that he who asks the questions in a sales situation controls the process. Most of the time, it's the Sales guy, but sometimes, the prospect brings some research and tenacity to the situation and turns the tables.

Check out Grampa's Card Trick. My great friend Lynn Stevens developed this "trick" to teach questioning skills in real estate sales people.

It's worth mentioning that the renown Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy, always wanted to be the secretary of any committee he ever was assigned to. (He wrote the minutes to fit his perception of what went on and, more importantly, he could always ask the chairman or members of the committee to clarify and explain. He knew the power of a skillfully asked question.

This could work against you if your young charge's don't enjoy the challenge of working out an acceptable answer. This is not about perfection or coming up with the BEST answer. When I learned this technique our own kids were in their early teens. My enthusiasm for questions fell worse than flat. This was about the time, for all the love and time I lavished on them, they had labeled me "too churchy"--and my lively questions provoked some rebellion. Watch it.

Sincere questions and Grampa sincerely closing his own mouth and opening his ears and his heart to genuinely listen is more like what I have in mind. Telling, going on about the past with nonstop rambling--that kind of bugle oil isn't gonna do it.

Kids these days have to deal with immature friends who don't know how, teachers in big classrooms who don't have time, often no skill. Church leaders who may or may not be able to handle the one on one. Grampas are often the last resort. Listening is a golden skill. Good quiet easy questions and lots of time for the trusting child to answer. ( See I took a Little Child's Hand in Mine ) That kind of open-ended conversation across the generation changes lives! JRH

Grampa can engineer Delayed Gratification!

This post started out to be about alcohol abuse and how you, as a Grampa, can stop it before it starts among your junior high school age and elementary school little ones. Yes, by now it's no surprise to you that a six pack behind the barn, just for the thrill and the taste of it happens way early. As you can see, I morphed into a discussion about the over-arching principle. Delayed Gratification*.

This week the Parents Empowered organization are broadcasting an ingenious TV commercial featuring a wise father who busts into his 6th grade son's bedroom with a golden turban on his head. The son and his two buddies are taking bottles of beer for a test drive with the blinds drawn. The dad crosses his arms, Mr. Clean style, and says evenly, "Oh, so you want to drink beer, do you?"

The little boy stares at the floor, bottle in hand, and replies that he does. Then Dad-Genie goes to work. "That means you'll lose your cell phone, your computer, your phone etc. (With each item, the director cuts away to each gadget poofing away in a puff of smoke) "You won't have any friends!" adds the dad, and both homies go up in smoke as well. The pint sized host of the little party gets it. He hands his Dad the beer bottle and the Genie/Father smiles tightly, booming a big "Good Choice." for reinforcement. The little buddies reappear, WITHOUT their bottles. Fade to Black.

Another anti juvenile drinking commercial shows a bunch of kids in a little dip at the bottom of an inclined lawn. They are just about to start sipping some forbidden beer. Several of them have ropes tied to their bottle hands. We find out that mothers on the other end are pulling the ropes, at first just to keep their sons from drinking--and then pulling the young hands and the bottles they're holding up the lawn toward home. Powerful images for parents and Gramparents!

A fine young man I worked with in Scouts went to France on an LDS Mission. Our son Jeff was working at the Sev (Seven-Eleven) when he saw this guy drop by and pick up a six pack of beer, clearly against LDS standards. I know his Dad really well. This man has bailed the son out of jail many times for all kinds of minor crimes. He's never murdered anyone I know of, but he's pretty good at finding funds for his needs and wants. Nuf said!

I've come to believe that we spoil our kids of every generation with things. We love them with our time. As you have learned, it doesn't take money to raise kids or gramkids. (College funds and special talent and skilllessons not withstanding) Success in this effort mostly takes YOU!

As Santa for the Osmonds for more than 30 years on TV and on the road, I've developed techniques for delayed gratification---giving out little presents at family parties-- wrapped to cover what's inside. Often there's a dozen or more children at the party. They get their present when they come up to tell me something. (I have learned NOT to ask what they want for Christmas) Often I'll even ask them if they've thought about what they're going to give their Moms and Dads. That puts a slightly different slant on Christmas, eh?

I tell the group before I start the brief little individual interviews that I brought presents for everyone, but they can't open them until, "Everybody gets one!" Delayed gratification. Anticipation is more than half the fun.

Just as a matter of technique, if you're a Grampa Santa, passing out well wrapped little gifts, always prepared by parents with a little cheat sheet for Santa listing one thing they need to improve on and one they've done exceptionally well--that's the beginning of the end of my visit**. Delayed Gratification.

(**See Santa's Electric Sleigh: Exit Strategies) I'm still developing this blog, so be patient and let me know in the comments section below if you'd like to know more (until this link is active).

Please, let me share my spirited credentials. We have nearly a dozen bottles of fine wine and spirits in a kitchen cupboard. Gramma Rosie mixes in a little bit to add to the taste of several tasty dishes. She has assured me as I gobble down the delicious results that the alcohol has long evaporated by the time I get it at the table. There was a sergeant major when I was at fort Ord, California (1970-71) who preached across the pulpit that you should not even do that. He asserted that developing a taste for it, even in food, led to alcoholism over time. We've gently turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to that well meant counsel.

A neighbor and his wife have come to a workable agreement. She comes from a pious family who never used alcohol, except to clean little wounds and owies. He and his folks have always enjoyed good quality spirits in special meals as we do. Their compromise begins with how they refer to what ever comes in such a bottle as "French Cooking Juice".

The only drinking I have ever done was twice on my LDS mission to Brazil. Confession is good for the soul, I'm told: Once when my companion and I were "in need" of a little chocolate fix, we bought what appeared to be a couple of good sized bon bons. I was raised in Wyoming where the only candy is either home made peanut brittle or the odd peppermint at Christmas.

By the way, I picked up a whole new meaning for delayed gratification with the story of a dirt poor pioneer boy. His parents could only afford one small piece of horehound candy. (the only place you can get it around here is at the end of the tour of Brigham Young's Lion House on sale in the family store) Or you can make some with an older gramkid--just the two of you together at the stove. Discover the recipe at

The story goes that the little pioneer fellow accepted the candy with humble thanks. He was big enough to work alongside his father to chop, dig and carve out a living on their Rocky Mountain farm. He didn't

John Allen, Holladay Elementary Principal and excellent photographer for the National Geographic once told me that he actually wished for a severe recession, something close to a depression. "These kids get everything. They're either spoiled by their parents or their grandparents. It would do them good to do without and miss a meal or two! This was in 1990 a bit before the real estate collapse of 2008-2010). Of course, a recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours, yes?
Russian Candy Bar Commercials: A friend who spent several years in Russia told me about the early days of the Russin network television history. Just like western networks advertised all kinds of consumer items, Russian broadcast managers aired spots pushing candy bars for then a reasonably low price. Maybe for Moscow's working families. One unintended consequence of the slick commercials was the cards and letters that came in from the rural farm families.

"Please stop those commercials. We can barely afford one television for the whole villiage. When we gather around it and our youngsters see those advertisements about those candy bars they whine to us to get them right away. One candy bars costs more than Sergei and I can scrape together in a month to get fuel and food and pay our rent." Forced delayed gratification.

Designated Driver: Two high school juniors became life long friends. There wasn't a nickel's worth of difference between them to begin with. They did everything together-- double dates, long trips to the coast, short trips to the rodeo. The non drinker even entered an amateur bull riding contest and won a shiny gold colored belt buckle. Most of all, they spent their time together under the hood of an old green ford truck, vintage 1950.

After graduation and way past legal drinking age one tried it and didn't like it. The other learned to like it and spend much of his pay on bottles of this and that. He spent nights worshiping at the porcelain throne while his best friend in the world waited to drive him home to sleep it off.

One day, late in a hazy summer of one drinking and the other driving, the designated driver had had enough. Somewhere between the throne and their wheels the sober guy confronted his drunken friend. It did not go well and eventually, the two parted company in favor of whatever bottle was open at the time.

What can Grampa's do to solve that problem? Dunno! I know both these guys. They're both great kids--in their middle thirties. One has a baby--no wife. One is going through a divorce--no baby. Life is tough sometimes.

*Finally, Delayed Gratification is reported beautifully in TIME Magazine As a well informed Grampa I believe you will find this is one of the best ways to predict E.Q. Emotional Quotient. Here's the thumbnail version (or you can hit the link above and read all about it.)

Click here to find out more about the good work of the Parents Empowered organization.