Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Vote

I generally shy away from politics on this blog.

It's not that I don't have political opinions, I do -- quite strong opinions actually -- I just don't usually feel the need to go to battle over them, and sharing your political opinions in social media is a one way ticket to Hyperbole-ville, with a side trip to Ignorant City, via the Inanity Highway.

No thanks.

But this post isn't about politics, it's about government. Self government, to be precise.

I don't always, or even usually, like the direction that this country is headed, but I've come to one inescapable conclusion -- it's our fault. And that's a good thing.

It's a good thing because it means that the government is not Them...it's still Us, and if it's still Us, then we can still do something about it.

In the great American experiment in self government, the greatest gift bequeathed to us by the architects of our government is not the Declaration of Independence -- that was just a letter of intention. It's not the Bill of Rights or the Constitution -- they can be altered. It's not the two party political system...it's just not, and if I go any further with that explanation, I'll probably burst a blood vessel.

The greatest gift to a free people is the right to vote for their own government. Self determination is the most fundamental human aspiration.

You may not like where this country is, or where it's headed -- I know I don't -- but, it's still within our grasp, to correct the course.

We're still the City on the Hill.

We're still the last best hope for mankind.

As long as we have the vote, and exercise it.

Tonight, I'm thankful for the vote.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Aaron's Kids

I write about my family a lot. They are my greatest source of happiness and fulfillment. But tonight I direct my thoughts to a different family. Tonight I'm writing to Aaron's kids.

All nine of them.








Sam and Emily, 

Your dad is my best friend. I've known him, literally, longer than I can remember. You know all of this.

Aaron is closer than to me than a brother. Outside of my own family, no one's happiness means more to me than his.

So, why am I writing to you instead of him? Because there is something that I want you to know about your father:

He's a lucky man.

I know the man you see, when you see him, is tired. He's worn out. He works hard, and he pays a price for it. Sometimes he's grumpy -- that's just a dad thing.

Sometimes he's loud -- that's an Aaron thing.

Raising kids is hard, the number doesn't matter. It's the most difficult thing we can do, but there is a great payoff for that kind of sacrifice -- unconditional love. And I have no doubt that you know that your father loves you unconditionally...what he does, he does for you.

But this isn't about him, this is about you.

What I want you to know is that your father is happy.

God gave me a gift a long time ago -- to look into people's faces, and to see their honest emotions -- and as I looked into the face of your father, as we took these pictures, in spite of the chaos...regardless of the awesome spectacle that is the Ball family, in nearly every setting...there was a happiness and a contentment on Aaron's face, that I think maybe even he wasn't aware of.

And, what I say of your father, I mean equally for your mother. Look at them together, and take note. As they look at you, they know the worth of the treasure before them.

Life and choice and experience write their greatest truths upon our countenances, and when I look into the face of my best friend, I see a lot of life and experience, but mostly I see a man who is happy.

And you are the reason.

So, tonight, Malia, Taylor, Alaina, Jacob, Dallin, Lincoln, Charlie, Sam and Emily, I'm thankful for you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Wonder of It All

In nearly every picture that I have of Jordan, as a young child, her eyes are as wide as dinner plates. I swear the kid never blinked, her eyes were as big as she could make them. I used to imagine to myself that it was because she didn't want to miss a thing.

One of the unexpected joys of being a parent is seeing the world through the eyes of your children. It's all new. It's all fresh to them. And, it's all very big.

Children don't have the tools or the experience to tell them that what they are seeing is not all that it seems. They're not sarcastic or cynical -- no one is born that way. They take the world at face value. They believe and they wonder.

I was constantly amazed at my children's constant amazement. I didn't realize how far down the jaded path of life I had wandered. But, when my children saw how blue the sky was, I saw once more how blue it was. When they laid in awe under a blanket of stars, I laid down next to them, to see what they were seeing, and what they were seeing was that the world was a wondrously immense place, and that they, small as they were, were an important part of it.

You've always heard it, and it's true -- wonder lives in the eyes of children. Children don't dream of being accountants, or lawyers -- they dream of being big things...superheroes, astronauts, underwater explorers. They want to go and see and do and touch and build and stand in awe of their own accomplishments.

Sometimes things really are impossible, but I've come to believe one thing:

Wonder + the impossible = Amazing

Wonder is why we went to the moon.  Wonder is why diseases are cured. For myself, wonder is what brings the view finder to my eye, and my pen to paper. It's why I treasure my role as a father. Wonder is being excited to know that we don't know everything -- to open your eyes as wide as you can, and to know that tomorrow something may just knock your socks off.

And when wonder gets you out of bed in the morning, every day has more possibilities than impossibilities. The world is beautiful and amazing and deep and broad, endlessly immense and impossibly small.

That's the lesson that those big blue eyes taught me sixteen years ago, and that I've taken to heart every day since -- let the world amaze you, and then don't be surprised when it does.

 And tonight, I'm grateful for the wonder of it all.

Gratitude: Balance

I'm tempted to be thankful for the extra hour I'm going to have to sleep tomorrow morning...but I think I can do better.

When the world gets crazy, the temptation is to get crazy right along with it. In a big way. Following the Pied Piper of Insanity is the path of least resistance. And if you don't find some way to balance the forces pushing and pulling you in every direction, those forces will bend you into an unrecognizable form.

I know how to work, and I know how to play, and I'm grateful to find meaning in each experience.

I know how to fight and I know how to forgive, and sometimes you have to do both.

I know the power of words, and I know that sometimes you give them, and sometimes you receive them.

I know that the heart matters as much as the head.

I know that balance is the key to everything...and without it, you don't walk, you can't run, and you'll never soar.

But when you find that balance point, between what you need and what you want, between what  you know and what you feel, between what you do and what you say...between what you hold on to with all your strength, and what you let go of with out regret...you'll find that those forces will propel you, and you will walk, and then you'll run...and then you will take flight.

Tonight, I'm thankful for balance.

Friday, November 1, 2013


I spend a lot of time, lately, thinking about what's wrong with this world.

It's not hard to do. It's a mess.

But it's not me.

I'm a glass half full person. I'm an optimist. I love life. My world is a colorful, vibrant, happy, cacophonous place...which is just the way I like it.

I like the shadows too, but the shadows of life are to accent and define the scene...

But lately, the shadows are spreading an overcast of gloom over the picture, and I'm tired of it. Something is missing in my world, and I think I know what it is.

It's been a long time since I really considered how blessed I am and, more importantly, how grateful I am for those blessings.

As I sit here, in the darkness of my kitchen, and begin to ponder the things I'm thankful for, I can't remember all those things that are wrong with the world. They can't compete on the stage of my memory with things like kisses and whispers, smiles and unicycles, love and loyalty, friendship and faith and things that last forever.

I resist adding to that list, because I look forward to exploring it over the next month. Gratitude covers a multitude of pain and shortcomings. It's an act of mercy and grace. I want to know what I'm thankful for.

I need to know.