January 26, 2011


I hope to post some of my own exciting adventures soon, but for now.... here are a couple of updates from the other writers in my family.
Jon went into the MTC one week ago today. I still can't believe he's gone. It probably won't hit me for a couple weeks. BUT it has hit him that he's leaving. Click HERE for his latest Missionary Moments.

Also.... ValueSpeak: This one will really make you think about what you expect out of life.


Joseph Walker

In my real world job (as opposed to the world of newsprint and electronic signals in which we meet each week to share thoughts, experiences and ideas), I close roads.

Well, OK, technically I don’t actually close the roads. I just tell people that the engineers and construction workers with whom I’m employed are going to close the roads. Of course, we also build new roads and repair old roads. But nothing captures the imagination of the traveling public quite like telling them that we’re going to close a road that they frequently use.

Oh yes. Their responses to that news can be VERY imaginative. Trust me on this. I’m the one they call on the construction hotline to be . . . you know . . . imaginative with.

Like yesterday. A major reconstruction project on a state road required that we close two of the three access roads to a big subdivision. It wasn’t something we wanted to do – we recognized that it would make things awkward for folks in that area for a few months. But because of the nature of the work we needed to do – I won’t go into it here because, frankly, I don’t understand it myself – we didn’t really have a choice.

But the lady who called me at 6:30 in the morning didn’t see it that way.

“Of course you have a choice,” she said. “There’s always a choice. But you just take the easiest way, and you don’t care how much you inconvenience the people who pay your salaries.”

I tried to explain how these closures would enable us to get more work done faster than we could do it otherwise, which would allow us to make the bigger, wider, more efficient

highway available to her and to other motorists that much sooner – perhaps as soon as April.

“I don’t care about April!” she said. “I care about right now! And right now you are making my life miserable!”

I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t take comments like that personally. She wasn’t really saying that I am, individually and specifically, making her life miserable – only my wife Anita knows me well enough to be able to make that claim. But as I hung up the phone, her words resonated in my ears: “I don’t care about April! I care about right now!”

In my mind I went back in time about 10 years to a group of Sunday School children I was teaching. The lesson was the Old Testament story of Jacob, and how he worked for seven years to be married to Rachel, only to be tricked by her father into marrying his elder daughter Leah. So Jacob worked another seven years to be married to Rachel, too.

Let’s set the “Big Love”-ish implications of the story aside – the point I was trying to make to the children was how important it was to be willing to sacrifice today for what we really want in the future. So by way of illustration, I offered them a choice: a handful of M&Ms today, or a big family-sized bag of M&Ms next Sunday?

“Can we have both?” then-9-year-old Brady asked.

“Nope,” I said. “You have to make a choice. A little now, or a LOT later.”

They weighed the decision carefully. Every one of them wanted that big bag of M&Ms, but they also wanted the M&Ms that were right there in front of them, beckoning them with their candy-coated chocolatey goodness. Eventually they all chose to have a handful of M&Ms that Sunday – and I saved a ton of money.

Of course, I didn’t really expect that I would have to buy many of those big bags of M&Ms because . . . well, that’s sort of the way it is with 9-year-olds. They’re all about immediate gratification. But as we get older we learn the wisdom of delayed gratification, and the value of sacrificing what we want right now for what will give us the most benefit, pleasure or fulfillment later. At least, I THOUGHT we learned that as we get older.

Then I answered the hotline.

January 12, 2011

Value Speaking

Joseph Walker
To tell you the truth, I don’t remember all of the reasons why Ernesto came to live withus. As I recall, my brother, who was living in Chile at the time, told us Ernesto needed a place tostay in the United States. Inviting him to stay with us seemed like the right thing to do.
And for a while, things worked out really well. Ernesto was a gracious guest. It was funteaching him American customs and helping him expand his English vocabulary and grammar.He had a pleasant personality, and his Latin good looks and charm were . . . well . . . charming.
Then the teasing started.
At first, it was occasional and playful. But gradually it became his way ofcommunicating with my sister and I, and it became hurtful. Kathy was going through a gawky,insecure stage, and Ernesto was relentless in pointing out what he thought were personality andfigure flaws. I, on the other hand, was a chunky child, and was painfully aware of how muchlarger I was than the other kids my age. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had started into the firststages of bulimia. I would skip lunch at school because I was embarrassed to eat in front ofpeople, and then I would take my lunch money to 7-11 to buy as much junk food as I could get.
It wasn’t much of a diet, especially since all of those empty calories only made meheavier. To their everlasting credit, my friends didn’t say much about my weight, and even whena thoughtless comment slipped out I tended to laugh it off. But Ernesto wouldn’t let it go.
“Hey, Gordo,” he would say, replacing my name with the Spanish word for fat. “Whenare you going to start sleeping with the rest of the pigs?” Then he would grab the layer of fataround my middle and pinch — hard — until I started to cry, as much from the humiliation asfrom the pain.
“Pobre cito,” he would say in mock sympathy. “Pobre bebĂ© gordito.”
My parents asked him to stop teasing us — several times, as I recall. But he didn’t stop;he was just more careful about when he did it. Dad asked us to try to be forgiving.
“Maybe this is how people show affection in Chile,” he reasoned. “We just need to bepatient until he understands that hurting people isn’t acceptable here.”
But Ernesto saw our attempts at tolerance as weakness, which prompted him to press hisadvantage, threatening to make things even worse for us if we told Mom or Dad.
One night when I was taking a bath Mom inadvertently walked in on me. For the firsttime she saw the purplish bruises on my sides.
“How did you do that?” she asked.
“That’s where Ernesto pinches me,” I said.
By the time I got home from school the next day Ernesto was gone, and I don’t rememberever seeing him again. It was some time before I asked my Dad about what happened.
“Well,” he said carefully, “things just didn’t work out.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I guess it wasn’t such a good idea to have him come and live with us.”
“No,” Dad said, “it was a good idea. It was the right thing to do. It just didn’t work out.Maybe it was his fault; maybe it was ours. Probably we all could have handled things better.”
Then he taught me an important lesson: “Sometimes we do the right thing and it turns outwrong,” he said. “Maybe somebody makes a mistake or handles something poorly, or maybethings just don’t work out like we thought they should. That doesn’t mean it was wrong. It justmeans that you tried to do what’s right, and you did the best you could.”
And that’s the right thing to do — no matter how it turns out.

January 7, 2011


My dad is so smart.... I think I'll keep sharing his wisdom with all of you!


By: Joseph Walker

You’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little pensive today. Bryan is leaving, and we’re all feeling a little blue around here.

You probably don’t know Bryan, but you might be lucky enough to know someone just like him. He’s been the heart and soul of the office for years, combining exemplary professional skills and integrity with a genuinely sweet nature and gentle disposition. In terms of clout, he could swing an awfully big bat if he wanted to, but he’s never been all that interested in such things. He just wants to do his job, and to do it superbly well. Beyond that, he’s big on reflecting light and allowing others to shine.

Like me, for instance. When the time came to fill my position, Bryan could have chosen to hire someone a lot younger and a lot less demanding than me. But instead of taking the easy and most logical path, he decided to go with the old guy, and has been among my most constant supporters. He even tries to make me look better by editing my press releases, sparing readers from an assortment of misplaced modifiers, dangling participles and literary delusions.

But now he’s moving on. He has a new assignment that will take him to our organization’s state headquarters. And while we’re all pleased that it’s something Bryan is excited about, that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to a dear friend and trusted colleague.

Life has a way of throwing these curve balls at us. Just when we start to get comfortable with a person, a place or a situation, something comes along to alter the mix. A terrific neighbor moves away. Someone in the family graduates. A special friend marries someone we don’t get along with very well. The family’s principal bread-winner is laid off.

Our ability to cope with change and disruption determines, to a great degree, our happiness in life. But how do we do that? Philosophers have considered the question for centuries, and their responses have been varied. According to the writer of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, comfort can be found in remembering that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Kahlil Gibran urged his listeners to “let today embrace the past with remembrance, and the future with longing.” A friend of mine who works for the government likes to remind fellow bureaucrats that “survivability depends upon adaptability.”

And then there’s Chris, the California surf-rat, who once told me that the answer to life’s pressurized vicissitudes can be summed up in four words: “Go with the flow.”

“It’s like surfing,” Chris explained. “I mean, it’s not like you can organize the ocean. Waves just happen. You ride ‘em where they take you, you get off, you paddle back out there and you catch the next one. Sure, you’re always hoping for the perfect wave where you can get, like, you know, totally tubular. But until that happens, you just take ‘em the way they come.”

I think Chris was saying that life is a series of events – both good and bad – that just . . . happen. No matter how deft your organizational skills, there will always be life-influencing factors over which you have no control. The truly successful person expects the unexpected and is prepared to make adjustments should the need arise – as it almost always does. Which doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying to catch that perfect wave. It just means that when things come up that aren’t in your plan, you face them and deal with them – and then you move on.

Of course, some bumps along the road of life are a little tougher to take than others. A rained-out picnic, for example, is easier to cope with than the sudden death of a loved one. But the principle is the same. “Change, indeed, is painful, yet ever needful,” said philosopher Thomas Carlyle. “And if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope.”

We’re going to miss Bryan when he’s gone – just like you’ll miss that graduate, that neighbor or that newly married fried. But rather than dwell on the sadness of our parting, we’ll focus instead on our hopes for a brighter future – for him and for us.

And then we’ll do everything we can to make that future happen – until our plans change.



My family has always been really good about setting goals.  We would always sit down the first Monday of the year and set out at least 3 goals for the year.  I tried to do the same with Brian and I and... well... the papers are still lying blank on the coffee table.  I'm trying to think about what exactly I want to work on.  I mean, there are so many things I can be better at. 

But this post isn't about new goals.  This is about a completed goal.  A goal that my family accomplished today after 19 years of working at it.  A goal that is the most important I have ever set.  A goal that I will set with my young children and work at for ... well... as many years as it takes.  Shortly after the last child was born, my Dad figured out the math to when Jon would be going on his mission.  He also figured by that time I would either be married or turning in my own papers, SO my whole family would be able to *potentially* be able to be in the temple together by the year 2010.  My dad got a picture of the Salt Lake Temple and wrote with a sharpie on the glass: 2010.   We were a few days late, but today my parents and every one of their children where able to be together in the temple. 

Words cannot express how we all felt today.  Since my little brother is leaving on his mission, this is the last time this will happen for AT LEAST 2 years.  But what a wonderful experience.  The temple truly brings families together.