Jan 17, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons

posted by Kari Diane Pike...written for the most part by Kenny Pike

As I searched for the words I wanted to share with you today, I recalled something our oldest son posted on his blog in December. Kenny has a unique perspective that never fails to set my mind in motion. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t, but I always learn from this grown child of ours. Actually, I feel rather pleased that I depend on the dictionary a lot less than I used to when trying to understand his thinking! Kenny is a second-year law student at BYU and the father of three remarkable children. (The four-year-old and the 2 1/2 year old both read quite well. I'm betting the six-month old might know his ABC's but he's not talking!) His wife, Aprilynne, recently earned a four book contract with Harper Collins for her young adult fantasy Autumn Wings. (First book comes out in 2009.)

Now that the guests have gone home, the decorations packed, and reality, with all it's perceived setbacks has set in, I revisited Kenny’s blog. Since he says it better than I ever could, I got permission to quote him.

“Most people know that I am not exactly ‘Mister Sunshine.’ I'm very good at finding flaws, and feel-good stories of hollow optimism prevailing over a dark and dreary world to my ears sound a lot like fingernails down a chalkboard. I am particularly irritated when my cogent criticisms are met with replies quoting Gordon B. Hinckley (the President of the LDS church):

"Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve."

I see the point of the quote, by the way, and it's a good one--mere negativity will never move you in a positive direction. But it turns out that pure optimism is likewise a fool's errand. If you lack the capacity to perceive flaws (or indulge in the fantasy that they are not there), you will inevitably misstep. The capacity to see and acknowledge pitfalls is the capacity to avoid them. I guess there is a sense in which skeptics do not create, but improve; doubters do not achieve, but make lasting achievement possible. The caveat, of course, is that one must keep moving forward. If you are afraid of the pitfalls, your ability to see them might paralyze you into inaction, at which point you are no further along than the optimist who blithely stumbled into the nearest pit.

Yesterday, my wife and I were talking about her recent success. She noted that the book would never have been written if I hadn't committed to giving her four (4) hours a day over the summer to work on her writing. Now, seeing as how she's finished two or three other books just fine without the convenience of my daycare services, I don't know how true this is--but then, this is the book that sold. But that naturally sets the stage for the story of how an ostensibly busy law student was able to give his wife four hours a day.

You may recall that, after my first semester of law school, my grades were much lower than I'd hoped. This had an immediate and very disappointing effect: I was unable to secure a high-paying internship. Then, I decided that I could handle working gratis if it was at a decent place, but still my resumé was lacking. I did eventually get two great research assistantships, including one doing philosophical research. But there was still some sense that I was not making the most of my 1L summer.

My wife and I decided to split our days. Four hours each morning, she would hide in the office and write. Then we would switch and I would work on my legal research or my Law Review casenote. By the time our third child was born in July, my wife had finished the first major draft of her book.

So last night, when Aprilynne pointed out that the book would never have been written if I hadn't given her the time to write it, she also pointed out that, had I gotten a really great internship or even an externship, she may not have finished the book. Sometimes blessings come in (terrible!) disguises, and apparently, this was one such case. It took almost a full year to play out, but there you have it: the setback we saw when my first semester grades hit was in truth an opportunity. My second semester grades were much better, too, so the setback was additionally temporary.

Almost enough to make an optimist out of a person, eh? d^_~b

Actually, the whole point is that we made the most of what we had, even though (frankly) what we had was largely a disappointment. Disappointment made me revise my approach and improve my grades. Doubt about the future led us to evaluate our disturbingly limited options closely in order to extract the most from our meager resources. The simple reality is that I was not especially optimistic last summer, but frustrations and setbacks do not stop time. We avoided those pitfalls we could, and in the end, the whole "when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade" panned out.

But here's the trick. If you're going to make lemonade, you must first acknowledge that what you have in front of you is indeed a great big pile of lemons. d^_^b And then, you have to actually put some work into the juicing.”

I think I’ll go make myself some lemonade. There’s a pile of lemons on my desk and I’m know there’s a book in there somewhere!


  1. Thank you for sharing these insights, Kari.

  2. Loved the post for the scholarly, legalish, comments, and the good, common sense. It brought fond memories. I have two attorney sons who married well, though neither of them have wives who are being published. I also have a granddaughter, and a grandson (siblings) who both 'passed the bar'in Arizona. Celeste delivered her first son during law school, and is still a stay-at-home mother--now of four. So I empathize with the rigors of law school.

    However, the lemonade-making fits anywhere. I've discovered that if one gets good at making lemonade it's easy to forget the raw deals and the rough times. I'm beginning to wonder if my 'easy' life might well have been due to my taste for lemonade.

    Thanks again for another wonderful post.

  3. Reading your son's excellent blog post reminded me of when my son shared his applicant essay for the foreign service with me for critique - but I more or less just reveled in the fact he felt I was worthy of reading and sharing his experiences. My eyes opened to a whole new side I didn't know about my son. It awed me that such an insightful, good man came forth from my loins.
    In the spirit of making lemonade from a pile of lemons I remember hearing a quote on NPR: Nothing bad ever happens to a writer - It's all material for the next story. I looked back and thought of all the times I'd groaned with dismay at my "bad luck." Now there are several notes here and there, tucked away for the time I have to write and produce a magnificent best seller.

  4. Frankly, I'm still laughing at your son's explanation of lemons into lemonade. I have often thought I was the only one looking at "reality." Nice to know I'm not.

  5. Kari,

    I laughed and laughed at your line, "I'm betting the six-month old might know his ABC's but he's not talking!" It's clear to me where your son gets his writing talent!


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