An Uncommen Blog

Are You Curious?


Are You Curious?

Great question, right? I was asked this question many times by one of my mentors, Kurt Graves, during our monthly meetings. It wasn’t until after the second or third time he asked me that I caught on to the fact that he wasn’t just asking me a question. He was asking me to ask questions. He could have just said, “Dee, you need to ask more questions.” But instead, his inquiry caused me to pause. Am I truly curious? Do I want to go through the effort to discover the answers pertaining to my job, my family, my friends, or do I think I already know all of the answers? If I already know the answers, then my meetings with Kurt were pointless. No need for mentors if I already have this life thing figured out. But I know that’s not true.

Somehow the teacher in me forgot the most important ingredient to education- being a learner. When I taught in the classroom, I used to pride myself in being willing to try new things with my students, diving into subject areas I did not necessarily have expertise in, but I knew that if we as a class asked the right questions, we could discover the right answers. Yes, we often Googled it, but even that requires a level of humility. To admit that I didn’t know the answer to something, and to show my students that I had to look up the answers, sometimes made me feel very incompetent. It wasn’t until several years into teaching that I grew comfortable openly acknowledging that the best lesson I could teach my students was to not know all the answers, but to know the right questions to ask, and where to find the answers.

I remember a time when the lesson of curiosity diffused a tenuous personal relationship between me and a former student. I was in my sixth year of teaching at the same school, and by this point, I had gained a reputation as being one of the “cool teachers.” I aimed to remain fair and firm, but I also smiled and laughed a lot, and brought my passion as an educator to the classroom everyday. Nonetheless, there was one particular student who seemingly hated me, and I had no idea why. I didn’t even have him in any of my classes that semester, but he would walk by my class and make snide comments, give me dirty looks in the hallway, tap on his friends’ shoulder when walking by me in the hallway. I thought for a second I was in high school, and not a teacher!

One day, I had it. I was in this student’s class, speaking to his teacher, and I heard him making comments about me under his breath. That was it! I asked the student with a stern voice to meet me outside of the classroom. I was so mad, I didn’t even ask his teacher for permission first. As soon as I we got outside, I asked the question, with enough aggression in my voice that it was clear this was a confrontation, “what seems to be the problem between us?” Barely looking me in the eyes now that it was just the two of us, the student sheepishly said, “You failed me.” Stunned and confused, I had to stop and ask him to repeat himself. He then went on to tell me that I failed him during summer school, and he would have graduated if I didn’t fail him. Immediately my frustration turned to compassion, and quite honestly, a bit of shame.

I softened my tone and asked, “is that why you’ve been mad at me?”
“Did you do your work in class? What happened?”
“I did some of the work, but you didn’t have to fail me.”
I then said, “I remember you having your head down a lot, and me regularly bugging you to sit up. What was going on then?”
“I was mad that I was in summer school.”
“I see. So you were mad about being in my class in the first place.”
“But you didn’t do the work?”
“And you’re mad at me now because you’re back here for another semester.”
“Do you think I should have passed you though you didn’t do your work?”
“Well I could have, but of course that wouldn’t have been fair to the other students who did do their work, and did it well enough to pass. My professionalism could have been called into question. I could lose my job. Not cool.”
“I hear you.”
“I wish we had a do over. If you were in my class now, I hope you would do the work, and come to me when you were having difficulties. How are you doing now?”
“Fine. I’m going to graduate.”
“Good stuff. I want you to succeed”

That was it. Our tension was alleviated because once I got over myself, and my personal offense, I became curious again. From the questions come the solution.

It’s been a busy summer with UNCOMMEN, and unfortunately, Kurt and I haven’t met in a while. Not so surprisingly, he recently sent me a short email that asked, “how are you?” I knew his question was sincere. I know he’s curious.

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Parenting Without Evolution Does Not Compute

supamandadThe following is a post by the extremely uncommon dad, Nathaniel A. Turner.  Turner is the author of “Raising Supaman”, a collection of life lessons written by a father to his son. Nate holds degrees in Accounting, Theology, History and Law. Nate hopes to change the world 1 Parent, 1 Child at a time.  Read more at

While in Silicon Valley, I toured the Computer History Museum. If you or your child are fans of computers and technology, the Mountain View, California Museum is a must see. Even if you only have a remote interest in computers and technology, the Museum provides an invaluable lesson for all parents.

The More Things Change

Having only a slight interest in the history of computers, I bought a ticket and entered the Museum. I have to admit, I was blown away.

Like most people, I was aware that computers were involved in nearly every aspect of our daily life but I had no idea how long computers had existed. I was amazed to learn that what we think of as modern computing has existed for more than 2,000 years.

What was more fascinating was learning about the evolution of the computer. From its origin as a big clunky device called The Babbage Engine to the proliferation of the internet, it didn’t take long for a dinosaur like me to comprehend the evolution of computers. Originally engineered to be a stationary object capable of making one calculation at a time, modern computing has morphed into something totally different. Or has it?


The First Macintosh

The More They Are The Same

The French critic, journalist, and novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said “the more things change, the more they are the same”. Mr. Karr’s words illustrate precisely the goal and history of computing.

Notwithstanding all the evolutionary changes and advancements of computers, the purpose and principle of computing has remained the same. Computing and computers have always existed to solve problems so that we might advance the human condition.

Like the start of computing and the first computer, todays’ parents have the same objective as the original human. Our prime directives in the beginning, now and will always be: procreate, nurture, protect and train.

Feeding and nurturing a child no longer requires hunting and gathering, however parents now have to count calories, monitor nutrients and make sure children get adequate exercise. Protecting children is no longer associated with fighting wild animals, yet parents still have to protect children from the dangers of a modern society like sexual predators and online bullies. Educating children no longer requires teaching about how to make a fire or sharing the appropriate time to plant seeds but parents have the same responsibility to make sure our children’s education prepares them to survive and progress.

The More Things Change

For as complex a task raising a child is today, like computing, the basics of parenting remain the same. Unfortunately, parents (according to our children) are not as smart as computers. Nevertheless, the best parents possess a similarity to computers and technology – the ability to evolve.

In all things, today’s parents must be what they have always been – evolutionary creatures who are acutely aware of our children’s surroundings and zealous representatives of their best interests. Like evolving technology, we also must program ourselves so that in a moments notice we are capable of changing our parenting software and hardware.

1. Storage. Parents can never stand still. Parents must evolve like floppy disks to the cloud. We must consistently take mental notes about successful parenting practices. We must be eager to learn from others who are great parents – parents who are purposeful and intentional. We must stockpile as much information as we can about children and parenting so that we can continuously progress and improve as parents. We must make use of the abundance of information available to give our children the best possible opportunity to live a purposeful, fulfilled and worthwhile life.

2. Updates. Parents don’t only make mental notes and store all the new and relevant parenting information. Good parents, great parents take the best of what is known about parenting and then we apply it to our parent-child relationships. The implementation of new and improved parenting techniques occurs with the ease and efficiency of an operating system update. When a more efficient and effective parenting methodology is available, good parents, great parents make the adjustment immediately and seamlessly. Right before our children’ eyes Parent 2.0 (Leftover Parent) quickly becomes Parent 4.0 (Fresh Out of the Oven).

3. Hardware. Good parents, great parents don’t rest on our laurels or do things simply because they were done to us – we freely acquire the hardware that supports our software changes. When I was a baby, parents drove cars without baby car seats, painted the house with lead based paint and left electrical outlets unprotected. Thankfully the world and parents have evolved. Although there are fewer cases of infant deaths from car accidents, lead poisoning and electrocution, today’s parents must continue to incorporate new hardware (Smart TVs, tablets, smartphones, etc.) that will advance parenting and improve the life expectancy and societal contribution of children.

The decisions and actions parents take MUST always compute. If our children are going to be able to dream and do things far greater than we could ever imagine, we are going to have to evolve and adapt our prime parenting directives to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world. Parenting without evolution does not compute.

What do you think? Are you at a parental standstill? Or, are you constantly evolving like computers and technology? Share a way that your parenting has evolved! Share a hardware or software tool that has made you a better parent!

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Building a Wall

Keller Family

The Keller Family

The following is a post by Kelly Keller, also known as KellKell, a moniker that was first coined by her high school students some years back, one which has stuck with her through five children, two cross-country moves, and countless adventures.  Read more about Kelly and her musings at

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Lean In this Father’s Day

ultimate fathers day

My friend Nathaniel Turner at The Raising Supaman Project just asked me, “when is Father’s Day?” then answered his own question: to him, every day feels like Father’s Day. He feels grateful to have his son in his life and he never forgets how great a privilege it is to be a father. We didn’t all grow up with the greatest examples of fatherhood. To me, it’s an honor to do this work and be an involved father. Many of us dads are making it up as we go along.

So should Father’s Day be a celebration of your journey? No matter how old your kids are, you are still on the job. And there is still work to be done. Let’s not sit back and admire a work-in progress. Turn the idea of “honoring Dad” around. Use the day as an opportunity to connect with our kids. Take advantage of your “freebie” day as an excuse to break the routine and do something different. Now that the sun is coming out and Summer is here, Father’s Day is around the corner.

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Loving My Wife ‘Til the Ship Goes Down

Today’s post is by author, speaker, and pastor, Jody Burkeen. Jody is the father of 4, husband to his wonderful wife, Nan for 25 years, and pastor at Ignite Church, in Eureka, MO. 


Tough Question

In 1994, during a party my wife and I were attending, someone asked me a question I regret ever answering the way I did, “Do you think you could love your wife if she were disfigured, maimed, or paralyzed?”

In my drunken stupor I responded, “I’m not sure.”

Needless to say my wife didn’t buy the, “It must have been the alcohol talking” excuse.

August 4, 2015, marks a quarter century with my beautiful wife. I can’t imagine being with someone else. I envision us dying together like the old couple in the movie Titanic. As the ship goes does, we’re lying in the bed, spooning, knowing we lived a wonderful life together at peace with what’s to come.

Major Challenge

Last February, that vision went cloudy with two words: “Breast Cancer.”

The day before we had been making grocery lists, putting kids’ schedules on the calendars, and about to start a new church. The very next day we heard the doctor say, “Stage 2,” and life was put on hold as we started facing the real possibility of death.

So we gathered ourselves together, started mining information, and faced some tough decisions. Should we go chemotherapy or mastectomy or double mastectomy? Frankly, I wanted to go back to choosing between Frosted Flakes or Coco Puffs.

We chose to start with chemo and the doctor reminded us of all the side effects: loss of hair, weight loss, extended sickness, nausea, diarrhea, and just plain tired. And like clockwork, these side effect hit my wife. She lost 25 lbs, all her hair, and has been sick throughout the chemo.

My wife has always been the backbone of our family. It’s been tough for our four kids to see Momma the way kids shouldn’t have to see Momma.

Her Fears

Unlike the fear that I and the children have – a fear of death – my wife has had a different kind of fear. Not that dying doesn’t come to her mind every now and then, but she has struggled with me wanting to leave her or fall out of love with her during this sickness because of the joke I made 20 years ago when my friend asked me that question. I wish I could go back in time and hit that my 24 year old immature self upside the head and give my wife the security that I meant what I said on our wedding day: “till death do us part.” I wish I could have reassured her in that moment we would be the old couple on the Titanic and tell her I’m not going anywhere.

But since I can’t jump in the Delorean and go back in time, I remind her daily that I’m not going anywhere, she is more beautiful than ever, and I will love her until the ship goes down.

Best Answer

Men, I guess the point I am trying to make is twofold: know when to clam up and know when to speak up. First, clam up when you’re about to say something stupid, even in jest. Secondly, speak up. Assure her with your words you will fight for her, stand up for her, and always be there for her.

Last February and many days this year my wife and I needed a reminder of what I committed to 25 years ago. What about you? How can you remind your wife you’re in it until the ship goes down?



Learn more about how you can partner with the Burkeen family at Nanette’s Caring Bridge site here.

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Manuary and an Uncommen Partnership


and an UNCOMMEN Partnership with the MasculiniTEAM


The following is an interview between UNCOMMEN Head Coach, Dee Lanier, and UNCOMMEN mascot, Jack. We do not take any responsibility for the words or actions of Jack, he’s a fictional character, and he’s a jack, so please don’t hold us accountable for his bizarre line of questioning.

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Jack: Pleasure getting some time with you. I’d shake your hand, my my hoofs are a little dirty.


Dee: No problem. Elbow bump

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Jack: So Manuary was a sort of soft launch for UNCOMMEN, I understand. Tell me more a little about that.


Dee: Yeah, so, we wanted to celebrate the fact that our beta app was released to both Google Play and Apple (check it out at We had a target of doing so by January, and we were able to accomplish that. So we decided to jump on the bandwagon of Manuary to have some fun. We are planning on a full launch in Q1 with some major app bug fixes and our new trash talk functionality fully baked in. We’re working on that final build right now.

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Jack: Cool. So when I look up #Manuary, I see a bunch of stuff going on. Guys growing beards in Canada, eh? But we see in your app these challenges under I Challenge U from the MasculiniTEAM. Why partner with them?


Dee: Well we love what all of those groups are doing, those bringing men’s awareness to the forefront, others challenging men to step it up in their families, conferences on manhood, etc. But we kinda have a bromance with the MasculiniTEAM. They’re kinda crazy and we love them for it.

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Jack: Did you just say, bromance, bro? I’ll take your man card now.


Dee: (10 secs of dead stare). Let me say it like this, those dudes are doing the fun things all of us married with children guys remember doing when we were younger. Now even I wasn’t crazy enough to do a polar bear swim, but I know plenty of guys that did. Pretty much any guy in their mid thirties remembers doing something Johnny Knoxville’ish with a group of guys back on college, because it took just one ring leader to round them up, and say, let’s get the hall to have a super soaker war in the snow, or something ridiculous like that. And we did it because we had nothing better to do, and it was fun. Change Racing car driver, Kevin Conway and I were catching up and telling funny stories from 12 years ago.

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Jack: So is this just your wish to be young again?


Dee: No, it isn’t like that. It’s the fact that we can relate. We know the MasculiTEAM guys are mostly in the prime of their fun years with a bunch of brothers . We want them to enjoy it, because within the next decade, they’ll be exactly where we are now. They are undoubtedly having some of the most significant conversations of their lives while on their trips and doing their challenges. They are drinking hot sauce smoothies with future groomsmen, and jumping through fiery hoops with guys who will give them a call when their first child is born. Brotherhood is built during these years. At UNCOMMEN, we aim to have the brotherhood continue during the years when it’s most needed, and not just talking Fantasy Football or March Madness. When life’s challenges hit- marriage issues, loss of a job, difficulties with kids, we hope these guys stay in each other’s corner.

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Jack: So that makes sense. It also makes sense why you modified their challenges, made a little softer for the old guys in your app. Instead of a automatic car wash challenge, take a cold shower? C’mon man, that’s weak, and you know it.


Dee: I’m a grown married man, pay my own mortgage and my heating bill. For a 37 year old who has to be at work early in the morning, to take a cold shower and see on my leaderboard that my dude, Antoine did the same, believe it or not, that’s a crazy challenge.

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Jack: So if someone the MasculiniTEAM calls you up and says that your Manuary challenges in the UNCOMMEN app seem a little tame, what do you have to say?


Dee: Call me in 10 years! Seriously though, call me in 10 and ask me if I’m still being UNCOMMEN. I’ll ask if he’s still Maculin-i (laughs). I really appreciate those guys. I want to thank them for reminding us all to have fun as men, and that we’re all better when we do life together.

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