Sunday, July 18, 2010

PFC Little Brother

I don't know when Austin started calling me Big Brother but ever since he did, I've always referred to him as little brother. I'm lucky to have two.

A little over 11 years ago as I left on my mission my youngest brother, Austin, wrote me a short note to take with me. I'm not sure if he knows it or not but I carried that note with me for a full two years. If I ever got discouraged I would think of that note and it always made me smile. Here's what the note said:

'Dear Travis, thank you for helping
me with my math and jumping on the trampoline.'

I was impressed at how much those small and simple things meant to him. This week, as I sat on the bleachers at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Georgia and watched the same little brother march in cadence onto the field with the rest of his platoon, I couldn't help but look back at some of the 'little things' that I was thankful for.

I'm not sure how it happened but Austin and I have been really close over the years. I remember him laying next to me with a bottle in his mouth and listening as he would drink it slowly until he fell asleep. As the years went by there were the times he mentioned when we would jump on the trampoline or I would help him with his math. It seems like the older we got, the closer we became.

Despite the 10 year age difference we started hanging out more. We even had our own unspoken traditions, every Summer we made it a point to go to Raging Waters at least once, or we would get together and drink matte on the porch and talk about what was happening in each other's lives. We shared a love for "the number 6" at Wendy's, and we always washed it down with an ice cold Coke.

Of course there are the family vacations but he and I would plan our own vacations. Whether it was a weekend trip to Southern Utah or a surprise birthday trip for my mom in Hawaii we always had a good time wherever we went.

When Austin left a few months ago and began a new chapter in his life I think we both realized that we weren't going to have the same frequency of little moments that we were used to. However, that does not make the ones that we have had since and will have in the future any less meaningful. In fact, their scarcity makes them perhaps even more valuable now.

This week, after his graduation from Basic Training we sat in the hotel swimming pool and 'little brother' wasn't so little anymore. He described it best when he said that the only thing that changed was that he 'added a new personality setting.' After spending two days with him I agree. He's still the same fun-loving kid he's always been but now there's a more mature side to him. A side that has taken upon him the 'Soldier's Creed.'.

It was a truly unique experience to attend a Basic Training Graduation. As Austin's Platoon marched onto the field the announcer was narrating their training. It was one of those moments when you're overcome with a sense of pride knowing that the person he is referring to in his narrative is the same young boy you said goodbye to two months before. As the soldiers grew closer the narrator ended with these words:

'When called, the Army has never let the Nation down. We will continue to prevail...these victories are not won by technology, but by the sweat and toil and perseverance of the American Soldier. He is well trained, led and equipped, and he has the tremendous support of his Family, Friends, and Nation. He has the confidence and competence to accomplish the mission!'

They stood in perfect formation on the field as the ceremony progressed. Before they did their 'Pass in Review' they recited the Soldier's Creed...that same creed that Austin has so bravely taken upon himself. There is something about listening to 240 kids say in unison, 'i will never accept defeat, i will never quit, i will never leave a fallen comrade' and knowing that they mean it.

One of the things I found most impressive is that despite their different backgrounds and varying reasons for enlistment these men and women, young and old, have come to share a common purpose and work toward a common goal...maintaining the freedoms that we enjoy at whatever high price they may be asked to pay.

I have a greater sense of reverence and respect for all of those that serve in the armed forces and especially those that serve alongside my little brother. In the coming years as he advances in rank raises his hand to show respect for those with a higher authority than his own, I will always take my hat off to him and salute him.

Friday, June 25, 2010

June Roses

I was at the Chalk Festival the other day with a friend and we came to this drawing of Peter Pan.

It was also known as "The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up." Anyway, J.M. Barrie, the playwright was once quoted as saying:

“God gave us memories, that we might have June roses in the December of our lives."

We all pass through Decembers of our lives whether it be the death of family member, a separation from a loved one, financial difficulty, stress from school, loss of employment, etc. The good news is, we still have our June roses...this one is for you:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Building Boxes

I was watching Forest Gump the other day and, any time that you mention that movie, there are a few quotes that are inevitably brought up:

"Stupid is as stupid does."
"Run Forest Run."
and of course:
"Momma says, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get."

I've come to the conclusion that not only is 'life like a box of chocolates,' life is also filled with other boxes and you never know what you're going to put in them.

As a child growing up each of the kids in our family had a 'big red box.'. It was one of those boxes where you put all of the stuff you wanted to keep...rather, it was a box where our parents put things they thought we would like to have someday.

I no longer have that box. I outgrew it. Now, I have many boxes. They vary in shape and size but their purpose hasn't changed, they still hold all of the things I 'will want someday.' To say that each item in the box represents a memory would not be entirely true...sadly, I don't remember doing a lot of what is in that box. There are elementary report cards, childhood drawings, old poems, and a host of other things that I have collected over the years. They all have my name on them so while I can't remember doing them, I'm pretty certain that I did.

These boxes are almost like time capsules that were never got buried...instead they were stored under beds and in garages. I'll be the first to admit that it is fun to look back and think about those days and that I'm glad that I have those things to help me recall those memories. I have not reached hoarder status, nor do I consider myself a 'pack-rat' but occasionally I find myself thinking, 'someday I'll wish I kept this or that' so I'll add it to the box.

But I have also found that sometimes I need a box to help me heal and in some cases to help me least for awhile. In addition to these tangible boxes that find their way under my bed, there are also the ones that I create in my heart and in my mind. I tuck things away until some future date when I can look back and not feel the sting of the 'red hot irons' of memory that those contents bring to mind.

It's like Rose Kennedy once said:

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone."

Some boxes are not meant to be opened again, and others we return to time after time...either way, within those boxes are all of the things that have made us into the individuals we are today. They have made us stronger and they help us remember where we have come from and point us in the direction we will go. Here's to my boxes and yours...cheers!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Refuge In Times of Trouble...

'Look At The Sky' was the text message I received from my friend...and, I immediately went outside to see the sky for myself. It was an amazing sunset, my grandmother would have liked.

Since it was such a beautiful night, I decided to drive to the Salt Lake Temple. As I wrote this, I was sitting next to the reflection pond listening to the water pour over the edges, there was a gentle breeze, and the lighted granite temple stood in stark contrast against stormy night sky. The only thing that made it better was the cool rain, and the intermittent lighting of the sky with lighting and the accompanying crack of thunder.

As I sat there, the words of Psalms came to mind:

"The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.' (Psalms 9: 9-10)

The temple, like the Lord has always been a place for me to seek refuge from the storms of life. It is a place where I can forget my burdens and remember my blessings and tonight, as I sat in the light of the temple I was able to reflect on some of the beautiful teaching associated with it.

One such teaching is that of the special relationship that we have with our Father in Heaven and how it is essential for our happiness here. Through prayer I am convinced that we can receive guidance and direction in our David said, 'the Lord will not forsake them that seek him.'. In fact it is quite the opposite, He will be a 'refuge in times of trouble'.

There will be times when we may hear the Lord say to us:

'In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment...'

but then come the reassuring words:

'...but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee...for the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed..." (Psalms 54)

I once heard the phrase, 'Life is a heck of a thing to happen to a person.'. Each of us will face trials and tribulations, some of them will seem to be greater than we can handle. We also live in challenging times when natural disasters are abundant, economies throughout the world are failing, and wars are taking place everywhere. In addition to these temporal afflictions that we face there are spiritual ones with perhaps even great consequences.

In a world where variables are constantly changing, there is one invariable constant and that is the love of our Heavenly Father. He will be there to comfort in times of sorrow, lift up in times of despair, and guide us when we've lost our way.

We must seek refuge from the storm through prayer and temple attendance. I will end with a scripture that was shared with me by the same friend who told me to 'Look Up' that scripture is a beautiful promise:

'Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.' (Psalms 3)

Let us not only 'look up' but let us also 'look to' the temple and the Lord to be our refuge from the storms that swirl around us. As I left tonight the storm clouds had disappeared, the wind had died down, and there was a stillness in the air...the storms of life will pass.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All They Can Say...

As I started a new job over 6 years ago, I was taught a valuable lesson about sales...and about life. When I was hesitant to make a sales call, Hugh would always reassure me by saying: 'All they can say is no.' Of course there are some people who go above and beyond your typical 'no' but, for the most part, that is the worst thing you can hear.

Along those same lines is the idea that, 'you'll never know until you try.' I've been thinking about those two phrases and how they cover so many different aspects in our lives.

My brother wants to get a dog for his apartment/house however, he lives in a place where no pets are allowed. He asked me if I thought it would be a waste of time for him to even ask his landlord if he could have the dog. Using the same words that I had heard so many years before, and so many times since, I said, 'all she can say is no.'

There have been times when I have pulled up to a potential client's business and before going in I think of all of the reasons that they would NOT be interested and then I hear the distant echo urging me to at least give it a shot.

As I said before, this principle not only applies to sales but to many other aspects of life. If you want something...ask for it. Let the person you're asking tell you no. 'If you don't at least try, then you'll never know.'

I remember the disappointment that inevitably came every time I asked if I could have a sleepover and I was told no. Or the times I would ask to be taken bowling and met with a similar response. BUT, I never stopped asking. Why? Because sometimes the answer was yes.

I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to ask a girl out but before giving her the chance to say no, I did it for her. With that said, some of the best relationships I've had (both romantic and otherwise) have been because I put myself out there...I have wanted to know, so I tried.

It has been a valuable lesson to learn and here are a few ways you can apply it to your lives:

If you feel like you deserve a promotion or a raise, ask for it.
If you have a crush that you want to go on a date with, ask.
If you need something from someone, ask for it.
If you want to borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor, ask for it.
If you would like to get some advice, ask for it.
If you want help, ask for it.
...this list could go on and on but you get the picture.

What's the worst that can happen?'ll hear someone tell you no, then again, they may just say yes. Either way, you'll never know until you try. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow...

I have always loved sunsets. Up until my senior year they were one of my favorite aspects of nature. Sunsets, like snowflakes and fingerprints, are each unique. The sun never sets the same way twice. The light it leaves behind as it disappears on the distant horizon changes each and every day.

As the sunset on graduation night, I couldn't help but look back on all of the wonderful memories I had made up until that point. It was hard to say goodbye to those wonderful years filled with late night runs to 7-11 for Orange Bang, awkward school dances, high school crushes, etc. That night after all of the festivities were over we ended up underneath the bleachers on the high school football field. It was the perfect place to end the night, and an even better place to start the day.

Most of my friends had fallen asleep but I had stayed awake to see the sun rise slowly above the Wasatch Mountains and fill the western half of the valley with warmth and light. As it got higher and higher the light made it's way to the east carrying with it all of the hope and anticipation of 'the first day of the rest of my life'.

Since that day, sunrises have gained a slight advantage over sunsets. The contrast in their symbolism is as different as night and day and they are each the more beautiful because of it.

The following song articulates the idea better than I can:

"I think over again my small adventures, my fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing.
To live to see the great day that dawns.
And the light that fills the world."
(Inuit Song)

As you see the sun set today and think of the days events, look to the sun rise tomorrow and all of the possibilities it carries with it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The English author G.K. Chesterton once said:

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."

We are often painfully aware of the 'dragons' in our lives. They do not hide in far away caves. They are not waiting for us to approach them. We do not need to be reminded of their fiery flames...we've been burned before.

What we do need is to know that those dragons can be slain regardless of their size or strength.

We need to know that we possess the power to overcome the trials and tribulations that we face on a daily basis.

We need to know that we are not alone. We have fellow dragon-slayers in our midst. Those who struggle with problems of their own, and perhaps more importantly, those who will join our fight and help us slay our dragons. We should also be willing to wield the sword of defense for those who are struggling to support its weight on their own.

That is one type of fairy tale...of course there are others. They have a similar theme. By changing just a few of Chesterton's words we can see another example:

"Fairy tales do not tell us that love exists. We know that loves exists. Fairy tales tell us that we can find that love."

We could explore a variety of different versions but the idea is the same.

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”* - John C. Maxwell

*i may have already used that quote before, but i like it so you get to read it again.