Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Artist

I decided to eat lunch on some picnic tables outside where I work. I noticed that there were three tables being occupied by three people, one per table. I honestly think that's insane. So I sat down across from a girl with a pad of paper and potato chips in her hands.

"You mind if I join you?" I asked.

"Be my guest!" she replied.

I learned that she is an artist who works in the production part of our company. She has been drawing ever since she could remember. She got into drawing because she didn't have a lot of friends. Like most kids, she had imaginary friends, but she cracked me up when she told me hers were dragons. "Imagine the weird looks from adults when I told them," she laughed.

"What do you like to draw?" I asked.

"For some reason I have gotten worse as I grow older. I remember when I was a kid I would draw everything in sight! I would just sit and draw dragons and trolls and anything I could imagine. I was so vibrant with creativity. Now it seems that as I get old, my drawing becomes less pure . . . whatever that means."

"All right, well then let's see you draw something. Right now."

She pulled out her pencil and started to sketch as we talked. After about five minutes I peeked over at the paper. There was a beautiful tree on a valley landscape with a mountain backdrop. The texture of the penciled shapes was incredible. I turned around--the picture was of the view right behind me.

"I think you've still got it."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The City Employee and the C.O.O.

The fun part about this blog is that sometimes I get to reflect a little bit on what makes people happy. The reflection started yesterday at a local burger joint called Sammy's. We went there for lunch because they have 75-cent grilled cheese sandwiches on Mondays. The food is good, but what I really like about Sammy's is the lack of tables and booths. You sit on barstools. I got to talking with a bearded older guy next to me as he wolfed down his cheese sandwich. It turns out he's a building inspector for the city.

"You know, it always seems like the people that work for the city just aren't happy," I said.

"Well, the people that work inside the offices aren't happy," he replied. "I've noticed the people who are outside doing what they love to do are the happiest ones."

I never thought I'd say this about a city-employed building inspector, but while we were talking I could tell that he honestly loved his job.

Now compare this to who I met today. He is the former Chief Operating Officer of a huge computer company. He was the first guy to come up with idea for the first ever email-calendar-schedule combination (think Outlook). He drafted his idea on a napkin for the CEO. Needless to say, he is a genius/millionaire.

"What advice do you have for anyone coming out of college like me?" I asked.

"Just be passionate about what you do," he answered. "I didn't create new computer programs for the money. That wasn't even in my head. I created it because it was exciting and fun for me. Passionate people make money. People that aren't passionate chase money."

He drew two lines on a whiteboard. Above the first line he wrote "Black" and below the second line he wrote "White." In between them we wrote "Gray."

"Successful people live in here," he said as he circled the gray area. "Lower level managers make black and white decisions. They are easy, day-to-day decisions with concrete answers. You want to live in the gray. You want to be the guy who the CEO calls when he needs a tough decision made. CEO's don't want people to tell them what they want to hear. They want people to tell them what they need to hear. Be THAT GUY."

The City Employee and the C.O.O. showed me it's not your pay-grade, but your passion that determines your happiness.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

He Who Loves His Job

This is getting addicting. If you haven't randomly met someone before I suggest you give it a shot. It's getting difficult to pick just one person to spotlight, because I am meeting so many new people per day. Today's meeting was sort of a "hail mary" shot.

"How you doin this morning?" I yelled across the street.

"Just fine!" The man said as he walked over to me. We got to talking about the World Cup and what a great run team USA is making. I learned he was a researcher in Biology at BYU.

"That's a great degree to have right now," I said. "Do you want to work for an oil company or something like that?"

"No, I wanna teach," he told me. I'm always curious about why people want to become teachers because everyone knows it's not for the money. So I asked him.

"You know how there are some jobs where you come home exhausted and, well, just plain tired of life? I do not want one of those jobs. Helping someone learn new things is such an exhilarating experience. I feel invigorated when I leave the classroom. It's a happiness you just don't find in other jobs."

Talking to him made me thankful for all my great teachers and the time they put into teaching me. Because I know it wasn't about the money, but about the high they received from watching their students succeed. So Mrs. Burgess and Mr. Gordon . . . if you're out there reading this: thanks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Couple Next to Me

I love European-esque restaurants, but not for the food. I love them because the tables are so close together you might as well share one with the couple next to you. We ate at one of those restaurants tonight.

The waitress brought a plate of short ribs to the man next to me.

"Those look really good," I commented.

"They are amazing. My favorite thing here by far. The horseradish sauce is so creamy, and the ribs just melt in your mouth."

From this comment we started talking about everything from marriage, to SCUBA diving, the Super Bowl, good restaurants, the stock market, and new business ventures. We tried to get his wife to get SCUBA certified so she can go diving with him.

"No way," she exclaimed. "One time our family was snorkeling in Hawaii. Our son saw a moray eel, and pointed it out to us. My little 8-year old daughter started freaking out and swam back to the beach in panic! We couldn't get her to go back in the water!"

In the end, the man gave me his business card and told me if we were ever in Chicago, he knew some traders that would take us right down to the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. "All you gotta do is call me," he said. I told him if his kids ever needed a math tutor he could certainly call me.

By the way, his website is pretty cool if you happen to live in Utah. Here it is:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ms. "I Was There"

I hadn't met anyone new yet, so I decided to walk my dog. Walks are the best for meeting new people, because they are all around enjoying the same sunlight you're enjoying.

"I just got back from Chile," she said. "I was a missionary there for two years."

"Wow! Welcome home!" I replied. "I'll bet it was crazy there because of the World Cup."

"I was there when they qualified for the World Cup. Everybody watched the games in bars and got really drunk. I remember the day of the game they won to get into the tournament. People flooded into the streets dancing and singing. Everybody was hugging each other. It got so crazy we had to go home!"

Sport is the great unifier in the world, because it creates "I was there!" moments people will share for a lifetime. Like when the USA scored in the 91st minute to advance in the World Cup. Here's the reaction from Roosevelt's Atlantic Crossing Pub in Seattle:

One moment can turn a stranger into a brother. It's what The Amigo Project is all about.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Family from Arizona

One thing I love about meeting new people is the fresh perspective they offer.

"How do you feel about the new immigration law?" I asked.

"Well, I'm for the new law, but it certainly has its drawbacks. Most of the immigrants are good, hardworking people who send every penny back to their families in Mexico. Our church has seen missionary work dwindle to practically nothing, because Mexican families no longer trust white people enough to let them into their homes."

"It's hard to turn turn them away too," her husband added, "because in a way they are doing the same things our pioneer ancestors did. They are leaving their families behind and trying to make a new life for themselves. In my town, most of the illegals live in trailer homes. I've been in some, and I am amazed at how well kept and clean they are. But they drain us economically, and I can't help but notice most of the criminals on the nightly news are Hispanic."

They said the law would be better if police were only allowed to ask about their immigration status if they did a serious crime, like assault or theft. It sounded like a pretty good idea to me.

Sometimes the media tends to put Arizonans in a box labeled "Mexican Haters." But I think the majority of Arizona citizens are just like these two: honest, hard-working people trying their best to do the right thing.

That's a label I'm okay with.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Woman Who Eats Babyfood

I was waiting in line behind her to check out at the grocery store. It was 9 o'clock at night and I had a gallon of milk in my hand. I saw her take a bottle of Gerber's "Mashed Prunes" babyfood off the cashier's table and put it aside.

"Good choice," I joked. "I heard the mashed prunes are nasty."

The cashier and her started to laugh. "Ya, it's not all its cracked up to be."

"Have you tried it?" I honestly wanted to know.

"Sure I have! Every mom has that moment when she's sitting there feeding her kid mush and wonders what the mush tastes like. It's pretty much just flavored applesauce."

"Well then, what's your favorite flavor?"

Without missing a beat she said, "Banana Mixed Berries. It's my hands down favorite."

This is why I never use the self-checkout machines at grocery stores. Sure I might be able to get out of the store faster, but I wouldn't get to have such fun conversations. Plus the cashier was giving out free dumdum suckers. Bonus!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Those Neighbors

Everybody has those neighbors. You know, the ones that seem to sneak into their house every time you see them so they don't have to talk to you. The ones that live next door but you've never exchanged words with. Today I saw him walking up his steps with a handful of groceries and I thought, "That's it. I'm going to meet him." And I did.

"How you doin'?" I walked up his steps to help him get his door.

"Fine fine," he said.

It turns out he and his wife have a pretty amazing story, and I learned he's shy because he's still working on his English. Him and his wife are from Hong Kong, and they moved here about a year ago to go to school and work. He's majoring in Computer Science, and they have the cutest baby girl you've ever seen, as well as a little Jack Russell Terrier. I promised to bring them some brownies tomorrow.

"Do you like brownies?" I asked.

"Umm...I don't know," he replied. I don't think he's ever had a brownie!

I'm so happy I finally got to meet them. I hope YOU can meet those neighbors soon because chances are they're pretty interesting!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Strawberry Festival

There's nothing better than a good street fair for talking to people. I love hearing face-to-face sales pitches from the different booths. Here's some highlights from today's street fair:

"This tri-tip is so good, one time I was slicing it and a big chunk fell on the concrete. I picked it up, put it on the grill for about twenty minutes, wrapped it up on foil and took it home for dinner!"
- A man giving out samples and pitching
his "world famous" tri-tip.

"Raphael was my favorite Ninja Turtle. You know, the cynical one. Although I didn't know what cynical meant when I was seven. I just liked the color red as a kid, and Raphael had a red mask."

- Guy with a "Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles" t-shirt on.

"You shoot a ball and try to get it in the orange hoop. Haha what's it look like?"

- A carnival worker's answer when I asked
him how to play the "Pop The Balloons with
a Dart" game. Stupid questions deserve stupid answers!

"Sure! Have a Tootsie Roll Pop. We keep them here to give to kids so they don't walk around touching our windows."
- Dress shop owner about a bucket
of suckers on her cash register.
Like I said...nothing beats the street fair.

The Protesting Couple

I see the act of protesting as a microcosm for a fundamental problem in society. Today's amigos will show you why I feel that way.

My religious beliefs tend to be so polarizing that any large scale function will have its share of activists on hand protesting our beliefs and social positions. Today was no different.

"How are you two doing today?" I smiled. They were what looked like a married couple. The guy had a cowboy hat on. I got more of their story after we exchanged pleasantries.

"We are a married missionary companionship from Texas," the lady said. "We've been coming to this event every year for the last eleven years. Why do we keep coming back? Because Jesus told his disciples to be fishers of men. And since this is where the fish are every year this is where we need to be!"

The conversation was pleasant until the end when I said, "It's nice to know that even though we all have different religions we are all brothers and sisters here."

All of the sudden the woman went into attack mode. "Actually, that's not true. We are not brothers and sisters because we are not literal children of God..." She told me how my beliefs were wrong. And the wonderful feeling of meeting someone knew and connecting two more random dots in the world left.

Most protesters are so worried about being heard that they forget to listen. And therein lies the main reason for discord in the world. I'm not naive enough to believe we can smooth out all our differences, but I do believe we can communicate around those differences.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Pin Lady

As my wife and I were pulling out of Wendy's last night, I noticed an employee leaving to go home. Something caught the sunlight as she half-jogged across the street.

"Hey! Excuse me!" I yelled out the window.

She turned around to look at me.

"Yeah! Hey! Come here!"

I could tell she was a little nervous. It's not every day that a random stranger yells at you from their car window and beckons you toward them, I suppose.

"I noticed you have a ton of pins on your visor. Did you get them from work?"

A smile crept up on the outside corners of her mouth. "Oh, yes! I get pins whenever I learn how to do something at work." She tilted her head down and pointed to the mass of pins on her visor.

"Wow! You must know how to do everyting there!'

"Oh, yes! I have five other hats, too. They are all filled up with pins like this!"

"Holy cow! How long have you worked there for?"

"Eight years . . . a loooong time!"

We laughed and parted ways. I was thinking about her later on in the evening--eight years is a long time to have any job, but especially a food service job. I've worked in food service. I would know.

I so admired this woman for the amazing work ethic that she must have, and for the pride she must take in everything she does. I don't know if my future job will dole out pins, but if it does, I want to be the type of worker who'd have five hats' worth.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mr. Go With The Flow

We started talking about our jobs. He's an instructional designer and his job is to design computer software that educates students while they are entertained. It's the perfect job for him, he says, because there is the technical computer-coding side and a creative design side.

"Yup, my whole life I've found that you make plans in advance of graduating college, but it never ends up like you plan. I've learned it's best to just go with the flow and watch what opens up for you."

"How did you learn that?" I asked.

He paused. It was one of the pauses where you know the other person is remembering the past.

"I graduated with a degree in Biology. Biology ," he said. "I wanted to be a biologist or work for a pharmaceutical company. But when I left college and thought about having kids, I looked at our educational system in this state. I looked at how teachers teach and present new information. And man, let me tell you . . . they do it all wrong. They don't engage their students at all."

I sensed passion in his voice. "From that time forward I became fascinated by the teaching process--by what works and what doesn't. So I went back to school and got my Master's degree in instructional design, and now I create lessons for online education. Honestly, I couldn't be happier. I love my job."

An online educator taught me an important face-to-face lesson today. My life's path might not contain all my dreams and aspirations, but it will contain my purpose.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Neighbor

About once a week I wake up in the middle of the night to a car's loud bass blasting Mexican music (I think it's called ranchera). It's always annoyed me and I've wanted to go out there in my pajamas and give the guy a piece of my mind. I'm glad I never did.

Today I was outside with my dog when I saw a white van park across from me. Out popped an older man, his little girl, and a big lab. They parked in front of the house where the loud music comes from.

"How's it going? My name's Brock and I'm your neighbor across the street," I started as I jogged over. "I've just come over to get to know you."

He responded in broken English. "Oh, great! It's nice to know the neighbors."

"Where are you all from?"

"We are from a little city just below Tijuana, Mexico," he explained. "I came up here a year ago to work and I brought my daughters here because the schools are much better in the United States. I work at a church in Orem."

We parted with handshakes and smiles. I told him if he ever needed anything to just come and knock.

My dad always taught me you should never burn a bridge. And he's right. Instead of burning bridges with my neighbors across the street, we shook hands in the middle.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Zimbabwean

She was helping my wife pick out self-tanning lotion at the mall's make-up counter. She had blonde hair and blue eyes.

"Excuse me, but you have a tight accent. Where is it from?"

"I'm from Zimbabwe," she replied. I'd never met anybody from Zimbabwe before.

"No, way! What's it like?"

"Well there's a dictator so it's pretty corrupt and it goes through waves of crime and civil unrest. But when I've gone back I've never felt unsafe. It's beautiful there. The climate is like that of San Diego's...nice and warm all year round."

"What do you like most about it?"

"It seems like here in Utah everything is so fast-paced. It's always go-go-go. But in Zimbabwe, it's way more chill. The people are so relaxed and everybody is so nice there. When I was a kid my dad would take us on vacation to the beach where we would live like beach bums for a month. Believe me: they know how to relax in Zimbabwe."

She told us all the neat places to see and how she had been river-rafting down Victoria Falls. I left the make-up counter thinking about how big the world is and how much I haven't seen. It was so nice to get a glimpse outside of our hometown for once.

That's what's so amazing about meeting new people. You get to do things like travel to Zimbabwe--all without leaving the mall.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mrs. Deja Vu

For some reason I felt like I had met her before, yet everything about her felt so new. I met her this weekend inside of a log cabin in the mountains above Park City as big thick rain drops pummeled the tin roof.

I learned she loves drinking hot chocolate and curling up on the couch. She loves to snuggle up to you and share your blanket. She likes her bacon crispy and her eggs scrambled. She is more than happy to relax and watch movies all day. If there's brownie mix in sight, she'll cook it.

I met her again shopping. She holds up two shirts and asks me which one I like better, even though she knows I like how everything looks on her.

"Which one do you like out of these two?"

"Umm . . . the blue one." I hoped she wouldn't ask a follow up question. She did.

"Why the blue one?" She asks slyly, like she knows she's got me trapped.

"Honestly? Because it has seagulls on it," I say pointing to the white birds. "I like seagulls."

She's patient with me when I want to buy dark brown socks to go with my light khaki pants. She smiles. "Those don't work," she explains. "They are too dark for your light pants. The color of your dress socks needs to match the color of your dress pants."

I met her again when we watched the nature movie "Earth." She seemed to know the name of every waterfall or mountain that was shown along with its location. She wants to go to all these places, and has a journal where she plans a trip around the world. She has every stop and adventure listed. She likes planning it, even though she knows we might not ever afford it. She's beautiful like that.

I fell in love with her this weekend.

And then it hits me.

I had met her before. She walked into my apartment and started talking about the college football game on TV. I find it ironic that the most important conversation of my life wasn't started by me.

"Do you think we'll win?" she asked me.

"I don't think so . . . we never seem to win these games." I replied.

"That's not the attitude to have! Where's the positivity?!"

She said my kitchen was dirty and I invited her to clean it. Surprisingly, she did. I asked her on a date. Surprisingly, she accepted.

We met again two months later on a drive through Grand Junction, Colorado. We stopped at a Texas Roadhouse to eat, and with peanut shells on the floor I stammered what had been in my heart since the day I met her.

"Listen Kristi, I want to tell you a story. It's about a guy and a beautiful girl. The guy is in love with the girl, but he doesn't know how to tell her. Kristi, that guy is me, and that girl is you." There was a pause that lasted for what seemed like forever.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is . . . I love you." I was shaking. The next words out of her mouth would be make-or-break.

She looked at me calmly. "Thank you."

She honestly didn't know if she loved me back and wasn't going to tell me until she felt sure. I was grateful for that. We saw a huge falling star on the way home. I wished she would fall in love with me. She wished we would get home safely. As she likes to point out to this day, "Both of our wishes came true!"

I met her again at the spot where we'd shared our first kiss. She was bundled up for winter. I got down on one knee. I honestly don't remember what I said, but before I knew it I was holding a ring up to her with my heart thumping. She whispered, "Yes."

Kristi, my conversations with you are my most cherished memories. It's amazing to me that my life, literally my whole world, hinges on the one conversation that you started with me about a football game in my apartment. No matter who I meet for this blog, you are the only person I wake up with every morning . . .

and feel like I'm meeting for the very first time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Name Tag Maker

I've found that most people are more cheerful and happy to talk to you in the mornings. Whenever I take my dog outside early I look around to see if anybody is smiling. Today I found someone.

"Hello!" She said cheerfully.

"And where are you off to today?" I replied.

"Just going to work. I work at a business that makes name tags," she explained. "I am in charge of making all the name tags for the Mormon missionaries, and delivering them to their training center every week."

"What an interesting job! You must love what you do. What is your favorite part?"

"For me, I just love seeing them come off the rack and delivering them every week. I feel like I am part of something special."

We all want to be part of something special. I think what's most important is taking every single day and making it special. It's about giving meaning to our menial lives. Sometimes finding meaning and making meaning are the same.

To some, she's just making name tags. After listening to her talk, I know better.

I'm celebrating our third anniversary this weekend, and there won't be internet where we're going . . . I'll be back on Sunday! :)

The Fly Fisherman

I was already down when I ran into the Fly Fisherman today. I was taking a walk on a trail by our house and noticed some yellow crime-scene tape. I learned a man had brutally beaten and sexually assaulted a woman yesterday on that trail. My heart sinks when this happens. What kind of man does this to a woman? Are we really at the point where women can't walk alone? I was pondering such sad questions when I stumbled along a guy with a long fly reel and some fishing tackle.

"I didn't know the fly fishing was good down here," I said.

"Oh ya, man. It's incredible if you know what you're doing."

"Why do you like to fly fish?"

He thought for moment. "I love how complex and involved it is. With bait fishing all you do is slap a worm on the hook and toss it into the water. With this type of fishing you have to know all the different tackle. You need to find out what type of flys are hitting in that particular spot, and you have to shimmy and move your fly to make it look real, or the fish won't bite it. There's nothing better."

This guy had no idea about a quarter-mile up the trail was a crime scene of a woman's near-death, and he certainly didn't know how that crime scene affected me. But it was so refreshing to hear how he loved fly fishing for its complexities rather than its easiness.

Life is complex. Even though I don't understand why certain things happen to people, or why people do certain things to others, that doesn't mean life isn't beautiful.

We're gonna be alright.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Baller

I sat down next to him at the basketball courts while we watched the current game. He was from Texas and we talked about why he likes Dallas, the Mavericks, why they should trade Dirk Nowitzki to hit "the reset button" as he called it. He told me all about how he used to go to Huntington Beach and play volleyball at the "endless courts." It was a pretty uneventful conversation until he made an astute observation about the game.

"They just can't pass up that pull-up three," he chuckled.

I turned to the game. He was right. As I watched the game I saw player after player stop at the three point line and heave up a bomb rather than drive it to the basket for an easy layup. We laughed at how obvious it was and he said:

"Everybody wants to be a hero."

It made me think about how many times I try to "be a hero" by doing something difficult when an easier path is open. How sometimes we do things to be seen and admired by our peers rather than to contribute to the greater good.

You don't need a three-pointer to get the job done. Most of the time, there is a better way: Just take it to the rim.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Trucker

I met the Trucker as he was delivering his haul at a Sam's Club. Did you know a semi-truck going at 65 miles per hour needs about 2 football fields to stop! What was most surprising though was this trucker had a thick English accent.

"Where are you from?" I asked.

"I'm from England...Wales, actually."

"Did you come all this way to the U.S. to be a trucker?"

"Haha, no no...I came for a girl. You know, I always told myself I would never marry an American girl. They are just too mouthy. But I think I met the only non-mouthy one of the bunch! She's only mouthy about one thing: Nebraska football."

Rules I learned:
1. Never cut off a semi on the freeway.
2. Never say never.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


FSO stands for Foreign Service Officer. He had just retired after 22 years.

"Where did you serve in your job?"

"Well, I served in Fiji, Taiwan, and China just to name a few. I had my grand finale in Iraq before I retired."

"Wow! How did you get such an exciting job?"

"Actually, it was a total fluke. I was working in marketing, and my friend just came up to me one day and said, 'Hey, let's take the FSO test together!' I didn't really want to but I accepted his invitation anyways. Then, on the day of the test, I looked around and didn't see him. He had missed the test! So I took it alone and passed. Then I went on to the interviews, and they asked me crazy questions like 'If your friend's daughter was taken hostage, what would you do?' and I shrugged my shoulders and said, ''Geez, I don't know...write my congressman?'" He laughed. "I don't know how I passed."

"What was your favorite part about your job?"

"While I was growing up, I never left my old prejudices, but while my children were growing up in different countries they would introduce me to their friends. I was surprised because their friends were always Sudanese or Fijian or some other nationality. They never looked at skin color, race or language. Differences were never an issue for them. They taught me a lot."

Not bad for a career that began with a fluke.

The Landscaper

I was sitting around in the late afternoon, wondering where to go to meet somebody new. Fortunately, an opportunity presented itself in the sound of a hedge trimmer outside my front door. Today was a scorcher.

"Guys, it's blistering hot out here. You two must be thirsty. Can I bring you some water?"

They looked noticeably relieved. I brought out two huge glasses of water, and they gulped them down instantly.

"How do you like your job?" I was expecting complaints about the heat. Instead I got smiles.

"I love my job! I'm from, Mexico, and it's way hotter down there. So I enjoy working out in the heat."

"Cool! How did you land this job?"

"I used to do landscaping for another company. But my boss was constantly on our case, and he would say some pretty bad four-letter words. One day, I asked, 'Sir, why do you say such mean words? You don't have to say things like that to us.' And he replied, 'If you don't like it, then don't bother coming back tomorrow.' He fired me."

I thought about how rough the economy is. "Oh man, you must have been out of work for a while."

"No, actually, I was only without a job for three days before I found this one. It pays better, too."

Whether it's karma, luck, fate, or a loving God, meeting and talking with people has taught me one thing: If you do good, things always work out.

I gave him water on this hot and sunny day, and he gave me something even more refreshing: Hope.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Singer

I found out she was a high school senior who'd flown in last night to pass her last two tests before graduation (which was happening the next day). Sadly, she failed them both. While I was talking to her, I realized how smart she was.

"You are such a bright girl," I said. "What happened in these two classes?"

I've noticed that most of the time, students make excuses like "the test was confusing" or "the class is way to hard," but not her.

"I'm a musician, and I honestly did not do very good at balancing things in my life this past year. Between singing, piano practice, and school, I just put to much on my plate. It's nobody's fault but my own. I feel like I've let my parents down, because they work so hard for me to succeed."

"Well what do you want to do after school?" I asked.

"I really want to be a singer or an actress. My dad loves me a lot, but we fight all the time because he wants his little girl to succeed, and he thinks the only way is through science and math. But I'm just not good at it. I really like communications and I've thought about becoming a journalist! But it's hard on my dad."

We set up a plan to help her pass her classes by August so she can go to college. It seems like there's a conflict in her heart, but I know she will be successful. Why? Because she acknowledges her mistakes, and makes plans to correct them.

That's success in my book.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Cherry Picker

I got less than five hours of sleep last night and felt sick when I woke up this morning. I felt like cocooning myself for the day and not talking to anybody. I toughed it out for this blog, and I'm very happy I did.

He was changing streetlight bulbs. He was one of the happiest guys I've ever met, just smiling and laughing and cracking jokes all the time.

"How did you get this job? What was your major in college?"

"I never graduated from college. I actually started as an electrician and thought, 'Hey, I kind of like this!' So I looked for classes on electricity at a community college here. They only had one class that seemed to deal with electricity. It was called "Power Lines." I looked through the syllabus, and it looked fun, so I took the course. The only college course I took, and I loved it. I don't know why, but things just always seem to work out for me."

I asked him what made him happy.

"Me?" he says, "Lake Powell makes me happy. Just going out and sitting on the lake with my family and relaxing. It seems like all your cares just leave as soon as you hit the lake. I love the gas stations right before you hit Powell. You see the people who are going to the lake, and their faces are still a little tense from normal life. Then you see the burnt people coming from the lake, and they just have this chill look on their faces."

He let me ride in the "bucket," which is the crane that hoists you up to the top of the street lamps. I asked him if I could bring my wife to take a ride this weekend.

"Sure! You name the time and place. I'll have the truck all this weekend."

The best part was seeing his truck parked with writing on the back that says: I LOVE YOU DAD!

I said goodbye to this guy, and realized something: I'd forgotten I was sick.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Iraqi Airman

"My wife just got deployed as a member of the Army Reserves. She has been called to a one-year tour in Iraq."

"It must be pretty hard knowing you won't be able to see your wife for a year...are you nervous?"

"Well, I'm actually going to go visit her. I'm a senior pilot for Federal Express. I'm going to try to trade my normal route for a route that goes through Iraq, so I'll be able to visit her when she goes on leave."

"What's your normal route?"

"Through Hawaii...I don't think the Iraq pilot is going to have a problem trading me."

Trading palm trees and sandy beaches for a barren war zone. Now that's true love.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Great-Grandma

I was about fifteen minutes early for a meeting, so I started talking with the secretary, a 70 + woman named "Faye." The subject got on kids, and I asked her, "Do you have any kids?"

Her eyes got really wide, and she told me about her six kids, thirty-five grandchildren, and forty-one great-grandchildren. One story stuck out.

"I went to my granddaughter's wedding a week ago--you won't believe what happened! Her fiance's brother told him the day before that his mother wanted to speak to him. So, he left to meet her and his family kidnapped him, because they didn't want him to get married! Well, he convinced his brother that he needed to go back to his house to get his clothes. The next day, while his brother was waiting outside, him and my granddaughter snuck out the back door and left through back streets. They got to the temple, where we all were waiting, and got married."

"He said, 'Honey, I had to make a choice between my family and you, and I choose you.'"

Her eyes welled up with tears with how proud she was of both of them. Right then the phones started to ring, and she had to get back to work.