Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Thick of Thin Things Week –

I have always felt one of my management weakness’ was ability to too easily get caught up in the thick of thin things. Life just comes at me like a conveyor belt of tasks, duties, priorities, clutter, wild goose chases, personal goals, useless activities, distractions as well as a few really important issues. Too often in the jumble of the day I can pick up the useless distraction and let it override the really important things that need to be done. Items don’t always come marked with their appropriate priority designation so in the rush of daily demands it’s sometimes hard to order things correctly and I often mislabel priorities due to my laziness or lack of vision. This week seem to be one of those where I was so busy all the time but didn’t feel much progress. Does anybody else feel that they would like to poke their head above the avalanche of daily “to do’s”, take a big breath, and figure out what is really important and have the energy to tackle those key activities? I felt like that this week.

Last Sunday – Do I visit with a recently divorced man in the ward to provide some support or go to the Stake Priesthood meeting?

Monday – spend time with Danica’s family visiting the house or study for my Continuing Education (CE) test so I can keep my insurance license?

Tuesday – Go to a client seminar with a very well healed new prospective client or go to my required Employment meeting?

Wednesday – Fulfill my assignment at the temple or catch up on my evening cold calls, or sit in on a financial seminar offered by major carrier?

Thursday – Should I fly to Utah for one meeting and hope for some future business or stay at home and take care of existing clients?

Friday – Tackle client problems from a week of neglect, take the CE test which I haven’t prepared for, prepare for a huge presentation scheduled next week, go with mom to a special workshop, dinner, date????

So on Saturday, I decided to relax which meant a nice Saturday agenda of a long social bike ride with mom in the morning, business cold calls, diving at the aquarium (I was in a swirl of Bamboo Sharks – wild experience), clean the kitchen, nap, visit the Dragon Boat Races in Denver, host a bar-b-que for Danica’s family with the missionaries and a part member family, that visited until 10:30 pm.

No wonder I feel exhausted today. I need a giant filter to screen out the silly and useless and just keep the important stuff, but then that wouldn’t be much of a colorful and fun life, maybe the thick of thin things isn’t all bad.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Hard-y Family

It was after a rather rigorous racquetball game and early in the morning so I wasn’t in my right mind to start with when Richard Anderson and I were exchanging a few church regrets. I was disappointed that after teaching seminary for seven years I never got to teach the Book of Mormon and that mom and I had never been on the Trek which sounded kind of cool. I should know better than to open my mouth especially when the brain isn’t engaged, but I thought it was safe. The Trek was only 10 days off and they had picked their “Ma’s and Pa’s” literally months ago and the stake had been preparing them for months with meetings, films, books, and an exercise program to get everyone in shape. It was a life opportunity that had passed us by.

But that night I got a call from Richard and he said he might be able to help me with one of my regrets – they needed a last minute Ma and Pa. I asked – “Was that a token ‘Grandma and Grandpa’ to pass out cookies and tell lame jokes?” No they needed a legit Ma and Pa to walk the Trek and take care of 8-9 teenagers. I remember those creatures from years past – they stay up late, talk loudly, run your car out of gas, and keep you on your toes with worry from physical or spiritual injuries. But I also remembered how insanely fun it was to have a house full of teenagers with high energy and hi jinx’s, so mom and I again stepped into insanity and said yes we would go.

It was an intense 10 days of prep work – getting equipment, making cooler collars and bloomers (mom’s favorite), studying pioneer stories, and walking walking and more walking. We even did some in depth research – we asked Tiana, Don and Austin their memories of Trekking. Don remembered the food, Austin the water fight in the Sweetwater, and Tiana begged us to let our family members flirt with the kids from other families. With that critical knowledge with were ready for the 3 day experience.

We named our family the Hard-y family because besides the social fun of being outdoors there are hard things we need to choose to do in this life. When we come to those times in our life when the right thing is a tough and hard thing to do we need to be able to work though the tough challenges. That may mean getting out of our comfort zone, making sure to tackle the difficult assignment at work, being able to forgive someone, getting back on the board after a painful 3 meter disaster, making that next cold call, knocking on a foreign and unknown door, battling back depressive thoughts, or working through pain. We know we all have hard things to do in life and this is a concentrated 3 day experience to share with some kids in an outdoorsy spiritual context some of those hard things our pioneer ancestors faced. Besides Hard-y is easier to pronounce than Barrand.

The night before we left Scott Turek (who was in charge of the whole company of 295 participants – 200 kids and 95 supporting adults) pulled me aside, smirked and told me that I was the oldest person on this Trek and that I was representing all the old people that make the pioneer treks so I better hang in there no matter how hard it got. I really didn’t know how to take that..

We started at 5 am and that has never been a great time of mental acuity or sharp looks and it showed as 300 people stumbled around in the dark, met their “family”, lost their friends and tried to make sense of the piles of tents, sleeping bags (all in the exact same black trash bags), buckets, lanterns, snacks, and personal items. That is such a hard time to size up the social dynamic in the crush and pandemonium of packing buses. No time for cheering or disappointment, just get on the bus and sit by who ever and get comfortable for the 6 hour ride to Martin’s Cove.

The weather was beautiful, around 90 degrees with a light breeze, lunch was good and the trail smooth. We ended up with a great family. It was easy to pick us out in a crowd – we had the tallest kid in all the youth and if anyone was lost they just looked for 6’4” Austin and he was our gathering place. Now if Austin was ever lost or in the wrong place we all ended up there with him, which was only somewhat comforting.

After hiking along the Sweetwater, doing the women’s pull, and hiking for a long way we arrived at camp. Oh no this wasn’t our campsite….we’re only halfway to our campsite, we have another two hour hike ahead of us and that is where that work principle kicks in. We could have stayed here but we do need to push ourselves a little more.

At sunset we arrived, set up the tents (ours has seen better days), chowing down a very rustic dinner, clean up, square dance and devotional then to bed on a very comfortable air mattress.

The highlight of the trip was the crossing of the Sweetwater. It is considered sacred ground and we maintained silence as we approached. A talented sister was playing “Come, come ye saints” on a violin and I got caught up in the emotion of the acts of sacrifice and service preformed here. The problems at Martins Cove was partly due to bad choices of the leaders, but here at the crossing of the Sweetwater it was the pure epitome of the gospel – giving of ones life for the safety of others. The spirits of those four young men who for hours ferried the entire handcart company across the ice chocked river whispered to my spirits of the importance of giving of ones self as a gift for others. It was a powerful and moving experience.

I think some of the group got the picture that everyone is of value. They didn’t just carry across the river the “good looking kids” or the “cool kids” or the “funny kids” or the “athletes”, they took everyone across. Every life was valued as a brother or sister. There were no razor sharp distinctions of “coolness” that include some and excluded others because of looks or social ineptness. The Sweetwater crossing helped me realize in a little way how God views all of us in our need to be helped across the river of life. Looks and social graces are not the pass keys to the Celestial kingdom, but making those hard decisions and loving the Lord more than man unlocks that door.

Raw numbers: 3 days – 27 miles hiking – no rain – 8 kids – Mom earned the title of biggest blister and I was two short of the most blisters (with only 4) – OK food – great air mattress – and the spiritual enrichment was priceless.

Kids -

Austin – 17, wants to be a marine biologist, very tall (6’4”) very energetic and very hard working.

Jason – 14, likes drumming, learning the social graces, the trip was a challenge for Jason, but he rose to the occasion and conquered his physical pains.

Doug – 14, great hard worker who is a bright spot in the family. Talks in his sleep.

Derrick – 14, overcoming much (loss of a close brother) with a great heart and an entertaining conversation style particularly around girls. Great kid to have around.

Lindsay – 16, hard-working big sister. She was a great asset to the family with her smile and willingness to pitch in and help.

Tory – 15, in the tough spots she would push to the front and pull with the best of them. Loves soccer and volleyball

Didi – 15, overcame a lot to come on the Trek

Megan – 15, her good decisions are spot on and she has a lot more righteous grit in her then she gives herself credit for

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Quiet Week

As the title describes, the week was quiet. I was trying to get my business back on track after a couple of very disappointing weeks and was moderately successful. Mom and I have been walking as much as possible in order to get in shape for the trek coming up this week. We are late choices as “Ma and Pa” and are racing to prepare all the fixings’ for a great WY experience. The house is beginning to look like the camping section of the local Sport’s Authority store. It is littered with tents, air mattresses, mess kits, lanterns, ground cloths, and pioneer bloomers and bonnets. How did the pioneers ever get ready for months of travel without the comfort of sunscreen, body glide, TP and insect repellent? I think I will have a much greater appreciation of their efforts in a week’s time.

They shouldn’t have picked me to highlight the spiritual side of the sacrifices of the Willie and Martin handcart companies. Yes they suffered terribly and there was an incredible and painful loss of life but in some ways it was unnecessary. They started on the trail near the end of August - way late in the season (no fault of their own). They were told my experienced missionaries to stay the winter in Iowa or Nebraska, but they said “Oh the Lord will protect us, we’ll be alright. Divine intervention will save the day.” It was a terribly selfish and foolish way to approach God. It was an unrighteous dare made by those in leadership of the handcart companies. To me they are a great example of a dangerous arrogance when we set aside prudent thought and demand that Heavenly Father save us. It’s not a good idea to tempt the Lord; we need to do our part.

Here are some pictures of our picnic with Dave, Danica and family. These shots were taken just before I got into a fist fight with another guy in the park who wanted to kick us out of the fountain.

I hope I’m in one piece next week to write to you all. Happy walking.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hanging with the Prophet

It was a fun and different Family Home Evening this last Monday night. I went to the Mormon Tab Choir concert at Red Rocks. The brilliant white moon rose through the ink blue sky above dramatic red sandstone formations was almost as impressive as the music. The choir also had their orchestra so the concert was amazing. As a special treat the prophet sat a couple of rows over from us and during the intermission we wandered by to say hi and shake his hand. We got within 2 feet but then got lost in the crowd, it was still a great experience.
It was a great family week because I heard from all of my kids to wish me some strange thing call a “birthday”. They think that naming some date on the calendar makes you a year old, and I just don’t buy it. I’m fighting tooth and claw to prevent the creeping perils of old age. It is hard when pains just don’t go away, but I’m trying.
The highlight of the week came over the holiday weekend. Tiana and Preston met us in Vail and we went backpacking to take the trail we missed last year to see the Mount of the Holy Cross. The weather was perfect – it rained until we arrived and then held off until we were in the car on the way to the hotel.
We backpacked in about 1 mile and set up camp right along the trail. Next morning took off to the see the mystical Mount of the Holy Cross. It is about a 5 mile trails through the woods and then above the tree line up to a rock house built at a little over 13,000 ft. From there you get an incredible view of the Holy Cross Mountain. It is suppose to have curative powers and been a sight for my pilgrimages to be heal. Well our faith must have been lacking because Tiana pulled a muscle and Preston got altitude sick which made the going rough. Preston was Hercules during the hike and didn’t really get sick until Sunday morning.
When we got back from the hike and after the rain storm and a fun dinner at “Outback Steakhouse” we headed up to Beaver Creek for the fireworks display. They set off the explosions really close to the crowd and it was like being in a battle field scene with the sharp rap of the fireworks. We loved it, but I missed the strains of patriotic music to give meaning to the fireworks. I thought of Don in Iraq and the principals of freedom that defines our country. We are different than any other government in the world. We believe as Patrick Henry said – “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government ...” Now more than ever we need to live by that principal.