May 31, 2015

The Impression You Make

We have all heard the warning, “First impressions matter, so use it wisely, you only get one…,” and I thoroughly think this is true. The impressions we make on people are lasting. Whether they are good or bad, they matter to those we have relationships with.

I can think back in my life to many times I have made some BAD, and often embarrassing, impressions. Sometimes they were accidentally bad and others, I must honestly admit, that I made intentionally usually accompanied by a healthy dose of anger or pride. Later I look back and wonder why I acted so childish, careless and rude. Usually it is late at night or on a quiet ride that I review conversations, experiences and situations and wonder “I did I REALLY do/say that?” Thanks to forgiveness and loving people I still have friends and family who will talk to me!

Other times impressions are fun, inspiring and memorable. There are so many wonderful people in my life. From close family members, to teachers, youth leaders, to complete strangers who make a difference—I have countless people who have listened to a prompting and reached out to help in a time of need. I remember years ago I was on my mission and Elder Kay and Sister Jodie Bergman decided it was a travesty that none of us elders could bake our own bread and Sister Bergman took every Sunday and Monday to have a few missionaries over for bread lessons.  I went a few times (I could not get it right I guess) and one day I distinctly remember kneading dough with Sister Bergman in their small rented apartment and she explained that we have such a high capacity for love, our hearts never are too full to love someone else—love is not a finite piece of pie that when divvied out there are no remaining portions for new comers without taking from someone we gave to previously. No, our love only grows in endless supply to encompass more people over the years. That lesson has made an impact on my because no matter how many states we lived in, countries we have traveled or people we have met, there is always room for people to make a positive impact.

Sometimes people do not make the best impressions, and while they are often hurtful, rude or un-comely, so it is hard to remember they are people with struggles and trials too, it is important to note that just like all of us, they too have moments of weakness. One of my favorite hymns has the powerful words, “In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see…” We never know what people are dealing with and although their reaction is not desirable, we can respond with love.

Beginning this new chapter of our lives I have had a chance to look back and see what impressions I have made on others—again, some were unintentional. From my staff in the Philippines who sent me off with a stack of letters mainly focusing on how much they learned from me and two even mentioned, “we were sometimes scared of you...” hahaha, not sure I knew I was that scary, but apparently that was a lasting impression I made! Two co-workers who sent little messages of their thoughts on working with me (I am sure there are many other thoughts that people don’t dare speak out loud!)

I will mention two of them because I think very highly of the two people who sent them. One was a photo of a restaurant and on the wall there is, in large bright while bulbs, the bold command to “BE AMAZING.” My friend tagged the photo on social media with the comment, “Dustin, this reminded me of you!”  That made me smile.

Another colleague and I had an on-going joke. In the mornings when I would see her I would say hello (more like sing hello) in my normal good morning fashion. Often she would reply sullenly, “It is way too early to be that happy.” Or in a warning tone, “Dustin, I have not had my coffee yet..” Haha. So as I was leaving she joked that she found a door mat she wanted to give me and asked what color I wanted. I offhandedly, not thinking she was serious, said, “Pink!” To our surprise yesterday, a box came with a mat that reads, “Don’t Forget Your Sparkle!” written in pink. I love it.

There truly are some good, caring and giving people in the world. I am so happy we have had many of them in our lives. People who have been beside us when we cried, helped us when we were down and reached out a hand when we were too prideful to ask for it.
So yes, impressions are lasting and do make a difference, and if we all realize we are just trying to make it through this rough, unpredictable journey of life, we will all BE AMAZING and none of us will forget our (pink) sparkle!

May 29, 2015

It's Just a Number

            1 2 3  71 25 46 101

As you may know, Lady Hiva and I are on the hunt for a home now that we are permanently moving to Utah. We thought that this was going to be a fun experience. We both love to see homes and HDTV makes it look so easy and happy--WRONG! We have looked at houses that we both don't like at all and others that either the inside is great and outside is...not so great. We have also seen the inverse where the outside is beautiful and the inside has something to left to be desired. There are big yards and small yards, carpet or no carpet, good neighbors and some sketchy neighbors. So I started to ask people at work where they live and if they like their neighborhood. One of my colleagues said, "I love my neighborhood!" and proceeded to tell me how great the neighbors are and the ward etc. I went to see the area on the map and asked what her address was and she hesitated (as if I was asking so I could come stock her or something...haha) and she finally said, "If I tell you, you promise that you realize the address is JUST a number?"

I was a bit perplexed, but agreed and wondered what kind of address could summon that kind of hesitation, because after all most addresses in Utah (thanks to the grid system) are a combination of numbers and two of the four directions ex: 300 West 200 South. She finally started and I was shocked as she spoke and paused my typing...."666..." What an address! Later we were joking about it and she mentioned that she has people give all kinds of reactions to the number and in fact, as we were talking one of our other colleagues chimed in and asked (joking of course) if "Satan lives there?" Oh boy!  

As I thought about this more I began to think how much numbers mean to us. We assign meaning to them and nearly worship their importance. Sometimes that is helpful and others it is destructive and distracting. At times number represent superstitions--like 666 or the number 13. These superstitions run deep for people that is why there are very few buildings in the world with 13 floors and Friday the 13th is a marked with a curse...or so they say. We also put meaning into other types of numbers. How large our salary is--this in many ways bleeds over into other areas of our lives and the numbers become part of our identity. If we have a large salary we will have multiple cars, have a house with more square feet than the neighbors and wear clothes that cost more than feeding thousands of children in a developing country. The numbers give us meaning that we literally wear on our sleeves.

Other ways we allow numbers to shape our lives are more social, how high the number is on the scale when we step on, how many children we have, how many days until a holiday or event, how old we are, how many years have we been at our job, how long we have been married...the list goes on and on.

But they are just numbers.

Taking an idea from Max Lucado in "YOU ARE SPECIAL" Punchanello is worried about what others think of him and how they give him bad dots not good stars (similar to us with our infatuation with numbers) and goes to visit the creator, Eli. Eli tells Punchanello that what the others think and whether they give stars or dots do not matter. Those stars and dots only matter if we assign importance to them. Just like numbers, they will only matter if we assign importance to them.

Others may use numbers to judge us and compare with themselves, but just like Eli's lesson, it will only matter if we let it. Does it really matter that our dress or suit was 10 or 100 times more expensive than the person next to us? Does it matter how many children we choose to have? Many cultures place a high importance on age, but in the end does it really matter, or is it the talents that we hold that matter, regardless of age?

We need numbers to quantify and measure things. it is easy to use numbers to understand the world, they are finite and stable--quantifiable. But do we miss the big eternal picture when we put so much weight into the quantification process?

Believe me when I say I am not saying that all numbers are bad. Searching for a house is a good example. Numbers are handy when you discuss size, price and other aspects of the process. Yet, if we use numbers to degrade and judge others by trying to put them into the parameters we believe are the best. When we find ourselves using numbers that way, we need to remember that it is just a number and the people behind the number is what matters most. 

So use numbers, find ways to improve the world with them, but remember to keep them in perspective and remember that it's just a number and only has importance if we allow it to be important.

May 27, 2015

The Stories We Tell

One of the greatest aspects of our lives (and one that I can enjoy every day of my new job) is to tell stories. Now, those of you who have read my books, or even read this blog, know that I have a HUGE fan of telling stories. Lady Hiva says that my stories get more embellished every time I tell them. I won’t argue that, I just get excited as I engage people in the story! Hehe.

This week as we were out and about for work we were able to learn more stories about Utah. The Mormon Pioneers came from the Eastern United States hundreds of years ago to avoid persecution and they made the desert their home. I often wonder what those people would think now if they saw the way the population is growing and growing. Their one time village and small strategic settlements spread across the region is now a large metropolitan city (I saw large, but compared to DC, Manila and Istanbul our last three homes, it is a bit small).

My own family has plenty of stories from the pioneer days of settling in South Central Utah. The levels of sacrifice and perseverance are unmatched. Today I was able to hear one stories that really touched me. There was a man, John Rowe Moyle, who came to settle in Alpine, Utah, 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. He built a modest home (large by the standards of his time) to house his young family out of stone. It is complete with a tower to defend the home against Indian invasion. He even made a trap door and started an underground tunnel from the home to the tower. The tunnel was not finished because the threat of invasion decreased and Moyle was busy as a stone mason for the Salt Lake City Temple.

Moyle would walk the 30 miles from Alpine to Salt Lake City every week. And he did it with a wooden leg! Talk about amazing ambition. His dedication to building the temple was unsurpassed. His legacy can still be seen in the stone work of the iconic LDS building. We were able to go with a friend who was asked to create a replica of the wooden leg for people who came to the home, now turned museum, to see what Moyle faced as he sacrificed for his beliefs.
Old Moyle home in Alpine, UT. Now is a museum dedicated to John Moyle

Entrance to the tunnel that was never finished and now houses the furnace

Hidden door to the tunnel

The Indian protection tower

What a story of dedication and love for their faith. I am not sure how many people could walk the 30 miles today, let alone to do it twice a week on a wooden leg. But he left us plenty of stories to tell. So think about your stories that you have in your lives. Write them down and pass them on. 

Holding the replica of Moyle's wood leg.
Just for fun, read this headstone caption...How about that for a story?: 

May 20, 2015

I Love To See the Temple…

Payson Utah Temple
Those who are really familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will know that there are two basic types buildings for the Church. There are chapels and there are temples. For those of you not familiar with the difference, I would say quickly, that a chapel is where Sunday meetings and other social gatherings happen daily. All are welcome there for any meeting. However, the temple is where members of the church, who are following the teachings and principles of the gospel go to make covenants with God. It is a place of peace, reflection and learning.

To say that I love to go to the temple is an understatement. I like the chance to spend time in a quiet, beautiful building to reflect on my life and how much I have been blessed with. Now, temples, once dedicated as such, are only open to those with a ‘recommend’ (similar to an LDS version of an ID). But every once in a while a new temple will be completed and for several weeks before it is dedicated officially, the temple is open to the general public to tour and see all of the rooms and learn what ordinances happen there—like the ability to be married for time and all eternity, not just ‘till death. These sacred ordinances are the pinnacle of worship for a Latter-day Saint.  

Provo Utah Temple (right next to my work)
There are some iconic temples around the world that people have come to know and recognize, Sand Diego, Washington, DC, La'ie, Hawaii, and of course the temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. The newest temples completed are the Indianapolis, Indiana and the Payson, Utah temples. Now we live in Utah again we made arrangements to go to the Payson, Utah Temple open house. It is gorgeous inside. Dark wood banisters and door frames juxtapose white and cream walls. Colorful stain glass windows and rich colored furniture adorn the immaculate rooms. I like how each temple has a theme that is carried out in the decorations, the lighting, and the rooms. Payson’s theme was nature. Flowers, leaves and original nature landscape paintings were central to the décor.

We were happy to make it into the temple (partially because it was rainy and then snowy and we, of course, don’t have coats!). As we walked through the tour we were amazed at how peaceful the place was even with the hundreds of people trailing through. I had a mother with her four small children behind me and I was touched to hear her explain to her children in simplified detail so the children could understand her humble testimony of the importance of temples for the family.
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Tau’aho of course was more interested in the rocks outside then he was with anything else. People in line with us were joking (they must not have known I was the dad of this cute little brown child) that he was a future geologist because he would meticulously look at rock after rock and cast them off until he found the perfect rock to his tastes. He had two of them in his hands when we entered the temple and as we were passing the baptismal font he decided to throw it in! Luckily it hit one of the poles to the railing (what are the chances of that?) and bounced back onto the tile floor so I could grab it! Life with a little Lucky Dragon!

We miss Istanbul for sure, but we are so happy that we are here and close to temples. I find myself singing the children’s hymn, “I love to see the temple…” in my head often.

May 17, 2015

Home in The Land of the Free…

View from one of the conference rooms at work (pardon the dirty window...)

We are now into our second week of being in Utah. It has been busy (that is an understatement) as we have tried to get settled into our rental home while starting a new job and looking for a permanent place to stay. We weren’t sure what to expect because we were moving back to the United States after being in and out over the last several years. Yet, family had our little apartment cleaned and filled with furniture and the fridge stocked with food when we arrived. We were so grateful. This process would not have been possible without them. We had to have someone pick up the keys, we borrowed couches, another gave us a vacuum…they made sure that we had all the basics! Thank goodness for family!

We thought that we were moving to the desert (Utah really is a hot desert) however, you would not know that because the rain in Paris followed us here and today is really the first sunny and rainless day we have experienced since being back! But alas, we are in the desert so we have no right to complain about the rain! We now join the, we-are-thankful-for-what-moisture-we-get club. I must admit though, no matter how supportive we have tried to be, keeping a little guy in from the rain for several days straight is ROUGH! Lady Hiva finally let the Lucky Dragon out into the puddle the other day and he LOVED it. Likewise, when it has snowed a few days this last few weeks (yes, I said SNOW in MAY!), that was really pushing our resolve to be positive about the ‘moisture.’ haha

Tau’aho really is adapting. He goes to the park and you can see him looking for his playmates from Istanbul. Hopefully he begins to like the other children as much as he loves them. He has really enjoyed being around cousins, which makes us happy because he will be around them more now. We are constantly amazed at how fast he is progressing. He has been ‘reading’ on one of the education aps on the iPad and will now point out all the “O”s he sees and will also say, “‘T’ for Tau!”  He loves to greet people. Today we were at church and he stood at the entrance and when someone would either walk in or out he was exclaim, “OH! Who’s that?” They would laugh and tell them their name and then ask, “Who are you?” He would say, “I Tau’haho.” (saying his own full name, vice Tau, is something new this week. He started doing it on his own and although he adds an extra ‘h’ in there, it is really close.). 

He also likes to watch what people are doing and try it too. We were in the check-out line in Target that he was standing in the cart basket watching the guy scan the items. When the guy stopped to check something else, Lucky boy grabbed two items and reached across and scanned them before either I or the man could stop him! The man was impressed and said, “I have never seen a child do that before…” Neither have I, neither have I. He has now started to point out yellow, pink and purple…and they come out something like, “lello” “pinK” and “puh-poh”, now if we could get him to say the right word with the corresponding color we would be great. He loves music and puzzles and is starting to recognize shapes. He could do shape puzzles all day if we let him. The other day we were walking through the mall he said, “A note! A note!” I looked over and sure enough an advertisement had some large music notes on them. (I didn’t even know he knew what those were!) He will make anything a musical instrument—usually a drum—and will spend plenty of time at Lady’s sister’s piano.  He will close his eyes as he makes his music and look as if he is totally into his own little world. He is such a joy in our lives.
Playing the piano

Now we have been back for a while there are some ways that we know we have been changed after living outside of the country for so long. Some good and some will hopefully leave after a while. We noticed the way we eat has changed. Fresh fruit and vegetables (no processed in any way) is not common here; Nor is walking, even the shortest distance. Lady Hiva and I were both shocked at how sweet all of the bread is compared to the bread we eat in Europe (and that does not even mention all the candy, soda and sweets that seem to be readily available).

It has been nice to drive in WIDE streets through neighborhoods and see people have yards with expansive grass and flowers. It is also nice to drive in the ‘traffic’ that pales in comparison to Manila and Istanbul (I guess it is all perspective). The air is crisp and fresh (a bit cold, but I digress) and that is refreshing. Lucky Dragon loves being outside and seeing all the animals, bugs, plants and many, many, many rocks…!

We went and purchased a washer and dryer the other day—our last big item to settle in before we have our permanent home—and because the apartment does not have a big enough space for nice new washers, we went to a wholesale place and purchased some refurbished appliances. (great price and warrantee, a bit scratched, but that never hurt anyone). We went and rented a truck from Home Depot and brought them home. Lady Hiva and her muscles and me in my suit… (sounds a bit like I am quoting ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) packed the washer and dryer up the stairs to our second floor apartment. I am glad I married a tough girl! She didn’t complain at all. I am sure we looked like quite the odd pair doing it too. I changed and we took back the truck and the guy at Home Depot said, “Hey you aren’t dressed up any more!” Nope, kind of awkward to lift appliances in a suit! Hehe…the stories we will tell.

So here is to our next adventure! We are really excited about it too!