Friday, December 9, 2011

What they say really is true...

"You'll want to arrive on time this Thursday," Professor Stice told my Accounting class of over 500 students. "Being the last day of class, we will have a special treat." I was sure not to be late for this mystery opportunity.

When I walked into the large lecture hall that Thursday I didn't realize for a few moments the presence of a very familiar face on the stage with Professor Stice. Today we had a special guest: Norm Nemrow. Here at BYU, Norm is the friend/nemesis of all enrolled in the Introduction to Accounting course. Despite his recent retirement, Norm's software lessons are used to this day at BYU as well as Harvard University. Accounting students spend hours and hours listening to his quirky, lengthy, but very instructive lessons. But all in all, his lecture today was very little about accounting and very much about life.

Norm was a successful businessman. He had a lot of what the world has to offer, but has since tried to distance himself from wealth. "Money won't make you happy," he told us. And in the sometimes wealth-obsessed demographic I'm a part of that was wonderfully refreshing to hear. Yes it's important to take care of your family. Yes it's important to work hard. But the fleeting little extras that come along with money are, in the end, not worth worrying about. In fact, they can do more harm than good if unchecked.

Just after the lecture I received one of my Dad's classic multi-message texts. It's been a difficult semester for me in more ways than one and he was offering his support and encouragement. He was excited about my life. He had thought about my needs and my goals and wanted to give me his advice. It ended simply with, "I love you, Ian."

Perhaps one day I could be the greatest businessman to ever walk the earth. I could move mountains, revolutionize life as we know it. I could have all the money in this world. But with every ounce of wealth I might possess, I could never buy that message from my Dad. Stored on the tiny microchips of my phone's memory are words worth far more than money. "You have it all right now," Norm told us. And I really do. I really do.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Land and the Ocean

I am a mere summer's ocean to you
A fleeting view
Neither old nor new
Just undulating blue

But for you I would be that entire bay
That if you looked again
Part of me might stay
Within your sight

But what good is the sea to a girl?
What good is the surf to a being so great that she passes o'er it so easily
By boat, by bridge, by plane
That little of my vastness remains

Please... go where you will, as free as you can possibly be
Though I would that you should linger
I will speak in constant waves
A call to some, a cry to others, but to you- only waves.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Why I love "The Notebook"

I’m not a film expert. As far as my film credentials go, all I can claim is that for two years I lived in Los Angeles. But as an LDS missionary in those two years I was anything but a film critic at the time.

However, I believe I know why movies are such an integral part of our society and our world. Because I know what it is to come to the end credits of a film and realize that for two hours I was in a completely different reality, loving every moment. I know what it’s like to be genuinely afraid of a character in a film simply because the acting was so excellent. I know what it is to put myself in the shoes of a hero and live his adventure and save the world if only for a few fleeting scenes. For these and many other reasons, I love movies.

Now, there are a lot of really terrible movies out there- stagnant, disconnected, incoherent, brittle films that provide ample material for film critics. I find it sad that so much creative energy on the part of these critics is wasted blasting what ought to have been better-executed creative works. But the fact that there are such “better-executed” works out there is why there are even movie critics at all. And our eager searching of the “weekend” section of the paper for one of these less common reviews shows just how much we hope to find one.

Yet even positive reviews say only so much. In the world of films, there are those critically acclaimed and others that are merely “popular” but not so beloved by critics. There is likely no better example of this than “The Notebook.” While critics condemn, I think this should be considered a modern classic.

On, the Notebook is given the condemning green splatter and a mere 52% rating. Some call it sappy, others unrealistic. Some say it will stop at nothing to jerk tears from the viewers’ eyes. But to me, this story of summer love lost and found again against great odds and against all reason, will forever be one of my favorites. And it will be because it does what I think makes a film truly great.

Contrary to popular belief, I feel it stays within the bounds of possibility, if not likelihood. And the same reason I love this in an action film- keeping the character believable but meanwhile mind-blowing for the audience- is why I love it in a romance. One is lost in an almost dream-world only to realize that perhaps such things really do exist. Perhaps love so strong, love so inexplicably beautiful could be real.

And I’m writing this because such love is real. Being so bright as I am it took me a little while into the film when I watched it for the first time to realize who the elderly couple was, but as soon as I knew, they were no longer characters to me. They were two people that I know and love very dearly.

Nearly a decade ago my grandmother suffered a stroke, leaving her unable to speak, unable to move half of her body, and completely dependent. But every day since that stroke, my grandfather has been at her side, helping her through each struggle. In their little house in the desert hills of California, he tirelessly tends to her needs, even though she is unable to say anything in return.

When it hit me who Duke and Mrs. Calhoun really were I didn’t dismiss the whole film as a foolish fairy tale, I instantly knew how real and true the story was. I knew that Noah loved Allie so deeply because I know how truly Glen loves Ruth.

The Notebook captured a notion of love that some considered too improbable and fantastical, but in the fashion of a truly great film, it reminded me that such dreams really can and really do come true.

Monday, April 20, 2009

These walls did speak

I wrote a post a few months ago about my experience with free BMW brochures and how I used the glossy pages to cover nearly every inch of wall on my half and sometimes Alex's half of the room.

Today I spent a couple hours carefully taking them down. I tucked each picture into the envelopes BMW sent to me those months ago. I scraped the tack off the walls and the thin paper, eventually amassing a good fistful of old grey tack.

Then there was just one. The first picture I put up- an M Coupe- blue, gorgeous. Written next to it were the words, "You'd swear it just asked, 'What are you looking at?'"

What was I looking at? The remnants of a twelve-hour custom wallpaper project, yes, but I couldn't resist the chance to let my wall speak to me. "What are you looking at?" it said quietly.

I was looking at the last BMW on the wall, at the end of my Sistine car collage. I was looking at the bags strewn across the floor, devouring the things that proved I still belonged in that dorm in Provo. I was peeking through the blinds to see the signs that April had arrived, and that life was changing again.

Alex was unconscious in an afternoon nap. The sun trickled in through the closed blinds. The gentle April air smelled fresh.

I gutted my room. It's left with only what I'll need until Thursday. Then it isn't mine anymore.

Now I'm looking at the empty walls, yellowing and dull. I'm looking at the ceiling. All year I'd look up to the dashboard of an M6 coupe when I lay in bed. Now there's only drywall and a light bulb...the absence of the true place where I lived out so many of my freshman days.

I couldn't recognize the place without the walls covered... like a man without a face. But even the faceless have personalities...even the faceless can speak. My walls can't speak anymore. They can't spark my memory. Every cue to their existence save traces of tack here and there is gone.

I wish they had left a ghost, but the walls' silence almost convinces me there was never any life there at all, and that perhaps I dreamed it... that perhaps I dreamed a long, beautiful dream and met people and learned things and pursued ends that seemed so important but will quickly fade now that I've awakened.

But I believe they will linger. I even have a slight feeling that they will become real in time- these people, these memories, thoughts, and purposes. Did I say goodbye to figments of an unconscious mind today? Was the glare of the M coupe that asked, "What are you looking at?" a random interpretation of electrical brain activity in my sleep? Did I spend the last eight months behind the wheel of the M6 coupe above my bed? Yes.

For life's a dream the walls did speak
And consciousness will fade to grey
The reminiscer keen to seek
The evidence of former days
Will only find the memories
Of dreams or facts?

Well who's to say?

Monday, March 23, 2009


In March I watch the brief, bleak winter days grow into undying summer solstices. I fill out a bracket and cheer for underdogs. I celebrate my father’s birthday. I lose an hour of sleep for the sake of sunny nights.

Nine years ago this March I joined my family as we boarded a plane bound for the United States. My family was sad to leave our beautiful home in Brazil, but when I look back on that day, I'm just happy that we were all together.

With my family here in Utah for spring break, I savor the time I spend staving off the inevitable apart-ness that looms as I plan to leave on a mission.

Last March our family was only partially together. My older sisters being victims of BYU’s vacation-less winter semester, my parents, Jake, Ellen and I set out for our spring break vacation in D.C. as a family of five.

We drove together through the thawing forests and hazy clouds of the East, on highways blasted out of the brown hillsides. Hours passed under an empty grey sky. But after a day in the car, we arrived at a place we once called home—beautiful Virginia, with no billboards to clog the humid blue air and enough trees to satisfy any Midwesterner.

But far better than the beautiful scenery and peace I find in that first state are the friends I have there. By a strange twist of fate I’ll always be grateful for, I ended up moving into the same BYU dorm hallway as a childhood friend from Virginia. We had no memories of our time together as two-year-olds, but now we are friends just the same. And he has introduced me to a handful of people I have little doubt would have been my closest friends had I not left the state in '94.

March for me has always been a time of reunion. Reunion with this wonderful country, reunion with those I love, and reunion of long-lost friends.

Now the memory of that chilly March drive to Virginia warms my heart with the joy of friends reunited…the foreboding March cold in the nation’s capital replaced with searing springtime sun. The vapid winter dies and life promises to abound for many days to come.

In March I turn on the TV and see young athletes full of dreams. I retire late and wake to a cool, bright, and alive world. The earth of the mountains begins to shift slowly to greener hues. I laugh and idle away the hours with people I love.

At this crossroads of the seasons, I look ahead with hope. In this March of 2009, I received a call to serve as a missionary in California. My mother pointed out that the call came on the fourth. “March fourth,” she said. “And that’s what you’ll do. March forth.” March is so bitter and so beautiful. But in a time where I taste such a multiplicity of emotions, I can only press on with the hope of springtime. I can only march forth, for I know now that winter pain is soon replaced with peace, grey emptiness with friendship, and that the equinox of loneliness will give way to the rising brightness of love.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mission's Eve, baby!

I know it's possible that the mail takes a little longer and I don't get my mission call today, but here I am at 2 am on Wednesday and I'd just like to say a couple things before it comes in case I get a very special envelope tomorrow.
When I look back at things I've wanted in my life, the list gets pretty crazy. Since about last year, I've wanted to be a dominant basketball player. Since 7th grade, I've wanted to be a professional skateboarder. And since kindergarten, I've known that I want to be married for eternity. I'm ok at basketball. I was truly humbled at the skatepark today (first time in six years). And the woman thing- that's on its way in about two years.
But looking back at everything I've dreamed of in my life, there's something I've wanted longer than all those I just mentioned. The first thing that I ever really wanted in my life was to be a missionary. When I was three-years-old, my Dad filmed me singing "Called to Serve" with all the zeal one can have when he loves to sing it, but only knows the "Onward, ever onward" part of the song. But I yelled that with all that I had.
I've grown a foot or two (different song, I know), and I'm as ready as a nineteen-year-old is to become a workhorse. Very soon, I'll know when and where the Lord wants me. I've never been more excited for something in my life.
Until the call comes I'll be struggling to sleep, listening to Tom Petty yell "the waiting is the hardest part!" And I'll be smiling- like a three-year-old whose first dream is about to come true.

Dad's prediction: somewhere in the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Am Young and Restless

You know the times when you see an old photo album and discover that your Dad took crazy risks and did dangerous things when he was a 20something?  Always shaken by nervousness, I never saw myself becoming a foolhardy one who delights in putting his life in peril.  Now I find myself battling bouts of depression, bouts which promise to end only when I go to Park City and go off some big ski jumps and cross my skis and become a human helicopter: RAAR! choppa choppa choppa choppa choppa choppa choppa... or an albatross with quite a gastric inclination.