December 28, 2006

Natural Highs

Falling in love Laughing so hard your face hurts A hot shower No lines at the supermarket A special glance Getting mail Taking a drive on a pretty country road Hearing your favorite song on the radio Lying in bed listening to the rain outside Hot towels fresh out of the dryer Vanilla milkshakes A bubble bath Giggling A good, deep conversation The beach Finding a twenty dollar bill in your coat from last winter Laughing at yourself Looking into their eyes and knowing they love you Midnight phone calls that last for hours Running through sprinklers Laughing for absolutely no reason at all Having someone tell you that you're beautiful Laughing at an inside joke Friends Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleepYour first kiss with someone Making new friends or spending time with old ones Playing with a dogHaving someone play with your hair Sweet dreams Road trips with friendsSwinging on swings Making eye contact with a cute stranger Getting or giving a massage Making cookies Having your friends send you homemade cookies Holding hands with someone you care about Running into an old friend and realizing that some things (good or bad) never change Watching the expression on someone's face as they open a much desired present from you Watching the sunrise Getting out of bed every morning and being grateful for another beautiful day Knowing that somebody misses you Getting a hug from someone you care about deeply Knowing you've done the right thing, no matter what other people think Getting a great list of natural highs from a wonderful friend named Zoe

December 26, 2006


As I spend time looking at myself, not just in the mirror smiling and grinning but introspectively, I find my reflections bring with them the need for great fine tuning. The way I treat others, the way I think about friends and the ways I spend my time could all do for some adjustment. Somewhere along the way, for example, I started looking at people and wondering how they could help me rather than how I could help them. I started to look at people who have always helped me and even asked this question. I took my friends, my family and everyone else for granted. I was too important to spend my time wondering how I could help other people, too smart to do menial tasks and too educated to be talked out of whatever conclusions I had thought up. It doesn't take long for that way of living to catch up with you though. People know when you're using them, when you don't really care about them and when you are out for yourself. The family and friends you took for granted will slowly disappear. Everyone else who was so helpful before will become impatient and cold. The life that once, based on service, was so enjoyable becomes lonely and desolate. "What in God's name is love?" I found myself asking. Maybe what is done in God's name is love, I found myself hearing in response. Maybe helping others to get what they need will provide for you all that you need. Help others. Care about the well being of others. Ease their suffering. Become at peace with yourself. Success will come then after you do these things, not the other way around.

December 17, 2006

My Advice

Wake up early Meditate Exercise Go to sleep early Write in your journal Relax Don’t worry Care about others Clean your car Don’t bite your nails Drink vanilla bean frappacinos Eat Krispy Kreme donuts Take plenty of pictures Go on plenty of adventures Consider everyday an adventure Don’t ask what will happen to you if you act, ask what will happen to others if you don’t act Drink plenty of water Remember whether you think life is good or bad, you’re right Think multilaterally Share Don’t take more than you give Simplify, simplify, simplify – Thoreau Be nonviolent Plan, but don’t forget today Learn as if you will live forever, live as if you will die tomorrow – Gandhi Live like you never lived before, love like you never loved before – Amy Eat at Akito Change yourself, then your family, then your friends, then your community, then your country, then your world – Confucius Be a good person – The Dalai Lama Be the change you wish to see in the world – Gandhi Blow bubbles in bubble gum Be patient Go camping Be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, clean and reverent – The Scout Law On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times and to obey the Scout Law, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight – The Scout Oath

December 15, 2006

Banana Night Special!

The second installment of Gandhi Gazoo was made featuring his most recent adventure: Banana Night at Lynch House. Banana Night took place right before exam week at Campbell and was a welcomed relaxation before the storm of tests and studying. The entire idea was created by none other than Wee Wan, our favorite Malaysian housemate. We should have a party with all things banana, he told us early on. Not only did we have that party, but we were proud to welcome Gandhi Gazoo too. Thanks for a great night Banana King Wee, it was fantastic!

December 7, 2006

Hunting Dogs

This morning I saw a dog walking outside the house while making a phone call by the window. That isn’t too unusual I suppose, as there are dogs on campus sometimes, but my reaction this morning was unusual. I went outside and found it very close to the backdoor, holding its rear leg up and staring into my eyes. She was old, hungry, scared, tired and injured. I don’t know when she was injured, but I don’t suppose I ever will. A few minutes after petting her, I was calling her owner and directing him to our house. He was a few miles north of campus and said he would be right over. Garrett pet her a little while I waited on the lawn for him to arrive. Reba, as he called her when he got out of the truck, hobbled over to him ready to jump in the large back cage of the truck. He apologized for the inconvenience, but it really was my pleasure. I love dogs, miss our dogs from home and haven’t petted a dog like that for quite a while. As she drank from the water bowl in the back of the truck and he drove away, I thought of what I had said to Garrett when we were sitting together. I don’t usually think to come out for a dog, even if it has a collar on, but maybe I should. Regardless of whether I know the owner, every animal deserves humane treatment including as painless a death as possible. To ignore my place in that treatment is decided indifference and I don’t believe that is acceptable. I hope I will respond in kind next time, whether I see a collar or not, to do what I can.

December 4, 2006

Powerful Beyond Measure

Over Thanksgiving Break I was lucky enough to talk with my Dad for hours about success, happiness, knowing what we are meant to do with our lives, meeting challenges, staying focused, finding purpose and living well. One of the quotes that stuck with him and that he passed to me was a quote by Nelson Mandela. After finding it, I noticed he quoted it very closely. It was given by then President Mandela during his Inaugural Speech in South Africa. Quoted by a man who was imprisoned for 26 years (1964 to 1990) because he opposed the apartheid system in South Africa, I think this quote is especially compelling.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson quoted by Nelson Mandela in Inaugural Speech

Overcoming that fear means realizing we are powerful beyond measure. We are great, large, capable and responsible to act. We can and should serve the world around us with our every moment and we know it. I think me being powerful beyond measure has been felt in every great project I’ve ever accomplished, every time I have ever approached something just because I believed I should and every time my dreams and wishes have come true because I worked hard toward them. It’s daily, I think, the overcoming of this fear. It has also been a test of my integrity, honesty and humility. It’s about being myself all the time, as much when people watch as when they don’t. It’s something I think I’ve moved away from, but that I can get back. It can be overwhelming, but if it weren’t, I wouldn’t call it my deepest fear.

December 3, 2006

A Wonderful Life

I think I’m beginning to understand the quote that “there can be too much of a good thing.” I’ve found it only takes a few favorite websites before they become overwhelming, a few fun classes before there isn’t enough time to do well in them, a few best friends before there isn’t time to spend with each of them and a few service clubs before I am spread thin.
When we die nothing can be taken with us but the seeds of our life’s work and our spiritual knowledge,” says the Dalai Lama and similarly “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away,” said the photo from the movie It’s A Wonderful Life which I watched tonight. George Bailey, the main character in the movie, says early on “I want to do something big with my life.” His dad tells him that we they do at the Building and Loan company is big, in their own little way, but it isn’t until late in the movie that George learns this lesson. I thought of many things when I watched this, including the saying of Confucius that we must first change ourselves, then our families, then our friends and so forth to make big change. And I also thought about my life. I have always said I wanted to do something big, but as I think about what I can really take with me from this wonderful life I believe it will always be what I leave behind. It’s a wonderful lesson.

November 28, 2006

Goal-Free Living

After finishing Goal-Free Living last week, I have found myself looking at goals, success and ambition in very different ways. I am still Travis Hellstrom, Planner/Organizer/Prioritizer, but I am also looking at things more as aspirations and less as goals. One of the analogies Stephen Shapiro uses in his book concerns birthdays and large groups of people. How big of a group, he asked, does it take before you are highly likely to have two people with the same birthday? The number is 22. Not too huge huh? Well what about if you wanted two people with a particular birthday, like January 1st. How big of a group would you need then? The number is in the hundreds.
His analogy was that the difficulty of something coming out exactly as we might like it might be slim, while the likelihood of it coming out just fine might be very good. If we are open to possibilities we are more likely to find what we are looking for, just maybe not exactly what we expected. Other tips included Use a compass, not a map, Trust that you are never lost, Remember that opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly, Want what you have, Seek out adventure, Become a people magnet, Embrace your limits and Remain detached. Some of these are obvious but some will require reading the book, which I highly recommend. Coming from such a Goal-Oriented person that’s saying something, believe me.

November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Special!

Thanksgiving was a wonderful break for me, my family and my friends. This is worth noting, I think, because it was also a special trip for my friend Wee who was able to visit home with me. Wee is an international student from Malaysia who had never celebrated Thanksgiving (which makes sense) and had also never been to Kentucky (or Kentucky Fried Chicken Land, as he calls it). We drove for hours and hours, went to some of my favorite places in my hometown of Hickory, visited with my best friends, had Thanksgiving Dinner with my grandparents in Kentucky, dove in leaves with my little brother and even made a funny movie that’s now on YouTube and Facebook. All this to say I think thanksgiving isn’t just about being thankful for what we have, but instead asking what we can give to others. Wee filled what would have been an empty seat in our car during a fantastic trip and we are all thankful that he did. Our Thanksgiving would have never been as great as it was and I venture to say his wouldn’t have either.


Thanksgiving was a wonderful break for me, my family and my friends. This is worth noting, I think, because it was also a special trip for my friend Wee who was able to visit home with me. Wee is an international student from Malaysia who had never celebrated Thanksgiving (which makes sense) and had also never been to Kentucky (or Kentucky Fried Chicken Land, as he calls it). We drove for hours and hours, went to some of my favorite places in my hometown of Hickory, visited with my best friends, had Thanksgiving Dinner with my grandparents in Kentucky, dove in leaves with my little brother and even made a funny movie that’s now on YouTube and Facebook. All this to say I think thanksgiving isn’t just about being thankful for what we have, but instead asking what we can give to others. Wee filled what would have been an empty seat in our car during a fantastic trip and we are all thankful that he did. Our Thanksgiving would have never been as great as it was and I venture to say his wouldn’t have either.

November 24, 2006

Changing the World

Things have been very different since I came back from Costa Rica. I didn't realize it much, but on our way to Kentucky I was talking with Dad and it really started to come clear to me. Since coming back, I have felt lost. I have felt like the world opened up and sucked me into a void where I didn't know what I wanted any more. My meaningful activities at Campbell paled in comparison to world politics and scores of people and I sat, stupefied. I have built amphitheaters, service clubs, Haunted Trails and success stories for small communities. I have wanted to change the world and in my own little way have, but when it came to actually changing the world for the first time (which, by the way, might require a second language) I just couldn't keep up. Where do I start? How does this work? What is really going to help these people? What do you mean it's time to go already? This was just two months, but even two years in Peace Corps will probably not seem like enough. I want to do so much to change the world, but I'm quickly realizing it just isn't simple. It's huge, crazy, personal, slow, minute by minute and incredible. It's Pablo's smile, Marco's book Mo, lessons from Cesar as he runs up the wall to grab a futbol and my family's work to build a small soccer field in the community. Things have been a lot different since I've been back from Costa Rica, but I think the differences have been needed in my life. They are pushes in the direction of truth and matters of true importance: things like family, friends, love, appreciation and gratitude. They are reminders that focus should be on what we can do for others, what will happen to others if we don't help and just how inexpensive true help can be. The differences are things I can't get rid of ever, because they have changed me forever. Changing the world seriously is something I still believe in, but I think it starts from the inside out, as hard as that is.

November 18, 2006

Little Voice

If you want to change the world, first try to improve and bring about change within yourself. That will help change your family. From there it just gets bigger and bigger. Everything we do has some effect, some impact. – The Dalai Lama

I have written on the topic of changing the world before, but I come back to it about seven months later after reading this recent quote from the Dalai Lama. How do we bring about change in ourselves? How do we “set our hearts right” as Confucius says? I think it starts with the small voice in us that tells us what we should be doing: maybe calling someone, apologizing to someone, or starting something great. We might need to exercise more, spend more time reading or writing, hugging our family, or maybe just talking someone to see how they are. Usually it’s something small, but then maybe that’s why it’s a small voice. As far as I can figure, when I get those small things in order I start to see big change elsewhere. Maybe that’s where the old saying comes from. Makes sense to me.

November 17, 2006


“To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else. Rather than speaking badly about people and in ways that will produce only friction and unrest in their lives, we should practice a purer perception of them, and when we speak of others, speak of their good qualities. If you find yourself slandering anybody, first imagine that your mouth is filled with excrement. It will break you of the habit quickly enough.”
– The Dalai Lama

A splinter in another’s eye, a beam in our own. Difficult though isn’t it? It has to be the problem with the other person: they are too mean, too inconsiderate, too harsh, loud, fast, slow, smart, stupid. Hmm…maybe it’s not them. So what is the splinter in my eye? Maybe I don’t communicate well with this person, I don’t share my thoughts, I’m not true to myself, I’m too nice when I really want to be more straightforward, I am not loud enough sometimes, I move too slow, or too fast, or maybe I’m self-conscious about how smart I am, or how stupid I am. There’s no end to it really, or maybe there is.

Maybe the idea is to focus on other people and want to help them, truly. When I think about others and how I can serve them, I forget about how I could serve myself by changing the other person for my convenience. The idea of service is changing yourself around what is convenient for another person. You take them places, explore new things, step out and care about them because you want to love them and care about what is important to them. You want them to become wonderful and happy in their own sight. There are so many wonderful qualities about everyone, including ourselves, and the ability to realize our own shortcomings might just be one of the greatest qualities we have. Humility might be the word for that.

When I think about it, whenever I have a problem with someone, that problem always pales in comparison to the good things I enjoy with that person. I am so skilled at forgetting the wonderful things I have, this is usually an easy thing to do but it shouldn’t be. If we focus on the great things we have, the bad things become smaller and smaller. Then again, if that doesn’t work, just imagine your mouth is filled with excrement. That will probably do the trick.

November 15, 2006

Piss My Pants

Lately I have been thinking a lot about leadership and what it takes to really be a good leader. My dad says that the definition of a leader is someone who has followers. He quickly clarified that that isn’t exactly what a “good” leader is, but just what a leader is. I agree. Just because a person has followers doesn’t mean they are a good leader and similarly just because people do what I ask them to do doesn’t mean that I am doing a good job. Real leadership, as I am finding much after the fact, has a lot to do with touch and with respect. It truly does require a person to be a follower and also a servant. I say this because after being a follower, I have a much different appreciation for being a leader and also after being a servant I have found much more about what leadership really is.

The Haunted Trail this year was the first time in three years that I have not been in charge. Chase took control this year and ran a very well executed and very successful Trail while I played the role that Josh McKinnon had come to fill in years past. Chase was the leader on the outside of the Trail, observing all participant activities, organizing groups and assisting us on the Trail but not watching over the volunteers inside the woods. This was my job. I shared it with Matthew on both nights and David on Sunday night, but all the same it was a daunting task. We ran up and down the trail between every group and we checked to make sure everyone was okay. They needed water, food, flashlights, bandages, ideas, fixes on chainsaws, oil in torches, advice on their positions and encouragement (though they wouldn’t tell you they did). It was a wonderful job but both nights I was completely pooped. The inside of the trail, as I learned this year, is a job all to itself and I now have a much greater appreciation for Josh than ever before.

When I get a chance to serve other people and ask how I can help them, it is amazing to me how quickly I can get overwhelmed yet feel totally calm and in control. “It seemed like nothing could get to you,” Whitney later told me. It wasn’t that exactly, it’s just that I love it. I get to help people, run around like a mad man in the woods, watch people get the crap scared out of them, take their money, give it away to children and eat pizza in the pitch black. I watched people become screaming babies and others become demonic screaming clowns. Nothing gets to me when I’m doing the Haunted Trail because it is freakin’ awesome. But then again, nothing gets to me like the Haunted Trail because, well, it’s freakin’ awesome. It melts my heart to serve as a leader and help other people raise money for children in our community. Then again, if it didn’t melt my heart, I’d probably just piss my pants like everyone else.

November 13, 2006

Life is Good

I would like to send out two official Travis Hellstrom Inner-Peace-A-Grams to John and Bert Jacobs, the founders of the Life is Good company. "Don't determine that you're going to be happy when you get the new car or the big promotion or when you meet that special person," explains John Jacobs in this week's Inc. article on the Life is Good company, "You can decide that you're going to be happy today."

I have always liked the Life is Good label, their mission, their products and their approach to life. In reading the article, I was very pleased with what John Jacobs (brother to Bert Jacobs who also founded the company) had to say.

"It's important that we're saying 'Life is good,' not 'Life is great' or 'Life is perfect.' There's a big difference. We know there are lots of bad things in the world. But overall life is good. You have to focus on the good things and help others to focus on the good things." Speaking equally loud with their actions through Camp Sunshine and Project Joy, not to mention their Pumpkin Festivals, I know John and Bert both make good on this vision. Life is Good is an inspiration to me for many reasons and I wish them incredible success as they continue to grow over the coming years. It is my pleasure to announce that another two coveted Travis Hellstrom Inner-Peace-A-Grams have been sent. Two thumbs up and good work Life is Good.

November 5, 2006


Today Anna Marie taught me a new term: “Gladhand.” Gladhand, she said, is the way a politician shakes your hand and says it is nice to meet you. They ask how you are, hoping for a sincere but short and easy answer to respond to and then they move on. It’s a pleasant enough exchange for you to vote for them and usually enough to keep you appreciating their role as an administrator (if say they are a cabinet member of a University). I can’t remember exactly how it came up in our conversation, but it has certainly stuck with me. We can gladcard someone, gladsmile, gladgreet or even gladhug someone too and I myself have been guilty of every single one of them on more than one occasion. Why do we allow it to happen and not let it frustrate us? Is it really a problem anyway? I guess we allow it to happen, or do it ourselves, because we think there are more important things to deal with than actually being sincere or caring about people individually. We think there are bigger fish to fry, or when we get into power by gladhanding we might actually affect change. Or maybe by shaking the hand of someone who is already in power we think they are, in some way, still thinking about the little man. The point at which this mindset and activity becomes a problem is when we actually believe individual sincerity isn’t important anymore. Integrity, personal touch, individual contact and accountability in relationships on a one-to-one level are lost when we think we (or others) are too important to worry about such things. I have personally thought I was too important to actually remember the names of people in the clubs I ran, too busy to really mean the hugs I was giving, too popular to actually write sincerely in the cards I gave out to others and too widely known to not smile at everyone who might have a slight chance of knowing me. In the smallest of examples, I let all of these things go straight to my head and I lost my integrity, touch, contact and accountability in a flash. The line between important people and things was blurred and gladwhatevers became more important than real reactions. Gladhanding is a new term for me, but the concept is all too old of a challenge. I hope I, and others, can get over ourselves and start to actually be real.

October 31, 2006

Haunted Trail!

The Third Annual Haunted Trail has come to past and, might I say, it was fantastic. Chase Vaughan did an incredible job in organizing it this year and it was a pleasure for everyone involved. We had more than 350 people come through in 2 nights and we raised over $1750 for charity (UNICEF and Buies Creek Elementary this year). I was very proud of the club, and in different ways than every before. Thank you all for showing me a great time and making me so proud!

October 19, 2006

Seeing Other People

"I love my country...but I think we should start seeing other people."
I saw this quote on the back of a Colorado-tagged car last week and it cracked me up. I even took a picture of it so I could get it right when I tried to remember it. I couldn't read the very fine print at the bottom citing its source, but it reminds me of something Peace Corps would say. There is so much value in understanding other cultures and finding out what it means to really be human in a global sense that this quote really hit home for me. We might think we understand what it is to be human and how we should act in the world, but honestly I think we have to start seeing other people to make that a reality.

To Be Treated

One of the things I have been reflecting on a lot lately has been appreciation for the people who have helped me to get to where I am. However, it didn't start that way. I started thinking about appreciating others because I was not feeling appreciated by others. One small example is when people talk about the Recycling Program developing at Campbell this year. The SGA has taken it over now that we (Shaw, Heather and I) finished our report to the administration last year explaining all of the research we were able to conduct. When I read articles citing the program's development, numbers, figures and vision I see all of our hard work and research in every sentence. At first I wished Ryan Jones (SGA President) would say my name every time he citing the work that we did. I wanted to be recognized as one of the people who helped found the project and make it possible. Maybe for my reputation, maybe to make me feel good about myself. I'm not sure exactly why, but I felt angry I wasn't being appreciated.

After that thought process came and went, I recognized that there were many other people besides myself who had led to the development of what is now Campbell's Recycling Program, namely Dr. Bartlett, Shaw Rowe, Heather Davis, Dr. Larsen and myself. However there are also many others whose names I have actually even begun to forget. Why didn't I want all of these people's names mentioned in addition to my own? Well, I suppose the answer is that sometimes it is hard to remember everyone who has helped us and even harder to find space to say "thank you" to each of them every time you might should. The more I thought about it, the more I wished Ryan Jones would just recognize and appreciate all of the work we have done and I know in my heart that he is doing just that. Appreciation might not mean outwardly expressing how much we are indebted to others, though sometimes that is appropriate, it might just mean living appreciatively and thankfully for the things that we get in life that have nothing to do with our own reputation, deserved-ness or entitlement. I am very lucky, as are many people I have helped myself, and I hope I can meet their expectations of being grateful for what I have. Even further, I should treat others as I like to be treated and thank them just as often as I want thanks from others.

October 16, 2006


Simplification has been a goal for me for quite some time. Up until now it has remained much more a goal than a realization. I have involved myself in so many things for so long that it is hard to pull away. However, when I think about those people whom I really admire, they are the ones who are able to choose not to do too much even though they could. I spoke with Tyler Toney and Ben DeBlanc today for example and, to me, they are those kind of people. It is a treat to be around them and it is refreshing to see how dedicated they are to the few things that they are involved in. From my perspective it seems like those things are: classes, clubs, relationships and research. They have limited the clubs they are in, including leadership positions they have, and they dedicate a lot of time to studying even though they could go out and have fun all the time if they wanted. I really admire their priorities and enjoy being around them. I am probably not too far off from being more simplified in my approach to life, like they are, but I am far enough away to realize I have some improvements that I need to make.


As I drove home two weekends ago, I recorded a thought through Audioblogger (which, as it happens, won’t be recording for blogger much longer) and I thought it was worth writing down here as well.

One of the things I found interesting this weekend as I was home for Elias’s birthday, was the interaction that I had with my dad. I’ve had a few times to interact with him over the past few weeks and I’ve been surprised not only by him but also by me and how much I thought I was getting older and how much I was getting to be like him. One of the interesting things I saw was when we played football. Elias, dad and I were all throwing it together out in the yard and I was throwing it really well. I have been throwing it really well lately with friends when we go out and play, and so I was launching perfect spirals to my dad and he was throwing them back to me as he has for years. But as we were throwing I was thinking to myself that, you know, I’m getting to be pretty good, I’m getting to be pretty accurate at distance and overall, pretty close to being like him. I was really proud of myself. But, as in many things, right when I think I’m getting as good as I need to get or really getting accurate or skilled at something, usually something comes along and shows me I have ways to improve. So when we were throwing, maybe thirty or forty-minutes into it, I started realizing he wasn’t even throwing with his right hand, he was throwing with his left hand and he’s right handed. So I looked at him and I said, “How long you been throwing with your left hand?” and he said, “Well, I threw a little bit with my right hand when we started but then I’ve just been throwing with my left hand the whole time.” Then I asked him, “Can you still throw with your right hand?” and he said, “Sure,” and threw a perfect spiral to me right handed. I was thinking, man…“It’s pretty easy,” I said, “I guess you don’t forget.” “Nah,” he said, “it’s like riding a bike.” That really cracked me up.

It’s really interesting to me, that we all have those kinds of things happen (and not always in football exactly). When someone older than us, or our fathers or mothers, does something and they do it really well we don’t really pick up on how skilled they are and we don’t realize that there is always some way for us to improve. I might be getting very good with my right hand throwing, but when I tried to throw left handed it reminded me of Elias growing up and trying to throw for the first time. There is always that chance to look forward and realize that the goal isn’t necessarily to reach perfection and some state of not learning any more but to constantly challenge myself and learn how to get better. That’s one of the things that I saw this weekend that I really thought was enjoyable. Right when you think you’ve got it all under control, the guy’s throwing left-handed.

October 15, 2006


Being grateful can be a very hard thing for me. It’s not that I don’t recognize the wonderful things I have in my life, it is just that I usually underestimate them or forget about the majority of them. For example, just living in this house on campus through campus life has brought me dozens of wonderful opportunities and blessings. I am an RA without all of the daunting responsibilities that befall the other RA’s who have over 30 students in their care. I control my own air conditioning and heating, which no other dorm on campus can do. I have 8 great guys in a house that is the perfect set-up of closeness and privacy. We have tons of great friends from all over the world who have come together and get along incredibly well and all of this I forget about on a daily basis. I complain about something regardless of the dozens of things that I would regularly complain about otherwise. It could be anything from parking to loudness to sunshine to neighbors that I might regularly complain about which just don’t exist here. I have a refrigerator provided by Campbell, a wonderful television, surround sound provided by Chase, a private room, a wonderful bed, plenty of closet space, wooden floors and wooden walls, wide, clean, tall windows facing the sunset and isolation from everyone else on campus, yet the closeness that comes from being twenty steps from academic circle.

I don’t say all this to brag. I say all of this to explain to myself out loud just how lucky I am this semester. I have spent time writing down all of my worries and problems more than once and until now not once have I written down my happinesses and my solutions that are provided every second. I have many blessings and opportunities before me and, in spite of myself, I think I have enjoyed many of them without any appreciation or gratitude in the mix. Being Sunday maybe I have found it especially easy to be grateful and rested, but I hope that I can be thoughtful and appreciative every day of the week. It is certainly easier than being worried and more realistic than just thinking about all of the problems that I might encounter.

Growing Up

"I'm interested," said Lloyd as I talked him over dinner, "what's your definition of growing up?" His question came after my response to him that I feel like I have been growing up a lot lately. I have had a lot of my mind, what with graduating, responsibilities at school, and other personal things, and I told him it has been a lot. "I guess I mean, I never felt like the line between childhood and adulthood was this blurry. I am getting to be the same age as my father was in pictures of when he was holding me as a kid, and I still feel like I want to be a kid rather than an adult."Lloyd understood where I was coming from, even though I probably went on a bit too long and repeating things a few too many times, and he had an interesting perspective. "When I was your age," he said looking off to a far wall, "boys were going overseas, shooting guns, burning down villages and fighting in a war...even today actually I received a e-mail reply from a boy that is in Iraq saying where I can shove the FAFSA, he's just trying to stay alive." It's interesting, he went on, to think about all of the people in this world and the varying conditions in which they live. Story after story, he explained the world he has seen and the horrible things he has watched in front of him whether it was him just visiting China on vacation years ago or watching the news late at night last week. Growing up is something that will always be happening, he said, and how we deal with that responsibility as it comes is the important thing.

I may not be a kid anymore, but I don’t think I am quite an adult yet either. I look forward to the many responsibilities coming my way with a curious anxiety and hopeful uncertainty. Maybe the line between childhood and adulthood will always be blurry but I hope my thoughts and actions will become more and more clear as I grow older and wiser. I might not be doing anything incredible like shooting guns or burning down villages, but I have a feeling my actions can change the world just the same.

October 14, 2006

Hammocks Beach!

There is nothing like taking a shower and sleeping in your own bed after going on a filthy, sweaty, long, exhausting, beautiful, sandy, long-distance, sleeping-on-the-hard-floor, wet, frozen-nose-having, shower-less, wonderful camping trip with friends. Every time I go out, hike, backpack, set up camp, stare at the stars and sleep outside, I remember.

Operation Seaspray: Hammocks Beach was a great adventure and I have five great people to thank for that: Chris “Blue jay” McMillan, Chase “Seagull” Vaughan, Wee “King Fisher” Wan, Anna “Mamabird” Garrett and Shaw “Albatross” Rowe. The first four are the brave adventures who lugged the weight, were there every step of the way and made it wonderful. The last, Shaw, was there before it ever started and helped me to create the idea during the summer months ago. Besides the wonderful pictures we were able to take (and Wee was able to take in particular), there are little things all along the way that can’t be captured on film. Thank you for everything guys, long live Eagle Team and its many operations to come.

Yours in Adventure,
Travis “Eagle 1” Hellstrom

Hammocks Beach, originally uploaded by Travis Hellstrom

September 29, 2006


It’s incredible to me how songs and surroundings can match what I’m going through in life so seamlessly. I have had The Beatle’s song “Help!” for example, stuck in my mind all day and it has matched my current feelings verse by verse: my need for help from special people, my changing of feelings and perspective as I grow older, my limits of independence and need for interdependence, my appreciation for the people around me, and my home to get my feel back on solid ground. Actually, the songs explains it even better than that:

I need somebody, not just anybody, you know need someone. When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in any way. But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured, Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors. And now my life has changed in oh so many ways, my independence seems to vanish in the haze. But every now and then I feel so insecure, I know that I just need you like I've never done before. Help me if you can, I'm feeling down and I do appreciate you being round. Help me, get my feet back on the ground, won't you please, please help me, help me, help me, oh...

Growing older is hard, but sometimes asking for help is all we really need to do to get it. I’m glad I’ve been able to do that and I really appreciate the help I’ve been able to get in return.

September 24, 2006


When I read over Carl Sagan’s and Mohandas Gandhi’s quotes again, they remind me of the simpler way I looked at the world two years ago. The world was a speck of sand in the universe and humanity was a species that I could help guide and advance. Simple problems needed simple solutions and I stood poised to bring them. I started the Haunted Trail, boosted Circle K to new heights and made a stand for my first time as an individual with a private room of reflection and a public life of service. I watched the entirety of Gandhi and Cosmos and I had a grasp on the world.

As things change, as we get older and the we take on a new perspective on the world, it can be inviting to look back and want an older view. A simpler view was a happier view in a lot of ways, but it couldn’t answer all of my questions. It didn’t know the range of experiences that I have had now and maybe most of all, it didn’t know pain or suffering.

When we grow, we choose how we react to the world around us. Whether we think the world is cold, people are kind, or things will be good or bad, we are likely to be correct. It’s hard to have things work out differently than we would have expected them to, but that is how things work. “The world is change;” as said Marcus Aurelius, “this life, opinion.”

September 22, 2006


I was able to enjoy one of my favorite films tonight with two great individuals. As we all sat there watching it, each seeming to hold a unique position on the spectrum of belief, I thought to myself about what has been on my mind for the last four weeks. Faith and science, belief and reason, religion and naturalism. Where does a scientific person go to answer questions of faith, of belief without evidence? Where does a spiritual person go to answer questions of reason, of a universe explained by natural law? Somehow, to me, it is almost an ironic question. Although I have not looked at it this way for long I think a possible appropriate view is…look to each other.

It’s not a weakness in a scientific person, I believe, to look for meaning through person experience. I also don’t think it’s a weakness in a spiritual person to look for answers outside belief and faith. Science has done a wonderful job advancing humanity through discoveries, inventions, technologies and measured, reasonable methods. Spirituality, I must also agree, has done the same through its discoveries of human potential, inventions of values and principles, psychological developments and a humble, faithful pursuit of the truth. Now science is not always objective and spirituality is not always humble, science has created nuclear bombs and spirituality has morally justified their use, but all in all I think they stand together in a position to help one another as easily as they can hurt one another.

I don’t know all the answers, and maybe that doesn’t matter, but I do know that things happen in my life that I can’t explain through science, as much as that scares me and comforts me at the same time. Sometimes I have insight I can’t understand, thoughts I can’t imagine I created and experiences that happen too regularly to be coincidence. I see things go on, read things around me, listen, speak, interact and feel things happen that all go together and I run myself ragged trying to explain it all away. It would be easier, wouldn’t it, just to know why it all happened and explain how it all could be understood easily through a reasonable method? At this point in my life I answer “no”. I answer “no” not because I don’t support science or the scientific, reasonable method of searching for truth through the observable natural universe. I answer “no” because I will not yet believe that is the only way we can know. I don’t know much, but as far as the spectrum goes, from faith & belief to science & reason, I am in the middle.

September 5, 2006


To end the first class meeting of our two-hour Creation/Evolution Seminar, Dr. Metz closed with the comment, "As far as my opinion is concerned, I have not come to a conclusion on the matter. I am waiting for more evidence to come in." As a fellow student of science, I respect this opinion and regard it as educated. However, the fact that Dr. Metz is a Christian was re-iterated throughout class and, so far as I could assert, that opinion was never supported by any factual evidence. Now, I say this not to call out Dr. Metz, but to ask a bigger question:

If we subject our knowledge of the natural world to absolute scrutiny through the scientific process, what is the standard to which the spiritual world is held accountable?

I recognize that science and religion are quite different, but I wonder how they are different exactly. On page 8 of our book Creation vs. Evolution: An Introduction, the author Eugenie Scott writes, "Science is quintessentially an open-ended procedure in which ideas are constantly tested, and rejected or modified. Dogma - an idea held by belief or faith - is anathema to science." Although dogma is not religion, they can and often do go together. Rather than test, reject or modify religious teachings some believers accept them through faith and refuse to subject their faith to reason.

That said, where is the middle ground? How can we apply the scientific method to questions about the meaning of life, life after death or the existence of heaven and hell? With no evidence supporting (confirming) these ideas or rejecting (unconfirming) them, some scientists believe there is life after death, a heaven and hell and meaning to life provided by God while others (completely justified) believe in none of it. Is this un-testable disagreement the middle ground? Can the two ever come together on similar terms?

It is my hope to better answer these questions throughout our seminar this semester but I think, like Dr. Metz, I might come out in the end wanting for more evidence. Ironically, I might come to the same conclusion as one scientist in the book:
"As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life - so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls."

September 4, 2006


In our increasingly high-tech society, it is refreshing to have conversations with real human beings every once in a while. Actually, more often than that might be good for our health

I spoke with Jonathan, one of my closest friends, this weekend about the loneliness that can accompany growing older and he said he felt the same way. As in a lot of things, just hearing that someone else is going through it too can really make a lot of difference. Things aren't the same as they used to be, but at the same time we both agreed it's comforting to know that we are growing up and becoming more educated about the world around us. We are starting to find out what we really like, rather than what other people like for us, and we are deciding what we want to do with the rest of our working lives and why.

Attending their senior year of college or not, twenty-one year olds are a far cry from their old eighteen-year old selves. The world is exciting, but not in nearly the same way as it was back then. More opportunities are available than ever, but we are becoming much more picky. And at times it seems like the world is pulling us in every direction and we are just wanting to put out feet down to say, "No. Wait." It's time to make a decision...but I just want to take my time.

September 3, 2006


I just came across this thought from last May and found it to have a lot of meaning for me now especially as I start into the difficulty, fun and challenge know as senior year. I hope that I can go through it as gracefully as the graduates did last year, and that I enjoy it just as much.
Each year of my college career I have attended a graduation ceremony in Buies Creek. This year will be my third graduation. It marks the year before my own senior semesters at Campbell and it also brings with it the departure of many many close friends.
In the first graduation I attended, during my freshman year, I knew very few graduating seniors. Cheryl Storer, who I accompanied to Spring Formal, was there as the Algernon Sidney Sullivan Award winner and recent Biochemistry graduate. It was an honor to be there as her guest and as I looked on toward the speakers, officials, faculty and students, it felt like an honor to be called a student at Campbell University.
In my second graduation, I knew quite a few more seniors. I worked with some in the Haunted Trail run by Circle K that year. Some where TA’s or RA’s I knew, some were friends who I saw all over campus and some very close classmates who made my year extremely enjoyable. I even wrote a few of them notes to say thank you and passed those to them when we met, they in their black robes and me in my blue suit with a Junior Marshal shash. It was an honor to be there.
In my third graduation, this year, I will know many more seniors than in either of the past years. So many in fact, that it has become even more overwhelming to consider it. It will be a very happy occasion with great joy shared between hundreds of people and I look forward to that. However, it will also be a bittersweet occasion marked by hundreds of people splitting ways for a very long time. Students will begin jobs, transfer to other schools, matriculate into graduate programs and go home for the summer. Students will leave teachers and friends will leave friends. Likely not for forever, but for quite some time indeed.
This has taught me a lot in the past about appreciating what I have when I have it. It is easy to complain and forget about all the great things all around me, but luckily I have the reminder of those great things as they slip away every May, year after year. People, wonderful people, cannot stay here forever. They grow and move on, learn and share their knowledge, prepare for and then live their lives. As I prepare and grow, I have to move on too. My senior year is coming and I have a lot to do too. I am very grateful for all of the wonderful seniors who will be leaving this May, and I do not regret a single moment I have spent with any of them. I hope that they feel as special as they are and that they are excited about what opportunities lie ahead of them. I know I certainly am.


In Mr. Yount's physics class during high school I remember asking a question, "Why does one of my bathroom mirrors reflect differently than one of my others?" It could be for a lot of reasons, he answered, but more than likely it is because the glass and the supporting metal behind it is slightly bent. One is built into a sliding door, I told him, and the other is on the wall. Pleased with the evidence, Mr. Yount nodded. "How do I know which was is the right one?" I then asked. But before he could answer, another question came from the side of the room, "Which one makes you look better?" I turned to the far side row, finding Brad Penley. "The one on the wall does," I told him. "I'd say that's the right one," he replied.
It cracked me up then and still does now. I still don't know which mirror was the right one, atleast not scientifically, but does it really matter? It was a simple predicament for Brad, uncomplicated by in-depth research of any kind. He just went with the better reflection and moved on with his life. That was something I was hesitant to do and, in all honesty, am still hesitant to do. I see mirrors all the time in people, articles, recommendations and gossip, as well as in the glass and silver variety, and frankly it is still confusing. I love to see who I am, or atleast get a glimpse of it somehow, but way too often I want for something objective to show me who that is. Maybe it is a better idea for me to collect all the evidence and decide for myself what reality is. Then I can move on and get to the more important things in life. After all, like I wrote about a year and a half ago, that is what we should really be doing anyway.


  1. Network!!! I wish I could say that everything is earned solely on merit, but I would be lying to you. Depending on the school or setting, sometimes you must have an alum of a particular area in order for your application to have that extra edge. In a case where 2 applications are equally competitive, but one has a reference from Dr. Alumnus himself, I have a feeling that application will be taken more seriously. When you are networking, I do not imply that you should “kiss up,” but really try to leave a good impression.
  2. Shadow as many people in as many different practice settings as possible. If you have the least bit of interest in a field, you should go investigate. Grad school is very expensive; you want to make sure you have a good idea of the different practice avenues there are and what you will do on a day to day basis…and that you are sure it will make you happy.
  3. Find a mentor. Once you have found a doctor you really admire, ask him or her what steps were taken to get where they are today. Where did they go to school? Why did they choose their particular field? Do they have advice? Let them know what a big impact they have made on you. Develop a close relationship with this person. You will need references for gradschool applications.
  4. Stay in contact with anyone you shadowed. Write/type thank you notes and send them by snail mail to all the people who have helped form your decisions, even to the ones who helped you decide NOT to pursue a particular path. Remember, you 1) may still use them as a reference, and 2) did take up some of their time…oh yes, and 3) that you represent Campbell University. You may be paving the way for future students to gain valuable experiences from these doctors.
  5. The path to becoming a doctor is never easy. You must sell yourself…don’t feel like you should not ask questions or express your interest in their field. It is going to be a difficult journey to become a doctor, and you need to demonstrate perseverance and enthusiasm.
  6. Attire…if you look nice, you will instantly have a more favorable audience than if you are in jeans. You are going to school to be a professional…try to dress that way and you will be taken seriously.
  7. When you’re in the interview:

a. Relax! These people are just trying to get to know you as a person. If you made it to the interview, it’s a great sign…it means they liked the application, and they want to get to know you better. Remember, they are people just as you are, with different strengths and weaknesses as you. They’re not perfect. They don’t expect you to be either. So…smile!...and just be yourself. You want them to like you for you, not a false impression of you.

b. Ask them questions about their program and how it’s unique, compared with other programs. Do you have an interest in a specialty area? Ask for more information. Are you interested in research? These are so many grants for medical doctors/Ph.D.’s out there. Know their website, do your homework before the interview. See what piques your interest from the site.

c. Be courteous to everyone. I am an ambassador at UAB (University of AlabamaBirmingham). I have personally recommended a handful of students to the program, without their knowing, and I am excited to say they made it in. Everyone, from the secretaries, to the students, has a voice.

d. Try to talk to as many students as possible. They have a very unique and important voice that should help you to decide if the school will be a good fit for you. Interview them – find out what they think are the best and worst aspects of attending their school. Keep in mind, one person’s opinion is good but may not be a good representation of the entire student body.

8. I intend to keep the following e-mail address for a long time. Email me with any questions: My name is Cheryl Storer and I am an optometry student at UAB School of Optometry. Please put in the subject line “Campbell Student Seeking Advice,” and I promise I won’t delete it!

Good luck, and remember, relax! And network.

Once you’re in…

· Enjoy your break to the fullest. Try to at least give yourself a week before starting school to just relax. Don’t work up till the last second (speaking from experience!).

· Consider moving to the town where your new school is located. Part of the adjustment to grad school is just finding out the layout and “feel” of the city. Go ahead and drive around, find out where everything is because when school starts, you’ll be super busy and won’t have time to get lost. If you attend church, go ahead and start looking for one. Especially if you’re far from home, these people will quickly become your family. Go ahead and get plugged in.

· When school starts, try to pick just a couple of activities that REALLY interest you and put your free time to good use. This will not be like undergrad, when you could be president of 3 clubs, in band or drama, and keep a 4.0 GPA.

· Be aware that you will probably not make all A’s. In fact, there are times when C’s look thrilling to you. In grad school, you are competing with the best-of-the-best and sometimes you will shine, but with others, you may have a more difficult time.

· Try to encourage peers to join in study groups to maximize study time. Don’t share/discuss grades. It is healthier to just recognize that it is a great honor to be there, and that you are all in it together…try to pool your resources.

· Remember that the end justified the means. Nothing worth anything comes without a price. It is hard work, but it will all be worth it in the end, when you walk across the stage at graduation.

· Try your hardest, but do not immerse yourself so much in your books that you forget to be a person. All of us have our own ways to relax. Personally I have a blast playing in an orchestra. I work out in the gym or on trails 3 to 4 times a week. Find out what you need to unwind, (outside of your field), and schedule it in. I think of it like this…if I do not get out in the real world and talk to people outside of optometry (my school), play music, and work out and I just eat, breathe, and sleep optometry, chances are, I will get sick. And missing class & quality study time is a BIG DEAL. So it’s healthier for me to set aside my “play time” every day, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. It makes a difference.

· Remember, the same treatment is given to the student with a 3.0 as a 4.0…once they walk across the stage, they are both called “doctor.” We have a comforting phrase that I have heard both medical and optometry students quoting at conferences:

C = OD or MD or DO, etc.

This does not mean that you should slack off! Try to do your best! Also a disclaimer, this does not apply to grad school admissions…it’s more applicable once you’re “in”.

- Cheryl Storer

August 28, 2006


I think science is humankind’s attempt at understanding the natural universe. This means that scientists not only seek out new knowledge, but that they also create systems to categorize, record and advance information as they go. Spoken word, scrolls, books and electronic media have housed this information for us over many millenia and this month, like most months, science was advanced once more: we lost a planet in our solar system.
Well to be fair we didn’t lose it exactly, we redefined it. Pluto is now considered a “dwarf planet” like almost a dozen similarly-characterized bodies in our solar system. To many people this is shocking: we now have eight planets instead of nine, we don’t have “pizzas” at the end of the acronym My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas and heck, all of our science teachers were liars! Well yes, all of that is true, but besides our education system what is going to change? Probably not a whole lot. As science fine-tunes its understanding of the natural universe, which it does quite often, textbooks will include the changes in new editions, spoken word will adapt to the differences and electronic media will evolve just the same. Like many times before we will change the way we think to allow for truth to be our guide (even if we don’t like the truth at the moment). People eventually dealt with the fact that the Earth wasn’t the center of our solar system, much less the universe, and now people will have to deal with the fact that Pluto isn’t a planet. The universe doesn’t seem to mind the reorganization and Pluto probably doesn’t either.

August 26, 2006

Costa Rica!

On my last night in Costa Rica I turned to the first page of my journal and looked over my goals for the trip. They had changed and molded around my experience but, like my photographs and video recordings, they could not explain everything I experienced during my time in that wonderful country. I thought about what I had accomplished and how hard it would be to write most of it down.

After putting up my photos on Flickr and beginning my scrapbook I feel like I am getting there, but I know there is still a lot left to do. I will be finishing my application to Peace Corps this month, including an essay based on my experience in the Costa Rica, and I will also be sharing my photos and thoughts with the Campbell University administration and students through presentations this month as well. However, maybe most importantly, I will be writing back to Costa Rica this month to say "hello" and "thank you" to all of my wonderful teachers and family.

When I look back on my goals and think about how they were achieved, I quickly lose sight of myself. The things I enjoyed, the people I met and the experiences I had were the result of the contributions of hundreds and thousands of individuals and to all of them I am very grateful.

Costa Rica, originally uploaded by Travis Hellstrom

Woo Hoo

Like many people I have been caught up in this song for some time, however, I had no idea she could do this live like she does. This is a very fun song and I really enjoy listening to I enjoy watching it too. I hope you do.

KT Tunstall with Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree

August 16, 2006


One of the topics today during our RA Training was one given during the Devotional by our Campus Minister. Surprisingly Terry-Michael didn’t say a whole lot to us and instead allowed us to talk back to him and make suggestions on his general topic of campus community.
In his opinion there are a lot of groups at Campbell, pockets here and there, based on clubs, ideologies, majors and friends. That in itself isn’t bad, as we came to agree on later, but the problem arises when those groups become exclusive and all of a sudden everyone at Campbell loses a sense of overall community and identity.
Once he finished his short message I raised my hand from the audience of about fifty resident assistants and resident directors and I said I understood what he was saying. I told him, and everyone around me, that when I first came to Campbell I viewed things very differently. For the first week, I walked up to anyone, sat down with anyone and communicated with whoever I wanted to blind to any affiliations or pockets of people. It only took about a week before that changed. What I had admired, as a quality of this place which made it so different from high school, then disappeared. There were groups, pockets, friends, organizations, grade point averages and majors to consider, not to mention classifications. I had to be careful who I talked to and who talked to me. All of a sudden it was far too much like high school and since that time, three years ago, I have been trying to get back to my first week.
Terry-Michael agreed with my perception of things and how that mentality can develop so easily. “Perceived boundaries” could be tremendous stumbling blocks to overcome, he said. We set up things in our minds which we think really exist, but when we confront them (as I have been trying to do) we slowly realize they are not as real as we thought.
Later that day during one of our breaks Toni, one of the resident directors on women’s campus, turned around in her chair and said, “I have to tell you something…What you said today really struck me and I wanted to let you know, every since I first saw you I always got the impression of you that you were talking about: that you were somehow outside of reach or someone that I couldn’t really get close to, including sit next to. What you said today surprised me and it really meant a lot to me that you are trying to move away from that and toward something you think you had a long time ago. I can totally relate to where you are coming from and what you are going through (as people often say their impressions of me are very negative and serious at first) but I admire that you came out and said that to all of us.” I told her I was glad I said it too.
Today I think that I recognized one of the many opportunities that I have available to make a change in myself for the better and that I took one small step in the right direction. It came quickly and my heart beat rapidly before, during and after I did it, but I know now that it was the right step to have taken. Like my dad always says, “Whatever you do, the next time it gets easier, good or bad.” Whether it’s sitting down with a stranger, being conscious of how I am being perceived or simply recognizing an imaginary boundary I created for myself, I hope next time I see the choice just as clearly and that I make the right choice again and again.

August 14, 2006

Life's Little Instructions

Sing in the shower Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated Watch a sunrise at least once a year Leave the toilet seat in the down position Never refuse homemade brownies Strive for excellence, not perfection Plant a tree on your birthday Learn three clean jokes Return borrowed vehicles with the gas tank full Compliment three people every day Never waste an opportunitity to tell someone you love them Leave everything a little better than you found it Keep it simple Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know Floss your teeth Ask for a raise when you feel you’ve earned it Be forgiving of yourself and others Overtip breakfast waitresses Say “thank you” a lot Say “please” a lot Avoid negative people Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards Wear polished shoes Remember other people’s birthdays Commit yourself to constant improvement Carry jumper cables in your trunk Have a firm handshake Send lots of Valentine’s cards. Sign them, “Someone who thinks you’re terrific.” Look people in the eye Be the first to say, “Hello” Use the good silver Return all things you borrow Make friends but cherish the old ones Keep secrets Sing in a choir Plant flowers every spring Have a dog Always accept an outstretched hand Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life Wave at kids on school buses Be there when people need you Feed a stranger’s expired parking meter Don’t expect life to be fair Never underestimate the power of love Drink champagne for no reason at all Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation Don’t be afraid to say, “I made a mistake” Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” Compliment even small improvements Keep your promises (no matter what) Marry only for love Rekindle old friendships Count your blessings Call your mother

For as long as I can remember, these have been on a poster in my grandmother's house. They have always been a refreshing reminder to me and I hope they might be the same for you.

August 13, 2006

Good as Gold

I think one of the most lucrative job markets available right now is the self-help area. I myself am very fond of books that can be found here, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win at College, but I find it is interesting that such a popular area is defined by one thing: people want to more about who they “really are”. It think that is a fair assumption based on the titles of books, magazine articles and computer programs: “Discover the real you”, “Awaken the giant within” and “Be who you were always meant to be,” etc. Although this isn’t all bad, it does propose some problems.
Today we did a little activity to kick off Resident Assistant (RA) Training. We found out what color we were, based on a four-color system including Orange, Blue, Gold and Green. Oranges were the ones always out for a party, blues were always out for a hug, golds were out for responsibility and planning and greens were out to think things over. It was a little more complex than that, but that was the jist anyway. Not surprisingly I came out Gold. “Golds love to plan. They always have their planner or need to know where it is,” said our Residence Life Director. My planner was sitting in my pocket at the moment. So I’m a Gold, so what?
Well, I think that means I am very good at what I do and not so good at what I don’t do. I don’t wonder “where the party is” for example, or ask people if they want a hug, or think things over very deeply if I don’t feel I can prioritize it into my schedule. In some ways that is good, but in many ways it prevents me from being a balanced person.
I’m glad there are all kinds of different colors in this world, in regards to personality as well as culture, but I think the challenge still remains for each of us to constantly redefine who we are. I may be a Gold, but I have a little of the other colors in me too. I might not like it at first, but I figure the more I mix them up the more balanced and happier I’ll be…even if that means flaking off a little gold-plating here and there.

August 12, 2006


When I am around my dad, even for the shortest amounts of time, I learn a lot. With him my normal mode of listening and talking toward other people is reversed and all of a sudden I am the one in question. This isn'’t a bad thing, but it can certainly be uncomfortable. It'’s the kind of un-comfort that I have learned comes with growth and new lessons and so I am not afraid of it, but all the same it can still be surprising.
During our trip to Florida a three weeks ago I was able to talk to him about friends, life, finances, people, integrity, associations, songs, loving what you do and understanding how to deal with other people honorably and responsibly. I also listened to him when he laughed with my brother and sister, told silly jokes, approached his family and friends, back-sassed with sarcastic comments and stories and when he played with our new dog Matchbox who adores him. I have known for a long time that I want to be like my dad when I grow up, but as I actually approach that grown-up time I realize that is a tall order to fill. It'’s nothing less than a few hundred mannerisms and maxims, a couple dozen laughs and responses and an indescribable way of telling stories. I don't suppose any person is ever a carbon-copy of another, but I'd like to try awfully hard to have this original rub off on me. I love my dad and I am glad I had this trip to reflect on just how much I do.

July 29, 2006

Culture Shock

Moving into a new house, unpacking all of my stuff into random new places, remembering tons of stuff I forgot back in Buies Creek, dealing with not having water one morning and having a crazy dog on every morning, missing my friends, spending weeks trying to re-adjust to the changing environment around me and all the while trying desperately to do what was really important and not fall into random idleness…who would have thought a “culture shock” would be so rough? Now, wait ‘til I tell you about Costa Rica!

It’s true living in another culture can be a challenge (especially one that speaks little-to-no English) but as I have found out over the last month, coming back home can prove to be just as challenging. A lot of it has to do with my changing family situation (e.g. my sister graduating, our family selling our house and moving into a new place) but it is also the condition of anyone who has questioned the society that they live in and the values that they hold so dear.

Costa Rica is a place of much lesser means than the United States and that shows itself in not only the government infrastructure but the livelihood of its people as well. Coming back to America after seven weeks abroad I was able to see what we hold dear here in our country and compare it to what Costa Ricans hold dear in theirs. Even on the plane flight back it became quickly apparent to me: we love technology, popularity, power, wealth and safety, principles, community and relationships. Costa Ricans love relationships, community and principles, safety, wealth, power, popularity and technology. It isn’t so much that we care about different things, we just seem to care about them in a different order. This could just be a result of the resources and wealth we have available to us here, but regardless I started thinking a lot about what is important to us here and why.

While in Costa Rica, I told my host family that in America I might talk to a hundred people a day: through e-mail, websites, phone conversations, letters and what’s that other one…oh yeah, face-to-face meetings. That really blew them away and now that I think about it myself, it blows me away too. What are we achieving by moving so fast and talking so quick, running through errands, speeding in cars and shooting off conversations by the second? I think we want effectiveness and I’d say we get it, but what we might miss in the mix are all of the things we really wanted all along: meaningful relationships, community and lives based on principle.

I certainly experienced culture shock when I arrived in Costa Rica and that really helped me to understand the country’s environment and the way of life of its people. However, now that I am back in the United States, I think I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for my life here and I have been able to experience a second culture shock that is equally valuable to me. It’s funny to think a change of culture would take place in the country you’ve always lived, but that is exactly what has happened to me and I am very glad it has.

June 30, 2006


What do a catamaran cruise from Tortuga Island in the Pacific Ocean, a private van ride from Manuel Antonio National Park and a local bus ride from a day´s work in the San Jose Children´s Hospital have in common? For me, it has been the song Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins. In each of these situations this song was playing and each time it felt like it was playing just for me. When I heard it, it seemed to last forever and I found myself locked in moments of powerful reflection.

The song speaks on how lucky we all are to have what we do, whether it is health, money, or simply the ability to enjoy our lives. Especially in Costa Rica this dynamic is evident to me, both as an outsider and as an American. No matter how bad my days are or how difficult things might seem for me, I am surrounded by people who have it much harder and can´t just take a plane ride away from all of it. I see hundreds of situations I want to understand and thousands of people I want to help, but like the song says, I often feel incapacitated by how overwhelming it all is.

Oh, think twice, it´s just another day for you and me in paradise. Oh, think twice, it´s just another day for you, you and me in paradise...Think about it. As sad and hard as it is, this is where I have always stopped. I see the things around me and I think about them, but what can I do? Where do I start? How do I help? Oh lord, is there nothing more anybody can do, oh lord, they must be something you can say. I think there is something I can say. In the book I´m currently reading, What About the Big Stuff by Richard Carlson, there is a story of a meditation student who wanted to make compassion more a part of his everyday life. He lived in an apartment in a major city and at the bottom of his stairs, on the sidewalk, there lived a man who was homeless. For a long time, like most other people, he walked right past the homeless man, never making eye contact. Occasionally he would give him change, but more out of guilt than anything else. However, one day after thinking more about compassion and how he could use it more in his everyday life, he decided to try something new. That morning when we walked out his door he looked the man in the eye as if he were a close friend. The homeless man looked down to the ground uncomfortably and didn´t want to look at him back. Although it was small, it was the start of something greater between the two men. As the weeks went by, the student continued to look at the man everytime they met and would politely say, ¨Good morning, how are you today?¨ in the mornings and ¨How was your day?¨when he came home. Little by little the other man began to respond back, first with glances, then with answers like, "I´m doing even better than I was this morning. Thank you very much." Eventually the exchange became an enjoyment for the student and he would look forward to seeing his friend each day when he came home. One day, however, the man was not there. Days and weeks and months went by without a trace of the man by the stairs and, although sad, the student eventually went on his way and continued with his life as usual.

One day, months later, the student came home and found a strange man sitting on his steps who stood up immediately to greet him. He didn´t recognize him, but he looked vaguely familiar. "I´m sorry to bother you, sir," said the man, "but I just had to come back and thank you." For what, said the student. "You see," said the man, "I used to live right here, under these steps. I was so ashamed of myself and had so little self-respect, that no one really knew me. For as long as I can remember, no one was nice to me. No one would look at me or give me the time of day. I had no friends and no self-respect. But then you started to be nice to me. Eventually I realized that if you could be nice to me and show me some respect, then maybe I could show myself some respect too. So I went and found myself a job and a place to live. I got some new clothes. My life has changed. And you know what? It´s because of you. Your kindness and willingness to respect me and be nice to me changed my life. I just wanted to say thank you."

Oh yes, think twice, it´s just another day for you and me in paradise. Oh yes, think twice, it´s just another day for you, you and me in paradise. Just think about it. Think about it. It´s just another day for you and me in paradise. It´s just another day for you, you and me in paradise. Paradise.