27 June 2016

Quick hello

Today's post-haircut sneer - the Vein of
Approval on his forehead liked it - I
gotta tell ya, I love this kid!
We are, as of today, just shy of seven weeks away from TMFKATB's return from his two-year missionary service. If he's counting down the weeks and days, his letters do not really reflect that. Today's letter still shows a young man focused on the work to be done, particularly in the face of more than a little change.

At the end of this week, a new mission president begins his three year service in TMFKATB's mission. This, people, is no small task and not for the faint of heart. The men and women that lead these missions across the world are a special breed and we are grateful for them. With any large change that impact a bunch of 18 - 20 year olds, the rumor mill is running at DefCon 5 about what's coming. TMFKATB's take on it? "Excited" was the word he used. Because the LDS community is the definition of a small world, we have some Kevin Bacon-esque 'Six Degrees of Separation' to his new mission president and it's nothing but good. So excited is a good place for him to be.

In his pearl of wisdom today, I was counseled to get my haircut in, and I quote, "the ghetto" because they know how to cut hair there. So a couple of things...he got his haircut today by a lady from Puebla, Mexico. She is living in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. They are behind the Zion Curtain. Doesn't that just scream "ghetto?" Yeah, I didn't think so. But then again, he still thinks that growing up on the mean streets of the Dirty 630, Naperville, IL, was a rough go.

Like his father, he's not right. But I'm so good with that.

25 June 2016

"He's just not right. Now it's bridges." It's another installment in the "Man, I'm glad I'm not him" series!

The Sunshine Skyway - Tampa / St. Pete
 For any of you that have read more than one post here in the Den, there's a lot you can learn. This is not because I'm a fount of wisdom or a member of MENSA. I am neither. Read here and learn from my mistakes. I've even dedicated a series here to those key learning opportunities (you're welcome).

The Jamestown Verrazano near Newport, RI
In my zeal to let you learn from my mistakes, I've also let you know how I think and what makes me tick or ticks me off. So not only do you get to learn from my mistakes, you get to say, "Man, I'm glad I'm not him!" After reading what follows, I suspect you'll be saying exactly that.

The Claiborn Pell near Newport, RI
Let me tell you about my mild case of, wait for it, gephyrophobia. That's fear of bridges, people. Now, as I said, mine's a mild one and I blame it squarely on 1970's disaster films (Earthquake! I'm calling you out!) and the I15 flyover to Satan's Favorite Freeway, the westbound I91 in Corona, CA. For five years, I was on that overpass every weekday morning. I typically was sitting on its highest point for 10 - 15 minutes depending on how backed up things were at 530AM (because SoCal traffic is awesome!). As a result, I had my earthquake escape plan because there was no way I was pancaking to the earth during the Big One. No way was I going out in my beater commuter Camry car either. In my head, each of my myriad escape plans was more perfect than the next. Let me assure you, each one was doomed to failure had the Big One ever gone down. I was never at ease on those mornings on that stupid bridge and it was there where the seeds of gephyrophobia were set.

Fast forward to my trip to America's penal colony, Florida, recently to see CAL. Our trek from Tampa to Miami took us over the Sunshine Skyway. This did not please me one bit. If you are not familiar with its history, spoiler alert - it's not pleasant. In 1980, a cargo ship hit it, causing a partial collapse sending 35 people to their deaths. Seeing it in the distance that Friday afternoon was disconcerting. As I recall I went into hyperdrive talking mode as we crossed the span. I really hope CAL didn't notice me rubbing my thumb and forefinger like there was no tomorrow (Hello, coping mechanism!).

Then there was a twofer today. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I decided to go down to Newport, RI for the day. So did every other person from Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey based on the sweaty hordes assembled there. But I digress. Traveling from our part of Connecticutistan into Newport allows us the joy of crossing the Jamestown Verrazano and Claibon Pell (on another note, why does that name make me think of Foghorn Leghorn?) bridges in fairly quick succession. As we approached the first, I uttered my mantra, 'I hate bridges' and began the rubbing of my thumb and forefinger and I didn't stop until we were across both.

With that over, we had a great time in Newport, except for the parking. Don't get me started. We wound up walking the Cliff Walk and it was spectacular. We saw a few little summer getaway houses like this:

Short sale, anyone? Let's go halfsies!
And we soaked up scenery like this:

We walked close to nine miles throughout the course of the day there, which ended at a burger dive populated by, I kid you not, Johnny Depp impersonators channeling Captain Jack Sparrow. Sufficiently sated and with my arches screaming, we headed home. This of course meant traversing my two new favorite bridges. The first was the Foghorn, I mean Claiborn Pell. As we proceeded up the span in the inside lane, we noticed the jagweed in a car several lengths ahead of us was weaving precariously into the other lane. The car ahead of us in our lane was forced to lay on the brakes and the horn simultaneously. Already just a little anxious (thumb and forefinger rubbing), this tool was not going to make things any easier. As we got closer, it became obvious why. This joker was filming his drive across the bridge, left arm out the open window with his phone out, capturing it all. He was veering into our lane because, well, he was an idiot. I should point out that we were in my rather large and environmentally deleterious Yukon. He was in a tiny, nondescript Korean car. Sure enough, he veered into our lane. At that point, it was game on and hasta luego, gephyrophobia! I laid on the horn and because of the size of my Yukon, I blocked his view. He had the testicular fortitude to start screaming that his view was blocked - all at 40 plus miles an hour, mind you. While we had not reached the bridge's peak height of 215 feet, we were close. I'd be lying if I did not quickly think how with one quick jab of my steering wheel to the right, he and his tiny sedan would be sailing into the water and there'd not be a scratch on my Yukon. Suffice to say, I decided to linger and block his view a little more before speeding away. As I glanced in my rear view mirror, he did the same thing to the driver behind me. She laid into him with her horn, and since she was in a convertible, gave him a visual sign of her displeasure with his utter obnoxiousness. Good for her.

If nothing else, that little encounter helped me forget about the whole bridge issue. Like I said, my case, based wholly on a diagnosis provided by Wikipedia, is mild if anything at all. So what have we learned today? Well, clearly, if your take away is 'Man, I'm not glad I'm not him with this whole bridge thing,' then my work here is done. More importantly, if your take away is 'Man, I'm not using Wikipedia to self-diagnose anything,' then I've really done something good today. You're welcome.

20 June 2016

Time is flying

TMFKATB atop a big tree stump
As I get older, the well worn adage about time flying by is all kinds of true. Mondays roll around with frightening speed and when TMFKATB's letter arrives, I think to myself, 'Wait, didn't we just correspond a day ago?' No, Copernicus, it was seven days ago. Time, my friend, is truly flying by.

It appears to be doing the same for TMFKATB. In this week's letter, he lamented the passing of time. With just under two months to go (like eight weeks), he is an old man in the mission and he's feeling it. Here's how he summed up how he's feeling about the march, or stampeding, of time:

I can't believe it, time is beginning to go even faster just to annoy me!

I just feel like there's no time to breathe! I love it though. This is the pace I love to work at it.

He's taking it in stride. I marvel in the maturity that he has gained over the course of his service in both Mexico and behind the Zion Curtain. He was always a pretty even-keeled kid, in that he wasn't one for raging outbursts or dramatics, but he's taken it to new level in these two years. He found out today that they will be taking in another missionary, making their companionship a trio. Things happen. Missionaries are not perfect (Looking for evidence? I give you my two years of missionary service) and sometimes companionships need to be changed STAT. So sometimes that means a trio. Trios are not easy to manage. But here's how TMFKATB perspective on it: It will be a fun couple of weeks of hard work.

Once again, the teacher becomes the student. My son is teaching me, reminding me of the importance of perspective and making the best of a challenging situation. I suppose it's on each of us to do exactly that in whatever life, or our own choices, deal us. Make the best of it, my friends.

19 June 2016

On Fathers Day

One of my favorite pictures of my three
(I know I've posted this oldie but goodie
before, but as I said, it's one of my favorites!)
It is a wise father that knows his own child.
~ William Shakespeare

My adventure in fatherhood began twenty six years ago with the arrival of Our Lady of Awesome. In fairly short order (not Irish Twin short, but short enough), CAL and TMFKATB joined the mix and it truly has been an adventure ever since.

As with any adventure, there have been tremendous highs (seeing any of your children finding their happy), some challenging lows (heartbreak, daughters right before they turn 13), some moments of panic when you might have gotten lost ("Hi kids, you're in the middle of your critical formative years and guess what? We're moving. Again!"), and even some moments of wondering will this ever end (How many times can we go to the ER in a year with TMFKATB? How long does college last again?). This is an adventure I wouldn't trade for anything, because along the way, I've gotten to know my three children. I've not reached the enlightened wise state that the honorable Mr Shakespeare refers to, but that's the beauty of fatherhood; it is an ongoing thing. As long as they'll let me, I can still be their Dad. You can call me a lot of things (a lot of which are unsuitable for printing here, I know), but the best thing I've been called is Dad. Getting to know my children has been the greatest joy of my life. I strive to be better because of them. My life is better because of them and I hope they've picked up a thing or two from me along the way.

I said my fatherhood adventure began twenty six years ago but I misspoke. It started long before that. It began when I became my late father's first born. Placed into the arms of my mother and father when I was just two days old, I was introduced then and there to the unconditional love of a father.  Just as his love was unending, so was his patience. Trust me when I tell you that we, his three children, worked hard to try it, but he won. His love and patience won. There's a huge lesson there. For me, though, the biggest lesson from my father taught me was his love for my mother. I cannot adequately put into words that love, so my hope is that my children have learned a similar lesson from me - that to love their mother is the greatest gift I could have given them. 

I am in no way a perfect father or husband. "Epically flawed" (not Homer J. Simpson-level flawed, but you get my drift) is probably a more apt description but I've tried and continue to try each day. Being Dad to my three children is a role I relish each day, even though none of three are under our roof anymore. I look forward to trying each and every day to being their Dad. I couldn't ask for anything more.