27 March 2015

A dagger to a word nerd's heart

Oh, the soul-crushing agony
It's no secret that I harbor a wicked case of bibliophilia. For certain, there are far greater -philias that one can suffer in this life. I'm glad that the -philia I've developed is one that brings me immeasurable pleasure. Sure, it's one that has literally cost us dearly on our multiple corporate moves (since those costs are calculated by weight and hardcover books aren't delicate flowers). My sagging bookshelves are a hoarder's delight but I can't apologize for that. Books are awesome.

One of the things I like doing when I'm in a new city is to hit a bookstore and I don't mean a soulless big box one, but an independent bookseller. This is no easy task anymore as so many of these smaller, independent bookstores continue to fall by the wayside. Far too often, I get to one and I see a sign like the one in the photo above taped to the door and it is a virtual dagger to this word nerd's heart. It really does hurt. While we were in the desert last weekend where we saw a large glowing, warmth producing orb in the sky - I think you call it the 'sun' - I heard about a going out of business sale at a location of the one remaining soulless big box book retailer and I thought I should check it out.

Now lest you cry "Hypocrite," hear me out. I love me some books, but a good book doesn't necessarily come cheap, so why not check to see if there wasn't a deal or two? I got to the store and saw a sea of empty shelves. I know that they hadn't sold out of inventory. All the good stuff had either gone back to the publisher or to other stores. What remained did do my word nerd's heart a bit of good. All that was left were games, cards, and junk that has no business being in a bookstore in the first place. Whew! Like I said, that did my word nerd heart some good.

So word nerd, what have you been reading, you ask? Here's a quick peek at what's on my nightstand:

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy - murder and injustice in America today
Flash Boys by Michael Lewis - Wall Street unpleasantries
Redeployment by Phil Klay - the stories of those who have gone back to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

All non-fiction. All the time. I can't get away from it. I wonder what that says about me? Hmmm
Do me a favor. Go read a book.

25 March 2015

Hello poppet he says

Apologies for the delay in getting this week's update posted. Travel schedules made it difficult and the last time I was on the road and posted an update from TMFKATB, it was riddled with errors. Not repeating that again.

This week's update from TMFKATB was strangely titled 'Hello Poppet.' Apparently he was channeling his inner Johnny Depp / Jack Sparrow. Because pirates are like missionaries? I have no idea. It was all a bit surreal. It didn't help that I was standing in the Detroit Airport charging my iPhone when I got it. Detroit. Pirates. It was all a little off-putting. What was not off-putting, though, was his update.

Suffice to say, it was a good week. He spent most of it with other missionaries while his companion was in hospital. He is now back and they are working. TMFKATB seems to be hitting his stride, gaining further confidence through the things that he is experiencing. He shared how it felt to seeing someone on the street who looked like they were hurting and being prompted to stop and talk with that person. It was a conversation to see if the person needed help and the person's grateful reaction had a profound impact on TMFKATB. He said he feels like experiences like these are helping him to become a more charitable person.

It's great to see him growing like this. It's also fun to see that he can still pull random film references out of the blue while sharing some really cool experiences. Reason #237 why we love Mondays.

20 March 2015

Happy

After a few days of planes, trains, and automobiles, I'm on a little break. I've escaped the wintry confines that are Connecticutistan for the deserts of Arizona and am getting reacquainted with the large glowing orb some call the "sun." Some of you may be familiar with it. It's been interesting to see it again.

With some free time, I've also been exposed to the foolishness that is morning television and it appears to be a bleak race to the finish line of vapidness. This morning, for example, every one was chirping about the fact that today is International Day of Happiness. Seriously, it's a thing. Surprisingly, it does not appear to be invented by Hallmark or its ilk. I've never heard of this day and don't really get it, but hearing the term 'happy' being tossed around has gotten me thinking about happiness.

Happy. I like what Marcus Aurelius had to say about it:

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.

Marcus is right, you know, at least for me. It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. I may be simple, but family, friends and food are three core elements to making me happy. I've had them all during this mini-vacation and they've all made me happy, particularly last night's Punjabi gosht rogan josh and the Thai drunken noodles I had for lunch today.

One man's happiness may be another's undoing, I get that. I mean it's not everyone that can find bliss in a plate of rogan josh, but I can. That's the thing about happiness. It's up to each one of us to find our happy and to find it every day. One of life's blessings is the opportunity that we have to start anew each day. I can choose to find something good in the most challenging thing I face each day or I can opt to let it knock me down. I'll go for the good because good gets you the happy.

And happy is a good place to be.

16 March 2015

Six months out and not a dull moment yet

Fresh mango with salt and chili - his favorite snack
Tomorrow may be St. Patrick's Day but for us it will make for something a bit more significant. The 17th marks TMFKATB's six month as a missionary. This means that, unbelievably, a quarter of his two year service is now complete, but who's counting? You would think that time would be crawling for us, not having him around. It's been quite the opposite actually. I'm amazed it's already been six months. For us, each of his weekly updates during the past six months has been anything but dull. Today's letter was no different.

He first sent me a quick response to my weekly letter that had this cryptic comment: btw i'm companionless now. Wait...what? In life as a Mormon missionary, you are NEVER without a companion. Clearly, this demanded an explanation. His family letter clarified his cryptic comment. Without divulging a lot of details, the companion he was training has become seriously ill and is now getting appropriate care. This did send them back to the 'green room' clinica for a couple of days before it was clear this young man would need additional medical attention. Based on what TMFKATB shared with us, it's been quite an experience dealing with the situation and it's allowed him to learn some additional lessons about the challenges we are dealt in life. Suffice to say, the last several weeks have given him ample opportunity to learn.

In spite of it all, he was able to drive home just how good he has it food-wise. First, the picture. That's a fresh mango, seasoned with salt and chili. He says it's his favorite snack. And then to burnish the point, he shared the following:

so i didn't take a pic but i ate a delicious torta on the street this week. salchicha, chorizo, jamon and i have no idea what else. it was awesome. they put mayonaise on everything here and i'm starting to love it. the mayo is with lime so it is delicious. i think it's gonna take me lots of time to get used to food in the usa. i also ate caldo de pata. it was gross. its like a soup tradition here. its the hoof of a cow and you eat the soup and then suck all the tendons off the hoof and the skin. it was weird. the soup had good flavor but the hoof was gross.
Not the caldo he ate, but you get the idea
I'm going to take the fact that he has no qualms about eating street food whose ingredients are unknown and that the only thing he's called 'gross' in six months is the hoof of a cow. Truly he is his father's son. May the iron stomach chain never be broken!