29 October 2014

Why do I have to do it twice?

Seriously. You want fries with that?
In my ongoing effort to see just how quickly I can obliterate my health savings account this year, I saw the dentist yet again today. The quest to fix my broken tooth has taken on the timing of the search for what the Kardashians' won't do for money. Simply put, it has no end. As a result, I found myself in the dentist's chair this morning for appointment #382. It started with the dentist telling me there was no need to numb me up because my tooth was dead anyway. Well, good morning to you too, Princess. It ended with me walking away with what I believe may have been a mild concussion, thanks to the drill she used. Apparently it was obtained from a recently shuttered mine.

Anyway, I decided to treat myself to a doughnut after the visit. Because why not head directly to a sugar dealer immediately after seeing the dentist. So I went to a nearby outlet of the ubiquitous doughnut purveyor that you can find, by law, about every 500 yards here in Connecticutistan and Mass. I walk in to get my pumpkin doughnut. As I approach the counter to place my order, the slacker kid assigned to the register appears out of nowhere and asks, "Bra', what can I get you?" Bra? He really said it. Hearing that word, I quickly looked around to see if Dog the Bounty Hunter was lurking in the shadows, but seeing no sign of a wicked mullet, I felt it was safe to proceed with my order. He began to swivel around to the rack o'doughnuts, when his manager swooped in and the following played out before my eyes:

Strident Teen Manager (think Tracy Flick from 'Election'): You just got back from the bathroom. You washed your hands, right?
Bra' the Donut Boy: Sha,yeah!
Strident Teen Manager: You have to wash them again.
Bra' the Donut Boy: But I washed 'em. 
Strident Teen Manager: Didn't you watch the video in training? You have to wash them twice. Once in the bathroom. Then again here!" She then harshly pointed to the sink next to the counter, expertly jabbing her microphone-adorned head toward the sink.
Bra' the Donut Boy: (in a defeated half-wail) Why do I have to do it twice?

Strident glared and he knew the battle was lost. He sulked over to the sink and she spun back around to me with my doughnut magically in what I can only assume was her twice-washed hand. I kind of felt bad for Bra'. He was now staring down the barrel of a long shift of glares, recriminations, and probably a forced watching of the hand washing video during his break. I just hope she doesn't make him practice.

Hopefully he learns his lesson about picking his battles in the workplace. You've got to choose wisely. You don't want to be the one practicing hand washing in front of customers because you chose the wrong time to lament, "Why do I have to do it twice?"

27 October 2014

The Call

Earlier today, a young man, dressed in his suit and wearing his badge identifying him as a missionary, strode through airport after airport as he made his way to his assigned field of labor in a not-so-distant country, but in a world totally new to him.

Of course, that young man is The Missionary formerly known as The Boy. He, along with 11 other missionaries, made their way this morning from behind the Zion Curtain to Mexico. All twelve are bound for the same mission - Tuxtla Gutierrez. Their group has made their way through three different airports today before they'll get to their fourth in Tuxtla. I'm sure it has made for a bit of an amusing site. I would have loved to been a fly on the wall to watch twelve sets of eyes get progressively wider with each new airport and change of planes.

We've been able to stay in touch with him today, thanks to a throw-away cell phone that we sent him. Because airport payphones. I mean think about it - A) are there even any left anymore and B) who needs whatever highly contagious disease lurks in those that remain? So a throw-away cell phone it was. To hear his voice for the first time in six weeks was an absolute joy. From his first call to his last today, he sounded happy. It was a thrill for me to hear his conversation peppered with Spanish, albeit heavily American accented, it was Spanish just the same. It was even better to hear his excitement. He was excited to start talking to people. He sat next to a couple from Spain during his first flight and was excited that he could understand them describing their vacation in Cancun in Spanish. Any trepidation that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I may have had vanished with that first call. A calm, even a peace, enveloped us as we talked to him. I am so grateful for that comforting blessing.

Talking to him from Mexico City was even more fun. The reality of being in a new country sounded like it was setting in. I asked him how it was clearing Customs. I've cleared Customs more times than I care to count in Mexico City so I know what he would experience. He told me, in Spanish, how it went down. As the Customs agent began to pepper him with questions, The Missionary said he asked him, again in Spanish, if there was anyone who spoke English. The Customs guy apparently smiled and said, "Mihijo Usted ya esta en Mexico. Ya habla espanol." (Son, you're in Mexico now. Now you speak Spanish!) That ringing you hear in the background? Yeah, that's the reality check bell clanging loudly. He then mentioned that his group was the only group of white people anywhere. How's that for enlightenment? It's actually a young man realizing he' not in the proverbial "Kansas" anymore.

I can't believe how good it was to talk to him. I'm so grateful for how good he sounded. I'm even more grateful for the peace that his mother and I are feeling. We'll need that knowing that we won't speak to him again until Christmas. Wait...what? That's right. A missionary calls home twice a year - Mother's Day and Christmas. It allows for the missionary to focus on what he / she has been called to do and there's some growing up that happens too, as a result. It's probably worse for the parents. That being said, I'm excited to talk to him at Christmas. By that time, his American Spanish accent will be long gone. He'll have gone native at that point. It'll be the Battle of the Accents - my Cuban versus his Mexican. We'll see who takes it. I can't wait!

The Final Leg

25 October 2014

Story Telling Voice

Since Netflix' streaming plan became a dumping ground for short-lived for a reason television series, straight-to-DVD again, for a reason movies, and a showcase for the talent (?) that is one Adam Sandler, we cancelled our membership. Then the Awesomes got hooked on one of the series showcased on Netflix and once they had used up every free 30-day membership they could find, Our Lady of Awesome called us and implored us to restart our membership so they could finish up watching the show. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML found she liked the aforementioned series and it seems everyone was happy. Even me, as I've found a couple of cool documentaries.

I watched one of those cool ones this afternoon. It's called "Twenty Feet from Stardom" and it tells the story of some of the best backup singers (Darlene Love!) in the music business. It was a fascinating watch and it drove home to me just how powerful the voice can be. As anyone who has had the misfortune of being near me when I sing, you know that what I produce is akin to the sound two angry alley cats make while fighting over a rotting can of sardines. Suffice to say, it's not good. What is good is that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is stone-cold deaf in one ear. She has been spared years and years of agony. I long ago accepted that when I was swimming in the gene pool, I did not jump into the musical talent lane. I leave musical talent to my first cousins who are half of the incredibly talented band Delta Rae. They got musical talent in spades.

Songs tell a story. The really good ones, in just a few lines and told through amazing vocals and music, are as powerful as any gripping oral or written narrative. I've come to realize that each one of us has a story to tell. One of the more simple truths of this life is that each and every one of us is an individual, with unique feelings and experiences that craft our perspective. We live in a time when it has gotten so easy to tell our stories. Facebook, for what it is, helps us to tell stories and the Twitter lets us tell those stories in short form. Instagram helps us tell stories through imagery. I know I am constantly enriched by long format story telling found in podcasts like "This American Life."

And then, for me, there is this little labor of, dare I say it, love - the virtual den that is this blog. This has become my story telling place. For better or worse, I'll let you be judge of that. For the two of you who have stuck around here for awhile, you know that I've experimented with my 'voice' here and I'm still not sure if I've hit my stride, but I hope to continue to improve. The stories that make up our rich life experience deserve that. This much I know, there are still plenty o'stories for me to tell. I'm going to keep telling them here.

After all, we all have a story to tell.

23 October 2014

The Last of Thursday Favorites

Yeah, he sure knows how to take a memorable picture
Today marked our last official MTC P-Day email bonanza / letter from The Missionary formerly known as The Boy. He departs in just a few days for parts (kind of) unknown in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico and its 'hood. He proudly entitled today's email missive "Last Letter from the CCM." His excitement about getting to Mexico was not to be contained. He's ready.

From our point of view, it hardly seems possible that he's already leaving for Mexico. It was only a few short days, I mean weeks, ago that we said our 'See you laters' and now he is on the precipice of leaving the country for his field of labor.

We've loved Thursdays as it was the appointed day to hear from him. As parents, it's been a bittersweet experience to watch him grow from afar. We've seen the growth in him through his letters. We've seen a bit of the challenges he's experienced that have led to that growth. You're excited for that growth but wish you could be there with him to help him (so not an endorsement of helicopter parenting!!!). But you sit back, suck it up, and realize how these experiences are helping him see and achieve his potential in ways that may not have been possible if you were there to help him. It's probably been harder for us than him.

So, our new favorite day will be Monday as Mondays are his prep day in the field. I'm already counting the days for that first e-mail. Tick tock....