11 November 2017

On Veterans Day

November 11th is Veterans Day. Originally known as Armistice Day created to commemorate world peace, it has become a day where we rightfully honor all those who have served in the armed forces.

Unlike many other nations around the world, our military is made up entirely of volunteers. Each of these men and women have chosen to serve this country, regardless of the political climate here or abroad. They choose to serve for myriad reasons - love of country, opportunities - but they have voluntarily chosen to serve.

Many who volunteer are aware of the appalling statistics associated with veterans in this country. In 2014, 18% of all suicides in the United States were veterans. In 2015, 300,000 veterans likely died waiting for medical care from the Veterans Administration. Tonight, this very night, nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless.

Those who volunteer and serve today know that their purported Commander-In-Chief is himself a draft dodger (because bone spurs, which much like his tax returns, are nowhere to be found). They know that he actively mocked a US Senator because that Senator had the temerity to be captured and became a POW while serving in Vietnam. They know he actively mocked the parents of a dead soldier because they have the last name of Khan. They know that he has disrespected the widow of a slain soldier because, in her grief, she exposed him for the careless fraud that he is. In spite of all this, they continue to serve and men and women continue to volunteer. We owe each of them, those who serve today and those who have served, a tremendous amount of gratitude.

Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist said it best of our veterans:

The valor and courage of our young men and women in the
armed services are a shining example to all of the world,
and we owe them and their families our deepest respect.

Thank a veteran today. Thank their families. Remember that the basic freedoms you enjoy have been protected by their service. Remember their valor and courage and thank them.

05 November 2017

How many more, you ask? We have an answer.

A mere thirty one days ago, in the wake of a horrific terrorist attack (unlike The Megalomaniac in Chief and his gutless compatriots, I will say a white man is capable of committing acts of terrorism and should be called out as such) in Las Vegas wherein a lone gunman killed 59 people and injured nearly 600 in a matter of minutes, I said there would be another one.

Today, that other one, yet another terrorist attack on American soil, occurred in a church in a San Antonio suburb. I'd like to be outraged that this happened at a church. I'd like to be outraged that churches, which by their vary nature are sanctuaries of peace, are not exempt from such horror. I'd like to be outraged but we've accepted that elementary schools and the children within are fair targets and that the most super-effective solution is to arm teachers. I'd like to be outraged but we've decided that being massacred is one of the potential acceptable risks of going out to the movies. I'd like to be outraged but we've accepted that if you're out at the club with your friends, getting mowed down like an enemy combatant is just an unpleasant downside.

Our political leaders, and I use that term in the loosest possible way, have already come out wringing their hands and calling for prayers. They are also calling for calm and that this is certainly not the time to talk action or politicizing what has happened. Interestingly, just a few days ago when a brown man, a Muslim, ran down eight people in New York, these same leaders were screaming for extreme vetting and the death penalty before the first bodies had been removed from the scene. Double standards are fun, aren't they?

The fact that the twenty six (so far) people who were slaughtered this afternoon were in church praying when they were killed will change nothing. The NRA will continue to pay its blood money to politicians who will gladly accept it. Apparently that cushion of cash makes it easier for them to sleep once they utter their somber platitudes about thinking and praying about the victims.

The bottom line is that nothing will change. We are destroying ourselves and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

04 November 2017

The Hunt for Wed October

Glorious stroop waffles from The Mighty Baker
With apologies (as in 'sorry, not sorry') to the creative masterminds behind 1990's cinematic opus, "The Hunt for Red October," wherein Sean Connery played a hardened Russian submarine commander with an inexplicable Scottish brogue and an even more inexplicable hair piece, in today's post, I give you "The Hunt for Wed October," wherein I'll briefly catch you up to speed on what went down in the Den in October.

The latter half of the month was spent behind the Zion Curtain indulging in culinary goodness, like stroop waffles from the Mighty Bakertacos and more tacos than are probably permitted under the regime of Dear Leader Trump, and way too many Vikings from Sodalicious. There was also the matter of this little event:

That's the RM, emerging triumphantly from his 21st October wedding ceremony, with his new bride, the lovely MC. His Rockette-esque high kick reflects his excitement, as well as his innate ability to always keep it classy (a quality he obviously gets from his father, natch). And speaking of keeping it classy, no, he is not flipping the bird there. He's proudly showing off his finger that now sports a wedding ring. This little event is what brought us back to the Zion Curtain and it goes without saying that yeah, it was pretty awesome. It was more than awesome. It was perfect. As we went through the events of the wedding, from the groom's dinner, to the wedding and the two receptions, to the weather which was glorious, on multiple occasions, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I would say to one another, 'Could this be any more perfect?' To say that we were blessed would be a foolish understatement. To be surrounded by family and friends, as we welcomed a new member to our family, was joyous.

Proud to stand with our son and his new bride

Our growing collection of children. Turns out
I really, really like these people.
I can't say enough good things about our new daughter-in-law and her family. She is a product of great parents, who have raised a wonderful young woman. We were able to spend some time in their home, meeting their family and friends at Reception #2 in Twin Falls, ID., and these are people who are loved. It was really good to see how the RM seems to fit in as well with them. That's important because when you marry, you get a new family, whether you like it or not. I scored on the In-Law Lotto when the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML married and I think the RM has done the same. We'll see what MC has to say about her in-laws, meaning me since I'm the "handful"...(that test will come at the end of the year after a week with us for Christmas Vacation). That said, she fits in beautifully with our daughters and our son-in-law and as you can see from the picture above, they look great as a family.

As we had our children together, I was reminded of how fortunate I am. Then with each moment I spent with these two, that feeling of fortunate exploded into the incomparable joy of being a grandpa:

I could bang on for days about the fun we had each and every day. These two, who are the lights of my life as if that weren't obvious, were stuck with us for 13 days straight and as far as I'm concerned, it could have gone on forever. We laughed. We created tons of paper spaceships without a single paper cut. We had In-n-Out. Grandpa may, or may not, have let his four year old grandson drive a car around a gated community. Allegedly. We had two nights of Halloween shenanigans. We just had fun every day.

Suffice to say, Wed October was a very good month for us. It was so good to see old friends, like the RM's buddies from Connecticutistan or the Boys of the Dirty 630. We had dinner with a couple of friends from our early married days at BYU and it was just like yesterday (also thanks to A & B, the greatest stalkers ever, who once again showed up to say hi out of nowhere!). I had a chance to reconnect with a few friends from freshman year, 1984, that I had not seen since, wait for it, 1985. Thirty two years, people, but what a great reunion! There was more than a little laughter there, let me tell you.

At the end of "The Hunt for Red October," Jack Donaghy Ryan says to the inexplicably wigged Captain Ramius, "Welcome to the new world, Captain," and that kind of sums up Wed October for us.  As the RM married, he entered a new world called marriage. With MC, we gained a new daughter-in-law and she joins a new world called having me for a father-in-law, the poor thing. It's a new world for our family and I like it. I really, really like it.

Product Endorsement Time:
We could not have pulled off our groom's dinner without the goodness of two companies. For those of you behind the Zion Curtain, or for those of you who go behind the ZC from time to time, please support these two:

180 Tacos - their catering team is great! Food is fantastic and they do a terrific job!
The Mighty Baker - I can't say enough good about this place. Pete is great to work with and man, they make great stuff.

Also for those of us on the East Coast who are used to paying $150 for eggs, milk, and bread from the local Quick-E-Mart, you will die a thousand deaths at how good their pricing is. I'm still reeling.

08 October 2017

Father | Son

In much of the competition-based television foisted upon us today, there's a fairly common trope. It's a father or mother doing something like artfully cooking a sea slug or trying to get up Mt. Upchuck-a-rama (I may or may not have that name wrong) in record time for the sole purpose of making their child proud of them. Nine times out of ten, as the footage rolls and the overwrought emotional music is cued, it turns out said child is an infant who would not know if his father was climbing Mt. Whatever or if he was the closet door. So it's pretty safe to say being proud of daddy isn't much of an issue yet.

As the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML will tell you, I don't appreciate these scenes. They're trite, maudlin, and spectacularly lazy. It also usually launches me into an unhinged rant on the nature of parent-child relationships and as her nom de guerre suggests, SML has an unending well of patience with me, but she's done with these rants, so we aren't watching a lot of this type of television together and that's probably for the best.

The Great Mullet Debacle of 2014
Not our finest hour. Let's not
talk about it ever again.
These maudlin scenes have been playing in my mind of late as we are preparing for The RM's wedding just 13 days from today. My involvement in this event has been reserved to paying for stuff sans complaint and taste testing tacos and a next-level dessert for the groom's dinner.  I did nominate myself to create a playlist to add to the ambience of that dinner. For those of you unfamiliar with my iTunes library, it is essentially an extended cry for help consisting of more than 1200 songs that have no discernible rhyme or reason, so this playlist is going to be aces! That said, I've found myself in a mawkish well of my own creation thanks to the lyrics of one song that I added to the list, forgetting that it's about a father's love, as opposed to an unsettling love song between an F-Dude and his F150 as the title would suggest. The chorus of the George Strait song "Love Without End, Amen" goes like this:

Let me tell you a secret about a father's love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
He said daddies don't just love their children every now and then
It's a love without end, amen
It's a love without end, amen

As I've listened to that song multiple times, more than one tear has fallen from my eyes as I think about this good young man, my son, and the pride I have in him, as well as the unending love I feel. Even during the Great Mullet Debacle of 2014 wherein we experienced a taste of the Seventh Ring of Hell that no parent should have to endure, I've loved this son of mine to the Moon and back, just as I have his sisters.

Holding him after 18 months of not seeing each other
My son, The RM, is now somehow on the precipice of marrying a smart, capable, lovely young woman and starting a completely new phase of life. I can't help but marvel at how this has all played out. Wasn't it just yesterday that I held him in my arms for the first time, still smarting from the fact that I didn't get to finish a burrito because he decided to turn up fast? Wasn't it just yesterday that I held both him and his mother as a doctor set his broken arm (first of three, but who's counting)? Wasn't it just yesterday that we threw our arms around each other in a victory hug in the bleachers at Wrigley at our first Cubs game? Wasn't it just over a year ago when we threw our arms around him as he emerged from behind the Curtain of Incompetence (AKA the TSA) at the Hartford Airport as he returned from his missionary service as a mature young man? I held him for a good long time that day, remembering all the times I held him before and then, as you see from the picture above, I stood back and marveled at my son. I marveled at the man he'd become. I marveled at what the future held for him. I marveled that somehow I had something to do with raising him and his sisters into the good people that they are. (On that point, I need to give credit where credit is due right now: the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is why my children are who they are. Also, she is a saint.)

In the coming days, he and I will have a few more 'advice' sessions and I'm sure he won't remember a lot of it. I hope he'll remember the good things I've tried to demonstrate as his father and as a husband to his mom. In thirteen days, I'll hold him again as I wrap my arms around him and through my tears, of which there will be many, I'll say 'Congratulations, son,' as he embarks on a new life as a husband. I'll give my new daughter-in-law a hug and say 'He's yours now. Buena suerte!'

Like that cowboy philosopher George Strait said of a father's love for his children, "It's a love without end, amen." I could not agree more.