15 December 2014

A little change of scenery

Officially supporting the home futbol team
A hearty felicidades to TMFKATB as he gained his Mexican residency card today. We heard from him as he wrote his weekly e-mail letter from his mission offices in Tuxtla Gutierrez as he was there to secure his residency card. It was his first time back there since he arrived in country in mid-October. Sounds like he didn't have time to do anything more than secure his papers and enjoy the six to seven hour bus ride to and from the little town in which he is currently serving.

He told us that the bus ride is longer than it needs to be as they are stopped frequently by Mexican police in full armor and tanks. They are very close to the Guatemalan border so apparently the show of force is important. He talked pretty frankly about how safe he feels, although he felt strange not being with his companion, Elder D, while on this little excursion.

It was a good letter. He and his companion are working hard. He continues to gain confidence in his language skills. He is embracing the culture - mole and tamales are becoming a staple of his diet - and he's loving the people. He is happy. We are looking forward to Christmas Day and the chance that we will have to 'see' him. It's going to be an amazing gift!
Apparently they are cutting hair now

14 December 2014

Bah Humbug - A Lesson

As one who grew up outside the four small walls of the confessional, the Den has become, in many ways, the venue in which I air my myriad foibles, as well as the occasional sin. I'll leave it to you to debate whether those are ones of commission or omission, but that's not the point. I've been pretty up front, embarrassingly so at times, about those times in life when I've committed a faux pas or found myself in a situation where I learned a lesson. For those of you who have kept up on the shenanigans here in the Den, I can only hope for one thing - learn from my mistakes.

I had another one of those moments yesterday.

It's no secret that the trappings of the Christmas season and I have an antagonistic relationship at best. I mean when "Die Hard" is your favorite Christmas movie because of lines like this, "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho," you know that the 24/7 screeching of a passel of washed up divas about a little drummer boy is going to drive you to acts of violence. So with that in mind, yesterday morning, after just a few hours sleep (BTW - I am officially too old to stay out past midnight at parties - getting home at 130AM does nothing for my cheery outlook on life), I embarked on my one errand of the day - a trip to the ATM to deposit a check.

I get to the bank and as a big fan of the drive up ATM, I made my way there. With just one car ahead of me, things were looking good. And then they weren't. I get to the machine only to discover that it can do every single transaction known to man, except, wait for it, take a check deposit. Yep, that function was 'temporarily unavailable.' Seriously. If there was ever a #firstworldproblem, this was it. There was no way I was going into the bank itself, as it appeared to be packed. So, knowing there was another branch of said bank a few miles down the road, I made my way there. Once again, I was planning on using the drive up ATM but when I got to that branch, there were no fewer than eight cars in that lane, so I spun my environmentally offensive Yukon around so I could go into the lobby, where I know they have three, count them, three ATM's. Here's what I found - a line for one ATM because A) ATM #1 only dispensed cash and 2) ATM #3 was completely out of service. C'mon, stupid ATM! You had one, just one, job to do! Now the line for tellers had upwards of a dozen people in it, so I indignantly took my place in line for the ATM and saw that the lady at the ATM was, based on the number of checks she had piled up, processing a year's worth of payroll via the machine. It was at this point that I muttered, "Lady, you can't be serious." Except I didn't mutter it. I pretty much yelled it because the lady at the ATM and the lady in front of me both spun around which looks of mortification (ATM lady) and shock (lady in front of me). ATM lady began to apologize and the other lady, very sweetly, which was more than I deserved, offered me her place in line. I refused and said I was just frustrated by technology, not them, and did my best to make a joke of it. The check lady scurried away and then the lady in front of me wrapped up her transaction in no time flat and as she walked away, she said to me, "Don't worry, Christmas is almost  here. Have a happy holiday."

Sufficiently chastened, I made my deposit, went back to my truck, and thought for a moment. That lady was right. Christmas is almost here and I do have reason, lots of them really, to be happy. My girl will be home with us. We'll get to 'see' The Missionary Formerly Known As The Boy via Skype. We will celebrate Christ's birth and all that it means to us. Time for me to bid farewell to the 'bah humbug.'

Now this is not to say I'm suddenly going to have "It's A Wonderful Life" on an endless viewing loop or that I'm going to play Mariah Scarey's Christmas CD drivel 24/7. I'm not. Some things cannot, nor should they, change. But I'm going to be better about remembering the real reason for this holiday season and why that's a powerful reason to keep it happy instead of humbug.

Like I said, learn from my mistakes. You're welcome.

10 December 2014

Better late than never

It was with the best of intentions that I had planned to post TMFKATB's letter this past Monday. He was on time and I even had a chance to have a real-time exchange with him, albeit brief. Like I said, the will was there. The way was not. Our 'crack' internet service provider gave up the ghost sometime Monday afternoon and our service was not restored until late this afternoon. I lost count on the number of phone calls I placed to them. I gave up the will to live after it took each time I called, on average, 25 minutes to find my account. I tried live chatting, which meant watching the chat go dead each time I asked a question. Note to the crack ISP - tell your 'live chat' drones to not use the same screen name. I debated delving into a Twitter war over it but decided to stand down this time.

It's funny how dependent we've become on this interwebs thing. I worked from the library most of the day yesterday and thanks to the kindness of some good friends, I took over their home office today so I could function (thanks again, K&L). I'd have been dead in the water otherwise. I shouldn't complain though. TMFKATB's letter was pretty brief this week as it sounded like he had no time at the little internet cafe they go to each week. He had another bout of gastro-intestinal drama as he continues to adjust to life in country and he emerged from it with his attitude as positive as ever. So I suppose my battle with the interwebs is not so significant in the grand scheme of things. It really isn't.

07 December 2014

"A Date Which Will Live in Infamy"

The USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

"A date which will live in infamy" - Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt
December 8, 1941

December 7th marks the day in 1941 in which the US forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were attacked in a surprise raid by the Japanese. It is the act that sent the US into World War II. In a seven minute speech the following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered the words that now so famously describe that day and within an hour of concluding that speech, the US declared war. The USS Arizona, pictured above, is a somber reminder of that day.

I was born a generation or so after that fateful day and the events of World War II. I am endlessly fascinated by that war though. I recently heard a comedian whose name escapes me talking about how a man's sudden interest in World War II is a sure sign of his advancing age. This fascination that I have, coupled with the fact that I can't remember the comedian's name, would suggest I'm getting older (I'm not getting older, just 'middler.')

One of the things I find most compelling about World War II is the collective power of those who went to war and those who remained at home supporting the war. Tom Brokaw has chronicled those lives beautifully in his aptly named series of books, "The Greatest Generation." The sense of purpose of was real as was the the sense of sacrifice that the nation collectively shared. Even greater was the collective commitment. I am in awe of what that generation did.

We are now two plus generations removed from those who fought in World War II. Their actions and efforts are largely relegated to some brief discussion in school and to books and mostly crappy Hollywood dramatizations (Pearl Harbor you have been called out). I hope we don't forget what these people did. Our track record of coming together as a nation hasn't been particularly awesome since World War II and that's a little scary.

We'd do well to be a little more like The Greatest Generation.