30 December 2008


In a good weather year, driving the Chicagoland freeways and streets is an exercise in patience and skill as one plays a game of dodging the pothole. Well, this winter, which has been psychotic, is making the dodge game a real "treat." It's been stupid cold, with lots of snow, then it warms up, everything melts, and we are left with potholes all over the place. And IDOT doesn't even have a prayer of getting them filled (probably because our criminal sociopath governor is withholding funds in exchange for keeping his street cleared and potholes filled).

Driving the I88 has become an exercise in hanging on for dear life. Every lane, not just the outside ones, are now riddled with potholes, and not small ones. The Swedemobile was not designed for this. I am fully convinced that I'm shortly going to leave behind a critical piece of mechanics, like an axle, in one of these monsters. About the only thing that seems appropriate to traverse this heinous piece of roadway is a tank. And who wants to drive one of those? Well, this guy did:

As I dodge the potholes, I'm starting to understand what was going through this guy's head.

27 December 2008


December is a busy, or brutal, depending on your perspective, month of celebrations, particularly for us. But today's celebration, our 20th wedding anniversary, was worth it.

It's been a good day. We awoke to the sounds of rain, which only meant it had warmed up. We are living in a psychotic weather world right now, I mean Sybil had fewer personalities than our weather has - two days ago, we had three feet of snowdrifts and ice so treacherous you couldn't drive. Today, it was 55 degrees and rained most of the day. This 'heat wave' put the world in a whole new light for my wife. She was overjoyed, so the day started well. The kids slept in too and Beijing wasn't her usual barking annoying AM self. More good karma.

I then took off to get an anniversary gift, in spite of the fact that we had said we weren't doing gifts. We made our trip to Australia earlier this year our gift, but really, how often does a 20 year anniversary come around? Not that much, so I felt it had to be honored. So off to the land of the little blue box...Tiffany & Co. I managed to find something nice and that did NOT require a second mortgage.

I figured I need to get a haircut too so I could look presentable on this most auspicious occasion. I've ranted before about the fact that I can't find a good, inexpensive barber in the Chicagoland 'burbs and that I've been stuck at the various franchised haircutting mills, which I believe are where Satan keeps most of his stylists on retainer. Well, once again, my 'stylist,' and I use that word loosely, had a whole lot of mileage on the engine, as it were, and it was just a lousy experience. I have now decided to bite the bullet and just go to one of the local barbers in my 'burb and pay the cash premium. I can't take one more of these train wrecks using my scalp as a proving ground for how easy it is to use the clippers...

So that didn't go so well. I did decide, since it is our 20th, that the occasion merited flowers - even red roses. I want to point out that in the 20 years we've been married, you can now, including today, count on one hand the number of times I've given the stunningly patient SML flowers. I also will go on record that I reminded SML as I presented her with said roses that this did not represent a break in my lack of romance nor was this an indication that I might be softening my stance on the stupidest day of the year, Valentines Day. She was cool with that.

Then the day got mundane. I got all 'Hazel' and did all the ironing and then marched off to the grocery store. Nothing says lovin' like doing the groceries.

We did cap our evening with dinner. We had intended to go into the City but again, the weather is not cooperating. Walking down Michigan Avenue in the rain just wasn't what we had planned. So we had dinner at Mortons and man, was it good! We had a booth and spent most of the evening recalling things, some little and some big, that we've experienced over the years. Let me just say that dinner was fantastic - the bacon-wrapped scallop with the apricot chutney - amazing! Is there anything that bacon CAN'T improve? Our steaks were really fantastic (and for the coin I laid out, they better have been!) and the service was terrific.

As we talked this evening, we marveled at how blessed we've been. I almost didn't want to talk about it so as to not jinx things. But we have been so, so blessed. Our children are healthy and doing well. We have landed well with each of our moves. We've been all over the world together. And we like each other. We really, really like each other. More than a couple of people have commented on how different SML and I are but those differences have complimented the other and serve us well.

It hardly seems real that twenty years have gone by but they have and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can't imagine what the next twenty will bring but I'm just glad the stunningly patient SML will be along for the ride. She really is the love of my life. She has to be, because, as my mother says to this day, "She has to love you because I don't know who else would put up with you."

26 December 2008


Today, 26 December, is CAL's 16th birthday. She's 16! I can't believe it. I could blather on about how the time has flown by and that it is simply unbelievable that our second child is already sixteen, but what's the point, she is and she's growing up.

She got her drivers' license today and is now legal to drive sans a parent. However, the weather is pretty awful (we are now in all kinds of wicked thick fog) and that's going to make us highly reticent to toss her the keys to the Taurus (the family's third car) with abandon. That's one of the sucky things about a winter birthday in Chicagoland - you're not going to get to take off at will. CAL also got her beloved cell phone today, finally stripping us of the title as strictest parents' EVER for not letting our kids have cell phones until they turn 16. So breakfast in bed, a new cell phone, and a drivers' license makes for a pretty good day.

CAL deserves it. This is one good girl. She's bright, a delight to be around, and she's headstrong (which can be a challenge but she's learning to handle that). She is a wonderful, wonderful friend. She makes a mean cupcake too!

I don't quite know how I managed to get such a good daughter. Well, I do. I was very, very lucky to convince the stunningly patient SML that marrying me was a good idea. She bought it and as a result, three amazing children. It's fun to honor CAL today. Looking forward to having dinner as a family tonight in the 'burbs. We were going to haul it into the City tonight, but the weather really is just too crappy.

Happy birthday, CAL - you are awesome!

25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

630AM - Me, up. The rest of the house quiet. I get showered and head downstairs.
700AM - Working on the the rest of the morning's breakfast (I had started it at 11PM on Christmas Eve). Note to self: the French Toast casserole that I've been making the last few years is the butter-and-egg equivalent of a nuclear bomb. Perhaps it's time to rethink it.
730AM - the Boy has awoken the stunningly patient SML but not his sisters, who are far less patient.
800AM - Our Lady of BYU and CAL do arise and the opening of gift shenanigans begins. First, the stockings hung by the chimney with care, are opened and then we move to the living room where we each assume our assigned positions on the respective couches. I am armed with two trash bags. My compulsion to have things orderly really flies out at Christmas. No gift box is opened until the wrapping is in the trash bag. Everyone has learned to deal with said rule.

The Boy still acts as the elf, distributing gifts and adding color commentary. It's funny as the kids are all now teenagers, with one nearly out of teenage-dom, how gift-giving and reactions have changed. Our Lady of BYU essentially bought all her gifts this year, but that works, no weeping, wailing, and or gnashing of teeth. CAL was very specific in what she wanted and even helped picked some of it out - so again, no holiday drama. There's still some surprising the Boy, but had this been one of those videotaped Christmas's, it would have been pretty boring. No screaming in surprise, no gasps of shock/joy. Just a lot of contentment. And that's not bad.

930AM - the breakfast comes out of the oven, the cinnamon syrup is made and warm, and we gather around the table. We give thanks as a family for this day and then we eat. Within ten minutes, the phone is ringing. As suspected it was one of the Boy's friend's, calling to check on how the Boy made out. To the Boy's credit, he did say that he'd have to call him back, without getting the eye from either parent. Suffice to say, his breakfast moved quicker from there.

1000AM - the movement of gifts to rooms begins. iHomes need to be set up, DVD's need to be watched, clothes need to be modeled. I'm still befuddled, and a little bit frightened, frankly, by my eldest daughter's new four-inch heeled shoes. I am real curious to see how she is going to negotiate the hill up to campus in those, but who am I to ask?

100PM - The puzzle table is set up. It gets worked on little by little. The sun is now shining brilliantly. It's reflecting off the mounds and mounds of snow that cover our front yard. It looks deceptively warm. It's not - it's only about four (4) degrees outside, gracias to the windchill.

It's quiet and peaceful here. It's Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all!

24 December 2008

Do They Know It's Christmas?

For people of a certain age, the 80's will always be remembered as a time of self-centered excess. It was also a time when famine in sub-Saharan Africa found its way into the headlines. This juxtaposition, unbridled excess and hideous human suffering, cried out for action. Led by Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats, musicians found a cause they could support and the result was Band Aid.

The result was a single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" that led to all kinds of famine-relief fund-raising. It somehow made us feel like we were helping when we bought the song (either on vinyl or a cassette). The video is a riot to watch now - if nothing else, just to see the crowd gathered. Take a look:

Merry Christmas!

23 December 2008


December is a month chock full of significant events for my family. Most importantly, we celebrate Christ's birth on the 25th and that really goes without saying. We also celebrate CAL's birthday, and three wedding anniversaries - ours and my parents and Jill and Wes, who celebrate seven years this year. This December is of particular note - CAL turns 16, the stunningly patient Shari and I mark 20 years of marriage, but my parents take the prize - today, 23 December, they celebrate 50 years of marriage.

Can you even stand that? 50 years! I tried doing a little research on Google and Wikipedia to see what's the percentage of marriages that last fifty years and the answers were pretty consistent - close to zero. Nice, huh? I'm sure that part of that is attributable to the fact that people die before they make it to fifty years, but the sad truth, is that most marriages break up long before they even get close to a number as high as fifty.

So tonight as I write this post, I can't help but honor my parents. They've certainly beaten the odds as it were, as if that were ever a question with these two. I have never met a couple more devoted to one another. My father treats my mother with such caring and respect and he always has - I cannot recall him ever uttering a cross word or even a sideways glance of frustration with my mom. And my mom has simply always adored my dad. They've gone all over the world together, mostly in the service of their Father in Heaven and they've had some pretty amazing experiences. They've blessed the lives of so, so many. But selfishly, I'm glad that they've blessed my life and the lives of my brother and sister. I know that the three of us have challenged my parents far more than they deserved. I am forever grateful for their collective patience with their three children. And I'm glad that last month we could all gather and be together as a family. We have not gotten together for a very long time and a picture like this doesn't happen very often:

The three of us, my brother Rich and my sister Suzanne, together on Thanksgiving thanks to my parents

As I will shortly celebrate twenty years of marriage with my wife, I look to my parents' example and realize that, as usual, I am falling short. But I know I am looking forward to learning day-by-day from my parents ongoing example of love and dedication - I am looking forward to growing old (well, older, because the way my eyes are screaming for bifocals, I'm old now) with Shari.

I look at my mom and dad now and realize that there really is no appropriate gift that I can give them for this anniversary. They've made it clear that they have all the material possessions that they could ever want, but I hope to find something. I guess the best that I can do is to really live up to and honor the legacy that they've created. I've been blessed to be their first-born child.

Thank you, Mom and Dad - it seems wildly insufficient as I ponder all that you've done for me and my family and for all that you've done for so many other people over the years - but thank you and congratulations on this most special of days.

20 December 2008

When Your Governor Is A Sociopath

When one becomes a citizen of the great state of Illinois, one realizes that a certain level of political shenanigans are simply the norm. This is heightened if you live in the Chicagoland area, like we do - let's face it, Chicago honed the "political machine" like no other - it's high art here. But say what you will about the city of Chicago, the machine works really well.

The same cannot be said for our governor, Rod Blagojevich. His political machine, which was apparently was held together by the same hair product that held his helmet hair in place, has failed him completely, as has his tenuous grasp on his own sanity. Since his arrest early last week for pimping the open US Senate seat of President-elect among other felonious pursuits, he had, up until yesterday, kept his yap shut. The Governor and his few remaining loyalists allowed their collective inner sociopath to come raging out in the form of a press conference. It was nothing short of stunning. If you didn't get a chance to see it, here it is:

Where does one begin? How many times have we heard politicians claim ever so piously that they have the truth on their side? I liken that argument to the death-row inmate who suddenly finds redemption in the Bible and that makes the murder or two they committed all go away. And how often do we hear politicians justifying what they do on the backs of either the poor, the elderly, or children - healthy or sick. In this case, the Governor called on the levers of the elderly and sick children. Umm..let's see - in his elderly support move, he gave the elderly free rides on public transportation. Great. Unfortunately, that has exacerbated the budget trainwreck that is public transport and those free rides are going away as service is cut. Nice. And sick children. Wow...apparently from the tapes, the Governor was SO concerned about sick children that he demanded a donation to his campaign in order to get money to a children's hospital. No donation, no millions to the hospital. Awesome.

So now what are we, the citizens of Illinois, stuck with? A delusional Governor who believes he can lead. Really? The Lt. Governor, the AG, the leaders of the Illinois House, the President-elect, and about everyone else, are calling for his resignation. Impeachment proceedings continue. The State is going to have a tough time borrowing money since lenders tend to get a little skittish when your Chief Executive is staring down the barrel of time in the clink. But, Rod and his Hair are going to continue to lead. Although one of his attorneys did say that the Easter Bunny (you can read that quote and other gems in the coverage in the Chicago Tribune) may bring news of what the Governor will do next. That's really respectful of the people, Governor. Nice move.

While it was hoped the Governor would pull an Eliott Spitzer and resign, it didn't happen. So I guess we'll just sit back and watch as our state is effectively paralyzed. That's serving the people, Governor. Keep it up.

18 December 2008

And then there were cinco

Our oldest daughter has returned from her winter break - we are a family of five again. She's been home a couple of hours and it's good to have her home. Really good. She got in before the winter storm that they've been screaming about since last night hit - and so far, it's a whole lot o'nothin'. We'll see if anything materializes. They've already said that the snow that's supposed to fall is the heavy, wet heart attack-inducing snow. That's lovely. I mean it's enough that Chicagoland is just chock-full of folks on the heart attack border...what with sausage and Italian beef being a staple, having a sociopath for a governor. And then you've got Bears fans like these:

We've got enough reasons to have heart attacks here - we don't need heart-attack inducing snow as a result of shoveling. I suppose I'll get to test the theory in the morning.


15 December 2008

The Den's 1st Anniversary

Today, 15 December, marks the 1st anniversary of the Den's appearance in the blogosphere. Here we are, some 154 posts later, and today's post is not much different from that first one. My first post lamented the cold, snowy weather we were enduring in Chicagoland. And it's not much different today. While I'm not shoveling snow today (because it's frozen solid to the ground), I am dealing with ice and wicked cold temps. Wind chill is screaming in at about minus nine degrees. I had to carve my way through the ice to the handle on the Swedemobile this morning in order to get into the car. Yeah, it's not good.

So the weather hasn't changed much, but plenty of other things have. Since December '07, our house population has shrunk by one as Our Lady of BYU graduated high school and hightailed it to Utah; we all got older; SML went back into the paid workforce; CAL is about to get her drivers license; the Boy remains the Boy; and I lost 35 pounds (good riddance, man boobs). And a whole bunch of other stuff happened, much of it chronicled here.

This blog thing has been good for me. I don't think it's been a particularly cathartic thing or a forum for me to get in touch with my feelings. I can hire a therapist for that, although I don't recommend employing this one:

I've simply liked chronicling what's doing with me and my family. And it's also been good to further open the window to my own brand of madness.

So the long, strange trip into the Lyons den will soldier on. I hope you've enjoyed the ride and that you'll stay on for awhile.

13 December 2008

Head Cold

It started subtly Thursday night. Like a tropical depression out in the Atlantic, it started spinning (in my head, thank you very much) and gathering strength on Friday and today, it hit me full on - my head cold. And I'm over it. Not a big fan of taking medication and what little I've taken isn't helping. I did do the chicken route cure tonight but it wasn't chicken soup made by your favorite local yenta:

(How AWESOME was Mike Myers as Linda Richman?!)

Instead, I made General Tso's chicken, even adding some extra red pepper (both cayenne and more flakes) and that did nothing. My eyes are watering, no, sweating like a corpulent Finn after a particularly long go in the sauna. I'm a mess. I'm glad I have the day off on Monday. I just hope I can get through a big ol'day of religion tomorrow.

10 December 2008


Given what's happening in Illinois right now, I have to recognize karma and her stunning return to the forefront.

Frankly, once "My Name Is Earl" started to jump the shark (Oh Joy, where did your trailer park sting go?), I thought karma had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Well, starting last week, karma began a quiet comeback. First, O.J. Simpson finally got sentenced to jail for an act of stupidity and hubris. It took long enough and it wasn't for the hideous murders that we all know he committed, but off to the clink he goes for stealing his own collectibles. Genius! And then, karma got a tad more bold when the two frat boy spastics who, through sheer stupidity, made it to the final three of "The Amazing Race" did NOT win or place second. And now, karma declares herself back with a vengence! Through more hubris and stupidity and AWESOME delusional behavior that makes Elliot Spitzer look like a choirboy, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is arrested for essentially selling the Obama's Senate seat and that's only one of the charges on a 76 page long indictment. 76 PAGES! Incredible, simply incredible. And the best part is that he honestly believes he's done nothing wrong. Seriously, what color is the sky in that world?

Great job, Governor! Really. You've done Illinois proud.

07 December 2008


In chapels across the peculiar world that is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints today, member after member stood and bore witness of their individual faith. For those unfamiliar with Mormon culture, the first Sunday of every month is reserved as a day of testimony as well as fasting and today was no different here in Chicagoland.

Our service today was, and I don't want to be crass using a sports analogy for a religious event, a home run. Those who bore their testimonies today knocked it out of the park. We truly feasted today, listening to the testimonies and feeling the Spirit so strongly. You could feel people drawing close together and frankly, from my perch on the pulpit, you could see it happening. Nothing unites like the spirit of God - may it keep happening for us, because it was really cool today.

Heck if every testimony meeting were like this, it would kill the need for "Testimony Bingo." If you have to ask, you don't play and I'm not going to spill the details.

We'll shortly be feasting in a more temporal way - dinner. Sweet potato fries and pork loin. All good. You have no idea how much I love the humble sweet potato!

And I could KICK myself for refusing to eat one until I was in my late thirties. Another stupid decision. When piled up in the grocery store in the produce section, they aren't much to look at, but man, what you can do! Cut them up lengthwise, fire up the oven, drizzle them in olive oil and kosher salt, and toss them in and in no time - you've got awesome fries. And don't get me started on what happens when you mash them and mix in some maple syrup, some brown sugar...fantastic.

01 December 2008

Thanksgiving Recap

I worry sometimes that reading a post can give you that same kind of feeling you got when you had to sit through a hideous night of slides from some stupid vacation and not your vacation. It was usually the vacation of someone you hardly knew. You know what I mean...remember when your dad dragged out the screen (the one that felt like sandpaper) and out came the slide projector and the carousel of slides. You just KNEW no good was coming from that night...but I digress.

With that preamble, I ask you to indulge me just a little. It's not very often that your parents celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary, but that's why we fled to Phoenix last week, with Our Lady of BYU joining us, to celebrate my parents 50th. Technically their anniversary is 23 December, but given trying to coordinate calendars around that date, it made sense to celebrate at Thanksgiving. In order to spare you the pain/utter agony of an hour-by-hour recap, I'll be sparing in words and use a few pictures to tell the story:

Wednesday, 26 November
Dinner with my brother and his wife, my sister and her children, and my parents at my sister's house in Scottsdale. My brother made a really good paella. We had a good time talking - it's been years since we'd all been together.

Thursday, 27 November
Up at the crack of down in order to drive halfway to Los Angeles (OK to Peoria, AZ) in order to run a 5K, sponsored by the Arizona Roadracers. My brother-in-law, Wes, joined PTL in this race - this was PTL's first.

PTL put forth a great effort. He struggled during the first mile and I have to admit, so did my patience. But karma got me back for just as I was about to lose my patience, I tripped on my shoelace and went down hard. Tore up my right leg below the knee, but I hopped right back up, sufficiently humbled. If I hadn't calmed down, I would have missed the opportunity to cross the finish line with my son. Crossing the finish line with him was the highlight of the day.

Later in the day it was off to my brother's in the New Mexico-adjacent city of Queen Creek for Thanksgiving dinner. Again, my brother's chef skills were on display. He and his wife did a great job with dinner. Once again, good to be with family.

Friday, 28 November

Lunch in Mesa with my parents - Mexican food. Friday night it was back to my brother's (another endless drive) to do something my dad hasn't done in an estimated eighteen years. He watched a movie from start to finish. We watched "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and it was a kick. My dad laughed and laughed. That was one of the highlights of this whole trip. This movie was made a few years after my parents were first married and this was a wonderful way for them to relive memories. It was a little painful for my kids - it's a long movie and awfully different from movies today but there's no beating the horror that is the late Ethel Merman in this movie.

Saturday, 29 November
Hang on - we're almost done. Spent some time hanging with my sister-in-law and her family, as well as my inlaws who had just flown in from Hawaii. It was great to see them too. Saturday afternoon it was time for the event we were least looking forward to (OK, the event I was least looking forward to) and that was family pictures. We trundled off to Gilbert to take said pictures. There were two other families at the same spot when we got there and we are all dressed the same - blue jeans and black shirts. Ridiculous.

My sister and her three children

My parents - the reason we all got together

After the photo fiesta, we had one more family dinner and then it was back to my parents for a night of memories and honoring my mom and dad. It was an amazing night.

Sunday, 30 November
Not much to report - up at 330AM in order to make a 6AM flight on stupid Ted, again, back to Chicago. We were off on time and with only one dog this time. We got to O'Hare about 45 minutes before the snow started to fall. And fall it dead. It didn't stop until around 1PM today. Five inches of snow on the ground. More to come this week. Umm...winter is here. Funny though, even though it was gorgeous weather in Phoenix and we came back to snow, it wasn't enough to make me want to move back to AZ anytime soon.