31 December 2009

One more - how to bring in 2010

Just one more post before we ring in 2010 - wanted to share this photo from MSNBC of the goings on as 2010 was rung in in Hong Kong today:
Man, do I love Hong Kong!

Happy New Year to all!

End of the year

In a few short hours, 2009 will be over and we'll be into a new decade. I believe every media outlet on the planet has done some kind of "Top 10" or "Best of ..." for the year and the decade, so I'm not going to belabor it with my own. Not sure what we are doing tonight but I wish we'd been in Sydney. Look at how they brought in the New Year:
Reason #120 why this is one of my favorite cities in the world!

All in all, it's been a good year. Sure, there's parts of it I'd prefer not to repeat. I'm looking forward to what 2010 will bring us. I like the sense of renewal a new year brings. Opportunity is a good thing.

May 2010 be good to you.

27 December 2009

21


Hitting 21 in a game of blackjack is a pretty darn good thing, right? At least that's what I've been told, but I digress. This is I can tell you...21 is a good, solid number. I know because today, December 27th, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. I am a lucky, lucky man. I know it. My mother still marvels that SML married me. On my last trip to see my mom a few weeks ago, she reminded me again of just how lucky I was that SML agreed to marry me. Just to clarify, it's not like I was JoJo the Dog-Faced Boy nearly 22 years ago when SML and I met and that getting her to agree to marry me required some act of magic, but it's safe to say I was a bit of a diamond in the rough. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML saw that and has since worked diligently to make me a better man.

We've gotten better together. We've had the incredible blessing of three amazing children. We've endured job losses and big moves. We've held each other through the sadness of losing our fathers. We've laughed ourselves silly watching 80's music compilation commercials. We've seen a few far-flung corners of the world (and may I point out that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML has NEVER had to fly Coach on any of those long-hauls - nothing but comfort for her - one of the bonuses of marrying an airline dork). We've worked together to make the right decisions for our family.

As I look back on these 21 years, I'd say we've done OK. We're not perfect, not by a long shot. We continue to evolve together. It's not boring, never has been. I am lucky to be in as much love with my wife today as I was the day we were married 21 years ago. I'll say it again...I am a lucky, lucky man and to the stunningly patient SML, I say, Happy Anniversary and love you.

26 December 2009

17

Today, December 26, is a day of celebration in the Lyons Den. We celebrate CAL's birthday and today she is 17 years young. I just got back from driving her to work (she has a license - we have eight inches of freshly fallen snow - thank you, Mother Nature for that belated Christmas gift - on the ground and the stunningly patient SML didn't want her driving) and I marvel at the amazing young woman she is.

We started her day as we do an all birthdays here by bringing her breakfast in bed. She had French Toast, slathered in my Kryptonite, the wretched peanut butter, and my gift to her was not losing my breakfast all over her bed. I mean she had the peanut butter swimming in a lake of syrup. Hideous doesn't even begin to describe it...anyway, like I said I gave her that one gift and then it was time for the other gifts. Clothes, clothes, and more clothes. Except for having one of the Jonas Brothers, Nick specifically, sing to her today, what else could she have wanted?

Lunch and a movie, that's what. So we packed up to brave the snow and went to California Pizza Kitchen, where we were pretty much the only diners and then we raced off to see "Invictus." It was a good movie - a message film without being preachy. You come away being amazed at the humility and brilliance of Nelson Mandela. It was hopeful.

It was a good day with CAL. She is a young woman now, working and planning for college. Can't believe she'll be joining her sister, Our Lady of BYU, sooner than we think. She is a delight and I am grateful that she continues to put up with me as her Dad. I treasure this picture of the two of us:

Love you, CAL, and happy birthday!

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas


I just looked at my post from Christmas 2008 and realize that we are tremendous creatures of habit here in the Den. It was pretty much the same day, with just a few minor changes this year, noted below:

- I slept in until 600AM instead of 630AM
- The French Toast Casserole is still the butter-laden equivalent of a nuclear bomb, and yet, I still made it, and we all ate it.
- It was not - 4 degrees today, like it was last year, although it's snowing again.

Everything else was pretty much the same. Or as we like to say, it was all traditional. It has been a good day. I am grateful for the chance we had to be together as family and for the evening we just spent with good friends. I'm grateful for each of the gifts of the season - most importantly, the gift of family, faith, and friendship. Grateful, indeed.

24 December 2009

The reason for the season

We're in the home stretch of preparations for Christmas Eve and Christmas. I got the tamales last night (muchas gracias a mis amigos en el supermercado El Guero en Aurora) and it seems like we are ready. It's been a bit of a rush and the weather is going to make any last-minute preparations a bit of a train wreck. We are awash in ice. Not snow, ice and it is not pleasant. I'd rather be contending with feet of snow than the ice. Yuck.

So the slowdown does give me a moment to consider the real reason for the season - celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. How grateful I am for His birth and all that it ushered in. There would be no hope; no redemption from the entanglement of sin; no victory over the chains of death and of these things, I am certain. I don't want to forget that and I appreciate reminders of the real reason why we celebrate Christmas like the one in this video:

Merry Christmas and may His Spirit be with you.

21 December 2009

Grossed Out

Working from home gives me a certain flexibility and with the stunningly patient SML picking up more hours now in her role as dental assistant, I'm trying to carry more of the load at home. So today after mowing through the last of the leftover wheat pasta, I set about to do the dishes. Thought it would be nice for the stunningly patient SML to NOT come home to a pile. And that's when it happened. The gross out. Face to face with a knife covered in that which grosses me out more than anything. This:
My mortal enemy

Peanut butter. My Kryptonite. This knife was slathered in it from one of the kid's breakfast. I approached that knife like it was radioactive, because to me, the junk is toxic. I gingerly put it under the stream of hot water, which was a mistake. The smell of the wet peanut butter nearly sent me into convulsions of dry heaves. And that stupid peanut butter was not coming off that knife. So I upped the water pressure and nothing - it was like the SuperGlue peanut butter. There was no way I was touching it to scrape it off. That's how fierce my repulsion is - the thought of touching it is crippling. And to heck with water conservation...at this point I was prepared to let the water run full blast, draining the whole of Lake Michigan, to get that knife semi-cleaned off so I could toss it in the dishwasher. I finally grabbed a fork that was in the sink and used it to scrape off the offending substance. Man, I hate peanut butter. Just writing about it now makes me nauseous. Seriously.

I don't even want to explore why I have such an aversion to the stuff. I just do. I will continue to be crippled by it. If a jar of peanut butter was the difference between me and starvation, I'd choose starvation. And with that, reliving this afternoon's disabling encounter has me exhausted. I'm done. I'm going to bed.

19 December 2009

Snow...it's kind of good to see you

The winter greeting that we got from Mother Nature last night, which delayed Our Lady of BYU by nearly two hours, spent the night with us here in Chicagoland. We awoke this morning to a beautiful blanket of snow. It was a very manageable snow as well, not heavy and wet. I was eager to get out in it, not to shovel but to run. So I did. Took off about 730AM for about 2.5 miles, not long but perfect for the conditions. There was something so invigorating as I heard the snow crunching under my feet. It was cool to look over my shoulder as I ran to see the footprints I was creating as well. It was a gorgeous morning. I have to say the snow made the difference.

Got home and it was time to shovel. Like I said, it was manageable and the Boy jumped right in without complaint to help. He's really good about handling the snow issue. He's good about most stuff.

Since it was our first morning with Our Lady back, we decided to enjoy breakfast out so we headed into our little downtown to a breakfast place called Tangerine. CAL, the Boy, and I had eaten there once over the summer and really enjoyed it, so it was good to take the stunningly patient SML and Our Lady there. With a light snow still falling, some of the normal crowds were missing, so we were seated without a wait. The menu is not overwhelming and it was easy to find something for everyone. Things taste fresh there and are hearty without feeling like you've ingested cement. Our Lady had the banana nut french toast:
She eats it without syrup, which is not right!

Other items on our tab included the chocolate chip pancakes, the southwest breakfast burrito, the nutella-filled crepes, and I had the eggs on toast. These were awesome because of the bacon, the garlic in which the eggs were sauteed, and the bacon.
This was really good!

The rest of the day was spent on errands, getting ready for Sunday, and enjoying some downtime. Again, looking outside at the freshly fallen snow throughout the day was beautiful. It's been a good day.

18 December 2009

So that flight won't be on-time

Our Lady of BYU was due to return home this evening after a successful Fall term. Alas, the She-Beast that is Mother Nature has decided to wreak havoc on her on-time return. Here's the announcement on the O'Hare/Midway airports website:

"During inclement weather, passengers
traveling through O'Hare or Midway International Airports,
or picking up passengers are advised to check their airline's
Web site or call to confirm the status of their flight."

It's kind of sleeting. I'm no meteorologist so I won't pretend to figure out what's happening in the skies above ORD today but I do know this...that airport has its own weather. It can be overcast all around it, but they will be pounded with snow. Crazy. So Our Lady sits in SLC without a Red Carpet Club to hide in. It's going to be a long night for her.

It will be good to get her home. We've missed her. I've missed her. I'm still not fully cool with this oldest child growing and leaving thing. She's having such a great time, as her latest personal blog post reflects and I am so grateful for that, but it's tough to see her growing up. CAL is doing the same. And so is the Boy for that matter. I can't stop it. I am terribly grateful that their mother, the stunningly patient SML, did such an amazing job raising them. I did my part but they wouldn't be who they are today were it not for her. Seriously.

15 December 2009

Another Airport, Another Lounge

Just a quick note before I board yet another plane. I'm sitting in another one of Mother United's Red Carpet Club, awaiting a boarding announcement. I've enjoyed the fresh from the can orange juice and an exceedingly dry multi-grain mini-bagel. Gross. But it's free and I'm drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Pathetic.

It's been a good couple of days with Mom. It's been a little more than three months since Dad died and in those dark first days after his death, it seemed impossible that Mom would be on her own. And yet, here she is, growing stronger each and every day and doing things we thought she wouldn't do. It's a miracle and a blessing. And I am most grateful for it. I am most appreciative of the things that my brother and sister are doing to care for Mom as well. This has been a true collective family effort and it's been good.

Not eager to get back to work this afternoon. Is it Friday yet?

12 December 2009

My nod to the holiday season

There are a mere two musical works that I like at Christmas. Two. One is Handel's "Messiah" and there is simply no comparison to that stunning musical tribute to the Christ Child's birth. It is so moving, so compelling. I can't get it enough of it.

And then there's the other one I like. It's a little less, well, highbrow. It's got entirely too many mullets in it. And Phil Collins. Those of you of a certain age probably already know what I'm talking about..."Do They Know It's Christmas?" Thank you, thank you Bob Geldof for getting that collection of 80's bands/train wrecks (Paul Young, Boy George and Culture Club, George Michael sans the other one that made up Wham, that guy from Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Bono sporting the most wicked of mullets, Banarama, Jody Whatley, the previously mentioned Phil Collins to name but a few) together to make a broad appeal to resolve famine in Africa.

So I give you "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Enjoy!

09 December 2009

talent

It's safe to say that I am fairly bereft of talent. I can't sing, play an instrument, act, etc. That's why I laughed when I saw this today:
What was his name anyway? Like it matters.

Growing up in the Church, from time to time my lack of talent was showcased in the Ward Road Show. Twice as I recall. And that was back when you took months to prepare and even compete to see who had the best production. It's safe to say that more than one mother who helped produce these shows was permanently damaged psychologically as a result. So in a nod to letting cooler heads prevail, the Road Show process has been scaled back. One day, one show - that's it. Prepare, practice and put it on all in one day. And the results - clever, happier kids, and less-damaged parents/producers. So I give you "Love Story" by the young men and young women of our ward:

Who's that female lead? Umm...that would be CAL! And the kid in the green t-shirt? The Boy. I have to admit, it was fun. That's because I was in the audience.

08 December 2009

Shoveling

Well, I guess it's safe to say that winter is here. We were merely teased with a dusting of snow yesterday. The teasing turned serious today and it's coming down as we speak. So it was a pleasure to pull out the old school snow removal tool, the snow shovel, and get it going today. It looks like it's going to get a good workout this winter season. Excellent.

06 December 2009

Sunday morning observations

Without fail it seems, I wake up early on Sunday mornings. 500AM seems to be my average. Nothing I can do about but accept it. It's always quiet at that hour and it gives me an opportunity to think, ponder, and review what's doing in my life.

Here's what I know - I have a good life. No, a very good life. I am amazed that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML puts up with my multitude of faults and quirks. We've been blessed with amazing children. Our Lady of BYU, CAL, and the Boy are a joy, day in and day out. We are able to worship God and His Son as we choose and feel blessed as a result. I see His hand in our lives and in the lives of extended family and friends time and time again. We have a roof over our heads and food on the table. I know we are blessed.

So in the things that really matter, we are good. Always there is room to improve and I strive/struggle to do that. I'm working on that whole improvement thing. I'm getting the sense that there's something more or something else waiting for our family and it's time to start finding out what that is. So let the pursuit begin. Look for updates, and maybe the occasional cry for help, here.

Speaking of pursuits, DO NOT miss the season finale of "The Amazing Race" tonight. It's been a good season and I suspect that Malibu Ken and Pinched-Face Barbie are going to win. They've run a good race so if they do take it, good for them.

05 December 2009

Giving 'til it hurts

After three tries, the fourth try at 730AM today was a success! I was able to donate blood! This saga started about three weeks ago. I went in for my scheduled donation and was promptly deferred when the antibiotic I was taking landed me on the "deferred" list. I rescheduled for a week later and found myself in the throes of a cold, with a wicked sore throat, that forced me out of that appointment. Rescheduled for several days later and I was still waylaid by the cold. One more time. Scheduled for 7:10AM today. Initially it didn't look good either. My blood pressure was "off" according to the people there. Had I had a lot of coffee, they asked. Well, unless I threw down several cups in Michael's bizarro world, the answer was no, given that I've never had a cup of coffee in all my life. They called in another lady and she took my pressure and declared me worthy to give! Bless her soul! So off to the Blood Barcolounger I went to donate.

It was an easy donation. A mere six minutes and we were done. A couple of cans of apple juice later and I was out of there. That giving did not hurt.

The giving that did hurt was the "give" required to fix the Swedemobile today. Flat tire that could not be repaired, so a new tire was required. Of course, they tried to upsell me on a pair. They also informed that it looked like the shocks needed some work. I'm done "giving" on the Swedemobile. It's behavior of late is reflecting that of its maker-owner. Kind of falling apart. Fantastic. And I don't mean that in a good way.

02 December 2009

Not well played, Tiger

So it's been a very weird week at work. It's been one of those weeks where everything that you've worked hard on and planned has gone awry and done so at the worst possible moment. It drives me crazy and given that we've had a couple of nights of full moons here, if I were superstitious, I'd almost argue something's up with that full moon thing.

That being said, at least my ups-and-downs are not being made into fodder for Taiwanese news stations. That is to say, I'm not Tiger Woods. Amazing golfer. Enormous, enormous idiot. His "apology" was pathetic, nearly as pathetic as his adulterous behavior. Clearly, not well-played Tiger.

The media has had a field day with this and I have to give props to the Taiwanese news team that came up with the "inside Casa Tiger" on the night of the accident story. Check out their brilliance here...don't let the Chinese narration throw you. You need only watch to see what they've done:
Thanks Mike T. for sending me this clip
And further thanks to Mike T. for sending this gem

The world media and those who are really good with Photoshop are something else. Take what the Taiwanese have done with the afore-mentioned clip...I'm willing to bet they've captured pretty accurately what went down at Casa Tiger. And you have to admit that the animation of Sim-Elin taking the club to the SUV is awesome. But in a matter of hours, the media managed to get one of the most private, yet well-known, personalities in the world to come clean on his pecadillos. If the collective world media can get Tiger to crack, why haven't we sicked the media on the search for Bin Laden? Seriously. They'd have him in no time, don't you think? And you have to just be amazed by people who can doctor a photo like the one above. It's unbelievable. It's sick. It's funny.

I'd like to say I'm disappointed that yet another celebrity/athlete/idol has found himself/herself in a moral bruhaha. I'm not. It's gotten boring. And that's a sad comment on the world that we live in now. We've come to expect it.

26 November 2009

Thankful

The bounty of blessings I've been afforded in this life are too many to count. I realize that each and every day as I spend time with the stunningly patient SML and my three children. I realize that each time I'm at Church, worshipping freely. I realize that each time I am able to pay a bill without panicking. I realize that each time I sit down for a meal. I realize that each time I get on the phone with my amazing Mom and talk with her. I've been richly, richly blessed and I am thankful.

I'm thankful for a wife who doesn't seem to mind getting up and going to a race to cheer on her woefully slow husband. The stunningly patient SML did that this morning, going with me to the Naperville Turkey Trot. It was cold this morning and we got our first dusting of snow and it was raining/sleeting as we left the house, but she bundled up and went with me. Mercifully the starting point was at one of the local high schools so she was able to wait in the warm gym as I ran. It was a good race - not a PR by any stretch but good just the same. It did get me thinking about warmer sock options as well as some other things to put in place as I go into winter training for my first half-marathon in May 2010. I know it sounds forever away, and it is, but this is how I can make the goal achievable.

Proud of CAL, daughter number two, for getting a j-o-b. She got hired at Buona Beef and starts tomorrow. It looks like she'll be working the counter and serving tables. I'm proud of her for getting this all on her own. I'm very curious about the family discount, because I like the place. It makes a good Italian beef sandwich:

So clearly, with discounts on sandwiches like that I'm thankful that I run. Otherwise, I'm going to wind up on "The Biggest Loser." Although because I can't cry at the drop of a hat or would refuse to gaze at another contestant as he sings a song about the time on the "ranch," methinks I would not be ideal for that train wreck.

Anyway, it's time to get going on Thanksgiving feast preparations. Looking forward to a great afternoon with friends. I look forward, too, to some time to further ponder the many blessings I've been given. Hope you can do the same.

23 November 2009

A peak into my iPod Running Mix

Thanksgiving brings many things, not the least of which is the potential of excess pounds from the mountain of mashed sweet potatoes that I will be forced to mow down this Thursday. To combat said gorging, plenty of places put on 5K's. etc. Our fine 'burb is no different, so it's nearly time for the Naperville Lions Turkey Trot 5K and I could not be LESS ready. I've hardly been out since my six-miler last week. I won't be breaking any PR's on this one.

Anyway, I picked up my race packet from the country's most awesome running store, the Naperville Running Company, on Saturday where I could have sworn I heard someone say there are nearly 5,000 people registered for the race. 5,000 people for a 5K...is he serious? He may be. I mean my tag number is 4786. He may be right. Yikes. I've run with a couple of hundred runners before, but thousands. We'll see how it goes.

I've tweaked my "Running" playlist on my iPod in advance of this week's festivities. Here's a peak into what I'm running to these days, in no particular order:

Bad Medicine - Bon Jovi - c'mon, how can you go wrong?
Wake Up Call - Maroon 5 - annoying band, yes. Like the song.
Borderline - Madonna - the Mistress Skank of all things 80s at her early best
Strangelove - Depeche Mode - it's got a great running beat
Cuando Calienta El Sol - Luis Miguel - I live in Chicago...anything about the warmth of the sun is good to get you going.
Somebody Told Me - The Killers - another great running beat
Don't Go - Yaz - I could run to the sound of Alison Moyet singing the mutual fund listings
Rock The Boat - The Hues Corporation - Just because I like it
Girlfriend In A Coma - The Smiths - Morrisey at his cheeriest
River Deep, Mountain High - Ike & Tina Turner - I just envision Ike trying to put the beatdown on me and I keep running
Jai Ho - A. R. Rahman - because who doesn't need a little Bollywood on their run
Move Along - The All-American Rejects - maybe because I find the title inspirational
Jogi - Panjabi MC - see "Jai Ho" above
Lose Yourself - Eminem - it was either this or the "Rocky" theme for my obligatory race anthem
Kiss Them For Me - Siouxsie & The Banshees - just because it's cool
Legal Tender - The B52s - because Kate and Cindy hold one of the notes for a stupid long time and I make it into a breathing game

I mix it up from time to time, but those are my go-to's, right now. We'll see if those will carry me through on Thursday.

18 November 2009

Fare thee well, L-1011 seats

The recent basement flood has left us wondering what to do with the space as we have had AMPLE time to contemplate. The flood was weeks ago and today was the first day where we had some one show up to start work. The painter/drywaller started work late this afternoon. Yeah! I didn't even argue that it was fouling up our evening plans. I'm just grateful that the repair work is starting.

So paint and carpet are chosen. With the painting and drywall repair starting, we began moving stuff out of the basement that hadn't already been moved. That included my beloved Delta Air Lines coach seats from one of their last L-1011's. Those two seats have been a part of my office decor since 2001 or thereabouts. These were awesome red seats, except one of the seat cushions ("which, in the event of a water landing, can be used as a floatation device") was gray. A perfect symbol of what those L-1011's were like in the end. Click here to get an idea of what my seats looked like. They were a wonderful piece of memorabilia in my collection of airline stuff. Stuff that includes a couple of life jackets (legally obtained!), more than 800 safety/emergency instruction cards, and a lot of other stuff. But as I looked at these seats, it was obvious that they'd been hammered. The move to IL was particularly rough on them. It dawned on me that it was time...time to bid the seats farewell.

I could have put them on eBay, but they are so hammered I don't think I could have gotten anything for them. So I took them to the curb. Just let them go. I know that the stunningly patient SML is beyond relieved to see them go. She just couldn't get passed the fact that hundreds of thousands of people had parked themselves in those seats. The thought of it was just too much for her to take. We did agree that new seats would be more acceptable. I did promise not to go the extreme that Anthony Toth has gone. He's my hero - we've talked a couple of times. Check out what he's done in his garage:

Watch CBS News Videos Online
Completely cool. I could not be more jealous.

15 November 2009

Run, Bulls, Forever Strong

It's an early Sunday morning. I forgot I have to teach a lesson at Church today so I got up at my normal time to review it. It looks like today is going to be a good day. It's been a good weekend so far so why shouldn't today be excellent?

Yesterday dawned early with a 7AM training meeting at church. It's all a part of the drill of belonging to a Church driven by lay clergy. We are asked to serve so you accept and you serve. And you grow and are blessed as a result. After the meeting, got home to find the stunningly patient SML and the Boy doing one more raking of the leaves since yesterday was the last day for leaf collection in our fine 'burb. I got the cars washed and then headed into the city to pick up CAL. She'd gone into the city to work - boxing up cupcakes for an event that our friend was putting on. She has a really boss cupcake company, Foiled Cupcakes, and it was interesting to get a "behind the scenes" view of her company. She's built an impressive business primarily through social media, like Twitter and Facebook. Smart stuff.

Once home, I could no longer ignore the siren call of yesterday's weather. High 60's in Chicago. IN NOVEMBER! So a run was in order. Figuring that we may not have another weekend like this for awhile, it was a long (well, for me) run. Six miles through the leaf-strewn streets down to the Riverwalk, through the campus of North Central College, and then home again. It was a stunning day. I was pleased with my first three miles. Not so happy with the last three. Based on my pacing, if I don't change anything, my goal of completing my first half-marathon in 2 hours, 30 minutes will be doable. However, I will be making some changes and plan to beat that goal by Race Day.

We capped what had been a great day by heading back into the city for a Bulls game. the Bulls played the 76ers and we had awesome seats.
View from our seats

The game was good - the first quarter was rough for the Bulls but then they got it together. It was nice to see the Bulls get a win. We had a good time.
The mighty fine and stunningly patient SML with CAL and the Boy before tip-off

And tonight should end well after a good day of getting religion. If you've seen this movie:
Forever Strong
You may have heard of the nationally-ranked, championship high school rugby coach, Larry Gelwix. He was a central figure in the above-mentioned film. He'll be speaking to our Church youth tonight. Looks like it's going to be very cool. Good way to end the weekend.

13 November 2009

"It's time."

(Revised early 11/14/09 after a severe schooling overnight on Facebook)

"It's time." So said my eye doctor this afternoon after my exam. I knew what she was going to say. Anyone who has been with me in a dimly-lit restaurant of late would know what was coming next. Bifocals. (Progressives...Political correctness demands I call them progressives!)

Bifocal (progressives) contacts. Rigid gas permeable bifocal (progressives) contacts. Plus fake tears to keep my eyes from drying out. Plus new glasses. Those, at least, will stay single vision lenses since I rarely wear them. But bifocal (progressives) contacts are on the way.

I am officially and solidly middle-aged now. I have the gray hair to match. The stunningly patient SML came down to help me pick out new frames and the ones she selected (which are the ones I bought) have gray frames. She said, "They match your hair." Nice. All I need now, quite frankly, is a knee replacement. Or better yet, a hip replacement. Or some internal obstruction. Bring it on, middle age. I'm ready to take you on. And now I'll be able to see you coming, should you choose to further attack me in a dimly-lit restaurant.

09 November 2009

I just had to shake my head

Without going into significant or colorful detail (and I tried to illustrate it using Google Images but on this rare occasion, decorum ruled for me, and you should be grateful), I made my way to the doctor's office today to get a very small lump, a bump really, checked out under my arm. Well, in my underarm. Thanks to a quick scan of WebMD yesterday, I decided I'd better get in today.

First, I have to say kudos to my medical group - they've established a service to get you in for same day appointments and that is not by pointing you to the Urgent Care. It really works - I called at 11AM and had an appointment with an Internal Medicine specialist at 12Noon. I will quibble with the wait they put me through - apparently they've taken a lesson from our friends at the world's worst airline, USAirways. 1200Noon actually meant 1240PM. I sat waiting in the Exam Room for 40 minutes without a word from anyone. I honestly thought I was on a delayed USAirways flight. All I needed was a really nasty nurse to come in and yell at me for asking when the doctor might be coming in and then it would have been exactly like a USAirways flight and making the mistake of asking one of their flight attendants for a water.

Anyway the doctor comes in and I describe my issue. She asks to give it a look. I think to myself, "Well, it's your funeral." So off comes the shirt and she gives the lump/bump in my underarm a couple of taps and declares it an issue with a lymph node that can be addressed with an antibiotic. I'm still shirtless and she's at the computer making some notes about the visit with her back to me when she says, "Now, you don't shave your underarms, right?"

How do I respond? I mean she just saw that CLEARLY a razor has NEVER landed under my arms. While I'm not the missing link, there's nothing bald there either. I just had to shake my head. She must have sensed the fact that her question was making me think she picked up her medical degree at Fred's Casa of Hot Dogs and Online Medical School, she spun around and copped to the fact that that was a lame question. I was relieved. But still...I just had to shake my head.

Welcome to the first day of my week.

07 November 2009

11/7/09 - 71 degrees in Chicago

Today could not have been a better day to be in the fine city of Chicago. 71 degrees, people. In November. November! A world gone mad, but sign me up. It was fantastic. The stunningly patient SML and I had a chance to really enjoy it as stayed in the city last night.

We stole away to the Four Seasons Chicago for a quick getaway and it was mighty fine. The hotel has been through a renovation since we were last there and the rooms are modern without being severe or sterile. It's an amazingly comfortable place to stay. The location at the north end of Michigan Avenue can't be beat (nor could our view of the Lake). There are plenty of hoteliers out there looking for your coin these days but there are several things that set Four Seasons apart and one consistent thing is the staff. They are amazing, from the bell man to the hotel manager - each one seems genuinely interested in ensuring your stay is a good one. I love that they can make conversation with a guest without it being forced or canned. I also like that they use their guest histories. When we checked in, they wanted to make sure I was still reading The New York Times and that I'd have one waiting for me (for those keeping score, yes, yes I am still reading The Times). It's little things like that that make a huge difference.

Anyway, it was a fairly mild evening on Friday so we walked in out and all over the city until we got to Zocalo, a Mexican place. We intentionally beat the Friday bar crowd (they just started arriving as we left) and enjoyed a good dinner. My mole was good although the grilled pineapple required a hack saw to cut.

We started this morning with a run along the lakeshore. Since I started running, I'd always wanted to run along the lakeshore but living in the western 'burbs has not made it easy to do it. Today I did it. And it was fun to have the stunningly patient SML join me. She ran part of my run with me and walked the rest. She even started talking about doing the 5K next May when I run my first half. More signs of a world gone mad in a good way.

So how to celebrate a good run? Gorging. Seriously. We piled into the Original Pancake House for breakfast. The line was literally out the door of the place when we got there. I am no fan of lines and I was not sure we should wait. Patience prevailed. We waited and breakfast was awesome - the 49er pancake is genius. Pure, evil genius.

It was a great little escape. We made our way home, picked up the kids and went and watched BYU mow down the Wyoming Cowboys. It was such a spanking that it was a bit dull. And it no way makes up for their crappy performance against TCU two weeks ago.

And now, thanks to Daylight Savings Time, it's pitch black outside and it's only 600PM and I'm exhausted. So I'm done.

04 November 2009

What's on my mind

What's on my mind? Frankly not a lot. At least right now. In the back of my head, here's what I'm obsessing about...

This place
An Executive Suite at the Four Seasons Chicago

The stunningly patient SML and I like to "escape" here everyone once in awhile. Said escape is coming up soon and I can't wait.

This book:
Superfreakonomics

I'm only on the introduction and it's already brilliant. It's a follow-up to the equally brilliant "Freakonomics."I mean how can you go wrong with a treatise on why suicide bombers should buy life insurance. I say you cannot.

This iPhone app:
Shazam

If nothing else, I'm hoping this will help me not appear to be a complete spastic around my children when it comes to what they are listening to now. Wait, did I just say that? It almost sounded like I could have yelled at them to turn down that racket. I hope I'm not ready to make that leap quite yet.

So that's it. Not a lot on my mind tonight. And I'm OK with that.

31 October 2009

13.1 - I'm doing it


Since I started this adventure in running, I've kept my goals very attainable and that's been intentional. I did not want to set myself up for failure. I know myself too well and fear that not hitting a big goal early on would have kept me from pursuing it any further. So I've made them manageable. I've been inspired by what I've read in Runner's World as well as friends and other bloggers who have made running a key part of what and who they are.

So I've run a few 5K's now and covered a 10K distance a time or two. And I had the time of my life crewing and even running part of the Kettle Moraine 100 Ultramarathon. And now it's time for me to make a run (no pun intended) at a bigger goal: a half-marathon. And today, I put money up and registered. I'm doing it. I'll run the half-marathon component of the Illinois Marathon on Saturday, 1 May 2010 at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana, IL. I'm in.

I've decided I'm going to hook up with a half-marathon training group too. CARA, the Chicago Area Runners Association, puts on a winter clinic and I'm going to do that, too. I want to run this one well. 13.1 miles...wow. 18 monthis ago, one mile was not even on the radar and here we are...thinking 13.1 is doable. Am I crazy?

28 October 2009

5 Spiced Pork Belly Sandwich

I'm just back from two days in Manhattan and need to get caught up a host of things, but had to post this. As you know, I've been obsessing about eating at Num Pang Sandwich Shop for quite awhile now and that became a reality on Tuesday. Nothing was going to stop me from getting there. Not even the rain, of which there was plenty in NYC the last two days.

Anyway, I took two of my staff and we jumped on the N train to head down to the 14th Street Station and then it was a quick walk to this little temple of goodness. You order outside and then if you choose to eat in, you head upstairs once your sandwich is done. That's what we did.

I ordered the Five Spiced Pork Belly Sandwich and in the simplest terms possible, liked to have died. It was an incredible sandwich. The bread, a crusty on the outside but tender on the inside, French roll enveloped the pork belly, the cucumber, and the other goodness that this sandwich possessed. Even the grilled Asian pear added an unexpected but good sweetness and crunch. I loved this sandwich.
Unbelievably good!

On the way back we dropped into one of the Crumbs for cupcakes. Oh my! The Cookie Dough Cupcake was outrageous. As in outrageously good - I mean a creamy mashed up Oreo in the center. Awesome. The Red Velvet, the standard bearer of cupcakes in my book, was a slight disappointment - a tad dry and too much icing and way too much of those waxy sprinkles. I'm glad because then it made me feel a little less like I was cheating on Foiled Cupcakes.

Those indulgences led me to my morning run up 5th Avenue this morning in the rain. It was one of the best runs in terms of just plain fun that I've had in a long time. It was really good. It was about 52 degrees and the rain wasn't too hard that it made things miserable, but when I got back after a quick three miler, I was drenched. The bellman at the hotel wasn't completely sure he should let me back in. He did and now I'm home again. It's good to be home.

Now to contemplate what sandwich I'll order next...

25 October 2009

The Week Ahead

Today was Stake Conference which meant a reduced Church meeting schedule for me, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It's allowed me to get caught up on a lot of things, including a slew of things for my Mom. I've also spent some time in the wreckage that is our basement. We are awaiting a bid from a contractor and the approval of the insurance company so we can move forward on the repair work from the stupid exploding water heater. I get the feeling we are in for the long haul on this one.

I have also had some time to think about the week ahead. Here's a look at what's on tap:

- New York City. Couple of days of work meetings-staff and suppliers. A fancy pants Star Alliance event for Continental Airlines as they bid farewell to Skyteam. Lunch at Numpang. A run through Central Park. Probable delayed flight on the return (weather isn't looking great this week for NYC or the Midwest) which means bonus miles - thank you, Mother United. Can you guess what I am most excited about? If you said Numpang, you would be correct.
Cannot WAIT to try one of these!

- Phoenix. Seeing Mom. It will be good to see her. I am so proud of her for how she is handling her new situation. She's tapped into a strength that she's always had but it's been dormant for awhile. Like I said, I'm just really proud of her.

It's been a good day and it's not yet over, but I'm ready to crawl under a blanket for a little while and read a book. I've just started reading Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's book, Highest Duty. I'm barely into it but I can tell it's written in his voice. Having had the honor of meeting him, I can totally hear his voice in these pages. It's a good read.

23 October 2009

Why I love my alma mater

Tomorrow, my alma mater, Brigham Young University, will be the home for ESPN's College Game Day and that is cool. Tomorrow's game is big - #16 BYU goes up against #8 TCU. TCU spanked us last year so it promises to be quite a game. I'm proud of my school's football team, but honestly, it's not why I love the school. It's for gems like this that appear in the school's newspaper, the Daily Universe:

Trespassing

Oct. 11 Several female students left their apartment for 30 minutes to attend ward prayer. When they returned to their apartment, they found a severed elk head on their kitchen table. The suspects could not be identified and the elk was disposed of at the materials handling building.


I am not making this up. I only wish I were THAT creative. Read it here if you don't believe me. Awesome. Just awesome.

22 October 2009

Some things to look forward to

The last three weeks of work have been positively brutal. Brutal. It looks like there's a light at the end of the tunnel - I just fear what that light is. But I've got other things to focus on now. Like seeing Jim Gaffigan live on 30 January at the Chicago Theatre in the city. He is just funny and I am so looking forward to taking the stunningly patient SML to see him. It's going to be funny. Here's a preview of Jim at work:

Awesome! Now to figure out where dinner is that night...

The other thing I've got to look forward to is the Middle East, specifically Abu Dhabi and maybe, Doha, Qatar. I was the lucky winner of a Business Class ticket to any destination that Etihad Airways flies to and I say Abu Dhabi here I come.

Where to stay? What to do? Need to figure that all out. Looking forward to it. So if you've been to Abu Dhabi or Doha, let me know and give me some ideas on what to do/to see.

16 October 2009

Adios, Water Heater

It had to happen. We live in an older house. You could hear it in the occasional clanging and moaning coming from our water heater that it was going to give up the ghost sooner rather than later. Sadly, unlike an eerily silent ghost, when the water heater gave out today, it went out big. Unfortunately I was too lame to notice. Here's how it all went down:

My home office is in the basement and I settled in at 530AM this morning for a day of calls and catch up after a brutal few weeks. I was on conference call number three at 8AM-ish when there was an unusually loud bang from within the room that houses the water heater. Loud enough that I jumped but given that it makes noises like a Ford Pinto without a muffler, I didn't give it another thought. This was a bad call.

About 45 minutes later, I'm on yet another conference call when the stunningly patient SML comes down stairs asking what happened to the water (she'd just gotten out of the shower). That turned into a scream when she yelled, "The water is ALL OVER THE FLOOR!" I looked down and no lie, it was! About an inch of water was below my seat. Now, you might ask how did I not notice this...A) I was sitting on my feet so they weren't touching the ground; B) it wasn't like a tidal wave so it was pretty quiet; and C) who thinks to look down for water at any given moment?!

Anyway, it turns into a mad scramble to rescue all the electronic stuff off the floor, followed by a dash into the room to figure out how to turn off the water heater. FYI - it's the valve above the heater. Something I did not learn until after 10 minutes of furious struggle this morning. Then we started bailing. We used every towel in the house. Meanwhile, the stunningly patient SML calls a supposedly reputable local plumber here in town who responded by saying: "We're too busy today. Call someone else." Completely awesome. Not. The second plumber was fantastic. Lenert Plumbing was so helpful and were on the scene in no time. John, the plumber, was an incredibly calming influence too. Funny as well. I was apologizing for the disaster in the basement and he said, "I've just spent the last four days in a seven foot deep sewer trench. This is great!" I called our insurance company as the water was still pouring and they were great too. We had a disaster recovery team onsite within 90 minutes and an adjuster called within a couple of hours, saying we'd probably have a check in a day or so. Incredible. The recovery people from Servpro were amazing. Four guys dove into the mess and had it torn up and on the way to drying so fast. We were really impressed with Tim and his team. They've done a great job.

So now we've got most of the carpet thrown away, the baseboards off, holes drilled in the wall, seven fans blowing and a dehumidifier working OT. And the stunningly patient SML is already planning the re-do of the basement. Painting. New carpet. Good times.

Here's some pictures of today's fun:




That's the dehumidifier, not a nuclear reactor.

14 October 2009

Swamped


Yeah, that pretty much captures my life right now. Swamped. So much going on at work and no relief in sight for about another week. My group has been managing three significant events and two are now done, with one more to go. I've hardly been home and I am just swamped. Need to do the mundane things like banking and updating the blog and then there's the important stuff like talking to my wife and kids. "Calgon, take me away." But that would require taking a bath and baths are about the grossest thing ever to me, so maybe a long hot shower and a good night's sleep will do the trick. I'll get caught up this weekend.

08 October 2009

Parent-Teacher Conference

It's that time of year and as this is the Boy's last year of junior high, this is our last year of the dreaded dream date known as the Parent-Teacher Conference. And for whom does the Parent-Teacher Conference instill fear and dread? Ask the Boy. Sometimes the post-conference "chat" we have at home doesn't exactly go the way he'd like. That being said, it's not like are like discussions with a parole officer. They aren't. They are the discussions parents have to have with a "sports are my life"-crazed fourteen year old, that's all.

Sometimes reminding him that he does need to stay focused as much in his studies as his sports is not the easiest discussion. The Boy gets it. He just forgets sometimes. Like any fourteen year old boy. So he's not all that different. So we'll see if his teachers pull any rabbits out of their collective hats tonight.

It's been a wicked, wicked long week that culminated today with the biggest event of the year that my team manages. I can't even begin to tell you how GLAD I am that it is over. Glad doesn't even begin to cover it. With this one done and one more big one next week, I'm hoping I can start to get some balance back, or at least a semblance of it. I need to get my running back. It's been all off-kilter because of the hours I've been working and the time I've been spending offsite. Looking forward to getting back at it this weekend. I miss a good few miles each day. And given what the weather is doing here, it would appear that the nice fall days are numbered. I want to stay off the evil that is the treadmill for as long as I can...

04 October 2009

A weekend to be unwell

Who among us likes being sick? I don't see a lot of raised hands or affirmative nods, so for most of us, being sick is not high on our list of things to do. My fall cold arrived, as best as I can tell, as I slept Friday night. I was jarred awake harshly at 5AM Saturday because I forgot to turn off my alarm and that's when the lung-racking coughing began. It was immediately followed by the crankiness that is pretty much a lock anytime I get sick. So I've pretty much spent Saturday and today in the following state:

The miracle that is Tylenol Severe Cold has helped, I must admit. It's also been good that it's Conference Weekend, which meant no formal Church meetings this weekend. It was an at-home church weekend. Every six months, members of our faith convene in a General Conference that is broadcast throughout the world. Since most major satellite and cable systems carry the Conference, we get to hang at home for the eight hours of meetings (not as bad as it sounds, four sessions in two hour blocks). It's a time to be together and it has become a time of tradition. With food. Of course. It's two days of spiritual feasting and filling the stomach as well.

It's been a good couple of days of counsel and I've come away recognizing that I can do more as a father, husband, and servant in God's kingdom. It's up to me to make that happen. I take comfort in what I heard though too. God knows who each of us is and He is watching our for us. That's comforting to know.

So now as Sunday winds down, I'm getting ready for "The Amazing Race." Last week's season opener was completely boss. The wasabi bomb was brilliant and I'm ready for more of Asia tonight. Bring it on!

02 October 2009

Ouch! Kind of.

It was supposed to be a day of celebration here in Chicagoland as there was a sense that the 2016 Summer Olympic Games were going to be ours. Alas, no. We were the first city tossed to the curb. I thought this picture in the Chicago Sun Times website was really appropriate:
Richard A. Chapman, Chicago Sun Times

It's a bit of a bummer. It looked like Chicago had put together a really solid effort, although what value Oprah brought is really questionable. I would say none. I'm sure the President's detractors, who are legion, will try to use this to say his cachet means nothing. I would argue they're are stretching, pathetically.

Rio, frankly, deserves it. Congratulations to them. This will be the first time the Olympic Games will be held on the South American continent. Brazil is a resurgent economy and a growing force in the world. And the people are amazing. And it's the home of Diet Guarana Antarctica.
My favorite beverage that I can't get in the US to save my life. Now, if the IOC thought Rio was going to be safer than Chicago, they are sadly mistaken. They are in for a wild ride. Brazil will be a fun place for the Games but boy do they have their work cut out for them. I wonder how many favelas will be mowed down in order to build the venues? The Chinese mowed down a slew of hutongs for the Beijing Games, so we'll see what Rio does.

Very glad the weekend is nearly upon us. It'll be the first weekend I've been home since my Dad died and it'll be good to get back on schedule. Almost there, I think. Still can't believe he's gone so that's not normal but I am glad to be back on track with my family. It's good.

26 September 2009

Parents Weekend - Year 2 (LONG!)

After the upheaval of the last couple of weeks here in the Den, I was actually looking forward to getting on a plane yesterday to see Our Lady of BYU for this year's Parents Weekend festivities. This is the second year of our participation.

Flight out was good although I think Mother United is changing their boarding policies without telling anyone. My boarding pass said boarding was at 10:02AM for a 10:22 AM departure, so I left the filthiest Red Carpet Club on the planet (the one on the appropriately named "F" Concourse at ORD) at 10:00AM and I got to the gate about three minutes later. The agent said, "Are you going to Salt Lake?" and I said yes and urged me to get on like it was the last flight out of Saigon. I get on the plane and it is full. Here's the rub though - we didn't close the door until about 10:20AM. I have no idea what the spasm was about...anyway, we left on time and landed in SLC 30 minutes early.

I stopped to see a good friend on my way down to Provo and it was great to connect with him. We laughed a lot and even engaged in a little bit of conversational lecture, well, I did.

After I checked into the hotel, I called Our Lady of BYU and she invited me over to her "ghetto" apartment. Clearly, she's never been to a real ghetto. I will say this though...the carpet stains which are probably 20 years old give her place a crime scene investigation feel. So after the brief tour of her palace, we went up to campus to pay homage to the Wilk. I was reminded that the condo I lived in when I was there is in fact a total hole now. Seriously. After the homage tour on campus, we got her some groceries and then got together with her friends for dinner.

We went to an earnest little place in Provo called Guru's Cafe. It wasn't bad for a Provo restaurant that espouses a philosophy. You can tell that because of its decor, right down to the Buddha head. Nice touch. It's an eclectic menu with an odd ordering concept. You line up and order off the menu to one totally overwhelmed cashier. This is highly problematic on a busy Friday night. Highly. It didn't seem to bug the kids, but it did me.

That being said, dinner was great. We kicked it off with sweet potato fries. These were a gift from the heavens:

I had the shrimp tacos and for being in land-locked Utah, they made a mighty good shrimp taco:
The mango salsa rocked

Dinner was fun listening to Our Lady and her friends go on about college life. Lots of boy drama. Texting has changed the dating scene, I certainly learned that last night. It was a good time.

This morning kicked off with the Parents/Alumni 5K. I was nervous about this as I have not run at all this week and this is at a much higher altitude than the plains of Illinois that we call home. Couple of things in my favor this year - it was much, much warmer for one and I felt like I had eaten right in advance. The race started late, of course. Nothing like Mormon Standard Time. The course was lined again with the international students, mostly from Asia. They were good cheerleaders but I'm sure they thought we were all maniacs. Here's what was doing before the race:

Me and Our Lady
Looking like a complete spastic as I approach the finish line

This was a good race. I finished 89th overall and bested last year's time by about two minutes. It was all good. We got breakfast afterward at Jamba Juice and I am totally on board with their oatmeal, even though it's made with spew, I mean, soy milk. I recommend it!

And now we've got the game this afternoon. Man, the winning Cougars better show up. We CANNOT have a repeat of last week's debacle. At least, I get to enjoy the game with Our Lady. Of course, I'll be in the student section with her and will be the oldest one by about twenty years. Pathetic.

20 September 2009

43

So it's my birthday today and I'm one year older and feel none the wiser. I'm 43 today. So 43...what does that mean? When I think 43, I think about the last person who ran around with the title of 43 and that was our 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush.
Dubya formal

According to Wikipedia, here's some things that have gone down on my birthday:
- It's Feast Day for Korean Martyrs
- There was a Papal Schism in 1378
- The Bersaglieri entered Rome and ended the temporal reign on the Pope in 1870 (lots doing on 20 September for our Roman Catholic friends...whew!)
- The first Cannes Film Festival was held on this day in 1946
- And on this day in 2001, the above-mentioned 43 declared the "war on terror" before a joint session of Congress

I remember that speech. My dad was laying in an ICU in Phoenix awaiting a quadruple bypass and that was what we watched with him in the hospital that night. Nothing like a little declaration of war to take your mind off impending massive invasive surgery. Nice.

It's been a good day. So good to be home and sleeping in my own bed. Our tradition of getting breakfast in bed held. Although since I get up so early, it's a drag for the kids. The stunningly patient SML made chorizo burritos, or as I lovingly call them, my own little version of Liquid Plumber - the pipe cleaning outcome is the same - for me and they were awesome. It was a food-centric birthday, including a gift certificate to the best in Israeli dining, Naf Naf Grill (my love for the Naf has been well documented here as well as on my Facebook page), and a real cool new cast iron pot for some additional kitchen adventures. Dinner tonight was spaghetti carbonara jammed with CHUNKS o'garlic, spinach salad with sun-dried tomatoes and orange peppers, and garlic wheat bread. We'll top it off later with red velvet cupcakes. Red Velvet Cupcakes are my new obsession. Complete fixation. Seriously.

Like I said, it's really been a good day. Our Lady of BYU called (remembered the old man's birthday!) which was completely awesome. And she didn't have to have her mom tell her to call. Talked to my mom and she's had another good day, given all that she's been through and it was a terrific day of getting religion. Our church youth sang today and brought me to tears with how good they were. So while I'm none the wiser today, I'm happy and grateful. It's been a good birthday.

18 September 2009

The man I want to be..and, oh yeah, the man I don't

One of the things I've learned about my Dad since his death is how pretty much every one he met felt like he was their best friend. He was a great man, I always knew that, but I didn't realize how much he touched all those he met. This was drilled home to me today in two places.

Early this morning, I stopped at CVS to pick up one of my Mom's prescriptions and when I gave the pharmacy tech my last name, she paused and asked if I was John Lyons' son. When I said yes, tears welled in her eyes and she told me how much she appreciated my dad. She said that he had learned the name of her new baby, remembered it, and always asked how the baby was doing. She mentioned how much she would miss seeing him. My dad was at the pharmacy a lot and so made a good friend there. Later this afternoon, I finally got the dry cleaner that Dad used to see if he had anything there. When I walked in, the Thai owner asked me for my phone number in order to pull up the order. I gave him my parents' number and he looked at me and said, "You aren't Mr John." I told him that no, no I wasn't and that I was his son. I then explained that my dad had recently died and I was stunned by his reaction. Tears filled his eyes and he called his wife over to say that Mr John had died. She put her hand to her heart and said nothing for a moment. They both were overcome and then began to express their condolences. It was stunning. It struck me how my dad made every person he ever met feel valued and like a friend. He truly was no respecter of persons.

It's made me think about the kind of man I am and I realize that I have to repent. Need to change my ways just a little in order to live a life more like his. I need to be better about making people feel like a friend. I've got to be a better man.

One way not to do it, though, is not eating this monstrosity:
The so called Wise Guy Burger from Red Robin

What on earth would be "wise" about eating this? It's a burger with mozzarella sticks, marinara, peppers, and pepperoni piled on it. No good can come from this. None. How could this make me a better man? It would only make me a deader man. So I am going to vote no and work on being a better man as noted above.

17 September 2009

Finding normalcy

With apologies to the 1920 presidential campaign of Warren Harding, I'm going to use the word 'normalcy' here. Normalcy is what I'm after while I've been with my Mom since my Dad's death two weeks ago today. How strange to write those words and to think that it's been two weeks. It's a daunting task to try and bring a sense of normalcy to the life of someone who's lost their spouse of more than 50 years with no warning. But I think we are getting there.

Since arriving here on the the 4th, it's all been about getting my Mom settled into her new life and routine without my Dad. I've been amazed by the outpouring of love and concern shown to my Mom by literally hundreds of people. It's been amazing. My brother, sister, and I are in the unique position of not knowing what to do with all the offers.

I am so proud of my Mom and how she has gone from strength to strength during this traumatic experience. With each visit from a friend or card in the mail, Mom seems tap another vein of strength. I am in awe of her. I am also really proud of how we've pulled together as a family to find the best solutions for Mom going forward. I am confident she's going to be OK. I'm feeling a lot better about heading home this weekend. A lot.

11 September 2009

Funeral Bouncer = FUN...not so much

It's been an interesting couple of days here in the Lyons Den. The Boy turned 14 yesterday and last night, during the visitation for my father, I found a new career path should my current one go south. Funeral Bouncer. I'm telling you, this is the greatest thing ever.

My mother had fretted that no one was going to show up for my father's visitation. She missed the mark. Hundreds, I'm not kidding, literally hundreds of people showed up. People were there long before the 6:00PM start time. It was a beautiful tribute to my late father and to my mother. As the line grew increasingly long, it seemed like the conversations that people were having with my mother, who was seated along side my father's casket, kept getting longer. Seriously. So in short order, while standing along side her, I'm easing into my new role as funeral bouncer. I'm having to tell people, in my kindest way, to move it along. Hop to with the condolences. One thing I will say is that my mother drew strength from every single person who knelt at her side, or who hugged her. It was amazing. This lasted for more than three hours though. I was shredded by the time the night was over. Shredded. I will say I was enormously proud of how my whole family held up.

This morning brought another brief viewing and another round of funeral bouncer fun before Dad's funeral at 10:00AM. Again the line this morning was something else. Dad's services were beautiful. The chapel and adjacent overflow rooms were filled to capacity - yet another tribute to my Dad. Mormon funerals are an interesting thing. Not usually chock full of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. They very often look and sound like class reunions - but without the drinking, fighting, and awkward situations, for the most part. It was so good to see so many of our good old friends over the course of the last two days. Wonderful and soul-affirming. I am also indebted to my parents' friends who have been so amazing.

The service today was, as I said, beautiful. The tributes paid by my father's friends were touching and wonderful. It was my honor to give my father's life story, or eulogy, today. I hope it was what he wanted. I've been able to give him a couple of gifts, I hope, since he died a week ago. I've spoken in front of a lot of groups, both large and small, in my life, but nothing humbled me like this audience. To have my little family, my siblings, my aunts, cousins and close family friends right in front was daunting. I'm grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who made it easier to get through.

A couple of things about funerals - I don't recommend them in Arizona in the heat of the summer. It had to have been more than 100 degrees when we got to the cemetery. Brutal. Just brutal. And the stunningly patient SML wonders why I have no interest in moving back here?! On a more favorable note - the funeral potato is an awesome thing to serve. Who knew that with stuff you've got sitting around - potatoes, cheese, corn flakes, cream of mushroom soup, and a few other surprises and a baking dish, you've got yourself some deliciousness.
Oh funeral potato?! Is there no end to your goodness?!

The day is nearly done. I'm grateful for its gifts. I'm saddened it had to happen. I'm ready to help my mom do what she wants to do. I'm also ready to sleep for a really, really long time.

09 September 2009

14

It's a birthday day here in the Den. The Boy turns 14 today. What a great kid! He came and stayed with the stunningly patient SML and I last night here at my Mom's. I think he's had enough of mothering from his bossy older sisters. So he came out here and has been hanging out with my Mom. He made her dinner last night - a PB&J, heavy on the jam. Knowing my visceral hate of peanut butter, the Boy made that sandwich without complaint. He also put on a silly movie to watch with my Mom and got them both laughing. Laughter was a welcome sound in this house, can I just tell you?

I am so proud of the Boy. He livens up our house, or any house, for that matter. he brings us great joy. He's kind, empathetic, loud, funny, and never gets down. He's never met a sport he doesn't like. Not quite sure how I wound up with such a good kid - well, I am, thanks to his amazing mother.

He's also incredibly understanding. He gets that this birthday is going to be a little different. He knows that we'll really celebrate when we get home. We'll still do breakfast in bed this morning but the rest of the day will be a bit more challenging. Dad's visitation is tonight and funeral tomorrow. Relatives arrive today and so much to do. But the Boy is just being awesome about all this.

Awesome is a good word to describe him. I am enormously proud of my 14 year old. Happy birthday, son. Love you, Dad

06 September 2009

The peace Sunday brings

I find it funny that I can travel to time zones that are 11, 12, and 13 hours ahead of my own Central Time Zone and adjust without an issue, but when I make the quick leap to a time zone two hours behind me, I can't make heads or tails of time and I can't sleep. Happened a couple of weeks ago when I traveled to California and it's happened now here in AZ. But I am so glad that Sunday - the Sabbath - is dawning. Sunday is a day of peace.

I suspect some of my sleeping has been impacted by my Dad's death and the fact that the stunningly patient SML and I are staying with my Mom. I am amazed at the strength that my Mom is showing. To be sure, her agony and loss are palpable. She's lost her husband of nearly 51 years. You don't just snap out of that. He waited on her hand and foot and cared for her like no other and so his loss is profound beyond words. It hurts to see her weep, but it also serves as a powerful reminder of how I must live and honor and serve my own wife.

My parents were well-loved and the outporing of love that's been shown has been amazing. Utterly amazing. I am comforted by this as I know that love will transition into action as people will help us as we work now to support my Mom. It was delightful to sit yesterday and listen to my Mom reminisce with two couples who have been friends with my parents for more than 40 years. Recollectios like those will be key to some of the things I will as I speak at Dad's funeral on Thursday.

I am so gald that it's Sunday. I'll have time to get my thoughts togetheras I prepare to represent our family at Dad's service. And today is all about family as we will gather at Church and have a moment to reflect on our Father in Heaven's plan for each of us. We'll be with our extended family as we gather to bless our nephew Jack, the newest baby in our extended family. What a sweet manifestation of our Father in Heaven's plan - we'll welcome this new baby by giving him a name and a blessing as we prepare to bid farewell to my Dad after a life well-lived. We'll bid farewell knowing that this parting is but a temporary one. We will be together again because of Christ's viotory over death. As the familiar hymn goes, "I know that my Redeemer lives! What comfort this sweet sentence gives!" All I can say is amen to that.