31 December 2010

New Years Eve

It's December 31st, the last day of 2010.  It's early here and I'm glad to see that it's already 2011 in some places, like Sydney (see fireworks to the left).  I'm going to let that be my celebration.  Because I have not slept in past 6AM the entire time I've been off.  Since December 23rd, I've woken up between 415AM and 5AM, except for one delightful day when I made it to 6AM.  No reason at all for the wake-ups.  I've not had my alarm clock on.  I've been looking forward to sleeping in and it has not happened.  Once.  So I'm pretty much doubtful on the whole "Ring in the New Year!" thing.

2010 - it's been a good year for the residents of the Den.  I'm not going to do a recap of the year here - the blog speaks for itself and tells the story of what we've done.  I'm glad we've had the last few weeks with Our Lady of BYU home and that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I have been off work.  We've had a good time.  We've even done some good.  Last night we met some friends at Feed My Starving Children and helped to package boxes of food for starving children.  It was cool.  It's a good organization and if you're still looking for a worthy donation cause at the end of the year, this is worth it.

Here's to an excellent 2011.  Happy New Year!

27 December 2010

22

22 years!
As mentioned in yesterday''s post celebrating CAL's birthday, I pointed out that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I had chosen the 27th of December 1988 as our wedding date and today is our anniversary.  We celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary today.

These past 22 years have been pretty darn amazing.  We've grown together, learned together, traveled together, been tested and challenged, and overcome.  It's been really good.  I can't imagine a different life.  This is how it was supposed to be.  And through it all, we've been richly blessed.  Our greatest blessings are these three:
Couldn't be prouder of them...
We've spent our anniversary with Our Lady of BYU, CAL, and the Boy.  We started the day with family pictures which will constitute our now annual belated holiday card (for whatever reason, we can't get Christmas cards out before Christmas).  That was lovely - it was freezing.  So here's hoping our awesome photographer, Nancy, can airbrush out the watery eyes, red noses, and frozen snot.

After that, we thought 'Let's keep the cold streak going' and we took off for the Morton Arboretum to snowshoe!  We had a really good time.  Who knew snowshoeing could be so fun?!  We watched our kids as they plowed through the snow, having a good time, and it was a wonderful manifestation of our 22 years together.
So tonight we'll finish our night with friends having a little post-Christmas dinner party.  It'll be casual and nice.  It will be a good way to cap our day.  I'll sleep well tonight, recognizing how fortunate I am to have married an amazing woman.  She still makes me want to be better every day.

26 December 2010

18

18 years old today
The end of the year brings a lot of significant activity (there's a little thing called Christmas that kind of takes over) in the Den but it also highlights our lack of foresight when it came to planning a wedding and having a baby (in that order, by the way).  Why?

Here's why....first, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML got married on the 27th of December, smack in the middle of holiday stuff.  Nice, right?  Well, we got married in between semesters and this was the day the temple in which we were married was opened, so you do what you have to do.

Secondly, our planned timing for our second child was off.  Or rather, the day she decided to appear was off.  Eighteen years ago today, 26 December, our second child and our second daughter, CAL, was born.  So on top of Christmas, we added a wedding anniversary and a birthday.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

I could not be prouder of my daughter.  She's growing up and is making excellent choices.  She's ready for the next chapter in her book of life.  She'll be leaving for college this summer and I know she's ready to go.  She's going to do great.  She's brought us an enormous amount of joy.   She's a wonderful reflection of her mom.  I'm very proud of my girl.  She's growing up and she's doing it right.  Love that girl!  Happy birthday, CAL!

25 December 2010

On a Quiet Christmas Morning

It's still too early here in the Den.  Once again, I've awoken obscenely early - 415AM, just like yesterday, unable to go back to sleep.  The house is quiet, well, quiet enough that I can hear the ticking of the clock on the other side of the room (until, of course, our furnace kicks on, and then at that point, the dead will rise from the racket).

It's snowed a bit overnight so there's shoveling to be done.  I'll do that on my own.  The Boy can sleep (Merry Christmas to you!).  I'm looking forward to it, actually.  There's something peaceful to the work of shoveling snow.  Or maybe it's just peaceful today, given that it's Christmas.  Anyway, I'll throw on my iPod and listen to Handel's Messiah as I do.  What a great piece of music!

It's going to be a good Christmas day - we had a great dinner as a family last night, shared our favorite Christmas stories, and laughed a bit.  It was a good set-up for today.  I have the baked french toast concoction mostly ready to go and then we move on to our traditional Mexican lunch.  We scored fresh tamales (rojo y verde) yesterday after quixotic journey and I can't wait to try those.  Nothing says Christmas like tamales and enchiladas!

It's just going to be good to spend the day together as a family and with friends.  We have been richly blessed and I'm so grateful for the One, our Savior, whose birth we celebrate today.  For without Him, I would not have the blessings that I do.  I am thankful.

23 December 2010

On my parents' 52nd wedding anniversary

Today is my parents' 52nd wedding anniversary.  This marks the second anniversary my Mom will celebrate alone since Dad died a few months shy of their 51st anniversary.  My thoughts are certainly with her today as I know she misses Dad terribly and I'm quite certain she'd be just as happy celebrating with him on the other side, rather than being alone here.  But, alas, that's not how it is right now.

I am most appreciative of the example set in my parents' long and loving marriage.  My father put my mother first.  She was his queen and he treated her accordingly.  Awesome example.  It still seems unreal that my parents would even find each other - Dad raised in Philadelphia in a Sunday coat-and-tie, dress for dinner family and Mom raised in Ogden, UT, in a farming/cowboy family.  Different backgrounds to say the least.  But their story was meant to be.  I'm glad it was written the way it was.  I'm forever blessed to have been their first-born.  Thank you, Mom and Dad.  And Dad, I miss you every day.

And now the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML find ourselves about to celebrate our 22nd anniversary.  While it's safe to say our story has been written far differently than my parents was, it's been a great read and it's not done.  That's pretty exciting.  I'm glad we're writing the next chapters together.

19 December 2010

Avoiding the Christmas Sales Onslaught

I am pleased to report that I finished my Christmas shopping yesterday.  And I am even more pleased to report that I totally avoided this nightmare:
Can you imagine a mob scene like this?  For what?  A couple bucks off a bad perfume set for your wife?  No, thank you.

Thanks to a bit of online shopping, free shipping, and one big box retailer (and not the great Satan that is Wal-Mart), I got all my shopping done yesterday.  The Boy was along for the ride and he was a good sport.  We had lunch at the Naf Naf to celebrate our victory over the shopping demons, and that was awesome, as always.

Accomplishing that allowed me to watch the Kona Ironman coverage, which made me tear up in the last eight minutes or so.  Seriously.  Then the Boy and I went down to the Fat Bean to listen to his buddies' jazz combo play.  These kids were pretty darn talented.  It was a good end to the day.

Only four more working days this coming week and then I am off for about ten days.  I could not be more pleased.  Really, really pleased.  And speaking of pleased, thanks to a suggestion from the running icon, Jeff, I think I have my first half-marathon of 2011 selected.  I'm kind of excited about it.  More on that later.

17 December 2010

A Christmas Song I Really Like

My attitude toward most holidays is pretty dim and I can get mighty Grinch-like around Christmas.  I am delighted to say that I have yet to step foot in the Seventh Ring of Hell this year (any mall) and I'm hoping I won't have to at all (thank you, online shopping).  One of the things that tears me about the holiday season is the music - the music that's been playing on some radio stations here since Halloween.  It's mostly cloying and awful, with the following exception:

This is pretty awesome!  Handel's "Messiah" kills.  It brings me to tears pretty much anytime I hear it.

Now I can't help but wonder why, when on the rare occasion I go to the mall, that the only mob, flash or otherwise, I see is a gaggle of people who just hit the clearance sale at Skanks 'R Us, showing off really bad mullets and tattoos.  Why can't I see and hear something like this?  Such is my lot in life.

10 December 2010

In-home healthcare?

So I find myself writing this post outside the normal confines of the now snowy Den.  I've headed south to warmer climes for several days to tend to my Mom as she continues her fiesta of recovery from this dang broken arm.

Last night was my first night here and my first night alone as Mom's 'nurse.'  Given how she reacted to me, you'd think I showed up looking like the male version of Nurse Ratchet.  I am eternally grateful for the nurses we've had with Mom the last several weeks.  One in particular, Chris, has been an absolute Godsend.  She has cared wonderfully for Mom and Mom loves her.  She has made it clear, painfully clear, to me that I am no Chris.  This morning as I made her get out of bed (good pete, it was 930AM - it was time), I was informed my bedside manner was lacking.  I'll give her that.  I don't have a particularly good bedside manner.  Talk to my wife and children, they'll vouch for that.  I find that I do better focusing on the tasks of getting the job done first and then serving up the 'sugar' later.  But the sugar isn't in huge supply in my mannerisms.

It was funny this morning as Mom announced she hoped I never had to go through what she's experiencing and I asked her why.  She quickly responded that no one will be able to care for me because I'm an awful patient.  She's right.  I should probably work on that.

A few more days of this to go.  It'll be fun to see how this turns out.  This much I know - I don't think I've ever seen a woman as beloved by her friends than my mom.  Wow!  I spend a lot of my time deflecting visitors and phone calls.  But each one of them is a blessing to Mom and I'm grateful, very grateful for that. 

Time for to get back into my squeaky, sensible white nurses' shoes.  Mom's ringing her bell...

03 December 2010

On making an orphan cry

I've made it a point to NOT talk much about my day-to-day professional work life here in the Den.  That's by design.  The point of this blog is not to go on and on about what I might be doing at work or to rag on my job or my employer, who I need not mention.  Far too many people have been fired invited to find other employment because of a blog post written in the heat of the moment. 

That being said, I'm going to ask you to indulge me for this post.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit a local orphanage as a part of a work volunteer service group.  Now don't get all Dickensian on me and envision the worst (I'm talking to you, li'l orphan Annie) but don't go all "Oliver" on me either.

Please, sir, may I have another?
We worked at a well-kept, comfortable, large and secure home that serves as an orphanage for a group of children between the ages of 3 and 11.  The facility serves children who have been abandoned or removed from their homes permanently due to abuse, etc.  They've seen more in their young lives than anyone of would want to imagine.

Our first task was to work the kids on their homework.  The kids' regular tutors were there and we could pick any table.  I found a table with a fourth-grader and his tutor.  The boy was whip-smart and was cruising through his list of spelling words.  Shortly after that, another boy, about six years old, was brought to our table and that's where things went south.  As he sat down, I turned to him and said hello.  He took one look at me and let out a shriek of pure terror and burst into a gale of tears.  My heart, which is notoriously hard, essentially shattered in that moment.  I feared instantly that I reminded him of someone who had done him harm.  I was helpless for those quick few seconds before one of the staff was at his side.  She quickly calmed his fears and assured him that I was OK.  She then turned to me and soother my fears as well.  She encouraged me to start reading the boy a book and that's what I did.  It wasn't long before the tears dried and a smile cracked.  Before long, we were negotiating the best way to make the letter "Q."  It wasn't long before we had to move on to some other tasks.  I was thrilled that this boy was still smiling as I left.

We did several other things while there that were incredibly rewarding.  The experience is still very near to me, and dare I say, tender.  I'm still reeling at the depth of depravity and evil in the world.  These young children been abused in unbelievable ways and now face an uphill battle to NOT have the system fail them.  I was uplifted by the work of the staff at this specific place and it gave me hope.  In spite of the evil out there, there are good, good people and they are doing good things. 

As I told my family about this experience, we are considering how we might give back this Christmas season.  We're looking forward to finding a project or two that allows us to make life better, if even for a few minutes, for someone.  It's something we need to do because we have been tremendously blessed.

27 November 2010

The Boy gets his permit

A few posts ago I mentioned that the Boy was most anxious to get his permit to drive and after a few practice driving runs in empty parking lots and his first full week of driving school, not through the school thank you very much little, today was the day.  The day.

He swore six ways 'til Sunday that he'd studied the manual, not just the practice test his driving school had given him.  I quizzed him last night and he seemed to know his stuff.  We got up a little early in order to get to the dreaded DMV early, anticipating a nasty line.  I was not excited about this as it was really cold this morning and I was not looking forward to stranding in 15 - 20 degree temps.  I shouldn't have worried.  We got there at 750AM and they had opened early! 

Editorial aside - seriously, what government agency opens early, anticipating a crowd?  What government agency is fully, and I mean fully staffed on a Saturday morning after a two-day holiday?  The Illinois DMV in Naperville, that's who.  Man, am I impressed!  Every time I've had to do something with them (registering three out-of-state vehicles, four drivers' licenses, and one permit), they have been unfailingly polite, efficient and, dare I say it, helpful.  Say what you will about Illinios government, since we deserve most of it, but Secretary of State Jesse White runs an awesome operation!

Anyway, 30 minutes later, we were out of there, and the Boy had a permit in hand.  He is now legally permitted to drive with either me or the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML.  He wanted to drive home from the DMV but we had my car, so that was not going to happen.  Not because I have the nicest car ever (I mean it's a nice car) but it's big (for a new driver) and it's new and I am not risking it.  So we got home and it was in to the beloved Taurus.  I have to admit that his first legal foray onto the roads was a good one.  He was deadly serious about it and took his new responsibilities seriously.  I still feel like we need one of these in the back of whatever car he's driving:
So another chapter in the adventure that is life here in the Den is now underway.  We'll see where this one takes us.  This much I know, I am so not eager to see how quickly it takes us to the poor house when I have to add the Boy to the car insurance plan.  My wallet heart aches at the thought.

26 November 2010

Thankful, thankful I'm not working at Disney

It's been a good Thanksgiving here in the Den.  Much to be grateful for and recognize that we have been blessed tremendously.  I know that, in spite of myself, I've been blessed beyond measure and I'm glad we took time yesterday to count a blessing or two.

It was a good day.  Of course, on that day of excessive eating, it started with me making pumpkin pancakes and frying up the sweetest meat blessing ever - bacon.  After that, the kitchen was dedicated to the elements of Thanksgiving dinner for which we were responsible - rolls, wheat and white, "killer" salad, and potatoes, mashed and sweet.  So in between food work, we watched a movie and then headed over to our friends for dinner.  As we sat around their table, I marveled at the blessing of friends.  I'm quite certain it was not the high I was on from the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML's mashed sweet potatoes, which were absolutely epic this year.  No, I really was grateful for friends, those we were with and those afar, and family. 

So after dinner we did that most American of things - went to the movies.  Now we had seven people, all with varying movie tastes, including three really hoping for "Jackass 3D" (I'll let you guess who that was) and then votes for "chick flicks."  So we decided to go with the least offensive option, Disney's "Tangled."  My thoughts - this was a mistake.

As the movie opened, Disney proudly proclaimed that it was their 50th animated film.  Umm, Imagineers, you may want to rethink your approach.  It was the standard Disney schlock, including a lot of spontaneous breaking into song, over the top thugs, cutesy animals, and you know it wouldn't be a Disney film without it, the elimination of parents.  Seriously, if you believed what happens in pretty much every Disney movie, you'd learn that parents are killed or missing-in-action, and you are either orphaned or watched over by some horrible person/creature/ogre, etc.  I cannot even begin to imagine what went down in the lives of the Disney creative folks but my help, people, can't you please work out your issues with a therapist!?  Why must you inflict your issues on the rest of us?  Is it a requirement that you have major parental issues to work there?  Seriously, LET IT GO!

And, now it's Black Friday, and happy to say we won't be a part of the madness.  Who needs it?  Not me.

21 November 2010

Black Paint + Church Carpet + One Year Old = Not Good

I was never a math genius.  It took me two years to pass Algebra in high school and I stormed out of Geometry three weeks into my senior year.  I took one math class in college - the one I needed to take to graduate, so suffice to say, formulas are not my friend.  But this one I could figure out:

(black paint) + (church carpet) + (a one-year old) = a bad situation

And, lo and behold, that's what happened while getting religion today.  I was chatting with a couple of people, including the Boy, in one of the halls (yeah, we probably should have been in Sunday School, but that's beside the point).  One of the moms I was talking to had her one-year old son and he was trolling around.  Someone had left out several cans of paint from the big production our church had done the week before and said cool little one year old knocked into one.  The black one.  The one that was pretty much full.  The one that didn't have the lid secured on.  You don't have to be a mental giant to know what happened next.  Something akin to this:
Not a Rohrshack test inkblot!
So the mom and I dove to the ground like we taking cover from incoming missles to start the clean-up.  I'm in my nicest suit (tailor in Hong Kong did a fine job with this suit) so off goes the coat and tie and we get to work.  This draws a crowd.  Lots of 'helpful' commentary.   And by 'helpful' commentary, I mean not so much, until someone hit on the idea of a shop vac!  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!  So the order was issued to bring the shop vac from home.  In the meantime, one brother who oversees the physical facility took over and before you knew it, most of the paint was gone.  He was a trooper!  And then another brother showed with the shop vac and the carpet was back to normal!  Kind of a big relief.

Glad we've got industrial strength carpet in the building.  It may be ugly but I'm telling you it'll withstand nuclear war.

20 November 2010

Same day turn to Toronto - a trip report

It dawned on me recently that there are only about six weeks left in the working year and one of those weeks is already blocked for my annual core leave at the end of the year.  I looked at my vacation calendar bank and saw that I still have five days to burn so I decided to burn a voucher I'd won and march off to Toronto for the day.  Why?  Why not?  Well, it let me fan the fire of my airline dork-dom by flying a new airline and fly into a new airport, plus eat a really good sandwich, so it was a win-win-win.  So here's what went down yesterday:

I was flying from Chicago's Midway Airport to Toronto's Billy Bishop City Center Airport on Porter Airlines.  As a loyal, "Rhapsody in Blue"-bleeding Global Services member/devotee of United Airlines, I've steadfastly avoided Midway - never flown out of there Midway, only landing there a couple of times on diversions.  So I headed out early since I was on a 640AM departure and I'm glad I did.  Parking was a snap, but the lines at Security were hideous.  At 510AM, the lines were snaking back towards the check-in area and they weren't moving.  Apparently a lot of people were anxious for this TSA grope-o-rama:
Honestly, TSA?  Is this really necessary?  I hope you at least bought this guy dinner.
After twenty minutes of not moving, some genius in airport management decided to open the "expert traveler" lane, in which I was standing, to the employee only line.  This was great, but we were berated for ten minutes by another crack TSA agent about how we better not slow down his employee line.  Way to go, TSA, way to go.

It was a quick march to my gate, conveniently near a Potbellys,  Nothing like an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie at 6AM to soothe the jangled nerves after a run-in with the TSA.  My flight boarded at 620AM and it was quick as there were only eight, count 'em, eight of us on this flight.  A load factor of only 11% on this flight - cannot remember when I've seen that empty a flight.  Anyway, it was like every seat was a First Class seat.  Porter is all-coach but the seats are leather with ample leg room.  The plane, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, is a little rocket.  We were airborne fast and soon after take-off, a light snack was served (and it was FREE! - US airlines take note):
And even the OJ was served in a real glass
With such a light load, it was an easy service for the crew and it was a beautiful day for flying.  See the view from my seat, 3A:
In less than 90 minutes, we began our descent into Toronto's close-in Billy Bishop City Center Airport.  Landing was fast and clearing Canadian customs was a snap.  Then took the ferry, yes, the ferry, from the airport to the mainland.  Then grabbed Porter's free shuttle to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in central Toronto.  I set off to explore a little of central Toronto by foot.  After several stops, including the Bay to score a set of 2010 Winter Games gloves that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML had wanted, I made my way to the Sandwich Box for an amazing sandwich.  This place does hand-crafted, grilled sandwiches that don't disappoint.  I had a prosciutto, arugula, and provolone slathered in roasted cumin and garlic on a Swiss roll with a side salad that was incredible.  Made the whole trip.  Of course, I failed to take a picture.  Idiot!

After lunch, I strolled around a bit more and then made my way back to the Fairmont to catch the bus to the ferry and to the airport. 
View of the CN Tower from the ferry heading back to the airport
 Clearing Canadian security was grope-free and easy.  Then it was into Porter's lounges.  The gate areas are set up as lounges, including free wireless, snacks and drinks and it's a totally civilized way to go.  What a pleasant way to go!  Soon, it was time to get back on the plane.  Load factor was much better this time, closer to 80%.

I had two seats to myself for the flight back.  Good crew again.  During the demo, the flight attendant standing in the aisle next to my seat had to tell the two yutzes in the row behind me to basically shut up since they were being so loud.  Good for her.  Once again, rocket-like take-off into a beautiful sky.  It was a smooth flight with free snacks and two drink runs.  I read a bit from my Kindle (a very academic read on life in North Korea - close to 900 pages and it's taking me awhile to get through it) until we landed.  Quick 90 minute flight.

Cleared US Customs at Midway in a room not much bigger than a closet.  Chicago has to have the nicest Customs agents in the entire US system.  They are unfailingly pleasant.  Even at O'Hare during a crush of flights, they are cool.  I was in my car in about ten minutes and on my way home.  Because it was a Friday night at rush hour, I spent more time sitting on the Stevenson (non) Expressway than I did on the plane on the way back.  All in all, a good day!

15 November 2010

"I've fallen and I can't get up!"

"I've fallen and I can't get up!" Ah, how many of you remember the dulcet tones of that elderly lady, screeching away as she pushed on her Life Alert, seeking help.  C'mon, admit it now, you laughed at that commercial.  It was funny.  Here it is:

But most of us, as we watched it, never envisioned having to use one.  I'm not at that point, yet, but we did get a LifeAlert for my Mom last year after my Dad died.  It's been a source of reassurance for the family, especially us, living so far away.  We learned a valuable lesson last night about it.  It only works when you wear it.  Here's the brief version:

Mom was in her garage putting away some books (first mistake), which required her to get on a small stepladder (second mistake), and as she stepped off, she missed the last step (third mistake, albeit wholly unintentional) and down she went.  She tried to break her fall with her right arm and she did break her fall, although one could easily argue its success since she managed to break her arm, the humerus bone, about four inches below the shoulder.  As  you can imagine, the pain was pretty awful and she wasn't going anywhere.  And this is where the fourth mistake reared its ugly head - she wasn't wearing her LifeAlert.  It was in the house.  So Mom pounded on her garage door until a neighbor's son (still not sure if I have the detail correct) heard her and got the paramedic fiesta rolling.  So it was another ambulance ride for Mom.

Mercifully, it was a very clean break and the doctors are confident that she'll heal.  We are so lucky it wasn't a more serious break and even more lucky that it wasn't a hip.  The hip breaks and all bets are off.  So my brother and sister are on the situation like white on rice and in talking to Mom today, she seems OK.  She wouldn't talk to me for awhile, knowing I was more than a little displeased about her not wearing the LifeAlert.  I'll save my lecture for her until the meds have worn off.

Bottom line is that she's going to be fine.  We are very fortunate.  So word to the wise - if someone you know is using a LifeAlert or similar device, make sure they use the dang thing!  It's only good if you where it.

14 November 2010

Learning to drive

In our fine state, one is eligible for a permit at 15 years old.  But in a bit of a twist, you can't get your permit until you've completed all manner of tests and classes, so I have yet to find a kid who's gotten his/her permit the day they turned 15 (cue the audible sigh of relief).

The Boy turned 15 a couple of months ago and we are beginning in earnest to do this:
Good times...right?
So the Boy and I have been out on one driving experience so far and he did, I must say, a good job, a really good job.  Demonstrated some mad skills parking the car and also worked hard to show he was taking the responsibility seriously.  He's been taking mental notes, watching his mother, sisters, and me drive.  Mostly the examples set have been good ones.  Unlike this:
Never get tired of this...way to go, Britney!  What a good mom!
Shortly the Boy will start driving school and will be on his way to an official permit.  I'm sure my insurance company is elated.  I drive by their headquarters whenever I go to my office and they are doing a very extensive renovation on said building.  I think that CapEx is being funded by the anticipated increase in our premiums once we add the Boy.  Can't WAIT for that first premium bill!

12 November 2010

23rd Season of "The Simpsons" Ordered

As my work week draws to a close, I wanted to highlight one of the most important news stories of the week.  Obama's trip to Asia?  No.  Rep. John Boehner's impossible tan?  No, although one wonders how he's not dead from UV ray poisoning.  But I digress.  The big news?
23 years and they haven't aged a day

Fox has ordered up as 23rd, yes 23rd, season of only the Best.Television.Show.Ever.  I speak, of course, of "The Simpsons."  I could not be more pleased at this news.  While I've not been as devout a viewer this season thanks to CBS scheduling "The Amazing Race" at the same hour, I've been able to catch up thanks to online episodes and it's still just awesome.  Sure, after 22 seasons, a couple, but only a couple, of the scripts may have seemed a little tired, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a show that still so sharply satirizes American life.  It's brilliant.  This opener from earlier this season is proof-positive of the brilliant satire:

So to Matt Groening and team, I say "Well done!"  I'm eager for a 23rd season, and many more. 

07 November 2010

A Sunday Snapshot

From time to time, I've spoken of what goes on in the Den on a Sunday.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, our Sundays roll a little bit differently.  I thought a bit about this today as the Boy had a friend join our services for the first time today.  So how is it different?

A couple of things - Sundays are treated as a Sabbath day, a day of rest from the demands of everyday life, which means we typically don't shop, run around, work, etc., as we try to dedicate the day to the Savior (although I dedicate a goodly portion of it to the reading of the Sunday New York Times - so sue me).  Secondly, our Sunday services are three hours in length and are led by a lay clergy, meaning lots of folks get involved in Sunday worship.  I'm one of those who is involved and I'm involve at a leadership level, serving as Second Counselor in our ward (like a local parish) bishopric.  So my day is a little different.  Here's how it went today:

0600 - Bishopric meeting: opportunity for us to review the day's agenda, speakers, and to discuss needs within our ward
0700 - Ward Council: the leaders of our various groups (e.g. Sunday School, mission, primary, youth, etc) met to talk about 2011 plans as well as any upcoming activities and needs of ward members
0900 - Sacrament Meeting: this meeting opens our three hour block and is our most important meeting of the day.  Why?  The Sacrament is passed to all in this meeting.  Today was Testimony meeting, where any member of the ward was invited to come forward and bear witness of the Savior and the truths of His gospel.  Today was a good one - powerful spirit.
Sacrament Meeting - not ours, just a reasonable facsimilie
 1015 - Sunday School: I actually got to go today!  We are studying the Old Testament and had an interesting discussion from Jeremiah.
1110 - Priesthood Meeting - Men's worship service.  Met with some of the young men today.

1200 - The block's over and folks head home.  I stay back as one of my administrative responsibilities includes reconciling collected tithing (yep, we're tithe payers, too).  We wrapped up in about an hour today and it was time to head home.

Looking at my calendar, the rest of the day is free.  No other meetings.  It's a quiet Sunday.  So we're home now, hanging out and trying to make it a day of rest.  The Lord took a break after six days, per Genesis, so why not us?  It's been a good day.  I like Sundays like these.

05 November 2010

Politics in action - high school style


It's been a big week politically, hasn't it?  Not sure what went down in your state, but things were 'exciting' here in Illinois.  It only took until today to decide if we'd get a new governor - we did not.  But given our history, the incumbent will likely be imprisoned within 18 months.  Other states managed to not elect a few of the cast of crazies that were running - Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle, I'm talking about you - while it looks like a few got in - ahem, Jerry Brown.  It's been a bruising few months of horrific campaign ads.  I'm all kinds of glad that it's over.

While all these shenanigans were unfolding, we had our own campaign raging here in the Den.  The Boy decided to run for Freshman Class Representative at his high school.  When he decided to run, we had to sign off on an agreement that made the Magna Carta look like light bathroom reading and we had to agree to all kinds of campaign rules, including a spend limit of $30.  I'd like to suggest that said limit be imposed on state and federal elections as well.

So, armed with a $30 limit, boundless creativity and a nuclear-powered personality, the Boy was off to run for class rep.  And ran he did.  His campaign slogan - 'Keeping it real everyday.'  His campaign premiums - duct-tape bracelets in his school colors and six t-shirts that his sister, CAL, helped design.  Said shirts were worn and by his friends throughout the campaign week.  I'm totally cool with not getting them back.  Have you hung around freshmen boys?  They either reek of Axe or just plain reek.  He gave three campaign speeches yesterday, all of which he described as totally off the cuff.

Well, it worked.  The Boy came home today, excited to report that he'd been elected!  And so begins his career in leadership, not politics.  He's a natural.  Very excited for him.  And pretty darn proud!

30 October 2010

A couple of pictures from Parents Weekend

As I sit here in the dank cesspool that is our basement, I've got time to post just a couple of pictures from last weekend's BYU Parents Weekend:
Whitney, Brooke, Ferg with the boss Cubbies shirt, Our Lady of BYU, Me

We took that shot at Malawi Pizza right after dinner.  We'd just enjoyed a very good meal.
At the end of the 5K
This picture is self-explanatory.  Me finishing another 5K.  Better run that I had expected given how crappy my fall running has been.  Weather cooperated wonderfully that morning.

Anyway, trapped here in the basement as we drain a sewer pipe.  Doing it ourselves instead of paying a plumber.  We'll be paying the plumber dearly when he shows up Monday to finish the job.  We had more water issues this morning and it looks like we have a backed up sewer.  I'm over the issues with this house.  I'm done buying older houses and this house wasn't that old.  I'm really over it.  So no using the toilets, no dishwashing, no laundry.  We might as well check into a hotel.  Ugh!

27 October 2010

Lady, the 90's are calling. They want their checks back.

I'm not feeling well.  I've got a cold.  That's what I get for sitting in the rain at the BYU game and then getting on a couple of planes, which we know are veritable flying hot zones of communicable disease.  When I have a cold or any other ailment, I'm not pleasant.  My family can attest to that.

So I should have known better to expect things to go smoothly at the grocery store today.  Wednesday is one of my regular work-from-home days and I started at 515AM because I had a bit of energy when I first woke up (said energy did not last).  Right around noon, I realized that I needed to get some cold medicine so it was off to the Jewel to get some relief. 

I went straight to the cold medicine aisle and found a whole lot of empty shelves.  Was it inventory day?  Remodeling?  No, it appears that now in order to buy cold medicine, unless it's generic, you have to go up to the pharmacy counter, fork over ID, and be deemed worthy to get said medicine.  Seriously?  It's not like I'm trying to buy birth control in Provo, Utah.  I'm a middle-aged man who has managed to NOT abuse over the counter medications and now, for whatever reason, it's nearly a crime to buy cold meds.  Anyway, I took one look at the line of people at the counter for meds and just grabbed a generic and made my way to the front of the store to pay and go.

I'm a big fan of these:
Because, typically, they speed the process and I can just get out.  That was not the case today.  There were several people lined up at one of the aisles that has multiple machines and then there was one lady in another lane, with no one lined up behind her.  I thought it was because people couldn't see over the lame balloons to see that she was the only one in line.

No, I quickly discovered why she was the only one in line.  She was writing a check - A CHECK - in the self-serve lane and then began an epic, and I mean EPIC, battle with the self-service machine to ram her check in as an acceptable form of payment.  I stood there for a little while, watching this battle of wits, and I was completely baffled by a couple of things: A) who, and I mean WHO, still writes a check at the grocery store?!  It's called a debit card, lady, use it; and B) no where does it indicate a place to pay with a check on the machine.  What makes you think it would? Were you raised by wolves?  It's not like this lady was 900 years old either.  I might have thrown her a bone if that were the case.  But I was having none of this battle royale.  I switched over to the other aisle, where a lady who was witnessing the same battle, let me go ahead of her and jump on the next machine, pay - with my debit card - in about ten seconds flat.

So, lady, take a lesson.  The 90's want their checks back and you should look into some of the fine features this century has to offer.  On that note, I should probably go take some more cold medication.  Take the edge off.

23 October 2010

BYU Parents Weekend 2010

Greetings from Provo, UT!  It's Day Two of BYU Parents Weekend and it has been a blast!  This is my third year participating and it's been a great one - maybe my favorite one yet.  It's been great to spend time with Our Lady of BYU.  It is more than evident that these years at school have been transformative for her.  For example, I knew she was a BYU sports fan, but I did not realize the depths to which her fan-aticism goes.  She's turned into a veritable treasure trove of BYU sports knowledge - Cougarboard is a big part of her life!  Her favorite building on campus?  The Marriott Center because it's where basketball is played.  She is cracking me up.  It's been so good to spend time with her.

When I arrived on Friday, I first stopped and saw some friends and it was great to reconnect.  It's so good to see old friends.  And then it was off to see Our Lady.  Her new place is such an improvement over the crime-scene/tenement she lived in last year.  We headed over to campus where we were greeted by this:
Once again, guess who's featured in all the promotion/advertising?  We saw one poster outside the Wilkinson Center, where someone had written Sarah's name on it.  Her mortification continues.  Let me just say, BYU has more than gotten it's money worth out of this picture!

Friday night was dinner at Malawi Pizza with Our Lady and a few of her friends.  Good pizza and another earnest cause like last year's dinner.  Apparently, a part of our bill is donated to feed a family in Africa.  After dinner, the girls headed out and I didn't  Fine with me.  Saturday morning was 5K time.  Once again, the weather people had predicted hideous weather at the time of the race and it was totally decent.  For as out of sync I am running-wise, I was not totally embarrassed by how this run went.  Our Lady was there to cheer me on, which was fun.  Soon after the run, the weather did tank and it started raining.  Not good for a noon kick-off or the tailgate with friends before the game.  That turned into a literal huddle under trees, all of us shivering in our ponchos.  Mercifully by the end of Q1, the rain stopped.  While it stayed chilly, it seemed to help BYU, who finally managed to eke out a win.  FINALLY!  Suffice to say, it's been a rough season.  We capped Saturday with dinner at Tucanos Brazilian Grill.  There were 17 of us and we had a really good time.  It was a couple of other parents and a slew of Our Lady's friends.  The food was really good and never-ending.  Strangely enough, my favorite was not the bacon-wrapped filet mignon, but the chicken hearts!  They were terrific!

And now, I'm back in my hotel room, sated and ready to call it a night.  I'll join Our Lady for a little religion in the morning and then it's back home on Mother United.  I've had a really good time with my daughter this weekend.  And I've delighted in how much things have changed at my alma mater.  And they are good changes.  I loved it here when I was a student.  Never wanted it to end.  And I'm thrilled to see how it's going for my girl.  It's all good.  It really is.

18 October 2010

I can't believe I made that mistake.

I like to think that after years and years of managing travel and speaking around the world on travel management issues, you'd think I'd remember things like checking the dates you've booked on that non-refundable ticket before hitting "purchase."  One would think.  And I thought I had until this Sunday when the Voice from EasyUpdate called to tell me my First Class upgrade had cleared.

"Odd," I thought since I get upgraded 120 hours from departure and that specific flight is 168 hours away (note that upgrade addicts have their upgrade eligibility hours seared to their very souls).  So I tried to pull up Mother United's website on my phone (please, please, please Mother United, get an iPhone app ASAP!) and got nowhere, so when I got home I pulled up my itin and discovered that I'd booked my outbound and return all for the same day.  Spank me!


Seriously.  I knew I was spanked.  And spanked I was.  I got the "B" team for sure when I called for help.  Held for four minutes before the call was answered and then after explaining my issue, the agent spent the next seven minutes tapping on her keyboard, right out of the scene from "Meet the Parents," before she let out a sigh that I felt through the phone line, to announce that my error was going to cost me.  Um, thanks, Copernincus, I already knew that.

Cost me it did.  It wasn't pretty.  But I had to do it.  I can't miss Parents Weekend and it's time to go see Our Lady of BYU.  So I'll be kicking myself all the way there for this stupid, stupid mistake.

So, lesson learned here people!  Always, always check and double-check before you hit "purchase."  Oh, the agony!

14 October 2010

Flying standby ain't all it's cracked up to be...

This post's title says it all.  And it's a lesson I learned a long, long time ago.  My days of non-revenue flying are long gone.  Sayonara to them.  Unfortunately, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML got schooled in non-revenue standby travel earlier this week.  Without going into all the gory details, she found out that running from gate to gate to gate at Chicago's Midway Airport is no picnic.  Getting told flight after flight is sold out or looks bad was NOT music to her ear, since only one of her ears works.  After the trudge to her third gate, she called me to say how much she preferred flying with me.  Well, sure you do and here's why:  A) You're confirmed.  B) You're usually in First or Business Class. C) You've got club access.  D) You have nothing to worry about.  I like flying with me too!

Anyway, she returns this weekend on a revenue ticket, so it should be an easier journey home.  She's having a great time with her sister and family.  It was her sister's birthday and having the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML join the party was a big deal.  I'm glad she was able to make this trip.  Her relationship with her sister is priceless and a wonderful example to our daughters.  My girls would do well to have the relationship that their mom and aunt have.

10 October 2010

The Church Organ as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

For anyone that's ever attended Sunday services at a Mormon (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) church, it's a wicked solid bet that you are NOT going to hear musical stylings like these:
I can assure you that the gospel axe isn't going to be swinging in an LDS chapel anytime soon.  Nor do we get the sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir piped in, or any other LDS singer for that matter (sorry, Osmonds in any form, David Archuleta, Jericho Road, etc.).  No, it's typically a pretty staid affair on Sundays.  The organ gets fired up, a few traditional hymns are sung, a choir chimes in, and that's how it goes.

On rare occasion, an organist pops up who knows how to use the church organ as a weapon of mass destruction and I mean that in a good way.  Today was one of those days.  Every six months, all of our local wards (congregations) get together for a conference.  It's two days of meetings and they always roll out this one guy who plays the devil, as it were, out of the organ.  It's pretty much awesome.  I have no idea how the organ works, I just know that he knows what levers to push to get that organ to shake the building.  He is able to interpret the hymns in such a way that he simply destroys any bad mood you might be in and it facilitates one great feeling.  He plays the organ the way it should be played.  Kind of like this:

This much I know...our organist would not have dropped dead like the organist at the First Church of Springfield did had he been presented with an interpretation of "In A Gadda Davida."  Anyway, it was a good day for music in church today.  I like days like that.

09 October 2010

Well, that run was awful. Just awful.

After basically taking the last six weeks off from any real running, I decided to jump back in today.  The weather has suddenly gone all summer like here (minus the 90-plus degree temps and swampy humidity that we enjoyed endured this summer) and I felt I was good for a six-miler.  I was not.  What I was ready for was a serious serving of humble pie.  And I got it, big-time.  I'm not even going to tell you what my splits were for the 3.3 miles I would up running crawling.

I pretty much ignored everything I've learned since I started running two-plus years ago.  First, taking six weeks for no other reason than I was busy at work was stupid.  Second, I totally forgot that perhaps some build up was in order before marching out on a six-miler.  Third, I was fooled by Mother Nature and figured I didn't need that much water.  Basically, I need to go read this:




Because what I did today was just dumb and it was, well, awful.  Just awful.  So I'm hanging my head in shame for the rest of the day.  I'm glad we decided NOT to go down to the Chicago Marathon Expo.  That would have been humiliating after today's run slog.

So I've got two weeks to get myself ready for my last race of the year.  It's a 5K but it's in Utah so it's elevation and it's so not flat.  It's the third year I've run it and I need not humiliate myself or Our Lady Of BYU, who will, in theory, be there cheering me on.  There's work to be done.

03 October 2010

When it's time to change, it's time to rearrange...

An impressive group of philosophers from the Brady School once said, and profoundly I might add, "When it's time to change, it's time to rearrange."  Brilliant counsel, brilliant.  I've taken shelter in those words as I find myself on the precipice of a significant change starting tomorrow.


You see, after more than twenty years in the same professional field, I am starting a new role in my company completely outside of what I've been doing.  This is very significant for me.

 I've loved what I've been doing.  I got pretty darn good at it and have had the chance to literally go around the world sharing that skill and being able to interact with some really great people.  I've been very, very lucky.   It's been a very good career and one that has been very good to me.  And yet, I've sensed that it's time to try something else.

My current employer is aggressive at promoting from within and giving people the opportunity to stretch their skill-sets in new roles.  And that's what has happened to me.  I'll be working in a new area, completely outside of what I've been doing for the last twenty years.  It looks like it's going to be a very rewarding role, as I will be working in a community-facing role.  I'm excited and, well, a little hesitant.  Hesitant in that the scope of this change is huge for me and change is always a challenge.  But it'll be good.  I mean, the philosophers at the Brady School taught us that.

If you're wondering about how you can learn more about the geniuses at the Brady School, let me give you a video preview of their instruction on change management:


I don't apologize for them.  How could anyone apologize enough?

25 September 2010

It's been a good week, foodie

So it's been a good week for the foodie in me, can I just tell you?  It started with my birthday earlier in the week.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML gave me another awesome class - another cooking class.  Five different main dishes are the focus of the class.  We'll be doing shrimp scampi, Moroccan halibut and chicken parm burgers, to name but a few.  That made me all kinds of happy.   Can't wait for next week.

Then I had to go to NYC for some job-related stuff later in the week.  NYC was all kinds of chaos with countless heads of state in town for global shenanigans at the United Nations and I figured it was going to make for a crazy time.  Traffic was ridiculous but thanks to the subway, a co-worker and I made it up to dinner at Restaurant Daniel.

To say that it was amazing, would be about the biggest understatement ever.  The food was stunning.  I am still rhapsodizing over the butternut squash soup starter.  I'm not kidding it was amazing.  And don't even get me started on the spare rib.  It literally melted in your mouth and the flavor was sublime.  It's a beautiful venue.  The night we were there, the President of Israel was in the house and it made things a little, well, interesting.  Suffice to say, the Israeli version of the Secret Service does NOT fool around.  Things got even nuttier when President Obama's motorcade descended on the place. Fortunately, they kept going.  We'd never been able to leave.  When we did leave, we had the pleasure of meeting Chef Daniel Boulud.  He could not have been nicer.  He was genuinely interested in knowing what we'd thought of the meal and how are evening had been.  It was very cool.
Thank you, Chef, for an incredible meal and for being an amazing host!

The foodapolooza kept going today as I met CAL, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, and our friend Nancy downtown.  Nancy is a very talented photographer who took CAL's senior portraits today.  They used downtown Chicago as a backdrop and she's taken a slew of awesome photos.  Check out Nancy's great work here.

Anyway, I met them as they wrapped up there photos as I had been downtown on the job.  We felt we deserved something awesome so we hightailed it to Xoco.  It's one of Rick Bayless's restaurants and it was incredible.  Rick and his team are serving up the most flavorful tortas  I've ever had.  I had the Choriqueso torta and the chorizo was enough to make this grown man/fatty cry.  It was smoky, spicy, and accompanied by a poblano that brought up the heat just that much more.  It was one of the best things I've ever eaten.  The churro that capped the meal was literally a sweet way to end our day.  The meal was worth the 45 minute wait for a table.  I cannot wait to go back!
This photo, from the Chicago Tribune, captures the good Chef Rick Bayless in action at Xoco.  It was an absolute delight to eat there.

So, like I said, it's been a good week for the foodie in me.  And now, I need to pay some serious attention to the runner in me.  The fatty in me may be in danger of making a comeback if I don't!

20 September 2010

44

Another year older today.  I'm not feeling especially wiser, to tell you the truth.  I'm feeling solidly middle-age today.  As I lamented in last night's post about being tired, I'm still feeling that way.  Maybe it's because I'm smack in the middle of, well, middle-age.  Who knows?

When I checked out what was doing on this date in history on Wikipedia this evening, I learned that today is Respect for the Aged Day in Japan.  I nearly burst out laughing at the irony.  The USA needs to consider such a holiday.  I'm certain Hallmark would endorse it.

When I think about it, I'm really not that old.  I may look like the horse that got rode hard and put away wet, but all in all, my forty four years so far have been pretty good.  I'm pretty darn happy with how life has turned out.  Not much to complain about.  Lots to be happy about.  That's a pretty good place to be, truth be told.

I'm looking forward to a little birthday celebration with memories of my childhood watching the premiere of "Hawaii Five-O" tonight.  I loved, loved, loved the original as a kid.  I can recall watching it once or twice with my Dad, always with a grilled cheese sandwich, and thinking McGarrett was just plain cool.  The previews for the new show, as the Boy puts it, look 'sick.'  So, in the spirit of the Islands, I say, aloha.

19 September 2010

I'm tired.


The title of today's post pretty much sums it all up.  I'm tired.  Just plain tired.  Why?  Well, work has been brutal from a schedule and demand perspective.  September is typically a very busy time of year for me and it's been exacerbated by a new career opportunity.  I'm taking a new job with my current employer which will put me in a completely new role.  I'm incredibly excited about it but it's led to a significant amount of transition work before I move into the new role at the beginning of October.

I'm not going to whine about the work load or the job stress.  I really am grateful for the work that I have.  It's good.  I'm just tired.  I know that it hasn't helped that I don't think I've run more than seven miles since the half-marathon.  I know my body is SO not happy with me.  The fact that I've not been running isn't helping.  At all.  I've just got to get back at it.  And fast.  Fall is here and before you know it that mean she-beast that is Mother Nature will bring her nasty winter mood and no good can come from that.  It will certainly impact my running.  I need to do something about it while I still can.

So I'm looking forward to a new week and another opportunity to revive and get back at it.  I'm traveling and of the two segments that have First Class on them, I've cleared one upgrade and am on the waitlist for one.  Let's see if my luck holds with upgrade lotto.  Fingers crossed.

12 September 2010

In Memoriam - 9/11/01

While it's a day after the 9th anniversary of the attacks on U.S. soil that claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, I've found myself quite contemplative this weekend. My mind has not been far from the events of that horrific day. Much has been said that it was one of those watershed events - one that you'll never forget where were you were when you first heard the news. I know I was in my car on I15 driving into the office and was on the phone with my company's help desk, trying to address an issue with my computer. I'll not forget the gasp of the young woman on the other line as she told me what she was seeing. That was right after the first plane hit. I sensed that whatever was going on in New York City was going to change everything. And it did.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I had been in NYC the week before the events of 9/11. We'd gone for a few days to relax and enjoy the city. It was an awesome trip and I'll never forget as we were being driven back to JFK the view we had of the Towers. The Towers were not beautiful. However, on that afternoon nine years ago, they were framed by a gorgeous, cloudless blue sky and seemed, at that moment, to embody New York City. I recall saying something to SML about as we drove. Little did I know that one week later, those towers would be a pile of smoking rubble and the tomb of 3,000 people.

I've thought many times over the years about who died in the Towers, the Pentagon, and aboard United 93.   I believe we are indebted to each of them who died to NOT forget what happened that day.  We must live in such a way that we prevent something like this from ever happening again.  We've got to eradicate hate and fear.  Ultimately, we are all children of the same God and are inherently good.  This hate-mongering that has our world divided has got to stop.

I suspect I'm going to close the evening tonight watching the most extraordinary film I've seen about 9/11. I'll watch, and weep as I do, United 93. It simply is stunning. It's a powerful reminder of what a handful of people can do, and what they did, on that day.

May we never forget their sacrifice and may we live in such a way that there is no longer a need for people to feel that we have to kill one another like this.

09 September 2010

15

Another big day here in the Den. What makes this day, September 9, a big deal? Well, thanks to Wikipedia, let's see:

- 1850: California is admitted as the 31st state
- 1922: The Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 ends (whew!)
- 1926: The National Broadcasting Company is formed (Where's our apology for "Knight Rider?")
- 1971: The Attica Prison riot begins, ending four days later
- 1995: The Boy is born in Mesa, AZ

Yes, it's the Boy's birthday! 15 years ago, it all flipped here in the Den when we welcomed our third child, our first and only boy. The Boy has been pretty awesome from the moment he landed here. Our life has not been dull and I don't think it ever will be with him. He's incredibly fun, outgoing, charming, and a natural leader. Underneath the bravado of teenagerness, he's sensitive. He's just quite a kid and I can't imagine our life and home without him.


Happy birthday to The Boy! Love you, buddy!

05 September 2010

A Year On...some thoughts on grieving

A year ago this past week, on September 3, 2009, my father died quite unexpectedly from a massive coronary. It hardly seems like it's been a year. I'm very aware of the blessings that have been extended, especially to my Mom, during this year. She is literally surrounded by angels who have made her life without Dad much easier to handle. It's not been without its trials, to be sure, but how grateful I am for the comfort and guidance she's been given. I see the hand of our Father in Heaven in her life every day.

As I've had a chance to think back on the events of a year ago, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, as well as some close friends, have asked how I'm doing and I've asked myself the same question. I think I'm really OK. From the moment I learned of Dad's passing, my focus has primarily been on my Mom, her care and condition, and the overall status of the Lyons' family. These have not been made unilaterally. There have been lots of calls as a family or in person discussions when I've been back in the PHX-area. So for me, it seems like there's not been a lot of time to grieve.

And what is grieving anyway? Often times, throughout this first year, I've told my Mom there's no rule book to how you behave in situations like hers, losing your beloved husband of 50 years. And I realize, that the same applies to me. Have I wept uncontrollably? No. Have I regretted a conversation that went unspoken between my Dad and I? No. Have I missed him every day? Absolutely. How could I not? He was a tremendous example and a pillar of faith and spiritual strength. Have I tried to live my life better as a result of his example? Yes, with middle of the pack results. Ultimately, there is no play book here that dictates how I have to grieve. Grieving is a deeply personal thing (I know, I know...queue the irony music as I find myself talking about it on my open for all to read blog). I miss him each and every day. There are times when tears have come. Two weeks ago, as an example, as we sang "I Know My Redeemer Lives" at the conclusion of an incredibly powerful Sunday School lesson, the tears flooded down my cheeks, as I was touched by the spirit of that song. And it was that same spirit that has made my sadness so much easier to bear this past year.

You see, I know that I will see my Dad again. There is a "something else" after this life. This life, this time here on earth, it's just a time of learning, testing and probation. There is a life after this one. One where we will be reunited as families for the eternities. I've been so comforted by that knowledge that I believe that's why I've not been so full of grief. And there's a measure of comfort in knowing my Dad believed these same things. He taught them to me. He taught me many things, principles that have made my life better and I am so grateful for that. I'm most grateful for the principle of choice that he taught me. It's beautifully captured in this video:

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me well. I miss you. I'm forever grateful for your example. I'm trying to be the man you were. I hope I can get there.

31 August 2010

Food Trucks, We Need Them

Dear Purveyor(s) of Amazing Food from a Truck:

My plea is simple. We need food trucks something awful in the Second City. And we need them to make an occasional stop in the 'burbs. My 'burb in particular. So I would like to request that the bahn mi truck be the first. Specifically this one:

If you were here, I could buy bahn mi from you, all the time. Gorgeous, tasty bahn mi like this:


I would be very happy to be a frequent customer. Please make with a truck here in the Second City. Thank you for listening.

Signed,
Hungry in the Midwest

27 August 2010

Well done, Air New Zealand!

Air New Zealand has done a great job thinking outside the box. They've been very willing to be creative in rethinking what an international airline should be and it's paying off. The carrier just reported a full-year profit. It's a well-managed carrier but one that doesn't take itself too seriously. This has been demonstrated in their marketing and in particular, their safety demonstration videos. The latest one is a riot:

Using the team theme and the All Blacks was a stroke of genius! It's also a very funny demo. Will it get more people to pay attention? Absolutely! Will it save lives? Probably not. But it sure beats this (bear in mind that I can't even count how many times I've seen this now):

U.S. carriers should take a lesson from Air New Zealand and have a little fun with the safety demo. Again, well done, NZ!

It's the end of a very, very long week. Kids are back in school. CAL is a senior (!) and the Boy entered high school. And Our Lady of BYU has just three semesters left before she graduates university. I think I aged ten years this week, realizing all this. No wonder the week has been so long. I'm really glad it's Friday.

23 August 2010

The Madison Mini-Marathon Recap

This past Saturday, August 21, I ran my second half-marathon. I was a part of the Madison Mini-Marathon in Madison, Wisconsin. What a great event!

I can't say enough about it. It was a very well-organized race, with lots of volunteers and excellent community support. The race was run through the heart of Madison and it was like taking a tour of the city. What a beautiful place! My previous experience in Madison had been limited to using the can in a gas station right of I39 - admittedly, not the best way to get to know a city. It's great place. Any place that offers Nepali and Tibetan restaurants can't be bad. Unfortunately, I was only a mile into the race when I discovered those dining gems, so we'll have to go back and give them a try.

I loved that this race started smack on time at 7:00AM. We started in groups by estimated finish times. My only complaint is that the pace groups did not have pace leaders, so as soon as we were on the course, the pace groups scattered like there was no tomorrow. Oh well...while I missed the comfort of my running group, running the race solo wasn't bad. When we started, it seemed like Mother Nature might behave. It was about 71 degrees at race time, but humidity was sitting at 95%. There was plenty of cloud cover to make it seem cooler. It would quickly prove that it was not cooler. The humidity was insane. Within minutes, my technical shirt was a sponge, constantly needing to be rung out. My shorts looked as if I'd been in the deep end of the swimming pool. So while I was already looking like a drowned rat, I was also facing hills. Note to self - the next time you are racing in a new place, check out a topographical map. It would really pay to know about the hills. Yowsa!

All that being said, the oppressive humidity, the hills, and the heat (yeah, the race organizers threw up the "yellow" caution flag about an hour into the race), this was a great experience. Incredible course and cool people running it. I was so glad to see my family at the end of the race. They were right there as I crossed the finish line. I pretty much have the best fans ever.

So now if you read the last post, you saw a picture of my shirt from this race, with what looks to be blood on it. Oh it so was blood! During this race, I reached another milestone as a runner. The ubiquitous bloody nipple. About eight miles in, I noticed the stream of blood. I have to tell you, I was thrilled. I'd hit that milestone! Um, I was not so thrilled once I got back to the hotel and extricated myself from said shirt. That nip hurt worse than my tired, tired legs. And p.s. - it still does!
Just after hitting the finish line and getting my medal
With the BEST.FANS.EVER. Note - no one will touch me. Wonder why...
Gallons of sweat and one bloody nipple later, I did it!

I'm really liking the 13.1 mile distance. Not feeling any burning (well, except for the burning nipple) to run 26.2. At least not yet.

22 August 2010

Some More Summer Photos

Sometimes photos tell a better story than words and right now, I'm a bit pressed for time. Our Lady of BYU flies back to Utah this afternoon and still have a few things to get done. So I give you some more pictures from some of our summer activities:
At Wrigley with good friends from San Diego. They joined us for the first game of a four game sweep by the Padres of the Cubbies. It's been an unpleasant season for the Cubbies.

The kids were able to spend some time together along the Riverwalk.

Spent some time on the trains into the city. It's a good thing my girls take after their mother.

Being on the Lake (yep, Lake Michigan) has been fantastic.

It's been a good summer. CAL and The Boy head to school on Wednesday. Both will be in high school. Time marches on. I'm trying to keep up. I'll try and post later tonight about yesterday's running of the Madison Mini-Marathon, my second half-marathon of the year. For now, I'll leave you with this photo teaser: