30 December 2011

A look back

With just one day left in what has been a fairly memorable year, I'm looking back on the year and wondering, "Wasn't January here just last week?"  I have no idea where this year went.  Each year seems to be moving faster and faster.  This doesn't bode well for my mortality.  Neither does my increasingly unbreakable addiction to carbs but that is another topic entirely.

I'm glad I've been pretty good about keeping the Den updated with what's gone down this year.  When I look back at this year's posts, I can conclude that it's been a pretty good year.  Sure, I got laid off at the end of the year and there was one documented run-in with The World's Worst Airline (they know who they are) but it was pretty tame compared to most of my encounters with them.  While my travel was way down from years' past, when I did travel, things went well, all things considered.  As for the lay-off, its ongoing impact looms large as 2012 dawns, but I feel very good about the number of interviews I've had during the month of December and can only hope that it will yield good news sooner rather than later.

The Den grew with the addition of Awesome in September.  It's been a good thing to gain a son-in-law.  He is so good to Our Lady of Awesome.  Spending time with them at Christmas confirmed what a good foundation they are building.  CAL's done so well her first semester as a hostage resident of Rexburg, Idaho.  University life has been great for her.  The Boy continued to do well this year and his recap of "Menstruation Monday," a topic in his science class this fall, will not soon be forgotten.  He makes sure life is never dull.

One thing I did learn this year is that I really should shelve any dreams that I may have harbored of packing it all in and moving to India to pursue a career in Bollywood.  That dream was shattered when the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I decided to do the Bollywood Duet on "Just Dance."  It went wrong, horribly wrong because of my complete and total inability to keep a beat, sense rhythm, or move without looking like I'm having a full body seizure a la Elaine Benes.  Here's the sad proof:
The Tin Man is capable of bending more than me.
So knowing that that dream is dead, I can look to 2012 with a clear perspective.  Marching orders are pretty simple:

  • Keep my family happy
  • Better my relationship with God and His Son
  • Get me a job
  • Bid farewell to the 25 pounds that checked back in this year
  • Avoid the compulsion to "Bollywood" dance at all costs
Thanks to all of you for getting comfortable in the Den this year.  I invite you to do more of the same in 2012.  It's good to have you along for the ride.

27 December 2011

23

December 27.  What does this date mean to you? According to the keepers of all things true on the interwebs, Wikipedia, here's a smattering of what's gone down on this date throughout history:



  • St. Stephen's Day in Eastern Christianity
  • 1831 - Aboard HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin left Plymouth, England, on what became a historic expedition to South America that made his name as a naturalist (the scientific kind, not the nudist kind)
  • 1911 - "Jana Gana Mana," the national anthem of India, was first sung in the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress (click here to get your "Jana Gana Mana" on!)
  • 1927 - "Show Boat." considered to be the truly first American musical, opened at the Ziegfield Theatre on Broadway
Those are just a few of the highlights of things that have happened on this day.  It fails to mention that on this day, December 27, 1988, (that's twenty-three years ago, people, for those of you keeping score), a marriage was sealed and an adventure began.

What marriage and what adventure?  That would be the one that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I started those many years ago.  These truly have been the best years of my life.  It's been a lot like a roller coaster ride.  We've experienced exhilarating highs, the sometimes gut-wrenching anticipation of what's next, and the thrill of the unexpected.  We've enjoyed those moments when you're just coasting along, and we've always hoped the ride doesn't stop.
On the New York New York Roller Coaster in 1997

And why stop?  I marvel at this woman who agreed to marry me.  I marvel that she saw potential in me all those years ago and I am so glad that I still want to be better for her.  And not just for her.  For our children.  Our roller coaster ride has extended to them.  They've made the ride even better.
Disney 1999
We have been ridiculously blessed.  We've had our share of challenges and tests (let's face it, mostly because of my rampant imperfections) and because God has a plan for us and we know that this life is a time to be tested and to learn, I'm certain there are more tests to come.  Here's the thing about those tests and trials, though, like a scary roller coaster, it's a lot easier to face when you've got your best friend at your side.  I know I do.  I'm a lucky man.

Happy Anniversary to my best friend.

26 December 2011

19

It's another day of celebration here in the Den today.  Today we celebrate CAL's 19th birthday.  While our efforts to not have a child born around the holidays were thwarted, it turns out that celebrating a birthday at Christmastime is a lot of fun.

CAL has never complained about having a birthday that competes with all the shenanigans associated with that other big birthday celebrated on the 25th.  She's been terrific all these 19 years.  That's just the kind of girl she is.  She's pretty terrific.

As we gathered for a family Christmas Eve dinner, it was an absolute joy to see my family (all of them - the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, Our Lady of Awesome and my son-in-law Awesome, CAL, and The Boy) seated at the table and I was touched as we talked about our favorite Christmas memories.  One of my favorite Christmas memories comes from a Christmas celebrated 19 years ago.  We were a young married couple with one daughter and a pregnancy that was going long.  We had Christmas dinner that day with friends and someone seated at that table had a nagging backache that would not go away.  Turns out that backache was labor.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I spent much of that evening debating whether it was labor.  When we finally decided to go to the hospital that Christmas night, we could have used Santa's speedy sleigh.  Having contractions go from five minutes apart to two minutes apart while getting to the hospital does heighten the sense of urgency.  It also makes husbands ignore traffic laws.  I ignored a slew of them that night and it was worth it.

Just a couple of hours after getting to the hospital, in the early hours of 26 December, and listening to a nurse lecture us for waiting so long to show up, CAL arrived.  She was a beautiful dark-haired girl and she has maintained that beauty to this day.  We are so fortunate to have her in our family.  She's been an awesome Christmas gift!  Happy birthday, CAL!

23 December 2011

53

As is the tradition here in the Den, significant milestones (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) are recognized by their corresponding number.  Today is one of those days.

Today, December 23rd, is my parents' wedding anniversary.  Today is their 53rd.  It also marks the 3rd year that my mother celebrates the day without Dad, as he died several months after they celebrated their 50th anniversary.  So I'm sure today is a day of mixed emotions for my mom.

In our society today, making a marriage last five years, let alone 50, is seen as something of a triumph.  Making it to 50 and beyond is a rare thing indeed.  When I think about my parents' start, I am humbled by their example.

My parents came from starkly different backgrounds - Mom, a Mormon, raised in a large family in Utah and Dad, a Presbyterian, from a small family raised in a quiet Philadelphia suburb.  Dad's family dressed for dinner, Mom's family shot theirs.  Yeah, they were different.  In spite of the outward differences, this was a love that transcended the differences and helped them to overcome all sorts of challenges that life would throw at them.  It started the day they married.  My paternal great-grandmother died the morning my parents were to be married.  This certainly put a damper on the wedding that was hours away.  My grandfather, who had just lost his mother, insisted that the wedding proceed.  Proceed it did and a family was created that day.

Fifty-three years later and just over two years since Dad died, I cherish the example that my parents set and I'm so grateful for the lessons they've taught me.  I'm trying to take the best of what they taught me and apply it to my own relationship with my wife, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, and my children.  And I'll keep trying, each and every day.

21 December 2011

Tis the season

With Christmas (yes, that's right, Christmas, not the Holiday Season, Festivus, or whatever - as Jack Donaghy proclaimed in last year's Christmas card, 'Happy Holidays...is what terrorists say.  Merry Christmas!') nigh upon us, the sights and sounds of the season are all around us.  Well, most of the sights.  We have no snow here.  In a bizarre twist, that She-Devil called Mother Nature has called of her snow demons and we are looking at the first brown Christmas in five years.  There's something wrong about that.  The bigger wrong is the destruction that awaits us once the aforementioned she-beast unleashes her winter fury upon us.  I don't know what she's waiting for but it concerns me.

Then there are the sounds.  The sounds of Christmas erupted here right after Halloween, I think.  It seems like that's when one of the local radio stations went "All Christmas Music!  All the time!" and I've been wanting to drive a blunt instrument through my ears ever since.  I'm not a big fan of Christmas music, particularly the treacle that is on the radio non-stop right now.  It is, in a word, awful.  I don't want to hear the latest batch of Disney automatons singing "Do They Know It's Christmastime?" ever again (seriously, it's the only non-traditional Christmas song that I like) nor do I need to hear anything from the "Glee" kids (and by kids, I mean 30 year olds with limited acting skills and the ability to sync well with an Auto-tune machine) about Christmas.

So for me, tis the season to enjoy the original "Do They Know It's Christmastime?" and Handel's Messiah.  Now that is exquisite Christmas music.  It fills me with the spirit of the season each and every time I hear it.  It's brilliant and beautiful.  I shared this "flash mob" version of it last year and it's worth sharing again.  Here you go:

And for another Christmas gem, read this article about the brilliant "30 Rock" Christmas episodes over the years.  They are awesome.  Any Christmas episode that can give us one of the best lines ever written ('Mother, there are terrorist cells more nurturing than you.') simply can't be wrong.  It beats watching little Cindy Brady lisp her way up to Santa to ask for Mommy's voice back.  Who's with me?

17 December 2011

On Christmas Cards

For eleven months out of twelve, my children could not care less about the mail.  Except for the month of December.  It's not the promise of gifts arriving via the USPS (seriously, who sends anything other than a letter or a bill via that broken down, shadow of its former self government institution?) that draws them to the mailbox.  It's Christmas cards from friends and family that grabs them like a moth to the flame.  Looking at the pictures and reading the letters has the strongest hold on them.  I'll admit it - I can't help but get in on it because you know we are hoping that we'll get a picture like Mr. Christmas Happy over there with a cheesy letter.  So far, nothing has even come close.

We're guilty of not sending a Christmas letter since 2007.  We've sent cards and photos but no letter.  I like a letter with a little more snark than sugar and sweetness so it's probably for the best that it's a photo card only from the Lyons.  My penchant for Christmas card snark has a long history, going back to 1985.

1985 - it was a kinder, gentler time.  Nancy, I mean, Ronald Reagan was leading the nation for a second term.  BYU football had been propelled to the Number One (1) spot in the nation, Steve Young was the Jimmer Fredette of his time, and a Peruvian harp playing BYU co-ed named Sharlene Wells had been named Miss America (this was right after the unfortunate incident with Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams and you can guess why a BYU co-ed was a lock to win), and I was serving a mission for my Church in Miami, FL (way before supermodels and wealthy South Americans had declared said city cool - it was a coke-rattled train wreck then). 

Where's the harp?
As Christmas that year drew nigh, I felt compelled to send Christmas cards to friends and family back home.    As a missionary, there wasn't a lot of cash in the budget for cards so I had to make one.  You'd think as a missionary I'd have gone the route of some Christ-centered, religious-themed card.  You would be wrong.  There was something about the Peruvian harp playing, BYU co-ed Miss America that said, 'Put me on your card.'  And that is what I did.  Now sadly, I don't have the card (and by card, I mean 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper folded into fourths and photocopied in a church library) anymore, so picture it.  On the front panel, Sharlene strumming that harp.  On the inside, the following quote from Sharlene, about life as Miss America (and I'm paraphrasing since I don't remember it exactly), "'Every day I have to get up, smile, and look great.' May this quote carry you through the year like it does me.  Merry Christmas, Elder Lyons"

It was simple and awesome and anyone who knew me that got the card understood the snark.  My parents, who were acquaintances of Miss Wells' parents, were mortified.  But here's the rest of the story:

Three months later, in March 1986, while living in Little Havana where we could set our watches to the Saturday night stabbings, I got an epic amount of mail one day.  That mail included a package from my mother, an unmarked package from Salt Lake City, and, wait for it, my 'Dear John' letter.  Said letter was opened first and while not entirely unexpected was a momentary bummer.  I don't recall what was in the package from my mom but I think it helped soothe the wound from the first letter.  But the bonus came in the unmarked package.  I opened it to find this literary opus enclosed:

That's right, the biography of the 'star' of my Christmas card.  On the inside of the front cover, I found a handwritten inscription:

"Dear Elder Lyons,
I must say, quite the Christmas card!  I pray for your continued success as a missionary.
Sharlene Wells"

Yep, she'd seen the card.  And to her credit, she got it and had the sense of humor to send the book.  I've had nothing but respect for her from that day forward.  Well played, Sharlene, well played.

It's hard to believe that it's been twenty six years since I sent that card.  It may be time to snark it up for next year.  I've got some time to plan.

15 December 2011

Off the grid

Do you ever find yourself off the grid?  Sometimes it's by force and sometimes it's by circumstance.  I've found myself pushed off the grid by circumstance this week.  I've been visiting my mother this week in the great (?) state of AZ and I've discovered that my mother lives in some kind of technological black hole.  It's killing me.

Her internet service, provided by one of those large soul-sucking monopolizing cable monoliths, is more tempermental than Lindsay Lohan in rehab.  We all know how well that worked.  Suffice to say, Mom's internet service seems to work in between the hours of 4AM and 7AM.  Excellent.  Wireless?  Don't even think about it.  So yesterday, I went to a couple of different places that offer free wi-fi.  This proved fruitless.  Apparently the lure of free wi-fi at said establishments (Barnes & Noble, Paradise Bakery, and even McDonalds) is a big fat lie.  Well, unless in the fine print it states that the free wi-fi does not, in fact, work.  Suffice to say, it's driving me nuts.  I need to get back on the grid.

In spite of my overwhelming need to get back on the grid, it's been good to be with my mom and to be able to do some things she's wanted done.  I'm glad I could be here.  Unemployment does allow for flexibility in one's schedule (see, there's that perky glass half-full approach again!).  I just looked at the clock and I better get back to taking advantage of my time on the grid.  The doomsday clock on interweb access is here is clicking down.  Loudly.

10 December 2011

A (Bitter) Holiday Carol


Today's task - buy stamps, Christmas-themed, for this year's Christmas cards.  Rather than driving all the way down to our main post office and endure that nightmare, I opted to go to our local grocery store, Jewel.  This would prove to be unfortunate.

Normally, stamps are sold from the cashier but before getting into one of the lines, I thought let me ask the Customer Service Desk person if they are, in fact, selling Christmas stamps.  At first, no one was manning the Desk, so I went to see if there was some heinous flavor of Pop-Tart to tempt me.  There was not and when I returned to the Desk, there was a young lady there, with her back to the store and to any and all customers.  She must have sensed I was standing there, so she turned/sulked around and before word one came out of my mouth, the following spewed forth from her mouth: "I can't help you, sir."  What? Was I so hideous to look at that there was no hope?  Was I bleeding so profusely that she'd already declared me dead?  What?  It took me about .5 seconds to absorb her snottiness when I fired back, "You mean you can't even answer a question?"  She gave me a blank-eyed, slack-jawed stare.  Fortunately, a manager who is clearly not being paid enough to work with dolts like this, walked by and was able to answer my question.  I bought the stamps and left.  This whole exchange which lasted about one minute reminds me why we do the bulk of grocery shopping at Target.  Say what you will about the Crazy Red Target Lady, those people do a good job.

So in honor of my encounter with Our Lady of Crappy Customer Service, I give you this holiday carol which bitter employees can embrace, as if they haven't already (apologies to the writer of 'Deck the Halls' because that's the tune to which this new carol is sung):

Deck The Stores

Deck the stores with crowds of people
Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa
Tis the season to be surly
Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa
Don we now our bitter service
Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa
Ignore the lines of spending shoppers
Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa
See us talk amongst ourselves
Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa
Hope you know we really can't stand you
Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa
Bad customer service is our mantra
Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa
So sing we bitter, all together
Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa
 

09 December 2011

And the glass is...

It's half-full, I promise
It has been brought to my attention that my posts of late have been a tad angst-ridden or even dare I say it, depressing.  I am here to correct that.

If you want angst, please go find reruns of "thirtysomething" or something on the Oprah Winfrey Network.  Although from what I'm hearing you'd better act fast on watching OWN as the doomsday clock appears to be clicking loudly on that one.  I recognize that by even suggesting that something the almighty "O" has touched/sanctioned is going south puts me in mortal danger, but it has to be said.  I'll take my chances.

If you want depressing, check your Twitter feed now that Alec Baldwin, he of 'Jack Donaghy' fame, has closed his account.  His Twitter implosion at the hands of some bitter American Airlines flight attendants was both awesome and pathetic.  I'm going to miss his place in the Twittersphere.  That's depressing.

If the tone of the Den got angsty (that's not a word, is it?) or depressing, I can only say that really wasn't my intent.  Since opening up the Den to one and all, I've been mighty transparent (some would argue FAR too transparent) about what's going on in my life.  The lay-off notice which culminated with my last day of employment yesterday couldn't help but take center-stage in my writings.  I was telling it as it happened.

I am here to tell you that the glass is half-full.  It's Day One of being unemployed and it's been good.  I gave blood (no, really, I'm not being facetious), took my car in for a tire rotation, got the emissions done on the Boy's car, and got my desk into some semblance of order.  How's that for excitement?  That said, there are good things on the horizon.  There are more job opportunities than I thought there would be for Q4.  I have a tremendous network of colleagues and friends who are acting as virtual head-hunters.  I am surrounded by an incredibly supportive family.  I truly have no complaints.  I'd be an idiot to look at my current situation with any other perspective than to say, "The glass is half-full and it's only going to get fuller."

It's all good.

06 December 2011

The deadline cometh

I realize that the Den has taken a bit of a turn of late, with a focus on my employment "situation."  By situation I mean the fact that I will be unemployed in less than 48 hours.  The party, and by party I mean regular paycheck, comes to an end this Thursday at 5:00 PM Central.  Don't worry.  I'm not going to try and monetize the blog.  No ads.  No "Donate Now!" appeals.  That's not what the Den is about.

I appreciate those of you who take the time to read what I've  written or spewed, depending on your opinion.  I appreciate the comments, whether expressed here or on Facebook or in person.  Many of you have expressed your support as I (and it's not just me - this is a family fun thing) careen through this opportunity to find new work.  I appreciate it.  We all appreciate it here in the Den.

So it's almost here.  I'm ready.  It really is time to move on.  So clock, keep ticking.  Let's get to the Thursday deadline.  Tomorrow it's going to feel like "Dead Man Walking" at the office.  More good times.


03 December 2011

On the edge

Well, it's sort of here, good readers.  I can't help but feel a little like the guy getting the boot to the gut.  He's getting the boot, for sure.

I've got a boot coming my way this week as well.  My last day of employment is this Thursday.  I am a mixed bag of emotions and thoughts as it relates to this, how would you say, 'event.'  Here's a sampling:

- Confidence: I know this is going to work out.  Please do not confuse this with arrogance.  I know I am not doing this on my own.

- Nervousness: When I think about the practical issues associated with this lay-off and the realities of a tough economy, my practical side is a tad, well, nervous.

- Exhaustion: I'm not sleeping particularly well.  My practical mind goes into overdrive at night.  This is not good.  What is good?  Tylenol PM.  It's starting to work its magic so I hope to be over this one soon.

- Peace: We are spiritually at peace about this latest twist in our lives and I find the greatest comfort in this.  That peaceful feeling is fueling the confidence that I feel and makes more all the more grateful for a loving Heavenly Father.  I am here to tell you He hears us, He knows us, and He cares.

What's interesting about this cavalcade of emotion, and this is only the tip of the Titanic-crushing iceberg that is the specter of unemployment, I can feel all these emotions at once.  It's all very "Sybil."  So here's the bottom line...I'll be very glad when my work day draws to a close this upcoming Thursday.  I know I did good work and I'm proud of how I'm leaving.  I'll now be able to focus 150% on the pursuit of a new job.  I'll be able to start writing this new chapter of our lives. 

So, it's over the edge we go.  Good times.

26 November 2011

A little unexpected random act of kindness

Thanksgiving brings families together and it was no different for us here in the Den.  My mom joined us for the week and it was great to have her with us.  This was a big trip for her.  She's not much of a flyer (I have yet to fully comprehend her fear of falling through the floor of the plane) and since my dad died, I've always accompanied her on her trips here.  This trip, though, not so much.  She did this one on her own, with a little help from Mother United.

She flew home this morning and it reminded me why one should never travel around the Thanksgiving holiday.  It was pretty chaotic, to say the least, at ORD this morning.  I had a gate pass to accompany Mom to her gate but since she needs a wheelchair to get across ORD (and, really, who among us doesn't need a wheelchair to get across ORD?), we were at the mercy of the Special Services folks, who are not United employees.  They run the wheelchair racket and they were epically stressed.  It seemed like every other passenger flying today needed a wheelchair.  This raised the stress level of all involved, trust me 

The gate for Mom's PHX flight looked akin to this:
I fly the ORD-PHX flights a lot and no matter what time of year, no matter what time the flights depart, the boarding is always a chaotic free-for-all.  Are people that desperate to get back to the heat?  Are they trying to get back there before their home values plunge even further?  I don't get it.  Anyway, it was such a mess at the gate that the Special Services agent, who at this point had rolled her eyes so far back in her head I feared she was seizing, announced there was no way she could get a wheelchair to the gate and down the Jetway.  So I took Mom by the arm and bulldozed our way to the gate, where boarding, or the melee, was already under way.  The gate agent flatly refused my request to help my mom down the Jetway.  I get the rules, but this did not please me.

And this is where an random act of kindness kicked in.  A United pilot, deadheading back to PHX, was in the scrum a couple of people behind us, and he quickly took my mom by the arm and said, "Let me take her on board!  I'll see that she's taken care of."  Being escorted by a pilot was far better than watching me fight it out with the gate agent, so Mom seemed very happy to have this pilot step in and help her out.  Off they went, and soon she was on her way home.

For me, what this pilot did really was a valuable random act of kindness.  It meant a great deal to me to see him take care of my mom.  He didn't have to do it although I think he saw a protracted boarding process getting even uglier but I am really grateful for his kindness.  I'm going to follow his example - time to find some opportunities to practice randoms act of kindness.  It makes a difference.


23 November 2011

On gratitude

With the uniquely American festival of overeating that is Thanksgiving just mere hours away, it's time to take stock of the things for which we are grateful.

I'm still not quite sure when the day made the leap from one of remembering God's mercy to a day of overeating and overspending.  But what's done is done and there's nothing I can do to change it.  That said, I can do my own little part by acknowledging the things for which I am grateful.  In no particular order, and please note that this is not comprehensive, I give you the 2011 List O'Gratitude:
  • My wife, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML - if you've read any of my posts, you know why she's called "the stunningly patient."  She is, in a word, amazing and I am forever grateful that she decided to marry me.
  • My children, Our Lady of Awesome, CAL, and The Boy - I could not ask for better children.  They have shaped me and contributed more to my life than they will ever know.
  • My son-in-law, Awesome - I think he's still trying to figure me out but I sure am grateful for how much he loves my daughter.
  • My mother - I'm here because of her.  Her influence has been incredible.
  • My father - while he's no longer here, his memory and example is never far from my mind.  I have a lot to live up to to become more like him.
  • Nana's orange rolls - just one taste and I'm a little kid again eating orange rolls at her kitchen table in Pleasant View, Utah, listening to my grandfather tell a story over the roar of two television sets that were always on, at full volume.
  • Musically talented cousins - Delta Rae, you rock!
  • My sister - for showing it's never too late to go back to school and do amazing things.
  • A valid passport and the opportunity to have seen some beautiful, memorable things all over the world.
  • The view atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge - spectacular!
  • The joy of super-elite frequent flyer status with my airline of choice, Mother United
  • Faith and testimony
  • Repentance and forgiveness
  • Scripture and revelation, both ancient and modern
  • A Savior
  • A God who knows me and forgives
  • Good family - I've got some amazing cousins, in-laws, nieces/nephews
  • That I'm not serving in the Boy Scouts
  • A whacked-out political system - it may be a train wreck but at least we're free to participate fully in the mess.  Freedom is  a good thing.
  • The Amazing Race
  • That I'm not one of the Duggars - I've never been more disturbed by a reality tv show family, except for Kardashians, who are a plague on humanity
  • A growing food truck scene in Chicago - Tamale Spaceship, keep up the great work!
  • A good meat pie, Cornish Pasty, Maple Bacon Cupcakes, Mexican food - well, food in general
  • That I've run two half-marathons and that there's hope in my soul that I can run like I used to, sooner rather than later.
  • Books, books, and more books.  I'm especially grateful for getting reacquainted with the public library system this year as it's saved me a fortune.
  • The ability to prove myself over and over again.
  • Job challenges, like the one I face now, and figuring out what the next chapter will bring us.
  • Friends, both near and far.
  • Hope and laughter
  • The wisdom of Jack Donaghy
  • $1 drinks at McDonalds - Coke Zero, I salute you!
  • The awesome films of Christoper Guest
  • The brilliance of Eugene Levy
  • The desire I have to stay happy
Well, that went longer than I thought.  I'm quite certain your list is a little different.  Take a few minutes to think about things for which you are grateful.  Write 'em down.  You'll be glad you did.

Happy Thanksgiving!

22 November 2011

Learning Lessons. Again.

As my current employment winds down (eleven working days and counting) and my quest for a new j-o-b takes on an increased sense of urgency, there are a lot of lessons that I am learning.  Again.

One of the key lessons is captured in this post's image: "Rejection is not fatal."  It's true.  It's not.  It may sting and the ego may get a little bruised in the process, but rejection really is not fatal.  I like that affirmation better than anything Stuart Smalley could come up with.  I wonder what Jack Donaghy has to say on the topic?

I'm sure there will be more rejection notifications to come before the search comes to what will certainly be a successful conclusion.  I'm ready for that.  I'm taking a measure of comfort in the counsel of He who knew something of rejection.  Of course I speak of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  In His final moments before suffering the agony of Gethsemane, Jesus said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

There is no comparing my job situation to the suffering the Christ felt as He atoned for the sins of the world.  But there is so much to be learned in His example and teachings.  There is great comfort and guidance to be found in them.  So, 'be of good cheer,' welcome aboard.

19 November 2011

Sleep and its betrayal

It has come to my attention that a critical element of my being is betraying me.  And it's betrayal is starting to wear on my last nerve.  I speak of sleep.  It seems to be abandoning me faster than Lindsay Lohan's sobriety.

It's not that I need sleep for its fabled "beauty" effect.  Have you seen me?  That ship sailed a long, long time ago.  I'm a middle-aged man who just needs more than a couple hours of sleep that I'm getting right now.

I'm not enjoying waking earlier and earlier.  This morning's sleep betrayal checked in at 3:10AM.  I've been averaging 4AM wake-ups for almost two weeks now.  That's after waking up multiple times before throwing in the towel and getting up.

I know why it's happening.  It started the night I learned my job had been eliminated and it's not stopped since.  I could bore you with all that's going through my mind, but suffice to say, it involves myriad "what if" scenarios, spreadsheets, and trying to anticipate what's next in this process.  The odd thing is that when I'm awake, I'm at peace about what's happening and sense that things are going to work out.  But at night, when I'm supposed to be sleeping, not so much. 

It's got to stop.  I'm going to turn cranky soon and no good can come from that.  None.  So, sleep, come back and let me rest.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

17 November 2011

Affirmations - Has it really come to this?

"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it! People like me!"

So you say, Stuart Smalley, so you say.  Given your disturbing haircut and unfortunate choices in sweaters, one would, could, no, should argue that delusional was your middle name.  But hey if that affirmation got you through the day, good for you.

I've been giving affirmations some thought ever since I learned last week that I've once again been made redundant and that I've been invited to find other work by my employer.  Although I completely understand the strategy that led to this decision and I know it's not personal, I've had a few moments of "why me?" since learning the news.  And in those moments, your mind starts working overtime, looking for an answer to the question.  As my mind races, affirmations fill in the blanks.  Sadly, the only affirmation that's come to mind is the wit and wisdom of Stuart Smalley.  This can't be well.

To purge all things Stuart Smalley, I've begun to focus on the wisdom, or as a writer from Fast Company magazine described, "the indelible brilliance" of one Jack Donaghy.  Jack is my managerial idol.  Ah, to lead the way he leads!  What am I talking about?  May I suggest you read this article and then click through to the Hulu blog post in the article.  You'll see for yourself just how brilliant Jack is.  A few of his words of guidance:

  • "With real estate, there are no rules.  It's like check-in at an Italian airport."
  • "I never sleep on planes.  I don't wanna get 'incepted.'"
  • "We Donaghys believe that when there is something at all delicate to talk about, it is best to suppress it...until it erupts into a fistfight at a church barbeque."
  • "Ambition is the willingness to kill the things you love and eat them in order to stay alive."
  • "The closest I came to vomiting tonight is when I saw Ann Coulter's shoulder blades."
And it goes on and on.  He's brilliant.  I've got to find a way to work some of his brilliance into my interviews.  It's got to get me somewhere, right?!

OK, Jack, may your brilliance lead me to a new job!
Stuart, you may be good enough, but your affirmation is out.  I'm going with Jack on this.

12 November 2011

Some thoughts on adoption

Wordle: Adoption

As defined in the dictionary, to adopt is to take and rear the child of other parents as one's own, specifically by a formal legal act.  Adoption has deep significant personal meaning for me.  I am an adopted child.  It turns out that November is National Adoption Month, which I was not aware of until a few days ago - clearly, Hallmark has failed miserably in creating some kind of card or pseudo-holiday (e.g. Grandparents' Day) for said month.  Or maybe it's that I don't give being adopted a second thought.

Due to the legalization of abortion and the acceptance and glamorization of single motherhood ("16 and Pregnant" - I'm talking to you), adoption is not as widespread today as it was when I was adopted in the middle of the 1960's (thank you, sexual revolution, for hastening my arrival).  Adoption was a very different thing then.  The vast majority of adoptions were closed - the birth parents signed away all rights and had no idea to whom their child was going.  The adoptive parent had no idea about the birth parents, nor would the adopted child.  My adoption was a closed one.  And all these years later, I am totally cool with that fact.

I can't remember a time not knowing I was adopted.  Nor do I remember when I was told.  It clearly was not an earth-shattering event for me but I have always remembered how being adopted was explained to me.  As my parents told me, we were meant to be a family from before we were born.  Once here in this earthly life, for whatever reason, my parents were unable to have children, so another way had to be found for me, as well as my younger sister who is also adopted, to get to our family.  That way was through another woman who served as the vessel that brought me to this life.  Once I was born, two days later I was placed into the arms of my parents and the family that we were meant to be was under way.  This was would replay itself when my sister joined our family.  This explanation made complete sense to me then and it still does today. 

I honestly do not recall fretting much, if ever, about being adopted.  My parents, my honorable father, who I miss terribly, and my mother are my parents.  I am their first-born son.  The unknown woman who gave birth to me is someone whom I honor for bringing me to life.  I owe her an eternal debt of gratitude and were I ever to meet her in this life, I'd say thank you for giving me the life that you did by giving me up.  I've had an incredible life.

Adoption gave me amazing parents, a family, experiences and a way of life that is a part of the fabric of who I am to this day.  I'm grateful for God's plan that got me to where I was supposed to be all those many years ago.  I admire those that choose to give a child up for adoption.  It is an act of love that can hardly be comprehended.  I honor those who choose to adopt a child.  Words cannot adequately express what that act, so simply defined by the dictionary, does for that child that becomes theirs.  So let me just say with a full heart, thank you.

10 November 2011

Tis the season...for a layoff

Yeah, I've been pointed towards the exit as well
Ah, the fourth quarter of the year.  A time when most people start thinking of stuffing themselves stupid at Thanksgiving.  That is quickly followed by a veritable orgy of spending on gifts for Christmas/Hannakuh/Kwanzaa/Festivus (pick your poison) and spending time with family.  Or not (again, pick your poison).

But for some people, it's a different time of year.  Yes, it's a magical time to get employees off the books.  It's that time of year called layoff season lo and behold, my employer celebrates this season.

How do I know?  Because I was the recipient of a layoff notice earlier this week.  My last day with my current employer is 8 December.  Just in time for the holidays! 

My wife's reaction upon absorbing the news - "You know you get to do all the Christmas shopping and decorating."  My reaction to said comment - "Um, that's going to end badly.  Very badly."  We laughed.  OK, that wasn't her first reaction, but it's an example of why I married this amazing woman.  As someone said to me earlier this week, "You married way above yourself."  Yeah, I know.

Frankly, we've laughed a lot in the last 48 hours since getting the news.  Laughter beats tears.  Besides, as anyone who knows me knows that tears get you nowhere here.  This action was not unexpected.  My employer has been going through an ongoing transformation and its business strategy is one I agree with.  It is a well-respected powerhouse of a company and the steps it's taking here are good ones.  Now, it's no picnic for those of us caught in the blowback of layoffs, but here's the thing - I've been through this more than once and it's always turned out OK.

I don't want to get all cliche-ridden here, but I've found that when one proverbial door closes, another opens and good stuff is waiting on the other side.  That's been the case my whole career.  So I really am OK with what's happening.  Do I wish it not now?  Sure.  But I honestly believe this is going to be OK.

I'm enormously grateful to my network of colleagues and friends who are already all over this news, sending me leads and support.  I am blessed beyond measure.  I really am.  I wonder how I'm going to repay all the kindness.

So, it's going to be an interesting few weeks here in the Den.  I'll be blogging this new adventure.  It's going to be a ride.


06 November 2011

Falling Back

Growing up in Arizona (shudder), I never had to deal with that semi-annual ritual of clock changing known as Daylight Saving Time.   Having since lived in Utah, Florida, California, and Illinois, DST has become a part of our lives as well.  The trouble is after all these years of living in a DST zone, I'm still not used to it.  Springing forward, falling back...it still confuses me.  And it does my internal body clock no favors either.  I woke up at 445AM today - had the clocks not fallen back an hour that would have been sleeping in as it would have been 545AM.  Sadly, 545AM really is sleeping in for me.

Now that we've fallen back an hour, it got me to thinking, well, more like looking back.  Specifically looking back on the last couple of months.  First, I found myself contemplating much of the counsel and teachings that were on offer during October's General Conference of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and as I've recommitted to studying those discourses again, I find myself filled with hope.  Hope for this world, hope for my family, and hope for myself and my own fight to be a better man.

I've also had the chance to look back on the wedding of Our Lady of Awesome and Awesome since we got the official wedding pictures earlier this week.  It was quite an experience to relive what was such a short time ago, but seems like it was forever ago.  By the standards, and you have no idea how loosely I'm using that word, of that skankasorous Kim Kardashian, the Awesomes have been married forever at this point.  It's been a lot of fun to relive that day and to see a lot of what the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I missed that day, particularly at the reception.  Still wish we could have tried some of the food - based on the pictures, it looked like it was good.

One picture in particular grabbed me as I went through them.  It was a little jarring to see this picture as I found myself looking back on that day:
Who's got his back to the camera? 
There was no looking back for me in this picture.  Our Lady of Awesome and I had just finished our "father-daughter" dance and she was now in the arms of a young man with whom she'll spend the rest of her life and eternity.  It was a good moment, a really good one.  But it was a good thing I was looking down and had my back to the camera.  I was kind of a mess.

So it's been fun to look back at the pictures.  In doing so, I find myself incredibly excited about what the future holds for them and what it holds for CAL, The Boy, and for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me.  I'm confident it won't be dull.  That much I know for certain.

02 November 2011

When a crash landing isn't a crash

Not a crash-landing
By now, many of you have seen the spectacular footage of a LOT-Polish Airlines 767-300 landing in Warsaw sans landing gear.  It was amazing.  Simply amazing.

You want to know what else was amazing?  The media coverage, especially led by that Oracle of Hysteria, Fox News.  That's how I first learned of the incident.  I was at work and Fox News is played ad nauseum on the plasma screens throughout the building.  Out the corner of my eye, I saw the news ticker screaming about a crash-landing in Warsaw.  CRASH-LANDING IN WARSAW!  And then it went to the disturbing Ken-doll like anchor who kept repeating "Crash-landing in Warsaw!"  And then Fox flipped to the video footage of the landing...umm, this was not a crash landing.  This was a textbook perfect landing, just missing landing gear.  Even the passengers, the ones who had been informed four hours into the flight that there was going to be trouble, said the landing felt almost perfect.  The Captain and his crew, from what can be seen, did pretty much everything right.  They are to be commended and congratulated for what they did.

Who did not do everything right? Fox News, that's who.  FYI - Fox, what happened in Warsaw was not a crash landing.  To make it easier for you the next time there is an incident involving an airliner, I'm giving you a couple of images of crash landings:
Slamming into the ground at Amsterdam...crash-landing

Cart-wheeling in the Indian Ocean...crash-landing
So, that's my one and only favor to you, Fox.  Keep it in mind and please be aware of the differences in the future.  Ahh, Fox News, the home of fantasy, fearsome fables, and ridiculous rhetoric since 1996.  Now that I've done you a favor, can you do us all one?  Please stop.  Just stop.  Thank you.

31 October 2011

A fright in Provo

From time to time, I've posted a link to my fine alma mater's (BYU) student paper, the Daily Universe, and its compelling crime coverage found in the riveting 'Police Beat' column.  It makes for some of the best reading ever.  I checked in today and was not disappointed in the latest coverage of crime in Provo.  I have to share:


Criminal Mischief
October 23: A Provo resident complained of loud "hooting and hollering" coming from the Creamery parking lot.  The police arrived on the scene at 12:40 a.m..  Twelve students from Heritage Halls were listening to Beyonce; they were warned and released. 

Imagine the horror, the spine-tingling fear, and fright these Provo residents experienced as they heard twelve BYU students screeching along to Beyonce from the Creamery parking lot.  No wonder they were terrified!  What scares me is that it was probably at least a half dozen freshmen trying to do an all-male, shot-by-shot recreation of the "Single Ladies" video.  And the greater crime being committed at the Creamery, can I just tell you, is what's coming off the fryer and out of the ice cream serving area.  Those are crimes against humanity.

I wish I was making up this scary story, but I'm not.  Read it here.  Don't let it keep you up on this Halloween night.

29 October 2011

On the trail to Eagle

In my church service, I've noted in the past that I serve in a bishopric (leadership that oversees a local ward, which is like a diocese).  In that role, I oversee the Boy Scout program, which, for me, is a bit of a challenge, for a host of reasons.  Let's just say that I'm not a Scouter and can safely say I won't ever be - it is simply not in my DNA.  And I am more than fine with that.

In the last few weeks, though, I've been faced with having to take a much more active role in Scouting since the Boy is working through his Eagle project.  He has taken the lead on this entire project.  The seed of the idea came from a great leader who opened a door for the Boy to run with a really good project.  The Boy is collecting books for prisoners in the Kane County Jail system.  He put together a collection system, worked with local vendors to get bags for the collection and last Saturday, he and his troop mates distributed 300 bags in the neighborhood.  Today was a collection day and he got more than 40 bags back.  We haven't counted all the books yet, but it looks like he's cleared more than 600 books.  With the collection complete, it's now clean up the donations, deliver 'em, and finish his project.  The Eagle chapter in his life story will be written and done!  I'm proud of him and his mother and I will be more than a little relieved that it's done.

He's done a much better job with his Eagle project than I did.  Yes, I did get my Eagle Scout award.  As noted previously, a Scouter I am not, and I certainly wasn't one when I was 11, 12, 13 years old.  So my parents used the 'carrot and stick' method to incent me to get my Eagle.  Essentially, if I got my Eagle done, I could be done with Scouting.  This made the decision easy.  Here's why:

At the age when Scouts go to Scout Camp, we had a condominium in San Carlos, Mexico, a little town just outside Guaymas, Mexico.  It was a glorious place, right on the beach.  It was undiscovered by turistas and it was an amazing place to be!  See for yourself:
Condominium Pilar
But, I had to bail in order to experience something akin to this Dickensian nightmare:
One of these things is not like the other
So, what would you do?  If that isn't a rhetorical question, I don't know what is.  I'll tell you what I did.  I got my Eagle as fast as I could.  I wanted to be in Mexico instead of Scout Camp in the worst way.  I got my Eagle about four months shy of my 14th birthday and was delighted to be done with Scouting.  I was honest about the award - I gave it to my Mom.  She deserved it.  She's the one who pushed me through it.  So she's a good Eagle.  She should be in the Eagle's Nest at Court of Honors instead of me.

The Boy has done a great job with his Eagle project.  I'm proud of him.  He deserves all the accolades associated with the award when it's given to him.  He's well down the road to being a better man.

24 October 2011

Moderation - a word of caution

I go into a bank so rarely anymore that when I do, it's an event.  This morning was one of those events, but the trip into the branch wasn't today's big deal.

Learning that the McRib is back was today's big deal.  Let me first say, I have no desire to eat one of these travesties.  Ever.  I don't think that I've been more terrified of a food item in my life.  Just trying to contemplate how the "meat," and I use that term loosely, is molded to form its rib-like shape sends me into a corner, where I curl into the fetal position and begin to sob uncontrollably.

Now this is not a diatribe against McDonalds - I'm no food snob.  There's very little I won't eat (I give you the balut as evidence) but long ago, I had the good sense to draw the line at that sodium-laden weapon of mass destruction.  

Hearing that it was only going to be back for a limited time, gave me some comfort.  Maybe, just maybe, the concept of 'moderation' is taking hold.  I'm probably wrong, but moderation is a good thing.  We've been taught that too much of a good thing is no good and the evidence of too much of a bad thing is everywhere.  Even the Father has taught that we do things in moderation, particularly when it comes to eating.  The Word of Wisdom teaches:

Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof;
all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord,
have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving;
nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
 
Far be it from me to even guess the mind of God, but I've got to think He'd be voting no on the McRib.  Moderation is making a lot of sense right now.

21 October 2011

Travels with my kids - The Boy

Inasmuch as the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I had three children, today's installment of "Travels with my kids" will be the last.  This features the Boy.  As is often the case with the youngest child, they tend to benefit from tired parents, busier older siblings, etc.  So the Boy has had more than a few trips with Dad.

Our first big trip together was back in August 2002.  Six years earlier, when the Boy was almost a year old, SML and I took one of our getaway trips to New York City.  Our good friends were living in Connecticut and had just had twins, so we figured why not go visit them and make their lives all the more chaotic.  We had a great time and during that trip we found ourselves in Newport, Rhode Island.  While there, we found a big crowd watching a bunch of kids flying all over the place on the skate boards.  We learned we'd stumbled upon the second X Games.  It was fun to watch but I didn't give it much more thought.

Fast forward six years to the summer of 2002 and we've got a six year old who has gone native as a Southern Californian.  His skate board was his life and we'd caught a little bit of the X Games in San Diego a couple of years earlier so I got it in my head that it would be some kind of awesome to take the Boy to Philadelphia for Summer X Games 8.  And that is precisely what we did.  We flew out to Philadelphia and Mother United treated us very well.  We stayed downtown.  We took the subway (the Boy's first!) to and from the First Union Center for the couple of days we were there for the Games.  Even then, the Boy knew how to work the charm he'd been born with. He became completely obsessed with the one of the mountain boards that was on display and he wound up spending hours at one of the vendor's selling them.  He got all sorts of time on their ramp and learned a few things that he tried to put in practice when we got home (of course, he got one those boards for his birthday the next month).  We had a great time watching gravity being defied, sweating in the humid, Philly summer, and taking in all that is Philly.

We ate our way through the Reading Terminal Market but I'll never forget our dinner in Chinatown.  We found a restaurant that looked amazing and where English was merely a suggestion.  Once again, the Boy turned on the charm with the waitresses.  Our order wound up being interpreted as "Surprise us!"  The Boy was a champ, trying each and every thing they brought out to us. The waitstaff and the chefs came out and seemed to get a huge kick out of it.  I'm still not certain of what they served us, but hey, neither of us died that weekend.

I'll never forget the flight back though.  It was only eleven months after 9/11 and if you think the TSA is inept now, it was an unmitigated train wreck back then.  Each day, rules and requirements were changing and it was also the days of the dreaded "SSS" printed on your boarding pass.  Upon check-in, I noticed that the Boy had gotten the imprint on his boarding pass.  Knowing it was random, I couldn't get him reassigned.  This was also when secondary gate checks were the norm.  So when we got up to pre-board, a couple of the TSA goons stood at attention at the jetway, all sorts of ready to pull aside the poor random selectees.  Upon seeing taking the Boy's boarding pass with the "SSS" on it, the she/male from the TSA announces that the Boy has to be taken to the side for further inspection and no, I am not allowed to come along.  I'm sorry, what did you say, SheBeast?  I grabbed the Boy's hand and said he'd be going nowhere without me.  Shim said then you aren't getting on the plane.  I informed her/him that under no circumstances was my child being patted down without me being there.  Several passengers joined me in a loud protest as to the ludicrousness of what they were trying to do.  The United agent/angel at the gate intervened seeing that I was about ready to lose a vital organ and told the TSA dolt that as the parent I was in fact allowed to accompany my child and did the TSA really want to take the blame for delaying the flight.  Shim relented and another goon came over and did a cursory pat down of the Boy.  They quickly discovered that his Legos and Pop-Tarts were harmless (well, that Pop-Tarts are harmless is a dubious claim at best, but that's another post) and we were on our way down the Jetway and on our way to LAX.  An eventful end to an otherwise awesome trip.

The Boy and I would go on to X Games 10 and 11.  Easy to do since both were in LA.  For Games 10, we went fancy and hung out at the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena.  It all came full circle for Games 11, when my friend with whom we'd seen X Games 2 in Rhode Island brought his twins to LA and the five of us did the Games.  It was a lot of fun.

So, there have been lots of other travels with my kids.  It's been to chronicle some of the highlights of the trips we've been able to share.  I'm a better man because of the time I've gotten with my children.  Selfishly, I should spend more time with them - I'd be all the better for it!

16 October 2011

Travels with my kids - CAL

Welcome to the second installment of "Travels with my kids," wherein I share stories of traveling with my children when they were younger.  Today's story: CAL.

Shortly before moving to California, while I was still working for a major aircraft manufacturer, I had the chance to take CAL up to city where the company was headquartered and where the planes were manufactured.  We were off on a weekend trip to Seattle.  Three guesses as to the name of the company I was working for at that time...

Anyway, the purpose of the trip was pure fun.  I didn't have to work.  It was a chance to take CAL up to what I think is a really beautiful city and to take in some aspects of it that make an airline/airplane dork such as myself very, very happy.  CAL was probably about six years old when we made this trip.  That's a fun age - lots of good questions, a sense of adventure, and I think she still thought I was the greatest Dad ever then.

We flew up to SEA on the Big Eskimo.  I'll always remember boarding that flight with CAL.  This was back in the day when families could still pre-board and we took advantage of that.  CAL was all bravado as she marched down that jetway, straight passed the flight attendant at R1 and straight into the galley through the open service door at L1 onto the galley service truck.  She was half-way into the service truck before we could grab her and redirect her.  The crew had a good laugh and they took great care of us as we made our way into the Pacific Northwest.

We arrived into SEA in the evening, made our way straight to the hotel, and it was fun to order room service with CAL.  The next day we rented a car and I took her into Seattle, showing her Pikes Place Market and letting her watch salmon being tossed around like Nerf footballs.  We saw some of the other sites of the city.  It was then off to the Museum of Flight, one of my favorite places.  CAL was a good sport, as I recall.  That's one of things about her - she's always been a good sport.

After a good day, it was back to the hotel for more room service.  Turns out, kids love room service.  The next day, we were on our way back to PHX, once again on the Big Eskimo.  CAL boarded the plane without incident this time.  Before we knew it, the trip was over.  We were back home.

This had to be twelve years ago.  Some days it seems like it was just yesterday.  Other days, as I hear about all she's doing during her first semester at BYU-I, it seems like it was a million years ago.  CAL's growing up and she's having the time of her life.  I'm proud of her, really proud of her.  I hope that now that she's grown up, she remembers this trip we took so long ago.  I do.  Reminds of how good it is to be her Dad.

14 October 2011

Cabbie Wisdom

It's been a crazy couple of work weeks, ones chock full o' planes, trains, and automobiles.  I had to be in the city today so I took the train in and I had to beat down my inner cheap demon and get a cab to my destination.  I rarely, if ever, take cabs but I had to do so today.

As I jumped in the cab and we hurtled down Adams, I realized that I pretty much never buckle my seat belt while in a cab.  Even after getting in a fender bender in a cab last month, I never think to wear a seat belt while in a cab.  Or a black car/town car for that matter.  This, my friends, is a foolish decision.  All the while as the cabbie bobbed and weaved his way up Michigan Avenue, as I pondered why I don't wear a seat belt while being driven around, I didn't bother to put one on.
Check here for not bright.

After my meetings today and an obligatory stop at Wow Bao, (editorial note - the pumpkin bao are outstanding!) I needed to grab a cab again in order to make the express train back to the 'burbs.  My cabbie greeted me as I jumped in and I really don't think I paid much attention.  Since it was rush hour, what is normally a ten minute cab ride was going to be a little longer.  The cabbie got chatty.  Turned out to be a very interesting discussion.  He asked me what I did for a living and if I had to interact much with the public.  After a brief explanation of what I did, he started talking about what he experiences as a cabbie.  Can I tell you that pretty much none of it was good?

He seemed genuinely decent and expressed his frustration at the overwhelming rudeness of the public in general.  What came of it is that he's treated as if he doesn't exist.  People seem to have no issue with being unbearably rude to him he said.  He admitted that most cabbies don't do themselves any favors, but this guy was really trying to be decent.  He told me of fares unbearable rudeness and insane behavior (thank you cable TV for the inspiration for that...).  All he really wanted was to be treated with a level of decency.  Never once did he raise his voice.  It was a good two-way discussion.

I thought about some of the cabbies I've run into around the world - the hack in London who turned off the meter to play tour guide one time; the Ethiopian cabbie in Washington DC who recommended some of his favorite places to eat; then there was the cabbie in Amsterdam who, for all intents and purposes, robbed me.  And then I usually learn some fun Arabic swear words from the black car drivers from the car service I use in New York.  For the most part, I've always had good cabbies and drivers.  I like to think I've always been respectful of them.  I probably haven't been.  My cabbie today reminded me that at our base level, we just want to be treated like we are all human beings with a little respect.  Doesn't seem like that's too much to ask, right?

10 October 2011

I Am.

I am a man.
I am a husband (a pretty good one, most of the time).
I am a father (hopefully, my three children would say a pretty good one).
I am a father-in-law (ask Awesome how I'm doing on that one).
I am a son and son-in-law.
I am a brother.
I am a friend.
I am a reader, a foodie, and a very repentant runner.
I am a son of God.
I am a believer in Christ.  I believe in Him.
I am one who knows that He lives and that He is my Redeemer.
I am a Christian.
I am a Mormon.

No matter what may be said from the bully pulpit of the media, I know who I am.

09 October 2011

Making Up

Earlier this year, July 12 to be exact, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML celebrated another birthday.  Sadly, and I'm not going to cop any other excuse, I forgot it.  Pure bad on my part.  That is all.

Since then, I've been trying to find a way to make up for said humungous oversight.  That opportunity presented itself this weekend.  The Boy was headed downstate with some friends and we had a free weekend.  I decided to take advantage of it and surprise this amazing woman who has, well, had a quite a ride with me over the last twenty-three years. 

So Friday afternoon, I told her we were heading into the city for dinner and to pack an overnight bag.  Shortly thereafter, we were heading into the city.  First sign of success - traffic was blessedly light.  This is unheard of on a Friday night in Chicago.  Unheard of, can I just tell you?  We were soon here:
Four Seasons Chicago
This hotel is pretty much our favorite get-away in the city.  They pretty much do everything perfectly.  Upon check-in, we learned we'd been upgraded to one of their corner suites on the 32nd floor.  The views down the famed Michigan Avenue and out to the west were incredible.  Incredible! 

Gents, if you need to atone for forgetting a birthday/anniversary or doing something stupid, take my advice on make a reservation at the nearest Four Seasons now for you and your wife.  Trust me when I tell you that doing so will go a long way in making up for it.

So, things kept going well.  Mother Nature, who can be a tad shrewish here (and that is an epic understatement), was on her best behavior.  Friday night could not have been more beautiful as we walked down State Street to the steak joint where I'd scored reservations.  It's Marathon Weekend so the city was PACKED with carbo-loaders so it was a little tricky scoring tables.  It was so good to have the time together and to enjoy this city.

Even better was sleeping in - OK, I got up at 6AM, which is sleeping late for me.  I went for a run along Lake Shore Drive.  There is no better backdrop for city running than downtown Chicago.  None.  Tons o'marathoners getting their last runs in and man, I feel sorry for them.  It's going to be warm, borderline hot, for their run today.  It was warm yesterday.  Can't imagine what they are feeling today...well, yes I can. 

We then headed out for breakfast at a Greek diner and took in the sun and the vibe of this great city.  The shrine in front of the Apple store in Steve Jobs' memory was drawing quite a crowd.  But we didn't linger.  It was just so good to be marching around, hand in hand, with my wife.

Soon enough, we had to call it a morning, check out, and head back to the 'burbs.  Delighted to say, it was a fantastic weekend.  I'm also committed to not forgetting the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML's birthday again.  Ever.

05 October 2011

Travels with my kids - Our Lady of Awesome

Ever since I heard the challenge this past weekend to ensure that I don't let popular culture diminish my role as a father, I've been pondering what I've done as a father.  I like to think that I didn't let pop culture diminish my role and I think I'm right.  At least I hope so.  So as I've pondered that challenge, I've been thinking about my children and what we've done together as they grew up.

I traveled an obscene amount when the kids were younger.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I calculated that one year I was on the road and gone six full months.  This when the kids were all under seven.  Yikes.  No wonder Our Lady of Awesome's kindergarten teacher thought I was a pilot.  I wasn't.

Anyway, that travel did allow me to take the kids on the road from time to time.  I remember the first time that Our Lady of Awesome and I took our first trip together.  It was 1993.  I wanted my first-born to meet her paternal great-grandmother, my Grandmommy, who was living in North Carolina under the care of my amazing aunt Robin.  So I found a free weekend and I booked a trip for the two of us.  Just me and my three-year old.  Suddenly I was the passenger who made me freak.  One parent traveling with a child.  A young child.  Aargh!

We flew USAir (this was way before they morphed into what they are today - Great Satan of the Skies).  Full meal service that you didn't have to pay for and movies.  Our Lady seemed to like her Child's Meal (yeah, this was when you could order special meals).  I remember she was awesome on both flights.

Our weekend with my late Grandmommy was wonderful.  I have in my mind's eye a picture of Our Lady of Awesome on her great-grandmother's hospital bed, as Grandmommy showed her great-grandaughter one of the little pieces of jewelry she'd created.  I'm betting it was one of the pins she made from a discarded lens from a pair of glasses. 

Our flight back was memorable.  It was packed but I was prepared.  Knowing that the flight was during Our Lady's regular nap time, I knew the nearly five hours from Philadelphia could get dicey.  The answer?  Drink chits.  Yep, I'm not proud of it but I passed out free drink chits to everyone around me.  This made all the difference.  The guy sitting next to us was an older man who had an enormous, fading tattoo (this was before tattoos became the heinous, soul-crushing plague that they are today) of a tiger on his forearm that frightened/captivated Our Lady.  She was wary of at first.  But as a couple of drinks brought down his level of tension, he seemed less scary to her.  He didn't seem to mind that she was more interested in his meal than the tots that came with her child's meal.  He then got the brilliant idea to start flexing his flabby old arm to make the tiger move.  Our Lady laughed and laughed.  Captivated her for hours.  I was never so grateful for a tattoo, can I just tell you?

That was eighteen years ago, at least.  That was just one trip.  It meant a lot to me.  I had a chance to connect Our Lady with her family.  I'm fairly certain she doesn't remember it.  But I do.  I'm glad we made that trip. 

03 October 2011

Post-Conference Thoughts

Typically, after a weekend of General Conference, with my inadequacies and short-comings on display in stark relief, I find myself just a little, well and I hate to say this, depressed.  Not this time though.  This past weekend was amazing.  It was a weekend of learning.  I also felt myself challenged but not in an insurmountable way.  The challenges I heard were ones that I feel like I can get through...with work, but I can get through them.

Here's some things I heard (maybe not new things in every case but things I needed to hear):
  • "God's greatest desire is to help us reach our full potential." - President Uchtdorf
  • "Repentance is a desire to change, to strive to overcome." - Elder Christofferson
  • "The Book of Mormon is either word of God or of Satan.  Read it and find out." - Elder Callister (way to boldly throw down the gauntlet!)
  • "Don't let popular culture diminish your role as a father." - Sister Dalton.  That made me think long and hard about the kind of father I've been to my children, especially my daughters.
  • "It is never too late to begin to choose eternal life." - Elder Bennett
I couldn't help but laugh a bit to myself when I heard the "choose eternal life" reference.  Every time I hear anything remotely referencing "choose life," as someone who came of age in the early 80's, you know where I go - that video.  That Wham! video.  You know the one.  Flourescent colors.  Entirely too short shorts and oversized sweatshirts, boldly proclaiming "Choose Life."  So I had to work quickly to get that tune right out of my head.  Fortunately, I was victorious.

It was an excellent weekend of learning.  I'm eager to listen to the instruction again.  I can already start reading the talks now and so can you.  Go here to read more.

30 September 2011

Conference Memories

This Saturday and Sunday, October 1 and 2, a veritable herd of, or whatever you want to call 100,000 give or take, Mormons from around the world will descend upon the Mother Ship, Salt Lake City, for the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  This will be the 181st semiannual instance of Conference and it's an amazing opportunity to feast upon the counsel and guidance of those we believe to be prophets and apostles.  Their counsel is timely, thought-provoking, and challenging, especially for those of us who make mistakes with some degree of frequency.  To read a better description of Conference, read this from the Washington Post.

Conference played a huge role in my life growing up.  My parents went every year for as long as I can remember.  As a result, when I was a child, Conference weekends in the spring and fall meant baby-sitters, some cool, some not.  My parents would often have newly-married couples stay with us, giving them a peek into the world of having children.  This usually did not end well for those couples, but that's another post.  When I turned 12, I got to go to Conference for the first time - kind of my own first Hajj (well, not really).  My friend Adam went with me.  We flew to Salt Lake City on our own on this airline:
NOT a banana!
My parents met us in Salt Lake City and we stayed here:
The Hotel Utah
What a place the Hotel Utah was!  Steeped in history and you could sense that history in every step through its halls.  At that time, it still had the toilets with the tanks half-way up the wall of the bathroom.  Cracked me up.  What did not crack me up was sitting in the Tabernacle on the old wooden pews for one of the two-hour sessions of Conference.  My twelve year old can would have much preferred to be sitting on a cushion at that point.

When I was a freshman at BYU, Conference was a great weekend to impress the ladies - I was usually able to score tickets, good tickets, through my dad and it was pretty cool, or at least I, in my awkward, deluded 18 year old head, thought it was to take a date.  It probably wasn't.

My first weekend in the mission field after two months in the MTC learning Spanish was Conference weekend.  It was a little disconcerting to walk out of the Saturday afternoon session of the Hialeah chapel to see two alligators sunning themselves on the lawn of the church.  That was the same weekend I was introduced to the magic of the all-you-can-eat Cuban buffet at King Yayo's on W. 49th Street.

Fast-forward to 2007...I'm the father of a son who has just turned 12 and it's time for three generations of Lyons' men to meet for Conference.  The Boy and I flew out to Salt Lake City and met my Mom and Dad.  We took Dad down to BYU and spent some serious quality time together.  The highlight was the Saturday evening Priesthood session where the three of us would attend together for the only time, as Dad would be gone two years later.  Conference was a powerful source of spiritual food and rejuvenation for my Dad and it was an honor to be there with him and my son.

So Conference weekend is here again.  Take it in if you can.  It's open to all.  Go here to find out how to watch it or listen to it.  And if you happen to be in Salt Lake City and have some spare tickets, the Middle-Aged Mormon Man is looking for some.  He'll be the guy in a white shirt and may or may not be pulling a handcart.