28 June 2011

Declaring an emergency

The commute home today was extra-long and for some agonizing reason, the southbound lanes of the tollway came to a screeching halt alongside O'Hare.  I had a perfect view of Terminal 5 and the conga line of wide-body aircraft getting ready for their return flights to Europe and Asia.  My inner airplane dork was more than satisfied.  Several of the planes belonged to Mother United, including several Boeing 777's.  In all likelihood, I'd probably flown on most of those planes.  My heavy flying days are on hiatus and I kind of miss it.  As I looked at that line of planes, my mind went back to a flight out of London Heathrow on one of those 777's...

It was several years ago and I was basically commuting to London.  I mostly took UA934 out of LAX and UA935 on the return.  The crews were pretty familiar to me and I had my routine.  Almost always seated on the aisle in 13B in Business Class.  It looked like this:
Yep, the old school Business Class seat on the old gray mare

This flight was no different.  UA935, the LHR-LAX nonstop.  I was in 13B.  It was a full flight, as I recall.  I didn't need a menu.  I knew I'd be eating chicken jeerza.  Say what you will about airline food but the Indian meals out of LHR weren't bad.  Anyway, shortly after take off, the guy next to me in 13A asked me if I could hear a hissing noise.  Sure enough, there was a pretty persistent hissing coming from one of the side panels but we didn't think much of it.  Well, I didn't.  About two hours into the flight, over the icy North Atlantic, I had finished my salad and my chicken jeerza had just been plated, when a series of chimes rang and a couple of lights illuminated at the Business Class Galley service center.  The purser who was serving our side of the cabin basically dropped what she was doing and bolted forward.  A few minutes later, there were more chimes and suddenly, several of the flight attendants headed forward while others stood at their jumpseats on the interphones. 

I've flown more than enough to know something was askew.  Suddenly that hissing noise didn't seem so innocuous anymore.  I also knew that this airplane was an amazing piece of technology.  My years of working for Boeing taught me that but that being said, something was up.  Now, all the flight attendants took positions at the head of each cabin.  Then, the captain came on and announced that we were suffering some "significant" issues with one of our two engines and that we were declaring an emergency and returning to London.  At that very moment, the cabin went dead silent.  Literally you could have heard a pin drop.  I was no longer interested in my chicken jeerza.  The captain then instructed us to listen to the instructions of the flight attendants.  Oh goodie...the purser then came on and explained that all services were terminated and that as she got more information from the captain, they would give us additional information.

Well, you've never seen a cabin of a 777 get cleaned up so fast.  My chicken jeerza, one bite gone, was snatched away from me.  At this point, I was fine with that.  So then began the longest 90 minutes of my life.  At about 45 minutes out, we had more announcements - we'd be making an emergency landing, and while it was expected to be normal, the flight attendants would be walking us through some information.  Like what to do if things weren't normal.  Lovely.  At about 30 minutes out, one of the flight attendants came up to me and 13A to ask us if we would help in the event they were incapacitated if (BIG IF) things weren't normal upon landing.  We both said yes and got a crash (ooh bad pun) course in the emergency instructions card.  Again, I noticed how stunningly quiet it was on this plane.  We only had one engine working so that made it even quieter.  I was never so glad to look out and see the green countryside of England. 

At about ten minutes out, we were told that there would be fire trucks following us upon landing but we shouldn't worry.  As if we hadn't been worrying for the last two hours.  We were also advised that they didn't think we'd have to assume the "brace" position either.  At that point, my mind was pretty much focused on what to do if things did go wonky upon landing.  I was certain I'd be getting out of that plane.  The last few minutes of approach were the longest.ever. 

That touchdown at LHR was the sweetest and smoothest ever.  Sure enough, a flotilla of fire trucks sped alongside us as we made our way to a "safe" area off the runway.  Once we stopped, there was some clapping.  A couple of minutes, we got the green light to leave the plane - via the stairs.  No slides for us.  We were walking off in one piece.

Suffice to say that flight was cancelled and I got another night in LHR on Mother United's dime.  It was a fun phone call home to the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML explaining why I was going to be a little tardy.  I got my chicken jeerza the next day on our rescheduled flight.  I was happy.

That trip down memory lane was courtesy of a traffic jam on the tollway today.  I miss those international trips.

25 June 2011

Closing the gap

Today, our Church's weekly news publication, the Church News, arrived.  It was the 4 June issue.  For whatever reason, it takes three, count 'em three, weeks for the current issue to get to us here in the Midwest from the Mother Ship in Salt Lake City.  Seriously, USPS, three weeks.  And you wonder why you continue to run a deficit in the billions!  Anyway, this week's issue featured more new Mission President's who will begin their three-year service in July.  I was delighted to see that one of my companions from my mission service more than 25 years ago has been called to serve as a Mission President.  We were Zone Leader's together and then he succeeded me as an Assistant when I went home.  I was not at all surprised to see him called to this incredible service.  He was amazing then and it's obvious he still is.

When I think about his being called to this service, I realize that I've got so much growing and learning to do in this life.  I've been in a bit of an introspective mood this week.  I've been thinking about the gaps, or should I say chasms, that separate me from the person I am and the person I should be.  I think it was brought on by last Sunday's change in our Bishopric.  I was released as a 2nd Counselor and called as 1st Counselor.  I'm serving with these great men:
I'm really grateful for their tutelage and mentoring.  And I'm even more grateful for their patience.  I'm looking forward to continuing to serve and to learn.

So, I've got some work to do on closing the gaps referenced above.  I realize that I'm in control of getting it done.  That makes it all the more interesting, right?

22 June 2011

The Library

There's something about a stack of books that I can't resist.  I like the tactile sensation of opening a book, rustling its pages, and pondering where that read will take me.  It's no wonder that I like libraries.

Libraries have changed.  A lot.  It's kind of, no, it's totally distressing that some libraries have DVD/CD sections that are bigger than their book sections.  But it's still comforting to see the reference sections, the periodical sections with creepy and unexplainable titles like "Cat Fancy," and posters that explain the nearly dead Dewey Decimal System.  There's something comforting about old Dewey  C'mon, my fellow word nerds, you know what I'm talking about!

I don't get to our local library enough.  It's been way too easy to buy a book via Amazon or even quicker getting it on my Kindle.  The sagging bookshelves in my office are a testament to my love of books.  But with the impending wedding of Our Lady of BYU and Awesome, I need to rethink my discretionary purchases, so I'm laying off buying books and taking advantage of the library.

Here's what I'm reading now as a result of my run to the library this afternoon:
1861: The Civil War Awakening - Adam Goodheart - reading this to continue feeding my Lincoln obsession
Googled - Ken Auletta - reading this because, after all, won't we all be bowing at the altar of Google soon?
747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet - Joe Sutter - needing to feed my inner airplane dork something awful
Rough Stone Rolling - Richard Bushman - a 'cultural' history of Joseph Smith.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML gave me this for Father's Day.  Perfect timing after the Nauvoo trip.

Anything else I should be reading?  Let me know.  Leave a comment with your suggestions.

19 June 2011

Faith in every footstep

As noted in my previous post, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and had the 'opportunity' to travel with the youth from our local congregation, or stake, to the former swamp known as Nauvoo, IL for their annual youth conference.  We left bright and early Thursday morning and returned late last night.  I'd like to take a moment for a bit of self-congratulation for the uber-wise decision to drive our own car.  I'll say nothing more of that.

The three days really were amazing.  I'd not had an opportunity to see the historical sites of Nauvoo in my previous visits and I was in awe.  Nauvoo's significance in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ cannot be downplayed.  It was a gathering place, a place of refuge, a tremendous place of learning, and a place of epic spiritual outpouring.  Spending time in that city gave me a sense of what happened there and filled me with a sense of awe as I thought about those who lived there at that time.  These were people who had just joined the Church and whose faith carried them through tremendous trial and tragedy.  As we walked through the Old Nauvoo Cemetery after hearing some amazing stories about people buried there, I was humbled to think of what these early Saints gave as they truly moved with "faith in every footstep.'

It was at that point on Saturday that I began to think of my late father.  In his own way, Dad was a pioneer.  Now, he didn't walk from his childhood home in Philadelphia, PA to Utah.  He drove an old Chevy.  And he wasn't fleeing religious persecution and extermination orders; he was looking to make some coin during the summer.  But that quest for cash led him to my mom and eventually, his conversion to the Gospel.  He blazed a new trail as a member of the Church and set in motion so many great things.  Many of those great things have come my way and on this Father's Day, as I reflect on him and all that he did, I am grateful.  He was a good, good father.  I miss him.  Today especially.

I'm trying, daily, to be the man, husband, and father that he would have me be.  Those are big shoes to fill.  There's a reason I refer to my wife as "stunningly patient."  Fortunately, she gets me and is helping to make a better man.  I'll get there someday.

15 June 2011


First, let me clear that "downstate" does not refer to my current emotional state.  Instead, "downstate" refers to where the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I are headed tomorrow.  The Boy is going too, but he'll be in a bus.  Let me be clear in stating that we, his parents, will not be on the bus.

School's over and it means it's time for Church Youth Conferences.  And we, thanks to me saying 'yes' without thinking it completely through, are going along as chaperones.  165 youth from our area are gathering tomorrow to jump on buses and head 'downstate' to Nauvoo.  We will be leading a group of fifteen kids for the next three days as we 'trek' about this place that holds such significant history for our Church.
I know it's only 14 kids, I couldn't find 15.  This isn't to suggest we've already lost one!
Those that have planned this event have put their whole souls into and I believe it's going to be a great time for those kids who attend.  It will be good to get to know these kids and to help them to get to know Nauvoo.  Nauvoo is a place of great triumph and epic tragedy in the Church's history and it's very important that we remember that history.  It's a reminder that it's not always easy to be faithful to what you believe.  It's a reminder that you can be tested to your very limits as you follow your faith.  I've been to Nauvoo a couple of times but have never seen it from this perspective so I'm curious to see what I'll get from the experience.  I'm hopeful.

While I'm hopeful about a good trip, I also know myself very well, which is why we are driving our own car and not riding one of the buses loaded with 55 14 to 18 year old kids.  It's bad enough that we are going that far (250 some odd miles) and not flying, if you ask me.  To be on a bus playing flight attendant/prison warden...yeah, no can do.  There, I drew the line.

13 June 2011

A repentant runner reports

I once called myself a runner.  After 25 - 30 mile weeks and two half marathons, I felt I deserved the title.  Then things changed and suddenly, I wasn't much of a runner anymore.  I could launch into a list as long as one of my long runs as to why it happened, but I won't.  They are all just excuses.  So now I am calling myself a repentant runner.  A humbled, chastened, repentant runner.

Modern-day revelation teaches that as we sin, we are chastened and we repent (Doctrine and Covenants 1:27).  Well, today, as a repentant runner, I got chastened.  Here's the proof:
A road rash chastens!
The chastening occurred as I was closing in on the second mile of what I had hoped would be a four-miler.  I'm not running with an iPod every time I run as I'm trying to focus on the mechanics of my running without the distraction of Coldplay's new song, "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall," which I am totally hooked on right now, and I was trying to mentally time my stride when I rolled my ankle and went down.  I literally bounced right up thanks to the 10 or more pounds I've gained back since I got slothful.  I guess that may be the one blessing of getting fat again.  It acts as a natural air bag.  Anyway, my ankle was throbbing instantly so that was the end of the run.  Crud.

I get it.  It comes with the territory.  I'm calling myself a repentant runner.  And anyone who's had to go down the road of repentance knows it's not easy.  So, up goes the ankle for the night while I plan my next run.  I don't want to be a repentant runner forever.  Meanwhile, the P90X DVD's sit on my desk, waiting to punish me.  That should be fun.

11 June 2011

The wisdom of wisdom teeth?

Do you wonder, as I sometimes do, how things got their names?  For instance, our teeth.  Molars?  What?  Those teeth don't appear to be mole-like.  Canines?  Hmm...those teeth don't appear to be descended from dogs.  I don't feel compelled to gnaw on a Milk Bone simply because I have a fine set of canines.  And wisdom teeth?  Wisdom?  As defined by dictionary.com, wisdom means the quality or state of being wise, sagacity, discernment or insight.

Apparently, if I apply that definition to my wisdom teeth, or the fact that I have no wisdom teeth, then I lack discernment or insight.  I'm not buying it.  I cannot understand why wisdom teeth are called what they are.  I'm quite certain that CAL would agree with me as well, since she had four, count 'em, all FOUR of her wisdom teeth removed yesterday.  Three of them were impacted.  Good, good times for her.

She came home with the lovely head wrap featured in the picture above.  She is currently not allowing photos of her in this condition to be taken or published.  A certain member of the House of Representatives from New York could learn a thing or two from my daughter's decision to NOT let photos out of her sphere of influence.  But I digress....CAL is mighty swollen and looking like a little worse for wear tonight.  She's got her mother's incredibly high pain threshold though.  Man, she's tough! I can't imagine holding up as well as she is.  I really do not have any wisdom teeth so this is one I can't even say, "Oh honey, I know what you're going through.  It'll get better."  I'm not even going to try and sell her that line.  She's too smart for that.  Even without her 'wisdom' teeth, she's still too smart for that.

So, I see little wisdom in the wisdom of calling them 'wisdom teeth.'  As far as I'm concerned, there is none.  Surely, they could have come up with a better name.  But I guess calling them what they are - "Teeth that you don't need, that will only bring you pain, and empty your parents' wallet" - was a bit too long of a descriptor.

08 June 2011

Open Drawer Syndrome - is there a cure?

Are you suffering from this too?
It's funny how things sneak up on you.  It's kind of like a cold that turns into a full blown swine flu.  Well, it's happened here and I can only hope there is a cure.

What's happened?  Open Drawer Syndrome, that's what.  Never heard of it?  Well, allow me to elaborate.

This insidious syndrome shows up innocently enough.  It starts with one drawer, left slightly ajar in a room.  It lies in wait to see how long it takes for the drawer to be closed.  The longer it stays open, the syndrome looks for another prey.  It seems to enjoy being open and closed frequently.  As a result, bedrooms seem nearly immune from this devil.  So, it moves on.  Its prime target: THE KITCHEN.  Suddenly, one or two drawers will remain inexplicably opened.  It's usually the silverware drawer and then the "drawer of mystery" that everyone has (you know the one - pens from hotels you stayed at eight or nine years ago seem drawn to this drawer) that constantly finds itself open and in need of closing.  It boggles the mind.

I've drawn the following conclusions - my teenage children, CAL and The Boy, seem to have absolutely no idea how this malady continues to strike our home constantly.  I believe that part of the syndrome is to strike at their memories, zapping any recollection they have that once you open something, you close it.  And once the syndrome expands to the cabinets, it's too late.  There appears to be no recovering.  You will be forced to wander your kitchen, smacking your shin on the open "drawer of mystery" and desperately trying to avoid cracking your head open on an open cabinet door.

It's like a "Hot Zone" (awesome book, by the way!  It scared.me.to.death when I read it) of open drawers in our kitchen here.  If anyone has a cure, please share.  I beg you.

04 June 2011

Questions. I've had questions.

In the week since Our Lady of BYU and Awesome announced their engagement, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I have been sharing the news with friends and family.  Facebook and this blog have proven that the (electronic) pen is mightier (and may I add, faster and cheaper) than the sword (or the phone) and has been instrumental in spreading their good news.  And it is good, very good news.

It's been fun to hear the reactions.  It's also been a little, well, disturbing.  Some of the responses to me when I've shared their news and in particular the date of said event have been as follows:
  • "Oh my!  Why so fast?"
  • "How do you feel about becoming a grandpa?"
  • "Is she pregnant?"
The last two responses were just a bit jarring and the less kind side of me, the one that I'm trying very hard to keep at bay, had some very snappy responses at the ready upon hearing those questions.  And, to keep me on the path of being tried and tested, I heard them more than once.  Here's the thing, the responses were not rude, I promise.  They were genuine.  As I've thought about it, I realize it's a reflection of the times in which we live.  By the world's standards, getting married some three months after announcing an engagement pretty much means you're either pregnant or one of you is shipping out to Iraq/Afghanistan.  I also recognize in the aforementioned set of circumstances, it is often both prompting a wedding.

It's not the case here.  It's more a reflection of our Mormon culture and experience and I've shared a little bit of that with my friends who had the above-referenced responses/questions.  The standards taught in the Church are different than most of those accepted in the world and that makes us different.  See the case of BYU basketball player Brandon Davies from earlier this year to understand a little better what those standards are.  It's not easy to live to these standards but we do our best to raise our children according to what we believe is God's will and instruction.  This doesn't mean that when they start dating that they can only date with a chaperone, a la the creepy Duggar family, they of "19 Kids and Counting" or is it 20 or 21 (those people are breeding machines!).  You trust that your children have done things right, without the chaperone foolishness, and when they meet that "one," they are ready.  So at that point, why wait another year?

Also, and this anecdotal, Mormon weddings are not quite the epic scenes you see in a lot of weddings and do not require months and months of planning, weeping, and fighting.  I'm sure our culture has created its share of "Bridezillas," but I think they are they exception, rather than the rule.  That's not to say things can be a little over the top.  I give you our own wedding from twenty-three years ago, the reception to be exact, as an example.  Here goes:
  • Packages of bird seed given to friends announcing our engagement
  • Ice sculptures of love birds at the reception
  • Live love birds (I think they were doves) at the reception.  Sadly, said "love birds" had had enough of the reception less than five minutes into the event and they busted out of their cage like two suspected terrorists busting free from Guantanamo.  Their flight to freedom took them to the bell tower above the reception line.  They threatened to "unload" on us all night.  Good times.
Now, I would like to point out that I had no say in any of these shenanigans, nor did I want to.  This was my mother's doing.  I backed out of all of it when she called me four months before the wedding to ask me about colors of wedding napkins.  I told her I didn't care and that was that.  Done.  Although the threat of the pooping love birds above us did cause some excitement. 

There will be no such excitement at Our Lady and Awesome's upcoming event.  Even if it kills me.