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. 

25 September 2011

On Pan Am

Pan American World Airways.  Pan Am.  Ah, what the mere mention of this fabled company's name inspires!  Although the original Pan Am hasn't graced the skies since its agonizing, final flight in December 1991, just say "Pan Am" around any airline enthusiast/dork today and you'll see their eyes get a little glassy.  There will be a little catch in their throat when they respond reverently, saying, "Oh, yes, I remember Pan. Am."

How do I know about these reactions?  Because I am one of those airline enthusiast/dorks.  And Pan Am is THE Holy Grail of our kind.  We love this legendary carrier.  As a child, I remember whenever I saw a Pan Am 707 or 747, I wondered where it was going, because it was surely some place exotic.  Pan Am was America's "Chosen Instrument."  Sure, there were other airlines carrying the U.S. flag (TWA, I'm talking to you), but none could hold a candle to the mighty Clippers of Pan Am.  I was obsessed with Pan Am.  After growing frustrated with some of the decisions of their management, I applied to be their CEO.  I was 12.  No lie.

I only flew Pan Am twice, back in May 1984.  Like so many others, Pan Am would take me to Europe for the first time.  I'll never forget the excitement I felt when I got the Pan Am's storied "WorldPort" at JFK for my flight to London Heathrow on the fabled Flight 2.  I was two rows behind "Clipper Class"-Pan Am's fancy-pants business class and it was then and there as I watched the service unfold through a slit in the curtain that I decided my days of flying in the back were numbered-and I was enthralled.  Pan Am's glory days were behind it at this point but it didn't matter.  This was Pan Am.  I'm quite certain I didn't sleep the entire flight.  Several weeks later, I flew back to JFK from Frankfurt on Pan Am's Flight 73.  Another 747-100.  I remember being disappointed that Catering in Frankfurt had loaded far too much sauerkraut for lunch and I'd had it with sauerkraut after several days in Germany.  I also remember the river of wine that poured down on several rows from the overhead bins.  Some genius packed too many bottles of wine in their bag which shattered in turbulence over the north Atlantic.  Again, it didn't matter.  This was Pan Am.

So, why all the Pan Am nostalgia?  Because tonight a new television series called "Pan Am" debuts on ABC.  It's supposed to be about four Pan Am "stewardesses" (try calling one of the flight attendants on your next flight a stewardess - let me know how that works for you) in the glory days of flying in the early '60's.  It looks ridiculous and soapy.  I will, of course, be watching it.  TV shows are notoriously bad about their authenticity when it comes to air travel.  For instance, they'll show a picture of the plane flying and it'll be a 747, for instance, but the cabin shots are all single-aisle aircraft.  It just irritates the airline dork to no end.  So, knowing that the planes should be 707's, I'm going to be, well, displeased tonight when the cabin shots are of a modern-day Airbus or some such foolishness.  At least, "The Amazing Race" starts tonight.  Yeah, I'm kind of excited.

22 September 2011


It's all about the 500!
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 500th post here at "into the Lyons den."  I really didn't know what to think when I started the blog that snowy day in December 2007.  Maybe I thought it was something I could do to stay warm...who knows?!  But here we are - the 500th post.  Lo, that I could be profound, but there's not been a deep well of profundity since the beginning, so why start now?

I thought I'd share some of the key stats from the first 500 posts:
  • 22,368 - the number of page views since the first post
  • Google is the preferred way of finding the blog
  • Countries that have visited the "den" the most - the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Germany.  Apparently, the British Empire and her former colonies have a thing for this blog.
The top five or most widely-read posts so far are:
Now, I'm not delusional enough to think that it was what I had to say that's made those particular posts so popular.  No, one need only dive into the stats (thank you, Blogger) to see that it's all been driven by search words.  So more than one poor sap that's doing his 6th grade science project on Apollo 13 has been referred to the "den."  (PS - if you are one of those saps and you based your report on the night I had dinner with Neil Armstrong, let me know what kind of grade you got.)  I will admit that I don't get why the post "44" has been so popular.  My 44th birthday wasn't that interesting.

So what have we learned in 500 posts?  Well, let's see - I like food.  I spend far too much time on planes and as a result, I do not like the Great (U)Satan of the (U)Skies.  I probably don't have the best filter, saying more than I should.  You've been along for the high points - two half-marathons, kids graduating, kids going to college, our first-born's wedding.  And you've been there for the low - losing my dad was pretty much the low point.  So I've shared plenty in this blog and highly doubt that the format is going to change. 

It's been a good run and I suppose I'm only getting started.  If you're new to the den, sit down on the sofa and enjoy the read.  If you are a follower and haven't admitted it openly, shirk your shame and proclaim that you're a follower on the side bar.  You can grab one of the blog buttons and brazenly demonstrate your adoration too.  Go for it, I dare you! 

Thanks for reading and here's to a few hundred more posts!

20 September 2011


Yeah, what this is called is my age today
It's another birthday here in the Den.  And this time around, it's my birthday.

The image to the left perfectly captures my age today.  I totally remember 45's.  I still wish I had a few of them, so I could sell them on eBay.  I can't remember the songs I had on 45's, but I suspect they were, well, awful.  How could they have not been?  I started listening to music in the mid-70's (shudder).  Enough said.

It's been a good day.  The birthday salutations coming in on Facebook have been great.  Apparently, I've been a bit transparent in my love of food and finding myself all over the world, because a lot of the greetings mentioned food and travel.  I suppose they could mention worse, way worse things.  The post of the day though was this one:

Sir, I hope that your birthday is magical and that all your birthday dreams will come true.  Until I see you again, live the dream sir.

Duly noted, Cam, duly noted.

So leaving now to cap off the evening with a birthday dinner of the finest in Israeli food at the Naf Naf Grill.  It'll be a good dinner with the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML.  Would be nice if the Boy joins us but since he got his license, we don't see a lot of him.  Anyway, I'm a lucky man.  I got another year out of life.  I'm surrounded by people who inexplicably love me and I've got good, no, great friends.  Makes for a great birthday.

17 September 2011

The Holy War

Lo, that this were an educational post on the wars throughout the centuries that have been called "Holy Wars," like the Crusades or the Arab-Israeli conflict.  No, no such redeeming content to be found today.  Of course, I refer to this Holy War:
Yep, it's that time again.  BYU and Utah.  They go to battle this evening.  It's going to be an interesting night.  College football is full of epic rivalries, but in all the histrionics of those rivalries, the Cougar/Ute rivalry is, shall we say, intense.

Church services and their moods will be determined by the outcome of tonight's spectacle.  So tomorrow, some services will seem joyous, others funerial.  Tonight, during the game, families will be divided.  Accusations will be thrown.  Things will be said that were probably better left unsaid.  Sounds like a good time will be had by all.

My thoughts on the shenanigans?  It's too dang early in the season to get hysterical over this game.  I figure that's blasphemous to both sides, but seriously, it's just too early to get worked up.  I guess it's time to invoke the words of a wise man who felt compelled to comment on the state of this rivalry a few years ago when it got just a tad heated (Max Hall, I'm talking to you).  This wise man said:  "Both sides of this rivalry need to take responsibility for their words and conduct.  Remember, folks - it's just a game."

Duly noted.  Enjoy the War tonight, one and all.

11 September 2011

On the 10th Anniversary of 9-11

It was my turn to conduct our Sacrament, or worship, service at Church today and I was asked to make some remarks regarding the 10th anniversary of the attacks. 

That day ten years ago is one, like so many of you, that I will never forget.  Profound does not even begin to describe its impact.  I thought I would share the text of my comments here:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was an unusually bright, clear late summer day in New York City.  The images of those brilliant but skies are seared into our collective memories; however, now we remember the smoke that choked that blue sky.  We remember the image of a plane slamming into the now-fallen World Trade Center.  We remember images of people jumping from the burning towers in order to escape the roaring flames.  We also remember the pictures of firefighters and police personnel who ran into the towers in an epic, valiant struggle to save their fellowmen.  We are haunted by the heroic words uttered by a passenger on board United 93, "Let's roll!" as those few passengers decided to stop the terrorists from hitting yet another target.

The terror of that day, ten years ago, is still fresh for so many of us.  It is an event that touched us all and it is a defining moment in not only American history, but world history.  In the days following these horrific events, our nation came together in a way that many said had not been since World War II.  I remember standing in our front yard in our home in California with our neighbors as we joined our fellow countrymen in a national moment of prayer.  It was as if our nation was seeking spiritual comfort as a whole in those dark days after the attacks.

That sense of unity and desire to seek spiritual comfort as a nation has abated in the ten years since that unforgettable day.  Our nation has found its way back to its divisive ways.  In his first official blog post printed earlier this week in the Washington Post's "On Faith" column, President Thomas S. Monson, said, "Sadly, it seems that much of that renewal of faith has waned in the years that have followed.  Healing has come with time, but so has indifference.  We forget how vulnerable and sorrowful we felt.  Our sorrow has moved us to remember the deep purposes of our lives.  The darkness of our despair brought us a moment of enlightenment.  But we are forgetful.  When the depth of grief has passed, its lessons often pass from our minds and hearts as well."

The Scriptures are rife with examples of how we, the children of a loving, caring Heavenly Father, have forgotten our Father and the lessons of lives time and time again.  The Book of Mormon is especially illustrative of this cycle of forgetfulness but it also shows our Father's consistent, loving commitment to us.  In his blog post, President Monson continued, saying, "Our Father's commitment to us, His children, is unwavering.  Indeed He softens the winter of our lives, but He also brightens our summers.  Whether it is the best of times or the worst, He is with us.  He has promised us that this will never change."

President Monson, our prophet, reminds us that if there was a spiritual lesson to be learned from the events of 9/11, it may be that we owe to God the same faithfulness that He gives to us.  He said, "We should strive for steadiness, and for a commitment to God that does not ebb and flow with the years or crises of our lives.  It should not require tragedy for us to remember Him, and we should not be compelled to humility before giving Him our faith and trust.  We too should be with Him in every season."

As we reflect today, ten years after the events of 9/11, may we remember those whose lives were lost.  May we pray on behalf of them and those they left behind.  May we also reflect on what has happened to us in the years since that day.  Let us not forget who we are.  We are children of a loving Heavenly Father who has been steadfast and unwavering in His commitment to us.  May we be faithful to Him in times of crisis and times of calm.  May we make Him and His Son the center of our thoughts and the pattern for our actions.  May we remember the counsel of the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni as he raised the Title of Liberty in preparation for righteous battle, 'In memory of our God, our religion and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.'  If we do so, we will be blessed.  

Ten years have gone by.  May we never forget.

09 September 2011


So, it's here.  A 16th birthday.  A veritable rite of passage, especially it seems, for The Boy.  He turned 16 today.

It's been a little strange here this week leading up to his big day.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is still out west, depositing CAL in her dorm and I was traveling all week, getting home late last night.  It was up to me to provide the traditional breakfast in bed this morning, so that I did.  Bagel sandwich at 545AM (gotta love early morning seminary).  The Boy woke up knowing today was the day - a driver's license.  Sadly, my plan to pull him out of school and be the first on line at the DMV was thwarted by the plague that has gripped the working world - the conference call.  They are infernal and never-ending.  They will be the death of me.

Anyway, while I spent the day feeling the tumor caused by the length of time I was on the phone today growing exponentially, the Boy made ready at school for getting his license.  As soon as we got home, he was hollering that he was ready to go, so I tore the Devil's Headset from my head and we were off to the DMV.  It's a sad state of affairs when the thought of spending time on a Friday afternoon in the DMV is a welcome relief...

Say what you will about the state of governmental affairs in Illinois, and believe me, there's PLENTY to say, but the DMV has got it going on.  Maybe it's the fact that our Secretary of State, Jesse White, has a troup of tumblers (you read that right...tumblers...gymnastic tumblers) that he trots out from time to time, but if that's what it takes to inspire the DMV, then keep doing it.  They are, dare I say it, courteous and even nice.  And efficient.  We were in and out in less than 35 minutes and the Boy is now a newly-licensed driver in the great state of Illinois.  And my insurance company is praying, praying, praying for something like this to go down:
Apparently my premium increase won't be funding enough of their future, so I'm quite certain they'd like nothing more to see the Boy involved in a spectacle like the image above.  Fascists.

It's a lot of fun to see him smiling from ear-to-ear.  I remember the exhilaration I felt when I got my license.  It meant independence.  It was exciting.  It meant I was growing up.  I see the same in the Boy.  I better stop while I'm ahead or I'll get wistful and having married off one daughter, said good-bye to another as she goes to university, and now this all in the past week, I'm likely to have another melt-down.

05 September 2011

(No) Labor Day

Sleeping in (well, I made it to 630AM, which, for me, is like making it 'til noon).  Taking it easy.  Seeing a movie.  Dinner with friends.  A fine way to spend Labor Day, if I do say so myself.  It's been a good day.

With the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML still on the other side of the country with CAL getting her ready for university, the Boy and I are on our own.  Apparently, we looked pathetic at Church yesterday and we got invited to dinner with friends.  After dinner, they wanted to play a game.  It's no secret that I would pretty much rather ram a dirty fork into my eye than play a game, but I felt I needed to be a good guest and so I played.  Guess what?  I had a great time playing this game.  Maybe because it allowed my inner word nerd to come out, but I loved playing it.  Loved it enough that we went out and bought it today.  What game you ask?  This one:
Bananagrams...word nerd fun!
I'm still surprised at how much I enjoyed the game.  It was all good.  Glad we bought it today.  In the spirit of taking it easy today, the Boy and I went and saw "Apollo 18" today.  Oh my!  Let me just say, conspiracy theorists are going to be wetting themselves over this one.  I don't want to give much a way, but I will just say, scary.  In a good way.

We're heading over to friends for another dinner shortly.  We are surrounded by really good friends.  Now I need to figure out how to return the favor...now, I'll be laboring over that for much of the night.

03 September 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Awesome

I give you Mr. and Mrs. Awesome:
Emerging from Salt Lake Temple
It is done!  Our Lady of BYU will now be known as Our Lady of BYU Awesome.  You'll forgive the crappy quality of the photo, and those to follow, but the iPhone camera is no epic camera. 

Suffice to say, Thursday's events were, for all intents and purposes, perfect.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I both awoke that morning with an incredible sense of peace.  We knew that the day was going to be sa-weet.  And it was.

The ceremony itself was as it should have been, sacred, and we were delighted to be surrounded by a close circle of family and friends, as we witnessed this couple make commitments that we believe will have eternal reward.  Full disclosure - while I didn't weep copiously, I was emotional throughout the ceremony.  The parents were the last of the guests to congratulate the couple after the ceremony.  Hugging my first-born daughter now that she was a married woman was emotional for me.  There was some significant choking back of what would have been some epic sobbing.

We then had to race down to Provo to the reception to make sure everything was in order.  The gardens were stunningly beautiful and Mother Nature continued to behave herself.  Before guests began arriving, we had to get a few last minute things in order and Our Lady of Awesome's bridesmaids were amazing in helping getting things set up.  A certain NBA player and fiancee of one of Our Lady's bridesmaids was there to help as well.  He could not have been more gracious as the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML told him to get the cut-out "A"s on all the tables.  What else was he going to do?  His bosses have him locked out, but I digress.  Just before the guests arrived, I got this picture:
Mother and daughter
Yeah, I get it.  Look at them.  I'm more lucky and blessed than I deserve.  No arguments from me.  None.

As the guests arrived, we were thrilled to see the outpouring of love for Awesome and Our Lady of Awesome.  His family is well-loved and people had wonderful things to say about our new son-in-law.  We loved seeing some of our old friends.  We were surprised to see people that we hadn't seen in twenty years.  It was so good to reconnect.  We've been surrounded by such great people over the years.  Man, what a night! 

So there was dancing to be done - the father/daughter dance was less agonizing than I thought.  I'm sure those that stood by and watched me stepping on Sarah's dress the entire time were in more distress than we were.  There was eating to be done, although we never got any of the food.  The gelato bar seemed to be a huge success.  At the end of the evening, Awesome and Our Lady of Awesome ran out under a shower of light from the sparklers all the guests were holding.  Our Lady loves her some fireworks and this seemed to do the trick.  It was fun to see them take off.  I figured I'd be a mess.  I wasn't.  Just so happy for my daughter and my new son-in-law.  I'm really beginning to like the sound of that.

And now, the Boy and I are home.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and CAL are onto the next phase of the transition here in the Den - moving CAL into her dorm and getting her started in university.  It's a good thing I didn't stay.  I'm in no frame of mind for another big good-bye.  Over the last few days, whenever I've had a free moment with CAL, I've said, "Please give me at least two years before you even think about getting married.  Please!"  First, mentally, her mother and I need the break and secondly, my bank account needs it.  I'm hoping she heeds that counsel.  Please...

Mr. and Mrs. Awesome.  Brother and Sister Awesome.  Yeah, that sounds good.  And speaking of awesome, I think this was the highlight for the Boy:
"How I spent my lock out!"
Yeah, it's been a pretty amazing week here in the Den.

01 September 2011

It's here - the wedding day

As I look out the window this morning, all appears to be quiet, nearly tranquil.  The proverbial "calm before the storm," I suspect as it's kind of a big day here in the Den.  A really big day.  Our Lady of BYU marries Awesome today.  It's going to be, aptly enough, all kinds of awesome.

This week has been a roller coaster o'emotions for me - an E-Ticket ride if there ever was one (and if you don't get that reference, too bad).  It started Tuesday when I found myself in the car alone, listening to a song that sent me into a crying jag of epic proportions, as I thought about my girl getting married and recognizing how good a thing that was.  I could barely sob out my order for a large Coke Zero at the Chik-Fil-A drive-through window.  I'm pretty much certain that the girl working the window had never seen a quivering mess like that before.  As information, the Coke Zero seemed to stop the emotional tsunami.

Yesterday was the Groom's Dinner at Awesome's parents' home.  The location was absolutely exquisite and Mother Nature, who has proven herself to be extraordinarily shrewish when it comes to events involving our family of late, was on her best behavior.  It was a perfect night.  Our Lady and Awesome looked ridiculously happy and it was a testament to them to have 80 of their family members and friends there.  It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many good people (and to a certain nationally-known former BYU basketball player and new NBA player who was there, thanks for being such a good sport - you, sir, are a class act).

Awesome's Dad and I had the chance to introduce our family members.  Awesome's Dad did a great job introducing all his family.  I, on the other hand, got a little emotional, from the start when it was my turn to introduce our group.  It was more than a little touching (yeah, I know, I'm copping to emotions) to see all that family gathered together.  So I stumbled my way through and managed NOT to forget anyone.  We both offered up advice to our children.  More stumbling from me but knowing that I had peach pie, which was spectacular, to finish helped get me through.  It was more than comforting having the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML right there as well.  She's the solid in all this right now.  She wins!
So, here we are.  Wedding is in a few hours and then the reception and then it's done.  Easy as that, right?  We'll see.  So buckle up, it's Wedding Day.