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.