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.