30 December 2011

A look back

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

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

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

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

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

27 December 2011


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

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

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

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

Happy Anniversary to my best friend.

26 December 2011


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

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

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

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

23 December 2011


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

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

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

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

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

21 December 2011

Tis the season

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

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

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

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

17 December 2011

On Christmas Cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 December 2011

Off the grid

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

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

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

10 December 2011

A (Bitter) Holiday Carol

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

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

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

Deck The Stores

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

09 December 2011

And the glass is...

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

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

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

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

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

It's all good.

06 December 2011

The deadline cometh

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

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

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

03 December 2011

On the edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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