27 March 2012

Beyond annoying

Have you ever encountered something that makes you want to ram your fingers into your ears so deeply that you are rendered instantly deaf?  Or that you wish for the onset of instant hysterical blindness the very minute you see that something?  The very sight of that thing is truly your Achilles' Heel - it cripples you.  I've talked about my crippler, my Kryptonite, before in the Den and it's peanut butter.  It's still hideous to me but I've found its companion and it is...wait for it...any and all commercials for the Kit Kat bar.

Is there anything more annoying?  I dare say no.  Just the sound of that first crackling of the stupid wafer and I'm sent into waves of rage.  That is quickly followed by the hideous sound of someone (someone who should be ashamed of themselves) biting into said wafer and I'm sent into an orbit of white-hot rage. Those two sounds alone slay me.  And not in a good way.  I can't put my finger on why - I just know that I have a visceral and completely unpleasant reaction each and every time I am subjected to that hideous commercial.  It's awful. If the US Army wants to get the confessions moving down in Guantanamo, I recommend playing Kit Kat commercials in an unending loop.  I guarantee that those intelligence officers will have every answer they need in about 30 minutes. Seriously, those commercials are instruments of torture.  Truly beyond annoying.

I may be the only person out there with this specific aversion.  We've all got them.  I suppose that what helps to give each of us our own unique characters.  And you know what, unique is good.  It would be better, though, if it was a unique world free of that annoying commercial...

25 March 2012

For Sale - One Home, Excellent Condition

When the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I graduated from college and headed to Phoenix, we thought we'd be there a good long time. We were (thankfully, if you ask me) wrong. More than a few things have changed since we leased our first apartment in the Valley of the Sun twenty-two years ago.  We began our life together behind the Wasatch Curtain, happily housed in Happy Valley, and from there it's been the Valley of the Sun to Southern California (best.house.ever) to the Midwest and now, New England.

It's on, people, yet another move.  Our house is listed and being shown - three showings and it's been on the market one day!  I can only hope/dream/have faith that this is a good sign.  We didn't even have three showings on our California house in six months when it was on the market. Of course, I firmly believe the day that we listed that house back in 2006 you could hear the enormous flushing sound that was the real estate market gleefully sinking into the sewer from which it is only now beginning to escape.  It would be awesome if this house would sell quickly.  It will make finding a new home a tad easier.  So if you could spare a prayer, a lighting of a candle, or the ritual slaughter of a goat to get this place sold, we'd be most appreciative.

As we signed the contracts on the house, SML and I couldn't help but feel a tinge of emotion.  We will miss this house.  It has been another place where we've created memories and endeavored to raise our children well.  It's been an imperfect effort as we are far from being a perfect family but we've tried really hard to make our home, regardless of where that's been, a place of love, peace, and refuge for our children.  SML and I firmly believe the words of Psalmist:

Children are an heritage of the Lord - Psalm 127:3

So we've tried to do right by them, regardless of where we've lived.  We'll keep doing that even though we are down to one full-time resident (The Boy) and one part-timer (CAL).  Our moves have taught us many things but have reminded us that home is what you make it.  It's not the four walls that make a home.  It's what you do with those who live inside that makes a home.  Doesn't matter if you are a party of one or a Clintonian "village" family, where there is a sense of peace, love, and security, there's a home.  I'll be glad to reestablish our home soon.  I'll be even happier when the current one sells!

22 March 2012

A Man Alone

As this period of transition in the Den continues, far too often, I am a man alone. Sure, I'm surrounded by work colleagues during the day and they are good people.  After work though, when I'm ensconced in the weird world of corporate housing, I'm a man alone.

A note about the denizens of corporate housing:  since when is it appropriate to go straight from the in-house gym sweating like a stuck pig to the site's dinner line?  As information, that answer would be never.  Unfortunately, this is a lesson that has gone untaught here.

Back to the whole lone man thing...it's quiet.  There is something to be said for the peace of solitude.  It's also nice to not have to fight for the remote, although TV is becoming more and more not worth watching.  And you can only surf the internet for so long before you become acutely aware of what an abyss of nothingness it can be.

I've become incredibly grateful for texting, unlimited calling minutes, and Skype.  I talk to the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML daily.  She is handling this latest upheaval with aplomb and she makes me glad every day that she decided to marry me.  I miss seeing her every day.  I'll just be glad when we are under the same roof again.  After twenty-three years of marriage, for us, that's the way it should be.

19 March 2012

Dress Codes

Fare thee well, common sense
This winter has pretty much been a bust. It's been more spring-like than winter, for sure.  This is especially true in the Midwest. Our winter has been the mildest in forever.  Can I point out how ironic that is?  Every winter since we moved there was worse than the last until the winter we choose to move. Nice.

Since it's been really warm, people's thoughts have turned to spring and they have decided to dress accordingly.  This has led to a precipitous decline in dress at the Boy's high school.  Here are some of the snippets of the email that we got from the esteemed principal: "Spring has arrived early. And today, many girls came to school dressed inappropriately: too short shorts and too skimpy tops.  We need your help. If they leave the house, get out of the car, or get off the bus dressed appropriately for school that will help us maintain a modest environment. Please help us make a strong effort to enforce our dress code."

A couple of things - that the principal of a large suburban high school must write to parents appealing that they don't let their girls go to school dressed like they are working the pole is just sad.  What saddens me is that I fear that this appeal will fall on deaf ears.  Why? Our recent experience at the Spring Formal.  The Boy and his date went with a big group of other couples and before the dance, all the parents gathered to take pictures of the group.  Upon seeing the group, my appall-o-meter went to 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Several of the girls had purchased their dresses at a big blowout sale at Whores R Us.  Two of the dresses, and I use that term as loosely as possible, were apparently painted on. If either of them bent over, you'd see the moon, and not the one Neil Armstrong walked on.  And here's the thing...most of the mothers were oohing and aahing over the dresses and most of the dads nodded approvingly.

Look, I'm not much for prudishness and I'm certainly not Amish, but it's time to take a stand - we've got to step it up.  It's time for parents to stop letting their daughters leave the house looking like they are working the next shift at Club Spanky or their boys looking like they just got out of a Turkish prison.  As fathers, we have to step it up, especially for our daughters.  Fathers were once teen-age boys.  We know how the mind of the teen-age boy works.  That experience should be enough to pretty much never let your daughters leave the house. Even if I hadn't grown up in the Church with its focus on modesty, as a dad, common sense would dictate that my girls would need to cover up a bit before heading out into the world.  I'm not saying burkas, but I'll say this: Modest is hottest.

I'll say it again - modest is hottest.

17 March 2012

The ubiquity of certain things

As the Den continues its slow transition to its new environs in New England, it's given me the opportunity to start getting a feel for the place.  Since arriving here, I've noticed a couple of things - one I get and the other I don't.

First, the one I get and that is the ubiquity of Dunkin Donuts.  They are everywhere and I say that without a hint of hyperbole.  I mean it - they are on nearly every street corner, inside every mall, and I even found one today tucked behind the bullet-proof glass of the cashier booth inside a gas station off the I84. The addition of the bullet-proof glass was especially comforting.  I get why they are everywhere - the waxy film that covers your throat after swallowing a bite of one of their glazed products makes it easier to ingest the rest of the toxicity on their menu.

The second I am not getting and that is the ubiquity of the Subaru. I've never seen anything like it.  It seems like every third car is a Subaru.  And not the sedan either.  This place is stupid with Legacy wagons and Foresters.  I kid you not - these cars are everywhere here.  It's like a plague. Did Subaru cut some kind of deal with the state here to discount their cars for residents?  Sure, they are solid cars but it's not like this a year-round frozen tundra that constantly requires the attributes of the car.  I just don't get it.  I mean as I'm surrounded by a veritable wall of Subarus on the freeway, I can only think this must be what traffic looks like at the parking lot of a reunion concert of the Indigo Girls at the Lilith Fair.

I suspect I'll gain additional insights as the settling in continues.  It'll be even better when the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and the Boy make the move.  Their perspective will serve to balance mine.  It always does.

13 March 2012


In my last post about the Boy and his Eagle, I noted that I'd been released as a member of the bishopric (lay clergy) in my local ward (think diocese) of our Church.  I'd served in that bishopric since August 2008.  Those were three and half amazing years, not because of anything I did, but because of what I learned.

As a counselor, I saw people perform acts of kindness in a ways that never called attention to themselves.  Time and again, I saw demonstrations of Christ-like love.  I was honored to learn at the feet of leaders who'd figured out how to work their lives in such a way that they could effectively balance serving God, family, and work.  I still have a long way to go in that space.  As a counselor, we were charged with helping administer so that our Bishop could minister to the needs of our flock. I'm grateful for what I learned working alongside these good people.  I will miss this association because of what I've learned.

I'm grateful for a God that gave me this opportunity to grow.  I'm grateful for all those that I interacted with during this service who were patient with me.  I'm even more grateful that they had patience with my lack of "pretense."  It was an amazing opportunity to serve.  I'm going to miss it.

12 March 2012

The Eagle Has Landed

Yesterday was a pretty epic day in the Den.  A couple of things went down.  After three and a half years, I was released as a counselor in the bishopric of our local ward.  The what?  A quick refresher - in our Church, we have a lay clergy and it has been my honor to be a part of that leadership.  I'll be posting a bit more about that experience.

The really big deal was that the Eagle landed yesterday.  The Boy, along with four other boys, young men really from his troop, were awarded their Eagle ranks from the Boy Scouts of America.  This is no small feat.  In 2010, fewer than 5% of Boy Scouts earned the Eagle rank.  To those that earn it, it is a testament to their commitment to hard work and embodying the principles of Scouting.

The Boy busted his hump to get his Eagle.  He'd be the first to admit that Scouting wasn't his favorite thing (the apple does not fall far from the tree on that one).  But he committed to earning his Eagle and he did it.  His project was a very rewarding one and it was a lot of, dare I say it, fun, to be a part of it.

It's just been fun for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML to be the Boy's parents.  He has embodied all the values of an Eagle Scout for all his life.  He has made us proud every day and he continues to do so.  I'm very grateful to the leaders (Jeff and Greg - we owe you a debt of gratitude) that have helped get him to this point.  His mentor, Tim, has had a profound impact on the Boy's life and I am especially grateful for that.  Having a son earn this award is not something that is done in a vacuum.  I'm loathe to admit it because she drives me nuts, but Hillary Clinton (I'll even admit she's far more tolerable as Secretary of State) was right about this - it takes a village.  I'm glad we had a good village.

I'm really glad we had the Boy.  He's pretty awesome.

08 March 2012

Ay la lavanderia!

One of the more interesting aspects of life in the Den right now is balancing commuting with home.  With that comes doing some things out of the ordinary - like going to the coin laundry to do your wash.  That, my friends, is how I spent a bit of my night tonight.  I can hear the groans of envy now.

I haven't been inside a coin laundry since 1987.  I did laundry in some of the finest (and by 'finest,' I mean mostly fronts for drug deals and the fencing of stolen goods) laundrys in the greater Miami area for about two years during my service as a missionary for my Church.  As I watched my laundry spin tonight, I thought about some of those establishments, or 'lavanderias.' There were some things common to them:

  • The owner was typically a Cuban man who stationed his wife or mother, either of whom had to be borderline elderly, at the front to act as the bouncer
  • Said woman was required to have at least one television blaring away at full volume at all times
  • Said woman would scream colorful (read obscenities) things whenever Fidel Castro's name was invoked
  • The television was always playing a novela.  Novelas are Spanish-language television soap operas and they are awesome.  Same story every time - poor girl, wealthy boy with a brutal mother, a priest and a nun, and a requirement that at least one male actor be shirtless at all times.  Also, the sets were such that whenver a door closed, it nearly brought down the whole thing.  Finally, they always had them songs, like "Que porque te quiero" or "Mi vida eres tu"
  • Finally, the dryers were set to "Nuclear Meltdown" level, regardless of what level you set them to.  I melted more waistbands of the unmentionables than I care to remember...
Those were good times.  Tonight wasn't that good of a time.  I look forward to doing my wash at home soon.  I really just look forward to spending some time at home this weekend.  That will be a good time.

05 March 2012

Return to work

Some twelve weeks after my last day of work, I embraced the ranks of the employed today as I went back to work.  It was in a word, completely awesome.  OK, so that was two words, but you'll allow me a little artistic license, right?

It felt fantastic to be at work.  I got such a charge out of talking about the challenges and opportunities this new position will bring.  It just felt good to be talking about the quirky industry that I've been a part of for more than twenty years now.  It was a good day.  Now I know I'm not so foolish as to be looking at this new world through rose-colored glasses and I get that "Pollyanna" was a work of fiction, so I know that there are going to be days that will try me.  I think, though, that thanks to this trip to UnemploymentLand, an E Ticket ride if there ever was one, I'll be a little more grateful for the challenges work brings.

I'm a bit more grateful for a lot of things as I look back on this whole experience.  I'm grateful for faith and its trials.  I'm grateful for the prayers of family and friends.  I'm grateful for a Father in Heaven who knows me and knows what I needed to learn.  Who am I kidding, using the past-tense?  There is still so much for me to learn. I'm glad I've got an amazing family along for the ride.  Here we go.

02 March 2012

Road trippin'

The Family Truckster - not representative of my OMC
With the new job comes some significant change. As noted previously, we'll be moving.  That will come later, but since I start my new job on Monday, I need to get settled a couple of days in advance to build my commuter 'nest.'  To do so, a road trip was called for and it began today.

With me serving as Clark and the Boy as Rusty, we've covered 650 miles so far which is pretty much more than I've ever driven in one spell.  I'm no fan of long-distance driving but it hasn't been bad.  It's actually been a good time.  It's been fun to have this time with my son.  We crossed a major milestone in our father/son relationship today while on the road. For the first time I let him drive my OMC (Old Man Car).  He did a great job.  It's quite something to see him growing up.  We've talked a bunch today and there's been some revelations. For instance, he told me that he's really glad that we aren't a family that panics. I asked him what he meant by that and he said, "Like when you told us you were losing your job, you and Mom didn't panic.  No one did or has.  We trust each other."  That, my friends, was one of those moments that you wait for as a parent and I uttered a silent prayer of gratitude.

We've also laughed a lot.  Since we've been careening through areas with limited radio service, we've been depending on my iPod.  It's sent me down about twelve lanes of Memory Lane as a result.  It also gave us one of those "What do you mean Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?!" moments.  As we drove, I played this:
That's right..."Bust a Move."  As soon as it came on, the Boy goes, "Oh, that's from 'Max Keeble's Big Move.'"  Of course it was to him.  I had to disabuse him of the notion though.  He was referring to a Disney movie released in 2001 (the Boy was six) that he loved.  Young MC's ridiculously awesome song was featured in the movie.  However, I had to tell the Boy that no, the Disney Killing Machine was not the source  of the song.  It was released twelve years earlier, in 1989.  I'm glad to see it's lost none of its awesomeness.  None.

We've got more road trippin' on tap for tomorrow.  I'm excited to see what it will yield.  But right now, I'm just glad to not be sitting in that car.