29 July 2012

We're not in Kansas, er, Illinois, anymore

No sooner did we move into the new house last Saturday did I have to leave for four days for a conference. I was only up the road in Boston, but, I might as well have been in Botswana.  I felt completely disconnected from my family as they were unpacking and setting up the new house.

I got home late Wednesday night to find a house transformed.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and the Boy has done so, so much.  The house looked looks fantastic.  We are still amazed that all of our junk beloved items fits in this house without looking or feeling like an episode of "Hoarders."  One of the best parts of being home was sleeping in my own bed.  After five months of hotel beds, getting into my own bed was pretty much awesome.  Knowing that my wife was right alongside me was, and is, even better.  I'd be delighted to not take a road trip for awhile.

That said, this past Friday, the Boy and I did make a quick trip down to the Bronx to go to a, dare I say it, Yankees game.  Just saying that team's name makes me feel kind of gross.  They were playing the Red Sox so it promised to be an interesting game from a fan perspective.  They did not disappoint - from booing the Red Sox to tossing the balls that the Red Sox hit into the stands back onto the field, the Yankees fans made it clear whose house the Sox were in.

Wrigley it is not
Say what you will about this NYC team, and believe me, there is plenty to say, they know how to build an amazing facility.  It is an absolute homage, dare I say a temple, to baseball.  It is spectacular. The Boy and I had so much fun walking around, seeing images of players of old, like Mickey Mantle. It was really cool.  They also make a mean sushi in the Audi Club, I'm just saying.

For all its awesomeness, it's not Wrigley Field.  It doesn't have the intimate feel that Wrigley does.  The fan experience is completely different.  Completely.  As I gazed out at the field, it was clear that there is no doubt that we've moved on. We are, for sure, no longer in the Midwest. Illinois, much like Elvis, we have left the building.  We had lots of great memories made there and now it's time for new ones.

We're creating new and good memories here.  Having five hours, because that's how long it takes to get to and from the City, in the car with my son is pretty much priceless.  It was a good night of conversation.  It was good, really good, to connect further with the Boy.  It was made all the better by the satellite radio blasting away in the car we took down to the City.  Nothing like the opportunity to show your kid why 80's music rules, and always will.

22 July 2012


A filthy lie
If you've ever moved, whether on your own or through the joy that is a corporate relocation, you know that no matter how you do it, it's tough.  It is not an idyllic 'Gee, Mother and Father, let's open the boxes and see what those nice movers brought us!' as demonstrated in the picture to the left.  If your moves have been like that, though, I'd like to know what narcotic you were on.

That said, the bulk of our move was completed yesterday.  The only two casualties were two broken bowls.  Given how things were seemingly tossed into the moving truck when the old house was loaded, this was nothing short of a miracle.  Seriously.

And now we are unpacking.  And unpacking.  The number of boxed seemed to grow exponentially while they sat in storage.  I suppose they had nothing else to do in the crates...anyway, while we've only been in the house for about a day, it's already coming together.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML's vision of what the house could be is really happening.  She is making this a home.

As we unpack, I look at this as another opportunity to start anew.  This life is an amazing one.  We are given chances each and every day to start over.  This new house home is like that.  It really is just the three of us now, with the girls on their own. It's a chance to reset goals and expectation.  It's an opportunity to stay focused on the plan that our Father in Heaven has for us.  As we stay focused on Him, as we have tried to do in the past, I believe we will be guided by Him.  It reminds me of this scripture from the Old Testament: 
Turn us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.
Lamentations 5:21
The old days have been good ones.  Those that lie ahead will be even better.  Of that I am certain.  I'm also certain that it's amazing to be home.  Home is a good, good thing.

20 July 2012


It's often been said that closure feels good.  That saying was tested here in the Den today and we can attest that closure does indeed feel good.

We closed on our new home today and took occupancy.  We've spent the entire afternoon there and man, does it ever feel awesome!  The house is mighty empty but that will all change tomorrow when the movers show up with all our stuff.  It's going to be one epic jigsaw puzzle as we try to put it all together in our new house, no, our new home.  It already feels like home.

It's good to be a homeowner again.  In the few hours we've been there, we've reveled in the new house feel and smell.  We've been frustrated trying to put three bar stools together.  Well, I've been frustrated.  Tools are second only to peanut butter in the Kryptonite pantheon.  It's an understatement to say I'm not good with them.  But when one of the barstools is equipped with two right legs there are bound to be problems. Suffice to say, that stool is going back.

Tomorrow is going to be a long, long day.  It's one the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, the Boy and I have been waiting for.  It's good to be home.

18 July 2012

Almost home

Five months of living in an extended stay hotel gives you a new perspective on life.  It doesn't matter how nice the place is or how friendly the staff, you know that an extended stay property is not home.  For the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and the Boy, it's been a mere six weeks in extended stay purgartory but we are all ready to get back in a house.  A home.

We are almost home.  We did our final walk-through on the new house late this afternoon.  Shortest punch list ever, I think.  We're really pleased with our builder and the home we close on this Friday.  At this point, I think the house could have had a wrinkle in time in the closet and we'd still take possession.  We are so, so ready to be in a home again.  It will be good, so good, to be in a place where the things we are using are ours.  No need to worry about who slept in the bed before you.  It will be so good to not have skanky bridal parties in our breakfast area.  That's been our weekends while here in extended stay land.  I'm delighted to see that coming to an end.

Our close on this new house can't come fast enough.  We are ready to set up and start a new phase of life here in the Den.  It's going to be good to be home again.

15 July 2012

The School Bus. And what happened therein...

As we settle in our new community (six days 'til we are in the new house!), we're starting that potentially awkward phase of getting to know other couples. This means dinners out and playing a more nuanced version of the "What's your major?" game from college.

Last night was another round of that game.  Dinner with new friends and the company was great.  The conversation flowed easily.  I was thrilled, thrilled I tell you, when they openly mocked Fox News and Sean Hannity (remind me to tell you about the time I was speaking at an event at the Orlando Convention Center and a Hassidic Jew thought I was Hannity...good times).  If the other couple opens that door, I can talk politics without getting a roundhouse kick under the table from the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML.  That said, I tempered myself (further proof I may be maturing) and talked about other things. We talked about the little town we are moving into and they pointed out that because of the size, the school busses carry all students. You've got everyone from 1st graders to high schoolers (woe unto that poor senior!) on the same bus.  Can you imagine?!

That got me thinking about the few years I spent on the bus.  They weren't pleasant.  The school bus, typically driven by older women looking for 'pleasant' alternatives to lunch room duty or by borderline pedophile men, is a Dickensian rolling microcosm of the social theater of cruelty that is middle school and high school.  Remember this scene from the AWESOME "Sixteen Candles?":
You go, Farmer Ted!
My own 'Farmer Ted' moment came in 8th grade.  The 70's had been gone, mercifully, just a few months and the full cultural train wreck that was the 80's hadn't quite left the station.  That said, even in 8th grade, girls' hairstyles were big and held high by copious amounts of ozone-destroying hairspray of all stripes.  The aromatic combination of hairspray, Jean Nate, and Arizona's excessive year-round heat made the bus all the more pleasant horrific.  Now add to the mix the chomping of this:
This gum, which I believe every middle schooler was required by law to chew, was nothing more than a large sugar cube wrapped in chemical that made it chewy.  You could actually feel your teeth rotting away with each piece. Anyway, I'm on the bus, one hot spring afternoon, heading home and I'm gnawing chewing on the above-referenced gum.  A buddy of mine is next to me and sitting in front of us is The Girl, one of the big-haired crushes that all the 8th grade boys shared.  As we trundled down the road, my buddy and I were no doubt discussing The Girl's finer points, which included her huge hairstyle, when I attempted to blow a bubble.  Instead of blowing a bubble, said wad o'gum flew my mouth like a Scud missile with Saddam's name on it and lodged itself in The Girl's shampoo commercial worthy mane. My buddy and I froze waiting to see if S felt the impact.  She didn't. We could see that the mix of chemicals from the hairspray and the gum had already set in and that wad of gum was going nowhere.  I determined right then and there that nothing was going to be said. Our stop could not have come fast enough and my buddy and I hauled off that bus without a word.  Not my finest hour.

I was mortified the next day when I saw The Girl on the bus that I hated.  I was relieved that her hair didn't look any worse for wear.  It was apparent that the gum missile had been safely diffused and removed by a crack team of gum-removal experts. Whew! I vowed to never chew gum on the bus again.

Suffice to stay, I stuck (no pun intended) to that vow. To The Girl, it may be a little, well a lot, late, but sorry about the gum.  What's funny is that I can't remember her name, but I sure do remember that bus and what happened with that stupid gum.  I'm really glad my bus riding days are long since over.

14 July 2012


600 posts...ridiculous
It's another milestone here in the Den.  Today marks the 600th post!  When I wrote the 500th post back in September 2011, I noted that I was surprised I'd made it that far, and now here it is, the 600th post.

When I look (obsessively) at my blog stats, the top five most widely read posts haven't changed much from those at 500.  Again, it's not because of my writing.  It's all about the Google Images search.  And speaking of Google, here are the top five search words that have brought the unsuspecting to the Den:

  • 21
  • Apollo 13 crew
  • home
  • apollo 13
  • mowing the lawn (I'm not kidding about that one!)
As we commemorate the 600th post, I'll share a few facts about the year 600 from my favorite arbiter of all things true on the interwebs, Wikipedia:

  • In the year 600, the population of the Earth reaches 208 million (I'm not buying this one. How does anyone know that?  Where's the census on that one?)
  • Smallpox arrives in Europe for the first time (lovely).
  • King Ingvar of Sweden invades Estonia but is killed by the locals (perhaps this was the genesis for the Swedes overall pacifism).
  • Nazca culture ends in the Andes (shoot, never got to try Nazcan empanadas!)
  • The moldboard plow is invented in eastern Europe (and what a relief that was).
  • Pope Gregory I codifies what comes to be known as Gregorian Chant (well without him we'd never have had that freaky one-hit wonder by a bunch of Gregorian monks). Name that band and the year!
To those of you who took a seat on the sofa in the Den from the very beginning, I say thank you.  I hope you've enjoyed the read ride.  It's been good to hear from you. Keep the comments coming.  To those of you who are new to the Den, I'm glad you're here.  Take a seat on the sofa and stay for awhile.  It's good to have you along as well.  After 600 posts, I hope I've made you laugh, made you cry, made you mad, but most of all, I hope I've made you want to keep reading.

12 July 2012

Another birthday, but not mine

It is with great pleasure and not a small amount of shame that I announce that today is the birthday of my amazing and stunningly patient wife, SML.  Why the 'shame' reference, you ask?

If you're keeping score, you'll recall that last year on this day, I managed to forget my best friend's birthday.  She who bore our children.  She who has not kicked me to the curb. She who has moved more and further away than she ever expected.  Yes, my amazing wife and I managed to forget her birthday last year.  No excuses for it. None.

I wasn't about to repeat that faux pas this year, can I just tell you?  I didn't forget. Now that said, nothing spectacular occurred either.  I had early calls and needed to be in the office early, so the Boy took over on breakfast in bed duty.  It was made simpler by the fact that our hotel/home provides breakfast every day. When I got home, we opened presents - all of which I managed to buy this year. I didn't stick to the list this year. I put some thought into this and I think I did just fine for her this year. Look, I don't say that to brag.  I simply am trying to show that I'm not a complete dufus. Anyway, we capped the evening by sampling a new pizza place that's about five minutes from our new house. It was excellent. Bonus birthday find.

I can safely say my wife is happy how this day went.  This means I am happy.  It means the Boy is happy. He's also happy because he got a job.  A j-o-b, people. He's the newest sales associate at, wait for it, Old Navy. Methinks that it's going to be a goldmine in terms of fodder for the blog.  I can't wait.

08 July 2012

Church Music

Musical worship is a powerful component of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  If you've ever attended one of our services, you'll know that while it's powerful, the musical worship is a pretty staid affair.  The image to the left pretty much nails it - that's about as rowdy as it gets as we sing.

We don't pipe in the Mo'Tab or any other recorded music, unless you are in a building that has a fancy organ that's pre-loaded with all the hymns, so that they can be played sans hands.  Aside from a piano and an organ that is the extent of the musical instruments for regular musical worship.  A violin, cello, or the rare flute may show up from time to time but you aren't going to see or hear a bass, a drum set, or an electric guitar.

Ours is a lay clergy and that extends to all who serve, so there is no paid music professional.  All the music is provided by people who have a range of musical talent, from none to the truly professional.  That's another reason why our services can be so interesting.  We've been in services where the most joyous of hymns sounds like a funeral dirge/chant by depressed Gregorian friars and in others where each member of the congregation sounded as if they'd sung with the Mo'Tab for twenty years.  It's made for some wonderful experiences over the years.

One in particular occurred in the last month of my mission more than twenty five years ago.  I was finishing my service in Ft. Lauderdale, which, after twenty-plus months in Miami, was like being in another country.  A country I didn't like, by the way.  I missed Miami and its crazy something awful.  The ward, or local congregation, that we'd been assigned to was a diverse one.  We had Haitians, Latinos of all stripes, African Americans, and a lot of uptight white people.  I loved it as soon as I walked in that first Sunday.  Then I set eyes on the organist and the woman conducting the music and I knew it was going to be awesome.

While this is not the woman I laid eyes on, this is pretty close representation.  She'd clearly spent many a year conducting music her way and she was not to be toyed with when it came to her church music.  The organist, on the other hand, was more than willing to revisit the old ways of church music.  He was an African-American man, who, by night, played jazz keyboards professionally.  The stage was set for a showdown and once I saw what the opening hymn was ("The Spirit of God"), I knew we were in for it.  Our conductress took her position, raised her baton, yes, her baton, and nodded to the organist.  With that nod, it was, in his mind, time to make sure each and every one of us felt the spirit of God.  He immediately began to reinterpret the hymn, causing no small consternation for the conductress.  Try as she might, she was not going to contain him. She held onto her baton with a grip that even the jaws of life would not release.  As she fiercely stabbed the air with her baton in a futile attempt to lead, a few members of the congregation stood and whooped for joy, something I've never seen since in one of our worship services.  Halfway through the second verse, our now completely frazzled conductress gave up, tossed the baton, and stood there until her head exploded the song was over.  It was, in a word, awesome.

I'm not sure that as a Church we are ready to bring in a house band.  There is a time and a place for that and I don't want anything to distract from the purpose of the service, which is to remember the Savior's sacrifice and to renew the covenants made with Him.  But I will always remember the wondrous spirit I felt all those years ago when I heard the "Spirit of God" reinterpreted in that meeting. It was pretty sweet.  Music and the Spirit really does make for some sweet experiences.  I'm glad to have had more than a few of those experiences in my life.

07 July 2012

Date Night

It's often been said that one of the secrets to a happy marriage is to remember that dating doesn't stop once your married.  I shouldn't have to clarify that statement but I will. This means you shouldn't stop dating your spouse once you've sealed the deal, as it were. All other dating is verboten.  If I have to tell you that, there are other issues that need to be cleared up but not in this forum.

Last night, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I reinstituted date night.  Myriad are the reasons why we've not had a regular date night in a long time.  First among them is that we've lived apart for three full months this year as a result of my relocation for my new job.  Secondly, since we've been reunited in the uber-delightful circumstances that are extended-stay hotel living, we've had a significant impediment to getting out.  And that impediment is not The Boy.  No, that impediment is Beijing.  I referenced her inability to not bark when we leave her since she got here.  So it's been a trick to try and coordinate schedules with The Boy so that someone is with the damn dang dog.

Last night, I drew a line in the sand and had The Boy stay home, and by home I mean ensconced in the one-bedroom luxury that we find ourselves in right now (two more weeks, just two more weeks), so that his mother and I could get out. We went on a date.  Nothing fancy.  No driving to Boston or taking the train to NYC for the night.  No, just dinner and walking around in the (relatively) pleasant evening air.  Dinner was at a burger joint that neither of us had tried yet and we both really liked it.  My burger was loaded with jalapenos and candied peppers. Said peppers had enough heat to take off some of my chest hair (sadly, not the gray ones).  After dinner, we walked, hand-in-hand, around the little shopping district we were in and had a chance to simply enjoy being together.  It was a good night.

We have to do date nights more often.  It will be easier once we are settled in our new home and the psychotic dog stabilizes.  But even if she doesn't, we'll be in our own house and won't have to worry about hotel guests complaining about her.  I'm looking forward to getting back in the date night groove again.  I like dating my wife.

04 July 2012


The United States of America celebrates its 236th birthday today.  It's an auspicious event and it's celebrated in all kinds of ways across the country.  There is, however, one thing that ties all those celebrations together and that's something truly, uniquely American: excess.

Whether it's showy parades, overeating, or overly zealous, even xenophobic, displays of patriotism (I'm talking to you Facebook postings - where's the dislike button when you really need it?!), we Americans know how to celebrate our nation's founding with a gush of excess.  That is one of the beauties of this great nation - we are free to celebrate with excess.  Free is the key word here - we are free.

There are so many things that are good about this nation.  In spite of what the Mittites say, this nation is not coming apart at the seams.  We are not at the brink of collapse.  This isn't Syria or Somalia, nor is it Communist Russia.  We are a free and blessed nation.  Remember that.

I am delighted to live in a country where my family and I are free to celebrate our nation's birth as we choose.  And we chose to buy appliances today, taking advantage of the 'Founding Father's Sale' on washers and dryers.  As a good friend of mine said today, 'That's what the founding fathers would have wanted.' Of that I am sure.

Happy Independence Day!

01 July 2012

A lost bag and cha dui

What a week it's been!  I'm glad to be back home after a week on the other side of the Atlantic.  I was in Paris and Manchester, England for work.  Europe, as usual, did not disappoint.  It was a wicked busy week and I won't bore you with all the details here, but a couple of things worth talking about.  They were the bookends to the trip, too.

Things first got interesting upon departure.  I was flying out of Boston, with a connection to Paris through JFK.  Why would I do that?  Because I'm cheap, well business class cheap.  I couldn't stomach the non-stop fares but connections were A-OK.  Well, that's what I hoped.  This, of course, went horribly wrong thanks to a weird patch of weather in an otherwise bright sunny day between Boston and JFK.  My inbound flight was late and I was going to misconnect so the good people at Delta - yes, Delta, not Mother United - rebooked me on another flight out of JFK and I was off.  Once I got to JFK, I was reminded just how awful an airport it is.  I've been through Third World airports that are more modern than the crapfest that is JFK.  But I digress.  While I was a few hours late, I was on an overnight flight to Paris and I'd still have time to make my Monday afternoon meetings in La Defense.

I could not have been more wrong. After enduring a brutally hot Customs hall with a veritable tsunami of my fellow sweaty passengers, I got to baggage claim to find that our bags were already on the belt and no more were coming.  I say our bags, but what I should have said was every other passenger's bags from our flight, except mine.  Mine was gone. Gone, baby, gone.  In the millions, and I do mean millions, of miles I've flown, this was a first.  I've never had a bag go missing.  There's a first for everything.  I filed a claim with a helpful (well, the French version of helpful) agent and now I was going to be late for my meetings.  So on the RER I went and I showed up at my company's offices, having not showered in 24 hours, stinking of a planeful of my fellow passengers, acting like I was delighted to be there.  It was an Academy Award winning performance.  By the end of the day, the airline still had no idea where my bag was, which was bad.  This meant clothes shopping for the next day.

I will say this - my body type is not European.  It is not meant for European-cut shirts but I had no choice.  I spent all of Tuesday sucking in my gut.  Who needs a friggin' Ab Belt when you can just throw on a European-cut shirt, supposedly in your size?  You'll be working your abs (or lack thereof) all day trying not to have one of the buttons burst off and hit the French lady sitting across the conference table from you in the eye.

Miraculously, the bag appeared like Manna from Heaven late Tuesday night. Praise Heaven for American-cut dress shirts that double as parachutes! Wednesday brought a trip to Manchester, in the UK, where I drove on left side for the first time.  The brand-new BMW M5 that I got upgraded to made for a much less terrifying driving experience.  The rest of the week went pretty well.

Until the other bookend of the trip and that was Saturday, the day I was coming home. Because I was on an early flight to Amsterdam (again cheaper connection to get me back to Boston), I stayed at a hotel near Charles de Gaulle on Friday night.  When I checked out, I joined a few people in a queue to get on the shuttle to the airport.  We were a mixed lot of nationalities and everyone seemed to be in a good mood.  Said mood was about to get spanked by cha dui, the fine art of line cutting perfected by the Chinese. (If you are not familiar with the line cutting, or butting, for which the Chinese are rightfully famous, click on that link above to learn more). Upon putting our bags in the back, me and two other people, a couple from Nebraska, discovered that our seats had been snatched by a couple from China. I tried , initially to be nice, asking the couple to leave, since they'd cut the line and had no bags and we'd been in line and had been loading our bags.  Both spoke English because they told me I was lying.  This was lovely.  Well, before you knew it, the lady from Nebraska, went ape on this couple, screaming about how rude they were (which was true) and demanding that they get out.  At this point, the couple dug in and the poor French speaking driver was pleading with them to leave. This rude couple was now being verbally assaulted in at least three languages because all the other passengers in the van were telling them to get out.  But dug in they did - they were sticking by their lie.  They were not moving. Our French driver gave in, much like his ancestors did to the Nazis, and threw out our bags and told us to wait for the next van.  I was surprised that the Nebraska lady didn't rip out a clump of hair from the Chinese battle-axe.  What a way to start the morning...good times.  

Like I said, what a week it's been.  It's good to be home.