30 January 2013


It's widely accepted that one of the more stressful events for people is moving. It's an event that can be fraught with drama, even peril. Some handle it better than others, and as the case with so much in life, the more you do it, it does seem to get easier. But no matter how often you move, and even if it's done through the luxury (I use that term loosely) of a paid corporate relocation, in the back of your mind, you're waiting for someone that's moving to snap.

We've moved several times now and I've always prepared, albeit quietly, for someone in the family to snap. I was never too proud to include myself as one of the potential snapees either. To date, through six moves, I've never had to invoke any of those plans. Until now. And none of my plans included the snap we are enduing now.  Why?

Because the snapee is a nearly twelve year old, eleven pound Shih Tzu. Beijing, our family dog, who has been with us since she was an eight-week old puppy has officially, in my book at least, snapped.  Apparently this move has proven to be her undoing. A couple of points of evidence:

  • She refuses to go up or down the stairs. Instead she prefers to bark incessantly from either the bottom or top of the stairs until someone carriers Her Highness up or down. Our Illinois and California houses had stairs. She never did this in either of those houses.
  • As soon as we sit down at the table to eat, she begins to bark incessantly to the point of dog hysterics. She does not stop until she is let outside, where nine times out of ten, she does absolutely nothing. Nothing, I tell you. She has never done this. 
These are new and incredibly annoying behaviors that did not manifest themselves until we moved into our new house. I don't know if she got entirely too used to being coddled when we were hostage to her while living in the Residence Inn for a few months or what, but I'm telling you, this dog has snapped. It's not a good look for her, let me tell you.

I'm a firm believer that the Dog Psychic lady is a peddler of garbage, but I'm getting just desperate enough to give her a call. Maybe she'll know what to do with a dog who's snapped...or can someone hook us up with the Dog Whisperer? Anyone...

27 January 2013


In the mid-1980's, it was my honor (seriously, it was an honor) to call south Florida, specifically Miami, home. I never anticipated that I'd live in Florida, which in the immortal words of Jack Donaghy is "America's Australia; it's a criminal population." For two years, Miami, the post-Marielito influx/"Miami Vice"/drug-trade fueled Miami, was my home. Why, you ask? Like so many other 19 year old (well, now you can be 18) young men who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I answered a call from a prophet to serve. I served a two-year mission there and it was amazing.

Miami, besides being completely insane, was and still is, the crossroads of Latin America and in my service there, I was able to get to know the cultures that make up Latin America. Each culture was unique - their dialects, their foods, their experiences - but there were a few things that seemed to unify them: futbol (or soccer) and novelas. No, I don't mean novellas, or short-form novels, nor do I mean novenas, but novelas.

At its simplest, the novela or telenovela is a soap opera. Rather than slogging along for years and years like their American cousins, the Spanish novela ran for just a matter of months from beginning to end. The stories, from what I could tell, were all the same: beautiful poor girl, either orphaned or stricken with some disease or other impediment, is in love with a handsome wealthy boy. There was always a wise priest and a dour nun to guide the girl. She always faced the harsh judgement and overly-arched eyebrows of her potential mother-in-law but in the end, love always conquered. The acting was overwrought to the point of awful, with a lot of women weeping copiously and a lot of steely looks from the men.

As quickly as one novela debuted, it would end and another would begin. And they captivated everyone with whom we came into contact. As a missionary you quickly learned that you would get no work done between 7PM and 8PM Monday through Friday. There was no more sacred hour, let me tell you.

In my first week in the mission field, I'll never forget what happened at 7PM. Since everyone kept their windows open, as it was south Florida and central A/C was mostly a suggestion, you could hear pretty much everything that was going on.  At 6:59PM as the screams of "Viejo! Ven aca! Ya comienza ________ (insert novela name here)!" died down, there was the proverbial quiet before the storm and then it happened.  The air was filled with the strains of the theme song from the same novela coming from every single house on the block. It was surreal. And for the next hour, that's all you heard, block after block, and we got nothing done. From time to time, we would be invited to dinner at someone's house during the sacred hour and we'd get a peek at the novela du jour.  The two I remember most were these two, Cristal and Topacio:
Topacio - and she's bllind if you can't tell by the superior acting
These were both Venezuelan productions, which we were told back then, were of the highest quality. By that I mean the sets appeared to be soundly constructed, unlike the Mexican ones that looked like the entire set would collapse every time an actor closed a door and that things were not all done in one take. Ahem.

I was trolling around YouTube the other day when I happened upon the theme song from "Topacio" and it brought back a flood of memories and was the genesis of this post. Lest you think we spent every night in front of a TV for two years as a missionary, I can assure we did not. This was just one of those funny things that makes you smile when you think back on those incredible days of service and growth.

So let me close by giving you what I heard every night, five days a week for months in 1985. It's the theme to "Topacio."  Que lo disfrute!

22 January 2013


History is rife with examples of purging. Most, if not all, of these purges were horribly misguided and the results were, well, bad, to put it mildly.

Examples? Well, let's go old school and head back to Adam and Eve. One could argue that their eviction from Eden was a purging, but at least that got the ball rolling on the creation of humanity.  Noah's flood? Yep, that was a purging that didn't end well for those who chose to ignore his warnings. Jump ahead to the Inquisition and we know how that story ended. Again, not well. How about the occupation of Native American lands and the horrific generational impact on the American Indian?  Nicely played, Manifest Destiny. And then there's the 20th and 21st century and all the awfulness we've perpetrated on one another in the name of ethnic cleansing/purging. Suffice to say, purging doesn't have a good history.

However, if there is a bright side to purging, it can be found in purging one's self of a bad habit. It can be found in purging one's house of mess and clutter. As I found yesterday, it can also be found in purging oneself of 'friends' on Facebook. As I've noted before here, if you looked at my array of 'friends' on the FB, you'd see a pretty eclectic group, representing a wide array of creeds, colors, beliefs, and opinions of people that have been a part of my life. That variety has made me a better person and made things more interesting. However, someone of those 'friends' had gone beyond opinion, even beyond bloviating, and had crossed the line into spewing vitriolic inanity. Yesterday, tore it. It was the day we celebrated the late Dr. Martin Luther King and the second inauguration of our President. The ensuing vitriol, albeit brief, made it clear that it was time. It was time to purge. I purged.

The number is not important. The lesson for me is what's important. Life's too short to let yourself get caught up in the crazy. My own life is just crazy enough, thank you. So I highly recommend a purge like this. It does a body good (sorry, milk advertisers). And if I've set you off one too many times with some inane remark of mine on the FB and you want to purge me, I get it. Purge away.

P.S. - Using Google to find images of the word 'purge' results in some regrettable imagery. You have been warned.

20 January 2013

What do people do all day?

For as long as I can remember, I have been a voracious reader. Like right now, I have four books on my nightstand, each one in some phase of being read. If you're interested, here are the four books I'm reading right now:

A true tale of life in Delhi. A Jewish member of the Peace Corps in China. An African-American woman used as a medical test subject. A high school football team defying the odds in the dregs of Florida. It's an eclectic list.  About the only thing that links them is the insight into the human condition and that they are all non-fiction and each gives me another picture of the world in which we live.

Reading has illuminated that world for me ever since I was a child. I was reminded today of one of the books the first lit up the world for me. A family sat down in front of us and one of the books they used to keep their toddler interested during the service was from beloved children's author, Richard Scarry. As they cracked open the big book and I saw the familiar face of Lowly Worm, I smiled broadly and remembered, with great fondness, this book:
Published in 1968, when I was already a toddler, I'm certain this was not my first book.  However, I remember this one to this day. I was completely taken by it. I could not get enough of reading about what people did all day. It was my first look into the world of adults and I was mesmerized. It certainly helped to have Lowly Worm as a guide. With him, the world seemed a little less intimidating. Huckle the Cat was another great companion, helping me to explore the world. Funny, he was only the cat who did not fill me with rage then. It remains the same today - Huckle the Cat = awesome.  Any other cat = minion of Satan himself.

I'm grateful for the gift of words. I'm thankful for what reading has brought to my world. Thanks to Richard Scarry, I got an early peek into that age-old question of what do people do all day. I'm eager to share that same glimpse with our grandchild. As long as he has the same antipathy towards cats, then we're all good.

15 January 2013

Embellish or...

never let the truth get in the way of a good story. My late maternal grandfather was an epic, epic storyteller. By story, I don't mean lies, but stories from his childhood and his life. They were amazing but as I grew older and heard him retell them, sometimes details would change. Whether it was intentional or not, he was embellishing his stories. Embellished or not, they made for great yarns and memories that I cherish to this day.

We are probably all a bit guilty or embellishing the truth to make for a better story, and in some cases, the embellishing turns to outright lying. It's a slippery slope, I suppose.  It starts with the bold but laughable response of child standing in a puddle of spilled milk, saying "I didn't do it," when asked who spilled it. Then it's "the dog I ate my homework." And suddenly, you're Lindsay Lohan, saying it's an ear infection (ha!) that prevented you from working or you're Kim Kardashian saying, with a straight face mind you, "Oh no it's not about the money. I'm doing this for love." Or you are Lance Armstrong, proclaiming with all the righteous indignation (read here for a perspective on Lance and his copping indignation) in the world that you never doped. Never. Ever.

We are on the eve of the disgraced athlete's televised appearance before this century's Mother Confessor, Oprah. Someone recently Tweeted that you don't go on Oprah to confess, you go on Oprah to ask forgiveness (in another post we should probably delve into how insane that is) and Lance has calculated (as he has done with all things) that Mother Oprah may be his best shot at some hope of redemption. How sad this all is and I'm not talking about Oprah. How sad it is to see what a lie, albeit a huge one, has done. How many lives (paging Floyd Landis) have been destroyed by this maniacal dedication to deceit? How sad it is that about the only good thing to come of this, the Livestrong Foundation, will face declining donations and a cloud of suspicion as a result of the actions of its founder. My hope is that people who had donated to Livestrong in the past or had planned to will continue to do so and if they choose not to that they will choose another organization. Don't let Lance's carnival of lies impact your desire to donate to something good.

Lance will have to live with himself over this but outwardly, it appears he's been pretty cool with the situation for awhile. That's sad too. If only he'd just told the truth, it would have been so much easier. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" made the Top 10. There's a reason for that.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story - it's probably time to rethink that.

12 January 2013


Clearly, this won't end well
After a taxing first full week back to work (hence my week-long absence from the Den), Friday night could not come soon enough for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me. That could only mean a long-delayed and most welcome date night.

We had dinner at a small Italian place in town. As we were catching a 730PM movie, we got there before the dinner rush.  When I say small, I mean maybe twelve tables and when we got there, one, count 'em, one table was occupied. The waitress/hostess/busboy grabbed her clipboard and asked if we had a reservation. She was kidding, right? After a few minutes of internal debate, she gave us our choice of two tables. Dinner was fine, not a home run by any stretch but the company, being with my wife, was great.

From there, it was off to the movies. Nothing says 'Let's take a load off!' by watching a gripping, terrifying, and stunning unbelievably true story of survival from the massively destructive tsunami that wreaked utter destruction throughout southeast Asia in December 2004. We saw "The Impossible." It is gut-wrenching. It is raw. It will leave you worn out and it's worth every minute you spend watching it.

I'm not kidding. Since you know the deadly wave is coming, you are braced for its arrival and once it does, you do not relax until the final scene. This is a powerful film and I don't say that simply because of how it captures nature's incredible fury. The human emotion is just as powerful, if not more so. It will make you think. It will make you count your blessings.

After we collected ourselves at the film's end and found the strength to get up, we walked to the car quietly contemplating what we'd just seen. The family's survival truly was impossible, given what they faced. As we drove home, we questioned some of the choices the characters had made and wondered what we might have done in the face of, and I'll say it again, impossible odds. Our conclusion, made from the warmth of our ecologically offensive four-wheel drive, as we drove home on the rainy road, was that we'd never let go. To do otherwise would be impossible.

This family of mine is far from perfect. We've got opportunity to improve each and every day and while there is no magic formula, although we've found tremendous peace and guidance here, we've managed to hold on, to not let go. It is something I do not take for granted. And now, with our first grandchild - a BOY (read here for the official word from his parents) - on the way, never letting go is all the more important.

Whether the wave is real or metaphorical, I'm not letting go.

05 January 2013

Nostalgia: Dynamite

The Bionic Woman on the cover the month I turned 10
Perhaps it's the rapid advance of time or the ever-present reminder that I'm getting older or maybe it's just the dawn of a new year that has had me feeling a bit nostalgic this week.

Out of nowhere as I was experiencing a wave of nostalgia, a flurry of images raced through my head, each one more powerful than the next in its celebration of the awful that was the 1970's. Each one of those images came from the same place. They were covers from "Dynamite" magazine.

Please, please, please tell me you remember this monthly love letter to pop culture disguised as educational material since it was shilled sold by Scholastic. That's right, you could order it straight from your teacher or you could get a subscription. I was one of those who had a subscription. It was my direct link to pop culture.  Each month, I waited by the mailbox to see what it would bring. Who would be on the cover? 'Please let it be one of the foxes (yes, I said it, foxes) from Charlie's Angels!' was a common prayer I uttered at the mailbox. What one of the "Bummers" would I agree with? This stuff was awesome.  At least that's the way it seemed when I was 10 and 11.

Like so many things in pop culture, the 'Dynamite' star seemed to fade away as quickly as it burst into my world. Turns out, this thing was published for 18 years - from 1974 to 1992. I had no idea. I have no idea to this day how it stayed relevant for that long. What other magazine could get away with cheesy headlines like this: 'The Invisible Man - TV's Most Outtasite Character!' I so wish I'd made that up, but that was a real one.

Now my magazine reading (Fast Company, Mental Floss, Al Jazeera) is mostly done on my iPad and it's brilliant visual interactive experience.  But I'm not waiting breathlessly by the mailbox anymore to see what surprises 'Dynamite' would bring. Simpler times...sometimes, just sometimes, I miss that.

01 January 2013

2013:Let's Go

It's 1 January. Another year begins. It's time to make resolutions that, now let's face it, will not come to fruition. For example and a bad one at that, I still have the extra 25 pounds on me that I swore six ways 'til Sunday were coming off last year. If it kills me, those are coming off this year. I'm serious. I'm starting to look like I've had one, two, or fifteen too many cinnamon rolls this year. Curse you, holiday baking! Also, the fact that I need to wear a bro again as I get back into my running routine is more than a little disturbing.

So as far as resolutions go, it's pretty simple:

  • Lose the manboobs
  • Start running consistently again
  • See first entry on list
  • Tell the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML that I love her each and every day
  • Come to terms with the fact that I'm going to be a grandfather this year
  • See first entry on list (I clearly have concerns about the bro, do I not? I suppose this is what happens when you don't roll out of bed until after 9AM on New Year's Day and you get a view of yourself in the bathroom mirror that is both shocking and laughable at the same time.)
So, 2013, let's go. Let's get on with this new year. Let's make it challenging, let's make it great, let's go!