24 February 2013

And then we called the Delivery Nurse

Since Our Lady of Awesome and Awesome announced their pregnancy, which if you are not keeping score, will make the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I grandparents for the first time, we've gotten a lot of comments like, 'Oh they are young' or, more for our sake, 'Oh you two are too young to be grandparents. You must have started so young!'

I suppose to most people. except for those creepy Duggars and a lot of folks in Mormondom, we did start our family at a young age. We did and it has worked well for us. If all goes according to plan and no one comes helicoptering back, we will be true empty-nesters by 50. I'm good with that.

Being young parents, you do a lot of things because you don't know any better. Like dragging your wife, being great with child (as in eight months along), to a concert featuring these guys, America's favorite party band, the B-52's:
Yes, this really happened. In January 1990, eight months into her pregnancy, I decided it would be a good idea to drag my wife to the Marriott Center to see the B-52s. What could go wrong with that? Seriously?

We took our seats for the opening act, an act that was completely unremarkable, as I can't even remember who they were. I do remember what happened about three songs in though. They were all kinds of thumping on the bass. Thumping to the point that I thought we would be knocked out of our chairs. Being the 'concerned,' and ridiculously naive husband that I was, I looked at my wife and said, 'Do you think we should call the hospital to see if this is OK for the baby?' She concurred and so we went out to the banks of payphones (yes, payphones as it was pre-cell phone era) and called the birthing factory otherwise known as Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. We were put through to the Labor and Delivery nurses, who could barely hear us over the din of the crappy opening band. We literally shouted, 'Hey we are at the B52's concert and want to know if this bass will hurt our baby that's supposed to be born in a month.' We couldn't tell if they put us on hold or what, but soon enough the answer was that we were fine. I interpreted 'fine' to mean go directly to the pit when the B-52's come on, which is precisely what I did. I took my wife by the hand and marched her right into the proverbial belly of the beast as the real concert got underway. And it was awesome. If you were wondering, our first-born, Our Lady of Awesome, did not come out with an affinity for the music of the B-52's, much to my chagrin.

As a post-script to this story - a few days after the concert, we were at our OB-GYN's office for the weekly appointment as we were counting down to the big day. The nurse came in and started telling us about how she was on duty a few nights back in the L&D when they got a couple at a B52s concert wondering if it would hurt their baby. Oh how they laughed, she said. Glad we could make your night. Always glad to help.

23 February 2013

If they knocked on your door

Since the change in missionary age for both young men and young women that was announced in October 2012, life in Mormondom has gotten all kinds of interesting. Colleges and universities in the Mother Land, Utah, are having to rethink their admissions policies; young men and young women are having to rethink dating strategies; and mission-oriented retailers (ahem, Mr. Mac) are having to find new places to stuff all the cash that they are raking in.

It's an exciting time, but things sure have changed from when I served as a missionary in that foreign outpost known as Miami. Missionary service is a lot different today. We tracted, or knocked doors, endlessly. And I mean endlessly. Was it productive? Probably not. Did I learn something? I learned tons and found some amazing people. I worked with some amazing missionaries along the way too. Today, missionaries serve in totally different ways and are making a difference in a way we could have only hoped to have achieved. Missionaries look different too. The young men are younger and now the sisters are too. Missions are, for good reason, regimented things, and a for awhile there, appearance guidelines made the sisters appear a little polygamist wifey, which is never ever a good look.

A year after I got off my mission, it was Halloween party time at my BYU ward. Now this being BYU, Halloween costumes meant, and still mean, that the women cannot dress up like they are working the pole and that modesty and a modicum of decorum remains paramount. As a couple of buddies and I thought about what we would do for said party, a couple of things came into play...what would be most borderline offensive and since it was off-campus, how far could we take things without a run-in with the Honor Code enforcers. Given those guidelines and since we were living in a ward full of recently returned missionaries, both male and female, there was only one option - this:
Imagine if any one of these 'sisters' knocked on your door
Yep, a living satire on the sister missionaries of the time (remember, this party was 25 years ago!). The jumpers, courtesy of the local thrift emporium Deseret Industries, were pretty much required uniforms in those days. And in some cases, so was the slightly superior smirk I'm sporting (yeah, that's me on the left - 25 years and, gulp, 70 fewer pounds ago). Our fourth 'companion' is not in this picture, but let me assure you, there was a fourth. We weren't about to violate 'mission rules.' So when we made our grand entrance at the party at Bridal Veil Falls, we got the reaction we hoped for. We probably got a bigger reaction because our tags read 'Blister' instead of 'Sister.' It was, in a word, awesome and that's all I'll say about that, at least in this post.

Now if anyone of the three sweet spirits pictured above knocked on your door wanting to share a message, you would slam the door without hesitation, and rightfully so. I served with some incredible young women back then and the young women who are opting to go on missions and are being called to serve today are going to do great things. So are the young men. Whether people choose to listen to their message or not, they are serving, truly serving, and trying each day to make the world a better place. That's not a bad thing at all.

21 February 2013


If you've watched "The Simpsons," you know that Bart has been the bane of his teacher's, one Mrs. Edna Krabapple, existence. As a matter of fact, he's been a one man wrecking machine at Springfield Elementary. But let's face it, the mayhem he's wreaked has been pretty awesome to watch.

You'd think there'd be a more episodes where Bart faces down a substitute teacher and yes, there have been a few memorable ones - Ned Flanders and Marge to name a few, but Bart hasn't had a lot of throwdowns with subs. You may recall that Lisa had an entire story arc on her adoration of her substitute teacher, Mr. Bergstrom (name the actor, who in an uncredited role, voiced said teacher - there's no prize, just see if you can name him). It was one of those sweeter episodes when all was said and done.

I've been thinking a bit about substitute teachers because there is now a substitute educator among the residents of the Den. CAL landed a job today as a substitute para-educator in one of the local school districts here in Connecticutistan. This is fantastic news on several fronts. CAL is an elementary education / special ed major and she'll be working with special needs children. She'll be working one-on-one with them. It will be incredible training for her. She will gain some great insight that she can apply to her major and she'll be all the more prepared when she starts her formal student teaching. So lots of upside for her.

I'm sure she's thrilled too because this means an end to my near constant nagging about her finding a job while she's home. I'm thrilled too. I'm proud of her. She's going to be great. She could even take on the likes of Bart Simpson.

16 February 2013


Are you 23? Good question. I know I'm not. That ship sailed a long, long time ago. However, if you happen to run into my first-born today and were to ask her, 'Hey, are you 23?' she would be able to answer that yes, she is indeed 23, for today, she celebrates her 23rd birthday. Yep, it's another birthday here in the Den.

I suppose that in some antiquated book of etiquette that I'm violating some rule that declares one must never reveal a woman's age but I'm applying the 'rules were meant to be broken' adage here. My blog, my rules.

So Our Lady of Awesome is a year older today. She's a college graduate, a wife, and a soon-to-be mother. She's living a good life. One that makes her happy. As a parent, you really can't ask for more. She's been a joy to us and it's quite an experience (equal parts exciting and terrifying) to watch your children morph into adults, take on the world, get bumped and bruised, and get back up again. It's been to watch our first-born blaze the trail for her sister and brother. It's been a good path.

So, happy birthday to my Princess. Yep, married mommy-to-be, I still get to call you Princess.

14 February 2013

Saying no to V. D.

Let me first clarify the post title. It is not a raging example of TMI. Raging may have been a poor choice of words now that I think about it, but I digress. It is a reference to my aversion to the foolishness that is Valentine's Day.

In short, I proudly maintain my decades long protest against this day. I have documented my aversion to this day in posts written on this day for the last several years. I won't bore you with it again. I will say that my first-born did me all kinds of proud today in a post in her blog about her own intolerance towards this day. As far as I'm concerned I've done my job as a father.

That said, she also used the post to talk about her thoughtful husband and their love story, so she kind of caved. Admittedly, so did I and here's how. After my best friend, my partner, my exemplar of all things good, my wife the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML got a dozen red roses today from me, it would appear I'd changed. It should be pointed out that said roses were sent, unbeknownst to me, by my mother. It should also be noted that I'm a middle-aged man whose mother is still trying to fix him. Is that pathetic or what?

Anyway, I did decide to step it up with a card and a Diet Coke as an observance of this day for this amazing woman who still thinks I'm not that big a train wreck after all these years. BTW - the Diet Coke had a heart on it. Nothing says loving people like a gift like that.

Now, in all seriousness, I am most fortunate that my wife said yes all those years ago when I asked her to spend forever with me. To say she took a leap of faith would be something of an understatement. I am in her debt forever for how she makes me want to be a better man/husband/father/person every day. I'm grateful that we laugh together a lot. I'm grateful that we've been able to figure things out. It's not always been easy (if you've read a lot of the Den, you've got a little insight into why it may not be so easy living with me), but it's always been worth it.

Thank you to the love of my life. Thanks for making each day amazing.

11 February 2013

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

A world I know all too well
What follows is a tale of woe
Because of my waning travel mojo
Thanks to an angry winter storm named Nemo

Da Plane!  Da Plane!
This past Wednesday I flew to Orange County, CA, for some meetings in Huntington Beach. I did not realize until the morning of my departure that a nasty winter storm was headed for our little corner of New England.  It was due to hit with its full force at the time I was scheduled to land back home at Friday night. Throwing caution to the wind, I figured I'd find my way around and given the hyperbole with which TV weatherpeople pontificate, I proceeded with my trip.

On Thursday morning, this storm now had a name, the aforementioned Nemo (who, by the way, had a gender transition and somehow morphed into Charlotte), and it looked B-A-D. A couple of the people in my meeting who were also headed back to the East Coast decided to bail early and found seats on east-bound redeyes.  I was presenting at the meeting on Friday morning and felt obligated to stay. That said, I did call my airline o'choice to see if there were any seats left heading east on the redeye, and I was told no (first sign my travel mojo was in trouble). Friday morning dawned and the weather hysterics were in full seizure mode as they breathed out their warnings about the storm. I talked to the lone voice of reason, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, who confirmed, that indeed things were already looking bleak. By 10AM Pacific time, my connecting flight from ATL to home had been cancelled. Clearly, I was going to be overnighting somewhere. I opted to go to ATL because I figured I'd have better options from there. So I raced to the airport to find that I was yet again about #23 on the waitlist for First (so much for Platinum status) and I headed east. In the meantime, I was rebooked on the first flight home on Saturday (assuming said airport would be open). So I got to ATL and booked a hotel next to an entirely too creepy Waffle House. After a restless night, I was up early, surprised to find that my flight was still operating and on time. This would prove to be a filthy lie. No sooner did I get through Security than my phone lit up with a text from the airline advising my flight was cancelled.  I'll spare you the details but I spent the rest of the day at ATL, working my options, all of which were greeted with a 'no.' I was not going anywhere. My travel mojo had fled the building. None of the old tricks, valuable knowledge gained on the battle field of frequent business travel, worked. By the end of the day, stinking of airport hopelessness, I threw in the towel, and went back to another airport hotel by the creepy Waffle House, knowing that I was rebooked on another flight tomorrow. This one through Minneapolis. Because it made complete and utter sense at this point to fly north and west into another weather train wreck to get home to my blizzard-stricken family (by blizzard-stricken, I mean totally safe, with power, watching movies). So Sunday, it was my turn to get on the first flight to Minneapolis. It was a mess. Icy rain and show. Great. I was able to get on an earlier flight than I'd been booked on and I thought my mojo may be coming back. It wasn't. We sat at the gate for an hour. Then we backed out and sat on the deicing pad for, wait for it, another hour. But finally, we were out of there, and about 40 hours after I was originally scheduled to land, I was home.

Well, the only trains I rode were at the ATL and MSP airports as I played gambling for terminals. I'd thought about flying to Baltimore or New York to get on a train to get home, but Amtrak cancelled all service to the Northeast. Once again, thank you failing travel mojo.

So my rental car in Orange County was fine. My car, parked at the valet lot, suffered some pretty serious indignity as it was dug out by the parking staff. But the OMC did not fail me. It got me home!

It wasn't all bad. Many thanks to my sweet cousins and friends in ATL who offered a refuge from the proverbial storm. And a big thanks to the fellow road warrior who told the lounge dragon at the Sky Club that I was his guest on Saturday morning. Saved me from having to shell out $50 for a day pass. Have to pay it forward on that one.

Alas, it's good to be home. Now to just find a way to get my travel mojo back...

03 February 2013

Farrell's? 'Member it?

The Zoo wouldn't distract these two
If you grew up on the West Coast or in one its desperate neighbors (e.g. Arizona, from whence I came) and are of a certain age, and by that I mean middle age, you have to remember Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours. And if you don't, you probably didn't spend a lot of time at that staple of the Mormon youth experience, the Saturday Night Stake Dance.

Stakes (akin to dioceses) in the LDS Church are a collection of wards (akin to parishes) divided by geography and on any given Saturday night, you could find a youth dance hosted by one of the stakes. By and large, these were awkward affairs, held in the Church gym, sometimes festooned with crepe paper, with the boys milling around one side of the gym and the girls on the other, with a volunteer DJ playing the records (yes, records...vinyl...LP's, people. 1979 / 1980 when I made my first appearance at these epic social train wrecks was a long, long time ago) and trying with all his collective will to get the kids to dance or to not shoot himself in the head.

You could start attending these teen soap operas set to bad late 70s / early 80s music when you were 14. Until I could drive, that meant being stuck attending my own stake dances.  My buddies and I determined that as soon as we could drive, we would abandon our stake dances and that we did. Getting involved with anyone from your own stake was akin to the nuclear option and we were having none of it, so we targeted Mesa and Phoenix. On weekends when it was my turn to drive, we'd load up my Mom's boss yellow Suburban, with the then-obligatory metal tinting, throw in an 8-track in the craptastic Chevy stereo and head to Phoenix or Mesa to get our painfully blundering groove on.

If we were at a Phoenix dance, we knew we'd be ending the night at Farrell's. We'd leave the dance a little early and head over, ready to devour The Zoo. It wasn't so much about the ice cream as it was about the ridiculous show associated with ordering said Zoo.  The wait staff all dressed in 1890's stripes and straw hats and when the Zoo was delivered, it was delivered on a stretcher by a slew of the striped staff, accompanied by the screeching of a siren. Like I said, it was ridiculous. We certainly didn't order it every time and I don't recall one ever being finished. But I remember the laughs, I remember the play-by-play recaps of the evening's events (e.g. who got who's number). I remember being surrounded by friends.

It was a simpler time. If that group got together again today and we went to a Farrell's, we'd be challenged by the menu. Some of us would be lactose-intolerant, others would be on cholesterol medicines, and others of us would be trying to get back into shape so that their first grandchild doesn't think their grandpa is Jabba the Hut (guess who that is?). But we'd still laugh. A lot.