27 July 2013

"Don't Be Cruel"

Settle in, people, this is a longer post than usual

With some extra time on my hands today after running (literally) back from dropping off our own weapon of environmental mass destruction (the beloved Yukon) to get the A/C looked at, I slumped down on the couch in the preferred "stupor" position (see my previous post), and I began to channel surf. I happened on to a recently shown HBO documentary call "Miss You Can Do It."

If admitting that from the moment I started watching it that I cried revokes my man card, then so be it. I don't care. My grasp on that card has grown less and less firm from the moment Our Lady of Awesome announced she was getting married (I cried) and now that I am a grandfather (I cried), my grasp on said card was tenuous at best. Regarding the crying, trust me these are not hideous Glenn Beck claptrap tears that misguided people actually pay to see, but tears of a man who is coming to realize tears have a powerful effect on he who sheds them. I probably should not have held so firm on the "no crying" rule when the kids were growing up, but that's a post for another day or for a therapy session. Back to this documentary...

The backstory involves a former Miss USA contender who has cerebral palsy and was the first 'disabled' contestant in that pageant's history. She has gone on to start a pageant called the 'Miss You Can Do It' pageant for girls living with a range of disabilities from cerebal palsy to Down's Syndrome. Now this sounds treacly and parts of it are, no doubt. But when you see the joy that comes over these sweet children as they get to do things the world said the could never do, it's pretty amazing.

What's also amazing are the stories of the families. One family in particular was especially moving. They had two sons and then a girl born with Down's. Knowing that she would be without others like her, soon after her birth these parents adopted a Ukranian girl who also had Down's. Soon after, their home was vandalized - graffiti demanding that the 'retards leave.' A couple of things - what was actually spray painted on the outside walls of their home and car was far worse and their two older sons were able to read it and two, the miscreants who did this could not spell, at all. I feel fully confident that the irony of that will forever be lost on those who perpetrated the crime. The father took it as an opportunity to teach his sons about the chances they'll have to protect and defend their sisters. It was beyond powerful.

Another father seemed to sum it all up, and I didn't get the quote right because I got very emotional when he said it. He was expressing his hope for his girls, affected by different challenges, to have a normal life and that they wouldn't experience cruelty. "Don't be cruel," was all he said and that tore it wide open for me. Three simple words. If followed, they would make all the difference in the life of his girls. Those three words - don't be cruel - are haunting. I regret those times in my life when I did not heed those words. What a different place this world would be if we lived by those three words...

As I watched the documentary, I thought over and over about my three children. I literally found myself thanking my Father in Heaven for them and for the blessings they've brought the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me. I am so grateful for their health. I thought of my first grandchild and again counted my blessings. I do not know why I've been blessed in this way. But I am no more blessed than the parents I saw in the film. How they spoke about their children was inspiring and humbling. I thought of friends who have raised amazing special needs children. I count myself fortunate to be able to have their example in my life.

As I think my friends raising or who have raised these amazing children, I realize that we want the same thing that dad wanted - don't be cruel. Don't be cruel to my child. Don't be cruel to anyone. Is that really too much to ask?

25 July 2013


Maybe it's the dog days of summer. Maybe it's the fact that we are careening ever closer to being empty-nesters. Maybe it's the fact that middle-age continues to settle on me like a famished on fresh roadkill. But this seems to be my favorite pose of late:
I seem to be in a state of stupor. Suspension of, or greatly dulled, sensibility? Check. Mental torpor? Check. The image above is a fine representation of the position I assume most nights of late after work. I will admit I don't have that gut but if I keep up the reclined position instead of getting outside and running, I'll be able to balance an entire dinner tray on my gut, not just a remote.

I believe is an unusual state for me. It's not my norm. So it's time to go on the search of that spark, that invigoration again. Suggestions are welcome. But not tonight. I have to go assume the 'stupor' position for one last time.

21 July 2013

Small World

Every once in awhile, you get a reminder that in spite of its vast size, this world really is small. No, we did not just make a visit to Disneyland, wherein one may be subjected to the cultural/ethnic stereotyping terror ride that is "It's A Small World." Awful cultural stereotyping. Parental killing. Seriously, Disney...work out your issues somewhere else. Nor were we playing a rousing round of 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.' Instead, earlier this week the Boy found himself in upstate New York face-to-face with one of my mission companions who I have not seen in probably twenty three years. 23!

Here's how it all went down: The Boy and a buddy threw a tent in the trunk and decided to drive over to Palmyra, New York to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant, an event which focuses on the Book of Mormon. After securing their spot at a KOA campground (they still exist!), whose owners were highly suspicious of two teen-age boys, they headed off to the pageant. While waiting for the event to start, cast members mill around talking to the assembling crowds. One guy stopped and talked to the Boy and his buddy for awhile. The Boy thought nothing of the encounter until his return home the next night. They had a good time at the Pageant, assuaged the fears of the KOA people by not causing a single issue, and got to see a little bit more of the area in which we now live.

As he was telling us about it when he got home, I mentioned that a friend of mine had posted pictures of himself and family at the Pageant on BookFace as they were cast members. The Boy took one look at the picture and said, 'Dad, that guy totally talked to us last night.' That guy was my second companion when I served as a missionary more than twenty five years ago. I asked the Boy if he was sure and he said he was. I messaged said friend and told him what the Boy had recounted. He responded quickly, saying he recalled talking with a couple of kids from Connecticut and we put two and two together. In fact, they'd unknowingly connected. Hence, what a small world. It really is small. It's good to be connected to it.

And if that awful Disney ride tune is stuck in your head now, I can only say I'm sorry.

20 July 2013


It has been oppressively hot and humid this past week here in Connecticutistan. We've been sweltering along with the rest of the Northeast and it has been, in a word, unpleasant. It's made everything a bit off kilter, including my vision. Wait....what? See (a poor choice of words) now that I'm wearing glasses full-time again, I'd forgotten about what happens when you emerge from an air conditioned space into the palpable heat. Glasses completely fog over and you bid your vision farewell for a second or two. A minor inconvenience but it throws me every time I get out of my car and step into the swamp. 

You know how disconcerting it can be to drive in foggy conditions? It's unsettling but it's not like you can resolve that as quickly as I can my fogged over glasses. You've got to be extra careful and stick to the att you know when in the foggy muck. Some elements of life right now feel like I'm driving in that muck. It does make you slow down and consider that which is most important. As I navigate this, I'm grateful for an amazing copilot, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML. Man, I'd be completely adrift without her. I'm also grateful for the power of prayer and the opportunity to exercise faith. Listening for answers requires that.

The thing about fog is that it always goes away, unless it is of the 'killer' kind found in crappy horror films. Fog burns off and so do those moments in life when you wonder about the challenges. They too will burn off, thanks to the light. That works for me.

BTW - if this post looks off kilter, it's the first time I'm using the Blogger app on my iPad. Not sure how this is going to publish.

13 July 2013

Celebrating under the stars

It's been tradition here in the Den that when a family member celebrates a birthday, the post that day is numbered with their age on said day. Well, yesterday the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML celebrated another birthday, and since discretion is the better part of valor, I've chosen NOT to share the number. Yea, me!

I will tell you that in terms of being thoughtful on how this birthday was honored, which admittedly has not always been my strongest suit, yesterday was a success! I had to be in the office early so the Boy took it upon himself to get his mom breakfast in bed and then spent the better part of the day with her. It really made her day. When I got home, we opened presents. The highlight was the device that will allow the mighty fine SML plenty of face time with her grandson and will allow me to further enslave myself to a certain tech company bearing the name of a fruit. The same fruit with which Beelzebub Himself took down Eve. Ironic connection...I digress.

Anyway after taking care of that, it was on to the evening's surprise. The mighty fine SML's late father was a Big Band-era music aficionado and he loved him some Frank Sinatra. So there's some sentimental feelings for the Chairman around these parts. I'd learned about a week ago that the Hartford Symphony Orchestra was as a part of the Talcott Mountain Music festival doing a 'Sinatra Under The Stars' night at an outdoor amphitheater on SML's birthday. It didn't take much deliberation to hit "purchase" on those tickets and an evening of celebration was secretly planned.

The best Sinatra homage ever
So I told her what we were up to and we were off. We grabbed dinner on the way and with some treats in hand, we settled in at the venue for a night of music. The weather mercifully held and it made for a beautiful night. It was cool enough that the bugs were kept at bay. The music was good. The Sinatra impresario had clearly spent a lot of years on the lounge circuit and the schtick got a little old after awhile, but the music made up for it. We had a really good time. All in all, I think it made for an excellent birthday celebration. If anyone deserves it, it is the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML.

On a side note, from the time the guy took the stage, I could not shake the image of the late Phil Hartman playing Frank Sinatra on Saturday Night Live. Phil's take on the leader of the Rat Pack was brilliant, but then so was Phil. So I'll leave you with the classic "Sinatra Group" sketch:

That, my friends, is comedy gold!

11 July 2013

When Taste Betrays

Last week during the 4th of July break, I got a craving hankering for something I've not eaten in years, dare I say eons. That something is oft associated with summer and picnics as well as trailer parks and sudden myocardial infarctions. Of course, I was pining for this:
Not really
Like so many other desires cravings that are not good for us, I quashed the desire to go get a bucket o'chicken. Until tonight.

With the Boy at work shilling shirts at the Old Gravy, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML recalled my craving and said I should go fill it. This was all kinds of strange, especially coming from her. Why? Like a weird uncle who stares at your friends too, the fact that my good wife did a brief stint at a KFC as a teen-ager. She barely speaks of it and the mere mention of their mashed potatoes, particularly the gravy, sends her into spasms of borderline hysteria. However, since she opened the window, after some internal debate, I was in.

This would prove to be a mistake. Yes, that first bite of chicken brought back a veritable tsunami of memories. I was transported back to picnics with my family at Eldorado Park, where the bucket o'chicken was a staple. Those were fun memories. And then I took a bite of my mashed potatoes. Yep, the gravy tasted exactly the same. And then I remembered what that taste reminded me of...chemicals. Cleanser to be exact. I've never eaten cleanser but I'm fairly certain that the gravy and its aftertaste are precisely the same as cleanser. As I sit here writing this post, I am reminded that the gravy has the same effect as a cleanser as well. You have been warned.

A lesson relearned tonight. Like our other senses, taste is capable of evoking so many things like memories and feelings. Sometimes it's better not to wake those memories. Duly noted.

07 July 2013


A model class
I've noted previously how Sundays can be pretty busy days here in the Den and that's largely because it's the day we go get religion and ours is a lay clergy. So there is work to be done.

Today was one of those days where there was work to be done. It started with an hour long meeting before services began. During the second hour of services, I was teaching the adult Sunday School class. I normally don't do that but in my role at church I oversee the Sunday School and one of my teachers asked me to cover for her today.

Teaching the adults is always a bit daunting. There are a lot of people in our congregation who are far smarter and religiously wiser than me. Whenever I teach that group or even worse when I get the chance to teach the kids, I'm always fearful concerned that someone is going to pull out some obscure Scriptural reference or question for which I will have a whole lot of nothin'. Fortunately, that bullet has been dodged, for now. And then there's the fact that when I teach, you get me. I don't tune up the personality and turn into a model teacher. You get me. Whether you like it or not.

I thought it went well today. I judge that by the fact that no one walked out nor was anything thrown (e.g. books, punches) at me. These opportunities are good for me. I have to prepare and I like that preparation time. I like the interaction with those in the class. I like the insight of others. For me, the reward of teaching is that I am usually the one who learns more.  I'm grateful for that because I could use all the learning I can get.

Teaching made for a good day today. I like days like that.

05 July 2013

Let It Zip!

This Independence Day-led extended weekend afforded us the opportunity to find something new to do and a few days ago, we found that something: zip lining. So this morning we took a beautiful drive up to and through northwest Massachusetts in order to LET IT ZIP! If that sounds vaguely familiar, let me give you another earworm - it's a play on the song entitled 'Let it Whip,' a one-hit, Minimoog wonder from 1982 by the Dazz Band. You're welcome.

We found ourselves at a ski resort in the Berkshire Mountains called Berkshire East this morning to embark on our seven zip line ride, or "Canopy Tour," as it is marketed. We checked in and found that there would be another family of three joining the tour. Once they arrived, we met our guides, Tony and Max, and we suited up. Suited up is a stretch. We were harnessed up. There's nothing, and I mean nothing, flattering about the placement of the harnesses. It's pretty much an angrier version of the jockstraps we were forced to wear in high school gym class. I'll spare you a visual image because I care about my good readers. Trust me, you'll thank me.

Now that we were harnessed, we made our way to the chair lift to head up the mountain. This 'selfie' is proof-positive that I should never wear hats, no matter what. I'm better off walking around like 'Massive Head Wound Harry' rather than donning a hat. Seriously.

At the first line, our guides walked us through what we needed to do and then, one by one, we were off. The Boy was the first one and he was, in one instant, a pro! The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML did great and then I was off. It was great. It was a nice rush. The views were incredible. Mercifully, the line held, too. Look how my harness is straining. I probably should have skipped breakfast.

SML looking like a pro!
The Boy brings it in
We had a really great time! Never once did we feel at risk. It was exhilarating and rewarding. Yes, rewarding. The views as we were suspended from the lines were incredible. The reward came in those views. They were spectacular. See what I mean:
Even the view from the chairlift was awesome
Suffice to say, I'm on board with this zip lining thing in a big way. If you haven't done it, do it. You'll be glad you did.

03 July 2013

On the eve of Independence Day

Tomorrow, the United States of America celebrates her 237th birthday. As far as nations go, 237 years is still pretty young. One might say we are still in our petulant teen-age years, struggling at times to figure out just who are we are, or better, who we are going to be.

While we may yet be something of an obnoxious teen, ours is still a truly free nation. We enjoy freedoms that so many other nations do not. Sure, the NSA may be looking at my cell phone bill to see who I'm calling (as information, they will be sorely disappointed, but I know think they already know that). Sure, Fox News can get away with calling itself 'fair and balanced' without a hint of irony, thanks to the freedom the press. Sure, we willingly submit ourselves to probings at the airport courtesy of the TSA that are normally reserved for an annual physical. But we do it because we are free to travel. I don't need to apply to the state for permission to jump on a plane to go get a sandwich I heard about in another city (yes, I actually did that).

The road to freedom is not an easy one. Look no further than the events that are going down as we speak in Egypt. It is no simple task to manage the freedom of a democracy. As you recall from your own teen-age years, those weren't the easiest. They were tough. But you got through them. And this great country, for it is still great, is getting through it as well. It will continue to mature.

Freedom is worth something. It's certainly worth celebrating. May all of you who call the United States home  celebrate it well tomorrow and cherish that we are free to do so. I know I will.