28 September 2013

When you're 80

When you're 80, you get to take a lot of pills
A non-resident of the Den, but let's face it, without whom there would be no Den (so for those of you who find yourselves upset by the Den, blame said non-resident, not me), celebrated a significant milestone birthday yesterday. Indeed, my Mom celebrated her 80th birthday. This is no small feat (for some riveting reading on the aging population in America, read here). I mean, how many 80 year old people do you know? The fact is getting older is not for the weak and I am amazed at the strength of my 80 year old mother.

From what I've seen, when you're 80, you've got a lot of leeway on things. Here's some things I've observed:

  • When you're 80, you get to make wild pronouncements, like 'OK, this is the year I'm dying. So this will be my last (insert key event here).' Now my mother has made this pronouncement well in advance of said big birthday, but it's a specious argument in her case. She comes from a long line of stubborn people who manage to live into their 90's without vital organs. Now, they may give up some of the sanity along the way (early in our relationship, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML was accused of stealing my great-aunt's purse at a family reunion. That great-aunt was in her 90's at the time and her conversation with SML up to the accusation was muddled, since she thought SML was her dead husband. Said purse was in her lap the entire time), but like a good Timex, they keep on ticking.
  • When you're 80, you've got children who worry about you, your health, your inability to clear the voicemail messages on your cell phone, among other things. 
  • When you're 80, get honored. It's a big deal. You get surprised on that big birthday. You get discounts. You get good parking, especially if you have that boss parking pass hanging from your rearview window. You are pushed through airports regally, like the Queen of Sheba, and you get to board airplanes early without paying extra.
  • When you're 80, the girls in your family look to you as a trend-setter:
    Daughter, Daughter-in-Law, two granddaughters working that awesome Nana look!
  • When you're 80, you get to hold your first great grandchild. You have family, near and far. But it doesn't lessen the fact that you miss your husband of fifty years terribly. Every. Single. Day. He misses you too.
So 80 doesn't appear to be that bad of a gig. I'm so glad we were able to surprise my Mom a little early and be with her in advance of her big day. I hope if I make it to 80, I'm able to plug away at life the way she is now. I'm just glad she's who she is and that we were able to celebrate her 80th year. Like I said, no small feat, Mom. Well done!

21 September 2013


As is tradition here in the Den, I've made it a point to post about the birthdays that are important here and to do so on said birthday. I am a day late, but what follows is a recap of yesterday's birthday shenanigans. The celebrant? Me. So settle in, as this is a long one:

The quick back story on my 47th birthday involves my mother, who turns 80 next week. 80 is a big deal, right? A few weeks ago, my brother and sister and I were talking about an appropriate way to celebrate and they suggested we get together as siblings and surprise my mom. Knowing she would be out of town on her birthday, we decided to do it on my birthday, one week earlier. So plans were made, tickets were purchased and before we knew it, it was the morning of the 20th and the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I hightailed it out of Connecticutistan Friday morning, a mere eight hours after my inflight drama the night before. Speaking of that fun-filled flight, as we left the gate, I saw that plane on another tarmac, looking forlorn as it was clearly and rightfully out of service.

We got to the inferno that is Phoenix by 11AM (seriously, 104 degrees...it's September and there is no need for that kind of heat insanity) and due to Martha Stewart's apparent ban on Mexican food where we currently reside, we wasted no time in getting to Tia Rosa's, a Mexican place we frequented when we lived here. Those thin chips and green and red salsas were screaming our names. We must have looked like starving refugees to our fellow diners, given the ferocity with which we assaulted the chips. Anyway, we settled into our meal when this happened:

Holy Mother of Surprises!
Into the restaurant walked the Awesomes! As is now my wont, I began to cry like a little girl, and I admit that without shame, as I saw my daughter, my son-in-law, and my grandson. Suffice to say, a scene was made. They had chosen to come down from behind the Zion Curtain and surprise me for my birthday and it was amazing. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML had pulled off yet another coup! How lucky am I?

As we wound down our meal, our waitress asked if we needed anything else and I asked for the check. She said it had been taken care of. I immediately turned to my son-in-law, Awesome, to reprove him for buying the meal (he'd slipped out for a second as we were eating). It wasn't him. The waitress told us that the man at the the table behind us had bought our meal. We were, to quote my Brit friends, gobsmacked. We went to his table and thanked him. He and his wife were so kind, just said they wanted to do it. He even got to hold Benson, who let down his current 'stranger danger' freak out mode, for just a moment. As we thanked them, we promised to pay it forward.

It was then time to move on to the real reason for our visit, surprising my mom. My brother had told her that he and his wife would be picking her up at 4:00PM to go to dinner. Much like Florida, dining early is totally normal in AZ, with its 'older' population. So we get to her house, and she doesn't answer the door. Repeated bell ringing and door knocking, and nothing. So I call her, and I've clearly woken her up, and tell her that there's a delivery company calling me saying that they are at her door with a package. She continued talking to me as she walked to her door. She opened the door, and it was priceless. Clearly, surprise #1 had been pulled off.

Once things settled down, we explained the next phase of the surprise, which was dinner with her children. She was truly taken aback by all of this. It was fun to listen to her say repeatedly as we drove to Scottsdale, 'I just can't believe this.' My brother had selected a great steak house, brought roses for her, and it was great to be together. The meal was well worth it and just seeing my mom take it all in was worth it all.

The birthday folks

Mom and her clan
During dinner, we revealed the next round of surprises for her, which is a get together today at her house with her children, grandchildren that are local, and now, thanks to the Awesomes', her great-grandchild. Pretty cool stuff.

Suffice to say, I think both my mom and I will say that birthday surprises are pretty good. No, they are amazing. I am more blessed than I deserve. Now, I need to go figure out how to pay it forward...

20 September 2013

It was bound to happen

When you fly as much as I do, strange things are bound to happen. However, in the last 48 hours, I have experienced two of the most surreal events in my flying experience. Buckle up, return your seat to its full upright position and read on:

Wednesday  - New York LaGuardia
I was third to board the flight to Atlanta and I made myself at home in my assigned seat, 3D. About 10 minutes later, a boarding passenger stops at my seat and says, 'Are you supposed to be in 3D?' To which I said yes I was. He then informs me so is he. Seat Dupe. Awesome. Experience has taught me to not move from my seat, so we flagged down a flight attendant. The flight attendant took his boarding pass and looked at mine on my iPhone, and he did a triple take. He said, 'You both have the same name, you know that, right?' Um...how would we know that, Copernicus? Turns out we had the same exact name and the same seat assignment. The flight attendants were incredulous and the gate agents looked perplexed. So ML2 made his way to Coach to wait it out while the agents did their thing. As usual, boarding was chaotic. I was asked two more times by different agents if I was who I said I was and then the door shut and we started to back away from the gate. I figured ML2 found a seat in Coach. And then a flight attendant ran up saying we had to stop since there was a passenger in the back with no seat assignment. Alas ML2 was sans a seat, so we taxied back in and a gate agent came aboard. I did not release my seat belt. I had no plans on leaving. A few short minutes later, ML2 was invited to disembark. But, he didn't leave empty-handed! I gave him three, count 'em, three free drink coupons. See, I'm a giver that way. That and the fact that I don't drink. 

How surreal it was to be looking at someone who shares your name! While an awkward circumstance, it was kind of funny. Surreal but funny. The next incident was decidedly not funny but even more surreal.

Thursday - Atlanta
I was flying back to Connecticutistan after a long, but rewarding, day of meetings. About 15 minutes after take off, I was ensconced in 3B, and was anticipating my ice cold Coke Zero, when el capitan's voice comes over the PA and announces there is a minor issue with the hydraulic system and that we would be returning to Atlanta, post-haste. A few groans from passengers, but what are you going to do?

Then things got interesting. I noticed all four flight attendants were huddled I the galley, reviewing their red plastic emergency evacuation checklists. Yep, things just got real.  A couple of them moved past me quickly, cards in hand to start preparations in the rear cabin. I then decided I needed to offer my help. I went up to the galley and said to the two flight attendants, 'Do you need some help?' Now, bear in mind, they've made no announcements yet, but they sensed I had something of a clue as to what foolishness was underway. I was told that there was a paraplegic in 4D and that they needed me and the guy in 4C to carry him to the exit and get him down the slide when we landed because, and I quote, "we don't want him to be trampled in the evacuation." Things got really real. The captain had announced we'd be circling to burn fuel to lighten us for our landing. I then got coached in what commands to listen for upon landing. They kept saying that they didn't know what was going to happen but that I should be ready for anything. We went back and talked to 4C and 4D and then they had me come back to the galley to review instructions again.

Just as they were going to begin the PA about the emergency instructions (bracing, etc), one of the flight attendants came up for the back, saying that we were too heavy to land in Atlanta safely and that we'd go on to Hartford. The captain came on and announced it had been deemed safe enough to soldier on. Really?! 

So soldier on we did. It was a very quiet 90 minutes. Landing was uneventful, although I held my breath, saying more than one prayer. The cabin broke into applause once we realized that whatever had ailed us took a long enough breather to let us land safely. Massive props to the flight attendants for their calm professionalism and to the pilots for doing their thing. 

So I've had some close calls in my years of flying. The last two days though have been surreal. But it was bound to happen at some point. I'm just glad the stewardess was NOT flying the plane!

15 September 2013

On the block

Life here in Connecticutistan has offered us some unique experiences. We stumbled into another one of them last nights when we found ourselves at an antique auction. In. A. Barn. Wait...what?

We joined another couple for dinner last night. They, like us, are fairly recent transplants to our little corner of New England. We each have three children and their ages are almost identical. They too have just become grandparents for the first time. So there is a lot in common and we've enjoyed our friendship. They had told us previously about an antique auction in town that had to be seen to be believed. We are not antique collectors nor are we auction junkies but we thought we'd check it out with them.

When you think 'auction,' you may think something swanky, like Sothebys. Our auction experience has been limited primarily to silent auctions at charity events, like the American Heart Association Ball that we attended for a few years in Beverly Hills. Let me assure you we couldn't even bid on one of the used napkins from the dinner there, let alone any of the items on offer.

The Canton Barn
This is where we wound up, the Canton Barn. It is exactly what it looks like. Inside we found a crowd of people inspecting all that was on offer for the evening. And there was a lot on display. Everything from little creepy Hummel-eqsue figurines to some pretty interesting furniture items. In the back, they were selling hamburgers that the staff was cooking on a Weber grill and homemade pies. It was a slice of Americana that seemed really unique to this part of the country. For the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me, there was not much of interest, although it's an amazing place to find furniture. What was a kick was to see the auctioneer, the staff, and the interaction with the bidders. It was a reality TV program. It really was a good night.

The auction did get me thinking about the value we place on things. It was fascinating, and even a little mind-boggling to watch how some items that literally looked like junk or proof-positive that most people's taste is only in their mouths, quickly escalated into bidding wars and sold for prices that made absolutely no sense. Truly, one man's junk is another man's treasure. I'm not sentimental enough to understand the attachment that some people have on antique items but I'm glad that there are people who do. It preserves memories and gives us a reference to what was valuable in times gone by.

That said, it still doesn't mean I'm going to start making the auction a part of my Saturday night plan. But shoot, I'm actually regretting not bidding on a couple of funky French chairs. This is how it starts, right?

11 September 2013

In Memoriam: 9-11

Today we remember the horrific events that changed our nation twelve years ago. We pause to remember the thousands of lives that were taken. We vow once again to never forget. As is now my tradition, I share with you the post I wrote on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The text are remarks I gave in Church on the anniversary:

The Memorial at the World Trade Center site
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was an unusually bright, clear late summer day in New York City.  The images of those brilliant but skies are seared into our collective memories; however, now we remember the smoke that choked that blue sky.  We remember the image of a plane slamming into the now-fallen World Trade Center.  We remember images of people jumping from the burning towers in order to escape the roaring flames.  We also remember the pictures of firefighters and police personnel who ran into the towers in an epic, valiant struggle to save their fellowmen.  We are haunted by the heroic words uttered by a passenger on board United 93, "Let's roll!" as those few passengers decided to stop the terrorists from hitting yet another target.

The terror of that day, ten years ago, is still fresh for so many of us.  It is an event that touched us all and it is a defining moment in not only American history, but world history.  In the days following these horrific events, our nation came together in a way that many said had not been since World War II.  I remember standing in our front yard in our home in California with our neighbors as we joined our fellow countrymen in a national moment of prayer.  It was as if our nation was seeking spiritual comfort as a whole in those dark days after the attacks.

That sense of unity and desire to seek spiritual comfort as a nation has abated in the ten years since that unforgettable day.  Our nation has found its way back to its divisive ways.  In his first official blog post printed earlier this week in the Washington Post's "On Faith" column, President Thomas S. Monson, said, "Sadly, it seems that much of that renewal of faith has waned in the years that have followed.  Healing has come with time, but so has indifference.  We forget how vulnerable and sorrowful we felt.  Our sorrow has moved us to remember the deep purposes of our lives.  The darkness of our despair brought us a moment of enlightenment.  But we are forgetful.  When the depth of grief has passed, its lessons often pass from our minds and hearts as well."

The Scriptures are rife with examples of how we, the children of a loving, caring Heavenly Father, have forgotten our Father and the lessons of lives time and time again.  The Book of Mormon is especially illustrative of this cycle of forgetfulness but it also shows our Father's consistent, loving commitment to us.  In his blog post, President Monson continued, saying, "Our Father's commitment to us, His children, is unwavering.  Indeed He softens the winter of our lives, but He also brightens our summers.  Whether it is the best of times or the worst, He is with us.  He has promised us that this will never change."

President Monson, our prophet, reminds us that if there was a spiritual lesson to be learned from the events of 9/11, it may be that we owe to God the same faithfulness that He gives to us.  He said, "We should strive for steadiness, and for a commitment to God that does not ebb and flow with the years or crises of our lives.  It should not require tragedy for us to remember Him, and we should not be compelled to humility before giving Him our faith and trust.  We too should be with Him in every season."

As we reflect today, ten years after the events of 9/11, may we remember those whose lives were lost.  May we pray on behalf of them and those they left behind.  May we also reflect on what has happened to us in the years since that day.  Let us not forget who we are.  We are children of a loving Heavenly Father who has been steadfast and unwavering in His commitment to us.  May we be faithful to Him in times of crisis and times of calm.  May we make Him and His Son the center of our thoughts and the pattern for our actions.  May we remember the counsel of the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni as he raised the Title of Liberty in preparation for righteous battle, 'In memory of our God, our religion and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.'  If we do so, we will be blessed.  

May we never forget.

09 September 2013


We celebrate another birthday here in the Den today and it is kind of a big one. The Boy has turned 18. He is now, as has been his wont over the last several days to remind us, a legal adult. It hardly seems possible that he's 18! I'm not going to lament how quickly time has passed or how it seems just yesterday that he was a baby (even though it did). The funny thing is that his nephew, Benson, is his spitting image and every time we see him, it's like seeing The Boy when he was a baby.

Here we are, though, eighteen years later and The Boy continues to grow into his life as a young man. I am so fortunate as his father to see him at this point in his life. He has brought us, like his sisters before him, an immeasurable amount of joy. He has also brought us a ridiculous amount of laughter, nearly every day.

He's entering a crossroads now. He's in his senior year of high school. In a few months, his college applications will be in, and shortly thereafter, papers for a mission. A year from now, he could be gone, celebrating his birthday in a distant country. I'm excited to see where he'll be and I'm praying now, as he prepares for this next phase of his life, that he'll be ready for what awaits him. I know he will.

In the eyes of the law, The Boy became an adult man today. In my eyes, he's the finest of young men. Happy birthday, son. It s an honor to be your Dad.

08 September 2013


PERFECTION - is there a word more fraught with expectation and crushed hopes in the English language? As defined by more than one dictionary on the interweb, 'perfection' means the quality or state of being perfect. If that's not enough to cause you some concern, see also flawlessness.

Achieving perfection is placing that bar pretty high, but the challenge to be perfect was laid before us by Christ in Matthew 5:48: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. So we strive and struggle to be perfect. It doesn't help that our Western, OK American, society has jacked up the image of perfection with unattainable, and unhealthy, idols of physical perfection or wildly insane pressure about how a home should look or a family be fed (ahem, Pinterest). So the message that Christ intended - that we strive to be like God in our actions has, by and large, been lost.

But there is perfection to be found and achieved. I am by no means perfect nor do I believe I ever will be. I'm a man, full of flaws but trying to be a better man, each and every day. I'm trying to be an example to my family and it is there that I find 'perfect' moments. Yesterday was an example of that perfection. It was CAL's last full day at home before returning to her own private Idaho to start her junior year of school and she wanted to spend another day in New York City, hitting one of the museums and enjoying the day. The perfect moments began when we got to the train station and literally walked onto an awaiting express train. This NEVER happens, so we were to Grand Central in no time. More perfection awaited as we emerged from the dank, hot tunnels of Grand Central into a resplendent, sun-filled Manhattan. Our walk up 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue through the hoity-toity environs of the Upper East Side to the Museum Mile was spectacular. The Met was crowded but not enough to switch on the 'I really dislike people' button that I have. We had time to take in several of the collections and be awed by the beauty that artists have captured for thousands of years. After taking in that beauty, we walked through Central Park and it was, and I hate to say, perfect. What was most fun was a moment like this:
This was taken in Central Park and it was great for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me to see them having such a good time together. They had us laughing for most of the day. Whether they want to admit it or not, they are going to miss each other. Knowing that little fact was another one of those 'perfect' moments. Far too quickly are day drew to a close and capping the perfection was getting yet another express train. Icing on the cake was that it was loaded with Yankees fans licking their wounds from a loss to the Red Sox. Like I said, it was a perfect day.

There was a somber moment though.  Twelve years ago, at nearly the same time, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I were in New York City for a long weekend and it was perfect. The weather was stunning. The sky was as blue as we'd ever seen it. We'd had an amazing time. As we were being driven to JFK for our return to Los Angeles, we looked out the back of the Town Car and caught a glimpse of the Twin Towers. Albeit pretty unattractive but a perfect homage to the architecture of the 1960's, the way the sun bathed the Towers in light that September afternoon twelve years ago was as perfect as we'd ever seen the Towers. Little did we know that a few days later they would fall, the targets of terrorism that we still feel today. We'll pause to remember that fateful day later this week. And I'm glad we'll take time to do that. We can't ever forget.

03 September 2013

Four Years On

It was four years ago on this date that my father died suddenly. With the passing of time, his loss seems more manageable, thus proving, for me at least, the adage that 'time heals all wounds.' That is not to say, however, that losing him has gotten easier.

It is my Dad's absence that remains hard to manage. I think of the things where his physical presence has been missing, like holding his first great grandchild, like as a Patriarch giving blessings to my children, like seeing my sister excel as a Physician's Assistant, or being able to see my brother's success as an attorney, the profession that my Dad loved so much. Those times can be hard to manage. And those are things that should be harder to manage, frankly. I'll always wish he could be there for these things.

I take comfort in the faith that I will see him again for I know that I will. I am comforted in the knowledge that the love that he had for my mother comforts her even today. I'm glad I still miss him. 

01 September 2013

Yin and Yang of Learning

At the end of 2013, assuming I keep on keeping on, I will have been ensconced on the sofa here in the Den for six years, writing away. Six years of my rants, ravings, judgements observations, perspectives, and stories. I suspect that very few of you have gained much when you stop by and take a seat on the sofa here, but that's fine. If nothing else, I've learned a thing or two. Here are few insights into the yin and yang of that learning:

  • It's funny how the posts that I think are brilliant and would attract the most reads seem to get the fewest hits. This is probably more a reflection on the 'fun house mirror' perspective I have on myself than the good judgement of you, the readers.
  • When you include 'Satan' in the title of a post or an image of that she-skank Miley Cyrus, traffic to your blog goes through the roof. Since Miley appears to be the latest in a long and cringe-inducing conga line of Satan's minions, it's proof that the philosophy of 'yin and yang' really are complementary forces.
I've also learned that two completely opposite people can say something that are very powerful. First, from the brilliantly funny Conan O'Brien:

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.

The second comes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

Darkness cannot drives out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Earlier this week, the United States observed the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, wherein Dr. King offered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. It is one of the finest speeches ever given and it pushed America's shameful ignorance of civil rights to the forefront. Sadly, we still have so far to go to see that dream fulfilled.

I encountered both of these quotes this week and I've not been able to get either of them out of my head. Both have significant meaning to me and I'm going to keep them close and I'm going to try and live with both in my forward view as well as my actions. Again, to me both quotes show the complementary nature of yin and yang. Being kind and showing love. Amazing things happen when you exercise both.

Talk about yin and yang...Conan and Dr. King.