30 October 2013


A plethora of choices
Long ago in a time seemingly forgotten, there was a thing called daytime television, wherein one saw all sorts of amazing things, like game shows. Games shows like "Password," "Match Game," "The Hollywood Squares," "Jokers Wild," and "Let's Make A Deal" ruled the channels. Of course, in those days, if you were lucky you got three channels, maybe five. These were dark times.

I've been thinking about a certain aspect of "Let's Make A Deal" of late because of the paradox of choice with which the costume-adorned contestants were presented. Three big doors and all that stood between the winner and the prize was Carol Merrill and the paradox of which door to choose. Behind one, maybe two doors, could be something awesome, or something craptastic. You never knew, you just had to choose. If only there was something great behind every door...

Right now, choices and what results from them are top of mind. The Boy is eighteen. He is in his senior year of high school. The application for his university (Rise and Shout!) of choice is open for completion. Thanks to a change in age requirement, he will be eligible to serve a mission for our Church as soon as he graduates from school in June. He's got big choices ahead of them and none of them are bad. Starting school, getting some time away from home is not a bad thing at all. Jumping right into his missionary service isn't a bad thing either. He's got the paradox of which door to choose. All are good choices..which is better? Or which is best?

It's been exciting to watch him work through these choices, which isn't to say he's made up his mind. He hasn't and he doesn't have to right now. He continues to demonstrate a growing maturity as he talks through his options and as he seeks guidance. The Boy is a young man of faith and that is helping to guide his decisions. He's included his mom and me in his thought process and that's been humbling and sweet. I am confident that he will choose the best path.

Dallin H. Oaks said, "Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions." The Boy has his priorities right, so the choices and actions will follow. It's going to be fun and, admittedly, a bit of melancholy over the course of the next few months as I document his path here in the Den. This is it, our last one, preparing to take his leave of the Den. It's going to be interesting preparing ourselves for this next phase of our lives as we help prepare him for his. I wonder, Carol Merrill, what's behind the big door for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me?

Stay tuned...

27 October 2013

A gift from 28 years ago that keeps giving

La Bandera de Cuba

A few things Cubano

Celia Cruz

As I've noted previously here in the Den, I was able to serve a mission for my Church when I was 19 years old. I served in most of my mission in Miami, Florida and to say it was one of the richest experiences of my life would be something of an understatement. Although I may not have recognized it during some of the more challenging days of those two years, I have since recognized what a tremendous gift I was given. I was given experiences that helped to form my character, for the better mind you. I felt things that anchored me spiritually for the better. I worked with and among amazing people. And I learned a language, espanol, that has opened more doors of opportunity than I can count.

Since Miami is the cross-roads of all things Latin American, my mission afforded me the opportunity to work with people from every Spanish-speaking country. My first area, Hialeah, was all kinds of Cuban, and it was there where I fell in love with the Cuban people, culture, and their unique version of Spanish. On my first night in my first area, my companion and I had dinner with a Cuban family where I was introduced to black beans and rice ('moros y cristianos'), tostones, full-throated yelling to simply ask for something more to drink, and a language that was nothing like what I'd been learning for the previous two months. R's had become L's and T's seemed to be a nothing more than a suggestion. My head was spinning at the cacophony that crazy, chaotic night, but little did I realize that I was falling for a people and their language. In short order, the Cuban accent and dialect became my go to as I served in areas loaded with Spanish speakers from countries other than Cuba. I was not a perfect speaker of the language but I embraced the gift I'd been given.

After my mission, I had opportunities to use that gift in my work on many occasions. I never envisioned that I would be giving HR guidance to directors from across Latin America in Spanish, but years after my mission, there I was in Mexico City doing that very thing. I never thought I'd be helping a lost Peruvian family with directions but there I was at Tokyo Narita Airport rattling off directions in Spanish to get them to their next flight. And I never expected to hear what I heard last week while I was in Barcelona, Spain, where I was facilitating a small group session at a conference. The conference was being presented in English but I decided to do a brief part of my session in Spanish. After I broke back to English, one of the participants, a woman from Madrid leaned over to me and in Spanish asked me what part of Cuba I was from. In an instant I didn't know if I would burst into tears or take her up in a grateful bear hug. She told me her father was Cuban and my accent was distinctly Cuban. I was thrilled by this, amazed that 28 years after learning her language, I still had a semblance of it rattling around in my head.

It was humbling too. I know this was a gift that I'd been given by a loving Father who knew what a 19 year old kid needed all those years ago. I needed those two years in the mission field more than the mission field needed me. I needed to struggle to learn a language. I needed to struggle with who I was and grow firm in what I believed. I needed all that I experienced for those two years. I am grateful for each and every day of it. I am still in awe that it's still paying off, even after all these years.

19 October 2013

I know what I have to do

Reason #347 why treadmills blow...
Typically after an annual molestation physical, there is some kind of medical blow back, either good or bad. My experience earlier this week was no different and the blow back, or medical guidance, I got was no surprise. The exact diagnosis alludes me at the moment, but let me put it in layman's terms: I am big-boned, straining the laws of physics in those pants, fat. Again.

This does not come as a surprise. I could not look my physician in faux abject horror when the diagnosis was pronounced. I went in knowing that I'd gotten lazy and the wages of that laziness are amply on display. I've done this to myself. I got lazy and allowed old bad habits to creep back in. I won't even call myself a runner anymore in order to not shame that awesome group.

Now before we go any further, I do have one huge bone to pick with the BMI calculation gods. According to it, based on my data, I should currently be doing all my clothes shopping at Wahid's House of Big Boy Caftans. So I entered my measurements when I was at my peak running condition (28 pounds less than what I am now and running 20 plus miles a week) and I was still on the chubby side, per the BMI calc. For giggles, I entered my weight when I got married, and it turns out that number is what puts me in the optimal condition for the BMI. Um, at that weight, I looked like I had just checked out of a forced stay at the Hanoi Hilton, and with my shirt off, you could count every rib. No thank you.

Anyway, I know what I have to do. I miss running. So I'm starting back, just like I did nearly five years ago, when I said, 'No mas,' and I changed my diet and started running and kept at it for three years. I'm back on the dreadmill treadmill. I know what I have to do. I have to start over and relearn the lessons from those days. I remember how it felt, which was good. And I want that back.

Why am I going public with this? Is it to feed, so to speak, my need to overshare? Nope. It's about making me accountable. It was either this or post a picture of myself sans a shirt to really get me motivated. You can thank me in whatever manner you think appropriate for not posting said terrifying image.

So keep me honest, people, keep me on track. Or on any of the myriad running trails around here.

15 October 2013

The Paper Gown Epiphany

It wasn't working for me either
Yesterday brought me that highly dreaded responsible day known as the annual molestation physical. I wish I could say a good time was had by all, but I can't. It was a physical, after all. In short, I was weighed, measured, palpitated, and poked. I got wired up like an Alabama double-wide stealing cable for my EKG. Sadly, I lost some chest hair (the gray ones, which are waging a winning war on me, managed to avoid removal, thank you) in the removal of those leads. I turned, I coughed, and I was prodded. I've been sorely tempted to yell out something like, 'Do your worst! I'll never tell you where Osama is!' during the prodding portion of the physical but decorum has always gotten the better of me.

Decorum is a funny thing when you are dressed in a skimpy and highly not stylish paper gown, meeting your physician for the first time. As I sat on the exam table in a yellow room that had a weird nuclear haze glow to it, thanks to the sunlight pouring through the window, covered in that over-sized piece of blue construction paper, I had my epiphany. I couldn't help but see the genius in the awkwardness. I would shortly be asked a series of highly personal questions by someone I had never met before and being so (literally) exposed, why would I try and lie hide anything in my answers? I couldn't think of a thing. It made for a lively conversation, as my new doctor and I discussed my health, life in Connecticutistan, and why, as a Mormon, I only had three children. Seriously. That seemed to bother him more than the sight of me in that paper gown.

I'm not sure what took this long to have that epiphany. It's not like this was my first time at the annual physical rodeo. But the epiphany led to a really good discussion with a medical professional about (my) health. Good open discussions are a healthy thing. This does not mean that I'm advocating that they be done in a well-ventilated paper gown, but hey, maybe I'm onto something here. Maybe it's a new business management application. Difficult conversation with an employee? Toss on a medical paper gown and let the discussion fly!

I need to get to work on this...

12 October 2013


With my mother-in-law and The Chief Pilot in town, we've had an opportunity to see a bit more of this corner of New England that we are calling home. They came up to do some peeping, leaf peeping, that is. Turns out leaf peeping is a thing (read here to see what the source of all things true on the interwebs has to say about it).

Leaf peepers got real for me earlier in the week when I encountered a tour bus full of them, over from Europe.I was at a hotel on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border for a meeting and it was there where the Euro-peepers had holed up for the night. I watched them lead an assault on a hotel breakfast buffet that made the Battle of the Bulge look like a playground quarrel. These people laid waste to the bacon spread in a way that was equal parts inspiring and terrifying. As I noted on Facebook as I witnessed the assault, had this manner of bravado been on display in the early days of World War II, the Nazis would not have stood a chance. But I suppose these people needed to fortify themselves for their frolic in the foliage.

Inspired by those Euro-peepers, I joined my in-laws and the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML for their last day of peeping today. Having motored through different parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticutistan in the last couple of days, I can now say that this place is the most beautiful of all the places we've lived. It really has been spectacular to take in the explosion of color and diversity of landscape. It reminds me a bit of a hymn that truly works my last nerve, 'For The Beauty of the Earth.' This world really is a beautiful one. It really is a gift. Here's a couple of things we saw today:

NOT in Madison County!
It's been a good day of taking in the beauty around us. It's funny how we let our 'busy' get in the way and how we can miss some pretty spectacular things. I'm glad I got to take a time out today to take a bit of it in.

06 October 2013

Words of Wisdom

It's the morning of second day of the semi-annual Mormon version of the Hajj (OK, admittedly, that may be stretching the range a bit on comparisons) known as General Conference. In all things Mormon, it's kind of a big deal. It's a total of ten hours of guidance, instruction, learning, and reflection. And gorging. There, I said it. Yes, gorging. Wait...why? Because, thanks to the modern miracle of satellite TV and the purveyor of all things true, the interweb, we take Conference in at home, with a veritable buffet set up the entire time. It makes for a good time.

The three sessions I've attended so far have been rewarding and instructive and well-worth the time we've dedicated to being a part of the conferences. Indulge me as I share a few of the take-aways:
  • The past is to be learned from, not lived in. Faith is always pointing towards the future.
  • Blessings are often subtle, observable only to the humble and attentive.
  • Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.
  • We all need each other.
  • Meekness is not weakness.
On their own, some of these statements may seem simple, even trite. To me, they are neither. Each represent an opportunity for me to learn, improve, or apply. There's still two more sessions today from which I expect to add more opportunities to improve and grow. The challenge for me is to now go out and apply what I've learned. Consider the gauntlet thrown down!

04 October 2013

Nine Holes

My Waterloo
Golf has never been my sport. I played a bit in college and I even got a set of clubs for college graduation. I should have known that the game was going to be a challenge for me when I was teaching at the MTC while at BYU. Several other teachers from my district and I went out on our day off to play a round at Hobble Creek in Springville, UT. I was still a rudimentary golfer at best, but where I was not novice was my creative cursing in moments of frustration. Said talent was on Academy Award-winning display during this game. Probably not the best group to display an unbridled tongue. While this was not the last time I played golf, my teaching career at the MTC was over not long after that, but not because of the golfing debacle.

Anyway, I can probably count on two hands the number of times I've played a round or gone to a driving range since. Suffice to say, my skill set has not improved, although I have tried dilligently to bridle my tongue. Ironically, The Boy is a golfer. A good golfer. He loves the game. He gets the game. He has the patience, dedication, and drive to succeed in the game. By not playing, I've probably missed some good time with The Boy, but that has started to change.

Recently, I was challenged to participate in a golf tournament by one of suppliers at work. I had all intentions of saying no, but my boss said yes on my behalf. This has led to all manner of consternation for me but it has also opened the door to me picking up a really good golf instructor:

My Golf Sensei
Turns out The Boy is an amazing golf instructor. He has been spectacularly patient with me. He has been wise with his instruction. It has reminded me of how patient my Dad was when he was teaching people to water-ski. I don't know why I remember that specific example but it's what comes to mind. My Dad was enormously patient as he would show my friends how to water-ski. He explained things calmly, demonstrated how to do something time and again, and never lost his cool. The Boy has been the exact same way with me. It's a virtue that I somehow missed but The Boy seems to have gotten it in spades from his grandfather. And for that, I am grateful.

We played nine holes last night. I think it was the first time I've played a hole, let alone nine, in more than ten years. I'm sure The Boy wanted to ram a nine iron into my head more than once, like the third ball I lost into a water hazard. But if he did, he never showed it. Instead, he was a never-ending font of encouragement and enthusiasm. I think most of my shots would have elicited a cry of 'Oh the humanity!' had there been a commentator, but instead I felt like with each shot, I was being taught something by my son, The Boy.

The nine holes were a train wreck. It's a good thing the event I'm playing in on Monday is a 'scramble.' But it's an even better thing that those nine holes gave this middle-aged man a chance to learn from his son. I am looking forward to getting out there again with him. He's got a lot he can teach me and not just about golf. And I think there's still a thing or two I can share with him. And maybe I'll even improve my golf game along the way. Maybe.