31 December 2013

Aching out the end of the year

As a year, any year, draws to a close, it causes people to review their triumphs and travails, ups and downs, and to plan for the year ahead. Goals and resolutions are made, which typically fall apart around 30 days into that new year. I'm no different than any of you and as I ponder the highlights of 2013, I'm aching it out.

Aching? Yes, aching. Why, pray tell? This past Friday night, after our big anniversary dinner at a Brazilian temple of meat, my right big toe began to burn a bit. I thought it might be due to the fact that it was the first time in six days that I was wearing a dress shoe. I paid it no mind although I thought it strange that night as I crawled into bed that the touch of the sheet on said toe hurt. I had no idea what was coming.

I awoke Saturday morning in wicked pain, with a swollen toe, sporting a raging purple ring around it, and radiating heat. It was no better, even worse, on Sunday when we had to march ourselves, or limp in my case, through the Orlando airport. I chose to march through the airport sans a shoe on my right foot. I actually had to argue with the TSA Fascist agent when we were routed through the Pre-Check lane that I WANTED to keep my shoe off. Just for that, they made me get my hands swabbed for bomb residue. Have I mentioned how awesome they are (not)? At this point, the Boy had used the hypochondriac's interweb crack, WebMD, to diagnose me, correctly it turns out, with gout. I shrugged that off as I was under the false impression that gout was reserved to morbidly obese elderly men.

Upon our return to the mildly frozen tundra of Connecticutistan, it was clear I would need to see a doctor and that was first order of business on Monday. Before the doctor arrived in the exam room, the nurse asked me to remove my sock so she could see my toe. As soon as I removed it, she took one look at it and declared, "Oh honey, you've got the gout!" The doctor was in shortly after that, took a look, and declared the same. Diagnosis: Gout. While I'm not elderly and just a little obese, I got the gout just the same.

According to the Boy, when you say you have gout, it sounds like you have an STD. Based on a few of the reactions I've gotten since declaring my status as one who has the gout, umm, he's right. I might as well be saying, 'Well, hi there, I have a raging case of the Clap. Good to meet you!' based on the way people draw in a deep breath and step back ever so slightly when you say you've got the gout. Good times.

So I'm not contagious. I just don't want anyone close enough to even graze my toe. This gout crap hurts something awful. Seriously. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, probably. But thanks ever so much to the wonder that is pharmacology, the pain ebbs and flows. I'm looking forward to it going away completely. Soon. Really soon.

Suffice to say, I will not be dancing in the New Year. For any of you who have seen me dance, you will see this gout attack as a blessing knowing that I won't be darkening the dance floor this year. I'll just be glad if I can sleep without the sheet acting as an agent of pain as 2014 makes its arrival. Happy New Year to me!

27 December 2013


On December 27th, 1988, in Mesa, AZ, a starry-eyed, ridiculously young (but not Appalachian hill people cousin marrying young) couple, surrounded by a small cadre of family and friends sealed the deal, as it were, and began a life together. 

Since that day, twenty five years ago, they've called five different states 'home,' and not because they were running from the law or low-level participants in the Witness Protection Program. It's just where the corporate life has taken them. They've been blessed with three children, two girls and a boy, who have brought that couple more joy than words can describe. The oldest daughter has married an outstanding, even awesome young man, and has brought this couple an immeasurable sense of joy in a grandson. 

In the twenty five years they've been married, they've seen a bit of the world together. They've been fortunate to show their children what an amazing place this world is. They've served together. They've been sad together, supporting one another through the sudden losses of both their dads. They've not been perfect but they've tried to learn from the times when things were tough. They've tried to be better for one another.

I know a thing or two about this couple because I'm one half of it. Today the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We are celebrating it with our children and it's been great. We've tossed around the word 'perfect' more than once to describe the celebration. Not sure I could ask for much more.

We look a little different tonight than we did twenty five years ago. And by 'we,' I mean me.  I've gained two pounds for each year we've been married. Good for me! My wife is as beautiful tonight as she was the day we married. It's been an amazing first twenty five years. I say first because there's many more to come. I'm looking forward to each and every one.

Because I'm a bit of a social media dork, I wanted the denizens of the interweb to know about our anniversary so I tweeted, I Facebook'd, I Instagram'd. I didn't do anything with Google+ because I wanted to share! remember? I even asked Joe Scarborough, from MSNBC's "Morning Joe," to give us a shout out and he did. Here's the proof:

Joe's pretty cool. Little icing on the cake on what has been a fantastic day. 

I'm more blessed than I should be and I know that. It's been an incredible ride so far and I don't take that for granted. I could not have asked for a better partner in this life and I sure am glad we have one another. I am a better man because of her. 

26 December 2013


It's another birthday for one of the residents, albeit a part-time one, and it's one of those milestone birthdays. It's CAL's 21st birthday!

We feel very fortunate to be able to spend this birthday with her. She spends so much of the year in her own private Idaho, working hard to complete her undergrad degree. So being with her this week in Florida has been great fun. It's been a CAL kind of a birthday - sleeping in, shopping, and some fancy pizza for dinner. Do NOT get me started on just how epically wrong a decision it was to go shopping today. My role was to simply drive and watch Benson. The 5 mile drive to the Temple of Hell that is the Orlando Premium Outlet Mall quickly devolved into a two hour exercise in wishing for the sweet relief of death.

Anyway, CAL found more than a few things for her closet and that made her happy. And her happy, big, brilliant smile lights up a room. It always has and that's one of the myriad things we love about our CAL. She's grown into a thoughtful young woman who makes us proud each and every day. I can hardly believe she's 21. I'm excited for her and what the next few years will bring her. She will make a difference for good in the lives of those around her. That's pretty cool for a parent to see.

Happy birthday, CAL! Glad we get to share this one with you.

25 December 2013

Christmas Wonder

Being more than 1,000 miles away from home in the artificial Paradise that is Little England, wait Little India, no wait, I mean Orlando, Florida, Christmas takes on a little different feel. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML has labored to insure Christmas would still feel like Christmas while we are here. For example:

The Christmas Tree? Right on the wall. Paper discs taped to the wall with a paper star on top.
Tree lights? No need lights and bows are hung along the bar.
Traditions? The Christmas bells made it down here so we could FaceTime with dear friends and keep up the silliness of ringing the bells across the country.
The food? Brisket was smoked. Buttermilk pancakes were made and Mexican Christmas dinner is cooking now. The only fail? Tamales. For the first time in, well, forever, tamales are not on the menu. Apparently that's too 'ethnic' here in the Mouse-controlled hermetically sealed environment that is Orlando. But I did manage to find a Colombian bakery and we've got empanadas de carne on tap. The pan dulce con guava y queso got wolfed down before dinner.

It has been an amazing Christmas Day for us. We are surrounded by our three children an awesome son-in-law, and this one:
I love this picture. We took it this morning as we watched him take in all that is his first Christmas. The wrapping paper was more intriguing than the gifts themselves but no matter, the wonder in his eyes made our day. It was such fun to see him take it all in. Our Christmas celebrations are going to take on a different feel now that there is a grandchild! There is wonder in this day and we are blessed to see it through the eyes of a child once again.

Merry Christmas all!

23 December 2013

On Discovering

Our second day of Christmas vacation has been nothing short of perfect. I'll let this picture, taken earlier today by The Boy, sum it up:
When your 18 year old son, having spent the entire day with his sisters, parents, brother-in-law and nephew, declares it a perfect day, you know something has gone well. And it has.

Our first full day together was spent at Discovery Cove and it was fantastic. The weather was gorgeous. The park has expanded slightly and we've discovered a few things:

CAL still hates the very thought of a fish touching her so no snorkeling for her.
Brits love them a bad tattoo almost as much as their American cousins and Discovery Cove is like a living memorial to over-exposed, pasty, bad tat-covered, corpulent English skin.
The Awesomes had a fantastic time swimming with the dolphins.
The Baby Awesome loves a nap in the hammock.
And we've discovered how great it is to have our little family all together. Naw, that's not a new discovery. We already knew that and have been anticipating this reunion anxiously. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML summed it up nicely in the caption to this Instagram, posted earlier today:
With zero apologies to Peaches and Herb for snatching a lyric from one of their songs, I echo the sentiments. This reunion - it feels great. 

If we discover or experience not one other new thing this week, this trip has already been worth it. As I fall asleep tonight, I will, rather than counting sheep, be counting my blessings.

21 December 2013

A Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas 2013
Dear friends, family and anonymous blog readers (but preferably not the creepy blog traffic troller-bots who stalk the Den regularly),

It's been six long years since we've sent a formal Christmas letter along with the standard photo card. There are a host of reasons for the lack of said letter. Surely one of those reasons is my poor time management (seriously, it's not like Christmas is a sneaky surprise every year), but more than anything I blame social media and the interweb. It has changed the Christmas letter forever.

Before the explosion of social media, the Christmas letter was a way, and in some cases a not so subtle way, to brag about your family, I mean let people know what happened to your family during the year. The interweb is chock full of the more horrific examples of these letters and I suspect you've held on to some of the better ones you've gotten over the years. But now, in the interweb age, the Christmas letter is nearly dead. If you're tied into social media at all, your friends and family already know what happened to you during the year.

The residents, both full and part-time, of the Den are an example of this. Between us, we have:

With that presence, our lives are varying degrees of wide open. So you pretty much know what's happened to us this year, thus nullifying the biggest reason for a Christmas letter. In other words, no need to rehash the events of 2013 here.

I think the Christmas letter is nearly dead., another casualty of the internet age. In an absurd twist, as the traditional Christmas letter dies, traditional horrible brick-and-mortar retailer Kmart still, somehow, manages to survive. I don't get it.

I do want to take a bit of virtual ink though to say what an amazing year this has been here in the Den. We've grown (and I am not referring only to my unfortunate waist line and moobs) with the arrival of the Baby Awesome - being grandparents RULES! We've advanced further in school, with both CAL and The Boy getting ever closer to graduation from their respective schools. There have been challenges but we've learned from them. We've been happy. And happy is good.

Merry Christmas!

15 December 2013

Sunday's Sense of Snow

View from the deck of the Den
Thanks to our first big winter storm, Electra (please, please, please do not get me started on how stupendously lame it is that our nation is now naming its winter storms), we awoke to a significant layer of snow this morning. By significant, I mean several inches. Several inches that required shoveling.

So I was up early to begin the dig. As much as I may like to lament the snow, I do find a certain peace in it, especially right after a significant storm. There is a soothing stillness that permeates the air and there's a lightness about it as well. That stillness and lightness were perfect companions as I began to shovel. My thoughts were on the Sunday School lesson I would be teaching later in the morning and before I knew it, I was near the end of the driveway.

It was now time to get out the big guns (aka The Boy) as the plows had been through and created their usual dam of snow rage at the end of the driveway. I, being a middle-aged train wreck, needed the assistance of my son to break through the muck to finish up the work. The Boy joined me without complaining because he really is a good great kid and we were done in no time.

Church was a little under attended today. Apparently the snow was daunting and our ward is so large geographically that digging out posed a challenge for a lot of folks. The irony is that several of us dopes who made it are natives of California and Arizona and have no business adapting to this stuff. Anyway, as a result, we held just one meeting and we were sent home. The Boy and I headed out to dig out one elderly couple and when we got home, we helped a neighbor clear the end of his driveway.

A little snow, a little service. A good thing to do on a Sunday.

14 December 2013

Now and Then - The 30 Year Edition

As the year draws down, unbelievably, I find myself looking forward to 2014 and what it portends. It's going to be a big year for one of the residents of the Den. Of course, I speak of The Boy and the fact that he will graduate high school in June and then is on to bigger and better things. Things that are still TBD, but that's neither here nor there.

The Boy will graduate exactly 30 years after I graduated from high school. It hardly seems possible that it's been that long, but it's true. The Boy has had a great experience in two high schools, schools which could not be more opposite (e.g. his Chicago high school - nearly 4,000 students; his high school here in this little corner of Connecticutistan - nearly 500 ((not a typo)) students). One thing is the same though - the shenanigans that lead up to graduation. We just got through one of them - senior pictures.

Senior pictures today, or here in the Now, are a lot different than what they were 30 years ago. With the proliferation of digital photography, cheaper high-performance cameras, and an overabundance of people who fancy themselves professional photographers now, it's pretty easy to to score some really good photos without the classic dreaded Olan Mills (if you remember Olan Mills, who are still inexplicably in business, I know how old you are) experience. I'd say the experience today is far better. Here's the results for The Boy:
The Now
Senior pictures in the olden days, or the Then, were significantly different. In the summer before senior year commenced, you were mailed, yes mailed, a packet from the photographer your high school had sold their soul to, and you were given all manner of instructions for the upcoming personal photography session. Our designated photographer was Duke Photography, who to this day are still serving the tragic needs of Phoenix-area seniors. Who knew? Anyway, back in the day, they took three different types of photos:

  • The Yearbook Photo - in my case, we were supposed to be in coat and tie
  • The Casual Shot - we were encouraged to wear a favorite 'look' - mine involved a plaid Polo shirt and I'm fairly certain a heavy dose of Polo cologne just to bring the mood - don't hate. It was the 80's.
  • The Active Shot - we were encouraged to be photographed in our favorite hobby, activity or the like. I was a big water skier back then. I give you the result:

Where do I begin? Seriously. Words fail me. The shorts, and let's emphasize short here, well at least they were plaid. The shirt? Yeah, the tie dye effect was on purpose. I loved that shirt and it had a bleach tragedy, but I continued to wear it. The helmet hair. Yikes. The 'Blue Steel' - Zoolander stare. At least I was ahead of my time there. On the bright side, I was as skinny as my ski. And believe it or not, I had a steady girlfriend at the time. No lie. I did. Who wouldn't have wanted that train wreck?

Suffice to say, times have changed. Mercifully. In looking at my children's senior pictures, they did way better then their dad. But then, the bar was pretty low. I'm glad it's been raised. The sick thing, though, is that I wish I still had that stupid shirt.

11 December 2013

Doldrums. The Winter Ones.

While the term 'doldrums' has a maritme meaning, in every day speech, it refers to listlessness, depression, and stagnation. Welcome to my world of late, my friends!

With our first real snow (meaning the stuff is sticking) and attendant chill, the Winter Doldrums are here. I'm thrilled. And by thrilled, I mean seriously not pleased. Most of it stems from the fact that we are going to have the whole family together for Christmas and that reunion can't get here fast enough.

Of course, the more the excitement builds for our holiday reunion, the busier I am getting at the office, which makes the break seem like a completely unattainable goal. That chasm then makes me, how do I put this, irritable in a big way. Suffice to say, it ain't no way to live.

So, it's time to find a way to snap out of this and get myself set for all the festivities ahead. I'm taking suggestions.

08 December 2013

Newlywed Gaming

Are you familiar with "The Newlywed Game"? If you aren't, congratulations and stop reading if you don't want a brief primer on it.

Said TV game show had its broadcast premier far too long ago (the same year I was born) and allowed viewers to watch 'newly' married couples drown in cheesy double entendres, incorrect answers to bad predictions, and the heinous euphemism 'making whoopee.' The host of the show liked to use that phrase a little too much, pushing him into that creepy uncle stage that not one of us likes, but I digress.

Why the primer? Because we played a version of it last night. It was on the occasion of a Christmas progressive dinner with a group of friends that culminated with dessert, a white elephant gift exchange, and a version of the aforementioned game. Dinner was great (my prime rib was delightfully rare) as was the company. It was a fun evening but I'm always a bit ambivalent about the versions of this game that get played at things like this. Just as things unfolded on the show, very often it leads to recriminations and some unpleasantness between at least one of the couples in attendance. For whatever reason, playing versions of this game has been pretty popular amongst our friends, no matter where we've lived. Over the years, I've seen some couples walk away plenty pissed after playing the game. Not that anything like that happened last night, even with my well-documented ability to say something inappropriate.

Actually, last night the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I were nicely tuned to one another's answers. That made getting through the game a whole lot easier. The fact that it was late, and by late I mean after 11PM (laugh at the hour being perceived as late, but I'm middle-aged), and I was tired probably minimized the risk of me saying something that would go horribly wrong. We are just shy of our 25th wedding anniversary (19 days and counting), so you'd think we'd be pretty good at knowing one another at this point. I'd say we are and I'm sure glad about that. Like I said, it made for a much easier night last night. I'll say this though if last night had been like the show, at least we'd have walked away with a nice consolation prize, like a year's supply of laundry detergent, instead of the creeptastic mother and child figurine that we got from the white elephant extravaganza. Just saying...

07 December 2013

First World Problems - A Perspective

It's been a week of First World Problems. For those of you who are unaware of the nature of these tragic incidents, well, you then are a well-adjusted person with perspective. Then there's the rest of us. Here's a sample of my run-in with First World Problems this past week:

  • Tragic Incident #1: I had to go into New York City Sunday night on the busiest travel day of the year. Amtrak was packed, as in standing room only packed, and the free Wi-Fi was not working for the entire three hour trip.
  • Tragic Incident #2: On Tuesday, I had a six-hour westbound transcon nonstop on Mother United on an ancient sub-United 757 that was NOT equipped with Wi-Fi
  • Tragic Incident #3: My room at the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey had an awesome view but I was in a conference room for 12 hours and I could not enjoy said view.
  • Tragic Incident #4: See Tragic Incident #2 but on Wednesday, it was reversed - now it was the eastbound flight
  • Tragic Incident #5: Last night, after an evening of taking care of some Christmas shopping, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I decided to stop at our local purveyor of craptastic donuts, Dunkin Donuts, for a tasty, and mostly lethal, treat. There was not a donut, muffin, or that little death delivery system, the Munchkin, to be had. The staff had just thrown Every.Single.One out. Apparently, it was the end of their day. Two things - on what planet is the DD not open all day/all night with at least one homeless guy acting as door greeter? Um, that would be in our neck of Connecticutistan. Apparently that's not allowed here (Curse you, Martha Stewart!). Two - DD, how about donating your excess crap? Surely there are plenty of agencies that could take your excess inventory for the needs they have in providing breakfast, etc. Just a thought....
Such is the nature of First World Problems. They are ridiculous. And I hope you've picked up on my sense of sarcasm/snark. If you haven't, oh dear...There are much more pressing and real issues in this world than the lack of free wi-fi and donuts, like the loss of a hero of freedom and hope.

Nelson Mandela died earlier this week. His impact on the world is immeasurable, as it affected nations, policies, and people, from the highest of leaders to the impoverished slum dweller. I know he changed my world view and I am grateful for that. There is so much more to this life than our silly First World Problems. We can, each one of us, make a difference in this world. I love what Mr. Mandela said here:
Thank you, Mr. Mandela.