31 December 2014

The Last Word

There's no such thing
Today marks the last day of 2014.

Today marks the last day to complete all those resolutions you made 364 days ago. How's that going? Not well? Welcome to the club.

Today marks the last day to look back on the year that was before a new year dawns. Or does it?

Does it hurt or help to look back? The interwebs are chock full o' lists right now that look back on the year that was. You know what I'm talking about..."Best of this" "Worst of that" blah blah blah. Just go, carefully I beg you, to Buzzfeed and you'll see what I mean. In so doing, you will also weep profusely and inconsolably for what 'new journalism' means. But I digress.

It's not like these lists are the last word on anything. There's always more to say. Just because a year is ending does not mean there will be no more looking back on a certain topic or that nothing more will be said about it or learned from it. What is it that's been said...those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it?

In that spirit, I've looked back on the 2014 activity here in the Den and it's been an interesting year with you, my good readers (all three of you). Based on post popularity, you took the greatest pleasure in my medical shenanigans; my post-operative battle with tight pants; my job switch; saying goodbye to The Missionary Formerly Known as The Boy; and TMFKATB's acceptance in university. I'm so glad that my heinously sick gall bladder brought you such joy. I'm also glad it helped pay for the new wing at the UConn Medical Center.

In all seriousness, those posts represented a lot of the more personal things that went down here in the Den in 2014. I'm glad I was able to overshare them with you. I love the power of the word, both written and spoken. I'm know that they don't represent the last word here either. I don't think there's such a thing as a last word. For that, I am grateful.

So know there will be more words a-coming in 2015. There is no 'last word' in sight here. So feel free to keep your seat here in the Den and enjoy!

29 December 2014

Every day we can see miracles

Getting ready to turn the brown water, well, green
So this week's email from TMFKATB was pretty awesome, if I can so say with just a little fatherly pride. He was radiating excitement and has seemed to discover the joy that is found in working hard on behalf of others. He seems to be losing himself in the work. The day after we spoke to him (thanks interwebs and a Skype connection that held up), he participated in his first baptismal ordinance as a missionary. That's a milestone event for any missionary and he was exuberant about it and the bumps that he and his companion had to iron out to get there.

He talked a bit in his email about miracles. He reminded us that every day we can see miracles. All we have to do is open our eyes to see them. He's right. I think that far too often our vision is blocked by the 'noise' in our lives and it prevents us from seeing the miracles all around us. I'm not talking Moses parting the Red Seas or Fox News actually acknowledging that their patron saint, Sarah Palin, is certifiably insane miracles, but the every day miracles that come our way. They are there. Whether it's following the prompting to buy an extra bagel and giving it to the homeless guy outside your office or finding a few extra minutes in the day to call your mom, those little miracles are all around us. Like TMFKATB said, we just have to open our eyes to them.
That's an iguana-filled tamale, people. Iguana!

And finally, here's what he had for Christmas dinner. Iguana filled tamales. You have no idea how jealous I am!

27 December 2014

26

I like the juxtaposition of the contrasting colors that surround the '26' in the picture on the left. The black, white, and grey with the reds and the pop of blue. It's kind of cool.

It also tells a little of the story of the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me. Today, 27 December, we celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. I've been the more 'black and white' one in our relationship and she has been the one to be the warmer, smoother of us. But, like the blue and white boldness of the pictured 26, together, we've made something that pops, that, if I do say so myself, works.

I knew from the minute I saw this girl that I would marry her. And once I got her in my arms, as seen from the death grip in the first picture below, I wasn't going to let her go. Also, in spite of the fact it looks like I'm trying to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation through her one good ear in that picture (side note - this reason #138 why I didn't pursue a career in medicine - you're welcome, and to the medical malpractice attorneys, well sorry), the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML decided, all those years ago to marry me. I cannot begin to tell you how glad I am that she did.

My life without her? Perish the thought. Let's not speak of that again.
Have fun with a couple of images from our beginning - we had fun all those years ago. We're still having fun.

Dating...it was the 80's

12/27/88 - Holy Mother of Veils! Again, we blame the 80's

Maui. I'll apologize for my swimsuit now. Again, the 80's













Happy 26th Anniversary, love of my life.

26 December 2014

22

From the looks of the picture, there are a lot of ways to express the number 22. You see boldness, whimsy, strength, color, and creativity. Those are just a few of the things I see in my daughter, CAL, who turns 22 today.

I won't wax nostalgically for the days when she was a baby nor will I lament that I continue to age with the lamentation, 'How can I have a 22 year old?' Um, that ship has sailed people. I will, instead, be happy to be celebrating this day with her. She's at a great point in her life. She's closing in on the end of her senior year in university. She can see the proverbial 'light' at the end of the tunnel. She's got a solid plan for life post-graduation.

As we drove (and by 'drove,' I mean sat idling on the evil that is the Third World Van Wyck Expressway) back from JFK last Sunday after picking her up, CAL outlined her plans for her internship and practicum. She talked about the hospitals that she has targeted for both phases and her excitement about what the potential opportunities was palpable. As I listened to her, I could not help but be proud of my girl.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML have CAL all to ourselves this birthday and we are looking forward to spending it with her. The girl is a gift. She has always been the best 'late' Christmas gift a Dad could have ever wished for.

Happy birthday, Princess!

24 December 2014

He Is The Gift

It's Christmas Eve and it started early for this 'elf.' I fired up the 'sleigh' at 330AM to take some friends to the airport so they can celebrate with family behind the Zion Curtain. And now, as my work day has closed and my year-end holiday has begun, I'm off to get a few things done, including busting a hump in the kitchen making my garlic-infused red potatoes, before we host dinner here tonight with some other friends.

This is an amazing time of year. We pause to reflect. We pause to count the many blessings we've been given. We revel in the love of family and friends. We celebrate faith. We sorrow over those who have reason to be sad right now. Most importanly, we marvel at the God-given gift we were all given- Jesus the Christ.



May your Christmas Eve and Christmas Day be full of wonder, peace, friendship, and love.

23 December 2014

#alllivesmatter

Last week I had a conversation with a New York City police officer as we waited for a light to change at 44th and 5th. Peaceful protests had once again closed the Brooklyn Bridge and it was impacting traffic into Midtown. The officer was friendly and supportive of the right to protest but quietly expressed his frustration at some of the 'crap' (his phrasing was a little more colorful) he and his colleagues were experiencing. He said, "We're just trying to do our job." Four days later, two of his fellow officers would be slain simply for doing their job.

There is plenty of conjecture in the media, the blogosphere and on the right and the left, on what led to these killings. As a nation, we are now all too familiar with the events that led up to the killings in New York. I am not going to jump into that pool of conjecture and connect the dots, although I remain grateful that I live in a nation where I could jump in with my opinions, were I so inclined.

Rather, I was so struck by the quote from Dr. Paul Farmer. Dr. Farmer is a founder of Partners in Health and has done incredible things to bring health care to people who, by the world's standards, matter less. He has seen time and again how each life matters.

No one's life matters less. We all matter. Each and every one of us matters. Here we are two days away from celebrating Christ's birth and we've forgotten what He taught - He truly taught that each of us matters.

I can't pretend to know what great poverty is. I can't pretend to know what it is to live a life different than the one I have had. But this much I know - each of us matters. We've got to start acting like it or peace will be elusive.

This is the season of peace. May we begin to find it by treating one another like each of us matters.

22 December 2014

"crzy week" or "i don't like to type"

So getting the letter, entitled 'crzy week' today from The Missionary Formerly Known As The Boy (TMFKATB) was a bit of an early Christmas present because not only did we get his email, we'll get to see and speak to him this week. We had a brief real time email chat with him and you could sense his excitement at the fact that we will be able to see each other on Christmas Day. Thanks to the interwebs and the Skype for harnessing that power. Sadly because we have now gone from bad to worse in terms of internet providers, we are praying something fierce that it behaves on Thursday. Because we are more than a little excited to see him and hear his voice!

TMFKATB's letter was brief. He was in Tuxtla Gutierrez again for a couple of days and 'enjoyed' yet another lengthy bus ride. Jealous? He also copped to what has become painstakingly clear. After I may or may not have pointed out that his emails were a little light on detail, he admitted the following: "i don't like to type." Well, clearly. You also don't like to use capital letters. Suffice to say, we'll be having a little chat about beefing up his emails.

I'm not sure how I'm going to react when I see him and hear him speaking in Spanish. I have no barometer on how my emotions act when I'm talking about him. On Saturday, the barber that TMFKATB and I shared were talking about him and I couldn't stop smiling and laughing the whole time. About a week ago, while at a Church meeting, a woman we know casually asked about him and I busted out crying - big weepy tears crying - two words into talking about him. So who knows what's going to erupt this week, other than my heart.

15 December 2014

A little change of scenery

Officially supporting the home futbol team
A hearty felicidades to TMFKATB as he gained his Mexican residency card today. We heard from him as he wrote his weekly e-mail letter from his mission offices in Tuxtla Gutierrez as he was there to secure his residency card. It was his first time back there since he arrived in country in mid-October. Sounds like he didn't have time to do anything more than secure his papers and enjoy the six to seven hour bus ride to and from the little town in which he is currently serving.

He told us that the bus ride is longer than it needs to be as they are stopped frequently by Mexican police in full armor and tanks. They are very close to the Guatemalan border so apparently the show of force is important. He talked pretty frankly about how safe he feels, although he felt strange not being with his companion, Elder D, while on this little excursion.

It was a good letter. He and his companion are working hard. He continues to gain confidence in his language skills. He is embracing the culture - mole and tamales are becoming a staple of his diet - and he's loving the people. He is happy. We are looking forward to Christmas Day and the chance that we will have to 'see' him. It's going to be an amazing gift!
Apparently they are cutting hair now

14 December 2014

Bah Humbug - A Lesson

As one who grew up outside the four small walls of the confessional, the Den has become, in many ways, the venue in which I air my myriad foibles, as well as the occasional sin. I'll leave it to you to debate whether those are ones of commission or omission, but that's not the point. I've been pretty up front, embarrassingly so at times, about those times in life when I've committed a faux pas or found myself in a situation where I learned a lesson. For those of you who have kept up on the shenanigans here in the Den, I can only hope for one thing - learn from my mistakes.

I had another one of those moments yesterday.

It's no secret that the trappings of the Christmas season and I have an antagonistic relationship at best. I mean when "Die Hard" is your favorite Christmas movie because of lines like this, "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho," you know that the 24/7 screeching of a passel of washed up divas about a little drummer boy is going to drive you to acts of violence. So with that in mind, yesterday morning, after just a few hours sleep (BTW - I am officially too old to stay out past midnight at parties - getting home at 130AM does nothing for my cheery outlook on life), I embarked on my one errand of the day - a trip to the ATM to deposit a check.

I get to the bank and as a big fan of the drive up ATM, I made my way there. With just one car ahead of me, things were looking good. And then they weren't. I get to the machine only to discover that it can do every single transaction known to man, except, wait for it, take a check deposit. Yep, that function was 'temporarily unavailable.' Seriously. If there was ever a #firstworldproblem, this was it. There was no way I was going into the bank itself, as it appeared to be packed. So, knowing there was another branch of said bank a few miles down the road, I made my way there. Once again, I was planning on using the drive up ATM but when I got to that branch, there were no fewer than eight cars in that lane, so I spun my environmentally offensive Yukon around so I could go into the lobby, where I know they have three, count them, three ATM's. Here's what I found - a line for one ATM because A) ATM #1 only dispensed cash and 2) ATM #3 was completely out of service. C'mon, stupid ATM! You had one, just one, job to do! Now the line for tellers had upwards of a dozen people in it, so I indignantly took my place in line for the ATM and saw that the lady at the ATM was, based on the number of checks she had piled up, processing a year's worth of payroll via the machine. It was at this point that I muttered, "Lady, you can't be serious." Except I didn't mutter it. I pretty much yelled it because the lady at the ATM and the lady in front of me both spun around which looks of mortification (ATM lady) and shock (lady in front of me). ATM lady began to apologize and the other lady, very sweetly, which was more than I deserved, offered me her place in line. I refused and said I was just frustrated by technology, not them, and did my best to make a joke of it. The check lady scurried away and then the lady in front of me wrapped up her transaction in no time flat and as she walked away, she said to me, "Don't worry, Christmas is almost  here. Have a happy holiday."

Sufficiently chastened, I made my deposit, went back to my truck, and thought for a moment. That lady was right. Christmas is almost here and I do have reason, lots of them really, to be happy. My girl will be home with us. We'll get to 'see' The Missionary Formerly Known As The Boy via Skype. We will celebrate Christ's birth and all that it means to us. Time for me to bid farewell to the 'bah humbug.'

Now this is not to say I'm suddenly going to have "It's A Wonderful Life" on an endless viewing loop or that I'm going to play Mariah Scarey's Christmas CD drivel 24/7. I'm not. Some things cannot, nor should they, change. But I'm going to be better about remembering the real reason for this holiday season and why that's a powerful reason to keep it happy instead of humbug.

Like I said, learn from my mistakes. You're welcome.

10 December 2014

Better late than never

It was with the best of intentions that I had planned to post TMFKATB's letter this past Monday. He was on time and I even had a chance to have a real-time exchange with him, albeit brief. Like I said, the will was there. The way was not. Our 'crack' internet service provider gave up the ghost sometime Monday afternoon and our service was not restored until late this afternoon. I lost count on the number of phone calls I placed to them. I gave up the will to live after it took each time I called, on average, 25 minutes to find my account. I tried live chatting, which meant watching the chat go dead each time I asked a question. Note to the crack ISP - tell your 'live chat' drones to not use the same screen name. I debated delving into a Twitter war over it but decided to stand down this time.

It's funny how dependent we've become on this interwebs thing. I worked from the library most of the day yesterday and thanks to the kindness of some good friends, I took over their home office today so I could function (thanks again, K&L). I'd have been dead in the water otherwise. I shouldn't complain though. TMFKATB's letter was pretty brief this week as it sounded like he had no time at the little internet cafe they go to each week. He had another bout of gastro-intestinal drama as he continues to adjust to life in country and he emerged from it with his attitude as positive as ever. So I suppose my battle with the interwebs is not so significant in the grand scheme of things. It really isn't.

07 December 2014

"A Date Which Will Live in Infamy"

The USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

"A date which will live in infamy" - Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt
December 8, 1941

December 7th marks the day in 1941 in which the US forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were attacked in a surprise raid by the Japanese. It is the act that sent the US into World War II. In a seven minute speech the following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered the words that now so famously describe that day and within an hour of concluding that speech, the US declared war. The USS Arizona, pictured above, is a somber reminder of that day.

I was born a generation or so after that fateful day and the events of World War II. I am endlessly fascinated by that war though. I recently heard a comedian whose name escapes me talking about how a man's sudden interest in World War II is a sure sign of his advancing age. This fascination that I have, coupled with the fact that I can't remember the comedian's name, would suggest I'm getting older (I'm not getting older, just 'middler.')

One of the things I find most compelling about World War II is the collective power of those who went to war and those who remained at home supporting the war. Tom Brokaw has chronicled those lives beautifully in his aptly named series of books, "The Greatest Generation." The sense of purpose of was real as was the the sense of sacrifice that the nation collectively shared. Even greater was the collective commitment. I am in awe of what that generation did.

We are now two plus generations removed from those who fought in World War II. Their actions and efforts are largely relegated to some brief discussion in school and to books and mostly crappy Hollywood dramatizations (Pearl Harbor you have been called out). I hope we don't forget what these people did. Our track record of coming together as a nation hasn't been particularly awesome since World War II and that's a little scary.

We'd do well to be a little more like The Greatest Generation.

01 December 2014

Janky Machines and Marvelous Technology

Haircut from a "janky" machine
I was a little worried how things were going to go down today with our communication with TMFKATB. He's been getting online at about the same time for the last three weeks so I've been able to schedule accordingly. Today was going to be challenging. I flew back home today while the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is staying on for a few days. My connecting flight home was scheduled to depart at the same time he normally gets online. I was hoping we might get delayed, but my chariot of choice, Our Lady of the Perpetual Widget, is all kinds of committed to operating an on-time operation, and we departed on-time.

This is where the marvelous technology comes into play. As soon as we hit 10,000 feet, the wi-fi kicked in and found myself online and texting SML to see if she'd yet heard from him. She hadn't and we continued our texting as the plane ascended to 33,000 feet. About an hour later than his normal time, his letter appeared in my inbox. So from my seat, 11E (a window seat, in Coach - my upgrade didn't clear - let's not speak of it again), I began a back and forth with our son in southernmost Mexico and continued texting with my wife. I couldn't help but marvel, just a little, at the technology. It's a marvelous thing.

TMFKATB's letter this week was a good one. Sounds like he and his companion spent a lot of time talking with people and he continues to build his love for the people of Mexico. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable each day. He seems to be growing bolder in his confidence in the language as well. He tossed a reading assignment our way, which was something we wondered how long it was going to be before he began giving us 'homework.' Well, that time has arrived.

While I marveled at just how cool this high tech world is, he did lament the more rudimentary technology he's got right now. He said that he and his companion gave each other haircuts with, and I quote, "a janky machine a member lended us." I don't even know what 'janky' is but from the above picture, he didn't come out looking like JoJo the Dog-Faced Boy, so how bad could the janky machine have been?

30 November 2014

The Comfort of the Familiar

I may be wrong here, which will come as a shock to none of you who find yourselves ensconced on the couch here in the Den, but it is my assertion that more people here in the U.S. come together at Thanksgiving than any other holiday. To see if I'm off base, just for giggles, blow by your nearest commercial airport today and take in the shenanigans.

Thanksgiving is wrapped in the comfort of the familiar. From the traditions, the food, and the gathering, it screams familiar. That was certainly the case for us this week. We've been surrounded by the things most familiar to us. Watching my grandson hoist his 18 month old self atop a coffee table and cackle with laughter brought back memories of watching The Boy do the same thing time and again. Here's hoping my grandson won't break both arms leaping from that table as his uncle did when he was just 15 months old. Those super fun trips to the ER are familiar ones I would not like to be part of again. Ever. Seeing my adult daughters howl with laughter as they tried to extract their father - me - from the snares of a zip line made me smile, knowing that even though they grow up, your children can still be 'kids.' Sharing a burger at In-N-Out with the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML yesterday was a pinnacle of the familiar. Living in Southern California for many years, the glory of the Double Double and fries was a big part of our lives and it was so good revisit it again. As we sat there indulging in that burger goodness, I was enveloped in the comfort of the familiar. There I was, sitting across from she who makes my life complete, having memories of good times past flow across my mind's eye, and I was happy.

I suppose you could argue that the very comfort of the familiar is what puts the 'fun' in dysfunction that are also the hallmarks of big gatherings like Thanksgiving. But no matter how dysfunctional you may think it is, there is indeed comfort to be found. I'm glad I've had the opportunity these last few days to surround myself in the comfort of the familiar with the people I love; to say thanks; and to count my blessings.

I don't think I will ever be able to stop doing that.

27 November 2014

Being Thankful



As I write this, the air is infused with the aroma of garlic as it toasts up in the homemade croutons. The whir of multiple blenders blends into the constant hum of blow dryers. The clanging of pans is accompanied by the sounds of laughter and cries for the instructions for the roasting pan. All signs of that uniquely American celebration that is Thanksgiving.

Our Thanksgiving celebration is under way. We are hours away from carving the bird, but the house, unlike the unfortunate turkey, is alive with the familiar sights and sounds of this holiday. For the first time in several years, we took to the road, and by road I mean a well-worn 757, and are surrounded by family. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and one very important grandson are making for a great day. Of course we are missing TMFKATB. Methinks this will be just a regular day for him. Not thinking anyone will be serving up turkey and pumpkin pie along the Mexican-Guatemalan border. He's in our thoughts today.

It would be an impossible task to enumerate the blessings I've been granted and all the things for which I'm grateful, so I won't even pretend to start a list. I'll say this though - I am a lucky man. I am surrounded by my family today. I have been blessed by friends far and wide who have made my life so rich. What a poorer life I would have without you all in it. My heartfelt thanks to each of you this day. 


I'll close with this:

“I give thanks to my Creator for this wonderful life where each of us has the opportunity to learn lessons we could not fully comprehend by any other means.” -- Joseph B. Wirthlin

25 November 2014

"best week"

That smile says it all
So thanks to a long day o'meetings in Manhattan and a big ole monkey wrench tossed by that she-hag Mother Nature, I am late in posting the highlights of TMFKATB's letter. He entitled his email 'best week of my life.' That, my friends, are some of the sweetest words a parent can read! With your child thousands of miles away, those words are beyond comforting.

He's had a good, nay, great week. It sounds like he decided to take off the shackles of timidity that may have bound him because he wasn't comfortable with the language. He and his companion are talking to everyone and anyone and having a good time doing it. He expressed how happy he was and he looks it. Also, he's killing me with the fact that he's got tamales on hand constantly. Killing me.

He's getting into his groove. As he gets into the groove, ours is getting thrown off, just a little. Mother Nature, that she-hag of all she-hags, has decided to toss a Nor'Easter into the Thanksgiving travel mix and it looks like tomorrow is going to be, well, challenging. But Mother Nature shall not get the best of us. We are prepared and have adjusted our plans accordingly. Looking forward to a good Thanksgiving celebration, in spite of that she-devil's evil plans!


19 November 2014

What Do People Do All Day?

Lowly, Huckle and friends
Earlier this week, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML made her way across the border to MA with a friend of hers to go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Of course, Mr Carle is the author - illustrator of the beloved 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar.' While exploring the little museum, SML happened upon one room and found the illustration above. She took the picture you see above and texted it to me. As soon as I saw it, I was flooded in emotions. I sat at my Midtown desk, sporting a huge grin and allowing a couple of tears to roll down my face.

What?

Most certainly, if you are of a certain age, you recognize that worm and that leiderhosen-sporting cat. It's Lowly and Huckle, two of the beloved characters of author - illustrator Richard Scarry. Seeing those two so beautifully drawn is what triggered those emotions when I saw the picture. As a child, I loved, loved, loved these characters and the works of Mr Scarry. His magnum opus, in my opinion, 'What Do People Do All Day?' was first published in 1968, and I'm quite certain it took a place on my childhood bookshelf very quickly. Although I cannot remember when I first read it, I have vivid memories even now of paging through this book time and again as a young reader. Huckle and his friends were easy to connect with and this book in particular was so exciting to a young child. It allowed you to see what adults did after they left the house in the morning. It was wonderful and it is one of those books that made me a reader.

Once I became a father, this book was one I delighted in reading to my children. I'm not quite certain it had the same impact on them that it did me but I'm fine with that. They all emerged as readers in their own ways. I am so glad that when we got married all those many years ago that SML brought a list of children's literature that she wanted to make a part of the lives of our children. I'm glad that that her aunt, J, turned us on to early reading techniques that helped instill a love of the written word in them as well.

One of the payoffs for a word nerd/reader like me has been trading books with my children now that they are adults. Discussing books we've read has been a joy for me. And to think, I've got a worm and a cat to thank for a lot of that!

17 November 2014

Gangster Street English

Fans, 'staches, and the 'browsie' arch and that hideous Noah's Ark Tie!
Monday has once again brought us news from The Missionary formerly known as The Boy (TMFKATB). His letter and real-time commentary were really positive and a reflection of his personality. This is his third week 'in country' and last week's letter was more about the ups and downs that he was experiencing, which was totally expected for us. Of course he was going to be a little bewildered by his new surroundings and confounded by the language. We really didn't worry (a little, for sure, but not too much) and this week's letter was laugh out loud funny in a couple of places, so it made for another good day.

TMFKATB reported that he's working hard, in spite of a little gastro-intestinal drama and ongoing rattling from small earthquakes, or as he put it, 'just a quick shake' that happen 'all the time.' He and his companion are working to teach more and while they aren't seeing the success they have hoped for, spirits are high and they are working hard. He's trying to be as obedient as he can as well.

He shared a bit more about his surroundings, like living across from the town futbol arena, shopping for beans and snacks at the local 'Kwiki Mart' (his description, not mine)  and that there are dogs and chickens everywhere. He's discovering new fruits and 'crazy meats' in the street market. There's also a tortilleria nearby. Here he is with a fresh stack of tortillas:
He talked about his companion wanting to learn more English, but only gangster street English. Lovely. So as his teacher, this young man has TMFKATB. Who better? I mean he was raised on the mean streets of the Dirty 630 - Naperthrill - and in the hills of Connecticut and these, as anyone can tell you, are hotbeds of the 'gangsta' life. Here's a sample of the teaching that he shared in this week's letter:

Also my comp likes to learn English and only gangster street English.
So when we talk to the ninos in the street, he will say, "What's crackalickin', my homie?"
or "What is, good gangsta'?" He is too funny.

Perfect. Just perfect. I see a career in cultural protocol. Actually, did you see how he was arching his eyebrow in the first picture? I actually think he could replace Phil Keoghan and his "browsie' as the host of The Amazing Race.

16 November 2014

Grilled Cheese Nostalgia

@seriouseats.com
As a part of the lay ministry that constitutes the local organizations of our church, each Sunday night the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I welcome a group of young single adults into our home for fellowship, friendship, and food. Tonight is no different.

However, when we got home from our Sunday services today, we were both pretty hungry and decided to throw something together quickly. Our Sunday go-to? The simple, but sublime, grilled cheese sandwich.

As those sandwiches were grilling, SML said, 'I always think of your dad whenever we make a grilled cheese, especially on Sundays.' I smiled and agreed. You see, grilled cheese sandwiches were my Dad's thing on those rare Sundays when he was home. Those Sundays were rare, as he was often gone at a church meeting but if he was home, it was a lock for grilled cheese that he made. It also meant, for several years, an opportunity to see him let his hair down, which is ironic since he was bald, and laugh. Dad wasn't much of a laugher. But in those days, Sunday nights meant sitcoms on CBS and my dad laughed - out loud laughed - while watching 'The Jeffersons.' George and his war of words with the maid, Florence, really made him laugh.

So tonight as I waxed nostalgic, I couldn't help but smile as we ate those sandwiches. It's been a little more than five years since my Dad died quite unexpectedly. There are days when I feel his absence more acutely than others, but not a day goes by where I am not grateful for his impact on my life. He was an outstanding husband to my mother. He was so good to us, his children. He served all who knew him well. He was a good, good man.

So, Dad, tonight's grilled cheese was for you. Thanks for those Sundays with you.

11 November 2014

Thank You for Your Service

In the United States today we pause to honor those who stepped forward to protect the freedoms that we cherish and, far too frequently, take for granted. It is Veterans Day, a day in which we honor all those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Iconic images, like the flag being raised at Iwo Jima in World War II, make it easy to remember the more 'spectacular' efforts that were made to preserve our freedoms. What we cannot do is forget those who weren't in those 'spectacular' moments. Every veteran, regardless of where and how they served, deserves a heartfelt 'Thank you for your service.' It is the contribution of every single member of the military that leads to those heroic moments that we all remember.

Earlier today, I watched a clip of a Marine, Kyle Carpenter, talking with David Letterman about his experiences in Iraq that led to him becoming a Medal of Honor recipient. He spoke with reverence of his fellow marines and his team, and the people they were defending and those they were trying to help. It was not about him. Watch it please:

I am in awe of him and all those who have served. I'm looking forward to reading this book as well:
We cannot forget the service and sacrifice of all those who have served. We live in a time where the survival rate for those injured in action is incredibly high. Sadly, too many are being forgotten once they get home. That's an injustice that can be prevented. Check out what the Wounded Warrior Project is doing to make sure our veterans are not forgotten. As their motto states:

The greatest casualty is being forgotten

May we never forget and may we always say, "Thank you for your service."

10 November 2014

Tamales. He's learning to make tamales.

Working the masa
By his own admission, this week's letter from The Missionary formerly known as The Boy (TMFKATB) was full of ups and downs. He's been 'in country' two weeks and the reality of his new world is setting in. He misses his family, but not overwhelmingly so. He's doing his best to focus on the work that there is to do and that is certainly helping him. He's feeling better about the language too. Although he does not see it yet, I can see the impact on his immersion in Spanish in his letters. Some of his phrasing in English is taking on Spanish grammatical structure. He mentioned that in talking to his companion, they determined they like the same music. Remember his companion speaks not a word of English so TMFKATB would have had to drive that conversation in Spanish. I think he's learning more than he realizes. His sense of humor is intact too. As is his growing love for the people he is serving.

As I read his letter today and had a few minutes of real-time exchanges with him, I so wished I could be at his side. I'd love to be coaching him with the language and helping him as he endeavors to teach and serve. But that's not my role right now. He gets to learn and grow without his parents at his side now. And that's good. Just taking some getting used to in these first few weeks.

He did, however, shoot a loving arrow across the bow today with his proclamation that he had learned to make tamales, authentic from the hand of a sweet Mexican lady tamales. He even provided photographic evidence. This sent both his mother, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, and I into spasms of joy. Because tamales. Because homemade tamales! Our urgent need for tamales, particularly at Christmas, will now be sated upon his return. That he will be bring home such an awesome talent is for me, a tamal addict, dare I say it, glorious.

This is beyond joyous news, people, you just have no idea.

08 November 2014

Lottery

One of the few educational highlights of my high school waste of time experience was my junior year English class taught by Mr. Miller. I'd always been a reader but he took literature to a whole new level, opening my world and it led me to my decision to be an English major in college. This unfortunate choice, like nearly all other English majors led me to a career that has absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with my major. But my love of the written word remains firmly intact.

One of the stories we read all those many years ago was Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery.' If you haven't read it, you should. Now. Although there are a host of interpretations of this powerful short story, I'm in the author's camp on its commentary on "pointless violence and general inhumanity" in society. Note that this story was first published in 1948. Its commentary is as timely today as it was nearly 70 years ago in an era that seems so far removed from ours.

I've been giving "The Lottery" some thought this week as I've watched a stream of invective spew through my Facebook and Twitter feeds and on what little television I've stomached. It was Election Day earlier this week in the United States and the political rhetoric got ramped up to 11 again. The polarization in our nation has become untenable and it manifested itself in the aforementioned feeds. So I had to get bulimic on those feeds and purge away. Ironically, there was an article earlier in the week claiming that liberals are more likely to 'defriend' someone who disagrees with their political bent than those on the right. I can honestly say it was not the beliefs that caused me to purge. It was the level of vitriol and negativity that did it. So if that makes me a bleeding heart liberal (and in my faith, given that I'm fairly centrist as opposed to right-wing that pretty much makes me a raging leftist), so be it. The bottom line is that I'm done with the vitriol.

I realize that I've been guilty of those same behaviors. And for that I am sorry. I guess I'm tired of our inhumanity to one another. What has it gotten us? A whole lot of hate. And that is good for what? Any one?
Is this thing on?

I don't want to be the one holding the stone, ready to cast it. And I don't want to be the one taking a rock in my skull. No good can come from that. So I'm going to control what I can. When I find myself picking up that symbolic stone, I'm going to ask myself what good is going to come from launching that little fusillade? I'm going to continue to embrace the diversity that I have in my life. I love that I have friends from all parts of the world with all sorts of different points of view. I do not agree with all of those points of view. Nor would I want to as that makes life boring. And I don't want a boring life.

It's time to put down the stones.

03 November 2014

Now Monday is our new favorite day of the week

We can now say that Monday is our new favorite day of the week. With the first email from The Missionary formerly known as The Boy that arrived just before 1:00PM Eastern today, it was 'game on.' We'd now know where he was living and what the first week "in the field" has been like. So here's what we know:

Where he is: Tuxtla Chico, Chiapas (a town of about 7,200 people just outside Tapacula, Chiapas.) It's basically on the Guatemalan border and the Pacific Ocean (thanks, Google Maps!).
Does he have a Mexican companion: Indeed, Elder Diaz from Mexico City. Speaks not a word of ingles.

We had a chance to do a little back and forth real-time emailing. The quote of the day from him was "Mom, you would vomit if you saw my living conditions but it doesn't bother me." His personality is still intact! And we knew it would be.

His attitude is great. He's already loving the people. He's adjusting to his new world. In another real-time note to me he said, "There is always music in the street. It's just a party here. So poor though. Tin houses and everything. And the rain is crazy."

Honestly, this has been such a great day. Knowing where is and that he's happy is all we needed. Yes, he's drinking the water, much to his mother's dismay. He'll get used to it. He's my son and there's very little my cast-iron stomach hasn't liked through the years.

Here's a couple of pictures:

One of the streets in his new area

"The food is so freakin delicious"
The tamale shot was sent specifically to make me jealous. It worked.

02 November 2014

My Sister

No, not that kind of Sister
Ah, sisters. No, I'm not referring to the good Sisters of the Catholic faith. On them, I think the media has given them a bit of a bad rap, from the singing and flying (The Sound of Music, Sister Act, The Flying Nun) to the coldly oppressive (Doubt), it's safe to say that these women and the good work they do have been woefully misrepresented. That said, I could write for days about the fearsome Sister Mary Stigmata from the brilliant Blues Brothers movie. Her ninja-like use of a ruler is one for the ages.

No, I'm referring to the one sister I was blessed to have. It's her birthday today and her day deserves some 'virtual' ink her in the Den. I'm proud of my sister. She's done some pretty amazing things with her life. She's fiercely independent. She's a medical professional. Her advice to me, "Take the Valium," prior to an agonizingly unpleasant procedure reserved just for men was some of the sagest counsel I've ever gotten. She's smart. She's a good mom. She's remarkably forgiving.

We didn't always get along all that well. Because teenagers. Because one of us was pretty imperious and one of us was pretty impetuous. I'll let you guess who was who in that little teenage match of wills. Fortunately, we managed to recover from that. The passage of time allows you to look back and learn some things from life. My sister has taught me that no matter what may get thrown at you and even if you get knocked down, you pick yourself off, patch up the scratches and keep going. That's a good lesson to remember.

I'm glad she's my sister. Happy birthday, friend.

31 October 2014

Halloween 1988

It's Halloween night and so far, traffic has been pretty light here in the Den. Interesting to note that there's been a common theme amongst the few children that have come by and it's not that they are all characters from "Frozen." Instead, they've all been pretty vocal in their candy tastes and they've not been afraid to voice their displeasure. A new tactic for sure, but I counter with the following, 'Ummm...it's candy. It's free. I'd rethink the complaint policy.'

With that as a tableau, I've been thinking about Halloweens past. It's been 36 years since the release of the best scary movie ever, "Halloween." It unleashed a terror in the form of a nutter in a William Shatner mask and a forever shrieking Jamie Lee Curtis, typecast for good. If nothing else it taught us too that no good happens to teenagers when the parents are out of the house.

Ten years later, for Halloween 1988, another terror befell another innocent group of young people. While not quite as bathed in gore as a slasher film, what happened to these kids was equally as disturbing. It was the Blisters:

The Blisters
I'd been off my mission over a year in 1988 when it was Halloween party time at my BYU ward. Now this being BYU, Halloween costumes meant, and still mean, that the costumes are, in a word, tame. Translation: women cannot dress up like they are working the pole and that modesty and a modicum of decorum remains paramount. As my roommates and I thought about what we would do for said party, a couple of things came to mind...what would be most borderline offensive thing we might do and since it was off-campus, how far could we take things without a long chat with the Honor Code goons. Given those guidelines and since we were living in a student ward full of recently returned missionaries, both male and female, there was only one option - The Blisters.

Yep, a living loving parody of the sister missionaries of the time (everybody calm down, it was 26 years ago!). The drop waist dresses, courtesy of the local thrift emporium, DI, were pretty much required uniforms in those days. In some cases, so was the slightly superior smirk that I was sporting. Blister T, in the center, and I served together in the same mission and we were both on the receiving end of those slightly superior sister smirks on more than one occasion. Our fourth 'companion' is not in this picture, but I can assure you, there was a fourth. We weren't about to violate 'mission rules.' So when we made our grand entrance in all our hairy legged, five o'clock shadowed, superior glory at the party at the now long gone 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 just a little bit scarring.

Thanks to the Blister in the center, another picture from that evening made the rounds on the interwebs this week on the Facebook. It got a great reaction and I thought it was worth rehashing here tonight, 26 years later.

Happy Halloween from The Blisters.

29 October 2014

Why do I have to do it twice?

Seriously. You want fries with that?
In my ongoing effort to see just how quickly I can obliterate my health savings account this year, I saw the dentist yet again today. The quest to fix my broken tooth has taken on the timing of the search for what the Kardashians' won't do for money. Simply put, it has no end. As a result, I found myself in the dentist's chair this morning for appointment #382. It started with the dentist telling me there was no need to numb me up because my tooth was dead anyway. Well, good morning to you too, Princess. It ended with me walking away with what I believe may have been a mild concussion, thanks to the drill she used. Apparently it was obtained from a recently shuttered mine.

Anyway, I decided to treat myself to a doughnut after the visit. Because why not head directly to a sugar dealer immediately after seeing the dentist. So I went to a nearby outlet of the ubiquitous doughnut purveyor that you can find, by law, about every 500 yards here in Connecticutistan and Mass. I walk in to get my pumpkin doughnut. As I approach the counter to place my order, the slacker kid assigned to the register appears out of nowhere and asks, "Bra', what can I get you?" Bra? He really said it. Hearing that word, I quickly looked around to see if Dog the Bounty Hunter was lurking in the shadows, but seeing no sign of a wicked mullet, I felt it was safe to proceed with my order. He began to swivel around to the rack o'doughnuts, when his manager swooped in and the following played out before my eyes:

Strident Teen Manager (think Tracy Flick from 'Election'): You just got back from the bathroom. You washed your hands, right?
Bra' the Donut Boy: Sha,yeah!
Strident Teen Manager: You have to wash them again.
Bra' the Donut Boy: But I washed 'em. 
Strident Teen Manager: Didn't you watch the video in training? You have to wash them twice. Once in the bathroom. Then again here!" She then harshly pointed to the sink next to the counter, expertly jabbing her microphone-adorned head toward the sink.
Bra' the Donut Boy: (in a defeated half-wail) Why do I have to do it twice?

Strident glared and he knew the battle was lost. He sulked over to the sink and she spun back around to me with my doughnut magically in what I can only assume was her twice-washed hand. I kind of felt bad for Bra'. He was now staring down the barrel of a long shift of glares, recriminations, and probably a forced watching of the hand washing video during his break. I just hope she doesn't make him practice.

Hopefully he learns his lesson about picking his battles in the workplace. You've got to choose wisely. You don't want to be the one practicing hand washing in front of customers because you chose the wrong time to lament, "Why do I have to do it twice?"

27 October 2014

The Call

Earlier today, a young man, dressed in his suit and wearing his badge identifying him as a missionary, strode through airport after airport as he made his way to his assigned field of labor in a not-so-distant country, but in a world totally new to him.

Of course, that young man is The Missionary formerly known as The Boy. He, along with 11 other missionaries, made their way this morning from behind the Zion Curtain to Mexico. All twelve are bound for the same mission - Tuxtla Gutierrez. Their group has made their way through three different airports today before they'll get to their fourth in Tuxtla. I'm sure it has made for a bit of an amusing site. I would have loved to been a fly on the wall to watch twelve sets of eyes get progressively wider with each new airport and change of planes.

We've been able to stay in touch with him today, thanks to a throw-away cell phone that we sent him. Because airport payphones. I mean think about it - A) are there even any left anymore and B) who needs whatever highly contagious disease lurks in those that remain? So a throw-away cell phone it was. To hear his voice for the first time in six weeks was an absolute joy. From his first call to his last today, he sounded happy. It was a thrill for me to hear his conversation peppered with Spanish, albeit heavily American accented, it was Spanish just the same. It was even better to hear his excitement. He was excited to start talking to people. He sat next to a couple from Spain during his first flight and was excited that he could understand them describing their vacation in Cancun in Spanish. Any trepidation that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I may have had vanished with that first call. A calm, even a peace, enveloped us as we talked to him. I am so grateful for that comforting blessing.

Talking to him from Mexico City was even more fun. The reality of being in a new country sounded like it was setting in. I asked him how it was clearing Customs. I've cleared Customs more times than I care to count in Mexico City so I know what he would experience. He told me, in Spanish, how it went down. As the Customs agent began to pepper him with questions, The Missionary said he asked him, again in Spanish, if there was anyone who spoke English. The Customs guy apparently smiled and said, "Mihijo Usted ya esta en Mexico. Ya habla espanol." (Son, you're in Mexico now. Now you speak Spanish!) That ringing you hear in the background? Yeah, that's the reality check bell clanging loudly. He then mentioned that his group was the only group of white people anywhere. How's that for enlightenment? It's actually a young man realizing he' not in the proverbial "Kansas" anymore.

I can't believe how good it was to talk to him. I'm so grateful for how good he sounded. I'm even more grateful for the peace that his mother and I are feeling. We'll need that knowing that we won't speak to him again until Christmas. Wait...what? That's right. A missionary calls home twice a year - Mother's Day and Christmas. It allows for the missionary to focus on what he / she has been called to do and there's some growing up that happens too, as a result. It's probably worse for the parents. That being said, I'm excited to talk to him at Christmas. By that time, his American Spanish accent will be long gone. He'll have gone native at that point. It'll be the Battle of the Accents - my Cuban versus his Mexican. We'll see who takes it. I can't wait!

The Final Leg

25 October 2014

Story Telling Voice

Since Netflix' streaming plan became a dumping ground for short-lived for a reason television series, straight-to-DVD again, for a reason movies, and a showcase for the talent (?) that is one Adam Sandler, we cancelled our membership. Then the Awesomes got hooked on one of the series showcased on Netflix and once they had used up every free 30-day membership they could find, Our Lady of Awesome called us and implored us to restart our membership so they could finish up watching the show. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML found she liked the aforementioned series and it seems everyone was happy. Even me, as I've found a couple of cool documentaries.

I watched one of those cool ones this afternoon. It's called "Twenty Feet from Stardom" and it tells the story of some of the best backup singers (Darlene Love!) in the music business. It was a fascinating watch and it drove home to me just how powerful the voice can be. As anyone who has had the misfortune of being near me when I sing, you know that what I produce is akin to the sound two angry alley cats make while fighting over a rotting can of sardines. Suffice to say, it's not good. What is good is that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is stone-cold deaf in one ear. She has been spared years and years of agony. I long ago accepted that when I was swimming in the gene pool, I did not jump into the musical talent lane. I leave musical talent to my first cousins who are half of the incredibly talented band Delta Rae. They got musical talent in spades.

Songs tell a story. The really good ones, in just a few lines and told through amazing vocals and music, are as powerful as any gripping oral or written narrative. I've come to realize that each one of us has a story to tell. One of the more simple truths of this life is that each and every one of us is an individual, with unique feelings and experiences that craft our perspective. We live in a time when it has gotten so easy to tell our stories. Facebook, for what it is, helps us to tell stories and the Twitter lets us tell those stories in short form. Instagram helps us tell stories through imagery. I know I am constantly enriched by long format story telling found in podcasts like "This American Life."

And then, for me, there is this little labor of, dare I say it, love - the virtual den that is this blog. This has become my story telling place. For better or worse, I'll let you be judge of that. For the two of you who have stuck around here for awhile, you know that I've experimented with my 'voice' here and I'm still not sure if I've hit my stride, but I hope to continue to improve. The stories that make up our rich life experience deserve that. This much I know, there are still plenty o'stories for me to tell. I'm going to keep telling them here.

After all, we all have a story to tell.

23 October 2014

The Last of Thursday Favorites

Yeah, he sure knows how to take a memorable picture
Today marked our last official MTC P-Day email bonanza / letter from The Missionary formerly known as The Boy. He departs in just a few days for parts (kind of) unknown in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico and its 'hood. He proudly entitled today's email missive "Last Letter from the CCM." His excitement about getting to Mexico was not to be contained. He's ready.

From our point of view, it hardly seems possible that he's already leaving for Mexico. It was only a few short days, I mean weeks, ago that we said our 'See you laters' and now he is on the precipice of leaving the country for his field of labor.

We've loved Thursdays as it was the appointed day to hear from him. As parents, it's been a bittersweet experience to watch him grow from afar. We've seen the growth in him through his letters. We've seen a bit of the challenges he's experienced that have led to that growth. You're excited for that growth but wish you could be there with him to help him (so not an endorsement of helicopter parenting!!!). But you sit back, suck it up, and realize how these experiences are helping him see and achieve his potential in ways that may not have been possible if you were there to help him. It's probably been harder for us than him.

So, our new favorite day will be Monday as Mondays are his prep day in the field. I'm already counting the days for that first e-mail. Tick tock....


18 October 2014

Appalled.

Because this.
There is precious little left in this world that appalls me. Aside from Fox News and the Four Whores (whoops, too easy - no pun intended) Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Kardashians and their ilk, there just isn't much that leaves me appalled. Until today, when a seemingly simple trip to the grocery store left me speechless at the end cap of Aisle Three.

Because Glo Balls.

Tell your inner sixth grade boy to stop snickering. Right. Now. This is real and it's not a malady that GI's were warned about before heading overseas. Glo Balls are a food, and I'm using that description in the loosest terms possible, item that a once dead company, Hostess Brands, is foisting upon the public in order to celebrate Halloween.

One would think given my wont to enjoy the more bizarre foods that the world offers, that these 'snack' items would not terrify me the way they do. I mean I've eaten baloot. I've eaten what may or may not have been pidgeon cooked on the inside of an oil barrel in an alley in Shanghai. I've eaten what I still to this day hope was asparagus doused in what most likely was motor oil in Istanbul. Tadpoles for dessert in the wet markets near Wan Chai  in Hong Kong were actually pretty tasty. Worst of all, I've eaten poutine in Montreal and lived to tell the tale. Yet, these orange orbs leave me stricken.

Let's consider a few things. Firstly, they are covered in coconut shavings. You might as well be eating hair off your barber's floor. The consistency has got to be the same. Secondly, the orange coloring. Where did they get that? It looks like it's from one of the murky vats of tanning dye that the cast of 'Jersey Shore' was dipped in before every shoot. In a not so ironic twist, the Hostess web site offers zero information on their nutritional value. You'll note my shock. I cannot imagine eating one. However, thanks to the miracle of the interwebs, I've found someone who did. You can read his review here. It's pretty much brilliant.

I think I need to go lie down now. Maybe I'll have some kind of nightmare that will be worse than what is the Glo Ball.

16 October 2014

I may have created a First Class monster

Eyemask and ear plugs, just like on the plane
As it's Thursday, it can only mean that it was 'Letter Day' from The Missionary formerly known as The Boy (TMFKATB). He has been sending pictures with his letters and today's letter was no different. Included in the gallery of pictures was the gem you see to the left. You see 'Sleeping Beauty' in his bunk, donning an eye mask and ear plugs that are normally reserved for in-flight sleeping. He looks comfortable, right? I'm concerned though that this may be the same blanket I had when I was a 'guest' of the MTC thirty years or so ago.

He should look comfortable in that he, of all our children, benefited the most from 'turning left' upon boarding an airplane or in more basic terms, not having to sit in The Village. He got lucky on far too many occasions when flying with me or by himself and enjoyed the relative comforts of the 'front of the bus.' Knowing that he should get his flight plans in the next few days, this is what manifested itself in a bit of our real-time email conversation today:

ME: Time is really flying! Excited to get your flight info.
TMFKATB: can you upgrade me to first class? its gonna be terrible. haha.
ME: I'd have to upgrade your companion too. Can't separate you!
TMFKATB: haha ok that sounds good to me. you know im too spoiled to deal with that
ME: Um you best be prepared for life in Coach, my friend.

Suffice to say, he'll be enjoying a lovely ride in Coach. Clearly, though, I may or may not have created a First Class monster. But as far as monsters go, this one is pretty tame.

If you had asked to follow The Boy's mission blog and have not been able to access it, or not gotten the invite and are still interested in reading along, would you please message me directly. It's been brought to my attention that a lot of you were not able to access it. I've found the Blogger invite system to be really tempermental, too.




13 October 2014

Columbus Day - disease and shopping

C'mon, can you name these three ships?
Today is the day the U.S. marks the observance of Columbus Day, or Indigenous Peoples Day (no, I'm serious - it's a thing) if one insists that I be all Alameda County Politically Correct, a day in which we celebrate the day in which Columbus discovered the Americas. See what I did there? I said 'the Americas.' It's a fairly common misconception that it was Columbus who discovered America. He did not. It's not like he sailed up to a beach near Daytona and announced, "It's 'Merica. Now somebody get me a hot dog!"

I was thinking about Senor Columbus and what his arrival brought to the Americas late last week while I was talking to a colleague in London about the fact that our U.S. offices would be closed in observance of this auspicious day. He'd just been talking about how excited our media seemed about the Ebola issue and I noted that on Monday we'd get a chance to honor Columbus and thank him for bringing mass communicable disease to the new world. Because flu, scurvy, and STD's.

You may recall the little ditty from elementary school that helped us remember the achievements of that voyage from 1492. You know the one..."In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." I've reworked just a few lines:

In fourteen ninety two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue

He had three ships and left from Spain
He sailed through sunshine and brought with him a world of pain

Of his arrival the natives would soon rue
Lamenting, "If only he'd brought a mild case of ague"

I wanted to put my spin on the whole thing but you try finding something that rhymes with 'gonorrhea.' It's not easy and I don't have that kind of time. That said, the legacy of Columbus does go far beyond bringing the agony of communicable disease among other travesties. I mean, where would we be without half off sales on sheets and minor household electronics without him and the observance of this day? If you get upset about the concept of Columbus Day sales, that's kind of ironic. The basis of Columbus' expedition in the first place was to increase trade. The fact that you can get a toaster for an additional 30% off today is simply a fulfillment of legacy.

09 October 2014

Time stands still on Thursdays

Missionary training hasn't changed him
As noted previously, upon learning that Thursdays would be The Missionary formerly known as The Boy's 'day off,' it was immediately our new favorite day of the week. Today is Thursday and it is still our favorite day of the week. We didn't hear from him until early afternoon which threw the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML's day for a bit of a loop.

His letter, which is now posted at his blog, was positive and reflects the musings of a young man in the process of growing up. There's a lot of ground still to cover (one need only look at me, his father, to know growing up takes awhile) but it was great to read his thoughts on what he's learning and experiencing.

The wait to get these emails is, at times, agonizing. Time literally stands still on Thursdays as we wait to hear from him. The wait's been worth it each time though. His personality shines through in all that he writes. I knew it would. That makes me happy.

He'll be in training for three more works and then he'll be in Mexico, when we think Monday will become our new favorite day. Until then, we'll stick with getting all kinds of excited about Thursdays.

08 October 2014

Flummoxed

I find myself a bit flummoxed (is that not one of the greatest words the English language has to offer?) as I write tonight. The call to action I heard on Saturday and wrote about that same day has ruled much of my thinking since then. In that time, as I found myself in Midtown and the East Village, it feels like the homeless population has quadrupled. It pains me to realize that my handing out a couple bucks here and there is not to going to solve the monumental issue that is poverty in this country. I just can't figure out what I can do to make more of a difference.

I've been to the Sisters of Charity Mission in Kolkata, India and have seen the legacy of Mother Teresa in action. The work of these missionaries is as awe-inspiring as is gut-wrenching the epic poverty and suffering they are trying so hard to alleviate. Although it was brief but powerfully rewarding, I worked in philanthropy long enough to know the good organizations from the bad. I know there are so many out there trying to right what is, to me, a fundamental wrong. No child should go to school hungry. No mentally ill (and can we please get over that stigma) person should be left on a street corner. 

We can do so much more for our brothers and sisters. This nation is still such a land of abundance and opportunity, regardless of what the 'truth tellers' on Fox News may say. This isn't a Red State / Blue State issue. This is about people who hurt and who need help. Not one of us can say we haven't hurt or needed help. How lucky we have been to have had the resources and support network to get through those moments. 

I guess my flummoxed state comes from the overwhelming nature of the challenge and the fact that there are so many ways to help. If you've found an organization or someway to help your fellowman, I would love to hear about it. 

04 October 2014

Do Something

@www.bibleandbusiness.com
Every six months, in April and October, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in all corners of the world gather for sessions of what is called General Conference. It's ten hours worth of teaching over two days. The October session is going down this weekend and that's how the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML have spent today and will spend it tomorrow - in learning. And watching the Twitter blow up over the hashtag #ldsconf. Apparently, we Mormons love us some Twitter action during Conference.

These sessions of conference are amazing opportunities to be taught and 'fed' by those I believe to have been called of God at this time to provide revelation, guidance, and teaching. Sometimes, I walk away from these sessions feeling awash in guilt for all the things that I'm not doing, but I mostly come away from them feeling strengthened or challenged to do more. As the first two sessions wound up today, I am feeling challenged to do more.

In a powerful address by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, we as members of the Church were challenged to do more, much more, for the poor of the world. He reminded us in no uncertain terms how Christ taught that the poor shall not suffer. We must do more to help alleviate or end that suffering. He challenged us to stop withholding from the poor because we feel that they've brought their circumstances upon themselves. We are all guilty of bringing something upon ourselves and none of us, Christian or not, can stand in judgement of another like that. We must, whether we be rich or poor, do what we can to help those who cannot help themselves.

Elder Holland spoke of the work of Mother Teresa, her work, and the work of the Missionaries of Charity. He told the story of how Mother Teresa responded to someone who asked her how she could carry on her work in the face of insurmountable odds. She said that her work was about love, not statistics.
BAM!

In the end, we may not be our brother's keeper, but no matter your belief system, we are our brother's brother. We can take care of one another. It's time to step it up and to help stop the suffering of those who have nothing or suffer. We can make a difference. It doesn't have to be huge. But one act of kindness makes a difference. Let's each do something about it. Let's make a difference.