29 March 2014

Of Mullets and Men

One of us is not happy
With all due apologies to the late, great American author John Steinbeck and his novella, Of Mice and Men, today I write my own slice of Americana, Of Mullets and Men.

As has been well documented, this is The Boy's senior year of high school. At the beginning of the school year, as in last fall, as in 2013(!), his golf team decided that none of them would cut their hair until the beginning of golf season so as to make them look most "sa-weet" when the season began. At first, I didn't think The Boy's commitment would last. Sadly (for me), I underestimated his commitment to the 'cause.' He was COMMITTED.

As his mane grew thicker and the months dragged on, this became an interesting (for me, mostly) experiment in the father / son dynamic. Did his growing hair bother me? Yes, yes it did. Did I wish (daily) that he would cut his hair? Yes, yes I did. Was he committing an act of open rebellion? No, no he was not. Was he going down a path that he would one day regret? No (although, if there is justice, he will one day have the same match of wills with his own son). When I put it all in perspective, I decided that I wasn't going to make a federal case out of the mane. Did I find time to gently rib him about it? Sure. Did I, from time to time, mention to the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML that his hair was working my last nerve? Yes, yes I did. She would gently remind me, as she has done for all these years in so many cases, that it's just hair and we could have it way, way worse. So it never came to a battle of wills. It became a test of time.

Last night, the last of sand in the hour glass fell to the bottom and it was time to bid farewell to his coif. As a result of his participation in his high school's "Mr. CHS" male beauty pageant/train wreck (he was not a contestant but a part of the 'talent' for another contestant), his mane was cut into a mullet worthy of the admiration of one Billy Ray Cyrus who, before he sired and unleashed America's Next Rehab Princess, Miley Cyrus, on us, sported the Mullet of All Mullets. I am the first to admit that it took a significant amount of self-control on my part to NOT shave his head as he slept last night.

But in the light of the new day, The Boy decided on his own that it was time to bid it all farewell. He decided it was time to get it cut off. He even asked me to accompany him to said great event. With an detached sense of coolness, so as not to betray my joy, I said sure. No way was I missing this:

John, our barber, working his magic
I swear I heard angelic choirs shouting praises as the clippers fired up and, like an angry beaver gnawing at a tree, worked its way through The Boy's mullet. The end result was a thing of beauty:
One of us is a lot happier now
The mullet is gone, never to darken the door again. Now The Boy looks like he's fresh out of Basic Training, which was not the intent, but it was the only way the whole thing could be salvaged.

I've learned some lessons here during the whole Of Mullets and Men that has been our life of late. Like when putting my foot down, do so gently and don't let it get stuck in my mouth either. Like looking at the bigger picture when deciding what's worth going to war over. Like remembering my dad was bugged by my hair too when I was The Boy's age (mine involved an unfortunate amount of 'Sun-In', thank you 1980's and is a story for another day). Funny how the cycle repeats itself.

23 March 2014

Looking forward to looking back

In less than two weeks, The Boy and I will embark on a brief journey nearly thirty years in the making. The seeds of this trip were planted as I walked and biked the streets of Miami as a missionary. I can remember thinking more than once during my two year service how awesome it would be to one day return to this place with one, or all, of my children. Now, twenty seven years since that two year service ended, The Boy and I are heading to south Florida where I'll get a chance to show him a bit of what I experienced.

We are heading down there to tour the Ft. Lauderdale Temple before it opens in May. Thirty years ago, a temple there was, by and large, a thing of fantasy. It was also a thing of faith for those members of the Church. I'm so looking forward to seeing it. I'm eager for my son to see it as well.

I'm really looking forward to looking back. Taking The Boy to the neighborhoods I lived and worked in is going to be an emotional experience. After all this time, I know that things won't look the same and hopefully some of the apartments, or hovels, I lived in have long since been razed. I want to be able to give The Boy a sense of what it was like as he is on the cusp of his own service later this year.

I'll probably wind up embarrassing him several times during the trip. He'll need to brush up on his Spanish so he can explain to passers-by on Calle Ocho why the middle-aged white guy is crying while he's eating Moros y Cristianos and platanos maduros. Yeah, I'm looking forward to looking back.

19 March 2014


And so it begins
It has begun. Am I finally acknowledging my descent into madness? Am I accepting middle-age, with all its attending awesomeness (e.g. actually listening to the myriad pharmaceutical ads aimed at my age bracket)?  No, I'm not quite there on either count. I have, however, taken my first official yoga class and I'm hooked.

My employer recently opened a full gym in our building and I took my first yoga class this morning at 615AM. It was exhilarating. It was challenging. It was a little bizarre (one bit of music featured what sounded exactly like Neil Young chanting). It was relaxing. And I really liked it. I liked how I felt at the end of class and I liked how I felt throughout the day.

Classes are three days a week and I'm looking forward to them. I'm looking forward to being able to, well, balance. I'm looking forward to stretching without being the only one in the class whimpering ever so slightly. Does this mean I'll be shopping in the men's section of Lululemon? No - BTW, do they even have a men's section? I hope not. Sheer yoga pants would be even worse on a dude. Truth.

15 March 2014


Nostalgia - a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and  friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time

What is happening to me? As I age, I find myself getting more and more, dare I say it, sentimental about a lot of things. That odd transformation manifested itself this weekend as I found myself in the desert I once called home.

I've seen family and friends, some visits planned and some by happy accident. It's all made me a bit nostalgic. I had lunch with two friends, one I have known since we served as missionaries more than twenty five years ago. The other I have not seen in nearly fifteen years, but we picked up right where we left off. Well, we are both a lot grayer. We're both grandfathers and one of us has expanded the real estate known as his waste line more than the other (guilty as charged). Both lunches, at dueling taco joints, were great opportunities to connect and reminisce. During one of the lunches, I ran into this great friend:

Years ago, she and her husband and the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I were in cahoots all the time. We had children the same age. We had a lot in common. We had a great time together. Today, we are grandparents. We still have a lot in common. Such a great surprise!

It's been a good time with family as well. My sister and I met for waffles from the awesome My Waffle Crush truck (this place rules - Arizonans, run to this truck when it's in your 'hood!) and had a great time together. It was good to catch up. I'm really proud of her. We were sorry our brother couldn't join us but it's spring in Arizona and he needed to take advantage of it for spring landscaping. He's a new dad too, so a lot going on.

I can't believe how nostalgic this weekend has made me. Lots of good stuff happened here in our family / friend history. It's been good to revisit it. Really good. That said, I'm really grateful for all that we've done since we lived here all those years ago. The experiences have been for our good. Even the never-ending winters. Really. I mean it. Really.

14 March 2014

Time Change

What? We're still farmers?
Having been raised in Arizona, I didn't experience the semi-annual ritual of springing forward or falling back in honor of Daylight Saving Time (DST) until I fled the desert for life behind the Zion Curtain in my late teens. That was an easy one - just an hour. No big whoop. Since then, everywhere we've lived, we've been in the DST party. You know what, I'm over it.

The reasons for DST are myriad but it just seems outdated to me. To quote the great Jack Donaghy, "What am I? A farmer?" It's not like I'm plowing the field and could use a few more hours in the day to get all the chores done before heading home to read from the Good Book and listen to a fireside chat on the radio. I would say that I'm firmly in the Arizona, and that weird little pocket of Indiana, camp on this one. It's totally OK to sit the time change out.

Maybe it's because as the grip middle age has on me grows ever firmer and heinously unrelenting, but the time change is liking to kill me. I am simply exhausted by it. We're nearly five days into the "spring forward" change and I feel like I've aged exponentially without that extra hour this week. Awesome. Being middle-aged rules!

08 March 2014


He's in!
My apologies for being tardy in updating the activities of late here in the Den. Suffice to say that professionally, it's been a week. Let's not speak of it again. That's my story and to it, I am sticking.

I did want to let you know that once again, everything that The Boy touches turns to gold. He was initially notified that his acceptance to Summer Term at BYU was on hold. He took the news well but we still felt a bit bad for him. So for a few days the focus was on what we need to do to get him ready for leaving on a mission later this year. He remained in the camp that he was still going be accepted. He was right. A few days later, he was notified that he was in for Summer Term. Happy does not begin to describe it.

It's been a flurry of activity since. He has, sans consulting us - his parents and financial backers - his summer mapped out. Apparently, since we are in the winter that never ends, he's skipping graduation so he can be in behind the Zion Curtain a little early. We'll see about that. We'll see about a lot things between now and the beginning of Summer Term.

We are excited for him. This completes the trifecta now - all three of our children will have called a "Y" campus home. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I know from experience how great summer term is. He's going to have a great time. Our Lady of Awesome is fifteen minutes away and CAL just over four hours away. But it will be fast. Then he'll be home for a brief time before he heads out on a mission. It's what he wanted - a time away from home before his mission. Like I said, everything The Boy touches turns to gold.
Thrilled that I get to give more money!

02 March 2014


Assistance. In America's highly polarized political scene, the word 'assistance' is a highly-profane, dirty four-letter word, so to the Mittites and Beckians, this isn't a post about providing assistance to the poor, so calm down. No heads need to explode this Sunday morning.

Rather, this is about roadside assistance and my steadfast rejection of it until an incident this past Friday night. The stunningly patient SML and I had gone to see a movie (Note - the movie was 'Non-Stop' and it was mindlessly entertaining and it has the Beckians all up in arms - good times) and upon leaving the theater and slipping into yet another freezing night that has characterized this endless winter in Connecticutistan, we discovered that our Yukon had a flat tire of epic proportions. Not Awesome!

Now it's no secret that I am, at best, mechanically challenged and at worst, with a power tool in my hands, am a danger to society like unto Jason Voorhees with a blood-soaked chainsaw. That said, I've always managed to change a tire on any of the cars that we've owned. Until now. I thought I'd be able to do this job. I could not have been more wrong. I knew it wasn't happening when I opened the owner's manual and saw the instructions for the first step of the process, the removal of the jack. It looked like a schematic for the repair of the Fukashima Nuclear Power Plant and it clearly required the commensurate Doctorate to get the job done. And that was just the first step. I was done. So we called The Boy and had him come pick us up.

As we drove home, pondering just how I might be able to change the tire in the following morning in the freezing light of day, I remembered that our insurance company had enrolled us in their roadside assistance program. I may or may not have heard a choir of angels singing an ode of joy at that moment. The path to salvation, or at least flat repair, was now clear. I would call them first thing Saturday morning.

Call them I did. In less than ninety minutes, they were on scene with all the requisite equipment. It was clear that there was no way I could have done this job. Note to GMC - um, you might want to rethink your whole spare tire process on your SUV's trucks for its current state is a nightmare of Biblical proportions. It was all done at a very reasonable cost and with minimal fuss for me, the owner. What a relief!

That relief was a tempered with a sense of regret as I pondered why I had waited all these years to take advantage of this kind of assistance. In the 'post-game' analysis, there are a couple of drivers (ugh, bad pun) here - A) being cheap and for so many years, particularly the early years of our marriage, roadside assistance plans were a luxury not in the cards for us; B) ego - I'm a man! I can fix a car. Um, no I can't. But I could change a tire; and C) another thingy on my key ring with the assistance phone number on it was the last thing I needed. OK, "C" is not valid. It was the first two that kept me from enrolling all these years. Seriously dumb. Now I've been chastened and know better.

Roadside assistance - I salute you!