30 April 2014

Dad Jeans:A Dilemma

I have reached an age where I need to be very cautious about my clothing purchases/choices. I'm not quite at the point where the "Sansabelt" slacks (that word is nearly as bad as the word moist) are all that hang in my closet and by law, when worn, are hiked up such that they rest just slightly below my manboobs. Nope, not quite there. Conversely, I am not at an age where my clothes, my jeans, in particular, must reflect a philosophy (they need not be made of hemp) or a brand favored by One Direction and their ilk. So what's a middle-aged dad / grandfather to do when he walks out of the house looking like this:
Yep, I looked in the mirror and saw a Mittite
Indeed, as I left the house a few weeks ago for a date with the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, I saw a Mittite in Dad/Grandpa Jeans staring back at me in the reflection. This was unsettling, to say the least, because I felt the sudden urge to deny the access to decent healthcare to any and all around me. Clearly, something had to be done. Salvation came in the form of a new pair of Levi 501's. You can't go wrong with a classic with one minor quibble.

The button fly. I forgot about this feature of the 501's. When I was younger running around in 501's, I never gave that piece of functionality a thought. Now, solidly middle-aged, the button fly is just an annoyance. A First World Problem to be sure, but an annoyance just the same. I'll defer the stories as to why for later. Or maybe never. That's probably wise. Now to do something about my loafers....

20 April 2014

He is Risen!

Easter is the holiest of days in Christendom. It is a day awash in hope and peace. It is a day of gratitude. I know He lives. And because of Him, we will live again. What an amazing gift!

Enjoy this reminder of His unmatched sacrifice and love.

19 April 2014


I've never hidden my love of the written word from anyone and I've certainly promoted it here in the Den. I unashamedly love books. The thought of a world without books does not sit well with me. I was an English major who focused on literature, after all! Books tell so much about us - who we are, what drives us, what scares us, what inspires us. This is why a review of the best-selling books since the year I was born is utterly disturbing.

As the three of you who have held on and been reading the Den for more than ten seconds may recall, I put together a couple of posts about the music and movies that have made it to #1 atop their respective best-selling lists since the year I was born. I've made a couple of attempts to do the same for books but as the font of all things true on the Interwebs, Wikipedia, has pointed out, that is a nearly impossible task. So I took a look at the list of best-selling books from the New York Times and Publishers's Weekly and it revealed it's not been pretty on us for a long, long time. I'll spare you the year-by-year blowback, but I'll give you some lowhighlights:

  • 1966 - "Valley of the Dolls" Jacqueline Susann - Arguably, a roman a clef about the treatment of women in the celebrity industry. What is not arguable? That it's an awful book. Not an auspicious best-seller for the year I made my debut.
  • 1970 - "Love Story" Erich Segal - Love means never, ever, ever making anyone read this or see the movie version
  • 1972/73 - "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" Richard Bach - A seagull seeking a happy life. Seriously. How messed up was our culture when this became an inspiration?
  • The rest of the 70's were historical fiction best-sellers, offering a modicum of redemption for 1970, 72, and 73
  • The 80's - Well, two of the best-sellers were spawned by movies, not the reverse (1982 - "E.T" / 1983 - "Return of the Jedi Storybook") which is never a good sign. The 80's also thrust three Stephen King books upon us. The decade closed out, in 1988 and 1989, with two books from Tom Clancy, causing airport booksellers all manner of joy and countless numbers of aircraft cleaners learned to read English as a result of the number of his books left in the seat back pocket in front of you.
  • 1991 - "Scarlett: A Sequel to Gone With The Wind" Alexandra Ripley - An homage to a gentler (ha!) time when a nation sought to unite itself after a horrific civil war and a region struggled to figure out how to go on without slavery. Seriously? This chapter in our nation's history needed to be romanticized even further?
  • 1993 - "The Bridges of Madison County" Robert James Waller - Because adultery is OK when set against the pastoral covered bridges of the midwestern United States
  • The 90's - Just call it the Decade of Grisham. Six years in a row on the best-seller list with six different novels. He essentially printed money. Once again, airport booksellers hit the jackpot.
  • The 00's - Two years of Dan Brown and his "Da Vinci Code" and two years of the horror that is Stephanie Meyer and her "Twilight" series book-ended the best-seller lists. See what I told you? Utterly disturbing.
  • 2012 - "50 Shades of Grey" E.L. James - Making sadomasochism safe for commuter reading! How was this not one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse?
  • 2013 - "Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck" Jeff Kinney - Was this some kind of curative balm to repel the 2012 best seller? What is wrong with us, people?
There you have it. In a thousand years or two, when, if 1968's "Planet of the Apes" taught us anything, the apes are condemning our train-wreck society, these lists will be key evidence against us. This is why I read non-fiction. I'm reading four books right now, Sous Chef, Young Money, The Hour of Peril, and The Bully Pulpit. Books like these make me excited to read more. I'm delighted to report that the Baby Awesome, my grandson, appears to have caught the reading bug as well.
He's reading!

Our Lady of Awesome was forced to hide one of his favorite books from him and now that he's mobile, he figured out where it was. Once found, he started reading it right where it was hidden. Like I said, awesome.

Turn off the TV. Go read a book, my friends.

18 April 2014

Because of Him

It's Good Friday, one of the holiest days in Christendom.

Because of what I believe happened on this day to Him on the sacrificial cross, regret becomes relief. Grief becomes peace.
Because of Him, I can start again, again, and again. Because of Him, I can have a clean slate.
Because of Him, I have hope that I can be a better man.


Because of Him, we can all have hope. 

12 April 2014

My MacGyver Moment Fail

The tool part is true - the rest, lies.
Some of you may be familiar with the American television show, MacGyver, that ran from the mid-80's to the early 90's. I don't recall watching it when it aired and I know it more for the relentless mocking it has deservedly earned at the hands of the brilliant writers of The Simpsons. All I know from that is foolish is he who dares badmouth MacGyver in the presence of Homer's she-hag sisters-in-law, Patty and Selma, and that the Mac is pretty good with a paper clip, duct tape and a Swiss Army knife. I had an opportunity to go all MacGyver this afternoon and it was an epic FAIL.

Here's how it all went down, and by down I mean horribly wrong. With the house to myself today and the sun shining with warm temps (60 degrees is warm here in Connecticutistan), I decided to sit out on our back deck, read a book, and soak up some sun. Since our back deck is nicely hidden from our neighbors, I didn't feel too bad in taking off my shirt to soak up some of that sun. Leaving my phone inside, I read and enjoyed the sun for about an hour when I decided to head back in. Alas, it was not to be. I was locked out. The door to our deck has a nasty habit of locking itself. I am not the first person to have suffered this ignominious fate. The Boy and the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML had to call friends to come and get them released from the perch that is our deck. Just a week ago, we had kids over who got locked out as well. So it wasn't like this was a first, except for the fact that I was all alone, sans a phone and a shirt.

Inspired by the tales of the MacGyver character I'd heard, I set to free myself. I was missing some of his tools, i.e. duct tape and paper clips, but I was not to be deterred. I bound some twigs together to see if I could jimmy open the lock. FAIL. I took off my belt to see if could use a part of it to twist the lock. FAIL. I tried getting the screens off the back windows to then force one of the windows open. FAIL. As the minutes ticked by, I began to ponder the jump off the back deck. Four, count 'em, four times, I climbed over the rail and got set to make the leap. Each time I did that my inner voice was screaming, 'Don't do it! Don't do it!' I mean what was I thinking? I mean, I guess I could have started plucking the hideous white chest hairs I've sprouted and crafted some kind of rope, right? I'm sure that's what this tool MacGyver would have done. I quickly dismissed that stupid idea and I listened to that voice of warning. I mean let's face it, I'm no stuntman. I envisioned myself making the leap, breaking my ankle and then having to crawl my way to the house...no good was coming from that. Then I tried to break the glass on the door. Yeah, it was that desperate. Turns out our dual-pane, environmentally-friendly windows are built to take a beating. It didn't break. I'd been outside about three hours at this point and shade had overtaken the deck. I began to ponder at what point do I start screaming like a little girl for help?

Then I heard it - the sweet sound of my neighbor's riding lawn mower coming around the corner! There he was and in an instant, the quest for some kind of ridiculous MacGyver-esque escape was quashed. With a very quick shout out to him with my garage code, he was inside my house and unlocking my back door and I was free, free at last! I was never so glad to hear the roar of that riding mower and I'm sure he was never so glad that I threw my shirt back on as soon as I got in the house.

I'm feeling a lot more MacGruber after this afternoon's little escapade. So what have I learned today? Here's a recap:

  • Always check that stupid lock on the back door before closing that door
  • Keep your phone with you, dude!
  • You can't go all MacGyver if you have nothing on you
  • And by all that's holy, keep your shirt on!

09 April 2014

The Nest Is Emptying

This nest is empty. Our is getting close.
After an excellent weekend that I documented in the previous two posts, it was back to reality. Reality was clearly irritated with the good time we enjoyed and as a result, has served up a heaping help of beat-down this week. P.S. It's only Wednesday. Yay, me!

Let's not dwell on that. Let's dwell on other things. Like the emptying of the nest that is our rapidly evolving home life. The Boy will shortly be winding up his high school career and heading to university for the summer. See what I did there? What's missing? The word 'graduation.' Not happening here in the Den. Now lest you think The Boy is not graduating, he most assuredly is! He just won't be donning the cap and gown and trudging across a stage to snatch his diploma and pose for a cheesy picture with his principal. For that very reason, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I found ourselves in the Principal's Office today.

Since Mother Nature decided to unload on us this winter and our school district decided to have a snow day about once a week, the school year has been ex-TEN-DED. Graduation has been postponed until the Friday The Boy is scheduled to move into his dorm. Guess who won't be at graduation...So we had to sit down with the principal, a guidance counselor, and another member of the guidance team today to work out getting The Boy out of school a few days early. Apparently, this was something of an unusual request. We had to walk them through the particulars of a university summer term (that was odd) and how best to accommodate his final exams. They really were good about it and it looks like we have it all set. I was glad it didn't take an agonizingly long time as being in the Principal's Office was a tad disconcerting. Well, for me, at least. Perhaps it brought back some memories of sit-downs with my high school principal. We won't speak of it.

All this talk of The Boy's departure got me focused, unwillingly, on the fact that our nest is going to be empty sooner than we think. It's going to be really different around here. And not in a bad way, for sure. It's just going to be very different. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I will find ways to fill the emptiness, of that I am certain. That's going to be fun. That said, still get a little sad thinking about the fact that we will be empty-nesters. Don't I need an AARP card or to be on a testosterone replacement regimen to be an empty-nester? FYI - I'm not ready for either.

06 April 2014

"Dad, admit it. You're Cuban."

After the highs of Day One of the 'Look Back' weekend, I wondered how we might top it. I had no need to worry. It was another great day.

This is a longer post - you have been warned.

Mother Nature played nice the entire time, so with the sun peeking through the windows of our 7th floor corner room at Turnberry Isle, I went out on a three mile run around the property while The Boy slept. Although the run was shameful (being lapped by my elderly Jewish brothers and sisters on their way to services), it was beautiful. How can you not stop and take in a view like this:
From there, it was time for breakfast. We wound up at a bagel emporium where we were most assuredly the Gentiles. It was all a part of the cacophony of culture that is south Florida that The Boy was absorbing. A quick left on Biscayne Blvd. took us into the heart of the area that I grew to love when I lived and served there. Downtown Miami has changed so much since the mid-80's. Wow! But somethings have not - like the apartment I lived in:
La Jaulita...suffice to say we didn't go knock on the door to meet the current residents.

From there we drive down Flagler Street. As we drove, The Boy took in the music blaring from the stores and the shouts of the old men in line at the cafeterias that populate every corner and he said, 'Dad, this is another country.' Testify, son, testify. That said, I was in heaven. I was among mi gente (my people) once again.

We got to the old Flagler Chapel and I was delighted to see that, from the outside, it hadn't changed much. We stopped the car and got out and walked around a bit. It was like being home again.
While we were there, we discovered that the building was open, as the first session of the General Conference of our church would be starting shortly. Before going in, four missionaries, all Spanish speakers arrived. It was so fun to walk through that building and to tell them what it was like all those years ago. The inside has changed a bit (no more tea cup pulpit or filthy, cockroach-infested baptismal font under a trap door on the stage) but it was the church I knew so well. As we talked with the missionaries, I saw myself and the missionaries I served with in them. The wide-eyed excitement, the willingness to talk to anybody...those were good, no, great times.

We had a lunch date on Calle Ocho so we couldn't stick around. Before getting to Versailles, that cheesy temple of good Cuban food, we went to a store called Sentir Cubano. It's a place dedicated to all things Cuban. It was awesome. You have to remember that I'm splitting my time in two languages and as I was talking with one of the sales people, The Boy made the following wise observation, 'Dad, admit it. You're Cuban.' I couldn't have been more proud of that pronouncement. Also the Cuban flag The Boy bought to hang for the rear view mirror of his car was complete awesomeness!

At Versailles, wherein The Boy was introduced to the glory that is the medianoche sandwich, we met my friend Mimi, her husband, and son. Back in the mission days, we would have been in un mundo de dolor (a world of hurt), were it not for her. How great it was to reconnect over tostones and bistec empanizado. We had such a good time telling stories!
Good friends

A trip to Florida, no matter how brief, would not have been complete without the beach. After lunch, we headed back north and then over to our hotel's beach. I'm not gonna lie, our hotel had it going on recreationally:
As the sun set in the west, we noticed we were a little pinker than at the start of the day and we decided to call it. We wrapped up the evening taking in counsel in General Conference (thanks, live streaming!) and gnoshing on some Key Lime Pie. Who's going to complain about that?

What a whirlwind the 'Look Back' weekend has been! To bring my son back to where I served as he is just a few months away from his own opportunity to serve has been sweeter than I could have anticipated. I am so glad that when we first started talking about this that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML said, 'You have to do this.' There is so much about this trip that falls in the 'Unforgettable' category, but as I sit here writing this, sporting my Cubavera shirt, the pronouncement, 'Dad, you're Cuban' will forever make me smile.

05 April 2014

"We stand on your shoulders."

Friday was the start of the "Look Back" weekend that I wrote about a few posts back. This weekend involved returning to Miami with The Boy to show him where I served as a missionary nearly thirty years ago and to tour the Ft. Lauderdale Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints before it is dedicated in May.

Warning - this post may get long, nostalgic, and churchy, but not preachy. That's not how I roll.

Upon landing yesterday, we headed south to Miami Gardens where I lived for a time. Let me be clear, there is nothing garden-esque about it. Upon seeing it, The Boy asked, "You really lived here?" This would not be the first time he would ask that question during this trip. From there it was off to the unholy hot mess that is Hialeah, which was my first area. Again, there was head-shaking about that apartment. I took him to the chapel where I spent many a Sunday:
Not much has changed here, which was a little surprising. I should note that as soon as we drove up here, I started to cry. My emotions were pretty close to the surface. After a walk around, we jumped back into the car, but not before taking this picture:
We stopped at Vicky Bakery in Hialeah for pastelitos de guava. It was here The Boy learned his three years of high school Spanish may have not served him well. The lady behind the counter, a Cubanaza, asked him what he wanted. Her Spanish was unrecognized by him. He quickly tapped me, as I'd gotten distracted by the racks off warm Cuban bread, so I could place our order. Can I just tell you how good these things were? Amazing!

After checking into our hotel up in Aventura, we headed to Davie for our scheduled tour of this:
When a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ is built, it is open to the public before it is dedicated. Thirty years ago, when serving here, the thought of a temple was a distant pipe dream. It is now a reality and I'm so glad I was able to bring The Boy here as he prepares for his own missionary service. As our tour began, I got choked up as we talked briefly with the young missionaries there. Fortunately I could claim the tears were sweat from the humidity...

The tour, while brief, was awe-inspiring and comforting. At the end, we had a chance to talk with a member of the Ft. Lauderdale mission presidency. I was BLOWN AWAY as he shared with me about the growth of the Church in south Florida. We talked about people we knew. I got emotional again. Couldn't help it. He introduced us to the wife of the mission president. When I explained that I had served there so long ago, she shook my hand again and said, "Thank you. We stand on your shoulders. Our missionaries stand on the shoulders of you and your companions." I was done for at this point. How I wished all those with whom I served could have been there to hear that. We worked so hard then to help the Church grow and to hear that yesterday was so comforting. I can't adequately express my feelings because I don't want to sound chock full o'pride but it was an amazing experience. Those two years, in many ways, shaped me into who I am today. I wouldn't have traded those two years for anything, nor would I have traded yesterday's experience.

After that, we capped the evening in South Beach. Saw another one of my apartments, which has gone condo and is completely choked by angry Florida foliage. We walked Lincoln Road, where The Boy got an unedited view of the crazy that is South Beach. Suffice to say, it's nuts with a capital 'N' down there.

What a great day the first day of the Look Back was. The second day has been pretty great too. More to follow soon