31 May 2014


The Magic Number One
What is it about the number one that seems to capture the imagination? Is it that it represents a beginning? It's a small enough number that it's easy to wrap your head around, particularly for the mathematically-challenged, and I, as a proud English major of old, know of where I speak. When I hear the word 'one,' a few things come to mind:

Air Force One - and I mean the real one, not the pretty cool but spectacularly silly Harrison Ford movie. The real one is a boss symbol of America's authority and power.

One Direction - an earworm-inducing scourge on humanity. I don't care about 'what makes you beautiful,' I just need that earworm out of my head. Now. And. Forever. More.

One - working to fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease. They are striving to do good things.

But today, when I hear 'one,' I think of this one:
One Today
Our grandson, the first-born of the Awesomes, turned one today and when it's a birthday for someone in the Den, you get called out! As I think about him celebrating his first birthday, I ask, 'How did this happen?' It was, in my mind, just yesterday that I was holding him for the first time when he was just seven short days into the journey we call life. But today, thanks to FaceTime, I watched him run through his house, perform 'So Big,' point out his belly, and holding up one finger to show that he knows he's one today.

He'll be surrounded by people who love him as this little milestone is celebrated, including CAL who made it down for the big day. He'll have fun. He'll not remember a single moment of this. But he'll know this - that he is loved. That's worth all kinds of celebration.

Happy birthday, B! You're doing the number one proud!

30 May 2014

Viva Mexico! Tuxtla Gutierrez Mexico that is.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML made her way to our mailbox today and found a little something that piqued her interest. That little something? That large white envelope you see. It was addressed to The Boy. It contained his mission call. Due to his golf schedule, the envelope sat unopened until 830PM this evening. Suffice to say, knowing that unopened envelope would tell us where he will be for the next two years, waiting for him to get home was no walk in the park.

Once he got home, it was game on. We made him take a shower to get the golf stank off and after one demand to change out of his creepy kitty t-shirt, it was time for the reveal. Thanks to the glory of the Interwebs and the fact that the great Satan of the Web, AT&T, decided to be stable, we were able to connect three IPhones and a couple of iPads to get far away family in on the fun. With everyone connected, he opened the envelope and read:

Mexico Tuxtla Gutierrez

He will leave September 17th and will be on the Lord's Errand for the next two years. We are so excited for him. We are relieved to know where he will be serving. We are thrilled to see how happy he is. We are counting our many blessings.

26 May 2014

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, wherein our nation pauses to remember those who have given their lives in order to protect our nation and the way of life that is America. For all of its faults, this is an amazing country and I am most grateful to those who have given their lives to protect it and us.

I'm reposting a previous Memorial Day post. Please read on:

Today is the last Monday in May, when the United States observes Memorial Day. While the day has become a time to remember those who have died, millions across the country will pause to remember the meaning of the day and will honor those who gave their lives for the freedom of this nation.

It is a solemn day.  So many gave their lives defending the freedom of this nation. They may have questioned the reasons why they were sent to war (and I don't just mean our most recent one, so calm down, Fox Newsites), but they went. They died defending our system of beliefs. They deserve our utmost respect and reverence.

I've often wondered how my generation would have reacted had we faced the cataclysmic events that catapulted the U.S. into World War II or had we been teenagers when the Towers fell on 9/11. My gut tells me the reaction would not have been as admirable as that of our counterparts in 1941 and 2001. I'm not proud of that. Perhaps that's why I have a particular obsession with the literature of war. From the Revolutionary War to the current brouhaha in Afghanistan, I have read a slew of books and I have been inspired and humbled by the sacrifices of those who were far less selfish than my generation. I mean what does my generation have to call its own? MTV. Madonna. The coke-addled 80's. We set the bar pretty low, people.

I'd like to share a list of some of the books that have had a profound impact on me as I've considered the actions of those who fought for this country. For your consideration:

  • Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose - actually anything Ambrose has written is worth reading, but this telling of Easy Company and World War II is amazing.  The HBO mini-series is an incredible companion and should be required viewing in any and all American History courses.
  • In the Company of Soldiers, Rick Atkinson - gripping look into the early days of the Iraq War
  • The Greatest GenerationTom Brokaw - the generation I wish my generation could be.  Read this and understand why.
  • Behind the Lines, Andrew Carroll - letters from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War.  Deeply personal.
  • War Letters, Andrew Carroll - the first of two books that capture war from the eyes of those that fought.  Stunning.
  • One Bullet AwayNathaniel Fick - inspiring story of the making of an officer in the Iraq War.
  • The Heart and The Fist, Eric Greitens - second story of the making of an officer in the Iraq War.  Both are stories of very smart young men who could have been sitting in an office on Wall Street, but instead chose to fight for their country.
  • Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand - incredible story of a U.S. Olympian turned soldier turned P.O.W. and his story of survival.  I was so sorry I hadn't heard this story when I was in school.  But I went to public school in Arizona, a state where you'll do more time for knocking over a 7-11 than for killing a child.  I shouldn't be shocked about the quality of my education.
  • The Cat from HueJohn Laurence - a reporter's ground-level view of the war in Vietnam.
  • Final SaluteJim Sheeler - this is one of the most moving books I've ever read.  I wrote about it here.  I defy you to read this book without weeping for the lives that were cut short.  The subtitle of the book is 'A Story of Unfinished Lives.'  Is there anything sadder?
  • Lost In Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff - while not about a battle field incident, this book is an epic story of survival and ingenuity during World War II.  Further proof why they were the Greatest Generation.
I would also invite you to find this movie on DVD and to watch it. Please watch "Taking Chance" as a part of your Memorial Day remembrance. It is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made and the honor given to our soldiers.

I am profoundly grateful for the actions and sacrifices of those who gave all for the freedom of this nation.  May we honor their memory on Memorial Day.

23 May 2014

The Wisdom of Teeth

The fine, faceless heroes who work at dictionary.com have defined the word wisdom in one of the following ways:

the quality or state of being wise

Traditional thought says that experience gives you wisdom. While there are some cases where it would appear someone was born with great wisdom, it is typically something you work hard to gain. Why is it then that our dental overlords insist on yanking out our wisdom teeth? It turns out, according to the purveyors of all things true on the interwebs, Wikipedia, that wisdom teeth are the source of all manner of problems and that they need to go. On this, I do not speak from experience. As it happens, I only have two wisdom teeth, instead of four, and the two that I have are lazy and have yet to emerge. If one's wisdom is connected to said vestigal third molars, you get why my 'wisdom' may be a tad questionable. However, we experienced yet another extraction bonanza today when The Boy had his four wisdom teeth removed.

Not The Boy, but he's been sporting the ice-filled maxi pad too
In a surprisingly fast procedure (all done in less than an hour, including the IV sedation and hallucinatory wake up), The Boy experienced the rite of passage that is having four teeth wrenched from the jaw. Good times. The stunningly patient and mighty fine (and dental professional) SML took him in and I joined her in the waiting room towards the end of his procedure, primarily so I could pay for it. In a further showing of my lack of wisdom, I forgot about our handy HSA debit card, but I digress. Soon enough we were called back into the recovery room where we found our heavily medicated son sitting up but strapped to a chair, looking pretty trippy. The anesthesia had done an epic number on him. He focused in on me and that's when the fun began. Here are some of the highlights:
  • "Why are you here?" was his raspy demand, more than once, upon seeing me
  • "There's a bear out there." as he gazed out the window of the office
  • "The plants are coming in here." as he raised both arms towards the window to grab the encroaching plants. His nurse giggled and said, "Boy, he's a lightweight."
  • "Where's my phone?" was asked multiple times
  • Raised his hand to ask questions several times 
He was having a little trouble coming off the anesthesia and the nurse had him stay in the seat for a little while. She asked us if we had an issue changing dressings and I said, most emphatically that I did, but that SML was a dental assistant and the nurse said, 'Why am I showing you this then? You know what you're doing!' Indeed she does. Nice to have a professional at home!

Because he'd been so loopy, we had to use a wheelchair to get him down to the car. I drove him home as SML went to get him his prescribed meds. More fun ensued:
  • He once again repeated his ability to mimic singers while medicated. Belinda Carlisle, she of the Go-Go's fame, was singing "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" when we got in the car and he instantly started singing along, pitch perfect and lyrically correct. When the song ended, he blurted out, "Was that Miley Cyrus?" Um, no.
  • As we got closer to home, he thrust his hand at the clock and demanded to know why I was ditching work. I explained that I'm an adult and manage my own schedule and that I wasn't ditching. He immediately said, "Well, I'm 18 years old. I'm an adult. You can't tell me I can't ditch school anymore." Huh, really?
  • He grabbed my work phone and started to try and use it. Um, no.
  • When we got  home, I helped him into the house. After ascending the two, count them two, steps from our garage to our house, he lamented, "My legs weigh seven million billion pounds."
  • Down the stairs we went to the basement as that's where he wanted to hang for the day because, and I quote, "That's the only place in our house with a decent TV." This was followed by further lamentation about how stupid it was that we had stairs. Apparently, The Boy has unspoken issues with our stairs.
  • I got him settled on the couch and assumed he'd want to watch the European PGA coverage. Boy, was I wrong. "No," he said and muttered something that took me a few times to understand. "Houses. The house selling show." So HGTV it was. I didn't have the heart to tell him the house selling show wasn't on. I figured in his doped-up haze as long as it appeared to be a house, it was all good. Besides, he was having more mood swings than Sybil, so I was out and back to work.
Now, you may be wondering where are the video highlights of these shenanigans? Nope, none. That fad jumped the shark a long time ago in my book. So no need for it here. Now to see what the night brings with the patient. Good times, people, good times.

16 May 2014

And the papers are in

As I alerted you, loyal Denites, recently, I am going be keeping you all apprised of some of key milestones that The Boy achieves on the road to his missionary service. Last night he checked off another box and this was a big one.

Last night, he completed the interview cycle which is a pre-requisite for service when he met with our stake president (for those of other faiths, think the equivalent of the local head honcho in your church). With all the "i's" dotted' "t's" crossed, medical checks done and proof that his wisdom teeth are fleeing the building next week, it was almost time to click "send" on his application. The last part was a good and sincere discussion about his own sense of readiness and then it was time to click "send."

Thanks to the miracle of the Interwebs, The Boy confirmed this morning that his papers had indeed been sent, virtually, to the Zion Curtain. His application will be reviewed, prayerful consideration will be given, and in anywhere from two to six weeks, we'll know where he'll be called to serve. We'll know where he'll spend two years, having experiences that will make him an even better man. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I will then know the nameless people that we will be praying for daily to watch over him. We'll have a better sense of what awaits our family for the next two years. 

Suffice to say, The Boy is as cool as can be about it all. I'm already beyond eager to know where he'll serve. It could be anywhere, from St. Louis to Sydney; from Lusaka to London, even Boise, ID Spanish-speaking. So let's make this interesting...what's your guess? Submit your guess in the "comments" section. Given that we are adopted Chicagoans at heart and fully embrace its colorful history of the 'vote once, vote often' concept, guess as often as you'd like!

Where Will The Boy Be Called To Serve?

Here we go!

11 May 2014

On Mothers Day

Lots of ways to say Mom
Today is Mothers Day, wherein we have the opportunity to celebrate, and rightly so, the mothers in our lives. We literally would not exist were it not for mothers. Not a single one of us. I would argue though that giving birth does not necessarily a mother make.

My mother did not give birth to me yet I am her first-born son. I was placed in her arms when I was but two days old. Since that day, I have been the recipient of her love, guidance, and support. I could not have asked for a better Mom. I also know that I was lucky to have been given the gift of this amazing mom through the love of the woman who gave birth to me. Hers was a sacrifice for which I am eternally grateful.

It is not my wont to get all misty-eyed about days like this that have been hijacked from their original intent in the name of profit. I learned today that the American woman who founded Mothers Day to honor her mother was so incensed by the way that several companies snatched the day and turned it into a moneyfest (and continue to do so to this day) was arrested protesting the very day she had created. Brava, I say, brava!

So rather than share some awful, Emily Dickens, Bronte Sisters-esque sentiment found inside one of those Mothers Day cards sold by the aforementioned companies, I'll share the sentiments of Irish novelist James Joyce:

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world
a mother's love is not.

Nailed it! Leave it to an Irish novelist who knew from misery to put a mother's love in its clearest of perspective. A mother's love is the surest bet you can find. It is of great comfort. It is something you will miss after she's gone. By the way, if you are unfamiliar with the challenges of an Irish childhood, read Joyce. For a more modern take, read Angela's Ashes. Wow! What that mother endured. Talk about perspective.

I am so grateful and thankful that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is the mother that she is. Our three children are the reflection of all that she did, and continues to do, for them. How lucky they are! And what a joy, yes, a joy, it is to see Our Lady of Awesome experiencing her first Mothers Day today. The cycle of motherhood and the blessings it brings continues here in the Den.

This video probably does a better job of capturing motherhood than Joyce's quote:

Thank you, Mom, for everything.
Thank you to my mother-in-law for the gift of your daughter.
Thank you to my wife., the mother of our amazing children.
Thank you to my daughter, the mother of my first grandchild.
Thank  you mothers everywhere.

10 May 2014

Family Trees

Trees. The family ones.
Family trees. You may recall creating one in elementary school before it became patently offensive to do so or you made them on multiple Sundays at a church activity. I'll admit I'm a reluctant climber of my own family tree but in an odd twist of fate today, I met someone who lives in the branches of that tree.

In one of those 'How crazy small is this world?!' moments today, I met one of my second cousins. Here's how it went down:

At the end of a mission for our Church, typically returning missionaries head home immediately. Sometimes, parents will come out and pick up the missionary and they spend time seeing the area and meeting people their son or daughter worked with. That's what happened today. This departing missionary brought his parents by and it was so good to meet them. He was an outstanding missionary and it was such a pleasure to be able to thank his parents for sharing him with us. When his mother sat down, she said, 'I think we're related. Do you know (insert my mom's name here)?' Given that said woman is my mom, I said yes. So it turns out her paternal grandfather was my maternal grandmother's brother, making us, according to family tree logic, second cousins. We were all a little taken aback by the circumstances that drew us together. We started to recall memories of our grandparents. We even got my mom on the phone and it was fun for her to recall things as well. It was cool for The Boy too as he and this missionary were really close. He's been a tremendous example to The Boy and now he's got him as a third cousin.

The world really is a small place and I am continually surprised by how little separates us. I was glad I got a chance to climb up the family tree a bit today. After all, to quote, regrettably, the lyrical wizardry of Sister Sledge, we are family.

04 May 2014


It's not like this. At all.
As mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm going to be sharing some of the highlights of the path to The Boy's mission service. Today is another one of those posts. You have been warned.

With phase one of the process completed in the last couple of days, he's onto phase two - the interviews. He's meeting with our good friend, who happens to be our local ecclesiastical leader this afternoon. This is not a job interview, nor is it a pageant-esque interview. No one is worrying about whether he likes long walks on the beach or not. This is to assess readiness. A mission is a hard thing - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The interviews are a part of determining the readiness of a candidate. I think The Boy is more than ready. After all, he's managed to survive nearly eighteen years under my roof and the 'fun' that is having me for a dad, right?

As he interviews today, I can't help but recall my final interviews for my own mission service. At the time, my late father was my ecclesiastical leader who had the final approval as it were on my application for service. My father took his Church service with solemn responsibility. I mean, as I've said before, he'd be most comfortable mowing the lawn in a suit. So interviewing with him was daunting, at least, for me. I recall assuming that we'd just  do the interview at home. I could not have been more wrong. I made an appointment through the appropriate channels. I assumed we'd drive down to the church together that afternoon. Again, I was wrong. His executive secretary was waiting when I arrived and he informed me it would be just a moment. I asked if there were any other interviews that day and there weren't. I think about that today and smile. So my dad. There was a way of doing things and you did not deviate. No matter if it was your first-born son. You followed the course. There's a lot to be said for that. Admittedly, my nearly nineteen year old self back then thought it was a little insane but that's the beauty of growing older and a little wiser.

I don't remember much about the interview. I do remember when it was over that the 'leader' mantle came down and my dad became my dad. It was great to hug him and thank him, knowing I'd be doing something that would make him enormously proud. I also knew that I was going to be doing something for two years that was going to change me. It was going to make me a better man. Thirty years or so later, I think it did.
Now it's The Boy's turn.

As the totally non-Chinese saying goes, 'May you live in interesting times.' I must say, they are mighty interesting for us these days.

03 May 2014

Your papers, please.

"Your papers, please." This statement, usually made in the form of a terse demand, rather than a request, pleasant or otherwise, has struck fear in the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life all over the world. Having been born and lived in a nation where we are not required to carry our 'papers' with us at all times, it's hard to get my mind around having to live like that. But then again, it turns out that my good country's big brother, the NSA, has probably been bored to tears surreptiously listening into my cell phone calls for the last how many knows years without my knowing it. Good times.

Papers, though, are taking on a new meaning here as The Boy has been readying his papers for submission in order to receive his Church mission call, or assignment. The process has a few phases and ironically, almost no real paper. When I was in his shoes just about 30 years ago, there were a ton o'forms and paperwork to be completed. Today though, save for the actual assignment itself, which is mailed, it's all done online (gracias, Interwebs!) and last night, he finished phase one. The Boy pushed 'submit' and triggered the next phase, which are some interviews with his local ecclesiastical leaders. After those are complete, the big 'submit' button gets pushed again and his virtual paperwork gives to Church headquarters behind the Zion Curtain and then his call is issued. So last night's first submission was kind of a big deal, for him and for us. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML asked me if it made me anxious that we were to this point, and I answered that it didn't. I mean it's getting real, to be sure.

It got a whole lot more real today as I took The Boy to our little one room Post Office to complete and submit his passport application. Inasmuch as he does not know where he'll be called to serve, we want him to be set to go, no matter where, so he needs to gave his passport locked and loaded. As we took care of that, the reality that he'll be gone sooner than I think struck me. It didn't make me sad, but it drove home how real this is getting.

For those of you who have loyally kept a seat on the sofa here in the Den and are not familiar with the whole mission thing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I hope you'll indulge me in the coming weeks and months. As The Boy moves down the missionary path, I'll be sharing bits and bobs of it here. I hope you'll find it interesting. It's an exciting time for our family. Heaven knows I've spared precious little here in the Den so I'm not about to go all silent on this. I'd be a bad blogger if I didn't share this, right?