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


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


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


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?