31 January 2015

Oh my...

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML has embarked on a massive project to digitize the myriad photographs that we have sitting around, albeit neatly in our storage room, in photo albums. I'm not kidding when I say it's massive and my wife has thrown herself into it with her usual tenacity and laser-like focus on getting the J-O-B done.

These pictures chronicle our more than twenty-six years together and the family that we've created. It's been a lot of fun to see all these images again. The memories are wonderful! We've laughed a lot as we've relived them. Tucked in these pictures, however, are some not so fun images. These are images from my own awkward growing up years that remind us, painfully so, just what a cruel mistress puberty can be. The choice is now yours to take a look into my past...

6th Grade 
I'd like to thank the creators of the 'Peter Brady Stone Cold Cool Pre-Teen Boy' collection for my shirt and to the Wright Brothers for inspiring the designers of the shirt to make a wing structurecollar that would allow me to take flight, literally, during dust storms in Arizona.

8th Grade
Because apparently I mistook my last year before high school as an opportunity to impress on everyone that I had a future career as a lawyer/banker/insurance salesman.

High School Junior Prom
So you would think that things would have gotten better for me in high school. Yeah, me too, but they didn't. Glasses version 4.0, which darkened in the sunlight, did nothing for the 'cool' factor. Nothing. The plaid was a nice touch though, or at least that's what was dictated by the powers that be in 1983.

Senior Photo
This photo has appeared in the blog before. Just a man-boy in his shorty shorts, helmet hair, bleached polo shirt, and his water ski. Nothing says 'I'm a proud high school graduate!' than this. Nothing. People, seriously, this was one of three in the "High School Graduate" series for which I posed. 

Freshman Year of College
Finally, in my freshman year at university, it appears from this photo that I may have finally been able to slip free from the cruel clutches of teenage angst and its evil overseer, the previously mentioned puberty. From this picture, taken in the lobby of one of our dorms, which has long since been torn down (a dagger, a dagger to my heart!), me and the swirly faces were having a good time. There I was sockless, sporting a Swatch watch (one of many from the collection I had at the time), and a smile. I'm proud to say I think I was shaving four days a week at this point! Bottom line, I was still a dork, albeit a happy one.

A few years later, at that same university, I was now a happy, grown up dork, shaving every day, twice (take that puberty!) if I had to take a test late in the day at the Testing Center / Hall of Judgement. I would soon stumble across a beautiful young woman, who while we were dating would get a picture of me at the height of my awkward years from my mother, upon which Mom wrote, "If you can love him like this, you can love him any time" or something to that affect, and love me she did and still does.

I'm a better man because of that love. Heaven knows, I'm still a dork. And now, instead of my pictures being mucked up by the cruel mistress of puberty, I now am fighting the malevolent middle-age monster and all that means. I better go make sure I don't have some freaky hair protruding from my ear now. I'm out.

27 January 2015


According to the good word nerds at dictionary.com, the word hyperbole is defined as follows:

obvious and intentional exaggeration

Yeah, that seems right. For any of you who either live or have found yourselves along the Eastern seaboard and the Northeastern part of the United States in the last few days, you know all to well what hyperbole means. Why? Because you have sat through a veritable tsunami of unrelenting hyperbole from any number of weather prognosticators. Hah, see what I did there? Threw in my own bit of hyperbole.

It's become as predictable as death and taxes. A weather event presents itself and the weather prognosticators and their cohorts across the studio in the form of anchors and producers create drama bigger than the storm itself. Dramatic 'storm' theme music is introduced. A lame hashtag is introduced (#blizzard15 I'm talking to you). B-roll footage of empty grocery store shelves are played endlessly. Can we talk a minute about the 'run' on grocery stores? Why the run on bread? Are we that ill-prepared as a nation that not a one of us has more than a one days' supply of food on hand? What are we, people? Living off the land? Um, no. It is insanity.

It all played out again over the course of the last few days as Winter Storm Juno sprung out of nowhere. Media went into overdrive here in the 'stan as well as our surrounding states. 20 - 24 inches and raging winds were predicted for us. What did we get? Maybe six, maybe eight inches of snow and some strong, swirling gusts. Power stayed on for the duration of the horrific event. I didn't even need to tap into my secret reserve of Coke Zero to power through it all.

It's all this hyperbole that explains why I pretty much ignore local news coverage. I'll stick to the Twitter for my news, thank you very much. Honestly if we hadn't gone over to see some friends on Sunday night I wouldn't have known about this non-event. Now, to be fair, I'm all kinds of glad I'm not in the Boston area, where the hype met the experience. It was an EVENT there.

I think I'll go make waffles for dinner now. How else can one properly recover from all this weather terror?

26 January 2015

Now that was a surprise

New companion, new house, new city. Wait...what?
With Winter Storm Juno and its evil love child, the Blizzard, which is so unfortunate to be known as because who doesn't love a Blizzard from the Diary Queen, bearing down on us, it might have been easy to forget that it's Monday and the day we hear from TMFKATB.

I say might have been because just after noon, I was finally able to come up for air from a super fun Monday of work, when his first email arrived. Like last week, he surprised us again. It's safe to say he was surprised himself. Not only did he get a new companion, a young man from Guatemala, and is acting as his trainer, he found out that he and his new missionary were being assigned to a new city. Right. Then.

So his missionary life pretty much changed overnight. He's a trainer, a brand-new district leader, and now trying to figure his away around a town he's never been in in his life and he knows not a soul. But, as he pointed out, he found a good hamburger place (he is his father's son). His letter reflected a little sense of being overwhelmed but his attitude overall was positive. He has a remarkable ability to find the good in pretty much any situation. That will serve him well the rest of his life.

We're glad to know where he is. It's funny that we spent a week thinking he was still in his old area and that all was well. The fact of the matter is that all was well, just in a new city. We're glad to know his companion is a native Spanish speaker. I'm glad he found a good burger joint. He's going to have to take me back there one day. I can't wait.

One thing I can wait for is this #Snowmageddon2015 foolishness. When you are hashtagging a storm, something has jumped the shark. Anyway, I've got to go figure out how to fire up my generator in case, as the weather hysterics are predicting, we lose power. This is one time when I need the internets to prove it is not "an infinite well of nothing" (all credit to the brilliant Mike Birbiglia) for that, so YouTube fail me not! Let's go find an instructional video!

23 January 2015

Live from a...bus

I've posted from planes.
I've posted from trains.
Tonight I'm posting from the lanes.

The lanes? A bowling alley, you ask? Wait, you say, but I thought bowling shoes creeped you out as much as that Satanic ceramic clown you got at the Christmas party. Well, you are right on the creepy thing but the lanes I'm referring to are the lanes of the I684. I'm hurtling along said piece of freeway back to Connecticutistan aboard the Peter Pan Bus. Yes, that's right. The Peter Pan Bus. It's a thing

For any of you who have followed me on the Twitter, you are painfully familiar with my frequent sparring with the faceless and soulless, I might add, Twitter persona of our nation's passenger rail provider. It just never ends well and some times you need to know when as our nation's warmest and most effusive First Lady, Nancy Reagan, said, "Just say no." Tonight was one of those occasions.

Not in the mood to risk the chaos and gambling for departures that is Penn Station on a Friday night, I opted for the relative 'calm' of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and a ride on the bus. Suffice to say, my commute has changed. I used to frequently lament TSA lines, gate lice, and no more warmed cashews in a ramekin in First Class. Don't get me wrong, I'm still flying, just not at the clip I used to. Um, I miss it.

One thing though about flying that tonight's bus ride has reminded me of are the bad old days when smoking was allowed on the plane. It was hideous, right? I pretty much had to incinerate after a flight back to the States from Istanbul where I was seated entirely close to the smoking section. Looks like I may gave to sacrifice the suit I'm in today for much the same reason. There's a bit of at tweeker on board who's, from what I'm guessing, having a bit of a rough go. He keeps sneaking into the onboard Tomb of Horrors, I mean, lav, and grabbing a smoke. It's not good. Not good at all.

This wasn't my first ride on the bus, but after tonight's ride with Smokey Joe, I think I'll go back to taking my chances on the train.

19 January 2015

When the trainee becomes the trainer

My favorite picture that he's sent us so far
We've tried to plan our Mondays around the 'ding' of the bell announcing there's something in the email inbox. That something, of course, is an email from TMFKATB. Today, he surprised us by being on 30 minutes earlier than usual.

Once we read the first couple of lines of his letter, we knew why he was early. He had news. His trainer is being reassigned to Tuxtla Gutierrez (TG) and TMFKATB was heading to TG as well to pick up his new companion - a brand-new missionary. After just about three months in country, TMFKATB will be training. He is also being given a leadership assignment and so his letter was full of appeals for prayer on his behalf. He has no idea if the new missionary he'll be training is an American or from Mexico or any where else in the world. He'll know more tonight. He's glad he's staying in his little town for now.

Although feeling a tad overwhelmed today, he's happy. The picture at the top of this post nails it for me. He has embraced the people he's serving and they are his family. I just look at that picture, that smile, and I am at ease.

Now, because he is my son and the manzana does not fall far from el arbol, he shared a couple highlights of his culinary adventures as well:

Green Enchiladas
Of these green enchiladas, which look freaking amazing, he said, "We ate these amazing green enchiladas. It was incredible. Super spicy and so dang good. I can't eat anything now without a tortilla!"

Apparently, he likes these gems
Of the cookies, he said, "Also these are the best cookies in the world. BUY THEM. DAD YOU WILL DIE. THEY ARE SO DANG GOOD."

The screaming ALL CAPS were his so apparently he means business. So it's a good thing I have the day off today. I'm on a hunt. So far, Amazon doesn't have them. Looks like I may need to hit a mercadito when I'm in the city later this week. I mean what kind of father would I be if I DIDN'T find these taste treats?

18 January 2015

Slipping and Sliding

This. Kind of this.
Paul Simon, he who did not sport the bad white guy perm, of Simon and Garfunkel, penned a song called "Slip Slidin Away." The opening verse goes like this:

Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

Those lyrics became all too real for us as we drove home from getting religion earlier this afternoon. As we motored up the hill to our home, the more we found ourselves sliding away from it. This is NOT, I repeat, NOT a good feeling when you are slipping backward in a GMC Yukon the size and weight of an armed artillery tank. We owe this slippery sensation to that she-shrew, the one and only Mother Nature. She decided to get freaky today.

Things took a weird turn as we drove to Church early this morning. When we left the house, it was not quite raining or sleeting but it was like a frozen mist was falling. No big whoop, I thought, as we drove. Then, out of nowhere, our windshield was frozen over. 'That escalated quickly,' I thought to myself. It felt like we were in a scene from a craptastic disaster movie (thy name is 'The Day After Tomorrow'). Walking through the Church parking lot into the building was a slippery affair but once we were inside, I didn't give it much further thought. I was speaking in Church today so was a little more focused on that than what the aforementioned she-shrew was going to do during our services.

Three hours later (and no, I did not speak for three hours. I mean I can go on and on but not for three hours-have mercy!), it is now pouring rain but because everything is already frozen over, the rain really has nowhere to go. That's where things turned very interesting getting up the long hill to our home. Since the rain had nowhere to go, it pretty much turned to ice. Suffice to say, my tank did not like the conditions. Frankly, neither did the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML. Her death grip on both the door handle and her seat belt was quite impressive. Impressive, in the end, was the performance of my environmentally offensive, but totally awesome, Yukon. She may not have liked it and the groaning from her engine made that clear, but we got home safely.

I am now glancing out the window from the warmth of my basement while I take my online driving school course. While in Arizona for Thanksgiving a few months ago, I may or may not have been captured on a traffic cam exceeding the posted speed limit somewhere in Gila County. Um...have you been to Gila County? You'd speed too but like I said, may or may not. Allegedly. This is four hours of my life I'm not getting back either.  Good times.

12 January 2015

Apparently, he was tired

Apparently, he was too tired to get up...or put on pants
This week's letter from TMFKATB was one missionary parents love to get. He spoke time and again about how happy he is. He's had a couple of moments of self-discovery too that are making it easier for him to focus on the people he's working with. Not even an earthquake that tossed him around his room this morning was going to dampen his spirit. Knowing that he is happy is a source of comfort, no a blessing, that is immeasurable to us.

I'll post a link to the letter later. It's been a day. Two hours hostage on the M train (don't ask) during evening rush can and does sap your energy. So when I've been renewed, yes, renewed, I'll add a link. But I will sleep peacefully knowing he's happy, serving, learning and growing a few thousand miles away.

07 January 2015

Will I Ever Learn?

Our inability to remember important life lessons never ceases to amaze me and it was demonstrated to me in the clearest of light last night. Sometimes these moments can take a little while to relate. This is a little bit longer post, so settle in.

It was a long day in Manhattan yesterday, exacerbated by lightly falling snow, a snappy, and not in a good way either, chill in the air, and an unpleasant slog down to endlessly depressing Penn Station at the end of the day to catch some "Theater of Cruelty" service at the hands of our national passenger rail provider. You'll be shocked, shocked I tell you, to know that my train was, wait for it, late in departing. I know, I know, talk about unexpected (and if you believe that, I'm sure Fox News' assessment that the metric system brought down Air Asia #8501 is completely plausible). A late departure meant making my connection in New Haven was going to be dicey as that connection is, in my sad experience, mostly NOT held for the late inbound train. With that in mind, I was sure I was ready to bounce off the train as soon as we hit New Haven so I could bound across the platform and get on my connecting train, assuming it was still there.

As we approached New Haven, my plan was thwarted by a young woman who stood in the aisle blocking the rest of us from moving toward the door. She wasn't budging. My patience was immediately sapped and my alter ego, Judgy Judgerson, made an appearance. Unkind thoughts, yes, let's describe them as that, filled my mind as I waited for her to pick up her bag and move. She did not do so until we came to a complete stop, which was maddening (um, lady, it's a train - no flight attendant was going to shout you down for getting out of your seat before coming to a complete stop). She began to shuffle slowly while those ahead of her were long gone. My displeasure was at 11. And then it happened. I noticed she was moving slowly because of an awkward gait, and with her hand atrophied, I recognized it immediately as some kind of palsy and knew then that my reservation in Hell was now a lock. As she got to the door of the train and seeing the wider than expected gap, she asked me if I could spot her. Feeling sufficiently and rightfully awful, I told her I would do her one better. I grabbed her bag and went out the adjacent door so I could take her by both arms and help her across. That's what I did and I asked her if she needed anything else and she said no. So I made my way across the platform, noticing only then that the connecting train was also late (I know you're stunned). It showed up shortly thereafter and I sat down in a window seat to ponder why I had gotten so irritated so quickly.

As I sat lost in my thoughts, I heard a woman ask if she the seat next to me was open. Turning to say yes, I saw that it was that same young woman. Certainly, I said. She took her seat and we were off. About midway through the trip, she got up to use the restroom (her funeral). I know this because she told the person that she was talking to on her cell phone that is what she was going to do. While she was gone, another woman stood in aisle across from our seats, prattling on to the lady seated there about her failing business. This was 'delightful' banter that none of us needed to hear. None. Of. Us. She would not move as my seatmate came up and just as she approached our row, the train swerved as it is wont to do, and this poor young woman was flipped over the seats, landing with her head wedged between the seat in front of me and the front of my knees. For a split second, I hardly knew what to do. She immediately began apologizing and I kept telling her she had nothing to apologize for. It was apparent though as I tried to move, she was pretty stuck. Another passenger got up, pushing aside the rude woman who was still prattling on about her retail woes and seeming annoyed that this turn of events had interrupted her story, and he managed to get my stuck seatmate by her good arm and as he lifted, I pushed up and we got her up. She could not have been more apologetic. I know she had to be absolutely mortified. I kept reassuring her that she had nothing to worry about.

She sat quietly for the rest of the ride, as did I. All the while, I kept pondering my initial reaction to her on the other train. As we approached Hartford, I asked her if she'd been to this particular station before and she said no. Knowing that this station is not a walk off to the platform, but requires descending the steep steps from the train, I told her I'd like to help her off. I took her bag and guided her to the end of the car. When she saw the steps, she took a deep breath but fortunately, a conductor was there as well to help her. I then walked with her to the elevator and it was there that we parted ways. She apologized once more, for which I once again said there was no need and she slipped away with a simple thank you. That thank you was when i will long appreciate.

As I drove home, I thought about had she heard the thoughts in my head on that first train, she never would have sat down next to me on that connecting train. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to help her out and try and make up for an offense she wasn't even aware I had committed. About thirty years ago, while on my mission in Miami, I had an experience with another young woman afflicted with a palsy who I judged too quickly, and just as wrongly as I had done last night. I learned all those years ago how so not cool that 'Judgy Judgerson' side of me is.

You'd think at my age I'd have learned to reign him in. Last night showed me I still have some learning to do. I hope I won't forget this experience any time soon.

05 January 2015


At the Izapa Ruins
In what is now our ritual for the next two years, we eagerly awaited the "ping" alerting us to an e-mail in our respective inboxes today. That ping came in a little early - 30 minutes or so earlier than normal - today and it brought the letter from TMFKATB. How would I summarize said letter? In one word - settled. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I both felt good about that assessment.

Our missionary son seems settled and I don't mean that in a lethargic way. He seems like he's got his routine down now. He is enjoying the opportunity to learn and talked a bit about how that's changing him. He loves the people he lives amongst. He assured us his health is good, meaning he's keeping everything down, literally. I'm sure this is good news for the missionary he lives with but I suspect the Latin American operations of the one-ply toilet paper concern he's been using will see a downturn in sales. Sorry, not sorry.

He shared a couple of pictures, like the one above, of his P-Day trip to Izapa. Pictures were all he shared of that excursion. Apparently he's a real believer that pictures can tell a thousand stories. Izapa is a significant pre-Colombian archaeological site and includes the "Tree of Life." Looked pretty cool. I guess we'll have to wait a couple of years to get the story.

These Monday exchanges mean the world to us. We look forward to them and they really do set the tone for our week. I'm glad he started the new year feeling settled. It helps me to do the same.

01 January 2015

2015 - so far, it's going well

Well, here we go again. Another first day of a new year. Are you as giddy with excitement as I am? If so, then we aren't communicating because I would hardly describe myself as 'giddy' over the new year's dawning.

Looking for proof? Ask me how I rang in the New Year. By sleeping. I was out by 10:00PM. As far as I'm concerned, the New Year had arrived in one of my favorite cities in the world, Sydney, at 8AM on the 31st. So by the time 10:00PM rolled around, we were well into the New Year. Suffice to say, I'm not much for New Year's shenanigans.

Besides we needed to be out the door by 9:00AM this morning to get CAL down to JFK for her flight back to the Zion Curtain. Thanks to average airfares that are equal to the GDP of Sweden (you think I'm kidding) at our nearest airport, BDL, New York City-area airports are a necessary evil for us. However, there was no evil today. You see, the ride into JFK requires using Satan's second favorite stretch of highway (the first being the 91 in Riverside and Orange Counties in SoCal), the Van Wyck Expresslessway. The horrors of the Van Wyck are unspeakable, like any of Lindsay Lohan's recent films. Today, though, in both directions, a breeze, a veritable walk in the park. We covered the entire round-trip, including drop off at the mammoth Our Lady of the Perpetual Widget terminal and a stop at Connecticutistan's cleanest rest stop along the I95, in exactly four hours. Unbe-freaking-lievable!

We got home in plenty of time for the Comcast guy to get to the house to install our new internet network. He was able to come earlier than planned and had us set up on a network that, what's the word I'm looking for here, umm, works. This is shockingly refreshing as we've been stuck with what we thought was the worst internet service on the planet, save for North Korea (sorry, not sorry, Dear Leader), until they sold themselves to an even worse provider. How is that possible? Anyway, if the last two hours of glorious connectivity and response times that are actually responsive are a glimpse into our connected future, then we are golden.

So as far as I'm concerned, this New Year is off to an auspicious start! I like it. I'm happy. Doesn't take much, I guess. If only my wish for 2015 were as simple - that science can find a cure for the horrific scourge that is the Kardashians. Oh, a world without the Kardashians. Dare to dream, my friends, dare to dream.

May your 2015 be off to a great start as well.