27 April 2015

Learning so much

In spite of apparently hosting 'Alien' in his gut, he's still eating well
This week's letter from TMFKATB was a bit of a breathtaker for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me. He got online much later than has been his pattern, which was a bit of a clue for us. While on our respective devices, we read the letter together and we both drew in a couple of deep breaths as we got into the meat of his weekly missive.

In short, his new companion who had only been in the mission field less than two weeks, opted, quite abruptly, to go home. It was a bit of a punch in the gut as TMFKATB felt like things were going quite well. Suffice to say, it made for a crazy week and our boy is now in the mission office for a few days, awaiting a new assignment. Not only was there this challenging situation, apparently 'Alien' which is uncomfortably ensconced somewhere in his gut, is making life unpleasant. All this served to take our breath away.

The part that is simply incredible is the wisdom he is showing as a nineteen year old. It is far beyond his years. He is looking at these up-and-down moments as learning experiences. He said, "I have seen so many trials with companions, health and a whole bunch of stuff but it has made me grow so much. All is well. I'm learning so much." He talked openly about placing his trust in God and how, in spite of it all, happy he is. That happy came through and gave us a great deal of comfort as we read his letter time and again.

It's not an easy thing to find the happy, or the good, in challenging situations. My boy reminded me today how soothing the balm of goodness is when you find it. He has found it in dedicating himself to the service of others right now and is willing to look beyond some really tough things to find the good. It seems to me that the lesson is that there is always something good to be had, or learned, in even the most challenging of situations. He says he's learning so much. He's teaching too. I'm glad I learned something today too.

22 April 2015

An Old Friend

The grilled cheese? Great. Catching up? Excellent!
As I was walking back to my office down a sun-soaked Lexington Avenue yesterday after a lunch meeting, I looked around, paused, and took in the perfection that was New York City at that moment. The sun, the beaming blue sky, the warmth (although cool enough that the city doesn't smell like pee yet), and the beautiful chaotic symphony of taxi horns, buses belching to life, and people talking as they hustled, all made for a perfect day. I, and I know this will shock you, felt compelled to overshare make a comment about said perfection on the Facebook.

Shortly thereafter, I got a message from an old friend who I have not seen in nearly ten years. He happened to be in the city and wanted to know if we might be able to get together. Fortunately, I had scheduled myself on the later train that night so it would work out that we could connect. What better way to prepare for my usual showdown with our nation's passenger rail overlord than seeing an old friend!

After a debacle with my MetroCard and a mad dash into a cab, I was able to meet up with C. As I said, we'd not seen in each other since our families moved from SoCal within a couple of months of each other nine years ago. Since then, we've both moved again, but thanks to the interwebs, we've stayed in touch. Catching up last night over grilled cheese sandwiches (shout out to C for ordering his with maple bacon!) was just plain old fun. Although much has changed for us both over the years, it was easy conversation and I was reminded how fortunate I am to have the friends that I do. My friend C is a gifted musician / singer and I suspect he has no idea the impact one of his performances had on me. Years ago, he performed a song in church that had me crying like a little girl (and not the creepy fangirl way either). Rather, as he sang that day, and emotions and the Spirit flooded over me and the tears fell with abandon, I realized my sense of manhood would not be diminished by the shedding of tears in recognition of the feelings at that moment. Since then, music in particular has led me to some pretty good emotional moments, for which I make no apologies. Just ask the Chick-fil-A drive-thru girl in American Fork, UT who had to deal with my quivering mess of a self two nights before Our Lady of Awesome got married. The poor thing is, no doubt, still traumatized.

I've never forgotten the impact of that song and meeting up with C last night reminded me again of how fortunate I have been. I've been given so many good friends. I think of things my friends have said to me that have had a profound impact on me. I think about what I've learned and what I continue to learn from my friends and I am grateful. Thank you, friends, for making my life richer. I only hope I can return the favors and kindnesses somehow. I owe C thanks for that lesson he taught me and I didn't say thank you last night, so I say it now - thank you, my friend.

Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together. - Woodrow T. Wilson

20 April 2015

Still a player

Still a player (mural on the wall of a local gym)
Since I'm back home and not holed up in a conference room, I'm back on schedule, posting updates from TMFKATB in a more timely manner. Today's letter was what has become typical of our missionary son - positive attitude and some slyly funny stuff.

He was most excited to report that he's got a "super humble" and "super happy" new companion. For a brand-new missionary, he's older (24, which is halfway to dead by 19 year old standards). He wants to work and it looks like they are getting along well. He lamented some of the challenges of constantly being rejected by the people and figuring out how to grow from the rejection. In the middle of that, he tossed in a non-sequitir about how he had recently cut his own hair. For a split second, I couldn't help but wonder if that wasn't the source of some of the rejection. He talked about some difficulties with a Blister sister missionary. It's challenges like that that are helping him to grow and how to try and get people to make the best of trying circumstances.

He mentioned that the pills he got from the doctor to quell his gastrointestinal drama may not be doing the trick. He deftly avoided any further questions about that but we're not freaking out. He's never been one to not let us know when he's really sick. Once again, we were at peace as we went back and forth with him too. He's got this.

Like the insane mural of NBA players on the side of a gym in southernmost Mexico, he's still a player.

19 April 2015

"Take it easy!"

This wasn't too far off the mark
When CAL and I were in Dallas on our own version of a BYU-I Parents Weekend reboot last week, I posted the following brief screed on the Twitters and the Facebooks:

Ill-fitting tuxes and gowns. Overpowering stench of Axe in the air. Vocal warmups in the hallway. Glee club coach/prison matron with typical big Texas hair raking the kids over the coals for being late. Love it when the hotel you are in is taken over...

Indeed, our hotel had been taken over by a very large high school choir/glee club that was participating in some kind of vocal choral deathmatch. We'd gotten to the hotel the night before quite late and I was crestfallen when I saw the two large buses in front of the hotel. I've traveled far too long to know that buses at a hotel are never a good thing. It's either a group of elderly tourists who will make eating in the hotel an unmitigated nightmare or it's some kind of high school group and no good has ever come of that. Ever. My fears were confirmed when we entered the lobby to the last dregs of the kids checking in. They all carried the enormous pillows that are now the calling card of the traveling American teen and there was all manner of yelling about who had the keys. As we checked in, I gave the somewhat beleagured agent a look that simply pled, 'By all that's holy, do no put us on their floors.' My request was mercifully heeded.

The following morning, as we went down to breakfast, we met the full brunt of the choral bruhaha. Hence the tweet and Facebook page that you saw above. We did not meet the Matron until after breakfast. I'm telling you right now, had I been able to get a picture of her, what you see above would have been her, except she was sporting a bad spiky haircut instead of the "Alice the Brady Maid" wash and set you see above. As we walked into the elevator landing to go back to our room, there she was. The Glee Club Coach/Prison Matron. Shrouded from head to toe in black, she was facing the elevator doors. The toe of her shoe tapped furiously to the beat of the unheard death march that was playing in her head. In her left hand, she held her Smartphone up, time displayed, also facing the elevator doors. You knew this was going to be ugly. As I watched the elevator descend, ticking off the floors to the lobby, I couldn't help but feel badly for the unsuspecting teen songsters. They were about to feel the brunt of a clearly insufficiently caffeinated glee club harridan.

The doors opened and so did her tightly wound fury. Four kids walked off into an onslaught more appropriate for the battlefield in Fallujah than a hotel lobby in Las Colinas, Texas. "Do you know what time it is?" she bellowed. I think one of the boys cowered so hard that I think he went from an alto to a soprano right then and there. "We are late. L-A-T-E! Now get on that BUS!" she hissed. Suffice to say, she was displeased. Glancing over my shoulder into the lobby, which through the haze of the Axe stench, I could see there were still a slew of kids not on that bus, and I thought to myself, 'Lady, take it easy.'

I get it. There are schedules to be kept. There are people to be seen and places to go. Any one who has worked with teen-agers, especially those who teach them (and they deserve to be sainted), knows it can be a bit like herding cats. Sure, some times you need to throw down the hammer. That said, the Matron needed to just take it easy. If only The Boy, or TMFKATB, had been there to say that to her in his obscure accent that he would use on me when saying it. You'll be shocked to know that from time to time, I would allegedly get a little high-strung with my children. Leave it to The Boy to would diffuse it by saying, in that stupid accent, 'Hey, take it easy.' Those little words rattle around in my head even today and I find myself hearing it when I'm in a stressful situation. It's one of those gut checks on how I should react.

'Take it easy.' Try it. It changes things for the better.

16 April 2015


900 posts
900. Have you given much thought to the number 900? Neither have I, but the truthsayers of the interwebs at Wikipedia have and here's what they report about the number 900:

It is the square of 30 and the sum of Euler's totient function for the first 54 integers.

Um, do you know what that really is? It is the reason why it took me two years to pass freshman algebra in high school. It is the reason I was the only senior in a high school geometry class full of freshmen (for only two weeks because I dropped the stupid class). It is the reason math is my Lex Luthor, my archenemy.

On a lighter note, the year 900 was when the Postclassic period began in Mesoamerica. It was the year that those tough Venetians managed to repel the pesky Magyar raiders. It was also the year that everyone's favorite Pope, Benedict IV, succeeded Pope John IX.

900 is also what this post represents. I have somehow managed to sustain this little blog thing for 900 posts now. What began as a place for me to overshare has in the last seven years evolved into, well, a place for me to still overshare. So not much has changed, has it? No need really to go back through and look at the highlights of the last 899 posts. That's why there's a 'search' box on the blog. Besides I go back and look at some of it and it reads like an entry into "Mortified Nation." Good times, people, good times.

As I have said in the past, I can't thank you enough, the Den loyalists, who have taken a seat on the sofa here in the Den. I'd like to think I'm doing something right because you're sticking around. I'm glad your my friends. Thank you.

Now, it's 100 posts to 1000. I've got things to think about because there are still stories to be told here.

15 April 2015


'Chillin' - that's how TMFKATB described himself in the picture. He has an obsession with these chairs, having made it clear already he's bringing one home. He seems perfectly relaxed, just chillin'.

Now, lest you think that I've been chillin,' I know I'm late in getting this posted and that I've actually been pretty silent here in the Den for the last several days. Combine a customized "Parents Weekend" trip with CAL in Dallas and a big work conference in Atlanta, wherein I had the honor of interviewing the president of Delta Air Lines in front of 700 of my industry peers, and throw in obscene hotel wi-fi charges, a rash of postings are nigh unto impossible. Hence, the late nature of the update.

All is well for TMFKATB. As he put it in his letter, it was a 'cool week.' He had some great experiences with seeing people make changes in their lives and circumstances brought him back to the first area he lived and served in. He was able to see some people there who are now good friends, so that made for a great week. He also learned that his companion who he has been training is being transferred. TMFKATB is staying put, but will once again, be training a brand-new missionary. He's a bit bowled over at the responsibility of training, but is committed to making it a great experience for this new missionary.

I can't help but admire his 'chill' pose. As I mentioned, CAL and I were in Dallas, wherein we got to do some chillin' of our own. We had a great time at a baseball game, watching the Texas Rangers play the Houston Astros. There's not a bad seat in that stadium, can I just tell you? We got our history freak on at Dealey Plaza. When we first entered the infamous sixth floor, I was taken aback at the emotion that briefly overcame me. What a tragic period in our history and I could not help but wonder about what could have been had an assassin's bullet not taken the life of President Kennedy.

While CAL was at seminar, I got to see a couple of great friends which led to all manner of laughter and excellent conversation, as well as indulging in a borderline religious experience involving brisket tacos. As I spent time hanging out with my daughter and these friends, I was reminded that I'm a lucky man. You've heard me say that before and you're going to hear more of it from me. I'd be a fool not to acknowledge it. I'm a lucky man.

Speaking of lucky, I'm thinking this lamb may not be so lucky:
An outdoor kitchen. A lamb. I hope this little guy didn't name the lamb....
TMFKAB included this picture in his letter. Call me crazy, but I don't think things are going to end well for the lamb. Seems to me the lucky one will be the one who gets the lamb in his taco.

06 April 2015

Loving learning

View of Tapachula
Knowing that TMFKATB had seen the doctor last week to address his ongoing gastrointestinal fiesta, we were curious to see what he'd have to say in this week's letter. His letter was upbeat, positive, and full of raves of his new-found love of learning. It also lacked, glaringly, an update as to what the doctor said. I have to remind myself that in spite of all that he's doing in his missionary service, he is still a nineteen year old. Giving your parents' an update on your health may slip in your mind.

That said, he described his week as 'chill.' Lots of work and he raved about his love of learning. Learning more about the language, the culture, and the things that he continues to teach (scripture, doctrine, etc). He admitted that this was not a love he had during high school (no kidding). He seems to have found it now and declared that he hopes now to never lose this love of learning. Woohoo! He had some opportunities to serve and to see rewards for continued hard work. Those are learnings too that he is enjoying.

To his credit, he did, in a note to the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, mention that he made it to the doctor. He said the doctor felt his stomach, asked him "about a thousand questions" and then gave him some pills and that seemed to have done the trick. Um, that seems reasonable...

I can't argue though with the results. His letter and our real-time exchanges were so positive and continue to reflect a growth that no other experience could provide him. He's building the foundations for the rest of his life. Man, what a joy to be watching this!

05 April 2015

Where I Find Peace

Rays of long-absent sunshine pour through the windows of our family room this quiet morning. The trees that form our natural fence filter the precious sunlight and drink it in. You can almost see the buds on those trees, eager to become leaves, starting to form. The wind, which howled throughout the day yesterday, has gone still. It is a peaceful morning. It is Easter.

A millenia ago, sunlight poured into a tomb and a woman, looking inside, wept, because he who had been entombed there three days earlier was gone. At that moment, there was no peace for her. Her soul ached and she sobbed. She then heard a man asking her, "Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" Not recognizing His voice, she asked him if knew where the body had been taken. He then uttered her name, "Mary," and she knew. It was Him. Peace filled her soul. He was risen.

He is risen. In those three words, I find peace. On this Easter morning, I am grateful for those three words. More importantly, I am grateful for Him and the comfort that I feel in knowing what I do of Him. The words of the third verse of the hymn "Where Can I Turn for Peace" are particularly meaningful to me:

He answers privately
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.
- Text by Emma Lou Thayne

His message isn't complicated and it doesn't have to be divisive.

Peace. (Be) Kind. Love (One Another). We'd have a whole lot more of the first if we did a whole lot more of the second and third, wouldn't we?

03 April 2015

On This Good Friday

It is Good Friday, one of the holiest days in Christendom. The events of this day more than a millenia ago ushered in a demonstration of pure love that is unmatched to this day. As a man of faith, I take great comfort in the events of the Easter season - Christ's death and resurrection - the victories over sin and death.

Because He lives, I have peace.
Because He lives, I learn from those around me each day.
Because He lives, I have hope.

No matter what you believe, it's a good time to take pause and reflect on that which is good in the world. There is still good out there. Plenty of it.

Remember to be good to one another, not just on this day, Good Friday, but every day.