28 September 2015


Yeah, I don't know what's happening here. I just know that
TMFKATB is all kinds of happy
On the subject of TMFKATB's weekly letters, I know that I've beaten our sense of joy on Mondays to death. I get it. The horse isn't even worthy of the glue factory, I know, but somehow I keep sharing this sense of excitement with you. All I can say is thank you for putting up with it and for still being interested in reading about his service.

Having served a mission myself, I know that when you are composing those weekly missives, you sometimes wonder if you share everything or if you edit. For instance, thirty years ago as I served, I chose to edit some of the 'gunplay' I witnessed, or had jammed into my forehead, while I was in Miami. Somehow I don't think my mother would have reacted well. In addition to the day-to-day things you experience that you edit out, you sometimes wonder if you include some of the downs that happen. A mission is not all sunshine and roses, but I know I didn't necessarily share all the challenging times in my letters home. Not so with TMFKATB. He's been pretty darn excellent about sharing everything. When he was in Mexico and in the process of blowing out his GI system, we knew in graphic detail just what it was doing. He's been great about sharing the highs and the lows and we're grateful for that.

Today's letter was all about the highs. It was about the most joyful letter we've gotten. He and his companion are hitting on all cylinders and they are seeing the rewards of their hard work. They are seeing the impact of their service and it's brought them enormous joy. For TMFKATB, he's had some experiences over the past few days that have helped him to be a bit more bold without being obnoxious (most twenty year olds are not exactly known for their conversational finesse, so this is a great growing experience). He's seeing miracles, large and small, in people's lives. He summed it all up in this one sentence to me:

Dad, I am so happy right now!

And you wonder why I look forward to Mondays so much. I'll take a line like that and cherish it. You can't wish for more than that for anyone.

Say what you will about life behind the Zion Curtain, but
they sure do know how to make a mean sunset!

26 September 2015


Just a few weeks ago, CAL started her final semester (that relieved sigh you just heard came from my checking account) of her undergraduate university studies. When she graduates from BYU-I this December, she'll be jumping headlong into the all too real world of work. Her path to full-time work in her chosen career includes months of practicum and internships (to this day, I still confuse the two and the timing of both, so by all that is holy, please do not ask me the difference #fatheroftheyear). She has identified about a slew of hospitals across the country that match her interests and she spent a good part of her summer break filling out myriad applications, packing up recommendation letters, and then waiting and waiting. Welcome to the super fun world of corporate hiring, Princess!

The waiting is starting to end. CAL has heard back from a few hospitals already and all have scheduled her for interviews this upcoming week. Things are now all kinds of real for her.

We've had multiple conversations this week, talking about how and what to prepare for. These are first interviews and are going to be over the phone, given that the hospitals are in two different parts of the country. She got some great ideas on interviews for the job she is seeking from someone who is already in the role (funny how connections through friends pay off!) and she feels pretty good about what's coming up. I've offered to do some mock interviews, but we'll see if she really wants to go though that with Dad.

As she's been preparing and there's been an understandable hint of anxiety around what to expect, I couldn't help but think back to the interviews I've had over the years. At least the days of "If you were a tree, what kind of a tree would you be?" seem to have wained. "Tell me about a time when..." seems to be a staple that we can't excise and lest we forget the opportunity to talk about your three greatest strengths and weaknesses. Yeah, those are gems. One of my best interviews took place years ago in a restaurant in Pasadena, CA. Over lunch, my interviewer (he would shortly become my boss) and I started talking about the industry and it just took off. I got to share some insight and we traded more than a few stories. It never felt like an interview. Isn't that how it should be?

I hope that's how it goes for my CAL. This interview stuff is just a necessary evil. Given the chance to tell her story, she'll shine like no other candidate (I'm the dad - I'm biased and get to say things like that). She's worked so hard these last four years and she's set her sights on an amazing career. I'm eager to see what she does.

21 September 2015

It's a process

Pancho Villa
Perhaps it was that additional dose of wisdom that comes with age that I earned yesterday as I entered my 49th year, but it was really good to take in this week's update from TMFKATB. I picked up on how he is maturing, more so than I have in previous letters. I also noticed how his English is deteriorating again. That's a good thing, given that he's behind the Zion Curtain, a place not exactly known for an overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking population.

He talked a bit about some of the challenges the people they are working with are facing. As missionaries get to know people, they become, unwittingly, psychologists, marriage counselors, headhunters, and confessors. It's a lot for teenagers, because by and large these are eighteen and nineteen year olds, to handle. He's seen the highs and lows of people's decisions and actions this week. He talked about how the answers people are looking for don't come easily. He mentioned the process. There's a process to getting answers, particularly to those answers that need to come from God through prayer. There's a process to exercising the necessary faith. It's not a matter of just asking. It takes some work.

He talked about the busy week he'd had. He likes being busy but I don't think he'd mind a moment to think about what's coming next. He's always a bit more at ease when he knows what's coming next. He did have time to enjoy what he called "the best torta in the world." Here it is:

One beaut' of a torta 
It sure looks good, I'll give him that. And as for the 'Pancho Villa' get up in the first picture taken at a church party, no words. I have no words. But then again, he is my son. And there are plenty of pictures of me, dressed foolishly, for many a church party. Sadly, I wasn't a twenty year old in most of them. I was 40...

20 September 2015


49 - did you know that it is the square root of the number 7? (I actually did know that, I promise.)
49 - did you that it is the atomic number of indium? (I don't even know what those words mean.)
49 - did you know that Arsenal had a 49 game unbeaten run between May 2003 and October 2004 until they lost to Manchester United?

All fascinating, no? But what's important here, and I say this sans ego, is that today is my 49th birthday. Given that the life expectancy for American males born in 1966 is 73.9 years, I am well-past middle age. I'm 2/3rds dead. My life is, at least on paper, 66% done. If I get myself no other gift today, it's that I'm not buying that garbage. It feels like yet another phase of life is just beginning.

Given that today will be spent getting religion, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I really got our celebration on yesterday. We decided to break free of the stern icy fist that Martha Stewart wields over Connecticutistan and we went over to the Hudson Valley in New York. We started our day in White Plains (Calm down, Mittites, it was not to see if Bill and Hillary were in town!) to go to the eastern-most outpost of our favorite pancake joint, the Original Pancake House. It was only appropriate to go there so I could indulge on my favorite, and most appropriately named pancake, the 49er.

The aforementioned 49 year old with the 49er
Let me just go on record and say that this is one, well three if I'm being honest, delicious pancake. After scarfing it down in a state of near nirvana, we began our trek into the Hudson Valley. We took the Taconic State Parkway and I've got to say that as far as parkways go, this one is a beaut. High praise from someone who considers driving a long distance is the 15 minute trip to the grocery/surly service/rotten produce store. We were in the Yukon-asarus which made for some interesting passing moves as we made our way to Poughkeepsie. Yes, Poughkeepsie. On purpose. Why?

For this:

That's looking south on the Hudson River from the Walkway Over The Hudson. Fashioned out of what was once a railway crossing over the Hudson between the glamour that is Poughkeepsie and Highland, New York, this is a 1.3 mile span that affords some just boss views of this amazing river. The weather was nigh unto perfect yesterday so we enjoyed the walk enormously. We wanted to capture the moment and fortunately two girls from Marist College marched right up to us and asked if we needed our picture taken. In about ten seconds, they had taken nearly a dozen pictures of us. Here's one of the better ones:

 While we were on the bridge, I discovered that the freaking Culinary Institute of America was within spitting distance in Hyde Park. It was off to the CIA. We were bummed to learned that it was mostly closed (it was Saturday after all) but being there at Food Nirvana was a borderline religious experience. I can't even speak of it without getting emotional....
Hallowed Ground
We capped the afternoon in Hyde Park at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. This was straight up fascinating! The curators have been meticulous in capturing the life of FDR and in particular, his years as President. The "Four Freedoms" speech, from January 1941, exhibition is particularly moving and worth another post, which will probably come the next time everyone's favorite megalomaniac, Donald Trump, spews something inane. Obviously we won't be waiting long. As one of the docents showed us FDR's fully preserved study, I got the chills thinking about what had been discussed 80 years ago as the President struggled to rescue the nation from economic oblivion. If only those walls could talk...

What a great day and what a great way to enter the last year before the mid-century mark! Spending with the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML...priceless. Time with her is the best gift I could have asked for.

19 September 2015

Dub(ai) Steppin'

Sun hitting the Burj Khalifa,
the world's tallest skyscraper
My professional work has afforded me the opportunity to see all sorts of places across this amazing planet. From hitting the ramen shops with Japanese 'salarymen' in Tokyo   to attending a professional soccer match (Go Palmeiras!) / urban riot in Sao Paulo and eating my weight in meat pies at an Australian rules football game in Melbourne, I've seen some really cool things. Even though sometimes all I've seen of a place is the airport, the inside of yet another bland hotel conference room, and the road to and from the airport, this opportunity to travel around the world is not something I take for granted. I've been very fortunate and I try not to get jaded. I still want to be amazed as these opportunities to see the world come my way.

This past week, I traveled to Dubai for the first time. I spent four days there and I was amazed by what I can only describe as a business fantasyland. An emirate populated with 95% expatriates, everything seems engineered to help that population forget that it's 107F outside. Fancy an afternoon of downhill skiing? You can do that at the Mall of the Emirates. Just a word on that mall...it is insane. It is populated with every high-end store you can imagine and yet the busiest, by a long shot, store in the place is Carrefour (think Wal-Mart but owned by the French). As I walked around that mall, I learned that the higher end the store, the surlier the Eastern European salesperson will be. From women covered literally from head to toe to European men in tank tops and man buns (yes, that horrific scourge has made its way to Dubai), the shoppers were a study in the extremes that is Dubai. Another example of the extreme - it's wicked hot in Dubai and the sand along the beaches can get ridiculously hot. One hotel solved that problem by cooling the sand. That's right, cooling the sand. They've built a cooling system under the sand so that their guests can walk on their beach without burning their pedicured feet. They've also placed large outdoor air conditioners at either end of the beach so that their guests feel cool breezes. Is it any wonder that, allegedly, Dubai has the world's largest carbon footprint?

Everything is just over the top in Dubai. At dinner with colleagues one night, a British expat seemed to sum it all up as she talked about her three years in the emirate. She said, "How could I work in London after this? I'll never earn what I do here. I can have a live in maid here for 400 pounds a month. My company will pay for my children's schooling here and it will be a better school than any public school in the UK. Every apartment here has a pool and a gym. Where am I going to find that in the UK? This place is a fantasy land. I know it's not like any other place. It's not reality, but how do I go back?"

She nailed it. It is a fantasy land. Yet like any fantasy, there's reality, sometimes an unpleasant one, behind it. Every morning, I read in the English language newspaper of yet another suicide of an expat worker (a Sri Lankan domestic, two Indians). There would be no Dubai were it not for these low-wage workers. And yet for every desperate worker who ends their life, there are countless numbers of their countrymen waiting to take their place. That is the sad reality.

I'm glad I finally got to Dubai and I'd go back. It's an experience like no other. It's a study in extremes. It's fantasy and harsh reality. It's Dubai.

Fancy a downhill run when it's 107F outside?


Settled into my 'pod' - the Dubai experience
starts on the EK A380

Go big

18 September 2015

Another belated update from TMFKATB

Since I spent the last six days in the bizarro world that is Dubai (more on that in an upcoming post), I was unable to get the update from TMFKATB posted.

What did he have to say? In his letter, he brought us up to speed on his new companion and the new leadership responsibilities he has. He's training a brand-new missionary and leading a group of missionaries. He's busy and really focused and that showed in his letter. I also noticed that now that he's been in an exclusively Spanish area, the syntax of his letters are becoming more Spanish-infused again. It's not as bad as when he was in Mexico but it's happening again. Can't help but smile at that. Frankly, I can't help but smile whenever I think about what he's up to during this two year period of mission service.

Perhaps it was because I was up for twenty six hours hours yesterday, fourteen of which were on an airplane, I didn't take  note of the date (17th). It was the one year anniversary of our son leaving on his mission. It's flown by. It's been an amazing experience for us. I can't even begin to detail how his service has blessed our family. I can just attest that it's been incredible and to see the changes in him, wow, just wow.

I wouldn't have it any other way. And if his second year goes as quickly as his first, he's going to be home in no time.

09 September 2015


As of today, September 9th, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I are no longer the parents of any teenagers. The Boy, or more appropriately, The Missionary Formerly Known As The Boy - TMFKATB for short - turns 20 years old today.

I'm not quite sure for whom this is a bigger deal, him or us. For us, it is certainly the end of an era. No more teenagers. All our children are, by law and by deed, adults and are doing the things young adults do. It's just weird not to have a teenager anymore. For him, I have an idea of what he may be going through. Like him, I turned 20 in the mission field and it was hard. I felt like I was now officially old (my gosh...the perspective of youth!) and had no idea what was ahead of me, other than a day of knocking doors on South Beach (yes, THAT South Beach - suffice to  say it was a far different place thirty years ago than it is today). I wonder if a Puerto Rican family will knock on his apartment door at 7:00AM like they did the day I turned 20, bearing frijoles negros and a cake? I'm thinking not.

It will be a good day for him. When the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML was behind the Zion Curtain last month, she made sure to drop off a birthday box at his mission office. He'll celebrate appropriately as a result. He always manages to have a good time no matter where he finds himself. That's one of the many things that we love about him.

Like his older sisters, he has brought us an immeasurable amount of joy. We are proud of him, not just on his birthday, but every day. I'm proud of the sacrifice he's making right now as a missionary. I know he'll be a different young man as a result when he is home in a year. It's exciting and it's an honor to watch it happen. I'm lucky to be his dad.

Happy birthday, son.

The King of Little Cottonwood Canyon

07 September 2015

Laboring as a missionary

"Stop making that face or it will stay that way." So says his mother.
Today is Labor Day, a day that celebrates the contributions of workers to improve the country and themselves. Let me just say right now we are not going to plunge into a discussion of what unions have done to the American workplace, so Mittites, calm down. This is not what this is about at all.

Rather, it's about TMFKATB as he labors behind the Zion Curtain today in the mission field. It's his P-Day, or day off, so like the rest of the country, he gets to rest from his labors for at least part of the day today. His weekly letter brought not a lot in terms of news. It's transfers this week and his companion is heading home, having completed his two years of service, so we thought we'd hear of his new assignment or a new companion but nothing yet. He might send an update at the end of his P-day later today.

He's nearly at his year mark or halfway point of his two-year service. He doesn't seem to be counting. Instead, his letters, and today's was no different, reflect a focus on what he's doing and the people he's serving. He had a bunch of questions for me about my trip last week to Mexico City. He loves the people of that country. Amazing what an impact those eight months living and serving there had on him. If he has it his way, we'll be heading down there when he gets back. There are a lot worse things you could do than hang out with your son south of the border, eating tacos and taking it all in from his perspective.

I hope by then I will have regained my cast iron stomach. It was a thing of legend and has served me well, allowing me to savor the flavors of the world, literally, with nary a care for, oh I don't know, things like cleanliness or what the meat I was ingesting really was. Dog? Pigeon? It really didn't matter. Well, apparently now that I am solidly middle aged, that stomach has thrown in the towel. Suffice to say, things have not been pretty since I got back from Mexico City. I blame the removal of my gall bladder last year, which is stupid, since it's a useless organ that you don't need. So, I have just over a year to pull it together and get my stomach back to fighting condition. This is going to be fun.

06 September 2015

On Mexico City

El Angel de la Independencia
As noted in my excuse for posting the letter from TMFKATB, I spent all last week in Mexico City for work. Can I just go on record on how much I enjoy this sprawling, chaotic world capital? It's an amazing place. It is a place that never disappoints and that was certainly the case again this trip.

The days were long and busy, but when you are working with some really great people and have a view like the one in the picture to the left, you get by. My company's office tower sits on the Plaza de la Reforma, one of the main drags in the city, and overlooks the famed statue, El Angel de la Independencia. Meetings took me to different parts of the city and it was fascinating to take it all in.

It is city, like many big metropolises, where every street, every corner tells a different story. Perhaps due to TMFKATB eight months living in this country, I was a little more sensitive to what was going on around me. This was particularly true as I walked through the area around my hotel each night. This led to dinner one night at an amazing Yucatanese restaurant and then on my last night there, a gorging dinner at my favorite taco joint in the whole of the city, El Caminero. The tacos there are about a buck a piece and they are nothing like the "tacos" one gets at Whack in the Crack for .99 a piece. No, the ones at El Caminero are, unlike those from the aforementioned Whack, in fact delicious and are not a lump of carne misteriosa that looks more like a sebaceous cyst in a sealed shell. They are amazing.

I was the only Americano at el Caminero the night I ate there and I loved taking in a futbol match on the TV with several other patrons. It was fun to talk with them about the game and to have them ask me if I was Cuban (my DNA may say otherwise but in my soul, I'd like to think si, soy un poco Cubano). As I spent time there and with my Mexican colleagues, I was reminded of the many letters from TMFKATB speaking of his love for this people. I get it.

Speaking of TMFAKTB, while he was still serving in Tuxtla Gutierrez, he sent us a picture of some cookies that he insisted we had to try. Over the next few months, we tried to find them everywhere, except of course here in the state in which we live because we live under the iron fist of Martha Stewart and there's no way that would be allowed. No way. Anyway, after a tear through several straight out of Mexico markets in the Phoenix-area, I was told that the maker did not import that specific cookie to the States. So my only mission on this trip, besides El Caminero, was to find those friggin' cookies. I tried for three days and every tienda or bodega I went into did not have them. Finally, on my fourth and final night, in a driving rainstorm in which the side streets of Mexico City turned to rivers, I went into an OXXO and there they were - the last two bags of said cookies in the whole place. Here's the proof:
Mission Accomplished!
They really are good, by the way. One package will make it's way behind the Zion Curtain to a certain young man here sooner rather than later.

As I left Friday morning, I got a little emotional in the Mexico City Airport as they repeated the final boarding call for the first flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez no fewer than four times. I thought of what was going through The Boy's mind nearly one year ago when he first stepped foot in that same airport awaiting a flight to Tuxtla. He was a brand-new missionary, barely speaking a word of Spanish. He called us one final time from that airport that day and it was safe to say he was a little overwhelmed. What a difference a year makes! The eight months he was in Mexico will benefit him the rest of his life.

And I, for one, am looking forward to years of playing "Whose Spanish is Better?" with him. Bring it on!

05 September 2015

On not blogging from an iPhone

I returned last night from a five day business trip to Mexico City. It was a great week where I was able to pay righteous homage to the wonder of the street taco (more on that for another post, no doubt). It's safe to say I love me some Mexico City.

My week there did point out the one flaw in my decision to ditch the iPad for my iPhone 6+. Turns out it makes for one craptastic platform for blogging.  I tried to get the weekly update from TMFKATB posted but that didn't go well for a host of reasons, like these:

  • My fat fingers made typing out his letter an invitation to early onset arthritis
  • My unwillingness to pay international data roaming charges made it difficult to post at will. As information, playing the game of "Gambling for Free WiFi" in Mexico City is a losing proposition
As I look at those two examples, I think I may have been too hasty in blaming the iPhone for the blogging challenges of the last week. I think it may be a bit more of a case of user error. I'm not shocked by that turn of events, to be honest.

What was not shocking was this week's letter from TMFKATB. He and his companion had a good week, with opportunities for service and teaching. He was really happy with the fact that they had met this goals they had set for themselves during the week. As someone who has had the chance to serve in two missions, TMFKATB is gaining a different perspective. He shared this:

In Mexico, I got humbled by people's situations, but even here there are many families that have had, or are having, super tough lives. It's not all perfect here in the U.S. Most just try to work and help their families in other countries.

It's not perfect anywhere, for sure. There's something powerful in recognizing that your own country in spite of being tough, is still a beacon of hope for so many from all over the world. I wonder what would happen if a certain bigoted blowhard megalomaniac who is currently headlining the U.S.  Republican clown car race presidential campaign spent a day with the TMFKATB and his companion. He might learn something. Ah, who am I kidding...