27 October 2015

Not the Three Tenors

Three missionaries and a family of three
With this week's letter from TMFKATB, he filled us in on what it's like to be training two missionaries at the same time. It is something of an unusual situation, as typically Mormon missionaries work in pairs (because you've seen two of them at your door or two of them on their bikes), or companionships as they are known in the vernacular of the Church. That is, as I said, the typical situation and, of course, TMFKATB finds himself on the outside of typical.

Six weeks ago, he started training a brand-new missionary. Normally that training lasts for two transfers, as these six weeks period are known. Last week, TMFKATB learned he'd be training again - another brand-new missionary - but that young man would join as a third. So the duo becomes a trio. The Three Tenors they are not. But just as Jose, Placido, and Luciano had to learn their voices, these three are learning to do the same. They are learning to blend their voices (in another language) and their styles of teaching as well as their desires to serve their fellowman. As he put it, "It's going to be interesting." I'm confident he'll make it work.

As I've noted before, it's been quite an experience as a father to be taught by my son as he serves this two-year mission. He and I were going back and forth about a challenge (albeit a minor one) that has been vexing me and out of nowhere, he popped off with the following:

Maybe God just wants to work even harder than you are to do this. You can do much harder things. You got this. Think positive.

He didn't cure cancer with that statement, nor did he explain why the awful Kardashians are a thing (only Satan himself can do that). What he did was state simply what I needed to hear. Am I ever glad for the simple things!

25 October 2015


As we grow older, I've heard it said that less and less seems to bother us. As I continue the march through middle-agedness (T minus 11 months to 50!), I'd like to think that this is true of me. I really would like to, but as it turns out I'm not quite there in my progress. There's still plenty of inconsequential stuff that gets me all kinds of ragey.

The latest? The details don't really matter and besides that, I can't figure out a way to describe it without revealing too many details of the lame situation. OK, I'll give you this...would it kill you to move a couple of chairs and pick up a few crushed Cheerios? Although I'm being intentionally vague, I can tell you that it was those set of circumstances that set me off yesterday and carried into my Sunday morning.

I suppose I should wonder about my state of mind if some crushed cereal bits and misplaced chairs were enough to get me ragey. I'm evolved enough to recognize that and so it got me thinking. I genuinely had no reason to let something so small upset me and as I thought about it, I realized I'd ceded all control to the situation. I'd let something of zero consequence upset me. If this had been a war-time battle, and I were a leader, and I reacted in the same way, I would have already lost the war. I'd rather not live my life, taking the losing position. I'd really rather just take the high road.

Joshua Lederberg once said, "All of civility depends on being able to contain the rage of individuals." What wise words from a Nobel prize winning molecular biologist! I also found some wisdom from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament:

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city
that is broken down, and without walls. ~ Proverbs 25:28 

19 October 2015


It's a basement, not a coal mine, but
well-played on the hard hat!
One never knows what surprises the weekly letter from TMFKATB will bring. While he was in Mexico, it was a lot of wondering how graphic will this week's description of his stomach ailment be. Life behind the Zion Curtain has been a little different. This week's letter had a couple of surprises in it.

First, there was the whole "Working in a Coal Mine" (name that band in three, two, one...) motif in the picture. It's a basement, not a coal mine, so not sure why he had the miner's hard hat going, but good for him. A chunk of his time the past week was helping someone build a room from the ground up in a basement (drywall, sheetrock, mudding - the whole nine yards). He said it was a lot of fun, but wore him and his companion out.

He then talked about a random invitation to someone in a McDonalds turned into another opportunity to serve and teach. Then he relates how David Archuleta came and spoke / sang at a mission conference. The biggest surprise? TMFKATB really liked the guy. While you serve as a Mormon missionary, you're media intake is drastically different than when you were a 'civilian.' Turns out that the dulcet tones of one Mr. David Archuleta can have an impact on a musically savvy twenty year old. So today's letter really was a grab bag of things.

As I read it over again, I see how his experience building the room in the basement serves as a metaphor for the building that's occurring in his life right now. As he serves, he is learning and building his character in ways that will serve him well for the rest of his life. He's building on experience after experience that he will draw on as he continues to mature and takes on life once he returns from his mission service. I'd call that priceless.

17 October 2015

Presenting Our Baby Jane

Our Grandbaby Jane
In 1962, an American film about two not aging well has-been actresses, starring two not aging well leading ladies whose collective celebrity had long since gone the way of, oh I don't know, the Titanic, was foisted on the public. The two leading ladies? Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, just a couple of broads who detested each other, both of whom would later be remembered for their highly questionable approach to motherhood. The movie, you ask?

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

If you've not seen it, you need to. It is a tour de force in scenery chewing. Seriously, it's an 11 on the over-the-top meter. We're talking DefCon 5, but seeing a completely nutty Bette Davis still thinking she's her child star alter ego, Baby Jane, is pretty funny stuff. Her Jane is a train wreck.

That's scary.
See what I mean? She a mess.

So why the 'Baby Jane' references? Because we now have our own Jane and she is perfect!

Our granddaughter was born yesterday, October 16th, entering the world just before 1PM, weighing 8 lbs., 3 oz., and measuring 19 inches long. She came in a pound lighter and two inches shorter than her brother, so the delivery for her mother, Our Lady Of Awesome, was a whole lot easier (spoken like a man who A) was not even there and B) has never experienced childbirth, so my editorializing is 100% worthless).  Our sweet Jane also came into the world with a whole lot more hair than her brother did. She came into this world with three generations of mothers waiting for her: her mother, her grandmother, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, and her great-grandmother. Although she won't remember it, Jane has been already been so richly blessed by having the three of them in the room as she was born. These amazing women will be Jane's examples, support and they will love her fiercely. Also waiting right there was her father. He will be her protector, her shoulder to cry on, and he will love her just as fiercely. Jane's brother, at two years and change, seems pretty fine with her arrival. He will soon wonder why she can't play with him yet and why he is not allowed to push the baby swing like it's a battering ram (this may take some delicate negotiating on the part of his parents). He'll soon be the one to not let any bully mess with his sister. He will love her fiercely.

I won't get to meet our sweet Jane for another two weeks (curse you, stupid, stupid work commitments!). For her, though, that's probably for the best. Let her get adjusted to this new world before Grandpa shows up, crying uncontrollably at the sight of his new granddaughter (the crying is a lock, so why pretend it's not going to happen?). Also, since 'indoor voices' is a concept I'm not a big fan of, at least she'll have had two weeks preparation before I turn up.

In the meantime, I'll just revel in pictures like these that are coming fast and furious:
Mother and daughter,
heart to heart
Sweet Jane, working the Utah do' rag

Welcome, sweet Jane, to our family. We are so glad you are here. Our joy is overflowing!

14 October 2015


Let's talk briefly about labor. Not the labor associated with Labor Day, rather the labor that precedes the birth of a baby.

My firstborn, Our Lady of Awesome, is due to deliver her second baby in the next few days. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I will become grandparents for the second time. Suffice to say, we are excited. SML has already made her way to the Zion Curtain and will be there when the baby arrives.

It seems only appropriate that mother and daughter are together during this most momentous event. To call it a shared experience seems like a bit of an understatement. I remember being at my wife's side as she went into labor at the Utah Valley Regional Birthing Bonanza for the first time when she delivered our first-born daughter. I had never seen such strength (it put any moment of male strength to shame), nor had I seen such immediate radiant love the moment that little girl was placed in her arms. That moment confirmed what kind of a mother she would be and I knew she would be there for her daughter and the other children that would come and she has been. She'll be there to share some of that strength she mustered all those years ago when she labored to deliver the daughter she'll be supporting in just a couple of days. They will share that strength.

"There is a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful.
It's that women are strong." - Laura Stavoe Harm

That strength is amazing. It is inspiring. It binds mother and child. It is love. It is incredible.

12 October 2015


Bandera de Mexico Man
Sometimes a paucity of words can be a good thing. Sometimes when someone is brief, it's nothing to get worked up about. A brevity of words doesn't have to mean someone is getting rude. It can just be that the message needs to be concise. Why bury something in a whole lot of subterfuge?

Apparently, brevity was the theme of this week's letter from TMFKATB. He wasted no time in getting to the point of his letter:

I am super happy!

There wasn't a lot more to his letter than that. A couple of informational updates on some of the people he's working with and the random fact that he's going to be building a basement this week constituted the whole of this week's download.

I'm not complaining at all. As his dad, knowing he's happy is all I need. He's happy teaching people. He's happy building basements. He's happy in the heat of an Indian summer.

In the end, isn't that what we want for one another? That we're happy.

Very little is needed to make a happy life;
it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
Marcus Aurelius

As a final note on happiness, take a look at the video TMFAKTB sent from a Fiesta de las Americas he attended. The kid in the hat will make you smile.

11 October 2015


Where was everyone's favorite editor and pilot of
a balloon-propelled house on Friday night?
This past Friday night, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I found ourselves in front of the television, in a most Norman Rockwellian manner, watching a program that wasn't being DVR'ed. We were actually watching it at its regularly scheduled time. What show, you ask? The Amazing Race, thank you very much. We are long time 'Race' fans and since it's been relegated to TV's graveyard, Friday night, we try to watch it at the appointed hour as much as possible. As we watched this latest episode, I took to the Twitters to make an snarky comment observation about one of the racers. In said tweet, I pointed out that the racer was this season's tool. It quickly got a few favorites and retweets and that was that. On Saturday, I noticed someone had responded to my Tweet and made an even snarky remark about the tool/racer and by later that day, I had inadvertently gotten into a loop of Tweets involving three of the current season's racers, including one who has already been very vocal about his dislike of the guy I had referenced. He wanted to point out that everyone was cool and that it was all #editing.

Of course it's editing. The masterminds behind this show, and pretty much any other reality show, know exactly how to manipulate their audiences through all manner of tools, but in reality programming, editing is a 'killer' app. Editing turns a nice guy into a tool. Editing turns a stumble into a disaster of epic proportions. Editing turns the Kardashians into decent people...wait, I have to stop there. No editing software, nor an editor with all the experience in the world, even the great 'Lou Grant' could do that.

This little Twitter kerfuffle got me to thinking about the concept of editing and the role it plays here in the Den. The point of editing is to correct, condense and organize a work so that you deliver a consistent, complete, and accurate work. It also helps that it's something people want to read / see / hear, etc.. As the writer and editor of this little piece of real estate on the interwebs, I endeavor to deliver a 'warts and all' view of my life. I mean I've subjected you to my gout, my gall bladder surgery and enough tales about the travails of middle-aged physicals to give any one thinking of medical school about 189 reasons to rethink their career choices. I've been upfront about those moments when I've not been the greatest husband and where I'm not winning #fatheroftheyear too. Does that mean I've told all? Heck no, techno. Just like the editors on any good reality program, I can cut things as needed and I do. Seriously, I do (although I'll just go ahead and apologize now for the fact that I have a physical at the end of this month so there will be some kind of overshare coming).

Personal blogging is a funny thing. You are inviting the world into your life. I'm not in it for an opportunity to make money; hence no sponsored posts or ads. Nor am I in it to promote an agenda (take it easy, my Mittite friends). I'm not here to portray a life where everything is sunshine and roses. So why do I do it? I'm realizing more and more that I'm a storyteller and this place is where I choose to tell / share those stories.

I said that I'm not here to portray a life where everything is sunshine and roses. That's not my life. But  it's a pretty darn good life, no matter how it's edited. I may not have the irascible Lou Grant as an editor, but I'm going to continue to do my best to deliver on tales from that life.

05 October 2015

Doing a solid

After a solid tennis set today
Getting today's letter from TMFKATB was a major relief, if for nothing else because it relieved me from hour seven of the Broken Tankless Water Heater drama that enveloped our home here in the 'Stan today. More on that later...

The past week was a big one for TMFKATB and his companion. They saw a family that they have been teaching make a significant commitment through the ordinance of baptism and it was, in his words, 'awesome.' Not even a shredded white shirt (accident while helping some people move) a few hours before brought him down that day. He got creative, cutting off the sleeves but still wearing the shirt under his suit coat. His late grandfather did the same thing when he was a waiter / bartender (For reals! For those of you that knew my dad - that's a little known and basically impossible to believe tidbit - he tended bar.) at the Grand Canyon's North RimHe and his buddies cut the sleeves off their white shirts to stay cool in the summer while wearing their required serving jackets. Genius!

Given that he is serving behind the Zion Curtain, TMFKATB and his companion were able to attend a session of the Church's General Conference this weekend. While disappointed he didn't get a seat in the skyboxes (because there are none), he enjoyed the opportunity to be there surrounded by his Spanish-speaking friends and companions. He's having some experiences that one would not have thought possible safely ensconced along the Zion Curtain. As he put it, it's all solid. He's doing a solid.

Speaking of doing a solid, it's a well-known fact that I am no handyman. I'm not. My idea of being handy around the house is the ability to write a check to the repairman who will do me the solid of fixing junk at my house. I mean I am more comfortable with Nurse Ratched than I am a ratchet set. My attempts at home repair have typically ended badly, usually involving open wounds (my own) and a furry of super-fun cursing. So when I turned on the hot water to shave before showering (yeah, that's how I roll) this morning and all I got was a whole lot of cold, I sensed things were not going to end well. No hot water emerged for my shave and there was nothing but a freezing stream of cold water making its way out of the shower head. So after a quick spit shine, it was time to figure out the problem. Given that we have a tankless water heater that literally has a mother board controlling it, this was not going to be simple. So I determined to just call a plumber / coder. Long story short, when the only plumber qualified to work on our one step away from a robot water heater said he couldn't get to us for a week, it was game on. I was going to figure this out. I am delighted to report that ten hours after the drama began, hot water was restored to the Den. I did not do it on my own. Thanks to some guy who had the misfortune of taking my call on the manufacturer's 800 number, all was once again well in the world. And here's the thing...no open wounds (tools, albeit none were power, were used) and not even a mild curse word. It was a swear word-free affair. Maybe I've turned a corner.

All I know is that I'm going to go jump in the shower now. It better be hot. If it's not, I suspect that the cursing will be a little more than mild.

03 October 2015

How Many More?

When will we tire of this?
Another day, another mass shooting here in the United States. Ten dead, including the perpetrator, in another senseless mass shooting at yet another school.

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate?

Another shooter who fits an all too familiar refrain. Loner, entrenched in the Internet and all that lurks within its infinite, murky well, fascinated by other similar murderous acts. And yet those that know these shooters all say, "I'm shocked." "Never saw it coming."

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate?

Our elected representatives all follow the same script in the wake of this madness. They take to social media and declare their sympathy for the victims and their willingness to pray for those who have been lost. This is their 'action.' Kudos on your hollow actions. Thanks for taking the time to send a tweet. Call me crazy, but I don't see how a Tweet is an act of absolution for your collective cowardice and unwillingness to address this insanity.

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate?

I guess it's easier to fixate on what a former child star turned epic skank is not going to wear when she hosts "Saturday Night Live" tonight than how we can address this madness.
I guess it's easier to play a parlor game of "What Will The Megalomaniac Donald Say Today" than to address the mental health crisis in our country that is a key driver of these killings.
I guess it's easier to ignore the fact that our children are being taught how to survive a mass shooting from their earliest days in elementary school than it is to question why anyone should be allowed to have a full-on weapons depot in their basement.

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate?

Given our track record, there seems to be no limit. When will we tire of it? When will we do something to make it stop?

"This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America." President Obama