28 December 2016

My Year in Books - My 2016 Favorite Reads

2016, you've been a bugger of a year. From the election of a tiny-handed, bigoted, xenophobic, mentally unstable, Tweet-baiting megalomaniac as Fuhrer President of the United States to the untimely deaths of icons from my growing up years (Prince, Carrie Fisher, George Michael) to ongoing mayhem in the Middle East and the drama of Brexit, 2016 has been a bit of a suckfest.

One of my escapes from the cavalcade of crap that has been 2016 has been books. Books are transformative. Books are enlightening. Books are instructive. Books have been a relief. In that context, you'd think I'd read a slew of fiction to make my escape complete. In fact, it's been quite the opposite. Of the 38 books I read in 2016, only one was fiction and it was pretty "meh" for me. The other 37 were non-fiction. Aside from a couple of misses, they were all awfully good reads. For your consideration (or not), here are my Top 10 Reads of 2016:

10) Alexander Hamilton /  by Ron Chernow - Admittedly I was late to the game on this one, but man was it worth the wait. At 818 pages, no one is going to call this light reading. It was a fascinating  study of a flawed but brilliant man. Interestingly, as an immigrant were he alive today, Hamilton's experiences would be completely different and not in a good way.

9) The Wright Brothers / by David McCullough - 113 years ago, man took flight on the North Carolina shores. In his biography of the Wright Brothers, McCullough paints a very unexpected picture of the two unassuming men that made flight - something we take for granted - a reality.

8) American Heiress / by Jeffrey Toobin - I was about eight years old when a young woman called Patty Hearst was kidnapped and her name was splashed across newspapers and televisions across America. I can remember bits and pieces of that coverage even today. Since her pardon, outside of her own writings, Hearst hasn't had much to say about her experience. This was a fascinating trip into the mess that was the kidnapping and her conversion (or not). It was something of a metaphor of the 70's in general.

7) The Boys in the Bunkhouse / by Dan Barry - This was a deeply unsettling read (Social Justice Warrior Alert). It chronicles the lives of a group of mentally disabled men who were essentially sold into slavery (eviscerating turkeys) just a few years ago. The story of those who worked to free them is powerful but ultimately I was left shaking my head, asking how could this have happened in our nation?

6) Grunt / by Mary Roach - Science, especially the study of it, and I are not friends. We are not even frenemies. However, if it's a science-related topic in the hands of Mary Roach, I will read it all day long. She could write the Yellow Pages (a telephone book - a book that has everyones' telephone number listed in it - oh forget it) and I would read it. Her previous books on death, sex, and our guts are funny and you learn junk. This look at the science of war/warfare was no different.

5) Another Day in the Death of America / by Gary Younge - This was a deeply disturbing look (Social Justice Warrior Alert) at the deaths of ten young Americans on November 23, 2013. They all died by gunfire. These children, ranging age from nine to 19, died in shootings that barely merited attention in their local news because our country has become so desensitized to the madness of gun violence. Younge puts a face on the effects of our gun culture and that face isn't particularly attractive.

4) Hillbilly Elegy / by J. D. Vance - As much a very personal memoir as a window into the culture of America's mostly broken working class, this was a riveting read. It is a case study in Modern America. I'm certain it will be cited by historians in the coming years when they try to explain 2016.

3) Disrupted / by Dan Lyons - Let me first say that I am no relation to the author. We share a last name and an abundance of gray hair. I only wish I shared his funny, insightful writing style. Lyons recounts his work at a Boston startup where he was, essentially, the only adult in the room. He spins a tale of what happens when every child is told they are a very special snowflake and how that plays out in the working world. Spoiler Alert - it's not pretty but in Lyons' hands, it's excruciatingly funny.

2) The Last Goodnight / by Howard Blum - I am fascinated by the history of World War II and this one was literally a book I could not put down. It's the story of an American woman, a Mata Hari to be sure, who spied for both the Americans and the English, and her actions were vital to key wins for the Allied forces. It was an unbelievable story and yet it happened, and it made for an unbelievably good read.

1) Evicted / by Matthew Desmond - Wow, just wow! This book was a gut wrenching look at American poverty (Social Justice Warrior Alert) through the lens of eviction. I found myself having to put the book down from time to time in order to breathe. Throughout the book, I asked myself time and again how would I handle the circumstances of those Desmond chronicled. It was thought-provoking and disturbing. Like "Hillbilly Elegy," this book will be cited time and again in years to come. It's that important.

So there you have it. My favorite reads of 2016. My reading list for 2017 doesn't look like it is going to deviate much from this year's pattern. If there's a non-fiction book that rocked your world, I'd love to know about it. Let me know.

Read on, people, read on!

27 December 2016

28

Let's talk about 28.

28 is the second perfect number.
28 is the sum of the totient function for the first nine integers. (I swear on all that is holy that I have no idea what anything in that statement means - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that I was an English major!)
28 is the atomic mass of silicon.
And here is today's fun fact: 28 is the average number of days that concrete needs to cure and is also the average number of days of the human menstrual cycle. Connection? I'll let you ponder that at your own risk, of course.

28 is also the number of years that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I have been married as of this day. It is our anniversary today.  We spent the bulk of the day apart, as I had to be in my Manhattan office for meetings and she had to be in Costco, which is pretty much her favorite place. So if we had to be apart, we were both pretty happy with where our choices took us.

I was able to get home in time for dinner - a dinner that our two children who are home this week made for us. Nothing says 'romantic' like having your 24 and 21 year old children sitting next to you during your anniversary dinner. It's a good thing I'm essentially bereft of any romantic notion. Otherwise, it would have been really awkward trying to whisper sweet nothings over The RM to my wife.

We've made it another year - 28 and counting. Our three children represent the best of what we've managed to do together in all these years. They're all right if you ask me. Who knows what the next year or twenty eight will bring, but I'm just glad I've got the best partner I could have ever asked for to take it on.

26 December 2016

24

Let's talk about 24.

No, not the Fox series of old (and soon to be rebooted). Nor the fact that there are 24 hours in a day. Nor the fact that the number 24 is is the only nontrivial solution to the cannonball problem. In a shock to no one, I have absolutely no idea what that problem is. None.

Instead let's talk about the fact that we have a Den member turning 24 today. It's CAL's birthday and we are lucky to be together today. It's nice to have her here to celebrate and even nicer that we got to spend it in one of her favorite cities - New York. One of the benefits of life behind the Connecticutistan Curtain is the ability to slip from underneath it (it helps that our iron-gloved overlord, Martha Stewart, is presently distracted by her dalliance in the form of a cooking show with Snoop Dogg Lion) and make our way to either NYC or Boston.

New York City the day after Christmas is not for the faint of heart, especially if you find yourself in Midtown, which we did towards the end of our day. First, though, we started our day at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum as CAL had not yet seen the Museum and that was top o'her list. If ever I am not moved as I visit that sacred place, please find the person who bought my soul and try and get it back. I was stunned this time by one of the things I had missed in previous visits and maybe I'll talk about that in a later post. Suffice to say, it took my breath away.

After that, it was time to celebrate CAL's birthday with a little indulgence in the form of the goodness that is available at the Momofuku Milk Bar. Their six layer birthday cake looked awesome but they don't sell slices - only the whole cake for $42, so birthday cake pop truffles were the order of the day. This location of the Bar is on 56th between 5th and 6th, smack in the middle of Fuhrer Trump's lockdown area (our cab driver was not happy with the blocked streets as it is impacting his ability to get into very busy and popular areas -given that he was of Arab descent I suspect the Fuhrer could care less about the impact on this man's ability to earn a living), so we knew we wouldn't be getting a cab anywhere near  there to get us back to Tribeca. CAL wanted to see the Tree at Rockefeller Center anyway and the crowds on 5th Avenue were teeming. We got as close to the Tree as we could - close enough for this picture:

Then we made our way over to 6th Avenue into a crowd of people that can only be described as "Tourists As Far As The Eye Can See." Most were clambering to get to Radio City to see the Rockettes, while all we wanted to do was get to a subway station. Fortunately, we made it and on the F and C trains we went. After a three borough tour (Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens), which is what happens when you accidentally wind up on the Brooklyn Bridge instead of the FDR (don't ask), we were on our way home.

It's been a good day. We are fortunate and blessed that our now 24 year old was happy to celebrate her day with us. We are even more fortunate to be her parents.

Happy birthday, CAL!

25 December 2016

On Christmas

Our Tree
As our Christmas Eve celebration drew to a close last night, The RM announced that the Christmas morning festivities would begin promptly at 8:00AM. He was as serious about that statement as I've ever seen him. Since he was a wee one, he has been our primary Elf on Christmas day and apparently after two years of missing out on his duties, he was prepared to take them most seriously.

Sufficiently warned, we took to our beds, thinking we'd close our eyes for just a moment in order to do the things Santa proxies do. We were wrong, as that moment turned into a full night's sleep. I awoke and did my Sunday morning thing, including two crosswords, a shave and a shower, when it dawned on me that A) we'd not done our duty as Santa proxies and the tree was looking pretty barren and 2) it was uncomfortably close to 8:00AM. I roused the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML from her slumber and we quickly got things taken care of before The RM woke up.

He woke up shortly before the appointed hour and he was immediately agitated concerned that not every one was manning their battle stations, as it were. We woke CAL and we proceeded downstairs to first see what had made its way into our stockings (Poo Pouri was a big hit with one of us! Guess who?). Then our six year old, I mean twenty one year old, insisted we get to the main event - the opening of the presents. Although he ceded the "Elf" role (gift distributor) to me because I was closest to the tree, he directed it (my pacing was no good so I think I will not be reprising my role). Even as a young adult, his reactions were classic. For CAL, most of her gifts were shipped to her place behind the Zion Curtain - lots of things to stock your new adult world. For the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I, the joy of Christmas came in having two-thirds of our children with us. It has been simply wonderful. Simply wonderful.

As we gathered at Church later in the day for a brief service, I ruminated over the the third verse of the carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,"

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

and I was saddened that there is little peace in our world and hate is strong and sadly is only going to get stronger under the hate-based regime of the newly elected Fuhrer President of the United States, but I did see hope today. I saw it in my children, sat beside my wife and I as we worshipped. I saw it in the joy we felt as we opened our presents this morning. I saw it earlier this week as we relished being surrounded by dear friends during an all too quick visit to Chicago. Also earlier this week, I saw so much good as people from near and far rallied to help another dear friend find her missing father (delighted to report that it turned out beautifully).

So, yes, there is good in this world and there is yet reason to hope. Merry Christmas, my friends.

We missed these guys, but they're having a sweet Christmas
celebration behind the Zion Curtain

24 December 2016

On Christmas Eve

The ghosts of Joan Rivers and Rabbi Krustovsky are a touch of genius!
It's Christmas Eve. It is on this night that we prepare to celebrate the birth of...well, let's see what Bart Simpson had to say about it:

"Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know...the birth of Santa."

Suffice to say, Bart missed the mark on that one. But who can blame him? In our consumption soaked society, the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ, is, at best, an afterthought.

His birth for millions around the world is not an afterthought. It truly is the reason for the season. Tonight families and friends will gather in churches, in homes, or wherever to honor Him and prepare further for Christmas Day. In Little Havana, pigs that have been slow roasting for days in backyard pits will shortly appear on plates, laden with yuca, frijoles negros, and plantains and those people feasting will celebrate loudly and joyously. As a result, Christmas Day is the quietest day of the year in Miami. In our home, we dined on brisket and roasted green beans among other good things. We didn't celebrate as loudly as my Cuban friends but we did rejoice. Two of our children are home with us and it has literally been years since that has happened.

For that and so many other things, we are especially grateful this Christmas Eve. No matter how you celebrate, may this Eve be a special one in the lead up to an even better day tomorrow.

19 December 2016

To the DLT Triumvirate

No, not that DLT
@mcdonalds.wikia.org
A long time ago, in a kinder, gentler America, one not choking on the specter of soon being led by a nepotistic, tiny-handed spelling challenged megalomaniac who happens to own what may be the worst restaurant in this great country (as a reminder, this IS a great country), a restaurant you may have heard of, McDonalds, decided that we, the eating public, had had enough of lettuce and tomatoes getting warm on its burgers. So they foisted upon us the McDLT (presented above in its environmentally friendly polystyrene glory). It was in a word a failure, with a capital "F." For those of you who remember tasting it, you know why. If you don't, count your blessings.

I flashed back on the DLT this past Saturday when the mighty fine and stunningly patient SML and I went to see "Collateral Beauty." It was either that or "Rogue One," which was not an option really, as I owed her a 'chick flick.' Without giving it all away (Spoiler Alert: watch any of the treacle featured on the Hallmark Channel and you'll know the entire outcome of the movie in the first seven minutes), the protagonist, played by a weepy Will Smith, writes letters to Death, Love, and Time (DLT). That got me thinking and I've penned a few thoughts of my own to the DLT Triumvirate. Here you go:

DEATH
Like taxes, unless you are *smart* like our Precedent-oops, I mean President-elect, you, death, are as unavoidable as you are inevitable. You are the one constant in the life of every.single.person.ever. Ever. That's nothing to sneer at. You hold every one of us at bay, with your uncanny ability to strike most of us with complete surprise. That's funny because we all know who you are and that you will take us. But, for most of us, we don't know when you are going to make that snatch and grab and that makes life, well, interesting. I'm sometimes envious of those who know you are coming for them. They have time (I'll get to you, Time, shortly) to prepare, to get their houses in order, to say what still needs to be said. I think that uncertainty is one of the reasons so many people fear you. I'm not one of those people though. That's not to say I'm living each day as if it is my last. I can't live that way. There's still too much to live for. That is how I choose to face you, living this life as best I can, in spite of knowing that you're gunning (bad, bad pun) for me. Also, I have faith in what awaits after this life. It's pretty darn good. In the end, Death, this life is not some weird version of "Logan's Run." I know you'll get me at some point, but I've outrun you, living this life as best I can.

LOVE
Ah, Love. You've been awfully darn good to me, in spite of the fact that I have adamantly refused to celebrate the fraud that is Valentine's Day, wherein we are supposed to honor you. First, a birth mother who loved me enough to let me go. Second, parents who brought me into their home and loved me from the moment I was introduced to them at the wise old age of two days. You then jerked me around a bit in high school, as you do most of us, making me think I was the good guy from a John Hughes film (most of you have seen my high school pictures - you know this was epically delusional on my part). Then you introduced me to the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and that was it. Mic drop. Then came three children and you redefined yourself, becoming something so powerful and unbreakable that I still don't completely understand it after twenty-six years of being a father. Then, just to make things really interesting, you brought out the big guns with the arrival of our grandchildren and redefined yourself. Again. I gotta say, I like how things have turned out with you, Love. You've done really well by me.

TIME
You're a bit like Death, aren't you, Time? You never go away either. You're always looming around, but you're a bit more present than your partner in crime, Death. There are reminders of you everywhere. On my wrist. On my phones. On every device I have, there you are, ticking away. Why then, if you are everywhere, are you so scarce? Why do we wish there was more of you? Why do we regret wasting you? Maybe it's because we know you are there and you seem finite. There are 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, 365 days in year and we know that we've got stuff to do within those parameters. Because we know that when Death decides to make its move on us, you are done with us. Time as we know stops then. So, with the time we have here, we have things to do. Ironically, as we have you, Time, looming over us knowing that Death is coming for us at some point, we can miss out on the joys of the third part of the DLT Triumvirate, Love. That's what makes you tricky, Time. Figuring out how to make the most of you in this life is one of my biggest challenges. Thanks for that, Time.

Whether we like it or not, the DLT plays a critical part in each of our lives. Make the most of them. Let's just be grateful it's not the McDLT.

10 December 2016

A square to spare

It didn't end well for Elaine.
Earlier this week as I got off my commuter chariot of choice, the Metro North, and shuffled into the Main Concourse at Grand Central, I took a moment to A) count my blessings that I no longer commute through the snarling, gaping maw of Hell that is Stankfest Penn Station {if there is a skeevier rail station on the planet, please share} and B) how beautiful the Main Concourse was adorned in its Christmas finery. My reverie was interrupted by a homeless man bellowing "Merry f!&@in' Christmas" to the hundreds of commuters who poured past him. At that moment, I knew it was going to be a good day.

It was a good day until it got weird. As noted, I work in Midtown and am a glorious five minute walk from Grand Central. Now Midtown is dotted with towers reaching to the sky, some gleaming brilliantly in their newness and others are, well, a bit worse for wear. I happen to work in one of those towers that if you saw it, you'd suddenly start singing, "The old gray mare ain't what she used to be"or you'd think to yourself, extending the horse metaphor, "She's been rode hard and put away wet."

My building has been through it and one need look no further than our restroom facilities for the pungent proof of how things were in restroom design {Spoiler Alert - they weren't good} when the building first opened, given that nothing has changed since that fateful day. It was in one of those facilities where things got weird. Even before I got to the door, the noxious odors emanating from the Palace of Relief suggested several people had made poor lunch decisions. Upon entering and seeing that all the stalls were ocupado, the poor decision making hunch was confirmed. Fortunately, my needs were not stall-related, so I was able to do what I needed to fairly quickly. I then made my way to the sinks that are so close to the stalls that one cannot enter/exit said stall without knocking into whoever is at the sinks. That's super awesome. While washing my hands repeatedly, not because I'm OCD but because that bathroom is a HazMat incident gone awry, I heard this from the stall behind me.

"Sir, excuse me, sir. Please, can you help me?"

Of all the things one might ever hear in a public restroom, this has got to be one of the things you really hope not to hear. Given that the crack in the stall door was wide enough for said assistance seeker to see me, there was no way I could feign ignorance nor could I visibly grimace. So it was that I responded.

"Um, sure, what do you need?" 'Please be a heart attack, please be a heart attack' is what I was thinking (I know. I know. I'm going to Hell but I was really concerned about the alternatives.).

"Sir, there is no toilet paper in here. I really need some toilet paper. I'm really sorry. I usually check. But I didn't and I really need some toilet paper. Can't you please help me?"

I instantly had to silence a laugh and bite down hard on my lip as I was immediately transported to one of the seminal "Seinfeld" episodes wherein Elaine finds herself similarly stranded in a stall. It took all I had to not say, "Sir, I don't have a square to spare." Instead, I opted to do the appropriate thing and I said, "Let me see what I can do."

One of the stalls had been vacated so I pulled out an excessively large amount of the toilet paper that my stranded stall resident needed and then had to quickly ponder how I was going to deliver the bounty to him. I wasn't about to ask him to open the door because nobody needed to see that. I wasn't going to lean down and pass it under the door either. So I went for the dunk shot, lobbing it over the top of the door. Fortunately, it was a good shot because, in a relieved tone, he uttered, "Hey, thanks, bro."

"You're welcome, bro," were my last words as I made my exit. Hopefully he'll pay that one forward but happy to not know those details. Note to self - always, always, always make sure there's enough toilet paper. You never know when some one won't be willing to spare a square.

May you never find yourself in this situation:


27 November 2016

Cuba Libre

@miamiherald.com
This past Friday night Cuban state television announced the death of Fidel Castro, long-time dictator, despot, and weirdly, friend of Canadian Prime Minister and fan of shirt-free pictures, Justin Trudeau. Although his power had, along with his health, long since diminished, the antipathy felt towards Fidel continued to simmer amongst the Cuban exile community.

As I wrote in a post here in the Den in October 2013, I spent two amazing years in Havana Norte - Miami - as a missionary, living in the thick of the Cuban exile community. It was one of the richest experiences of my life. It was there in Hialeah and Miami that I fell in love with the Cuban people, their culture, their food, and their wonderfully slaughtered version of Spanish. It was there that I also learned of what life was like under Fidel (spoiler alert - it wasn't good). I heard first-hand the stories of people whose families had been ripped apart by the Castro regime. I heard the stories of those who came over in the Mariel boat lift and I can assure you that the vast majority were not the hardened criminals and maniacs as portrayed in the press. They were people desperate for an opportunity to be near family and for a better life.

I will never forget one of the stories one of the Mariels told us. As missionaries, we had the opportunity to help in resettlement efforts as well as share our message about God and His Son. During one of those early discussions the young man we were working with asked, "God? Who is God? Let me tell you what we were told about God en la isla (on the island)." He proceeded to tell us about his elementary school experience. Every few weeks, the class would be instructed to bow their heads, close their eyes and recite a prayer, asking God for a dulce (candy - a rare treat). Dutifully, they would do as instructed. They would then open their eyes, raise their heads, and find nothing there. They would then be told to do the same, but instead of asking God, they should ask Papa Fidel for the dulce. They would again do as they were told and I suspect you know where this is going. When told to open their eyes and raise their heads, there was a piece of candy at each desk. Miraculously, Papa Fidel had provided but any sly seven year old who cracked open his eyes knew it was the teacher who had passed out the candy.

The damage was done. Faith in what parents had believed was crushed. So was any real loyalty to Papa Fidel. As rations dried up, so did the candy. So did any real belief in la revolucion. Where hope did not die was among the exile community. I saw it burning brightly in the mid-80's when I called Miami home. I've seen it every time I've been back to south Florida in the last thirty years. I saw it in all its exuberance as people celebrated wildly in front of that venerable temple of Cuban food, Versailles, this past Friday night. How I wish I could have been there with them!

While Castro's death is reason for optimism for the people of Cuba, tomorrow will not bring a Cuba Libre (Free Cuba). Change will come and with his passing, it will come even sooner. The Cuban people I know, love, and respect are patient, strong and they are committed.

Cuba will be free. !Vive Cuba Libre!


26 November 2016

Woke and thankful

Thankful for my family. And the Cubs.
The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I are now home after a week of Thanksgiving celebrations with our family in Arizona. It was, in a word or two, a great week.

Due to The RM's missionary service, this was the first time in more than two years that we were all together for a holiday celebration. It was particularly appropriate that our first celebration would be Thanksgiving. By Wednesday morning of this past week, we had our children, our son-in-law and our two grandchildren together. As I surveyed the scene, ensconced in my sister-in-law's beautiful home, I was keenly aware of all that I had to be grateful for. The following quote came to mind:

Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life. - Robert Louis Stevenson

At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to be wide awake and keenly aware of the mercies, or blessings, that have come my way. As we saw extended family throughout the week as well as friends (including a random run-in along the Salt River ((don't ask)) with a kid, who is no longer a kid and a a parent of teenagers himself, I haven't seen in 30+ years), I found myself counting my blessings. This Thanksgiving was one where I found myself full of gratitude, perhaps more so than in years past. I was grateful as I watched my children laugh riotously as they played a ridiculous game. I was grateful as everyone pitched in in some way to bring a fantastic Thanksgiving meal together. I was grateful as my wife and I held our grandchildren as much as we could while we were together. I was more than grateful that my family indulged me as we went to Sloan Park to pay homage to the Chicago Cubs. That made me grateful for the role baseball has played in our family memories. 

I'm glad I had the chance to be wide awake to all this during the week of Thanksgiving. Now that we are back into our normal routine, the challenge is to stay awake. 

The challenge is to stay grateful each and every day. 

11 November 2016

Veterans Day

Credit: @publix.com
Today we in the United States celebrate Veterans Day. Today we pause to honor all those who have served in the Armed Forces.  Today we pause to honor those who have fought valiantly to preserve the freedoms that we, far too often, take for granted.

This week, the fact that we take those freedoms for granted was drawn into stark relief. Our nation is one where we have the freedom to vote. It is not compulsory. As a result this week we saw that 43% of Americans who are registered to vote chose not to vote in the Presidential election.

On January 20th, 2017, our newly elected President will be sworn into office. He will be the Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. This is a commander in chief who has openly mocked a man who spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Of John McCain, the military's new commander in chief said, "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." Our nation's military new commander in chief has belittled the parents of a fallen soldier, a soldier who gave his life fighting in Iraq.

In spite of that, our nation's armed forces will continue to defend this great (it's always been great) country. They will defend our freedoms as best they can, just as they have for the last 240+ years, regardless of who occupies the White House. There is probably a lesson there.

I am thankful for all those who have served our nation in the armed forces. I am thankful for all they have done to preserve our freedoms. I am thankful that their service allows us to still have a voice in this messy, wonderful thing we call the United States of America. Their service is something we can never take for granted.

Thank you, veterans.

08 November 2016

The Vote

It's finally here! Election Day! The day we can bid a bitter but fond farewell to the endless campaign commercials, angry, ugly rhetoric, and Alec Baldwin's genius portrayal of the Republican candidate for President on SNL. Although, if I'm honest, I'd like to see a few more of those sketches, but I digress. In theory, in a few more hours we will know who will be the 45th President of the United States of America. Then the hard work will really begin, as there's the not insignificant matter of restoring a very fractured electorate.

I was proud to be part of that electorate this morning. The right to vote, preserved by the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, allows us an unrigged voice. This truly is a freedom. It is not compulsory, although the Australian system of compulsory voting may not necessarily be a bad thing. It is a freedom that we can choose to exercise. It is a freedom that we can easily take for granted or not even exercise and therein lies the danger. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said:

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.

I am delighted to report, though, that based on my 40 minute wait to vote this morning that the good people of our little town (population 10,000-ish) here in Connecticutistan chose to exercise their right to vote in force. In an organization decision I am still grappling with (call me simple), we were organized by, wait for it, street name as follows: A-D, E-N, O-Z. Based on the length of the line, most of us live on the O-Z streets. Once I was in the voting cubicle, I was proud to cast my vote, knowing that my voice, albeit just one, would be heard.

President Ronald Reagan once said, "The right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties..." and I am glad that my vote today added to the brilliance of that jewel. Every vote cast today, no matter the outcome of the election, helped to that crown jewel shine even brighter today.

06 November 2016

On the precipice

Anyone else feel this way about Election Day?
This Tuesday, November 8th, is Election Day in the United United States. This campaign, which has seemingly been going on since the dawn of time, is drawing to a tortured close, allegedly. I say allegedly because one of the candidates has made it clear that if he loses, it will be anything but over (given this candidate's stupefying ignorance of how the government, the Constitution, and how elections work, this should come as no surprise). The specter of this madness continuing makes me want to leap off a cliff, but so does the thought of that candidate actually being elected President of the United States.

It's no secret that this has been one unending, hideous, vitriolic campaign between two deeply flawed, deeply disliked candidates. But one of these candidates is so flawed, it boggles the mind. I could rehash it six ways 'til Sunday, but I'll let Danny Zuker do the talking on the Republican candidate:

His ignorance and imcompetence is staggering. His vindictiveness is without limits. His skin is paper thin. His entire image is a lie so deep his only true success is his ability to hide any possible record of his earnings, losses or foreign investments. A man whose need for attention is so deep he will get in bed with the KKK, anti-Semites, and Breitbart.

I know for those that have pledged their support to him that what Zuker said, or what anyone said, makes no difference. You've made your choice, which is both the beauty and the curse of a free electorate. However, if he is elected (shudder), you never get to complain about racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, or how unbelievable it is that the President is really that cozy with Russia. The one thing I would love to hear from you though, especially those members of my faith, is how you explain your support of him, a man who openly reviles women and is perversely comfortable in speaking about them in the vilest of terms, to your daughters - the same daughters who if a young man spoke to them or about them the way this candidate does, you would be on your way to jail for what you did to that young man.

From his substance-less platform to his hate-filled cult of severely flawed personality - this is not what I want for our country. According to scores of his rabid acolytes who threatened me in the vilest of ways via Twitter, that is an opinion I am not allowed to hold. According to them, I am not allowed my Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. So to think he's going to preserve "conservative" values is like thinking that there is a dollar figure that would stop Kris Kardashian from pimping out her family. To quote George H.W. Bush (who I have met and quite like actually), "not going to happen."

For those of you who no longer want to call me "friend" after this post, I am sorry. My circle of friends, both real and in the world of social media, are a diverse group and I love that. But if this is a bridge too far for you, I'll understand. I'll be sorry to see you go.

For those of you who want to call my local ecclesiastical leader and let him know that you think I am the Anti-Christ for reaffirming that #ImWithHer, let me know and I'll connect you.

For those of you who by some small miracle are still undecided, please vote.

One final note:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. - Galatians 6:7

P.S. - No one needs to point out to me that this verse applies as much to the Democratic candidate as it does the Republican. So delete the "get thee hence, hypocrite!" emails now.

02 November 2016

At My Peak

Wait, is that Woody Allen?
Fall brings the changing of the leaves, cooler temperatures, pumpkin spice hysteria/overload and the joy of my annual physical. As I've just turned 50, and knowing that my doctor has been warning me for two years that the physical for my 50th would bring 'fun' things (colonoscopy), I wasn't looking forward to it.

Today was the day of my physical. First, I am delighted to report that there was no -scopy of any kind, rather just a referral and a sixty day window to get that done. Secondly, I can report that I am at my peak. Unfortunately, it's not my good peak so 'tis nothing to crow about.

As I sat on the exam table, scantily clad in a purple paper robe, facing my physician, he painted the following picture of my craptastic peak:

  • I am at my heaviest weight ever. I won't reveal the number...yet, but it wasn't good.
  • My bad cholesterol levels are the highest they've ever been.
  • My good cholesterol level is heading towards ruin faster the Kardashians' sense of propriety.
  • I am now approaching "Poster Boy" status for Potential Heart Attack Victim.
  • On the bright side, my blood sugar levels were delightful.
As he laid all that out for me, the paper robe seemed to be getting tighter and tighter. I felt I might be turning the same shade of purple as the robe. But it wasn't the robe choking me out. It was my own shame recognition that this is all my own doing. I am at my craptastic peak because I've let myself get there. I'm the one who stopped running, something I thought would have been impossible. I'm the one who even last night at a donut place in Urban Space Vanderbilt had no problem whatsoever shoveling that pumpkin donut into his mouth. To be fair, it was delicious. I'm the one who let this happen. It's all on me. So my shame was at DefCon 1 as my good doctor went through the litany of sins that I'd committed against the temple that is my middle-aged body.

In high irony, it was a relief when he stopped that fusillade and moved on to the worst part of the exam. You know the one I'm talking about. The one that the late Joan Rivers riffed on how men really have it easy when they go to the doctor versus what women experience. She said something like this, "A man gets turned over on his stomach. He gets to pretend he's in a spy movie. 'I'll tell you nothing Nazi pig!'" For better or worse, that part of the exam was over in no time, sans a spy movie scenario.

But what is not over is the reality that I am at my craptastic peak. That's not a fun peak upon which to rest because coming down is going to be a nightmare. Usually, when climbing a peak, you nearly break yourself on the way up. It's the hike down off this one that is going to be, well, unpleasant. It's got to be done.

The climb down from Mt. Dadbod starts today.

31 October 2016

Hell-o-ween

Oh, the humanity!
My attempts at participation in the uniquely American celebration of Halloween, wherein adult woman do their level best to dress as tartly as possible and adult men try to work through their body dysmorphia issues, have been pretty lame throughout my adult years. It's just never been one of those things I've been able to get behind and that's probably a good thing.

Tonight will be no different. There will be no dressing up. We're here in Connecticutistan this year, unlike last year where we were behind the Zion Curtain and I got to accompany my grandson on his search for treats. It will be a quiet night here in our cul-de-sac.

It was a very different story twenty eight years ago at a Halloween party in Provo, Utah. I shared the story behind "The Blisters" in this post from 2014. Read it if you must want a refresher on the details that led to this homage / parody to the Sister side of the #mormonmafia. I suspect Lou Dobbs would recoil in horror were the three Blisters to show up on his doorstep. That said, it would have been a crowning achievement for the #mormonmafia. Interwebs, where were you in 1988!?

Suffice to say, it will be a far quieter night here than it was all those years ago. I look at that picture and laugh and am grateful for really good times. At the same time, I fear that if the three of us recreated that picture today, I'd actually fill out that dress better.

I gotta go for a run.

29 October 2016

Emerging

As the month of September drew to a close, I lamented that I was feeling devoid of thoughts about what I should continue to post here in the Den. I had no idea that this musing was going to turn into a month-long absence.

I'd like to say that I've spent this month off soul-searching and delving into the recesses of my mind for more content. Rest assured, I have not. I'd like to say I've taken some courses in the fine art of blogging to improve my minuscule piece of the Interweb. Rest assured, I have not.

Honestly, I've spent a lot of time lamenting the fact that now that The RM is home, I don't have that content to share. I loved those weekly updates. Loved them. Further, I've spent too much time comparing myself to other bloggers who are far better writers than I that have eloquently and passionately shared their perspectives on the upcoming U.S. presidential election / potential Civil War (thanks for that dog whistling Trump fascists). This whole thing of comparing myself to others has long been a crippling weakness for me (stories about my reacting badly to those comparisons is enough fodder for a year of blogging) and you'd think at the age of 50, I would have figured a way out of that trap. I haven't. How's that for progress?

Progress or not, it's time to emerge from my self-imposed time in the dark. It's time to come back into the light, as it were. I'm not changing the world here. This is not the place to find a cure for cancer. It's just a place where I write stuff. And it's time to write again.

16 October 2016

One

When I stumbled into the morass of writers block, I didn't think I'd fall so deeply in. I've never been away this long! I'm still fighting my way out of it but I do have good reason to post today.

It's a big birthday for one of our Denizens. You only turn ONE once and our sweet baby Jane turns one today. We are so excited for this little girl. She is full of such promise, joy, and plain old good stuff. It slays me to watch the way she takes in every little thing her brother does. He's going to have his hands full with her. Seeing her personality develop reminds me of her mother. It reminds of just how blessed I am to be that little girl's grampa.

She's got an amazing life ahead of her. I'm lucky to be a part of it.

Happy birthday, Jane!

28 September 2016

Devoid

This is me and the blog right now.
Devoid.

That delightful adjective describes my current writing state. I feel like the well from which I write is empty and is wanting to say the least.

You would think, given all that's going on around us, that I could find something to write about. The recent U.S. presidential debate? Not sure I can add anything to the hysteria associated with it. Besides after my detour into Trumplandia's raging chasm o'hate, I'm sitting out for a little while. Life now that I'm 50? Nothing has changed, so nothing to talk about, at least for now. That'll change with my first yet to be scheduled colonoscopy fiesta. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML has already thrown down the mighty hammer of opposition on my ill-conceived idea of live blogging it. You can thank her (and the anaesthetist) now or later, it's up to you.

If nothing else, at least you know now that there's going to at least one post coming about the joys of a colonoscopy. So you have that to look forward to. In the meantime, I'm going to take comfort in this  piece of wisdom for the late American poet and writer Charles Bukowski:

"writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all"

24 September 2016

Into the chasm

@stuff.co.nz
It is no secret that the American electorate is a tad divided in the run up to the presidential election. The division is everywhere but its starkest, darkest, and ugliest side is most evident on the Interwebs. Earlier this week, I got an up close and personal tour of the dark side.

Earlier this week, on the morning of my birthday, a Tweet comparing refugees to a bowl of Skittles by the eldest son of the Republican presidential candidate was trending. It caught my attention and I Tweeted my own response. Here's what I said:

Thank you @DonaldTrumpJr for reminding us how little regard you 
have for humanity. Like father, like son.

Snarky, yes, but it was my honest reaction, a reaction by the way that I was under the impression I was allowed to have. I really thought nothing more of it until my notifications started to blow up. Apparently, I'd struck a nerve with the more extreme residents of Trumplandia in my tiniest corner of the Twittersphere. Nearly 25,000 impressions and engagements, plus hundreds of likes and retweets of that Tweet later, I'd been drop kicked into a hate-filled chasm. Here are a few highlights from the responses that came my way:

A**hole
F*!$ off
I should be subject to violent anal rape (I toned that one down but apparently this is a favorite line of attack, or variant of the same theme, by Trumplandians. See this from Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank)
I am an ISIS supporter
I am a feminist and an abortionist, or at least an abortion supporter (I'm not quite sure how that leap was made)
I am illiterate
I need to study English more because I do not know what an analogy is (I guess I should sue my alma mater then for failing me when I was awarded an English degree)
I am an SJW (Social Justice Warrior - I didn't know what that was so I had to look that one up)
Muslims and Syrians are not human
I should pray that my church isn't bombed by refugees this Sunday
I was asked where I lived so that refugees could be sent to my home to poison me and my family
I have no right to speak 

Fun, right? 

There were some telling things as I fell into the chasm. In almost poetic move to prove that I was an SJW, one of the Tweeters went into my blog and linked to a post I wrote in April of this year about women being assaulted by anonymous Twitter trolls as proof. Irony alert - that was posted by an anonymous Twitterer. While my blog is mostly personal, I've written about issues that are important to me including gun violence, rape, and a few other hot button issues. But the issue that makes me an SJW? Speaking out against the abuse of women on Twitter. That speaks volumes. Irony alert - being told I have no right to speak. That one killed me. Being told by those who shout from the rooftops about protecting their rights that I have no right to speak was rich. Thanks to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, I have as much right to speak as any one else in this country.

What is most telling is the fear, or the bigotry masquerading as fear. I don't go to church on a weekly basis convinced that my place of worship is going to be bombed. Nor do I fear that a family of refugees is going to poison me, in spite of the wishes that it would happen that came my way.  I can't live with that kind of fear. Not everyone who is not a WASP is hell-bent on destruction. Really, they're not.

My trip into the chasm of hate on the Interwebs was short-lived. It was instructive, disturbing, and revealing. It speaks volumes about the divide and the fear in this country. To live with that kind of fear / bigotry is in the word of the Republican presidential candidate, "Sad!"

20 September 2016

50

So I've hit that number today
There's another birthday here in the Den today and that birthday is mine. It just happens to be one of those significant milestone birthdays, too. Today, I celebrate fifty years of darkening the door of this wonderful thing we call life.

I like what Victor Hugo said about being 50. He said "Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age." Turning 50 does not mean that I am suddenly middle-aged. That ship sailed when I turned 41. Per the good people at the U. S. Social Security Administration and their super fun Life Expectancy Calendar (have fun playing with that one!), I am expected to live to 82.2 years old. So I am nearly a decade into my middle-agedness, which for my children means at least three more long decades of dealing with me. Buckle up, you three! It's only going to get worse. You have been warned.

Here's some fun facts, courtesy of the Interweb's truth sayer Wikipedia, about 50:

  • 50 is the atomic number of tin (as a sciencephobe, this means nothing to me)
  • 50 is the number of Gates of Wisdom and Gates of Impurity in Kaballah. I wonder about the connection between wisdom and impurity now.
  • 50 is the number of U. S. states. No, really, there are only 50 states. It is not 51 (sorry Washington DC or Puerto Rico).
  • 50 is the number of the retired jersey of San Antonio Spurs Hall of Famer, David "The Admiral" Robinson.
  • 50 is the number of rings required to transform Sonic to his super form in the "Sonic the Hedgehog" game. Given my extensive (and by extensive I mean non-existent) history as a gamer, this another one that means nothing to me.
Thanks to the great Paul Simon, we know that there are "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

Thanks to Keanu Reeves in his tour-de-force role from the 1990's cinematic masterpiece "Speed," which in itself is a gift that just keeps on giving, and Dennis Hopper's creative bomb-making skills, we know that 50 was the danger zone. Remember if that bus went slower than 50 MPH, it was goodbye Sandra Bullock and Cameron from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

I'm excited to hit this milestone. I'd like to think it's going to give me an air of added maturity. In reality, it's brought me an invitation to join AARP and starting the countdown to this:


Yep, that delightful procedure is coming. It's one of the harsher realities of turning 50, as is this point made by the life of any party he must have attended, English author George Orwell. He said, "At age fifty, everyone has the face he deserves." Let that one sink in. If I now have the face I deserve, I shudder to think what else is coming my way in terms of what I deserve...

Clearly, 50 is going to be awesome. I'm a few hours into it and I'm already a fan. The first fifty years have been good, darn good. I think the 32.2 years that I have left are going to be darn good, too. Among other things, I want to see if there's any truth to this statement from T S Eliot:

The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always 
being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.

I'm 50. I'm not dead yet, so no need to toss me in the Wagon O' The Dead:

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17 September 2016

Bullying

Buckle up, people, it's a long read.

Earlier this week, my Twitter feed filled up with links to stories about a nine (nine!) year old in West Virginia who committed suicide as a result of alleged bullying by his classmates. It stuns me that I'm even writing that sentence.

How bad must the bullying have been to drive a nine year old boy to take his own life? What nine year old even thinks suicide is an option? What kind of world have we created where a suicide by a nine year old barely makes a headline? Those questions have plagued me since reading about this boy's story.

According to Stand for the Silent, 60% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying. Bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than those who are not bullied. DoSomething.org cites that over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year. 160,000 teen-agers skip school every day because of bullying. Then there's this super fun statistic: 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will intervene only 4% of the time. I'm troubled by that one because the teachers I know would bust skulls before they would let bullying go in their presence. In spite of that, bullying does go on, particularly in our schools.

In 1980, at the height of my awful delayed puberty early teen-age awkwardness (I've shared the pictures so you know I'm not exaggerating), I entered the maelstrom known as high school. I wasn't an A-Lister by any stretch of the imagination but I didn't think I was on the bottom rung of my very class-conscious high school. I had friends and didn't do anything to stand out, for better or worse, my freshman year, or so I thought. One day mimeographed copies (remember it was 1980 - there were no Mac's, no boss design publishing software) of our high school's crudely produced "underground" newspaper, "Off the Deep End,"  (I still remember the name thirty six years later) were slipped under classroom doors and strewn about the hallways of the school. It mostly consisted of school yard gossip, including one surprising item outing me by name as gay because I'd been seen having lunch with a few girls on more than one occasion. What made me gay apparently was the fact that there were no other guys at those lunches (high school logic is awesome!). I was gutted as I read those few sentences. This was 1980 and the worst, the very worst thing you could be called in our high school, besides poor, was gay. As far as I knew, my fourteen year old life was over and I left campus and walked home. It was a very emotional walk. When I got home, my mother, surprised to find me there and not in school, listened as I wept (like I said I was convinced my world had collapsed). She helped me pull myself together and then did something I'll never forget and for which I am forever grateful. She told me in no uncertain terms I was not going to worry about what had been said about me. She told me I was going back to school. She told me I was to go up to the first seniors I saw and make a way to have a conversation with them. She told me she loved me and then she told me to get in the car and that I was going back to school.

I was terrified on that ride back but I was determined to follow her advice. As I got back to campus, I realize now that I should have been praying for the principal who was going to be getting an earful of righteous rage from my mother. Instead, I saw a group of seniors I knew and steeling myself, I went right up to them and asked what was up. After some awkward small chat, one of them said, "Dude, don't even sweat what was in the paper. No one reads it anyway." I took great comfort in that and within a few days, it seemed to have been forgotten. I'd like to say that my brief experience made me an anti-bullying advocate. It didn't, at least not then. I'm ashamed to say that when the opportunity presented itself during those ridiculous high school years, I tried to assume the role of bully because that's how my high school mind worked. My own experience being bullied never justified my own weak attempts at bullying. I knew better. Those opportunities were rare and I feel shame for them to this day and I am truly sorry for those moments.

That was thirty six years ago and as far as bullying was concerned, my experience was tame. But as I just wrote about it, it was with trepidation and shaking hands. I was being bullied for something I wasn't. I wasn't gay. I was able to shrug it off. I was lucky. But what about those that can't shrug it off? What about those who are bullied every day because of their sexuality? Or how they look? Or act? Or because they've made the cardinal sin of not fitting in? I can't imagine the torment of being subject to bullying every day as a teen-ager and its lasting effects. That torment is a significant reason behind the torrent of teen-age suicide in our country.

Our country, though, seems disconcertingly comfortable with bullying, especially on a national scale. So comfortable that we may be on the precipice of electing our first ever Bully-In-Chief. The Republican presidential nominee has built an entire campaign (let's be honest - it's his whole life) on bullying. The target of his mockery including, among others women, the disabled, our armed forces, Muslims, Mexicans and pretty much anyone else who is not white has been well documented. Twice now he has used the age-old bully buffoonery excuse of "just kidding" after encouraging the assassination of his Democratic opponent. His admiration for the "Global Bullies," one Vlad Putin of Russia and Kim Jung Un of North Korea, should be enough to disqualify him from the race for the U.S. presidency but it only seems to be fueling the madness. Like any good bully, the Republican presidential nominee has been terrifyingly efficient in silencing his cronies. Not a single leader of the GOP has had the testicular fortitude to stand up to him and say "Enough!" Their fear of the other side winning and let's face it, their misogyny (latent or otherwise), precludes them from standing up to their bully. It really is like something out of a bad teen high school dramedy except it's really happening.

In those bad high school movies and in the media in general, the bully usually gets what is coming to him or her as bullying is no respecter of gender. Nelson Muntz has been bullying the children of Springfield Elementary for nigh on twenty seven years now, but on more than one occasion, he's felt badly about his shenanigans and even shed a tear or two. He's even tried to change his ways. There's a lesson there.

One is a work of fiction.
One is unbelievable.
One occasionally feels badly about what he does.
One has zero remorse.
One is a school yard bully created by writers.
One chooses to be a school yard bully every day.
One, given the opportunity, would destroy the Kwik-E-Mart.
One, given the opportunity, may destroy the world as we know it.
To learn more about bullying and stopping it, see the following:
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11 September 2016

In Memoriam: 9/11 Fifteen Years Later

@911memorial
Today, September 11th, marks the fifthteenth anniversary of a day that changed the world as we know it. This is a somber, reverent day for countless people around the world for the horror of 9/11 was truly global. It is a poignant day for me and my industry colleagues who saw our profession change forever that morning. As I have done in years past, I choose to honor those that died on that fateful day with the text of the remarks I gave in Church on the 10th anniversary of the attacks:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was an unusually bright, clear late summer day in New York City. The images of those brilliant blue skies are seared into our collective memories; however, now we remember the smoke that choked that blue sky. We remember the image of a plane slamming into the now-fallen World Trade Center. We remember images of people jumping from the burning towers in order to escape the roaring flames.  We also remember the pictures of firefighters and police personnel who ran into the towers in an epic, valiant struggle to save their fellowmen. We are haunted by the heroic words uttered by a passenger on board United 93, "Let's roll!" as those few passengers decided to stop the terrorists from hitting yet another target.

The terror of that day, ten years ago, is still fresh for so many of us. It is an event that touched us all and it is a defining moment in not only American history, but world history. In the days following these horrific events, our nation came together in a way that many said had not been since World War II. I remember standing in our front yard in our home in California with our neighbors as we joined our fellow countrymen in a national moment of prayer. It was as if our nation was seeking spiritual comfort as a whole in those dark days after the attacks.

That sense of unity and desire to seek spiritual comfort as a nation has abated in the ten years since that unforgettable day (and on the 15th anniversary, we are more divided as nation than ever). Our nation has found its way back to its divisive ways.  In his first official blog post printed earlier this week in the Washington Post's "On Faith" column, President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said, "Sadly, it seems that much of that renewal of faith has waned in the years that have followed.  Healing has come with time, but so has indifference.  We forget how vulnerable and sorrowful we felt.  Our sorrow has moved us to remember the deep purposes of our lives.  The darkness of our despair brought us a moment of enlightenment.  But we are forgetful.  When the depth of grief has passed, its lessons often pass from our minds and hearts as well."

The Scriptures are rife with examples of how we, the children of a loving, caring Heavenly Father, have forgotten our Father and the lessons of lives time and time again.  The Book of Mormon is especially illustrative of this cycle of forgetfulness but it also shows our Father's consistent, loving commitment to us. In his blog post, President Monson continued, saying, "Our Father's commitment to us, His children, is unwavering.  Indeed He softens the winter of our lives, but He also brightens our summers.  Whether it is the best of times or the worst, He is with us.  He has promised us that this will never change."

For some, the memories of that fateful day are fading and some have no memory of it. Children born after that fateful day have no concept of what the world was like before that day. To them, the bad security theater that is the TSA is just what you do to get on an airplane. For others, like a certain Russian dictator loving US presidential candidate, the events of 9/11 have been an opportunity for him to bolster his campaign of hate and bigotry by continuing to promote a lie about the events of that day. We continue to be fascinated by the scourge that is the Kardashians and we allow them to milk their infernal worthlessness for even more millions, rather than finding ways to heal our nation. We would be so much better off if we would forget all of them. Instead, the names of the thousands that died that day are what we are forgetting. That is simply wrong.

Two years ago on this day, as I walked to Penn Station, I happened upon an older couple who clearly hadn't forgotten. On the lapel of the woman's jacket was a large picture button emblazoned with a black ribbon. It was clear that the young man in the picture was their son and he'd lost his life day. His name, although unknown to me, was read today as were the names of all the other victims. They cannot be forgotten.

Watch United 93 or any of the other myriad programs that will play tonight. Remember one of those who died on that flight, or in the Towers, or in the Pentagon.

May we never forget.

09 September 2016

21

It's another day of celebration here in the Den. One of our Den-izens is celebrating a birthday. Today it's The RM who we celebrate. He turns 21 today and suffice to say, we are celebrating a fine young man.

Those 21 years have gone by in a flash. I remember each of our children's births for very different reasons and can go back to them as if it were yesterday. Our Lady of Awesome's birth is associated with many firsts including a whole lot of terror, as she was our first-born (duh!); CAL's birth is associated with peace because A) I wasn't the one doing the birthing and 2) due to an odd set of circumstances and the fact that it was Christmas, it was just the nurses, doctors, and the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I in the room as she came into the world; and The RM's birth pretty much set the stage for how he rolls.

He was several days overdue and determined to make his mother just a little crazy. Finally, a bed opened up at the hospital and we were on our way down there for the induction festivities. Of course, by the time we got there some other woman had the testicular fortitude to go into labor on her own and our bed was gone. This news was not well-received. So in my most calm and soothing manner (go ahead and believe that), I explained to the hospital staff that we were not leaving and that they were welcome to find us a place where my wife could being the miracle of birth. Sensing we weren't leaving, they literally dumped us in a large, fairly barren closet-like space and induced SML. Meanwhile, The RM seemed completely non-plussed by all this and still didn't seem in any hurry to leave the comfort of the womb. In the meantime, I found out that some friends of ours from Church were in a room a few doors down, having had a little girl the night before. I sauntered down to their room, greeted the new parents with the following greeting, "Hi Rob and Rhonda! Congratulations on your little girl! Now get out. We need the room." As I recall, her parents, whom I had never met, seemed a little shocked. Suffice to say, that didn't work. So my father had the presence of mind to get me a burrito from Filbertos (he apparently knew the dangers of being hangry before it was a thing and I labored over that thing while SML labored over The RM. Right as things were getting good with the burrito, The RM decided it was showtime and like Moses parting the Red Seas, the Miracle of the Found Room occurred and we were whisked out of the birthing closet and into a real room. In no time flat, again says the guy's who's contribution to this whole process was minimal, The RM made his arrival. It was fairly drama free and full of joy. That's how he started life and that's how he rolls today.

Over the course of these last 21 years, he's made us a little crazy on more than one occasion, but it really has been a drama-free, joyful 21. That's a pretty good way to live, if you ask me. Like his sisters, he's been a joy to us and I can't imagine our world without him. He rounds out our family well.

Happy birthday, mijo!

He loves his Mom and he'll still hug her.
He'll never outgrow that.

05 September 2016

Laboring back to reality

Today is Labor Day, where America pauses to remember the social and economic achievements of American workers by shopping linen and bath sales and yelling at those workers who had to work a holiday. Nothing says "thank you" like chewing out someone who is barely earning more than minimum wage because your Bed Bath and Beyond coupon expired in 2013 and you can't begin to understand why you can't use it for a hand soap dispenser whose shape reminds you of your beloved and deceased Vietnamese Pot Belly Pig, Petunia. As much as I'd like to say I saw that very exchange go down today, I have to admit I did not. You know, however, as well as I do, that something very similar went down today.

It is also the traditional signal that summer is drawing to a close. If children haven't returned to school yet, tomorrow is the big day. For most, this is the last "holiday" before Thanksgiving, and so it is 'game on.' It is time to get back to work, and that leaves many of us, myself included, realizing that reality does indeed bite.

My hiatus is officially over this evening. It's back to work tomorrow. It has been a great two weeks. One week was filled to the brim (even overflowing) with family and the joy those long-awaited reunions bring. The second week was nothing but time for the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and me. Aside from one awful two hour "What to do on the island of Sint Maarten" brainwashing seminar (think of the worst timeshare presentation you've ever been roped into, combined with a crowd of people demanding how to get the best deal on knock off jewelry, while trapped in a darkened room at sea) attended by SML, who was able to escape unscathed, we were not apart for the last week. We had an amazing time together and I'll post more about it later this week. Right now, though, no time as I'm dealing with getting back to reality.

Hundreds of work emails.
Personal emails.
Things to do around the house.
The finale of "The Great British Baking Show."

All important things, people. It's back to reality. Here we go.