27 February 2016



I've been pondering that word, its meaning and its ramifications, quite a bit of late. It's not as if the world in which I live is highly complex and fraught with significant difficulty. It really isn't but there are times when I like to think that it is. I don't think I'm alone in that notion. I think we can all pinpoint times in our lives when we have made things more challenging for ourselves than they need to be. For example:

Losing sleep over whether or not my upgrade on my London flight will clear.
Getting increasingly bothered about this being my 50th year of life.
Letting excuses (laziness, people, laziness) prevent me from doing right by my middle-aged body.
Being highly irritated by the fact that Matt LeBlanc will be one of the new hosts of "Top Gear"
The specter of a Trump presidency literally has my stomach in convulsive knots #NeverTrump

My list is not exhaustive and may be a little trivial (except for that horrifying Trump bit) but it typifies what I think we do to ourselves far too often. We've forgotten to keep things simple.

The great American philosopher Ronald Ulysses Swanson weighed in on this in his own inimitable way when he said:

"Live your life how you want,
but don't confuse drama with happiness."

Amen, Ron, amen.

22 February 2016


Riding dirty in the 801, or maybe the 385
While the title of today's post would suggest this is a long overdue homage to the late musical genius David Bowie, alas, it is not. It references the title of this week's letter from TMFKATB. In this week's all too brief letter, he updated us on changes in his world.

The biggest change came in the form of transfers, a ritual that occurs about every six weeks. It's a time when missionaries may be assigned to new areas, companionships changed, or there can be no changes at all. For TMFKATB, he lost a companion, was given a senior leadership role, and got a new companion. He seemed a bit surprised by it all. I get the impression he did not anticipate that he would be impacted by transfers this time. Well, buddy, as the late Mr Bowie said, 'Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.'

We had to toss a bit of a change grenade his way as we had to tell him about the 'decline' notice we got on his first choice of schools. He took it totally in stride, saying, 'I've got too much on my plate right now to be distracted by this.' He's resilient and it makes me proud.

I need to channel how he's taking the news. He's handling it a lot better than me, can I just tell you? I don't think I will ever understand the voodoo that is the college acceptance scheme. Grrr.....

21 February 2016

A case of Febribus Saturday Noctis

When something is going awry in your body, it reacts accordingly. Sweating. Shivering. General weakness. Confusion. Hallucinations. These are all symptoms of a fever, a tell-tale indicator something may be amiss. Coincidentally, these are all things one can experience during Saturday Night Fever The Musical.

How did we wind up in Connecticutistan's most charm-free city, Waterbury, to witness this event? A few months ago, one of my friends pulled me aside and in hushed tones, told me he'd all but been forced to buy tickets (anyone else who's done time in a corporation knows of what I speak - the annual 'voluntary' support drive) to (what we will now call) SNF. Always ready to help a friend, I told him we'd support him and his wife and go with them.

So fast forward to last night. Since Waterbury's restaurant scene seems to mostly double for needle exchange joints, we ruled out dining there. We ate closer to home and made our way to the Palace Theater. The police presence, in numbers reflective of imposed martial law, around the venue was, um, interesting. I didn't know if we should have felt comforted or terrified (see that, a tell-tale sign of fever-confusion-was already setting in). We settled into our seats, which were quite good, and before we knew it, we were in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, being reminded of the awesome terrible that was the Disco Era. To sum it up, there was a lot of jive talkin', a few bad cases of night fever, some geniuses trying to ascertain just how deep is love, and a lot of tragedy. See what I just did there?

As we left the theater at the end of the night, one patron, upon seeing the cadre of police (again, should this have been a point of concern?), loudly summed up his feelings:

It's a good thing the cops are here so
they can arrest that cast.

Best. Line. Ever. 

We roared with laughter and I spun around and shook the guy's hand. He continued railing against the production as we walked back to our cars. Apparently, back in the day, he either really liked the original movie or lived the Bay Ridge disco days experience. He was, in a word, displeased.

Was the cast worthy of arrest? No.
Was it better than a high school production? Yes.
Was it better than a Mormon Roadshow. Yes.
Was it a train wreck? Yes, a thousand times yes.
Was it a Tony winner? No, no and no.
Was it fun to be out with some really good friends? Yes.

Now I've got to go figure out the answer to the dilemma of what to do "If I Can't Have You."

16 February 2016



Is not the name of the next Adele album.

rhombicuboctahedron has 26 sides (please, nerds, can someone tell me what that rhombi thing even is?)

The atomic number of iron is 26.

God gave the Torah in the 26th generation since Creation. Who knew?

The 26th letter in the English alphabet? Z.

The age at which males can no longer be drafted in the United States is 26.

But most importantly, 26 is the birthday being celebrated today by Our Lady of Awesome, our eldest child and first-born daughter. For 26 years, I have been in awe of her (as I am all my children). She somehow managed to survive me as a very young, brand-new dad. As a newborn, she had to listen to countless versions of my senior thesis on the role of grace in Southern short fiction (try writing the paper of your life for the only Catholic English professor at BYU). She had to listen to They Might Be Giants' album Flood from the minute she came home from the hospital as I was completely obsessed with it. She did it all without complaint. She's always had a way of looking at me too, even from the time I held her that first week she spent in the NICU. She's had a look that tells me, 'Dad, I know what you're up to.' Suffice to say, she's not one of suffer fools gladly.

She's made a good life for herself. Watching she and Awesome parent their two children is a joy. They are good partners, good to one another, and good to our grandchildren. She'll celebrate this birthday surrounded by the things she loves most, family and sunshine (given that there is sunshine you'll know immediately they're not here in Connecticutistan). She deserves it.

Happy birthday, Princess, and thanks again for these two:

15 February 2016

"I passed this Valentine's Day single."

Given the drama we've had with TMFKATB's email the past few weeks, we were anticipating another day of missed emails or super slow delivery / receipt. Happily, it was a day sans email drama. Everything showed up in real time and so we got back to that sense of being present with TMFKATB today.

This week's letter was a good one. It was a little more detail-rich than past week's as well, so that was nice. We take a bit more measure of comfort when we have a better feel for what he's been doing. He's currently working with and teaching people from Mexico, Ecuador, and Venezuela and seems to be reveling in the different cultures. He's staying busy and that's a good thing. He also gave us this note of reassurance:

I passed this Valentine's Day single.

Um, good to know, son, since, for those of you who didn't know, the two-year mission is a no date / no relationship gig. So thanks for that serving of comfort. It actually was pretty funny to read, given my utter disdain for Valentine's Day. Kudos to him for trying to get under my skin from behind the Zion Curtain. He'll have plenty of time for dating shenanigans when he gets home. Unless of course he's too gun-shy and scared to even talk to a young woman after two years as a missionary, kind of like his father. But that's a post for another day.

13 February 2016

Into the Scrum

With the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML running hither and yon this morning visiting several of the women she is now working with in her Church service, I found we needed a few things from the extortion grocery store. So I went to the grocery store. This was an epic mistake (well not quite as epic as say "What do you mean there weren't any WMD's in Iraq?"-level mistake), but it was a mistake just the same. Why? Because the grocery store parking lot had been turned into a rugby scrum, wherein the players had been replaced by cars. I am not kidding you when I tell you every.single.parking.spot in this heinous store's lot was occupied. Cars were poring in and began moving in a pack, or a scrum, in search of an open spot. I almost - almost - felt bad for the unsuspecting shoppers leaving the store. The lead car saw them and would lead the hunt, stalking the shopper, giving them a few precious seconds to toss their overpriced goods into their car before the blaring of the horn from the lead car would begin. It was like watching the Kardashians stalk someone with cash in their pockets.

I watched this foolishness for a little while as I sought an opening and saw one. It was then that I remembered that driving a large 4-wheel drive SUV in a crowded parking lot does have its advantages. It's been says size matters and today, it did. I broke from the conga line of the damned, swinging around someone driving Connecticutistan's favorite car, the Subaru wagon (in any of its variants), and gunned it to the open spot. I think the way I squeezed into the spot so suddenly shocked the two store workers sitting in the car next to mine. They were clearly on their break and given the amount of cigarettes they were burning through, it suggested that things were going to be rough in the store. And they were.

I'd forgotten that today is the day before Valentine's Day and given the hysteria inside the store, you'd have thought we had another Super Storm Sandy event bearing down on us. Nope, not a super storm, just its merchandising equivalent. Turns out, at least here, people actually buy those heart-shaped boxes filled with dusty chocolate of questionable quality. They buy a lot of them because every check out line was backed up, with one exception. The apartchik that runs this particular store renamed one check out lane as "Lovers Lane" (I literally just threw up in my mouth writing that) and it was dedicated to floral purchases only. In every other lane, at least every other shopper had just flowers, and the last I checked, flowers constitute floral items, but the floral lane remained inexplicably closed. It wasn't like there wasn't a dearth of workers scurrying about, encouraging people to go swing by Floral and grab some flowers. But please don't use the lane dedicated to floral purchases. It's closed. Yep, it made sense to me too.

Happy to have made it through the (kind of) Express Lane sans flowers or V.D. accoutrement of any kind, I got back into my car and barreled my way out of the scrum and back to the sanctity of my basement to watch the end of the spanking that Chelsea gave to Newcastle. All was well in the world again.

08 February 2016

Crazy ideas about us

Post-game recovery
If you've ever been inside an LDS meetinghouse / chapel and tried to use the free Wifi, you'll know that descriptors like "lightning fast" or "strong reliable signal" do not apply.  Ever. No matter what building you are in. Whoever sourced the service left that out of the RFP (allegedly). So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that we are now in week three of bizarre issues with the server through which TMFKATB sends his weekly emails. For instance, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML got his weekly letter right before 2PM our time when he sent it. I, who was included in that same group, got it three hours later. I got a couple of pictures in an email and she, also included in the same group, has yet to get them. I know it's not us because I forwarded that picture email to her while using the most craptastic WiFi on the planet (gracias, Amtrak) and she got it instantly. But I digress...

Server foolishness notwithstanding, TMFKATB served up another good, reassuring letter this Monday. He's busy, so he's a little more tired than he'd like to be. He's ready for winter to end, saying "I am so ready for short sleeves!" (Thanks, Sipowicz - let's just say I'm not a fan of short sleeves and ties.) He also mentioned for the first time something that happens to almost every Mormon missionary in the course of a mission and that was coming up against anti-Mormons. Given that he's serving in the belly of the beast as it were, or Mormon Mecca, it's not unsurprising that there is some virulent opposition to the Church. While he spent no time on the details, he said this, "People...have some crazy ideas about us." He seemed pretty non-plussed by it all, taking it in stride and content to stay focused on the happiness he is found during the course of his missionary service. That seemed a pretty reasonable response to me.

Crazy ideas about the way people believe abound. Just ask a Muslim. What a world it would be if we truly let people practice their faith without prejudice. What a world it would be if we didn't have preconceived (and wrong) notions about a faith different from our own. I don't claim to be a perfect member of my faith. I can assure you I am not. I really do hope that as I've shared the mission experiences of TMFKATB that we've been able to dispel some of the 'crazy' that's out there about our faith.

07 February 2016

Taking One for the Team

There are times, in any relationship, where give and take is a must. It can't always be one person's way. That gets old in no time. For example, you're a couple and you've got one television in your bedroom. Is it fair that only one person control the remote, thus only allowing steady stream of Premier League games and three blithering idiots yammering on about cars? Nor would it be fair if the only thing coming across angsty dramas about the greatest city in the world, Chicago? Of course not. Fortunately, that is why the DVR and streaming media was invented. Relationships around the world saved!

But what about the questions of what movie you're going to see? Sometimes you don't want to wait for it to hit your (LEGAL) media platform of choice. You want to see that movie at the theater. You want to see it, but your beloved, eh, not so much. So you know what you do? You take one for the team. Such was the case last night with a little movie called "Hail, Caesar!" If you've read anything here, I'll give you two guesses as to who wanted to see it and who would up taking one for the team. If you're uncertain, you'll remember that I have given my wife the moniker "Stunningly Patient" here. Still wondering who? Yeah, I didn't think so.

I'll sum it up like this. For me, this was a fun Coen Brothers movie. Was it fun in the sense of "Raising Arizona?" Nope, but it made me laugh. Was it sharply written like the nearly perfect "Fargo" or "True Grit?" Indeed. Was it sly like "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"I thought it was. Look, it was an homage to the big "picture" films of the 50's. And watching Frances McDormand (barely recognizable) get nearly choked out by a film projector was a site to behold. I had a good time. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML? Well, let's just say she got a good nap. She indeed took one for the team.

As we drove home, she simply said, before I could say it I might add, "The next Nicholas Sparks movie. Yeah, you're going to it with me." Knowing it would be silly to argue, I simply added, "That's fair. And you know what, I won't even complain once during the movie. I'll sit there silently. Everyone wins!" Suffice to say, I will be happily taking one for the team. Sooner than I want probably, because I just realized there's a new movie of his out now. It's called "The Choice." I think it's safe to say that if I could exercise my right to choose, I would choose to opt out of this one.

However, I shall not. I will take the sage advice from those Keep Calm people:

Keep Calm 
Take One for the Team

Curse you, Mr. Sparks. Curse, you.

03 February 2016

What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing could possibly go wrong here.
The last two weeks have been fraught with technical challenges for TMFKATB and our email exchanges. One, they are not turning up until later in the afternoon and two, it looks like he is not going some of our responses to his letters, nor us his. So that's not been cool. As a result, I was on a train into the City this past Monday by the time his email started rolling in. As I've noted before, the Blogger app and I are not friends so I wasn't going to try and post while I was in the City. Hence, the delay in getting this week's letter posted.

His letter was short on detail, which was kind of frustrating, given the current technical brouhaha we're encountering. That said, it was evident that he's really enjoying the leadership opportunity he's been given. He and his companion are working hard and he's positive in his attitude. They had to give a family they'd just started teaching to another set of missionaries when they discovered that the family lived outside their assigned teaching area. That can be a real drag but rules are rules. His take on it was this: 'Sometimes we reap and sometimes we sow!'

One of the pictures he included, which is the one that leads this post, made me laugh. What could possibly go wrong here? I think it's safe to say that neither is a skilled barber and yet here is TMFKATB getting a free haircut. From the sequence of the other pictures, it's really hard to tell if there was a before and after. But again, what could go wrong?

I know what could go wrong. I lived it. When a Peruvian lady tells you she went to finest school of barbering in all of Lima and she can cut your hair, just say no. Learn from my mistakes. Because I said yes to that offer thirty years ago when I was a missionary. Red Flag #1 - the fact that she cut my hair in the courtyard of her apartment complex on Miami Beach. Red Flag #2 - the fact that she didn't use a single mirror. Red Flag #3 - the fact that she uttered a Spanish curse word that I couldn't understand about midway through the hack cut. Red Flag #4 - the fact that she left the top completely untouched, leaving me with a modified 'Flock of Seagulls Go On A Mission' (it was 1986, people) look. Upon return to our apartment, I went to wash my hair and discovered why she'd left it long. It was to cover the multiple bald spots she'd left on the side of my head. Seriously. Um...thanks. My only recourse was to shave my head (professionally!) into a crew cut. No good came from it. None. You've seen how I look with a hat on. It's exponentially worse with a crew cut.

Let's not speak of it again.