27 April 2016

On Women

#MoreThanMean @justnotsports
I jumped on an early Metro North train yesterday afternoon in order to get back to the 'Stan (yes, the shadow government run by the frosty iron fist of Martha Stewart does still allow for free elections here) in order to vote. As is my norm, I perused the Twittersphere for news. I stumbled upon a Tweet with a fast trending hashtag:


Intrigued, I clicked through to the link and watched this. The four minute video is nothing short of horrifying. With my jaw hanging agape in shock, I sat stunned watching it. Once I was able to collect my thoughts, my first cogent reaction was to damn the Interwebs for the perverse sense of boldness its anonymity gives people. Only the sickest (and small handed too - trust me, I'm getting to THAT connection) psychopathic misogynist would have the temerity to say these things to a woman's face. My second reaction was a galling, sickening sense of shame that I, as a man, share the same genetic makeup of the human detritus that, cowering behind the anonymity of the internet, wrote these things about women. My third reaction was to think of the amazing women in my life, starting with my wife and daughters, and how I wanted nothing more to insure no one ever treats them like this. 

With those jumble of emotions still roiling through me, I made my way to our nearly (thanks, voter apathy!) empty polling place to cast my vote in the presidential primary. At first, I thought I was being punked because there was a candidate on the ballot named 'Rocky de la Fuente' (turns out he's real - disillusioned - but real). I flipped my ballot over several times to see if it was printed by a Trump company, just to be sure. Assured that my ballot was the real deal, I cast my vote. Without telling you for whom I cast my vote, I can tell you this - my mother is hugely disappointed in me. The funny thing is that as I cast my vote, my mother, along with so many women in my life were on my mind because of the #MoreThanMean campaign video I'd just seen. 

I have been fortunate to have known amazing women throughout my life. My mother, who scooped me into her arms when I was two days old, declared me her own and has never looked back or given up on me. My sister, who is smart, loving, and tough as nails. My wife - there are not enough words to describe her impact on my life. I try to be a better man because of her. My daughters - the joy of my life and my hope. I see so much good in them and see the potential that they have to do so much good in the worlds they inhabit. I've been taught by amazing women - a high school teacher, a former nun, who brought the study of Humanities alive; a Sunday School teacher in California whose skill I try to live up to each Sunday that I teach. I've been fortunate to work with strong, funny, smart, resilient women too. I'm lucky to call a diverse, fascinating group of women friends. I've been blessed by each of these associations. Quite simply, I am a better man because of the women in my life.

I'm far from the perfect son, father or husband and I know I've been a tool on more than one occasion.  But I cannot understand the mentality of a man that can totally get behind the behavior highlighted in the #MoreThanMean campaign. It's not just women sportswriters/journalists that endure this kind of vitriol. It's rampant. It's disgusting. Yet, the presumptive (and small handed misogynist) Republican presidential nominee leads the pack in this behavior. His marital history is proof of his respect for women (umm...tick tock, Melania, you're probably about to hit your expiry date). His infamous Twitter feed is littered with hate-filled rants against women. He's now hitting out against Hillary Clinton in his typical cowardly, bloviating way, calling her names and accusing her of shouting at him. Apparently, in his sick world, when a woman has the unmitigated gall to respond to one his hysteric rants, that's 'shouting.' The cowardice on display is beyond the pale. He embodies #MoreThanMean. This anonymous quote nailed it:

Strong women scare weak men.

And yet, there are women who support him. I cannot understand how any woman can support his candidacy. It defies all logic. But I think we can all agree that the logic ship sank a long time ago when it comes to this campaign. 

There's no logic either in the behavior of men who go after women in such hateful ways, as was illustrated in the #MoreThanMean video. Aren't we better than that? We should be. We should be better to the women in our lives. They are amazing. They make us better.

Stop the mean. Love the women in your lives. We'd all be better for it.

Thank you to @justnotsports for starting this discussion. May it be the beginning of the end of hate towards the women in our lives.

25 April 2016

Healthy Service

The good people at British Airways have a motto to which they strive to adhere: To fly, to serve

I think missionaries like TMFKATB might play on that motto slightly: To work, to teach, to serve

In this week's letter, he talked a little about the opportunities for service that arose during the week. He seemed pretty excited about the chance to do "lots of service!" This led him to lament that he was pretty sore as a result. He and his companion tackled some junk-filled yards that, in by his observation, were allowed to junk up specifically for this missionaries to clean up. I'm not buying that but he talked about the fun they had helping the people with whom they are working. The best part of it was when he said, "I am feeling healthy and strong again."

That, my friends, was music to our ears. Healthy and strong and finding joy in service, even if it was clearing the detritus someone had let build up in their yard. There really is joy in getting outside and doing something for someone else. There's no thanks required or needed. The thanks comes in the feeling you get when doing right by or for someone else. It's a really good feeling. The more you serve, the better you feel. That's the beauty of it.

23 April 2016

Summer of '84

If we've learned nothing more this week, we've been reminded just how powerful music and the memories it evokes is.

Upon hearing of the sudden death of one of music's (add your own superlative here) most talented artists, Prince, earlier this week, I took to the Facebooks and posted this:

Summer of 1984. The 'Purple Rain' soundtrack. The best summer of my teenage years.

Through the lens of hindsight, I can see that the summer of 1984 was everything to me. It began with my liberation (graduation) from a lengthy four year sentence of awkwardness and ennui that was the hellscape that is high school. I got my first taste of world travel when I made my first trek to Europe, which confirmed what I had always suspected, that there was so much more to the world than what I'd known growing up in the artifice that was Scottsdale. As soon as I returned from that trip, I settled into another bubble behind the Zion Curtain and, with summer term, began my college career at BYU.

That summer was, quite simply, was the best summer of my mostly painfully awkward teenage years. Every day seemed to be better than the next. It was the glory days of the Reagan years, wherein our collective belief in America's exceptionalism was highlighted by the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles and our absolute trouncing of well, everyone there. Of course, the Russians had boycotted those games (thanks, tit for tat) so things were a little lopsided. Seriously those Games looked more like a very special episode of Battle of the Network Stars than it did the Olympic Games. We'd crowd around someone's little black and white TV in one of the late, great Deseret Towers dorm rooms at night, catching the highlights of the day's events as we were getting ready to hit the Palace. The Star Palace.

This was the summer of 1984. This was the summer of the Star Palace. This was the summer of mousse. This was the summer where the "Purple Rain" soundtrack blared at 11 as we got ready to dance (badly) the night away at the aforementioned and long gone Palace. Prince's music was heavy on the playlist at the Palace as well. From his 1982 album, 1999, "Delirious" and the eponymous title song sent the denizens of the dance floor at the Palace into a frenzy. In the heady, silly summer of 1984, celebrating the end of the millennium in 1999 wasn't just 15 years away, it was a million years away. Once "Purple Rain" was released at the end of June of that year, it was all you heard. It was transformational. One of the tracks from that album broke me out of my timid bad dancer shell too.  In my white pants (let's not speak of it again) and my striped rugby shirt and well-moussed hair, I jumped up on one of the platforms at the Star Palace as I heard the first notes of that song. It was "I Would Die 4 U." On that platform, I danced wildly and badly, to that song, including the corny hand actions. Those of you of a certain age know exactly the actions to which I'm referring (think someone fluent in ASL having a full blown seizure while trying to explain that they are, in fact, dying). It was so liberating and so much fun. I did not care how silly I looked. The music was awesome. None of us cared how silly it all was. We were surrounded by friends. For most of us, it was our first summer away from home. We were getting as wild as observant Mormon kids got in the summer of 1984. It was, in a well-worn word from the era, awesome.

It's been thirty two years since the summer of 1984. As I've revisited the music of the late Prince this week, I've been transported back to that most memorable summer. What a summer it was! So much of what that summer was is long gone. Deseret Towers, demolished. The Star Palace? The last I checked it was the home to yet another Provo marketing scam, scheme, I mean business. Mousse? Passe. Besides my hair is too short to even hold a dollop of that stuff. At least the music of Prince lives on. And so will the memories of the summer of 1984.

20 April 2016

A crazy week

The latest in mission casual wear?
Over the course of the eighteen plus months, rare has been the Monday that I've not been able to carve up my schedule so that I could dedicate time to the letter from TMFKATB. There have only been a couple of occasions where I've not been able get his letters or give him a decent response. This past Monday was crazy for me. Ironically, he entitled this week's letter 'A crazy week.' I got his email about 15 minutes before my craziness was hitting 11 as I was about to go on stage with Doug Parker, CEO and Chairman of American Airlines, to chat him up in front of 700 or so industry colleagues. Suffice to say, I wasn't able to interact much with TMFKATB this past Monday.

So that's the excuse for posting this week's update a little late. As for the update, he did have some craziness. He and his companion had been told as of last Monday they'd be training a new missionary. Within a matter of days, the threesome became a foursome and by the end of week, the two new missionaries were on their own, opening a new area. Things change quickly when visas come through for missionaries and that was exactly the case with the fourth missionary (a Mexican national serving in his home country until his US visa cleared, allowing him to head behind the Zion Curtain to serve the balance of his mission assignment). Suffice to say, it made for a bit of craziness for them all, but they seemed to get through it with flying colors. That's always good.

This week's pearl of wisdom came from TMFKATB in the form of this endorsement:

Draper is so sick!

For those of you who either do not live behind the Zion Curtain or are not familiar with the cities and towns that make the Zion Curtain what it is, Draper is a town south of Salt Lake City. Its greatest claim to fame, and it's dubious, is that it houses the charm-free Utah State Prison and was the site of the execution of Gary Gilmore. It is also the place where the first IKEA in the whole of Utah was built. A prison and an IKEA, going all 'Ebony and Ivory' is rich, given that they are both meant to hold people against their will.

14 April 2016

Alone in a crowd

Lonely? Maybe not.
Due to myriad meetings, I spent more than my usual scheduled "in office" days in my Manhattan office this week. Although we were blessed with a very mild winter, all things considered, the city is emerging into a beautiful spring. In a cacophonous city crafted in cement, steel, and the detritus of its millions upon millions of residents, how does spring manifest itself? Here's how:

Stunningly blue skies.
White clouds that create their own art work against that amazing blue palette.
Bright yellow daffodils arching towards the sun in planters all along Lex.
And shwarma truck vendors who are not yet permanently enraged at their customers.

Manhattan in the spring is a joy (really, it is). I find an enormous sense of solace at this time of year when I'm in the city. The city is finding itself once again. Even though New York City never feels empty, there are more people out and about. People who have hibernated (or ordered in from Seamless) for the winter are out and about. That's obvious by the longer lines at every place I like to go for lunch.

What is remarkable to me is that I can be standing in a massive throng, like at the corner of 42nd and Madison during the rush to get to Grand Central Station, and feel completely alone, and at peace I might add, in my thoughts. I have come to realize that's not a bad thing. It's in moments like that I feel like I'm totally engaged and in the moment. I find myself doing some of my best thinking surrounded by those hordes. I've wondered why that is too. Perhaps it's the awareness that not a soul around you knows who you are; so there's no judgement. To the person who happens to be walking along side you on that packed street, you're just someone doing what needs to be done at that moment. It's a liberating feeling.

Enlightenment is being alone in a crowd;
a feeling of oneness in a crowd - 
this is a sign of wisdom.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

I hardly consider myself enlightened or full of wisdom but I get what Shankar is saying. Being alone in a crowd is not necessarily a bad thing. Being alone in a crowded New York City on a spring day can be a thing of beauty.

11 April 2016

'Hello' is what he called this week's letter

Last night a friend of ours asked me if TMFKATB's mission had gone by quickly or slowly. With the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML away on her ten day "I'm sick of Connecticut" tour with her sister, I answered the question solely from my perspective. One word was all it took: quickly. I am amazed at how the time has flown by. Wasn't last Monday's update posted five minutes ago? No, it was seven days ago but it feels like it was just a second ago. I did caveat my answer since we got him home for three weeks for the "Gastrointestinal Tragedy Recovery Tour 2015." I'm the first to admit that made the two years easier to bear. That said,  in all honesty, it really has passed by so much faster than I ever anticipated.

I mean, here we are again, another Monday, and another update from TMFKATB. Not to sound like a broken record, but his letter was another good one. He got to lead another leadership training session in Spanish and loved it. He's challenging himself with some of his personal study. He's stretching himself as he works and serves. That's not a bad thing at all. As he put it, "I just really enjoy the work."

I had to laugh at the title of his weekly email, "Hello." I knew it was not an homage to Adele. He probably has no idea that she even released a new album, as missionaries find themselves in a cultural vacuum during their period of service. That said, there's a missionary-themed spoof of "Hello" floating around on the interwebs. It's pretty clever. Take a look here if you want to check it out. For those of you behind the Zion Curtain, trust me if TMFKATB turns up on your doorstep, he won't bust out into song. I promise.

06 April 2016

On Baseball

Wrigley Field...hallowed ground
As a child, I wasn't much of an athlete. Let's be honest, I've never been much of an athlete in the true sense of the word at any point in my life. I'm fine with that. Athletics just didn't come naturally to me, except water skiing, which I was pretty adept at, but that's hardly a team sport. The only sport, team or otherwise, that I really tried as a kid was baseball.

Ah...baseball. I can still remember my three seasons of Little League spent in the furthest reaches of right field. My playing position should tell you something about my skill level. I remember the excitement / fear of stepping into the batter's box. The anticipation of that moment could be overwhelming. My memories of hearing the crack of my bat as it connected with the ball are a bit fuzzy. That is not because of my solid middle age, but the reality that my bat connecting with a pitch was a rarity. It was clear I was never going to the big leagues and I'm not talking about the MLB. I wasn't going anywhere beyond Little League.

My lack of baseball aptitude never quelled my love of the game. Am I a numbers-mad fan? Can I quote a player's stats, chapter and verse? No and no. Does that diminish my love of the game? Absolutely not. It's a game I get. It's a game I really like watching, whether it be at a minor league field, a Spring Training Mecca, a big league stadium, or on my TV, I'm happy to take in a game.

That said, there is something wonderful about taking in a game live. Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to see games in several pro stadiums across the country. I've been in the cheap seats (you haven't lived until you've watched the Cubs play from the general admission seats above the ivy at Wrigley) and in more than a few suites (the sushi at Yankees Stadium absolutely does not suck). Regardless of the seat, there is something uniquely American about a baseball game. Around the world, we Americans are known for our arguable inflated sense of exceptionalism and that sense translates to hope in the baseball field. There's always hope there. Even when your team has yet another terrible season, you go away saying, "There's always next season." Believe me, as someone who proudly adopted Chicago as his hometown and hence the Cubs as his team, I know of where I speak when it comes to hope for the next season.

I've really liked that as a family, we've shared this love of baseball. Seeing my kids hanging out with Manny Mota on the field at Dodgers Stadium was a highlight. Watching my daughters ask Ron Cey for his autograph when they had no idea who he was was a lot of fun. Taking in a Texas Rangers game in Arlington last year with CAL was a memory I'll forever cherish.

Opening Day was just three days ago. Baseball is back. Some people complain it's a boring game. I'm not one of them. Baseball, to me, is good memories. It is fun. It is family. It is hope. Yeah, I'm a fan.

04 April 2016

He's busy

Missionary planting seeds, literally. The Crocs?
They aren't his. I repeat, they aren't his!
As TMFKATB's time in the mission field grows shorter and shorter (don't get me wrong, it's not like he will be home tomorrow; he's' still got nearly five months to go), he seems to be busier and busier. His letters are a mirror image of that shortness and today's update was no exception.

It was a few highlights of his impressions of the Church's General Conference that occurred this past weekend. He was able to attend one session in person with the rest of his zone, which he really enjoyed. He did point out that he wished he'd paid more attention to Conference sessions when he was younger and that he appreciated how the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I had tried to get him to do so (score one for the parents!). I couldn't help but smile as I read that.

The rest of his week was good, based on his brief commentary. He got to "deal" with a couple of missionaries that, in his words, "wanted to kill each other." That's bound to happen when you put a couple of 18, 19 or 20 year old guys together from disparate backgrounds for 24 hours a day and put them into challenging situations. It's not a lock that everything's going to be sunshine and roses. It's experiences like these that he won't be have in a classroom that will serve him well for the rest of his life. There's something to be said for this.

He did share his new favorite food:

Arepas, Venezuelan style.

Me, I like Colombian arepas better. I see a cookoff/smackdown in the offing upon his return. I'm looking forward to it!

02 April 2016

The Purge

It happened today. What 'it', you ask?

A purge, not just any purge, but The Purge. After weeks of hinting about it, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I purged...our closet. If I'm being honest, it was a long time coming, especially for the junk hanging (and by hanging I mostly mean jammed precariously onto a shelf) on my side of the closet.

It would not be a stretch to say I've held onto some clothes way beyond their, if you'll pardon the pun, shelf life. To be clear, it's not like I'm still holding on to my obscenely short PE shorts from freshman year 1980. That said, some of what I was clinging to, well, let's just say what I thought was 'classic,' is officially old. It was time for those old things to go; hence this morning's purge.

To be honest, it felt good to fill two and a half of those classy lawn clipping garbage bags with clothes. By and large, the stuff that was in good condition made its way to Goodwill. The stuff that was roughed up or just plain hideous, and there was some plaid gone horribly wrong that fell into that category, that made its way to the trash. Some of the stuff was fun to go through, like my stack of race t-shirts from when I was actually a good runner versus the train wreck I've become, and I'm happy to report those will become a quilt. I also realized I had an obscene amount of BYU t-shirts. They, too, will meet their end as a t-shirt quilt. Yeah, repurposing!

With the purge comes the inevitable feeling of emptiness and a tinge of regret. What's left in my closet is a reminder that I am a corporate tool in my work clothes and my casual stuff, well, let's not even talk about that. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML has proposed something of a makeover. As long as it doesn't involve a Hawaiian shirt, it should be fine. I'm not wanting this look: