28 August 2016

On Hiatus

This past week has been one for the books for the residents of the Den. For the first time in two years, we were all together. With the Awesomes, CAL, and The RM now firmly entrenched behind the Zion Curtain, it's a whole lot easier to be together. From Grampa babysitting to getting The RM a place to live and a set of wheels to helping CAL getting her house set up (I put together a vacuum cleaner sans a single curse word) to seeing Nana to a Real Salt Lake match (Baby Jane was not impressed but the rest of us were), it's been an amazing week. So amazing that we need a vacation. Big time.

Hence, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I are going on vacation. Now. The Den is officially on hiatus for the next week. I'm sure this is gut-wrenching news. If it is, please get out of your house more! It'll be a good break. Besides, with The RM home now, it'll give me time to ponder what to do about Monday posts going forward.

As for our vacation, I'll give you this hint:

Love, exciting and new
Come aboard, we're expecting you 
Love, life's sweetest reward
Let it flow, it comes back to you

And with that, I'm out. Be back in eight days or so. Enjoy the hiatus!

25 August 2016

Brotherhood

While we treasured the four days we had at home with The RM (that's right - he is now The RM), the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I were looking forward to his return to the Zion Curtain. Wait, what? you say incredulously. He'd only been home four days and you're already jonesing to see him leave again? #parentsoftheyear

Here's the thing: he had to leave. For him, school started this past Monday. Hanging around Connecticutistan was not an option. While we were sad that he was leaving so soon A) we were going with him and 2) we'd engineered a pretty great surprise for him at the Salt Lake City Airport and we were pretty excited to see that go down.

The RM is our lone son. He has two amazing older sisters but becuase of my inability to pass on the appropriate chromosome (if I'm remembering my high school biology class correctly), he has no brothers. Over the years, he has formed a brotherhood of friends. Two of those friends, from our days in Chicago, have become his brothers. These three met in the summer of 2006 and an instant and what has become an unbreakable bond, a brotherhood, was formed. They've covered for one another. They've cared for one another, including explaining a savage broken arm to an unsuspecting parent (think Brian Regan's great sketch about using leaves to repair a broken arm). They've challenged each other to be the best that they can be. From their earliest days, they talked about rooming together after their missions. So when it came together that they'd be rooming together this fall, we were pretty excited. 

There was the small matter that because of moves and missions, they'd not seen each other in four and three years respectively, until this past Sunday. We asked Grant and Scott to surprise The RM at the airport. It was, in a word, sweet. As we descended the escalator into Baggage Claim, the boys started howling and The RM immediately recognized the voices of his brothers. He turned around and looked at us in a state of shock and then headed down into a massive abraso from them. They were finally reunited. It was pretty awesome. If you look at the picture closely, you can see their smiles through the back of their heads. It was an honor to watch these three together again. It will be a greater honor to watch what these three do next.

Brotherhood is not just a Bible word. Out of comradeship can come and will come the happy life for all. ~ Heywood Broun

19 August 2016

Homecoming

2014 / 2016
Two pictures.
Two years.
Two countries served.

One farewell hug.
One awesome homecoming embrace.
One mission served.

One missionary home.

This past Wednesday, TMFKATB returned home. I know this comes as a surprise to all of you because there's been nary a mention of it here. I've really downplayed it. Oops! Sorry for that #KatrinaPiersonHistory moment! It's been the complete opposite and thank you for indulging our family as we've documented the lead up to his return. I'll wrap it up today with a few highlights from his homecoming.

Wednesday morning started as it normally does - early, with me ensconced at my desk in my home office. About an hour into my day, my email alert chimed and there it was. An email from Delta announcing that TMFKATB's flight was delayed by four hours and no alternate flights were available.  Suffice to say, it was not welcome news. Ironically I'd joked the week before with one of Delta's most senior leaders by all that was holy that he was making sure all went well on 8/17. Guess who got my first email after getting the delay notice? Long story short, within about 90 minutes and through the miracle of playing "Let's Switch Airplanes!", the original flight was restored and all was on time again and all was well in the world.

I worked until noon and then jumped into help the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML with the last few things she wanted to do to prepare for his arrival. This included mowing the lawn, which I could have held off doing so that TMFKATB could do it for me since he hadn't had the opportunity in the last two years. But I mowed the lawn because #fatheroftheyear. We got his 'Welcome Home' sign hung and the flags of Mexico and Utah secured in the lawn. Once that was done, it was time to head to BDL.

@universe.byu.edu
This was NOT the scene at his BDL homecoming. No hordes of screaming relatives. No Haka rituals. No professional videographers calling for the returning missionary to come back down the escalator because the lighting was just a little off. Ours was far more subdued. Here it is:

video

It was, and is, a moment we will never forget. Watching the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML sweep our boy into arms was priceless. Embracing him again was as good as it gets. I hardly wanted to let him go. There were tears, laughter, and a whole lot of joy.

That joy has not dissipated. There have been some very tender moments that are best kept private. There have been very funny moments as we continue to watch him adjust to 'civilian' life. On his first night home, he fell onto his bed as if it was the greatest thing ever created. He keeps grabbing his chest where his name tag sat for two solid years. It's clear he feels exposed without it (There's something to that - taking off my tag was toughest part of my coming home). He has called me to repentance on multiple occasions as well (which is probably deserved, if I'm being honest). It's been funny to see what he's missed. I suspect that will keep happening...

We are overjoyed to have our boy home and grateful for his service. We are grateful to all of you for your support these past two years. We are beyond blessed.

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. ~ Karl Barth

17 August 2016

And he's home

She held him first
Sometimes a paucity of words is the best way to let a story tell itself. The events of the last few hours lend themselves to letting pictures tell the story.

I'll no doubt write a little more about today's joyous homecoming but for now, the pictures speak for themselves.

My boy!

Assessing who's taller

BDL is no SLC Missionary Arrival
Boondoggle but our signs and balloons
worked very nicely

Holding him tight again (there's been a lot
of that in the ensuing hours)

He's home. He's really home.
We won't be forgetting this day any time soon. We are overjoyed.

15 August 2016

The best two (only two more days!!!) years

Of course, since it was his last P-Day (day off) in the mission field, TMFKATB went and changed things up. Over the course of the last several weeks, his letters arrived later and later.

Not today. His letter hit our inboxes right at 12 Noon (10:00AM his time). Clearly, he had things to do today, like packing, and spending a chunk of time going back and forth with his parents who he is seeing in 48 hours was not at the top of his list. He entitled his letter "The best two years" and it was pretty much perfect (says his totally non-biased father). He highlighted a final busy week, peppered with fiestas de despedidas because the Latin people know how to bid farewell to someone, and saying difficult good-byes to people he has grown to love enormously. So it's been an emotional week and he's ending it the same way he started it. When he got to his new assignment behind the Zion Curtain, he was thrust into a trio, working with two companions rather than one. He's going out the same way, as his companion was called to a new leadership assignment this past Saturday, and so TMFKATB finds himself in a trio once again. He's taking it all in stride, as he tends to do.

As he closed his letter, he talked about some of the things he's learned over the course of the last two years. He bore witness of knowing that there is a God who is aware of each and every one of us. He bore witness of knowing there is a Savior, fighting for each of us, continually cheering us on. He bore witness of how lives can be changed, not the least of which has been his own. He called this service his best two years.

It no doubt has been. I know I felt the same way when I was in his shoes. On the last night of my own missionary service, laying on a bed in a hotel room in Ft. Lauderdale, FL., I pondered what I'd been able to do during my two years and I thought it would never get any better. Those were two amazing years. They were awesome but were the foundation for the rest of my life. In the thirty years since then, there have been too many bests to count. Too many.

One of the bests, though, has been these last two years. I know it seems crazy that going nearly two years without seeing (I now we got a three week reprieve but that was not a fun time) or being able to speak to your child could be described as best but it has been. Watching him grow and seeing the young man he has evolved into has been an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. This has been an amazing two years for us. TMFKATB's two year mission service is coming to an end. But there's more good coming. I can't wait to see where it takes him. And us, for that matter.

All good things must come to an end. But if they decide
to go on, I'm not going to stop them.
~ Clarence Fountain

Bimbo. Himbo. Whatever works.

I love this.
P.S. Watch this space for an update or two on Wednesday. TMFKATB comes home that day. Allegedly.

14 August 2016

Thank You

Sometime tomorrow, as has been my custom for the last two years, I will post an update sent by TMFKATB from the mission field. While the content may be pretty routine, the significance of tomorrow's post will be anything but routine. It is his last.letter.home. For those of you who have lost count, not to worry, I've been counting for you, and I can assure you, this it it. He will be home this Wednesday (as in just three more days). Suffice to say, we are more than a little excited.

When The Boy opted to serve a mission for our church and become The Missionary Formerly Known As The Boy (TMFKATB), I decided I would share a bit of his experiences here in the Den on a weekly basis. From the moment he opened his call, which contained his assignment to the Mexico Tuxtla Gutierrez Mission, to his illness, to his reassignment behind the Zion Curtain in the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission as a Spanish speaking missionary, you've been a part of it, and for that I say thank you.

Thank you for the comments over these last two years.
Thank you for the questions about what he was doing.
Thank you for the prayers, particularly when he was ill.
Thank you for indulging this Dad as I shared my son's experiences.

For those of you who are not Mormon and were unfamiliar with the mission experience, I hope this has been interesting, even helpful. If nothing else, if I've taken down the "Mormons are really weird" perception a couple of notches, then my work here is done.

It has been an honor to share these last two years with you. I'm going to miss his letters. I'm going to miss the anticipation of what each Monday would bring. I'm going to miss sharing that with you. But,  man, is it ever going to be good to take my son up in my arms again and say "Welcome home!" in just three more days (but who's counting, right?).

So check this space tomorrow for the last letter.

Thank you again for being a part of these last two years.

08 August 2016

9 Days

The Real Salt Lake D Team
"See ya next week"

TMFKATB chose those four words as the salutation of this week's letter. Truer words have never been spoken. Indeed, we will see him next. He will be home in nine, count 'em, nine days! (Side note - why is it that whenever I hear the word 'nine,' I hear Dean of Students Ed Rooney uttering "Nine times!")

Today's letter arrived late and was pretty brief. He's clearly, and understandably so, preoccupied with his last days in the mission field. He's determined to go out strong and I am proud of him for that. He was a little reflective in this letter, noting that it "has been so cool to reflect on the people I have met and see how much they have changed." Because of the geography of his mission and the fact that he was a Spanish speaker, he didn't move around a lot during his service behind the Zion Curtain, so he has been able to see people change and progress in ways that other missionaries perhaps don't. I think that has no doubt helped him to see his fellowman in a different light. That insight is just one of the many blessings that has come from this two year service. I am so eager to sit down with him in a few days and hear him talk about all this. It's going to be pretty awesome.

So there's just one more letter. He confirmed that next Monday will be his final P-Day. I'm going to miss this. The last line of his letter today says it best:

Well, this is the last week, people!

Times / Days...you get the idea!

06 August 2016

Everything Must Go!

The Bible teaches in 1 (that's "First" not "one," Mr. Trump) Corinthians that "your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost." That teaching has spurned many to teach the value of treating your body like a temple, as opposed to an amusement park or a wrecking yard.

The fact is that in this life we've only got one body and we really should treat it well. The counsel to treat it like a temple is really wise. Some of us, though, have seen these temples of ours go through some unwelcome additions (weight gain), unexpected developments (Hello, MOOBS!), as well as some delightful renovations (like when I was at my peak running condition a few years ago). At this stage of my life, this temple of mine, this body, is feeling a lot like a neglected Trump casino. The original investment has gone sour and things have gotten unsightly and people really would prefer to keep the unsightliness covered up (several new rash guards were just ordered for the cruise at the end of the month - you're welcome, fellow cruise guests). Unlike Trump and his casino businesses, I'm not prepared to throw in the towel, declare bankruptcy, and walk away. There's still hope for another nice renovation.

That's the amazing thing about these bodies of ours. We can renovate them and I'm not talking in skanky Kardashian surgical fashion. With a little, or a lot of, work, we can literally reshape this thing. It's amazing what our bodies can do, like fighting off ailments, curing itself, and regenerating stuff. I was thinking about this as I donated blood this morning. Although it took me until I was 35 years old (because I was an EPIC chicken) to start donating, I've been an uber-regular blood donor ever since. The blood can go, as far as I'm concerned. It regenerates itself and in donating, I'm literally saving lives. I'm doing something good for my fellowman. In an effort to keep that doing good for my fellowman thing going, I long ago decided to be an organ donor. Once I'm dead, I will have ZERO use for any of my organs, so why not give them away? Seriously, if there's something useful, take it, use it, go on living with my spleen or my heart. I'd give you my gall bladder but that useless piece of junk took its leave from the temple here a few years ago. No gall bladder for you! To make up for that (no, not really), I recently signed on as a bone marrow donor. Again, as far as I'm concerned, it can go too. If a bit of my marrow can help someone with a blood cancer, I'm in. I can get along just fine without it. When I read the documentation associated with the marrow donation, I was in awe, again, of these temples - these bodies - that we possess.

So, sure, everything must go! A bit of blood every eight weeks. A bit of marrow when they find a match. An organ or two, or more, when I'm dead. Frankly, that's the easy stuff. The hard part? The necessary renovations to the Temple of Me that I need right now. Losing the moobs and the pillowy soft, middle-aged DadBod. That's the really hard part. And that foolishness, yeah, it really needs to go!

To find your nearest opportunity to donate blood with the Red Cross, go here
To sign up as an organ donor, go here or here
To learn more about marrow donation through DKMS, go here

01 August 2016

16 Days (but who's counting?)

That, my friends, is one BOSS pan of paella!
Believe it or not, after today's installment from TMFKATB from behind the Zion Curtain, there will only be two more updates. He has a mere 16 days left before his two year service comes to an end and he returns home.

16 days - but who's counting?

From this week's letter, I think TMFKATB may be counting, but more about the things he has yet to do and the people he has yet to see.  He was pretty excited about the progress they are seeing in a person they've been working with for quite some time. He's had a chance to see the goodness in people as the hand of fellowship has once again been extended from multiple people to this family from Venezuela that they've been working with too and he was grateful for those kindnesses.

People are recognizing that he'll be leaving in a couple of weeks and in Latin tradition, that means fiestas. I mean check out that ridiculous pan of paella. That was done for one the missionary's birthdays! That thing is fan-freaking-tastic! He knows he won't see this kind of celebration for awhile. He'll face a lot of "lasts" over the course of the next few days. As he closed his email today, he said to us:

It's getting real! I am going to miss this.

He wasn't talking about the paella (although how can you not miss that?) of course. He'll miss the people. He'll miss the work. He'll miss the service. He'll miss so much. But it's time to get ready for the next phase of life. So much awaits him. But he'll be ready for it, even though he may not know it yet. He's got sixteen more days of an experience that he'll never have again. He doesn't need to worry about what's next. Like I told him today, just enjoy what you've got now.

In the meantime, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I will keep the countdown clock going. 16 days. It'll be here in no time! In proof, though, that A) he is truly aware that he's coming home and B) that he is my son, he wanted to know what I was doing about getting him upgraded on his Delta flights home. Clearly, he hasn't heard about the changes to the Skymiles program in the last two years. He'll enjoy is seat in Coach.