11 November 2017

On Veterans Day

November 11th is Veterans Day. Originally known as Armistice Day created to commemorate world peace, it has become a day where we rightfully honor all those who have served in the armed forces.

Unlike many other nations around the world, our military is made up entirely of volunteers. Each of these men and women have chosen to serve this country, regardless of the political climate here or abroad. They choose to serve for myriad reasons - love of country, opportunities - but they have voluntarily chosen to serve.

Many who volunteer are aware of the appalling statistics associated with veterans in this country. In 2014, 18% of all suicides in the United States were veterans. In 2015, 300,000 veterans likely died waiting for medical care from the Veterans Administration. Tonight, this very night, nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless.

Those who volunteer and serve today know that their purported Commander-In-Chief is himself a draft dodger (because bone spurs, which much like his tax returns, are nowhere to be found). They know that he actively mocked a US Senator because that Senator had the temerity to be captured and became a POW while serving in Vietnam. They know he actively mocked the parents of a dead soldier because they have the last name of Khan. They know that he has disrespected the widow of a slain soldier because, in her grief, she exposed him for the careless fraud that he is. In spite of all this, they continue to serve and men and women continue to volunteer. We owe each of them, those who serve today and those who have served, a tremendous amount of gratitude.

Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist said it best of our veterans:

The valor and courage of our young men and women in the
armed services are a shining example to all of the world,
and we owe them and their families our deepest respect.

Thank a veteran today. Thank their families. Remember that the basic freedoms you enjoy have been protected by their service. Remember their valor and courage and thank them.

05 November 2017

How many more, you ask? We have an answer.

@nbcnews
A mere thirty one days ago, in the wake of a horrific terrorist attack (unlike The Megalomaniac in Chief and his gutless compatriots, I will say a white man is capable of committing acts of terrorism and should be called out as such) in Las Vegas wherein a lone gunman killed 59 people and injured nearly 600 in a matter of minutes, I said there would be another one.

Today, that other one, yet another terrorist attack on American soil, occurred in a church in a San Antonio suburb. I'd like to be outraged that this happened at a church. I'd like to be outraged that churches, which by their vary nature are sanctuaries of peace, are not exempt from such horror. I'd like to be outraged but we've accepted that elementary schools and the children within are fair targets and that the most super-effective solution is to arm teachers. I'd like to be outraged but we've decided that being massacred is one of the potential acceptable risks of going out to the movies. I'd like to be outraged but we've accepted that if you're out at the club with your friends, getting mowed down like an enemy combatant is just an unpleasant downside.

Our political leaders, and I use that term in the loosest possible way, have already come out wringing their hands and calling for prayers. They are also calling for calm and that this is certainly not the time to talk action or politicizing what has happened. Interestingly, just a few days ago when a brown man, a Muslim, ran down eight people in New York, these same leaders were screaming for extreme vetting and the death penalty before the first bodies had been removed from the scene. Double standards are fun, aren't they?

The fact that the twenty six (so far) people who were slaughtered this afternoon were in church praying when they were killed will change nothing. The NRA will continue to pay its blood money to politicians who will gladly accept it. Apparently that cushion of cash makes it easier for them to sleep once they utter their somber platitudes about thinking and praying about the victims.

The bottom line is that nothing will change. We are destroying ourselves and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

04 November 2017

The Hunt for Wed October

Glorious stroop waffles from The Mighty Baker
With apologies (as in 'sorry, not sorry') to the creative masterminds behind 1990's cinematic opus, "The Hunt for Red October," wherein Sean Connery played a hardened Russian submarine commander with an inexplicable Scottish brogue and an even more inexplicable hair piece, in today's post, I give you "The Hunt for Wed October," wherein I'll briefly catch you up to speed on what went down in the Den in October.

The latter half of the month was spent behind the Zion Curtain indulging in culinary goodness, like stroop waffles from the Mighty Bakertacos and more tacos than are probably permitted under the regime of Dear Leader Trump, and way too many Vikings from Sodalicious. There was also the matter of this little event:

That's the RM, emerging triumphantly from his 21st October wedding ceremony, with his new bride, the lovely MC. His Rockette-esque high kick reflects his excitement, as well as his innate ability to always keep it classy (a quality he obviously gets from his father, natch). And speaking of keeping it classy, no, he is not flipping the bird there. He's proudly showing off his finger that now sports a wedding ring. This little event is what brought us back to the Zion Curtain and it goes without saying that yeah, it was pretty awesome. It was more than awesome. It was perfect. As we went through the events of the wedding, from the groom's dinner, to the wedding and the two receptions, to the weather which was glorious, on multiple occasions, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I would say to one another, 'Could this be any more perfect?' To say that we were blessed would be a foolish understatement. To be surrounded by family and friends, as we welcomed a new member to our family, was joyous.

Proud to stand with our son and his new bride

Our growing collection of children. Turns out
I really, really like these people.
I can't say enough good things about our new daughter-in-law and her family. She is a product of great parents, who have raised a wonderful young woman. We were able to spend some time in their home, meeting their family and friends at Reception #2 in Twin Falls, ID., and these are people who are loved. It was really good to see how the RM seems to fit in as well with them. That's important because when you marry, you get a new family, whether you like it or not. I scored on the In-Law Lotto when the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML married and I think the RM has done the same. We'll see what MC has to say about her in-laws, meaning me since I'm the "handful"...(that test will come at the end of the year after a week with us for Christmas Vacation). That said, she fits in beautifully with our daughters and our son-in-law and as you can see from the picture above, they look great as a family.

As we had our children together, I was reminded of how fortunate I am. Then with each moment I spent with these two, that feeling of fortunate exploded into the incomparable joy of being a grandpa:


I could bang on for days about the fun we had each and every day. These two, who are the lights of my life as if that weren't obvious, were stuck with us for 13 days straight and as far as I'm concerned, it could have gone on forever. We laughed. We created tons of paper spaceships without a single paper cut. We had In-n-Out. Grandpa may, or may not, have let his four year old grandson drive a car around a gated community. Allegedly. We had two nights of Halloween shenanigans. We just had fun every day.

Suffice to say, Wed October was a very good month for us. It was so good to see old friends, like the RM's buddies from Connecticutistan or the Boys of the Dirty 630. We had dinner with a couple of friends from our early married days at BYU and it was just like yesterday (also thanks to A & B, the greatest stalkers ever, who once again showed up to say hi out of nowhere!). I had a chance to reconnect with a few friends from freshman year, 1984, that I had not seen since, wait for it, 1985. Thirty two years, people, but what a great reunion! There was more than a little laughter there, let me tell you.

At the end of "The Hunt for Red October," Jack Donaghy Ryan says to the inexplicably wigged Captain Ramius, "Welcome to the new world, Captain," and that kind of sums up Wed October for us.  As the RM married, he entered a new world called marriage. With MC, we gained a new daughter-in-law and she joins a new world called having me for a father-in-law, the poor thing. It's a new world for our family and I like it. I really, really like it.

Product Endorsement Time:
We could not have pulled off our groom's dinner without the goodness of two companies. For those of you behind the Zion Curtain, or for those of you who go behind the ZC from time to time, please support these two:

180 Tacos - their catering team is great! Food is fantastic and they do a terrific job!
The Mighty Baker - I can't say enough good about this place. Pete is great to work with and man, they make great stuff.

Also for those of us on the East Coast who are used to paying $150 for eggs, milk, and bread from the local Quick-E-Mart, you will die a thousand deaths at how good their pricing is. I'm still reeling.

08 October 2017

Father | Son

In much of the competition-based television foisted upon us today, there's a fairly common trope. It's a father or mother doing something like artfully cooking a sea slug or trying to get up Mt. Upchuck-a-rama (I may or may not have that name wrong) in record time for the sole purpose of making their child proud of them. Nine times out of ten, as the footage rolls and the overwrought emotional music is cued, it turns out said child is an infant who would not know if his father was climbing Mt. Whatever or if he was the closet door. So it's pretty safe to say being proud of daddy isn't much of an issue yet.

As the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML will tell you, I don't appreciate these scenes. They're trite, maudlin, and spectacularly lazy. It also usually launches me into an unhinged rant on the nature of parent-child relationships and as her nom de guerre suggests, SML has an unending well of patience with me, but she's done with these rants, so we aren't watching a lot of this type of television together and that's probably for the best.

The Great Mullet Debacle of 2014
Not our finest hour. Let's not
talk about it ever again.
These maudlin scenes have been playing in my mind of late as we are preparing for The RM's wedding just 13 days from today. My involvement in this event has been reserved to paying for stuff sans complaint and taste testing tacos and a next-level dessert for the groom's dinner.  I did nominate myself to create a playlist to add to the ambience of that dinner. For those of you unfamiliar with my iTunes library, it is essentially an extended cry for help consisting of more than 1200 songs that have no discernible rhyme or reason, so this playlist is going to be aces! That said, I've found myself in a mawkish well of my own creation thanks to the lyrics of one song that I added to the list, forgetting that it's about a father's love, as opposed to an unsettling love song between an F-Dude and his F150 as the title would suggest. The chorus of the George Strait song "Love Without End, Amen" goes like this:

Let me tell you a secret about a father's love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
He said daddies don't just love their children every now and then
It's a love without end, amen
It's a love without end, amen

As I've listened to that song multiple times, more than one tear has fallen from my eyes as I think about this good young man, my son, and the pride I have in him, as well as the unending love I feel. Even during the Great Mullet Debacle of 2014 wherein we experienced a taste of the Seventh Ring of Hell that no parent should have to endure, I've loved this son of mine to the Moon and back, just as I have his sisters.

Holding him after 18 months of not seeing each other
My son, The RM, is now somehow on the precipice of marrying a smart, capable, lovely young woman and starting a completely new phase of life. I can't help but marvel at how this has all played out. Wasn't it just yesterday that I held him in my arms for the first time, still smarting from the fact that I didn't get to finish a burrito because he decided to turn up fast? Wasn't it just yesterday that I held both him and his mother as a doctor set his broken arm (first of three, but who's counting)? Wasn't it just yesterday that we threw our arms around each other in a victory hug in the bleachers at Wrigley at our first Cubs game? Wasn't it just over a year ago when we threw our arms around him as he emerged from behind the Curtain of Incompetence (AKA the TSA) at the Hartford Airport as he returned from his missionary service as a mature young man? I held him for a good long time that day, remembering all the times I held him before and then, as you see from the picture above, I stood back and marveled at my son. I marveled at the man he'd become. I marveled at what the future held for him. I marveled that somehow I had something to do with raising him and his sisters into the good people that they are. (On that point, I need to give credit where credit is due right now: the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is why my children are who they are. Also, she is a saint.)

In the coming days, he and I will have a few more 'advice' sessions and I'm sure he won't remember a lot of it. I hope he'll remember the good things I've tried to demonstrate as his father and as a husband to his mom. In thirteen days, I'll hold him again as I wrap my arms around him and through my tears, of which there will be many, I'll say 'Congratulations, son,' as he embarks on a new life as a husband. I'll give my new daughter-in-law a hug and say 'He's yours now. Buena suerte!'


Like that cowboy philosopher George Strait said of a father's love for his children, "It's a love without end, amen." I could not agree more.

04 October 2017

How Many More? A Painful Redux

@abcnews.com
I don't make a habit of republishing old posts here in the Den. I do so with one exception and that is in honor of September 11th. So it's got to be something pretty momentous to get me to republish a post. I think that 58 people slaughtered by a lone terrorist (because that is EXACTLY what he was), carrying a multitude of automatic weapons worthy of an elite army assault team, seems pretty momentous to me.

I published the post below on 3rd October 2015 in response to yet another school shooting that left ten people dead. What gutted me earlier today when I reread the post is that I couldn't even remember where that shooting occurred. That's how common these shootings are and how desensitized we've become to them. Here we are, nearly two years later to the day, living the horror of the worst mass shooting in the United States, for now. There will be another one, a worse one because we will continue to tolerate this madness.

We can bang on all we want about when is the "right time" to talk about gun control. Once this country decided it was super cool with the slaughter of twenty children, some of whom were only a couple of years older than my grandson is today, then the gun control debate was over.

Our leaders will wring their hands, offer up their prayers, tweets and platitudes, and then do absolutely nothing. And soon enough, I'll republish this post, with more editorial comment in italics, with the occurrence of an event with an even higher body count. And nothing will change.

I'm sad. I'm angry. I'll let my legislators know where I stand on this. I will make my voice heard even though I fear that we are going to continue to choose to let these things happen.

3rd October 2015
Another day, another mass shooting here in the United States. Ten dead, including the perpetrator, in another senseless mass shooting at yet another school.

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate? Apparently our tolerance knows no bounds.

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

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate? See above.

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

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate? See above.

I guess it's easier to fixate on what a former child star turned epic skank is not going to wear when she hosts "Saturday Night Live" tonight than how we can address this madness. See the pregnancies of the Kardashian trollops.

I guess it's easier to play a parlor game of "What Will The Megalomaniac Donald Say Today" than to address the mental health crisis in our country that is a key driver of these killings. I. Can't. Even.

I guess it's easier to ignore the fact that our children are being taught how to survive a mass shooting from their earliest days in elementary school than it is to question why anyone should be allowed to have a full-on weapons depot in their basement.

How many more of these incidents will we tolerate? This is now a rhetorical question.

Given our track record, there seems to be no limit. When will we tire of it? Apparently never. When will we do something to make it stop? We'll see if the next one finally does it.

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

20 September 2017

On entering Area 51

Area 51.

What comes to mind when you hear "Area 51?"

Conspiracy? Secrecy? Aliens? Really bad sci-fi films? That's where both Jimmy Hoffa and Elvis are currently hanging out, right? Is that where the FemBot we know as Melania Trump was created?

The questions about Area 51 and, much like the soul of the current occupant of the White House, the answers are non-existent. Today, though, I have answers because I have entered Area 51.

I should be clear that the Area 51 I speak of is not that den of conspiracy somewhere north of Las Vegas but rather it is the fact that I turned 51years old today. I've already discovered some parallels to this august age and the alien landing area that dare not speak its name. There's a few things about this age that are making me feel more and more alien-esque. For instance:

  • Spots on spots on spots - each day it seems like some new age spot or dry patch o'skin makes an appearance on my dad bod. At this point, you could play a nearly endless game of "Connect the Dots."
  • Memory Erasing - remember the fun little tool the "Men in Black" boys used to wipe people's memories? Yeah, so I seem to have one of those that's gone active somewhere in the recesses of my mind that makes me forget odd little things. (Sorry about not remembering to get the 13 bagels sliced the other morning, every body!)
Those are just two things along the alien path that is turning 51. I suspect I've got another reminder from AARP that I have yet to join that army awaiting me in my mailbox today. I'm steadfastly holding out on that one, no matter what my increasingly gray head of hair suggests. The fact of the matter is that even though today I turned 51, I'm not feeling older. Like James Brown belts, "I feel good."

I've got plenty of reason to feel good. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML has now been by my side (by her choice, people) for nigh on thirty years. We just seen the weekend with our children, grandchildren, and almost new daughter-in-law and that was simply a joyous experience for us as parents. Basically the best early birthday present I could have hoped for. I am a lucky man.

So, I'm a tad curious to see where the mystery of Area 51 and this year takes me. The one thing that I know for sure is I'll be grayer by the time I roll into 52 next year. Everything else is up for grabs. Bring it on, 51st year!

11 September 2017

On 9/11/01

@911 Memorial
Rather than posting the remarks I made in church on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as I have done for the last several years, today I'm resharing the first post I wrote about that terrible day. I didn't write it until nine years after the event and today, 16 years on, I worry time is softening the horror of that day. I don't want that to happen, not to remember the horror but to remember how it brought our nation and our world together, if only for a few brief moments. Without further commentary, here's that first post:

September 11, 2010
While it's a day after the 9th anniversary of the attacks on U.S. soil that claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, I've found myself quite contemplative this weekend. My mind has not been far from the events of that horrific day. Much has been said that it was one of those watershed events - one that you'll never forget where were you were when you first heard the news. I know I was in my car on I15 driving into the office and was on the phone with my company's help desk, trying to address an issue with my computer. I'll not forget the gasp of the young woman on the other line as she told me what she was seeing. That was right after the first plane hit. I sensed that whatever was going on in New York City was going to change everything. And it did.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I had been in NYC the week before the events of 9/11. We'd gone for a few days to relax and enjoy the city. It was an awesome trip and I'll never forget as we were being driven back to JFK the view we had of the Towers. The Towers were not beautiful. However, on that afternoon nine years ago, they were framed by a gorgeous, cloudless blue sky and seemed, at that moment, to embody New York City. I recall saying something to SML about as we drove. Little did I know that one week later, those towers would be a pile of smoking rubble and the tomb of 3,000 people.

I've thought many times over the years about who died in the Towers, the Pentagon, and aboard United 93.   I believe we are indebted to each of them who died to NOT forget what happened that day.  We must live in such a way that we prevent something like this from ever happening again.  We've got to eradicate hate and fear.  Ultimately, we are all children of the same God and are inherently good.  This hate-mongering that has our world divided has got to stop.

I suspect I'm going to close the evening tonight watching the most extraordinary film I've seen about 9/11. I'll watch, and weep as I do, United 93. It simply is stunning. It's a powerful reminder of what a handful of people can do, and what they did, on that day.

May we never forget their sacrifice and may we live in such a way that there is no longer a need for people to feel that we have to kill one another like this.

09 September 2017

22

Last night the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML was perusing the Facebooks when she insisted that I look at a picture posted by one of her friends. The picture featured this friend's daughter, in a hospital bed (rightfully so as she had just delivered twins), and her OB/GYN standing next to her, holding the babies. SML wanted to know if I recognized the doctor. I didn't, so I assumed it was the new grandfather. 'No, silly,' she decried. 'It's Dr XX!' Dr. XX delivered both CAL and the RM. Apparently I was supposed to have his image seared into my memory. I did not. The last time I recall seeing or speaking to said doctor was twenty two years ago today when he delivered The Boy aka The RM.

That's right, twenty two years ago today, our lives were inexorably changed with the arrival of The Boy. He was more than a week late, finally turning up when he felt the time was right. That time, of course, was when I was right in the middle of delicious burrito that I was never able to finish (not that I'm still bitter) because a nurse insisted it was time for SML to start pushing. It was our third child and he was our smallest. I mean she could have sneezed and shot him out like a cannon. I could have finished that burrito (again not that I'm still bitter).

While I didn't get to finish that burrito, I am forever grateful for the Boy that we got that day. Each of our children have brought their own unique spirit into our home and he was certainly no different. With two older sisters and his mom, he essentially grew up with three mothers. For the most part, he's been a good sport about that. He's never left us wondering why our lives are dull. He's made sure they aren't. From a cavalcade of broken arms to inexplicable dents in his car during high school to his absolute transparency in telling us all kinds of things, he's made sure our lives have been anything but dull. Frankly, I'm grateful for that. Not sure I'd have it any other way, as I look back on his shenanigans over the years, as a parent does on a child's birthday.

You can't help but look forward to what lies ahead on a child's birthday as well. The RM has grown into a darn good young man. He's wading through young adulthood and is making his way through the minefield of adulthood with aplomb, so far. He's found himself a really lovely young woman and they have a lot of exciting things ahead of them.  We're excited for him, to be sure.

Happy birthday, son. I'm lucky to be your dad. It's been an honor and it's never been boring. My gray hair thanks you.

04 September 2017

So summer ends with a nap

Today, September 4th, we celebrate Labor Day in the United States. Ostensibly, it is the day we honor the American labor movement and their contributions by taking the day off. We celebrate the day by making a whole group of American workers, who are largely underpaid and under appreciated, work so that we can redeem coupons for stuff we probably don't need, like linens, toasters, paint, and yet another HDTV. Is there any better way to thank an American worker than to brave a long line of people at their register, so you can yell at them for not taking that crumpled expired coupon you found under the driver's seat of your car? Because 5% off. Yea, Labor Day sales!

In addition to celebrating America's labor movement, the Labor Day weekend also signals the unofficial end of summer. This summer has sped by as quickly as the Megalomaniac in Chief's approval ratings have sunk. I didn't take a lot of time off this summer and you'd think that would have made it creep by, but it didn't. The summer weather we had here was pleasant, with hardly any weird overly hot days. So it's not like a dreary heat made the days go by slowly. To be sure, we stayed busy, opening the summer season with visits from our children and ending it by visiting them behind the Zion Curtain. It just seems like we blinked and the summer was over.

The last couple of days have brought a relative chill to the night air and we find ourselves looking to what looms ahead on the fall calendar. There is the not insignificant business of an October wedding awaiting us. Fortunately, as the parents of the groom, most of what we had to do for it has come together, thanks to the formidable and slightly terrifying Wedding-Industrial Complex that is Utah County, UT. I could go on for days about that but that's another post for another day, but I'll just say this, these wedding people are wasted in what they're doing now. Send them to North Korea and they'll wear Kim Jung-Un down to nothing in no time with their blindingly white smiles, matching black outfits, and eternal perkiness. He'll give up his nuclear weapons in no time, I'm telling you right now.

So with summer essentially over, I'm not going to indulge in the Labor Day sales shenanigans. I think I'm going to go back to bed. A nap seems like a fitting way to celebrate the day.

Take a nap today, my friends. You won't regret it.

20 August 2017

Who am I?

In terms of Broadway's bombastic musicals, of which there are myriad, my favorite is Cameron Mackintosh's "Les Miserables." To its credit, it is not based on a movie. It is based on a real event, the pesky French Revolution, as interpreted by Victor Hugo in his seminal novel of the same name. So at least it has that going for it. Another thing it has going for it is one of its least bombastic songs, "Who Am I?" This song is belted by the protagonist, Jean Valjean, as he comes to grips with who he truly is, as he asks, "Who am I?"

I've been asking myself that same question of late, "Who am I?" What deep existential crisis is causing me to ponder this question? What event occurred that has caused me to look deeply into my soul? Well, remember who is writing this and I don't think you'll be surprised by what's driving this.

So what is it then, you ask? What has led to this navel gazing (and for those of you have had the misfortune of seeing me sans shirt you know that there is ample opportunity for navel gazing)? Quite simply, I've had a pang for something that has me questioning if I am ready to retire.

I'm beginning to think that I'm ready to move to Del Boca Vista.

If I do that, it seems only appropriate that I become the Republican committee chair for the community.

If I do that, I should be driving the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and her widow friends at Del Boca Vista to the 430PM buffet because 500PM is entirely too late for dinner.

If I do that, I feel like I should be watching Fox News and agreeing with that wee man boy huckster, Sean Hannity.

I'm feeling all these frightening things because of that pang I mentioned earlier. That pang, which I blame entirely on our local Chevrolet dealer, is for a car. That's right, a car. If I were a normal nearly 51 year old man, you'd be expecting me to tell you that the car that is calling my name is either a Corvette or a Porsche or any other compensating vehicle. Nope, not me. It's this:

That's right. A Cadillac CT6. An enormous, land yacht Cadillac. Are these not the milieu of retired insurance salespeople and bankers who shuttle back and forth between Rotary Club meetings and appointments with their proctologists?

Every time I see this car, prominently parked in front of the aforementioned local Chevy dealer, I am bewitched. As bewitched as I am by it, I am unnerved. I have no idea why this thing appeals to me. I certainly do not fit the key demographic that buys this car. I really have no business liking this car and yet, I do. Hence, my spiral into the philosophical question, "Who am I?"

Fortunately, I have some answers. A) I read my own Tweets and am reminded I really am not the key demo Cadillac is after and 2) I could never bring myself to unload the kind of cash they want for this Barcalounger on wheels.

As to the question of who I am, well, that mystery remains unresolved. I'm still figuring that out. This much I know, though, that this morning as I drive by that dealership on my way to get religion, and I see that car, I'm still going to wonder, "What would I look like driving this thing to the Chuck-A-Rama?"

06 August 2017

I'm Back.

Well, after an unprecedented absence / break / disappearance from the Den, I'm back, for better or worse.

My last post, on Memorial Day, was 68 days ago. I wish I had some dramatic backstory to give you as to what caused my near ten week absence. I can affirm that I was not kidnapped by aliens, unless they gave me a heaping dose of Propofol, in which case, I affirm nothing. Also, none of Trump's goons came after me for my Twitter feed (although I may be tempting fate on that one) and forced me to work in one of Ivanka's sweatshops as punishment for exercising my freedom of speech.

While none of those things went down, life kept going.  That's the only excuse I have for my absence: life happened. Regretfully, some of those things didn't get documented. I'm not going to turn this into Patty and Selma's Egyptian Slide Show Nightmare but here a couple of highlights.

The RM came home for the first week of June, in the company of a lovely young woman named Megan. She seemed to really like him because when they rolled off the plane, the RM was dressed in the latest in what can only be described as "Utah County Young White Mormon Rapper Thug Chic," and she wasn't bothered. Suffice to say, I was highly agitated. Anyway, we spent a great week with them and loved getting to know Megan. Two weeks after they returned to the Zion Curtain, the RM asked Megan to marry him and she said yes, in spite of the aforementioned clothing debacle. We are delighted for them and excited to welcome Megan into our family.

The day after they left, Our Lady of Awesome and our two grandchildren arrived for a glorious two week stay. I took a week off while they were here and we had a tremendous time together. I was reminded that I am no position to argue with a four year old about anything, especially when it comes to dialogue from "Toy Story." We picked strawberries. We found out that Pez are made in Connecticutistan. We found out that my granddaughter harbors zero, and I mean, zero fear around water when we took them to Ocean Beach for the day. After having them with us for two weeks, we were reminded how hard it is to live so far from all of our children and grandchildren.

July found me in London for a week for business and I'll never complain about that. After that, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I spent a weekend in NYC to celebrate her latest birthday. That included taking in "The Lion King" on Broadway. I've steadfastly refused to see it for a host of reasons but I finally caved and surprised her with tickets (she genuinely had no idea). I will admit it was not horrible. I then had a quick trip down to Atlanta where I had a chance to take in the Porsche Experience Center. This was an insane experience and I highly recommend it. Seriously.

Suddenly, June and July were gone and we're inexplicably into the first week of August and 68 days below by without me posting. I'm back now. Back to the occasional inanity that are my posts. Back to the observations of a middle aged man doing time in New England. Like I said, this is for better or worse.

29 May 2017

On Memorial Day


Memorial Day 2017


As is now tradition here in the Den, I repost my annual Memorial Day post written a few years ago:

Today is the last Monday in May, when the United States observes Memorial Day. As this day is a time to remember those who have died, millions across the country will pause to remember the meaning of the day and will honor those who gave their lives for the freedom of this nation.

It is a solemn day. So many gave their lives defending the freedom of this nation. They may have questioned the reasons why they were sent to war, but they went. They died defending our system of beliefs. They deserve our utmost respect and reverence.

I've often wondered how my generation would have reacted had we faced the cataclysmic events that catapulted the U.S. into World War II or had we been teenagers when the Towers fell on 9/11. My gut tells me the reaction would not have been as admirable as that of our counterparts in 1941 and 2001. I'm not proud of that. Perhaps that's why I have a particular obsession with the literature of war. From the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan, I have read a slew of books and I have been inspired and humbled by the sacrifices of those who were far less selfish than my generation. I mean what does my generation have to call its own? MTV. Madonna. The coke-addled 80's. We set the bar pretty low, people.

I'd like to share a list of some of the books that have had a profound impact on me as I've considered the actions of those who fought for this country. For your consideration:

  • Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose - actually anything Ambrose has written is worth reading, but this telling of Easy Company and World War II is amazing.  The HBO mini-series is an incredible companion and should be required viewing in any and all American History courses.
  • In the Company of Soldiers, Rick Atkinson - gripping look into the early days of the Iraq War
  • The Greatest GenerationTom Brokaw - the generation I wish my generation could be.  Read this and understand why.
  • Behind the Lines, Andrew Carroll - letters from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War.  Deeply personal.
  • War Letters, Andrew Carroll - the first of two books that capture war from the eyes of those that fought.  Stunning.
  • One Bullet AwayNathaniel Fick - inspiring story of the making of an officer in the Iraq War.
  • The Heart and The Fist, Eric Greitens - second story of the making of an officer in the Iraq War.  Both are stories of very smart young men who could have been sitting in an office on Wall Street, but instead chose to fight for their country.
  • Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand - incredible story of a U.S. Olympian turned soldier turned P.O.W. and his story of survival.  I was so sorry I hadn't heard this story when I was in school.  But I went to public school in Arizona, a state where you'll do more time for knocking over a 7-11 than for killing a child.  I shouldn't be shocked about the quality of my education.
  • The Cat from HueJohn Laurence - a reporter's ground-level view of the war in Vietnam.
  • Final SaluteJim Sheeler - this is one of the most moving books I've ever read.  I wrote about it here.  I defy you to read this book without weeping for the lives that were cut short.  The subtitle of the book is 'A Story of Unfinished Lives.'  Is there anything sadder?
  • Lost In Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff - while not about a battle field incident, this book is an epic story of survival and ingenuity during World War II.  Further proof why they were the Greatest Generation.
  • Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, Giles Milton - another perspective on the Greatest Generation but from the British. This is fascinating story of a British guerrilla campaign to disrupt HItler through epic bravery and cunning sabotage. 

    I would also invite you to find this movie on DVD and to watch it. Please watch "Taking Chance" as a part of your Memorial Day remembrance. It is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made and the honor given to our soldiers. Please watch it today.

    Rather than commenting on the dumpster fire that is our nations's commander in chief/Russian pawn, can we pause to remember what this day, Memorial Day, is all about?

    It is a day in which we pause to remember those who have given their lives while serving in our nation's armed forces. In spite of our faults, which are myriad, this is still an amazing country. As so many have given their lives to protect our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy today, especially given the environment we are in, we should never forget just how precious those freedoms are. Never.

    I am profoundly grateful for the actions and sacrifices of those who gave all for the freedom of this nation.  May we honor their memory on Memorial Day.

28 May 2017

Mistakes were made and I blame 1979

13 year old me on the far left (but clearly not far enough left).
1979...I hate you.
In a post earlier this month, I wrote about my Aunt Robin who succumbed to the heinous monster that is Alzheimer's Disease. With plans now in place for her memorial, my cousin Leigh requested some family photos so that they can be displayed at the memorial. To help me with that project, she sent me the gem that I've included in this post so that I would have a flavor of what she was looking for.

In looking at the picture, one phrase keeps coming to my mind over and over again, "Mistakes were made," and to be fair, those mistakes were made by me. I've not been shy about sharing my long history of awkward adolescent horror that was captured on film and this will be no different. So let's parse this train wreck.

First a little historical context for you. Picture it, if you will...it's November 1979 and for the first time in many, many years, the Lyons/Kramer families have gathered from Florida, where my grandparents lived and Arizona, where we lived, in Durham, North Carolina for a Thanksgiving reunion. The turkey would have been evidence of the time of year but given that its beige color blends nearly perfectly with my suit, it's more than a little hard to see the bird.

To celebrate that long awaited reunion, I chose to showcase my own poorly developing sense of no style by sporting a three piece suit/explosion of beige. The short sleeve dress shirt and tie combo was a minor league error but an indication of things to come. I mean who was I? Sipowicz? Also, the tie, which looks like it was sewn into the suit for convenience but wasn't (I swear!), was of my own choosing. The jacket, mercifully unseen here, as I recall (but remember repressed memories may not be 100% accurate), had brown faux leather patches that every painfully awkward, late in puberty adolescent boy wants to have in order to pull off that "I'm a professor" look that was sure to make him a hit with the ladies. The best part about this suit was that it was made of, wait for it...corduroy. This was 1979 corduroy which meant it when you walked the corduroy rubbed together loudly enough to make noise as well as emit smoke from the friction. Awesome!

As I was trying to achieve that professorial look, it was clear that I was trying to adult the heck out of this event. I can tell that from my expression captured in the picture. You may see it and think, 'That's what happens when you try to pull a face in a family photo.' I say nay. I recall trying to capture something of a je ne sais quoi attitude about the gathering and you can see how that worked out for me, which is to say not well. Speaking of expressions, I've got to hand it to my sister for not hiding her feelings that day at all. When I shared this picture with her, she said, "Ha ha! I was mad at somebody here." I think she may have had a side order of rage with Thanksgiving dinner. To be fair, this has given us more than a few laughs in the past few days.

Now you may be wondering where I procured the suit featured in today's mini-lesson in my "Learn From My Mistakes" series. I've blocked it out, if I'm honest, but I'm going to go out on a limb and blame the good people of JC Penney and their 1978-1979 catalog. Methinks the travesty in beige I was wearing was found on page 247 of that catalog. Looking back on those catalogs is an invitation to some kind of post-traumatic psychotic event. That said, if you want to bust a gut laughing about that catalog, you need to read this right now. This legendary post is now nearly 10 years old but unlike the catalog that it skewers, it has not aged one day. It's genius!

Since 1979's epic fail, I've learned a thing or two. I've tried to avoid self-emolating by not wearing corduroy. I've steadfastly avoided short sleeves and ties, with the exception of two years on a bike in Miami as a missionary. You try trotting around Little Havana in long sleeves in August...I've learned that you can survive the horrors of your teenage years, no matter how awkward, and find someone who thinks you're pretty darn OK (it should be noted that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML is a saint). I've learned family forgives things like that a beige suit.

To my family that I'll be seeing in a few weeks at Robin's memorial, rest assured, the suit will not be there. You're welcome.

14 May 2017

On Mother's Day

Courtesy of Benson A
There is a saying about motherhood, and its originator is unknown, that goes like this:

A mother is always the beginning.
She is how things begin.

It's a simple truth. Who we are begins with our mothers and today, we celebrate mothers. 

Today, I celebrate and honor my mother who taught me to serve others, to work hard, and to, to what I am sure is her eternal regret, speak my mind. I celebrate the gajillion chances she given me to improve. I'm grateful for our phone conversations that we have several times a week, even if they sometimes end at loggerheads (thanks Obfuscation Fox News for absolutely nothing on that one). I'm proud of my mom for how she's lived her life since my dad has died. She continues to surprise me.

Today, I celebrate and honor my wife, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML. The lives of our three children began with her. Those three are who they are because of her. They got the best of her in every aspect of their lives. Arguably, they got the best of me, too, but their mother's best parts helps them shine in spite of my contributions. Each one of our children are making their worlds better because of the example of their mother. She's amazing and I'm just grateful that she still wants to hang out with me.

Today, I laugh with my oldest daughter as she mothers her two children. Earlier this week, she shared with us the Mothers Day questionnaire that our nearly four year old boss of a grandson completed at pre-school. It is everything. It is the classic thinking of a pre-schooler.

In his mind, his mother is 17, which must be like 40 in pre-school years, because they don't watch TV to speak of in their house so I know he's not been sneaking old episodes of "16 and Pregnant." Also, I fear that my being 50ish is something he can't even comprehend. He must think I'm as old as dirt.

That he is always being told to "clean up stuff" and that when he doesn't obey upsets her is proof positive that his mom and his grandmother are cut from the same cloth.

The he doesn't think she's not good at "going upstairs" is proof that his mom is also just like me, her father. She would be wise to also master going down the stairs, as we know I'm seriously challenged in this arena.

That "she puts food on (his) fork for (him)" and that he wants to give her magnets is proof that a child's love for his mother is simple, beautiful, and just a little mysterious. Magnets? I've got to get to the bottom of this.

One thing I know is this - whether a mother has mastered loading up a child's fork with food or has told her for the billionth time to clean up her room or reminds her middle-aged son to remember who he is and to drive carefully, in spite of the fact that he's been driving for nearly thirty five years, a mother's love knows no end. I'm grateful for it.

Happy Mothers Day to all those who have mothered me. I'm better for it.

07 May 2017

A Farewell

My father and my Aunt Robin during World War II
One week ago, an insidious disease that our family is all too familiar with, claimed our Aunt Robin. As my cousin Leigh wrote so beautifully of her mother's long fight against Alzheimer's, Robin's fight was dignified.

Dignified. Classy. Kind. Loving. Those are just some of the words that describe my father's sister. Loving is the one that frames my memories most of Robin.

From my earliest days, I can recall my father speaking in the most glowing of terms about his sister. He called her "Pud," (rhymes with 'good'), and to this day, I wish I knew the origin story of that name, but to him, that's who she was. Because we lived in Arizona and Robin's family was in North Carolina, we didn't see each other frequently. I do know, though, that when we did get together in their Durham home, we were never strangers. We were family and even in my peek dork years - 13 years of age - when we all gathered for Thanksgiving, that feeling of family that my aunt worked so hard to create was ever present. As I got a little older, I had the opportunity to visit North Carolina several times as my late grandmother, Grandmommy, was in Robin's care. I have fond memories of attending church with Robin on those trips. She loved music and she was in her element, singing in that stately choir loft in that Presbyterian church in Durham. I was unfamiliar with some of the Presbyterian traditions and she always so kind in explaining how it all worked. Kind, welcoming, warm. Shortly after the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I married, I was thrilled that we were able to travel to North Carolina to see our family there. Again, Robin welcomed my sweet wife into the family, as if she'd always been a part of it. I have never forgotten that.

When my father died almost eight years ago, Robin was already fighting the monster that would one day take her life but she was able to travel to Phoenix for his funeral. I will never forget seeing her and my mom, sitting on the couch, holding each other by the hand and reliving memories of my father. The bond my aunt shared with my dad, even though he was now gone, was evident and clearly unbreakable. Family chains don't break and now they are celebrating their reunion, along with their parents who had gone on before them. Their family is together again.

In the coming weeks, we will gather to celebrate her life and to honor the legacy Robin has left in my cousins and their children. We will love, honor, and celebrate a woman who left a positive impact on every person she met.

I'm forever grateful for my Aunt Robin and the life she led. Would that we could all live in such a way that every one you met felt better for it. That's an incredible way to live.

Our family - the last time we were all together. Sweet memories.

Alzheimer's is a horrendous disease. If you'd like to donate to the fight to find a cure, go here.

16 April 2017

Prince of Peace

@barabbas.com
As this Sunday morning dawns, the sun lights the sky from the east in brilliant alternating hues of yellow, orange, white, and blue. Its warming rays slice their way through the trees that are our makeshift fence. As the sun enlivens those trees from their dormant winter sleep, there is hope that leaves will soon burst forth.

Nearly two millennia ago, when a woman returned to the tomb of a man she deeply loved and discovered that the stone sealing his resting place had been rolled back, it was not hope that she felt. Mary felt sheer terror and wanted desperately to know where Jesus's body had gone. When asked by a man whom she supposed to be the gardener why she was weeping, Mary said, "Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." The man, in response, uttered her name, "Mary," and in that instant she knew it was him. It was Rabboni, Jesus himself. The stone sealing shut his tomb had been rightfully rolled back for he had conquered death.

For Christendom, this Sunday morning, Easter is joyously celebrated. It is a day of hope and renewal. It is a celebration of life conquering death. It is honoring the Son of God and His atoning sacrifice. It is remembering the Savior, the Prince of Peace.

I am grateful to be a part of this Easter celebration. I am grateful to know that He has atoned for me, a broken and occasionally rebellious and difficult soul. I am grateful to know that His empty tomb signified that He conquered death. I know that He lives.

He is the Prince of Peace.

14 April 2017

On Good Friday

@mbhohio.org
The sun is shining brightly today.

Warmth is enveloping the air, reminding us that spring is finally here.

The tulips in our front yard have emerged triumphantly from their frozen winter prison and their brilliant yellow color enlivens our home.

There is, at least for me, a sense of hopefulness in the air. That's not been easy for me to recognize, if I'm honest. Look no further than my Twitter feed and you'll know that it's not been a walk in the park to find all things hopeful of late.

Today, though, I woke up with a sense of hope and I've pondered a bit as to the reasons why. My wife, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, and I are enjoying this "empty nest" phase of our life. As we reshape ourselves in this new chapter of our lives, it's been a lot of fun to progress together. Our children are in good, good places. The Awesomes have given us two of the greatest grandchildren on the planet and our lives are better for it. CAL is challenging herself in her career and is enjoying her Spring Break on the East Coast right now. The RM is, at heart, still The Boy and we wouldn't have it any other way. So I look around at my life and there is reason to be hopeful, even if our world is beginning to look like it may become the dystopian world we saw in "The Hunger Games" (#thanksforthatFuhrerTrump). Even in the dark, violent world she created, author Suzanne Collins wrote this about hope:

Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.

Hope consoles us. Hope strengthen us. Hope guides us. Hope can be found in the most difficult of circumstances. Difficult circumstances abounded nearly two millennia ago when the Son of God was crucified. Today, Good Friday, is the day that the Christian world remembers that day. It's a day of enormous import in Christendom, as the events of that day initiated a hope of redemption that burns brightly to this day.

I am grateful for this day and for He who, as I believe, died on this day. I am grateful that there is still a measure of good in this world. I am grateful for hope.


26 March 2017

Prompt 3 - A significant object

The keys to the world
In this, the third installment of 'What did I do in that writing class,' I share with you our third prompt of the day. Our instructor asked us to write about an object that had significant meaning in our lives. As soon as she uttered those words, I knew that I would be writing about my passport. I've written about what my passport means to me previously here in the Den. It has literally facilitated opening my eyes to the amazing world in which we live and I truly cherish it. Given that I'm about three more Tweets away from the Trump Regime yanking my passport, or at the very least making sure that when I come back from London in a couple of weeks that my welcome back shake down will make my colonoscopy seem like the tickle of a feather, I knew I needed to write about this little blue book. So I went with it - my passport:

In a quiet, darkened movie theater, a deep voice has the ability to transport you. "In a world," the disembodied voice somberly intones and you are instantly carried away to an adventure in a strange land, a crime spree from a time long since past, or into the agony of someone's heartache. From a young age, seeing that world that voice spoke about, that strange, faraway land, had always been a siren's call that I knew I would one day heed. A passport was going to be the lynchpin in that plan.

I have not been without a passport since my 15th birthday. Those little blue books, some bursting with colorful stamps and surly visa photos and others with just a few pages marked, have been my entry into a world far different than my own. My passport has allowed me into the home of a Turkish family in Istanbul, showing me the meaning of extending hospitality to a stranger. Through the permissions granted me by my passport, I have seen what it means to have hope in the face of nothing, watching the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India, work with those who have truly been downtrodden. My passport has introduced me to the joy that is the laughter of Filipino children as they dash through the traffic-choked streets of Manila. It has also shown me darker things, like the toxic impact of Western culture on Bangkok, Thailand.

There is so much beyond our own neighborhoods. There is so much to see and enjoy in this world. With my passport, I have seen the inherent goodness of people no matter where I've been in the world. That goodness gives me hope.

If it seems like that came to an abrupt halt, it did. Such is the nature of being given a limited amount of time to craft a brief personal essay. This is one I'd like to continue to refine as seeing this world has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

Get out there, if you can. This world is still an amazing place.

18 March 2017

Prompt 2 - First Time In Your Life

In another installment of 'What did I do in that writing class,' I'll share the second prompt and what I wrote that day. For our second prompt, we were asked to write about the first time we experienced something in our lives. I was initially tempted to write about what it's like to live under the pseudo-authoritarian regime of a thin-skinned, mysogynistic megalomaniac and Grade A pathological liar but that seemed too fantastical, too unbelievable and this was a course in non-fiction writing (and yet here we are in Trumplandia, but I digress). So I went with something I know - on becoming a dad for the first time:

I became a father for the first time 27 years ago. I was young, some would argue that we were too young to become parents. We were barely out from under our own parents' roofs. The thought of becoming a father, though, was mostly exhilarating, until the day of our daughter's birth. It suddenly became an all-consuming terror. As my wife labored to deliver our daughter that day, I was filled with an overwhelming paralyzing fear, with questions assaulting me at every moment. The pain I was feeling had to be on par with the pain that gripped my wife with each contraction. It wasn't. But doubt plagued me with each of those contractions. How could I care and provide for this little girl who was about to be born when previously one of the most pressing questions in my life had been collar up or down? How would I handle this? How was I going to care for her needs?

Once she arrived, the nurse placed my daughter into my trembling arms. I took in a long, deep breath and looked into her tiny eyes. I, for better or worse, was one of the first people she was seeing. I wanted her to know she was in good hands. As I looked into her eyes with a growing sense of awe, something in me snapped me into our new reality. I touched her little hand and said, "Hi. I'm your dad. And we're going to figure this out all together." That's been my unspoken motto as a dad ever since. 27 years later and two more children, I'd like to think I've figured a few things out about being a dad. It's still a work in progress.

I don't think I've ever been more scared of anything in my life than I was the day I became a dad for the first time. Writing about it a few weeks ago brought back a flood of feelings - fear, awe, excitement, terror, joy. The funny thing is that if I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.

#storieseverywhere

12 March 2017

Prompt 1 - Your Name

I recently wrote about my first class in writing in many years. Since that post though, I've been reading more than I've been writing. Rereading George Orwell's "1984' in our current political dumpster fire, regime, environment has me transfixed, wound up, and terrified all at once, which is never a good mix.

Taking a break from Orwell's eerily prophetic and unsettling writing, I've been reviewing my notes from that class and the things I wrote that day. For better or worse, over the course of the next few posts here in the Den, I'm going to share them with you.

In the first few minutes of the class, we were given our first writing assignment. As we would quickly learn, each assignment that day would come in the form of a prompt. These prompts were meant to kick start our thinking and writing. Our first prompt that day was to write about our name - first, middle, last, or nickname. I chose my middle name and here's what happened when I put pen to paper:

Wade is my middle name. I'm named for my mother's family. My grandfather, Mac Wade, was a sheriff straight out of an old Hollywood studio's central casting office. He was also a legendary story teller. The stories he told at one point must have been true but as he aged and retold them time and again, details morphed. With each telling, some details became more fantastic, while others simply disappeared. No matter how they changed though, it was clear that that these stories meant something to him. With each story he told, he was teaching me about the power of personal stories. Our stories are who we are and our stories matter.

Writing these few sentences was simply exhilarating. They may not seem like much but I was sitting in a class with a dozen strangers, who like me, weren't quite certain about what lay in store that day. Would the writing stack up? What if I have to read this aloud? What if I can't think of anything to write? As that first prompt was given to us, I knew instantly what I would write about and I wasn't going to worry about my writing stacking up. I remembered what my late grandfather had taught me about stories. Stories matter. It was time to start sharing mine.


26 February 2017

#storieseverywhere

This is PRECISELY how it went down in class yesterday.
In a few posts here in the Den, I've pointed out that if I could have made a living that would have supported my family, I would have been a full-time university student. Seriously, I would never have left. I loved going to school at the university level (high school, not so much). However, after seeing my share of guys in their mid- to late-30s dragging themselves to class, living in married student housing with children in middle school, I knew the full-time student gig was not for me.

So off to the big, bad work world it was for me and there I've been ever since. Over the years, I've thought about going back to school. I'd had no advanced degree in mind. I just wanted to go back to school for the opportunity to challenge myself and learn something new. I've done some executive education related to my job and even spent some time back on campus (Cornell was pretty cool) but that's been the extent of it. I've tried to keep my writing skills up to snuff through my rantings writings in the Den and I've enjoyed that but I've wondered what more could I do to improve my writing and see where this could take me.

Yesterday, I took that first step to finding the answers to those questions. Having heard some good things about the Gotham Writers Workshop, I reviewed their curriculum and decided to give it a go. I took my first class in more than 27 years when I sat down in a one-day course called Personal Essay Writing. I squeezed (my body is not the slender temple it was the last time I was in a classroom setting) into the all-in-one desk / chair / torture device, took at my pen and a pad of paper (keeping it old school), and steeled myself for a day of learning. What a day it was!

Prompts
Structure
Voice
Pacing
Meaning
Show, don't tell

As we wrote six different times throughout the day, I was in heaven! I wanted to read everywhere one of my samples just to get the perspective of the other students as well as our instructor. I didn't because I had to recognize that it wasn't all about me. I found myself taking copious notes throughout the day and getting excited about what's next in terms of my writing and the stories I can tell. It was fascinating to hear what the other students had written. I was amazed at the skill shown as well as the fearlessness. Their stories were moving, funny, and insightful.

The day ended all too soon but that spark I felt is now growing. I'm wanting to set aside time throughout the week now to work on a prompt or two. I'm looking at other classes and opportunities to become a better writer. I'm more and more convinced of the power of stories. My new favorite hashtag comes from Gotham Writers, #storieseverywhere. Stories reveal what is common to us. They reveal our good and our bad. They reveal our humanity.

Stories are everywhere. I'm looking forward to telling a few more of mine. When will you tell yours?

16 February 2017

The 27 Club

So who here has heard of The 27 Club? Anyone? Anyone?

If you haven't, either click on the the link above or let me just tell you that the long and short of it is that unless you're hankering to be dead, you don't want in on this one.

Prominent members of the club include Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Are you sensing a theme yet? All dead at the age of 27 and sadly not by natural causes. Like I said, not the club you want to join.

That said, since we now live in a world that makes the Upside Down World of "Stranger Things" look like the most logical thing ever, there is another less lethal version of The 27 Club and my first-born daughter joined that august group today. We have another birthday here in the Den and Our Lady of Awesome has turned 27.

I still marvel that I am the father of three well-adjusted children (all credit to their amazing mother) and that my oldest has turned 27. I have to admit though that it's good fun to see her at this stage in her life. Watching her parent her two children along with Awesome is something to behold. There are moments where my natural instinct is to help in that parenting, which usually means laughing inappropriately at something my grandson has done, but I manage to suppress and let them parent. It's a delight to behold.

I am amazed at her strength, her even-keeled nature, and how she still manages to not suffer a single fool gladly. I appreciate how she is such an incredible reflection of the goodness of her mother.

I am delighted that we get to spend this long weekend with her. We'll all be together tomorrow night - the whole lot of us - celebrating her birthday one day late. We are really looking forward to that.

As we celebrate her from afar tonight, I am reminded what an honor it is to be her dad. Being a dad to her, CAL, and The RM is the greatest title I could ever have.

Happy birthday, Princess!