Good Bye, My Friends

Saturday, September 26, 2009

When the Normal Mormon Wife was in high school she once broke up with her boyfriend by saying three simple words:

“I dump you.”

No long-winded explanations. No ultimatums. No room for compromise. The relationship was simply over.

Sometimes it is best to just get to the point. After staring at a blinking cursor for the last fifteen minutes I have decided to follow the NMW’s example and just come right out and say it:

I’m done as a blogger. This will be my last post.

The reason is simple. Over the past several months blogging has become more of a burden than a blessing. It feels more like work than a relaxing pastime. I have found myself often doing posts because I feel like I “have to” more than I simply “want to.” The demands of my top priorities in life – family, church, work, fantasy football, NCAA 2010, and Slurpees – have dramatically increased. My free time and energy have fallen faster than ACORN, though in my case it had nothing to do with pimps and/or women of ill repute.

While the NMH blog has a very small following, a few people may be disappointed in some way that I’m hanging it up. If that’s the case, I’m sorry. There are about 48 buzillion other blogs out there and I’m sure you’ll move on faster than Brad Pitt with a new female co-star. But before you do – thank you! Thank you for your comments. Thank you for your compliments and encouragement. Thank you for helping build a small NMH community. It’s been a very cool ride.

When I started my blog in September 2006 I never intended for anybody outside of my family and close friends to ever read what I wrote. And this is exactly what happened for over a year and a half. Then I wrote the Twilight Series for Dummies (And Desperate LDS Guys) in February 2008 and it got circulated around the web. Suddenly I was getting more traffic that I ever imagined. A reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune interviewed me. Bill Simmons at ESPN gave me a small compliment. People were actually paying me to advertise on my blog. And before I knew it, it felt like I had a second job.

After the initial excitement of seeing my blog grow wore off, the pressure to crank out a couple of good posts every week started to get to me. The pressure was always there, constantly lurking in the back of my mind. Roughly 14% of my brain was continuously saying, “How can I turn this into a blog post…” every time I went on a date, got stuck in traffic, visited a dirty urinal, or went on vacation. In the end, it wore me out. Drained me like a thirsty Homer chugging a cold Duff on a hot summer day.

I debated for a long time if I should scale the blog back a little bit or if I should just shut it down completely. Call me the anti-Favre. I’m 100% out. If I did fewer posts I would still feel that constant pressure to churn out more stuff and find an angle to turn everything I do into a witty post. This all-or-nothing decision has been liberating. I’ve made the right decision.

So, in the spirit of being a Normal Mormon Husband, I’ll give my concluding thoughts as I hobble off into the blogging sunset:

I’m grateful for being NORMAL. It is a blessing to be a pretty regular guy. To experience both the joys and trials of life. To have a job that I sometimes love and sometimes makes me want to throw up before I walk into the building. To have good friends to play hoops with and beat at fantasy football. To find Dollar Menu items delicious. To drive a Honda Accord. To love my country. To get sick and hurt enough that I enjoy my health when it is good. Yes, it’s great to have a normal life.

What a blessing it is to be MORMON. My personal relationships with God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, give meaning and purpose to my life. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by the Savior Himself. He leads this church through the power of His priesthood and continuous revelation to modern-day prophets. The word of God is found in the Book of Mormon, and I find peace and direction within its pages. Knowing that I have been sealed to my family for the eternities brings me hope and happiness. It is truly a miracle that an unpaid clergy consisting of normal, imperfect, everyday people like you and me move this great work forward. I love being a part of the Lord’s kingdom here upon the earth and know I have found the truth.

I thoroughly enjoy being a HUSBAND. My wife is my best friend. She radiates purity and goodness and optimism and fun. She makes me laugh. She gives me confidence. It humbles me to know that we made three beautiful kids together. Being a dad is more rewarding (hugs, princess dress-ups, sports, reading books, FHE activities, wrestling, etc.) and more challenging (disciplining, scheduling, losing my free time, providing for a family, etc.) than I ever imagined it would be. My greatest hope in life is that the NMW and I raise our children in a way that will help them love the Lord, love their families, love their fellow men, and love life in general.

Okay, so maybe this was a little more long-winded “good-bye” than what the NMW said to her former high school flame, so sue me.

Oh, man, that could be a hilarious blog post – worst high school break-ups! (Fight the urge, Andrew. Fight the urge…)

Thanks again to all of you. Take care.

-The NMH

Obama & NMH Speak To School Children

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

This morning President Obama addressed all K-12 students via satellite broadcast. I quickly glanced at the online copy of his text before he spoke and grew concerned when I read the following statements: “All across America…it’s understandable if you…quit on school…I want…you to…stay home from school…Spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox…or Twitter and Facebook. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.”

Maybe I should go back and read the full speech instead of those few random snippets before rushing to judgment here. But it also got me to thinking - If I was able to speak to all of the school-age children in the United States, what would I say?

Please read the draft of my speech below and post comments with any other items I should teach to the children of America. The person with the best comment will be appointment as the NMH Czar of Speechwriting, Copy Editing, and Kitty Litter Removal. (Just make sure your comments are not pro/con Obama’s speech, there are plenty of other sites for that – remember, politics free zone here.)

DRAFT REMARKS OF NMH’S BACK TO SCHOOL EVENT:

Greetings, children of America. If you don’t know what that means it was like I said, “Wuddup, dudes!”

I would like to begin my remarks today by speaking directly to all high school and middle school students. As teen-agers, the vast majority of you think you already know everything there is to understand about life. You also believe all adults are total morons, so there is no point in me speaking to you since you will not listen to me anyway. Just go back to texting under your desks, rolling your eyes, adjusting your hair and excluding your unpopular classmates while I speak with the kids in elementary school.

Elementary school kids, I have an important message for you today about staying in school. It is this:

Stay in school.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me tell you some secrets about elementary school I wish I knew when I was your age.

First, stop picking your noses and eating your boogers. By my estimation, 94% of you eat nose candy several times a day as if your body manufactured an endless supply of green gummy bears. While they may feel like melted gummy bears on your fingers, boogers are filthy little disease balls that can give you illnesses like H1N1. Since none of you kids care what H1N1 is, just know it is way worse than cooties.

Second, take full advantage of recess. Run around. Play games. Get sweaty. The bones and joints in your bodies are made of rubber until you hit your twenties, so take advantage of this time when you can fall down without fracturing your tibia. Run across a field while you can do so without your thighs and lungs burning like California in the summer. Play dodge ball while you can enjoy sports without consulting with your primary care physician. One day you will grow up and get a job. Recess will disappear. As an adult you will be lucky to get one 10-minute break per day and your coworkers will rather spend that time smoking themselves to death than playing Red Rover, so do it now while you can.

Next, while I encourage you to have fun during recess, do not get so crazy that your pants end up with grass stains or holes in the knees during the first week of school. Seriously, guys, could you please take better care of your pants? Those things are expensive! Many parents would love to just buy your soon-to-be-destroyed school pants at Goodwill, but there are no decent second-hand kids jeans because all new pants get mangled. Easy on the pants, kids.

Many of you ride the bus home from school. Talk about a sweet gig! Do you realize how lucky you bus riders are? At the end of a long day at school you get to sit in a huge bus with a bunch of your best friends to talk, giggle, scheme, gossip and trade Pokemon cards while somebody else fights traffic for you. One day you will grow up and realize what a pain it is to finish a tough day at work and then get repeatedly cut off in traffic, hit red lights, get stuck behind slow drivers, and inch through construction zones on your commute home. They shouldn’t call those big yellow vehicles “school buses.” They should be called “Mobile Party Units.” Man, I wish I had one of those. Kids, enjoy the chauffeur and endless supply of friends while you can.

Every once in a while, just say "thank you" to your teacher for no particular reason. Teachers work hard and most of them care deeply about the children in their classes. They have to deal with a lot of administrative headaches (that's a fancy way of saying "stuff") and the pay is not great. You'll look back and be grateful for the teachers who pushed you, challenged you, and inspired you. (Except for the creepy male 5th grade teacher with stringy hair that every school seems to have. You know who I'm talking about. Avoid him at all costs!)

Lastly, please stop losing things. Your parents try very hard to let you be independent. But they need your help. While 87% of your brains are focused on the internet, Play Station, TV, The Jonas Brothers, candy and Hannah Montana, please use the other 13% to remember exactly where you have left your homework folders, shoes, glasses, lunch boxes, and library books. The amount of stress your parents need to deal with will be greatly reduced if you can keep track of those five items. And the less stress your parents have, the more likely they will be to give you dessert or let you stay up a little later at night.

Thank you, children of America. May you enjoy this upcoming school year. May your hard work be rewarded. May your minds be expanded. May you prepare for a bright future. May all of your dreams come true.

Just don’t trash your pants in the process, okay?

Cash For Clunkers...And Memories

Monday, August 24, 2009

Can you imagine what it must be like to be an old gas guzzling vehicle right now? The Cash for Clunkers program has instigated genocide of the vehicular nature like nothing we have seen since Eddie Griffin got behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Yesterday I literally saw a rusty 1991 Jeep Cherokee wearing a Groucho Marx-type oversized glasses-nose-eyebrow disguise trying to blend into the background, like he was some sort of 2006 Honda Civic or something. Poser.

The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits of Cash for Clunkers (remember: politics-free zone, please) but to give us an opportunity to reminisce about the Clunkers we have all loved or hated over the years. Most of us are passionate about our cars. We name them. We talk to them. We bond with them. We decorate them. We claim them as dependents on our tax returns. And then inevitable day comes and we have to either sell them or kill them, like CBS had to do with Dan Rather.

So today I’m going to share with you the memories of the clunkers that have come and gone throughout my life. I’m sure most of you have some fond memories of certain cars in your past as well, so please post a comment to share the joy with the rest of us. Here are my stories:

1982 Toyota Celica Supra
Year Adopted: 1991
Nickname: The Thunderbolt
My first car. I inherited her as a 16-year-old and I will love The Thunderbolt for the rest of my life. Though it was 10+ years old, the ‘Bolt was in good condition and lightning fast. It had a fifth gear that we called “The Police Gear” that could be used to outrun the fuzz like dropping the Millennium Falcon into hyperspace. Two passengers could squeeze uncomfortably into the back seat and I used to drive three of my high school basketball teammates to our games. We would crank L.L. Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” and look as intimidating as four tall, skinny, white, tattoo-less Mormon Priests could as we rolled to our basketball games.

The ‘Bolt gave me freedom. Freedom to go places. Freedom to hang out at my friends’ houses. Freedom to just drive aimlessly while listening to Depeche Mode as I sorted out the drama and angst of youth. I love The Thunderbolt. May she rest in peace.

1994 Jeep Wrangler
Year Adopted: 1996
Nickname: The Chick Magnet
My brother is fourteen months younger than I am and we shared The Thunderbolt in high school. As soon as I left for Ricks College my folks sold the ‘Bolt and bought a new, beautiful black Jeep Wrangler. Naturally I was livid at the injustice as I trudged to my classes on foot at Ricks while imagining my little bro picking up chicks in his new Wrangler. But when I returned home from my mission my little bro was still preaching in Bolivia, so I had the Wrangler all to myself for a year.

My favorite memory in the Wrangler happened two weeks after returning home from my mission. It was a warm summer day and the top and doors were off the Jeep. I was drinking a milkshake and listening to Smashing Pumpkins as the wind rushed through my hair. In a sudden moment of clarity I said to myself, “Dude! I’m HOME from my MISSION!” I left the post-missionary nerd mode behind as I cruised down 35th South, oogling at all of the girls who were no longer off limits. But no matter how fondly I remember my year with the Wrangler, I always felt like her heart belonged to my little brother, almost like I was dating a girl he had previously dumped or something.

1991 Geo Prism
Year Adopted: 1997
Nickname: None
The NMW and I were married in 1997 and she brought the Prism into our marriage. I also wanted seven pigs, three sheep and twelve head of cattle as part of the marriage arrangement, but my in-laws weren’t cool with that. I never really bonded with the Prism, but the NMW and I bonded with each other as we drove it repeatedly from Provo to her home in Winslow, AZ. We drove the Prism for the first two years of our marriage – car payment free - until the transmission seized on I-15 just past point of the mountain. I only have vague memories of the Prism, like Cheech and Chong probably remember the eighties.

1997 Kia Sephia
Year Adopted: 1999
Nickname: Satan
The Kia is important in my auto history because it was the first car I ever purchased and was responsible for paying off. The NMW and I were recently married and still living the student life, so the $110/month payment seemed like a billion dollars at the time. The Kia was cheap and under warranty so we bought it. The bad omens started almost immediately as our mailbox was inundated with recall notices for issues with the brakes, windshield wipers, CV boots, and the need to exercise demonic spirits that possessed the transmission. We drove the Kia for six years while living in constant fear that it would one day spontaneously burst into a ball of flames and kill us all. I never liked or trusted that car, and it hated me too.

1985 Ford Escort
Nickname: The Poop-Scort
Year Adopted: 1999
Back when we were partying like it was 1999 – because it was 1999 – the NMW and I only had the Kia to get to important places in Provo/Orem like school, work, church, Movies 8 and the Nickelcade. The opportunity of buying a co-worker’s old but running Ford Escort for $1,000 cash was impossible to refuse, like trying to bypass an $.89 chicken burrito at Taco Bell. The Escort was old but had fewer than 100,000 miles with a nice interior. While the battery mysteriously died more frequently than Itchy and/or Scratchy, the ‘Scort got me around town for four solid years.

My favorite ‘Scort memory happened while I was interning in Las Vegas during summer break of my MBA classes in 2002. I was trying desperately to impress the General Manager of our business unit so I could get a job after graduating. My chance to shine happened one day when the GM had to take an emergency flight and asked if I could take him to the airport – in my car. At this point the driver’s side door no longer opened and the A/C was broken, which is a only a minor inconvenience in Las Vegas in July when the temperature reaches 184 degrees on a cool day. As the GM followed me to my car I opened the passenger door, slid my 6’6” body across the gear shift, rolled down the windows, and pretended that nothing was out of the ordinary as we roasted all the way to the airport. In an unrelated story, I was not hired to work for that business unit after I graduated. The ‘Scort was a great investment and it pained me to see her go to that giant scrap heap in the sky.

2002 Honda Accord
Nickname: Sally
Year Adopted: 2004
Yes, I drive a car named Sally. The kids named her after the Porsche in Cars because they are both silver. The NMW and I met Sally back when she was the display vehicle with a ridiculously low price to attract customers who could then be baited-and-switched to a fancier model. You see, Sally has no power windows, no power doors, no alarm, and an engine consisting of a hamster jogging rather lazily in a crank wheel. The salesman was shocked – shocked! – that somebody was actually cheap enough (we prefer frugal, practical, and/or provident living-ish) to buy the base model. But Sally was affordable and easier to pay off than a Bolivian prison guard. Five years and 125,000 miles later, Sally just keeps chugging along problem-free, never breaking down. I hope I’m still driving Sally five years from now.

So those are the stories of my clunkers. I'd like to hear yours, so please post away. While getting some cash for these four-wheeled important parts of our lives would probably be nice, I'm happy just holding on to the memories for now.

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Lenny's Birth Announcement

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Please share in our joy (and pain) of the newest addition to our family! (Click to enlarge)


(Props to my bro T-Boar for the birth announcement idea.)

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18 Hours, $150 bucks, and 0 Kids. Fun? Hardly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tell me if our day last Friday doesn't sound like a surprise romantic getaway for the Normal Mormon Wife dreamed up by her thoughtful, fun-loving husband:

-I take the day off work without the NMW knowing anything about my plans beforehand.
-Our three children are cared for by friends for most of the day, giving us sweet privacy.
-We spend $150 in less than 12 hours.
-Our adventure begins at 7:30 a.m. and lasts until 3:00 a.m. the following day (Saturday).
-Heavy, heavy hallucinogenic drugs were freely administered throughout the day.

Well, folks, our day last Friday proceeded exactly in that manner. But not only was our day a complete surprise to the NMW, it was a surprise to me as well. And instead of heading out for some ditch-the-kids-for-the-day retreat, the NMW and I spent most of the day in the Emergency Room as I was diagnosed with a kidney stone. The kidney stone's name is Lenny.

Lenny is a jerk and I hate him.

I woke up on Friday morning with a sharp pain in my right abdominal region and I just chalked it up to the usual stuff - a cramp, Taco Bell related gas, the fact that our house was built on a Native American cemetery, etc. - and tried to get ready for work. But the pain increased to the point that I had the NMW take me to my doctor at 9:00 a.m. My doctor found a lot of blood in my urine and referred me to the ER for additional testing.

I thanked my doctor and proceeded to vomit in his trash can.

We managed to drop off our kids with a friend (you know who you are, you little lifesaver you - thank you!) and we went to America's Funnest Spot - The ER! Here is how the rest of our day unfolded:

10:00 a.m. - Arrive at E.R. and pay $50 copay. No sign of George Clooney or Anthony Edwards. We're off to a good start.

10:45 a.m. - I have been admitted and now look and sound like a woman in labor. I am wearing a hospital gown and groaning in pain while the NMW strokes my hair like a doulah and says, "Remember to keep breathing..." They say the closest a man can get to childbirth is passing a kidney stone. Out of respect for my sweet wife, we will have no more children.

10:54 a.m. - The nurse hooks me up to an IV with pain meds. The drug immediately burns through my body like a big gulp of Stephen's Gourmet Hot Chocolate on a cold December day, easing my pain for the first time in four hours.

10:57 a.m. - I groggily ask the NMW with a smile, "What's the name of THAT drug?", referring to what is in the IV. The NMW is now afraid I will end up on an episode of A&E's Intervention.

11:15 a.m. - The pain meds are making me hallucinate. I ask the NMW if I am holding keys in my hand (I'm not) because I can feel keys in my hand. I ask her if I'm wearing shoes (I am) because I can't feel them on my feet. I start laughing and tell the NMW I just saw the star of My Name Is Earl's drivers license and he has a huge afro in his photo. Lastly, I tell her that I thought I was in our front yard watching the kids throw cherries at the house for several minutes before I thought they should stop. Who needs TV when you have narcotics?

12:50 p.m. - The ER doctor tells me I have a 4 mm kidney stone, writes me several hundred prescriptions, then discharges me. As we leave the hospital I thank the staff for their excellent care by throwing up in their bathroom. (I've always been terrible with good-byes.)

1:30 p.m. - We are now back at home where I can repeatedly vomit in the privacy of my own bathroom.

2:42 p.m. - The NMW realizes the refrigerator is not working. She immediately calls a serviceman to come look at it before the weekend kicks in.

3:15 p.m. - Our neighbor tells the NMW that water is leaking from our property onto his, most likely from a leak in our sprinkler system.

4:08 p.m. - The NMW withdraws $2,970 from savings and flees for Mexico. (I mean, can you blame her at this point? Maybe it was a bad idea to build our house on that Native American cemetary after all.)

7:00 p.m. - After vomiting the entire day, we call the ER and they tell me I need to come back for another IV, anti-nausea medication, and more pain meds (yipeeee!). Another wonderful friend agrees to hang out at our house until we return, which ends up being six hours later.

7:20 p.m. - Another $50 copay.

7:30 p.m. - There are about twelve depressed people in the ER waiting room as Two And A Half Men airs on TV. I have never seen more than two seconds of this inane show and it immediately gets on my nerves. The NMW and I play a game called, "How long can pass without the laugh track?" The record? Twelve seconds. I think an actual script of that show reads as follows:

Dude 1: "Good morning." (queue laugh track)
Dude 2: "And good day to you, sir." (queue extreme laugh track)
Boy: "Sir? More like sirloin!" (queue outrageous laugh track for seven straight minutes)

Yes, I wrote that myself. If my HR career doesn't work out maybe I can write a sitcom. Sitcom? More like sit-bomb! (queue laugh track).

7:48 p.m. - The NMW tells me the ER waiting room "Smells like Otto's jacket." This is a code word we swiped from The Simpsons to say it smells like marijuana. Not only does it smell like Otto's jacket in here, but his socks and underwear are probably in here too.

8:02 p.m. - WWE Friday Night Smack Down is now on TV. Nothing takes your mind off of your pain like watching steroid-fueled wrestlers whack one another over the head with metal chairs as the announcer yells, "OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!" I'm pretty sure this IS the Telestial Kingdom.

9:11 p.m. - Still in the waiting room and the NMW is hungry. She uses twelve dimes to buy a Rice Krispy Treat from the vending machine in the waiting room, but the machine has problems accepting dimes. She has to push them in real hard or else the get spit back out, like a George Brett wad of tobacco circa 1982. It takes her about thirty tries to finally get her snack. Every person in the ER gets a kick out of the display, especially the guy who smells like Otto's jacket.

10:35 p.m. - Finally get admitted.

11:34 p.m. - Finally get my IV. But this is a really, really bad omen. 11:34 is the worst time of the day because it's hexed. Or at least the NMW and I think 11:34 is hexed. If you turn a digital clock upside down at 11:34 is spells "H-E-Double Hockey Sticks" so we try to avoid 11:34 at all costs. With my luck they probably accidentally gave me IV's consisting of barbecue sauce, Elmer's glue and Clorox. But I've heard hospitals are not legally liable for weird things that happen at 11:34, what with it being hexed and all.

1:50 a.m. - Discharged with several dozen more prescriptions.

2:15 a.m. - Stop at 24-hr pharmacy to get prescriptions filled. Oh, and to also watch crack deals transpire down the street.

3:00 a.m. - Get home, thank babysitter, perform a voodoo doll ritual on Lenny (the kidney stone) and go to bed.

Well, five days later and I still haven't met Lenny. He's just hiding out in my ureters, bungee jumping and whatnot. I can't wait to meet this guy. I bet our encounter will go something like this:

Me: "So, Lenny, it's...uh...nice to finally meet you." (queue mild laugh track)

Lenny: "Same here. Thanks for letting me crash at your place the last few days." (queue regular laugh track)

Me: "Lenny, I hope you like knock-knock jokes 'cuz I've got one for you. Knock knock." (queue uproarious laugh track)

Lenny: "Who's there?"

Me: "Urine." (queue extreme laugh track)

Lenny: "Urine who?"

Me: "Urine big trouble now, bucko!" (queue laugh track where they guy's head literally exploded he was laughing so hard)

***Fade to black***

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The Joys of Child Abandoment & Covetousness

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nothing strengthens a marriage like abandoning your children and coveting the possessions of multi-millionaires. While this claim might not be completely in harmony with the church’s official position on child abandonment (don’t do it) or coveting (ditto), this is exactly what the NMW and I did to celebrate our 12th Anniversary.

My totally awesome Normal Mormon Mother-in-Law visited us in NC from Utah and agreed to watch the kids for two nights, thus allowing the NMW and me to have a little getaway. We decided to make the 3-hour drive to Asheville, North Carolina, to visit the Biltmore House and stay in a cozy Bed & Breakfast. Asheville is located smack dab in the green, picturesque Smokey Mountains and is the undisputed hippest, coolest, trendiest city in North Carolina. For you westerners, think of Asheville as Utah’s equivalent of Park City, Arizona’s answer to Sedona, or Wyoming’s version of Old Man Cooper’s Dairy Farm.

Asheville is the home of The Biltmore House, which is known as America's Largest Home. It was constructed by George Vanderbilt in 1895 and contains 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms, a 7-story dining room, and original Renoir artwork. I think Batman lives in the basement as well. George Vanderbilt was made obscenely wealthy either as an industrial tycoon or a crack dealer (I’m too lazy to Google the answer), but he somehow managed to build a ginormous house. As part of our getaway we toured the Biltmore and thought you might enjoy reading how our day unfolded:

9:28 a.m. – Have breakfast at the most upscale McDonald’s I have ever seen, a fitting testament to Asheville’s trendy vibe. The exterior looks like an Alpine chalet. The interior d├ęcor features Roman-styled columns, a self-playing baby grand piano, and classy floor tile. This McDonald’s is so classy I bet the Playland slide doesn’t even smell like 3-day old toddler urine.

9:47 a.m. – As we walk back to our car, the NMW asks me if there are any homeless people in a place as nice as Asheville. After thinking about it, I conclude Asheville does, in fact, have homeless people. They are called “middle class.”

10:12 a.m. – We enter the Biltmore and park in section C-3. I tell myself to just think of the Star Wars robot C3-PO to remember where we parked. We will either end up back here, or completely lost in section R-2.

10:21 a.m. – The shuttle arrives to take us to the Biltmore House. As I lug my 6’6” body on to the shuttle I nail my head against the roof of the bus, which is about 6’4”. To my complete delight, the Biltmore shuttles have comfortably padded roofs! Those of us who are freakishly tall hit our heads quite regularly, which explains why our short-term memories are worse than Dori from Finding Nemo. I’m just glad the Biltmore had the courtesy to pad…their…ummm…uhhhhhh….what was I talking about again? Sorry, I lose track some times. Oh, yeah, I was talking about Finding Nemo! Right?

10:23 a.m. – The guy sitting in front of me on the shuttle is slathering on some sort extremely pungent lotion and/or biological weapon that is burning my eyes, nose, lungs, and every other sensitive bodily orifice. My head feels as though I touched my tongue to a 9-volt battery and deeply inhaled the scent of a nappy-headed European backpacker.

10:27 a.m. – Step off the shuttle and am amazed at the size, majesty, and elegance of the Biltmore House. But then again, the NMW and I rented small college student apartments for six years, including one that I’m pretty sure was actually a retrofitted Tuff Shed, so I’m easily impressed.

10:31 a.m. – We have entered the Biltmore House and the main dining hall is an obscenely ridiculous seven stories high. No wonder they pad the roofs of the shuttles – George Vanderbilt must have been forty feet tall!

10:40 a.m. – Unimpressed by the “Breakfast Room.” Heck, even I have my own breakfast room. It’s called the driver’s seat of a 2002 Honda Accord, people!

10:52 a.m. – I realized why John Mayer is so famous – he sold his soul to Lucifer in the late eighteen hundreds in order to become a rock star in the 2000’s. This 110-year-old gargoyle was commissioned by Satan himself to commemorate the moment when he took John Mayer’s eternal soul. Look closely, this IS John Mayer.
10:55 a.m. – The Biltmore Library is slightly more impressive than the stack of random old newspapers I have by the side of my toilet. In the corner of the Library there is a statue of an early Christian saint. The saint has his index finger raised to his lips, as if shushing people as they come through the room. I lean over to the NMW and say, “Hey, get a load of Saint Shushie – patron saint of Shushiness.” The volume of the NMW’s laughter will definitely incur the wrath of Saint Shushie throughout the rest of eternity.

11:23 a.m. – So much for George Vanderbilt being forty feet tall. He and his wife slept in separate bedrooms and their beds were about four feet long by three feet wide, or roughly the size of Nell Carter. The NMW says, “I can’t believe they ever had any kids, sleeping in separate rooms on those tiny beds…” But then again, the two of us are a combined 12’3” and are touring this summer with Captain Rickey’s Carnival of Freaks. (Look for us in Pocatello on August 18th!)

11:55 a.m. – We are shown a huge double door that is used for transporting all oversized cargo and materials into the house, including Michael Moore during his 2007 visit.

12:20 p.m. – We enter the Bachelor’s Wing where gentlemen from an earlier era used to retire for cigars and brandy at the end of a long day of hunting, gallivanting, tomfoolery and general shenanigans. A sign hung in 1902 stating, “NO CHICKS ALLOWED!” remains displayed in the hall. I can’t tell the NMW exactly what we men did in the Bachelor’s Wing, but it involved shotguns, endangered species, and extremely tasty jerky. Also, we can no longer register under our real names at the Bed & Breakfast.

1:21 p.m. – Our tour of the actual Biltmore House is over, so we head toward the gardens. We begin walking through an area called the “Shrub Gardens.” After about six seconds we realize that shrubs are totally boring and leave. (Sorry to all of you shrub lovers out there, but it’s true. Shrubs are totally, totally lame.)

2:06 p.m. – On the advice of a friend who recently visited Biltmore and was struck with the number of British tourists she encountered, the NMW and I begin speaking with British accents. My new name is Sir Bertram Van Munster of Newlincolntonshire. The NMW changes her name to Cat Deely. We keep the British accents up for nearly an hour, constantly afraid that a true Brit is going to overhear us and out us as the frauds we are. I think our straight, white, healthy teeth will give away our non-Britishness before our terrible accents will, though.

3:09 p.m. – Head to the Biltmore Farm. I know drug use is a problem in this country, but take a look at this obvious pot head!
3:11 p.m. – As I look at the beautiful, fruitful garden on Biltmore Farm, I tell the NMW I want a garden like this one day. Mark my words – our next house will have an acre of land and 2-3 dinners per week will consist largely of what we harvested from our own crops. Now do Choc-o-Diles grow in plants or on trees?

3:31 p.m. – We are watching a live butter making demonstration and the farm worker says, “Everybody knows fat floats to the top of the milk.” The phrase “Fat Floats” makes me giggle. I think “Fat Floats” would be the perfect title to the sequel to the 1998 Sandra Bullock movie “Hope Floats.” In “Fat Floats” Sandra Bullock has lost all hope, gained 186 pounds, and taken up swimming.

We ended up finishing the day with dinner at a Japanese restaurant, playing pool at our B&B, and watching the movie “New In Town” on my laptop. (Nothing says “relaxing getaway” to an HR Manager like watching a movie about shutting down a small-town manufacturing plant. I could have written that screenplay in my sleep…) NMW, I love you. Thank you for the twelve best years of my life. You make me smile. You strengthen my testimony. You give me confidence. You make life fun. You make me laugh.

Just tone it down around Saint Sushie next time, will ya?

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Killing Time (Serioulsy. I Killed It. Time's Dead.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

For the past eleven days I have been home all by my lonesome as the Normal Mormon Wife and our three crazy kids have been visiting family all over the country. They will return home tomorrow night and life will finally get back to normal, complete with runny noses, skinned knees, fights over toys, Play Station games, arguments about bed times, no desire to do chores, etc. And those are the issues that will surface just between the NMW and me. I can only imagine what the kids have in store for us...

In the absence of family my life has consisted of one primary objective:

Killing time.

The phrase "killing time" implies that time, like anything else, can ultimately be killed. (The obvious exceptions to the 'anything can be killed' rule, of course, are The Three Nephites, John the Beloved, Chuck Norris and Al Davis.) I've expended so much effort recently in killing time that I actually succeeded! I killed time! Seriously. It's dead.

Time was killed on Sunday, July 19th, 2009 at 10:48 p.m. I had been doing such a good job at killing Time over the past few days that he was nearly dead at 6:02 p.m. when I left home to have dinner at a friend's house. There was blood trickling out of Time's ears and his breathing was shallow, but Time was definitely alive when I left home. When I returned later that evening I noticed Time had crawled over to the the telephone and dialed, "9-1-", but I wrestled the phone away from him before he called the cops. I managed to kill Time later that evening. It was a messy job and I ended up with "a lot of Time on my hands", so I concealed the evidence by putting "Time in a bottle", tying the bottle to a cement block and dumping it in a lake.

The whole ordeal was pretty traumatic and it is going to be a while before I can put this horrific tragedy behind me. But you know the old saying - Time heals all wounds. Except for his own wounds, I learned, since Time is now decomposing at the bottom of Lake Jeanette.

But I did not act alone in this killing. A number of accomplices from all over the web assisted me every step of the way. So if you're ever in the need for killing some Time, here are the seedy thugs who made it happen for me:

Hulu - Best place on the web for free TV shows and movies. In the TV department you can find everything from The Simpsons to The Office to COPS to The A Team to Ice Road Truckers. The free movies are pretty skimpy for those of us of the LDS persuasion, but you can watch Saints and Soliders, Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, and The Secret of NIMH.

Rasmussen Reports - New polls are added several times a day to show what our fellow Americans believe about society, politics, sports, and business. Some polls have rational outcomes, while the results of others are completely crazy. By "rational" I mean that I agree with the majority of the respondents. "Crazy" outcomes occur when I disagree with the majority, or, better said, Rasmussen was only able to find people who sniff glue to respond to that particular survey.

Facebook - My high score on Path Words is 960. I stopped playing Scramble after I did not blink for 13 consecutive hours and my eyes had to be replaced with walnuts. I have never joined Mafia Wars. And, yes, you will suffer the same fate as Time if you Super Poke me!

ESPN - Despite my Shawn Bradley-related feud with Bill Simmons, he continues to be a must read. During the football season I gobble up Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback columns that ramble from football to space exploration to politics. While I don't always agree with his political beliefs, Easterbrook's a great writer. Speaking of politics...

Huffpo & Drudge Report - I read a lot about politics and visit one of these two sites multiple times each day. Most of you like this blog being a politics-free zone, so I'll refrain from saying which one of those two sites I thoroughly enjoy. If you have never visited either site, the Huffpo will appeal to liberals and Drudge to conservatives. If you are a "moderate" or an "independent", I recommend you pick a side before the 2012 presidential election, which will end in a full-scale armed battle as predicted in Orson Scott Card's book "Empire". Speaking of the OSC...

Orson Scott Card's "In the Village"
- OSC is my all-time favorite author. His Mormon Times pieces usually broaden my perspective and help me see common, everyday situation in life a little differently.

Snide Remarks - No other writer can make me laugh like Eric D. Snider. He and I were at BYU at the same time and reading his weekly column in The Daily Universe student paper was one of the highlights of my week. His Police Beat spoof mocking BYU's weekly police roundup is still the funniest column I have ever read.

Boomshine - More addictive than Girl Scout Samoa cookies sprinkled with crack cocaine...or so I've been told (quickly backpedaling...)

Segullah - My sister, Angela Hallstrom, has great posts at Segullah.org. If you live in the Salt Lake valley you can probably relate to her recent column about the East Side vs. West Side rivalry. It's one of my favorites. Sure, Segullah is geared toward women, so I call myself Mrs. Bertram Van Munster when I visit there to disguise the fact that I am really of the gender that sprouts back hair.

Youtube - A happy, upbeat trailer for The Shining. A cringe-worthy song celebrating the Bank of America and MBNA merger (I'm pretty sure Michael Scott wrote this...). Tom Chamber's dunk. I love ping pong. And, my personal favorite, DRAMATIC CHIPMUNK.

And those, ladies and gents, were my accomplices in killing Time. But if my family ever goes on vacation without me again I will need to fill the void somehow. Please post your top-3 favorite websites, videos, web games, clips, etc. that are not listed in this post. I will select the best submissions and give "Honorary Accomplice To Murder" awards to the people who posted them.

And for those of you who disagree with my selections, put down the glue and answer the phone. Rasmussen wants to ask you a few questions.

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The Bizarre Foodstuffs of a Lonely Man

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It is not good for man to be alone.

And alone is how I currently find myself. The Normal Mormon Wife and our three kids left in late June on an epic month-long road trip, leaving me to my own devices. I flew out last week to vacation with them in Utah for a fabulous week and then headed back home, by myself, to North Carolina. So I now find myself as a lone man tending the garden in my backyard approximately 35 miles from Eden, NC.

But unlike Adam, the first lonely man, I am not eating nearly enough fruit. However, I have found myself regularly consuming a disturbing amount of foods that should have been forbidden years ago by the Surgeon General. Unfortunately, I place more stock in the advice of Mayor McCheese than C. Everett Coop, as witnessed by my recent eating habits

I have eaten enough Wendy’s in the NMW’s absence that red pigtails have begun spontaneously sprouting from the sides of my head. My visits to Subway have been so frequent that Jared himself, feeling threatened, told me “back off, man!” or else he would “gut me like a fish” for invading his turf. I have digested so many Taco Bell items that it no longer bothers me chalupas are really just dead Chihuahuas rolled up in discarded carpet samples.

All of this fast food is not healthy. I realized this yesterday when my blood pressure was so high that my blood broke the sound barrier, so I headed to Wal-Mart to do some grocery shopping. This shopping venture may have been the first time I have gone grocery shopping on my own, for myself, since the NMW and I were married in 1997. Since I was only shopping for enough food to last for ten days I did not take the time to make a shopping list. I just grabbed my cart (aka “buggy” in North Carolina) and filled it with a bunch of stuff that looked appetizing and easy to cook.

When I looked at my final receipt I couldn’t help but laugh at my list of bizarre foodstuffs. Here is what I, as a respectable 34-year-old male, purchased to keep me nourished for the next week and a half:

Bread ($2.24) – The NMW wisely weaned me off white bread for wheat bread years ago for health reasons. After several minutes of perusing the bread isle I realized that I had no idea what type of wheat bread I have been eating for the better part of a decade. Whole Grain? Enriched? Honey? Free Range? I purchased Honey because it sounded the yummiest.

Beefaroni-3 ($.88 ea.) – My first love was a girl named Natalie who was in my Kindergarten class. My second love was a girl named Amy in my second grade class. My third love was a substance called Beefaroni. While I have no idea what happened to Natalie or Amy, I am still on good terms with Beefaroni.

Chicken Pot Pie ($2.48) – These bad boys were in my regular rotation as a college student and I have not eaten one in several years. This was a nostalgia purchase. All I need to do now is put on a Depeche Mode CD, repeatedly quote Beavis and/or Butthead, and start some relationship drama and it will be like I’m back at Ricks College circa 1993.

Frito's Honey Barbecue Flavor Twists (2 for $4) – These crunchy, flavorful goodies rank in the Top-5 Most Important Inventions in my lifetime along with the personal computer, the internet, cell phones, and Madden.

Hot Pockets (2 for $4) – One pepperoni, one ham and cheese. I love the portability of Hot Pockets. Maybe I’ll multitask tomorrow by going for a jog at the same time I wolf down a ham and cheese Hot Pocket.

Funyons ($.88) – Impulse purchase. They were eaten before I got home. I rarely buy Funyons when the family is at home because the oniony smell lingers on my breath for several days, regardless of how often or vigorously I brush my teeth. But when I’m on my own? Funyon me up, baby!

GV CM BT MSH ($1.32) – I seriously have no idea what this is and cannot decipher the meaning of the abbreviation on the receipt. Please post comments with your theories or vote in the poll on the right hand column. My guess? Great Valley Combustible Bat Mush.

Pepperoni Pizza (2 for $2.50) – I lived on these in college and still look forward to a hot Totino’s after a long day of work and church meetings. Sure, in college my blood was a thick, gloopy substance that smelled of pepperoni and grease, but man, Tonino’s are good!

Chocolate Milk ($3.42) – Hey! The price on the rack was something like $2.25, not $3.42! Wal-Mart ripped me off! Anyway, I got the chocolate milk because I need some source of calcium in my diet. On a side note, my milk drinking habit is somewhat strange. I cannot drink milk unless it is so cold it is nearly frozen. My milk always goes in the freezer for about five minutes before I drink it. The perfect glass of milk, in my book, has just started to form a ring of frozen milk at the top of the cup.

Dynobites Cereal ($5.24 per bag) – I almost never eat cereal in the morning. It is more of an evening snack for me. In fact, I had two big bowls of Coco Dynobites for dinner last night. If I die from poor nutrition over the next ten days, please place a bag of Coco Dynobites in my casket.

Steak ($4.03) – I am man. Hear me grill!

Tax ($.76) – I was going to make a political joke here, but learned the hard way that it’s best to keep this a politics-free zone.

While I did well stocking up on foods that are either 1) Chocolate or 2) Frozen, I realized that there was no fruit on my receipt. But that might be for the best. After all, the first (and possibly last) time a lonely man got himself some fruit, things didn’t turn out quite so well.

Hurry home, NMW. I miss you!

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Campin' with Cletus and Deadly Varmints!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

“Happy early Father’s Day!” said the Normal Mormon Wife. It was Friday, two days before my official day of praise and eating red meat, and I was still at work. Over the phone the NMW gave me the following instructions, “Don’t go home after work…and make sure your car has at least a half of a tank of gas.”

Saying I was intrigued is like saying Mary Murphy on SYTYCD gets slightly excited about a “buck” and/or “stank” dance routine. My mind was swimming with possibilities. Were we going to the Carolina beaches? The Appalachians? Where, pray tell? WHERE!?

Well, we ended up staying in town but I still almost get eaten alive by a wild animal and shot dead by drunk hillbillies. I’ll explain later.

Before I left work the NMW called again and told me to meet her at huge campground just outside of town. She and our three kids would meet me there for an evening of hot dogs, S’mores, and outdoor shenanigans. Then the family would head home at night and I would camp out.

Alone. All by myself.

When I first spoke to the NMW about my desire to go camping alone I described the experience as “fun”, “relaxing”, and “manly.” I think she used words like “disturbing”, “anti-social”, and “Charles Manson-like”. But this is what I love about the NMW – she supports me even when she thinks I am behaving like a serial killer.

I volunteered to swing by Wal-Mart to grab some hot dogs, buns, and ketchup. When I got to the campground I was amazed to see the NMW had already put up my tent despite having three kids with her. Initially I could only see two kids because our 12-month-old toddler daughter was already covered in mud and blended into the natural environment, like Arnold Schwarzenegger hiding in the mud bank from The Predator. (Sorry if only three people got that last reference, but it was an unforgettably cool moment in the movie.)

The NMW unpacked the groceries and said, “Ummm…where are the hot dogs?” They were nowhere to be found.

Now I know I put the hot dogs in my shopping cart because I had debated whether to get the generic dogs ($.17 per artery-clogging goodie) or the all-beef, road-kill free Oscar Meyers ($.26 each per coronary assassin). After reviewing my Wal-Mart receipt I realized the hot dogs never even got rung up. I think they must have disappeared from my cart into a fourth dimension vortex near the Fritos display at that particular Wal-Mart. (I’ve seen other shoppers have things get sucked into that same vortex, too, like “hope” and “the will to live.” Gotta love Wal-Mart!)

So we improvised had S’mores for dinner!

As the sun started to go down and our daughter’s mud-to-skin ratio became dangerously out of whack, the family headed home. And I was left alone. In nature. To camp.

And, being a real manly-man, did what manly-men do – I gazed at the stars, contemplated stuff, stoked the fire, ate several 12-inch Slim Jims, and started re-writing a novel I shelved a while back. And I was completely happy.

But my tranquility was shattered when the human version of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel and his brood pulled into the campsite next to mine. I counted between twelve and seventy-eight children running about yelling, “Wooooo Hooooo!” until 11:30 p.m. At one point I asked myself, “Where are their parents and/or court-appointed guardians?” My question was answered after hearing an adult male belch followed by the sounds of several other adults hootin’, hollerin’, and guffawin’ their approval.

I tuned them out and kept writing. By now it was pitch black and I could only see within a few feet of my fire. At one point I had to get up to gather some more firewood and as my flashlight illuminated the blackness I saw something that freaked me out:

A coyote.

Now, I’m no Jack Hannah or anything, but I am positive it was a coyote. My friends have tried to convince me that it was a fox or a hedgehog and I’m just embellishing, but after extensive internet research I have concluded it was, in fact, a coyote. Among all the other possibilities, it definitely looked most like the first animal in this police lineup:

The coyote was slinking around the outskirts of my camp about forty feet from my fire. As soon as the flashlight hit him he quickly darted into the woods, like an impatient member at Stake Conference who bolts the meeting before the closing hymn to “beat the parking lot traffic.”

Hoping the coyote was gone for good I sat down and continued to type. One of the things I did not anticipate was having every insect within ten miles being attracted to the glow of my laptop screen. Seriously. Dozens of winged insect swarmed my monitor like a quorum of hungry Deacons attacking the ├ęclair table at a wedding reception.

While I was typing and simultaneously shooing away bugs I was also periodically shining my flashlight in sweeping motions in the general direction where I had spotted the coyote. I felt like a prison watchtower guard scanning the walls for escaping convicts. After several minutes I had become convinced the coyote had left for good, but then I did one last flashlight sweep for good measure.

And there, reflecting back at me in the flashlight beam, were two dazzling coyote eyes.

He was only about fifteen feet away and slinking toward me in perfect silence, like a parent tip-toeing away from a sleeping infant’s crib.

We both froze. Then, when the fight-or-flight instinct kicked in, I responded by urinating myself, throwing Slim Jims at the coyote, and running away screaming like a little girl.

Not really. I jumped up, made my 6’6" frame as big as possible, bared my teeth, and growled like a bear. The coyote ran away. I felt manly. And freaked out. So I picked up a large club-shaped piece of firewood roughly the size of baseball bat and continued typing.

I kept scanning the camp site every minute or two with my flash light after that. And, believe it or not, but a few minutes later I CAUGHT THE COYOTE FIVE FEET AWAY FROM ME! Now I was convinced he was trying to eat me, and, if successful, the NMW would forever be the brunt of “Maybe the dingo ate your husband,” jokes. I was not about to let that happen.

Plus, at this rate, I wouldn’t catch the coyote’s next sneak attack until he was literally sitting in my lap and editing my novel. I had had enough!

I picked up my club, jumped up from my chair, and ran after the stupid coyote while I hissed, growled, yelled and grunted like a female tennis pro.

The coyote left for good this time, but I’m pretty sure I was too successful in my general scariness because I startled Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel and his posse. Based on the noises that had emanated from their camp I was pretty sure my neighbors had four things in amply supply: 1) Beer. 2) Loaded Shot Guns. 3) Limited common sense (even when sober). 4) Itchy trigger fingers.

For a moment I was afraid Cletus was going to shoot me dead right there on the spot, mistaking me for a bear. Or his parole officer. Whatever. Fortunately nobody ended up eating hot lead that evening. (Well, at least I didn’t, but I wouldn’t put anything by Cletus and his crew of merry-makers.)

At this point I was tired and not particularly relishing hand-to-hand combat with a wild animal or trading small arms fire with my neighbors, so I went to bed. Nothing protects a person from wild animals and a hail of gunfire like a $10-tent from Wal-Mart.

Fortunately I survived the night alone in the woods and returned home to celebrate Father’s Day with an fun-loving wife and three awesome (and dirty) children.

But the next time the NMW says, “Don’t come home…get your passport…withdraw $218…meet me at the Motel 8 under the name Chesty LaRue…” I’m asking some follow-up questions.

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Adding It Up for Addie

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Please don’t tell the Normal Mormon Wife, but I have tender feelings for another woman.

Well, she’s not so much a woman as a girl, really. Now before you hit the panic button and think this is some crazy R. Kelley meets Governor Sanford post that I’m typing from a beach in Rio de Janiero, let me explain.

The girl I am speaking about is named Addie.

Addie is not an exotic, eloquent Argentine beauty with an affinity for South Carolina governors like the one we have been recently reading about. In fact, Addie is still mastering basic skills like walking and speaking, let alone composing love letters and dancing the rumba.

That’s because Addie is only three years old and was has battled cerebral palsy with epilepsy since birth, causing developmental delays in crawling, standing, walking and speaking. Addie is in my ward and it always makes me smile to see her snazzy Sunday hairdo’s, bright smile, soft handshake, and watching her ramble down the hall as she develops her ability to walk. Knowing what a special little girl Addie is made it nearly impossible for me to comprehend a phone call I received from a ward member last April:

“Addie almost died today. She had prolonged seizures. Her heart stopped beating. She is in the ICU....”

How grateful I am to a loving Heavenly Father who, in his tender mercy, allowed Addie to regain her strength and begin the recovery process. She was able to return home to the loving care of her father and mother, Tom and Kelly. And, I’m happy to report, Addie is back at church and smiling and shaking hands and rambling down the halls just like she used to.

And that is what is most important. Addie is back home and progressing. She will still need a lot of care and attention, but she is on the road to recovery.

But the care and attention Addie received in the ICU came at a cost. Addie’s seizure happened while she and her mom, Kelly, traveled from North Carolina to Utah to visit family. All of the medical care Addie received was out-of-network and the bills are more than the family is able manage. Almost anybody reading this post would be in the same predicament if this emergency had happened to us.

It has been inspiring to see how members of our ward have given Christlike service in rallying around Addie and her family. Donations, fund raisers, yard sales, and service projects have been held in the family’s behalf. Tom bore his testimony earlier this month in sacrament meeting to express the family’s gratitude for the love they have been shown. It was one of the most touching testimonies I have heard in a long time.

Tom and Kelly are very similar to those of you who read this blog. They are both college educated. They both work hard to support their young family, Tom full-time and Kelly via home-based businesses called Vinyl Expressions and Lil' Boo. They both love the Lord and serve in demanding church callings. They are both RM’s. And, just like each of us in our own ways, they are experiencing the trials of life.

I have set up a fund to collect donations to give to the family for Addie's ICU bills and for her care going forward. Based on the number of regular visitors to this blog, the NMH community could quickly raise several hundred dollars if modest contributions in the $5-$10 are made. You can contribute more if you are able, but even small amounts will be a blessing. Contributions can be made via a quick Paypal transaction by clicking the "DONATE" logo below. If you have felt inspired to help, please do so today. You will be a blessing to this sweet little girl and her wonderful parents.

I can envision the day when Addie, as a beautiful young woman, gets a snazzy hair-do, puts on a formal dress, smiles widely, and heads off to her first high school dance.

I bet she’ll even dance a pretty mean rumba by then.

Thank you for helping.



<- Click to help Addie!

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Riot Squad Announced! (Now Go Burn Something...)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

As promised as a follow-up to my last post - What a Riot! - the three-person Official NMH Riot Squad has been selected based on what they will overturn, loot, and burn to celebrate upcoming events in their lives. Congratulations are in order for:

-Chad
-Sandy
-Julie

Way to go, guys! You must be delighted to know that you are the three most likely to end up with felony convictions among the hundreds of people who read this blog.

Here is what they said to win this prestigious honor and a few comments about why their submissions were so great:

Chad: I am celebrating the recent announcement of the remake of Red Dawn.
Overturn: a 1997 Cuban Peso
Loot: Some AK-47 ammunition from my fathers gun safe.
Burn: A red plastic 3 inch army guy.
NMH's Comments: Red Dawn is one of the greatest movies in the history of film. The Wolverines could totally kick the crud out of any other movie on the AFI Top 100 list. Citizen Kane? Eat a bazooka rocket! Lawrence of Arabia? Puh-lease! I'll take the Wolverines tank over his camel any day.

I have had fantasies about living in the mountains and battling commies since the day I saw Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell pop out of the ground like angry, underground Jacks-in-the-Box and mow down the enemy. Plus, my high school mascot was the Wolverine and we used to watch C. Thomas Howell yell, "WOLVERIIIIIIIINNNNNEEEEES!" at our pep rallies. It still gives me chills to this day. And don't even get me started on my Leah Thompson crush...

For those of you who need to get goosebumps, take a look at this (it gets really, really AWESOME at the 1:30 mark if you want to skip ahead.)



Just watching that clip forced my body to sprout chest hair in areas that were previously barren. Chad, your never-say-die, take-no-prisoners Red Dawn mentality is exactly what our Official NMH Riot Squat needs. Now go get yourself a few commies!

Sandy: I live in Wyoming, where we never need an excuse to be on the other side of martial law. On a regular day in my town, you can:
1.Overturn cows. And sheep.
2. Loot the local dump. It's like Wal-Mart out there (and 200 miles closer).
3. Burn your trash in your backyard, because the garbage dump is for shopping.
NMH's Comments: In all honesty, the "...because the garbage dump is for shopping" line is one of the funniest comments I have ever read. It killed me. Not "killed me" as in the Red Dawn way (i.e. in a hail of blood-spattered machine gun bullets), but in the good, funny way. Every riot squad needs that person who can come up with a good one-liner as something explodes in a ball of fire in the background.

For example, if the Jazz won the 2010 NBA Finals and the Official NMH Riot Squad took to the streets to celebrate, I'm pretty sure Molotov cocktails would be involved somehow. Instead of just throwing hers, Sandy would do her best impersonation of Hot Rod Hundley and say, "A gentle push, a mild arc, and the Molotov cocktail hits home!", just as her concoction explodes against a building.

Julie - Event: Thursday Night
1) Overturn garbage can, toy boxes and utensils drawer, just so the toddler doesn't get to have ALL of the fun.
2) Loot through the fridge, looking for something to eat that I don't have to cook.

3) Burn ants with a magnifying glass, just because it's awesome.

NMH's Comments: Every riot squad worth its salt has a completely insane person like Julie who does totally crazy things like burning ants with a magnifying glass just for fun. For example, let's say the Riot Squad is having a planning session to do something destructive - like knocking down some street signs - it is Julie who storms in and says something nuts like, "Forget that! We're burning down the Guatemalan embassy! Yeeee Haw!!!!!" and then starts firing a pistol at the ceiling. Julie brings the edge. You don't mess with Julie.

So, winners, go out and celebrate the best you know how. Burn an army guy. Loot a dump. Ignite some ants.
Give me your email addresses if you want and I will send you a certificate of some sort (email me at nmhusband @ hotmail [dot] com.)

Just stay away from my house when you celebrate. Far, far away from my house.


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What A Riot!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

There have been many instances in my life when I have had cause to celebrate.

For example, the Normal Mormon Wife and I took a relaxing Caribbean cruise to celebrate our 10th anniversary. After graduating from BYU I bought myself a 1923 Babe Ruth baseball card as a “Way to go champ!” to myself. My wife and I celebrated the births of each of our children by screaming, “What do you mean it’s too late for an epidural!!!!!!!” at several different anesthesiologists.

A number of other important events in my life have been commemorated by fancy dinners, thoughtful gifts, and parties featuring Mormons eating no-bake food storage cookies and sipping on Martinelli’s (with milk also provided for LDS party-goers who think Martinelli’s violates the whole “avoid the appearance of evil” philosophy. As for me, I’d hook up a Martinelli’s IV if I could.)

In short, I love to get jiggy.

Or at least to get as close to “jiggy” as a freakishly tall, mid-thirties, white, LDS father of three with a herniated disc in his lower back can legally, morally, and physically get. But I realized last week that I must be doing something wrong in my celebratory jiggy-ness, because at no point in my life have my celebrations included the following:

· Rioting
· Looting
· Burning random stuff
· Overturning cars
· Felony convictions

Now keep in mind that I grew up in West Valley City, Utah, were my high school had an AP class called “Burning Random Stuff” (formerly called “AP Chemistry”) and my guidance counselor encouraged me to attend Salt Lake Community College where I could major in “Looting.” And I am fairly certain my guidance counselor had multiple felony convictions for overturning cars. Yet despite my heritage, I never managed to incorporate senseless, irresponsible destruction into my celebrations.

And then my beloved Los Angeles Lakers won the 2009 NBA Finals.

My initial celebration was to exchange a few “Yeah boyyyyyyyyyy’s!” and “Yeeeee haws!” with the NMW, who is also a loyal Lakers fan. We just had to make sure that our euphoria was quiet enough so as to not wake up our three sleeping children. I thought my victory celebration was complete.

But then I saw on the news how the hard-core Lakers fans were celebrating and immediately realized that my jiggification was sorely lacking. I needed to step it up.

Even though the Lakers’ series-clenching victory happened in Orlando, many of my Lakers bretheren took to the streets of downtown L.A. and rioted, looted, burnt stuff, overturned cars, and ended up with felony convictions. And I wished I was there. Here is what I missed out on by being cooped up at home in North Carolina instead of celebrating in the streets of Los Angeles:

So, in honor of my proud Lakers heritage, I decided to stage a mini-celebratory riot by overturning cars, looting, and burning stuff:

Overturning Cars:
I tried to topple my neighbor’s minivan, but it was just too heavy and I didn’t have the combined muscle of a drunken mob to help me out. I had to settle on overturning my daughter’s Little Tykes Crazy Coupe instead. I hope she has insurance. That’ll teach that irresponsible little 12-month-old!

Looting:
There are no nearby convenience stores, so the only place I could loot was my food storage pantry. I managed to get a bottle of ketchup, canned beans, and a box of Life cereal before the cops showed up. (NMW – if you’re reading this, please know that I took the cans from the front to ensure proper food storage rotation. I may be a reckless looter, but I’m not crazy or anything.)

Burning Stuff:
As a trained and registered Boy Scouts of America leader, I had to find the most complicated way of accomplishing this otherwise simple task. Instead of creating flame with a lighter or matches, I used a real man’s tool - steel and flint! I also followed BSA guidelines and made sure there were no combustible materials near the flame. I then burned the paper scrap remnants from our paper shredder. But hey, a senseless fire is still a senseless fire.

I can honestly say I have experienced more fulfillment and satisfaction over the Lakers’ title now that I have celebrated it the right way.

I also thought this theme of not-so-crazy LDS celebrations could be an entertaining discussion topic for the NMH community. So please pick an upcoming cause to celebrate in your life (graduation, wedding, anniversary, statute of limitations expiration, etc.) and answer the following questions:

What is the event?
1) What will you overturn?
2) What will you loot?
3) What will you burn?

The top three submissions will earn the writers the proud distinction of being named members of the Official NMH Riot Squad. I will send you a congratulatory email and everything. Winners will be announced in a few days, so the sooner you submit yours, the better.

Which poses another question – how will the Official NMH Riot Squad celebrate winning such a prestigious honor?

Uh-oh. I can smell the celebratory fires already.

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Fatherhood and Tommy Boy

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

(Note: The good people at Mormon Mommy Blogs wanted a few prominent male LDS bloggers to provide their perspective on fatherhood as we approach Father's Day. Unfortunately, the "prominent" male bloggers were unavailable so they asked me to contribute, which is how this post started. Click here to read this post at Mormon Mommy Blogs.)

Thomas R. Callahan III, I know how you feel.

Those of you who have seen Tommy Boy probably remember the moment when Tommy is forced to quickly grow up after his father unexpectedly passes away. In the blink of an eye, Tommy has to give up cow tippin’ and Darth Vader impersonations for a life centered on drumming up enough sales to make payroll for his family-owned business.

For many men, our “Tommy Boy Moment” happens the day our first child is born. Responsibility increases. Decisions become more complicated. Priorities shift. And as we experience the highs and lows, joys and pains,happiness and frustration of fatherhood, sometimes we can only sit back, take it all in, and exclaim:

Holy schnike!

In the spirit of the “Tommy Boy Moment” I will use some of my favorite quotes from the movie to guide my thoughts about being a dad.

**********************************
“Fat guy in a little coat”

One of my favorite moments is when Tommy (Chris Farley) stuffs his massively chunky body into Richard’s (David Spade) tiny suit coat. The coat is so restrictive that Tommy cannot bend his arms, like an older, fatter version of Randy on A Christmas Story.

Just like a fat guy in a little coat, fatherhood is restrictive. This is particularly challenging for males as many of us have a biological urge to leave society behind and live in the mountains eating only what we kill with our bare hands. Like Survivorman. Or Quentin Tarantino.

Being a responsible father often means your free time and energy are no longer yours, but your family’s. Instead of coming home to relax after a stressful day at work, many of us go straight to little league practices, FHE, dance rehearsals, or Scouts.

Now don’t get me wrong. The restrictive nature of fatherhood is a good thing. The Savior teaches us that, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” My belief is that making sacrifices as fathers is in harmony with this doctrine. Though restrictive, the responsibilities of fatherhood can make men more selfless and generous. Fatherhood has helped me to find joy by looking beyond myself and overcoming selfish tendencies. While my free time may be limited, I would not trade anything for little league games, dance recitals, first steps, and good-night kisses.

Sure, you can call me a fat guy in a little coat during this stage of my life. But hey, I’m a happy fat guy.

**********************************
(Tommy’s date, Michelle, has had enough from a group of rude boys…)
Michelle: “Listen up, you little spazoids! I know where you live and I've seen where you sleep. I swear to everything holy that your mothers will cry when they see what I've done to you!"

The average man’s veins are full of three important liquids – blood, testosterone, and Taco Bell mild sauce. While I appreciate the life-sustaining properties of both blood and taco sauce, it’s that dang testosterone that gets men in trouble. You see, when men encounter difficult people our testosterone-influenced brains give us five options:

1. Punch him.
2. Kick him.
3. Atomic elbow him.
4. Calmly reach an agreeable solution with him.
5. Even if #4 works, punch him anyway.

Children can be difficult, and fatherhood teaches restraint. Appropriately disciplining my children has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. It is almost impossible sometimes to correct unacceptable behavior without being completely unreasonable and overbearing with my kids.

As a father, I am learning to discipline my children in love. There are times when I am more successful at this than others. During my parental journey I have come to better appreciate the forgiving nature of my Heavenly Father and his eternal patience with me. After all, I am an adult, I hold the Melchizedek priesthood and made temple covenants, but I still make daily mistakes. Yet my Heavenly Father showers me with blessings despite these imperfections. In a strange way, my own visible shortcomings as a father have strengthened my testimony of God’s love for me.

I just need to do a better job at emulating Him and not Michelle sometimes.

***********************************
(After Tommy spills M&M’s all over the interior of Richard’s car…)
Richard: “Great. Melted chocolate the size of dice melted on the dashboard. That really ups the resale value.”

Children break things. And by “things” I mean “everything.” Fatherhood reminds men that stuff is just stuff and to not overreact when it gets destroyed. Or scratched. Or stained. Or lost. Or eaten. Or lit on fire.

The Normal Mormon Wife and I bought a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe for our daughter’s first birthday a couple of weeks ago. A well-intentioned member of our family decided to give our daughter a ride inside the house, which has hardwood floors. A few days ago the sunlight reflected just right off the hardwood and the NMW said, “Look at the scratches all over the floor.” Whoever pushed the car around left some pretty nice doughnut-shaped permanent gouges in the hardwood.

Neither of us got angry. We just looked at each other and said, “Well, we’ll have to buff that out when we sell the house someday.” We have not talked about it since. No big deal. Fatherhood has helped me relax when unforeseen problems arise, because they happen all the time in a young, growing family.

***********************************
I am grateful to be a father and to experience the ups and downs of parenthood with a loving, supportive, understanding wife. My children bring more happiness and purpose into my life than I ever imagined possible. Sure, there are frustrating and challenging moments, but they pale in comparison to the blessings.

One day when my kids are grown I will probably look back on my experiences as a young father and, quoting from Tommy Boy, say in quiet reflection:

“I swear I've seen a lot of stuff in my life, but that... was... *awesome*.”

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A Follow-Up Dunk on the Shawn Bradley Post

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bill Simmons, thank you.

A few of my readers wanted ESPN's Bill Simmons to get a copy of the Defending Shawn Bradley post I wrote to prove he was a solid NBA Center to begin his career, not one of the all-time busts like Simmons and others make him out to be. Bill Simmons is my favorite sports writer, the unquestioned star of ESPN.com, and quite possibly the most popular sports media personality in the United States right now. The probability of Simmons actually reading my Bradley post was as remote as Hurley turning down a Ho Ho, but it was sent along to him anyway.

Well, not only did Simmons ready my post, he Twittered about it to his 160,000+ followers. In his quick "tweet" Simmons paid me a small compliment ("nicely done") and offered a rebuttal to my post. Getting props from Bill Simmons for something I wrote was both unexpected and very cool, like when Brad Pitt gets run over while crossing the street in Meet Joe Black.

Simmons wrote to his Twitter followers, "Out of nowhere, a spirited defense of Shawn Bradley! Nicely done. Here's my rebuttal:" and then posted a YouTube video montage of Bradley getting repeatedly posterized. I got a good chuckle out of the video, but it does as little to discredit Shawn Bradley's career as this one diminishes Dikembe Mutombo:



I guess the YouTube clip showing each of Shawn Bradley's 2,119 successful blocks could not be located.

Just as the children's book Everyone Poops teaches us that we all...uhhh...poop, all shot-blocking NBA Centers are going to get dunked on every once in a while. It's just a law of nature. Heck, even the best NBA columnists (ahem, Simmons, looking at you right now...) are going to get journalistically posterized on occasion as well. You know, like when they compare the drafting of Yao Ming over Jay Williams to Bowie-Jordan or call Orlando "dumb" for drafting Dwight Howard. I am willing to look past Bill Simmons' occasional flubs because he consistently cranks out great column after great column. I can do the same when I hear the "Bradley got dunked on all the time!" argument. (So does this make Bill Simmons the Shawn Bradley of ESPN, or Shawn Bradley the Bill Simmons of the NBA?)

Thanks to Simmons over 12,000 people read my Bradley column within 48 hours of his Tweet. The additional exposure generated some good discussion about Bradley's career and I think a few of the comments deserve a little more attention. Here are a few of the common responses from people who read the post:

"Huh. Bradely was better statistically than I realized..."
The majority of the commenters either supported my argument (i.e. Bradley was better than people give him credit for) or said they were surprised to see Bradley's solid numbers over the first eight years of his career. My purpose in writing the post was to show that Shawn Bradley was solid - not great, but definitely not a bust - when he was healthy and getting minutes. It looks like the message got out. To celebrate I have hung an enormous "Mission Accomplished!" banner in my living room to show the Bradley debate is over! I win! Hooray for me!

"You're manipulating the data, you evil data-manipulating data manipulator!"
No, I'm not. I simply used honest, factual, objective data to support my view that Bradley was an above average Center for the first eight years of his career. Now matter how you slice and dice it, Shawn Bradley's stats compare more favorably to Vlade and Camby than to Darko and Kwame. And for those of you who are still not convinced about Bradley's solid stats, take a look at this nugget:

In the five seasons between 1994-1998 only eight NBA Centers averaged at least 11.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG every single year (supporting data):

-Shaquille O'Neal
-Hakeem Olajawon
-David Robinson
-Dikembe Mutombo
-Patrick Ewing
-Alonzo Mourning
-Vlade Divac
-SHAWN BRADLEY!!!!!

(Swallow hard, Bradley haters. It might take a few times to gulp that one to go down...)

No, I'm not saying that Shawn Bradley's career was anywhere near as accomplished as the rest of the players on that list. But this unmanipulated, pure-as-the-clear-driven-snow data shows that Shawn Bradley was a statistically solid Center for a good portion of his career and not an all-time bust, which was the point I was trying to make to begin with.

"Bradley's stats were okay, but he never played hard."
Based on what I read from his former coaches, teammates and fans, this criticism seems to have some merit. At certain points in Shawn Bradley's career it would have taken Arnold Schwarzenegger's flamethrower from Predator to light a fire under the guy. But "passion" is subjective and cannot be quantified (except for by measuring how far Kobe sticks out his bottom jaw in big playoff moments, that is. Even as a Lakers fan all I can say is, "Ugh.")

But hey, there is one LDS returned missionary in the NBA who has passion - Mark Madsen! Madsen oozes passion. He bathes in it. Eats it for breakfast. Took it to Vermont to try to marry it. But in the end I would rather take the 7'6" Mormon guy's stats over the more "passionate" 6'9" Mormon guy's numbers in a heartbeat. Bradley may have lacked passion at times, but he still produced when he was on the floor.

"Who cares about who Bradley's Point Guards were?"
I think this is more important than people realize. When looking at Bradley's relative lack of offensive output (10.1 ppg, 45% FG) over his first eight seasons, I pointed out that the assists leaders on his teams included two Shooting Guards (Jeff Hornacek and Micahel Finley) and Robert Pack (twice). If Bradley was as lucky as Vlade (w/Magic), or Ilgausksu (LeBron) or Smits (Mark Jackson) he would have had better offensive numbers.

A few of you said the Magic-Vlade comparison was weak because they only played together for two of Vlade's first eight seasons. Ditto on Ilgauskus/LeBron and Smits/Jackson. But even these examples prove my point when illustrating the impact a good set-up guy has on a Center. Take a look at the FG% of Vlade, Big Z, and Smits for the two years they played with the people I mentioned versus the two years before (Big Z) or after (Vlade, Smits) playing with them:

Vlade w/out Magic ('91 & '92) - 49.0%
Vlade w/Magic ('89 & '90) - 53.2%
Difference....+4.2%

Ilgauskus w/out LeBron ('01 & '02) - 43.3%
Ilgauskus w/LeBron ('03 & '04) - 47.6%
Difference....+4.0%

Smits w/out Mark Jackson ('94 & '95) - 51.0%
Smits w/Mark Jackson ('92 & '93) - 52.4%
Difference....+1.4%

In summary, Vlade, Ilgauskus and Smits saw their collective FG% improve from 47.8% to 51.0% by playing with Magic, LeBron and Mark Jackson. This is significant. During the first eight years of his career Shawn Bradley never played with a good penetrate-and-dish guy to feed him with easy dunks. This in part explains Bradley's weak 45% field goal percentage.

There were even two examples of Smits and Vlade playing half of a season with their set-up guy and the other half without him. Mark Jackson was traded back to Indiana from Denver on 2/23/07. Rik Smits only played 52 games that year due to injury. Before Mark Jackson's return, Smits had played 22 games and was shooting 47% from the field. In the 30 games he played with Mark Jackson his FG% improved to 49.5% during the same season.

The same improvement happened with Vlade Divac in 2005 when Magic made his ill-fated NBA comeback. In 41 games without Magic, Vlade shot 50.3% from the floor. In 38 games with Magic his FG% improved to 52.3%. Even an old, fat, slow, disease-infected Magic Johnson could have helped Bradley get closer to the 50% FG mark more successfully than the Shooting Guards and cast-offs he was unfortunately stuck with to begin his career.

The whole Defending Shawn Bradley post and subsequent follow-up has provided me with some of the more enjoyable blogging experiences I have had. Thanks to the exposure from Bill Simmons I no longer feel like a lone man preaching the value of Shawn Bradley in the wilderness. The message has been heard. The truth is out there. The Bradley legacy continues. My life's work has been accomplished.

So to quote Bill Simmons:

"Now I can die in peace."

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