An Un-American, Misinformed Blog Post

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Earlier this week Tom Hanks referred to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who supported California’s Proposition 8 as “un-American.” Samuel L. Jackson then piled on yesterday by labeling Mormon Prop 8 supporters as “misinformed.”

To borrow a Tom Hanks line from Big: “I don’t get it.

One of my all-time favorite Tom Hanks scenes comes from Cast Away. Shortly after crashing on the deserted island he does an amazing job illustrating how nearly impossible it is for a Fed Ex employee to catch a fish with his bare hands. A moment later the camera zooms in on a large fish swimming in shallow waters when – BLAMO! – a crude spear suddenly comes from nowhere and impales the fish. The camera then slowly pans up to reveal an emaciated, shaggy, loin-cloth-wearing Tom Hanks standing above his fresh kill after several years alone on the island. Very, very cool.

Unfortunately, Tom Hanks delivered another kill shot. He killed me as a fan. It will be hard for me to watch Tom Hanks movies in the future unless I suffer an unexpected “brain cloud” as he did in Joe Versus the Volcano and magically forget that he challenged my patriotism for having participated in the democratic process. (Unless his Cast Away character somehow ended up on Lost. I’d be all over that!) The irony of calling people un-American for exercising their right to vote for other otherwise support legislation is so hypocritical that it deserves no further comment.

Tom Hanks should be relieved to know that some Mormons also exercised their constitutional right to oppose Prop 8. If he ever visits one of our church services he can rest assured that there are at least a few “patriots” in our midst who truly mean it when they sing “The Star Spangled Banner” in sacrament meeting. Not like the rest of us America-hatin’ frauds.

I gave Tom Hanks a pass when he decided to produce HBO’s Big Love despite the untrue stereotypes it perpetuates against Mormons. But with this second attack directed squarely at my faith there is now a pattern of contempt from Tom Hanks that sours me. Exit polling performed by L.A. Times found that roughly 70% of African Americans and voted for Prop 8 as did a significant amount of Latino and social conservatives of all faiths, yet Tom Hanks only singles out the Mormons. If he has issues with people who supported Prop 8 then he should direct his disparaging comments toward everybody, like he did with his hatred for his entire team in A League of Their Own.

Samuel L. Jackson’s comment was not nearly as offensive as Tom Hanks’ (“misinformed” vs. “un-American”) but it still cast Mormons who participated in the democratic process in a negative light. After reading his accusation I was hoping that Samuel L. would channel his inner Mace Windu and enlighten us poor, uneducated hillbillies. Regrettably, he failed to inform the misinformed. I was looking forward to receiving a moral lecture from a reformed cocaine addict with a felony conviction for his role in taking hostages during a 1969 civil rights demonstration. Worse yet, Samuel L. Jackson also starred in Snakes on a Plane. Yikes!

Since it appears that Samuel L. did very little research to inform himself about Mormons before attempting to point out how misinformed we are, he may be surprised to learn that we, as a whole, are a very educated people. A 1998 study by Stan Albrecht and Tim Heaton from BYU's Religious Studies Center found that 53.5% of LDS males have a post-high school education versus 36.5% of the US population. The findings among women were even more impressive as 44.3% of LDS females have attended some college compared to 27.7% of the general population.

I am sure both Tom Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson have a number of redeeming qualities. Their professional talents are unquestionable. In fact, Tom Hanks is so talented that he made me cry - literally - when his volleyball/best friend Wilson floated off into the horizon during Cast Away. They both seem to be good family men. They work hard. They are probably generous with their money in supporting causes they believe in. I applaud them for the good things that they do to make the world a better place. I am just tired of them hacking on my faith.

One of my favorite lines from Forrest Gump is when he says, "You've always got to put the past behind you before you can move on."

I just hope that Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson and those who follow their lead in Hollywood can do just that.

And that I can, too.

Normal Mormon Mediation

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

(Psssttt....I'm going out on a limb and trying a new interactive segment that will require a bunch of comments to be posted, so please throw me a bone...or a conflict...and maybe this won't be totally lame.)

Sometimes we are wrong and we know it.

We know it right away without anybody having to point out the obvious.

Take, for example, Ryan Seacrest. Last week nearly every household in the United States saw him attempt to high-five a blind American Idol contestant who had just won a golden ticket to Hollywood. This was a pretty big mistake on Seacrest's part since the only two physical requirements for high-fiving are working limbs and vision. If you pause the video below at the :08 mark you can almost hear Seacrest's brain screaming, "Noooooooooooo!" as his body instinctively sets up for the high five (the quality is poor but it was the only video I could find on the web.)

Seacrest knew that he made a mistake. No question about it. Seacrest, out!

But sometimes we are wrong and we don't realize it, especially when it comes to disagreements we are having with other people. In times like this we need a neutral, objective third party to help resolve the issue. Somebody like a wise old aunt, Locke from Lost, or Judge Judy when she's taking her meds. While I am not as qualified to resolve disputes as a TV judge, I do find myself fairly regularly in situations at work where I am asked to intervene and resolve disagreements. Sometimes both parties are very happy with the outcome. Other times they end up so mad at me that they think I am a heartless, inconsiderate, unfair corporate jerk. Such is the life of an HR Manager.

As a limited-time promotion I am willing to offer my conflict resolution skills to you, the readers of my blog, free of charge! (The jerk-free kind, of course.)

Just post a comment summarizing the issue you are having with somebody else and I will tell you who is right and even offer some sort of wacky, though practical, compromise to help get the problem resolved. Ideally the types of conflicts that you post about will be the humorous, less serious things that come up in our everyday lives as people, spouses, parents, employees, church members, etc. and not the serious, heavy issues that would require a true professional like Dr. Phil, Dr. Katz or Dr. J. For example, here are two of the minor, insignificant, real-world examples that the Normal Mormon Wife and I are working though right now: (Please vote on the right to help us settle these.)

-One of us pronounces the word "coupon" as "q-pawn". The other pronounces it "koo-pawn". Which one of us is correct?

-The NMW and I have incorporated a lot of wheat into our diets to stay healthy (sandwich bread, rolls, etc.) One of us wants to begin using whole wheat pasta for our spaghetti and has seen the kids eat wheat pasta before without batting an eye. The other wants us to keep using traditional spaghetti pasta mainly because of the grainy taste of wheat pasta. We eat a lot of pasta and the health versus taste debate needs to get settled. What do we do?

Ideally there will be enough submissions by the end of this week (Saturday 1/31) that I can address a different issue every day next week. The more submissions I get, the more likely it is that you will have something new to read every day instead of doing your jobs or supervising your children, so please help me out.

At the very least I hope this will lead to an entertaining week-long posting spree. And who knows, this might even help a few people resolve some real-world disagreements. If something good comes out of this then it will definitely be cause for celebration.

High fives for everybody!

I'm In the (corti)ZONE!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hernia. I've got a hernia.

At least that is what my orthopedic surgeon told me last week after stuffing my gangly 6'6" body into a suffocatingly small, loud, enclosed tube called an MRI machine. I seemed to fit into the tube like a foot-long hot dog being wedged into the last remaining eight-inch bun. But they got the images that my doctor needed to diagnose the cause of my pain as a herniation to the L5/S1 disc in my lower back. L5/S1 is the medically accurate name of the damaged region. I like to call it the "stupid jerk zone."

My doctor explained that there are two primary reasons for the severe pain I have been feeling. First, my disc has completely ruptured and is now pressing against the spinal nerves which is causing the stabbing pain in my back and burning sensations in my hips and leg and numbness in my feet. The second reason for the pain is due to the fact that when a disc ruptures it releases its fluid material into the immediate area and causes inflammation and pain.

Referring to the fluid, my doctor told me to image my disc as a jelly doughnut that has been punctured, causing the jelly filling to squirt everywhere. If I were a doctor I would tell my hernia sufferers to imagine ordering a Taco Bell burrito with extra Fire sauce on it that was prepared by a careless drive thru worker who failed to seal the ends of the tortilla. I think this is a more apt description because most people attempt to eat 2-3 leaking Taco Bell burritos every week and the Fire sauce better describes the burning sensation. Maybe this is why I work in HR and not in the ER.

The good news is that my doctor is not recommending surgery right now. We agreed to have me receive a cortisone shot to reduce the swelling and pain so that I can start physical therapy next week to strengthen my core. The shot is technically considered to be a minor surgery and is not something that can be easily administered like a flu shot so I have to go to the surgical center to receive it. I got the cortisone shot yesterday and kept a running diary of the events of the day:

7:14 a.m. - I took the day off work since my shot is in the morning. I normally take the Normal Mormon Boy to school but we decide to let him ride the bus today so I am off the parental hook. As I lay in my bed the 4-year-old Normal Mormon Girl comes into the bedroom and wants to snuggle. While my daughter is an excellent princess, dancer, singer, gibberish speaker and puzzle maker, her greatest talent may be snuggling. She snuggles with me in her warm, furry pajamas and I cannot think of a better way to start the morning.

7:22 a.m. - I call my office voice mail to change my message to let people know I am out of the office today. On average it takes me about 4.6 attempts to get the message just right. It usually goes something like this:

Take 1 - "Hello, you've reached the voice mail of the Normal Mormon Husband. Today is......uuhhh..."
Take 2 - "Hello, you've reached the voice mail of the Normal Mormon Husband. Today is Friday, January 23rd and I am out of the office, returning on Monday...Jan...u...ary.....Twen...ty......"
Take 3 - "Hello, you've reached the voice mail of the Normal Mormon Husband. Today is Friday, January 23rd and I am out of the office, returning on Monday, January 26th.."

And so it goes until I get it right. This morning I got it down in one take. Another good omen.

8:07 a.m. - I normally do not eat breakfast, but I indulge in a bowl of Life cereal since I have some extra time this morning. After I finish eating the bowl of cereal I have a disturbing flashback to the scheduling person at the doctor's office telling me to not eat anything after midnight the evening before my procedure. I pull out my instructions and my heart sinks when I read it right there in black and white - "Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before your appointment." Oh, no! I call the office to make sure that I have not just completely hosed myself and they assure me I can still come in for the shot, but they will not be able to give me as much sedative as normal. I guess there must be some problems with patients with full stomachs and/or colons who get sedated, but I can't put two and two together....

9:15 a.m. - I call Aetna just to double check that my cortisone shot will be covered by insurance. I tell the Aetna representative, "I am receiving a cortisone shot in my back and want to make sure it is covered." The rep asks a follow-up question of, " do you spell that?" I almost sarcastically say, "B-A-C-K" but instead spell "cortisone" for her. The sinking feeling that I will end up with a $42,000 bill from this is now officially residing in my gut, right next the the Taco Bell Fire sauce in my back.

9:20 a.m. - The Normal Mormon Wife is driving me to the surgical center with our seven-month-old daughter also tagging along. We used my GPS device (aka Gretchen) to guide us to the address. As we prepare to turn on to the street of my doctor's office Gretchen says, "Now arriving at destination on left." Uh, Gretchen, there is funeral parlor on our left. Please tell me I am not getting my surgical procedure done in a funeral home. Doesn't that represent some sort of conflict of interest? Not a good sign.

9:40 a.m. - The surgical center was two buildings down from the funeral home and we take our seats in the lobby. The NMW sees a Body Mass Index on the wall and wants to see where I fall on the BMI scale. She comes back and tells me that, unfortunately, the chart stops at 76 inches. I am closer to 78 inches and once again experience the horrors of the most prevalent form of discrimination that still exists in our society today - HEIGHT DISCRIMINATION! (I have blogged about height discrimination before and it's worth a read if you're interested. It's one of my favorite "classic" posts.)

9:42 a.m. - I had to take off my wedding band in preparation for my shot so I am now holding my infant daughter without my ring on my finger. I see people in the waiting room glancing at us and suddenly feel like a baby-daddy since my wedding ring is not plainly visible. Awkward.

9:49 a.m. - The NMW and I are talking with an elegant woman in her sixties about the joys of parenthood. She looks a little surprised when we tell her we have two more kids at home. She then asks if I'm going in for major surgery today and I tell her that it is just a "minor outpatient procedure." The woman looks at me with a knowing smirk on her face that leads me to believe that she thinks I'm taking measures to ensure that baby number four is never born. I quickly clarify that I'm only receiving a cortisone shot.

10:05 a.m. - I am now in the back offices and being passed from nurse to nurse every four minutes. Every nurse glances at my chart and looks at me with disdain and says, "Oooohhh, YOU'RE the one who had breakfast this morning." In total, eleven of fifteen nurses make this comment to me through my ordeal. I think they would have been less judgmental if I had done something less serious - like bombing a national monument or killing baby animals just for kicks. As nurse after nurse reprimands me for eating Life cereal this morning I am tempted to put a sign on my forehead that says,

10:09 a.m. - While laying down on a gurney awaiting my I.V. I smile as I hear "Stayin' Alive" being piped in over the sound system. The irony of this particular song being played to a bunch of people getting ready to undergo surgery makes me chuckle. If they were playing "In the Living Years" by Mike + the Mechanics I would seriously dive for the closest window.

10:15 a.m. - My doctor is ready to do the injection. I am told that I will feel a "poke" as the long needle enters my back. By "poke" he really meant "stabbing." I am now told that I will feel "pressure" as the needle descends into my back. "Pressure" really meant "deeper stabbing." I am then told to be prepared to feel "an adjustment", which really meant "stabbing in new areas." Man, the guy downplays everything! If I were to die on his operating table today, what would he tell the Normal Mormon Wife? "Ma'am, I am sorry to tell you some moderately difficult news - your husband's surgery was not quite 100% successful. His body has been transferred to the funeral home down the street for the next steps in his recovery process..."

10: 29 a.m. - While I am in the recovery area experiencing drug-induced hallucinations, the medical staff tells the Normal Mormon Wife that over the next 24 hours I need to comply with the following three basic requests:

1) Rest
2) Do not drive
3) Do not make any important decision

I guess now is not the best day to tell the NMW that I have just decided to drive to New York to try out for the World's Strongest Man competition and adopt two Serbian orphans while I am there. Maybe tomorrow.

I am happy to report that the cortisone shot has done exactly what my doctors and I were hoping it would do - relieve the constant, debilitating pain that has made my life so difficult lately. This morning is the first nearly-pain free day I have experienced in months. What a relief!

I am deeply grateful to the NMW for shouldering nearly all of the responsibilities of our home and family over the past several months. Hon, you are an amazing woman! You have been an absolute champ and I am looking forward to getting healthy and once again pulling my weight around here. I am thankful for the prayers, service and priesthood blessings from my family, friends and ward members that have sustained me during this tough time. There have been a number of kind, uplifting comments from you, the readers of my blog, that have also boosted my spirits. Thanks to all of you.

Sweet! The 24-hours have now passed since I received my shot. Time to go tell the NMW about my upcoming trip to New York.

Gotta run! And this time I will not look like an 83-year-old man as I do.

Good times!

Hey, I Liked 2008!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Men don't normally scrapbook.

We do justify our existences in other ways, though. For example, when the toilet will not flush because the chain inside the tank has become disconnected from the stopper, who is it that normally sticks a hand into the freezing cold, icky-gross toilet tank water to reattach it? It's the guy. Most of us can also grill the carcasses of tasty, dead animals and simultaneously babysit a toddler while playing Madden or Guitar Hero. That's talent, my friends.

Sometimes, however, I wish I did keep a scrapbook because I have such a terrible memory. (Those who do scrapbook, check out Tangie Baxter Designs. They are a new sponsor of NMH so please support them for supporting this blog. You'll even get 15% off for being part of the NMH crew.) There are only about fifteen major life events that have permanently embedded themselves into my mind and are going nowhere. Here is a snippet of the random experiences that my brain has dug its claws into and refuses to let go of:

-My wedding day and the birth of my children.

-Freaking out with the Normal Mormon Wife when she opened her admission letter to dental hygiene school and read the word, "Congratulations!"

-My first little league football touchdown as a 3rd grader when Scott Hollowell threw me a halfback pass and I scampered into the end zone.

-Trying to talk with a little Chilean girl on the flight from the MTC to Antofagasta, Chile and nearly jumping from the plane without a parachute after hearing how quickly she spoke Spanish. I didn't understand a single word she said except for, "tonto!"

-Asking my Kindergarten teacher how to spell "R2-D2" because I was making a Star Wars birthday card for a classmate. Her response was simply, "Sound it out," which I successfully did and then felt like the smartest kid in the universe.

Despite my terrible memory I can somehow remember almost every play from my senior year of varsity basketball at Hunter High. I can't explain it, but it's true. Maybe I have such a poor memory because 83% of my brain's storage capacity is dedicated to preserving my high school basketball glory days.

The reason I wish I had either kept a scrapbook or had a better memory is because for the past two weeks I have heard nothing but how terrible 2008 was. Nearly every website, magazine, news channel and homing pigeon with a message taped to its ankle has loudly proclaimed 2008 as the "worst year ever!" After a quick Google search I learned that '08 was the worst year ever for Wall Street, Movies, Seattle sports, CD's and the Church of Scientology. Heck, even the UFO Media industry couldn't catch a break last year.

Despite the incessant message of what a wreck the world is, my life is great as I bid farewell to the worst year ever. In fact, 2008 was a really good year! (Am I alone in this? Vote on the right and let me know.) Here is why:

1) My Family = Multiplied and Replenished. On May 28th, 2008, the Normal Mormon Family welcomed a beautiful little girl into our home (read the hilarity and tenderness of the blessed event here). Despite the fact that my daughter has the uncanny ability of puking on my left wrist every time I hold here, she has brought a tremendous amount of light, love and happiness into my life. (And I swear she pukes on my wrist on purpose. No matter how hard I try to scrub the stink off, I can always detect traces of it for the rest of the day. When does this end? At her baptism? First date? Wedding day? Maybe I'll just start wearing latex gloves every time I'm near her.) My sister, brother and my brother-in-law also welcomed little girls into their families in 2008 while my youngest sister-in-law got married. If only we can now find a way to create an all-LDS girl pop music band with these four little munchkins......

2) Life and Death. Last year I was blessed to not have to attend any funerals for family or close friends. The closest I came to a cemetery in 2008 was mourning the decapitation of the mother and baby Willow Tree figurine that fell from our bedroom nightstand. We are cryogenically freezing the mother's head until future technology allows us to glue it back on. The baby's head cannot be located at this time. My guess is that it is either being used as a foozball ball or the Normal Mormon Boy has mistaken it for a new type of bakugan.

3) Sports. My three favorite teams are the Carolina Panthers, BYU Football and the Lakers. While the Panthers laid an egg in the playoffs, they went 12-5 (.706) this year. The Lakers ended their 2007-2008 campaign by reaching the NBA Finals and then started the 2008-2009 season by going 31-6 (.840). BYU football went 10-3 (.769) but somehow managed to have a disappointing season despite the win total. In summary, my favorite teams had an average winning percentage of 77% despite sports being a zero-sum game where there is a winner and a loser in every contest. In other words, there must be some miserable chump of a sports fan lamenting about how his favorite teams only won 23% of their games last year in order to even out the success of my teams. I was a BYU student in 1997 when basketball team went 1-25, so I deserved my 2008 sports warm fuzzy.

Despite these reasons for me to have enjoyed 2008, most people will point to the mortgage crisis as the universal reason to view the year as if it were a soiled diaper after your baby goes from a milk-only diet to one containing solid foods. Including green beans. Well, I think there are even some long-term silver linings to the lessons we have learned from the financial crisis. Just as the internet bubble taught us to avoid buying shares of companies that sell no tangible product or have a coherent business plan, the mortgage mess has reminded us of some basic, valuable lessons. First, we should buy houses we can afford. Second, banks should lend money to people who can reasonably be expected to repay it. And third, it is usually not a good thing for government to interfere in the free market (this 1999 NY Times article was prophetic.)

While the economy is struggling, I have been fortunate enough to keep my job while many other talented, smart, dedicated people have not been so lucky. For those who are out of work, hang in there! You will find a way through this. If you need a morale booster, read Angela Hallstrom's Segullah post called "Tidings of Comfort", which is very uplifting.

The single greatest fear that I have in my life is losing my job and not being able to support my family of five. For the first time in a long time I have had to reflect upon how blessed I am to have a good, challenging job. This is a healthy thing to have to do every once in a while. (My second greatest fear is heights. My third is being ripped to shreds by a large, angry dog. So I guess the worst-possible scenario I could ever encounter is working for a K-9 unit and knowing my boss is using an angry German Shepherd to track me down on the roof of the Empire State Building so that he can fire me. Great. Now I'm going to have nightmares.)

One of my favorite scriptures is Alma 62:41. This scripture shows how the Nephite people chose to react to experiencing years of war and bloodshed that far exceed anything we are facing today. It says, "But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility."

The same group of people went through the same trial. Some became bitter and hardened. Others saw their faith in God increase as they humbled themselves before Him. Often our happiness is not a result of what happens to or around us but how we respond to the circumstance we encounter. In short, we can be as miserable or as happy as we choose to be. I see a lot of reasons to be both (happy or miserable) right now. I choose happy.

Okay, I think that's enough for one night. It is now 1:50 a.m. and I'm rambling. My final point is that we live in the greatest and most noble country in modern civilization. We enjoy freedoms and have opportunities that other people literally risk their lives to attain. God bless America!

As Latter-day Saints, we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as our anchor when the winds of life batter and blow us about. We can have the Holy Ghost - a member of the Godhead! - as our companion if we are true and faithful to our covenants. We have prophets, scriptures and the Holy Ghost to guide us through our challenges and to remind us of the joys of life. How blessed we are!

Wow. This is pretty deep, important stuff that I hope I can remember.

Does anybody have a scrapbook?

Panthers Laying Eggs, Labor Pains & Rob Zombie

Monday, January 12, 2009

There have been three defining telephone conversations in my life that have helped to shape me into the man (or man-like substance) that I am today. Two of them happened years ago. The third happened last Friday.

Perhaps the most memorable phone call I have ever made happened in 1987 when I was a 7th Grader attending Hunter Jr. High in West Valley City, Utah (since re-named Tupac Shakur Memorial Jr. High.) The weekend before classes started the school held a "Get to Know You" dance in which the boys styled our mullets and the girls poofed up their hair and we danced awkwardly to Peter Cetera and Mr. Mister. That night I met a lovely young woman named Kelsi Osborn and asked her for her phone number, marking the first time I had ever officially picked up a girl. I called Kelsi later that week and we talked for twenty minutes about how we, as mature Junior High students, were going to begin writing with pens instead of pencils, despite the dangers of not being able to erase our mistakes. It was pretty deep, serious stuff. I think puberty officially started when I hung up the phone, combed my mullet, and contemplated the significance of what had just happened. (Kelsi has since gone on to Shedaisy fame. I still play Madden and write a blog that cannot even attract a sponsor for a measly $30. Talk about a power couple!)

The second monumental phone call took place back when the Normal Mormon Wife and I were dating and it was time for me to ask her father's permission to marry her. While I had met the NMW's mom, sister and grandma, I had never met her father when I called him to pop the question about popping the question. All I knew about my future father-in-law was that he liked to run, hunt and fish. He was as mysterious as Grizzly Adams playing the role of The Banker on Deal or No Deal. Anyway, after an extremely awkward conversation about fishing (I know as much about fishing as Miss South Carolina knows about reforming US education policy) I smoothly transitioned the conversation toward marriage with a subtle, ".....So anyway....." I then asked his permission for a complete stranger who made $7.25/hr as an AV Specialist at BYU to marry his daughter. His response was simply, "Sure." That was it. No grilling. No lie detector test. No death treats. Just, "Sure." He made my life easy then and has done so for the past 11 years. That was a life-changing phone call.

Last Friday I received a phone call that is right up there in terms of life importance as the previous two examples. My friend Michael called and said, "I got a couple of free tickets from work to the Panthers-Cardinals NFL Playoff game tomorrow night. Wanna go?"

And then my head exploded.

We made plans for Michael to pick me up at 5:00 the following day (Saturday) to go watch my beloved Panthers destroy the Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium. And, as usually seems to happen to me, ended up with a night full of odd, random, hilarious happenings that I will never forget.

Michael's wife, Shelley, is nine months pregnant and already having some painful early labor contractions. Michael and I had to promise Shelley that we would keep our cellphones turned on in case she went into labor. During the drive to Charlotte we discussed what to do if Shelley called and the game was headed into overtime. I think Michael was leaning toward possibly returning home to witness the birth of his second child, but I'm not completely sure. I had decided to walk or hitchhike back to Greensboro if he did. We encouraged Shelley to avoid running, jumping, swimming, jogging, eating Taco Bell, moving, standing and breathing for the next eight hours so that our NFL Playoff experience would not be hindered by something as inconsequential as giving birth.

The forecast called for rain that evening so before we left I asked the NMW if we had any ponchos. She returned with an old poncho from our Disney World visit last year. The only problem was that it had a big picture of Minnie Mouse on it. Sweet! Nothing says "manly NFL fan" like a Minnie Mouse poncho. After realizing that we had additional ponchos the NMW returned with something much more appropriate for football. This one had a picture of Mickey. Despite my better judgment, I left for an NFL Playoff game with a used Micky Mouse poncho in hand, just in case.

We arrived at the North Gate of the stadium only to find a mosh pit of about a thousand Panthers fans all trying to get in at the same time. Being sucked into the undulating mass of humanity was probably like going to Lollapalooza, except for the people at the game did not have large nose piercings or smell like Snoop Dogg's upholstery. The guy standing directly in front me tried as hard as he could to get the rest of us to chant, "Let's go Panthers!", but nobody paid any attention to him. After several failed attempts he yelled in frustration, "YOU GUYS SUCK!" Uh, yeah, buddy. You're the sane one. It's the 999 of us who have issues.

Once we finally got into the stadium we had to walk up to the 5th concourse. While I have never actually seen the Rameumptom mentioned in the Book of Mormon, I doubt it was higher than we had to climb. But on the plus side, I could both watch the game and also clearly see the rings of Jupiter with my naked eye from the 500 section. It was a good thing Shelley did not come to the game with Michael because she would have delivered the baby somewhere between the 300 and 400 level.

1st Half
As we continued our pioneer-like trek to our seats, we end up missing the Panther's first possession and are relegated to watching their opening TD on a flat screen hanging on the wall. D'oh!

We take our seats and I have to pinch myself that I am watching my favorite NFL team in a playoff game and all it cost me was $5 for parking and $16 dollars at the Cook Out drive thru.

While there are 74,000 people dressed in Panthers colors, there is one person dressed in head-to-toe hunting camouflage and orange deer hunting accessories. Of course, I end up sitting next to the deer hunter. He has unkempt facial hair and a dark, distant look in his eye. While everybody else cheers when the Panthers do well, he remains seated and shows no emotion. Instead, he mutters profanity at the Panthers under his breath when they mess up and then flips them the bird. I am pretty sure that I see blood on his pants. I am also pretty sure that it is human. And fresh. I am almost certain he will stab me before halftime. Oh well, if I meet my demise tonight at the hands of his 9-inch buck knife, at least I will have died happy.

Oh, no. It just started raining hard enough that everybody is busting out their ponchos. I decide to put on the bright yellow Mickey Mouse poncho, but turn it inside out so nobody can see Mickey. Not only is the poncho now inside out, but it had been torn while we were at Disney World and is utterly impossible to put on. Forget it. I lay it over my lap to keep my jeans dry and feel like a complete tool.

I reach into my coat pockets to retrieve my gloves and end up pulling out a black church sock instead. How in the world did a black church sock end up in my coat pocket? What else is in there? A tie? A copy of Preach My Gospel? Benjamin Button?

As we approach halftime, the Panthers are laying an egg and losing 27-7 in a game in which they were favored to win by 10 points. They look horrible. After missing the opening touchdown drive, Michael and I have watched the following Panthers series: Punt-Fumble-Interception-Punt-Interception-Punt. Come on, Panthers! Somebody paid good money for me to be here tonight!

During halftime the Harding High School marching band is doing their routine and the Panthers' Punter, Jason Baker, takes the field early to practice his kicking. Michael and I decide that Baker was the Panthers' MVP of the first half since nobody on offense or defense decided to play tonight. Baker shanks one of his punts and the ball nails a member of the high school marching band. The Panthers are stinking so badly tonight that their Punter cannot even kick the ball over the heads of a high school marching band. (Either that or he was so upset with the team's play that he decided to take out his frustrations on the only person on the field that a Punter could beat up, if necessary - a 16 year old tuba player.)

2nd Half
There are more Panthers fans texting on their cell phones than actually watching the game right now. Many of them are also consuming a dangerous amount of alcohol while texting. The woman sitting in front of me is simultaneously texting and drinking, which is never a good combination. I look over her shoulder and her text message says, "Stupxd Paltnhers! They stnikl;" Amen, sister. Amen.

On their first two possessions of the second half, the Panthers go Punt, Interception. With the score 30-7 the stadium clears out faster than a Stake Priesthood Meeting that goes 15 minutes long. Michael and I decide to hang in there until the bitter end. Unless Shelley goes into labor. Probably.

There were nearly 74,000 people in attendance tonight. As the fourth quarter kicks off, Michael and I are two of the roughly 2,000 who still remain. Michael brings me back a lemonade and said, "When the Panthers give you lemons, make lemonade." It was a nice gesture on his part. He would have also been justified in bringing back a bag of fertilizer from Lowe's based on what the Panthers gave us.

As the game winds down Michael and I start scavenging the rows around us for souvenirs like game programs or growl towels that were left behind. Or wallets. We end up finding some good stuff to remember the glorious night when Michael risked missing his child's birth in order to watch the Panthers get demolished in the rain. Priceless.

Well, we were apparently not the only scavengers left in the stadium. With about four minutes left in the game a man who appeared to be, um, homeless, started going row by row and picking up everything he could find, Mickey Mouse ponchos included. We watched in disgust as he picked up a half-eaten bag of peanuts, chomped on a few, and then threw the bag back down on the ground. He then finished off every half-empty beer bottle he could find, regardless of how much backwash or germs he may encounter along the way. As he methodically made his way up the stadium, he eventually reached us.

The scavenger walked up to Michael and asked, "Wanna buy a Rob Zombie CD?"

Unfortunately for the scavenger, I had just given Michael a Rob Zombie album for his Christmas present. I think under normal circumstances Michael would have been delighted to buy a Rob Zombie CD from a homeless vendor at an NFL Playoff game, just not tonight. (I am kidding about the Christmas gift. While I have heard of Rob Zombie, I have no idea who, or what, he is.)

We cheer in jest as the Panthers score a meaningless TD with :50 seconds left to make the final a 33-13 loss. We walk back to the car and begin the long drive back to Greensboro. It is now almost midnight and we will not get home until about 2:00 a.m. so we stop at a gas station to get some munchies. It turned out to be one of the most random receipts I have ever seen:

-Chocolate Milk
-Gummy Bears

While the Panthers really, really, really, really stunk on Saturday night, just being there was one of the most enjoyable, unique experiences I have had in a long time. Thanks, Michael, for bring me along. Thanks to Shelley for not delivering a baby that evening. And thanks to the NMW for calling me at 11:30 p.m. to ask me if Jake Delhomme was color blind in an attempt to explain the five interceptions he threw. Overall, it was a great night.

Definitely something to call home about.

I Got Jumped by Santa in the Vernal, Utah Wal-Mart!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Over Christmas break the Normal Mormon Family flew out to Utah from North Carolina to visit my parents in South Jordan and then spend time with my in-laws in Roosevelt. As I documented the shenanigans that ensued during our Disney World vacation (Part I, Part II), entertainment often follows us when we hit the road. Our trip to Roosevelt delivered the goods as well and I will tell you how I got jumped by Santa Clause in a Vernal, UT parking lot in just a minute. But before getting to that, a little background on Roosevelt might be helpful.

My in-laws moved to Roosevelt fairly recently so I am still getting to know the place myself. Since most of you probably do not spend a lot of time in the greater Myton-Neola-Gusher area I decided to do a little research and share some basic information about Roosevelt with you.

During my research I found the city's website which states that the goal of Roosevelt is to, "Provide all citizens with a quality of life through public services, positive business atmoshpere (sic), education, recreation, and governmental cooperation, based on revenues."

I noticed that the city did not commit to providing a great, outstanding or superb quality of life. Nope. Just "a" quality of life. The city council should be commended for delivering on this promise to 100% of Roosevelt citizens, since each of them technically has "a" quality of life. Finally, a government that delivers on its promises!

Also, the irony of misspelling the word "atmosphere" (spelled atmoshpere) prior to highlighting "education" as one of the ways in which the city provides "a" quality of life was also good for a chuckle. But my favorite aspect of Roosevelt's mission is that all of the above promises are only available "based on revenues." So what does the city do to increase revenues? Read the "Prevent Your Waterlines From Freezing" update and see if you spot the scam.

Did you see it?

That's right, we're on to you, Roosevelt. In order to increase tax revenues the city requests (not advises or suggests, but REQUESTS) that utility customers who have water service through Roosevelt City leave a small stream of water running day and night." And what happens if you decide to turn your water off at some point and your pipes freeze? You may not have water services again until the weather warms up. After experiencing a -2 degree morning in Roosevelt, I think the city "warms up" for about six hours in mid-July and that's it. Man, talk about carrying a big stick! This like the transit authority "requesting" that you take the bus everywhere or else bus drivers can and will break your kneecaps.

I can just imagine the following conversation after running a constant stream of water, day and night:

Me: "Honey, I've got some good news and some bad news."
NMW: "Okay."
Me: "The good news is that we still have water because I did not turn it off the entire month of December as requested by the City of Roosevelt."
NMW: "Uh-huh."
Me: "The bad news is that our water bill was $12,970.18."
NMW: "Hey, if that's the price we have to pay to enjoy 'a' quality of life, so be it."

Having pointed out some of Roosevelt's quirks, I just want to state for the record that I love visiting my in-laws and have nothing against Roosevelt. It simply has its quirks, as every city does. So please do not take this as a mean-spirited slam on a small town. Now that you better understand where the Normal Mormon Family was visiting, here is a running diary from one of our afternoons in nearby Vernal.

-11:15 a.m. - Leave the Vernal temple with the NMW after my fabulous mother-in-law watched the three kids so that we could finally go to a session together. My on-going lower back problems are causing me to hunch over and shuffle my feet to walk. I fit in perfectly with the roomfull of 83-year-old men who walk just like I do.

-11:16 - Holy cow! A huge block of ice and snow just fell off the roof of the temple and came within a foot of landing directly on top of a frail woman in her seventies! She was honestly a few feet from death. But is there really a better time to depart this earthly realm than as you exit the temple? Maybe while you are serving a mission, immediately after your baptism or watching your favorite sports team win a championship. Dying on the temple steps has to be a close fourth.

-11:31 - As we drive to Wal-Mart I notice the following bumper stickers:

A. "A woman's place is on her horse. Cowgirl up!" on an F-350 with dulie wheels.
B. "Roughneck up!" followed by a picture of a burly man working an oil rig.

C. "Get the puck out of here!" followed by a picture of an ice hockey goalie.

Something tells me that I'm not in North Carolina anymore.

-11:45 - Arrive at Wal-Mart with the NMW, my mother-in-law and the three Normal Mormon Kids. My back is hurting too badly to walk through a busy Wal-Mart (actually, I've been faking my back problems so that I could avoid going into a Wal-Mart a few days after Christmas, but don't tell the NMW) so I stay in the van and listen to one of the two AM stations on the radio.

-11:58 - Since I'm back in Utah I am playing the "Mormon, Not-A-Mormon" game as people walk through the parking lot. While I have no way of verifying this, I think I got a 96%.

-12:42 - The crew returns from shopping and my mother-in-law turns the key but the van will not start. Uh-oh, it looks like I sucked the life out of the battery listening to the radio. But you can't really blame me. I mean, how can you be expected to turn the radio off when you get two stations?

-12:45 - The Normal Mormon Mother-in-Law calls AAA because, "If I'm paying for this I want to get my money's worth." We are told that a AAA representative will rescue us within 50 minutes. This sounds like a long time to me so I ask my mother-in-law if she has a pair of jumper cables, but she does not. Regardless, I pop the hood and begin peering in at all of the gears, belts, doo-dads and thing-a-majigs and pretend that I have a clue about anything that I am looking at. Something could be on fire right now and I would not know if it is supposed to be or not.

-12:59 - A kind-looking older man with a long, white beard, rosy cheeks, and a belly that looks like a bowl full of jelly asks us if we need a jump. My four-year-old daughter asks, "Is he Santa?" Um, I seriously think he could be.

-1:00 - I take Santa up on his offer, but he unfortunately does not have any jumper cables either. Somewhere deep inside I wonder if he is going to produce a pair of jumper cables from a large velvet sack in the back of his Blazer Sport, but no such luck. We tell Santa that we have called AAA and they will now be here within the next 35 minutes so thanks, but no thanks.

-1:08 - Still waiting for AAA

-1:19 - Still waiting for AAA

-1:24 - Still waiting for AAA. Afraid that we might end up stranded and then be featured on "I Survived" or "I Shouldn't Be Alive", we break into a box of Mrs. Cavanaugh's chocolates. After watching a Survivorman marathon last week, I estimate we can survive for eight days in the van, if necessary, and we can boil and eat our leather shoes. Mmmmmm.....Nikealicious.

-1:27 - Forget AAA! I shuffle into Wal-Mart and buy a pair of jumper cables. As I enter the door I seriously contemplate taking a Jazzy over to the automotive department.

-1:34 - AAA has not arrived but Santa Clause is still sitting in his Blazer. Why? We have no idea. My guess is that he also likes to play "Mormon, Not-a-Mormon" too. Santa gives us a jump and we are back in action!

-1:39 - We make a quick stop at Smith's grocery store and the Normal Mormon Boy tells me he has to go pee (surprise, surprise.) He enters a stall and closes the door behind himself. While I am washing my hands I hear him say from the stall, "The field goal is up...and it's good!" When I ask him why he said that, he replies, "I'm standing really far away from the toilet and peed right into it!" Just as I get ready to scold him I have to remind myself that I've done that on plenty of occasions as well. Recently, even. (And women, if you're grossed out by this, I'm not alone. All men do this. It is just the way we are programmed.) I instead congratulate him on making the game winning field goal.

-1:40 - I tell the NMB that if he ever bounces a field goal attempt off of the uprights at home that he has to immediately call a time out and clean it up.

-1:52 - While going through the McDonald's drive thru, the Normal Mormon Wife orders Happy Meals for our kids and tells the worker to, "Include a boy toy" in one of the boxes. I am relieved when the phrase "boy toy" is nowhere to be found when the NMW places her order.

Near death experiences, car problems, Santa Clause, adventures in urination - all just another enjoyable getaway for the Normal Mormon Family.

I wonder if I should have left the sink running back in North Carolina...