Friday, September 26, 2008

Spoiled by the Parkway

So Legacy Parkway has shortened by commute by half!

Until this morning. A wreck just before Kaysville blocked off three of four lanes. Fortunately nobody looked like they were injured.

I hate stop and go traffic. But it did allow me to enjoy a few signs I would have otherwise missed.

1) Fines double for speeding in construction zone.
Really? This sign has been completely useless for the past year or so--unless 12 mph can be considered speeding.

2) Electronic speed deterant mechanism:
Speed Limit 55
Your Speed:
Again--really good use of money in the construction zone in the Davis County corridor UDOT.

3) Ill-informed traffic lady on morning radio:
"traffic through Davis County Southbound slows down at 200 North in Kaysville and continues as stop and go through Farmington"
When she said that, I had been on the freeway for 45 minutes, moved about 2 miles, and still had a mile to go before 200 North in Kaysville.
Turns out, the crash was at 200 North. We were back up to freeway speeds from there through Farmington.

Her insight was very helpful. Just like the signs.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Legacy House

On Tuesday night I went to the Legacy House to make sure my Grandma Dunroe ate her dinner. My dad is out of town and Jess filled in on Monday, my turn was Tuesday. Jess had a ball on Monday night. She sat down with Clara (my grandma) and four other ladies. She had the same conversation with them multiple times.
My experience was different.

I was about five minutes late. When I arrived, Clara was sitting at a table, alone, with her grilled cheese sandwich cut up in small squares, cup of hot cocoa already gone, and fritos scattered around her plate.
She looked up at me as I sat down.
She had no clue who I was.
I spoke to her for about thirty seconds. Then I realized that although I was talking loudly, she hadn't heard a word I had said.
She looked very worried about something and ate with her head down.
After about five minutes, she looked up at me and asked, "Do you know anyone from Denmark?"
"No". I shook my head so I wouldn't have to yell over the show tunes being played by a volunteer in the adjoining dining hall.
"My son was born here. My daughter too. My son is over in Denmark." (no, he's on a cruise in Alaska)
"He's been over there for two years" (more like two days)
"I don't know how to help from over here."
"I just don't know how to help."

Obviously I wasn't sure how to help. I wasn't exactly sure what she thought he was doing over there and how she was expected to help.

She ate quietly.
I told her several times, well--yelled at her several times--to "try not to worry about helping him. He's doing just fine."

After a while she asked me where my parents lived. Then she wanted to know where their parents lived.
"My Grandma Bodily lives in an apartment near here. Both my grandpas are dead. My other grandma lives in a place like this."
She nodded as though she understood how that must be.
Interesting. She knows exactly how that must be.

The nursing home aides came by several times to check on Clara. They also yelled so she could hear.
"Would you like some more cocoa Clara?"
She just shook her head, "I just don't know what to say".

After Clara had cleaned off most of her plate, I told her goodbye and headed on my way.
I'm not sure she even realized I was leaving. Nor did she care. She was still worried about how to help her son who has been over in Denmark for two years.

Jess came home laughing at all the enjoyable conversation she had at the nursing home on Monday night. My experience couldn't have been more different.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Other Mother

So on Monday night while I was working on my little project, I had to run into the garage to get a piece of pipe to fix a sprinkler. I must have left the gate open because when I came back around the house, Jayson was standing outside our fence, the gate of which was now closed, balling his eyes out. I wasn't sure if he was afraid because he found himself alone on the side of the house, or if it was because Ginger (the neighbors vicious German Shepard) was rabidly barking at him through the chain link fence gate that keeps her in the back yard of our neighbor's house.

Jess arrived at the scene at the same time I did and was asking Tayler why she didn't try to go help her brother. Apparently, Tayler was on the other side of our gate, screaming for someone to help Jayson, but too afraid of Ginger herself to go rescue him.

Fortunately, Jayson hadn't been bitten. When I hauled Jayson back into our yard I questioned Tayler.

Loving Father capitalizing on a "teaching moment": "Tayler, Ginger can't get out of the fence. Why didn't you go help your brother?"

Crickets. (20 seconds of silence....)

Tayler: "Dad, Maybe you should've closed the gate so Jayson wouldn't follow you out there."

Good point Tay.

The Foreman

On Monday night we played a little outside as a family and I tried to finish touching up the small paver pad I have had to completely re-do (and put off for almost two full summers). I haven't had huge chunks of time to work on it, so I do a little here and a little there.

Tayler was slightly annoyed that I was working on it again. She came over to supervise.

"Daddy, shouldn't this have been a one day job? Why didn't you just get up early one day and get it all done at once?"

Thanks Tay (who has never herself been awake to see the sun rise). I'll get up earlier next time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Man-Date One

To fully appreciate this story, you must know that Spencer thrives at times making his friends feel slightly uncomfortable.

On Wednesday night Spencer and I headed out to Downtown Disney for dinner. The concierge told us it was just across the street. We could wait for the shuttle or just take the short walk. Thirty minutes later we arrived (me somewhat damp from the humidity) at the House of Blues for dinner.

One of the four hostesses waiting anxiously to seat guests: How many in your party?
Me: Two please

I started at this point to realize that it kinda felt a little awkward being alone with Spencer all day long. In a “missionary companion” sorta way. Major differences from the mission: no ties, no companion study, no testimony-sharing and separate rooms—separated by four floors. Apparently, spending so much time together seemed funny to Spencer for a different reason.

The server at the House of Blues really seemed to like Spencer. And Spencer wasn’t even that charming. In fact, he was rather subdued. Until the check came.
Waiter: Would you like one check or two?
Me: Just one please.
Spencer: (grinning from ear to ear) We’re to-geth-er.

Thirty seconds later…
Spencer: Well, I didn’t want him to think he could flirt with you. I wanted to spare you from a potentially awkward situation.
Thank you Spencer. That wasn’t awkward at all.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Working with Graphic Designers is Fun

This picture has now made it's way around the office with the following caption:

Mancation II: A night at the Epcot

And punchline:
When it's no longer safe to take the kids to Disney World. . .

What you can't see is the bobbling heads and the little sparkles in our teeth because I don't know how to get the animation to be included.

The Perks of Bellhopping at the Buena Vista Palace--Orlando

After the conference, I went upstairs to change.
In the middle of my clothing change, the TV was too loud and I was on the phone with co-worker Tami. I didn’t hear someone yelling for me through the door. But I thought I heard a knock. Better go to the door to tell Spencer I’m not quite ready yet.
Me: “Tami, can you hold on a second?”
Me (thinking—and somewhat startled as I round the corner): ‘Oh. Hello there bell boy. Glad you’re a guy. Thank you so much for opening the door when you didn’t hear an answer and bringing in a logo’d shaving bag gift from a convention vendor.’
Bellboy: “Did I wake you? Sorry about that”
Me: “Nope”
Me (thinking): ‘just like to hang out in my underwear. Bet this wasn’t what you had in mind when the job posting read “base salary plus tips”’.

Might have been worth it though (at least for me). Just two nights ago I was complaining to Jess that I couldn’t find my shaving bag.

Conference People (Day 2 Recap Continued)

The only thing better than people-watching at any Walmart, or the Utah Arts Festival, is people-watching at a multi-day conference. At a conference you are often allowed to observe the evolution of people throughout the week. This can, however, ruin people watching. Sometimes you eventually meet the people you have observed and form different opinions—often more positive. (Life lesson here about judging people I guess. I will save my hypocritical comments about not judging people for a “Sunday Thought” another time.)

The “Executive Administrative Assistant”: This is the sometimes attractive, surgically-altered lady who basically shadows a much older executive boss everywhere he goes. Could be that she needs to stay close to her “sponsor” in case someone asks her a dental question she doesn’t know. How busy must that old guy be to need a personal assistant at the conference with him? Hmmmm. Makes ya wonda.
“British Teeth” Person: It isn’t really a dental hygiene conference so I don’t know what I was expecting. But it is dental-related. Saw more of these than I anticipated.
Early arrivers: These are the people who are in the conference room twenty minutes early, notepad in hand, sitting alone at the table staring into their a coffee mug.
Notetakers: Feel like they need to have a pen and notepad with them everywhere they go. Might miss something VERY valuable. Something potentially career-altering. Yep. I fall into this category.
Non-notetakers/Ploggers: Yep, Spencer’s group. They just retain things really, REALLY well.
Joe Casual: Doesn’t matter what you wear at the business casual conference—as long as you look better than this guy. Saw two of them on Day 2. One had on a loud Hawaiian shirt with khaki pants. The other had on a short-sleeve dress shirt, with shorts, leather moccasins, and no socks. By day three these two might, just might, be seen in a break-out session with only board shorts, flip-flops, and a “fruity” drink with a little umbrella.
Frankie Formal and Fancy Nancy: Frankie is dressed like he’s headed to either a semi-formal senior prom or a high-profile job interview. Nancy looks like she’s paid on a part-time basis to model the next fall fashion line for Nordstrom. A little much at the business-casual dental insurance conference.
Hairplug Lady: This forty-something gal is trying her best to look twenty-something. She has a huge fake pony tail sitting high on the back of her head. Worst part--it’s not even close to matching her regular (slightly gray) hair color. That, and it looks like some sort of dead animal. It’s like a color mullet—old gal in the front, young chick in the back.
Over-eager Sales Guy from Minnesota: Accidently say hi to this guy and you’re exchanging business cards and email addresses and eventually trying to un-schedule a webcast. You’ll also end up with a phone call from Minneapolis every Monday morning for the next 8 months.
The Grizzwalds: These folks bring their whole family to the conference since they get a free hotel, flight, and meal. Now many people do this. In fact, I almost did. The difference with these people is they never actually attend the conference since they’re out with their family the entire day riding rides and buying souveniers. Gotta love these guys. You never actually see them at the conference, but you run into them occasionally at the hotel restaurants at night. They often order one appetizer, one main course, one side salad, one dessert, one drink, and four waters to split with the entire family. The dinner receipt makes it through Finance and nobody bats an eye. The greasy receipt with five churros purchased at the amusement park in the middle of the day is a little tougher sale the following Monday.
No Socks Guy: This guy has a button down white shirt, a black jacket, tan slacks, and black loafers with no socks. Maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe not. Especially bad with the two top buttons undone allowing large amounts of chest hair to peak through.
Buffalo Wing Sauce Stain on His Shirt Guy: Yep, that stupid wing (the second one I ate) fell off the wing plate and slid down the front of my shirt at the sports grill. Had my plate too close to the edge of the table. Didn’t have Jess there to point out ahead of time that my plate was too close to the edge like she does for the girls. Sure do miss her. Don’t worry Jess, at least I was smart enough not to wear that shirt to the conference today.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Orlando Conference--The Opening Act

The conference breakfast was the standard continental variety. I’m not really sure why they call it that. If by “continental” they mean “cold carb choices only” or “hungry again by 10am”, then they picked the right name. There was no place to set our stuff. We just stood over by a wall and tried to balance the tiny plate, glass of juice, napkin, and notebooks we were carrying while we ate.

We filed into the large conference room like a herd of sheep and suffered through the conference reunion/introduction—which included a painful slide show of conferences past and pictures of previous award winners. There was even a standing ovation for someone we didn’t know. Spencer cheered loudly and laughed. I closed my eyes and pretended it was all a bad dream—or something more enjoyable—like an Amway convention.
The first meeting was a motivational seminar on leadership by a great speaker—Steve Farber (more on the highlights of this another time). Spencer and I sat by a lady (Christine) from Brazil who was struggling to understand the speaker because he spoke so fast and English is her second language. I was closest to her so I would translate for her when she got confused.

The translation that made Spencer laugh out loud: a powerpoint slide that showed a close-up of an Olympic skeleton rider who was just diving onto his sled. Across the picture were the letters “OS!M” He told us what it meant. It’s the feeling you get the first time you jump head first onto the sled and see how steep the death-defying drop looming in front of you really is. It’s an “Oh [Shoot] Moment”. Christine couldn’t understand what he said and wanted me to translate it for her.

Longest minutes of this seminar: When the fairy godmother came out and cast a spell on all of us. Then had us join her and cast our own spell with our pretend magic wands. Only in Disney World. Tayler and Rylee would’ve loved it. Spencer did too.

Spencer’s review of this seminar: “I don’t like buzzwords and don’t like to be motivated”.
Oh, you must’ve l-o-v-e-d the past three hours then.

Second most painful moments of this seminar: The dreaded group discussion. Naturally I wasn’t listening when he gave the instructions about what we were supposed to talk about. Didn’t really matter. Nobody at our table really wanted to talk about the subject anyway. Someone wisely threw out that Christine was from Rio de Janiero. That led to a five minute discussion on the fun and purpose of the holiday/celebration/contest called Carnival.

Most painful moments of this seminar: Self-promotion guy. During the open Q&A, the microphone was passed to a guy who was really anxious to maximize the attendance at the afternoon break-out session he was leading. He didn’t ask a question. He instead pretended to ask a question while prattling on for several minutes about his opinion on the topic and plugging for his afternoon session. I never got a good look at him. I recognized his voice however. Later on, just before the afternoon session, Spencer and I were lounging on the uncomfortable chairs in the lobby. I asked Spencer if we were having fun yet. Then like fingernails on a chalkboard, I heard self-promotion guy’s voice coming from a smiling man who had passed us seconds before my comment. He yelled back over his shoulder, “if you want to have fun, come to my session that’s just about to start”. He sensed, and acknowledged, the sarcasm in my response. (Side note: Neither Spencer or I went. But Spencer said he could hear people thru the wall, roaring with laughter throughout self-promotion guy’s presentation. Guess we should’ve gone).

The Conference Nerd
Like a conference nerd, I took notes of the highlights of Steve’s presentation. Spencer sat there and soaked it in. After the break he returned with a notebook. I thought he was going to take notes, but instead he was Plogging. That’s my new word for writing down your next post on paper because it would be too disrespectful to use a laptop during someone else’s presentation. It’s how they used to blog before the internet. I think people also call it journaling. So Spencer Plogged away. Didn’t ever see him write down anything about dental insurance, or heaven forbid, successful leadership strategy. But thankfully his next post is ready for publication.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Orlando Trip: The Man-Cation

The Pre-vacation Anticipation
This past week I spent a few days in Orlando at a Dental Insurance conference at Disney World. Spencer Sutherland, who works in my department, came along and made the trip a “man-cation”. The original plan months ago was to bring our spouses and children along to make it a Disney World family vacation. However, both Jessica and Tracy managed to get out of the trip. I don’t know Tracy’s reasons, but Jessica and I factored the cost, the long flight with little Jayson, and the fact that for three days they would have to hang out without me while I attended the conference. The overall cost outweighed the benefits. So it was just Spencer and I.

Strangely enough, Spencer informed me this trip would make or break our relationship. He also informed me a few days before we were leaving that he doesn’t travel much. In fact he has never been on a business trip. He was planning for me to take charge and he would be along for the ride. I got a message from him at 9:45 Monday night. “Are you on the same flight as me? If so, I will stop worrying and just show up and let you take care of everything.” Oh goody.

Day 1
Tayler cried Monday night when we said goodbye. In order to calm her down, I told her I would wake her up before I left. I did. She cried even harder. As I was getting into the car, Tayler, Rylee and Jessica waived and shouted goodbyes from an upstairs window. Tayler was still trying to fight off the tears. Rylee seemed as happy as a clam. Jess (rightly so) seemed annoyed that I woke them up.

Spencer (at the airport): “this is the longest I will have been away from Tracy since we’ve been married.” Glad I can be there for you Spencer.

Riding on a plane these days seems a lot like riding a train or the city bus. You see some very interesting people. My favorite was the lady who was standing in line at the gate with her inflatable head supporter already positioned around her neck twenty minutes before boarding. Fortunately I got a window seat. Perfect for the 300 pound guy with broad shoulders.

When we got to the airport, we grabbed our luggage and headed to the counter to buy shuttle tickets for a ride to the airport. Great. The lady at the counter is helping a difficult customer. For twenty minutes. While we stand in line. Spencer mumbles something about almost getting the tickets online the night before. Good thing he delegated all responsibility to me. We finally got our tickets and were told it would be a twenty minute wait. We were given a round buzzer with lights (just like you get at the lobby of the Olive Garden). When you’re there (Olive Garden), you’re family. When you’re in the basement at the Orlando airport, you get no breadsticks, salad, or pasta—only uncomfortable wicker furniture. It was now 6 pm and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

Forty-five minutes later the pager went off. We headed out to the shuttle and found ourselves the last to board—apparently the last people buzzed. The driver looked annoyed. There was only one seat empty and there were two of us. Spencer let me take the front seat (well, all I know is he didn’t try to push me out of the way when I went to get in). I think Spencer sat on someone’s lap.

When we got to the hotel, we checked in, ate at a sports grill, and retired to our rooms. The nightmare of "back east" travel is that you can’t go to bed until really late at night (due to the two hour time jump) but still have to get up at 4:30 am (back home time). It’s lovely. Thank goodness Jess cut my hair last night or I would have had an afro with all the humidity. I love feeling sticky. (Day 2 highlights to come)


Tay can hardly stand it when the family isn't all together.
When one of us has to leave, even for a short time, she often can't hold back the tears.
When Tay was younger, Jess used to often offer to leave Rylee home when we were all heading out to eat or to some other activity. Tay would almost cry at the thought of leaving Rylee home and would beg us to let Rylee come too.

Her need to have everyone included extends to all of her drawings. Drawing is one of Tayler's favorite things to do, and she rarely draws a picture without including, somewhere along the top, the letters "MDRJ" and she sometimes remembers to include "T".
Mom, Dad, Rylee, Jayson, and Tayler.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Looking Back, and Down, on Idaho

The first part of July we went on a trip to Boise to see our little neice's baptism.
It was a great trip, but being back in Idaho forced me to ponder some deep questions I've always had about the relationship between Idaho and Utah.

The big question on my mind was how Iahoans view Utahns. Growing up it always seemed like Utahns "look down" on Idahoans in some respects. Similar to how many citizens of the United States seem to view French people. Well maybe that's a bad example. We don't really view Idahoans as ingrates who've never given us the credit for bailing them out of a world war and who would be willing to surrender at the first sign of an altercation. (Note: I don't feel that way about the country of France, or it's citizens, but I think you'd be lying if you say you haven't heard these opinions expressed by fellow Americans. No, my recollections from visiting France on numerous occasions as a child are simply limited to how annoyed they were that we didn't speak French, needed to bother them by asking directions, had five kids...oh, and the look of disgust they always seemed to have on their face when having to deal with stupid Americans. That...and great bakeries!)

Maybe the better comparison of how some Utahns view Idahoans is how some Americans view Canadians. In a "close, but not quite" sorta way. I have heard Canadian condescension all my life from US citizens. I've heard people point out how Canada has contributed nothing to the advancement of civilization aside from Canadian Bacon (which is viewed as a 'step up' from its meat-cousin 'ham' at pizzerias). Or how prominent Canadians always seem to become American citizens. Or most recently, sports talk radio hosts poking fun of Canada's low medal count for much of the Beijing olympics this summer (the grand Canadian medal total at the time was zero. They finished ranked 14th with 18 total medals compared to the US total of 110).

Or, perhaps the better comparison is how the rest of the world seems to view the United States. The idiot, arrogant cowboy that's nice to have on your side during a war, but otherwise should butt out and mind their own darn business.

I admit as a youth I viewed Idaho and Idahoans according to the stereotypes. Potato farmers. Country folk. Simple life. Idaho.

As we traveled north this summer, I couldn't distinctly see the difference geographically as to where Utah ended and Idaho began. It all sort of blended together. As I sat in church on Sunday I couldn't help but noticing the ward we attended in Idaho seemed no different than any ward I've attended in rural Utah. An occasional testimony borne involving a life lesson learned on a farm. They even seemed to have the same helpful, friendly, small-framed elderly man with a full head of silver hair, thick horned rimmed glasses, bushy gray eyebrows, complete with a powder-blue suit. In short, the differences were much less than I'd been led to believe growing up.

So how do Idahoans view Utahns? I was going to ask a few locals, but then figured I could probably guess the answer. My supposition is they look down on us. We are, in fact, an easy stereotype. Mormons. No fun. No alcohol. No night life. Well, and the whole polygamy history comes to mind. Or the fundamentalist polygamist communities of the present. Yep, an easy target. To be honest, it doesn't seem like the view Idahoans would have towards Utahns is all that different than the opinion the rest of the country has of Utahns. Same stereotypes seem to exist throughout the country.

So why do we have to look down on any state or any country? I guess it's a juvenile solution to make us feel better about who we are and where we're from.

Well, my reflections while in Idaho didn't generate any real answers. In fact the only conclusion I came to during my trip this summer was a Jeopardy answer (i.e. framed in the form of a question). Is it worse to be the state everyone in the country looks down on???? Or is it worse to be the state looked down on by the state the rest of the country looks down on?