Thursday, December 25, 2008


I love Christmas. I'm also glad it's over with.

This year was great but we were a bit out of sorts. With no little ones in the house to wake us up early and the fact we were having the family over for breakfast at 9am meant that we didn't even open presents until after 12 o'clock. By the time we wrapped that up (reverse pun intended), my mom and Miss Amy came by and we anxiously awaited Jake's call from Ecuador.

As usual, Christmas Eve meant Rod's most excellent potato soup, our white elephant present switch, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas game, and reading of the Christmas story out of Luke. The highlight though, as it is each Christmas Eve, of course was the old wooden game of Skittles. This is where we spin a top and attempt to shoot it up through openings in the 2 foot by 3 foot board game and knock over small bowling pins for points. We play 3 rounds (spins). Of the 8 participants, I rocked the game and won handily. Tiffany and Cindy came in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Today, I manned the stove and cooked up a pile of pork - sausages and the always delicious bacon. Carolyn and Cindy operated the waffle irons (they still have those? We use Eggo's). We had about 20 people over which was about 2/3 of what we've had in the past. Rod's clan was spread out all over the country and it was just Jordan this year. We loved having our house full of people and enjoyed the spirit in our home.

The brood began arriving about 9am and we had the traditional waffles and pork smorgasborg, the kids opened presents, we laughed and watched some home dvd's of Janae and Carolyn's hookie lau dance in Hawaii '91, ice skating and sleigh rides in Utah of '92 and '94, and Jake's 2 year effort to toss every toy he had over the fence at the Borla house. Some seriously funny stuff.

I received a beautiful engraving of "A Fathers Prayer" from Alec, Tiffany and Jake. Janae got me some cool men's stuff; clothes, golf balls, cologne, shoes, and what not. The highlight of Christmas though, my best present, was Jake's phone call. We have done this drill in the past with Alec while he was in Peru for 2 years but Jake had been out a year and we'd talked to him last on Mothers' Day. He was able to talk to both of his grandma's, his brother and sister-in-law, his sweet Amy, me and his mom. He is doing great in Ecuador and said to me, "Dad, it's amazing how fast the past year went by." He also said today, "This place is awesome. I love the people." He's enjoying his time as a missionary, but I also believe he's enjoying himself. On the phone today I gave up a significant sports update, and we laughed and did impressions like we always do. Same old Jake. So far he the mission hasn't made him weird but I'm convinced only weird kids come back weird. Sort of like the old computer axiom, garbage in garbage out. Jake was cool before his mission and he'll be cool when he returns. Quod erat demonstrandum.

We surprised my mom with VIP seats to Donny and Marie. She'll sit in the front row and get to have a meet and greet with them after the show...pose for a photo and get to wear her Neil Diamond dress. To psyche her up, we also got her a karaoke machine so she can practice before the show and sing along with Marie. Janae will be her escort since I'm just not that into D & M.

The day is winding down. We're tired and will arise tomorrow where we'll be greeted with no shopping to do, no presents to wrap, or people to host. I do have to pop in the office for a spell but that's life for "The Hardest Working Man in the Insurance Business."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's NOT All About Me After All

9 days since my last post? The silly season always wears me down - work is busier than ever which is good, the holidays require trips to the mall and hanging wreaths, setting up trees, and decorating the house. We had snowfall a few weeks ago which is a rarity in Las Vegas and yet the world continues to spin on its axis and the sun rises each day for us all.

We are enjoying having Alec and Tiffany with us this holiday season. They are busy with work and school in Salt Lake so it's nice for them to be able to sleep in and relax for 10 days. Alec takes his med school exam in a few months so he's been preparing for that day for...well, his entire life. Doc Briggs was kind enough to invite him to tag along for a 1/2 dozen surgeries the other day so Alec could see up close what a day in the life of a surgeon is all about. He'll be with Briggs again next week for a day, and then will spend a week in Peru in January assisting US surgeons as they operate on needy children in Lima. Alec will serve as the translator and be able to see spinal surgery up close. It's a great adventure for him and we look forward to hearing of his exploits in South America. Viva Peru!

We expect to hear from Jake any minute now. Missionaires typically call the day before their scheduled call to set up the time. What this means is we get to talk to him twice. The last time we spoke to our dear Jake-Jake was on Mothers Day. We miss him so much but know that his service in Ecuador is changing lives and helping him grow into a more compassionate human being. We're at the halfway mark of his mission and I can say, as all missionary parents do I suppose, that it's gone by pretty fast. The first few months were brutal for me but we're now in a good groove. We're just happy that Jake is happy and that he's kicking ass in Ecuador. I believe that may have been a first use of that phrase to describe a missionary. My bad.

Janae's mom moved in with us last week. Her health had deteriorated to the point where it just wasn't safe to leave her home alone. She suffers from Pulmonary Fibrosis which is a hardening of the lungs. She can't really walk much anymore since it tires her out to the point where she can't breathe properly.

We are glad to have her with us. Sure it's a change for us and a bigger change for Janae who lives the life of a gypsy and travels all over the place on a whim. That life is on hold for a spell. Our extended family has been great too - stopping by to visit, or sitting with gram for a longer spell so Janae can run errands. Being a caregiver is tough. As a volunteer at the hospice I was often asked to provide a break for the primary caregiver - let them out of the house to shop, meet with friends for lunch, or just get away from the constant melancholy that often exists with terminally ill people.

We don't know what the future holds with grammy other than she is likely here with us for the rest of her life. We embrace this experience as a family - it brings us closer together and illuminates what is truly important in this life and what the savior lived his life teaching: To Love One Another.

You see, it's not all about me after all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Atlas Shrugged

I found out today that one of my favorite books of all time, yeah, it's my favorite, is being made into a movie. The book was written in 1957 so it's not like anyone was in a hurry and make a film about it. I think the reason why no one attempted to make a movie in 50 years is that the book is exceedingly long and filled with complicated philosphical arguments that I loved so much as a college student and continue to enjoy to this day. How someone will be able to put the essence of the book on the big screen in 2 to 3 hours will be interesting.

Atlas Shrugged follows the struggles of Dagny Taggart, a railroad heiress trying to maintain her integrity, and keep her family's railroad alive in the midst of a rapidly decaying world. She faces increasingly corrupt government agencies, the callous incompetence of her own brother, and the systematic loss of her best and most competent workers. Isn't this pretty much what is going on in the world today?

Dagny (great name by the way) suspects a sinister force working against her. There is a growing sense of helplessness throughout the country, often summed up in a catch phrase that everyone seems to know, but no one knows the origin of - 'Who is John Galt?" One by one, the best and brightest minds in the country are disappearing overnight, without a trace, and abandoning their businesses to be cannibalized by corrupt political interests.

So that's a summary of the plot. What Ayn Rand was famous for, besides her books, was her philosphical position of objectivism - a blend of rational self-interest, and productive achievement that help create individual happiness. We are selfish creatures and this selfishness is necessary for the advancement of society. There is no shame in this.

Sadly, I fear no one I know can identify with this sort of philosophy or ambition.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Want No Drama

Some people live in a world full of drama. If there isn't drama in their lives, they create some. How come?

Over the years I've known people who live in a world of constant, work, and life's ups and downs all combine to create an unimaginable, unmanageable, unbelievable life of drama. Me? I want no drama. Zero. I hate surprises too. I like predictable. I get up to go to work in the morning knowing pretty much exactly what the day will bring.

I hear stories from friends, family members, co-workers that make me want to run as fast as I can out of the room and scream "ENOUGH ALREADY!" And now, with the economy in the toilet, it's only worse.

Turn on the news, grab a magazine or a's nothing but bad news. Again, it's enough for me to just holler, "STOP."

I do feel bad for people who are struggling - no question about that. It just the constant "woe is me" lament that some people wear on the sleeve, in their countenance, or who methodically bombard us all with verbal details of their stuggles are a drag. Frankly, it's become so bad that I just turn it off. I quit listening. I want to be surrounded by happy people - FUNNY people is more like it.

All this crap about stores closing, retails sales being off, layoffs, bank failures, absence of credit markets, tightening of credit markets, blah, blah,'s too much don't you think? I got my own crap to deal with just like everyone else and I don't boohoo to anybody. I'm the lone ranger and I like it like that.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I think I'll grab some lunch with my mom and cut out early to do some Christmas shopping. That'll put a smile on my face.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Spinning Christmas Tree

This year we have a spinning Christmas tree.....a first for the Runyon home.

Two of the Three indoor trees are standard trees decked out with lights and ornaments and stand as sentry's in the basement and living room respectively, but the jewel of the tree collection is the spinning tree that stands and spins proudly in the family room.

Getting the spinning tree up, balanced and decorated was no small feat people. The tree is standard issue - a 10 footer that we've used for a couple of years already. The trick is the fancy motor. The motor is a small unit that requires a skilled craftsman such as myself to fit a piece of wood to the spinner dohickey so that the tree stand can rest securely on the platform as it spins around and around. Sounds's not.

This job required me to locate the EXACT center of a circle. I knew right away that some serious math was going to be needed in order to do this project. I secretly wished for Alec to be home so he could write up whatever sort of algorithm that I would need to help me. Alas, I just did it the old fashioned way....I eyeballed it, and then started measuring from each side until I felt good about it. I made marks, drilled the holes, and, of course, didn't have the right sized nuts and trip #75 during the Holiday Season to Home Depot was necessary. Whenever I go to the HD, I always buy more than what I walked in to get so I came out with an armload of crap PLUS my nuts and bolts. I got home, attached the circular board to the motor, set the tree on top, helped Janae decorate it. In fact, my work was so good and precise that I'm actually a bit surprised that Janae hasn't picked up some sort of gigantic motor that will spin our cars while they sit parked in the driveway. You know, so we don't ever have to back up. You know what a pain that can be.

And so, the trees are up, most of the inside stuff (my part of the drill anyway) is up, the outside lights were up BEFORE Thanksgiving and we're ready for the holidays man!!! Granted, I didn't put the outside stuff up nor have I ever put up lights on this house but the point is they are up and looking good. A few years ago we opted to go with an exterior illumination service that uses their own lights, cords, switches and what not. Russ and his crew will also hang wreaths, put up glow in the dark Santa's, nativity scenes, you name it. Of course he charges a decent fee for all this, but you know what? I don't have to worry about it. Sure my circuit breakers kept going off but that was due to all the rain we had a few weeks ago. I don't think Russ is a real electrician either because, quite frankly, he's baffled by how all this stuff works just like me. How do I know? Because like 20 plugs all end up going into one outlet that's how. And this trial and error continues as GFI switches get thrown, and circuit breakers go off at the strangest times. We just go with the flow. Hey, nobody's perfect. Not only does Russ put up all the lights and outdoor decorations, he comes by after the New Year and takes all the crap down AND stores it until next year! What's that worth?

Oh, and the Eagles won today too.

Peace on Earth.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Rebel Pals

I just got home from a most excellent 2 day trip to Fresno with the Rebel basketball team. As you can see from the photos, the fellas were good sports and held up Jake's "Merry Christmas" sign, and played along further by wearing the funny Santa hat. I got photos of everybody - coaches, players, fellow boosters, but only posted a few here on the blog. Jake gets the entire photo shoot for part of his Christmas package that is being mailed in 2 days. He's a huge Rebel fan and he'll enjoy the pics - he and I have been on a few Rebel trips in the past so I know this will put a smile on his face.

Lon was great as usual. I said, "You can pass on the hat if you want and just hold up the sign."

He said, "I want the hat."

Our crew was glad the Rebels eeked out a victory over a pesky Fresno State team since the plane ride home after losses is always too quiet. After 2 straight losses at home last weekend we needed a spark. The rebs looked pretty loose at the shootaround earlier in the day so we hoped for a good outcome. TreVon's brother Dwight is a senior guard for FSU so the brothers had a good on-court rivalry by scoring 17 and 21 points respectively. I visited with their grandpa after the game and he was torn....didn't know what team to cheer for. I liked the FSU facility - small and nice. Very cozy. Sidney Green made his on-camera analyst debut on tonights game. We were having an early dinner and he was telling me how nervous he was making the jump from radio to TV. Afterward I asked him how he did, he said, "Great." Sid is a big man - he is also one of the nicest people you will ever find. Ditto for Lon Kruger.

Rebels are 6-2 and off to play Reno on Saturday. I think they will come back with a 'W'since Reno is weak and the team is starting to develop some all important chemistry.

More updates to follow througout the year.

Rene Rougeau/Senior

Joe Darger/Senior

Mo Rutledge/Senior

Coach Kruger

"Thanks John, Thanks Gondo"