Thursday, April 26, 2007

#166 - Potter-mania

I'm nearly 50 years old. I shouldn't be getting this excited about a movie coming out. However...

I can't wait for Harry Potter 5.

It's interesting to me that I've gotten so into this whole Harry Potter thing. Ironically, the only reason I even checked into the books these many years ago was all the fuss being made by certain factions over the allegedly evil purposes of the series. J. K. Rowling, they said, was poisoning the minds of impressionable youngsters by introducing them into a world of witchcraft with decidedly pagan overtones.

Such reactions always stimulate my curiosity. Mrs. Woody and I hadn't been married very long when we first checked into the books. "Sorcerer's Stone" had been out for awhile by that time, and I believe "Chamber of Secrets" had just come out when Mrs. Woody first decided to read the books. She was suitably impressed enough to get me interested in giving them a read as well.

We were hooked.

Since that time we have breathlessly awaited each new volume. You can imagine that we are now sitting on tenterhooks waiting for the final volume in this magical world to be revealed this summer. Like countless others, we have pre-ordered Book 7 ("The Deathly Hallows." Oooh.) and can't wait to see what Rowling does with this larger-than-life hero she's created. Disappointment, for some, is inevitable, but I really want to understand what Rowling envisions as the crowning moment of this series.

It doesn't help that the extended trailer for the new movie is out now.

Mrs. Woody discovered it the other day. She let me know during my lunch-time check-in call that she and the Woodyettes had already enjoyed it three times together. Since I've been in team meetings all week, I wasn't able to see it myself until that evening.

(I should note here that the Woodyettes — particularly the older one — have requested that, perhaps, Mommy and Daddy should see the movie before they do. Just, you know, in case.)

Now I really can't wait.

This promises to be a banner summer, book-wise. With the release of the new movie coming about a week ahead of the last book in the series, we'll be on Harry Potter overload for weeks. Our tradition — even though it takes much longer — is to read the book aloud as a family. Daddy does all his best character voices, and we will read to the exclusion of nearly all other activities during that time. Certainly TV will bite the dust since all we'll have will be reruns by that time.

Then we'll breathlessly await the arrival of each new movie so we can lose ourselves in this wonderful fantasy world that Rowling has so lovingly created for us.

Long live (??) Harry Potter.

Monday, April 16, 2007

#165 - The Deed is Did

Every 10 years or so, we Woodys feel a sudden urge to go out and buy another car, just for the heck of it. Mrs. Woody started it with her '84 Honda Accord that has alternately frozen in the snows of Utah, and baked in the desert of Arizona before settling in the more moderate climes of Southern Cal.

The Accord was our main courtin' car. We went everywhere together in that car that had faux sheepskin seat covers, and felt roof-liner material hanging down in long peels from having been cooked in Mesa's 150° winters. Once upon a time it had air conditioning, but it had been subjected to Manny, Moe, and/or Jack. The A/C died long before Mrs. Woody and I caught back up with each other. This car has served us well for many years.

Once Mrs. Woody and I realized that we would be starting a family with a 10 year old 2-door Honda with no air conditioning, we decided to bite the bullet and go shopping for a practical "starter" car for our new family. The Saturn fit that bill. We bought the Saturn based largely on the reputation it had garnered as a smartly-engineered car that had a terrific service infrastructure behind it. While all of that was true, it was also one other thing: gutless. Another four-cylindered automotive wonder. (I wonder how we're gonna get up this hill? I wonder if this window will ever get unfogged? I wonder why rain water always drips down into the trunk?)

It, too, has served its purpose. I also have to admit that, for all my complaining of its having the energy of a popsicle on a Phoenix sidewalk, it has been a relatively trouble-free vehicle. We have had many wonderful family trips and vacations in that car, and it has long-since proven many of its selling points. For the record, if you're ever driving a Saturn up around the Jackson Hole region of Wyoming, and you find yourself being escorted through a construction zone in the mountains, and a deer comes suddenly bounding up out of a river gorge, jumps a barrier, and body slams the side of your vehicle, the door panel will pop right back into place, just like the sales slug said it would. The deer, obviously on Ford's payroll, was fine.

We have, however, outgrown the Saturn. The Accord is gathering dust in our carport since acquiring some sort of rheumatoid electrical short and hasn't been driveable in several months. So, it was time to go looking.

I've actually been looking seriously into this matter for a couple of months now. It's the Dad in me. If the internet had been around when I was a kid, my Dad would likely never have left the house voluntarily as a result of researching everything he could find on a topic about which he'd already made up his mind. Then he'd go to whatever seller had the item he was researching, make a surgical purchase, and get the heck out of there with a minimum of fuss. That would have been my Dad's way. To that extent, I'm a lot like Dad. I prefer to have as many facts in my grasp as possible before I go looking for something. Thus I've spent nearly two months now researching minivans of all stripes and colors. Dodge, Kia, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler, you name it. One fact became crystal clear relatively early on, and that is that the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna have been consistently ranked 1 and 2 on just about every single car survey out there. This is also why the darn'd things are so expensive. Your average Chrysler drops nearly half of its original value after only about a year, and its reliability scores are tanked.

Thus, when I found a certified, 2002 Odyssey with all the features we needed and only a hair under 30K miles on it, I knew we'd found our car. Once taxes were filed and we knew what we could afford, we made our arrangements to test drive it today, and ended up driving it off the lot about three hours later.

Relatively pain free.

So we are now (once again!) proud Honda owners. We have our Odyssey EX with power doors, room for the wheelchair in the back, and extra cargo room for our longer trips. The old Accord will soon part company as it serves some charity or other. I once harbored hopes of using it for a trade-in, but no one wants a 216K mile vehicle with shingles. So, it will probably be taken to a legitimate chop shop and sold for scrap. The charity is welcome to it.

In the meanwhile, we have a vacation to plan. I think I know how we're gonna get there.

Photos of the actual vehicle!

The upper photo is a better representation of its color. A dark silvery gray is how we would describe it. It's also highly reflective paint, which is why it takes on the appearance of the very overcast sky on the day these photos were taken.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

#164 - How to Age. Rapidly.

Step 1. Have your son, whom you have not seen much in the last couple of years, invite you to be one of his "friends" on

Step 2. Register, with much trepidation, at Have fears about getting sucked into a "MySpace" with a different interface.

Step 3. Have fears somewhat ameliorated by the fact that Mitt Romney, LDS Stud Presidential Candidate, also has a page.

Step 4. Log on and check out son's page.

Step 5. Realize, quickly, what a fogey you have become in the last three years.

Step 6. In fact, begin comparing yourself with your own father, who wasn't much older than this when his hair turned nearly silver. Like, overnight. Begin wondering just how much you, personally, contributed to this color change.

Step 7. Further realize that, after only a moments' consideration, you're beginning to think of retirement in terms of "sooner" rather than "later." Also, that minivan you're contemplating buying is beginning to look sexier than your average Ferrari. Ferarri. Whatever.

Yes, I have officially joined the ranks of the Fogeys of America (FoA). You might have thought having a daughter that is not only married but has presented me with a beautiful granddaughter older than both of my other daughters would have qualified me for fogeyism long before now. But, no. It's always the boys that turn Dads into living fossils. Trust me on this.

Yes, I joke about getting a shotgun so I can be cleaning it casually whenever my daughters' future Interested Hunks begin calling and I answer the door. I still have a few years before that particular nightmare kicks in. But my son...

Well. I can only say that I immediately went into Father Reactive Mode. I posted a note on his page: "This is your father. Get a job. Get a haircut. Look more like me. Only thinner. This has been your Father update." It was a kneejerk sort of thing. Then I decided I'd better say something that showed I was interested in his life. I considered all the options. "Considered military school, lately?" Or, "Hey, I understand there's an opening at the local library! That oughta be a chick magnet, hm?"

But of course I copped out. I asked about his current girlfriend, then realized she was in the pictures on his page. I haven't decided yet who has more body piercings. This, I think, is the ultimate fogey-indicator. My wife only has piercings in her ears. My son has them in places I'm pretty sure were listed in the "Thou shalt nots" section of the Ten or So Commandments. "Hope things are going smoothly" I think I said. "Much love."

And I meant it. I love my son, however different from my own life his may be. Certainly this was not how I envisioned things when my only namesake - he who would continue the Woody name - reached the age where his idea of high style reminds me forcefully of a half-shaved poodle. Looks like Britney Spears became a dog groomer only to give up halfway through her first job so she could rot in rehab.

No. Really. I love my son. He's a bit on the goofy side, but what teenage boy isn't? I certainly had my moments when I was that age. Fortunately, I had those moments in the highlands of Guatemala and no one noticed. And my journals are sealed.

So, in summary, I aged about fifteen years this morning. Next entry: "That's 'Geezer,' not 'Geyser,' Sonny. I Have Dentures Older Than You..."

#163 - Easter - Random Neural Firings

I completely missed Easter, blog-wise. That's actually pretty shameful for a guy who loves to write as much as I do. My only excuse is that our lives have not quite fully recovered from the events of last year, and we're still trying to attain a sense of balance here at home.

On the plus side, we had a pretty nice Easter, all things considered. I've mentioned before about our Easter practices. From the beginning, Mrs. Woody and I have tried to keep the commercial aspects of Easter from interfering with those much deeper and spiritually significant aspects. Thus, Easter for the Woodyettes begins on Saturday. That's when the Easter Bunny does his thing. We get the cutesy baskets with American Dental Association Retirement Fund Approved candy out of the way. Then we can turn our attention to the Savior with only a momentary interruption whilst we unwrap a chocolate mini-egg.

Now that I'm back in the choral saddle this season, Easter becomes even more special through the music I get to perform. We did two performances incident to Easter celebrations this year. One was our Stake's Easter Devotional that took place the Sunday before Conference. There were two things about this concert that I really enjoyed. One was a youth choir that was put together especially for this concert. They did a wonderful job with a small "oratorio" that sounded suspiciously like a JKP work. The boys - as boys are wont to do - looked totally bewildered pretty much the entire time, but they kept with it like troopers.

The second enjoyable aspect of this concert were three pieces that we performed. One is a setting of "Be Still, and Know that I Am God." It tells exactly why we have a Savior and why we need him so very much. Equal to that task is a piece for men entitled "Thou Art God." Our men's section is not the strongest that I've ever performed with, but we're sincere. The Spirit makes up the balance.

Lastly is a Randall Thompson piece called "The Best of Rooms." This is a setting of an old Robert Herrick (very old, like 1600's old) poem of that name. It uses the analogy of the body as a temple of the Lord, and declares that "the choice" room - the best room of all - is the heart. It is a typical Thompson piece, but expensive in the support area. I have pretty terrific breath support, but this piece exhausts me. It's not the range; it's the dynamics. We go from very soft but intense to quite loud and melismatic and back again with not much chance for more than catch-breaths throughout. But the effect is wonderful.

The second concert was actually an Easter devotional for our California Anaheim Mission. Our numbers were interspersed with numbers and testimonies by various missionaries. They did everything from "The Trumpets Shall Sound" from "Messiah" to an original piece written by a missionary from New Zealand (a young Maori, from the looks of him).

In all of these celebrations we were tremendously buoyed by the Spirit. Mrs. Woody and I had occasion to teach on Easter Sunday. Mrs. Woody is one of the instructors in Relief Society, while I have the same calling in Elders Quorum. (They gave me that calling so that I'd have a real job to do, bearing in mind that I also still have my Stake Sunday School presidency job, to which I have alluded elsewhere.) Since the topic was "Discovering the Scriptures for Ourselves" from the Spencer W. Kimball manual, it was easy to put an Easter spin in the lesson.

The Woodyettes, of course, understand Easter better than I think I give them credit. They both live nearer to the Savior than their perpetually-distracted Dad does, and I'm not altogether ashamed to say that. For one thing, Mrs. Woody keeps the girls very well grounded, spiritually. Since we homeschool, our school day begins with a song and a prayer, not roll-call. The girls both have a rather long prayer list in the style employed by their Grandma Zornes. They move through that list faithfully in nearly every prayer, including blessings on the food.

Two true anecdotes: The girls' other Grandma, RoboMom, passed away during the holidays. For a couple of years she had been at the top of their prayer lists. For several weeks after she died, the girls were loathe to drop her from their prayers, but they instantly changed from asking that the Lord help her, to asking the Lord to make sure she has a good time in Heaven. They have finally accepted that RoboMom is doing well in her new locale and they have moved on to one of their great-aunts.

Also on their prayer lists is Dad. Me, I mean. Since last summer the girls have steadily prayed that "Daddy won't have any more episodes," meaning the heart palpitations that I've been dealing with since last May or so. Darned if it isn't working! In the last two months I've only had, maybe, two episodes. And heaven knows I've had plenty of stress triggers that should have caused them over that same period. So Mommy and Daddy are both convinced that the girls are little prayer-powerhouses.

That was my Easter. How was yours?