We are trying to get the bulk of our Christmas shopping done.
I know that to some of you this will seem way early but to anyone with 39 grandkids like we have, we're already pretty much out of time.
So we were at Toys R Us trying to buy a few things on the way home from dinner.
I had carefully read through the gift catalog and had several things marked for Marc to look at.
(He had a good sense of what little and bigger boys like as gifts.)
I had calculated that we could spend $100 and therefore earn a $25 gift card to use later.
We shopped all over the store trying to find the dinosaurs that come apart and have flashing eyes of three colors.
We found a Noah's Ark set with one prophet and 16 plastic animals and a boat with a drawbridge.
We added a Magnetic toy set that would help with Grandma's collection.
We headed to the checkstand after two guys had begrudgingly helped us find our stuff.
The boy checking us out was still our friend since he hadn't been asked to help us.
But he couldn't get the register to accept a gift card as part of the deal.
He called for help.
The girl who came to assist couldn't persuade the register to cooperate either.
She tried and tried.
She asked me if I had the catalog with the gift card offer. (The catalogs in the store didn't have that.)
I did. I went out to the car to fetch it.
I came back and the guy (and now the girl) tried again.
Next they threw away the card and got a new one.
This time it took and we started out to our car.
"Wow! That came to a lot!" I said, "$157?"
"That can't be right," Marc said and took the receipt to look it over.
He was right. The charge was wrong.
We went back in and showed our weary cashier the receipt. It listed a charge for $25 for the gift card.
The guy AND the girl shook their heads. "You're right. That's not right but you will have to go over to the service desk to get it fixed."
We walked over to the service desk and explained the problem. The service desk girl called for help.
The same girl who had sent us showed up to help.
She called another lady.
The new lady tried to tell us that it added up just fine. Four items at $30 each came to $157!
"No, no, no, no, no," said Marc, who usually doesn't get involved in such matters.
A half hour later, we ended up with a $25 refund, a $25 gift card and a slight sense of satisfaction but we're a little worried about Toys R Us.
Why would they be headed toward bankruptcy?
I jumped at the chance to be part of a video shoot with Nathan Pacheco.
I've been a fan since he appeared with Yanni in the Voices project.
At the time I even interviewed him on the phone. How did it feel to be chosen to work with Yanni?
What were his plans after Yanni? How did Yanni hear about him?
I pretty well assumed that once you had worked with Yanni, you'd sort of reached your peak.
I think I was wrong.
Nathan's career has steadily gone straight up.
He has several new albums out and has partnered with David Archuleta. He's a Disney Pearl artist.
He's toured the UK. He's coming to Utah in concert Dec. 2, 8 and 9th in Salt Lake, Orem and Logan.
So when a post appeared on Facebook inviting people to come to Rock Canyon Park to be an extra in his music video, I was intrigued.
I had two reasons to want to be involved.
I'm trying to negotiate another interview with Nathan since he has a concert in Salt Lake in December and I wanted to see how a video taping worked.
The instructions said to dress warmly and comfortably and be at the park at 5:30.
I showed up in plenty of time and looked for others dressed warmly and comfortably.
The equipment trucks arrived.
Others arrived (mostly young and dressed like they shopped at Eddie Bauer).
We waited for our marching orders, assuming they would want to shoot this video before the sun set.
Eventually a guy came over who said he was the director. He told us to hold tight and we'd get started soon.
Time went by and Nathan started saying hello. He told us we would be providing background to "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful."
I got to shake his hand and explain who I was. He was very nice and tried to tell me he remembered meeting me. (Since we'd only talked on the phone, I didn't think that was true but he was nice to try.)
We waited around.
The light guys fussed with the lights.
The sound guys fussed with the sound equipment.
The fog guys released some fog.
Finally we started by climbing the hill, over and over.
"Reset!" became a familiar order.
The sun set. The moon came out. We kept climbing.
When the director was satisfied, we were all pretty tired and then he announced we were heading to Provo to shoot more footage.
"We'll find a road that's not too busy," he said.
I'm not sure movie work is for me.
(I'm in the middle, second row, smiling.)
We had trooped all over the "This is the Place Heritage Park" for several hours.
We had ridden the train, collected treats from about a dozen old buildings including the Fairbanks Home, the Gardiner Cabin, the Telegraph Office, the Blacksmith Shop.
We petted two lizards, three snakes, several turtles and gasped at a tarantula.
The three grandkids and I had panned for gold and collected quite a good assortment of shiny, tiny rocks.
All three had mock tattoos on their hands and a little piggy notepad they stuck together in the Deseret Hospital craft house.
We were taking part in the "Little Haunts" event which basically transformed this great historic town into a Halloween fun spot.
But now we were ready for lunch even though everybody had a hefty bag of Trick-or-Treats.
I had taken note on the way of a Wendy's on Foothill Boulevard.
I can never find real food at the park and even if I could, I'm fairly sure it would be more than I wanted to pay for food the kids might not eat.
Since Wendy's is a favorite we drove back and turned into the parking area.
Curiously, there was no parking except for the gas pumps out in front.
Apparently this was a drive-in only kind of establishment.
I was unprepared to suddenly make fast-food decisions but I followed the arrows into a single lane road that wrapped around the store.
A huge garbage truck seemed to block my way.
That's when I noticed a sign that said "Sharp left!"
I made my sharp left hoping the garbage truck backed off a little.
We placed our order with no time to think about it, three kids meals with chocolate Frosties and a $5 special for me with a small Sprite.
There was a long silence.
"What did you want?" the machine finally asked.
I repeated the order with one small change. One child now wanted a vanilla Frostie or maybe apple Fanta.
We came up to the window and paid $21.
We got a huge Sprite, six Frosties (chocolate and vanilla), three fruit drinks and lots of ketchup and our chicken and tons of fries — more than we could eat in the car.
I could see green grass a road or so over.
"Let's go eat in that park! I suggested.
"Yeah! said the kiddos.
We drove over, parked the car, dashed across the road and spread a blanket.
That's when we noticed flowers placed here and there on the lawn. There were also concrete blocks every so often.
I looked around. Hmm. Where had we landed?
I passed out the food and everyone started in, delighted to have choices.
"What are those flowers and balloons for?" asked Hannah. "Yeah," said Mia, "This doesn't look like a regular park?"
"I think maybe it's not. I think this might be a cemetery," I said, trying to act nonchalant about it.
"You mean this is a GRAVEYARD!" exclaimed Mia, looking around in alarm. "We are eating lunch in a GRAVEYARD!"
"Are there ombies?" asked Cael (who loves zombies, by the way).
"No," I assured the girls. "No. There are no zombies and it's OK. No one will care."
Nevertheless, we finished our food in good order and cleared out.
Even if it's Halloween, eating chicken nuggets and having a shake in the cemetery is a little creepy.
For a while now I've been accusing my husband of tuning me out.
He goes along seemingly listening to me but when I finish talking, he either doesn't recall what I said or doesn't react as I expect.
I get a tad annoyed.
I don't like to have to repeat myself and when I ask him about something I told him, he acts as if he's never heard what I said or pretends and that makes it worse.
When I ask him if anyone else has this problem with him, he says no. He claims to be able to hear everyone who speaks plainly.
He tells me I mumble or talk to him when the radio is on or the TV or the dishwasher is running.
I've been concerned for a while now.
When we'd get these offers in the mail for complimentary hearing exams, I'd show them to Marc.
He wasn't interested and in fact, was a little offended as if I'm implying he's getting old.
But finally, a couple of weeks ago, he agreed to submit himself to a test (mostly so I would quit bugging him).
He realized that the lack of hearing was creating a relationship problem for us.
We signed him up.
An hour and a half later he returned, looking a tad sheepish.
"What did the doctor say," I demanded.
Marc looked at me.
"He wants you to come with me next time," he said. "He wants to hear you talk to me."
I was taken aback.
Why? Was this like going to parent-teacher conference with a child?
"It's umm, like this," he said. "He said I can hear okay...except in the range where you talk! He needs to hear you."
That explains a lot. We can fix this problem.
And I'm not crazy.
My iPhone 5s never held a charge well.
I thought it was me.
I either turned it off the wrong way too often or didn't charge it often enough properly.
I'd start off with a fully charged smartphone and very soon it read at 27 percent and then zero.
It made interviewing people on the phone very difficult.
At one point I had to ask people to contact me on my computer so we could finish a conversation.
More than once I've been in a situation where I was all alone in a dark place without a way to communicate.
It's been more than a little bothersome.
My kids thought a smartphone was just too much for a grandma to manage.
I'd send texts that never arrived.
I'd make a call and end up shouting at no one who could hear me.
But I've muddled along and fussed at Marc.
He tried to reshape my charging habits.
"Just plug it in every night and you should be fine," he'd say.
Finally the phone is almost up for renewal so we decided to see what could be done.
(I hate the buying of phones process. The lingo is so high-tech that I never know what's going on. I basically hang around while Marc negotiates and we leave with a yards-long receipt and new shiny phones.)
I hadn't completely ignored my problem. I took it in once to Verizon Wireless and waited a couple of hours to see a technician.
She crinkled her nose at me and said I should go home and run it completely down a few times and reboot. That should fix things.
I did that and nothing changed but I didn't have time to go back and waste more time so I tried to just deal.
Finally Marc had heard enough complaining. He took me and my phone to Batteries Plus to get a new battery.
The guy there opened up the phone and stopped in his tracks. "This is a used phone. The screws are out of place, a plate is missing and the battery isn't even securely connected. Take it back to your supplier," he said.
We went back to Verizon who sent us to Apple who assured us they don't sell refurbished phones.
That's good since our receipt for the phone said it is a new phone.
However, the Apple guy did say we needed a new display and he would give us one for free is we'd wait 90 minutes.
We waited and returned.
This time he said the display was fine but there were problems uncovered when they opened it up. He said without the proper new screws they couldn't put it back together.
So the guy offered me a new iPhone 5s. (They still had some of these hanging around.)
That's great. That works.
I'm happy and Marc's happy plus I feel validated.
Apple retains our business.
Never mind that we'll never know what really happened.
I had this opportunity to attend a conference for non-profit organizations and since I'm trying to help out the Timpanogos Arts Foundation these days I thought I'd go.
I also wanted to see if riding the FrontRunner up to Layton and back is a good idea.
I'm always interested in doing what I can for the environment and Marc and I ride public transit when we can.
(I've just never gone that far by myself before.)
But it's a straight shot from Lehi and I figured it would beat driving down the freeway and back, especially with some construction going on at 10600 South.
I had to leave early because I was told the conference went from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Just ask Marc, I'm a freak for being on time so I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. and was waiting on the platform for the 6:08 train.
It came. I tapped on with my FarePay card. I got on and congratulated myself for my ingenuity.
I watched the landscape go by.
After about an hour or so, I got off at the Layton station.
I looked around and headed in the direction I figured was towards the Davis Convention Center.
The bus driver honked a little as I strode off.
I thought he was honking goodbye.
In a little while I realized he was trying to tell me I was headed the wrong way.
After a few minutes of trying to come around the Hilton hotel I back tracked and took the right road.
I was at the convention in plenty of time.
Later that day, I decided to figure out how to get back home.
I knew the general direction back to the bus stop but realized I didn't know when it came or when the train left the Layton station.
I walked to the stop and studied the sign. I walked across the road, thinking I needed to catch the bus going back.
I waited a while. A maid leaving work at the hotel shouted at me: "It comes at 3:24!"
I checked my watch.
I couldn't check my phone because my battery was nearly dead.
I waited some more then decided to call UTA with my final bit of phone power.
I punched in the number of the stop and the bus.
"The next bus comes at 3:18," said the automated voice.
It was 3:25 now and raining. 3:35. I knew the train left every half hour and I'd just missed one.
I looked around, trying to think what to do. Call Marc and have him drive up to get me? Go to the hotel and make some calls?
Then came a bus. I climbed aboard and asked the driver, "Does this take me to the Layton station?"
"Yes, but you won't make it. Go across the road and take the bus to Clearfield," he said.
I must have looked dismayed.
"It's all right. He'll be along soon," said the driver.
Long story short, the other bus came in another 10 minutes and it took me to the Clearfield station and I eventually got home to Lehi about 5 p.m.
I'm fine and it only cost me $5 to go all that way.
It's an interesting way to travel and it works for the experienced rider.
But I'm not sure I'd recommend it for the faint-hearted or the weary.
The 2017 Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is over and I'm sad.
I've just started to expect to spend my days listening to stories about Esther Agra trying to wiggle out of a speeding ticket with an innocent grin and the excuse that she doesn't speak the English and about Bil Lepp trying to stay atop Diablo the devil horse.
My face hurts from laughing.
I find myself going around with images burned in my brain of Ed Stivender as a dancing man and Sam Payne trying to impress the girl in Camelot with his Lancelot song.
It's magical and real.
I've gone to some of the festival every year for nearly the last 30 years and usually written a section cover story about one or two of the storytellers.
I've seen the festival grow from an event held in Karen Ashton's backyard in Orem to an event attended by thousands.
I've become a serious fan of tellers like Carmen Agra Deedy (with the Cuban fast talking speeding mother) and Donald Davis who makes a trip down the Grand Canyon on a mule an unforgettable terror ride.
My grandchildren all know the stories I have on tape.
They know Davis by sight and sound.
(This year when the teacher in his story caught and killed a mouse, they all gasped. He had them immersed in the story of Miss Daisy and their adventures as they traveled the world in her fourth grade class. They also knew not to cross a teacher who wasn't afraid of a mouse.)
There's no real way to tell non-believers about the storytelling festival.
I heard a guy trying to describe it to his friend over the phone.
"Yes, they tell stories but it's more than that," he said, clearly having trouble conveying what it means to hear stories that move you, make you laugh and make you cry.
I can listen to Carmen Deedy talk about babysitting her grandson and I know why she crawls up in the crib with him and then can't get out.
I hear the funny, small voice Catherine Conant uses when she tells the police officer she is the daughter of the guy who sold him his house and I travel back in time to when I sped in my father's Impala between Idaho Falls and Pocatello.
Their stories bond us.
We who are listening travel through time to when we were kids and when we were in trouble or in love or simply growing up.
We've all been there and it's sweet to go there again.
For a good one of Donald check You Tube.