Thursday, May 21, 2015

Snorkeling along

The kid was understandably annoyed with me.
He'd been whistling at me for 10 minutes and I had been ignoring him.
When I finally surfaced and peered at him from behind my snorkeling mask, he was ready to bench me.
I had apparently been heading the wrong way into the ocean, kicking merrily away and risking life and limb.
I thought I was doing good.
It was my third attempt at snorkeling in Maui.
The first time, Marc and I tried to just walk by ourselves into the ocean at Makena beach and the waves promptly knocked me flat.
I staggered out and tried to recover on my towel. I was covered in sand from head to toe and my pride was badly wounded.
Everybody on the beach that morning witnessed my humiliation. It was pretty sad.
I just didn't realize how different it would be to try snorkeling from a standing position. (I've done it once or twice before but once by tipping backwards from a boat and another in a bay of still water.)
The second time on this trip we signed up for a tour. I walked down the stairs from the deck and I had people around me to save me from disaster. I had a wet suit on and a noodle to rely on. Marc had shown me how to fit my bottom lip over the mouthpiece which worked better than just trying to bite harder and cover it with my hand.
I really wanted to succeed at snorkeling this time around.
It's never been easy for me. I always take on sea water but I'm older and wiser now, I thought, so I should  be able to handle it.
My biggest worry was about sharks. Some lady got bitten a couple of weeks earlier at the beach near Makena. I figured if there was one around, it would know I would be easy prey.
I didn't see any but I did see blue fish and yellow fish and little black ones with white edging. I was moving along steadily this time, breathing cleanly and avoiding panic.
Turns out my biggest fear should have been my lack of sense of direction.
"You should be more aware!" said the Hawaiian boy who was sent to fetch me. "We've been trying to get your attention for a while!"
I really thought the whistling was all about turtles. The Molokina Crater we were in has a lot, apparently.
I appreciated him coming after me. I didn't want to die or get washed out to sea. I didn't want to bang into the coral reef. I didn't want to get tangled up with anyone else or lose sight of the boat.
In fact, when you think about it, I might be a little offended. I doubt anyone in the ocean that day was more aware of the things going on around me than me!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The king and I

Cael and a cookie coming through
The first day he was here, Cael woke up confused and sad — for a toddler.
He didn't know what had happened to his mom, his sisters, his dad or his life. (They'd all gone to Disneyland and wisely left him at grandma's rather than subject him to two 10-hour car rides.)
Suddenly he was here looking at me and realizing if he wanted food, shelter and fun, he was going to have to live here.
It only took him a couple of hours to reconcile himself.
Now he's in complete control.
He gets what he wants and that includes visits to the park with grandma pulling the wagon, feeding the horse next door carrots, getting treats from the pantry and even a Tootsie Roll Pop at the grocery story.
He takes his meals on the run with grandma handing him bits of bacon and toast as he goes.
Cael's cousin Orange on left...
He reclines on his banana chair in front of the big TV in the family room to watch "Toy Story 1, 2 and 3."
He gets to decide whether the little TV in his room is on or off.
If he wants a ride in the car, he goes out and stands by the door.
If he wants to listen to the radio before going to run errands, he climbs into the Barbie car and flips on the station. Then he rocks out to his heart's delight.
When he wants his bath, he comes running when he hears water running.
When he wants a nap, he picks up his blanket and heads to the Porta-crib.
If he wants a hug, he just looks at me.
I'd say he's pretty well taken to the role of king of the house.
He's clear about his needs and doesn't hesitate to holler "No! No! Noooo!" when something's not right.
It's been exhausting and entertaining and all consuming.
I'd forgotten how life is with an 18-month-old in power.
And it's been so much fun.
He's a benevolent king.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Saving money the hard way

There's nothing my husband enjoys more than haggling over a purchase.
If there's something wrong with a sales receipt or the price rings up wrong, he's out the door before I can start making my fuss.
It pains him physically to have to make a return.
So when the computer at Shopko refused to recognize the three $5 off coupons I had in my hand, he was uncomfortable.
When the cashier couldn't convince the computer that yes, we had bought over $25 in merchandise, he started to grimace.
When it still didn't take the coupon (maybe because without tax added in we still didn't show that we'd spent more than $25) he was hating life.
He grabbed some gum to bring up the total.
Then we added some stuff we were going to buy so we could use our second coupon for another $25.
After that, the girl called a manager.
By now, people behind us were unhappy. We were taking a long time.
I was fine except for the fact that I didn't like being treated like I hadn't prepared when in fact I had carefully noted the coupon's expiration date, the exceptions and had even asked if I could use multiple coupons before we started.
I had made a list of things I needed to buy anyway so we could use our savings wisely.
I had dragged Marc over to shop with me because he needs sunglasses before we go to Hawaii and I figured he'd want to pick them out.
So it was annoying to hit this big bump in the road.
We waited patiently for a time and made it through using the first coupon.
When we tried to use the second, we thought it would go more smoothly.
The cashier we'd worked with had left for an early lunch (why would she do that, do you think?).
This girl started in with determination but, of course, the register declined the coupon.
"Did you use this one already?" she asked. Well, yes, the other girl had tried every coupon in my hand before she gave up.
"Did you get more than $25?" she asked. We nodded.
"Maybe you should go over there..." she said, pointing to where the manager stood across the store.
We picked up our stuff and strode over. The manager smiled knowingly and rang it all up without a snag.
"I knew they weren't doing it right," she said. "Sorry about that. Do you want to save this last coupon for later?"
I looked at Marc who had tears in his eyes.
I don't think so. The store wins.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A model citizen

Fashionistas all!
I've been bored a bit since Marc's play ("Guys and Dolls" at the SCERA until May 9) moved into final rehearsals and opening week.
One can only do so much cleaning and organizing and weed-pulling during the long evening and weekend hours.
So when I saw this little notice about a Style show at Christopher & Banks I was interested.
The ad said they wanted models. It didn't say anything about knowing what you're doing.
I called and got on the list and arranged a fitting.
On the catwalk
They said to just come in and pick out what I wanted to wear. I went in and sort of bumped my way around until I had a couple of outfits I liked with jewelry to match. I had the run of the store.
The clerks were friendly and helpful now and then.
No one seemed to be taking the whole thing very seriously.
They didn't worry about my crazy hair or lack of professional makeup or if I had the shoes to match the outfit.
Then when I came back for the big show, it was still pretty low-key.
Nobody was worrying much about the end result.
They didn't run us through the line-up or talk to us much about posture and hand placement.
I was both relieved and concerned.
Shouldn't they be more stressed?
Shouldn't there be some guidelines here?
As it turned out, it was all good.
A bunch of us came together on a Saturday morning and found our clothes all steamed and bagged for us.
We dressed. We lined up.
We walked through the store trying to look confident and casual and a lady took our pictures at the end.
It was a mild sort of fun and a different way to spend part of a Saturday.
Plus, speaking of spending, we all got 40 percent off our outfits.
I had a good time and I saved Marc about $200!

When you've got it...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The end of life as we know it

In our house, we're coming to a crossroads.
We are saying goodbye to TV as we know it.
Dish Network has finally pushed the price up beyond what we can pay and we don't trust DirectTV (our relationship with them is a whole 'nother story) so we're going to go without a safety net to a new plan.
We're trying to see if we can make it with Netflix and the local channels.
My daughter actually inspired us when they bought a Roku and dropped their cable.
My step-daughter has never had anything different and hasn't suffered.
It's going to be interesting considering Marc and I grew up in a time when TV was exciting and free.
We never thought we'd be paying for TV.
And we're slightly aghast to find ourselves paying a lot!
It's especially aggravating because the Dish salesman swooped in a while ago and promised to cut our bill in half.
He said we'd be happy and save money.
That lasted about a month or so and the bill's been climbing ever since their guys came and ripped out the old satellite to replace it with a new, mega-size, satellite.
We decided to break free and we've been just sailing along waiting for our contract to be up.
The problem is I've become used to the DVR feature.
I like not having to be in the house for a particular show because I know it's being recorded for later.
I'll have to get used to watching my favorites on delay.
We've been preparing ourselves psychologically for a few weeks now.
"Is this a channel we'll still get?" I ask Marc now and then.
"What will happen to Conference? Will I be able to find the news I like to watch?"
We started in one toe at a time.
We bought a DVD/Blu-Ray player for $45 because the old one was broken and we'd need it anyway.
We bought a flat, wall antenna for $70 with the provision that we could take it back.
We ordered Netflix.
We've alerted Dish Network.
Now we just got the convertor box our TV seems to need to do this. Another $40.
We're going to try it all out tonight and, if it works, we're on our way to saving money...any minute now, yep.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eggsactly right

The Easter Bunny's sweat shop

Easter is always hard on my brain.
We try to host "Grandma's Easter Egg Hunt" every year and with the blending of two families and 33+ grandkids, the math is too difficult for me.
I start out thinking it'll be no biggie...Just make a list and check it twice. Buy candy and lots of little plastic egg-shaped containers and it'll be fine. Start early and it'll be fine. (Say "It'll be fine" over and over again.)
But it quickly involves multiplication and division.
We want the hunt to be worth attending so each child should be looking for a dozen or so candy-filled eggs, right?
So if we have 33 walking kids, minus those who'll be away on vacation and those who are too grown to participate or those who'll be at gymnastic meets, that leaves 20.
Twenty times 12 is...uh, let me get my calculator.
Add in the babies and the bigger kids who will be assisting the Easter Bunny in the hiding...divide by the ones who need their eggs early.
And how much candy will it take to fill approximately 200 eggs?
Every bag is maybe good for 20-30 eggs? How will I know when I have enough?
The bunnies are easy. One for each basket — but I need to remember to buy baskets and make sure I have enough pink ones for the girls who only want pink. Is yellow with flowers OK for the boys?
How do I make it fair candy-wise?
Hours of endless fun
Put the same amount into each egg so no matter what they all get similar bounties?
What about variety?
And what if they don't all like the same things?
Oh well, I end up putting about half a dozen things in each egg and slamming them shut...unless the marshmellow bunnies won't fit.
It always goes from a slam-dunk to a major assembly line operation.
I lay out little rows of eggs and count and count.
I make Marc come count too because somehow I end up at the hunt wondering if I miscounted when somebody can only find eight instead of 12.
It's not the world's biggest problem, I know.
And I'm aware that the point of Easter is to celebrate God's greatest gift to the world. That's what it's all about.
It's going to be fine. I know that.
But it sure would be nice to get this right.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Running water

Utah is known for voluntarism and for love of family and for selflessness.
So why would people walk by a disaster scene and not help?
I found the question nagging at me after I watched the film "The Evanescence of Hope" at the 2015 LDS Film Festival, shot and produced by Loren M. Lambert.
Seems Mansour Ariazand had gone hiking on Father's Day a couple of years ago and tried to jump across a swollen mountain stream. He missed and couldn't get a grip on the slick, wet other side and was swept into the icy, cold water in Bells Canyon, down and over three different waterfalls.
Why he wasn't killed outright was a miraculous thing in itself.
Then when Jill Caree Anderson and Brynn Mudliar, and a couple nearby noticed him stuck between a rock and a tree branch, that was more than fortunate. Not only did Suzanne Jansen have training in CPR but Anderson and Mudliar were former flight attendants trained to stay calm in dangerous situations.
They were also willing to risk their own lives for a stranger.
They waded in and grabbed his head, holding his face above water so he could breathe. They ripped apart the clothing he wore that bound him to a big log poised to tip over and on down to the next waterfall. They stood and knelt and shivered in the icy water for more than two hours.
Ultimately they kept Ariazand alive until more help could come for him and them. Alone, they couldn't pull him from where he was wedged in the fiercely flowing water.
(First a rescue helicopter couldn't help with the equipment rescue personnel had on board. Secondly, another helicopter couldn't land where Ariazand was but had to find a spot further away which required personnel to hike back to help.)
It took time. It took patience and faith.
Meanwhile, those first on the scene were hollering for more people to come help them hold on.
Able-bodied hikers were all around and near them.
Some watched from a ways off.
One or two filmed the scene with their phones.
Some called 9-1-1.
On the film, Anderson asked what was wrong with people...why did no one else help? What was going on?
I've tried to figure this riddle out.
Did they think the situation was under control?
Did they think it was a training exercise?
Did people figure they would only make matters worse?
Would I wade into freezing cold water to try and help even though I'm old and can't swim?
I hope so.