Friday, April 29, 2011

The royal weddings

I have to admit I woke up at 4 a.m. wanting to get up and see the Royal Wedding on television.
I held off until 6:30 a.m. only because I didn't want to be ridiculed by my husband who isn't infected with Royal Watching Fever like I am.
Then I settled into the easy chair and absolutely reveled in the pageantry, the kisses (yes, there were two, count'em two), the dress, the carriage ride, all of it.
I flipped from channel to channel so I could see the ceremony, the bridesmaids, the hair, the dress, Queen Elizabeth.
I was thrilled to see Princess Catherine — the new Duchess of Cambridge — walk regally down the aisle, excited to see the places we've been on our trips to London.
I was interested to find Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) in the crowd, Elton John and his mate and Camilla standing with Prince Charles.
You see I've been a fan and a follower for years.
I've read every book about Diana, visited the traveling show that includes her best dresses, followed her tragic story in the grocery store tabloids. I thought she was just beautiful albeit troubled and watched helplessly as she crumbled beneath the weight of the royal robes.
I  rooted for the forbidden romance between Charles and Camilla because it looked like true love to me.
I interviewed Fergie when she came to town touting her children's book. It's all magical and other-worldly to me.
I love the castles, the gowns, the crowns, Queen Mary's dollhouse.
We've toured Buckingham Palace as much as they would allow. We've been to Winchester Castle and stayed in an old castle in the southern countryside.
I just find all the details fascinating even though my husband scoffs at my interest.
Maybe it goes along with my childhood absorption with fairytales. Maybe it's because we've had two royal British weddings in the family.  I have a daughter who married a British lad and a son who married a British lass. I don't know.
At any rate, it beats out soap operas "all to pieces" as my adorable British grandson would say.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The job hunt

Marc is now officially deep into the game of the current economy known as The Job Hunt.
He'd been on a few interviews and out to a number of auditions right after we were both severed from our full-time jobs at The Deseret News in December but now he has to apply for four jobs a week if he wants to collect unemployment benefits.
So while he was serious about the others, now he's feeling the pressure.
It makes for some stress in his and my life.
I feel badly for him as his ego takes a regular beating, much of which isn't really his fault.
For instance, the three auditions he went to a couple of weeks ago. One place wanted a prophet kind of guy with a full beard. They called on Friday for an audition Saturday — not much time to go from clean shaven to looking like Dumbledore.
The next place wanted a friendly looking fellow who was fat and bald. Fortunately and unfortunately (for getting the part) Marc is neither these days.
The third was the most likely part for him. They wanted a farmer dude who looked like he'd spent his days in the sun chewing on wheat. He showed up looking very much like the other 2 dozen guys who were chewing wheat and wearing flannel shirts.
The actual job interviews were almost as frustrating.
People who want a writer don't want a man who's been an editor so much of his life.
People who think they want an editor don't want him to be so critical.
No one gives him the chance to show what he can do, this man who wrote, managed, designed and produced an award-winning weekly paper for decades.
One group, a local magazine business, said they really liked him and his resume but then e-mailed him to say they'd gone in another direction. Then they called back and said, "Oops, the other guy turned us down so would you come in for another interview?"
He did, taking along story ideas and plans for the future. He felt good. He expected a call but we heard nothing except that the magazine had been sold.
Now we see the editor he was to replace is still on the masthead so I guess she didn't leave. Plus they are running stories very similar to the ones he suggested.
At a couple other places, we found the company hired the person they really wanted internally after just going through the motions on outside interviews.
After another promising interview at a computer software business, he was told, "Don't worry if you don't hear from us right away. We plan to take 2-3 months to make a decision."
Today he's headed off to a second interview with a place that he suspects is actually a pyramid sales operation.
He's more tempted to do an expose on them than work for them but they have this intriguing offer:
"Come on in and work for us. First, we let you pay us $350 for the sales kit and then we'll pay you nothing but straight commission thereafter. How soon can you start?"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Counting to 10 and 200

Adell scouring the weeds

What? For me?
Grandma's Easter Egg Hunt each year is a mental challenge for me: I have to count kids and eggs and multiply by 10 and be ready to change the count depending on who shows up and what eggs get permanently hidden.
It's been my rule-of-thumb each year to hide 10 eggs for each child, mostly because I can multiply by 10 easier than 12 or 15.
And as the grandkid count has climbed, I've found it generally works out given the number of plastic eggs I have to buy and the candy I have to divide.
This year, we added Hannah to the main hunt. She was supposed to be in the baby field but she saw all the other kids run off down the hill so she did to.
I had given everybody strict instructions, "Only pick up 10, no more. If you pick up more than 10, someone won't get theirs," I told the ernest little faces waiting for the "Go!" signal.
They were off, dashing this way and that to fill their decorated bags. (The Easter Bunny had been clever this year, hiding some eggs in the weeds and the trees.)
Hannah got right into the spirit of things, picking up her eggs, oohing over the pink ones and dropping them into her bag. She didn't waste any time and soon had 10, according to mom, but she just kept on adding.
"Do you want to tell her she's done?" her mom asked me.
No way. I know better than to tangle with a 2-year-old who's on an egg roll.
So while Adell and Fiona and Alyson and Conner and Kyle and Emily and Max and Ellie and Brock and Isaac and the others all minded the rule, we let Hannah carry on. (Later, when we needed eggs for the late-comers, we raided Hannah's bag a bit so we'd come out even, but for the most part we let her get more than her fair share.)
After all, we didn't take into account that Hannah — though she understands the value of free candy — can't yet count to 10.

Ellie on the move

Emily keeping an eye out

Fiona deep into the hunt

Hannah impressed
Color-coded Max

Kyle and mom counting

Even Scott still gets into it

The twins checking their loot
Bags at the ready

Friday, April 22, 2011

Emma's alphabet

One of the great perks of being a grandma/grandpa is getting invited to Visitor's Day or Grandparent's Day at the preschool/kindergarten/elementary school class.
Emma and Marc
We treasure our invites and don't even mind sitting on super-small plastic chairs for a while.
Coming alive
Four-year-old Emma asked us to come to the Sunshine Preschool just a bit ago and so off we went.
At the door, the teacher greeted us and told Emma she was lucky to have two guests for the day. She also sent the parents packing which is always a good idea.
We trooped in and got a kid-size tour of the place.
The alphabet girl
We saw the "reading books" room and the "snack room" and the "playing room" and the "potty room" complete with a tiny sink and toilet.
We helped Emma do puzzles and word games. We found her picture on the wall and her nook for her jacket.
It was all very interesting, especially since she was so proud of everything.
The best part was getting to the "Alphabet Room."
There Emma came alive.
As she looked around the room at the sheets of paper hung on the walls, she began to recite not only the letters but the sounds she'd learned for each letter.
It was fascinating..."C" for "clap, clap," "D" for "ding dong," "E" for "echo," "F" for "flip-flop,""K" for "karate kick" and so on.
She knew them cold and she had hand motions for each one as well. She came alive, this little girl who is sometimes so shy and reserved.
The alphabet unplugged
This was Emma's moment in the sun and she made the most of it, singing, moving and making all the appropriate faces and noises.
It was great fun...until she hit the letter V.
Suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks.
She made no sound and made no motion.
"What's wrong?" I asked. "Are you OK?"
I felt her forehead, checked her pulse.
She was completely motionless as if a switch had been thrown.
We looked at her teacher and each other for a clue.
"Oh," said the teacher. "We haven't learned about V yet."
I know a letter
Guess what this letter is?
Whew! We'd thought we'd broken Emma.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sibling support

I was asked to review a BYU-TV documentary on something called "The New Economic Reality" which is actually a further look at "The Demographic Winter" — the name researchers have given to what is going to happen as the world population declines.
I'm taking notes and paying attention when it got to a section on Family Decline.
The narrator started talking about how people around the globe are limiting their families, some drastically, down to one child or none.
She (Anne Sward Hansen, for those who know our soap opera star living in Highland) discussed what the ramifications would be if everyone had small families or single-child families.
The economy will suffer. The workplace will change. The housing market will collapse (again).
Children will be a rarity. Big families will not exist.
There would be no siblings and thusly far fewer aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews.
It would mean a more isolated world, a lonelier world, especially as people aged and looked around for someone to really care.
I thought of my current situation with my elderly father and how frustrating and spirit-consuming it is to try and care for him.
I thought about my brothers and what a comfort they are as they shoulder the burden with me.
It's difficult already to try and reason with a guy who is in and out of lucidity, who sometimes co-operates and other times, defies orders like a 2-year-old. (Are you sure you went to the bathroom, dad? We don't want to get on the road and have to hurry and try to find a rest stop.)
It's tough to talk assisted living and skilled nursing homes and money to pay for any of it.
It's draining to look at years of making the same decisions over again.
So it's good to have someone to lean on a bit, someone who can share the perspective and who has the history.
It's valuable to have grown up together and shared the parents.
Of all the things that a Demographic Winter will bring about, I'm thinking a loss of siblings will be one of the most tragic.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Double trouble

Brock the mover
We have the twins for a day.
And while we're thrilled with the opportunity to get to know these little boys (adopted by Erin and Brian last December) better, it's interesting to see them take in our house.
We're here thinking they'll like the little cars and the sandbox and the blocks.
We stood ready with balls and swords and stuffed bears.
What they like are the stairs.
They both like to go up and they both want to try to go down, usually at the same time which isn't a problem if both Marc and I are standing by but is a big problem if we're outnumbered.
The main problem is they have yet to master scooting or sliding down. They just know they look like lots of fun.
So every time we turn a head, they're on a dead run to disaster.
Isaac the swift
It's only 10 a.m. and we're already shutting them up in one room or another to keep them from the stairs. That means when we're upstairs they're in the Barbie room which doesn't have a great deal to offer a one-year-old male with a penchant for dissembling.
When we're downstairs, they know they are being denied the great kingdom in the sky.
They look at us with these big, curious eyes and grin as they toddle purposefully to the most attractive part of the house.
They run faster when they know you're too far away to stop them.
So far, we've kept them from breaking any bones or falling on their noggins but it might be a long day while their mother and big sister go skiing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A lost father, 'bout so high?

I had no idea my 87-year-old father could book it with his walker.
But in the time it took to drop him at the entrance to the Veteran's Administration hospital and get back from parking the car, he had vanished.
"I need to go find a restroom," were his last words to me.
Next thing I knew, I'm standing in the crazily busy lobby looking everywhere for a thin, feeble guy with a red walker.
People started wondering why I was stationery in the middle of pedestrian traffic when clearly I was in the way.
I asked the ladies at the information booth which way it was to the restrooms.
"Both ways," they said with curious looks.
"I've lost a father," I explained to rather shocked looks. "He came in about 15 minutes ago from the front headed for the bathroom and now I can't find him."
"What's he look like?" they asked.
I looked around. Well, he looked like most of the other old guys sitting around in wheelchairs, tottering on walkers and riding away on golf-carts.
"He, um, is wearing a black coat, black pants and he has white hair," I said rather lamely,  trying to think of a distinguishing feature that would help. "He has some dementia."
They suggested I leave my cell number in case he passed by.
And I started searching. The VA Hospital is a huge place with long halls and about 35 buildings.
I figured he couldn't get too far so I didn't panic. I just walked around a lot...and tried to find the various places we needed to visit along the way.
I found the billing office and the pharmacy and the travel office. I kept circling until it had been more than an hour.
I went back to the ladies at the booth, more worried now.
"No luck?" they said. "Do you want to try the police?"
I looked over at the door. Why not?
I knocked and a bleary-eyed dispatcher opened up.
I described my situation and he sighed. I think perhaps their clients get lost a lot.
"Well, we can check the cameras," he said. "Come in."
He was just bringing up the images when another guy came in. "I have this old guy, a Mr. Hitchcock, downstairs, looking for his daughter," he said.
"Mr. Hancock?" I exclaimed. "That's my dad. Where is he?"
Seems he had finished his business and then started to try and find the money he'd left behind the last time he'd been hospitalized. He didn't have any ID with him so they whisked him away to the identification station two floors below for a new ID card.
"Hey, dad," I soon said to a very relieved old man. "Do you need this?"
I showed him the planner I'd brought with us right after he told me he wouldn't need "any of that stuff today."
He grinned. I sighed.
I guess I need a leash.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

China takes the prize

It's always fascinating to me how statistics can be used to make or break every argument.
Case in point: at the lecture this week at the Salt Lake City library on reinventing energy, one of the panelists held up China as a sterling example of "green" thinking.
According to this expert, China is leading the way when it comes to using and manufacturing solar power panels that harness the sun's natural heat.
America, by contrast, is falling behind and we should all be ashamed.
I was going along with the rest of the audience thinking how wrong that is.
Our beloved United States should be leading the way when it comes to saving the planet but according to these people, we're not getting on board fast enough with wind, geothermal and solar energy.
Sure, we're building a few facilities with lots of roof panels and trying here and there to cut emissions to zero but basically, we're losing the race and risking the planet we live on.
I busily took notes, intending to expose this fact of magnitude.
My plan was to go home and alert humankind.
All the while, I'm thinking how can a free enterprise, democratic nation lose out to a communistic country with way too many people with few freedoms and far fewer scruples?
That's when one of the other panelists pointed out that yes, indeedy, China leads the way in solar power component production but the country also is busily putting an alarming number of coal plants to support the said solar panel production.
They're greedily ravaging the earth and making a huge carbon footprint in the name of solar power?
I think I'm now offended and instead of being impressed, I'm outraged.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dead food and live action

Marc and I have a strict policy: Every conference we check the food in our 72-hour kits and see what's expired.
If it's safe, we eat lunch out of what we've packed for the big disaster.
We've been pretty faithful but once in a while, we miss a checkpoint.
Apparently we missed the last one.
On Sunday, we looked through our dry noodles, instant potatoes, and soup tins for an edible meal.
The pork 'n beans were barely OK. So were the chicken and tuna salad entrees.
The applesauce has another six months.
The potatoes were set to expire in August.
The Capri Sun drinks were set to explode the next month.
So we set out a lunch feast of beans and tuna salad with nearly dead chocolate milk.
We munched along.
The tuna salad was pretty good but there were far too few crackers to go with it.
Marc heaped his chicken salad on his six and dealt with it.
An ice cube in the chocolate milk made it drinkable.
My beans were all right.
We saved the potatoes and the Capri Sun to share with our grandchildren at dinner. They thought it was a little strange to eat four kinds of instant spuds but they were good sports. The Capri Sun was a hit.
I know it's important to maintain a food storage supply.
I know expiration dates matter.
But we're also in an bit of an economic crisis here in our home so I can't in good conscience throw out "good" food.
It's just hard to eat it.
If it hadn't been for the chocolate cake and ice cream we had for dessert, I'm not sure it would have counted as a real meal.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's on the 5-year-old

Over the years, we've pulled off some pretty good April Fool's jokes as a family.
We kind of have this tradition of being cruel to one another for fun.
One year we convinced my British son-in-law he was being deported. Another year we told Marc he was in big trouble with his boss. We convinced my son his wedding invitations had been spoiled and had to be redone. We've made sure we've come up with jokes that live on.
This year, it was harder to think of a good joke because a number of topics were off-limits such as joblessness (who thinks that is funny?) and my dad's future (looks pretty bleak from here) and babies (since we lost our John it doesn't seem appropriate to make twins jokes or labor jokes, etc.)
But it's important to keep up traditions so when Adell called to tell me "an April Fool joke," I bought into it with energy.
"Grandma," she said all breathless and excitedly, "I took your new owl into the play yard and it got all ruined."
She waited while I pretended to panic and fret. (This was the new Hedgwig owl I brought at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for $30 and lent to her with strict instructions on how to care for the stuffed creature.)
"I April-Fooled you!" she said with delight. "It's not really ruined, grandma."
I sighed with relief and told her to watch out because I might call back with an April Fool's joke of my own.
I then went about my morning chores trying to think of a joke I could play that wouldn't break a little girl's heart or unduly upset her.
She is, after, just 5 years old and she trusts me implicitly.
I didn't want to promise a trip to Disneyland or a visit from a Princess or anything that couldn't be true.
I finally thought I had it.
I speed-dialed her mom who called her to the phone.
"Adell," I said. "Come quick. There's a Barbie on a pink unicorn in our backyard!"
She paused and sucked in her breath, not really digesting how far out the idea of such a thing really was.
"Can I come see it?" she asked.
Uh oh.