Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spacing out

Years ago, my newspaper cohorts and I discovered the Christa McAuliffe Space Center at Pleasant Grove's Central Elementary school.
You could go there as a business or family team and fly into outer Star Trek space and fight aliens.
It was exhilarating and rewarding and revealing.
You quickly found out who you could trust and who couldn't handle pressure.
A teacher there, Victor Williamson, had put together this amazing flight simulation experience that included music, lights and little alien guys who sprayed you with water to kill you.
Everyone on the team had a role to play from captain to security guard and if you didn't do your part, the mission failed.
It all came back to me Friday when I went out to do a story on the new iWorlds adventure at Thanksgiving Point.
I was the damage control officer and I said to myself, "This time I'm ready. I'm older than all of these 11-year-old boys and more experienced than the other two 50-year-olds who came to play."
I'd been on a half dozen missions where we outwitted Klingons and Romulans and escaped from black holes.
We'd even survived the disastrous mission where we were all supposed to be playing dead as the aliens scanned the ship and the phone rang. One of our brainless colleagues reached over and picked it up and said hello.
That somehow gave us away as not being dead.
It was always fun to go and even though subconsciously you knew it was pretend, you got caught up in the action and stressed over making a mistake that would hurt the chances for team survival.
Yesterday, I was trying to be proactive. When we were headed into battle or met a hostile bunch, I knew we'd almost certainly suffer damage.
I lined up my Post-a-Notes so I could relay instructions to the communications officer. I fixed the oxygen generators, the forward shields and cooled the torque engines.
But I neglected to take into account two things.
I'm a reporter who has scribbled notes for a living for 35 years. The boy trying to read my writing in the low lighting had a tough time.
And the computers are no faster at iWorlds than they were at the elementary school.
Even though I pushed and punched my computer screen numerous times, we were dead long before my command to fix the CO2 scrubbers went through.
Sorry mates.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tough love

It's been tough taking care of an elderly, stubborn parent.
First of all, it was a surprise to suddenly have my father in our lives on a daily basis. This man has done little more over the years than drive by on Christmas and Memorial Day to say "Hi, gotta go. See you later."
He doesn't care to know his grand- and great-grandkids and he has to ask me when my birthday is. He really didn't need us at all until his health began to fail and his wife went into medical rehab.
One fine day we found ourselves taking care of him and his many needs as well as dealing with past debts and poor decisions that made it tough to arrange a comfortable future for him.
And although my brothers and I embarked on a form of "Tough Love" to teach this 87-year-old guy some new tricks, I think he's won the battle.
We thought we needed to establish some ground rules. So we did.
We thought if we worked with him we could help him be a better husband, a better father and grandfather and a less self-centered human being.
Foolish us.
We came into this fight thinking we had a chance.
I mean, how hard can it be to teach this frail, elderly man to cook his own microwave meals, pick up his socks and throw away his litter?
What kind of rocket science is it to recognize that a bill needs to be paid on time, that taxes need to be filed and that appointments need to be kept?
Apparently it's trickier than we thought.
First of all, he outwitted everyone when he got tired of waiting for doctors and specialists to decide he needed the hip replacement surgery he wanted. One day, he just called 911 and fetched an ambulance.
Then he decided he was going to the same rehab his wife had been in and we could start to come visit.
He languished around for almost four months before he decided he'd get up and walk. Before that, he just told the physical therapists to back off.
Now he wants to live in the same fancy retirement center his wife is in. Never mind that he doesn't have the means to pay for it.
We've been working under the assumption that what he wanted was impossible and impractical. He does, by the way, have an enormous amount of debt he needs to pay off.
But yesterday, he announced a move-in date for himself. He says it's all arranged.
I'm ambivalent because on the one hand it will relieve so much stress from my life but on the other hand, didn't we tell him he was in "time-out" until he learned better?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Paintin' Place

So the guys who repaired our stairway ceiling had these two buckets of paint leftover.
I figured it would be foolish to waste them and Marc was hanging about waiting for a job offer so why not put them to good use.
I decided my talented husband would love to spend his time brushing and rolling.
The people who painted part of the hallway had left us some incentive since where they stopped and where the old paint was looked kind of bad.
The ceiling hole was right at the top of the stairs so that meant we needed to paint up and down and sideways to make it look right. The up and down extends to the hallway, the den, and the foyer. Sideways mean we'll be moving into the master bedroom and second floor rooms next.
Emphasis on the "We" because that's where this story gets complicated.
When I say "Let's paint," I mean I'll supervise and judge the quality of the job and Marc will do the actual work.
Marc thought I meant "we" as in both of would wield a brush.
So I'm clearing the rooms and spackling the many nail holes and standing back to watch the rooms be transformed.
He's on his knees taping and moving the ladder around and spreading the tarp. He's rolling and brushing and carefully painting the trim and baseboards.
He's covered in paint.
After two days of this nonsense, his hands hurt and he's strangely disgruntled.
I'm perplexed.
Are we not having fun?
Is this not a productive way to be together?
What part of "Let's paint!" did he misunderstand?
We're done now with the main floor and it looks great.
I can't wait until "we" start on the upstairs.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The time zone changes

Starting Monday, for the first time ever in our married lives, Marc and I will be living in the traditional married people time zone.
He'll go to work from 8 to 5 and I'll stay at home baking cookies. (Well, maybe not just baking cookies!)
We've never had that kind of routine.
Me and mine
Either we've both been working crazy schedules or he's been working when I'm not and vice versa.
At first we worked for weekly and/or daily newspapers that required him to work late Monday nights while I ran to cover police stories on weekends and at odd hours.
Then we worked for competing dailies and both of us were on call.
For a time there I worked for The Mormon Times which required me to work Saturdays and until 2 a.m. a couple of nights a week.
He's been involved in numerous theatrical productions over the years which introduced yet another element of demand. When I had a free night, he had rehearsal. When he was free, I had a council meeting or some such exciting event to cover.
It's been a juggling act and one which called for constant adjustment. We've had to be creative and sometimes merciless to get quality time together. (No, I can't come to the church social, Marc and I need to talk.)
This last few months we've both been home not working out of the home with plenty of time together and together and together some more. 
We've had to share the space, the TV, the phones and the computers.
I've gone from never having to make lunch to sometimes making lunch to making lunch every day.
The grandkids have learned to expect Grandma AND Grandpa to be available to play Barbies.
It's been OK but now we start a new adventure, kind of a "Leave it to Beaver" life.
Marc will just be in Orem, not that far away and I'll be here, doing my freelance thing.
I can pop over for lunch if I want. I know where he'll be.
We can plan our lives.
We know what time he'll go to work and what time he'll come home.
We know what days he'll have off and when he can take vacation.
It'll really be simple and sweet.
I hope we can deal with it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Unlovely specimens

Me breaking free
I've been in this writing business for a while now and I'm still learning.
For instance, did you know that some of the most valuable information archeaologists get is from ancient people's spit and, uh, you-know-what?
(I learned this while exploring the Danger and Jukebox Caves near Wendover this past weekend with the state archeaologists.)
It seems when old Indian men and women chewed on tough grasses and weeds the grass and weed eventually worked down to a sort of gummy wad that provided some nutrients for a while.
After they spit the wad out, it stayed around on the ground until dust and other debris covered it up and preserved it.
Now scientists can go back to these things (called quids) and analyze the DNA to find out all sorts of stuff.
It's quite remarkable really.
And since there are tens of thousands in the caves, they're considered part of a treasure trove.
I just couldn't help sort of silently gagging at the thought.
But even more unappealing are the coprolites — bits of fossilized dung left over from both animals and humans who lived hundreds and thousands of years back.
Plastic gloves please
Apparently there's a wealth of information in these "unlovely specimens."
Research gurus can tell what the people ate, what diseases they carried and how they died. They can unearth all sorts of valuable clues if you can get past what coprolites really are.
The coprolite the assistant state archeaologist held up for us to see was full of fibrous materials.
Looked to me like the guy it came from was on a Shredded Wheat diet.
What a legacy to leave.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Xactly the right job

Marc got it, Xactly the right job.
It's not far from home. It pays well. It comes with benefits and it will employ most of the skills he's spent a lifetime honing.
He's been hired to be a marketing writer for Xactware in Orem.
This is the job he interviewed for a while back as they said, "Thanks for coming in. We like you a lot but we're not prepared to hire just yet. It'll probably be two to three months..."
Then — less than a month later — he got a call to come back for a second interview.  He was thrilled and sick with anticipation.
Then they called and rescheduled for the same day he was scheduled to give platelets at the American Red Cross office. He figured he could only give so much blood, right?
He arrived early. When the interviewers asked him why he wanted to work for their company, he said quite honestly that above all, he just wanted to work and yes, he'd like to work for them because Xactware seems to be a successful company with a bright future.
They said "We'll let you know within a week's time."
The clock started ticking as we counted the days and hours. He started to look around for another four jobs to apply to and list on his unemployment form.
Finally, on Wednesday, we were at Marc's daughter's house playing with the grandkids when the phone rang. Marc had to extricate himself from a lot of little arms and legs and find a place where he could hear.
"What?" he said into the phone. "You've offered someone else the job? Oh, you're offering ME a job. Yeah, sure, I want the job!"
He then proceeded to jot down the details on a newspaper ad on the counter, all the while dodging kids and noise and mayhem.
Turns out this is a dream job at a company that not only appears to value its employees but offers all the things that went away bit by bit in the last two jobs...healthy benefits, a good wage, vacation time, a 401k, life insurance and self-respect.
He starts next Monday.
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nosey girl

Two-year-old Hannah has a cute little nose.
You wouldn't think she could put anything of substance in it but she did — right in front of her mother.
She was sitting at the counter in grandma's house playing with whatever she could reach while I cut her an apple.
Not to be inhaled
Her mother and I were chatting when Hannah suddenly looked at Kari and made an odd little sound. "Mommy? Mom!" she said pitifully.
We looked at her and at the available sources of a problem. (With little kids, it can be anything!)
Near her was the vase that held my Mother's Day Cookies on sticks that had been stuck into a bowl of little pink balls.
Ever curious Hannah had apparently put one into her left nostril and sucked it up.
Now she had a little bump developing at the top of her nose and she didn't like the feeling.
Kari reached for the tweezers.
I reached for the car keys, sensing we were going to make a trip to the emergency room.
Sure enough, Hannah wasn't cooperative to the tweezer operation and we headed out.
"I'll try the doctor," I told Kari, thinking we could avoid the hefty cost of an emergency room visit.
I dialed. I explained the situation to the nurse who said she'd try to catch the doctor.
We arrived and waited with an alternatively crying and begging-to-be-anywhere-else child.
"Wanna go home. Don wanna see the doctor," Hannah said, pleading with her mother. "Wanna go home."
Kari tried to explain that she needed to sit still and wait for the doctor to help her but Hannah wasn't reassured.  She became more and more frantic. We tried to make her sneeze,  hoping she'd maybe just blow the little ball out.
Finally, we were ushered inside and the doctor summed up the problem.
"Yup, there it is," he said after looking at the similar pink ball I'd brought along as evidence. "Let me tell you what we're going to do…"
Thankfully the plan didn't involve any anesthesia or shots. It just meant Hannah had to be restrained by two nurses, her mother and the doctor as he fetched the ball.
Hannah's fine. Her mother and I will be all right and the doctor said this happens a lot.
He even told us a story about his neighbor who has several sons between the ages of 2-17. The neighbor called one night to see if the doctor could get a bean from his son's nose.
The doorbell rang. He grabbed his bag and opened the door to find the one with the bean up his nose was the 17-year-old!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The short list

So I'm talking to Donny the other day.
He was scheduled to call me at 9:30 a.m. to discuss his and Marie's new CD release when the phone rang around 9.
I picked it up and said "Hello?" carefully, ready to bump any telemarketer or neighbor or friend off the line if I needed to do so. (Grandkids would get a little more consideration.)
"Sharon?" said the male voice. "This is Donny Osmond."
"Oh," I said, trying to get my bearings and ramp up for the interview. "You're early!"
"I know," Donny said. "I wanted to be sure I had the right telephone number. I tried to call you a while back to thank you for the story you did on our Las Vegas show but the newspaper wouldn't give me your number."
Are you kidding me?
I know The Deseret News has a pretty strict policy about giving out home phone numbers. (It keeps the nut jobs from finding us except at the workplace.)
But this is crazy.
Why wouldn't I want an Osmond, especially Donny Osmond, to find me?
And who is the idiot that turned him away? Why didn't anyone ask me what I wanted and since when do we turn down a compliment on a story?
I chewed on this for a bit after I finished the phone interview and have now come up with a new policy, effective immediately:
Anytime somebody with the last name of Osmond, Redford, Pitt or Clooney wants to talk to me, put 'em through.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Interviewing Osmonds

If you asked the Osmonds if they knew me by name or face, they probably couldn't honestly say yes.
But I know them.
Over the years, I've interviewed nearly every one of the famous singing family and covered a funeral and a concert or two.
Virl wrote a book and I did a story on him and the book about his mother.
Jay wrote a book and I did a story on him and his book.
Marie wrote a book and I read it.
The Osmond Brothers appeared at Thanksgiving Point for a benefit and I dutifully did an advance and a review, chatting with Merrill and Wayne and Alan along the way.
I interviewed David Osmond prior to his appearing at the SCERA. (Marc and I also saw him in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in Salt Lake when Donny fell sick and couldn't appear.)
Marc and I recently drove down to Vegas to catch the Donny and Marie show. (Loved it, by the way.)
Olive Osmond died and I covered the funeral, catching a glimpse of Marie on the way in.
I wrote a feature on Marie's porcelain doll line and got a chance to talk with Marie briefly in the long, long line at the doll shop.
I interviewed Ron Clarke who used to handle the Osmond public relations business.
I watched them faithfully on TV and at the Orem studios now and then.
I've watched them grow up, fall in love, marry, divorce and remarry. I've seen the talk shows come and go.
I watched "Dancing With the Stars" with a passion.
I bet I'm one of the few who still has a copy of their first movie and record.
I've never considered myself a real fan or groupie but I admire the family and their talents.
And as I sit here waiting for a phone call from Donny about his and Marie's new CD with my heart going pitter-patter, I realize it's true.
I think perhaps I am a fan.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The master negotiator

We were taking Adell home from lunch since we had to go to the store right by her house anyway for a couple of things.
She was busy in the back seat telling us her stories as 5-year-olds are wont to do and we were listening like the dutiful, interested grandparents we try to be.
The chatter was about her preschool graduation and the new friend she'd made at lunch at Carl's Jr. when she paused long enough to find out if we were going to grandma's house after our shopping.
"No, Grandma and Grandpa have work to do," I said, trying to let her down gently. "But you can pick out a treat if you want at the store."
The Belly Washer
"Oh!" She said brightly, looking out the window at the Smith's Marketplace signs.
"I know this store. They have my drink here!"
Marc and I looked at one another.
"Really?" I said, "What drink?"
"The Strawberry Shortcake drink I need," she said happily. "I know where it is!"
I'd been thinking along the lines of a 50-cent candy bar or maybe a $1 roll of gum or fruit leather.
We went into the store and I asked her if she knew where to find what she wanted.
"I think so," she said, heading toward the drink aisle. "You look that way and I'll look this way."
We found the ice cream and the spinach on our list and proceeded to look for Strawberry Shortcake drinks when she suddenly shouted with delight.
"There it is! That's it!" she said. "Mom said they probably didn't have any more but they do!"
We looked at the cute little containers of drink topped with toys like Superman, Spiderman and yes, thank goodness, Strawberry Shortcake.
Only $2.99.
"What about Hannah?" I said,  thinking of Adell's little sister who'd gone ahead of us to take her nap.
"She's OK. She already got one," Adell said.
Her mom told us later Hannah did get one last time out and Adell wanted one too. She thought Adell had forgotten about it.
Silly mom.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gymnastics are forever

Years ago, when the doctor told my daughter she couldn't keep doing gymnastics due to an over-stretched muscle in her back, I was sad for her.
She loved doing gymnastics and to this day, that's where she'd rather be — coaching floor routines in the gym and spotting kids on the bars and the beam and the vault.
I was secretly relieved at the time and not just because the budget could get a break.
Sitting through endless meets is a challenge.
I loved watching my daughter compete but gymnastics meets are truly an exercise in endurance. There's no set starting time and the ending time is a moving target.
The bleachers are hard on the bottom and usually you have to sit so your head is turned to the side to see the floor routines.
It's tough going.
So now Marc and I are going to meets to watch the grandkids and they are no better than they were a couple of decades ago.
I still find it mind numbing broken up by some aggravating moments like when the judges deny my talented grandchild his due.
Saturday we had two grandkids in a local meet so we knew we were signed up for the duration.
It was supposed to start at 9 a.m. By 9:30 we were hoping for movement. At around 10 a.m., events began.
We watched Alyson in her shiny lavender and white leotard do a cute floor routine. We watched Keslie in dark shiny blue run for the vault and land flat on her back (which is what she is supposed to do).
We kept track of their scores and dutifully followed them about. We were relieved when neither one fell off the beam or hurt themselves on the high bars.
When they were competing, it was interesting but then there were all these other kids in between.
Finally, it was noon and nearly over. I started gathering my things and Alyson since we were watching her and her sister for the weekend.
Other parents were hanging about for the awards but we figured my daughter could fill us in.
We were moving toward the door, Alyson in hand (She'd won a couple of ribbons) when they announced "Keslie Morrey, 8th on beam," "Keslie Morrey, first on bars" followed by "Keslie Morrey, first on vault" and "Keslie Morrey, second on floor," and "Keslie Morrey, first overall for Level 5!"
She beamed. We beamed. We were happy to be there for the beaming.
Maybe this meet wasn't so bad.