Monday, August 29, 2011

Taking care of business again and again

We were at the McDonald's in American Fork for lunch.
I was minding the 3 and 5-year-old while their mommy took care of the baby.
I'm college-educated, over 50 with years of fast food experience.
How hard could it be?
I stood with the kids checking out the menu while they checked out the available toys for the Happy Meals.
"What do you want?" I asked Adell. "The girl one!" she said. "Da girl un," echoed Hannah in true little sister fashion.
Then they took off for the playland.
I  stepped up to the counter and ordered; chicken nuggets, root beer, the new healthy snack apples and toys.
I was specific. "I WANT the toys in the meals," I said, noting the sign that said you could opt out if the kids are too young to know they shouldn't swallow toys.
I took a number and headed to the table, way over by the playland.
I set down our stuff and returned to pick up napkins (lots) and straws (extra for Hannah because she bites her until it won't stay open then gets mad).
I went back and asked the worker girl for barbecue sauce.
Next I picked up the order and brought it to the table.
We eagerly opened the sacks. No toys.
"Wait," I said before the girls could dissolve into tears. "They just forgot. I'll go get them."
I returned to the counter indignant and the worker girl obligingly threw in Smurfs.
I took them to Adell and Hannah.
"Ohhhh, I didn't want this one!" Adell cried, holding up a warrior Smurf. "And I didn't want apples!"
I returned to the counter.
"She wants a girl Smurf and fries," I said and waited.
The girl went to the back. She dug around in a box. Other employees gathered around her and started digging with her.
Fifteen minutes later with other customers starting to get indignant behind me, the worker girl held up a blond Smurfette in triumph.
"Here. The last one!" she said, flashing me a look. and handing me fries.
I figured I could talk Hannah into accepting a warrior Smurf so I took it back to the table.
The girls were happy. We started to eat. Peace reigned in the land.
"Grandma!" said Adell after a minute. "Where's the ketchup?" (Not for her fries but for the nuggets.)
Worker girl, watch out, here I come again.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Painting the town

Whilst my husband is away, I've been painting the town — or at least the Barbie bedroom.
I've noticed for a while now that the bedroom we've dedicated to little granddaughters and the occasional brave grandson is a bit tired.
It's had its share of use as the Barbies and Kens have held balls, attended weddings and pool parties.
It needed a complete redo.
So while Marc is at Woodbadge for two long weekends it seemed the perfect time to buy buckets of pink paint and attack.
I decided to refresh the dresser and the toy box and the bookcase as well.
I spent long hours spackling all the tiny holes in the wall left by my daughters who used the bedroom years before and needed posters and puzzles on every square inch of space.
I dug off the gum adhesive that held stars on the ceiling.
Because it's a small room I grouped the furniture in the middle and worked around the edges.
Instead of a ladder I used a rickety chair to reach the ceiling and high places.
It was going pretty well until yesterday when I was rolling paint up around the ceiling fan.
I was trying to tape off the separation between the walls and the ceiling and couldn't quite reach.
I leaned and stretched but because the bed was in the way I couldn't quite get it.
I took the chair around to the other side and leaned way, way far that my feet slid out from under me (I was, after all, painting in my sox) and I fell over.
Over the back of the chair and neatly over into the bed onto the dolls, the drawers and other assorted items I'd put there for temporary housing under a plastic tarp.
I checked myself out. Nothing broken. I was smack in the middle of the drawers and the dolls.
I was lucky except I couldn't get any purchase to get out of the bed.
The tarp was slick and I was flat on my back in the middle of the bed and couldn't reach anything with which to haul myself up. At one point I figured I'd just have to wait two days until Marc came home.
I slithered. I slid. Finally I hinged my feet over the bedrails and pulled myself up enough that I could flip to the side and slide out through a small space between the dresser and the toy box.
It turned out to be not so much a crisis as a dumb moment but my advice for other grandmas who want to be ambitious and repaint a room?
Do it with a buddy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saving pennies with an RV

Admittedly I don't know much about my neighbor's story.
The lady moving in across the street just came over long enough to distract Marc from mowing and me from watching my bacon. (I burned it black and smoked up the house.)
She was friendly and wanted to chat.
She told us they had just moved up from Vegas and were going to rent for a while until they recovered from some nasty financial blows.
Seems he was involved in a mortgage company that went belly up — big surprise — with all the recent upheavals in the housing market.
They were disgruntled with Vegas anyway so they were actually fairly happy to move but they're having to downsize. They have way more furniture than they can take in, apparently.
They also have this huge RV unit that we had noticed in the road several times over the past couple of weeks.
It's so big that when they pull out or prepare to back in, it blocks our driveway and several of our neighbors' until the deed is done.
It's a gorgeous unit, one that we'll never be able to afford and it looks like a place where a person or persons could live for awhile if necessary.
But they're not living in it.
Oh no.
The lady said they are using it to haul their furniture back and forth.
"It's really big inside and the doors fold up so we can get quite a bit in it," she said, watching her husband pull out for yet another moving run.
I'm somewhat impressed with the ingenuity but curious about the practicality of using such an expensive, new and gas-guzzling RV unit as a U-Haul.
Doesn't the gas mileage negate whatever you'd save in rental costs?
Isn't it a little like using the Limo to take the garbage to the dump?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dinosaurs in the zoo

I was interested to see the dinosaurs at Hogle Zoo.
Last I heard dinosaurs were extinct and so, nearly, was Hogle Zoo.
So when a couple of grandkids and I trucked up there a couple of days ago, I looked expectantly for the prehistoric creatures.
There they were, plastic-and-wire-saurs behind nearly every bush and tucked in among the rocks.
They roared. They moved. They hissed.
And they spit water.
(Watch out for the one nearest the Lion drinking fountain. He's the worst.)
They liven up the place I guess.
But they also frighten the beejeebees out of the little kids.
They're going along expecting to see the baby elephant or the rhino behind the glass or the shrieking funny monkeys when all of a sudden they hear this beastly roar.
Many of the tiny ones I saw ran crying back to their mommies.
Some of the ones who got wet were inconsolable.
A few mentally-challenged kids refused to even walk past them.
One guy just laid down on the pavement and refused to peek at the giant Tyrannosuarus Rex out by the cat cages.
Others had to be carried on past.
I know the zoo has to go with whatever looks like it will bring in new money and new guests.
I feel their pain.
It has to cost a lot to feed those elephants and tigers and rhinos and then to pay people to clean up the mess.
But fake scary Jurassic Park animals that don't exist any longer and that defy explanation?
Creatures that cry "Boo!" in an otherwise placid setting?
It doesn't seem to be working all that well.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Camper man

A few months ago when Marc came home to tell me he was being sent to Woodbadge, I laughed.
Marc is a lot of things; funny, enthusiastic, generous, outgoing, willing to try about anything and competitive; but an outdoors guy he is not.
He prefers a bed up off the rocks, hot showers and good food prepared in a clean kitchen.
He really hates being without his smartphone, his computer and his TV.
But for our stake president he would do this.
The happy camper
He'll do what he's asked to do as a member of the stake high council.
However, he maintained a degree of denial throughout most of the summer.
"You'll need a scout uniform and everything," I said, concerned about how our tiny budget would cover the costs.
"Oh, no. They won't make you buy all that stuff just for a couple of weekends," Marc said. "I'll be fine in my regular clothes."
$200 later and with four pair of borrowed scout socks, he's out the door.
We've bought shirts, including a great tie-dyed official scout T-shirt he's willing to wear, and pants and an air mattress and hiking boots.
We've raided the 72-hour kits for a Leatherman, a water bottle, a dry-fast towel, a flashlight, and a backpack.
We pulled out a sleeping bag from years gone by and decided his ski jacket liner would serve as a coat in the woods.
He's almost ready.
His new scout pants are hemmed.
His patches are sewn on.
He has his trusty hiking hat, bug repellent and sun screen.
All he needs now is a smile!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Singing out of turn

I was trying to be a supportive singer, do my part and all that.
The pretty red-haired lady at the front of the room was singing a familiar Primary song so I chimed right in.
We were at my granddaughter Alyson's baptism in Eagle Mountain.
We were gathered in the Relief Society room and the program had proceeded nicely.
We had an opening song that this red-headed lady led followed by a prayer and a talk by one of Alyson's brothers.
The same red-headed lady then stood at the front of the room and began to sing "I Love to See the Temple."
I lustily sang with her and was just getting warmed up when I noticed my daughter frantically trying to get me to stop.
Others in the room were looking at me strangely as well.
I faltered and wondered if I was off-key or had sung the wrong words since we were singing without songbooks.
I carried on for another verse before I realized what Kristy was trying to tell me.
"It's a solo, mom, her solo! Don't sing! Stop singing!"
I wondered why she wasn't waving her arms this time around.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Don't worry, be happy

At our house, we're trying not to freak out over the stock market's crazy behavior.
We don't have all that much invested but we have the money we planned on to see us through our Golden Years.
We munch on our toast and read about the dives, the plunges, the losses, the swings and we try to be optimistic. (Kinda hard when the headlines scream "Mayday!" and guys in the pictures look like they want to jump off a bridge.)
After all, what can we do about it?
There are few options: tear out your gold fillings and convert them to money. (I think mine are sterling silver.)
Marc has a friend who is investing all of his money in Iraqi dinars.
We know other people who've opted to steer clear of stocks all together but they're young and their 401ks never mattered to them.
We've thought about simply demanding our money and putting it into a big sock but the reality is we're too old for drastic measures and not old enough to avoid the tax bite for early withdrawal.
So we sit and watch as our little retirement nest egg routinely breaks and splatters.
We had just about made up for the losses in 2008 before this week.
Now we're back to square one dollar.
Our broker says not to fret, it'll all be fine, just sit tight.
He even called the other day to reassure us.
"Hi," he said. "I just wanted to touch base with you and let you know your money is all right. These things happen and in the long run, it evens out."
My problem is that we don't appear to have a long run option.
In the next five years, we've got to have some money to live on.
I'm thinking we can't count on Social Security and I'm not sure our kids want to bankroll us.
And actually, it isn't really comforting for a money guy to call you to make sure you're not packing your bags.
It makes me all the more nervous. Why is he calling if it isn't painfully serious?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'll be like this for a while

We were telling our little grandson Jack about our plans to come to England next spring.
Since he lives a continent and an ocean away, the only way we can regularly connect with this beautiful little British lad is via Skype every Sunday at his bedtime.
Jack the lad
We read him a story, he listens raptly and he sends us a virtual hug and a bunch of kisses over the air.
It's precious time but it isn't quite the same as being near him in person.
We regret that he's growing up without us.
So I was trying to explain to him that we are trying to get things worked out so we can come see him physically.
I know it's too much for him to figure out that we don't live in a box or in a telephone so I was trying to put things in comprehensible terms. I was trying to find a way to tell him how far away the spring of 2012 is without totally confusing the child.
"When we see you next year, will you be all grown up, a lot bigger?" I asked him.
His 4-year-old mind was taking it in, trying to be brave because the last time we talked about getting together he cried when he realized he wouldn't be four anymore by the time we arrived.
Stolen from Derek's website
(To him that's a measure of a very long time.)
He seems to have reconciled himself to the situation.
"Don't worry," he told us in his adorable British lilt. "I'll be like this for a while."

Monday, August 8, 2011

My brother's good luck

My brother and his wife were actually lucky last Saturday when they totaled their car on the freeway.
They didn't die.
The gas tank was almost empty so it didn't explode.
The accident wasn't their fault and the other driver was insured.
So now although they're waiting to get their personal items out of their smashed-up SUV and trying to find their way home to Boise and their outdoor spa in a rental car, they're counting their blessings.
Neither one was seriously injured.
Daredevil Darrell
My brother has a nice case of whiplash and my sister-in-law will probably suffer some post-traumatic stress as she relives hitting the brakes to avoid the cars in slowing in front of her and realizing the car behind her wasn't going to stop at all.
In fact, the driver didn't even appear to notice she needed to stop until it was too late. She just bashed into them going about 60 miles per hour.
It made for a messed up weekend following the kind of week that makes one think somebody has a voodoo doll out and is pushing in the big pins.
Darrell had already had a flame-out on one of the engines on the jumbo airplane he flies for Atlas Air — right after he landed at the airport.
He'd had a birdstrike a couple of days before.
So it didn't really surprise him when he and his wife found themselves involved in the freeway collision but he's shook nonetheless.
This guy is a fighter pilot used to narrowly escaping disaster at super speeds. He has the kind of stories to tell that involve all kind of potentially fatal consequences.
It seems incongruous that he gets hurt on the ground while his wife is driving and doing everything right. It hardly seems fair.
On the other hand, how many times can the guardian angels intervene before it looks obvious?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Self-diagnosis and Levaquin

My husband makes fun of my medical degree.
He thinks since I never went to medical school or graduated with any kind of formal training behind me, I'm not qualified to diagnose and prescribe.
What he fails to take into account are the years of raising children and dealing with all sorts of rare illnesses, rashes and symptoms.
I've bandaged and soothed and rubbed. I've learned to tell the difference between a normal diaper rash and chickenpox. I can tell by a child's smell whether he or she has tonsilitis.
I told him his toe was broken before he ever had an X-ray.
So when I developed my usual sinus infection two months ago, I went in to get my prescription for Levaquin.
My regular doctor was out so I saw a colleague who argued with my plan.
I told him I often get these infections and since I am on an immunosuppressant it would be best to hit it quickly and hard with Levaquin.
I can usually take the Levaquin for about a week just long enough to help but not so long that it triggers my ulcerative colitis. (More than you wanted to know, huh?)
He was doubtful.
He said he'd rather err on the side of caution and go with amoxicillin.
So for the past two months I've suffered from extreme congestion, light-headedness and a nagging cough.
Finally the cough got so annoying I went in to my regular doctor.
He prescribed Levaquin and I thanked him.
"I told the other doctor what I needed but he didn't believe me," I said. "I guess it'll take some time to bring him around."
My regular, long-suffering doctor sighed and handed over a sample of Levaquin I could keep in my cupboard for the next bout.
"I'll try to be around the next time," he promised, "for those who don't realize you're a real doctor."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Show me my money

I knew it wasn't going to be easy.
I've been with Wells Fargo long enough to know they REALLY want to keep customers.
They jump up when you come in the door, memorize your name off your checks and send you birthday cards in the mail (OK, maybe I made that part up).
I opened an account with them when I worked in downtown Salt Lake and felt I needed a bank next door for cash.
My husband was going to some school at the time so we took out a no-interest credit card so we could bundle his related expenses.
Right away it got complicated.
The no-interest credit card didn't mean to them what it meant to me. I thought it meant we could charge his tuition and save up to pay it back -- not having to pay interest or make payments until then.
They thought I should be paying it back in regular installments just like with any other card.
When I went in to confront them, they tried to talk me into all kinds of extras when I simply wanted to pay it off and be done.
I've since moved on. We never used the card again and I only have about $16 in my account. I'm rarely in downtown Salt Lake anymore so I don't use Wells Fargo who recently sent a letter saying they were going to start charging $7 a month for maintaining my little account.
I went to the drive-up to close it out. "You have to talk to a banker inside," said the teller.
I went inside to talk to the banker. "Have a seat, she'll be out shortly," said the inside teller.
I sat. I went in. I explained that I wanted out.
She sighed.
"Where do you want to go?" she asked.
I told her I like the local credit union and don't want to lose my little $16 to fees.
She resisted my efforts.
She said I'm making a mistake.
She said I'll be sorry. She said she'll send in the goons to break my legs (oops, made that part up too).
She explained a whole bunch of options including a money-transfer kind of thing where if I remember to move about $50 back and forth every month I won't have to pay a fee.
She said I have until the 19th to make my move so come back when I'm sure.
I can see I have a battle ahead.
To get my $16 out, I may have to break in and steal it.