Monday, December 31, 2012

The rock that killed the can

I'll admit it.
I'm a bit of a fraidy cat.
I had to quit skiing because I became sure I was going to either kill myself or break bones that I really needed.
I grip the door handle as we fly down the freeway thinking I can somehow keep from dying at high speed if I do that.
I swim with my head up out of the water so I can be sure of breathing.
So when we bought our first SUV and Marc wanted to show me how it could go over hill and dale without a problem, I put a stop to the nonsense.
I wouldn't let him drive off small cliffs for fun.
I insisted we avoid roads that required four-wheel drive just for entry.
I'm a killjoy and I freely admit it.
So when the car stopped going down the road the other day and the repair shop decided somewhere we had hit a rock that tilted the gas can, Marc was my chief suspect in the crime.
We had no hard proof but I could remember driving up a washboard road in Castle Valley trying to find where the early townspeople had held the first annual pageants.
I could recall hitting something with a "whomp!" and complaining about it.
I remember Marc telling me the car was designed for just such roads and dismissing my concerns.
Now, several months and $1300 later, it looks like I was right and he was wrong.
The rock or high ground apparently dented and pushed the gas can over to where if the gas ran low enough, the car couldn't get fuel.
That became clear when Marc headed to work last week and the car simply stopped.
We put in a bit of gas but it still just sat there.
However, once it got to the shop (one $70 tow later), it ran just fine as the gas had sloshed around into the fuel line.
We had a couple of days of stress and invited our insurance company along for the ride and paid for $800 worth of work on our way to discovering the real problem.
But we're fine now and we're back on the road.
I'm feeling vindicated.
Marc not so much.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The peaceful family Nativity

Over the years, we've done a number of family Nativity "plays."
Some were better than others.
When the kids were little we tried having daddy be the donkey and the littlest child be the Baby Jesus.
We sometimes got through it with no yelling on Mommy's part and no collateral damage.
We even have a couple of handwritten storybooks that have become family heirlooms that show the baby ("She" was probably 3 at the time) with her legs hanging out of the manger.
Erica the angel
We built up quite a collection of shepherd's robes, staffs and angel halos and I would find myself throughout the year looking at every wooden basket and box as a potential manger.
We tried it with narration and with speaking parts.
Adell and Hannah "Marys"
As the boys got older it was harder to get them into their roles as the shepherds and Joseph, particularly since Mary was one of their sisters.
They didn't mind the King Herod/Caesar Augustus part or that of the innkeeper because they could sit on a throne or stand at the door and bark orders.
The angels were usually unhappy because they weren't asked to be Mary.
The Three Kings liked giving the Baby Jesus presents but we always ended up puzzled over the Frankincense and Myrrh. What the heck is that stuff?
King Steven
This year we tried it with the grandkids at the family party.
We built a backdrop, hung a star and borrowed a manger.
We told everyone to bring their own costumes and we planned for two Marys to cut down on the infighting.
Other than having to use an elf from the "Elf on the Shelf" storybook for the baby, we think it went pretty well.
Nobody cried.
Nobody punched anybody.
Even two-year-old Mia got into the action and at the end we ended up with a photo that will make a good 2013 Christmas card.
Here are a few shots from the "movie."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The tough decisions

You'd think that being offered a book deal would be a good thing.
How many writers out there are dying for the opportunity to get a manuscript into print and be paid some money to boot?
I was thrilled and flattered at first.
The lady on the phone explained that the guy in the marketing department picked me to author their book and the publisher was willing to give me an advance, an unusual and gracious move. Usually the author doesn't get ANY money until some books are sold.
My name would get out there and I might get further work.
The problem came after I received a copy of the contract and started counting the days until my deadline.
I had approximately 50 working days to put together 150 pages on Scouting that included photos and illustrations.
I would be starting with NO copy or sources and it's nearly Christmas so people are not in their offices.
If I worked steadily for the first two months of 2013, I might make the deadline, might.
If I didn't I would be expected to return the advance and my name would be mud with this publisher and contact.
I thought long and hard. I suffered as did my husband and my daughters who had to listen to me.
I really love to write (surprise to those of you who see me with a new blog every other day or so)!
I liked the topic and had a lot of ideas as to who I could talk with and interview.
I think I could make the book interesting, maybe even fun.
But I couldn't convince myself that I could prepare that much lively copy in two month's time.
My heart started to pound and I could feel my blood pressure rising.
I thought about how stressed I would be in a couple more weeks and the time I would have to give up with my grandchildren.
I considered what would happen to other venues, other writing ops, to Marc.
So I said "No, thank you" and "Adios" to a couple thousand dollars.
What have I done?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A dancing duo

Marc and I thought we knew how to dance.
At least to a lively beat.
We've never been great at the slow stuff. We mostly shuffle along trying to keep from bumping into each other's feet and we enjoy the close contact but we're no great shakes.
However, put on a rock'n roll record with some singing by lively young men and we can move.
At least, that's what we believed before the company party dance the other night.
The DJ (who is actually the mayor of Orem who moonlights now and then playing tunes) asked everybody to come up and try out the dance floor in the new convention center "ballroom."
He was fairly insistent.
So we went on up with the rest of the marketing team and found a tiny patch of available floor.
The music started and everybody was waving their arms in the air and doing a dance with no similarity to the "Twist" or "The Mashed Potato" or the surfing moves we did in high school.
It was insane.
Lots of people danced without partners and a good number were not only dancing but leaping, jumping and cavorting in a style that was not only impressive but rather dangerous, I thought.
One big guy backed right into me, hard.
I felt the discs in my back — which I've been carefully protecting since the doctor told me they were collapsing onto each other — sing with sudden pain.
I sort of gasped but no one noticed the "collision" and the music played on.
I'm fine and we ended up dancing like fools until we could dance no more. (I'm sure we were a sight, the pair of us oldsters amongst all these kids.)
But I think it's ironic that while I'm giving up skiing, sledding, jet-skiing and the roller coaster so I don't hurt myself any further, I get whomped on the dance floor.
What are the odds?

Friday, December 14, 2012

In retrospect

I was a little unhappy yesterday as I stood with a small band of parents and grandparents who couldn't open the doors to my granddaughter's elementary school in Taylorsville.
I was already a couple of minutes late for Emma's Christmas program because this particular school is hard to find and there's virtually no visitor parking.
I was proud of myself for A. finding the place as it's on the "wrong" side of 7200 South (7200 South becomes 7000 South without any apparent shift so it's easy to think a 7180 South would be on the north side of the main road and B. finding a place to park, albeit several blocks away.)
So it was frustrating to not be able to get in the building.
I was also anxious that Emma would be wondering why I hadn't come to see her in her role as a news anchor for the program "broadcast."
One irrepressible guy reached over and punched the handicapped door automatic entry button and, Voila!, the door opened. We all rushed in.
I said something to the office secretary after I asked for directions to the first grade Christmas program.
"You know the doors are all locked, right?" I said.
She nodded without concern.
"We're a lockdown school," she said. "Only one door on the side is routinely left open."
I stalked off a little miffed.
Why would they do that when they knew all kinds of grandparents would be trying to come see the program? Why didn't they post a sign telling us that?
Today, as I watch the horrific news about the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut with 20 children dead and who knows how many traumatized, I think I get it.

No focus

I was pretty pumped about being invited to participate in a Dan Jones Focus group.
When I worked full-time for The Deseret News, I could never qualify because somehow the people in charge didn't fully trust reporters and editors.
So now that I'm a free-lance writer I'm "free" to do things like serve on community boards and juries and focus groups.
It's always looked interesting to me.
When the guy called me to pre-qualify me, he asked a lot of pertinent questions...was I working for an advertising agency or related to anyone who did so?
Was I female?
How old was I?
Could I be on time and show up?
I passed the test and was set to be in a group discussing transportation issues.
"Be there early to get your full honorarium," the man in charge said.
I headed to Salt Lake, making sure I was not only early but WAY early. I shopped and completed a number of tasks along the way but still arrived in the parking garage about a half hour ahead of time.
I played Scrabble on my phone for a while and then toddled into the building.
A nice security officer helped me call the elevator and get to the third floor.
I checked in and took a name card.
I picked up a sandwich, sat down and munched away.
The waiting area soon filled up with a bunch of other ladies and we all eyed each other. These were the people we'd be talking with for the next couple of hours.
I wondered what this would be like?
I have pretty strong opinions about transportation in Utah, especially about the lack of dependable, affordable mass transit. Would I sway opinion, sound intelligent? Would I feel stupid, sound dumb?
But, alas, I was denied.
Just at the stroke of the hour, the receptionist announced they had overbooked and someone would be invited to leave (fully compensated) but still invited to leave.
My name was called. I collected my money and headed home, feeling like a dismissed juror, somewhat deflated despite my joy at getting to go home early.
(Maybe when a former newsroom colleague came in as part of the research team and waved merrily at me sitting in the waiting room, that hurt my chances. What do you think?)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Watch out for the vegetables

Four-year-old Hannah was over visiting after her dance lesson.
She was telling me that her big sister was sick and her tummy hurt.
Since Adell has been running a fever, I had invited Hannah to stay a while and help me at my house. She had lots to say.
Hannah seemed to think whatever was bothering Adell was related to what she had eaten over the weekend.
"Too much fruit and vegetables," she stated as she slathered several colors and layers of frosting on the sugar cookies we were decorating. "Her tummy was too full."
"Adell said there are no fruit and vegetables in strawberry yogurt," Hannah went on to inform me. "So it's OK."
Hannah seemed pretty sure of her facts even though I think her mother probably tries to get everybody to eat MORE fruits and vegetables, not less.
She was pretty matter-of-fact as she worked on her cookies.
"Don't you think you ought to eat a little less frosting and a bit more cookie?" I asked her as she licked a star-shaped cookie clean for the third time. "I don't want you to get a tummy ache."
Hannah told me she was fine and there were no fruit and vegetables in cookies or frosting anyway.
She somehow has become convinced that the secret to a healthy life lies in making sure no fruit or vegetables sneak up on you. Sugar doesn't appear to be an enemy.
Just gotta watch out for those carrots and peas.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Keep on trucking

The guy across the road has a new truck, a great big semi-tractor trailer that's really long and noisy.
He parks it going the wrong way in front of his home and leaves it running most of the time.
It drives me crazy.
My husband and children will testify to the fact that I am ultra sensitive anyway to noise.
They could never watch television at night after I went to bed because I could hear the show three floors up.
These days, my husband plugs in to a set of heavy-duty earphones so he can watch the sports and late-night movies without me griping.
So when this guy started leaving his truck on idle, it upset me.
(It must be a refrigerator unit that has to keep running to keep the load cold or some such thing but it makes me so agitated.)
I'll be working along — like now — and wondering why I'm feeling anxious.
Once I realize the truck's running, I understand why the needle on my stress meter is rising.
I try to ignore it but it's difficult.
So when he started it up the other night after the 10 p.m. news and it shook the house, Marc and I both complained.
I think Marc had underestimated the decibel and stress level.
He was horrified.
He even called the cops for me and this nice policeman came out and talked to the trucker.
I could hear them from my upstairs bedroom window.
The officer was explaining the city noise ordinance and how people were trying to sleep.
The trucker was saying things like "This is only the second time I've run it" and "I never let it go for more than an hour."
I almost bolted outside in my nightgown to challenge his lies.
But I held myself back because he did turn it off...that night.
Two days later he was back with the engine running for way more than an hour.
I'm feeling the tension here.
I'm not sure of my next move.
Shall I take over some Christmas cookies or throw mud at the cab?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You owe this much

I was hesitant to pay the doctor bill I received from one of the specialists I'd seen about my neck and back pain.
Evidently the insurance had been paying in sporadic amounts so I wasn't sure everything was settled and I hate to overpay because they tend to credit your account rather than refund and you never really see the money.
So I called the billing office of this doctor to verify the amount I apparently owed.
I left a message and today, a week later, I get this call.
"Suzann," said the lady. "I'm calling to talk to you about your bill. I'm not sure anyone got back to you when you called the other day."
I ignored the Suzann part because my husband says I sometimes mumble on the phone and I thought she heard "Suzann" when I said "Sharon."
I told her I was trying to find out if I really owed $122 or if there was any more insurance coming through.
"Oh, yes," she said. "Humana has been contacted and they said they applied the outstanding balance to your deductible."
As far as I knew, we had met our deductible months ago and we don't have Humana insurance.
I told this to the lady on the phone.
"Well, Humana paid some of the bill," she said.
"That's nice of them but we're with SelectHealth," I said.
There was a big silence.
"Spell your last name," the voice instructed.
I did.
"Tell me your birthday," she ordered.
I told her.
"What is your first name?"
I told her that too.
There was more silence.
Then she came back on the line.
"Sharon? I have your file now and yes, you owe us $122. Anything else?"
Why do I not feel reassured?

Monday, December 3, 2012

The family Christmas photo

The cold, the resistant and the bored
Marc and I agreed to help Kari and Wade take their Christmas card photo.
Actually I started shopping with my daughter weeks ago once she decided it was time for that dreaded moment in all families...a new family photo.
Mia is nearly 18 months and in the most recent group photos, she's just a baby. Her personality hadn't fully emerged. Now she's a tiny tornado.
Kari and I shopped until we found the perfect three sizes from 18 months to 7 years...
That's tough in and of itself.
They have to be pretty, affordable and something all three will deign to wear.
Then we had to find shoes...again in three sizes and in a reasonable price range.
We set a date and engaged the family photographer (Marc) since Kari and Wade's first and second choices were unavailable. He was game.
We headed up to the amphitheater on a chilly but sunny day near the Mt. Timpanogos temple which apparently was a good choice since we found seven other family groups already there.
We walked around looking for a choice location.
Marc found it — way up the steep, stone steps and off in the bushes.
Kari and I lugged the baby up and did our best to keep Hannah and Adell from slipping and falling and/or getting dirty.
We settled everyone on a bench but Mia wanted grandma.
She was cold and not sure what we were doing so she looked to me to save her. (At this juncture, I usually give her chocolate but that wasn't an option for this trial.)
The light was not going to last so we tried to hurry and keep everyone in position, gently.
Hannah didn't want to smile.
Adell wanted to smile too much.
Mia just wanted out.
Kari was trying to keep calm and Wade was trying to keep order.
It made for an interesting photo session, not unlike the kind that every family in the world works through as they try to get the little darlings together on camera.
The kids resist smiling naturally and sweetly all at once. No one dares yell.
The longer it takes, the more unrest there is.
Finally, we gave the baby an expensive Smartphone to play with and Marc shot a few pictures of the natives. Wade said he could photoshop something usable.
(If you need us to help you with your family photo, we're in the book!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The old folks place

We weren't sure why we received this lovely invitation in the mail.
It didn't say what was going on or why.
The little blue and silver card simply asked if we would come to a Laurel/Priest dinner on a certain date and please RSVP.
We agreed to come thinking it would be, at the very least, a free meal.
We were curious on Sunday, however, when it was announced that the youth in the ward would be coming around to gather foodstuffs that same night.
Were we invited to a sort of Hunger Banquet where we would eat a meal prepared from donated canned goods?
Were we going to be asked to share inspirational stories of our long and rich career as parents who survived teenagers? What?
Our first clue were the others we saw carefully climbing out of their cars and toddling into the church.
The prizes
Everybody had gray hair like Marc or "laugh wrinkles" like me.
We looked around and counted the couples.
Yup, we were all over 50, the "wise" people living in the neighborhood.
Except at our table there were also a couple of kids, a Laurel-age girl and a Priest-age lad (poor kids).
The second clue came when we found we were going to play Bingo with buttons.
I know Bingo. My 90-year-old diabetic dad wins a candy bar or two every week at the rest home playing Bingo. Ah ha.
This was clearly a party for the aged.
These teenagers had put together a meal and a simple program with games and prizes they thought we would and could enjoy.
They chose to sit with us and chat so they could build bridges with members of the older generation.
It was fun. The food was delicious, the conversation interesting. (We tried to avoid talking about our ailments and medical procedures.)
We won a box of blue feathers and some Fun-Dip at Bingo.
Marc and I also realized it's time to face it.
We're no longer young.
Who knew?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another dumb way to die

Marc and I have become ardent fans of Tangerine Kitty and the latest safety video for the Melbourne Metro in Australia.
It's funny, catchy and a great piece of entertainment.
Kitty sings the little ditty that gets stuck in your head after you watch these colorful little jelly bean characters run into deadly trouble, one after another.
"Dumb Ways to Die" is a clever short that's creating an Internet sensation. At last count it had more than 26 million You Tube views. It went viral the first week with 12 million.
We discovered it via a tip from a guy in Marc's office and we've since sent it to our grandson in England and our granddaughter in Spanish Fork and shared it with nearby family on Thanksgiving.
One granddaughter promptly learned all the words and drew pictures of all the little jelly bean guys (even though there's one guy with piranhas hanging onto his private parts that's a bit questionable for kids).
So when we read the news item this morning about the guy who died from downing too many live cockroaches at once in his attempt to win a python, we laughed when we should have clucked our tongues in sympathy.
Seems this guy in Florida was well on his way to winning the eating contest when his system became overwhelmed with cockroach body parts. He couldn't breathe and swallow the roaches at the same time so he died.
Rather unfortunate, I say and SO dumb.
I think Melbourne Metro may want to add him to their list.
Here's the URL to the video:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

No escape

My goal in life this time of year is always to escape the madness of Black Friday.
Call me a chump but I would rather pay full price for something than stand in long lines with angry people who want to save a buck or two.
I happily sleep in right past all the doorbuster specials and avoid the craziness.
Except this year I slipped up.
My daughter and I went out mostly to check on the new stores at the Traverse Mountain Outlets and skimmed on by without purchasing anything that made us have to wait for checkout.
However, I saw this one top at Kohl's that I kinda liked and I've been looking for a holiday top.
We didn't buy it when I saw it because the lines were absolutely horrendous and I just wasn't sure if it was what I wanted.
It was all shiny and red and fancy — exactly what I needed for the Christmas parties coming up.
I decided that after I dropped Kari off at home so I circled back thinking it couldn't take that long to buy one thing and I had time.
So I picked it up and tried it on. It fit. It was 50 percent off and I had this little $10 promotional gift card.
So I started to try to find the end of the line. It wasn't where I thought it was.
I loped to the back of the store and over toward the west side of the store and back up to the front again.
I found the end and seriously considered bagging the whole idea.
But I knew the front registers were going as fast as they could so I figured, five or six registers going full speed, the line would surely move along at a good pace.
I got in line.
I waited patiently.
One hour later, the guy in front of me was wearing out my patience. He had a table thingy and a pile of towels that he just slid along in front of him. His pile was unbalanced so he didn't move any more often than he had to. I decided I hated him.
And I noticed the line would swell as we went as people who had been off shopping came back to join their friends who'd been standing.
So as we neared the end, the line got much wider and took longer.
It also came to a dead stop as people who reached the registers wanted unreasonable things, like a different style, color or price. I harbored angry feelings towards them as well.
I noticed all around me there were items people had thrown overboard as they gave up waiting, dolls and sweaters and underwear they decided not to buy.
I finally got my top, $44 at 50 percent off with another 15 percent off and my $10 gift card, it came to $10.05 after I stood in line for an hour and 15 minutes.
I'm happy with it but in retrospect I'm thinking the price was too dear.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Movin' on up

The new Dream house
Our Barbie "dream" house had served its time.
By my calculations, it's done more than 30 years with my children, our grandchildren and various visitors putting dolls to bed in it, serving meals in its kitchen and holding weddings for Barbie and Ken.
I've repaired and rebuilt it at least a dozen times, sticking the little plastic pillars and cardboard layers back together and catching it when a tot pulled it over.
I hot-glued it to the wall more than once and considered junking it many times.
But the little girls loved it and I have a hard time tossing something that still serves a purpose.
It had three floors and a roof and a working elevator (that hung by a string that hooked into a notch on the side to secure it when it wasn't dismantled by a little one).
Over the years, we've accumulated a fair amount of furniture to go in it, some homemade, some store bought. It's been moved all around and propped up from behind by a huge piece of poster board.
So when Marc saw the new one for sale at Costco, he was sold.
And I'll admit, it didn't take much to talk me into spending $100 for it.
Marc on his knees
We brought the box home and proceeded to build.
Who knew that inside that big box were lots of small pieces made in China?
What looked like a night's work turned into a two-day project that required drilling and math and patience.
The screws were color-coded and the pieces were numbered. The little shutters closed and opened. The chandelier hung from a wooden knob.
The plan followed a logical order.
Never mind that it was a Chinese logic: walls up and roof on first THEN you put in the shutters, the stairs and the doors...when it's impossible to reach them.
It took us not only some time but some bending and stretching that old people shouldn't be doing.
Victory is mine! A happy man
But now we have a 3-story doll house with a working lamp, a player piano and a toilet that makes a flushing sound. It has a winding staircase and a garden plot with a working gate. The new gliding elevator is string-free.
It's a masterpiece and we can't wait for the grandkids to check it out.
We've been playing with it since we finished.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Primary focus

Tis the season for the Primary program and joy spreads throughout Mormondom.
The children are singing. The congregations are swelling and all over the church, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are straining to see their child or grandchild or grandchildren. (Mine always sit behind a tall kid or the organ so I can barely see the top of their heads.)
It's a predictable scenario as normally rambunctious and noisy children are herded into the choir seats with their teachers to keep order and their parents and grandparents fill the pews.
The passing of the sacrament takes forever.
The format is fairly predictable and designed to give every child a speaking part if he or she is old enough to speak.
The littlest ones just sing with their class.
It's generally sweet and pleasant to watch if you're not one of the ones in charge. Then it's high stress trying to wrangle 100 kids or so into an orderly presentation.
And it's regarded as a big pain by the kids old enough to be almost graduated.
I know when I taught this age group the kids in my class were always trying to get out of it. 
This year, we've heard from more than one grandkid who is embarrassed to still be expected to sit on the stand with the rest of the primary. They're too big, they say.
Our grandson just has his ward split so he gets to do the program twice. Once last week in the old ward and again this week in the new ward. He can't believe his terrible luck.
One of our granddaughters had her 12th birthday just days before the program so she was welcomed into the Young Women program in the same meeting where she was expected to sit with her Primary class and sing. She's tall anyway so she feels a bit out of place under ordinary circumstances. Now she feels she has a legitimate right to defect.
So her mom gave her a guilt-free choice. She said, "OK, you can choose whether you sit with your class and say the part you've been practicing for weeks, the part the rest of the primary is depending on you to say or come down and sit with us. I know you'll make the right choice. It's up to you."
What do you think she chose to do?
What would you' a done?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No substitutions please

At the request of a couple of friends of ours, Marc and I attended a VIP performance of the musical "Legally Blonde" recently in Salt Lake.
The cast was energetic, a whole slew of kids destined for the big time someday but meanwhile in a high school especially designed for those with singing, dancing or acting talent.
They didn't want to do the same old thing so they really didn't.
The set was fun.
The music was just plain lively and there were a lot of cute bits.
Our friends who are the directors of this operation (The Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts) had skillfully woven together the talents of about 80 hyper teenagers and put them on a tiny stage to put on a novel and complicated show.
I hadn't seen the touring company version of this show but I knew the Reese Witherspoon airline movie version.
I thought I was prepared.
But, hmmm, I'm not sure this is a show for a backwoodsy Mormon grandmother.
The directors, thankfully, had changed the words that prefaced every sentence and nearly every song with the text letters OMG.
But, you know, the brain still plays out the actual words even if you try to pretend it stands for "Oh, my goodness."
Marc and I kind of sat there in a stunned state, surrounded by the young, the wild and the hip.
The blasphemy never stopped.
Apparently, we are still pretty old-fashioned.
We like to think we keep up but the message and the music and the mockery shocked us. It was all so bold.
Most of the time we were open-mouthed, completely taken aback.
Are we alone in our reaction here?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lunch without me?

We picked up Hannah from her preschool class at 12:30 after her mother and I had enjoyed a relatively stress-free lunch at Kneader's.
Since we only had the baby as opposed to having a usually jabbery 4-year-old and an inquisitive 7-year-old, we were able to finish a few sentences and have some serious adult-type discussion.
That's rare in my daughter's world.
And even though 18-month-old Mia spent most of her time risking death and serious injury by standing up in her high chair and jumping around in circles, it was still peaceful by comparison.
We grabbed a couple of simple sandwiches, shared with Mia and finished in plenty of time to get Hannah before she had to wait or worry.
We were at the preschool door with five minutes to spare and Hannah was delighted to see us.
She climbed in the car and happily told us she had a playdate tomorrow with one of her friends and then asked, "Are we going to Chick-Fil-A for lunch?"
Kari and I looked at each other.
"Oh, sorry," Kari said. "We already had lunch. But we can go home and make you a chocolate sandwich!"
Hannah couldn't believe it.
"You went to Chick-Fil-A without me?" she said incredulously. "You had lunch without me?"
Her eyes were wide and her expression shocked. We had taken her by complete surprise.
Instantly her mother and I were ashamed.
How could we?
What were we thinking?
We had committed the unpardonable sin.
Not only had we left her out of lunch but we had included the baby, her biggest rival for love and food.
Hannah looked as if we had gone to Disneyland without her.
We both tried to soften the blow.
"I'll make you a good lunch at home," Kari promised.
"I'll take you, just you, tomorrow," I said. "And I'll bring you a pink cookie when I pick you up at dance, OK?"
Hannah wasn't convinced. Her lower lip quivered and she looked at Mia as if she suspected the baby had engineered the whole thing.
Who knew we would be in such trouble for going to lunch?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Say cheese

We've been trying to catch this annoying little creature in our garage.
Or at least, Marc's been trying.
I'm in charge of squealing and demanding that he do something.
It's been his job to dig out the traps, load them with cheese and dispose of the little critter(s) if we catch any.
It started a couple of weeks ago when he heard one scrabbling about beneath the sack of black oil sunflower seeds we keep to feed the birds.
He set out a trap and promptly caught one.
Then a few days later he heard more scrabbling and this time, there were four baby mice running about in the box beneath the seed.
That was way too creepy for me.
I made Marc take them far away.
Now we figure there's at least one left, a single parent if you will.
And he/she has been tricky to catch.
Marc has baited the trap a couple of times with peanut butter and/or cheese and both times the mouse has taken the bait and run off with it.
This last time Marc brought the empty trap in to show me there was no mouse and no cheese.
I didn't like that he put it on my kitchen counter. It had been in close proximity to grossness.
I liked it even less when he took the hand with which he'd been holding the trap and plunged it into the sack of cheese to get another bit.
I opened the drawer and pulled out a marker.
Marc looked at me curiously.
"What are you doing?" he asked. "The mouse can't read."
"I know," I said, writing "Poison!" on the bag in big red letters.
"And now, we can't ever use any of this cheese for anything but mice again," I said.
Marc thinks I'm over reacting here because I'm throwing out almost a half pound of perfectly good cheese.
I KNOW we can't ever eat any more of that particular cheese.
Ladies, am I wrong?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Back in the sky again

This is actually a post script to my earlier post.
I HAVE fixed the broken antenna. We can get radio reception once again.
After I hooked it on the garage door and broke it, I looked it up online and found that a new one would cost $45 or so.
I called the dealer and they said, "Oh, sure, bring it right in."
I brought it right in.
That's when the trouble started.
The guys in the service department were impressed with how the thing broke right off at the base, leaving a tiny part of the metal rod inside the mount.
They looked around and found they had an antenna my size in the stock room.
They brought it out and announced that they would put in on for $50.
I tried to understand what they were saying.
"So it's $50 for the part and installation?" I asked.
It's $100. Fifty for the antenna. Fifty to get the little piece out and screw in the new antenna.
Now, I've taken the antenna off and put it back on many times at the car wash. I figured I could do it again.
It might take me a minute to get the broken bit out but how hard could it be?
"Just take some vise-grips and pull it out," the guys said.
I went home a touch miffed.
They are an auto dealer. I bought my Mazda from them and I remember them making all kinds of promises to us when we signed on the dotted line, things like "service with a smile" and "making sure you Drive Happy ever after."
They have the equipment and the know-how to do this stuff.
I, on the other hand, have only everyday pliers and a kitchen chair.
I took on the challenge.
I managed to get the bit out but only after I pinched my finger and slid dangerously on the garage floor cement before I could reach the problem.
As I successfully screwed in the new antenna I reflected.
What took me about 30 minutes would have taken the Mazda guys probably 15 seconds.
I'm an old lady. They're young and strong. They know what they're doing. I do not.
What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Breaking it off

The short of it
I was carefully watching the view in my rearview mirror Tuesday as I backed out of my garage.
Sometimes the neighbors across the street back out at the same time I do and I fear that one day we'll collide mid-street.
I was also raising the garage door at the time when a funny-looking foreign object suddenly flew into my field of vision, dropped onto my windshield and bounced off the hood.
It looked like a wire or a fireplace poker.
I couldn't imagine what had happened so I stopped and got out to retrieve whatever it was.
My rear antenna.
I was holding my car's rear antenna in my hand. How could that be?
I looked back and where the antenna is usually seated on the car roof was short one antenna.
(I've often crawled up on the door ledge to unscrew and rescrew it in place when I go through the car wash so fairly quickly I understood what had happened.)
Apparently, I backed out too quickly and caught the edge of the antenna on the garage door as it raised — something I couldn't do again if I tried.
It then snapped off and flew forward.
Now I have to figure out how to fix it. (According to a quick Internet search, it'll take a minimum of $45 for a new one IF they can get the bottom part out of the mount.)
The funny thing was telling Marc about it.
I waited until the presidential election was going in favor of his candidate to bring it up.
"Umm," I said, tapping him lightly on his head. "Today when I was backing out of the garage..."
Marc started and sucked in a breath.
The missing piece
"I had a problem that will probably cost us around $100 to fix."
He looked alarmed. I had his full attention.
I produced the broken antenna and showed him the damage.
He started to laugh as relief clearly poured over him.
I thought he was going to say, "At least no one was hurt" or "But the car's all right?"
Instead he said, "Great! Good! It wasn't my fault!"
He went on as I stood there confused.
"I thought you were going to tell me I had done something bad!"
OK. I guess in this case, my husband's paranoia and fear of me works in my favor, huh?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Save time, stand in line early

My husband just phoned to say he was going to be late to work.
I insisted he go along to vote this morning BEFORE work rather than AFTER work because I have a meeting I need him to attend for me tonight.
Marc is irritated because the lines were long and there was a huge bottleneck – not so much because it's election day and time's up but because someone in their infinite wisdom consolidated districts so although there were plenty of polling stations, there was only one book listing the registered voters.
That made him mad.
And judging by the long, long, lines I'm seeing on television that snake around school buildings and have lots of frustrated voters standing around, it's pretty much the same all over Utah.
So my question is why bother with the early voting?
If it doesn't make it any easier on the actual day, why take up people's time and space to open early voting times?
I actually voted early.
In fact, I went on the first day in the first hour and stood in, about 90 minutes.
I went to the American Fork Library where the voting took place in a community room just off the main foyer.
It was kind of sad because people would come in the front door, see the foyer with only a few people visibly in line and think they were home free.
Then you watched their faces fall as they came further in and found the line winding round and round the rotunda area like a Disneyland line.
The library staff were kind enough to put chairs here and there for the oldsters among us who couldn't take the long stand.
I worked my way through and got away in enough time to pick my granddaughter up from piano -- two hours after I started -- so I was fine.
I calmly stated my name because I was registered, picked up my credit-like card, entered it in the right place and marked my votes. Then I  was on my way. (A lot of other seniors like me couldn't figure out the card thing...It took them longer.)
And I've actually been pleased with myself for the past two weeks because I didn't have to worry about it. (I'm also happy I don't have to cover elections this year and, thank the Lord, the campaign ads will now stop!)
Marc likes to wait and so now, he's sorry but not very because let's see, by voting early I only saved myself, what, 30 minutes?
Is there possibly a better way?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Whining wipers

A wintry tale
I should not have been surprised, should I?
The windshield wipers on my Mazda 3 started to whine and screetch during the first storm after I had my windshield replaced.
They'd not done that before so when the guy asked me if I wanted to replace my old wipers with new ones at the same time that I replaced the windshield, to "protect it from scratches," I turned him down.
I said "No, thank you. They're good."
I like to think I'm savvy.
I figured it was just a way for them to make a $20 upsale and I was already smarting from the replacement costs.
But, at the first sign of snow and rain the other night, I regretted my thrifty decision.
The wipers howled and annoyed me as they tried to keep up with the snow falling all the way from my home to Eagle Mountain.
It got so bad I just shut them off and took my chances at peering through the snowy glass.
I went back to the windshield store and told them I was wrong, wrong, wrong and would they take my $20 and give me new blades?
They agreed to do so.
After about 20 minutes and an exchange of cash, I was ready to be on my way.
But I couldn't resist asking the guy: "Why would blades that had been working perfectly well suddenly start to be such a problem? Is the shape of the new windshield different?"
(I'm wondering if maybe a repair person bent them when he was replacing the glass?)
"Oh," he said, taking off his glasses and looking closely at the invoice.
"It happens quite a bit. You have this new, clean glass and the wipers are used to working on the old, rough glass. That causes some noise."
I must have looked skeptical because he continued.
"And, you know, in Utah, because of all the snow and cold and the salt we put on the roads, wipers only last about six months, anyway."
Or about two days if you turn the dealer down at the time of the replacement, right?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Candy man can

Judging the amount of candy you're going to need for Halloween is a dark art.
It's always iffy and scary.
Yesterday, I got a frantic call from my daughter who had three little monsters to dress for Trick-or-Treating at school and in the neighborhood and at various events and couldn't get to the store.
She was afraid she'd run out of candy so she wanted me to pick up some more.
No problem except I'd just finished my own last-minute run even though I thought I'd bought plenty early on.
I panicked mid-afternoon.
I had these visions of hordes of little spooks coming to the door and finding an empty bowl. I saw myself combing the cupboards for a forgotten sweet, maybe a stale cooky.
So off I went to Walmart to buy two more bags, telling myself I could always save it and use it for Christmas stockings if I bought carefully.
Then, for Kari, I headed to Costco for a great BIG bag of candy.
Both times, I was extraordinarily nervous on the drive over.
I imagined everybody in town doing the same thing and everybody fighting over one last bag.
My heart beat fast and I hurried in, glancing suspiciously at the people on all sides of me. I hustled.
There! The prize!
I grabbed my sugar-loaded treats and headed for the check-out counter.
I was going to be all right.
Later, when the doorbell began to ring I was a little miserly. I gave each ghoul and witch and zombie one Tootsie Roll, one Hershey's snack-size bar, one sucker.
Marc, on the other hand, was generous.
He liberally handed over several sweets at a time.
"What are you doing?" I gasped as the candy level dropped rapidly.
"Oh, they're so cute," he said.
"One, just one!" I said. "I don't want to run out."
So it is now that Halloween's over and I have about four bags of candy left.
It's way too much to have about when there's a sweet-tooth grandma loose in the house.
And I can't save it for next year because it'll get old and it'll never be enough. I just know it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marc the Clown

Would you trust this man with your little Trick-or-Treaters?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Subaru from the depths

I know it's rather shallow to think about oneself in the midst of great human tragedy.
I know the people on the East Coast being pummeled by Hurricane Superstorm Sandy are suffering and will be rebuilding their lives for months ahead. They're losing homes and businesses and, in some cases, their lives.
So I'm not making light of their situation.
However, I can't help but wonder as I watch the pictures of streets turned to rivers and cars swallowed by high water, how many of those cars might end up like the Subaru from Hell that we once owned?
How many water-logged vehicles will be resold to suckers like we were?
When we bought the Subaru, it was a nice looking car, kind of a pink silvery station wagon.
We bought it used at a time when we had to really watch our pennies and we needed a reliable vehicle that could carry lots of kids around.
It worked just fine for a little while but then various, expensive parts started to break.
It was one thing after another until it got so I started to sweat every time we took it in for a repair.
No matter what we did, it was another $500 or $1000 to fix the problem.
We were replacing all kinds of rods and struts and wires until the bills finally got to be too much for us.
When the pile reached more than $6,000, we caved.
Even though I needed a car to do my reporting job at The Daily Herald,  we sold the Subaru and I began riding the bus in and out of Provo to work.
It was about a year later that we realized the car had been one of those dumped off the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco during a weather disaster.
It had been at the bottom of the bay long enough for the salt water to eat away at the undercarriage and somehow we had been lucky enough to have bought it after it had dried out and put back on the market.
I forget the details but I remember the pain.
It was a dreadful time.
So as I watch the footage from Sandy, I can't help but anybody out there going to get stung with the same kind of fraudulence?
Are there laws in place now to protect people from underwater sales?
I hope so. If not, buyer beware and check for leaks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The girl in our neighborhood

A friend of mine in the neighborhood is running for the Mrs. Utah America title and I think she has a good chance. She's motivated, gorgeous and smart. (She's also the surviving mother of busy twin boys so you know she's strong of heart and mind.) Here's the press release I just wrote for her. Take note of the date and opportunity...

AMERICAN FORK — Kirsty Stalder, wife, mother of five and the current Mrs. Utah Valley, is preparing to compete for the Mrs. Utah America title this next June.

To do that, she needs funding to pay for the costs involved which include travel expenses, workshop and entrance fees along with wardrobe acquisition. (Entrance fees alone add up to nearly $1400.)

To defray those expenses, Culver's Restaurant at 1374 E. Main in Lehi (just west of Texas Roadhouse), is offering to donate 10 percent of the evening's profits for Nov. 7 from 5-8 p.m. to Stalder.

In addition, those who join a texting club in Stalder's behalf will receive a free custard and an additional dollar will be donated to Stalder. (Specific texting information available at Culver's that evening.)

Stalder is 35, a former runner-up to Miss Teen Montana and a current resident of American Fork, where she lives with her husband Steve and her five children;  Savannah, Cora, Owen and twin sons, Dawson and Marshall.

Her pageant platform is focused on community involvement and Stalder's dedication to making local families aware of the opportunities and activities going on all around them.

"That's it. That's what I'm passionate about," Stalder (who recently moved back to Utah from Connecticut) said. "My goal is to make people aware of what's available here. We have been amazed. There's always something to do."

Stalder will compete June 21-22, 2013 at Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden in evening gown, swimsuit and interview segments before a panel of expert judges.

The winner will represent the state at civic and community functions as well as go on to compete for the Mrs. America title in Arizona.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An electric shock

I figured it would be a simple fix, hardly worth an electrician's time.
So that meant it would also be cheap, right?
We only had a few electrical outlets that were not operating at full power and needed to be fixed.
The bottom half of all the ones in the kitchen and a couple in the family room didn't work.
I always had to be sure to plug things into the top half if I wanted my vacuum to go, my glue gun to get hot or my mixer to mix.
Once we switched to a phone that needed a constant power supply, it became a bother to only have essentially one working plug on the kitchen counter.
I kept having to move the crockpot or the mixer or the wok to another counter or have the phone start to blink desperately as it lost power.
So I called a guy who handed out little magnets with his name and phone number on them at the parade.
I told him I needed some minor electrical work done and guesstimated it would run me maybe $100 for his time and trouble?
(I also wanted to be sure the problems weren't going to end up being something serious that might burn the house down.)
The appointment was made. I was told it was $40 for him to just come and look.
The man came.
He looked around as I told him my story.
"How old is your house?" he asked.
I didn't see why that mattered but I told him 23 years.
"That explains it," he said and proceeded to point out that my outlets were worn out. They simply couldn't hold a plug any longer and it was only going to get worse.
He suggested replacing all of the half bad ones — for $50 a piece.
Oh yeah, and the code changed the year after our home was built so we needed a GFI outlet on the counter to protect ourselves and others from a painful death in case of a short-out. That would be $99.
So now, $300 later, we have all new outlets in our kitchen and family room.
I can go around choosing a place to plug in and get power from any one of them.
It's a trip. I love it. The future looks brighter.
I just didn't realize it was something I should have worked into the operating budget a while ago.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chatting with the man

It's come to my attention that perhaps I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Osmond fan.
When I was chatting with Donny on the phone the other day, I realized I know a LOT about these people.
I have their books, their CDs, even a movie from way back when, something about Coconuts.
So when I was talking with Donny I told him we ought to keep up this "every six months" pattern of phone calls and interviews.
He said he's on his 8th or 9th career and has no intention of stopping anytime soon so we will probably visit again, especially since he's going to be celebrating his 50th year in show business this next year along with all kinds of other anniversaries as well: his 40th anniversary of "Puppy Love," his 60th album...the list goes on.
He also told me he's updated the Las Vegas show so I'll have to come see it all over again. Such a sacrifice, don't you think?
Over the years, I've watched and written about the various Osmonds as their careers took off,  they made money, lost money, came back to life and took off again.
I've discussed porcelain dolls with Marie and books with Merrill and Jay.
We bought tickets to "Donny and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" when it came to Salt Lake City.
We watched "Dancing With the Stars" for weeks when Donny and then Marie competed. (Donny won, he's quick to point out again and again.)
I attended the funeral for Mother Osmond and talked with Wayne and Alan and Jimmy about various projects, concerts and the Stadium of Fire.
Currently I'm listening nonstop to their latest CD — produced by Jimmy but featuring the family in one track or another —in the car and in the house.
I'm planning on attending the Christmas concert at Abravanel Hall in December and making plans to get back to Vegas.
And yet, I've never considered myself an Osmond groupee...
Do you think I'm in denial?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Too much protection

I've been trying to order Christmas gifts for my son, his wife and our grandson who live in England.
Since it takes a while to get across the ocean, I usually try to order them early enough that they arrive safe and sound in plenty of time. (And since one is an Advent calendar, it has to be there by or before Dec. 1, don't you think?)
I logged onto the other day and proceeded to make my choices.
I thought I was merely putting my selections in my cart when all of a sudden my screen told me my order was underway.
I hesitated because it was a little earlier than I planned and Marc hadn't had a chance to approve my choice of calendar for Jack.
But what the hey, I decided it was fine.
I clicked along, filling out gift cards with Christmas messages and choosing from the options.
I decided to try and see if my new Amazon credit card would work for the UK site since I had some credit there. It didn't.
I went back and changed the delivery mode to Super Saver.
I tried to see what the charge would be in U.S. dollars rather than pounds.
By the time I was finished, I had made about four changes.
I sent off the order only to hear the phone start ringing.
My credit union fraud department was alarmed that multiple charges were being made against my local debit account.
I told them the first charge of about $60 was fine but I didn't understand why there were several $1 charges after that.
So like a dummy — albeit a cautious dummy — I told them to deny the small charges.
Like good fraud agents, they told me my card would now be blocked and to reinstate it I would now have to travel down to the credit union office to get a new one.
I didn't want that. I had serious shopping to do later at Wal-Mart.
I called back to talk with the people who first called about the "fraud."
They told me to call the credit union which I did.
They told me to call VISA which I did.
Several conversations later, somebody said all was well and the card was now unblocked.
But can't get the charges to go through. They keep retrying with no success.
So finally, I cancelled the transaction just to clear the cyber space.
I'll try it again in a week or so but on a different card.
In the meantime, I guess I appreciate the credit union being so vigilant. They may have saved me $3.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Four feet away

I learned a lot this year at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, some of which I'd just as soon not know but it's there in my aged brain anyway.
For instance, one storyteller was sharing his adventures with bugs and such and told us that anywhere we are in the world at anytime, a spider is no more than four feet away.
I don't remember the point of his story or the punchline but that fact lives with me.
I look around now at wherever I am sitting or lying or standing and try to find the spider before he finds me.
I have to mentally shut that information out when I'm trying to go to sleep at night. (Marc will tell you I already have a certain phobia about creepy crawlies in the sheets.)
I think the storyteller must certainly be wrong. I need to check out his sources of information.
How can there be a spider everywhere?
We also learned about noodling catfish, the joys and the dangers of shoving your arm into a hole at the bottom of a pond and bringing it out with a catfish hanging onto it.
We heard about the kind of mosaic art you can make from dried carrots and peas that have been hidden in an aluminum table leg for many years.
We learned that it's a good thing to just go ahead and hope for the best in any situation because "Ya never know what might happen!"
We learned how dogs...otherwise known as "Dee Oh Gees" evolved from wolf pups to help save mankind.
There was all sorts of new stuff to think about.
I just don't want to dwell much on the spider thing. It's probably poppycock, right?
Although...there's one right now, working his way across my computer table.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Grandma's no-tea Tea Party







I may have to change the name of my annual summer party for my grand-daughters.
"Grandma's Tea Party" suggest we're having tea when in fact it's frappe served with cut-out raspberry and cream cheese finger sandwiches, fruit kabobs, Lindt chocolates and Cake Bites from the Sweet Tooth Fairy.
We dine on fine cut-crystal plastic plates and sip from our Zurcher's plastic snifters.
We get all gussied up with makeup, tattoos and hairdos and nail polish to match our party dresses.
The tattoos are glittery colors in fun shapes and designs and will wash off in the bathtub.
I'm still sporting mine. I like how it sparkles on my arm.
We had to assure one 7-year-old that she wasn't going against the prophet with one of these tattoos. (Even then, we had to call her mother to get the OK.)
Kari the tattoo queen
Laura doing Alyson's nails
The girls each got their nails done by Laura, our resident professional expert, and their hair done by Kristy and 12-year-old Samantha who has been practicing fancy braiding for the past year.
Austyn who wouldn't pose later
They got a chance to get made up by Bonnie who's handy with the eyeliner, the lip gloss, the body glitter and the blush. (Again, we ran up against some concerns when a couple of grandkids previously deemed too young for makeup were able to show off their new look to mom with a "See? It looks fine, right?")
Shannan doing purses
We had an interesting three hours as this collection of 14 girls from ages 4-15 tried on new looks, new persona and interacted with cousins they don't see on a regular basis. (Since Marc and I have a blended family, we have children on both sides who are always discovering a new cousin or two. At one point in the clapping game, 7-year-old Malia looked at the girls next to her and said, "I can't know their names!")
Grandpa took some fine portraits and I think everyone went home happy with their new purses and beauty products and sophisticated faces.
Hannah after
Hannah before
I just hope they all realize they were all as beautiful and cute when they arrived as they were when they left.