Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Amy gets around

Amy in Delilah, in the center with boots
So I'm sitting in the audience at the Victory Hall Theatre in Spring City watching the story of the Clarion colony, a story of Jewish families who came to Utah for a better life and tried for just under three years to make it work in Utah's desert climate.
I'm trying to figure out why the one girl in the chorus of seven looks familiar?
And why does the accordion player look like someone I should know?
I know why Marvin Payne strikes a familiar note.
He's been around nearly as long as Marc and I, living in Alpine trying to eke out a living making music.
Marvin Payne
He's up there singing the songs whilst his talented son, Sam, comes in and out of the band with catchy tunes and funny lyrics.
I figured out that I did a feature story on Janet Todd, the accordion player, when she played for the annual Swiss Days Festival in Midway.
But this girl seemed a little out of place in a calico skit and a homespun, woolish shawl.
Her face was pretty and her eyes were a really nice blue.
She looked kind of like Amy Whitcomb who sang this season with the all-female group "Delilah" on NBC's the sing-off show, a group brought back and put together from earlier seasons, handpicked for their talents.
I covered the shows for the Deseret News and followed Vocal Point and Delilah because they had Mormon vocalists and because they were really fun to watch.
Amy was the lead singer in Delilah with a powerful voice and a gift for showmanship.
I interviewed her just after they came in as the "almost" winners.
I knew she had a lot of engagements and offers to perform in exotic places like China and New York City.
Amy wondering about the trip
She clearly is headed for big things.
So why would she be on a tiny stage in a small Utah town singing about drought and hailstorms?
How would Clive Romney — the force behind Story Road Utah — get her to sign on for such a simple gig?
Amy as a Jewish daughter
"I took a class from Clive at BYU," Amy told me later. "I owed him one."
So it really was Amy.
She was happy to be there and she did well.
But I doubt very many people in the audience realized who they were seeing sing.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Value those class reunions

Years ago, there were 13 of us who hung out together.
We did the sleepover bit. We had parties and social time.
We even took at least one picture together.
Now, more than 40 years after graduation, 43 to be exact, we're trying to remember who the 13 were and where they all are today.
We know some of the gang but we've lost several.
To be fair, we've been busy.
We're all mothers and grandmothers now. One of us has 63 grandchildren.
The way we were
We're trying to get together because Margo Parker McLea has terminal lung cancer and it just feels like we ought to gather and go out to Oklahoma to say a decent goodbye. (I suppose we could all go to her funeral in a couple of months but what's the good in that?)
We're aiming for the third week in June so we can see her while she's still feeling like herself and can benefit from a mass visit.
And you'd think with Facebook and Twitter and cell phones and Skype we could find everyone in the group.
But first we have to remember who was in the group...
I came up with 16 names the first time around.
Another friend reminded me we had several guys who were of the group but not in the group so we need to include them.
We have to figure out the married names that go with the names we used in high school.
We seem to be pretty much scattered across America so the only thing we really know for sure is everybody went to Bonneville High School in Idaho Falls and graduated in 1969.
After that it gets kinda fuzzy.
We've found Christi Byrd Williams, Paula Hall Brown, Karen Duncan Schellenberg, Annette Wirkus Scott, Jann Miskin Sommers, Doug Knapp, Chuck Sheen, Gael Nield and me.
We're missing Chris Flora Maddox, Robyn Johnson Love, Fran Bybee Sweeney, Shauna Erb ??, Marva Judd Williams, Linda Blake ??, and Sheryl Schwantes.
Anyone out there who can help?

Thursday, May 24, 2012


There were a number of things I expected from the Utah Cultural Arts Heritage FAM Tour: spectacular sights, good food and miles of sitting on a motor coach.
But what I didn't expect were several surprises like finding Amy Whitcomb of "Delilah" fame on the stage in Spring City, meeting a 92-year-old step-on guide who only knows four chords but can still sit in with a back-of-the-bus band and hold his own.
I've heard old Mormon stories that I thought I knew told with some interesting variations and new facts. Did you know the settlers in Parowan walked over the deep snow by tossing quilts ahead of them to keep them from falling through?
Were you aware that Butch Cassidy has reportedly been buried or sighted in nearly every town from  here to Bolivia?
And did you know the sprinklers in the new garden park across from the Manti temple are timed to come on just as you get a whole bunch of reporters and tourists seated in the amphitheater?
There's that and more.
I can hardly wait to get home to a reliable WiFi and get to writing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Heading south and north

When the offer first arrived, I laughed.
Four days on a bus through southern Utah?
I like my freedom and my grandkids and my comfortable bed.
I like my husband and spending the evenings with him.
So why would I want to sign myself over to strangers who will tell me where to be and when?
But the offer was a good one.
The Utah Office of Tourism would pay for everything and take me to all kinds of places that would offer up story ideas.
I could coast along on their dime and see the canyons, the tiny towns and Indian petroglyphs.
I decided I would join them for one Manti.
Then I got to looking at the agenda for Tuesday...hmmm, historic Panguitch?
That's where my father grew up and I had no idea the town has an historic district...that'd be worth seeing what they came up with.
Then I realized if I stayed through till Thursday, I could interview a guy who's retiring from the Springville Art Musuem on my way back.
That left Monday.
Originally, Marc was going to drive me all the way down to St. George to catch up with the bus. (That seemed a better option than me driving down and leaving a car.)
Then I got the marching orders and it seems the bus would be leaving Monday morning from Salt Lake. That's much more gas-efficient to meet the bus at the Rio Grande Depot 40 miles from home than to drive down to St. George and back for nothing.
So tomorrow I join the happy troupe.
I've gone from "No, thank you," to "Ready or not, here I come!"
Wish me luck.

Friday, May 18, 2012

That flat tyre

Remember that flattened English tyre I told you about a while ago?
It split when we hit the curb on one of the first roundabouts we navigated on our way from Gatwick airport.
Then we had to have this handyman change it out for a baby tyre, lead us into the tiny town of Bagshot and get a new Michelin tyre delivered from Reading.
I've been waiting for the bill to catch up with us and on Monday it did.
We got this polite letter from the Enterprise rental people in Horley.
They want to know if we are OK with them billing us 126 pounds or the equivalent of $200 US dollars through our American Express card.
A sad sight
Marc remembered that American Express brags about covering collisions and such for the traveler so we decided to see if they would help us out.
I went online and checked it out. They have a claims website and everything.
Then I called to make sure their offer included international rentals. The nice girl told me to go ahead and toss in my claim and see what their underwriter would do.
I gathered up my papers: my rental agreement, my American Express credit card, the ticket from the handyman, the receipt from the tyre shop and the letter asking for payment.
I signed on and after about an hour, I was finished.
(I had to fetch my car owner's insurance information as well and answer dozens of questions: What time was the incident? Where were we at the time? How much collision and damage coverage did we have with State Farm?)
It seemed silly to me that they wanted our personal car insurance information.
Why would that enter into the equation?
Did they want to see if we routinely ran into curbs or what?
I did my best with the questions -- trying to guess what they meant when they wanted an authorization number and an incident number and a car VIN that doesn't resemble what we generally regard as a VIN number.
I marked the little diagram with the area of the damage even though the picture didn't take into account that the driver's side in England is on what we see as the passenger side.
Yesterday I got an answer.
Since we have a $500 deductible with State Farm, the insurer feels no obligation to reimburse us for the lesser amount of $200.
"Thanks for using American Express," they said.
Hrumph. I don't see how that's offering anything.
They can take the credit for our self insurance and seldom have to pay out.
I always wondered about how they could afford to insure rental cars all over the world and stay afloat.
Now I know.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breaking out

Over the years, there's been a remarkable amount of breakage in the relationship between Marc and me.
I tend to aggravate him and he tends to respond with brute strength so he's often breaking or shattering things.
Before we were married, he threw a set of keys into the snow that bounced back and destroyed a headlight on his car.
He once slammed a door at the newspaper office so hard that the glass inset completely shattered.
Currently we have a louvered pantry door that won't shut because he closed it hard and it fell onto the floor.
He has more power in his punch than he realizes so when he pounds his fist on a table or a countertop, things fly into the air.
When he slams a car door, it shakes the whole car.
That's the mad part.
Then there's the — um, part where he just drops or fails to set something carefully enough on a ledge or hard surface.
Or he forgets where he put it entirely.
From the dropping we have mismatched glasses, vases and candy dishes.
From the absentmindedness, we have lost Bose earphones and we're missing belts for our bike rack. He can never find a hammer or a tape measure.
He never means to break or lose stuff. It just keeps happening to him.
So when he came upstairs the other morning with this woebegone look, I recognized it was something serious.
He presented me with his new iPad — all wrapped in its $40 protective cover and $30 screen protector but now, in the corner was a spiderweb of fractures.
Across the screen were a couple of hairline cracks.
"I dropped it on the tiles in the bathroom," he said sadly. "I'm sick about it."
So was I. Were my Angry Birds game-playing days over?
We turned it on. The screen looked pretty much the same and all the little icons for the various and beloved apps were still there.
It was going to be OK.
It'll only be $150 or so to replace the glass and we'll do that in a while.
Marc is sorry and he didn't do it on purpose or in a fit of rage so I can't be too mad for too long.
Besides, when he reads this and realizes I've now told the world about his temper, he'll probably break up with me unless I agree to the repair.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day musings

This Mother's Day was a good one despite the fact that I could see it coming from a ways off.
I started worrying about it in January, I think.
And it's not just me, Mother's Day is fairly universally dreaded because we mothers really hate a fuss. It's SO much simpler to disappear into the woodwork with soap and a dishtowel.
It's hard on us to stand in the spotlight, especially if we're expected to stand still.
I think we moms get so used to having four or five or 10 things to do all the time that when you switch us to the "off" button, it throws our systems out of whack.
It's hard to be pampered.
It's also hard to watch our husbands and children take over sacred space like the kitchen and the cupboards. (I find things in the wrong place for weeks.)
This year, Marc worked really hard to make the day nice.
He organized the main meal with the sons-in-law and all the little children came over with their parents.
We had Honey-baked ham and scalloped potatoes, cinnamon cookies and a Thai dessert, all delicious and appreciated.
But I kept bugging Marc with the tough questions:
What are we drinking?
Where do you want everybody to sit?
Don't you think you ought to work with a recipe you've used before?
Why are you doing this that way?
I was banished to my room for a while but it all worked out and I got in a lot of Angry Birds' time but I got to thinking.
No matter what the loving hubbies and hard-working dads do, it's the kids who make the day work.
They bring the gifts that count: the crayon drawings, the Primary songs, the tissue-paper flowers, the macaroni jewelry, the nearly dead plants, the handmade paper purse, the sticky hugs, the dandelion from the backyard.
I wouldn't have missed any of those.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Truly American Hot Dog Goulash

The necessary ingredients
I wanted to make dinner one night in England.
Since my daughter-in-law Helen was working overtime to feed us breakfast, lunch, picnics and dinner, it seemed only fair to try and give her a night off.
My first choice was a Sticky Chicken dish one of my stepdaughters introduced at a family gathering. It required only three main ingredients in addition to the rice and chicken so it seemed a good choice.
I checked in with my son: "Have you any Catalina dressing in England?"
"How about apricot marmalade?"
"Maybe, if it's called jam."
"What about Lipton's Dry Onion Soup Mix?"
An All-American supper
At this point, Derek broke out laughing. "Mom, they've never heard of that over here."
I changed plan.
Derek wanted me to make Hot Dog Goulash, a fairly pedestrian dish but a favorite of his when he was a child.
How hard could that be?
The finished dish
I only needed hot dogs, tomato sauce and Krinkley noodles and maybe a little parsley.
I proceeded to look for these things at the local supermart starting with hot dogs. I didn't really think I could find Oscar Mayer all beef hot dogs and Hunt's tomato sauce but I figure I could come close.
However, when Helen headed away from the meat section to the canned goods, I wavered.
"Here!" she exclaimed in triumph, plucking a tall can from the shelf.
I was looking at a can of what appeared to be long, thin Vienna sausages packed in water.
Gulp. "OK," I said, "You're sure you don't have them in little plastic packages of 10 to a package?"
No, they didn't.
Then we started looking for tomato sauce.
They had a tomato puree, tomato soup, tomato pastes, smashed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomatoes with chilies, everything but tomato sauce.
We settled for a box of tomato puree that Helen promised would be almost just like tomato sauce.
We found noodles that were kinda wavy as opposed to Krinkley noodles.
We headed home and I began to cook.
I chopped up the hot dogs, fried them in a little vegetable oil. I boiled the noodles and added them to the hot dogs, poured on some of the puree and added a little water.
It turned out fine.
Jack, as most little kids to, picked out the hot dogs first until his mother insisted he eat some noodles too.
So it was a successful venture but when I got home to America, one of the first meals I made was good old-fashioned Hot Dog Goulash with American ingredients.
It was delicious. Who knew it was a delicacy?

Broken boy's bones

Pictures borrowed from Adrienne's blog
Max has had a run of bad luck where his bones are concerned.
He's had three mishaps with the same leg, same place and still keeps on trucking.
First his dad was carefully taking him down the stairs and fell with him, bruising both his dad and Max's ankle.
Then he fell over running around the house and broke the same ankle. (It took a while for his parents to notice and get him to a doctor because he's an active boy and the fall was no biggie. Who knew you could break a bone just slipping on the wood floor?)
Now he's fallen over on his bike onto the cement and rebroken the leg again and anew. (You'd think the new mend would be stronger and harder to break, huh?)
He's fairly philosophical for such a lucky boy.
He knows he has to put up with about six weeks of working with a cast and crutches before he's good to go again.
He isn't a complainer but then again, he's only 6 and he lives in a house with the bedrooms up a steep flight of stairs so this may not be the last cast.
He has a cheerful outlook and he'll show you his cool, blue cast anytime.
It's just a bit hard on his parents both to see him hurt and to have to lug him around from place to place. It's also making it tough to finish the school year.
I told his mother she ought to keep a collection of his boots and casts to put in a pile at his mission farewell as a testament to exuberant living.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The phantom English bunnies

Marc's been vindicated.
A few years ago, as we whizzed through England on our way to France, he looked out the train window and said he saw little English bunnies sitting on the fencelines.
He described them as fat, little bunnies sitting on their haunches at every post.
He told me to watch for them.
I did.
And I never saw any English bunnies.
I saw cows and sheep and the occasional goat.
I saw lots of rolling, green countryside and picturesque country farms but no bunnies.
It became kind of a running joke between he and I. Whenever I couldn't immediately see what he was seeing or talking about, I'd cleverly tell him it was "just like the English bunnies?"
I never tired of teasing him about it.
He, of course, never really saw the humor in my attitude.
He was slightly offended that I doubted his word.
I just figured he'd seen a bush or a small rock that looked like a bunny shape.
Even on this last trip, we had gone bunny-less for most of the trip until...we were on the train from London to Gatwick.
Just as we began to pull into the outskirts of the town, I noticed these dark bumps in the fields.
One of them sort of hopped over to another one.
They were bunnies! Glossy, brown bunnies who sat back on their haunches and watched the train go by.
They were everywhere, by the fence, back from the fence, under the trees.
It was amazing and I'm left wondering: How did Marc arrange that?

Monday, May 7, 2012

The goat who waved goodbye

Marc and I have seen "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" many times over the years.
He's been in the cast several times as Jacob and we've been to productions in Provo, Lehi, American Fork and Pickleville.
Every one has been fun but the one we saw Saturday night was the topper.
Marc's daughter Erin and our 6-year-old granddaughter Ellie were the stars — at least as far as we were concerned. The Smithfield LDS North Stake put it on, listing it on the program as an "amateur production of" but it was anything but amateur.
The cast was well chosen and well directed (Erin had five different roles from an Ishmaelite to the wife of Simeon to a member of the Pharaoh's court. Ellie was the goat). The songs were crisp and delivered with energy. The costumes were great (trucked in from Nevada, apparently) and the lighting and sound were professionally done.
Four months of rehearsal and significant investment from the LDS stake were obvious.
Ellie the goat
As they sang and danced and waved and disappeared (Ellie was a most accommodating goat. She ran out dressed all in white, let the brothers lift her high in the air and disappeared with a smile and a wave!), we exulted in the music and the warmth and the magic of theater.
The brothers and the wives and the guards and the children in the chorus (again, Ellie was waving!) were having a great time and sharing that with us.
Erin on the Pharaoh's left fighting for love
The "LDS" accents were hilarious as Jacob sat reading the latest issue of the Ensign and the brothers passed out Twinkies from their food sacks. (Joseph wore considerably more than a loincloth and his wife and kids joined him in the finale.)
It was fun to see Erin — who spends most of her days chasing Ellie and busy two-year-old twin boys — get out and literally kick up her heels.
She shone in the spotlight even when she had to hold her arms up in an Egyptian pose for what must have seemed like hours and when she shuffled away as a grubby Ishmaelite in dreadlocks.
It started as an opportunity for mother and daughter to share something worthwhile together but Erin has told her father she got caught up in the rush that comes from performing. She told him she now understands what compels him to keep heading to the stage.
The wives with Erin on the far right
She confessed that during those last days, it was all she could think about, all that mattered.
Ellie liked being the only child who got to go under the stage!
Look out world.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Getting Hacked

I thought the lady on the other end of the line was talking about our recent spending adventures in England.
She said she was calling about some unusual activity on our Visa debit card.
When I told her I was pretty sure everything was fine, not to worry about us, she paused.
"No," she said. "We have a vendor whose accounts were hacked and your card was used there. We're closing access to your card."
"Oh," that was different.
I stopped talking and listened.
She said I could come in to my nearby credit union office and get a new card right away.
So I joined a long line of credit union customers this afternoon who were coming for new cards.
We had to wait for a loan officer who proceeded to take our old cards, verify who we were and get a shiny new card from the machine behind the counter.
(I got one with a BYU cougar on the front, just for kicks.)
I asked her how many people were affected by this particular fraud.
"At this point, we know of about 500," she said.
That limits the possibilities for which vendor had problems.
I'm pretty sure the regular places where I use my debit card have more than 500 customers: the grocery store, the department store, Hobby Lobby, IFA and Wal-Mart.
That leaves an appliance repairman and a guy who was selling purses in a flea market.
Hmmm. Which one would you suspect?
Not that he was doing anything wrong — he, for sure, was harmed by this crime — but it makes one nervous when a credit card is recalled.
It makes the whole system suspect.
It makes me think cash might be a better answer.
And now, I have a whole year or so ahead of me where I'll go shopping online or to a place I only rarely go and my former card number won't work.
But it won't work for the hacker either.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Copping out

Policemen like Marc.
Instead of arresting him for bad behavior or giving him tickets for speeding, they just wave and beep at him and go their way.
Yesterday it happened again.
We were coming down the road that I drive often on my way to our granddaughter's, a road notorious for cops who like to give tickets.
Marc was driving his usual 5-15 miles over the speed limit when the policeman coming our way started flashing his lights.
I figured we were done for when the officer put his hand out the window and made a pushing kind of motion to get Marc to slow down (which he did).
Marc was relieved and toed the line for the next little while.
I was relieved too because a $100 fine would be bad for the household budget.
But I was also fairly ticked.
Why? Why? Why does he get away with this and I don't?
This is the third time in a row that he's been let off the hook while I get the tickets, the points and the opportunity to attend traffic school.
(We were stopped on our way to the Mt.Timpanogos Temple for going over the 25 mph limit and the policeman simply said, "Don't let it happen again. Enjoy your session.")
(We were speeding home from St. George and passing a patrol car when the trooper whooped his siren to encourage Marc to back it off.)
I do not understand what is happening here.
I drive around trying to keep my eyes open for cops. I even try to drive the speed limit although cars behind me get mad and sometimes speed around me in serious frustration.
I know where the trouble spots are and I religiously obey the traffic laws.
I stop at stop signs. I don't go through red lights. I don't tailgate and I generally avoid running over pedestrians and into parked cars.
Marc, meanwhile, cuts the corners, drives 80-85 mph on the freeway, misses an occasional stop sign and runs through yellow lights that are suspiciously reddish.
He gets away scot-free.
I get busted.
Where's the justice? And what's his secret?