Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Paintin' Place

My daughter is living a life under wraps these days.
While her husband toils away trying to paint the whole house, she and the kids are living with furniture covered with tarps and disarray and frustration.
Painting, for some reason, is never as easy as it appears it should be.
You look at these wide open walls and think, "How hard can it be?"
You imagine a roller going up and down and leaving a lovely look behind.
You go to the hardware store and look at the pretty little chips and clean brushes and it really sells itself as a doable task.
Then you realize, before even opening a bucket, that there's a good deal of prep required.
Holes must be spackled and cracks must be filled in.
Outlet covers have to come off and lights must come down.
Every picture on the wall has to be taken off and stored somewhere during the process. Curtains have to come down. Every piece of furniture has to move away from the walls.
The ladder becomes a central piece of interior decoration.
If you're living in the space to be painted, it's like living in a cardboard box on the freeway.
Nothing feels pulled together or serene.
Add three little kids to the mix and it's a major stresser.
Paint gets spilled.
The little drip spots on the tarp covering the carpet get on the bottom of little shoes and tracked through the house.
The baby samples the paint.
I had enough trouble painting one room and made a big mess all by myself during the two weekends Marc was gone to Woodbadge.
I can't imagine adding a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 9-month-old to the process.
So when Kari talks about the situation she has my complete sympathy.
I'm almost moved to suggest she and the three kids move in while Wade finishes the job.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Boxes with holes, funny bags

The missing piece
My granddaughter thinks I can work miracles.
So when I answered the phone the other day to find this breathless little voice asking me if I had any boxtops for her, I couldn't let her down.
Apparently, Adell's kindergarten class was collecting box tops for education from cake mixes, cereal boxes and muffin bags.
She had a little chart where she could paste 30 box tops and she only had a few squares pasted in.
"Can you give me your box tops?" she asked hopefully.
Her mother then came on the line. She needed them for school today so if I could find some, they'd pick them up on the way to school in about an hour.
No pressure there.
"Umm, sure. Let me see what I have," I said.
I grabbed the scissors and went about the house checking boxes and bags.
I found a few in my pantry. Bisquick is always good for a box top. So are some cereals of which we don't have a lot.
I headed down to the food storage shelves.
The cake mixes abounded in box tops. So did the dried potato boxes.
The muffin mixes were a gold mine.
The after-party
I clipped and cut and came up with 19 little cardboard squares which I put in an envelope along with some cookies for Adell and her sister.
Adell was thrilled and she went off happily to school, secure in the knowledge that Grandma could come through for her.
I'm now looking at lots of little boxes and bags with missing pieces.
But that's all right.
Now I know what food storage is for.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Here's Ben the man

The cotton Colonial
Add tights and britches
The buckle shoes

Not a vest, a waistcoat
Wait for it
Ben Franklin Haddock

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Getting Ben together

(P.S. Watch for a real picture of this character later today)
Marc loves a chance to act, even if it's for free and for an audience of little boys.
So when he got the call to be Ben Franklin at our ward's Blue and Gold Banquet he didn't hesitate.
"Sure," he said. "When is it?"
I'm a little more gun shy.
As soon as I heard him tell the person on the phone he would be there, I started calculating the costs.
Let's see: he'd need a wig, a greatcoat, a vest, a ruffly shirt, buckled shoes, knee britches, knee sox and maybe a kite with a key hanging off it.
I checked on the web, costumes rented at a starting price of $40.
"Oh," Marc scoffed. "That's too much. We can do it cheaper than that."
I figured we'd be scouring the Deseret Industries stores for costume parts or maybe we could luck into finding someone who had the appropriate clothes.
He called around a bit. He has reading glasses that look like little old-fashioned spectacles already.
Someone knew someone who had been involved in the Colonial Days event in Provo.
Somebody else knew somebody who might have access to the costumes from the production of "1776."
Then, last weekend, when I gently reminded Marc that the gig was only a week way, we started to panic.
Nobody had called him back and we had nothing but a fairly free Saturday.
We started off in the direction of Archive Costumes at Hale Center Theater.
They had all kinds of stuff.
The friendly girl helped him with a "waistcoat" (that's different from an ordinary vest, I was told) and an overcoat without a collar. She found him some britches and a lacey kind of scarf he could tie around his neck.
Everything came in his size and was clean and it seemed silly to spend all kinds of time and gas searching the county for similar things.
"How much?" I sighed.
"It only comes to $33," the girl said. "Course you'll still have to get some nurse's white tights at Walmart."
Marc looked at me hopefully. He so liked the look.
I handed over the credit card and we made the reservation.
Then we started trying to find the tights. Several stores and lingerie sections later, we found a pair in his size for $8 at Target.
So we're up to how much now? And that's before he prints off the papers for his Ben Franklin Jeopardy game and finds a cane and a wig?
I'm not sure Franklin would approve.
Isn't he the "penny saved is a penny earned" guy?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

They take a reservation...

I was having one of those hopeless conversations with the girl who answered the phone for Questar.
I told her my sad story about how I was getting charged a 77-cent late fee every time I paid my bill even though I was being more and more careful about dropping off my payment early on the due date and even the day before the due date.
I guess I'm on my soapbox.
I've written just recently about how late fees and fines etc. really drive me crazy but I have to rant. When I was assessed a 77-cent late fee in December I looked more carefully at the sign posted on the drawer at Wells Fargo Bank.
It basically told me that payments dropped off after 4 p.m. weren't counted until the next day so I paid the stupid 77 cents and vowed not to let that happen again.
The next month I was well ahead of time but this month I not only have been assessed the late fee but the bill says I haven't paid at all.
I called Questar right up and demanded to know what what going on.
The nice girl said my check didn't clear until Feb. 14, a week after I dropped it off.
I told her I was making sure I dropped it off well ahead of the time deadline.
I wondered if because I closed my Wells Fargo account maybe my bill went into a "When we get around to it" pile.
I asked her what I should do since I am paying the bill in good order but apparently Wells Fargo is messing up.
She had the answer.
"Put a stamp on it and mail it in 5-7 business days before it's due," she said.
I was speechless.
I guess my understanding of what a payment drop is and their understanding are two different things.
They can take a check but they can't process a check. I can drop it by on time but they can send it on whenever they feel like it.
I think my Questar bill just went up by the price of a stamp.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chasing pennies

I know it borders on obsessive compulsive but when I discover what I think is a wrong billing, an overcharge or an outright financial mistake, it really bugs me until I can get it resolved.
Even when it's to my advantage.
I have to go back in the store and get the 31 cents I was overcharged or return something that didn't get discounted.
I sometimes spend an extra 10 minutes checking the receipt when it just doesn't add up in my head.
Marc usually hides out in the car while I chase down the employee who didn't believe me when I told him/her what I had picked up was on sale.
So when a charge came through my bank account twice for candy I only bought once, I had to pursue justice.
I had stopped long enough at a South Towne mall kiosk to pick up some See's chocolates for my dad and my stepmom for Christmas.
I bought two small boxes for them that came to $19.47.
I had handed over my VISA card which, for some reason, balked.
The girl tried and tried to run the charge through, finally unplugging the machine and starting over — never a good sign.
So, a couple of days later when I had two identical charges for $19.47 for a See's outlet, I reacted strongly.
I looked up the mall number and called See's.
They transferred me to See's corporate accounting who sent me back to the See's store in Draper who knew nothing about my plight.
I journeyed on until I reached a lady who said, "Oh, no! Let me see what I can do."
She called me back later and said their record showed only one transaction. She said I'd have to call my bank.
I called my bank who said I had to work it out with See's.
At this point, burning precious minutes on my cell phone and getting no satisfaction, I mentioned it to Marc.
"Let it go," he said. "You'll never get it back."
That did it. I couldn't give up now.
I called the bank back. They said I could file a dispute claim in writing.
That was in early December.
Today I got a letter in the mail telling me they had researched my claim and determined I had been double billed. They were sorry and apologized for any inconvenience I may have experienced.
Why do I somehow feel like they should have sent me chocolates?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines to me

My husband's doing pretty well with Valentine's Day.
So far he took me to lunch at Maddox on our way to see grandkids in Logan Saturday.
He has reservations for dinner tonight at PF Chang's on our way to see more grandkids in Spanish Fork.
And he bought me a box of my favorite orange cremes from Kara's.
(I knew he was up to something when he told me not to look at the bank account for a couple of days and let me know he had to have lunch at the mall on Monday.)
In return I filled up his desk jar with candy I won't snitch from him like licorice and Hot Tamales.
He's coming along.
Years ago he'd forget once in a while and there was trouble.
He now watches our son-in-laws mess up now and then and he fears for them.
We sweet women like to be remembered.
A love note.
A special bouquet (not the Costco flowers, please).
A night out.
A night in with a movie and popcorn.
A pretty piece of jewelry.
Tickets to a concert.
A jet flight to Paris (I just threw that in to see if you were listening.)
It's all good and while there are those who think the holiday is just made up so businesses could sell chocolates and roses, it's more of an opportunity of renewal, a chance to say "I still love you."
Every wife, every mother, every girlfriend wants to feel cherished. It keeps the heart happy.
Especially when everyone around her is getting similar attention.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Books and things that matter

My first meeting as a member of the American Fork City Library Board and I already have a cause to promote.
Buy more books.
No, make that get more money to buy more books.
Seems that over the years, the library has taken budget hits every time the economy lagged or the city had to tighten its belt.
There have been some years that there's been no money for adding to the library collection.
So over time, the American Fork City Library has fallen behind, so much so that the state library association has told us our certification is in jeopardy.
The standard is for a library to spend at least 9 percent of its operating budget on its collection.
American Fork's percentage is 6 percent, roughly 3 percent below what it should be, that for a library that is seeing ever increasing use.
That needs to change and one way to deal with it is to ask the city council to assign a portion of its property tax to the library, something other communities routinely do.
The taxpayer wouldn't see any change in the tax bill and the library would no longer be subject to the rise and fall in revenues.
We, as a board, and the librarian in charge, could rely on a consistent amount of funding and make solid plans based on stability.
It would eliminate so much anxiety and assure an ongoing high quality of library service to the community.
It would make things even.
And it would respond to the taxpayers who told us in 1997 that they WANT a high-quality library which — it goes without saying — includes the latest in collection items.
If you're interested in convincing the local city council that this is truly what we as readers, parents, teachers and constituents want, let me or us know. We're aiming at presenting our case to the city council in the March budget meeting.
You can email me at or Sheena Parker at the library at:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentines to cuddle up with

Ages ago, we decided to start a tradition of giving books to our grandchildren for Valentine's Day.
We looked around and although I'm a big fan of chocolate, we decided rather than shop for the latest sweet treat in a heart-shaped box, we would find a good book to give each one of them each year.
It would be a gift that stayed around and hopefully would give to the whole family as an addition to bedtime storytime and show them grandma and grandpa believe in books.
It seemed like a good idea in the beginning.
Now, 22 years and 30 grandchildren later, we're trying to keep it up.
It's a daunting task.
We not only have to try and stay within a reasonable budget but we try to match the personality and reading level of the particular grandchild with the book.
some of this year's haul
The good part is we really have to focus on each child's interests and abilities. The bad part is it's a brain breaker exercise to keep track of who has what and who needs what.
We usually head toward the classics that every family library ought to have: "Good Night, Moon" and "Where the Wild Things Are" and "The Secret Garden" and "Olivia" books.
We try to avoid the fluffy, gimmicky books but "Where's The Dragon" with the imprinted, hidden dragons was such a hit, we've bought another half dozen copies of "The Lost Unicorn" that has similar characteristics.
We have sometimes given a graphic novel, sometimes a copy of "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid." This year there's a Kindle Fire gift card in the mix.
Sometimes we hit the mark well and other times we probably miss.
It's really tricky to find the book with all the right elements: something we think is worthwhile that is also something the child will read.
That's our primary goal.
We want our grandchildren to develop a love for reading so even though it takes a dozen trips to the local bookseller and several journeys out onto the Internet before we have just the right book for everybody, we want to hang in there. (Then we saddle up the horses and drive around the state to make delivery.)
It's exhausting but ultimately very satisfying.
We think it's the best Valentine we can give them.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Zombie debt and other bills

I read this headline in the business section of the Deseret News today.
"Zombie debt creeps onward in Idaho courts."
I didn't recognize the term so I asked my all-knowing husband.
"It's debt that won't die!" he exclaimed, quite proud of himself for the instant answer.
I stared at him and returned to the story.
Apparently Zombie debt is pretty much that, debts that get bumped from small-time creditor to big meany-creditor and then sold to people who try to settle them for pennies on the dollar or dismiss them all together.
I realized that's what my dad has done with his bills, turned them into Zombie debt.
He has this guy — I'll call him Mr. Magic — he's hired to take care of bills that just got to be too much for him.
He signed a three-year contract and agreed to pay $600 a month so Mr. Magic would go out and negotiate with his creditors for lesser payment.
Mr. Magic got a stack of dad's bills and dad got this little device that hooks to his phone that redirects any calls from people trying to collect on a bill to Mr. Magic.
I haven't been impressed with the plan but my father thinks it's a godsend.
Whenever he got a phone call he didn't like, he just pressed a button and "Voila!," the annoyance was gone.
Dad didn't have to think about it anymore.
When circumstances brought his children, my three brothers and me, into the financial picture, we started asking questions.
"What bills has this magic man paid off? When will we see a reckoning?" and "Can we talk to these people, please?"
The answers: Mr. Magic's paid the smaller debts. We have yet to see a reckoning. and there's never a live Mr. Magic we can find to talk to.
The three years are up this October by which time, I assume we'll find the big bills are still awaiting payment.
I'm pretty sure we'll be told that despite their best efforts, dad still owes his debts and we will have to take over worrying about them for him.
Meanwhile, I'm here wondering why my elderly father is paying $600 a month to keep Zombie debt at bay.
And trying to calculate how much dad would've paid off if he'd simply used that $600 a month (or $21,600) to pay the bills on his own.
I haven't much faith in Zombies.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Almost arrested

My job was simply to pick Adell up from school.
I didn't know anything about taking another little girl home with us but she barreled into Adell as soon as Adell came out of the door saying she was coming over to play with her.
I looked at my granddaughter who quickly collected her social self and said, "Sure! You can come with me and my grandma!"
I was concerned.
No one had given me any orders like this and I had never seen this little person before, cute as she was.
Take me with you
"What's your name?" I asked her as she and Adell clutched each other like bosom buddies.
"Evie! And I asked my mom!" She said.
I looked around to see if anyone appeared to be looking or waiting for Evie.
"Uh, Ok. The car's over here," I said, leading the way and wondering how much time I should take to check out Evie's story. I needed to be at another granddaughter's in Eagle Mountain in 20 minutes.
We got in the car and everybody buckled up while I called my daughter, Adell's mother.
"Know anything about a playdate with a little girl named Evie?" I asked her.
"Noooo. I don't know anything," said Kari. "And the house is a mess (she had contractors going in and out to make some simple repairs). I guess I'll figure it out."
I started to back out but hesitated when Adell yelled, "Look Evie! There's your mom! She looks like she's looking for you!"
We got out of the car and found not only a mom but an anxious aunt looking for Evie who apparently hadn't asked for specific permission to come play at Adell's, only general permission for a "someday" playdate.
Evie's mom was mad.
"Evie! Haven't I told you not to go off with strangers!" she hollered at this unrepentant smiling child.
"Uh, I wasn't sure what to do here," I said. "She told us she asked you."
I realized it sounded pretty lame so I told her my name and gave her my business card with my daughter's name and number on the back.
"Maybe you can talk with her and Evie could come tomorrow," I suggested.
She took the card but still looked at me suspiciously.
I guess it's a good thing I came to my senses before I left the parking lot with Evie.
I think child abduction is a felony.