Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wal-Mart Whiners---You Know Who They Are

Last Saturday was typical. I was in line at the check-out at Wal-Mart.

Ahead of me were two boys, who will be affectionately named Six and Twelve, in estimation of their ages.

Six decides he wants an ice cream sandwich.
Twelve tells him “no.”
Six skirts around Twelve to the ice cream freezer right before the check-out.
Twelve again tells him “no.”
Six gets into the freezer and puts an ice cream bar into the cart.
Twelve retrieves it and puts it back in the freezer.
Six scuffles with Twelve in an attempt to get the prized ice cream bar back. He is unsuccessful.

Six drops to the floor to show that no progress will be made until he gets his ice cream bar.
Twelve tries to pick him off the floor.
Where is Mama? I am wondering.
Six begins frantically kicking Twelve, strategically aiming for Twelve’s manhood.
Twelve tries to grab Six, while trying to avoid getting kicked.

Yay! Mama appears! I am confident that Mama is going to set Six straight!

Twelve tells Mama that Six keeps trying to take an ice cream bar.
Mama says nothing and steps up to the counter.
Six seizes his opportunity. He dashes back to the freezer and gets the ice cream bar.
He walks right up to Mama, and puts the ice cream bar next to her hand.
Mama dutifully places the ice cream bar on top of the other items she is purchasing.
Six is triumphant!

And thus we see that Six has trained his mother well. He probably started his parent training at the age of two, and has gotten increasingly better. If Mama wants a calm visit to Wal-Mart, she knows what to do.

How I Stopped my own Wal-mart Whiner

Jeremiah was about two and a half when he realized that Wal-Mart was for getting things. He saw Mommy getting things at Wal-mart and so he naturally assumed that he should get things too.

On the first couple of trips after he realized the miracle of getting things, he made his wants well-known by trying to grab things off the shelves, just like Mommy did. Mommy kept placing Jeremiah’s hands back in his lap.

By the time the next trip occurred, little Jere realized that simply trying to grab wasn’t working. Mommy needed verbal instruction.

“I want that.”
“Please. I want that.”

The grunting began, along with the pointing of the finger.
“Unh. Unh.”
Since I didn’t allow grunting as a form of communication, I said nothing.

With no response from Mommy, the wailing began.
The more Mommy ignored the wail, the louder it got.

Poor Jeremiah. He did not realize that he was not my first child. I had played this game before.

Calmly, I retraced my steps, and began putting items back on the shelf.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, just putting everything back.”

“We’re not getting anything?”

“Not this time.”

He was quiet for a moment then said, “Why are you putting everything back?”

“Because you threw a fit.”

“I’ll be good. Please, Mommy.”

“No. It’s too late. You already threw a fit,” I said as I continued slowly walking down the aisles, returning things one by one to their spots.

The crying began anew. “Please! I’ll be good!”

I put the cart back into the stall and carried him to the car, saying nothing. He screamed, arching his back as I tried to keep hold, begging me to go back.

The next time I went to Wal-Mart, I got my purse and put on my lipstick, signifying to Jere that I was going somewhere.

He was frantic when he learned he would not be going. He begged and cried, but I stood firm. I explained that he would have to stay home with big sister Em, because of his past behavior. He promised that he would be good. There were parts of me that wanted to soften--that wanted to say he could come. Had I done so, I might still be dealing with tantrums. I knew then, that my decision was critical.

“No. You have to stay home.”

The time came for another trip to Wal-Mart. He asked if he could go. I simply said yes, without putting conditions on it, such as “If you go, you’d better be good.”

The highlight of the trip that day, was when we heard another Wal-Mart Whiner. A child in the aisle next to us was screaming because he didn’t get what he wanted. Jeremiah only said, “I think that boy needs to be taken home.”

I never again had to deal with my own Wal-Mart Whiner.

The Most Important Word You Can Teach Your Child

Shortly after that Wal-Mart episode, I decided to teach my son one very simple command. Stop.

I had read that most people put more effort into training their pets, than into training their children. Was it true? Could I avoid having to discipline by using training instead?

We tested this theory by playing the “freeze” game in the living room. Jere would play with his toys. When I said, “Stop!” he had to stop what he was doing and freeze in position. He thought it was superb fun. Trying to freeze while in an unusual position became his favorite spin on the game. Often he would say, “Let’s play the stop game!” Little did he know, I was preparing him for “real” life.

Several times, my simple command, “stop,” has kept him from getting hit by a car in a parking lot. While most kids learn early on that a street is a dangerous place, it takes longer for them to learn the same about a parking lot. After all, most cars are just sitting there. How dangerous is that? In situations where he has walked ahead of me, I have been able to just say “stop” when I see a car’s back-up lights come on. Other times, I have been able to keep him from dashing across the street when picking him up from school. One simple word.

When he was six years old, we were visiting a mall in another city. Computer Geek and I were out in the mall foyer, sitting on a bench while Em and Jere were shopping inside a Radio Shack. Jere found a toy he wanted to show me. I looked up just in time to see him walking, toy held high, toward the store entrance, which was surrounded by the usual shoplifting alarm. From out in the foyer, I yelled “Stop!” He froze in position about one inch from the alarm. While the situation was not life threatening, I was saved from major embarrassment.

Even today, although the situations have become fewer, I can still stop him in his tracks with that one word. He’s eleven and I just tried it. Because he’s eleven, he laughed at me, while he waited for me to say, “You may proceed.”

A Related Story

When I married Computer Geek five years ago, I explained my “stop” training to him. One day he decided to show me how he had trained his children when they were small. Without warning, he yelled “Duck and Cover!” I watched as his three adult children hit the floor and covered their heads. No one moved until he said it was OK.

And so we learn that some parents train their children to avoid getting hit by a car, and some people train their children to avoid getting hit by the bullets of a tyrannical government employee's machine gun. :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sunday Serenity 9-27-09

Take a Nap
Enjoy your Sunday

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thoughts of a Twitterless Thinker 9-23-09

When Em got back from the Philippines last week, she presented me with a beautiful three-strand necklace with aubergine colored beads. She says when she put the necklace into the sack, it looked gorgeous. When she pulled it out of the sack to give it to me, it had been attacked by the chain sprites. Somehow they had gotten into the sack and played a rousing game of Jungle Knots.

I told Em I would work on untangling it at home. I’ll be darned like a sock if those pesky chain sprites didn’t sneak back into that sack on my way home, creating an admirably magnified tangled mess.
I am not a visual thinker (I stink at chess and lose mightily at Risk) therefore after trying on and off for a day, I handed the knot to Computer Geek. He used his awesome manly thinking skills to untangle my necklace in a matter of minutes. Hmm…maybe he was a chain sprite in a previous life.

I was thinking, as people without Twitter are wont to do, about airports. Em was mentioning how she purchased Dan Brown’s latest novel The Lost Symbol, while waiting in the airport in the Philippines, a full fourteen hours before it was available in the U.S. (There are advantages to time changes while traveling. The disadvantage was that she didn’t get to have a September 9 this year.)

Back in the olden days, pre-Patriot Act, people could hang out in the airport while waiting for loved ones to arrive. This means they could sip a latte at the airport Starbucks, buy some cheesy souvenir toys for the kids, or yes—even buy the latest Dan Brown novel.

If your r
elative’s flight was delayed, then you could justify spending even more money—going back for another slice of pizza, picking up that pair of $14 socks that you always wanted, or actually buying a birthday card on time.

Now, the people waiting for someone to arrive are allowed nowhere near the airport stores. We have to bring our own games to play.

Having managed businesses for most of my adult life, I started wondering how keeping the flying customer sequestered from the general populace has affected sales in airport stores. Surely, the stores must have taken a huge bite when part of their clientele was no longer allowed access. Didn’t they?

And don’t you feel sorry for them?

There. I’ve spoken my piece against injustice in the world.

The end of summer always causes a feeling of slight melancholy in me. The days of splashing in creeks and pools are gone. Garden greenery turns crisp and brown. Days are spent with open textbooks instead of lawn chairs and sprinklers.

That slight sadness disappears the first time the temperature drops a bit. A few days ago, I
looked out my living room window to see sun-highlighted golden leaves shimmering against the backdrop of a charcoal gray sky. A cool breeze rustled the leaves that had already fallen.

As the first raindrops fell, I felt energized by the change in season. Instead of regretting that summer had gone, I looked forward to the freshness of fall.

Last year, a group of friends decided to ring in the ne
w season with an outdoor breakfast in the park. At eight a.m., almost on cue, it began raining—a light autumn mist. The fathers were assigned cooking duty and the kids were assigned to decorate their aprons. We snuggled in sweatshirts and under blankets as dads prepared pancakes, hash browns, bacon, sausage, orange juice and hot chocolate. Some of the mothers were on decorating duty, arranging luminaria on the tables and pumpkins and cornstalks around the pavilion.

If you find yourself dreading fall, pick a cool October morning to have breakfast in the park. Invite all your friends and their kids and enjoy what the season has to offer.

I watched The Biggest Loser last week for the first time. The show is amazingly good and I chastised myself for never having watched it before. The story of Abby, who had lost her husband, 5-year old daughter and 2-week-old son in a car crash, especially touched me. I couldn’t wait to watch it again this week, all the while wondering why I had never watched it before. When Tuesday came, I remembered. It’s Dancing with the Stars night. Sheesh. What was I thinking? Will someone tell me if Abby wins?

Kids give us such great perspective. After a day at the lake, creating moats and rivers, my son looked on his creation and said, “Mud is a good gift.”

There are actually days in my life when I think to myself, “In order to feel complete, a salad must be eaten.” And then I go eat one.

Here’s my nomination for Amazing Video of the Week. I could go through a hundred boxes of Tic-Tacs and would never think of doing this. (Hayden, here's an example of what we were talking about on your site, about the internet being a catalyst for creativity.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who Wants to be Just Like a Millionaire?

How many times have you received an email, or answered a Facebook interview, or written a school essay that poses the question, “What would you do with a million dollars?”

In my younger years, my answers always involved extensive traveling, buying a four-wheel drive truck that would get me to work during the worst of Iowa blizzards, a new house complete with dance floor and Japanese-style garden, and a trip to Ireland for my mother. I came of age during the Yuppie years, and briefly entertained doing what it took to have a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous existence. Then came children.

My focus became less on buying cool new toys and more on paying for quality child-care while I worked. The Yuppie work schedule was there, but my decisions were based on what would provide the most stability for my children, rather than what would promote me the fastest, or what would provide the most pay.

What would I do with a million (or more) dollars? These days my answer would be based on my observations of how a real millionaire acts.

I am very fortunate to be acquainted with a young entrepreneur, who has made millions. Out of respect for his anonymity, I will refer to him as L.L. Cool Guy.

It was about five years ago, that I first met L.L. My step-daughter was employed by him at the time, though his headquarters is in a different city. She called Computer Geek and me one day and said that L.L. had flown his plane into the area and was giving free airplane rides for all employees and their families. Would we like to come?

L.L. patiently took family after family up in his 5-seater airplane. We talked to him after our ride, curious as to why he would travel from his city to ours, just to do this for his employees.

He said that at times, his extended family had been both wealthy and destitute, and had varying opinions on the morality of having wealth. He reasoned that being wealthy was not evil, unless one chose to do evil with his wealth. For his part, he decided to go about doing good.

A friend of mine, a single mother, has been blessed by his generosity. She was working full-time and had eight children at home. Due to her being away from home, her children were getting into all sorts of trouble. When L.L Cool Guy found out about her plight, he went to her and told her he would give her a part-time job that she could do from home, with the added benefit of being paid whatever it would take to meet all her justified needs. L.L. and his Equally Cool Wife take my friend and her kids to California every year for a vacation. What a blessing he has been in her life!

Once last year, we received a phone call from a friend. It seems that L.L. had left a truckload of food for him to distribute as he saw fit. After he divided it all out, over 100 people, our family included, received enough food items to last for several months. In this economy, such a gift was much appreciated.

Last Christmas, L.L. Cool Guy went to our local Wal-mart and walked through the store observing people in need. He handed out $100 bills over and over that night.

Shortly before Christmas last year, another acquaintance had both her stove and clothes washer break down at the same time. All the money she and her husband had saved for Christmas for their three children would instead have to go toward appliance purchases. When L.L. Cool Guy heard about it, he anonymously had $1000 delivered to their house.

When my fourth graders had all mastered their times tables, he took them for a helicopter ride in the mountains, then took them out for lunch. It was the highlight of their school year.

Last year, he had a contest for his employees in our town. The winners would have a weekend stay on his houseboat, with full use of his speedboat and wave runners. We got to go because Computer Geek works for him and was a winner in the contest. He paid for our gas to get there, plus all of our food as well. He even left his credit card behind so the employees could keep filling the wave runners with gas as needed.

Daughter M, hereafter referred to as Em, has been very blessed by working for this generous soul. She manages 120 people at his local site here in our town (he has many other business sites.) Two years ago, he and some associates had a business meeting in New York City. Knowing that Em had never been to NYC, he invited her along, telling her that she would be on her own, except when they all met for dinner. He gave her $1000 to shop with, and left her to her own devices! She had a great time, even calling me as she was walking inside Saks’ 5th Avenue. Although she spent the whole time alone, except for dinners, she had some well-deserved down time and got to see some sights as well. I never thought I would be speaking to my daughter via cell phone while she hailed a taxi in Manhattan!

A few months ago, L.L. Cool Guy and his wife, gave Em and her family a free vacation to their beach house in California. They had free lodging there while playing on the beach and visiting Disneyland. (He paid for the Magic Kingdom trip as well.) Em knows that without him, she and her family may never have gone to Disneyland.

Every year, Em receives $15,000 from him to have a Christmas party for the employees. She has such fun shopping for prizes like big screen TV’s, motor scooters, digital cameras and $100 gift certificates. This is in addition to the gift of chocolates and one week’s pay Christmas bonus that he gives to every employee.

Em was chatting with L.L. Cool Guy about business one day, when he asked her about her dream car. She admitted to wanting a red Lexus. A few days later, guess what Em was driving?

Last year, for Christmas, our family was a recipient of his giving. We received $500 cash, another $500 worth of presents for Jeremiah, and another $500 in Wii game system products. It was all delivered anonymously, but by this time we were well aware of L.L.’s modus operandi.

Today, Em gets back from a week-long trip to the Philippines. L.L.’s business has contacts there, and Em has daily dealings via phone with her Filipino colleagues. She has made many good friends from there, and this was her second trip. It’s because L.L. Cool Guy visited this small, economically disadvantaged town in Utah, and decided to build a branch of his business here, that my daughter is able to have such beautiful experiences. [see photo of Em on the beach in the Philippines.]

So when someone asks me again, “What would you do with a million dollars?” I would like to think that L.L. Cool Guy has influenced me somewhat. I would like to put my money where it does real good, to real live people, whether it be to an employee or a fourth grader or a single mother or a random stranger at Wal-mart. I would like to be so generous and unconcerned with my own wealth that if someone steals my Mercedes sports car, I can say, as L.L. did, “Oh well. They probably needed it more than I do.”

What would you do with a million dollars?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sunday Serenity 9-13-09

To become a grandparent is to enjoy one of the few pleasures in life for which the consequences have already been paid.
~Robert Brault

Happy Grandparents Day

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to Strengthen Relationships by Using Surprise

Have you ever walked through your living room door on your birthday and had people scare you by yelling “Surprise!” and tossing confetti in the air? How did you feel? A little embarrassed? A little awkward? A lot loved?

“I was loving you even when you didn’t know I was loving you!” is what a surprise really says.

How many times a day do you think about your spouse? Your children? Your mom, dad, or siblings? Probably many more times than they will ever know. Would it shock you to know how many times a day people think about YOU? Do you know there are people who think of you during the day, people of whom you are totally unaware?

A surprise brings an unaware moment into full awareness. It says, “While you were doing something else, I thought of you and was planning a way to show you how much I care.”

A surprise is an intimate connection, even though it may be exhibited in public, or by many people at once.

A surprise brings joy to the giver and a feeling of being appreciated to the recipient.

What a Surprise is NOT….

If you’ve never surprised someone, let me enlighten you on how NOT to do it.

A surprise is NOT sneaking into the bathroom at night while your little sister is taking a shower and shutting off the light. And when she steps out and reaches for the light switch, DON’T have your hand covering it. Bad surprise. [My brother.]

A surprise is NOT finding some red food coloring, then dripping it down your arm, and running up to your mother screaming, “Mom, I got bit by a bat!” [My brother again.]

A surprise is NOT playing hookey from school, then tying a string to a kitchen chair so that when your sister comes home from school to find a snack, you can yank on the string from your hidden vantage point, sending the chair flying across the room, and your sister flying out the back door screaming. [ Hmm…my brother?]

A surprise is NOT walking into the produce section of the grocery store ahead of your wife, turning the intermittent vegetable mister outward, then watching as your wife gets misted instead of the vegetables when it comes on. [Sigh… My brother. They’re divorced.]

A surprise is NOT putting baby mice in your sister’s bed. [Surprise! This was NOT my brother. This was my mom’s brothers.]

THIS is how you pull off Exquisite Surprises

Years ago, my mom expressed a wish to see Wayne Newton. Knowing that I would not be able to take her to Vegas, I filed that desire into the back of my brain card catalog drawer.

Oddly enough, shortly thereafter, I heard that Wayne Newton was coming to the big City of Sioux. I hauled myself down to the auditorium to snag up some tickets.

I called my mom and asked her if I could meet her for lunch the next day. She was working so I met her outside at a picnic table on her break. I had told her not to pack a lunch because I would be supplying.

As she bit into the sandwich I had provided, she got a strange look on her face. She peeked between the slices of bread to find two Wayne Newton tickets wrapped in plastic.

Now wasn’t that fun, ladies and gentlemen? I could have simply told her that I was taking her to Wayne Newton, but it was much more amusing for her to bite into him. She was the star of the day at work as her co-workers all gathered around to laugh with her.

Last week, my son came home from school, ravenous as usual. He raided the fridge, as we all do, expecting that during his absence, the Food Fairy had magically stocked the box with chocolate pudding, root beer, blue jello, chicken nuggets, bubblegum yogurt, and Boston Creme pie. Finding only celery, strawberries, leftover hamburger, milk, broccoli, pepper jack cheese and various condiments, he whined, “Don’t we have anything to eat?”

Enter the sneaky mother. “I saved one peanut butter ball for you. It’s in the freezer.”

“Just one? OK, I’ll have it after I unload my school bag.”

Because it was his birthday, I had made him a baseball sized peanut butter ball, as opposed to the quarter sized ones I usually make. The look on his face as he opened the freezer was priceless. He’s been gnawing on it all week. Today, a week later, he finally finished the last of it.

I was at work about seven years ago, taking care of customers. During a lull, the phone rang. It was Daughter M.

She needlessly asked if I had my Franklin Planner handy. Pshaw.

“Open it to April 17 (or whatever day it was.)” I was used to her asking me to put important dates in my planner so that I could remind her, so I did as she asked without question.

“Now write, ‘I am going to Riverdance.’”

“You’re going to Riverdance?” I asked with supreme awe in my voice.

“No, silly. I told you to write I am going to Riverdance.”

My co-workers thought I had gone crazy as I did the dance of joy right there in the office.
Do I have an amazing daughter, or what?


Not only do I have one amazing daughter, but Holy Schnikey I’ve got two of them!

Daughter K was in college in South Dakota a few years ago. I had not seen her since she graduated from high school the previous year. It was spring break and she was unloading on me about how she was going to spend the entire break working at her two jobs, to try to save some money. I empathized with her, having done the work-every-minute-I’m-not-in-school stint myself years ago. I wished I were not in Utah, several states away, so that I could be there to help her.

Daughter M was over for a visit one afternoon. She was in a different room chatting with Computer Geek. I was at my computer, checking email. Suddenly there were hands over my eyes. I accused M, only to hear an offended gasp. It was definitely not M’s gasp. I turned around and K was standing there. She had plotted with Computer Geek over the past week to come out to Utah for a visit during her break. Even M was shocked. She had been in the living room when she saw K walking across the yard, and blurted “That’s my sister!” Luckily Computer Geek shushed her in time and I didn’t hear a thing.

While I had spent the last two days feeling sorry about her work schedule, she was traveling to surprise me.

That surprise meant so much to me, so much more than if she had simply called me and arranged to come out.


About 2 hours away from our house is an exciting play palace called Trafalga Square. It’s a child’s dream home, complete with bumper cars, batting cages, mini golf, ice cream shop and arcade. Every time we had a shopping trip planned in that city, and we passed Trafalga Square, Jeremiah would lament, “Please can we go there today?”

Being loving parents, we would always reply, “Not today. Maybe some other time.”

One fine Saturday, we were very tricksy. Computer Geek and I told Jeremiah that we needed to go out of town to buy some supplies. The two-hour trip is always boring enough, but to know that he was going to be subjected to adult shopping was excruciating.

After driving for two hours, we turned at the Trafalga Square exit. His little eyes popped open widely.

“Where are we going?” he asked hopefully.

“Aw there’s some store around here that we’re looking for.”

He resigned himself to the fact that this was going to be time number 27 that we passed Trafalga Square without stopping.

Except we didn’t. We pulled into the Trafalga Square parking lot and told him that this was his day. We still talk about the magical experience we all witnessed that Saturday.

During a rousing game of mini-golf, Jeremiah swatted at the ball with his club. He struck a little too exuberantly and the ball bounced off the green, over a small wooden border and down toward a pool of water. We were starting to tell him that he would have to go inside to get a new ball, when suddenly the ball flew back over the wooden fence, bounced back onto the green, and made a hole in one! The only explanation we had was that the ball struck the cement curb, which sent it back over the fence. Or, an angel was sitting by the pool, caught the ball, lobbed it back over the fence, and laughed. Yeah.

He has never forgotten that surprise day, full of parental love. (See accompanying photo after the implausible shot.)


One thing you should know about Computer Geek is that by the very nature of being a Computer Geek, he is subject to many phone calls, all from friends requesting free computer service.

He gets these types of calls every week:

“My monitor went out. Do you have a spare one lying around that I can have?”

“My email is not working. I need you to come over right away.”

“You said you would come check out my sound card as soon as you could. That was yesterday and you still haven’t come.”

“I know it’s midnight, but this is urgent.”

Free. Yes, Free. (Computer geeks of the world, you know what I’m talking about, right?)

Last year, Computer Geek was turning 5-0. I thought this would be a good time to have a party, giving all his friends a chance to show their appreciation.

But…how to get him to the party? Since I was a teacher at the elementary school, I told him that we were having a school book fair, and requested that he show up at the school after work, to support me while I tried to sell some books. It was to be held three days before his birthday.

He fell for it!

It wasn’t until he got closer to the building that he suspected something. When he walked in, he was greeted by over 60 friends all yelling, “Surprise!” For the next two hours, we ate, played musical trivia and expressed appreciation for someone who gives on average, 15 hours a week helping others with computer issues. For free.


Two years ago near Christmas, Daughter M asked me if just she and I could spend a special day alone, to celebrate my birthday. She said she wanted to take me shopping in Provo, then out to dinner in Salt Lake City. We arranged to have the spouses take care of kids, and off we went.

It was nice to spend driving time just chatting with a lovely daughter. She took me out to lunch before we shopped. While chowing at California Pizza, M got a phone call from a mutual friend. After she hung up, she presented a dilemma.

“Mom, Jake left his Blackberry at the airport last week. He knew we were going out to eat in Salt Lake tonight and wants to know if we will pick it up. One of the stewardesses has it set aside for him. Do you have any objections to stopping by the airport for him?”

I had no problem with it, so after we ate, we went shopping. M bought me a new pair of black Skecher shoes. She was taking a lot of phone calls, but I thought nothing was out of the ordinary because she manages 120 people at work.

Shortly before it was time to wrap up our shopping and head to Salt Lake for dinner, M received another call. This time she handed it to me, saying “It’s K” (my other daughter in South Dakota.)

K: “Hi Mom. What are you doing?”
Me: “M and I are just doing some shopping and now we are headed off to dinner. What are you up to?”
K: “Oh, I’m just sitting at the Sioux Falls airport.”
Me: “Why are you at the airport? Meeting someone?”
K: “No, actually I have to go to Salt Lake City and my flight is delayed.”
Me: “M and I are going to Salt Lake City! What are you going to Salt Lake City for?”

It took me a second and then I said, “Jake didn’t really leave his phone at the airport, did he?” My sneaky daughters had surprised me. M had paid for K to come visit us for Christmas. Had her flight not been delayed, she would have surprised me at the airport while we were there supposedly picking up Jake’s phone. Now, she would still be meeting us in 2 hours.

We had a wonderful week together as we celebrated Christmas. The trip shopping with M was enjoyable enough, but was accentuated by the wonderful surprise by my two girls.

All of these surprises mean something—that the recipient was loved and thought about, even when he or she had no clue. These surprises bind us to each other and strengthen our relationships as we show love and appreciation for those we care about.

Do surprises have to be elaborate?

No. I was once surprised by a gift of simple purple ink pen, given to me by someone I knew. He said, “I knew you loved pens and I knew purple was your favorite color, so I got this for you.” A simple act, yet it spoke volumes.

This week, as your mom, or husband, or daughter or co-worker crosses your mind, resolve to surprise them in some way. Let them know you were thinking of them.
Send a postcard. Drop off a batch of cookies. Kidnap a friend and take her to a movie.
Or buy someone a purple pen.

Have you ever been surprised by someone who loves you?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Serenity 9-6-09

This is one of the most beautiful pieces of instrumental music I have ever heard. I'd like it playing in the background of my life. It's a combination of two songs, Love Story by Taylor Swift and Viva La Vida by Coldplay. I've listened to it over and over again. I've never seen anyone rock a cello the way that man does.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Mystery Bird

Having grown up in a city, I am not familiar with different types of wild animals. I can readily identify dog, cat, bunny, squirrel, bug, or bird, i.e. robin. Any animal existing outside those parameters, I have trouble with.

OK, I jest. I can also identify zoo animals such as horse, sheep, elephant, giraffe, and tiger.

Back in the city, I loved to go for walks. Most of my neighbors did too. It was almost a social event to stroll down a mile long length of avenue in front of a local college. People would drive by, honking and waving at pedestrians they knew. Almost everyone walked with a friend or relative and the more people who greeted you, the more popular you appeared to your walking companions. Did we ever run into wild animals? I swallowed a mosquito once on my walk.

When I moved to this small rural Utah town, I wanted to keep up with my nightly walks.

The first night, I set out at about 9:00 p.m., like normal. I walked about a half block before I realized I was not in Iowa anymore.

First, there were no sidewalks. Second, there were very few streetlights. I realized that I either had to walk in the street and risk getting hit, or I had to walk on the property owner's yard, close to the street. In the dark. On the bumpy gravel and grass parking area in front of each house.

I got about a block away from home when I heard a strange noise. In the darkness I could not see the origin of the sound, so I tried to determine the source by listening carefully.

Snort. Wheeze. Cry.

I tried to hold on to the neighbor's fence, but something brushed my hand. I yelped.

Walking quickly home, I cursed this small town and its lack of proper walking facilities.

I told my husband about my escapade. The next day, he drove me past the route I had walked. I pointed out the place where I had stopped, due to getting assaulted by strange noises and caresses.

"That's what scared you? The neighbor's sheep? Ohh, baaa, baaa!" He couldn't stop laughing, apparently thinking my frightening experience was hilarious. From then on, whenever I heard a strange noise, he would taunt, "Maybe it's a sheep!"

Animals are a common sight around here. On another occasion I saw two sheep trotting through the town, looking as if they were just headed over to Little Bo Peep's house for some tea and gossip. Another time, when I risked a daytime walk, a horse nearly gave me a heart attack when he stormed the fence next to where I was walking, then stopped suddenly, throwing up a cloud of dust in my face.

During the winter months, walking across your yard in the dark could bring you face to face with several deer, intent upon ravaging what's left of your garden or lawn. And like the sheep, deer feel completely comfortable prancing down main street at dusk. They say that deer frighten easily, but I don't believe it. I have on occasion, sat in my car, honking for deer to get out of the road. They look at me arrogantly as if to say, "Please remove yourself from my grazing path you lowly piece of tin."

It was no surprise then, when I encountered these two birds walking down the street the other day. They are not robins but I assume they are birds. They did not fly, but rushed down the sidewalk, intent on reaching their destination. Computer Geek, who has raised many birds in his life, including chickens, peacocks, ducks, geese and a pigeon, had no idea what they were.

Are they turkeys? Chickens? Peahens? What are these mystery birds?

What say ye, denizens of the Quang?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Birth Day Story

Eleven years ago yesterday I was sitting in a hospital room in Provo, Utah, waiting for the pitocin to kick in. My water had broken at 3:00 a.m., but by 10:00 a.m. I was still not in labor so the doctors decided to administer something that would kick me into high gear.

Every half hour or so, the nurse would come back and ask if I was feeling anything. Since I wasn’t, every half hour they would increase the pitocin.

“Are you incredibly tolerant to pain?” a nurse finally asked me.

Recalling my two previous labors of 23 hours and 21 hours of sheer excruciating agony, I could find no reason to believe that I was. “Nope. It’s just that nothing is really happening.”

At 4:00 p.m. I felt the first nudging of labor pain. At 5:30 p.m. my midwife, who was assisting my doctor, said “He’s almost here.”

“Don’t say that!” I yelled at her, remembering that if my past two pregnancies were any indication, I still had about 20 hours of hell left.

The fact that I yelled at her should have been a clue to me that the birth was very close, but I missed it while I was wallowing in my pain. (Hint to first-time fathers: when your wife reaches this stage, do not try to help her in any way. She will prefer to enjoy her pain on her own, placing full blame upon you for causing said pain. The only time you should attempt to help her is when she is yelling for you to help her NOW! Be forewarned. Even when she yells for help, she will still yell at you for attempting to help. You cannot win. Don’t try. ) Not wanting to have false hope, I scolded, “I always have over twenty hours of labor so I have a long way to go.”

“No. Really. You’re very close.”

Twenty minutes later, my son was born. I had now joined the ranks of women I had hated---those who gave birth in less than two hours of labor.

I couldn’t see him, as they whisked him away before I got much of a chance. I asked my husband where they had taken the baby. “They’re just cleaning him up.”

“Go with him!” I said urgently, so John did. He came back with the baby about half an hour later.

“Why were you gone so long?” I asked.

“Actually, the reason they took him is because he was blue. I just didn’t want you to panic. But he’s fine now.”

To hear that he was fine was the culmination of a high-risk pregnancy during which I was bedridden. I suffered a fall during month 2 and ended up a week later in the emergency room with a blood clot in my lung. I was in the hospital for 5 days. For the rest of the pregnancy, I either had a portable heparin I.V. or had to give myself shots three times a day.

At month 4, I went into pre-term labor. Due to some miscalculations on the part of my midwife, I labored at home for twelve hours before she thought it was serious enough to go to the hospital. At the hospital they tried in vain to stop my labor. Finally, I was transported by ambulance to a larger hospital 70 miles away. After several hours they were able to stop the contractions.

Later that day, a “grief counselor” came to see me.

“I’ve lost a baby too, so I am here to help mothers who have lost babies, if they feel the need to talk.”

“But I haven’t lost a baby,” I said.

“You haven’t? I was called here because they said you miscarried.”


She was back the next day--to counsel me because I was going to lose my baby.

“I’ve talked to the nurses and they said there is really nothing they can do. Your baby is only 4 months along, so chances of survival are virtually non-existent.”

I was depressed about that to say the least. So I talked to my baby. I asked him to please stay. I told him I really wanted him and for him to do whatever he could on the inside to make sure he stayed there.

After day 5 in the hospital, a female doctor came to me and said, “I’m so sorry. There is nothing we can do to save your baby. With the amount of bleeding you’ve been doing, there’s just no chance. Have you talked to the grief counselor?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But I’m not bleeding.”

“Oh, it stopped?” she asked.

“No, I never have been bleeding. I was in labor, but I was not bleeding.”

I got sent back to the ultrasound specialist who had been telling the doctors that I was losing supposed gallons of blood.

“With this amount of bleeding, there is nothing we can do to save the baby. It’s just too early.”

She too was surprised to hear that I was not actually bleeding. For five days none of my nurses noticed that I was not bleeding?

I finally told my grief counselor that I was not going to lose my baby and she did not need to come back.

The doctor was worried that because of all my "bleeding" I would get another blood clot in my lung. They made the request that I have a surgery to implant an “umbrella” in my abdomen to stop a potential clot before it reached vital organs. I agreed it was a good idea so I went ahead with the surgery.

I was in the hospital a total of two weeks before they realized I was refusing to lose my baby. I was sent home, but ordered to bed rest the remainder of my pregnancy. I spent from February to September doing cross-stitch, reading romance novels, and learning all the vital stats of every member of the Utah Jazz. I lost count of how many times I heard the phrase "Stockton to Malone."

Jeremiah was born a week early, perfectly healthy except for his brief blue stint. Every day, I am thankful for such a boy who listened to his mama even before he was born. I’ve had eleven years of happiness with this child.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Jeremiah. May your children bring you as much joy as you've brought to me.

Birthday photos with Papa John and new man tools!

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