Sep 22 2014

Traveling for the Aged

Published by Kathy under General

Fluffy and I went out of town last week. We didn’t go far. In fact, we only stayed about a half hour away from home, and we were only gone for two nights. But to see us packing, you would have thought we were going to end up in Timbuktu for the summer season.

In fact, as Fluffy packed the car, I heard him mutter a word that I am not accustomed to hearing from my Utah-bred boy. Yes, I heard words like that often in my natal city of New Orleans. New Orleans residents often spoke in words of four letters when I was growing up, and Fluffy’s language as he packed the car made me nostalgic for home.

The bad word was not Fluffy’s fault. The poor little thing was trying to cram more into a car than was designed to fit into a vehicle. A scooter, a wheelchair, a walker, a parade of medical devices and an assortment of luggage are not designed to fit in a Mercury Sable. Fluffy was trying to do the impossible, and his language slip could not be helped.

It was not the ideal way to start a vacation.

When Fluffy and I first got married, we often took spur-of-the-moment trips out of town. On those occasions, we didn’t pack much. We usually took a change of underwear for each day we would be gone, along with a sack to contain the used underwear. I took my contact lens case and my contact lens solution. I also took a backup pair of glasses.

I usually took a nightgown, and we each took one extra shirt other than the one we were wearing, just in case we spilled something on the one we had on.

That was it. Packing took five minutes flat, and we could get everything in a duffel bag or even a paper sack. If we thought about it, we’d each throw a paperback book in the paper sack on the way out the door. We’d rely on the Gideon Bible in the motel room to provide our scriptures (or the Book of Mormon if we were staying in a Marriott property). We didn’t need anything else.

When we went out of town last week, this is what we had to deal with:

  • My wheelchair;
  • My walker;
  • My scooter;
  • My scooter batteries;
  • My scooter battery charger;
  • The little basket that goes on the front of my scooter to carry purchases I may make in pharmacies along the way;
  • My morning medications;
  • My afternoon medications;
  • My evening medications;
  • My bedtime medications;
  • Fluffy’s bedtime medications;
  • My contact lens paraphernalia;
  • My reading glasses;
  • My long-distance glasses;
  • Fluffy’s reading glasses;
  • Tums, just in case I had indigestion;
  • Prilosec, just in case Fluffy had heartburn;
  • My pain medication, just in case Something Really Bad Happened;
  • My C-PAP machine (which I probably don’t need anymore, but which I haven’t had a doctor tell me I don’t need anymore, so I have to keep using);
  • An extension cord in case we needed one for the C-PAP machine;
  • Wet wipes;
  • My compression stockings;
  • The nylon sleeve that Fluffy uses to put the compression stockings on my legs;
  • The Crocs I need to put on in the middle of the night if I need to use the restroom and have to put on shoes so my unfeeling feet don’t slip on the floors.

All this is in addition to our Kindles and the charger for them, and our cameras and the battery chargers for them, and our clothing, and our food, and all the other little things that make a time-share unit a home.

Fluffy spent a good two to three hours assembling this stuff, and then another half-hour cramming it in the car, all in preparation for our half-hour drive to National Harbor.

By the time he got in the car, he was not in his usual cheery frame of mind. And then, less than forty minutes later, he had to unpack all that and put it in our timeshare unit. I could not do a thing to help him, being immobile as I am.

It’s times like this when Fluffy earns his designation as Perpetual Employee of the Month.

Fluffy, trying hard to maintain some semblance of patience as we waited for the air-conditioning system in our timeshare unit to be repaired so we could check in with all our medical paraphernalia.

I guess it’s probably overkill to admit that it took at least an hour after we finally arrived at our destination before he was his normal sunny self.

Fluffy unwound with a few games of spider solitaire after unpacking a ton and a half of old person’s paraphernalia.

When we were young, we used to get so annoyed with Fluffy’s parents, who used to sit in their condo and let moss grow on them. We could not understand why they did absolutely nothing with their lives when they were not tied down by a job, and when they had all the money they needed to go out and see the world.

Now we know. They didn’t have the energy to see the world and to pack. They may have had the energy to do one or the other. They did not have the energy to do both.

Indeed, Fluffy and I have long remained partially packed for long trips. We have “trip kits” that contain all our regular toiletries, but “regular toiletries” are things such as toothpaste and toothbrushes and shampoo — things that are not included on the list I just named.

Now that we’re old, it looks as though we’re going to need an additional “elderly trip kit” containing all the things on that bulleted list.

It’s one thing to have an upstairs wheelchair, a main floor wheelchair, a wheelchair that stays in the car to be used for field trips, and a wheelchair that exists solely to transport me from the house to the car and back again when I’m wearing long dresses that are not safe for the walker. We have recently crossed that threshold and have become a four-wheelchair family.

But to have everything else in duplicate and all packed together to comprise our “elderly trip kit” would give us a bundle that would have to be lifted by a crane and carried in a flatbed truck. Somehow that takes the spontaneity out of travel.

We eventually were glad we did all that packing. We eventually used almost everything that Fluffy packed for us, with the exception of the Tums and the Prilosec and my pain medication — things we were happy we didn’t need but were nevertheless glad that Fluffy packed. If we hadn’t packed them, there would have been a desperate emergency. We know that from experience.

We know that as time passes, Fluffy and I are only going to get older. The packing list is only going to get longer. I have no idea what items will be added to it. I used to have to carry an oxygen concentrator with me — a huge machine that took most of the backseat of our car. I don’t have to use it anymore, thank goodness. But as we get older, who knows?

I think often of Ecclesiastes 12. I suspect it’s a chapter that is mostly unknown to young people these days. Do people who are under forty know that the quivering “keepers of the house” are shaking arms, the “strong men” are flailing legs, the “grinders” are missing teeth, and the darkened windows, of course, are eyes that no longer see?

These days, Fluffy and I are two of those decaying houses. Our friends are deteriorating neighborhoods. We are whole subdivisions that are falling apart, and all the Ben-Gay in the world is only going to prolong the inevitable.

But when we go to that “long home” that Ecclesiastes 12 mentions, it will not be the unhappy occasion that Solomon envisioned. There may be mourning here, but there will be no packing lists and no pulled muscles as someone tries to put more paraphernalia in an ancient Mercury Sable than it was ever designed to hold.

On the contrary, we will step across to our new home unencumbered from the pains and ailments of this old world. We will be free of the sorrows that pull on us here. We will be so light — enlightened — that we may well feel as though we are flying, because the things that held us back are holding us back no longer.

As much as I love this world, and as much as I do not want to leave it, I’m still excited to step over to the other side when my appointed time comes. I am not afraid of death. And the best part is, I won’t need to pack anything except for a life well lived.

4 responses so far

Sep 15 2014

Those Clever Mormons

Published by Kathy under General

Okay, people. The big news of the week is really big. In its effort to make genealogy interesting to innocent citizens of all races and creeds who have absolutely no interest in family history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has finally done it. Period.

Even if you have never, ever, been interested in genealogy, this just might tip you over the edge.

The name of the website is Relative Finder, and you can get there through this: You sign in with the same login information that you use to get to Family Search or other LDS websites.

If you are not a Mormon, you can still create a free account that will (hopefully) allow you to get to the information.

Once you get authenticated, you will see a “Getting Started” page, which will explain how to use the site. Near the top right of the screen, click on “Relatives.” That will take you to another screen.

On this screen, there is a list of categories of people who have been chosen to interest just about anyone. LDS Prophets. U.S. Presidents. People who sailed on the Mayflower. Famous scientists or explorers or members of royalty. Famous people. No matter what your interest, these insidious family history people have their claws into you. Oh yes they do.

Click one or more of these. (You might as well just click only one category at a time for starters, because you’re going to get a ton of hits.)

For example, I (“I” being your writer, Kathy Kidd, who, as a convert to the Mormon Church, had no business whatsoever of being related to any one of the Mormon prophets) clicked on Prophets. Then I clicked at the top on “Show Relatives” at the top.

Bingo! I am not just related to one of them. I am related to all of them. The secret, of course, is that they go way, way back. For example, I am Brigham Young’s 11th cousin 8 times removed, and in order to get the connection they had to go back to 1669.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have my genealogy done back to 1669. Well, here’s the secret. They do. You click on “View Chart,” and there it is — all of the relatives that connect you to a famous person. Spiffy. The work has been done for you. What more can you ask?

Here’s the proof positive. I, a total outsider with no Mormon connections whatsoever, am a card-carrying relative of Brigham Young.

Okay, cynics. I can hear you scoffing all the way to Virginia. “Everyone is related to Brigham Young,” I hear you sniff. “After all, he had fifty-five wives.”

Well, people, he only had children with sixteen of them, but I’ll humor you. Joseph Smith wasn’t exactly prolific, but I am related to him, too. So there. They had to go back to 1398 to find a connection with our common ancestor James (Jacobus) Chudleigh, but they did it. Joseph Smith is my 23rd cousin 12 times removed.

Somehow I don’t think I would be on his Christmas card list, but still…

Here I am, in another guest appearance. Weird, or not so much?

But it’s not just Mormon prophets. Here is a list of other famous people I am related to — and to whom the website is fully prepared to give me the pedigree chart as proof:

  • Emily Dickenson (14th cousin 4 times removed)
  • Amelia Earhart (14th cousin 1 times removed)
  • John Wayne (11th cousin)
  • Thomas Jefferson (20th cousin 9 times removed)
  • Ulysses S Grant (14th cousin 3 times removed)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (14th cousin 3 times removed)
  • Zachary Taylor (21st cousin 11 times removed)
  • Abraham Lincoln (19th cousin 7 times removed)
  • Benjamin Franklin (21st cousin 10 times removed), also (11th cousin 9 times removed)
  • Bing Crosby (19th cousin 6 times removed)
  • Benjamin Harrison (20th cousin 11 times removed)
  • Calvin Coolidge (19th cousin 7 times removed)
  • Edgar Allen Poe (23rd cousin 9 times removed)
  • Harry S. Truman (12th cousin 1 times removed)
  • Henry David Thoreau (13th cousin 3 times removed)
  • Horatio Nelson (17th cousin 10 times removed)
  • James Madison (12th cousin 3 times removed)
  • Jon Meade Huntsman (14th cousin 4 times removed)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson (14th cousin 5 times removed)
  • William McKinley (18th cousin 5 times removed)
  • Millard Fillmore (14th cousin 4 times removed)
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne (21st cousin 14 times removed)
  • Oliver Cromwell (24th cousin 15 times removed)
  • Philo Farnsworth (13th cousin 4 times removed)
  • Richard M. Nixon (10th cousin 3 times removed)
  • Robert LeRoy Parker (Butch Cassidy) (17th cousin 5 times removed)
  • Samuel Adams (22nd cousin 11 times removed)
  • Samuel L. Clemens (19th cousin 7 times removed)
  • Susan B. Anthony (12th cousin 4 times removed)
  • Wilber Wright (and, one presumes, Orville Wright) (13th cousin 8 times removed)
  • Willard Mitt Romney (14th cousin 2 times removed)
  • William Frederick Cody (that’s Buffalo Bill to you) (20th cousin 7 times removed)

And finally, drumroll, please:

  • (Elvis) Aron Presley (10th cousin 3 times removed)

I hope you are impressed.

Lest you think I am bragging, Fluffy also checked out his lines and found out he is related to the exact same people, although naturally through different family lines. Either he and I are illegally married or there is something else going on here.

What I suspect is that the people who designed the program picked out a list of names of people everyone would recognize and that most of us would want to be related to. Then they did the genealogies of those people all the way back to Moses or Noah or Adam or somebody else who was way back there.

Then all they had to do, and I’m saying “all” here like it’s a little, tiny thing, is that they had to figure out where our family trees intersected with the famous people’s family trees and work back from there. See? Piece o’ cake! Some computer program scrubbed our family trees looking for key names that would link us in to the person in question. Once they made a hit — bingo!

I have a friend who is a genealogy weenie — excuse me, genealogy buff — and she said it’s a known fact that Elvis Presley’s name came from Preslar. If you look for Preslar or Pressler in a family tree, that’s a dead giveaway.

I’ve got both, and that was the computer’s red flag for that name. You can do that with all the names if you know what to look for, and when “you” is the computer, the search is easy.

There are two things that make this website a real bonanza as far as I’m concerned. I do not care a bit about being connected to celebrities. Unless Jon Meade Huntsman wants to put his 14th cousin 4 times removed in his will, none of it makes a bit of difference to me.

But I do care quite a bit about the genealogical value.

If you look again at that picture of my Joseph Smith genealogy line, you can see there are a lot of blank spaces on my side of it. Some of them look as though they would be pretty easy to fill. Now that I have names, I can use my new (free to Mormons!) membership to fill in a lot of blanks with those free pictures of birth and death certificates that so conveniently provides.

Every one of those names on the website — and there are hundreds and hundreds of them — give different genealogy information for me. I could spend the rest of my life filling in genealogy information from what was given to me for free from that website (checking it for accuracy first, of course). This is the most invaluable genealogy information I have ever seen.

And the other big deal for me is the missionary connection. If missionaries struck up a casual conversation with people who were not otherwise interested in religion and were able to say, “I’ll bet you’re related to Elvis Presley (or John Wayne or somebody else cool) and I can prove it,” they may be able to get a foot in a door that may otherwise be closed.

I’m not saying this should be the first line of approach, mind you. There are cooler things about our religion than our dubious genealogical tie to Elvis Presley or Butch Cassidy. But everyone needs some conversation starter, and some people are initially impressed by one thing more than they would be by another.

And hey — the King. Elvis! I’m not even an Elvis fan, but 10th cousin 3 times removed! That’s not just chicken feed!

I cannot believe we are such close relatives. I do not even like peanut butter!

The only caveat I can see is that right now, I think you mostly have to have ancestors of European ancestry. Later on — well, we shall see. If you’re Asian or South American or African, stay tuned. I am sure they want their claws in you too, and they will find some way to connect you to Elvis.

Try it out, people. And if you’re not a Mormon and don’t know how to get into Family Search, I’m sure you know a Mormon who can help you do it. If you don’t know a Mormon, have no fear! You can try registering through the Relative Finder website directly, or try this link where you can register with Family Search first:

And if you get bitten by the genealogy bug, you can use your free account to do all sorts of research.

If that doesn’t help you, here’s a website that will connect you with some young people on bicycles that will tell you everything you want to know: There’s a little box you can fill in where you can say why you want to connect with them, so they can send you missionaries that will know the answers to your questions, too.

See? Doesn’t that look easy and fun? Now go check it out. If you and I are related, you can let me know by giving me the secret password. Just sing a snippet of “Love Me Tender” to me next time you see me, and I’ll know to put you on my Christmas card list next year.

3 responses so far

Sep 08 2014

The $300 Challenge

Published by Kathy under General

It was February 5, 2013. I was innocently lying in a hospital bed at about 12:30 p.m., when Fluffy walked into the room. Fluffy came every day to visit, but he usually showed up about 7:30 p.m., after work. A visit at 12:30 p.m. was not a happy surprise.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I got laid off from my job today,” he said.

This was catastrophic news. February 5 was my second-month anniversary of being in the hospital. We did not know it at the time, but I had exactly one more month — to the day — of incarceration. You can imagine how high our hospital bills eventually got, even with the good insurance that we had.

Fluffy looked for a new job — well, he looked little. I don’t know how else to describe it. What was he going to do? Eventually I was going to get out of the hospital. I was so helpless that I could not hold a fork in my hand. I could only roll over in bed if I had metal grab bars on the side of the bed (and there were no grab bars, metal or otherwise, on the bed at home).

I couldn’t walk, of course. I couldn’t sit up unless the seat belt on the wheelchair held me in position. I couldn’t roll myself from one room to another in my wheelchair because I was too weak to move the wheels. I couldn’t so much as brush my teeth without being helped.

As we talked about it, it was obvious that once I left the hospital, Fluffy would not be able to get a job outside the home. He couldn’t leave me for a half hour, at least at first. And my personal care was only part of it. There was also the house maintenance, the cooking, the laundry, and the yard work.

When could Fluffy get a job at all and be fair to his employer and still do the things that taking care of me was going to require? Never, that’s when!

Talking it over in that hospital room, we realized that Fluffy’s retirement date had just moved up a couple of years. For his entire work career, Fluffy had planned to retire when he was about 66 years of age. All the wheels were in motion for that magic date, but life had not cooperated. He was years away from that much-anticipated date, but our best-laid plans had gone haywire.

It was time for Kathy to step up. (“Stepping up” is only a figure of speech, you understand. I wasn’t doing any stepping whatsoever, considering I was lying flat on my back in the hospital bed. My first step was still a long time into the future.)

I had a salary from my own part-time job. Most of my salary was devoted toward paying off my debts, but there was a four-hundred-dollar allowance that I allocated myself every month to spend on riotous living. I used the money to take Fluffy out to dinner, to purchase birthday and Christmas presents for family and friends, to buy clothes, to shop on Amazon or eBay, or to otherwise squander throughout the month.

I didn’t exactly go crazy, mind you. Well, maybe I took Fluffy out to a whole lot of restaurants. But it was my four hundred dollars, and I spent it however I wanted to.

But as we discussed our future, we decided that if Fluffy couldn’t work because he was taking care of me, then I needed to use my four hundred dollars to hire Fluffy. I wasn’t going to give him my entire allowance, mind you, but the “riotous living” part had to go.

We were lucky to have money saved in a rainy-day fund, and that savings would pay for the essentials in life such as medical care, utilities, property taxes and gasoline for the car. I would use a hefty part of my $400 allowance to buy most of our groceries, to cover Christmas and birthday presents for friends, and to continue to provide the entertainment such as taking us out to dinner or buying food when we entertained at home.

In essence, Fluffy would become my full-time employee — the cook, the housecleaner, and the yard boy. He would also provide medical care and become my chauffeur, all in exchange for his share of my $400 allowance.

And that is exactly what happened.

Fluffy, the Perpetual Employee of the Month.

Let’s just say our lifestyle is not what it used to be. Part of it is that I’m just not as mobile. It is not as easy for me to go places. For a long time I didn’t want to go anywhere. Now that I can go places — well, the budget just doesn’t allow grand excursions. And we are fine with that.

We go to the supermarket once a month rather than once a week. After that, Fluffy goes to get small things like milk or cheese or tomatoes that we need and that won’t wait until the next big grocery trip. If he goes by himself, with that small list, I won’t be with him to be tempted by that gorgeous eggplant or the Wegman’s vanilla pistachio ice cream.

Fluffy has turned into a wonderful little cook. Sometimes we’ll just have his homemade biscuits and jam for dinner. Or we’ll have a sweet potato — loaded, of course — but nothing else. Or a wedge salad. (Fluffy does a mean wedge salad.)  Our nighttime dessert consists of “the twenty” — ten mint-flavored M&Ms apiece, period. Once you’re old, you just don’t eat as much as you used to eat.

Or maybe, when you’re old, you realize you shouldn’t be eating as much as you used to eat, whether you want to or not. So you don’t.

We lived on my four hundred dollar allowance for more than a year. Then, a few months ago, we realized that it wasn’t enough. My American Express bill was burgeoning where it shouldn’t burgeon. I was starting to panic, and I didn’t know what to do.

Fluffy had the solution. “Let’s start living on $300 per month,” he said.

“Are you crazy?” I shouted — but I only shouted in my mind. Inwardly, I knew he was right. So I sighed and said, “Let’s try it for a month and see how it works.” We tried it, and we never looked back.

We have made an adventure out of our new lifestyle. Fluffy looks for coupons at restaurants we like, but we only use them occasionally because it’s not in the budget.

I also look for mystery diner assignments to supplement our restaurant habit. I have to be careful not to make a mistake, though. If I accidentally do a “phone-ahead takeout” instead of a “walk-in takeout,” for example, or if we run into friends at the restaurant and sit with them, I will not be reimbursed. I’ve learned that the hard way.

We also order with doggy bags in mind, because we’ve learned they can be a gold mine. Lunch at the Outback can turn into three meals, if you’re careful about what you get. And if you go on Wednesday and get the special, you can get out of there for $11.99 each.

I longingly wait for the time when we can go to restaurants whenever we want to go. That magical day is 14.7 months in the future, according to my debt spreadsheet. On that day I will be out of debt and we can go to the Cracker Barrel six days a week if we’re of a mind to do so — which we won’t be, I assure you. As much as we love the Cracker Barrel, we have more expensive tastes than that.

Most of our entertainment is done at home. We can invite a couple over for dinner and make potstickers together for a little more than six bucks. Or we can do something in the crockpot. In the summer, we can barbecue. Fortunately, our friends seem to like our company even though we usually have chicken or hamburgers instead of steaks.

We had a ward dinner recently, and the person in charge of the food was somebody whose cooking skills I trust. (I do not trust the cooking skills or the cleanliness of everyone. Sorry. I am too old and have heard too many horror stories to be trusting in that way.)

After the dinner was over, leftover food was sold on a pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth basis. Fluffy and I took ten dollars out of our “frippery fund,” planning to get two little zipper bags full of the barbeque meat to take home with us. When Fluffy went to the kitchen, he learned that John, our home teacher, had purchased a whole tray of the meat for us.

I went home and cried. I didn’t know why I was crying — whether I felt sorry for us because we needed the food, or because I was so grateful that John had been inspired to know that we needed it. We don’t talk about this stuff to other people. After all, we live in a really nice house. We don’t look like people who are living on a shoestring. John had no way of knowing how important that food would be.

I was depressed about it for a couple of days until finally my good sense won out. The food was a blessing and John was the conduit of that blessing. We were fortunate to get it, and I was embarrassed that my pride had stopped me from feeling the gratitude I should have felt.

Let’s be honest for a moment here, shall we? We wouldn’t be living on a shoestring if I hadn’t continued using my charge cards for the four years I was unemployed before I got my current job. Yes, a lot of the charges I made during those days were pretty much unavoidable — but just as many of them weren’t. If I had been more frugal then, we wouldn’t be in this situation now.

In 14.7 months, all will be well. Until then — well, until then I am paying the penalty for my choices the same way people pay speeding tickets after they’ve been caught in a radar trap or they wait for broken ankles to heal after they make the mistake of walking off a curb and breaking a bone. People who make mistakes may repent, but they are still responsible for the consequences of their actions.

Meanwhile, I may not have money, but I have the services of the Perpetual Employee of the Month. He and I do crazy things together. Last week we steam-cleaned the refrigerator. (It has been sanitized for our protection.) Not many people can say they steam-clean their refrigerators, but not many people have full-time employees to help them do the job.

Today we motored over to a nearby subdivision to exchange a wheelchair. Tonight Fluffy made Brazilian cheese biscuits (Pao de Queijo) for our dinner. Tomorrow I will be chauffeur-driven to the temple. And Fluffy does everything with a smile on his face. What more could I ask?

About a month ago, we decided that I had recovered enough that Fluffy could go back to work if he wanted. But we also both decided that we were having too much fun being retired, even if our lifestyle had to change to be less extravagant. We’re not sure how much longer we’ll be on this side of the turf, and we would happily sacrifice some extra money for more time together.

If you are in the process of repenting for something, or paying restitution for something, have heart. Someday, restitution will be made. Whether in this life or in the next, all will be well. The important thing is that God loves us, and others love us (maybe even without our knowledge).

This is a wonderful world, despite its challenges. Sometimes the hard things are the things that help us to grow the most. If that’s the case, these 14.7 months are going to make me a stellar individual. And after the 14.7 months are over, I am going to keep Fluffy as the Perpetual Employee of the Month, and I am going to take him to the Cracker Barrel as often as his cute little heart has a mind to go.

He deserves it.

5 responses so far

Sep 01 2014

Fifteen Instances of Gratitude

Published by Kathy under General

Recently, I was challenged to come up with fifteen reasons why I should be grateful to be alive. This was the trend o’ the week on Facebook, and I was only glad to just have to come up with fifteen of them. I could have just as easily come up with a hundred, but that would have made for too long a column.

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. I am eternally grateful for the best friend I can see, Fluffy. Fluffy makes every day an adventure, even on the days when we just sit with our arms around each other watching reality TV.

Fluffy held my hand for twelve days when I was unconscious in a hospital, and he’s been my caregiver ever since. He has not strangled me even though he has wanted to, and that takes an act of unbridled patience. He is a saint in a bunny suit, and I am so glad we get to spend eternity together. Team Bunny rules!

2. I am equally grateful for the best friend I can’t see, who is God. That may seem strange, but I spent a long time in several hospitals with nobody else to talk to. I was too weak to read or even to turn on a television, and He kept me company. I will always treasure that time we spent together. It was so sacred to me that I was sad to go home, and for that reason alone I will never regret those three months spent in the hospital.

3. I am eternally grateful for the home where we live. To this day, people sometimes sniff, “This house is too big for two people,” but I know it was hand-picked by God just for Fluffy and me, and I am grateful for it.

For years, for example, I used to laugh about the bizarre shape of the powder room on our main floor. There was absolutely no reason a powder room needed to have that weird shape. Now I see that it is absolutely — to the inch — the shape and size that is needed to accommodate my wheelchair. And the pedestal sink I always hated is perfect for me to roll up to and wash my hair.

Everything about that house was designed just for us. I am continually amazed at it, and grateful for it every day. I can’t think of a more beautiful surrounding to live in as I recuperate. I face every day with joy.

4. Sisters. I have two of them. They could not be more different.

Sandee is one of the wittiest people on the planet. I will never forget the day she acted as auctioneer when we divided up our late father’s possessions. Never mind that she wanted to take it all back afterwards; she was so funny that if we’d recorded it she could have gotten a Hollywood contract.

Susie, on the other hand, is gentle and sweet and wildly creative. She once counted her tinkles for an entire year and then sent me a postcard that said, simply: “1492, and that’s no s**t.” Susie got the personality I always wanted. Bummer.

5. The time we live in. I am so glad to have been born when I was. I am old enough to remember the olden days before color television (almost before black and white television) and certainly old enough to have been taught proper grammar in school, but young enough to be able to take advantage of modern technology.

I love TiVos and the Spaloo and digital cameras and the tablet that has my scriptures and my Kindle on it and everything else technology has to offer…well, with the exception of cell phones. You can keep your cell phones, thank you. What a pain they are!

6. Priesthood blessings. How can I even explain priesthood blessings to people who aren’t Mormons? Just imagine having God tell you exactly what he wants you to hear, word for word, and your being able to hear it and even (if you’re so inclined) to write it down afterwards.

Bill Gates, with all his billions of dollars, can’t buy what Latter-day Saints get for free. Priesthood blessings have saved my life, and I know it.

But more than that, priesthood blessings have told me important things that I need to know about the future of my life. I have made many course changes based on priesthood blessings. I have most of my priesthood blessings written down verbatim, and then laminated. They are for nobody’s eyes but mine (and Fluffy’s if he wants to see them), but they are scripture to me.

7. I am grateful for friends.

When Fluffy and I got married, our Mormon bishop told us to always choose weird friends. He said people who try to be like everyone else aren’t worth much, and you’ll always get joy out of eccentric friends. We followed his advice and have never been sorry.

You crazy people out there, we’re glad we picked you. You have made our lives memorable, to say the least. I could make a list of the crazy friends we have, but you’d never believe us — and then you’d spot yourself as being one of them and you might realize for the first time that you aren’t “normal” so I won’t bother. Thanks for all of you.

8. I am grateful for computers. As a writer, computers comprise most of my life. I remember the day that when I needed to learn something, I had to walk to the University of Utah library to look it up. Now I get on Google at least a dozen times a day.

This is a miracle to me that people of this generation will never understand. Word processors are another miracle to anyone who grew up using manual typewriters and carbon paper. Computers may be a toy to some people, or a mechanism for playing games to others. To me, they are my entire professional life.

9. I am grateful for finding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more than 40 years ago. A lot of people say a church is a church. Not so, this one — at least, not for me. This church is a culture, a support system, and a religion, all rolled into one. I can’t think of a single thing I don’t like about being a Mormon, but I don’t want to push it on anyone. If you’re interested, you know where to find me.

10. I’m grateful for adversity. I know that sounds weird, but I’ve never said I wasn’t eccentric! Everyone knows the cliché that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but it’s only a cliché because it’s true. Thanks to the adversity I’ve had in my life, I’m a rock (you notice I did not say I’m a rock star), and I’m grateful for that.

11. I’m grateful for my relatives, both the living ones and the ones who are no longer on the leafy side of the turf. Facebook has gotten me better acquainted with the living ones, and I’m glad about that.

As for the dead ones — well, that’s interesting. I had always heard about guardian angels, but I came back from my twelve-day “nap” acutely aware that relatives on the other side were working hard on my behalf. I hope to meet them (or meet them again) one day and thank them for what they did, and what they are still doing, on behalf of Fluffy and me.

12. I’m grateful for The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I’ve read it a zillion times (by actual count), and it’s just like the Bible in that there’s always something new in it.

We Mormons have been told we’ve only got a third of it, and we’ll only get the other two-thirds when we’re worthy to read it. This drives me crazy. I want to tell the other Mormons to shape up (because, of course, I’m doing everything right and the condemnation can’t possibly apply to me) so we’ll get the rest. But they don’t, so we only have the skinny part. Bummer.

13. I am grateful for unanswered prayers. If my prayers were answered, I’d be skinny and healthy and rich — and I wouldn’t have learned any of the lessons in life I’m supposed to be learning.

Since the whole reason we’ve been put here is to learn lessons, my whole life would have been pointless. So I guess I’m glad that despite all the tears and temper tantrums, God has left a lot of my most fervent prayers unanswered.

14. I am grateful for just enough travel to have shown me just how fortunate I am to live in the USA. For those of you Americans who don’t appreciate your native land, I challenge you to go out and do a little humanitarian work in another country. Maybe Haiti, where Fluffy and I saw people living in “houses” that consisted of four poles with corrugated metal roofs. The furniture consisted of logs.

And this was before the earthquake.

We may waste a lot of our tax money, but a lot or our tax money that isn’t wasted goes to help people in countries like Haiti. That’s when I’m proudest to be an American.

15. Finally, I am grateful for my body. For most of my life I have hated my body, because it has not just been fat — it has been uber-fat. And it has not been uber-fat because of anything I have done to make it so; it has been uber-fat because I gained 140 pounds in six months all of its own accord.

People have treated me with disgust and revulsion, and I have treated myself the same way. Then, when I was in the hospital a year and a half ago, I got a priesthood blessing that said I chose this body before I was born.

The priesthood blessing didn’t say why I chose this body, but apparently I needed to learn lessons (I would assume humility!) that I could learn no other way. Maybe the people around me needed to learn lessons too.

Since the priesthood blessing, I have come to terms with my body. It has certainly taken me on many adventures! I can’t say I’m not looking forward to the next life, when I’ll be pretty again. But as for this life, at least I don’t hate myself as much as I used to. My body and I are in it for the long haul, and it and I and Fluffy are having a lot of fun together as we see how I’ll get in trouble next.

Okay, people, that’s it for me. Reading the list over, I am surprised that no food items made the list. Where was chocolate? Where was Dungeness crab? Where was Popeye’s chicken? People, you who have seen me know that food is there. I like food. Food is my friend.

So are thunderstorms, in all their majesty. I’m really big on rain. And also …

Oh, rats. If I don’t stop now, I’m never going to quit. There are just too many great things in this wonderful world.

Thanks to all of you who have read my chronicle of gratitude. Maybe it has inspired you to think of the things you are grateful for, too.

2 responses so far

Aug 25 2014

Saying Bon Voyage for Now

Published by Kathy under General

We bid a temporary goodbye to two sets of friends lately, both of whom are traveling to exotic places.

Ashley and Cade are off to Cuba. (That’s Coo-ber, if you’re as old as we are, and remember a certain U.S. President.) This isn’t the first time they been away on assignment. They have also been posted in Azerbaijan, Budapest, and Russia.

They picked up their two little girls in an orphanage in Budapest, which has to rank among the more unusual souvenirs to bring home. Now their souvenir daughters are growing into crazy Americans.

Whenever I see the little girls, who chatter like any other girls you would observe in any mall in America, I wonder if they have any comprehension how different their lives are — bouncing from one communist country to another the way most of us would move from a subdivision in one part of town to a place in another part of town where the houses are a little bit newer and nicer.

The older one may never think twice about those years in the orphanage. The more introspective one — well, I’m not so sure. As she gets older, she may wonder how the kids thrived who were not adopted as she and her sister were. Did they stay in the orphanage, going out to work at an early age? Did they ever know the love of a family? Did they stay together with their siblings, as she did? Did they find the Church?

We had a quiet going-away celebration for Ashley and her daughters. (Cade was off training in Costa Rica, whatever that entails.) We decided to get them ready for Cuba by making Japanese gyoza and Chinese fried rice. The girls used the dumpling presses and had a grand old time. They even liked the food, which was a bonus.

We’ll miss them, but they’ll be back in two years. Then? Well, I have no idea. They are running out of communist countries, and Ashley refuses to go to Korea. She says Azerbaijan is as close as she’s going to get. She’s thinking of a place that’s shorter on communists — maybe Melbourne, Australia.

Her daughters don’t know much about Melbourne. Fluffy and I, who have been there, told them that although Melbourne does not have many communists, it does have a variety of marsupials. The older daughter was nervous about that. She informed us that platypuses are venomous, which I had long ago forgotten.

When we told her that Melbourne has penguins, it was all systems go. Melbourne is back on the list. After Cuba/Coo-ber, and after a little time back in Virginia to decompress, their next stop may be Down Under. Maybe we’ll visit them there. By then, I should have my feet and may be able to endure a long plane ride. Right now, the idea of a plane ride of any sort does not sound appealing.

We also went to another little celebration for our other friends, Margo and Brian, who are on their way to Kuala Lumpur. They are going to live just a few blocks from Petronas Towers, which I think has got to be one of the coolest things ever.

Fluffy and I have never been to Malaysia, or anywhere in Asia, and it would be fun to take a selfie in front of the towers the way our home teacher did, and the way our friend Margo has promised to do, and to send to us when she gets there.

In fairness to our home teacher John Karren, he does not normally look jowly. He was shooting to get the Petronas Towers in the background, and the only way he could do it was from the chin up.

The sendoff for Margo and Brian was a little better organized than the small dinner that Fluffy and I had for Ashley and her girls. This was a party where the whole ward was invited. I actually had to go into another house, which took a whole lot of logistics. (This was only the fourth house I’ve been into, other than ours, since my “incident” in December of 2012, so it was a big deal.)

Once two strong men helped me up the garage stairs and into the house, they parked me in a corner of the kitchen. I overlooked the refreshment table and wielded a camera all night, taking pictures of the festivities. It was a good thing I did, or the evening would have been unrecorded.

Margo, on the right, will soon be able to send me her own selfie from Petronas Towers.

A whole bunch of people came to this party. We saw people we hadn’t seen in years. Two of our ward’s four assigned missionaries came to this event, too, obviously with the understanding that, “Where Mormons meet, Mormons eat.” They knew there would be food on the premises, and that the food was going to be free.

Elder McKay Davis and Elder Jordan Mumm take advantage of a free feed.

Like our friends Cade and Ashley, Brian and Margo are not leaving for their first rodeo. They have been traveling for a lot longer, having lived all over Africa and Asia. Brian may be ready to settle down after this assignment. Margo? She still has that glimmer in her eye. Foreign lands may yet be calling her name.

Although it is hard to say goodbye to friends, Fluffy and I have known both of these sets of friends for years. We know when they leave for their exotic adventures that they will return, and we will see them again. They may look a little older, and they will be richer in experience, but they will return as essentially the same people they were when they left our little corner of the world.

There is one move we will all make, however, to a most exotic clime. This is a move we will make never to return. This is a trip we will all make alone, and people will mourn our loss.

Sometimes we will have weeks, months, or even years to prepare for our departure. Other times, it will overtake us as “a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

I almost had my own “thief in the night” experience two years ago. I remember going to the doctor, and I even vaguely remember being put in an ambulance. I do not remember anything after that until two months later.

In fact, Fluffy tells the story (I have no memory of it, thankfully) of my instructions to him prior to my being put in a medically-induced coma. Apparently I was conscious enough to call him over and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. These were my last three requests to my husband:

  • Pay the Discover Card today.
  • Cancel tomorrow’s secret shopping assignment.
  • Let my employers know I won’t be working for some period of time.

There was no, “I love you.” There was no — well, there was not anything personal. It was just a grocery list of things he needed to do to keep the house running. And if I had died, which the nurses told my sister was probably going to happen, those would have been the last words he would have heard out of my miserable little mouth.

Having had my own practice run, I can guarantee you that things have changed in the Kidd household. In our house, the “L-word” is used daily. Each of us lets the other one know he is cherished. Every day he is number one on the priority list, and he knows it. We treat every day as if it were our last day together, because, well, it might be.

Life has changed in other ways too. I am trying (and not always succeeding) to live in a way that if I ever have another “thief in the night” experience, I will be ready for it. I will not ever leave Fluffy knowing he is unloved. I will not ever leave unpaid bills or unfulfilled promises or broken commitments.

Am I perfect? Good grief, no — I’m Kathy! But I’m a better person than I used to be, and that makes me grateful for the practice run I had that reminded both of us of our mortality.

All of us are on a different path, but that path has one common end. Eventually, you and I will all travel down the tunnel of light and meet our Maker. Whether that meeting will be full of joy or full of sorrow is up to us. I think of this path as one of great happiness, and I’m grateful for the bad days as well as the good ones.

I hope that whether you have many days to prepare or whether your “moving day” comes as “a thief in the night,” you’ll be happy with your eventual destination. I also hope that you will come to view each day as a precious gift, because it is.

2 responses so far

Aug 18 2014

A Magnetic Personality

Published by Kathy under General

Fluffy and I are home teachers to a crazy lady whose name, for the purposes of this column, shall be “Pam.” Pam is a former Baha’i, but she wasn’t just any Baha’i — she went to the local Baha’i congregation for Spanish people.

Never mind that Pam is a six-foot, fair-skinned redhead from Cleveland. This is the kind of quirky person Pam is. She is a former Baha’i who is now a temple worker. Go figure.

Somebody with the pseudonym of “Pam” might look something like this.

Pam is a single lady who likes to eat out, so we always meet her in a restaurant where Fluffy and I sit back and eat while Pam entertains us with stories that get wilder and crazier by the minute.

You see, Pam is an extravert. This means that Fluffy and I, who are both introverts, do not have to say a word. We just sit there, grazing like cows, while Pam does the work of performing. In fact, we have been known to ask Pam before we even meet her at the restaurant: “What is your topic of conversation tonight?” She usually has it already planned for us ahead of time, which is downright considerate of her.

This is why it’s so much fun to home teach extraverts. You put a nickel in them, and then sit back and let them entertain you. You don’t have to say a word. You just have to remember to blink so your eyes don’t dry up and pop out, leaving you without a way to see to drive home.

Topics of conversation we have had with Pam include:

  • The condo o’ the month that she has found for sale in Fort Lauderdale or Cleveland or some other faraway place, and that she is about to purchase for $12,000 or so. She always has pictures on her cell phone o’ the month, which prove to us that this condo is a palace rather than the dump that a $12,000 purchase price must surely buy.
  • The most recent financial windfall that God has given her, usually for the exact amount that she is going to waste on a condo she does not need. When I stop and think that God is giving Pam money to throw away but not giving me money that would get me out of debt, sometimes it makes me so ill that it’s hard to eat my dinner. But that’s the thing about God’s ways not being our ways — they aren’t.
  • Her theory that if you think the right way, you will never stop at a red traffic light. Well, maybe I phrased that wrong. Traffic lights are never red for Pam. This is important because she is in her car all day long. The gift of not ever having a red light would be a big, big deal. She told us how, and I tried it, and I remember that it works. But then I forgot how she did it so don’t ask me.
  • The ghost that inhabits an outbuilding at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. The outbuilding happens to be a gift shop, and when Pam bought a souvenir there, she unwittingly brought a piece o’ ghost home with her that still does tricks in her dining room.
  • The spirit of rock singer Freddie Mercury, who started haunting her dreams and would not stop until she Googled him to find out who he was and continued to do research until she learned that his father had died exactly one year previously.

Fluffy had a hand in the Freddy Mercury incident, because Pam had him take Freddy Mercury’s father’s name to the Washington D.C. Temple and work with the recorder’s office to get the name ready. This was before the rule changes that mean only close family members can submit temple names. When Freddy’s mother dies, the new rules mean that he is on his own and will have to harass a family member instead of the hapless Pam.

Pam doesn’t just have interesting things to say. She also happens to be the best storyteller on the planet. If she had been born in Africa she would have been a griot. When she tells a story about ghosts, you expect a ghost to tap you on the shoulder, and you almost jump out your skin when a server appears to tell you that your bloomin’ onion is going to be out in a minute. She is absolutely amazing.

Needless to say, we enjoy visiting with her every month, even if she does want to order appetizers and desserts and all sorts of food items that nobody on a writer’s budget can ever afford, and that people my size should never be eating. It is not the food that attracts us to our dinners with Pam, or even our responsibility as home teachers. It is the monthly entertainment of Pam herself.

When we went out with Pam at the end of July, she told Fluffy ahead of time that the subject was going to be medical magnets. Fluffy told her that we knew all about magnets, and that indeed I have a drawer full of them that I have been using for years. Pam said, “Ah, but you don’t know about these magnets.” That’s the way Pam is. One does not quibble with Pam, so we prepared ourselves to be entertained.

Sure enough, Pam is being trained by the master of all the magical medical magneteers. This guy has clinics in the U.S. and in Mexico and in Equador (where magnets are apparently the strongest because of the proximity to the equator), and he, himself, is apparently training Pam and a friend.

Pam and her friend are going to be magneteers too (not the same as Mouseketeers or Musketeers, mind you), but they can’t charge for their services until they have a thousand hours of practice under their belts, so they wanted to practice on me and other willing victims. They wanted me to lie down on a bed and diagnose me, whereupon they were going to slap their magnets on me and cure me.

Kathy the Cynic took over here. It is pretty easy to diagnose me. After all, I am in a wheelchair. Pam has known me through a little more than my eighteen months of not having feet. That, I think, should count for something!

Also, even though Pam does all the talking, she knew me through about seven years of congestive heart failure. If she was paying attention (and I doubt she was, because, well, she’s an extravert who does not do a whole lot of listening), she also knew me through seven years of pulmonary hypertension. She did not know the name of the illness, but she knew me when I breathed using an oxygen machine at home.

So I figured if this was a lot of mumbo-jumbo, what they would “diagnose” me with would be heart issues, a lung issue that causes people to have to breathe with oxygen machines, and, of course, the tiny little issue of having mostly dead nerves from my knees down to my feet in both legs.

Other than that, I’m as healthy as the proverbial horse.

So Pam and her friend showed up. Pam’s friend was named Nubia, which conjured up images of a tall, black African, but in reality she was a tiny, extremely white South American who did not speak English. The entire session was conducted in Spanish, a language I do not speak.

They situated me on a bed with my feet sticking off into the air. One or the other of them took my feet and clicked the heels together three times. Nubia did it gently, so that I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

The whole time she was clapping my heels together, I kept thinking, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” After they had left, I told Fluffy this, and he said he had heard me say this from across the house. Oops. I always have been a loud thinker.

Sometimes Pam took over. When she clicked my heels together, it was though she was slapping two dead mackerels against one another. I had a different thing to think when Pam did it. It was one word, and that word was, “Yow!” I was always glad when Nubia took over again.

As they clicked my heels together three times, they said the name of an organ, in Spanish: “Estómago, estómago, estómago; páncreas, páncreas, páncreas; hígado, hígado, hígado.” It was soothing, or it would have been if they had not stopped after every organ and slapped magnets at the corresponding spot on my person.

Pam assured me that my organs would respond when called upon, even though as far as I knew, the organs of my body had never taken a Spanish class.

As they continued the session, Pam kept remarking how there was something wrong everywhere, and how they were going to run out of magnets before they ran out of organs. Then, true to her word, they had to stop and get more magnets. Apparently, I was a real mess. And all along, I had thought I was going to be pretty much without ailments of any kind.

Little did I know! After about an hour of ankle tapping and magnet slapping, the session finally came to an end and Pam read a litany of things that were wrong with me. I waited to hear that — surprise! — I had issues with my heart and my lungs and the nerves between my knees and my feet. But no, Pam and Nubia were not interested in talking about such pedestrian things as those.

Here is a short list of the things they said I had, lurking in my body, and that the magnets had uncovered and were trying to address:

I was exposed to polio as a child. What the magneteers did not know, but the magnets did, was that my sister Sandee had polio, and that I was definitely exposed to it because I lived with her the whole time she was sick. Score one for the magnets.

I have chronic bronchitis. Pam had never seen me have coughing fits, but I have indeed had chronic bronchitis for decades. Oh, can I cough when I put my mind to it! Magnets 2, Kathy the Cynic 0.

I have a rare strain of bacteria resident in my lungs. I obviously can’t prove or disprove that one. I did almost die of fungal pneumonia, but fungal pneumonia is caused by fungus, not bacteria. Fungal infections are extremely rare here but more common in Ohio, where Pam is from.

I was exposed to a rabbit disease as a child and still carry remnants of that disease in me. (Pam named the disease, but I can’t remember it.) Obviously, this is another one that can’t be proved or disproved. However, I admitted to Pam under duress that we did have a pet rabbit when I was a child.

Apparently my pancreas is so bad that it died several years ago and was replaced by a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal. This one can’t be currently proved or disproved, but I was temporarily diabetic when I was in the hospital (I was told this often happens when people are acutely ill). So I’m giving Pam the benefit of the doubt on this one.

When I told Pam that I had a physical just a couple of months ago and my sugar levels were normal, she said airily, “Oh, that doesn’t make any difference.” Magnets 3, Kathy 0, Unprovable 2.

I have sciatic nerve issues. That one is a definite yes. Magnets 4, Kathy 0, Unprovable 2.

I have a scarred Urethra Franklin due to long-term catheter use. That is a big, fat yes. Pam did not know it, but the first six weeks or so that I was hospitalized for my fungal pneumonia there was a catheter and a bonzo infection, and the scarring does not surprise me. Magnets 5, Kathy 0, Unprovable 2.

I have a disease that, if I told a doctor the symptoms, I would be tested for AIDS, but it isn’t AIDS. One of the symptoms is a distended abdomen. You readers do not need to know the other symptom, but it is definitely not something Pam would have casually observed. Fluffy and I thought it was something related to being old.

The abdomen issue has been driving me crazy. Even though I have lost weight everywhere else, my abdomen looks like it has been blown up with a bicycle pump. The casual observer would think it’s just fat. It is only Fluffy and I (and the magnets) who have seen it as it really is. I look like the starving children in Biafra. It is absolutely bizarre. Magnets 6, Kathy 0, Unprovable 2.

So Pam and her pal Nubia packed up their magnets, promising to come back again and again until all the bad stuff, including the box of Cap’n Crunch cereal, is out of my system, and I am well again. They said my system is going to be detoxing for the next few days, and I am going to feel horrible. I must throw out all my toothbrushes and drink a lot of water.

I have followed their advice. Out went the toothbrushes, and I bought a giant Coke this afternoon to help flush the toxins out of my system. It was my first Coke in weeks and weeks, but one has to do what one has to do. Nevertheless, she was right about the detox. The toxins are rushing out of my cooperative little body, and I am as sick as a dawg.

I have to admit I was pretty impressed with my first treatment. Pam and her sidekick told me eight things. None of them were the obvious three things I expected, and that would have made me suspicious. They didn’t mention my heart or my breathing challenges or my paralyzed feet.

And I had to admit that the stark accusation that I had once had a pet rabbit was pretty impressive. Not many people have parents who let them have pet bunnies. And Sandee was the only kid I knew who had polio. Those were two solid hits.

I’m waiting to see what comes out in the next treatment. Meanwhile, this application of magnets, which is radically different from the way I have used magnets in the past, is impressive. I have always been intrigued with the different ways people around the world have learned to heal their bodies.

People in rainforests have taken advantage of the wonderful herbs they have — herbs that are better than anything that pharmaceutical companies can give us today. Acupuncturists have given the Chinese a form of medicine that I have used, and that I can testify is at least as good for many ailments as the medicine we use in Western countries.

The Aboriginals in Australia have their own system of medicine that relies on the mind. Most people don’t know about that because the Aboriginals are such a self-contained society that not many outsiders are allowed to observe them, but I have read they can heal broken bones in a matter of minutes.

In Acts 10:34, the Apostle Peter said: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” I find that to be true with medicine. God doesn’t love people who live in America any more than He loves other people, and you don’t have to live in New York City and have access to a good insurance policy to find the means to get well when you’re sick.

Whether it’s a medical doctor or herbs or needles or even magnets, things have been provided in cultures all over the world to help you through illnesses. Of course, sometimes those “things” are compassionate doctors and friends like Pam who swoop in and provide their services without charge.

God uses helping hands wherever He can get them. Sometimes those helping hands are yours and mine, and I hope we are always willing and able to use them when the opportunity presents itself.

One response so far

Aug 11 2014

When New and Improved, Isn’t

Published by Kathy under General

Back in the dark ages, when personal computers were still so new that most people didn’t have them, there was a wonderful computer program known as Instant Artist. It was such a tiny program that it fit on a 3.5” floppy disk, but boy, was it powerful!

This little program did anything a human being needed to have done as far as home graphics were concerned. It made posters. It made sign-up sheets. It made invitations. It made signs to advertise your garage sale or to let the world know that your dog Phideaux had gone astray. If you had a need that graphics could fill, Instant Artist filled that need.

Instant Artist turned me into a magician. It turned me into the ward’s magician, for that matter. There were not many people in our church congregation who had personal computers, and I became the go-to person when anything needed to be done that involved graphics.

I had a laser printer and a color printer, and I even had a color copier, so the world was my oyster. I had a reputation for being able to do anything, but most of the credit should have gone to Instant Artist. And indeed, I tried to give the credit to Instant Artist, but people gave me the credit anyway. (People often give me credit for things I only organize or do part of, and I’m always trying to give the credit back.)

Instant Artist gave me quite a reputation, and it was the best little computer program in the whole, wide world. Until one sad day, the program was sold off, and the geniuses who bought Instant Artist decided it was time to “improve” it. They changed the name to Print Artist. That was fine. I can live with a name change. The rest of it — well, let’s just say things just went downhill from there.

By that time, 3.5” floppy disks were passé in the computer world. They had been replaced by CD-ROMs, which stored a whole lot more data.

The moment the idea of CD-ROMs became feasible, the Print Artist people decided it was time to take advantage of the storage space for Print Artist. And in doing so, they took a program that was beautiful in its simplicity and turned it into a monster.

Imagine, if you will, a perfectly serviceable bunny rabbit that suddenly has seventeen legs, nine thousand eyes, a human arm growing out of its back, and a toaster instead of a bunny tail. That’s what the Print Artist idiots did to a formerly wonderful and serviceable program.

You couldn’t just buy Print Artist anymore. You had to buy gonzo upgrades upon upgrades, with tons of clip art that you may or may not have any desire to load onto your computer. Quite often, the Print Artist software would come with ten or more CDs, and back in those days the hard drives of computers were tiny. I did not want to commit that much of my hard drive to clip art I never intended to use.

All I wanted was my tiny program that would fit on a 3.5” floppy disk. I did not want this behemoth. Alas, the tiny program no longer existed, and there was no equivalent for the tiny program on the market anymore.

Sadly, for all the clip art that was taking over my system, the behemoth did not do what the tiny program used to do. Once you’ve added seventeen legs, nine thousand eyes, a human arm growing out of its back, and a toaster growing where the bunny tail should be, a once-serviceable bunny rabbit can no longer function the way a bunny rabbit would otherwise function.

For all practical purposes, the bunny is no longer a bunny. And for all practical purposes, the Print Artist behemoth is no longer the program that the original Instant Artist designer created.

Fast forward a couple of decades to Amazon’s Kindle, the wonderful electronic reader that, as far as I was concerned, made paper books a thing of the past.

Kindles were perfect in every way but one — it was hard to read the text in failing light. I spent my life trying to find clip-on lights and then keep them from sliding off the Kindle. Then, of course, I had to keep them in batteries. It was a royal pain in the neck.

At long, long last, somebody designed a cover for the Kindle that had a light built into the cover. This drained the Kindle battery something fierce, but it was a great improvement over the clip-on lights. Still, it wasn’t the best solution. If only the pages could be lit from within, Kindles would be absolutely perfect.

Then the Paperwhite came out. I was ecstatic. Well, I was only marginally ecstatic, because I am a writer and I could not afford the Paperwhite. But I saw that the people who purchased the Paperwhite, by and large, loved it. I waited and waited. Eventually I decided I could wait no longer. I pounced. The Paperwhite was mine.

Oh, I tried to convince myself that the Paperwhite was not a piece of junk. After all, everyone else was raving. But when I tried to turn pages, pages didn’t turn. When I didn’t try to turn pages, they did. Screens were constantly popping up that I had not requested. The battery that allegedly lasted for a month at a time was running down in my Paperwhite twice a week.

It didn’t occur to me that I had a defective model until long after it was too late to send the defective model back. And the reason it did not occur to me that I had a defective model was that I was too busy trying to fight with features — nay, “improvements” — to the trusty old Kindle that I did not want.

I had not wanted much, mind you. All I had wanted was my old Kindle, but with backlit pages. But nooo. The new Paperwhite had obviously been designed by committee. A large committee. A huge, honking committee whose members had each wanted to be able to point to a feature and say, “Look, Ma! I did this!”

It didn’t matter whether “this” was an actual improvement. It just had to be something — anything — that the designer could point to and say, “Look, Ma! I did this!”

Fluffy, who spent his career as a software developer, says there’s a name for when people fix things that aren’t broken, adding enhancements that people do not necessarily want. It’s called “feature creep.” It causes once simple programs to become complex monsters that can only be approached after reading a 500-page user guide.

Well, in the case of Instant Artist and the Kindle Paperwhite, the features didn’t just creep. They steamrolled right over the original product, obliterating the beauty of what was there and replacing it with something that is no longer functional.

Oh yes. People who bought Print Artist in one of its dozens of subsequent iterations were no doubt satisfied with it, and you can go to Amazon today and see zillions of five-star reviews for the Paperwhite.

But I assure you, those five-star reviewers must have a lot more time on their hands than I do. When I want to retrieve a book from my e-reader, and I know the book by the author’s name, I want to do so in less than the fifteen minutes that is apparently acceptable to the readers who gave the Paperwhite five stars.

(That is not an exaggeration, and I’d go through the entire process I went through last week but I think you’d fall asleep or just click on over to Facebook.)

I may be old, but unlike those Paperwhite lovers, I at least pretend to have a life.

Sometimes people are so anxious to be able to point at something and show other people where they have touched it that it doesn’t matter whether the touching is an improvement or a detriment. “Look, Ma! I added that feature!” “Look, Ma! I changed that line in the law!” “Look, Ma! That new seat belt buckle is mine!”

Down the road, the new feature may cause a drop in sales. The new law may jeopardize the people it is supposed to protect. The new seat belt buckle may fail. But that doesn’t matter. The bottom line to some people is that their fingerprint is on the software, the law, or the buckle.

Not all change is good. Like the parent who sees the child sleeping and wants to embrace him but does not do so because that embrace will awaken him, we need to learn that sometimes the best caress is not to touch something at all. In colloquial terms, we need to learn that if something ain’t broke, we shouldn’t try to fix it.

Last week I got a gift of an Android tablet. As Fluffy was looking around at the free apps, he noticed that one of them was a Kindle app.

I wrote to the gift-giver that I was going to try out the Kindle app as a possible solution to the Paperwhite issue, and he wrote back, “I haven’t opened a Kindle in more than a year. My smartphone Kindle app and the Kindle app on my own Samsung tablet do all I need them to do. Full access to my Kindle library, so why buy more hardware from Amazon?”

There we go. Just like Print Artist people, the Amazon people are feature creeping themselves out of a customer base.

Take that, Amazon! If you give me a basic Kindle with a backlit page, I will still come crawling back to you, because I am that loyal. I remember the good times we had. Otherwise, I’m just going to join the silent army who are voting with their feet. Sayonara, Amazon!

Sometimes having too many choices is not a good thing. I think sometimes our grandparents had easier lives because they were not always bombarded with decisions. Perhaps living a simple life with a few simple pleasures should be my goal.

Now please excuse me while I add getting a simple life to my to-do list, which, of course, is here on my computer where I can get right to it.

2 responses so far

Aug 04 2014

Unrealistic Expectations

Published by Kathy under General

It is the end of another month as I write this, and my stomach is in a knot.

The reason for my anxiety centers on the Mormon tradition of home teaching and visiting teaching, a wonderful program that sends Latter-day Saints by pairs into the homes of other Latter-day Saints every month to check on their welfare. In the visiting teaching program, pairs of women visit women; in the home teaching program, it is usually pairs of men who visit entire families.

As I said, home teachers are usually pairs of men, but on rare occasions married couples serve as home teachers. Fluffy and I have been home teachers together for almost as long as we have been married, so I am both a home teacher and a visiting teacher.

Right now I home teach and visit teach a couple of the same women, which you might say is fudging things just a wee bit. But neither of these women would be likely to accept two different Mormons into their homes each month, so one of me is plenty.

Or rather, one of me used to be plenty. You see, I used to have feet. Currently, I do not have feet (or at least working feet). And one of these ladies lives in a third-floor walk-up. There is no elevator anywhere on the premises. Walking up three flights of stairs is the only way to visit her.

Ordinarily, the church would just change the assignment so that someone who does have feet would visit this person whom, for the purposes of this column, we will call “Mandy.” But Fluffy and I have been visiting Mandy since 1988. She would not accept a change, and we do not want a change. We love Mandy, and Mandy loves us.

Fortunately, Mandy is fine with emails and Facebook and phone calls. We keep in touch that way. (We would take her cookies, but Mandy is careful with her diet and cookies are not on the menu.) If Mandy had a problem, we would be the first people she called. We think of her more like a daughter or a sister or a best friend. She is a real sweetheart.

We have only been assigned to the other lady for fifteen years or so. She does not go to church. She does not know anybody else from church and would not like a change. She only accepts my phone calls about twice a year. She does not answer the doorbell, and in any case I could not get into her house without feet.

I do try to call her each month, leave a message and hope that she will call me back. Other than that, I am at a loss trying to figure out how to contact her.

But I am supposed to contact her, every single month. Ideally, I am supposed to visit her face-to-face. And as the end of the month approaches, I get more and more nervous.

The situation would be bad enough anyway, but the person who collects the statistics is somebody who does not understand why a little bitty thing like being paralyzed would keep me out of a third-floor walk-up condominium.

The last week of the month, she sends me a personal email, telling me it is time for me to start making plans to get out and do my visiting teaching. Then she follows up and asks me if I have done it. This is not a blanket email, mind you, to all the people on her route. This is a personal email to me, Kathy. You know, the Kathy who has no feet.

She always seems puzzled, and then disappointed, to learn that I have not been inside Mandy’s condo during the previous month and that I have not personally contacted “Kim,” even though Kim will not answer her phone or her door.

She has let me know, in the kindest possible way, that emails and phone calls are not enough, and that I need to be visiting these two ladies in their homes.

I would like to tell you that I have not yet hauled off and punched my supervisor in the nose. I hope that you are proud of me. I know she means well. She is just trying to do her job, and she is absolutely right.

In a perfect world, both Mandy and Kim would be visited every single month. And I used to do this, before I was no longer able to walk up to Mandy’s condo, and before Kim stopped answering her telephone or her door.

Nevertheless, as the end of the month approaches, the ends of my stomach start tying themselves in a knot, and they do not stop until square knothood is achieved.

Only after I have written my email to the lady in question, telling her that no, I have not sauntered up to Mandy’s third-floor condominium on my feet that do not walk two steps on their own or visited Kim, who will not be visited, does my stomach unknot itself again.

When it is not the end of the month, I can laugh at my supervisor’s unrealistic expectations. No human being except this lady would expect me to march up those long, cement flights of stairs to visit Mandy or to leave my home to pound on Kim’s door, even though she refuses to answer (and whose door is also at the top of a stair or two).

But at the end of the month, my stomach loses its sense of humor. And I have to admit, the rest of me follows where my stomach leads it. I do not like being reminded that I have failed, even when success is impossible to attain.

My story is an extreme one, but we all have instances in our lives where we impose unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We cheerfully tell ourselves that this is the year we will grow our hair down to our waist in six months, or find a husband, or learn to speak Portuguese, or do something else, and if we don’t achieve our goals, we are failures as human beings.

Some people — people who are not me — can achieve crazy goals. Well, that’s not completely right. Sometimes even I can achieve a crazy goal. I’m learning to walk again. I’ve done amazing things in the past eighteen months or so, and I’m going to continue to achieve great things in that regard.

But most of the time, well, I’m just like a lot of us. I make extravagant goals, and then when I fail to achieve them, I beat myself up. I think of myself as a loser because I can’t reach the goals I have failed to reach. Never mind that it wasn’t important that I learn do macramé or sing alto or fit into that bathing suit. If I can’t reach my goal, I am a failure as a human being, no matter what other qualities I possess.

It’s bad enough when we can’t reach goals we set for ourselves, but some of us (and those people usually have names that rhyme with “Mother” or “Dad”), quite often set goals for others. They will decide, willy-nilly, that this is the year that Charlotte will find a husband, or that Jenny will lose fifty pounds, or that Tom will be a concert pianist, or that Jason will go on a mission.

Never mind what Charlotte or Jenny or Tom or Jason feel about the matter. Finding a husband may be Charlotte’s greatest dream, and she may have been searching for a husband for fifteen years — or she may be completely happy with her life as it is. Jenny may have struggled without success to lose those pounds, or she may finally have given up and learned to love herself the way she is today.

Tom may have no interest in the piano. Tom may just want to play baseball.

And Jason? There’s a fine line between encouraging your son to go on a mission and nagging him to do so. A lot of unworthy or uninterested young men have been pushed to go on missions and then have come home in embarrassment, after finally having found the courage to admit to their mission presidents that they were not there for the right reasons or that they were unworthy to have served.

To a degree, we’re supposed to challenge ourselves. We’re supposed to set goals for ourselves that are just a little bit harder than we think we can achieve. If we don’t push ourselves, we never get anywhere. And it’s only those people who push themselves hard who ever achieve great success in anything.

But when we set unrealistic expectations, we only set ourselves up for failure. No matter how hard I may wish to be a ballerina, or to be Miss America, or to be the first astronaut to fly to Mars, it isn’t going to happen. Sometimes, we need to adjust our goals.

And sometimes, we need to realize that we need to just step back and let other people make their own goals. It’s one thing to hope your son goes on a mission, and quite another to promise God that he’ll serve as a missionary. Some promises are not yours to make.

My stomach is just going to have to live with the fact that my feet are not going to trot up all those flights of stairs to Mandy’s condominium this month, or next month, or the month after that. Mandy understands.

Back off, gut-o’-mine! Give me a break! Maybe this month I’ll send Mandy and Kim a personal letter. It won’t help my stomach, but it may help my guilt. I can only do my personal best. Let the rest take care of itself.

2 responses so far

Jul 28 2014

The Big Dig

Published by Kathy under General

Lately, Fluffy and I have been reclaiming the office I abandoned when I got fungal pneumonia and got carted away in an ambulance on December 5th of 2012. That was a fateful little adventure. Little did I know when I left the house that day that life as I knew it was going to change forever, thanks to a microbial fungus. You never know from one day to the next what’s going to happen to you.

Now more than 18 months later, with the help of physical therapy, miracle drugs and some additional stair rails, I am able to visit the second floor of our home again. Anyway, going back to my office has been like going to an archaeological dig, and uncovering the treasures layer by layer.

Well, “treasures” may be a bit of an exaggeration. You have never lived until you’ve opened a refrigerator that has been sitting idle for eighteen months. Let’s just say that apples can lose their personality just a smidge if left to fend for themselves for a year and a half.

When apples go bad. If you look hard, you can imagine them smoking little cigarettes and sporting little apple tattoos. (What kind of tattoos would apples get, anyway? Would they get pies with “Mom” on them?)

The first thing I uncovered outside the refrigerator was a plastic bag of 25 lithium batteries. They were still in their blister packs, securely packaged and ready to use by December of 2013. I have no earthly idea why I purchased these batteries, mind you. I do not use hearing aids, and they would have had to be big hearing aids, because these particular batteries are about three-quarters inch in diameter.

What possessed me to buy 25 of them? I guess I will never know, but I suspect my Mormon food storage mentality could have played a role in the — oh, wait! Now I know. Back two Kindles ago, I used to have an external light source that ate batteries like crazy. It was the clip-on light that used those lithium batteries. Mystery solved.

As much as I hate my newest Kindle Paperwhite, maybe I should go back to that ancient Kindle that ate batteries like people eat popcorn. I wonder if those expired lithium batteries still work. People, do not buy the Paperwhite. Piece of junk.

But I digress. Getting back to the desk, I see that no matter which drawer I open, I find fossils. This does not surprise me. I am a fossil junkie. I have a whole shelf of fossils on my bookshelf wall, the prize fossil of which is the blooper fish that died in the act of pooping. (Never let it be said that I ever grew up.) But this doesn’t stop me from collecting little fossils and storing them wherever I can find an empty spot.

I loved fossils even before I became one.

My next find was an important one. I found three unused, unworn pair of contact lenses. I knew these puppies were in my possession. When I purchased them, years ago, I hid them away in a safe place so I would have them when I needed them.

Unfortunately, I hid them in too safe a place. When the time came that I needed them, they were nowhere to be found. All the prayers in the world did not result in their being uncovered. So I went back to the ophthalmologist and had my eyes rechecked for a new prescription, even though I did not need one. What an unnecessary waste of time and money!

Then, post-coma, I broke a contact lens. This time, it was Fluffy who went into my office on the search and rescue mission. Once again, all the prayers in the world did not result in those contact lenses being found.

So I went back to the ophthalmologist and had my eyes rechecked for yet a new prescription. This time, to my surprise, I learned that my eyes had improved dramatically since my coma and I needed a new prescription.

Nevertheless, these three unworn pairs of contact lenses will make perfect backup pairs for traveling or other emergencies, and I am tickled pink that we found them. And this time, I have put Fluffy in charge of them so that if we need them, we are more than likely going to be able to find them again.

In one drawer I found a carved bag of wooden praying hands. Did I purchase them? What in the world possessed me to do so? I can only assume I bought them to use for a Young Women object lesson of some sort. I never taught the lesson, and now I can’t remember why I ever purchased them.

If anyone ever wants me to lend them a hand, I can surely do so. I can lend them two — or even a bunch, if they need it.

One thing that delighted me to no end was a certificate from Fluffy from one Dungeness crab from Costco. He gave it to me when I got home from the hospital, or more likely when I was still in the hospital because I found it in a big bag of cards and letters I received when I was still hospitalized and too weak to read or understand or remember what I was reading.

The certificate was one of many treasures I uncovered when I was going through that bag. There were hand lotions, candy bars, and many letters I will keep forever — letters that I only discovered last week because I was too fragile to remember them the first time around. What wonderful, inspiring letters they were!

Fluffy had forgotten all about the gift certificate and was just a little bit sad I found it, but I will think of him fondly as I eat every glorious mouthful of that crab in all its crabby glory.

I found lots of jewelry — so much that I finally put it in its own drawer. Yes, I have a jewelry box in the bedroom. But my favorite stuff is what I kept in my office. If you look carefully, you can see a real, live (okay, real, dead) cicada that has been dipped in copper and turned into a broach. I do like cicadas!

Only my favorite jewelry was in my office. The other stuff is probably in the bedroom, where real jewelry lives.

Then there was a string of purple carabiners. I remember buying them on eBay, but I have no memory why. I have no need of carabiners. Furthermore, these are too flimsy to be of any real use. Did I buy them because I like the word “carabiners” (and yes, I prefer that spelling to “carabineers”), or because they were purple? With me, one never knows for sure.

Did I buy them because I like the word “carabiners,” or because they were purple? With me, one never knows for sure.

I found more sewing kits than I could count. Some of them were ingenious, such as the ones whose needles threaded themselves. Others were compact. Others were complete. All I know is that there were a lot of sewing kits, and whenever we need a needle in our house, we are never able to find one.

I found a box of Hollywood Stress Mints. I am sure they work. After all, when I think of a place that is stress-free and full of love and joy, Hollywood is the first place that comes to mind.

When you’re contemplating peace and serenity, isn’t Hollywood the place you think of first?

Although I did not find as many seashells as I found fossils, I found a whole lot of seashells. They were in drawers throughout my desk. There were pretty ones, and ones that I was not sure why I had purchased. Maybe I found them on beaches somewhere.

No. I doubt it. Looking for seashells on beaches would be work. It’s easier to pick them up in seashell stores or buy them on eBay.

Maybe these seashells will be fossils in a billion years or so, and I will love them even more.

The next item is something that is a piece of horror. In fact, I have wondered on numerous occasions whether I should keep the thing, or whether I should take it out in the yard and give it a decent burial.

I once wrote a column about white elephants, and the fun that Fluffy and I have with white elephant exchanges. Our friend Marsha Zimsky responded by sending the white elephant of the century to us — a frog purse that consisted of a whole dead frog, eviscerated and tanned by the miracle of taxidermy, with a zipper in its underside so people can put coins inside.

If you go to eBay and search on “real frog purse” you can find some. When I looked on Saturday night, the prices ranged from $3.99 all the way up to $164.50 for the same sort of purses as ours (although I must admit that ours looks somewhat better).

Should we bury it, keep it, or give it away as the ultimate white elephant?

Marsha sent the frog purse to us intending that we use it in our white elephant exchanges, but we couldn’t bear to part with it. It stays in my office, as a fond reminder of Marsha. That’s a pity. It would be the white elephant to end all white elephants — better, dare I say, than the Smoking Baby.

I also found a giant purple amethyst. It’s a big honker of a stone — almost the size of the pad of my thumb. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. In any case, these days I’m more excited about Kelly green amethysts, just because nobody knows what they are. But it’s still a beautiful stone, and it deserves a place — well, somewhere.

It isn’t green, but this amethyst is nonetheless beautiful.

In one drawer I found a lovely Harris Tweed scarf. I remember buying the scarf, after seeing a wonderful video presentation in a church meeting that was ever-so-inspirational, and that featured a sweet little old lady or man making the Harris Tweed wool.

I was so inspired by the film that I went home from the meeting and purchased the scarf, even though I never, ever wear scarves on my coat, and I would never, ever wear a wool scarf in any case. The thing was pretty expensive, but it was a lovely scarf. Now I have a wonderful souvenir of a video I cannot find on the internet and cannot see again.

I know this inspired me somehow, but I cannot remember how or why.

I also found a pair of bunnies, which will go atop my computer monitor when I’m in my office again. I have a pair of bunnies atop my monitor already, but we have a saying in our house, which is that you can never have too many bunnies.

Anyway, once those bunnies are atop my monitor, all will be right with my office.

In my office, you can never have too many bunnies. No, do not send me any bunnies! They have to be the right bunnies.

I think the thing I’ve reclaimed from my office that I treasure the most is not a thing but a quotation. Of all the quotations I have ever read, this is the one I treasure most that is not scripture. It was written by C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Glory,” and it meant so much to me that I had many copies of it laminated. After I gave them away to the Young Women, I brought the rest home and scattered them around the house.

This is what it says:

There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

I don’t know if that quote does anything for you, but I think about it all the time. People may drive me crazy, and I may think obnoxious thoughts about some of them. But you had better believe I am kind to every last one of them, because I think of that quote constantly.

I do not want to be the cause of anyone going astray and blaming me on the last day. The very thought haunts me. And the thing is, I know I offend people without even knowing I do it. It eats me alive.

If there’s one thing I found a whole lot of in my office, it had to be medicine. This only makes sense. Pre-coma, I had more fatal diseases than you could shake a stick at. Fluffy and I stopped counting at ten. One doctor with a huge ego wanted to clump them all together and name them after herself. That was the day I changed doctors. What a jerk!

Anyway, all these doctors kept giving me tons and tons of medicines — more than any human being could ever take. Those big file cabinet drawers in my office and any other flat space in my office were full of drugs. I didn’t remember who gave me half of them, or why I was supposed to take them.

I’ve got piles like this all over my office. Thank goodness I don’t need them anymore.

Fortunately, the priesthood blessing I got when I was in my coma got rid of all those assorted fatal diseases. Now I guess I don’t need any of those drugs. I still have them, though. I’d like to have the money we paid for them, back in the days I needed them.

There are two things I’ve learned from the Big Dig in my office.

First, some things do not need to be purchased in excess. You only need one sewing kit. You only need one extra pair of contact lenses. You may only need five extra batteries for your reading light. You certainly don’t need 25 of them.

The reason I bought so many sewing kits was that I kept losing the ones I had. The reason I kept going to the ophthalmologist was that I couldn’t find the contact lenses I had carefully hidden away for a rainy day. I’m sure I found in excess of fifty unused gel pens in my office. I kept buying them because I had no idea where the one I had purchased before were hiding.

And this brings me to the second thing I learned from the Big Dig.

Second, if you can’t put your hands on it when you need it, you don’t own it. I know this is true of some of our emergency preparedness equipment, and it drives me crazy.

Several years ago, I became acquainted with Carolyn Nicolaysen. Carolyn, who has written several columns for the Nauvoo Times, is hands down the most adept person I have ever met as far as home preparedness is concerned.

She has a website, Totally Ready, which helps people with different aspects of home preparedness. Over the years, she has inspired me to buy glow sticks and heat sticks and fire starters and Mylar blankets and all sorts of little gizmos that are great for home preparedness.

In every instance, I have purchased these things and given them to Fluffy and forgotten about them. I have no idea where they are, and I suspect he has no idea where they are. And if they aren’t together and in a place where we can readily put our hands on them, I might as well have put them in the garbage the moment I got them in the mail.

I am not an organized soul, but the Big Dig has reminded me that I need to be more organized than I am. There is a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that many of you can quote from memory. I need to memorize it myself. Here it is:

Section 88, Verse 119: Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.

I’m going to make the effort. I hope I can resolve to respect my corner of the home by keeping it organized just a little better than I did before.

4 responses so far

Jul 21 2014

A Plague of Wooden Woodland Creatures

Published by Kathy under General

An interesting thing is happening on Route 193, which goes through Great Falls, Virginia.

Rats! I only wrote one sentence, and I made two mistakes in it. First of all, although it is technically Route 193, signs have sprung up telling us that it is “Virginia’s Byway” — “The Byway,” for short.

And Virginia’s second-snootiest city (McLean is the first, for you trivia buffs) is now being referred to on actual signs as “The Village.” The official name for you Plebeians is still Great Falls, mind you. It is only those lofty souls who live there and we lowly twerps who are allowed to stop at the Subway there on our way home from the temple who are allowed to bandy that sacred name.

We who are in the in-group know that Great Falls, Virginia, is not just your basic lowly town.

Anyway, an interesting thing is happening on “The Byway,” which runs through “The Village.” Suddenly, an influx of wooden woodland creatures has been springing up willy-nilly along fences and gates and anywhere else that will take a nail or a bolt.

The first fake wooden woodland animals appeared on the “The Byway” signs. One of the “The Byway” signs suddenly sported a 3-D wooden cardinal, which was not only quite recognizable but was also quite appropriate because cardinals are also the state bird of Virginia. (The cardinal is the state bird of seven states, so Virginia does not get a medal for originality.)

The original unoriginal cardinal on one of the “The Byway” signs started an ominous trend.

But the “The Byway” sign at the other end of The Byway got a three-dimensional sign on it that was less distinguishable. It was a blackbird, or maybe it was a raven, or maybe it was a crow. For all I know, it could have been a grackle. It was not labeled.

Fine art seldom comes with an explanation.

Soon after the first two signs found wooden woodland birds perched on them, two more birds perched on local signage. These landed on the signs at the Betty Cooke Memorial Bridge, and once again one was quite recognizable and the other was considerably less so.

The recognizable bird was not a cardinal this time. It was a gray owl with unsettling yellow eyes. It also had something fuzzy on the front that was allegedly plumage, although it looked suspiciously like chest hair. The owl, complete with spooky eyes and feathers or chest hair, had been attached to the sign about two inches off to the side, as though the sign were embarrassed to claim it.

Betty Owl’s yellow eyes could cause nightmares in small children. They could cause nightmares in certain adults, too. Adults like me.

The bird on the other side was the crow-raven-blackbird-grackle, which caused and continues to cause some confusion in the Kidd household. You see, we always said, “Hi, Betty,” when we crossed the bridge. Now we say, “Hi, Betty Owl,” when we cross the bridge going east. What do we say when we cross the bridge going west? We never say it the same way twice.

Is it, “Hi, Betty Crow?” or “Hi, Betty Blackbird?” or “Hi, Betty Something Else?” One never knows for sure.

With all the birds in Virginia, one would think the bird installers could have come up with something other than the black thing, especially considering they had already put the black thing on another sign. Originality was not high on the priority list of the people who installed the wooden woodland creatures.

But not to worry! Where the local officials dropped the ball, the Village residents picked it up and are dribbling it all the way up The Byway.

Taste is not the issue here. But of course we established that the moment Betty Owl took her perch over the Betty Cooke Memorial Bridge, with her spooky yellow eyes and the feathers that look like chest hair.

It did not take long for a local denizen of The Village to join the fun. As we were driving home from the temple one week, we noticed a huge flat fox gracing somebody’s front gate. It looked as though somebody had flattened a fox in a motor vehicle accident and traced its outline on the pavement in chalk.

Then he had transferred the chalk outline to wood and painted it bright red to be a permanent remembrance of the kill.

We were thrilled. Our drive down The Byway through The Village is a scenic one anyway, as you would expect it to be. But now that one resident had broken the ice, we expected to see souvenirs of anything the other residents bagged on their drives up and down The Byway. Possums. Equestrians. Garbage trucks.

Alas, the fox lasted only a few weeks. Apparently the town council of The Village was not amused. The village resident, however, was not to be denied. In the place of the fox, he installed a miniature wheelbarrow. I would have to take it down to see if it is indeed a working model, but I would suspect it is fully functional. I would also suspect it could injure you something fierce if it fell on your head.

The wheelbarrow that took the place of the flattened fox. You may notice that a twin to Betty Owl, complete with feathers or chest hair, is hovering nearby to stand guard over the wheelbarrow.

The deer that watched Fluffy take pictures of the wheelbarrow was obviously a Mormon, as evidenced by the “Modest is Hottest” crossed legs. Although this deer has not yet been flattened in a motor vehicle accident, painted a gaudy color, and nailed to a fence, its time may come.

Months went by. We thought we had seen the end of the flattened fox. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we saw a familiar flash of red as we were zipping up The Byway on our way home from the temple.

We could hardly wait until we went to the temple the following week so we could confirm our flat fox sighting. (Yes, it is apparent that Fluffy and I are not spiritual giants, but if you are regular readers of this column you knew that already.) We went down the road with bated breath. And then … we forgot to look. We had to wait a whole nother week.

But the following week we did remember to look, and we were not disappointed. Way down at the McLean end of The Byway, right at the end of the property of The Madeira School, there it was. It was nailed to a fence that may have been on the property of The Madeira School itself.

Here is the flat fox that used to be where the wheelbarrow now stands. The good news is that this location is in McLean rather than in The Village, so the fox is in no danger of being taken down and thrown away by the big shots in The Village.

The flat fox was just as red and horrible and delicious as we remembered it. And it was in McLean, not The Village, so it probably isn’t going anywhere. This is good news. Of course, Betty Owl and Betty Blackbird/Crow/Raven/Grackle and the beginning of The Byway are also in McLean, so now I’m getting confused.

I’d better not think about this anymore because my brain is starting to hurt. But I do hope we are going to be seeing some more wooden woodland animals, because Fluffy and I are enjoying them, no matter which town they happen to inhabit.

Human beings are curious creatures.

2 responses so far

« Prev - Next »