Sep 17 2015

Lessons Learned from Naked People

Published by under General

It is no secret to anyone who reads this column that Fluffy and I watch our share of television, and one of our favorite “guilty pleasure” shows of this summer has been “Naked and Afraid XL.”

We assume that “XL” means extra-large, but that is being optimistic.  For one thing, all of the naked people have their naughty parts pixilated, so we have no idea who is extra-large versus average.  And for another thing, after being in the wilderness for forty days without food, nobody on that show is going to be extra-large, even if they started out that way.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  “Naked and Afraid XL” is a survival show, where twelve people were divided into groups of three and dropped into a particularly nasty area of the Colombian jungle, where they were left to fend for themselves for forty days.

By “fend for themselves,” I mean that literally.  When they were dropped off, they had to shed their clothes, even their shoes.  Each group of three was given one fire-starter.  (This is a cheat that was not allowed in the early days of the show, and I didn’t like it, but the producers didn’t ask me.)

And each individual was given one other item of his or her choice.  Some chose a machete or a knife.  Some chose a pot.  One chose mosquito netting.  Whatever one survival tool he or she wanted, he could take.

Each group also had a rough map.  It showed approximately where they had been dropped off, and where they needed to be in forty days’ time to get picked up.  In every case, they were at least five or six miles from where they needed to be.  In between them and their extraction point was the mighty Orinoco River, which was teeming with snakes, piranha, caiman and other predatory creatures.

That was all the naked people were given.  There were no shoes to protect the bottoms of their feet.  There were no clothes to protect them from bug bites.  There were no fans to cool them in the 100+ degree heat. There were not even shoelaces to use as cordage.  Whatever else they needed, for forty days, they had to get from the jungle.  Period.

Each group of three survivalists knew there were other naked people out there somewhere, and they all knew where they had to be in forty days’ time.  But none of them had any particular requirement to meet up with one another, or live as a group together.  They just needed to survive, in whatever way seemed best to them.

Fluffy and I immediately started following a group that called themselves the Alpha Males.  They were aptly named.  One of them did not do well and quit the challenge in only the second episode because of health issues, but the other two were as strong as lions.

As a little aside, one of the alpha males of this duo happened to be a Mormon.  You non-Mormons who think of Donny and Marie as your representative Mormons may want to feast your eyes on this picture, next time you are called upon to visualize what a Mormon looks like:

Jeff Zausch, just another basic Mormon. We who watched "Naked and Afraid XL" are well aware that this triumphant picture of Jeff bagging his third electric eel actually went all the way down to his feet. Thank goodness for the art of pixilization!

Jeff Zausch, just another basic Mormon. We who watched “Naked and Afraid XL” are well aware that this triumphant picture of Jeff bagging his third electric eel actually went all the way down to his feet. Thank goodness for the art of pixilization!

As the series progressed, different groups of survivalists chose different ways to survive.  The Alpha Males went out hunting every morning, staying out until after sunset, and choosing to subdue the land and kill and eat whatever they could.  There were actually a couple of vegetarians in other groups, though, and one of them made it all the way to the end without eating meat.

Contrary to the Alpha Males, most of the other survivalists were dominated by the philosophies of some loud, domineering, and, as far as Fluffy and I were concerned, stupid women who decided that the best way to survive for forty days was to lie on their rear ends and to do nothing whatsoever in the way of work.

This is not to say they did nothing at all, however.  They decided they were going to criticize whatever anyone else did in the way of work.  It went way beyond nagging.

“Bullying” is a word that is way overused these days, but these survivalists did it, choosing two members of the group who were at the bottom of the pecking order and then picking on them until they chose to “tap out” (go home) rather than stay and endure the torments of their peers.

These weren’t fifth graders. They were adults.  This was a social experiment that sociologists should study and write books about.  These survivalists systematically chose two people, excluded them, and drove them out of the tribe.  If there had not been producers there to take them home, they would have died in the wilderness.

Eventually all of the naked survivalists found themselves in the same area, Piranha Lake.  The team of Alpha Males decided, wisely, to stay away from the rest.  Perhaps they didn’t stay far enough, because every time the Alpha Males caught an electric eel, the other people arrived with their hands out, ready to eat.

To their credit, the Alpha Males would usually share their catch, even though the sharing was not reciprocal on the rare occasions the other team found meat.

The other team would not have survived without the food the Alpha Males gave them.  But after the challenge was over, the rest of the group sniped that they didn’t really need the food the Alpha Males gave them.  They would have made it anyway, they said.

As we watched this show, we saw two kinds of people.  We saw people who were builders.  They got up in the morning and worked toward feeding themselves and having a productive life.  When they found food for themselves, they even fed others.  You may even say they fed their enemies.  They certainly weren’t feeding people who were being kind to them.

The other people were people who were lazy.  They didn’t do anything but lie around from morning till night.  They said they were “conserving their resources,” but they certainly worked overtime in looking for evil things to say about the people around them.  And their feet ran to the food that was produced by others.  They always had a hand out to take a share of the resources that they had no hand in procuring.

The older I get, the less I am physically able to do.  Frankly, my ineptitude drives me crazy. But I hope that I am always able to do what I can do, and to accept what others do for me, with a happy heart.  The least I can do is to offer a word of encouragement, and a smile, along with what little help to others that can give.

If the day comes that I stop trying to do something productive, I will feel so guilty that I will probably curl up in a ball and die.  And if I ever become a sniper who preys upon the goodwill and the tender feelings of others, I will have lived too long upon this earth.


This column was first published in the Nauvoo Times.



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Sep 07 2015

The Six Degrees of Mormon Bacon

Published by under General

Back a decade or two ago there was a game that was popular in Hollywood circles — The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The premise was that Kevin Bacon had worked with so many other actors that there were no fewer than six degrees of separation between him and anyone else in Hollywood.*

For example, how do you connect Kevin Bacon with Elvis Presley? Well, Kevin Bacon worked with Edward Asner in JFK, and then Edward Asner worked with Elvis Presley in Change of Habit. The person who can make the connection with the fewest number of links wins the game.

The game swept through Hollywood because Hollywood is such a small community that people realized the phenomenon applied to just about anybody. There were no more than six degrees of separation between any two people, if you compared their common friends and stopped to work out the details. It was fun to figure out how you were tied to so-and-so. You just had to figure out how to connect the dots.

With 15 million Mormons, you would not think we are a small community. But we can play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with the best of them. In fact, we’re so good at it that when we get going you’d be tempted to get out the waffle maker and whip up some breakfast.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

The first of them happened back in 1974, the year of the Spokane World’s Fair, which was called Expo ‘74. This is such ancient history that I had not even met Fluffy yet. (Meeting Fluffy would not happen until Halloween of that year, and Expo ’74 was a summer event.)

I am somewhat of a World’s Fair freak, having been to the ones in New York, San Antonio, Spokane, Knoxville, New Orleans, and Vancouver. Some people like Disney; I like World’s Fairs. World’s Fairs do not have those annoying theme park characters in them. Whenever I see one of those, I just want to punch them in the mouth. I have anger management issues with theme park characters, I think.

On this occasion, my sister Susie flew up to Utah and we drove to Spokane to the fair. Being 24 and oh, so stupid, I did not bother to get housing reservations for Spokane before we set off on our journey. I did look at the map and thought the town name of “Fish Trap” sounded cute. I decided we would stay there, but I did not bother to get any motel names or try to secure any reservations.

Little did I know that “Fish Trap” was not a town at all but a farm exit that did not have so much as a gas station for weary travelers. I learned this from the state trooper who pulled me over to give me a ticket at the other, not so cute imaginary town of “Speed Trap, Washington.” “Speed Trap, Washington” was apparently a big moneymaker during the fair and I was a visitor there.

On the whole, I would have preferred Fish Trap.

The state trooper told us that if we did not already have reservations we were in big trouble, but I was not worried. We were on our way to the Fair! So off we went, and we did have a grand old time.

Of course, this was Washington, and even back in those days Washington was a tree-hugging, granola-eating state. This was the first environmentally-themed World’s Fair, and it made us feel guilty for using toilet paper (or any paper, for that matter) or driving gas-powered cars. If you could come up with a one-word theme for that Fair, “guilt” would pretty much be the theme. Washington was that way even back in 1974.

It was rainy and cold on that first summer day we visited the Fair. We didn’t care. I should have cared. I was already on my way to double pneumonia, which is something I can cook up for myself the way the rest of you can cook up a batch of microwave popcorn. But I didn’t think twice about it. Susie and I were having a grand old time.

When it started getting dark, we started thinking about lodging. We packed ourselves into my Chevy Nova, turned on the windshield wipers, and headed north through town.

The state trooper was right. There wasn’t a motel room to be had, anywhere. I stopped at all of them, even though there were “No Vacancy” signs posted at each and every one. We kept driving and driving until eventually we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Scratch that. Eventually we weren’t in Washington anymore. We had crossed over into Idaho. Surely there was a motel room in Coeur d’Alene, which was 33.8 miles away.

Well, no there wasn’t. There was a dental convention in Coeur d’Alene, and not a room to be had in the whole town. It was cold, it was raining, and it was close to midnight. We were doomed.

At that point I got a bright idea, or what passes for a bright idea in a really dumb person. I drove us to the police station and asked that we be arrested for vagrancy. The police officer wasn’t having any part of it, however. There was no way he was going to let us sleep overnight in his warm jail when I had a cold, wet car right outside in the parking lot.

I was completely out of options. I didn’t know what to do. Then, the inspiration struck. I would call the local Mormon bishop. I found a pay phone and squinted in the darkness to make out a number. The telephone was answered on the first or second ring. (It is experiences such as this that made me realize no sane man would ever aspire to the office of Mormon bishop.)

Sure enough, the bishop’s wife was glad to make a pallet for Susie and me on the floor of their living room. By the time we got there, the blankets were ready for us. We spent a warm, dry, and safe night. It didn’t stop me from catching pneumonia, but we were able to enjoy the rest of the Fair.

Several months later, when I returned home and met Fluffy in Salt Lake City, I learned that he was the home teacher to the daughter of that Mormon bishop, way off in distant Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. What would be the odds of a thing like that?

The other incident happened to Fluffy, when he was a tyke in what was then the little town of Ogden, Utah. Halloween was approaching, and he and a friend decided to build a spook alley in the friend’s family garage. That was a popular thing to do, and you could charge other kids in the neighborhood a nickel or a dime for the opportunity of being scared by a ketchup-stained dummy.

All went well, until the evening approached and it started to get dark. Then the friend, who was trying to hook up one of the displays in the spook alley, needed a little extra light, and decided to run into the house for a flashlight. When he returned, he told Fluffy he couldn’t find a flashlight and was going to use a candle instead.

Fluffy didn’t think this was a great idea. This particular display featured an open container of gasoline that would burst into flames when it was heated by the wires from an electrical battery. The flame feature had been tested successfully multiple times, but it was getting difficult to fill the gasoline pan in the fading light.

Fluffy didn’t think it was a good idea to be pouring gas by candlelight. He even told his friend it was probably not a good idea.

The friend told Fluffy he would be careful. He said he would hold the candle way … out … here, far away from the dish of gasoline, and from the glass bottle of gasoline he was pouring into the dish.

You can guess what happened after that. It began with a big, “WHOOOSH!” and it ended with a burned-down garage. Fluffy’s friend spent several days in the hospital, with serious burns on his legs. Fluffy was told never to associate with his former friend again, which he considered pretty unfair considering the candle was not his idea, and that he had even advised his friend to come up with a better plan.

Several decades later, and all the way across the continent, Fluffy was sitting in one of the rooms of the Washington D.C. Temple where temple workers gather. He sat there listening to one of the men tell a story about his crazy brother-in-law that got more and more familiar as the story progressed.

Sure enough, the crazy brother-in-law had been the “WHOOOSH” friend of Fluffy’s childhood — the ex-friend that lived two thousand miles away and that Fluffy had not heard a word about in more than thirty years. It just served to show us once again that no matter how far a Mormon goes, we can’t escape who we are.

Of course, these days you don’t have to be a Mormon to play the “Six Degrees” game. The Facebook phenomenon has shown us all that the world is much smaller than we ever knew.

Fluffy gets a real kick out of going into his friends’ “Friend” pages and seeing who knows whom. Sometimes he’ll find that two people he knows who live thousands of miles away from each other are somehow connected to one another. It always blows him away to see that these “strangers” are friends with one another, and also with him.

How did they ever meet each other, anyway? How did their lives touch? Sometimes his curiosity gets the better of him and he will ask one of them. “Oh, he is the former missionary companion of a guy who dated my sister’s roommate when she was in college.” Kevin Bacon would be so proud.

The world used to be a big place. People’s whole lives used to be circumscribed by the distance they could drive in a horse and buggy. In fact, there are communities today within driving distance of my own home where people are still confined to horse-and-buggy-distance from home, without benefit of television or internet or modern transportation. Communities that are outside that horse-and-buggy circumference are dead to them.

This makes it convenient when you are doing genealogy, because you will find generation of ancestors who lived within spitting distance of each other.

But for those of us who have modern conveniences, the world is tiny. Just a casual glance through my own Facebook Friends page shows people in Singapore and Abu Dhabi and Tokyo and Australia and the United Arab Emirates and Quito. I’m sure there are others. I’m too old to keep up with where people are living these days. I wish I could visit all of them. I want to see everywhere.

Despite the vastness of the world, we need to remember that we are all God’s children. He knows us all by name and loves each one of us as if we were His only child. We need to show the same concern for one another as He shows for us. For all we know, that random stranger next to us in line might be our future boss, or bishop, or daughter-in-law. The older we get, the smaller the world seems to be.



*Kevin Bacon is not your typical Hollywood jerk. He capitalized on the phenomenon of the game by creating a charitable foundation,, which connects celebrities with other charitable endeavors and helps raise money for worthwhile causes.


This post first appeared in the Nauvoo Times.



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Aug 31 2015

Ripples in a Pond

Published by under General

Fluffy couldn’t get to sleep a couple of nights ago, so he went into a guest bedroom and watched a movie in the hopes that it would bore him to sleep. He never got back to sleep, but he did enjoy the movie. Its title was A Sound of Thunder, and it was based on a science fiction story by Ray Bradbury with the same title that was published before we were in nursery school.

It may have been an old story, but it was a good one. The next morning as he was helping me with my morning exercises, he mentioned the movie to me, and I immediately asked him if it was the one about stepping on a butterfly. He confirmed that indeed that was the story in question.

The story takes place in a future time when time travel has been perfected, and a company offers to take people back to a prehistoric era to allow them to shoot a dinosaur. Because changes to the past could affect the future, the company takes great pains to make sure nothing will be changed by these hunting expeditions.

The hunters can only shoot a particular dinosaur just before it is about to die anyway (by being trapped in a tar pit or covered by an erupting volcano), to ensure that killing the dinosaur 15 seconds earlier will not alter history. The company also provides an elevated path above the jungle floor, and everyone has to stay on that path.

The hunters use ice bullets that melt and leave no metal residue behind. The organizers of the expedition believe they have covered all the bases.

But on one occasion there is a mishap, and one of the hunters accidentally crushes a butterfly under his boot. The owners of the hunting expedition hope that such a minor accident will have minimal effects, but when they return to the future, they find that the whole world is different.

In the short story, the changes were political in nature (the world they returned to was now under the influence of communism, as befitting our own world’s obsession with communism in those Cold War days when the story was written).

In the movie, the changes were environmental, as befitting the times in the movie was filmed. The weather was warmer, and plants were more aggressive, growing up through concrete and seeking out humans as potential food sources. Different types of animals had also developed (a cross between a dinosaur and a gorilla, for example), which were also predatory towards humans.

At the end of the movie, the heroes go back and prevent the butterfly from being killed, thus allowing the future to unfold as expected. The moral of the story is that seemingly unimportant actions may have dramatic and long-lasting consequences.

This reminded me of a Relief Society lesson that we had a year or so ago. The teacher asked us to think back to an experience where someone did something that changed our lives, and then to share that experience with the class. She was no doubt gratified to see that there were more women willing to share experiences than time would allow.

In fact, the people who shared their experiences went on like a chain. In an entirely unplanned sequence, each woman who stood up said that her life had been positively influenced by the woman who had stood up and given thanks immediately before her.

Each one gave specific examples, so we had a chain of gratitude that filled the hour. It was an impressive lesson that I will not soon forget. Who knew that there were so many instances of our actions having such long-lasting effects?

There was another incident that hit even closer to home. Back in those glorious days when the Relief Society used to have craft classes, I drafted Fluffy to teach a class in how to make stained glass hearts. A whole bunch of women signed up, and each of them made one of several varieties of hearts to take home and hang in their windows. Fluffy and I still have two of them hanging in our kitchen, all these many years later.

The heart suncatcher we made in Relief Society craft class.

One of the heart sun-catchers we made in Relief Society craft class.

Months after teaching the class, Fluffy needed to go to the stained glass store to purchase some supplies. When he got to the store, fifteen miles away, who should be standing behind the counter but one of the women who had been in his class?

When Fluffy asked her what she was doing there, she said she had enjoyed the class so much that she had gone to the stained glass store for more lessons. Then she had abandoned her career and gotten a job at the stained glass store so she could spend all her professional time pursuing this newly-discovered passion.

This was a real surprise. I don’t remember specifically what Brook used to do, but was one of those women who was a high-powered corporate executive. She was married to her job. She wore a suit to work and gave presentations, getting home to her daughter at all hours of the night. Now, all these years later, her Facebook page says she does “Custom Glass Art Work & Architectural Glass Commissions.”

This was a big jump for her, and it was precipitated by a small thing. Fluffy had no idea when he gave that little class that he was completely changing somebody’s life. He threw a small stone in a pond, and it resulted in ripples that went far beyond what we could imagine.

As we sail through life (or, in my case, blunder through it), we have the opportunity to help others along the way or to step on a lot of butterflies. Sometimes I think I spend my life in army boots, tromping on the tender feelings of others. Oh, I do not do it on purpose! But as my feet move at little old lady speed, my tongue goes at eighty miles an hour.

The memory of that old Ray Bradbury story was a good reminder that even the most casual word we say has an impact, and that every action is being watched — and all too often imitated — by others.


(This article was first published in the Nauvoo Times.)


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Aug 24 2015

The Mother of Awkward Moments

Published by under General

A couple of times in my life, I have found myself in situations so awkward that I knew no amount of explanation was going to get me out of them unscathed. Alas, one of those happened just last week.

We found ourselves with a fairly quiet Friday, and decided we would celebrate by going out to lunch. It was our first lunch date in a long time, because I’d been in the hospital and because we’d had company, and because all sorts of other things had intervened. Needless to say, we were having ourselves a whale of a good time enjoying our drinks and waiting for our appetizer to arrive.

At long last our appetizer arrived and I had just taken a picture of it, when lo and behold an old acquaintance of ours stopped by our table to say hello. Brent Wells used to be a counselor in our bishopric, but he and his family had moved about twenty miles west of us. He had been a bishop and a high councilor, but was currently working in the scouting program of the Church in his neck of the woods.

Because church is what ties us together, we talked about churchy things. We wondered how long the Church is going to be affiliated with the Boy Scouts, now that the Boy Scouts are hiking away from traditional family values. We talked about Brent’s youngest son, who is off serving as a missionary in Brazil.

Brent asked if Fluffy and I were still serving as temple workers, and I assured him that yes, indeed, we are going to be going back there as soon as the temple reopens after it gets a new roof put on it and a new air-conditioning system and new seats in many of the rooms. The projected re-opening date is October 5.

As we were visiting with Brent, it was fun to watch his eyes, because it was obvious he was trying to avoid looking at the open beer bottle on the table. But like bees to honey, Fluffy would catch him stealing a quick glance, and then quickly looking away.

Fluffy could almost hear his thoughts. “Is that really a beer bottle on the table?” “Maybe they are no longer practicing Mormons and just are too embarrassed to say anything.” “Or maybe they have this one little vice, and here I caught them in a pretty embarrassing situation.”

Finally Fluffy put Brent out of his misery. He said, “I hope you are not going to tell our bishop about this bottle of beer.”

Brent nodded. He really, really wanted to know what that beer was doing on our table. So we told him, and I sure hope he believed us, because we were only telling him the truth. He finally left to find his own table, and we could almost hear him thinking “Yeah, right.”

The beer that almost gave our friend Brent a heart attack.

We talked and laughed about this on the way home, and we couldn’t help but empathize with our friend. After all, if the tables were turned and we had caught some Mormon friends in the same situation, what would we think? Would there be any legitimate reason for a group of card-carrying Mormons to be sitting with an open bottle of beer on the table? We couldn’t think of many (if any) legitimate situations.

But actually, I have found myself with beer on the table in a public place for two completely different reasons. Both times, I was completely innocent — or as innocent as Kathy ever gets.

The first time must have been twenty years ago. Janece Ford, who at that time was my saintly Relief Society president, was sharing lunch with me at a local restaurant. We were just deciding whether to order dessert when, to our utter horror, the waiter brought over a big, foaming glass of beer.

Two evil women who shall remain nameless (because you know who you are, Sandi Berrett and Holly Davis) had ordered a beer to be sent over to our table. As we looked at the yeasty head on the beer, Janece and I could only mourn because they had not sent us something that was chocolate.

What I should have done was to take a big swig of the stuff, just to shock them. Instead I think we gave the beer to the server, to augment his already handsome tip.

On this occasion, though, the beer was on our table for a much more pedestrian reason. Fluffy and I were on a secret shopping assignment, and the beer was an assigned purchase. We have had to buy beer so often now that I forgot it was even on the table. It was only Fluffy who caught Brent’s horrified glances and realized he needed to defuse the situation.

In case you are wondering what we do with the beer we purchase, this is how we dispose of it. We buy beer in a dark bottle rather than a glass. That way people from across the room do not know that we haven’t consumed even a drop of it.

We also order a dark-colored soft drink, like a cola or a root beer. At the end of the meal, I make sure the soft drink glass is about half full. Then I pour some of the beer into the glass. The resulting mess looks something like this:

The beer poured into the glass leaves a concoction that looks like a watered-down soft drink. Problem solved.

If Fluffy had been as oblivious as I had been, poor Brent probably would have gone home and told his wife that Fluffy and I were beer-drinkers. It would have been an obvious conclusion, but it would have been a wrong one.

In Brent’s eyes, it was so obvious that we were drinking that beer. The bottle was sitting right there between us, and there was nobody else at the table. What other conclusion could he honestly reach? But even then, his own eyes would have deceived him.

If Brent’s eyes lied to him about something that was so obviously black and white, how often do our own eyes lie to us about other things? How often do I look at things and make snap judgments about people and situations? How often do I decide that people have acted foolishly or even sinned based on something I have seen or heard or even inferred?

How often am I wrong?

The Book of Mormon (Moroni 7:18) says this about people like me:

And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

The New Testament (Matthew 7:2) says roughly the same thing:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The older I get, the happier I am that I am not responsible for the judgment of others. It is hard enough for me to figure out what my own motives were for doing something. There is no way I can judge my next-door neighbor or my errant friend, or even the lady in the Relief Society whose pot looks suspiciously like the pot I’ve been missing ever since I took it to the church dinner and never saw it again.

I’m not even going to think about whose fault it is in the most recent divorce, or who should get the cat when they divide up the family possessions. I can’t even decide who should get the biggest scoop of ice cream when Fluffy and I are dishing up our daily dessert. (Well, that part’s easy. Fluffy always gets the biggest scoop of ice cream.)

But as for judging, that is best left for the Judge of Israel. I have learned not to believe my own eyes. Not even when there’s a stinky bottle of beer on the table to tell me that something is rotten in Denmark.


P.S.  By the way, there is a little postscript to this story.  On Friday, Fluffy and I once again went on a mystery dining assignment to a place where we had to order a bottle of beer.  This time, Fluffy was so paranoid about that beer bottle that he hid it on a chair seat during the entire course of the meal.

The waitress probably thought we were out of our ever-loving minds, but at least no church members caught us with that bottle of Miller Lite on the table.  We have our priorities straight.



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Aug 17 2015

R.I.P. Cecil

Published by under General

When I was lying in a hospital bed recently, all pretzel-shaped because the bed was somewhat lacking in the mattress department, Fluffy looked for anything he could to distract me from my pretzel status. One of the things we discussed was the sad death of poor Cecil the Lion, over in Zimbabwe.

Cecil’s sad fate is old news to many of you, but in case you were hiding under a rock or on vacation or have quit reading newspapers (as I have) because you are fed up with the state of the world’s affairs, I will tell you the condensed version.

Cecil the Lion, in happier days. Photo by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

A hapless Minnesota dentist, whose hobby is shooting exotic animals with the intent of killing them dead, went over to Zimbabwe with the intent of bagging a lion. He spent a whole lot of money — $55,000 according to the news story Fluffy read — to buy the permits that would allow him to do this legally and lawfully.

Unfortunately, the guides he hired were not as excited as he was with the prospect of doing it legally and lawfully. They lured a lion out of a protected game preserve, where the dentist shot him with a bow and arrow. When the lion didn’t die after more than 40 hours of being tracked, it was eventually dispatched with a gun and decapitated so the dentist could take home his expensive new trophy.

It was only after the animal was dead that the dentist realized something was wrong. For one thing, the lion was wearing a GPS tracking collar, meaning that perhaps it wasn’t as wild as he had hoped. Oops.

But things would only get worse from there. It turned out that the lion wasn’t just any old GPS tracking collar lion. Oh no. This lion was Cecil, Zimbabwe’s all-time favorite mascot lion. And when the people of Zimbabwe found out he had been killed by an American hunter, they were steamed.

Before I go any farther in the story, I need to tell you where we in the Kidd household stand as far as the hunting of animals is concerned.

First of all, I am an unabashed carnivore. If it is a meat product, bring it on. Bones and fat and sinews are fair game. No, that is an understatement. Bones and fat and sinews are the stars of the show. I can chew on your standard pork chop bone for over an hour, removing every atom of non-bone material.

My mother once asked the doctors she worked for if there was something wrong with me because I ate so much of the animal, up to and including the gristle and the marrow. The doctor said if I was eating that, it was because my body needed it. Sure enough, I have been anemic for most of my life. I crave liver and spinach, too.

So yes, if you hunt the animal with the intent of eating it, go ahead and hunt. We have friends who bag twenty deer (and more) per year, and they eat every scrap of the meat. More power to them.

But if you’re hunting big game animals such as lions or giraffe or wildebeest, we would prefer you use a camera. There’s a compelling reason for doing this, and that’s that only one person can bag a lion with a bow and arrow, but tens of thousands can shoot the same lion with a camera. Why in the world would someone choose to destroy such a magnificent creature?

Despite this bias against trophy hunting, it may surprise you to learn that we have come down firmly in the camp of the Minnesota dentist. Here is a guy who spent $55,000, thinking he had dotted all his i’s, and crossed all his t’s. He thought he had bagged a completely legal lion — right up until the moment his guides cavalierly cut off the GPS collar from Cecil’s neck and proceeded to destroy it.

I’ll bet the dentist had his own “Oops” moment then.

As odious as the whole lion-shooting thing is to me, lion-shooting is legal, or at least it is legal where the dentist did it. I am assuming (and we all know that “assuming” is a big word) that the dentist could not see the GPS tracking necklace on the lion’s neck when he shot the lion, and that his story that he shot the lion in good faith is the truth.

If that is the case, why has he been harassed to the point that he has had to close his dental practice and go into hiding? Why is he getting death threats? Why is his summer home in Florida being vandalized (with bloody pickled pigs’ feet, no less)?

Why are the do-gooders who write YELP reviews writing phony reviews that give the dentist’s practice one star, not because of his dental work but because he is a hunter?

I have always thought YELP reviews were worthless for exactly this reason, and this only confirms it. Millennials get in a snit and ruin someone’s reputation over something that has nothing to do with the business at hand. And I wondered how many of these enlightened YELP users are proudly pro-choice, and therefore support a practice that is light years more barbaric than trophy hunting. But I digress.

What I find more than a little pathetic is one little bitty news story that appeared last week about an Idaho woman who just killed a giraffe in South Africa.

I had to look really hard to find this article the second time. I knew it was there, but it took nearly fifteen minutes before I finally tracked it down. And I consider myself to be pretty much expert on the internet.

You can be sure this hunter is not going to get back to Idaho to find pigs’ feet in her driveway, or death threats, or other horrible things going on in her Idaho community. Do you know why? I will tell you.

This hunter has the ultimate free pass. She is a woman. And right now, women can do just about anything and get away with it. The lion killer’s sin was not that he killed a lion. It was that he was a white man who killed a lion.

If he had been a woman who killed a lion, he would have gotten a slap on the wrist, and the people who would have been blamed were the people who should have been blamed all along — the guides who baited the lion out of the protected game preserve for the hunter to shoot.

But because he was a privileged white man, nobody is blaming the people in Africa who set up the kill. Everyone is blaming the hunter who paid $55,000 to kill “a” lion and instead killed “Cecil the beloved mascot lion.” And I am not at all sure that is where the blame belongs.

I am sorry that Cecil, the beloved mascot lion, is dead. But you know what? I am equally sad about the giraffe. And I think that the Minnesota dentist is an idiot. But you know what? I think the Idaho woman hunter is an equal idiot. If one deserves to be pelted with bloody pickled pigs’ feet, so does the other.

I am fed up with a country that treats men like pariahs just because they are men, and treats women better than men just because they are women. Didn’t women campaign for equal rights? Then why are they demanding to be treated better than equal, and why do they not speak out for men who are attacked for just being men?

I don’t like any of it, but I’m just a grumpy old person. I like women and men, just as I like lions and giraffes.

So sue me.



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Aug 10 2015

It’s UnAmerican to Say “American”

Published by under General

Many long years ago, when I went off to Brigham Young University, my mother warned me that people were going to make fun of me. She didn’t say that people would make fun of me because I was not a Mormon (which, at the time, I wasn’t). She said people would make fun of me because I was a Southerner.

Southerners did not have the best of reputations. They still don’t. Although being from New Orleans has some prestige, being from Louisiana does not. At least we can always say we are not from Mississippi. Being from Mississippi is rock bottom as far as being a laughing-stock is concerned, at least if you live in that neck of the woods.

Then again, every state has to have a nearby state that can be ridiculed. When we lived in Utah, it was the potato farmers in Idaho that were the object of scorn. Now, we East Virginians look down our noses at those in the west.  Recently I read that in the United States as a whole, New Jersey is the state we look down on the most.  Sorry, New Jerseyites.  That’s the way it is.

But the whole South has a bad reputation for being red of neck. Maybe it’s the way we talk. Maybe it’s that we always end up on the bottom of every survey for education or quality of life. Whatever it is, the rest of the country can point their fingers at those who live in the red states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico. We are objects of ridicule, and we know it.

The thing is, when something really stupid happens in this country, it generally doesn’t originate from down South. Usually it comes from California, the birthplace of political correctness. But now, some granola-chomping moron in New Hampshire (and here I intend no offense to granola-eaters or to morons everywhere) has decided to one-up California once and for all.

New students to the University of New Hampshire this year (and you’ll notice that I deftly avoided saying the word “freshmen,” because “freshmen” is now a four-letter word) have been given a list of words they should not say — words that are intrinsically bad. Hurtful. Not politically correct.

Fluffy found out about it in this article. The document has gotten such big press that the offending web page has now been pulled, and students can now allegedly say these horrible words, but just the idea that they could not until the rest of America came down on them was pretty darn chilling.

Think, for a minute, that New Hampshire is the “Live Free or Die” state. Now contemplate that people who lived in this state of liberty were not being allowed to say words like “American.” What happened to freedom of speech in the “Live Free or Die” state?

But I digress. Before you can be as outraged as I was, let me give you a list of some of the words that the University of New Hampshire outlawed as being offensive:

  • American
  • Mothering
  • Fathering
  • Illegal alien
  • Caucasian
  • Homeless
  • Poor person
  • Obese
  • Overweight
  • Healthy
  • Orientals
  • Freshmen

This was not all. In order to make sure no other “hurtful” language was used, students were referred to a 4,750-word web page. Can you imagine having to memorize all the ins and outs of a 4,750-word web page just to make conversation?

If you delve deeper into the web page, even the word “disabled” is hurtful. People are supposed to say, “Person who is wheelchair mobile.”

As a professional “person who is wheelchair mobile,” I am too busy wheeling myself around to waste all that air referring to myself with all those syllables. It takes too much work! You do-gooders should try wheeling yourselves around with your arms and then referring to yourselves with all those syllables. You will quickly see why I refer to myself as a gimp.

(If you don’t like referring to me as a gimp, you may call me Kathy. Or, if we are not on first-name terms, you may call me, “Kathy, queen of the universe.” But do not dare refer to me as a “person who is wheelchair mobile,” or I will use that wheelchair to roll over your feet. Then you may be a “person who is wheelchair mobile,” too.)

But hey. At least I’m not a poor person. If I were a poor person, I would have to start referring to myself as a “person with low economic status related to my education, occupation and income.” Sheesh. I’ve barely gotten out of the hospital from shortness of breath. That would put me right back in the hospital again.

There are some people in this world who are stupid because they have not been given the chance to better themselves. Many people where I grew up were not given the opportunity for a higher education, but they did the best they could. Nevertheless, they knew the important things. They knew how to honor the flag. They served their country. They prayed to God in the way they had been taught by their parents.

On the other hand, there some people in this world who are stupid because they choose to be. They have been given a little intelligence, and they decide they are smarter than everyone else. Then they think it is their right to tell the rest of the world how to think. The people behind the political correctness movement are people just like that.

The Book of Mormon talks about those people, and says they get their pride from Satan himself. Frankly, I am not surprised. This is what that passage says:

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. (2 Nephi 9:28)

Mother was right. When I got to Brigham Young University, there were people who ridiculed me for being a Southerner. There weren’t many, fortunately, although one history professor was merciless. After I finished his class, I avoided him in the future.

It is easy to make fun of Southerners. We talk funny — or at least, I did at first. I got it beaten out of me pretty quickly.

But all these years later, I’m proud of my roots. I come from a part of the country that is solid in its love for God and country. Louisiana may not have “Live Free or Die” as its motto, and the state song may be “You Are My Sunshine,” but the people where I grew up know what’s important. Love for God and country are in my DNA.

I wish that were the case in all of the fifty states.



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Aug 03 2015

When Life Takes You by Surprise

Published by under General

Sometimes life jumps up and attacks you by surprise when you are cheerfully off doing something else altogether. As an example of this, let me share with you my adventure of last weekend.

On Saturday night when I went up to bed, the day was finished as far as I was concerned. I did a little reading until I was tired, and then then turned out the lights, or rather my eyelids. Normally I like to stay awake for Fluffy to come upstairs so I can butter his hands with hand cream, but it had been a long week.

We had enjoyed the most delightful of company, entertaining a house guest and staying awake until all hours of the night, solving the world’s problems. Also, the first morning he had been in our house, I had fallen down from my walker — a big, huge fall — for the first time in more than two years.

The only thing that kept us from having to call Fire and Rescue to get me up was that I had fallen near enough to the stairs that I just scooted over to the staircase, sat at the top of the stairs with my feet several steps below, held on to the stair rail, and hoisted myself up.

By then I found myself headed downstairs hours before I wanted to go downstairs, but that wasn’t the stair case’s fault. I shouldn’t have fallen down in the first place.

Anyway, even now I still have bruises that are bigger than an Idaho potato, but that’s the way we do things on Planet Kathy. Go big or go downstairs.

I was so shaken and there were so many torn muscles from the tumbling event that instead of my walking around on the walker as I usually do, Fluffy was rolling me around on the wheelchair more than he was accustomed.

He rolled me to a wedding at the Washington Temple, and then to the wedding reception that night. But he also rolled me up and down to the car every time we left the house, which he almost never does. My injuries gave him a real workout.

I was still recovering on Saturday night, so I went upstairs to bed just a little early, turned out my eyelids, and was soundly asleep when I was rudely awakened about 2 AM by the act of nearly freezing to death. I thought Fluffy had put me in an industrial freezer while I was asleep, and I was not amused.

I impatiently awoke the innocent little fellow and demanded to know why he had turned on the industrial fan we do not own. His protestations fell upon deaf ears. He got up and started piling blankets on me. The blankets did not work and I was still shivering and shaking like a dry leaf in a tornado.

I lay abed shivering my little buns off. It soon became apparent the chills were not going away and I was not going to be able to fall back asleep. Furthermore, the chills were shaking every bit of liquid around in my tiny bladder, and I figured as long as I wasn’t sleeping anyway, I might as well hop down to the end of the bed where the porta-potty is located.

(You who have working feet may not be aware that we who do not have working feet cannot just hippy-hop to the bathroom at every whim. So we have a porta-potty at the end of the bed, so that I can just hop down to the end of the bed and hop back without ever having to put on shoes, and without expending so much energy that I would be awake for the rest of the night.

(Fortunately, my three months in the hospital in 2012-2013 taught me to be able to sleep through the night on many if not most nights, but when I do have to use the potty somebody has to empty it. This is yet another reason why Fluffy is my Perpetual Employee of the Month. Boy, does that little booger earn his paycheck!)

Anyway, I opened my eyelids, sat up in bed, and began the hop. It is only about three hops to the end of the bed, and to my credit I was able to achieve the first one. Then — how can I say this? — I got stuck. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t work up the energy to hop again.

Fluffy was starting to get a wee bit annoyed by all this kerfuffle, but he was getting even more concerned about my behavior. Back in December of 2012, a mighty case of the chills is what started me off on my whole grand three-month hospital adventure. You know — the one that put me in the wheelchair and turned our lives upside-down.

After being on the bed for about 20 minutes with no progress, Fluffy started asking me some questions. I guess my answers were either nonexistent or nonsensical, to the point that Fluffy realized that calling 911 was the best option at this point.

To be honest, I have no idea what transpired, because by this time my mind was quickly losing its foothold on Planet Earth. I only know about the phone call — or about anything else that happened here — because Fluffy told me about it later.

The paramedics got there first. The first team was a crew of four, led by Mr. Buff Paramedic, who was as rude as he was manly. He wanted me to stand up from my seated position on the bed and get into a fireman’s chair, where I could be strapped down and carried down our staircase by the herd of paramedics who, together, could safely carry my weight.

There were only two problems here:

  1. Having no idea there were paramedics in the room, I could not hear a word that Mr. Buff Paramedic had to say.
  2. Even if I had been able to hear or understand him, I did not have the ability to stand up and walk from the bed to the fireman’s chair. In order to do a thing like that, one must have working feet.

Not having heard the conversation, I cannot testify what was said. But Fluffy says it went roughly like this:

Get on the chair, Mrs. Kidd.”

“She can’t get on the chair. Her legs are paralyzed.”

“We can’t move you until you’re on the chair, Mrs. Kidd.”

“She can’t get on the chair. She’s almost unconscious.”

“Just get on the chair, Mrs. Kidd. We can’t do anything until you just. Get…On…The…Chair.”

“If she had that much strength we would be driving to the hospital and would not have called you.”

To his credit, Fluffy didn’t ever once say anything like this:

People, it’s pretty apparent she’s both paralyzed and suffering from squash rot at this point. Leave her alone.”

Of course, maybe he did say it and just didn’t report it. I wouldn’t admit to saying it if I’d said it.

When it became apparent that despite all his testosterone I was not going to be intimidated, Mr. Buff Paramedic called in a fire truck. Eventually a second fire truck was summoned, giving us a grand total of one meat wagon and the two fire trucks. I am sure this was great fodder for neighborhood gossip.

I can only assume here that Mr. Buff Paramedic needed the personnel from these trucks rather than the trucks themselves. But because it only took four people to carry me downstairs once they got me in the chair, there can only be two reasons that second fire truck of men was needed:

  1. To intimidate me.
  2. To give moral support to Mr. Buff Paramedic.

I must confess, I was not intimidated by the men on the second fire truck, considering I did not know the guys from the meat wagon were there, and I did not know the men of the first fire truck were there. For all I know, there could have been a herd of kangaroos in our bedroom on Saturday night. That’s as plausible to me as knowing I missed the Calendar Boys of Loudoun County.

Perhaps, however, having two fire trucks of manly men to back him up gave Mr. Buff Paramedic all the moral support he needed. Because eventually the three Fire and Rescue teams were somehow able to get one dazed and paralyzed old lady onto the fireman’s chair.

Even after I was safely strapped in, Mr. Buff Paramedic was still not satisfied. Now, however, the conversation went like this:

Tuck in your foot, Mrs. Kidd.”

“She can’t tuck in her foot. Her foot is paralyzed.”

“We can’t take you down the stairs until your foot is tucked in, Mrs. Kidd. Tuck in your foot.

“She can’t tuck in her foot. Her foot is paralyzed.”

“Mrs. Kidd. We cannot carry you until you tuck in your foot.”

“She can’t tuck in her foot. Her foot is paralyzed. She cannot move it.”

I don’t know how long this went on, but eventually I was carried downstairs, I was put into the meat wagon, IVs were clumsily inserted into one hand and somewhat less clumsily into the other arm, and I was driven to the hospital. When I awoke it was hours later from when I had last remembered anything. Fluffy was sitting there, looking as cute as ever, and after all that time I had still not gone to the bathroom.

Fluffy gave me the Reader’s Digest condensed version of what had gone on throughout the night. Once again I thought that I have got to give that little fellow a raise. But then I had a more pressing need. A bedpan was brought to me, and a nurse relieved me of my underwear.

When I protested about my underwear being gone, she said, “Lady, the first thing we do in this place is we take your underwear off. This is what we do.”

Sure enough, there was a full moon in room 225 of the Loudoun County Hospital for the next four days. And if you ever have cause to visit anyone in the Loudoun County Hospital, you can hide a little smile behind you because you will know a little secret about them. They may look fresh and pretty from the waist up, but that is where the prettiness ends.

Come to think of it, I’ve been in three hospitals in the Washington D.C. metro area — this one in Virginia, one in Maryland, and one in D.C. itself — and all three of them kept their patients trapped with a flimsy gown and no underwear. Maybe this is how they keep us from escaping.

The whole time I was incarcerated and pants-less, I had occasional thoughts about going to bed apparently healthy on Saturday night and waking up pretty close to being dead. Life can change forever on the drop of a dime.

If that weren’t already in my mind, another incident as I was checking out on Wednesday evening confirmed the thought. Fluffy had put me into the car and we just getting ready to start the engine when the first counselor in our stake presidency, Peter Scholz, rushed past us towards the hospital entrance. Being a proper woman of good breeding, I wolf-whistled at him to get his attention. Because he is a good Mormon man, it took two whistles for him to turn around.

He came over to tell me he had a bone to pick with me, which he did. Fluffy was supposed to speak in church on Sunday, but we had to skip church because of the whole hospital thing, and President Scholz was drafted to take Fluffy’s place.

I bet he did a great job, and in fact I would have loved to hear his talk. But if I’d been there, Fluffy would have been the one to speak. In fact, Fluffy said he would have much rather been giving a talk in church than sitting with me at the hospital on a Sunday morning.

Anyway, the reason President Scholz was rushing into the hospital was that one of the members of the stake had gone in for what was supposed to be routine surgery the day before. The man had come through the surgery fine and had even watched some television afterwards, but then he had flatlined, and doctors now believed that he was not going to wake up.

Of course, doctors do not know anything about priesthood blessings.  I’m a living testament to that.

We asked who this person was, and we were stunned. This is a guy who has been in the peak of health, and who is twenty years younger than we are. His wife’s Facebook page is full of their recent vacation pictures. And now the stake presidency was rushing to his side to give him a priesthood blessing in the hopes of keeping him alive.

Talk about having your life completely change overnight.

If you are the kind of person who prays, be grateful for every day you live. It could be your last, even if you think you are in the peak of health. And if you have anything you need to make right with another person, or with God, don’t put it off. You may not have as much time as you think. We both learned that 2.5 years ago, and it was reinforced again just last weekend.



3 responses so far

Jul 30 2015

The Greatest Show on Earth

Published by under General

A brand new multiplex cinema opened in our neighborhood recently. It has those new fancy seats where you can lie down and even rock back and forth if you are so inclined. Fluffy and I have been excited to go. The only problem is that they expect you to actually buy a ticket and watch a movie if you sit in the seats. And finding a movie that we both like and is playing at that cinema has been a real challenge.

We even got a couple of free movie tickets for Valentine’s Day, so we could see a movie for free if we could just find one.

To say that Fluffy and I do not go to the movies is somewhat of an understatement. We went to see The Saratov Approach back in 2013. Unless you are a Mormon, you probably did not see it. It was based on a true story involving the kidnapping of two Mormon missionaries in Russia, and their miraculous escape. It was a real thriller. Too bad it did not get a national release. If you can rent or stream it online, it is a pretty entertaining movie.

Before that, the last movie I saw was Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. That was back in 2004. It was rated “R,” so you might say I sneaked out to see it with a friend in Long Beach, California. It was a terrific film.

In fact, both of these movies were so good that I later purchased them on DVD. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, Fluffy and I are not moviegoers. We just do not go. We see movies on cruise ships, in our cabins, and occasionally on TV if we see something we like. But if we don’t catch them there, we do not see them at all.

We pretty much stopped seeing movies the day we decided to stop viewing R-rated movies. After that, every movie we saw advertised that we wanted to see had an R-rating. We would watch the advertisement on television, and one of us would say, “That looks promising.” Then at the ad we would see the little “R,” and we’d both shake our heads in disgust.

More and more, almost every movie seems to get the dreaded “R” rating. The sequel of National Lampoon’s Vacation is out this summer, and even it has an R-rating. Wasn’t the original supposed to be a family movie? Wouldn’t they make more money for a family movie if you could actually take the entire family to see it? Or do the theaters just not enforce the age restrictions anymore?

I suspect that the sequel is indeed a family movie, but that families these days are supposed to bond over R-rated jokes. If that’s the case, it makes me sad.

I don’t want seven-year-old girls to know what condoms are, much less to be expected to laugh about condom humor. (Not to say there is condom humor in the movie, mind you. I have not and will not be seeing the movie, given that it has an “R”-rating. I have no idea what “R”-rated humor is in it.)

Of course, all this sleaze does not contain itself to the movie industry. It never does. I recently purchased a set of DVDs for Fluffy. It contained the first season of the TV series “Dexter,” which appeared on Showtime.

“Dexter” had a delightful premise, if you consider murder and mayhem to be delightful. The protagonist was a psychopath, Dexter, whose policeman father realized when he was young that he was going to grow up to be a serial killer.

Dad told Dexter that since he was going to be killing people anyway, he should only kill people who deserved to be killed. So Dexter grew up to be a forensic scientist working with the police. He helped put the bad guys away, and on the rare occasions that it became apparent that the worst of the bad guys were going to be set free, he got rid of them. Fiendishly.

It was a wonderful premise for a show, full of moral ambiguities. I couldn’t wait for Fluffy to watch the first episode. And then when we started, we couldn’t wait for it to be over.

You see, I had forgotten the first rule of Showtime (and other premium TV stations): Use as much gratuitous profanity as possible. Because…You…Can. Dexter himself did not use profanity. But all the characters around him dropped the “F-“word like I drop potato chip crumbs. Even worse (at least for me) the characters used God’s name in vain at every possible opportunity. It made the show unwatchable.

Oddly, the “F”-word doesn’t bother me. But using God’s name in vain is like acid on my skin. It’s a pity. “Dexter” had so much potential.

Oh, the joys of living in this new and shiny millennium. My generation was raised by parents who taught us that bad language was a sign of a limited vocabulary. And I can’t help but still feel that way when someone seems to think that swearing like a sailor is the sign of a truly enlightened person.

Seeing the posts that some people make on social media are just appalling. They seem to have no filter, and there is no topic that is off-limits for their profanity-laden screeds. This reminds me of a great quote given in a talk at BYU back in 2004:

The importance of having a sense of the sacred is simply this—if one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. Absent a feeling of reverence, he will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct. He will drift from the moorings that his covenants with God could provide. His feeling of accountability to God will diminish and then be forgotten. Thereafter, he will care only about his own comfort and satisfying his uncontrolled appetites. Finally, he will come to despise sacred things, even God, and then he will despise himself.

I wish this new multiplex would reserve one of the theaters just for the old people to take naps. Nothing would be on the screens. We might purchase refreshments just to be sociable, and to make the movie theater executives happy to have our business, but most of us would just bring our blankets and have a snooze in the rocking chair seats, away from our ringing telephones and the doorbells and the other intrusions.

I would gladly pay the cost of a ticket for that kind of entertainment.

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Jul 13 2015

The Attack of the Disembodied Cat Heads

Published by under General

I ordered a little carrying case the other day from Amazon. It came in an assortment of six styles, but there was a catch. I could not choose which of the assortment I was going to receive.

Because the item was so inexpensive, they could not bother with allowing me to specify which style I would prefer. So in exchange for a great price, I would concede the ability to choose my style and throw that open to chance (or to the whims of the person packing my order).

The designs were all pictures of cats. I am not particularly a cat fan. I am not particularly a non-cat fan either, mind you. Under some circumstances, Fluffy and I might even own a cat.

But we entertain far too many people to bring a cat into our house whose dander might keep allergic people away. That and — well, Fluffy has enough work to do cleaning up after two people without adding a furry poop machine to the mix.

But all this is neither here nor there. I like cats fine, but I do not like cats enough that cats would be my first, second, or even five hundredth choice of design selection for a carrying case. But I needed a carrying case for the bedroom, and the price was right if I ordered one with cats on it and was willing to take a chance on which cat picture would be sent to me randomly.

I inspected the designs. The designer is one of my favorites — or “was,” seeing as how she is as dead as a mackerel. And I absolutely loved five of the six cat designs (or loved them as much as I would love any designs that featured cats, anyway). The sixth cat design featured three disembodied cat heads and was ug-ug-ugly.

The odds were five out of six that I was going to get a design that I liked. I liked those odds, so I quick-like-a-bunny clicked the buy-it-now option and bought a carrying case.

Then the little voice o’ doom said to me, “You know you are going to get that sixth case.” And my practical voice answered with a little sigh, “Yes. I know I am.”

Normally, I do not wait with bated breath for packages from Amazon, but this was one time I have to admit I was more than a little anxious. I really wanted to know which case I was going to get. No. Scratch that. I was certain which case I was going to get. I was just waiting for the confirmation.

The case was waiting for us in the mailbox on the morning when Fluffy and I were driving off to the temple. As soon as he came back from the mailbox, he handed me the oversized envelope and I ripped it open. Sure enough, the three disembodied cats of the design I hated stared up at me. I laughed long and loud.

The disembodied cat monstrosities behind door #6.

Perhaps this should be an extension of Murphy’s law — “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” I would call it the Murphy-Kathy law of style selection — “When you order an item with multiple styles and have no influence on the choice, you will receive the one in the style that you find the most repulsive.”

You know, I’m going to hate that cat carrying case every time I look at it. Boy, is it ugly! But every time I look at it, it’s going to remind me of just how blessed I am.

If the biggest problem I have is that I get the ugliest cat in a random cat selection of cat carrying cases, I’m one lucky human being. In fact, you could say I’m rolling in catnip.

I had a similar experience recently with an orthopedic surgeon. I just couldn’t stand the pain in my knees anymore, so when a friend told me he had a pretty good joint doctor, off I went.

This doctor (or rather an assistant) took a series of x-rays, and they told me something I didn’t think was possible. I have zero cartilage in my knees. There isn’t a speck of it anywhere.

I would have thought there was some of it left in places that were a little less used. Indeed, I thought I saw some on the x-ray and pointed it out, but the x-ray technician told me I was mistaken. No, there was zip. Zero. Nada. Anywhere. If I still had any cartilage in my knees, it had chosen that week to be attending a cartilage convention in central Cleveland.

To my surprise, all was not lost. There was a series of hyaluronic acid injections I could take in my knees every six months to alleviate the pain. The shots wouldn’t even hurt, and they would be using a chemical that occurs naturally in the body anyway.

“Bring ‘em on,” I said.

I walked out of the doctor’s office (or rather rolled, seeing as how I was in a wheelchair) a new person.

It was as though I had brand new knees. I could not believe the miracle. Every time I flexed or extended my knees I thanked God for the change in my life. And this series of shots was supposed to last for up to eight months.

I couldn’t believe how blessed how I was.

I took the shots at the end of April. The effects had worn off by the Fourth of July. I can’t take them again until the end of October.

Oh well. At least, for two months out of the year, I am going to be pain-free. What a joy that is! I will be rolling in the clover. Halloween will be a happy time for me. Maybe I will even dress up in a disembodied cat head costume.

Until then, I have the cat carrying case to remind me that there is always something in life to make me smile. Things like that used to annoy me. But as I have grown older (and hopefully wiser), I find that God has a pretty delightful sense of humor, and it’s just easier to laugh right along with Him.

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Jul 06 2015

Riding in the Slow Lane

Published by under General

As my Perpetual Employee of the Month, Fluffy is responsible for entertaining me, as well as for feeding me and clothing me and doing everything else you would expect from the conscientious employee he is. So when we were in Williamsburg, Virginia, in May, I was not a bit surprised when he packed me up one sunny morning and announced we were heading out for a day trip to the historic village of Yorktown.

We had been to Williamburg and Jamestown, but had never been to Yorktown (the three cities are known as the Historic Triangle because of all the important historical stuff that happened there). You can hardly blame us. We have only lived in Virginia since 1987. We just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

But Fluffy had done enough research to see pictures of it, and to know that it was a scenic drive. That was good enough for him.

He packed my wheelchair in the backseat and I threw my trusty purple camera around my neck, and off we went. Sure enough, the scenic drive was — well, scenic. We started finding pictures to take around every corner. Sometimes we didn’t even have to turn a corner to find a picture — that’s how photogenic it all was.

When you see a sign that says you’re on a parkway that’s maintained by the Department of the Interior, you know you’re in for some scenic stuff. We were ready for bison, even if only viewed on Department of Interior signage.

Everywhere we drove, the trees provided shade that was cool and inviting.

The road was so peaceful that we wanted to enjoy the view. Part of it had such heavy undergrowth that it looked like the forest primeval, but we couldn’t stop to take pictures of it because there were people behind us that wanted to get past us now. We were driving the speed limit, but that was not fast enough. If we had been driving twice as fast as we were driving, it would not have been fast enough.

We saw many split-rail fences like this one lining the roads. If George Washington ever built a fence, this is the kind of fence he would have built.

Eventually we got to the village of Yorktown. To my surprise, Fluffy didn’t even go to the visitors’ center. As it turned out, this was a good move on his part, because tickets cost $16.75 per person, and there’s no way we could have afforded it. Not this year! Maybe we’ll go back next year, when I’m out of debt and we are solvent.

This is the sort of thing I expected to see on our trip. No, sirree. After stopping to take this lone picture, Fluffy drove right to the waterfront. He knew what he wanted to see.

The waterfront, Fluffy’s destination, was scenic, and it was free.

When we got to the waterfront, Fluffy got me situated in a breezy spot in my wheelchair. Once he made sure I was comfortable and happy, he went off to take pictures and left me to take pictures of my own. We each had a fabulous hour doing what we loved.

If we’d shelled out the money to go to the visitors’ center, we probably would have known the significance of these two ships. All I can tell is that by the rigging they appear to be pretty old.

Here’s George Washington with his hand out. Apparently he wants what the other guy has behind his back. It sure would have helped if I had read the plaque to see who the other guy was and what was going on. Before you think that Mr. Washington had terminal acne, the other guy’s face was just as bad. Apparently this was some artistic technique on the part of the sculptor.

There were all sorts of fascinating shops and restaurants in the vicinity. Sigh. Maybe next year.

There was a brightly-colored trolley that went from the waterfront to the historic area. You could just hop on and hop off as you wished. I did not try hopping on. Hopping is just a wee bit problematical in a wheelchair.

After we left the waterfront, we went through the town and then got on the parkway again. We could have taken the highway back home. In fact, we crossed right under it. But why take the highway when we could take the scenic byway instead? Photographs awaited us, and my trusty purple camera was in my hands.

Fortunately, we did not have to pay $16.75 per person to take a picture of the Yorktown village sign.

We also did not have to pay $16.75 per person to take a picture of the imposing Yorktown courthouse, so that’s what Fluffy did.

Once we were back on the parkway, we were ready for moose or bear or anything. Unfortunately, all the paid moose and bear are assigned to Yellowstone and other national parks that are cooler. They would swelter to death in Virginia. We have to be content with mangy deer, and we didn’t even see any of those.

When you’re on a parkway sponsored by the Department of the Interior, you don’t just get one scenic overhead bridge — you get two at a time.

What I want to know is this: Do all husbands do the motormouth when they are walking? I suspect they do. In fact, I suspect that if the sculptor that did the statue of George Washington and his nameless antagonist at the Yorktown harbor would have been realistic, he wouldn’t have given them acne. He would have had them both doing the motormouth at each other

We had a glorious time driving along. The only problem was, even though we always went the speed limit, we kept collecting a parade of cars behind us that wanted to go twice as fast as we were going, and who were more than a little unhappy that we were poking along so slowly.

I cannot blame these people. They were probably natives of the area who were just trying to get somewhere. They had probably seen the magnificent scenery hundreds of times, and paid little attention to it. They just wanted to get where they were going. That being the case, I cannot understand why they did not just take the highway.

Every time that Fluffy was able to find a pull-out in the road, he pulled off and let the parade of cars behind us pass us, and they zoomed by. I hope they were able to refrain from giving us one-finger waves when they did so. (We didn’t look to see.) No doubt they thought we were stupid old people, and that we should have stayed home slurping our oatmeal.

I know what they were thinking because Fluffy and I used to be among the young people zooming by. We could not understand why the stupid old people only went the speed limit when they could easily have been going faster than that and reaching their destinations hours earlier than they were going to get there.

I can tell you that none of the people who passed us had purple cameras around their necks, and none of them were stopping to take pictures of the double bridges or the split-rail fences. We even turned around to get a shot of a great blue heron that was sitting on a post in the water, but he flew away before we could get the shot. I’m betting the speeders never even saw that magnificent bird.

When we are young, we think the object is to hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, and hurry some more. It is only when we get older that we realize we are all too quickly going to reach that final destination. It is then that we stop to look around and see the things that God has put here for us to enjoy.

Have we reached our quota of sunsets? Have we enjoyed enough bends in enough rivers? Have we seen enough waterfalls or listened to enough thunderstorms? Have we eaten enough warm chocolate chip cookies? Have we spent enough time with the people we love the most?

These are questions that do not bother us when we are young. When we are young, we think there will always be time. When we are older, we realize that clocks run down and that time is running short. It is only then that we want to see everything we can. We do not want to miss the beautiful things that God and nature — and even the hand of man — have provided us.

So when Fluffy packs me in the car for an adventure, we savor every minute of it, and to heck with the people who are lined up behind us on the road. If you happen to find yourself behind two geezers in a gold Mercury Sable, and there is not a pull-out so we can let you pass, I’m afraid you’ll just have to slow down and enjoy the ride.

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