Saturday, February 25, 2012

Black on Black

They wouldn't accept a check to pay for gas yesterday at a station that I'd patronized for years and years. I tossed her wallet on the front seat and pulled out my credit card.

Once home, we unloaded the clean laundry and a large box from the back of the Jimmy, struggling awkwardly with our loads upstairs.

We had a meeting to get to at 7 pm, but she had time to bathe and freshen up, after two days in Tooele, with an unanticipated overnight in between.

We left at 6:44 pm, driving the 54 blocks to the meeting, with only one side-trip as I misremembered my way to SLCC Sandy campus, entering the parking lot just as the clock showed 7 pm.

When we got to the back row of the auditorium, I turned and saw Doug down in front. He jokingly let everyone know that since we were here, it was time to start the meeting. The auditorium was filling fast.

Denise shared her experiences for the next several hours, letting people know what to do to prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually for the coming disasters. The EMP, with its resultant loss of technology, the earthquakes, the 300 mile-an-hour winds that will circle the earth. She bore her testimony.

It was a wonderful meeting. When we attend it always feels like a family reunion.

As we spoke with our like-minded friends afterwards, my cousin Laurie came over. I'd never seen her at one of Doug's meetings before. This was her first visit. We talked and grew closer. We'll get together again. Soon.

We were some of the last to leave the building and parking lot. It was the end of a pleasant, full day.

This morning I got up, ready to pay the bills. She was on her computer, so I couldn't balance the books. After a bit I pulled out the bills and got ready to write some checks. No check book.

Looking around our one-bedroom apartment without glasses on, I found nothing. I asked for her help. She found as much as I had. I knew we'd had the checkbook in the car when I bought gas yesterday, but I remembered going to the car last night, looking for our cell phone for Laurie to borrow. The front seats had been empty.

Outside, I re-checked the front seats, more closely this time. Still no wallet.

She checked with her sticks around the house. Nothing.

I remembered struggling with the box and the laundry basket and that I hadn't checked in the back of the Jimmy. So I pulled on my boots again and went back out to the car. I said a prayer of thanksgiving for this odd experience as I walked down the stairs and asked to be forgiven for the things I've done wrong lately.

Opening her side of the car this time, I looked under the front seats again, then went back to the rear of the Jimmy. There on the back bumper in the corner was her wallet.

Black wallet on top of the black running board. Sitting. In the open. After driving at least 108 blocks on I-15 at 65 miles an hour.

My heart filled with gratitude to be the recipient of another miracle. I felt his smile as I wonderingly took the wallet back upstairs repeating, "No Way!"

It's time to write some checks...

Friday, February 03, 2012


An odd word: Odd sounding, odd looking, odd spelling.

Looking just at "wkw", it reminds me of a bird with outstretched wings: a chicken running noisily around, squawking about the lack of bird feed, or an on-coming fox. The word even sounds like something a bird would say.

Thursday morning I was reminded of that strange word. We had a special project to do, and I'd been asked to bring a wall-sized map of the world in. I found the map, hidden in the closet, but saw that it was only a map of these United States. Still, I thought it might be usable, so I took it in.

That was also the day I'd decided to return my 19 inch, flat panel monitor. I'd received permission to exchange my monitor for one that didn't have a dead pixel mid-screen. I'd decided to return in that day because I would be driving home via Tooele in a car, rather than on the train and bus.

So there I was, ready to embark with my backpack, a four-foot long map rolled up in one hand and a monitor in the other, the bus stop a little over a half-mile away. I'd wrestled with the monitor for 10 minutes, trying to get it into my backpack. No go. And, as a result of the wrestling match, no time for breakfast, either.

So it goes.

Not wanting to take my butter oil/fermented cod liver blend capsule on an empty stomach, I grabbed a banana with my free hand and left our apartment. I made sure the banana was completely swallowed before I locked the door behind me. I've taken quick-eating lessons from my grandson: chew a little, grimace, and swallow as much as fast as you can.

My grips were firm on the map and monitor, and as I approached the first stop light, it began to snow.


By the time I arrived at the bus stop, I'd cut a good sweat. More than I normally do on a regular, non-arms-loaded-with-stuff, half-mile walk to the bus stop. I carefully placed my monitor on the bench, removed my backpack and pulled out the large plastic bag I keep in it for rainy days. Then I wrestled the monitor into the bag for a little protection from the crystalline water.

The barber, a semi-regular bus rider, talked to me as I tried to keep my map off the wet sidewalk while I was putting a 19 inch monitor into a plastic bag. It was then I recognized how I was feeling.

I was fifteen again.

An awkward, clumsy, bumbling boy, with little more than a little enthusiasm and a willing heart, trying to figure out how to kiss my girlfriend on my birthday: in her garage, with the light on, her Labrador Retriever between us, my brother in the car outside the big garage door windows, waiting to drive me home.

The awkward feelings intensified as the bus approached and I realized that I would have to have a plastic-wrapped monitor safely in hand, backpack stowed, map in the other hand, and show the bus driver the pass in my wallet.

That morning I didn't even remove my backpack when I sat down on the bus. Later, waiting for the train, I rested my arms again and stood with my bundles on the bench, foregoing my normal half-mile walks back and forth on the platform. The wait reminded me of another reason I like to walk while I wait for the train: the activity keeps me warm.

On the train, I stood at the front of the car, in front of everybody, monitor at my feet, wrapped in moist plastic, four-foot-long map resting on my foot, other hand clutching a hand-hold, doing my best to remain upright as the car swayed from side to side on its way north.

At work, finally, only a quarter-mile walk from the end of my second train trip, my boss told me he wouldn't need the map after all. Thanks for bringing it.

Still, I needed that trip back in time. I needed to remember that I'm no longer an awkward fifteen year old. Now I'm happy to be a Goofy-Gus grandpa, surrounded by folks: co-workers, friends, family and a wife, who don't seem to mind my odd moments. Mostly.

It's okay to be awkward.

I smiled all the way to work that day.

My kisses have improved a bit since that first one...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First Batch

Chocolate mint. Her Fav.

Not bad for my first attempt using a new process.

Sunday Afternoon

As I was standing in the kitchen finishing the dishes just now, a thought came to mind. Perhaps it was that I was cleaning a paint scraper, getting ready to make a batch of fudge. Anyway for some reason my mind was taken on a trip back through time to a similar quiet summer Sunday afternoon about 26 years ago.

That day, I was less efficient than today. I decided to take a quick nap after lunch, do the dishes later.

[Maybe that was just my habit. I was reminded of dish-doing when I recently reviewed a 22-year-old journal: my daughter asked my visiting father why he was doing our dishes? "We never do them until we have stacks and stacks!" she explained...]

Something brought me out of my napping slumber. Perhaps "Sister Christian" stopped playing below our window, or an uncharacteristically cool breeze blew in that open window. Something. I realized that she was taking an afternoon bath.

"Where are the kids?" I wondered.

I must've heard something in the kitchen. Because I went in to investigate.

Oh my.

There they were. My three-and-a-half-year-old son and two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, in their diapers, sitting on top of the kitchen table. She with an almost empty, family-sized, Country Crock upside down on her head. A Country Crock that had been opened just before lunch.

Margarine covered the table top, the kids, the wall beside the table.

Did I mention the kids? Covered. In margarine.

Smiling at me.

It is TREMENDOUSLY difficult to be stern when all you want to do is laugh and take a picture.

No camera. [Seems oddly thematic...]

I called to her. She joined me in a rush.

We decided to put them in the tub.

Margarine floats.

Friday, January 13, 2012

No Camera

It's been a beautiful, crisp morning. As I was on my regular break, approaching the park at the edge of the Jordan River, I heard some strange bird calls. I noticed a large bird flying across the park from south to north, but the sounds didn't seem to be coming from it. I saw large clumps in a couple trees. I figured they were nesting remnants.

When I walked across the entrance of the park, I glanced up at a tree to my left. To my surprise there was a large, stately bald eagle sitting there, about 30 feet up. I continued on my normal route, my heart full of thanks for the opportunity to have some face-time with that beautiful bird. I walked back to the base of the tree again.

This time I clicked a bit and Mr. Eagle paused in the survey from his majestic perch. He took a look my way. I thanked him for stopping by and a bit later, took my leave.

An SUV was entering the park as I walked toward the street. I waved the car to a stop and the driver hesitantly opened her window. I leaned toward her and gestured back to the tree.

"There's a bald eagle up there," I told her quietly.

She repeated my message to her passenger and they excitedly parked near the base of the tree.

When I returned to work, I mentioned the Eagle to my co-workers. I figured someone might want to go see, so I retrieved the camera from my cubicle.

A few minutes later we were back at the park. Getting out of the car, the lady in the SUV told us that the eagle had flown off towards West Vally City.

Her husband, a preacher, hadn't believed her when she first told him that she saw an eagle.

Maybe I'll carry a camera with me more often.

Still, I have some wonderful pictures in my head. Classics.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Small Talk

Ever since I've been young, I can talk on the phone.

No problem.

Need to call a cab? Need to call the doctor? No problem.

Call a possible cousin out of the blue to ask personal questions about their family? No problem.

So what's my problem?

I don't do small talk.

This evening I told her I would tell her a story.

Maybe a story about one of my gifts. Everybody has gifts. We'd just been watching episodes from the first season of Heroes. They have Hollywood-style gifts. I imagine that I have some, too, not Hollywood-style, flashy, make-me-wealthy-powerful-or-famous gifts; just wonderful, good, gifts

When I was young, eight or nine or so, living in Golden Valley, it was time for a family reunion. For some reason, my mom and I ended up at home by ourselves. Nobody else in the house. That didn't happen often, just me and my mom being together. Unless I was sick... But this time I was healthy. I think most everyone else was already at Mille Lacs Lake getting ready for the reunion.

Or something.

Anyway, we were at home alone and mom got a call from her sister. It's one of those memories that stand out clear and strong: mom on the phone at her desk by the kitchen, talking long-distance with her sister; me in the front room on the couch in front of the big picture window, looking out across the street up the hill to Mr. Ewald's (?) house, listening to mom talk. Long-distance calls didn't happen very often in those days. So this was a red-letter event.

Mom and Aunt Joan talked and talked. I have no recollection of what they spoke about. Just catching-up, family-story stuff. Small talk.

The value of this memory is not the content of the discussion but the comfort I felt as I listened to my mom and Aunt. I truly enjoyed listening to their conversation and cherish those peaceful quiet moments in time.

Lately I've realized this is a theme. I love to listen to my wife talk on the phone, too; to anybody: her family, our family, friends. Anybody. I much prefer listening to her speak with someone, than being the speaker myself, though I do toss a thought into the mix at times as I follow the flow of the talking.

As I look at my life, I have come to the realization that I don't do small talk. If I talk with someone, there has to be a reason, and I know that no one has any desire to listen to the minutia detailing the trivia in my life. So I am comfortable calling strangers and talking with them about their family relationships, but find little use in opening my mouth at a party other than to smile and greet folks.

So my gift, you ask?

I'm an Anti-small-talker. It seems to die when I'm a primary contributor.

Everything has an opposite. I know that there are many people who thrive on making small talk.

Take my grandson, for instance. Please.

My talents don't flow that way. Apparently that's why I talk so much when the home teachers visit. I figure they want to talk about the gospel and family history. So I do...

That I can do.