Friday, January 31, 2014

Witness Protection, Part Two

            I promised to tell you about the other time when I wanted to be in Witness Protection.   The first one you read about, last week, when a man walked in on me in a restroom.  There is, of course, waaaay more to it than that, and if you missed that post, you can read it here.
            But today I’m going to tell you about the first time—far more excruciating--and wouldn’t you know it would involve St. Bob again (I’m beginning to assign blame, I think).
            First, I must tell you that I was an LDS Relief Society President 20 years ago, in our local church congregation.  The Relief Society is the oldest women’s organization in the U.S. and, in a nutshell, provides service. Like our unpaid clergy, everyone's a volunteer. Coincidentally I have this position now, as well, but this time I am on my guard.
            And here’s why.  One of my duties is to oversee a great program called Visiting Teaching.  Sounds like personal tutors, right?  But what we really do is assign each sister several others to visit each month, just to be a friend and make sure she’s okay.  Is anyone sick? Unemployed?  Depressed?  Just needs a laugh or a meal or a spiritual uplift? 

          In short, we think of these women as our sisters and try to serve them.  It’s actually pretty cool, because if it’s done right, nobody can fall through the cracks or feel forgotten.  Even financial crises can be met.  

            Here the plot thickens a teensy bit, because every week changes have to be made. Someone moves in, someone moves out, someone calls and says, “I just got a job so I need to visit in the evenings, now,” etc.  This means I am always juggling, always knocking dominoes to accommodate everyone’s situation.  To help organize this mammoth undertaking, there’s a woman called the Visiting Teaching Coordinator who keeps records of visits and lets the various women know their assignments.  And, needless to say, we are on the phone several times a week.
            So 20 years ago, the woman with this job was a delightful gal with grown kids, named Frances Weaver.  As a young mother, I looked up to her as the epitome of a successful mom.  (I’ve changed her name because I am STILL too embarrassed to call her, and ask if I can use her real name.  But it is not Frances Weaver.)
            So one day I’m on the phone again with Frances, when the second line rings.  I have a phone with hold buttons, so I tell Frances to hold on, and I take the call.  It’s Bob, calling from work.
            “Hey, you sexy, hot mama,” Bob says.  “You wanna have a little party later tonight?"
            I laugh and play back with him.  “Ready when you are,” I say.  
            Then as Bob starts to describe his plans, I giggle and contribute to the conversation, shall we say.
            AND THEN FRANCIS SAYS, “Excuse me, I’m still on the line.  I thought I’d better speak up before this goes much further.”
            And I want a meteor to hit my house and kill me dead that very instant.  I gasp enough air to burst my lungs and then sputter, “Oh—oh—Francis!  Uh… um… can I call you back?”
            Francis is only too happy to get off the line and I stare at the buttons and realize I did not press the HOLD button, but the CONFERENCE button!  
            Aauugghh!  And I tell Bob we have to list the house that very hour, move out of state, and change our names.  I know three realtors I could call instantly.
            Bob, of course, is laughing his head off.  I am picturing Frances telling her husband about this and then word of it spreading through the entire congregation.  I know there is no way I can ever face her again.  I vent about this absolute humiliation and Bob says he has to get back to work.  Now you know what game show hosts do when they go backstage.  They call their wives who become hysterical panic buttons, then they say they have to get back to work.
            That night he comes home and I am no calmer.  In fact, I have thought of even more hideous repercussions. I will be the first person in history who actually did die of embarrassment.  At my funeral people will be sharing what killed me and trying to keep a straight face, like those Darwin dopes who die in ridiculous ways, and then their friends have to keep from laughing when they share the news.
             Bob listens to me, then finally says, “Hey, at least she knows we have a happy marriage.”  
            I stare at him.  This is the good news?  I want to pour a bucket of water on his head.  However, I do not have such a bucket. 
Bob continues chuckling.  After all, it’s fine for a man to have a frisky reputation.  But the Relief Society President?  I can already feel the hives that will be creeping up my neck when I walk in on Sunday, and wonder who has heard about our conversation.  My internal organs are tying themselves into little knots. 
Did I survive it?  Clearly.  Was Frances a good sport who brushed it off to make me feel better?  Yep.  But I still say, if that isn’t justification for being in the Witness Protection Program, then I don’t know what is. 
You really must read my books because they are filled with moments like these that will make your own embarrassing moments so much less painful.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


            Confession: I like cars.  St. Bob likes to tell the story about how impressed he was when I first saw his Mustang and said, “Nice wheels.”  But I am nowhere near the level of car appreciation that he and our boys are.
            Hence Bob’s visit this last week, to the Detroit Auto Show, celebrating its Silver Anniversary, and luring car-o-philes there despite frigid temperatures hovering just above zero.  Bob went with his brother, Ken (also a car nut—and former car dealer), and the two of them were like kids in a candy shop.
            Here are a few of the confections Bob salivated over, and the photos he took-- a white Porsche Spider, a yellow racing Corvette, a blue Audi, and a red Jaguar:

 But most of what he saw were concept cars.  The concept behind concepts is that you put one of these goodies on display and then gauge customer reaction.  But it never, ever gets made as you see it on the show floor.  Now, I ask you, is this not the height of false advertising?  I’ve been to a couple of car shows, and never once has anyone asked for my opinion.  They don’t need to.  They can see everyone drooling and nudging each other and gasping at how fantastic these cars are.  Nobody thinks they’re too extreme.  Everyone’s knees go weak.
            And then they tuck them away, never to be seen again.  Here’s another luscious lump you will never see on the highway.  It's a Kia-- can you believe it?
            This one's a Nissan:
              And check out this red Toyota:

            Car makers have no intention of offering these treats for sale.  They are simply there to torment you and let you dream of what might have been.  Like a sadistic babysitter dangling a lollipop before a toddler and then whisking it away just as the baby reaches for it.
            Check out this sweet ride-- it's a white Lexus:

            And this one-- a white Honda:

           Here's a Toyota motorcycle:
           And a plug-in hybrid BMW:

Why don’t they just hire a guy to stand there and say, “Like it? Can’t have it.  Like it?  Can’t have it” over and over.
            I’m telling you, if you went into a bakery or a pie shop, and someone rolled a cart of heavenly creations by and then sang out, “Sorry, hee, hee—you can’t have these” you would be, okay I would be, peeved at the very least.  But, then again, if those same desserts cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, I guess I’d simply stare and them and sigh.
            Just like the guys at the car show.
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Friday, January 24, 2014

Witless Protection

            Twice in my life I have wanted to be in the Witness Protection Program. Today I’ll tell you about one of them, and the other one will be next week.
            St. Bob, the four kids, and I were living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (another story for another time), and took a drive to Nauvoo, Illinois, two hours away.  It’s like Williamsburg of the Midwest, with free tours of a printing shop, blacksmith, gun shop, bakery—all kinds of authentic old timey stuff that’s both educational and fantastic for the kiddies.  Plus it’s an early Mormon settlement (bigger than Chicago in its day), and since we’re LDS, we couldn’t wait to see it.
            Nauvoo wasn’t the problem.  Driving back and stopping in Fort Madison was the problem.  We pulled into a gas station with a convenience store, and Bob and I both got in a long line to use the restroom.   Bob was nice enough to let me stand ahead of him in line. By the time we got to the restroom door I knew Bob would wait patiently for his turn, rather than risk getting back into the lengthening line.  So I went in, found it in dire need of cleaning, but peeled my jumpsuit down anyway, and hurried along.
            No sooner had I seated myself, with my jumpsuit around my ankles, remember, than a TOTALLY STRANGE MAN came bursting in.  I gasped, probably screamed, who can remember?  My brain began sputtering and sparking, waves of amnesia rolling in to protect me from permanent scarring as I sat there in my underwear, in front of a complete stranger.  He quickly beat a retreat and slammed the door.
            Needless to say, I was mortified.  And furious!  How could Bob let some man come waltzing in like that?  I’m sure my eyes were still bugging out when I dashed from the restroom.  I found Bob over at the Snapple case, AND HE DOESN’T EVEN LIKE SNAPPLE!  
            “How could you do this to me?” I hissed.  “A man just walked in on me!  Why weren’t you guarding the door?”
            “Why didn’t you lock it?” Bob asked.
            “Because it was filthy and I didn’t want to touch it!” My voice was half whisper, half screech.  “Plus I knew you were waiting for your turn and wouldn’t leave the line!” 
            Meanwhile, my now-crimson head was whipping around to see where the intruder guy was, and I dashed from the store in humiliation.  Bob and the kids soon joined me in the mini-van.
            “We’ve got to list the house and move,” I said.  “Out of state.  I can’t risk ever seeing that man again.”  I was ready to have my name changed, all records of my trip through Fort Madison expunged or whatever they do, and for Bob to get a completely new career. 
            He kept trying to blame me for not locking the door, which only made me madder and I fumed the entire way home.  I refused to speak to him as we put the kids to bed, got ready for bed ourselves, and got into bed.  I was still simmering as I turned away, bouncing on the mattress and yanking the covers with a grand sigh of exasperation.
            Finally Bob said, “I know you’re still mad.  But I just want to say one thing.”
            I listened; what choice did I have?
            “I just want to say that if this whole situation had been reversed, and some woman had walked in on me, you would still be laughing.”
            Well, now I was trapped.  He had planted that image in my head and I fought hard not to smile.  I imagined the scene and tried not to giggle.  He was absolutely right: We women think our husband’s embarrassing mishaps are the very definition of hilarity, and if some woman had seen Bob sitting on a toilet, I would still be howling. After half an hour of uncontrolled laughter, I rolled over and apologized.  And that’s one more reason why he gets Saint status.
As the YouTube Mom I have all kinds of videos that teach you life skills and tips, but I probably won’t do one about how to handle a surprise visitor in a restroom.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Do You Have a Favorite Word?

            I love words.  But it’s not just because I’m a writer, or because I score higher on verbal tests than I do on math tests.  And I’m betting you love words, too, for the same reason: It’s how they sound.
            But before I share my favorites, let’s also acknowledge that we all have words that creep us out, words that evoke ugly or negative images, unwelcome words that clomp into our minds and leave mud everywhere.  I know a woman who gets physically ill if she even hears the word “vomit.”  So I guess that’s her least favorite word.
            St. Bob’s least favorite word is “obligate.”  He just doesn’t like the sound of it.  But it’s hard to detach the meanings and only listen for the sounds, which is why so many people hate the words “taxes,” “bankrupt,” “crash,” “excruciating” and other words we’d like to avoid.
            I have several least favorites, mostly because they’re gross, or at least they sound gross.  See if you dislike these as well: belch, bulbous, curdle, dank, goiter, gullet, infarction, magma, mucus, ointment, phlegm, pustule, rickets, scab, spittle, and undulations.  Eww, right?

            And then we have our favorites.  If you could compile a list of the words you like most, they paint a sort of portrait of who we are.  Bob’s are intricate, fun, energetic, and have great flourishes here and there—kind of like Bob himself.  He likes panache, flabbergasted, hummingbird, chameleon, surreptitious, conundrum, escapade, esplanade, bungalow, epiphany, insouciance, lagniappe, mellifluous, buttermilk, and triskaidekaphobia.  He even likes the sound of nemesis and sigmoidoscopy, even though nobody wants either of those.  You could almost guess the kind of music he likes, and the ring tones he’d pick on his cell phone, after reading that list. 
            My list of favorites are soothing and romantic, the sort of perfumey, feminine words a little girl would compile.  I like frosting, shimmer, snowfall, chantilly, halcyon, effervescent, chimes, serendipity, luminous, lyrical, ethereal, heavenly, gossamer, onomatopoeia, and chrysalis.  But my list also includes words that amuse me, like pollywog, funnybone, hullabaloo, hoopla, and skedaddle.  Even “fiasco”  and “curmudgeon” are fun words, despite their meanings. And, sure enough, I have harp music for my ring tone, and my favorite music includes both sweeping symphonies, dreamy vibes, and the bouncy theme songs of several cartoon shows.
          I’ll tell you who will have the best lists—people who speak more than one language.  Now they can choose from two or three times the list I have.  Our daughter, who’s serving a mission in Norway, tells me her favorite Norwegian word is Udødelighet, which means immortality.  But it sounds sort of like “Oh doodley het” and you’ve gotta love anything with “doodley” in it.
          Try my theory, and see if your list of favorite words jibes with your list of favorite music.  We simply like certain sounds.
Did I mention that one of my favorite sounds is my pen, scraping the back of a check as I endorse it for deposit?  Yep, and you can create that sound from wherever you are in the world, just by purchasing my books here.  Wow.