Friday, October 31, 2014

A Halloween Scare

          I swear I do not make this stuff up.  The other night St. Bob and I had a totally eerie experience.  Granted, it was just a few days before Halloween, but I think dead people have far more to do than run around scaring the bejeebers out of people as mischievous “ghosts.” 
It was about 10:30 p.m. and we had just gone to bed.  We were barely drifting off to sleep when suddenly the bright light over our stairway went on, and we heard a loud crash at the bottom of the stairs, just outside our bedroom door.  If it had only been a crash, I’d have thought our cat had knocked something over in one of his possessed rocketing jags.  But turning on a light at the same time?
Bob leapt from bed and dashed to the top of the stairs, looking over our railing.  “Who’s there?” he shouted.  I heard him walked around in the loft (grabbing a hammer, as it turns out), and then shouting again, “Is someone there?”
It was silent.  Brightly lit, but silent . Our idiot chihuahua—I’m sorry, our darling dog—who normally barks at a passing breeze, was utterly useless as a burglary deterrent, and was just quietly curled up in her bed.
I got up to join Bob, who was now creeping down the stairs.  Soon he saw the source of the problem—a large picture had fallen off the wall, and hit a light switch as it slid to the ground.  It was one of those switches that has a counterpart upstairs—and if the upper one is down, the light can be off with the lower switch raised up.  As the picture slid over the switch, it flicked it down and turned on the light.  
We still don’t know why the picture hanger happened to fail at exactly that moment—and don’t say a ghost knocked it down; I seriously doubt we’re all given license to vandalize when we die.  But I’m glad St. Bob had that hammer, because now he could hang it back up again.

Next time you’re awakened in the night and can’t go back to sleep, check out my YouTube Mom videos here.  Not that they’ll put you to sleep, mind you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's the Year of the Horse, and a Little Bit More

          Quick—think of the most determined and adventurous person you know.  Now times it by ten.  That’s my friend, Lori Windows.
          I have been blessed with talented, hilarious, brilliant friends, many of whom are highly accomplished.  But Lori is in another category all by herself. 
          Lori is one of the world’s top Endurance Riding competitors.  On horseback.  And muleback.  In races sometimes 100 miles long. She travels the world, dives with sharks and stingrays, and she mushes dogs in Alaska’s Iditarod.  Oh—did I mention she’s in her early 60s?
          Okay, now that you have fallen backward, hit your head, put ice on it, and now returned to the computer again, I will tell you even more about this phenomenal woman.         
          When she went to Patagonia a couple of years ago, she decided to ride with the gauchos.  Can’t you just see it?  I guarantee you every one of those guys thought, “Who’s this crazy, middle-aged lady from the U.S.?”  And then she probably rode circles around them and knocked their Argentine socks off.
          Lori has galloped more than 40,000  miles in competitions, including the World Equestrian Games.  I recently looked her up in the Endurance Riders Conference Points and Standings and yep, there she was in first place.  Again.  Lori wins more trophies than I can count.  And the great thing about all her competitions is that the main concern is for the horse, with vet checks all along the way.
          So how does an athletic wuss like me even meet such a person?  Well, I have to give St. Bob the credit.  He served in the Navy with Lori’s husband, John Engstrom.  Lori and John came from Illinois to California a few years ago, so Lori could ride (and win) the Tevis Cup.  It goes for 100 miles, night and day.  I wouldn’t make it driving night and day, with air conditioning and a bag of cookies in the car.
          So what does it take to be one of the world’s best riders?  This kind: When Lori broke her foot and had to get a cast, she took a stirrup to the doctor’s office and told him the cast had to fit inside.  When it comes to endurance racing, victory doesn’t go to the passionate.  It goes to the obsessed, and that’s the word Lori uses to describe her devotion to this sport and its animals.
          If you’re a horse or a dog, you want to be owned by Lori Windows.  The phrase, “Lucky Dog” describes hers perfectly. She even publishes short stories and poems about her animals and I dare you not to cry reading them.
          If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know I love animals, especially horses.  But I have never had one pull me out of a ditch with his teeth to save my life.  Lori has.  As much as she loves her animals, I think they might possibly love her more.  And that’s why they give her everything they’ve got, time and time again.
Tell your friends to subscribe to this blog and you’ll read amazing (and, sometimes, semi-amazing) stuff twice a week!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Halloween Dilemma

          I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween.  On the one hand, there’s CANDY, chocolate, cute little babies in cow costumes, 
lovely autumn leaves, and cheery pumpkins stacked by doorways.
          On the other hand, there are gory dummies (wearing “blood”-soaked clothes) hanging out of suburban windows, vampires, spook alleys, zombies, skeletons, and goblins.  Also teenagers not even wearing costumes, coming to the door and expecting candy.  I detest all of these.
          So I like the cute harvest-themed aspects (and the CANDY, hellooo), but to get it you have to wade through the creepiness.  And I’m actually okay with the scary stuff as long as it’s mixed with humor.  For example, this is our traditional witch crash, from my own front yard:
          But back to the CANDY.  I know there are folks who think Halloween is nothing more than sanctioned begging, but c’mon—you don’t think it’s fun to run from door to door and get rewarded for wearing a costume?  I still remember the exact moment when we took our daughter trick-or-treating at age three.  We walked her up to one door, rang the bell, and showed her how to hold her sack out.  In went the candy.  We repeated the same thing at the next door.  And then bing!—she saw the bonanza this was and took off for the next house, making us run to keep up.  The next night she wanted to do it all over again, and we had to explain to a very disappointed little girl that this was a once-a-year thing.
          I think she may have inherited her sweet tooth from me.  When Brandon, our middle son, was nine or so, he came back with a huge haul after combing the neighborhood with his buddies.  He picked through for some favorite treats, then placed his bag on the counter.  “Don’t touch my candy, Mom,” he said.  Then, for emphasis, “You’re the only one I have to tell.”
          !!!  Excuse me, but pilfering one’s child’s Halloween candy is the entire reason for helping them put together a costume, is it not?  And I knew there were still some Butterfingers in there.
          So I guess I vote in favor of Halloween, even though the entire world knows sugar is bad for you and we should all cut back.  But once a year isn’t going to give anybody a diabetic coma, right?  Plus you get to see dozens of little cherubs dressed up like fairy princesses and superheroes—what’s cuter than that? Just don’t come to my door if you’re five-foot-eleven and in the middle of mid-terms. 

 Keep a great book on hand to read while you’re waiting for the doorbell to ring.  Might I suggest one of my recent novels

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Surf's Up!

          Giant Surf Alert!  Thanks to Hurricane Simon, surfers from around the world gathered at The Wedge in Newport Beach, California, recently, where I happened to be visiting with three girlfriends I’ve had for 30 years—we raised our kids together and are more like sisters than girlfriends.
          Waves at The Wedge can be 30 feet high, and are not for beginners.  This is what I’m talking about:
          When I was there the waves were only (only!) 12 to 15 feet high.  Here’s what you see at first.  You think it looks like a pretty seascape.
     The waves look as if they’d come up to your waist.
          And then you look closer and realize the little dark spots in the waves, that you thought were bits of seaweed, are PEOPLE. 
          Suddenly it’s apparent that these are monster waves, and that everyone in them is at a level of athleticism I will never visit.  And, also, I can’t swim.
          But that hasn’t kept me from boogie boarding in California and in Hawaii.  I just hang onto that baby for flotation and ride in until I skid to a stop on the sand.  My technique is nothing to blog about  (uh… wait a second here), and it also has the disadvantage of scraping against the sand and filling one’s swimsuit with said sand.  But I still love the ride and can do it for hours.
          So I can only imagine the thrill of actually catching one of these behemoth waves.  No wonder the guys were whooping and hollering.  But what they didn’t realize is that, standing on the beach watching them, was Karen Rogers, one of my long-time friends.  And it’s her husband Bob’s family who built The Wedge, back in the 1930s.  You may have seen a recent video about it on PBS
          I’m just saying it might have been nice if one of them had waved, or flappety-flapped in their fins, out onto the sand to thank her.  Or at least give us some body surfing tips.

And here’s a tip for you: Subscribe to my Youtube Mom videos and you’ll receive fun, short life skill videos twice a week.  They may or may not include surfing instruction.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Too Much Fun at the DMV

          Nobody likes going to the DMV.  Let’s admit it: Getting a driver’s license is right up there with visiting the dentist.
          But we all have to do it.  And, last time, I told you about my discovery at the airport that my license had expired.  So this time I decide to have St. Bob drive to the DMV in a separate car, in case I flunk the test and am forbidden to drive myself home.
          I’d made an appointment and we take off.  Except that I turn the wrong way by thinking of something else (ADD comes to mind), and have to pull over, wave Bob down, and then head the right way again. 
We each turn south onto Rocklin Road.  Bob changes lanes to get around a slow truck, and disappears.  No problem; I’ll just arrive a minute later, right?  Wrong.  It’s been awhile since I visited the DMV, and all I can remember is that it’s tucked way back in someplace hard to find.  Sort of by the fire station.  Sort of by a bunch of construction.
 So I’m motoring along trying not to get a ticket with my expired license, and suddenly my phone rings.  Luckily it comes through the dashboard, and Bob’s voice says, “You just passed it.  Come back and turn left at the first roundabout.”
          Well, dang.  I make a U-turn and head north again.  I turn at the first of two roundabouts and soon I’m in a construction site that has big signs forbidding anyone to enter who isn’t wearing a hard hat.
I’m on a dirt road with bulldozers, but I manage to get out of there and go into another area that turns out to be a mini-mall.  This can’t be right.  I go back out onto the street.
          I decide to turn at the second roundabout.  Aha.  Now I can see the DMV in the distance.  I pull in and Bob is waiting, with his window rolled down, asking if I had stopped for lunch.
          “You told me the first roundabout,” I say, “and it was the second one.”
          “No; it was the first one,” he insists.
          I decide to stop blocking the driveway and park.  But I am not finished.  “It’s the first one if you’re heading from our house, but I was coming from the other direction.  It’s not like these roundabouts are named First Roundabout and Second Roundabout.  You have to direct someone from where they are.”
          “No, it’s the first roundabout,” Bob continues.  “We should have a film crew follow you around.  Joni’s Journeys.”
Whatever.  We go inside and the woman cannot find my appointment on her roster.  Waiting for her to locate my information is exactly why I made an appointment in the first place.  But I stop tapping my foot and take a deep breath. 
          Finally she finds my name and has me fill out a form about the kind of license I want.  I check “non-commercial,” because it is, and Bob tells me that no, it’s some other grade of license I’ve never even heard of and I grow irritated.  Bob makes additional comments about his imaginary film crew.
Soon I am sent to Window 14, where I am given a vision test. 
I pass with flying colors, right up until the girl tells me to cover my right eye.  I explain that I have mono-vision contact lenses (which I highly recommend, to get rid of reading glasses).  This means one eye has a contact lens for distance, the other for reading.  She cannot grasp that I am able to see with one eye, and goes to verify this concept.  It does not help that St. Bob—risking demotion to just Bob—tells her I’m blind as a bat.
          Soon she’s back, telling me I have to take a medical form to my eye doctor so he can sign off on my ability to read the very eye chart I just read.
          And now it’s picture time. Bob tells her that last time I had a gnat trapped in my lip gloss for the photo, information no one needs, although I did blog about it here. I ask Bob to hold my purse and then ask the woman if she can also take a picture of Bob holding my purse.  She cannot.
          And now they want me to take a written test.  Bob asks if he can tell her what questions to ask.  I glare at him with both my distance and close-up vision.  She says no.
The written test is not written at all, but done entirely by tapping the right answers on a computer screen.  
I miss only one—the one about how drunk you can be if you get pulled over.  I miss this because I am Mormon and do not drink, thus do not file away such information.  I think this is some kind of discriminatory way to keep me from getting 100 per cent, something I’ve been a bit too tightly wound up about since First Grade, but I don’t say anything.
          “You’re already done?” the woman asks.  She does not know with whom she is speaking.  But I smile and she hands me the medical form and a temporary license anyone could fake with a good Xerox machine.  Whatever.  I stuff it in my purse, thank Bob for his moral support (NOT), he heads to work, and I drive to the eye doctor for his signature.
          Except that the eye doctor isn’t in for another three days, so I have to leave the form at the front desk, and come back for it next week.  And pay for a completely new exam. But of course.
Next time you’re trapped at a DMV, take along one of my books.  Or, heck, if you forgot to make an appointment, you might have time to read all of them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Can't I Just Get to My Gate?

          Last time I told you I saw the Space Station up in the night sky, while I was in Orange County.  But getting to Orange County from Northern California, where I live, was another story (too bad I couldn’t have stowed away on the Space Station).
          You know the deal.  You get your boarding pass online, 24 hours before your flight.  You pack your bags.  You get St. Bob to take you to the airport.  At least I do. 
          And then, the minute St. Bob pulls away from the curb, trouble begins.  My bag, which I had weighed at home, has now magically gained 3 pounds.  The limit is 50 pounds and apparently it now weighs 51.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  Unless I remove a pound of weight from the bag, I will be charged an additional $50.00.
          I resist sneering, “Yeah, that seems fair—fifty bucks for a one-pound item.”  And, if weight is a concern, why not weigh the passengers AND their bags to see the total we’re hauling down to Orange County, right?
          I open my bag and spread out my luggage for all to see, and remove a book, stashing it in my purse.  I fold it all up again, zip it, weigh it, and finally I’m headed to the security screening area.  I pull out the boarding pass I printed at home, but it won’t read.  “You might want to get a new printer,” the guy says. Then, like he’s reading xrays or something, announces, “You have breaks in your bar code.”  Well, heaven forbid he just type in the numbers.  No; I must traipse all the way across the terminal to a little monitor where I can type in my info and get the boarding pass that way.
          Finally I’m back.  “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he says now.  “Your driver’s license expired last month.” 
          WHAT?!   “The DMV never sent me a notice,” I say.  He says the same thing happened to him—apparently they don’t do that anymore.  And, of course, I never look at my license because I had a bug on my lips when that picture was taken (blogged about that disaster here), so I had no idea it was approaching expiration.
          “But we have a grace period,” the fellow explains, and he lets me through.  Now it’s time to walk through the giant scanner where you hold your arms up like you’re being robbed at gunpoint.  And, of course, lights flash and buzzers ring like I’m wearing enough chains to qualify as a Jacob Marley Christmas Carol character.
          Apparently the Velcro wrap on my wrist for tendonitis, is the culprit.  I am escorted, under great suspicion, to a woman who rubs it with bomb powder-detecting strips.  She places the strips in what appears to be a strip analyzer and whew!  I pass. 
          I finally collapse into a chair at my gate and then realize that I will be coming home to an expired driver’s license.  So I call the DMV, and after ten minutes of speaking to recordings, I have an appointment for when I get back .  And just wait until I tell you about that adventure.  Next  time.  Stay tuned.

I hope you’ve ordered my latest novels.  Just keep them in your carry-on bag.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spacing Out

Have you ever seen the Space Station in orbit, right above your head?  If not, welcome to the biggest group of earthlings ever.  Hardly anyone knows why we have it, what it’s doing, or where they can see it.  We know it exists, and that’s about it.
            But this exciting contraption zips around the blue planet all the time, and if you’re in the right spot at night, you can glance up and POW!  There it is.   I was recently in Orange County, California, and saw it in the southwest sky.  It took about 6 minutes to pass overhead, going about 17,500 miles an hour. 
          Its six crew members conduct all kinds of science experiments, and run tests for missions to Mars and the Moon.  And there they were, just hovering overhead as I stood on the beach with my cell phone camera. This is the shot I got:
            Well, I wasted no time forwarding three astounding photos of A BLACK RECTANGLE to all my children, bragging about my great photography of the space station and not one of them got the joke.  They honestly thought I was serious, showing them the space station as photographed from earth with a cell phone.  I waited and waited for them to write back with a funny comment about not having the flash feature on, but no.  Mom is simply out of the loop, again.

            I’m going to send them another one.  This time it’s going to be a picture of the black hole that has sucked out all their humor genes.
Fear not, humor genes can be replaced. Just read my recent novel, Sisters in the Mix, and you should be okay.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

St. Bob Strikes Again

          I adore you, my loyal readers.  I feel as if we’re sitting together having chocolate silk pie or cheesecake together, and I’m leaning in and saying, “Now guess what St. Bob has done.”

          First, some background.  You already know I’m LDS and that our daughter just returned from an 18-month mission to Norway.  What you might not know about Mormons, is that getting one’s mission call is a really big deal.  First you earn the money to entirely support yourself.  Many kids work their whole lives to save up.  Then you apply.  This is called “sending in your papers.”  Then you wait for a few weeks.  
         You have no idea where on earth you’ll be sent—could be “stateside” here in the U.S., could be anywhere in the world.
The whole family usually gathers around as the envelope is torn open and the 18- or 19-year old reads where they’ll be going.  I’m paraphrasing, but it’s usually something like, “You have been called to serve in the Argentina Bahia Blanca mission, Spanish speaking,” as our third son was.  You’re also told when to report to the Mission Training Center where you’ll  spend a month or so learning the language in the most successful language training program on earth. 
 But back to the family gathering.  When the location is announced a gigantic cheer is raised, and you can see a montage of these exciting events here (right after President Monson announces the new eligibility ages).
Unless you decide to let St. Bob get involved.  Here’s what happened.  We have some good friends with a very long last name.  To protect their identity and keep them from having to explain having a friend like Bob, I shall call them the Dopplegangers.  And their son’s letter arrived while the son was away from the house.  “Jane” Doppleganger, his mom, called to invite Bob over for the big envelope opening, since he and this boy were close buds.
“Has he seen the envelope, yet?” Bob asks.
“No.”  Jane is walking right into it.
“Good,” Bob says, then tells her he wants to play a prank.  He types up a totally fake letter, puts it in an envelope and seals it.
The big moment arrives and the boy tears open the envelope and begins reading, “You have been assigned to serve in the Iraq Baghdad Mission.”  What?!  “Farsi speaking.”  What?!  “And you’ll have to change your name to Smith because Doppleganger is too hard to pronounce.” 
By now he is completely speechless and the whole family bursts out laughing.  And then he looks at Bob.  Yes, this is the culprit.  Thankfully Jane brings out the real envelope and the boy tears it open.  He is flooded with relief to learn that his real assignment is Lubbock, Texas, English speaking.  We don’t even have a mission in Iraq, by the way.
So, a word to the wise.  If Bob Hilton is in the room, be prepared for anything.

Speaking of LDS people, you’ve got to see the new film that opens in neighborhood theatres October 10th and 11th.  It’s not a proselyting film, just a super entertaining look at who we are, and it includes a mission call envelope opening as well.  It’s called “Meet the Mormons” and every penny of its profits will go to the Red Cross.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Words You Can't Live Without

Scarcely a day goes by that I don’t savor a few words as they roll off the tongue, or bounce through the empty hallways of my brain.  And today I’m enchanted by five, which we must all begin to use more often, so they don’t slip into antiquity.  See how many of these you know:
          The first is FLIBBERTIGIBBET. Pronounced flibber tee jibbet, this is the word for a flighty chatterbox (usually a girl, ahem) whose nonstop, silly conversation makes her appear scatterbrained and irresponsible.  And, indeed, maybe she is both of those. Found in books about Harry Potter and Charlotte’s Web, it’s also in the Maria lyrics of The Sound of Music.  And, after all, don’t we all know several flibbertigibbets?
          SNICKERSNEE is the next one.  It used to refer to a knife fight, but now refers just to the knife, itself.  Usually a long one.  And it sounds so much more exciting than, simply, “knife.”
          Next up is COLLYWOBBLES, a rumbling of the stomach and often that nervous feeling of butterflies.  It makes me feel British when I say it, so I like it.  I imagine tiny thatched roofs on houses belonging to toads living on Collywobble Lane.  You know the one, just over the bog from Puddlesby and Fairy Frock.
          Here’s one you’ll use all the time: WIDDERSHINS.  It means counter, or counter clockwise, and describes not only a timepiece, but anything going in the wrong direction.  I’m thinking hair, today.
          And last, TARADIDDLE.  This is a pretentious lie, but sounds so much less condemning.  “Billy, is that a taradiddle?”  “Yes, ma’am.”  You can back off from it and correct yourself much more easily than if you’re an out-and-out liar.  And everyone needs the chance to save face and back pedal now and then, right?
You may thank me for expanding your vocabulary by getting your buddies to subscribe to this vast storehouse of essential entertainment.  Ditto my youtube channel, here.