The following entries are based upon true events, sometimes mingled with a "little" fiction.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Tender Plant



I was given the assignment- well our High Priest’s Quorum was actually given the assignment- but I took it upon myself to come up with a gift for the women of our Ward on Mother’s Day.  Maybe I figured that if they loved the gift I could take the credit, if they hated it I’d spread the blame to the other men.  I’ve also  made a lot of jokes about getting the “tribute” or paying “ransom” as applied toward getting this gift. I’m sure I even used the words “bribe” and “pay-off”once or twice. 
 
Last time I did this I bought Harry & David Chocolate Truffles. We put three in a little plastic see thru bag tied a ribbon around it and attached a saying from our prophet about the goodness of women in the world. A couple of High Priests stood by the back doors after sacrament meeting and handed the little bags to each woman as she left. I heard it was well received.

I thought I’d do the same thing this year but then I heard the Relief Society was going to pass out truffles- homemade truffles- to the women. The year before the women received live Basil plants. That made sense to pass out something that would be useful. Being the uncreative gift giver that I am I resorted to giving out flowers.  I didn’t know much about flowers so I felt impressed to talk to Larry Carpenter, who’s a hobby farmer, and knows a lot about flora. As we talked he mentioned he had some little plastic pots I could transfer the plants into. Since I had a budget I needed to keep under my first impression was to buy these four packs of pansies, separate them out and put one flower in a container. This would keep me well under budget. So I stopped off at Home Depot and, after surveying the flower racks, picked out some pansies, violas and a few marigolds. 

It had been raining all week but every morning I would take the flowers out of the garage and put them in the back yard so they could be exposed to whatever sunshine that poked through. I watered them if it didn’t rain enough that day then in the evening I’d carry the trays back into the garage.

Saturday morning I spent several hours in the rain washing out the plastic pots and transferring the flowers from the four packs. I had determined earlier that one flower didn’t seem to be enough which caused a second trip to Home Depot.  I decided to put two in each of the small pots. Some went in easily but others, like the pansies, had large root systems and it took some effort to separate them out of their original pot then twist, turn and pack the two flowers into their new container. I  watered each again and left them outside that afternoon.

I just prayed that they would still be alive  Sunday morning. Frankly, my feeling was these flowers only needed to stay green and healthy looking until 4:00 Sunday afternoon. After that they were out of my hands and it would no longer be my responsibility. 

Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, I got up at sunrise, dressed in my walking sweats and went outside. It was a beautiful morning, not a cloud to block the warm sun’s rays. I quickly moved the flowers out of the garage and put them in our driveway so they could soak up as much sunlight as possible before locking them in the trunk to take them to church.

The viola’s were looking  droopy, the pansies’s flowers were folded and bent but the marigolds stood straight and tall. I wished I’d just bought all marigolds. I shifted the plants in the trays then looked at the sun’s position, estimated what area of the driveway would be sunniest longest then moved the trays accordingly. A couple of the trays had three rows of flowers. I was concerned the flowers in the middle row wouldn’t receive as much sun so I pulled each of these out and placed them individually on the cement.

As I began to pull these small plastic pots out I noticed how dirty the outside of each pot had gotten. Repotting the flowers hadn’t been easy and with the cold and rain I’d been in a hurry to get the job done. Now, as I looked upon the gold, orange, yellow, violet blue flowers spaced randomly on the driveway, basking in the sun,  I thought about the women who would be receiving the flowers today  and reflected that none would want to have to carry a dirty pot around. I then went back into the garage and picked up one of our old spare towels we use as rags, took it into the kitchen and placed it in the sink and soaked it with hot water. I rang out the excess water then went back to the flowers.

Picking the first pot up I carefully wiped the dirt from each side and the bottom. It brought back some memories of wiping the faces of my children with a wash rag after they had eaten.  I smiled and paused for a moment, basking in the reflection.  Then, looking closer at each plant more closely,  I noticed a few yellowing or bug bitten leaves which I pulled from the stems. I went through this same process for each potted flower, picking it up and gently wiping the dirt, pulling any yellowing leaves or dead flowers, and making each one as presentable as I could. 

As I did so I began to think of the significance of giving a flower on Mother’s Day. A flower or plant doesn’t need constant watching over and care but it does need help in order to survive. It needs planted in good fertilized soil, in an area that will receive the amount of sunlight and water it needs to survive. It occasionally will need dead flowers and leaves plucked and weeded.

Strangely, as I worked, I became filled with compassion, not only toward the care of these flowers but also to the women who would be receiving them. I didn’t want any woman in the Ward to feel they received an inferior plant. The flowers are different, some in full bloom, some need some time and patience for the plant to come to full flower. They are different colors and have varied needs.  Some have lots of room for roots to take hold while others in the smaller pots are in an area that seems limiting. I even changed one of the pots I noticed had a crack. I didn’t want a sister in the ward to feel they were undeserving or had to settle for an inferior gift. 

I was pleased the flowers were still alive and looking good after the day some were repotted, even though I’d been a little rough on some of them. I remembered that today, I am alive and looking pretty good, even after life had been a little rough lately.  Today, I learned from a flower, about Heavenly Fathers tenderness and compassion for each of us, especially His daughters.  I think these flowers might just be a great tribute.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Damnazon: Secret Shopping




I’m not a huge fan of buying things online. I need to touch, shake, examine, pinch a product before buying. But, this year, my dread of consumer crowd combat overrode my online apprehension.  It was my first venture into the Amazon, meaning amazon.com.  I browsed around and found three items that would make great gifts. One was for Jan, the other two were family presents. OK, the other two were really presents for me but, because I’m unselfish, I will share them with my wife. I still wanted to keep them a secret though. Primarily because if Jan knew I had purchased these she would demand I cancel the order. Once she saw the rapturous joy that beamed from my face as these were unwrapped Christmas dawn it would be difficult for her to ask I send them back.

I felt all stealthy while searching for these items. That was until I left my search for a while then returned in the evening to find that when I went onto Amazon there was a complete view of everything I’d been looking at. At first I thought this was very convenient but then I realized if Jan went into Amazon she would see my entire Christmas shopping list displayed in photographic full color wonder. So much for surprises.  Our marriage relationship is very transparent; we share everything -no secrets. Our checking and saving accounts, though separate, are still accessible to either of us. We don’t have separate email addresses. Shoot, I can even wear her slippers- that’s if she doesn’t notice I’m wearing her slippers.  So for me to set up my own log in account for Amazon was difficult for me. I didn’t want her to think I was hiding something but I also didn’t want her to see that I was hiding something.  Yes, that sentence means what it’s supposed to mean. 

By having my own account I could search and shop freely. I was pleased when I clicked on the check-out button and knew my purchases were on the way. Oh, I felt so sneaky. That was until I began receiving confirmation emails from Amazon. It’s nice to get a receipt and all but in the subject line of the email it states, “Thank you for your purchase of (named the item)”  Other emails soon followed stating “Because you searched for or purchased (name of the item) you might also be interested in…” Then there were emails letting me know that “other people who searched or bought (name of item) also purchased these items,” followed by a list of sometimes totally unrelated products. Then the emails that boldly stated: “JAN, GREG WAS TRYING TO SURPISE YOU WITH THE PURCHASE OF THE FOLLOWING CHRISTMAS GIFTS…”  That last email really wasn’t there but it may as well have been!
Now I had to scurry and cover my tracks. I realized that this email would be appearing on multiple platforms, through our desktops, IPhones and tablets. I raced to delete the message on the devices she usually used to browse our email. Almost daily there’d be an email from Amazon telling me of the progress of the items and when to expect them.  This was much more work than I had bargained for. I couldn’t sleep for fear that I’d missed something- that somewhere a lingering email would be found, spoiling my Christmas surprises. I finally just had to confess I’d purchased some items from Amazon and warned her most sternly not to look at any emails from them.

So, Amazon, I am done with you for secretive purchases. When you squeal on me like the virtual pig that you are how can I trust you?  I’m certainly not going to buy anything that I’d like to keep private- like that hair restorer goop you keep emailing me about.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Road to Xenia



On August 15, 2013, we departed from Medford to Dayton Ohio. We returned on August 24, 2013. This is our report:
My kidneys and bladder shift into overdrive when flying. I don’t know if it’s nerves, altitude or my body knowing that I will never, ever, use a rest room while flying. As soon as I step off the flight I need to find the restroom. Speaking of restrooms Jan told me about automatic toilet seat covers they’ve installed in some of the airports. You can ask her about those but they haven’t worked their way to the men’s toilet yet. Maybe it’s because the seats are never down.
Friday morning I went shopping with Brittany to buy meals for the week. I’m not sure why Brittany wanted me to come with her. I thought it was due to my shopping skills and that perhaps I’d pay for the groceries, which it was my privilege to do. Then I found out that it was because she trusted her mother more than me to watch the kids on her own. She probably had a point there.
Whenever we go to our kid’s homes we find something in their pantry that we like and that we purchase for ourselves when we return. Brittany had several boxes of granola that came in different flavors she had gotten from Target; Coconut Macaroon, French Vanilla Almond Crunch, Chocolate Chunk Cherry, Hazelnut Biscotti and, you know you’re eating health food with a granola named Pecan Sticky Bun.  We are now the proud and slightly heftier owners of several boxes of this goodness.
As I was growing up and relatives were going to come to our house for a visit in San Lorenzo I waited with high anticipation. As the time for their arrival came closer I’d be looking out my bedroom window constantly to see if their car was coming down the street. Or I’d wander in the front yard, scanning the block for any out of state license plates coming our way. I was sort of the same way waiting for Jordan and Christina to show up Friday evening at Brittany and Clay’s home. I kept looking out the door, down the street, searching the horizon for a van with Delaware plates. One time I opened the door and there they were, just getting out of the car. They thought it was great timing but they didn’t know I’d been looking out that door every 2 minutes for the past two hours.
Saturday morning I got up earlier than everyone  so I could make my “I’d probably win an award if ever nominated” pancakes.  They are pretty good and I’m honored that all my children ask me to make these for them whenever we’re together.  Seems like all the grandkids like them too.
One purpose of our visit there was to witness the blessing of little Teagan.  She’s a cutie. I find that with newborns you sort of have to wait until they’re sleeping to see their real features. When they’re awake they make all sorts of funny and unsettling contorted faces.  As they get a little older those faces settle down and their true cuteness arrives. So, whenever I’ve said to one of the kids, “you’re pretty cute, when you’re asleep,” that’s where that comes from.
But back to the blessing. When our families filed into the chapel Clay told the men who were going to help with the blessing that the bishop wanted to see our temple recommends. That’s what a bishop is supposed to do but I’ve never been asked before. However, for the first time ever, I left my wallet back at Brittany’s home, you know, the wallet with my recommend in it.  I think Clay did some fast talking to the bishop on my behalf, probably telling him about the brain injury and early onset of dementia. I did get to participate but I felt oddly like I didn’t really belong there.  I told Clay the bishop kept slapping my hands away whenever I tried to put them underneath Teagan during the blessing.
Also following a Smith family tradition Brittany and Clay have a trampoline. All the grandkids loved it. First thing every morning Ty would get up and say, “Ty Ty jump!”  Jordan showed off that he can still do a back flip. However, I think his body is still trying to recover from the twisting wrenching move.
The Air Force Museum was interesting.  Walking around with little kids you don’t get a chance to read all the exhibits but the museum had planes from the Wright brothers, the plane that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki Japan along with stealth fighters, missiles and space craft. The UFO and mummified remains of aliens exhibit were my favorite. Just kidding. There were no mummified remains, the aliens were all working in the cafeteria.
Whenever I visit my kids in an area I’ve never been before I like to get a sense of what their lives are like. I like to see where they shop, kids go to school, go to church with them. I like to walk around the neighborhood and get a feel for their community. I inhale deeply the Nebraska, Utah, Delaware, and Ohio air trying to catch a wisp of the area’s aroma. I like to taste the uniqueness of the areas foods. I’ve had a Runza, Philidelphia Cheese steak, Water Ice, and in Xenia, Ohio- frozen custard. I thought it was a great alternative to ice cream. But then I learned that frozen custard has the same cream and sugar content as ice cream but with egg yolks thrown in to make it creamier, richer and fatter. It was delicious though.
Probably the highlight of the trip for most was our visit to King’s Island amusement park, just north of Cincinnati.  Clay and Brittany had warned us about the long lines, that they had only gotten to ride a few in one Saturday excursion. Brittany thought Thursday would be a better day to go because most of the kids started school then. We arrived just prior to the park opening and there were just a few cars in the  lot. We got right in and some of the adults ran off to get in line for the most popular coaster. We expected huge snaking lines but they got right on. In fact, that was the story of the day. We never did need to wait for any of the rides. One park attendant told us that the coaster some were getting on had a three hour wait just the day before. Imagine going to Disneyland and there were no lines. There were so few people there I kept looking for the Zombies who must have been somewhere in the park eating the brains of all the other missing visitors. But there were no Zombies, well, towards the end of the day we were like unto the walking dead, but no one was sucking brains, just wind.
My grandchildren all got tattooed. Their dads wrote their cell phone numbers on the inside of their forearms in case one of them got lost. That way whoever found them could  call and demand a ransom.
Jan’s a roller coaster demon. If there was a coaster to ride she was on it. The kids were amazed! Even Jordan and Brittany had to bow out of a few rides but Grandma, she just kept on rollin’.
The other part of this story is that I no longer trust my wife when she coaxes me onto a roller coaster by telling me that she rode it earlier and it doesn’t have any big dips and was pretty smooth. I don’t like roller coasters because they beat me up. I feel like I’ve been mugged. Well, I actually scream in high pitch wails so I’m a little embarrassed.  So I get on this coaster and as it starts to head upwards she apologizes as she explains that this isn’t the coaster she thought it was. Yeah, this was bad.  I told her afterwards I’d never follow her onto another ride. My back, neck, and head hurt. I felt like I had a concussion and every bone had wiggled out of joint.
It was a great time. Just one more lesson to share.
While listening to some music Tia started pounding the carpet with the palms of her hands. Maeli told her to stop- pounding the carpet with your hands wasn’t allowed in their house. Tia and I were a little puzzled. I asked Maeli why. She explained that one time she had poured baby powder onto the floor and was pounding it with her hands. Her mom told her to stop, that wasn’t allowed. I then explained to her that I think it was the fact she added a pile of powder to her pounding was the problem.
There’s some lesson to be learned there but I haven’t figured it out. Let me know if anyone else can draw some analogy here.  Maybe there is no lesson. Maybe there’s just a bunch of cute there. I have to admit, my grandchildren are all extremely cute, especially while they’re asleep.
And that’s the end.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Amazing Mr. FOX



I like amazing things. It gives life a little pulse; something unusual I’ve experienced or seen engraves a memory. Last Thursday was an amazing experience. Sure, I saw a cardiologist for the first time in my life but I actually have known Dr. Lightheart for years. So, that in itself wasn’t so stirring.
 When I came home from the doctors I stepped into the backyard to check on how wet the grass was so I could assess if I wanted to tackle mowing the jungle. I glanced over toward some movement along the south fence and saw an animal trotting toward the corner of the yard. I feared the rats were eating really well this spring and had a gargantuan growth spurt. I was pleased with myself that I remembered I had my phone which has a camera in my pocket. So I used my stealth moves and peeked around the corner and saw what I instantly identified as a Grey Fox.  I snapped a few photos then banged on the kitchen window to get Jan to come out.
Then followed an event just like Abbott and Costello movies where Costello sees Frankenstein and yells for Abbott. Costello tells Abbott about what he saw and takes him to where Frankenstein was. Naturally, Frankenstein is nowhere to be found and Abbott hits Costello with his hat for wasting his time. So, Jan comes out and I tell her that I think there’s a grey fox in our yard. She wants to know what makes me think it’s a grey fox. I tell her I know my foxes and this fox is grey so it’s not a red fox. So she peaks around the corner of the house and just like Abbott, sees nothing. She’s about to hit me with her hat when I pull out evidence I’m sure Costello wished he always had, my phone. I flip to the photo and show her. Jan thinks it’s a coyote.
So then she comes in and Goggles grey foxes, coyotes and… quilting borders. Jan gets distracted easily. I yell for her again because this foxyote is on the move. Well, barely moving actually.  When Jan had looked the first time it had hid behind my wood pile. Now it was moving into the open. She too was amazed.  I’d never seen a fox in the wild before.  We learned grey foxes are nocturnal and shy and if we see one around people during the daytime there’s probably something wrong with it.  We kept an eye on it for a while. It would take a few steps then plop down, rest for a while then stand again. It walked gingerly and when standing it would  tilt it’s head into the air and appear to have facial seizures. There were flies that circled the fox like miniature buzzards.
Our first thought was rabies and we called Animal control. I was told they don’t handle wild animals and was instructed to call Fish and Wildlife. The receptionist then followed by telling me Fish and Wildlife rarely answer so I was then given the number of the Sheriff’s Department. She was correct about the Fish and Wildlife department. Their voice message stated they were on unpaid furlough due to budget cuts. So I called the Sheriff. I was told someone would contact me shortly. Time, space and distance must have a different definition in the Sheriff’s department because after two hours we still hadn’t heard from anyone. We called again. A half hour later we received a call from a Medford Police officer who told Jan he was trying to get a hold of someone at the Fish and Wildlife department to find out what he should do about this fox. We wished him good luck with that.
He did mention though that he’s had several calls each evening for two weeks regarding a grey fox or raccoon in someone’s yard acting strangely. This is the season when these critters apparently come down with the distemper virus. It’s always fatal. In fact he’d never seen a live grey fox; they had always died before he arrived.
When he showed up we took him into the back yard. It was now getting dark but our flashlight illuminated this little fox curled up just a few feet away from us with his eyes closed. The officer said there wasn’t anything he could do until it died. He ruled out shooting it because it wasn’t attacking pets or people and just said call them back after its departed and someone would come out and pick up the carcass. Carcass is such a crude word, devoid of any life or humanity.
Jan and I went out back before we went to bed to check on Mr. Fox one last time. He was stretched out from head to tail, not breathing. The virus had completed its work. At least I felt better he died before the night turned cold.
I don’t know why the fox showed up in our backyard or how it even got in. One daughter suggested he thought our yard was more peaceful than others he’d stumbled into. Jan suggested since our yard is in a more natural state, maybe he felt at home. I hope he felt safe during his last hours.  I think we felt an attachment because we often commented on how Kiska, our white  American Eskimo, looked like a fox.  This little grey fox reminded us of her.  I appreciated the visit and another amazing thing to write about.