Wednesday, June 14, 2006

#138 - When Sorting Laundry is Actually Fun

One rarely gets to see his family get this excited about laundry. Come to think of it, one rarely gets to feel this excited about laundry.

I blame our dryer.

The appliance repair guy visited our house again today. I must state, for the record, that this is not the same twit who darkened our laundry room two weeks ago. No, that turkey came, diagnosed a faulty door switch, said it would take about a week to order, then promptly went his way and completely failed to mention anything about our needing a new door switch to anyone who could do something about it. He was about as efficient an airhead as I ever hope to meet.

Mrs. Woody, after seeing me vent my spleen about park managers who failed for the umpteenth consecutive weekend to open the laundry room so I could feed their stinkin' dryer its steady diet of quarters in return for, oh, about 1/3 the load our dryer normally handles, decided (Mrs. Woody, that is, in case you've forgotten) to call Maytag and find out where, oh, where our missing repair person had gone.

That's when she found out that, according to that repair person, our dryer was perfectly fine. Only it really wasn't, Mrs. Woody pointed out. She'd just sent her husband back to the Dryer From the Vending Machine Inferno because he'd just confirmed that our dryer really was still dead.

Fortunately, the Maytag lady who handled the call was very gracious. She admitted that it was entirely the repair person's fault that we were still without a functioning dryer and promised to reprocess our order. No guarantees about timing, of course, which meant waiting yet another week, but we were, by now, quite desperate. Mrs. Woody also insisted, it goes without saying, that a different repair person make the visit. To this, also, the Maytag Lady assented.

So, today, right on schedule (although this, of itself, isn't special -- the twit was also right on time) our different repair person appeared. 15 minutes later we had a functioning dryer. We also found out (I would have written this into a script for any given sit-com) that it was, according to the repair person, the easiest part on the dryer to replace. "Open the door, two screws, and you've got it," he said. Of course. Silly me. At least it was covered by our extended warranty.

You may imagine that both the washer and our newly revitalized dryer have been pressed into indentured servitude since about 5 minutes after the repair person left the house. We're on load number 4 in the dryer, and number 5 is churning in the washer. We have probably another 2 to go before we're caught up. I have already folded more laundry today than I have in nearly a year.

Mrs. Woody, for her part, normally does the folding, but she's hip-deep in plans for our daughter's 9th Birthday Celebration, which involves a Harry Potter-Themed Sleepover for Five Little Girls. She's taking this extremely well, which probably means I'd better go check my Xanax prescription and see if it's lighter than I remember it from the other day. Of course, since I get to "assist" with decorating, herding, shopping, and doing voice-over work for the Sorting Hat, maybe I should hit the bottle instead.

Aw, who'm I kidding? Your daughter doesn't turn 9 every day, and she's having the time of her young life. I'll probably enjoy every minute of it, so long as my back holds out.

In the meantime, gotta run. Got laundry to fold, transfer, and wash. Gotta put more card stock in the printer. Busy, busy, busy.

Enjoying the "simple pleasures," as Mrs. Woody put it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

#137 - Our Private Louvre

A yacht under sail cuts across the open ocean. The seas are a bit choppy, but she slices through each swell like a hot knife through butter. The skies are cloudy, meaning a good breeze to keep the sails full. The sleek hull bobs lightly up and down, yet remains pointed in a direction pre-determined by a wizened skipper.

To the north, the skies are darker. In fact, a squall is brewing, sending waves crashing against jagged rocks near the shore. This is not a welcoming beach with warm, gray sand. This is a coast accustomed to the sharp edges of volcanic rock that was tossed - almost casually - by a distant volcano now many centuries dormant. Instantly cooled and hardened by a cold, forbidding sea, the rocks serve as a reminder that a following sea is no guarantee of safe arrival. The waves here are respected by those who know them, and they carefully navigate around them.

Across a natural harbor, surrounded by these rough-hewn sentries, stands a beacon. A lighthouse erected nearly two centuries ago to guide those who must brave these waters in the name of trade and commerce. In stormy skies its bright lamp shines its warning to captains of these vessels: Keep your distance; these rocks have claimed more than their fair share of boats! Some were built stronger and sturdier even than yours, but in the end they were no match for the stone devils.

To the south, a safe harbor waits. Here a familiar shape makes its approach to its home slip. A "pleasure craft," they call it, complete with a fly deck (although its skipper cringes at the term - to him it was always the "bridge") and a trusty first mate. This first mate also happens to be the skipper's loving wife and companion of over forty years, and you never see one without the other. They both love the sea, although she loves it more because her husband is himself enamored of it. She simply wants to be where he is. It's a formula that has worked for literally decades together.

Four paintings hang on our walls in our little home. They are four friends of mine. I have grown up with them, and I knew the painter intimately. He was my grandfather, and my boyhood hero. He was, by trade, a calculating engineer. A master designer who was well-respected in his industry. An inventor, even, who helped a company design and build a small gas-powered engine that became the ancestor of all modern chain saws. But he was not typical of the stereotype that has become the modern engineer. He was a man of tremendous creative energy and quiet passion. His creative side manifested itself in two primary ways; he was both a musician and a gifted artist.

As a musician we were treated to jigs and reels at family gatherings. Mom would sit at the piano and Grandpa would tune up the fiddle. The family would gather in whatever room housed the piano and enjoy a concert we'd all pay good money to hear today. The repertoire could be altered to match the season: jigs and reels at Thanksgiving, and carols at Christmas time.

But it was the ocean where we spent my most memorable times with Grandma and Grandpa. We would take it in turns to sit on the fly de... excuse me, the bridge, and when it got too crowded we would retreat to the smallish cabin where Grandma reigned as the supreme Tour Guide. She would hold her young crew's interest with tales of the sea, the local harbors, the sight of the Queen Mary as it was prepared for its eventual use as a floating museum, and round after round of "My Dog Has Fleas" on the ukelele she always kept on board.

Grandma and Grandpa spent considerable time travelling when their children had grown and left them with an empty nest. The family had moved several times between the midwest and California, where they eventually settled for good. In their travels, Grandpa had stored up a vast bank of imagery that he decided to commit to canvas, most of it dealing with the ocean. There are a few desert scenes, to be sure. One ancient and lonely adobe hut stands out in memory amongst a desolation of saguaro cactus and yucca. But his seascapes captivated me from the time I was old enough to remember visits to Grandpa's boat.

Tall, three-masted schooners. Stormy seas. Crashing waves. All of them creating a kinship I have always felt with the sea; a kinship now shared with my own adoring and loving companion. Our living room is a shrine of sorts to the majesty of the ocean, and the wonderful memories of our childhoods. The paintings are one of my remedies for stress; if I can study them and enjoy the strokes of a master, and the hues of green and blue that evoke those tender memories, I can become a happier man.

I only once actually watched Grandpa paint. He didn't usually like to do that when family were visiting, wanting to be sociable instead. Also, I think painting was a private experience for him. A chance to create visual memories that held his imagination captive and whisked him away to one of those tall-masted boats.

Memories that I now hold vicariously.

Thank you, Grandpa. And God bless you.

Friday, June 09, 2006

#136 - One of the Mysteries of the Gospel

Ever wondered what, exactly, a Stake Sunday School presidency does?

Me, too.

Back in the day, Dad was the Stake Sunday School president. This was in the days before the 3 hour bloc, and Stake Conferences generally had a Sunday School session to keep the kids busy while the parents sat and listened to about 25 gazillion speakers. We all had our favorite speakers, by the way. "Oh, good. Bro. So-and-so from the High Council. Hand me that pillow, wouldja?"

But I digress.

We all figured that the Spirit must have had some sort of speech defect when he whispered Dad's name in the Stake President's ear. Well, maybe Mom didn't. But we kids sure did. "Dad? Our Dad? The Glowering Inferno? That Dad?"

But it turned out that Dad was one of the best S.S. Prezes ever. For one thing, Dad was a natural administrator. He was an aerospace professional and consummate businessman. He knew all about how to run an efficient organization, and the Sunday School is typically one of the loosest organizations on earth today. It was a challenge tailor-made to Dad's particular talents.

It also transpired that Stake Conferences were one of his favorite events when he served in that calling. Dad was never much for sitting in a two-hour long session of talk after talk. Plus, he had a real soft spot for kids. It actually amused him (more, I must say, than he ever let on at home) to watch these pint-sized people interact with life. So while many people tried to commiserate with Dad about having to deal with the little banshees, Dad would just smirk and secretly look forward to the show.

Even then, I never really knew what it was that a Stake Sunday School presidency did. Which is why you will not be surprised to learn that I have just been called as 2nd Counselor in the Stake Sunday School.

I believe I accepted at least partly out of sheer curiosity. The mystery surrounding Stake Sunday School is nearly impenetrable these days, especially since the 3 hour bloc program was instituted. I do know that we sustain them in Stake Conference during the sustaining of Church officers. About 3 seconds after we do, I have completely forgotten their names. Now, in my case it may well be that as my name is called in wards around the Stake, a few people will think, "Oh, that's that fellow that sang in our ward a couple years ago." But then they, too, will forget my name. I think they must specifically state this in your setting apart blessing. "We bless you that you will become safely anonymous in the Stake, and this cloak of invisibility will last until you are safely released." I actually could live with that.

Of course, at some level I believe this will be a fun calling. Teaching is my celestial calling. Music may be my eternal calling (once a Church musician, always a Church musician!), but it's teaching that I truly enjoy. The counselor in the Stake Presidency that extended the calling - who also happens to be a member of our ward - even paid me a very nice compliment: He told me that, in discussing my name with the Bishop (turns out I need to be released from my dysfunctional Public Affairs calling. Drat.) that they both agreed that I have a natural gift for teaching. He said that I have a way of bringing out the simplicities of the principles that I teach. Since I've only taught about three classes in the entire time I've been in this Stake, I'm glad he saw that.

So, for whatever reason, the Lord wants me in the Sunday School. The handbook, I must say, is sketchy at best about the calling. We "serve as a resource to ward Sunday School presidencies." We "instruct and advise individual presidencies as requested by the ward or directed by the stake presidency." In other words, we get to annoy ward Sunday Schools by announcing that we're coming for a little visit so we can disrupt their otherwise quiet Sundays.


Oh, there's the inevitable meetings, of course. Presidency meetings, meetings with the Stake leadership, auxilliary training meetings, and so on. We also no longer have separate Sunday School sessions of Stake Conference. Not for a few decades now. But as long as I get to teach on occasion, so what?

I'll be in heaven.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

#135 - Mommy Solomon

One joyful aspect of the Move From Hades© is the fact that toys will now be divided equally between the girls, and stored in their individual rooms. (You may believe that Mommy and Daddy take especial pleasure in the idea of individual rooms. You would be correct.)

One not-nearly-so-joyful aspect of the MFH™ is the equal dividing of toys.

Turns out that this is a pretty big emotional/political (these words are synonymous, no?) deal. The Woodyettes are torn between two extreme emotions. On the one hand, this business of splitting up the toys is hard work. There's the bother of having to take time out of their busy schedules to sit down with Mommy and indicate whether or not they approve of the proposed divisi. Which leads to the other extreme emotion, which is being absolutely dead-set against their sister having any advantage, toy-wise, which leads to frequent episodes of Peyton Place a la Woodyettes.

"But, Mooooooommy, I've had that dolly since I was a little girl! You can't give that one to her! [Lower lip begins quivering here.] I'll never be happy again!"

We hear this word "never" quite a lot in this house. To my knowledge, none of her more dire predictions have ever held water.

Mommy intervenes. "Bring me all of your dolls that are this same size." This is a chore in and of itself, inasmuch as the Woodyettes -- particularly the Doodle -- have been accumulating dolls for decades. In fact, several of their dolls were collected for them several years before they were even conceived. Still, the dolls are produced. Turns out there are three.

Now Mommy must put on her Solomon Crown and decide who gets which dolls, and whether to split one in half. ("Bring me my sword!") On second thought, threatening to split a doll in half does little but send both girls into tizzies because they both believe, passionately, that the doll is theirs. So, Mommy decides to give two to Doodle, who happens to be the more ardent collector of baby dolls right now, and the disputed doll goes to Jelly. Five minutes later, both girls have forgotten there even was a conflict. Mommy Solomon triumphs once again!

There's also the problem that both girls have become dedicated pack rats. This is not good. We live in a storage-challenged home, and there just isn't room to keep collecting every darn'd thing that crosses our paths. One of the things that led to the Move From Hades® in the first place was the fact that their shared room had just become far too cluttered with stuff. Between the beds, the furniture, and the toys, there was literally no room to spare. No play room on the floor. No place to keep their special things. So, a key activity before we ever split them up was decluttering their existing room. We were ruthless. We were downright cruel. We were merciless. We did this whenever the girls left the house for any reason, such as birthday parties.

It goes without saying that whenever you weed your toybox, a certain amount of reprogramming is required. "But, honey, don't you remember? We donated those toys to little girls who need them so much more than you do!" After hearing this several times they begin to parrot it back. Mommy and Daddy might find themselves looking for a particular toy months later, absolutely certain that it must still be in the house. "Don't you remember, Daddy? We donated that toy to a little girl who needs it so much more than we do!" Oh, yeah. I'd forgotten.

Anyway, the culling continues. The Woodyettes are actually, as of this moment, taking things quite well. Mommy has been able to establish provenance in most cases, and the only conflict so far has been the baby doll episode. So Mommy Solomon continues to reign supreme in the Woody household.

As if there were ever any doubt.