Monday, June 30, 2008

Forget Trying to Sell Them...

My dad and us three girls were out on a drive in the desert one time when I was about six years old. We stopped for a moment by a big hill and got out of our Jeep Cherokee to survey the area.

We were only there for a minute or so when my dad suggested that Corinne and I climb up the big hill. We had climbed up only a few yards when I heard the Jeep's engine start. My dad and Annie had climbed back into the Jeep and were now starting to drive away. Corinne and I looked at each other for a moment and then I freaked out.

I was screaming and bawling, running towards the ever distance Jeep as fast as I could go... "Don't leave me!" I yelled through my panicked tears. I was sure my dad was keeping the cutest kid and leaving Corinne and I in the desert to die. I had no idea where we were, no food, no water.

Corinne had been running too, although not quite so panicked as I was. Just as she caught up to me my dad stopped, backed up the Jeep, got out and started laughing hysterically... "You guys thought I'd really leave you here?!" he exclaimed, slapping his knee. "We didn't know" we mumbled through embarrassed/frightened voices. "You crazy kids. Get in let's go."

It took a little while for me to calm down, but I was finally able to laugh at the situation. My mom had always threatened to take us down and sell us on the corner for two cents, so I just figured they'd decided to save the trouble of actually finding a buyer. I'm sure they weren't the only parents who'd thought of that. I foiled their plans by pushing the sympathy button in my dad that day by crying, otherwise, Corinne and I probably would have been goners. I pretty much saved our lives.

It's a Hard Knock Life

My sisters and I would periodically go to work with my mom or dad. If we went with Mom, it was only for a short period of time, an hour or so at most, and involved no actual work. Going with Dad meant you were there all day for hard labor.

My mom worked in a doctor's office until I was about 13. We usually just went with her to the office on the rare occasion that she had to stop in to get something or take care of an extra task on her day off.

First we'd occupy ourselves by typing on the typewriter and rummaging through the several desks in the office for highlighters and white-out which we then used on our newly written stories. Once we'd bored ourselves with that, we'd head into the waiting room and through the kid-sized door into the small playroom. The toys weren't that great, mainly for toddler aged kids, but they were enough to keep us busy for a good five minutes. How long can you really move the colored wood beads on the abacus-like toy along the metal tracks?

Most of the time we were there after hours so we had full run of the place. We'd get one of the doctor's rolling stools and take off running down the hall, jump onto the stool stomach first, and glide across the floor Superman style. After tiring from all the physical activity we would make a trip to the breakroom to get a drink from the water cooler. Back then they had the cone-shaped paper cups for the water and I thought they were cool. I actually really liked the papery taste they gave the water. Now the cups on water coolers have a waxy coating so you don't get the extra flavor. I kind of miss it.

My mom was also responsible for making the daily money drop at the bank. Most the time it was after hours, so she'd just put it in the night drop. But, on the days when the bank was open, we'd go through the drive-through where we always got Tootsie Rolls or Dum Dum suckers. We loved going to the bank.

It was usually only once a year during the summer that my sisters and I would go to work with my dad. At the time he was the manager of a heating/air conditioning wholesale store down in Orem. We must have gone there on days when they were closed because there usually wasn't anybody else there. Our purpose was to make some money and helping Dad at work paid pretty well.

We would get to the store early in the morning and start right away on weeding the strip of Fitzer bushes in the front of the building before it got too hot outside. I hated this job. The strip seemed like it was a mile long and it was full of trash and spiders and covered with morning glories. Morning glories were hard enough to pull out anyway, let alone when they were in rock solid clay soil. After a couple of hours Corinne and I would be too hot to carry on and Annie would be throwing a hissy fit... that's when we'd move on to cleaning the inside of the building.

Our main jobs were to dust, sweep and mop the floors, and clean the restrooms. Sweeping and mopping weren't too bad and neither was cleaning the women's restroom. I think there was only one woman who worked there... part time. But, the men's restroom was horrible... Several men who work in a warehouse + one year of no cleaning = Nasty. It was beyond disgusting. The sink literally had a black coating on it and took a good half hour of scrubbing to get it clean. The toilet and urinal were even more atrocious. You can't even dream of the vomit inducing site under that toilet seat. I couldn't believe anyone would actually use a bathroom that gross. I always wondered if the restrooms would ever have been cleaned had we not done it once a year.

The last job we had was to sweep the warehouse. It was a pretty big place, but it was our favorite job. First, we'd sprinkle some sawdust type stuff all over the floor (who knows what it was for) and then we'd sweep around the perimeter of the floor with a small broom and get into all the little nooks and crannies. This was followed by a pass with the large push broom.

Though most of the day was filled with work, we did get to have a little fun. Dad would always buy us a can of soda out of the pop machine and he always took us out to lunch. The year I turned 16 he took me over to the DMV to get my drivers license. At the end of the day when the work was done, we'd play and hide-and-go-seek in the warehouse. You could search for hours in there and never find a soul. My dad also gave us rides on the hand truck. It was always scary, but very exciting. I'd have a white-knuckle grip on the sides of the dolly while he ran around the warehouse doing crazy figure eights at 50 mph. I was sure at any moment I was going to launch off the front of that thing into a bin full of duct elbows.

My dad really instilled a good work ethic in us. He would never let us waste time lounging around and he wouldn't tolerate us continually asking what to do next. He was like any real employer who expects you to know what your job is and to do it well. I remember him teaching us how to clean the bathroom and telling us to do it "systematically" so that we didn't miss any spots. I still think of that whenever I clean a mirror or vacuum the carpet.

On one occasion back at home my dad asked us to come outside to help weed the yard. Annie asked why we had to help and my dad's answer was so that we "could learn how to work." Annie replied that she "already knew how" and I agreed. It was a dumb notion to us that somebody wouldn't know how to work. Pulling weeds and doing housework was easy. It was common knowledge as far as we were concerned. It wasn't until I got out into the real world that I realized that the majority of people don't know how to work. They don't know how to do simple everyday tasks and they don't care if they do a good job or not. I appreciate my parents making us work and making us learn how to do things for ourselves. Even Annie, who fought tooth and nail the whole way and who I was sure would become a bag lady living in a trash can, ended up ok. I hope I can be just as mean to my kids someday.

The Wheels on the Bus

I learned how to ride the city bus when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I knew how to look up the schedules, what side of the road I needed to be on and how to use a transfer. There was a bus stop just a couple blocks away from our house in Riverton so it was pretty convenient to use. Once I got the hang of it, riding the bus was pretty easy. Back then it cost $.65 per ride, but I always took extra money with me to cover an extra ride or two in case I got on the wrong bus or my transfer expired.

My mom worked up in the Holladay area of Salt Lake and we thought it'd be fun to ride the bus up and have lunch with her one day. Corinne and I were going to go, along with her friend, Allison, because her mom worked with our mom at the same place. So it was me, Corinne and Allison together on the bus. We had to take two buses in order to get up to Holladay: the 43 Bluffdale bus from Riverton and then another bus that we switched to in Taylorsville that dropped us off across the street from the building where our moms worked. We made it up to Holladay that day on time and had a nice lunch.

When it was time to go, we said "goodbye" to our moms and walked across the street to the bus stop. A few moments later a bus pulled up and Corinne and Allison started to get on. "I don't think this is the right bus," I said, "it has the wrong name on the front." "Just get on it's the right one," they said. I argued for a moment and then realizing they were going to leave me there, I reluctantly got on.

Immediately the bus made a right hand turn and started heading north, the opposite direction of where we needed to go. "You guys we're going the wrong way..." I argued. "Stop your whining, it's probably going to turn again soon," they snapped, and continued with their giggling and chatter. I watched the city fly by as we got further and further away from home. It was a good 15 to 20 minutes before Corinne and Allison admitted I was right. We pulled the cord and got off the bus at a gas station in Sugarhouse. Neither of them had brought any extra money so we didn't have enough to go back the way we came and make it home. We were forced to use my money on the pay phone to call our moms to come get us.

Let this be a lesson to any of you who may ever question me. I am always right. Just remember that....

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What would you do for a Klondike bar?

My sisters and I love icecream and we always had some in the house growing up. Corinne's normal serving consisted of at least a half gallon piled into a cereal bowl. I thought for sure she'd get heart disease from all that cholesterol by the time she was 13, but somehow she pulled through.

We were always up for going out to get icecream. It could have been the fancy icecream parlor a few cities away or a soft serve cone from the McDonalds down the street... we weren't picky.

One evening my dad was filling us in on the protocol in case of a fire. He asked if we thought we could get him out of the house if he was unconscious. We thought for sure we'd be able to do it and Dad made us a bet, just to make things interesting. He laid down at the bottom of the stairs in the family room and said that if we could drag him up the stairs, he'd take us out to get icecream. I would guess that Corinne was 12, I was 10 and Annie was 8 at the time. Annie and I each took a leg and Corinne grabbed my dad's arms. We pushed and pulled Dad's 215 pounds of dead weight with all our might and he just laid there limp as a rag doll. He didn't move an inch. "Come on you big bunch of wusses!" he'd say and we'd tell him that "unconscious people don't talk!" We tried and tried, probably for a good 15 minutes or more. Nothing. We finally came to terms that we wouldn't be getting any icecream that night. Dad came to terms that if he were to become unconscious in a house fire, he'd be toast.

What are you... a pack of wild animals?

I'm sure my family ate out more than most when we were kids. We were generally well-behaved in restaurants... never ate gum off the bottom of the table or ran around throwing food. Not that we had the best manners though.

At home during dinner we'd take turns spelling things like "ketchup" or "casserole." At restaurants we didn't need to bother with things like that, we had more interesting things to keep our attention. Restaurants always have extra things on their tables that aren't normally on the table at home... like straws. The straw papers always had to be blown at someone. Even now it's almost painful for me to just pull off the paper and set it nicely on the table like a civilized person. One time we were at Sizzler and I tried to blow a straw at my dad. It completely missed him and flew over his shoulder to the booth behind him. Luckily the couple who were sitting there happened to be busy over at the salad bar, so we were spared the humiliation of getting caught.

Restaurants also often have small baskets of crackers on the table. We were at a Chinese place on one occasion and Corinne thought it'd be funny to try and eat all the crackers before our waitress came back. She had a couple packets worth of crackers shoved in her mouth before my mom quickly shut down the operation... she "wasn't paying for a nice dinner so we could get filled up on crackers!"

Another common addition to the restaurant table is a carafe of water. Once we were at Village Inn and Corinne made a bet that she could drink the whole carafe herself in less than two minutes. She drank glass after glass or water, slugging it down in a nail biting race against time. She actually won that bet but didn't feel too good afterwards. I think she only won $2 so I'm not sure it was worth the pain.

For some reason my parents never took leftovers home from restaurants. For years, whenever I was unable to finish all of my delicious meal, I was saddened by the fact that the extras wouldn't be coming home with me. I knew that other people took theirs home, but my parents didn't, so we didn't either. I thought maybe it was a tacky thing to do. I never actually asked if I could take my leftovers home, I guess I just assumed the worst. I have since realized the beauty of the "doggie bag" and am a dedicated fan.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My List of Things That Must Go

Ok so for all of you who listen to Radio from Hell on X96 you'll recognize this as a segment that they do on a weekly basis. I have submitted a couple small lists of things that bug me, but they haven't read them yet and I'm not sure if they ever will so I'm just going to air my frustrations here...

1. Dancing sign holders: There are two cell phone companies here in Layton who employ teenagers to hold signs out on the sidewalk to draw attention to their businesses. While I'm not opposed to this, I am opposed to their crazy antics. There used to be just one sign holder that I see when I come home from work in the evening. He wears this big black afro wig and used to wear the scary face mask from the movie "Scream"-- don't ask me why. Not only does he wear this stupid getup, he also hops/dances around. I daydream about egging him as I drive by. Then, a second one showed up less than a mile down the street. Believe it or not, the second one was worse. It took me several days to figure out what his sign even said because he would wiggle the sign and shimmy his hips from side to side at an alarming rate. I'm surprised his limbs haven't flown off. He keeps this up for hours at a time with no sign of slowing. It's incredible. He's got to be on meth or something. So, I thought that was as bad as it could get.... wrong. There is a third sign holder that has joined the club. Also within the same mile as the other two. He chooses to hold his sign on the corner of the intersection so I have to sit there and see him and his dumb sign for the duration of the stop light. I still haven't been able to make out what the third guy's sign says. He must have rotating handles on his because he spins it around and does 360 jumps in the air and plays his like a guitar. I think he was a fire baton twirler in a previous life. It's ridiculous. One of these days I'm going to snap and jump out of my car, grab him by his shirt and shake him back and forth and say "JUST HOLD THE DAMN SIGN!"

2. Using the word "bunching" when referring to heavy traffic. It sounds like a maxi pad commercial. It grosses me out.

3. Spiders in the bathroom. Why do they always have to be there when I'm just waking up in the morning? I can't handle a battle with a big ugly spider when I'm naked and barefoot getting into the shower. I don't like to do battle when I'm fully armed with shoes and clear vision! It's not fair to pick on me when the only defense I have is morning breath. How do those things get in there anyway? Are they climbing up the drain?

4. Low Rise Jeans: Is it too much to ask for a pair of jeans that doesn't show my butt crack when I bend over? I'm not asking for tapered mommy jeans that go up to my arm pits, just something reasonable!

5. Hocking a loogey. I know that everybody has times where they need to get rid of all that phlegm in their throats, but do you really need to do it in public? To me the sound is worse than that of someone vomiting. Please go somewhere where I can't see or hear you!

7th Grade (aka Hell)

I was scared to death of going to middle school. Everything seemed so big... the kids, the building, my schedule. My locker was a huge phobia. All those teen movies show the nerdy kids getting shoved into them. I was sure that was going to happen to me. I was afraid somebody would grease my locker and I wouldn't be able to open it. I was afraid I'd forget my combination or keep going past the number I needed and be standing there in the hallway for hours trying to open it... in fact I had actual recurring nightmares for years about that one.

My middle school was so crowded that I could barely move going down the halls. I wasn't very tall at the time and had trouble seeing where I was going, let alone the room numbers, with all the throngs of students that surrounded me.

The first day of school I was nervous, REALLY nervous- the kind of nervous where you can't eat anything because you're sure you'll puke if you do. Corinne was in 9th grade and luckily she was nice enough to find someone to show me where homeroom was the first day. She had no idea how grateful I was. The rest of the day went pretty smoothly as I recall. I was happy to find that our lockers were only about three feet high, making it impossible for me to be shoved into one. I also had a different kind of latch on mine that made it ungreasable. I still had the lingering fear of forgetting my combination, but that never actually happened.

The second day of school didn't go so well. Even though the first day had gone OK, I was still extremely nervous. I had almost made it to my homeroom that morning when they called my name over the intercom to come to the front office. When I finally got there after fighting my way through the crowds, the office lady handed me a finished homework assignment that I had apparently dropped in the hall somewhere. Shortly after leaving the office the tardy bell rang... and the panic set in. I pulled out my map of the school and tried to find my way to homeroom again. I got to the spot where the room was supposed to be according to the map but to my horror, it wasn't there. I began pacing up and down the hall, sweat beading on my forehead, stomach turning. Where was it?! It had to be there somewhere! Finally I got up my nerve and asked a couple girls who were still out in the hall (probably some hooligans who were sure to beat me up) if they knew where the room was. Luckily they took pity on me and didn't point me in the wrong direction. The classroom was right where it was supposed to be, but the door was in the other hallway around the corner. I felt like an idiot. I hurried into class and sat there the entire time dreading the next bell. As the minutes ticked by I felt sicker and sicker. When the bell finally rang I just couldn't take it anymore and went to the office. I told them I didn't feel good and called my mom to come get me.

For the next two days I stayed home sick. I was terrified. I spent two days working myself up even more, sure that terrible things would happen to me if I went to school. I don't know exactly what I was afraid of. I was always the good kid and didn't want to let on that I was anything less than perfect I guess. I was scared of being tardy, I was scared of getting in trouble, I was scared I wouldn't fit in, I was scared of change.

On the third day my mom finally forced me to go back to school. Everything went fine from that day on and I was just the typical nerdy 7th grader. There was something good that came from all that drama. I have never since been nervous or scared about starting a new school or a new job. I know that my worst fears are never rational depictions of what will actually happen. I realized I'm a smart, capable person and that I can do anything just as good or better than the next guy. Worrying about things doesn't help at all and most of the time it is destructive. I can roll with the punches and take things as they come. Change is exciting and I love the mystery it brings.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Elementary School

Elementary school was pretty easy for me. I think that's why it was my favorite part of my school career. I was the smart kid, I was on top. Once I got to middle school I was just another kid.

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Webb. She had short red hair and was really nice. She let us choose names for our table groups depending on the holiday. Somehow she always remembered the different names, even though they changed quite often. A few years after I was out of Mrs. Webb's class, my mom was watching the news and heard that her husband had been killed in a plane crash. It was pretty sad, she was fairly young.

Like I said in my earlier post, Mrs. Slaughter was my second grade teacher, but I don't remember anything else about that year. In third grade I had Mr. Galloway. He was an older man who always wore slacks and a button up shirt. He would use his knuckle to point to a word or whatever else he needed to draw our attention to on the chalkboard. He also had a comb-over that always flew straight up in the air whenever the wind blew. We tried to keep from laughing as we stood in line outside to come in for recess. I saw him years later with a toupee. I don't know what was funnier.

Mr. Galloway is the only elementary school teacher that ever publicly scolded me. A boy had been teasing me one day and I kicked him in the shin. Immediately Mr. Galloway bellowed, "Karen, I can't believe you'd do such a thing! I'd expect that kind of behavior from others but not from you!" The class went dead silent and I could feel my face turn red from embarrassment. I had to try really hard to keep my eyes from watering. I never understood how some kids could get yelled at all the time for bad behavior and it didn't phase them. I took it very personally and hated to ever disappoint any of my teachers. I was a bit of a teacher's pet... always wanting to help out, always one of the first to raise my hand. I loved parent-teacher conference because my parents always came home with comments about how smart and well-behaved I was. I was "a teacher's dream."

I did get a stern talking to from Mrs. Beutler, my fourth grade teacher. My friends and I would pinch each others butts because we thought it was funny. We were too young to realize that was the stuff of sexual harassment. Mrs. Beutler pulled me aside one day and told me it was inappropriate and that if anybody did it again I should tell them to stop it in a very forceful tone. I was very embarrassed that time as well, but at least she had the tact to censure me in private. I probably would have melted and died had anyone else heard that conversation. On a different note, I believe that was the same year my "boyfriend," Jeremiah, and I broke up over Nintendo.

Mrs. Cazier was my fifth grade teacher. She told us that we could remember how to say her name by saying, "Cuz air is good for ya!" She was my favorite teacher in elementary school. She read books aloud to the class on a regular basis and those books became some of my all time favorites... "Matilda," "Hatchet," and "The Witches" just to name a few. Mrs. Cazier was a skinny, brunette woman who was naturally pretty. Some boys in my class once asked her how much she weighed and she said 115 pounds. They were all amazed. She would randomly draw a student's name from a jar once a week and whoever she picked would get to choose a prize from a pencil box full of surprises. I won all the time; it was great.

For some reason I can't remember my sixth grade teacher's name. It might have been Ms. Beck, but I'm not sure... I think it started with a "B" though. She was nice enough on a one-on-one basis but tended to get a little crabby with the class as a whole. I saw her at the mall one time coming out of a lingerie store. She was probably embarrassed but I didn't think anything of it. I was just excited because I'd seen my teacher.

The only other memory I have of sixth grade is not a pleasant one. I was a bit of a late bloomer and all the other girls were wearing their training bras by that time. I had been too timid to ask my mom if I could get one too (not that I needed it). My class was walking down the hall one day and a couple of the popular boys were messing around and snapping all the girls bras. A boy named Jason came up and tried to do it to me and when he couldn't he said, "She doesn't have one!" and they all started snickering. It was pretty humiliating. I was very self-conscious about that anyway and that little incident definitely didn't help. It's kind of sad in a way to look back at all the time I wasted worrying about what I looked like. I see my old school pictures and think I looked pretty dorky, but then, all the other kids did too. You don't see the big picture when you're a kid.


Kindergarten is a funny word... I wonder why we have some crazy name for that grade... all the other grades sound so boring. Five year olds sure are great, aren't they? They've reached the age where they can poop and talk pretty well on their own, plus they usually haven't developed their bratty attitudes yet and still think grown-ups are cool. Anyway, onto my story...

I went to Rosamond Elementary. It was only a block or so from the house so I walked to school everyday. The school wasn't much to look at, just a squarish cement building painted a light peachy color. I used to peel the paint chips off the wall during recess if I happened to be "it" during some game where I had to count. I never ate the paint chips and never saw anybody else do it either. It never even crossed my mind. I can't understand why kids would eat paint chips... how good could they taste? It's not like paint is made out of sugar or potatoes. On second thought, maybe the other kids were eating them and that's the reason why I was at the top of my class during the elementary years.

I always thought the Kindergarten playground was great. There was this giant spider with ladder legs that was my favorite. The body was a big yellow disk that several friends could sit on while I pretended to drive the spider using the cantaloupe sized black eyeballs as the steering wheels. I imagined wreaking havoc in the city... crushing cars and climbing over houses on my enormous spider robot. I don't remember playing in the big sandbox much or on any of the other playground equipment. The spider was definitely the coolest thing out there, which is funny because I'm deathly afraid of spiders and always have been.

Ms. Slaughter was my teacher for both my Kindergarten and 2nd Grade years. Her name sounds menacing but I think I liked her OK. Both times she was my teacher we ended up having a substitute for half the year because she was out having a baby. She looked old at the time, but I guess when you're five, everyone looks old.

As far as classroom time goes I don't remember much. There was a kitchen play-set in there but I never got to play with it because all the other girls always seemed to get there first. We also had to walk on a balance beam once.

We got to use the big crayons in Kindergarten and I loved how pretty my new crayons were when I opened the box at the beginning of the year. I'm sure they didn't stay very pretty for long. I still love to open a new box of crayons... they look like perfect little rows of soldiers. The crayon making episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was one of my favorites. I've always liked to open new jars of peanut butter too.

One day after we'd finished some activity my teacher told us to get into our table groups so we could go watch a movie in the other room. For some reason I hadn't heard her mention the part about watching a movie and thought it was time to go home. My group was the first one chosen to go to the other room, but instead I walked right out the front door and went home. When I got home my mom asked why I was back so early and I told her the teacher said we could go. The next day a girl in my class said I'd missed a good Mickey Mouse movie. Dang. Since then I've always wondered how no one noticed when I walked out the door and what Mickey Mouse movie it was.

Monday, June 2, 2008


My family has lived in the same house since the time I was four, so I never had to go through the experience of being the new kid in school. I'm not sure if it was the proximity to my mom's work building or if it was the only good one around, but I went to a Challenger preschool on the east side of town. It was probably a good fifteen to twenty minutes away from the house.

I had two teachers in preschool, Ms. Kay and Ms. Kathy. I can remember both their names easily, but somehow cannot remember the name of my sixth grade teacher. Anyway, Ms. Kay was a pretty lady with typical 80's permed hair. I'm sure it was hot at the time. Ms. Kathy had short red hair and was a little more plain. I don't remember anything at all about them except that they were good singers and I liked them. We used to sing a lot in preschool. We would sit on the carpet and sing such classics as "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" and "This Land is Your Land." I still think of preschool when I hear those songs.

The Challenger school had a killer playground. It seemed huge to me at the time. I'd like to go back and check it out again just to see if it really is as big as it is in my memory. There was a paved track that went all around the playground equipment that you could ride Big Wheels on. There were only two or three Big Wheels and usually only one of them had a good front tire. Anybody who had ever had a Big Wheel knows that the front tire inevitably splits down the middle. Although it's still possible to ride the damaged bikes, it's not an enjoyable experience. There were a lot of kids out on the playground at recess and I don't remember ever getting a turn on the Big Wheels. I resigned myself to playing on the train shaped metal sculpture.

T.V. shows and movies always show preschool kids getting a snack and then taking a nap. We never got snacks or naps. Although if you read my previous post you'll know that I wasn't too disappointed about the latter.

I can still remember picture day in preschool. We were all lined up in rows on the little bleachers for the class picture. One of the teachers had told us to be good and quiet and I followed instructions to a T. In the picture I appear in my light blue turtleneck and overalls with my arms folded tightly across my chest and my lips zipped. I was so adorable!