Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Different View of Death

On Memorial Day, my husband asked if we should do our duty and visit my dad's grave. You may think I'm strange, but I've never felt a compelling need to visit the graves of loved ones. We went to Daddy Dell's grave anyway, and washed off his headstone with a water bottle and an old receipt I found on the floor of my car. (Stupid birds!)
It's possible that my non-compelling desire to visit gravesites may stem from the time I first lost someone close to me. I was thirty three, and felt pretty miserable at Grandma's funeral. She had taken me in after I had my first baby in order to watch over my infant son while I rested. (Said infant son, Andy, is in this picture with me at my dad's funeral. Needless to say, he's no longer an infant.) My sister Rebecca, seeing my sorrow at Grandma's death, said, "Hey, Shirley, isn't it nice to know that Grandma will be there to greet you when it's your turn to die?"
All at once, my view of death did a one-eighty. Having funny, loving Grandma there to help me transition into the next life brought me great comfort indeed. That was something I could live with.
I have nothing against visiting graves. I'm fine with anyone who does it. Live and let live, I say. I just have no need to go there when that's not where my loved one is. They're in a brighter, busier place, but hopefully not too busy to meet the bus when I cross over, leaving my mortal body luggage behind.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Festival

This past weekend was the annual Scandinavian Festival hosted in little old Ephraim, Utah, under cloudy skies. It didn't rain all the time, but enough that I didn't set up my book booth on Friday. On Saturday, there were sunny spots scattered around the skies, so up went my booth. I spread out my books and greeted passersby and handed out some book marks. By early afternoon, I'd sold about half a dozen books.
Then it was time to go do my storytelling stint, so I recruited my 8-year-old son to watch the booth for me. (This took place at the Ephraim Co-op craft store, so there was a cash register nearby for him to send customers to.) While I was at my storytelling station, my sister surprised me. She'd driven an hour and a half to visit, so when I was done with stories, we walked among the craft booths and finally worked our way back to mine a couple of hours after I put my son in charge. To my surprise, he had sold six books in my absence!
So I left again.
No, not really. My sister took my son down the street for something to eat from one of the vendors, and I stayed in my booth, listening to several people tell me what a good salesman my son was.
He actually started out as a preschooler in a cow costume handing out flyers for my pioneer books. Come to think of it, no one ever refused to take one from him.
From now on, he's coming to all my literary events. That boy has some sales magic in him.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dog Food Cookies

They are the ugliest edible creation in the world, but once I get one between my teeth, I want more, and more, and more! My sons think they're so ugly, they call them "dog food cookies," or worse. (Yeah, what biological process happens after a dog eats? If you've ever been around boys, you won't even shudder at the thought.)
I baked some dog food cookies yesterday. The recipe is simple. Mix two boxes of spice cake mix and one 28 oz. can of pumpkin. Toss in chocolate chips, nuts, or whatever else you want to try. (I once threw in some trail mix with delicious results.) Bake cookie-shaped lumps at 350 for about 20 minutes. (Adjust time to individual ovens.)
Once my delectable vegetable food group delights were done, I sat down with about six of them, a glass of cold milk, and a good book. While I was eating, my 14-year-old brought our dog, Bibs, in from her dog run. I was so lost in my book and my taste bud party that I didn't pay attention to much else. When I was through, I carried my plate back into the kitchen. Hey, the cooling rack was empty. I was sure I'd left half a dozen cookies on it. "Did you eat any cookies?" I asked Brian.
He called back, "No, they're disgusting. Why would I eat your disgusting cookies?"
Bibs came trotting into the kitchen, her brown eyes looking up at me with adoration. That's when I noticed the cookie sheet on the stove top, minus the fresh batch of cookies that had been cooling there. Only two sat in the far corner, huddled there as though afraid of something big and toothy.
"Bibs!" I cried. "Did you eat my cookies?"
She did not deny it.
I plucked one of the remaining cookies from the cookie sheet and opened the door. Bibs raced to her dog run and looked hopefully at me from between the bars.
"Yeah, you did it," I grumbled, slipping the cookie between the bars before latching the dog run door.
I couldn't really blame her. For all I know, she heard me call them "dog food cookies." At least she got her vegetables, but I'm not going to tell her that I have a bowl full of delicious dog food cookie dough chilling in the refrigerator.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Six Saltines in a Minute Challenge

by Shirley Bahlmann
When I was at work the other day, one of the students challenged another student to eat six small saltine cracker squares in one minute. The rules were: you can drink as much water as you want to before the minute and after the minute, but not during the minute. You can eat them however you want to (one at a time, all at once) but you must have them chewed and swallowed by the time the minute is up.
Easy, right?
The student crunched and chewed and swallowed and swallowed. Crumbs spewed as he anxiously stuffed more crackers in his mouth. His eyes darted to the clock and the speeding second hand. By the time it reached the one minute mark, he still had crackers in his mouth.
It sounds so simple, yet appeared so difficult. I haven't tried this myself, but it would be interesting to hear if any of you or anyone in your family can do it. If you're of an adventurous nature and in the mood for saltines, then let me know what happens. See if you, or someone you love, can be the first six-saltines-in-a-minute champions of blogspot!
Then I'll tell you about the marshmallow cheek stuffer...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Just Ask

by Shirley Bahlmann
I drove an hour and a half to the Cedar Fort author talk yesterday evening. (I went with a writer friend and my writer son, who is 14 and has great ideas but spends very little time actually writing.) When Deen Kemsley got up to speak, I was impressed with his great smile and easy presence. Then he began to tell the spiritual experiences from his book, which were interesting, but I had expected to find the amazing secret to his success of selling 1,000 books before they were even published.
Nice talk, wrong mindset.
Then, in the Q&A portion of the event, I discovered I was not the only one who wondered about his pre-sales success when someone asked, "How did you sell 1,000 books before it was even published?"
Deen gave us a sheepish grin, then said, "I asked a sponsor to buy a thousand books and he agreed."
At first it seemed so deceptively simple, I felt almost cheated. I chewed on his words while he answered some other attendees.
Then, when Deen asked if there were any more questions, I raised my hand and asked, "Will you endorse my next book?"
He laughed, then said maybe, then said he'd have to read it first. When I spoke to him afterward, he asked me what my book was about. I told him about Detours: When life throws you a curve just follow the road, and he said, "You've got me hooked. Send it along."
Well, whattaya know... just ask!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Walking Boxes

by Shirley Bahlmann
They were big, they were beautiful, and they were in the dumpster. Two huge boxes, big enough to reach from my head to my ankles, sat unappreciated, waiting for their final journey to the dump. How could I let these building blocks of imagination meet such an awful fate? There were castles and rocket ships and secret clubhouses just waiting to be built!
I recruited my big fourteen-year-old son for project "Save-a-Box." We each hoisted one up, up, and over our heads, upside down, so we were looking through little peep holes that were torn along the bottom. Walking with a big box on your head takes some getting used to. By the time we reached Main Street, we were moving at a reasonable pace, and were glad to find the crossing guard willing to hold up his STOP sign so we could cross without worrying about being blindsided by a turkey truck. I thought the most dangerous part of our journey was over, but that was before I decided to take a shortcut through the elementary school yard. That was real danger.
Curious children started squealing and pushing on our boxes, making me stagger to catch my balance. I don't know about you, but falling down is not one of my top ten favorite things to do, and falling down inside a box where I had no option of putting out my hands to catch myself is an even worse prospect.
"Hey, stop pushing us!" I yelled.
There was a moment of silence, then a small voice asked, "Are you Michael's mom?"
"Yes," I answered, claiming parentage of my third grader. Since I'm a minor celebrity at the school, working with producing social skill skits every month, most students know me. Once they knew who the alien box monster really was, the pushing stopped and we survived crossing a street on our own.
A block from home, a stream of wolf cub scouts flowed toward us, parting around the boxes like rocks in a river. Then I saw my son, Michael's, face through my peephole.
"Mom, what are you doing?" he asked, his cheeks turning red.
"Taking these boxes home," I answered.
"What for?" He tried to sound exasperated.
"To play with," I said.
"Whatever," he answered, and walked on to join his den.
When my son got home from scouts, he spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the boxes. I grinned, remembering all my cardboard box adventures, and marked double time on my walking exercise chart.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Pioneers - A Course in Miracles

by Shirley Bahlmann
Hey, it's out! My newest book, titled "The Pioneers - A Course in Miracles" is now available! Even though it doesn't have "Odd" in the title, it is the same format as my "Odds" true pioneer stories. Why the title change? Well, when the publisher first suggested taking "odd" out of the title, it was like they were asking me to cut off all my hair and dye my head chartreuse. That would be so odd! But when I thought about it, I realized how many people told me they had some of my books, but they couldn't remember which ones because they all said "odd." So then it seemed like a good tradition to let go, like birthday spankings. (I mean, what's the point of that?)
I'm very excited about this new book. It's slender enough to slip in your handbag and take anywhere to read, and contains uplifting and sometimes amusing stories of miraculous events from the olden days. You can read a sample story and order autographed copies from me at www.shirleybahlmann.com.
Well, I'm off to write another great book! Happy reading.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mormon Whiskey

by Shirley Bahlmann
Okay, we've all heard it, mothers are entrusted with the care and nurturing of children. That means in good times when they're performing and we watch and cheer, even if they're pulling their shirt over their head or hitting fouls or squeaking on the high notes. We're also in it for the bad times when they're running noses all over the house and coughing on the jello.
My 14-year-old just got over a bad case of the flu. One night when he was getting ready to sleep, I told him to take some Nyquil so he could rest. (Isn't that what they say in the commercial?) He said he couldn't take it because the warning label said not to if you'd been coughing for more than two days.
"Hey," I said, "We've talked to a doctor, it's fine!" But he still refused, until I called my doctor brother and had him tell my son over the phone that yes, he should take some Nyquil so his body could rest and heal.
After I hung up the phone, my son had poured medicine into the little plastic cup that comes with the bottle. He looked up at me and said, "Okay, Mom, I'm ready to take my shot of Mormon whiskey."
All I can say is, we mothers do the best we can. Really, we do.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mysterious Gravel

by Shirley Bahlmann
I was nearing the end of my half mile walk home when I felt a tiny bit of something tumble gently into my hand. It was too dark to see what it was, but it just smaller than a green pea, was hard and had rough edges. When I got home I examined my windfall in the light. It was a piece of white gravel.
Where had it come from? I was walking under a tree when it landed in my hand. What would a piece of gravel be doing in a tree? Also, there wasn't much hand for it to fit into. I had a tape player looped around my wrist, and my fingers were cupped around the strap. My sons wondered if it had been kicked up while I was walking, but I was on smooth sidewalk.
"It's a magic rock," one son said.
"It's a meteorite," said another.
"You could write a book about it," they both agreed.
So there you go. Ideas for books come from everywhere, even falling rocks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Baling Twine Necktie

by Shirley Bahlmann
It can be traumatic being fourteen. When my son went to a school dance on Friday, they turned him away at the door because he didn't have a necktie on. Angry and embarrassed, he left, declaring that he wasn't going back to that stupid school on Monday. Well, he didn't go back, because he got the flu, but that's not the point.
The point is that when his 17-year-old brother heard what happened, he said, "If they told me I needed a tie, I would have gone outside and found an old piece of baling twine or something of the ground. I would have tied it around my neck, then gone back and said, 'I've got a tie, now let me in.'"
I was impressed by his ingenuity. His attitude made me want to make things work that really matter to me. I hope you'll keep plenty of baling twine neckties on hand for your emergencies, too.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Single Purpose

I once saw a cartoon that claimed to interpret what pets think. The word balloon over the cartoon mutt's head described our dog exactly. It read, "Throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball."
Honestly, last week I realized what a waste of time I'd spent feeling all mushy about having Bibs (our dog) since she was a puppy, and how she would be bereft if we ever had to send her to another family. NOT EVEN! As long as her new owners would kick or throw a ball until their legs fell off, she'd be in doggie heaven.
When my sister visited, she thought it was nice that Bibs always brought the ball back. Her dog just runs after the ball, then gets interested in something else. What a relief that would be!
Okay, so all dogs can't be like Benjy or Lassie or else those shows wouldn't hold so much appeal. We'll keep our mutt, and keep the tennis ball industry in the black.