Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Donut Date

by Shirley Bahlmann
It happened at a college ward Halloween party. I wasn't there because I'm in college, although I once was, but because my husband works as ward clerk. I was supposed to be a good influence, you know, the stable older wife of the slightly nerdy clerk, yadda, yadda. (Except that hubby is a mountain man who knows Broadway musicals and recognizes opera. He's a macho nerd.)
Anyway, someone had the great idea of tying donuts to a broom handle and dangling them in front of hungry college students. I'm telling you, it was hard to hold them back. Once the students sunk their teeth into the confections and snarfed them down, they thought it would be fun to have the older, more sedate party-goers bite into donuts without using their hands.
(Ah... but they said nothing about faces.) I wasn't going to play because I'm on a low-cholesterol diet, but I was peer-pressured into standing in line beside my husband, the dangerous donut mocking me with its sugary sweetness.
"On your mark, get set, go!"
I lunged into the donut, then swung it around with my face and pushed it into my surprised husband's cheek, and took a big bite. (Of the donut, not his cheek.) It worked so well, I did it again. Then a third of the donut fell on the floor, and I did a victory dance in my long red-riding hood cape.
But my dance was short-lived. Bob was struggling with his confection. I hate to see a man suffer, especially one I'm married to, so I placed myself in mortal danger and stood behind his donut, with the pastry right at lip level. He went for it. We kissed. (Well, if you can call mashing your lips together against a big fat puff of sweet dough kissing.) The kids laughed. We did it again. By the time Bob had the donut down, I was glazed from forehead to chin. Half an hour later, I was still peeling frosting off my face in hidden places.
I'm thinking that Bob and I weren't cheating, no, we were setting a good example of how to stay in love 30 years later.
Did you ever notice that thirds of donuts lying on the floor look like little mouths smiling up at you? They do.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Smiley Band Got Camera Shy

by Shirley Bahlmann
My smiley wristband is gone. It didn't die a natural death, either. It slipped away when Channel 14 KJAZZ came to film me in my native element for an October 24 TV spot. It was the segment where the camera guy suggested a close-up shot of me reaching my hand into the Manti Library History cabinet to pull out an old book. The smiley band stared up at me in horror, it's plastic-y yellow smiley faces wrinkled with age and fear. "Let me gooooo!" it wailed.
So I did. Out of the kindness of my heart, I ripped that little fellow free.
If you watch the TV segment this Friday, October 24 at 8:00 a.m., you'll see him on my wrist when I'm telling stories to the children. But by the time we get to the research phase... the little fellow's gone to a better place.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Haunted Dog

By Shirley Bahlmann
Bibs was just four days old, a little black weiner with a small white dot between her shoulder blades, like she'd been touched by a ghost. (Just look at her spooky eyes!) I didn't really want a Border Collie, I was more interested in a cute little whisker dog like my cousins, Guy and Janette Rallison, have. But Bob and the boys would have none of that. We weren't sure Bibs was our puppy until we did "doggy tests" at five weeks old. All three boys chose her from the litter, and that was good enough for me.
When Bibs came to our house, she was too scared to sleep alone, so the boys hunkered down in their sleeping bags in her dog run. When the weather turned cold enough, they came inside and she stayed out.
When she first met our cats, they were all about the same size, but they wouldn't play nice. Sometimes our white-as-a-ghost cat, Dusty, would trot away to find a sunny spot and Bibs would happily give chase. Our black cat, Slick, never turned tail to Bibs. Even though Bibs grew to ten times his size, Dusty's the one who makes Bibs run.
The ghost touch has done other damage to Bibs' bravado. She's afraid to go in our living room, is afraid of the bathtub, blinking lights, and being behind closed doors. But worst of all, she's afraid of her dog feeder.
It's a terrific feeder that holds a whole bag of dog food with a lid to keep it clean and dry. We knew she wasn't fond of pushing open the little hinged door with her nose to get at her food, so we propped it open with a rock and thought we would live happily ever after.
Last month, Bibs was in our house when Bob asked, "Does she have any food?"
"I saw some in her feeding tray," I said. "Why?"
"She acts likes she's starving," he said.
It was true. She was doing more than vacuuming the kitchen floor, she was trying to root in the garbage can and stand up to the counter when she thought we weren't looking and attempting to open cupboards with her nose. So when I took her back outside, I inspected the feeder more closely. I found spider webs woven across the feeding tray. Was she scared of spiders, or had they set up shop there because she never her nose in to eat her food? When I opened the lid, it was chock full of dog food, clear to the top.
"Bibs!" I said. "I can't believe you're scared of your feeder!" She lowered her head between her white-spotted shoulders and wagged her tail in apology.
I took pity on the ghost-touched dog and scooped some food out for her.
I think we're going to dress her up as a werewolf for Halloween.

Three Angels For Christmas

by Shirley Bahlmann
My writer friend, Lori Nawyn, sent me a cute Christmas booklet that she not only WROTE, but also ILLUSTRATED! (How talented is that?) The story is a brief six-pager about Nawyn's grandparents and friend, all of whom passed away, and how hard it was for Nawyn, but now she sees them as her Christmas angels. I could tell that this story meant something to Nawyn, and it may touch the hearts of other readers as well.
I'm very taken by the angel illustrations. There are three of them, and they are sober yet beautiful renditions. They each even have a different hair color!
If you would like to have some appropriate gifts on hand for those who surprise you with a little Christmas remembrance, these would be ideal. They are $4.95 and come with their own envelopes. They make fancy Christmas gift cards and stocking stuffers, too! And if you have extra, well, there's always next year.

The Smiles Go On...

by Shirley Bahlmann
Well, it's getting a bit wrinkly and crinkly, but still hangs out on my wrist. It's been three weeks, and the smiles go on...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Santa's Secret" Stole My Heart

by Shirley Bahlmann
After reading this book, I no longer feel the need to make excuses for signing “Shirley Claus” on Christmas cards because “Santa’s Secret” tastefully binds the kindness of Santa Claus with the teachings of the Savior to align the two caring men on the same side of goodness and love.
I was crying by page 16. They were happy tears.
This book is so full of delightful passages that pop up like toffee in a candy bar that the whole thing is a delight to read. Well, okay, if you want to get picky, there are a half a dozen grammar challenged sentences, such as “I knew right away I’d forgot my glasses.” (It should be …forgotten my glasses…) but Christy told me this is to keep it true to the voice of the man who inspired this book.
Yes, this book is an even greater Christmas treasure because it’s based on true experiences of long-time Santa’s helper Phil Porter. It covers the reasons we shouldn’t judge another’s circumstance by what we see, and it aptly demonstrates how giving of yourself without asking for anything in return can be magical. I dare you to read it without needing a tissue. This book comes alive with instances of faith where tough, next-to-impossible situations work themselves out in realistic ways that still come across as blessings from heaven. It’s positively heart-warming to see how the spirit and love of Christmas flowed through so many hands, showing how we can all be part of the magic, even by small means. It’s amazing how little things can end up counting for so very much.
This book is a gift you can hold in your hands as well as your heart. My copy is bristling with notes for passages I wanted to share with you, but on second thought, you’ll like them better when you read this enchanting book yourself.

Shirley: Hey, Christy, it’s a little hard to tell by starlight, but those look like nice sandals you’re wearing.
Christy: Sh! Somebody might hear you.
Shirley: (looking around, then whispers) Who?
Christy: A highway robber.
Shirley: I don't see anyone. All I see is a wall.
Christy: Ancient Bethlehem’s city wall, to be exact.
Shirley: What are we doing outside? How do we get in?
Christy: Through the eye of a needle.
Shirley: Come again?
Christy: It’s a little opening by the city gate. Camels have to crawl through, but I can make it standing up. (Looks me up and down) You, oh freakishly tall one, might have to duck.
Shirley: So, we couldn’t have met here during daylight?
Christy: No. Tonight’s a special night. (Christy grins, her teeth shining white in the subdued light.)
Shirley: Okay, lead the way. Ooo, low ceiling, you weren’t kidding. Hey, I notice your book, “Santa’s Secret,” was written with Phil Porter. Who is he?
Christy: Phil is just a bus driver from Salem, Utah. But he has a special connection to this place.
Shirley: How did you meet him?
Christy: I work for a newspaper, the Spanish Fork News, and a few years ago I was assigned to interview him for a story in the Christmas Special Section. You see, Phil has been Santa Claus for 27 years now, and he has a unique perspective on the Christmas holiday.
Shirley: Ah, we’ve reached the city. Argh! A spotlight!
Christy: No, Shirley, that’s an exceedingly bright star.
Shirley: Oh. Now what do we do?
Christy: Come this way.
Shirley: Okay, I’ll follow along. What made you think of writing this book?
Christy: When I interviewed Phil, I was so touched and overwhelmed by the spirit of his stories, I approached him about coming together to write a novel. He said he'd been approached several times before--his stories are that good--but this time, the pieces just fell right. He is not a writer, but he is a story-teller, so he came to my house several times and I recorded his stories as he told them. I took those, and wove them together with a fictional "season" of Christmastime, to create a setting where his stories can take place. Some of what happens between him and his family in the book is fictional, and though he wanted to keep the names of his immediate family the same, all of the other names are changed. Almost everything else in the book is based on actual events. You really feel that when you read it, too. The stories ring with truth, and go right to the heart because they really happened.
Phil believes in Santa Claus in a different way than I've ever seen before. When he dresses in his Santa suit, he really "becomes" Santa. And because he takes his role so seriously, he has had many opportunities to offer help, comfort and love to people who are struggling during the holiday season. He's a true giver of real gifts.

Shirley: Oh, I must agree, I sensed that when I read it. Hey, what’s that up ahead?
Christy: A stable. I told you tonight was special. I wanted to meet you here on this night to see the real reason for Christmas.
Shirley: You don’t mean…
Christy: Yes. In that stable is born the Savior of the world.
Shirley: Wow. (Looking up) What’s that? I hear bells.
Christy: (Smiling) It’s Santa Claus.
Shirley: Here? Now? (Christy and Shirley watch as Santa lands his sleigh, takes off his hat, then walks into the stable and kneels beside the manger.) That is so awesome. Hey, doesn’t Santa Claus look a little like…?
Christy: Phil.
Shirley: Yeah. I love how they’re both on the same team. Thanks so much for bringing me here. You and Phil… and the Savior.
Christy: You’re welcome.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Running Fans and Feet = shortened stature

It made perfect sense for my sons to run their fans on summer nights. After all, their bedrooms are upstairs, and heat rises.
The whirring fans also brought back memories of when I was a girl sharing a double bed with my two little sisters in muggy New Jersey. We always ran the fan on hot nights, where the humming blades and gentle, artificial breeze were like a lullaby.
Who knew it could be dangerous? I never suspected, until my big 14-year-old Brian came limping down the stairs a few weeks ago. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"Well," he said, sinking into a chair. "I woke up in the night because my foot hurt. When I flipped on my lamp, I saw that somehow I'd stuck my foot out of bed and caught it in the fan." He indicated a huge blood blister under his big toenail, which is part of his size 14 feet, which are stuck onto his 6' 3" body.
Bad Mother Moment: I'd let my older son use the fan with the broken safety cover, so his younger brother could have the fan with covered blades. I never thought of my tall son's legs being long enough to stretch out of bed far enough to be shortened by half a dozen spinning plastic blades.
I marched right up the stairs and took the faulty fan from my son's room. I gave him a safety covered fan, and encouraged him to set it on his desk. But then... his desk is beside his bed. You don't think his fingers are small enough to fit through the safety cover slots, do you?