Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ma's Crackpot Ideas

Sometimes I get ideas.

This has been going on for years.

I remember a conversation/argument I had one time with my husband and a nearly grown child. Another, almost done offspring walked in and said, "What are you guys talking about?" The first one said, "Just another one of Ma's crackpot ideas." "Oh those," was his bored reply as the refrigerator door opened for closer inspection. 
Well, I get these ideas about all kinds of things. Things like how to run the government, education reform, municipal landscaping, better bottle caps, where to put benches at Disneyland or tags on sheets etc.  Some of these just might be good ideas too. Some might be so good that they're already out there and I just haven't heard about it. I don't get around as much as I used to.

Didn't Father teach us that we should always be anxiously engaged in a good cause. That we should do many good things of our own free will and bring to pass much righteousness?  Historically some crackpot ideas have brought about a whole bunch of righteousness, so that's great advice. 

Well, now that I'm old I'm afraid that I might die and any of my gems that may be new will die with me.  So I've decided to send a few out there into cyberspace every now and then. You all are welcome to them. If someone happens to take one and make a zillion dollars with it, more power to you. 
On second thought, do the right thing and send me a little. I promise to use it for a wise purpose. 

Idea #1
Computer Site or Softwhatever for Volunteer Projects

When I was teaching high school I would regularly get calls from probation officers or others asking for help finding community service projects for kids who needed to serve hours as part of their sentence. Most of the time these kids ended up picking up trash from the schoolyard or something similar. While this is helpful I knew these kids had the power to make a bigger contribution, which would help them as well as the community. They had energy to burn, new knees, and bright minds that could really make a difference.  I also knew of school clubs and Eagle scout candidates looking for ideas for their service projects too. They only needed some direction to unleash their youthful talents.

Couldn't there be a computer clearing house where people who needed help could list a project and kids of all kinds who wanted to help could find one? For instance, could the "lookees" say their club had 15 teens with 4 Saturdays and they liked animals, the outdoors, music or old people? Could the "lookers" say they needed a crew of 20 for outdoor digging or indoor painting and post sign up sheets for projects that were genuinely needed but lacked funds for manpower.  

Those scouts, Key Clubs, or the new kid in school who wants to make friends could go there and find real work. Suppose that their city had potholes on a street but no money to pay workers to fill them. The city could send out a foreman and materials to supervise. A mini class in pothole filling would then make it possible for a bunch of teenagers to point with pride at a real civic accomplishment.

I'm here to tell you that kids can plant trees in parks, paint anything, build benches, teach guitar, push or fix wheelchairs and/or cars, and help the Game and Fish people. We always hear that there's no money to pay for things. Well I'm here to tell you that there's an army of kids, including the ones on probation, who can help out more than a little. They need good stuff to do. We need to quit underestimating them and provide a place where they can easily find important work. 

You can't fool kids though. They know the difference between busywork and a real contribution. If we're willing to teach and trust them they can do real work.

Idea #2 Little Forgotten Spaces

Don't forget the oft forgotten. 

When we moved back to the desert from the mountains we bought a tiny "spec" house. It was supposed to be just a roof, mainly to get us out of Grandma's house and hair. We both had new jobs and no time. We'd settle permanently later. 

Well, we've been here 12 years now. You see, Larry got comfortable, says it's big enough for just us two and he doesn't want to move furniture. And I think living in that tiny fishing cabin in the woods for so long did strange things to the both of us. Somehow bigger's just bigger now and little seems right. 

Anyway, two of this teeny house's teeny bedrooms had windows looking out over 10 feet of side yard right to a 7 foot block fence. My idea was to knock out the window in one of them and put french doors, which I love. My family thought I was nuts of course. "French doors to where, for Pete's sake?" was the many times repeated reaction. 

Well, my doors created the sweetest little courtyard, visible from the living room, because I knocked out the wall on the other side to put an archway. It made one of those unused bedrooms into a lovely library that looks out to a little fountain on the now honeysuckle covered wall. Bougainvillea filled pots spill flowers onto the brick pavers and butterflies and hummingbirds regularly visit.
"What a great idea!" is the usual response.


Forgotten spaces are all around. Just look. Potential may be hidden away in surprising places. Maybe even in ourselves. Maybe there's a little, tiny, unused skill hidden away somewhere there. Maybe with some bold action it could be developed into a full blown talent. 

So sing, paint, play, invent, dance, design, create, think, study, sign-up, write, reupolster or even knock out a wall.  You never know.

One of the greatest compliments of my life was about this very thing. I was tiptoeing down the hall outside a room where some of my children were talking. I accidentally heard one say to the others, "Oh, just let her do it. Once in a while Ma's crackpot ideas work out."

I was so touched I cried.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Woman’s Got To Do What A Woman’s Got To Do Too

*Something reminded me of this old story just the other day. 
  I think it was our grandson, who is now a man.

I've been married a long time.
I don’t know why but for some reason this makes people think I know certain things.
Let me assure you, they are mistaken.
I know nothing.

Still, just the other day a young woman asked me about the secret of a long marriage.
I thought hard and replied, “Just don’t get a divorce.”  
One of the Prophets said something like that I think. Maybe President Kimball.
Anyway, even if he didn't, it’s true.
Tomorrow is often a different day.

I thought about this some more and then remembered that I did know one important thing. 
“Oh wait!" I said to my young friend, "I almost forgot. You’ll be needing a strong defense if you marry a man.”

She said, “A strong defense? Why?” 
“For use when a man’s just got to do what a man’s got to do.” I replied.

To give just one example, the man that I’m currently married to tries to injure himself just so that I’ll get upset and worry about him.  
I’m not joking.  I think it’s one of those guy things.
I've noticed that women seldom do this because it’s dumb and just doesn't make sense.

I especially remember one little scenario that happened regularly in the winter when we were living in the mountains. 

Husband’s age at the time was 50ish. He’d been diabetic for years, with high blood pressure and cholesterol to boot.

Heavy snowfall was a regular occurrence in our area from October through March.

Now I admit that big piles of snow created issues around our place.  Some kind of action was indeed required. All of us had to get out of the house and to the road leading to the highway so we could get to work and school. 

Something did have to be done with all that snow.

So, husband thought about it hard. 

He considered all factors carefully. Safety first, of course. Then he conducted time, expense, and feasibilty studies.

Being a man he finally decided the most sensible solution was to buy a used 500 lb snow-blower, which cost several hundreds of dollars, which he'd heard was for sale from the school district in town. The only flaw was that it kept coming apart when in heavy use.

This way he could go out in frigid weather and wrestle with it and tons of cold, wet, snow every time we had a storm.
This machine was a behemoth. I tried to move it once and it nearly gave me a hernia. It took four men to load it in the truck when he bought it. 

I mentioned to Larry that I thought it was way too much exertion for a man his age and with his medical history to mess around with that heavy machine in freezing weather. Especially since we lived 40 miles from the nearest hospital. With icy roads it might take a long time to get there.  
“We have young men with snow blades on their trucks who’ll come out and move our snow for just 20 dollars,” I explained in my most reasonable tone. “It’s not worth the risk dear.”

Well, this comment triggered the old, passionate, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do!” lecture. 
This same dusty speech was repeated every time he wanted to do something dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary.  
Right away I knew that talking sense was useless. 
So I did what a woman has to do when a man has to do those things that a man does.  
Here's just an example.

One early morning right after the next 2 foot snowfall, husband stood in front of the living room window looking out with a glint in his eye. He was holding a cup of hot chocolate. 
I was making the bed in the other room but I could see that he was all ready for a big fight with tons of cold, wet precipitation. He was wearing full combat gear. Snow-boots to the knees, wool hat pulled down, ears muffed, gloved to the elbows. He stood looking out the window sipping happily.

After a bit he called out loudly. 
“Okay, I’m going out there now. Don’t you worry, I’m not going to give myself a heart attack. Don’t try to stop me. A man has responsibilities. A man’s got to do….. bla, bla, bla.”

Then there was a rather lengthy pause after which I heard growling. 
That was followed by a string of not so nice words.
“What the bleep! Bleepity bleep! What’s that kid doing? Will you look at that Clint! Bleep him! He’s out there moving my snow! 

I came to stand quietly at his side. 

“Well, isn’t that the nicest thing,” I chirped. “Young Clint’s come out to be a good neighbor with his truck and snowblade. You better go out to thank him. Now you be especially friendly. We want him to feel that his kindness is appreciated.”

Husband heads out with a forced smile and a reluctant wave at Clint.  
I could hear snippets of “Don’t trouble yourself next storm young man.  I've got a machine right here that’ll take care of a 5 foot snowfall. Want to take a look?” 

Clint got out of his truck.  
They both stood hovering over that thing. They crowed about how it was the deluxe, super duper model. 
Big enough to throw a mountain of snow.  Bigger than all the other guys blowers for sure.
I was a little worried about young Clint at this point, but he had a busy morning lined up with his truck and plow. He left right after he finished moving our snow.

But, lo and behold, and much to my husband's dismay, that “Dang, bleepity, do-gooder kid!” showed up after every storm with his truck and blade. 
He moved all of Larry’s snow before he could even get his combat gear on. 
What a shame, huh?

*I always made sure the $35 I’d promised Clint was in his mailbox as soon as the roads were cleared to the post office.
The extra $15 was for coming to our place first, and for keeping his mouth shut.

Just one case of, “If a woman’s going to be married for a long time she’ll need a good, strong, defense.”