Monday, April 22, 2013


Well, I won't be on "Wheel of Fortune" any time soon.  I'm pretty good at the home, that is.  So when I heard the "Wheel-Mobile" was rolling into town I decided I'd go and audition.  Really not much to it: just fill out an application, put it in a drum, and hope they pick your name to play the live game to see if they like you enough to qualify.  I didn't even think I'd make it that far.  My name never gets drawn in these kinds of circumstances, and there were easily 3-400 people at my session and only enough time to pick about 50 of those people; so you can imagine my surprise when I was my name was the last drawn for the very first group.

We were told to be energetic, enthusiastic, demonstrate good personality, and be good at the game.  I thought I did well at presenting myself and my charms.  I was asked a little bit about myself, hobbies, career, that sort of thing.  I felt I came off well.  I may have tried a bit too hard to come across as more charismatic than I feel I am, but I held my own and didn't embarrass myself...yet.

We played the speed round - the part where Pat Sajak lets each contestant guess a letter and then they have three second to solve it before he moves on to the next contestant.  We had been brought up in groups of five.  The letter I chose on my first turn was "T," and it was up there.  Other contestants didn't have as much luck, and no one was yet able to solve the puzzle (which was "An Event," by the way).  On my next turn, I picked an "A" (also up there).  

I was determined to be the one to solve the puzzle.  I had already demonstrated charm, enthusiasm, and charisma.  I just needed to win this thing, and they would pick me to be on the show.

Then my stupid nerves took over.

After I guessed "A" and had my three seconds to solve, I looked at the board, which said:

T_A_ _ _C

I thought of words that start with "T" and end with "C", and it took me a couple of seconds, but I finally realized it was "traffic," but I knew I had no time left, and I choked and blurted out the first thing that came to mind:

"Traffic Ham!"

Yes, folks - I said "traffic HAM"

To make matters worse, I immediately realized my error and blurted out "traffic jam" after my turn had already ended, thus spoiling the game for the remaining contestants. If the guy after me didn't already know the answer, he certainly did after my display.

So embarrassing. 

I was at least glad the host thought I said "traffic cam," which at least makes slightly more sense than my stupid guess.

And then of course because I was in the very first group, I had to spend the next hour watching other possible contenders vying for a shot while lamenting the fact that I had blown my own.  I was so annoyed with myself and yet laughing at the absolute stupidity and absurdity of it all.  And of course being an "armchair contestant" is so much easier than when you're actually up there playing. I was able to solve quite a few puzzles from my spot in the audience.  Wish I had done so well when I was actually on stage.  I could feel them crossing my name off as soon as I shouted my inane answer.

Oh, well. I got a "Wheel of Fortune" tee-shirt, a "Wheel-Mobile" paper model, and a great (and embarrassing) story to share. lol

 [Oh, two side notes: One lady asked the host to give Pat Sajak a big hug for her.  He said something like "I'll get right on that," but his tone and body language told me he's probably never even met Pat Sajak let alone able to find himself in a position where he could hug him for some random lady.  I actually thought the host had a thankless job which he did very well: pump up the crowd, keep them engaged, move things along, and keep things funny and light.

Other side note: One lady who also won't be joining me on "Wheel of Fortune" was this strange woman who kept saying random things and didn't listen to the host's instructions.  He asked her to tell a story about where she was from and she went off on some other tangent but then she said she had another story to tell, and when the host told her okay, she shouted into the audience, "Hey, Mom and Dad!" and when the host was done with her, she randomly shouted, "Bon Jovi!"  Then when she played the game, she guessed a letter than had already been guessed even though you could clearly see what letters had already been guessed.

I guess nerves make people do stupid things.  ;-) ]

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wow, That Was Fast

I mentioned here that we put Mom's house up for sale.  Two days later we had a bid on it.  We put the house up at $209,500 expecting maybe a bid of $195,000-$199,000, but the offer was for $205,000, which we took.  While the sale isn't final and while I am well aware anything can happen when it comes to selling and buying houses, I feel confident that the sale will go through, and apparently so does the family who is buying as they attended my mom's ward today and introduced themselves and acted as though the sale was a done deal.

I don't know them nor have I met them, but apparently they live in Mom's former stake and wish to stay there but needed a bigger house.  They are a younger couple with two young boys (about 4 and 2 years old).

According to the couple, the house will be inspected on Tuesday.  I ask for all the prayers of you in blog-land that the inspection will go well, that there will be no unforeseen expenses, and that this sale will go through.  We need the money to pay for Mom's care.  I never thought I would be eager for Mom's house to be sold, but Mom is the priority, and to care for her we need this sale to go through, especially since this is a very good offer.

As for Mom, she seems healthy and happy, and for that I am enormously grateful.  Jonah and I hope to visit her at the end of May when the show for which I'm ushering goes dark.  I look forward to seeing her again.  I have missed her a lot, and I know she feels the same way.  It will be weird, though to go home and have no home to stay in as I have in the past.  :-(

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Memories For Sale

This is a photo of my dad, mom, and big sister taken a year or so after they moved into the house I grew up in; a house Mom spent 50 years in; and a house which she no longer even seems to remember.  Dad's father had a special relationship with the home builder and was able to get Mom and Dad a discount on it.  Mom and Dad and their descendants have been the only residents of this home.  That will change soon.

Mom and Dad's house went up for sale today.  Mom and Dad paid $15,000 (I think) for this house in 1961.  Today we're attempting to sell it for $209,500.  The home's value has certainly increased even accounting for inflation, but it's nothing compared to the value of memories created in this home.

It makes me a little sad to know that my childhood home will belong to someone else, but it is also my fondest wish that whoever ends up buying Mom's home will have as many wonderful memories there as my family and I did.

This is Mom with my older brother about two years after the previous picture was taken.  Notice the recently planted rose bushes in the background.

This is Mom and me about 6 years later.  Notice those same rose bushes.  They still flourish today.

I was in Jonah's parents' backyard the other day.  We had been helping them prune, weed, and clean up a bit.  After we had finished, I was sitting on a bench back there looking at their very lovely and full rose bushes and I just started crying thinking of the roses Mom and Dad had planted for their new home.  Just like those roses, so many wonderful and cherished memories blossomed in that home on the street where I grew up.

I'll always have my memories, of course.  Even if a disease like dementia temporarily robs me of them, they will always be inside me somewhere.  Selling a house or getting rid of material things will never change that.  But I do feel a loss of the symbol of what my childhood home represents.  Handing that over to someone else is hard.

I have been transcribing Mom's journals so that my family will have a keepsake of her life when after she has passed on.  Originally, I was just doing random journals in no particular order.  Now I've decided to go in order because I am interested in seeing the progression of Mom's life.

I had forgotten how domestic Mom was when I was younger.  In the journals I've been reading (about 1978-1979), she's constantly cleaning and baking and doing stuff with her kids.  Religion, as it always was, was of great importance.  I had forgotten how consuming church life could be pre-correlation.  Family Home Evening on Monday, Relief Society on on Wednesday, Primary on Thursday, Priesthood, Sunday School, and Sacrament Meeting on Sunday (Sunday School early in the day and then returning later for Sacrament Meeting after lunch), and visiting teaching and mutual activities as well.  I vaguely remember it being that way, but it's crazy how time-consuming it must have been.

I'm especially touched by how much my family did together.  Mom and Dad were big on family activities.  In several journal entries spanning a week, Mom recounts how one day we went to Sundance for brunch; the next day we went to Mt. Timponogos and to Provo for miniature golf; the next day to an amusement park called Lagoon where we also picnicked; the next day to Park City to go on the Alpine Slide; and the next day to Murray Park for a picnic.  I fondly remember family vacations we took to Disneyland, Yellowstone Park, British Columbia, Las Vegas, Seattle, the Grand Canyon, etc.  We had regular family home evenings when I was young and we had family dinner regularly.  I know there are many people out there who have had less than ideal family lives, but mine was great.  I miss that family togetherness.  We still get together, but of course with new marriages, new families, and new lives, it is never the same as it was when I was a child.

Mom is doing well.  She's actually been quite coherent and articulate lately, almost like talking to my old mom.  I think assisted living has been very good for her...and for us.  There are days when she would like to leave, but she seems like she is adjusting well.

Mom's brother died a few days ago.  He was in pretty frail health.  I did not know him well.  I met him once when I was a kid, but distance prevented any real relationship with him.  He and Mom were close when they were young, but in later life it seemed they only spoke or wrote on birthdays or holidays.  I always found that kind of sad.  When I told Mom he had died, she didn't react too badly.  She said she hadn't spoken to him in a while (which was true) and seemed resigned that if it was his time to go, it was his time to go.  The next day, however, it seemed to hit her more and she was upset about it.

At first I thought her reaction was strange, but then I thought of my relationship with my own brother, who I love and admire a great deal, but with whom I have little in common.  My older sister's death would be more liable to break me up than his would.  I don't mean that to sound insensitive.  I don't mean it that way.  I just mean that I am closer with my sister than I am with my brother.  I can see my relationship with my brother being much the way Mom's was with hers.

Mom's other brother (who I think she's a little closer to (although they don't communicate much, either) called Mom and spoke with her, and I think that was nice for Mom.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see who buys Mom's house and what becomes of it.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

When Corporate Idealism Meets Corporate Reality

I admit that I have a tendency to be naive and idealistic at times.  I tend to think people are basically good; I'm genuinely surprised when people don't follow rules; and am shocked by the terrible things human beings do to one another.  I totally relate to the character, Don Quixote in the novel of the same name.

As I've mentioned, I've recently procured a new job as an usher at a theater in town.  It's not just an usher job; there is some performing involved as we help get people in the mood for the show as well as telling them where their seats are, and that was one thing that appealed to me about it when I applied.  Here are things I like about my new job:

* The hours.  They're ideal; exactly when I want to work.  I'm a night owl, and I start at 5:00 pm and end at 11:30 pm.  Perfect!  And the fact that I only work six and a half hours doesn't bother me at all even if it means I earn less.

*It's relatively easy.  Honestly, I'm just helping people find their seats while entertaining them and occasionally telling them to stop taking pictures.  It's not brain surgery.

*I get a free meal.  The company I work for provides a free hot meal as part of working there.  It's also healthy, so that's a great perk.

*It's keeping me in shape.  I run around a lot and maneuver a lot of stairs.  It's helping me feel more healthy.

*I get to act.  Even though I'm not on stage, I still get to play a character in this position as well as do some improvisation, and so that has been good for my creativity.

*It has the potential to turn into a full-time position.  Even though it's an on-call job, it could become a full-time, permanent position, and that appeals to me as well as the stability that comes with it.

*I like my boss.  He's pretty laid back and easy to work with.

*The hours are flexible.  Flexibility is good should other acting opportunities come up.

*Benefits.  After I work there for ninety days, there are all sorts of benefits such a health insurance, paid time off, free shows, etc.  I like that.

*The show is great.  The show which I'm an usher for is top notch.  Great music, great effects, great story, talented performers.  It's pretty incredible, and it's nice to be a part of it even in a small way.

*Supportive staff.  For the most part, my co-workers are supportive and helpful, and I have appreciated that.

*Two long breaks.  We get two 35 minute breaks during our shift plus 45 minutes prep time before our ushering duties start.  So really, we're essentially actually working only 4 and a half hours at a job that's not that difficult to begin with.

*The pay is good.  I get paid $16.86 an hour, which is less than what I earned in my last acting job, but still pretty good.  While I'm in full-time training, I'm earning pretty decent money.  Once I go to official on-call status, it may be more of a struggle until the summertime, which will be busier.

*The job is fun.  I actually do enjoy what I'm doing.  Will I feel the same in a year?  Who knows?  But right now I'm liking it.

*I like meeting different people.  Many people from all over the world see our show, and it's fun to meet them and know that we're bringing them some joy.

Things I don't like about my new job:

*The traffic.  In a commute that would take about 20 minutes in a city with a less traffic, it takes me about 45-55 minutes, and the people here drive so terribly.  I really dislike it.

*Constant standing.  Especially because part of my uniform includes a pair of uncomfortable boots, the continual standing is hard on my knees and feet.  I tried using cushioned insoles, but they didn't help.  I just don't enjoy standing for prolonged periods of time, but that's what my job requires.

*Difficult guests.  Thus far they've been rare, but we do get some drunk people and occasionally disgruntled guests, and I don't enjoy dealing with them.

*Radio communication.  As part of our job, we ushers communicate with one another by using closed circuit radio, and I have a very difficult time understanding everything.  Unfortunately, it is pretty important to understand what my fellow ushers are saying, so this is a great annoyance to me, especially in areas of the job which are highly dependent upon radio communication.

*Lack of uniformity.  Because my boss is so laid back, I feel like there isn't a very strict, uniform system in place for how things are supposed to be done, so many ushers kind of do their own thing, and this can be a bit frustrating.

And this brings me to the title of my post.  As I was going through orientation for my job, we were of course were trained on how to be the ideal employee.  And in my naivete, I figured that's actually how it would be; that everyone would be happy and supportive and do their best.  And that's what I intended to do myself. 

But then you meet some of the jaded and discouraged; you hear the backbiting and see employees failing to support one another; you see employees frustrated by their boss' management style; you see people who have been at the job for too long or who just think of it as a humdrum job; and you realize the ideal doesn't always exist.

But I believe it can.  I believe your job is all about your attitude.  I went to McDonald's yesterday and the guy at the drive-in window was peppy, happy, and gave great customer service.  The lady at K-Mart today was enthusiastic and friendly.  I've seen some members of the housekeeping staff at a local hotel sharing their great attitudes.  Likewise, I've seen employees fighting, grumbling, gossiping, and debasing one another.

I learned so many great things in my orientation and continue to learn great things in my training.  I intend to give my all to the guests I serve, the co-workers with whom I work; and the boss who directs me.  I intend to keep a good attitude and do the best job I can.  I don't want this to just be a job; I want to be the best employee I can be.  That's how I've always tried to be in my jobs.  It's not always easy, especially when you're in a job that feels unfulfilling.  I'm glad I like my job.  Of course, it's still new and fresh.  Will I always feel that way?  I don't know.  But I just want to be the best employee I can be. 

Most of all, I'm just grateful to have a job at all.