$2000 Telephone

May 20, 2009

There is not a more conscientious bill-payer than Gram. As soon as those bills hit the mailbox, she is on it. No one can accuse Gram of being lax in her payments; in fact, I think such an accusation would be incredibly offensive to her.

Her attentiveness to bills could even be considered a bit extreme. After all, she has lived alone and taken care of herself for over 30 years now, so she had full responsibility for the gas, water, and electric bills. When Gram decided to move in to Mom and Dad’s house, her prompt bill payments came under a little more scrutiny than she had experienced before. Some of the time, she may have objected to this change, but there is one instance in which we are all uniformly grateful that Mom took action.

One day, as Gram sat at her table writing checks, Mom noticed an odd bill sitting on the table. It was an invoice from AT&T for $17.00. This would not have provoked much suspicion, had there not been a second AT&T bill on the table, waiting to be paid as well. Without a cell phone, Gram should only be getting one phone bill each month. When Mom asked Gram what it was for, Gram said she wasn’t sure – but she was not about to default on a bill! Looking more closely at the invoice, Mom noticed that it was for some sort of phone rental agreement.

Flexing her investigative muscles, Mom picked up a phone and called up the number displayed on the bill. After pressing a succession of 1’s and 0’s to reach a customer service representative, Mom finally reached someone who could explain this bill anomaly. What she heard is the kind of news that makes you cover your mouth and attempt quick multiplications in your head.

Apparently, Gram purchased the type of phone you see displayed here around the same time she and Grandpa bought their house, which was decades ago. It was chocolate brown and mounted to the wall in her kitchen. I remember this phone having a very distinctive ring, as if each time someone called, the phone underwent a major struggle just to belt out its tone.

At the time of purchase, it was customary for households to rent their phones from the phone company. They paid a monthly phone rental fee for the use of the phone. When companies switched to charging for service rather than for the telephone itself, they failed to inform Gram. Therefore, at least ten years, Gram had been paying $17.00 per month to rent the phone she was using from the company. Altogether, that trusty brown phone which was mounted to her kitchen wall ended up costing somewhere in the $2,000.00 range.

The phone company said that the only way to get out of this contract was for Gram to mail the phone to an AT&T headquarters or warehouse somewhere. Once they received it, the bills stopped.

If someone had asked me a long time ago what I thought a $2,000 phone would look like, I probably would have imagined a diamond-encrusted phone:

Or perhaps the original Agent Smart shoe phone:

But by the time we returned Gram’s luxurious phone, the off-white receiver did not even match the pasty brown body of the phone. It might have brought $0.25 at a yard sale.

So the next time you hear someone complain about the charges on their cell phone bills, you just think of my wonderful, sweet, unsuspecting grandma and be glad that you are at least paying for a legitimate service.

Love you, Gram!


Search Terms

April 14, 2009

I have good reason for not posting for a while. I am in the middle of converting some of our most treasured family home video memories to electronic files so that I can include them in future posts. However, that is taking a little while… I only recently figured out how to hook up our VCR to our TV, which is to say, I only recently messed up my attempt so badly that John stepped in and hooked up the VCR for me.

In the meantime, I thought you might find amusing some of the search terms that have led visitors to this site over the past few months. Apparently, there is not a whole lot of information on the web about Beavis and his friend

rememory definition 7 More stats
vintage littlest pet shop 4 More stats
sketches of kittens and puppies 3 More stats
beavis and butthead sketches 3 More stats
you said wood beavis 2 More stats
the littlest pet shop nineties 2 More stats
beavis and buthead 2 More stats
shannon thomas horse riding results 2 More stats
definition of rememory 2 More stats
woman horseback riding 2 More stats
old fashioned littlest pet shop 2 More stats
vintage littlest pet shop zoo 2 More stats
communion bowl 1 More stats
beavis and butthead draw paper 1 More stats
communion wafers 1 More stats
old littlest pet shop lovebirds 1 More stats
creepy pastor 1 More stats
unique cash wrap counter 1 More stats
littlest pet shop beethoven 1 More stats
iblp 1 More stats
beavis and butt-head sitting in a couch 1 More stats
creepy cabin 1 More stats
clown van wreck creepy 1 More stats
beavis y buth head 1 More stats
lovebirds what kind of food they eat 1 More stats
horse riding woman 1 More stats
most watched movoe in theater now 1 More stats
waiter wagging his finger 1 More stats
paper playset 1 More stats
lauren heinz 1 More stats
littlest pet shop water garden kitties 1 More stats
littlest pet shop room decor 1 More stats
beavis and but head turn arounds 1 More stats
communion message new year 1 More stats
girl clown costumes pictures 1 More stats
communion wafer 1 More stats
does anyone remember what the littlest p 1 More stats
nomenclature petshop 1 More stats
babies and butthead 1 More stats
funny horse riding pictures 1 More stats
beavis e buth head 1 More stats
clown’s ear 1 More stats
definition rememory 1 More stats
the blue letter sesame street 1 More stats
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ice erg 1 More stats
rememory + definition 1 More stats
ladies on horseback 1 More stats
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sackloth and ashes blog

What to do in an umergansy.

April 4, 2009

According to a note I found in my school file today, there was a point in the early nineties when I struggled to overcome two unfortunate weaknesses: a propensity to wake people up unnecessarily and incredibly poor spelling. See below:

Page 1

Page 1

Page 2

Page 2

I find that a phonetic spelling of this letter is almost just as fun to read:

“Dear Mom, I’m sorry for what I did. But now I will think abote it! I hope youwill forgive me. (over–>) Hers what dad told me. That I sood not wake pople up enless it is an oo-mer-gan-sy. Love, Sarah”

It is that last fragment that really disturbs me – that is where everything really fell apart.

A closer analysis of this letter leads me to believe that I may have been better off if I had not crossed out whatever I first wrote before that “aboat” nonsense. Also, my attempt to delineate the spacing between “you” and “will” was a valiant effort, but it does not excuse the incorrect conjoining of two otherwise easily spelled words.

Dad, good advice – that was an important lesson to learn. Mom, I hope you declared my spelling a state of umergansy after reading this note. I will now proofread this post twice before publishing it.



March 30, 2009

Putting things into categories often helps us get what we want. I generally consider this tendency to be more of an adult habit than a childhood habit. After all, it just makes sense to me that we would have to have superior mental capacities in order to compartmentalize skillfully.

On the contrary, in the past couple of days, I have been reminded of two great stories that contradict my previous belief, and I incorporate them here in order to demonstrate how early and how humorously we begin to categorize and compartmentalize our actions.


By the time Ben was three-ish, he had discovered the adrenaline rush of testing boundaries and was becoming more adept at it by the hour. While visiting Papa’s house one evening for Christmas, I believe, Ben decided to do some exploring. Unfortunately, Papa’s pristinely-perfect piano found itself in the path of his ventures. Holding a juice cup in one hand, Ben reached toward the clean ivory keys with his other greasy hand. Mom saw and gave him a clear, unequivocal instruction: “Ben, No! Do not touch the piano.” Ben clearly understood because he looked back at her, hesitated only slightly, and yes, played a fistful of discordant notes.

Mom grew more insistent, saying, “Ben, I told you not to touch the piano!” and started to move toward him to follow up on her instructions, when Ben rushed to explain how he could not possibly be disobeying at that moment. His rationale: “I’m not touching the it, Mommy. My hand is touching it.”

True, his hand may have committed the crime, but I am pretty sure that it was his behind that took the punishment.


Yummy yummy broccoli!

Yummy yummy broccoli!

To this day,  John is not a super huge fan of vegetables, although he does make a valiant effort. A younger John tried to avoid eating veggies at all costs, and this sometimes meant that he did not finish his dinner completely. In his house, the rule was the same as in most others – No Dessert for Children Who Do Not Finish Their Dinner.

One evening, John just could not bring himself to finish off the rest of his vegetables and declared himself to be full. His parents were fine with that – they simply removed the plate and informed him that he would not get any dessert that evening.

This was a problem. While John had difficulty stomaching veggies, his capacity for dessert was quite high. He exclaimed, “No, no – I still want dessert.” Robin expressed shock and awe that he could possibly have room for dessert if he was full just three seconds ago.

John was happy to explain: “You see, my vegetable compartment is very full, but my dessert compartment is completely empty!”


Bad Sunday School

March 18, 2009

Sunday school is supposed to be a beautiful place, brimming with Bible stories and Christian lessons and, when the teacher has had a bad week, Veggie Tales. But that is not always the case. Ben and I both had some bad luck with Sunday schools at times.

There was the one Sunday that Ben’s teacher overheard some of the children in the class discussing their Christmas wishes for the fast-approaching holiday season. Whether she had been deprived of her own Christmas wishes in the past or she just had a grinch-sized portion of Christmas spirit in her is not certain. Either way, her she took the initiative to inform Ben and his classmates in no uncertain terms that there is no such thing as a Santa Claus. Ben objected, saying that his parents had told him about Santa, so he must exist. She then went further to explain that his parents must have lied to him, because Santa is definitely not real.

If she lacked Christmas spirit to begin with, I can assure you she didn’t have a whole lot of any kind of spirit left after all the parents of these kids found out about that day’s lesson.

On another occasion, several of us kids were being watched in the nursery by a girl we all knew, Nellie. I think Nellie must have been having a bad day, because she was not able to put up with our usual uproar and antics that day. Instead, she instructed all of us to sit down in a row on the floor of the nursery. Then she told us that we were not allowed to make any noise or even smile, and that if we did so much as chuckle, we would be sentenced to stand in the corner. We all tried to sit quietly, but we were super little – it just was not going to happen. I caught Nellie’s eye and laughed – that sealed my doom. She had me get up and go stand in the corner of the nursery, where I proceeded to cry miserably. I didn’t do well when I was punished for any offense, much less one that I did not understand.

Fortunately, I was still there in the corner when Mom arrived. Proof! I don’t recall Nellie ever watching us during church again, and thank goodness. If she had, I might have done something that actually merited punishment.


Crush (Volume 1)

March 12, 2009

What fools we were, according to Ben. Everyone can remember having a crush as a youngster, and while not everyone enjoys reliving those days, I have decided to dredge up some good crush stories from our family and to smear them on the Internet for all to see and know. Fortunately, my family is good-natured enough not to mind… at least, most of my family. Some members who will go unnamed refused to give their permission for me to blog up their childhood crushes, and to them I say, Hmph.

For those of you who are more willing to divulge some great crush stories, please notice that this post is entitled “Volume 1” in the hope that you will be willing to share your own crush stories for a “Volume 2”. After reading, you should definitely click on the Share My Own Memories tab on the right and send me a tale of long lost (or found) puppy love. The stories that appear below can be your inspiration.


At the age of fifteen, John considered just a few things to be irresistible. One of them was basketball; one was Star Trek; and one was smart girls. While working at a pharmacy part time, he got to know a pretty cool chick who had just graduated from college. Yes, your math is correct – he was about six years younger than she, which is a lot when you are fifteen. This chick’s name was Robin, which I find interesting only because it is also the name of my amazing mother-in-law. No matter how good the name, if you can avoid ending up with someone who shares a name with one of your parents, that is a huge plus. Anyway, neither Robin’s age nor her name deterred John, because Robin had been an English major in college. That was all he needed to know. They spent time at the pharmacy filling prescriptions and discussing literature. I do not know if Robin ever knew of John’s fancy for her, but I will be always grateful to her for instilling in John a particular affinity for English majors.


Lots of names come to mind when I think of my childhood crushes. There was Gabe, the cutest guy in my first grade class. His mom was also our librarian, so that was another selling point. Then there was Steve Green, whom I once beat in a foot race at church. Flirting was his specialty, and I found it came pretty naturally for me too. There was also Josh Harris, the renowned Christian relationship speaker and writer. I got so into him while reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye that I wrote in my journal about how I needed to stop looking at his photo on the back cover of his book. Ah, but none of these came close to my passion for Steve Baldwin. He was in high school when I was around the age of six, and I thought he was all that and a bag of chips. Every Sunday at church, he vowed to me that he would wait for me to grow up… I did not realize how creepy that sounded until much later… But when Steve up and married a gorgeous girl named Annette, I remember feeling a little betrayed. After all, he said he would wait.


Ben had lots of crushes to choose from as well. Tory is the one who stands out for me. They both went through a brief period of liking each other when they were about seven-ish. All of the adults thought this attraction was adorable, even long after Tory and Ben described themselves as “over” each other. It was during this post-crush phase that Ben starred in a church play as the character Small Fry, a Bible nerd with a bowtie and thick glasses. Tory’s grandmother insisted on taking photos of the not-so-happy couple after the play, plunging them into deep embarrassment.

The one girl who probably had the greatest influence on Ben’s crush life was Lauren Heinz. It was Lauren who caused Ben to experience a very rare introspective moment in his busy childhood. Sitting in Joyce Knight’s Sunday school class (the epitome of Ben’s social networking in fourth-fifth grade), and not paying attention to the lesson, Ben was struck with an epiphany. He clearly remembers thinking, “I am nine years old now. It is probably time for me to start liking girls.” Up to this point, his interactions with girls had consisted of teasing them, hitting them with Bibles, calling them fat, and so forth. “Time to make a change,” Ben thought. “So… who in this room is cute?” Shoot. The cutest girl in the room was Lauren, and she hated Ben’s guts for all the mean things he did to her on a regular basis.

That day, he approached Lauren and apologized (sincerely?) for all the things he had done, then asked if they could be friends. Lauren hesitantly shook his hand and agreed, wondering what this kid was up to now. And so began a three-year long crush, during which he secretly asked her out not just once, but three times, and was secretly turned down each time. Guess it is not such a big secret now. Ben, I have to say – you’ve come a long way.


Out of all of us, I think it is safe to say that Shannon has the most unusual and fascinating crush stories. Of course, the common, sentimental fare is there, such as the time in second grade when she carved Alex Minick’s initials into her bedroom window. Now, over twenty years later, Alex’s mom is Shannon’s supervisor. Itty, bitty, tiny world, huh?

No, I am not talking about those cute little stories – I am talking about some of the most interesting men I have ever met or heard of seem to gravitate to Shannon like cat hair to my new furniture. Some of those narratives have been officially stricken from the list of bloggable topics, but there is one remaining that I think should never be removed from the annals of family memory. That is the story of Haider.

Haider wanted to marry Shannon. He had never met anyone as beautiful as she was; the problem was, he had also never met Shannon. Haider chose her for his life partner while shopping in a Half-Price Bookstore where Shannon and Mom also happened to be spending Shannon’s twenty-fourth birthday. He stared at her intently while she browsed the aisles but couldn’t work up the courage to speak to her until she was in the parking lot, about to leave. He ran out to the parking lot and asked them to wait before getting into the car. With Shannon and Mom there by the car, he poured out his heart, saying that Shannon was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and that he would like her to go out with him. Needless to say, Shannon was flattered but cautious. Mom was even more cautious and decided to take the offensive by asking him if he was a believer. He stuttered something like, “Uh, yes – yes, I believe.” Shannon agreed to take his number and meet him at Starbucks the next morning.

The Starbucks date gave a little more insight into who Haider was. He was Morrocan, I believe – Shannon might need to correct me. He had two houses (although I think one was in Daytona… if you’re going to spend money on two houses, put the second one someplace cooler than that). He knew seven languages. He was Buddhist. He was an entrepeneur. She never learned what he actually did for a living, and while the houses and languages were impressive, the difference in religion was the real kicker. Though they did not meet again after that semi-date, Haider continued to call Shannon for awhile after that when he was in town. I hope he has moved on by now – I am pretty sure Shannon has.

I love this family.

I love this family.


Rice Krispies & Razor Blades

February 26, 2009

Our family generally kept Halloween low key, as in, Mom would put me in the bathtub early on October 31st and then ask while she scrubbed, “Sarah Chelle, do you want to be a ballerina, a nurse, or a dog this year?” Those were the costumes we had, and therefore those are the only choices I remember having. By the time the hand-me-downs reached Ben, there were slim pickings.

Creepy McCreeperson

Creepy McCreepers

Mom and Dad were always a little wary of celebrating this holiday at all, what with the Druids and goblins and Halloween mythologies that required much overlooking. One particular year really cinched it, though. We ended up trick-or-treating a house that I am sure would have given the creeps to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

To make the situation more ironic, Shannon and I were both dressed as pilgrims. No one ever said that we kids fit in during those years… Adam went trick-or-treating with us that year too; he was a clown, complete with wig, white and red face paint, suspenders, and lots of jokes to tell. I’m having trouble remembering Ben’s costume… Was he a ninja?

We visited Gram’s house, of course, and she was ready with lots of candy. Since she lived on a quiet little dead end street, we figured there would be no harm in just making a circle around it and calling it a night. At the end of the street lived some serious die-hard (get it?) Halloween supporters. In order to catalog all that they had going for them, I will need a bulleted list:

  • Intricate costumes – these people didn’t just slap on wigs and carry brooms. Their witch costumes included fake warts, green face pain, grossly long fingernails, and black, billowing witch dresses.
  • Ghosts – there were ghosts sticking up out of the ground as well as ghosts hanging in the trees. Ghosts of all shapes and sizes.
  • Music – eerie music played from a tape recorder that they had extended from the house and placed in the middle of the yard.
  • Photography – Yes, they took photos of us. They told us we were adorable – how did they know we were so susceptible to flattery? I’m not sure they knew Shannon and I were pilgrims, and judging from the enormous, black, traditional pilgrim gowns we were wearing, I’m not sure I blame them. Then they asked to take photos with us, and we naively stood there while they put their hands on our shoulders and posed. Weirder than weird.

The one benefit to come from this visit, or so Adam thought, was that instead of cheapo candies for their guests, the Halloween junkies had gone all out and made us genuine rice krispies treats. After the photo-taking, Mom whisked us away as fast as she could and piled us into the van to go home.

And tonight we have a decadent rice krispies treat, garnished with a razor blade. Enjoy.

And tonight we have a decadent rice krispies treat, garnished with razor blades. Enjoy.

As the reality of the experience sank in, she issued an order – no eating the rice krispies treats. At that point, Adam had the treat in his hand and was poised to chomp down, so of course he objected and asked why. Mom’s response could not have been more effective at meeting her objective. She told us that the treats could very well have razor blades in them. (!!)

Mission: Keep the kids from ingesting possibly poisonous, dangerous treats.

Status: Accomplished.