Traditions Tidbits

Traditions Tidbits: National Senior Citizens Day

Today  is August 21st and my mom is making me visit my grandpa. She said he’s been lonely since my grandma passed away five years ago.

“But all he’s going to do is tell stories,” I say to my mom as we get in the car.

“Then all you’re going to do is listen. You might learn something. Your grandpa’s been around a long time, you know.”

“I know.”

We pull up to the old folk’s home and see a few people with walkers, some workers helping people out of cars, and a lot of American flags.

“Grandpa’s generation is very patriotic,” my mom says. “He’ll probably tell you stories about when he was in the war.”

We walk past the cafeteria, the bingo hall, the reading room. Despite how old everyone is, they all seem so happy. An old lady that couldn’t even walk on her own was smiling at me from her spot on the couch.

“Nice day to be alive, isn’t it?”

“I guess so.”

“My son is coming to visit today! I haven’t seen him in… three years!”

A man to her right says, “Mom, I’m right here next to you. I come every week.”

“Billy! It’s so good to see you. Why, look at that beard! Last time I saw you, you weren’t even shaving.”

My mom laughs as we walk around the corner and down the hall.

“Why was that lady so happy, mom? She couldn’t even walk.”

“Senior citizens don’t need a lot to make them happy. Maybe you should take note of that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you remember last year’s Christmas list?”

I do. I get her point.

We knock on grandpa’s door and walk in. He’s reading a book. The window is open and a breeze is rolling through.

“Dad,” my mom says. Grandpa doesn’t budge.

“Dad.” He turns the page of his book and keeps reading.


“Ah!” He jumps up off his seat, surprised, and turns to face us.

“Oh, Lily! And look at this, you’ve brought Jake with you. Come here, boy. Let me get a good look at you.”

I walk towards my grandpa.

“A little skinny. Lily, you feeding this boy? Next time you bring him to visit, he won’t be anything but a little twig!”

Grandpa laughs and laughs.

“You look like they’re feeding you too much,” I say.

My mom stares at me. My grandpa stops laughing. A silence pervades the room.

“Well, I keep tellin’ those cooks I don’t need the double portion of broccoli, but they insist!”

He laughs and laughs again. My mom laughs, but it’s more of a laugh of relief than a laugh of humor. I laugh, too.

“Oh how I love when I get company over. I haven’t laughed like that since your grandma was alive. It gets awful lonely sometimes in here without her. She never lost in bingo, did you know that? No sir, she was the best bingo player I ever met.”

Grandpa stares out the window and a look of longing comes over his face.

“It’s a nice day to be alive, isn’t it, grandpa?” I say as I sit down next to him.

“Very nice, Jake.”

He smiles and turns to look at me.

“Now, I think I want to tell you a story about when I was in the war…”


August 21 is National Senior Citizens’ Day. Go and visit a grandparent, great-aunt or uncle, or gravesite of one that came before you.

Traditions Tidbits

Traditions Tidbits: National Tell A Joke Day

Every year my elementary school has a competition on National Joke Day. The parents of the participating students fill the auditorium. All the teachers and other staff get a day off from their regular work and fill the first three rows of chairs. And the students — the twenty-five funniest — get to tell jokes in front of the crowd.

The students are selected by the other students in the school. Tom Mortensen is always first. James Trundheim is always second. I’m usually somewhere around seventy-fifth, and that’s fine with me because I have stage fright and don’t want to be in front of everyone anyways.

But this year I was voted twenty-fifth. And that’s a problem for two reasons. Reason number one I already explained. Reason number two is because I’m not funny. At all. I was voted for because all the kids thought it would be hilarious to put me on the stage. You know, because of reason number one. So I spent the last week practicing joke-telling in front of my parents.

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Oh, shoot. I forgot.”

“Oh, shoot. I forgot who?”

“No. Really. I forgot the punchline.”

“We don’t get it.”

“So a duck sees a grape on the ground and steps on it.”

“Then what?”


“Well, what happens next?”

“Nothing. What do you mean? He stepped on the grape. That’s it.”


“A man lands on the moon and says, ‘Guess I didn’t need to pack that bounce house.’”

“We think that you should call in sick, honey.”

I tried to call in sick yesterday — the day before the competition. My principal asked if I would tell her a joke.

“What happens when a whoopee cushion doesn’t work?”

“I don’t know, Oliver. What?”

“Actually, I don’t know either. I just got nervous because I had to make a joke up on the spot and that’s what came out.”

“You’re not sick, Oliver. You just tell bad jokes and don’t want to be at the competition. I’ll see you tomorrow night at seven.”

I arrived at the school at 6:45 to warm up. Tom and James were backstage arguing about who was funnier. Superintendent Michaelson was yelling out roll call. Everyone was there except Tammy Jorgensen, but she missed every year. She didn’t like competitions because her parents told her that competition leads to anger and anger leads to violence. If Tammy showed up tonight, we would probably get a lecture and then Tom and James would make fun of whatever she said and the competition would go on anyways.

“Oliver! Oliver! You’re on. Twenty-fifth goes first. We want to save the best for last.”

“How is that supposed to make me feel?”

“Motivated? I don’t know. Just go on.”

I walked timidly up to the microphone. I could see the all the students, sitting on the left, giggling under their breath. My parents were in the fourth row. The principal was dead center staring straight at me.

“Hi, everyone. I’m Oliver Turnpike.”

Silence. Here was my big moment, and the crowd was entirely noiseless. I gulped.

“I only get one joke,” I whispered to myself. “Make it good.”

“Two days ago I was riding my bike and thinking about how the bike was kind of like my legs because it allowed me to move. And then the front tire fell off. Then the handlebars detached from the bike. And then the pedals slipped out from under my feet. And then the seat exploded underneath my rump. And then I thought, ‘Well, this is how a snail must feel.’”

And not one person laughed.

“You know, because snails don’t have legs and when my bike fell apart it was like I didn’t have legs.”

Everyone in the audience looked stunned. So I left the building without saying a word to anyone. I was asleep by the time my parents came home.

The next morning when I woke up, a crowd of people were surrounding my house. There was a news anchor there. I stepped out onto the balcony and everyone cheered! For me!

“Tell us a joke, Oliver! Make us laugh! Say anything!”

My mom and dad came into the room and said that after I left the auditorium last night, everyone was laughing so hard at my joke that the rest of the event actually got canceled. I automatically won first place. With unbelief in my eyes and a smile on my face, I turned to the adoring public to tell a joke that would keep them laughing for months.

Traditions Tidbits

Traditions Tidbits: International Forgiveness Day

blog image butterfly(Illustration Credit: Jen Watson)

Ouch. Red rubber ball thrown into the face. Intentional? Hard to tell. It hurt either way.

I watched as my nine year old son winced a little bit in pain. A couple of tears escaped from his eye. He’d tell me later that those tears came out as a reaction to the sting of the ball.

The eight year old neighbor kid who had thrown the ball looked around to see if anyone was watching. I turned my attention back to the flowers I was watering. It had been hot the last week and they were getting too dry.

I remained out of the kids’ way. I wanted to see what they would do if left to work out the problem themselves.

My son looked around in a state of confusion as to what to do next. He glared at the kid that hurt him. He dropped his gaze down to the ball. I wondered if he was going to pick it up and throw it right back at the neighbor kid. I could tell he wanted to. I could tell that ball in his face was just as real to him as was anything wrong any adult had ever done to me.

My wife called out to me from inside the house.

“Make sure to put a little extra water on those roses, Tom. It’s been hot this last week and they’ve had it worse than all the others.”

I pointed the hose at the rosebed. She was right. They were brown in some spots. Still salvageable, sure, but they needed some extra care.

I glanced back over at the kids. My son had the ball in his hand. The kid that threw it looked right into my son’s face. They were now only a few steps away from each other.

“I’m sorry,” the neighbor kid said.

My son smiled and handed the ball back to him.

“Yeah, it’s alright. You don’t throw that hard anyways, Porter.” They laughed together and went on with their game.

Half laughing, half marveling at the nature of kids, I turned back to the roses.

“Yeah, that should be enough. They’ll be beautiful and whole again in no time.”


August 3rd is International Forgiveness Day. The idea for celebration is evident in the title. Think of someone that needs your apology or forgiveness. Then give it to them.


Bring Tradition Home

Bring Tradition Home: Potter Family (Book of Trips)

Potter Family Traditions

“My memories of childhood are centered around family traditions — those traditions were what built the relationships I now have with my family. I want my kids to have traditions that will allow them to build relationships with me and Russ.”

(Photo Credit: Aria Photography)

Can you introduce me to your family?

Ashley: I’m Ashley Potter, I am from Orem, Utah, and I am a Physician’s Assistant. Our oldest daughter is Alyssa, and she is five. Alyssa, come here and tell them what you like to do.

Alyssa: I like to do gymnastics!

Ashley: And our other daughter, Kate, has just started gymnastics as well, and she loves it. Kate is two, and she is the little bit more shy child of the two. Alyssa is very outgoing.

Russ: And my name is Russ, I’m a software product manager, and I grew up in Northern Utah.

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Traditions Tidbits

Traditions Tidbits: Father-In-Law Day (July 30)


(Illustration Credit: Jen Watson)

I stood nervously on the front door. I adjusted my tie for the seventh time, checked my teeth for food, and, above all, made sure that I appeared calm and collected — at least on the outside. I had to look like I knew what I was doing.

I knocked on the door. Five knocks. Not a weak three knocks that wouldn’t be heard, and not an overzealous seven knocks that made me seem too eager. A strong five knocks would be noticed.

I waited for the door to open. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds. Four seconds. Five seconds. Six seconds. Seven seconds. Eight seconds. The knob finally turned and Mr. Jackson was standing in the entryway.

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Bring Tradition Home

Bring Tradition Home: White Family (Frequent Flyers)

White Family Traditions

“Because Adam travels a lot for work, we’ve been able to save up lots of frequent flyer miles. So we started a tradition of traveling that, so far, we’ve done with the three oldest children. One at a time, Adam and I will take each of the children on their own, personal trip to anywhere in the United States. They get to choose where we go, and it has become a special bonding experience for Adam and me to have that time with them.”

(Photo Credit: Aria Photography)

Can you introduce me to your family?

Jen: My name is Jen White, I live in American Fork, Utah but my family and I are all moving to San Clemente, California. I like to read and write, and our family likes hiking, camping, and going to the beach. I’m the oldest of five in my family, and my husband is the oldest in his family, so we both grew up learning how to get our way. We’ve worked it out now.

Adam: All that means is that one of us has learned how to not get his way. Let’s put it like that (laughs). My name is Adam White. I work for a software company based out of California. I enjoy sports; I play soccer and basketball, and now that we’re moving to California, I’m looking forward to surfing.

Spencer: My name is Spencer White. I’m the oldest of five. I like to play soccer, and I like building stuff.

Jen: Spencer is very mechanically minded.

Sophie: My name is Sophie, and I am twelve years old. I like to play tennis and volleyball.  I love soccer as well. I like to draw and do all kinds of art.

Grace: My name is Grace and I am thirteen. I like to read and write and draw. I also like to play the violin and the ukulele.

Adam: Grace kind of lumped reading and writing and drawing all together, but she’s really an aspiring writer; she takes after her mother.

Grace: I’m on this website called Kidpub, and it’s a website where I can go on and write stories to post. Then other writers and guests can read the stories. I like to write fantasy stuff, mostly, but I also like to write realistic fiction as well.

Lucy: My name is Lucy and I’m six. I like to color and draw. I like to paint my nails and do makeup with my friends.

Jen: And our youngest, Lola, is two. She loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and anything that her older siblings do.

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