Monday, March 14, 2011


Surplus. Now there’s a word for me! Just take a walk down our driveway through the gate. On your way glance on over into the garage.

Poor Dave. He’s not such a surplus kind of guy himself. He actually tries to throw things away. But he’s lived with me long enough to know I might call him in his chambers on some random Tuesday afternoon when he’s just putting on his robe after being called into court:
“Hey, do you know where we put that (insert random item)? You know, the one we used for (insert random event)?” He’ll pause for a minute, because he is considerate to pause for a minute even if he doesn’t really have one, then say “I’m not recalling at the moment, Love.”
A few weeks ago Merlynn texted me, asking if she could borrow the old silver angel-of-the-Lord horn for the school play. I searched upstairs in the Christmas cupboard (talk about surplus!) and couldn’t find it. I searched in the garage. Finally I trekked downstairs to the two large storage rooms and gave it a go.

I texted Merlyn:I looked again when Libby and I went down last week in search of the leather I had bought a few years back to recover chairs. Let me say here that I have the most perfect sister for someone like me. She does not make one single statement to shame me for the condition of the things in my life. She just digs in and looks with me. She listens to me complain cuz Dave rearranged the stuff and now I can’t find anything. (I know, can you believe it? Blame Dave!) We dive into the back room. Look under the Indian head dress, and the giant foil nickels, and the three sets of kitchen stools. We leave the room and look in the dark room that turned into storage behind the laundry room. Stand there in the doorway because…well, because you can’t really walk into that room any more. Stand there and scan with eagle eyes the vast expanse of surplus.
“So far I can’t find the horn. That doesn’t mean it isn’t here though. Will keep looking.”

“Let’s go back to the other room and look again.”

So we head on back, searching with new eyes, this time lifting the golden fur fabric I bought to make a camel costume for our family nativity. Opening boxes of books and other miscellaneous items.

“Keep your eye out for the angel-of-the-Lord horn,” I tell Lib, even though our primary purpose is to find the leather. We dig through wedding supplies; a dozen tablecloths and yards of extra muslin.

“Oooh, what’s this bolt of satin for?” Libby looks at the underside of the bolt of fabric resting against a pile of boxes.

“Oh, I got it for Annie’s wedding. Isn’t it pretty?”

We did not use it for Annie’s wedding. So it’s there in case anyone needs a beautiful light milk chocolate raw satin in bulk quantity.

We find the half hide of leather back in the corner at the top of the shelving. We have to move three fancy water dispensers, two boxes of tablecloths, and Lib crawls on top of a stack of boxed café umbrellas.

Meanwhile I am examining the room for the perfect reaching thingy, something she can hook the leather with and drag to a place where we can reach it. I hand Libby a microphone stand, which she extends toward the corner of the room, the leather caught on the mic clip. I pride myself in finding ways to accomplish things other people give up on. My mom taught me this. We can both figure out how to open a can of olives out on a fishing stream, without a can opener. It’s one of our talents. My sisters and brothers are pretty good at it, too.

I think my hankering for surplus is genetic. Like ingrown toenails. My Uncle Parks had 17 box cars lining the perimeter of his yard in Blackfoot, Idaho. Each one was filled to the gills with surplus. My Grandpa Parrish, though I never met him, had that collective spirit which often marries an entrepreneurial spirit and bears a passel of little surplus treasures. And we like bargains, too.

One day back in the butcher department at Smiths I was looking over the meats in the bargain bin. I actually prefer beef steaks from this spot. They’re aged perfectly. As I was bent over the chilled racks between the chicken and pork sections, I was startled by a little voice nearly whispering beside me.

“You like bargains?”

I looked up at a woman I had seen before. A familiar Farmington face I knew I knew but didn’t know how I knew.

“I’m Dan Cluff’s mom, Carol. Dan says you’re real down to earth even though you’re building that monster house on the hill. So when I saw you here at the bargain meats I though maybe you liked bargains like I do.”
“Oh, Hi! My name’s Cori. We just love Dan Cluff. He is amazing!”

Dan worked for our builder, Jerry Preston. He was 16 years old and worked every day after school lending a construction hand and cleaning up the site. Our house was seriously broom swept every day during construction, before there were even walls, before there was a floor. Just nice clean plywood. It was very wise of Jerry to make sure the site was clean every day. It reinforced my confidence in the work he was doing, and it made it so much easier for me to stand by where the kitchen table would be and look at the fireplace and pretend there was a Christmas tree in the corner and kids on the stairs that weren’t there yet either; that there was a nice dancing fire in the rock fireplace and this beautiful place was the keeper of our future memories. I loved Dan Cluff! I remember thinking that he was an anomaly among teenagers; so hard working and very, very pleasant. So when Carol introduced herself as Dan’s mom I instantly liked her.

“So…” Carol said, a little hesitantly…”If you like bargains I’m wondering if you want me to show you some of my favorite bargain stores.”

“Would I?” I knew we were kindred spirits!

You know how some people, myself included, say things like “one day I’ll have to show you my favorite stores?” only we never really do it? Well Carol did.

A week later she picked me up and drove me to Salt Lake City where I was initiated into three surplus bargain stores: Clem’s on Redwood Road in North Salt Lake; The Lynn Wilson Mexican foods surplus outlet in SLC (now closed), and NPS market Square on Empire Blvd. in west SLC.

After our amazing adventure Carol dropped me off at home with my bags and boxes of treasures. Mom and Libby came over to see what I had found. When they walked in I declared:

“I have found the perfect store! It’s a Five Hour Store!”
Indeed it would take you 5 hours to go through everything they had there. Such a beautiful mixture of miscellanies! Tennis shoes next to cowboy boots next to bed linens, across from kiosks of jewelry and knick knacks and bric a brac of all sorts. Hand knit Irish sweaters mixed in with cheap tee shirts made two sizes too small in China. Collectibles and antiques in one room. Fine art in another. Ethnic foods and Easter candy for half off and fresh flowers for a fraction of the florist’s price. Electronics and crafts and toys and office supplies. Luggage and fabric and sea salt & cracked pepper potato chips. Greeting cards and vitamins. All blended in a mysterious arrangement some person with serious ADHD likely designed. A store full of surplus from lost shipments, dropped shipments, overstocks and retired products.

My family and friends began to frequent the 5 Hour Store. Neighbors quietly searched the Yellow Pages under “5” looking for its location, having seen the cool pitcher I’d bought there, or the neat lamp at Libby’s, or Cindy’s groovy bowl in the middle of her island. Friends started answering their own questions when they came to visit:

“Where did you find that?...Wait…don’t tell me…the 5 Hour store.”

It’s not really called the 5 Hour Store, of course. Its called NPS. And it’s not nearly as groovy as it used to be, though I still manage to spend way too much when I stop in just to see if they have blank postcards in the office products aisle. My Aunt Becky tried to write a check to the 5 Hour Store when she checked out the first time. The clerk took her check and stared at her. “Um…that’s not the name of our store.”
I think they should consider changing the name because it’s much more memorable than NPS, National Product Sales. But what do I know?

When I have gigs in Salt Lake City my car sort of turns itself toward Redwood Road, over the rail road tracks onto Empire Boulevard. Dave will call to see what I’m up to because he comes home from work and I’m not home yet. I wince a little and pause, knowing I shouldn’t lie. “I stopped at the 5 Hour Store for bananas.” What I don’t tell him is that I stopped three hours ago.

For a few years NPS had a satellite store in Kaysville, so close to home. It only had clothing and shoes and jewelry and a few other things. Still it did it’s emotional job for us. It’s where my brother John got his high end cowboy boots for something like $24. We called it the 45 Minute Store. It closed after a year or two.

So there you go. True confessions in a random blog. If you know me at all you already know all of this. I have a hefty level of shame about it. Like a druggie with an addiction, only I’m better than I used to be.

We never did find that angel-of-the-Lord horn for Merlyn. It actually makes me sad. I had retrieved that horn from the trash bin at Pleasant Hills Middle School when I was in 8th grade. We had completed our Christmas Choral Concert. The horn had been used as a prop. It was bent and a little rusted where it had been dinged. But it seemed mighty fine to me, so I carried it home after the concert. Our Christmas child Kate, born on December 21st, used it each Christmas Eve when she was a child, puffing out her cheeks and blowing air into it, sounding the trumpet of he angel at the birth of a plastic baby Jesus in a small laundry basket under our Christmas tree. We cannot lose that horn! It has history! It has sentiment! I will make it a matter of prayer.

I wonder how the Lord feels about this surplus? I beat myself up about it.

Then again, last week someone from the 8th Ward called wondering if I had that large Salt Lake Temple wall hanging Sarah had made for our Young Women’s Evening of Excellence something like 7 years ago. They wanted to borrow it for their New Beginnings.

“Let me look. I can’t imagine I threw it away.” Indeed, I once retrieved some cardboard waves, the height of a short man, from a neighbors trash can after a stake Road Show. I stored those waves for years in my basement. They were used for every luau and nautical themed party in North Farmington Stake for a dozen years. Someone finally borrowed them and never returned them. That was a sad loss.

I searched for the temple, tied up in a large roll which when unrolled rose to the top of the wall in the church cultural hall. I tried Dave at work. No go.

Finally I called Libby.

“Oh yeah, I have it downstairs,” she said.

Atta girl, Lib! My kinda gal!


  1. I love you and your surplus! I am unimaginably envious of your soda collection in the garage...truly something I will consciously work towards attaining once I have my own home again.
    And...Your space heaters have been life savers.
    Your surplus is very generously lended out and gifted to others, which makes it a blessing.

  2. you make me laugh!

    surplus is good. everyone wants it sometime or the other...they just don't want to store it and thus rely on you. good thing you have such a generous heart! you are better than the DI.

    and i'm sure the horn will turn up someplace. it can't be gone!

  3. I swear I've seen that horn at least once in the past couple years, it's gotta be somewhere. I like your surplus, it always made for great adventures in childhood and beyond. But I really must say you have improved dramatically these past few years in your restraint to buy too much. And you are definitely the most generous person I know so your surplus doesn't go unused!

  4. What would the kids and kittens club ever have done without that surplus? You know it is surplus that leads to there you go. Thank goodness you are you...we would want it no other way and life would be oh so boring. Thank you for your insight!! Love your you more!!

  5. I have tried, a coupla times in my life, to creatr some kind of database so I could find things in the house.


    The truth is, out of all my stuff, I almost always know where something is, even if I haven't seen it for five years. But if it's NOT there, I go into brain freeze. I can see it in my mind's eye. I know all the places where it SHOULD be. There are three sets of things I've been looking for for three weeks - with no success. Part of this is because adding onto the house shifted all the hidey holes and functions in my life. So my thing GPS has gone a little haywire.

    I am not so rich in resources as you are, but I understand the principle.