Monday, March 28, 2011

A tiny story involving my father and gambling

The other morning on our walk, Kathy told me a story which triggered a childhood memory involving my dad and a pocketful of quarters.

On one of our many, many, many trips across the Nevada desert--we used to get our teeth fixed for free by a dentist practicing in the Bay area who played football with my dad in college--we stopped at a coffee shop/casino somewhere in Winnemucca. For whatever reasons, my mom stayed in the car while my brother and I followed our dad inside who handed us a bunch of quarters and told us to hit the slots for a few minutes while he picked up some lunch for the family.

That's how things were if you were a kid in the mid-sixties. You didn't wear seat belts, and you played the slots even though you were only nine and your brother was only seven. DUDE! EXCELLENT TIMES! And also LUCK BE A LADY!

Anyway. It didn't take long for one of the Casino Suits to buttonhole my dad (in my mind's eye I can see him standing there with a bag of sandwiches in his hand and a look of profound surprise on his face) to tell him he'd better get those damn kids out of the casino. Which he did. Pronto.

Oh, there are no words to express how much I love my dad and all the happy memories for which he is responsible.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I love it when it's 3:00 in the morning and I can't sleep, even though I have a big presentation this afternoon for which I'll need my wits about me . . . I think I'm just feeling bad about BYU losing to Florida in OT. I KNOW. STUPID. I didn't realize I care this much.


There. I'm sure that will take care of things!

Meanwhile I've been listing metaphors (also similes!) about what losing feels like. Losing feels like a bruise, a punch in the nose, a stubbed toe. It's the humiliating realization that you're the only kid in the class who wasn't invited to a birthday party, the only girl in your group who isn't going to a dance. It's the letter from an admission office that says you weren't accepted. It's the morning after evening when you talked too much and said way more than you should have.

Feel free to contribute.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And yes a pogo stick was involved

Last night on my way home from MacCool's (where a lamb rib appetizer stole the show!) I got a call from Ken, informing me that Q had broken his arm and that they were both at the ER. Of course my mind immediately went to that time when Ken took Dylan (who was an emerging toddler) to the ER because Dylan had swallowed some "virgin staples" (yes, you just read that correctly), and the first thing I noticed when I joined them was that none of Dylan's clothes matched and also he wasn't wearing shoes even though it was, like, February. So as I drove to the ER last night I prayed that Quinton was at least wearing shoes.

Anyway. I found Q (with shoes), laid up on an ER bed with Ken at his side.

"What happened?" I asked.

"I was bouncing on a pogo stick in the church parking lot and fell backwards," my seventeen year-old son replied.

"Why were you bouncing on a pogo stick? Is that a vegetarian thing or what?"

I know. I have now reduced everything I don't understand about my son to the fact that he is a vegetarian, which I also don't understand, because hello. Why would you be a vegetarian in a world where lamb ribs drizzled with blue cheese exist?

Meanwhile, the good news is that his arm isn't broken after all! Yay! The bad news is that he'll be back on the pogo stick as soon as he gets the chance. Because that's how my family is. Dude. You fall off a pogo stick, you get back on. We're gymnasts that way.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


See below.

So is this going to be a blog wherein I just post poems by other people?


But I just have to share this Billy Collins poem featured in today's Writer's Almanac. I spent all last night, tossing and turning because I couldn't remember the name of the tree I planted in the backyard a few summers ago--even though I planted it in the memory of a friend who loved this variety and even though it is a stunningly common tree and even though I have known the name of this tree for ALL MY LIFE. No wonder this poem speaks to me.


by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Friday, March 18, 2011

And now for a surprising poem by John Updike

This was featured in The Writer's Almanac this morning (thanks, Annie, for introducing the Almanac to me!), and I was interested in this poem by Updike. I guess I haven't read enough of his work to know whether the theme is typical. Meanwhile (and wholly unrelated to Updike) Jimmer the Fish is still alive.

Religious Consolation

by John Updike

One size fits all. The shape or coloration
of the god or high heaven matters less
than that there is one, somehow, somewhere, hearing
the hasty prayer and chalking up the mite
the widow brings to the temple, A child
alone with horrid verities cries out
for there to be a limit, a warm wall
whose stones give back an answer, however faint.

Strange, the extravagance of it—who needs
those eighteen-armed black Kalis, those musty saints
whose bones and bleeding wounds appall good taste,
those joss sticks, houris, gilded Buddhas, books
Moroni etched in tedious detail?
We do; we need more worlds. This one will fail.

"Religious Consolation" by John Updike, from Americana and Other Poems. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Breaking my father's heart

Every so often my dad consults his brother Wayne, the family genealogist, to find out if we're Irish yet. Wayne says no. We're still on the gene pool transplant list. The people on my dad's side are the same old English, Scottish, Welsh people we always were. This conversation inevitably depresses my dad because he longs to be Irish. Irish-ness suits him.

Anyhoo. We don't know a ton about my mother's non-Mormon side. There was a LOT of kicking-over-the-traces in that line. So who knows where they all came from? But one afternoon when I was bored, I googled her maiden name--Covey--and discovered that in some instances, Covey is an Irish surname. So I called up my dad immediately and said, "Guess who might be Irish after all . . . "

P.S. We're not related to the famous Coveys, according to my maternal grandfather. While those Coveys were busy founding Little America motels with excellent coffee shops and also writing books about highly effective habits, our Coveys could be found in the local saloons.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


My editor at the Trib has asked me to have a fairly active facebook presence under the paper's umbrella, so that's up and running now. Feel free to visit it if you have the inclination and push the "like" button, because that will make the IT people happy. I do have a personal fb account which I rarely visit. Mostly I opened it to torture my children and to spy on them whenever I feel like it. YES, CHILDREN! YOUR MOTHER SPIES ON YOU! I may take down that profile down--I can barely stop on top of my cyber life as it is.

HOWEVER, I will keep blogging. Even though this isn't a private blog, I feel like I'm among my friends here. I always enjoy your comments, and I love checking out your blogs, too, even though I don't always comment. This blog is a bit of a writing refuge for me, so thanks for that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

List poems

Last night at the bookstore I shelved a children's book called FALLING DOWN THE PAGE: A BOOK OF LIST POEMS (edited by Georgia Heard). I especially liked this one by the wonderful Kathi Applet called "Test Day."

It's never about the things I know:

Where the old turtle hid her eggs
How many homeruns my brother hit last season
My mom's favorite colors--violet and pink
That chocolate chip cookies need vanilla
The year my grandfather fought in the war
The year he didn't come back
That my great-great-aunt learned to drive she she was 68
What time the moon rose last night
And what time it set this morning
How the thunder scares my ginger-striped cat
Why the neighbor's hound howls at stars
Where the grackle built her nest
What to put in my dad's cup of coffee . . .

It's never about the things I know.

Okay. I wanna hear. What are the things YOU know about?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wherein I discuss a graphic novel

Whenever I talk about connecting boys and books, I always mention graphic novels, which are essentially classy (or not) comic books with excellent (sometimes not) production values. Some parents resist the very idea of them, but I think graphic novels can make the whole reading experience less intimidating and more enjoyable for the reluctant reader.

Besides, graphic novels are awesome. And I like them.

There are graphic novels for adults, too. Did you know? PERSEPOLIS, the story of a girl's experience in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, is not only my favorite graphic novel, it's also one of my favorite books, too. Picture AND text combine to give the reader a real sense of what it must have felt like to be playing kissing tag at school one day and being forced to wear a veil the next. It's a brilliant work.

Just read a graphic novel this morning called HARVEY by Herve Bouchard (illustrated by Janice Nadeau) about a boy's memory of his father's death. The language is lyrical and evocative on its own: "My father Bouillon used to say, that there are two springs: one that is white with light and then the next that is green with grass and leaves." But the art only makes the boy's experience of loss and grief and his feeling that somehow his father's death has turned him invisible that much more powerful.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

New cd alert!

Yes. I still buy them as opposed to downloading them.

Anyway. A few weeks ago I heard a voice on KRCL that just knocked me flat--the artist was Adele, this 22-year-old British girl, who has the smokiest bluest voice I've heard in a long, long time. LOVE it. She reminds me of both Dusty Springfield and Amy Winehouse (think of Amy's voice and not her visuals, okay, and you'll realize this is a huge compliment). What is it with these white female Brits who do soul like nobody's business?

So I trotted right out and bought ADELE 21. And, lo, I have NOT been sorry.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thank you!

I appreciate your kind thoughts about Aggie.

Spent the day yesterday feeling blue. In an effort to cheer myself up, I turned on PBS and found a program featuring a group of manly men from Ireland singing manly songs and doing manly dance moves. I liked the music, but the whole time I kept expecting those manly men to rip off their shirts and turn into the CELTIC THUNDER FROM DOWNUNDER.

This is what happens when you spend time in Vegas looking at billboards of shirtless guys wearing bow ties.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Well, I've been quoting my brother's father-in-law a lot lately because you know how it is. Life is just one damn thing after another.

As some of you know, I'm pretty much a dog person--except for the five years Ken and I lived in married student housing, I've always had one and often more than one. For the past few years, we shared our home with the Beast (Zora, a 180-pound newfie) and Beauty (Aggie, a not 180-pound Field Spaniel).

Now here's the wonderful thing about Aggie, not counting her stubby tail which NEVER stops moving. Aggie prefers the boys to me. She's over the moon about the kids, and while at times I've pointed out to her that if she'd only worshipped ME a little more, I would have never brought home Zora, I love how much she loves our guys.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, Aggie started having these violent seizures. At first she'd jump right back up on her feet after they were over. She'd look around and wag her tail and go "Dude! What was THAT all about?" And for awhile she seemed to respond to medication. But this weekend she began seizing more frequently and more violently. By Sunday night I could tell she no longer knew who we were.

I took her into the vet yesterday, who said it was time. So the family gathered and said our good-byes. I told her I expected her to be on the foot of Geoff's bed in London by nightfall.

And I'm sure she was.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Viva Las Vegas

Ken and I have spent the past few days in Vegas on business (for him)(not me). It's been pleasant. The weather has been warm-ish and there was plenty of time for napping. Also eating. I ate with my brother Jimmy at (I think) the Lotus of Siam. Or maybe it's called the Siam Lotus. Or perhaps it's called The I Have a Siamese Cat Named Lotus Cafe. Something like that. Anyway, it was really, really fab. And then for lunch today I had bacon wrapped dates because why wouldn't I? Two thumbs up for those.

We're sitting in the airport now. Praying hard for decent weather back home. And also for a safe flight because yeah. An unsafe flight would suck.

Friday, March 4, 2011


March 4 is a significant date for me. On the one hand, it's the birthday of my great childhood friend, Gigi Ballif Arrington, about whom I have written much. So that's a cause of celebration right there. I am happy to report that she has more than reached the potential for fabulosity she exhibited when we were eleven. Gigi, your grandmother would be so proud of your passionate heart and your community activism. You are an inspiration.

On the other hand, March 4 is the day Becky Brown Thomas died suddenly in her sleep. Becky was another childhood friend. I can still remember the day we met--we were standing outside the boys bathroom at the old Edgemont wardhouse, and we connected immediately. That connection only deepend over the years. Hardly a day passed when we didn't talk to one another. Like sisters. The kind who actually enjoy each other. We had lunch together the day before she died. And seven years later I still can't believe she's gone.

Odd that these two defining friendships have this day in common. Meanwhile I will think on both women with affection and deep gratitude.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The scent of a woman

This morning I was in a gift shop that had these tiny little roll-on perfumes. They kinda looked like mini-deodorants, but they were from FRANCE, so of course they were way cooler than mini-deodorants. I decided to try on the "verbena" scent and gave myself a pretty thorough going over with the tester right there in the middle of the store. (Which reminds me, actually, of the time my little brother basically poured a bottle of Aqua Velva all over himself before going to a school dance. He was so potent we made him sleep in the back yard for a few months until the scent wore off.)

Anyhoo! I walked out of the gift shop smelling like a bottle of Lemon Pledge, and I was all really? Listen here, Fancypants Verbena Solid Perfume Stick! I don't care if you're from France. Who thought this fragrance was a good idea for human beings? Like, is any man out there gonna say, "My lady, she is so sexy. Girlfriend smells just like a newly polished piano."

I don't think so.

And now please excuse me while I go camp out in the backyard for the next few months.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What? It's Wednesday already?

I guess all that live-blogging Sunday night just (shades of WAYNE'S WORLD) sucked out my will to live. Or at least blog.

I have to say this past winter has really kicked my butt. Winter always kicks my butt (google SAD and you'll see why) but this year it's just been . . . terrible. And I'm not sure why. It could be that I wasn't expecting to feel this bad. Last summer I ran a lot, I spent tons of time in the sun, I lost weight, and when autumn arrived, I felt optimistic about handling the months ahead. SO YES. I GOT ALL SASSY AND ARROGANT. Arrogant, arrogant me. Like somehow I was gonna get a pass this year because I was being so proactive on the exercise front while saying no to bacon doughnuts on the bacon doughnut front. And for awhile I did okay. Even into January I was riding my stationary bike while not succumbing to despair.

And then the depression hit and spread through my brain like black ink in a sponge.

Yesterday was beautiful. The sky was blue and the air was clear. You could almost smell spring. And I did think to myself as I looked at Mt. Olympus (I had to go to Holladay twice yesterday) that I might be okay after all.

Here's to a fistful of crocuses. May you bloom soon.