Monday, April 30, 2012


I feel buried by all the messaging we do these days--e-mails, texting, voicemail, facebook, etc.  I am SOOOOOO behind in terms of responding.  And I'm also losing e-mails--a few weeks ago a good friend e-mailed to inform me that her first grandchild just made her grand entrance--and I missed it altogether.  I hate the way g-mail bundles stuff.  There's probably a way to address that particular issue, but I'll be damned if I know what it is.  I spent two hours yesterday going through my queue, and I still have loads more.

I think people of my kids' generations feel freer to ignore and delete.  My communication model is that you should respond somehow, although I often don't do it in a timely fashion these days.

Because I'm buried, you know.  How are you feeling on the communication front?  How do you manage?

Thanks for letting me whine.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's been a long time

You thought I was going to say "since I blogged," right?

But actually what I was going to say is this:  it's been a long time since I've had the experience of really falling into a book.  And by that I mean being in the book so thoroughly that you're living the lives of those characters--even dreaming their dreams at night.

I had that experience this week.  I went up to the farm with Betsy to write (hence my silence--no wi-fi there) and in the evening I read ALL THAT I AM by Anna Funder, a novel set in Germany between the wars.  Because I wasn't distracted by TV or the internet or the phone or housework or anything at all, I read uninterrupted--something that never ever ever EVER happens these days.  And so I fell into the pages and inhabited the streets of Berlin and London with passionate, desperate people.

It's a fine novel, although at this point I don't think I can be objective because of the intensity of the reading experience itself.  If you read it, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An accounting

In the last two weeks I have . . .

Read three books:  HOW TO LIVE OR A LIFE OF MONTAIGNE by Sarah Bakewell, THE FINISHING SCHOOL by Muriel Spark (I love her), and THE NAME OF THE STAR by Maureen Johnson.

Also read various essays by David Rakoff, as well as half of Anne Tyler's (I love her,too) new book, THE BEGINNER'S GOODBYE.  And also your blogs!

Consumed insane amounts of Dr. Pepper.

Planted various things in my yard, including Garden Phlox, Jacob's Ladder, and Dead Nettle.  The "dead" part is the name and not a description of its state.

Talked multiple times to all my boys, including the ones on the coasts.

Eaten salad with TRQ who told she's never actually been a fan of the salad.

Walked and/or run most mornings with Kathy and sometimes both Kathy and Nancy.

Written sample chapters and sent them off.

Knit a pair of socks.

Written two columns and also blogged.

Seen a few friends, all of whom I cherish.

Spotted and identified birds outside my window.

Attended three baby showers (how is that possible?), a groom's dinner, two receptions, and a wedding.

Participated in a spelling bee where I managed to spell "daiquiri" but struck out with "inoculate."

Thanks to Lisa B. for the motivation to account now and then.  Accounting makes you realize that you're doing more than just watching TV.  Which I have also done.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Today is my friend Becky's birthday.  If she were still alive, she'd be 56, just like me.  Unlike the anniversary of her death, this is a happy day.  I always think about how lucky I was to know her, and I remember the little gifts and lunches we always shared to celebrate the occasion.

And speaking of little gifts . . . I just opened a book of mine I haven't opened for maybe ten years, even though I love it:  THE ART OF THE PERSONAL ESSAY edited by Phillip Lopate.  I'm doing a leetle report on Montaigne tomorrow, and so I thought I'd read his essays there.  Anyway, Becky's handwriting filled the margins.

I know!

I'd forgotten that I'd once loaned her the book (she taught a class for me) and so all her notes were right there for me to read.  What are the chances, people?

Hey, Universe!  Thank you.




Sunday, April 22, 2012


So I hate this new blogger format. I just wrote the piece below using actual paragraphs. But when I hit the publish button, look what happened. ONE HUGE PARAGRAPH THAT WILL SCARE READERS AWAY.

A Sunday kind of thought

I used to have a neighbor--she died a year ago last January--who was certifiable. She pulled out her hair. She stole things. She begged on street corners when the mood took her. She spent a good portion of the 60's in and out of state-run asylums in California--a grim reality that haunted her. For many years I visited her on Sundays where she showed me newly acquired treasures and kept me updated on the people in her life, including her landlord who treated her with unfailing kindness. One day she pointed to a framed picture of Jesus on her wall. Maybe you've seen it. Rembrandt painted it, which (among other things) means it's remarkable for its play of light and dark. "That's my favorite picture of Jesus," she told me. "Do you know why?" I shook my head. "It's the one that looks the most like Him." And then her face grew smooth and round with a secretive peace. "I've seen Him, you know. In person." I think about this sometimes--how if Jesus really did decide to visit a believer's home in person, He'd probably visit someone exactly like my neighbor--someone in an unremarkable apartment stuffed with stacks of newspapers, shoeboxes, unused dishes, glass figurines, and dried roses who has spent a lifetime staring at the irrational and seeing patterns of the possible there.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Today's column for your perusal! I had a lot of fun writing this one!

Friday, April 20, 2012

If I had a favorite flower . . .

This is a hard one, because I love all flowers. Except for possibly geum. I invited the geum for a visit but it took over the whole damn place. (MEMO TO GEUM: Work on your boundaries issue, okay? You'll keep friends that way.) If I had to say, though, I'd probably go, "peony!" I know they only bloom for about 5 seconds, but I love them in all their stages from their fresh red shoots to the pregnant buds (such drama!) to the blowsy sexy blossoms to the yellowing foilage in the fall. In my next life I hope I can be a peony farmer. Or maybe a backup singer in a blues band. Either one.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My husband the historian: another epiphany

So Ken is a major, major, MAJOR history buff. He publishes awesome articles and everything, so historical research is a true avocation. And whenever we go walking through the Aves together with our dogs, he tells me stories about the people who used to be.

I'm always interested because he knows a lot and he's a pretty darn good story teller. But occasionally I have those moments when I wonder if he's as interested in living people as he is in dead people. And I'll confess to an innocent bit of snobbery here--I've been making the assumption that somehow it's better to be interested in the former rather than the latter.

But I realized today as we chatted that he and I are doing the same thing. I watch the living to figure out what makes human beings tick. He reads about the dead to figure out what makes human beings tick. We're after the exact information as it turns out.

Only the expiration dates are different.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Joel Stein

I suspect Joel Stein wrote this piece just to get a rise out of people. Which he did. I have to say it didn't make me the least bit defensive because who cares? People just oughta read what they want to read.

Still. I got a column myself out of it. Just sent it in this morning to my Editress Lisa.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thoughts on Downton Abbey

You know I really liked Downton Abbey. Until I didn't. In fact, I didn't even bother to watch the final episode this year, although Ken still wants to and keeps asking (a little plaintively) when we're gonna finish up. (ANSWER: Probably never.) (But don't tell him. I hate it when I'm a hope-crusher.)

I've thought about why I fell out of love with the series and have come up with this answer: I was no longer willing to suspend my disbelief. When Lord Grantham made a lunge at the maid (why?! and why her?!) and Matthew leapt out of his wheelchair because he started tingling and so forth, I just went, "Okay, I'm done. I am not buying any of this any more."

It's a reminder of how important it is to keep your characters believable--they have to act like they would act and not because something might advance the plotline, you know?

What was the moment for you? The moment when you put a book down or turned off a TV series because you weren't willing to disbelieve any more?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Epiphanies and all that jazz

Odd how these things come in clusters but this past weekend was notable for a series of personal epiphanies--some of which were painful, all of which were useful. I'll share one here because it involves writing.

As I've noted before, my column sometimes attracts a surprising (at least to me) level of hostility. I've wondered why because the column is so light. And then I realized its lightness is actually what antagonizes a certain kind of reader. He/she feels offended by its (perceived) lack of serious purpose. How can a thing like THIS be published in a newspaper, they wail. IT'S NOT NEWS.

This realization was helpful. And, of course, I am now doubly (even triply) committed to lightness.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Women and their Men

So this is what's been on my mind lately.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, April 13, 2012


So I fear our youngest son (who just received his mission call--sort of--long story to Concepcion, Chile this week) is distressed by a relatively new pattern Ken and I have settled into. We have our "programs"--shows we look forward to watching at the end of the day. And I can tell from our baby's face on those rare weekends when he comes home that he's disturbed by how much his parents have suddenly aged. He sees us sitting there, enjoying another episode of THE GOOD WIFE or CASTLE or PERSON OF INTEREST or especially REVENGE and in his mind we're just a step away from breaking out the lap afghans, removing our dentures, and shouting at the other (because we can't hear) to turn on THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW.

Which I kind of secretly enjoy, actually. The LWS, I mean. Seriously, I can never resist a quartet wearing striped vests and tangerine-colored slacks.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Christmas Clock Just Keeps on Chiming

So we have this lovely little Christmas clock (thanks, Ruth!) that plays a little Christmas tune every hour on the hour. I take it out December 1 because I have this THING about not listening to Christmas music until then. And then I put it away on December 31.


It you walk into my house at 2:00 these days, you'll hear strains of "O Come All Ye Faithful." Or if you saunter in around 9:00, you'll be favored with a bit of "Deck the Halls." Or if you sit down for dinner at 6:00 you'll enjoy the opening bars of (my favorite) "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen."

Given my feelings about Christmas music and how we've ruined too many great songs by starting up with the holiday repertoire before we even do Halloween, I think it's interesting I haven't put this clock away yet. Here's what I've figured out: I'm enjoying now what I didn't in December. (For a variety of reasons, Christmas 2011 was the holiday that wasn't.) Also, the chiming carols act as an unexpected (also weird) little reminder to me to enjoy the season I'm in--SPRING!--before the last of the blossoms fade into summer.

I know. I'm so damn philosophical these days.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jack the Ripper

I know. Good way to catch your attention, right?

Anyway, I'm always intrigued by a phenomenon one occasionally encounters in publishing--books with similar topics suddenly appearing (it seems) out of nowhere at the same time. Favorite example: THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr and WATERWORKS by E. L. Doctorow, both published at exactly the same time on separate lists. Both of them dealt with a serial killer in old New York, both of them had climatic scenes at the reservoir that once stood in the place where the New York City public library now stands on Fifth Ave. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

And the other night when I was working at TKE, I noticed there are two new YA novels about the Ripper. I picked up Maureen Johnson's book THE NAME OF THE STAR, which features the Ripper haunting modern day London as a ghost. The voice is strong and surprisingly funny given the subject--Johnson is always a likable writer. The other is something called RIPPER (now that gets straight to the point, doesn't it?) by Stefan Petrucha. I don't know anything about it, but I may read that one, too.

First vampires. Now Jack the Ripper. Why am I always the last writer in America to spot a trend?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A public confession

Nothing makes me ANGRIER than knowing I have a cold Dr. Pepper waiting for me in the fridge . . . only to discover someone else has swiped it without my permission.

Not that I would ever give my permission.

Anyway, I have had major major meltdowns over this issue, and so when I saw a Dr. Pepper in the fridge at work last week--not one of mine--I hesitated. But then I stole it. I KNOW.

I figured it was Viv's. She's the other Dr. Pepper drinker at TKE, and I knew she was out of town, so the plan was to take it and replace it--ta da!--and no one would knew. So I did. And then last night when I went to work I put another one in the fridge. Only I drank THAT ONE before the night was over. So I went to the store again this morning and put another one in the fridge, where it should be safe for a few days because I'm not scheduled to work.


There. Now you all know what kind of person I am.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Another Saturday, another another column

Here's a column for Easter weekend. I'm enjoying the comments on this one almost as much as I enjoyed the comments on the Jell-O piece.

Hope your weekend is renewing.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wait. It's Friday already?

And I haven't posted since Monday?

The week clearly flew by, and apparently I was barely sentient while it all happened. It's funny how sometimes you have so much to say your brain almost explodes. And then . . . nothing. At least there's weather to speak of this morning. Snow and the wind just whipping it all into your face. We aborted our morning walk halfway through and came home where I have since consumed a can of Dr. Pepper while trying to write but mostly (instead) watching a flock of Cedar waxwings (joined by several party-crashing robins) eat the red berries of the Hawthorne tree outside my window.

Even if everything else goes to hell from here on out, the day will have been a good one because of this quiet view.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Back before

Last week I found my old birth certificate and I was interested to see the part where my father's profession and place of employment were listed. "Kind of business or industry: Granite High School" and "Usual Occupation: School Teacher and Foot Ball Coach." He was 25.

Coincidentally it was also my 56th birthday last week. Yessir I'm 56 born in '56! I drove out to the place in Holladay where our house no longer stands (it was replaced years ago by a library) and looked at Mt. Olympus. It's the same view I remember as a little girl, lying on my back on a field of grass, staring east.

So my dad went on to have this singular career, and I won't lie. A lot of the time it was a full-on, wind-in-your-hair, hang-on-for-the-best-bitchin'-roller-coaster-ride-in-your-whole-damn-life blast. But I cherish the time before most of all. The time before when he was young and growing rows of tomatoes in the backyard and selling shoes at Sears on the weekends in addition to being a "School Teacher" and a "Foot Ball Coach," wondering where it would all go.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


As for the online comments on my Trib column, sometimes I read them and sometimes I don't. I have to be in the right frame of mind. If I'm feeling a little fragile or if I'm not loving my fellow man much, I avoid them. But if I'm feeling a certain largesse of spirit, I'll review them.

This week I wrote about Jell-O, which did bring out the undercover vegan crowd, reminding us that when we eat Jell-O, we're actually eating cow toenails.

I cannot begin to express the enjoyment I have felt just thinking about this.