Sunday, March 31, 2013

What I did for my birthday, remembering backwards . . .

--Went to bed at midnight, happy to be alive

--Watched a little basketball

--Ate at Crown Burger with husband, sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter

--Worked out in my yard ALL DAY LONG, with breaks provided by friends and family who came calling

--Made time for cake and pie breaks, too!

--Had breakfast with la Louise at Einstein's (lox!  on pumpernickel!)

--Went grocery shopping for Easter meal (pasta, green salad, asparagus, berries, pavlova)

--Woke up early, happy to be alive

Gorgeous weather.  One of my favorite birthdays ever.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

One more example of delusional-ness

It's my birthday today, and I AM HAPPY TO BE ALIVE.  Yes, I am.

So, anyway, yesterday on our walk Ken and I had the following conversation.

ME:  Aren't you so glad I'm not one of those high maintenance women that expects a big to-do for my birthday?

KEN:  Yes.

ME:  Like, I don't expect expensive gifts or celebrations or anything like that.

KEN:  I know.  It's true.

ME:  I'm just not high maintenance.  I'm happy with anything.

KEN:  Should we get you a cake?

ME:  See?  I don't even care if I have a cake!

KEN:  Why don't I make you a cake?


KEN:  Why?

ME:  Because you wouldn't do it right.

(Love you, Ken.  And I appreciated the thought.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Screed update

Also, the VS screed will be online tomorrow.  I'll link!

Why, yes, I am delusional

I could be fooling myself, but I don't think vanity about my personal appearance is one of my besetting sins, although it would probably be awesome if I sinned a little bit more on this front and did a better job of not looking so half-assedly groomed.  This is important 411 for the brief story-ette that follows.

Yesterday I took our granddaughter to story hour at the public library (they do a great job there, btw), which meant I was hanging out with many young mothers.  And because I don't feel that old inside I did think to myself, maybe these ladies will think I'm one of them.  Like, yeah, here I am hanging out at the library with my pre-schooler just like the rest of you TWENTY-SOMETHING MOMS.

Which.  Okay.  Why would I even think something like that?  Other than the fact that I don't feel that old?

Anyway, as soon as the story was over, the mom sitting next to me smiled and said, "So is that your granddaughter?"

It was a very friendly reality check.  Which, apparently, I needed.

Thank you, Universe, for the reminder.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

They coulda been a contender

So Sara's fabulous G-man suggested I try Schmidt's Pastry Cottage.

Schmidt's!  Brilliant!  I used to live next door to Schmidt's!   And it was just eclairs, eclairs, eclairs for me every day.  (And actually I don't really like eclairs that much.)

Anyway.  I went to Schmidt's, and when I saw those buns (with lemon pie filling-free crosses) I was in Bun Heaven because they looked perfect.  Only when I took a bite out of one, I discovered it was . . .  stale.  Maybe they were left over from last Easter?

Tragic!  I think the Shmidt's bunnage had the potential to be the best.  I may have to give them a second chance . . .

Also.  In unrelated news I am so, so tired these days.  Like, unnaturally tired.  Maybe chasing down hot cross buns all over this land is wearing me out.  And writing the column yesterday was exhausting.  It turned into a screed, which exhausted me, because screed-ing is always exhausting.

But screeds are good now and then, right?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Victoria's Secret . . .

. . . and the early sexualization of girls.

Yeah.  I'm writing a tiny column about that.  And, of course, it's a screed.  But I feel like screed-ing.
Still.  I think I oughta offer readers some suggestions for counter-acting what's happening, i.e. that childhood/girlhood is disappearing from today's landscape.

Any suggestions for dealing with all this?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Biting buns (all over this land) (so you won't have to)

Yeah.  I should probably change that headline . . .

Anyway.  Report time.  I just got home from Harmon's and must report that I don't think those hot cross buns are as good as the ones you find at Backer's.  The bun part is quite nice.  But then they went and put big fat yellow crosses made out of lemon pie filling on top.  I think this is a criminal misuse of lemon pie filling.  There's a statute about this somewhere.  I'm sure of it.

I stopped at Granite Bakery on the way and discovered a package of 12 day-old buns.  I was tempted but decided not to commit to a relationship with so many day-old buns at once.  They looked good, though!

In spite of their advanced age.

Food obsession

So my little food obsession right now involves tracking down hot cross buns LIKE A BOSS.

You can only find them during the Easter Season, and did you know that when the English were all "Dude.  We hate the Pope," you could go to the Tower for baking hot cross buns?   So yeah.  It's not always easy to get your hot cross bun fix.  Especially in 16th-century England.

Backer's in Salt Lake makes a really nice little bun--soft and a tiny bit fruity.  Elizabeth's Bakery (part of the London Market) amps up the spice quotient in their buns, and I like them, too, although I still prefer Backer's.  Which is saying something.  I don't always want to like Backer's because what is it with their attitude there?  Sometimes I want to say to them it is not against the law to smile at your customers in America.

But whatever.

Today I am driving all the way out to freaking 33rd South because they have buns at Harmon's.  I called.   I first called the Emigration Harmon's, and they don't have them.  And yeah.  I don't know how to park at the Harmon's downtown, so I didn't even bother to dial up the bakery.

I'll report back.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boys and Girls

DISCLAIMER:  I realize it's risky to make generalizations about everything and anything.

Okay.  Now that we have that out of the way, I've been thinking a little about the experience of raising sons and how that experience differed from my neighbor Kathy's, because Kathy had girls, except for Nate, who is definitely NOT a girl although he does like Diet Coke, which I do think of as primarily a girl drink.

See?  Stereotyping is obviously alive and well at this house.

Anyway, it did seem to me as I watched our kids grow up together that little girls mature more quickly than little boys--verbally, socially, physically.  One of my favorite examples of this involves my youngest son.   Here's what happened.

One day the school's visiting writer-in-residence showed up in his first grade class (I was there helping that morning) with the expressed purpose of inspiring the kids to expand their minds, etc.  To this end she showed the kids a series of pictures and asked them what the pictures reminded them of.   After viewing the photo of a landscape, one little girl went into raptures.

"It reminds me of the kind of morning when a unicorn would step outside and take a sip of dew."

BTW I'm not making that up.  She was all about "unicorns" and "sips of dew."

Anyway.  I watched Q go slackjaw.  He was blown away by this little girl and her awesome answer.  You could see him decide right then and there that HE was gonna impress her right back.  So when the writer held up another photo--this one showing a cup of hot chocolate--Q practically flew out of his seat, he was raising his hand so hard.

"What does this remind you of, Q?"  The writer asked.

"It reminds me of . . . HOT.  And also . . . CHOCOLATE."

This is one of my favorite memories ever of my youngest son.  And every time I think of it, I can only say rock on, Q.  Rock on.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


When I was growing up, Mormon churches had their own janitors.  Now members volunteer to clean on Saturday mornings.  I'm positive this was a cost-cutting move--and I feel for those individuals who were gradually eased out of employment.  Truly.  At the same time I think people feel more ownership when they have a little skin in the game.  It doesn't hurt a congregation to pick up after itself.


While I  was up at our church house this morning, being all industrious with fellow industrious ward members--cleaning!  vacuuming!  dusting!  sweeping!--I caught a glimpse of a picture of Jesus.  And it struck me that he was the still center in the middle of all this frenetic, swirling activity.

It surprises me sometimes that I still believe.  It always feels like there's ample opportunity not to believe, ample evidence that actively encourages disbelief.

But somehow I always come back to his image at the center of my own swirling.

Still still.

Still and always.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Some last words

It's always a little scary to write about real people.   You hope everyone will be okay with what you say.   But I did want to say a few things about Sharon in my column this week.

Thinking of her family with much love.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stuff I Used to Really Like that I Don't Like So Much Anymore

1.  Chris Matthews

2.  MSNBC in general, which now outfoxes Fox for mean-spirited, opinion-driven coverage

3.  Meg Ryan

4.  The book Little Women

5.  Possibly red velvet cupcakes

6.  Possibly George Clooney

7.  Although if George Clooney called and asked me to eat some red velvet cupcakes with him, I wouldn't say no

8.  Revenge

9.  Possibly Disneyland

10.  Although if George Clooney called and asked me to go to Disneyland with him, I wouldn't say no

11.  The Sound of Music

12.  Musicals in general

13.  Pizza

14.  Nike shoes

15.  New York City (sadly)

16.  Jay Leno

17.  Possibly the Philadelphia Eagles

18.  Although if George Clooney called and asked me to go to an Eagles game with him, I wouldn't say no

19.  The Hamish Macbeth novels (the last few anyway--still LOVE the earlier books)

20.  Epic fantasy

Sorry if I'm a buzz kill this morning.  I don't mean to be.  It's just that I'm really fond of making lists.  Except if they're "To Do" lists.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Yesterday was Sharon Kamerath's funeral, and I must say it was about as perfect as a funeral can be.  As daughter Heidi told me, the family had a long time to think about this one--a long (too long!) time to get it right.  And they did.  It was tender and funny, and (this would have been important to Sharon, I think), it didn't drag on too long.

Well-played, Kameraths.

Naturally, the whole thing got me thinking about my own funeral.  There was a time when my desires were very specific, but now I don't care about it as much as I once did.  Weird, I know, since I'm getting older.  And actually it might have to be a "memorial" as opposed to a "funeral," because I vote for cremation these days.  It's cheaper, for one thing.  And there's something appealing to me about being turned into something that's almost as light as air.  I have a strong appreciation for the intangible--words, light, grace, air.

I do realize, however, that it helps family members in their decision-making process about funerals/memorials to know what the deceased would have wanted.  So, if pressed, here's what I would request.

1.  Have all five of my boys speaks.  BRIEFLY.  I want the thing to be done inside of an hour.  Everyone knows how much I hate meetings.  Also, I want my boys to make people (especially their father if he outlasts me) laugh.   I know they're up to it.

2.  Have two musical numbers:  Kelly Parkinson playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on her violin and Jared Wright singing "Danny Boy."

3.  Have my two brothers say the prayers.

Also, I'd like the final speaker to end with this portion of a letter written to a friend by Fra Giovanni on Christmas Eve in 1513.  (My thanks to the illustrator Tasha Tudor for introducing this to us all.)

I salute you!  There is nothing I can give you which you have not;  but there is much that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.  Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in the present moment.  Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow;  behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.  Take joy!

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Here ya go, Emily

This is me.  My daughter-in-law Jules (a photographer) told me you look skinnier if you pop your leg.  Is it working?

Ken in his tux

Here's Ken in his anti-gravity tux, standing on the side of our hotel room wall like Spider-Man.  (Translation:  I can't figure out how to make this photo stand right side up.)

But if you turn your computer sideways, you'll see how very handsome he looked for the Fancy Schmancy in D.C.

Monday, March 18, 2013

TRQ and Louise Plummer

If that headline didn't get your attention, I don't know what will . . .

Anyway, today's post was inspired by Louise wanting to know what I wore to Ken's fancy gala.  And the answer involves TRQ.

Backstory first.  Last week I read a very funny book called THE ROSIE PROJECT which is a romance told from the point of view of a man who has Asperger's.  I KNOW!  GOOD TIMES!  At any rate, he does realize he can't read social cues, and so he tries to find ways to compensate.  And as I read all that, a bell went off in my head and I went to myself, "SELF!  YOU HAVE FASHION ASPERGER'S!"

Because I do.

I am always asking Ken if things go together--certain fabrics and textures and styles.  I am good with color.  And also with the accessories.  But the rest of it is a mystery to me.  Why this?  And not that?  And how to people KNOW that you can blend these things but not these things.  It's like people who know how to harmonize without looking at the music.  HOW DO THEY KNOW?

So, like the hero of THE ROSIE PROJECT, I have found ways to compensate.  I keep the clothes super simple and I wear a helluva lot of black.  Because black is hard to mess up.  Although I have done it.

Enter TRQ.

As soon as she got word of the fancy schmancy, she began sweeping up from Provo, her arms laden with expensive clothes that she herself has worn over the years to events involving the coach.   She would even lay them out on my bed so I could see particular combinations.  And then she would STRONGLY suggest what she thought might work.

When she did this kind of stuff in the past, I resented it.  Deeply.  Doesn't my mother think I can dress myself, I'd think.  And the answer is "no."  She didn't.  And, actually, she was kind of right.

So.  After much swooping and laying-out-of-possible-combination-on-my-bed, I decided on a sparkly, beaded skirt and a black (surprise!) top.    She told me to buy black hose (I did) and to wear good shoes (I did) because, frankly, it doesn't matter what's going on in the middle so much if you've got the right shoes.  Also hair.

And I did, at least, have the right shoes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Suddenly . . .

I remember that it's Sunday!  And also I remember that I am blogging every day!

The truth is I'm so tired and so upside down and every which way from the last few days that I thought it was still Saturday somehow--although if it were still Saturday, Ken and I would still be in D.C.

Anyway.  It was a memorable few days, what with Ken Cannon being honored for his work and me tagging along to see him in a tux.  Highlights of the weekend included seeing Dylan, Julie and Lolo on their way home from NYC, as well as dinner with fabulous niece Sarah in Chinatown.

On a bus to Mt. Vernon I spoke with an older woman named Joan who was full of enthusiasm for everything--art museums, history, golf, her grandchildren, New York City, Florida, great jewelry, travel.  I felt like a slacker around her--someone who's happy to watch TV and eat potato chips (barbecue) instead of expanding my mind and broadening my horizons.    Why is it that some people just have this appetite for learning and seeing and doing, while others of us (me) are content to sit on the porch swing and watch the garden grow?

I want to be more like Joan, I think.  Is that even possible?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Angry Birds!

Link to today's column, y'all!

Friday, March 15, 2013


I was going to blog a little about what I've seen here in D.C.  But I just received the news that my fabulous friend and neighbor of many years Sharon Kamerath passed away after a long and exceedingly difficult illness.

Sharon was funny, fiercely intelligent, opinionated, utterly faithful, strong-willed, energetic, surprising.  She was a giver, never a taker.  Over the years she showered me with love.  And she loved our boys, too.  Our fourth son, who was a handful when he was little, was a special favorite of hers.  For years she told the story about the time this son (he was maybe three or four yeasr old) walked out onto the porch on a glorious summer morning, surveyed the garden, and snarled, "SHUT UP, FLOWERS!" 

You would have to know Son Number Four.

And you would have to know Sharon to know why she found this so endlessly amusing.

RIP sweet, sweet friend.  I will miss you.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In the grips of

It's not even 5 a.m. yet.

And (actually) I've been awake for a long time, hovering in that blue state of not sleeping but not wanting to get up either.  When I'm well and truly depressed, I don't sleep.  I just lie wide-eyed in the dark, dreading everything.

This isn't quite like that.  I'm in the grips of a certain melancholy, it's true.  But (and this is an odd way to describe it), the melancholy is sweet, too.

A lot of it has to do with my dad, who is working hard to recover from the open heart surgery he had in December.  But yes.  I see him changing.  And it's hard.  But the kindness that has always been a part of his character has been distilled into something even more present, more defining.  And when I talk to him he is eager to laugh, full of good will.  His own father had the same quality in the years before he died.

At the same time my father is aging, I have this two year old granddaughter, who walked into the playroom yesterday  I've made for her.  She looked around at the toys and "kitchen" and costumes and exclaimed, "I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!"

A moment, I'm sure, that I'll remember as one of the better moments of my life.

All this.  In the same day.  It's how life happens, right?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Creating a writer's life

I think I've mentioned the conversation I once had with the lovely Claudia Mills who says too often we only treat ourselves like writers when we've published.  But if we write, we're writers.  Period.  And we can have writerly lives.  For example, she and her friends organized a little poetry reading for themselves and had a fine time.

I felt like I was having myself a writer's life last week when I met the lovely Sara Zarr for a writing date.  This is something Sara does fairly regularly--takes her computer to a coffee house and goes to work, sometimes joined by other writers.  It's fun and I at least end up being surprisingly productive because I can't divert myself with laundry and so forth.

Try it.  I'm guessing you'll be happy you did.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trying to keep a damn thought or two in my head

So I was sitting at an Indian restaurant today, eating lunch with TRQ, when suddenly I was DAZZLED by a great idea for a blog post.  I mean it was brilliant.  And as I sat there eating vegetable coconut korma while advising TRQ on her hair color, I framed the whole post in my head.

Only now I've forgotten it.  Boom.  I walked through the front door of my house and that idea just skedaddled right out of my brain.

This is happening to me a lot right now.  Ideas for books!  Columns!  Blog posts!  are racing out of my head like kids running out the classroom door for recess.

Please.  Tell me.  How do you get those kids to come back inside and sit in their seats long enough for you to remember what it was you wanted to say?

Any little tricks for remembering your brilliant ideas that occur to you at inopportune moments?

Monday, March 11, 2013



I did not know this until this morning, thanks to Pandora, the internet radio station.  Jimmy and I apparently lost track of each other after I graduated and got married, and he just went on and on being a rock star legend, recording albums here and there with the likes of The Black Crowes.  And not telling me about it.

Anyway, listening to a version of "Your Time is Gonna Come" and feeling pretty darn happy about it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Feverish

When I was younger (much) spring was my favorite season hands down.  Callooh!  Callay!  Oh frabjous day!  I loved the daffodils and the warming air and the smell of new grass growing and the promise of spring vacation coming and sky and clouds and every last scrap of it.  Honestly, my happiness was physical--I felt it in my stomach the way you do when you're a kid on Christmas Eve.

I loved spring--until I had kids and had to sit through baseball and soccer games.  That's when I realized how cold and wet, how unpredictable spring can be.   Like T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month.  The season raises your hopes, only to dash them--not unlike the Utah Jazz.

So for awhile I didn't like spring much.  I just got through it and waited for summer.

But now that I don't have to spend afternoons and Saturdays sitting on wet bleachers I find myself . . . falling in love again.  The wind.  The rawness.  The promise.

Just spent the morning outside cleaning up and examining new shoots, inviting the season to pull up a chair and stay awhile.  Welcome, Spring.  We're ready when you are!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Testosterone can kill you

And it can also be a good subject  for a column, right?

I usually put my column link up on the weekend, but I'm doing it today so that I can get busy and do some writing today.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

America's #1 Bubble Bath

So I have an Avon Lady.  I KNOW!  I feel just like Laura Petrie or Lucy Ricardo or someone else who lived inside my TV during the 1960s.

Anyway.  I love her.  She's great, and she works hard to keep my skin looking dewy.  Also, I must say that Avon turns out a good product at a ridiculously affordable price.  (You're welcome, Avon!)

One of the things I love about my Avon Lady is that she leaves things on my doorstep--little books and brochures and so forth.  And yesterday I came home to a flier called "America's #1 Bubble Bath" with the subtitle "Avon's Bubble Bath Has Many Uses."  WHICH I LIST BELOW.  VERBATIM.

1.  Produces "zillions" of bubbles that leave no bathtub ring.
2.  Does a beautiful job on washing cars, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, etc.
3.  Use it as a laundry detergent.
4.  Use if for hand washing or delicate laundry.
5.  Is it for a pre-soak on heavily soiled laundry, also great for "ring around the collar."
6.  It is the best blood stain remover we have found.
7.  Use it to wash windows.
8.  Clean appliances with it.
9.  Use it to wash dishes.
10. Bathe pets in it.
11. Cleans and shines bathroom fixtures and mirrors.
12. Use it on no-wax floors.
13. Shampoo carpets with it (either a whole room or just a spot)
14.  Use it wash walls and ceilings.
15.  With a sponge, shampoo furniture of vehicle interiors.
16.  It's recommended for children's baths by pediatricians.

The flier ends with this observation (all in caps) (in case we're deaf):  "AVON BUBBLE BATH SMELLS CLEAN AND FRESH--IT'S SO MILD.  IT IS NOT AT ALL HARSH ON YOUR HANDS OR SKIN!"

Okay, there are so many things about this list I love, I don't even know where to start.  How can you not love a product that not only cleans YOU but your pets and your mobile home as well?  And really wouldn't you love to watch an episode of PERSON OF INTEREST where John offers to pre-soak the clothes of the people he just shot in a little Avon bubble bath?  His journey from tortured anti-hero to  hero would be complete.  Redemption for real.

Please feel free to add uses of your own to this list.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Go, Lancers!

I've been tired lately.  And yes.  A little depressed.   So when I looked at my calendar yesterday and remembered I'd agreed to speak to a group of students at Granger High School, I immediately berated myself for saying yes.


I ended up having SUCH an extraordinarily pleasant experience--one of my best school visits ever.  The students were just so engaged.  So interested.  So nice.  And a lot of them had even read the book we were discussing--THE LOSER'S GUIDE.  I cannot tell you how rare it is for students to have read the book you're discussing.

I just want to give those guys and their teachers a great big HUGE shout out for being so terrific.  Thank you.  And thank you again.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Resolved:  Today I will write.

Resolved:  Today I will not open another bag of malted milk eggs.

Resolved:  Today I will limit my consumption of Dr. Pepper and potato chips.

Resolved:  Today I will not quarrel with the Almighty.  (Both of us need a rest.)

Resolved:  Today I will pay lingering bills.

Resolved:  Today I will put on my Big Girl Pants and go to Nordstrom to exchange the sweater my mother bought for me.  (Nordstrom is--I'LL JUST SAY IT--intimidating for girls like me who buy all of their clothes at Target.  Or Old Navy.)

Resolved:  Today I will read instead of just camping out in front of the TV which I have begun to watch indifferently.

Resolved:  Today I will get out in the sun.

Resolved:  Today I will stay (mostly) away from facebook.

Resolved:  Today I will stop pointing out all the ways to myself that I think I have failed.

Resolved:  Today will be a better day than yesterday.  Because I'm gonna make it that way.

Monday, March 4, 2013

How to spend a day not writing

1.  Get up, full of determination to write
2.  Take a walk
3.  Take another walk
4.  Decide you can't think if your house is dirty
5.  Clean your house
6.  Look at your clock and realize you're supposed to be somewhere
7.  Turn a 2 hour commitment into 4 hours, because you decide to go to the library and to Target while you're at it
8.  Come home
9.  Answer your phone every time it rings
10.Text a couple of your sons
11. Watch the highlights of last night's Romney interview and reflect (depending on your politics) on how differently different folks will hear what they said--which is why silence sometimes is in everyone's best interest
12.  Eat some Brach's malted milk eggs
13.  Quite a few of them actually
14.  Look at the clock and realize it's 4:30

That's how you do it, folks.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Word to a writer from another mother

What my friend Shelley said on her fb page today (and, Shelley, I hope you don't mind that I'm quoting you here): "Ever spend so much mental energy planning a project that when you actually start tackling it you feel like it should already be done?"

I think we've all had this experience, right?

This reminds me of an excellent piece of advice Barbara Williams (a fabulous writer and an important influence on the Utah children's authors of my generation).  She cautioned against talking about a work-in-progress too much.  Doing so can diffuse the energy you bring to the manuscript.  Like, talking about it fires off all the dopamine in your brain, which makes you feel gooooooooooood, which makes you think you've already done the hard work of writing.

Which you haven't.

Just a little writing thought for the day.  You're welcome.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


. . . at Barnes and Noble in Sandy today.  It's scheduled to be from 1-4, but I'll probably only be there until 3.

I know.  Short blog post.  I'm still worn out from the Oscars blogging.

Friday, March 1, 2013

I'd like you and my newest column to go out on a date

Well, here's where I remember the walk across England.

Sort of . . .