Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas picture books

Piece from the Trib this morning!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving, TRQ, and other things

Happy day after Thanksgiving.  I'm hoping you all enjoyed your holiday, which (I think) is a grand little holiday.  One of my faves.

Anyway.  It was quiet for us this year--just Ken Cannon, Geoff, my parents, and I at the familias trough.  We decided to eat at 2:00, but by the time 3:00 hit and we still weren't eating?  Well.  We were getting restless.

That's when TRQ discovered that had some point she'd turned the oven off, which made it challenging for the turkey to get itself all roasted.  Turkeys are picky like that.

Gotta love a good holiday mishap, right?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Yikes! It's Tuesday?!

Yes.  I checked.  It's Tuesday.

I was doing the every day thing quite well until last month, right?  I've slipped up a bit lately--will try to get back on track.

Chapter summaries to continue tomorrow.  Meanwhile here's today's Trib column.

BONUS!  Jell-O recipe involved!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

And now we pause for a commercial break

I'll do more chapters.  But I wanted to say Ken Cannon and I saw Rush this weekend, and I enjoyed it much more than I'd expected to.  Many years ago I won tickets to the Las Vegas Grand Prix race (it doesn't exist anymore) and I was kind of blown away by how LOUD and also thrilling the whole thing was.  The movie had the same effect on me.

Before we went, son Phil said there are boob shots a-plenty in the movie, the best one belonging to Chris Hemsworth (who plays James Hunt). Like, wow.   Son Phil was right.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chapter Four: wherein we move south

In this chapter I will discuss how we left Salt Lake for Provo when my dad was made an assistant coach at BYU because Hal Mitchell wanted a Mormon who knew something about the single-wing offense.  I will talk about the birth of my youngest brother who grew up to be one of my best friends.  I will also mention the fact that my grandparents retired and moved from Wyoming to Utah and, in fact, lived a few blocks away from us for awhile.  Once when I was walking to their house, I got beat up by the Jakes' kids who lived around the corner.  They stole my purse with the fake makeup in it.

This taught me an important life lesson.  Never carry a purse with fake makeup in it.  People will beat you up if you do.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chapter Three: wherein we take a big trip

In this chapter I will discuss how my parents put me and my brother in the back of a station wagon sans seat belts (America was reckless in those days) and drove to the Seattle Worlds Fair.  My brother and I pretended we were smoking cigarettes the whole time.  I was five.  He was three.  On the way there I tasted cherry pie in a restaurant and became obsessed with cherry pie.  When we saw the Space Needle for the first time, I told my dad that I was pretty sure people were sitting inside the Space Needle, eating cherry pie.

While in Seattle we stayed with a family who lived on a farm-ish thing with a donkey who apparently thought he was a rooster, because he brayed every morning at the same time and woke everybody up.

Dude.  That was some donkey.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chapter Two: more about the earliest years

In this chapter I discuss how my dad coached football and wrestling at Granite High School.  He also taught Drivers' Ed.  Irony!   On weeknights and on the weekends he sold shoes at Sears and worked for the County Rec and also Pete Carlson, teaching kids to swim.  (Side note:  he taught the McCarthy brothers, former owners of the Trib, to swim when they were kids.)  He taught me to swim after hours.  I have memories of him tossing me into the pool and me screeching with laughter.  He also taught me wrestling holds.  He was the holder.  I was the holdee.  All of this was muy hysterically fun as far I was concerned.  I loved me a rough-and-tumble dad.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cliff Notes of My Life: a story told in tiny chapters

So my fabulous friend Shelley who loves Kate Middleton the way I loved Princess Diana has just read her biography (Kate's) (not Diana's) and was disappointed, because (as it turns out) up until she started dating a PRINCE, Kate's life was kind of boring.  And Shelley thought her own life would make a better story (she's right), so on her blog she gave brief sketches of the different chapters of her life.


So for the next few days I am going to give brief summaries of my life story chapters, too.  Thanks for the idea, Shelley.

Chapter One:  The early years

Born in Salt Lake.  My dad complained of a headache the whole time my mom was in labor.  MEN!  We lived in a teeny tiny white house on an acre lot in Holladay and I thought it was paradise.  Grass! Trees!  Pansies and marigolds!  Vegetable garden!  Orchard!  Chicken coops!  A view of Mt. Olympus from our living room window!  My best friend was a dog.  My mother put the two of us outside to play all day when the weather was good.  I ran away (to the basement) when my parents brought my brother home from the hospital, but no one came looking for me.  BABIES RUIN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU'RE TWO YEARS OLD.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

JFK and a column

I wrote this and then read Kirby's column, which had the advantage of running before mine--and also the advantage of being written by my friend Kirby.  But I still went with it because it would be weird not to write about the assassination as the 50th anniversary nears.

Fifty years.

So much time.  So many changes.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


It's Sunday, which means I'll have the TV on all day so I can drop in on an NFL game here and an NFL game there.  (Right now the Eagles are playing the Redskins, for instance.)  I'm looking forward to tonight's game between the undefeated Chiefs (go Andy Reid!) and the Broncos (oh, Peyton, I love you so--why did you have to go and break my heart by signing with a Denver team?).

Anyway.  There's this attitude about football these days that lots of people have.  Like, if you say to them that you follow football, you might as well say you also follow gladiator matches and you absolutely CANNOT wait until the next truckload of Christians gets dumped into the nearest coliseum.  Honestly, I'll be surprised if football is here in another 100 years.

I understand where this is coming from.  For sure.  As I've said before when we went back to South Bend for my father's induction ceremony and watched various honorees hobble up to the podium,  it was like viewing an instructional video in Health Class about why you SHOULDN'T play football in your youth.

Still.  I enjoy.  And will enjoy.  And if I'd been a guy you can bet I would have been out there playing the game myself.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Johnny Cash American recordings

Al gave me the JC American recordings recently, and I've been listening to them whenever I get into the car.  While I like some of them more than others, there's something about Johnny's voice as an old man that goes straight to my gut in all of them.  Even when he can't buy a note, JC's voice is so real, so raw, so full of nerve and sad wisdom and a wondering faith that I just have to shake my head and go wow.  What an artist.

I'm giving these to the Coach for Christmas.  He doesn't read my blog so I can say that.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A little about yesterday's melancholy thing

Being ill, of course, automatically lends itself to feeling The Melancholy.  But I was also saddened by this news.

I knew Todd Christensen slightly.  We'd bump into each other in the Richards P.E. Building on campus sometimes, and because he liked to chat and wasn't shy, we'd chat.  Or at least he would chat and I'd listen.  I can still remember the time he told me he wasn't sure how much my dad actually knew about football.  Oddly, I didn't take offense.  I'd already heard that Todd was his own kind of guy, and because there didn't seem to be any malice in his statement, I just let it slide.

I can still see him, his wet hair combed and slicked against his head with an almost military-like precision.  And there were always a load of books under one arm--books I was pretty sure he'd actually read.  Not to trade in stereotypes or anything, but I knew he wasn't one of those guys my dad would lock up in his office until that player got his homework done in order to maintain eligibility.  Todd cared about school.

Anyway.  It doesn't seem like that long ago I watched him play in the early days of my father's career as a head coach--tough and wild and full of hope for his future.  It was a pleasure to watch him in action.

RIP, Todd Christensen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Lisa B. sent me a message the other day asking if I were feeling better-ish after my bout with the flu.  Only better-ish was auto-corrected to "butterfish," because (of course) that's a term real people use in real conversations all the day.  Thank you, auto-correct!

Butterfish!  Butterfish!  Butterfish!

I love this word, and I now challenge all of us to use it and make it part of mainstream English by the year 2015.  WE CAN DO IT!

REPORTER AT NEWS CONFERENCE:  How would you characterize the state of the economy now?

POTUS:  It's doing butterfish, a fact for which we can all be grateful this Thanksgiving season.

Anyway, I am definitely doing butterfish today, although I still have some of The Queasy left and also I had my eyes zapped this morning at the doctor's office to deal with scar tissue leftover from my cataract surgery two years ago.  So I'm having another sort of semi-languishing day which lends itself to a bit of melancholy, actually.

I'll talk about that tomorrow.

Meanwhile!  Butterfish!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Journals and their ilk

Tonight I am going to visit the Young Women in our ward--and if we all lived in France I would have just said right there "Tonight I am going to visit the jeune filles in our ward"--to speak on the subject of journals.

So yeah.  Mormons are big on journaling, which is good, although sometimes it becomes a burden--another thing we aren't doing and therefore another thing we have to feel guilty about.  (Which reminds me that a friend I taught with at Westminster College always said she liked to work with Mormon, Catholic and Jewish women,  because she could always pull the guilt card and get them to do stuff no one else in the department wanted to do.)

Anyway.  Whatever.  Obviously I am doing a lot of random association right now.  So back to the subject at hand.  I think what I'm going to do tonigh is present these radical ideas.

1.  A journal is not for posterity.  It's for you.  NOW.

2.  A journal can be anything you need it to be--a scrapbook, a blog, a sketchbook, a place to record dreams or write poems or record daily events.

It'll be fun, I think!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

This week's column! And also! Flu! Or is it food poisoning?

It always makes me a little melancholy when a neighborhood institution closes its doors for good.  This is a tiny farewell.

Meanwhile, I was up all night with an intestinal something (NOT fortitude).  A stomach flu, I assume, although Stef just e-mailed, wondering if I had eaten any bad chicken lately.  At first I thought no, because I don't really love chicken unless it's fried and spectacularly unhealthy.  But then I remembered I had a chicken pot pie for dinner Sunday night.  I won't say where because I don't want to cast aspersions on a lovely little place where old people go to eat Sunday night dinner before watching episodes of the new Matlock, aka "Castle" they DVR'd earlier in the week.  You know.  Old people like me and Ken Cannon.

Anyway.  Being sick sucks.  Especially when it's all amber light and warmth outside.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Well, wow

I just re-read my "regretting" post, and I'm kind of regretting that I ever put it up.  I realize now it sounded like I was seeking affirmation, like when a skinny girl puts on tight jeans and says "do these make my butt look big?"  And you guys were nice enough to be--well--nice and to tell my butt doesn't look big.  At least metaphorically speaking.

I was just honestly really disappointed in myself.  But yeah.  Maybe the rake confused me.

Anyway.  More later.

And also anyway.  Thank you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I don't know.

Today I had an experience which I would describe as a fail.  I was late to church, and as I was walking up the stairs, a man who looked homeless asked what kind of church it was.  So I said Mormon.  So he said the church didn't look Mormon.  So I said well it's old.  Old Mormon churches look different.  So then I smiled at him.  So then he smiled at me.  And we paused.  And I wondered right then if I should invite him to come inside.  You know.  Welcome him.

But I didn't.

And I think I should have.  Not because I have any interest in proselytizing.  I don't.  A missionary I am not.

But it would have been a human gesture--one that I believe in.  So why didn't I say, "You can come inside if you want to"?   I don't think he would have been offended by the offer like some people might be.

So why didn't I?

Did his appearance make me nervous somehow?  Me, the person who always says appearances don't matter?  Or did I wonder what he would do with his backpack and full-sized rake if he came inside?  Or did I worry he would feel awkward in the chapel or that other people would feel awkward (the answer to the latter is no--my ward embraces the awkward).

I wish I had been generous enough to let him say no for himself.  Or yes.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Boot camp!

Finished up a weekend weekend bootcamp, sponsored by The King's English and organized by Sara Zarr and U of U professor Anne Jamison.  Faculty included agent Michael Bourret and editor/writer Jennifer Adams.

Here's the thing.  I always learn something at a conference, no matter how many I've attended.  I'm also inspired by attendees who keep working to become the best writers they can be.

A good day.  In spite of the fact that BYU lost.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dear Led Zeppelin IV,

Today is your 42nd birthday.  I know!  You're totally middle-aged now!  And how is that even possible?  Was it really so long ago that I went to the record store at the old Union Block in Provo and bought you?

I was an unlikely fan in many ways, but I loved LZ beyond reason.  That driving beat.  Those screaming vocals.  The alternating hard and soft and hard thing they had going on.  And I listened to you, LZ IV, endlessly.  You were the background music to all my dreams.  Dreams of boys.  Dreams of new clothes and new dreams.  Dreams of making poems myself.  Dreams of life after high school.  Dreams of travel.  Dreams of Aragorn and Frodo and Gandalf.  Dreams of everything badass.  You were it, baby.

There was a time when I would have said you were my favorite LZ album, but the truth is "Stairway to Heaven" got a little boring--especially since it was played at every high school dance I ever went to.  I'd probably pick I or II or even parts of III over you now.

But still.

You are a fine, fine, fine album.  Keep rocking the free world, okay?


Ann Cannon

Thursday, November 7, 2013


So I do way more stuff online than I ever thought I would.  But when it comes to browsing, I still prefer a catalog in hand.  What about you?

Maybe this stems from my childhood.  The arrival of the Sears Christmas Wishbook was a HUGE deal.  My friends and I would sit on the front porch, eating cookie dough and poring over the pages of toys.  What a pleasure that was.

My current favorite catalog is the Vermont Country Store catalog.  As one radio dj I heard remark, it has awesome lingerie.  Girdles!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An anniversary and a retrospective

I received an e-mail from friend Robert Kirby who informed me that today is my third anniversary at the Salt Lake Tribune.  This, by the way, is a very Kirby thing to do.  Beneath the jester's mask, he has the soul of a serious and careful historian.


Some of you may remember me writing about jumping ship from the DN to its competitor, the Trib.  It was a terribly difficult thing for me to do at the time.  It was like I had to suddenly start cheering for the Utes after spending a lifetime of cheering for the Cougars, and I am not, by nature, a person who switches teams casually.

The transition was harder, too, than I let on.  Whereas I pretty much knew who all the subsets of DN readers were, I was unsure of who my audience was at the Trib.  Some of it looked like the DN audience, but there were more subsets of readers, some of whom felt actively hostile to my column.  I second-guessed myself a lot for awhile there, although I always felt like I'd made the right decision to leave the DN when I did.

(Just to be clear--for many years the DN was a good place for me.  The people I knew there--Susan Whitney, Chris Hicks, Carma Wadley, Katy Clayton, Dennis Lithgow, Brad Rock, Lee Benson, Doug Robinson and others--were terrific.)

I was especially grateful that first year at the Trib to my then-editor, Lisa Carricaburu, who called every week to check in with me.  And of course I was grateful to Kirby, too, for alerting Lisa to the fact that I wanted to make a move.

And now?  I'm happy.  And given the state of newspapers today, I'm so grateful to still be writing regularly.   The Trib has done a good job of promoting the column, and I like that the local readership represents a broad spectrum of individuals.

The take-away?  I don't know.  Maybe it's that while change is scary, it's often a good thing to make a leap.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What brothers do

So the column is already up.  As I was writing this I remembered that episode of Modern Family when Jay's brother shows up and the two of them start giving each other nuggies like they're still in grade school.

It never ends.  No.  It does not.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Still thinking

. . . about the Meridian piece.  Here's a curious by-product.  While Hilton's checklist isn't my checklist--at all--her piece did cause me to think about the things I value and ask myself if I am, in fact, measuring up when it comes to my own beliefs.  As it turns out, I could be doing better.  A LOT better, in some cases.

Life is full of strange and unintended consequences.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The problem with echo chambers

This week Geoff sent me a link to an online magazine for Mormons called Meridian.  It featured a brief essay by a woman named Joni Hilton called "Are You a Liberal Mormon?"  In it she delineated steps (in her view) that are sure to lead to apostasy.

It was a curious piece.  Although I'm guessing Hilton is probably my age, parts of it sounded like it had been written by a zealous BYU coed.  You're a liberal Mormon if you see R-rated movies or fail to read your scriptures daily.  Other observations were just odd.  You're a liberal Mormon, for example, if you go to Europe and then talk about it?????   Basically the thrust was this:  get on board or get out.  At least that's how it read.

Now here's the thing.  I don't know Hilton and so I have no way of knowing if the tone of this piece--which was judgmental and petty--is an accurate representation of her in real time.  I am very aware that columnists can and do craft public personas that are only a piece of the entire package.


I'm guessing that Hilton was surprised by the HUGE blowback the column received--so huge, in fact, that Meridian took the piece down and then offered a fairly lame defense for its publication in the first place.  In an online editorial Maurine Proctor assured readers that the term "liberal" did not refer in any way a person's political beliefs (as far as I can tell, none of the readers thought it did) and that the senior editorial staff had been out of the country (hopefully not in Europe) working on a project when the piece was launched.

Here's the deal.  Even though she probably doesn't want it (or perhaps even deserve it), I feel a real sympathy for Hilton.  She must be hurt and surprised by the reaction--especially since Meridian is by no definition of the word a liberal publication.  So how did this happen?

Again, I'm only speculating.  But I'm guessing that Hilton has done a lot of talking and reading and listening and thinking and writing in an echo chamber--a place that pretty much reflects back her own views.  We all do that to some extent.

What this experience reminds us to do is to get out and stretch our legs a little so we can get a real feel for how other people experience this great big complicated world.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Meet Jan Pinborough!

One of the perks of writing an extra books piece for the Trib is the opportunity it gives me to interview authors.  Here's a nice Q and A with Jan Pinborough, who just published a lovely picture book about the creation of children's libraries.