Monday, June 30, 2014

A report from the beach

We did the annual family beach vay-cay last week.  It was nice to sit on sand after the (FABULOUS) intensity of WIFYR the week before.  Anyway, the trip inspired this week's column.

Grunions are involved.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A column and also a word about WIFYR 2014

So here's this week's column, inspired obv by upcoming Travel Plans.

And here's my shout out to this year's WIFYR experience.  I had such fabulous students.  I really, really did.  And if they were standing here next to me right now I would say KEEP WRITING.  Keep writing.  You can do this.

Nouns again, starting tomorrow.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Solstice writing retreat

So last summer I taught at this writers' conference and y'all (this is the second time I've written "y'all" today) IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!

Check it out and see if you're interested.  The focus is on writing non-fiction, although Dean Hughes will talk about writing historical fiction, which is a specialty of his.  I'll be talking about writing columns and blog posts and feature articles and so on and so forth.  But mostly we'll be workshopping--sharing our writing in an effort to make us all better.  Also shinier.

One of the HUGE PERKS of my involvement in the conference last year is that I made some lovely new friends.  Are you listening, Megan?  And I was able to re-connect with the sister of a dear childhood friend.  That would be you, Melody.

Think about joining me, Chris Crowe, Dean Hughes, Louise Plummer and John Bennion at the Homestead in July.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sheila (this one's for Emma)

By the time Becky's daughter Emma was born, her mother, Sheila, had already had the aneurism that left her disabled.  Emma never had a chance to contend with Sheila the Force of Nature whose petite frame and Audrey Hepburn-style belied a giant and absolute fierceness--a fierceness for culture, for intelligent conversation, for social justice, for beauty, for an end to hypocrisy, for travel and education and a chance for her children to get ahead in this life.

Also, it must be said, she could be a flirt.  She was beautiful and stylish and enjoyed the company of men who appreciated those qualities.

I was a little afraid of Sheila when Becky and I were younger, but then I was afraid of lots of mothers in those days now that I think about it.  Who knows why?  (Actually, being a mother who scares children--your own and other people's-- is an awesome life-skill.  I often wish I'd had the art of it in me.)

Anyway.  I asked Becky once (we were lying on the grass in Uncle Bud's Park, looking up at the sky) if her mother liked me.  "Not really," she said.  "Why?"  I asked.  "She doesn't think you're good enough for me," Becky said.

But then one day when Becky and I were in high school, Sheila DID like me.  And I remember when that happened, too.  I could feel her watching me in the Brown family's front room with a slight, approving smile on her face.  There were lots of people there, and somehow I managed to talk to people and behave with a certain amount of grace.  And after that evening, she told Becky that I had turned into a grownup with excellent manners.  It was one of the loveliest compliments I've ever received.

Of course once you REALLY grow up, you're not afraid of the adults in your life anymore.  You realize they're just people like you.  And I became very, very fond of Sheila--the old Sheila and the new one, too, who sometimes calls me, even though those calls are so difficult for her to make.

I love your grandmother, Emma.  I truly, truly do.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On writing about family

My brother Jimmy and I had an e-mail exchange today that has me thinking . . .

Here's the deal.  My family of origin has nice people in it.  None of them was/is perfect.  But they're all decent human beings who like to laugh and who regularly cut other human beings a lot of slack.  When I write about my parents and brothers and grandparents, I write about them with amusement and affection and occasional sentiment.

My friend Annette once told me she hated some essays Eudora Welty wrote about her parents because Welty wrote about her childhood with amused affection, which came across as self-satisfaction to Annette, who (it must be said) had a difficult childhood.  Of all the ways I want to come across as to my readers, self-satisfied isn't one of them.  And yet it would be hard for me to write about abusive, drug-addicted, selfish family members, because they weren't.

I don't know.  I'm wondering if people just roll their eyeballs when I write a Mother's/Father's Day column and go "Oh, here goes little Miss Fancypants, writing about her awesome family again."

I hope not.  And also, I have no Fancypants.  Not clean ones any way.

To be clear, this is not a plea for you to tell me I'm okay, although I know it reads like one.  I would like to hear how reading memoir about other people's families feels to you.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Just in time for Father's Day

. . . a heartwarming story about a father who lies to his children.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What we said to one another today

ME:  I feel fat.  Do I look fat?

TRQ:  No.  I need to lose weight, too.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Burrito (noun courtesy of Lauren)

My first exposure to Not American Food came at the old El Azteca restaurant in Provo--the one just off of campus.  It was upstairs in some sort of semi-dumpy building (maybe it had even been an old house once?  I can't remember) but when you walked into the restaurant with its big velvet paintings of Aztecs everywhere, Honey you felt like you and your family had gotten on a bus and gone some exotic place where volcanoes erupt and papayas grow so abundantly on trees you can just pick them whenever you feel like it.  Except, of course, when the volcanoes are erupting.

Anyway.  It was our family's favorite place to eat.  We'd go there maybe once a month.  Sometimes with the Hudspeths (football coaching buddies), sometimes by ourselves.  The owner's son (Luis?) would wait on us, shimmering like Jeeves to our table side for our orders, which often involved burritos.  And flautas.  And rellenos.  And fabulous beans all fried up in Manteca, which is the King of Monounsaturated Fats.  Next to Olive Oil, of course.  So maybe it's only the Prince of M. Fats.

But whatever.  That's not the point.  The point is that to this day, Mexican food is my go-to comfort food.  I love it and would rather not exist if it all went away.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Nun (noun courtesy of Jimmy)

I was thinking about pregnancy dreams the other day--how crazy they are.  Like, once when I was pregnant I dreamed that I drove all the way to Utah Lake before I realized I'd accidentally left my baby on the roof of the car.

Oh.  Wait a minute.  I did that in real life.


Anyway, the creepiest pregnancy dream I ever heard about was the one TRQ had when she was pregnant with me.  She dreamed she was in the Salt Lake Temple and that she kept hearing this odd sound in the hallway.  So she got up, opened the door, and saw nuns rolling gurneys with dead people up and down and up and down a very long corridor.

Have fun with THAT one, Brother Freud!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cellar (courtesy of Megan and also apparently Willa Cather) (who knew?)

Today I am rush-writing about the word cellar which I had cause to think of yesterday because our cellar is a graveyard for all kinds of things, including vacuum cleaners that don't work anymore.  I'm not sure why we don't just throw them away, other than the fact that I feel guilty about throwing machines away because I'm convinced one day they'll rise up like zombies and COME GET ME because of the adversarial relationship machines and I have had my whole life.  So at least I can let them RIP in my nice cool basement as a gesture of good will.

But that's not the point.

The point is that I thought about all those dead vacuum cleaners in the cellar because yesterday one of my neighbors--a young man who's working as a vacuum cleaner salesman--came over to the house to give me a demo.  I said yes to be nice.  I don't need a new vacuum and also I had just vacuumed earlier in the morning with my fancypants Oreck, so I was feeling all smug and clean AND SASSY the way you do when you've had a successful session of vacuuming the back room.

Anyway.  My neighbor came in with all kinds of attachments and so forth and this thing looked so complicated I thought he and I could crawl inside of it and FLY TO THE MOON.  Hopefully with George Clooney.  After putting the thing together he (my neighbor, not GC) proceeded to run the vacuum over my carpet and then take out filters to show me how dirty, in fact, my carpet still was.

And The People it was dirty.  Apparently I have a whole continent of microscopic dirt people living in my rug, eating traditional dirt people dishes and singing dirt people folk songs.   Again.  Who knew?

It does strike me that this is dangerous territory for a salesperson to navigate.  Yes.  My carpet could probably use a BIGGER BETTER STRONGER vacuum cleaner.  But how does it feel to be exposed as a slob?  Who won't be flying to the moon with George Clooney any time soon?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tropic of Candycorn

Killer post title, right?

So I had this student at Westminster who became a great friend who has just designed a website called Tropic of Candycorn which features travel tips for families with children.  I'm excited about this project because Erynn is an experienced traveller--and as generous and humble a human being as you'd ever hope to meet.

Check out her website and pass along the good word.

TRQ in the D-News

My old friend Lee Benson did this nice piece on TRQ.  She was so instrumental in the Coach's career, so it's nice to see her get a little upfront attention.

Rock on, TRQ.