Monday, May 22, 2017

Dog the First

Fair Warning:  I can't imagine the next series of posts are going to be very interesting to anyone, because I am going to do some remembering about Dogs I Have Owned in chronological order.  This is just an exercise to get me up and writing again, so feel free to check out.

OK.  First Dog.  She was a boxer named Priney, which my parents had owned for a couple of years before I was born.  But when we met, it was love at first sight for both of us.  There isn't a picture of me from my young childhood without that dog standing at my side or lying on my feet.

TRQ used to put us out in the yard together first thing in the morning because you were allowed to do that in the 1950's.  We spent our days together, which did lead to some species confusion for both of us.  She thought she was a human.  I thought I was a dog, which is why I put her bones in my mouth and ran up and down the lawn one day until TRQ made me stop.  She was a good mother that way.

Here's what I remember about her.  The dog.  Not TRQ.

--Soulful eyes
--Slick fawn coat that was warm to the touch because of sun on her skin
--Her eating all the Easter eggs at my Birthday party (sorry, kids!) before we had a chance to do our Easter egg hunt

I always say when I cross over, I hope she's one of the first to greet m on the other side.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This blog

I've been toying with the idea of shutting down this blog again.  Since my dad died I haven't felt like writing, although I am actually writing a lot for the Trib now.

I've been especially low the last few weeks.  The more time passes the more ways you discover how to miss a person.  But this morning on a walk with the dogs I had this (obvious) epiphany:  you keep the person you loved with you by doing some of the things that person did.  Write notes of encouragement.  Tell funny stories.  Play cards.  Plant flowers in the spring.

OK, Blog.  I'll keep trying.




Friday, March 31, 2017

The Advice Column

As some of you know, I am now the advice columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune.  My tagline is "Like Doctor Laura!  Only Nicer!  Like Dear Abby!  Only Not Dead!"

The response has been interesting and wide-ranging.  Sometimes people think I'm smart.  Sometimes people think I'm an idiot.  I just had an email from a reader who had as his topic heading "Lousy Answers!"  Then he proceeded to tell me why those answers were so terrible with relish.

Which is fine.

I don't actually get my feelings hurt very often on the advice column front because I understand that people are going to have really different opinions based on their own experiences.  But what I loved was this guy's P.S.  After basically ripping my column apart, he apologized in his P.S. for the email's font, which is sort of like apologizing to someone because the knife you just stuck in him hadn't been polished the night before.




Friday, March 24, 2017

A little advice for writers

Last night I had an awesome time at the Sweet Branch Library as The Author in the House.  Chris Chambers and his crew had lights and candles and tea and crumpets and, as my friend Gretta said, it's like I was attending my own wedding again.

Speaking of Gretta, I'm posting these suggestions I gave for all of us writers to keep us focused.

1.  You will never have enough time to write, so don't put off writing the thing you want to write.  It never gets easier.

2.  Negotiate on a daily basis when, where, and how much you'll write.  When I'm struggling, I write to a word limit.  500 words is doable for me.

3.  Remember that slow but steady will get you to the finish line--just like it got the tortoise there before the hare.  If you write 500 words a day, 5 days a week, you'll have a book-length manuscript by the end of the year.

4.  You don't have to start at the beginning.  Start wherever your energy takes you--even if it's in the middle or the ending.  You can fill in the necessary details (such as a beginning, for example) later on.

5.  In other words, give yourself permission as Anne LaMott suggests, to write a shitty first draft.

6.  Stop writing before you write yourself out during any given period.  That way you'll have an easier time getting started the next time you sit down.

7.  Try writing the old-fashioned way sometimes--with paper and pencil.  Martine Levitt suggests that when you write by hand, you slow down the process just enough to make better word choices.

8.  Read like a writer.  When you find yourself marveling at something an author has done, ask yourself how she/he did that.

9.  But don't forget to read like a reader.  Sometimes writers become so aware of craft that they stop reading for fun.  READ FOR FUN, YOU GUYS!

10. Remember that if you write, then you're a writer.  You're a real writer.  Too many people think that you're only a real writer if you've been published.  And too many people think that getting published is the only reason for writing.  Write because you want to.  Because you need to.  Because writing helps you make sense of your life and the world around you.  And while you're at it, create a writer's life for yourself.  Do a reading!  Join a writers' group!  Go on writers' retreats with writer friends!  No matter where you are on your writing journey, you can do any of these things.  Just remember to write.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

That moment when you thought you were coping . . .

. . . but then you realize you weren't?

Here's the thing I tell myself about myself:  I'm unflappable.  It's not that I'm super easygoing.  I internalize a lot.  But on the outside, it takes a lot to ruffle the feathers.  I'm stoic.  Like the British.  Only with better teeth.

Anyway, the dogs now believe anytime I pick up my keys that I am taking them to the dog park.  They sprint to the door and wait so we can go to the dog park and catch flying objects in our mouths together.  They're all PARKPARKPARKPARKPARKPARKPARKPARKPARK!

Most of the time I can disabuse them of the notion that the four of us are going on a date, but you know how dogs and people are--they believe what they wanna believe.  So even though I say NO PARK FOR YOU, they do their damnedest to shoot out the door like bottle rockets--the kind my boys used to set off, which made some people on 2nd Avenue call the police, etc.

Sons=Good times.

But whatever.  Meanwhile, the dogs raced out this morning when I was a) on my way to work and b) already late for work and c) had an open can of Dr Pepper in my hand.  I called them but of course they ignored me and ran around in the street for awhile, trying their best to get hit by Subarus, which is the car of choice here in the Aves.

So I lost it.

I started swearing on the front porch and otherwise losing it for all the world to see, and I was so noisy, that Ken Cannon, who had previously been almost naked because he was getting ready to shower, pulled his clothes back on so he could come outside and assist.

We corralled the dogs.  I stomped off.  And even though I was late, I went to Backer's to buy a hot cross bun.  And as I bit into it while furiously driving to work, I thought to myself, "My coper is broken."  This is what Karin will sometimes say about our six year-old granddaughter who can fall apart easily some days.  Her coper is broken.

My coper is broken, you guys.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What I do for fun now

Hello, Blog!  I see that I've ignored you for far too long now.  Let's try to correct that, shall we?

Let me start by telling you what I do for fun now.  As you know, I'm a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune, which entitles me to receive all manner of unsolicited email.  Right now I am particularly annoyed by those sent to me from the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C. because their idea of reform is vouchers.  Bleh.  Also charter schools.  Also bleh.  What's so great about a system using tax dollars that doesn't have to be accountable to taxpayers IMHO?

Anyway.  I've taken to writing back snarky little emails about Betsy DeVos who favors guns in schools so we can shoot bears, etc.

They never answer me.  So today I sent a series of emails daring them to answer me.  Double-daring them.  Double dog-daring them.

It's been excellent fun.

I'll let you know if I hear anything back.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today's wish

As I was going through papers, I found a drawing a former student gave to me on the last day of class.  And so my thoughts turned to the her and all my students who write and continue to write and hope that their work will be acknowledged.

I want their work to be acknowledged, too.  I have learned so much from them--important lessons about dedication and resilience and humility.  And I've been impressed with their work, too, knowing in my heart of hearts that they have often been more talented, more skilled than I am.

Just wanted to tell them all for being a part of my life.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fog

I feel like I'm doing okay.  But then I realize I haven't responded to texts or emails or calls--not because I've deliberately chosen to ignore them, but because their existence has altogether slipped off the slick surface of my brain.  My brain which can't seem to hold onto an idea or a thought right now.

I'm also leaving things behind everywhere I go.  I've always done this--my parents used to lay bets on what I'd forget to bring home whenever I left--but I'm even worse than usual right now.

It occurred to me that maybe this is how the aftermath feels.  I did all my crying this summer.  And now there's this.

If you don't mind, would you share how your experience played out after the death of a family member?

Thanks.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Some thoughts on my life as a writer

I almost said "my career as a writer."  But then I thought that I haven't exactly had a career--at least not if a career is something that supports you (and your family) monetarily.  But writing has certainly been a huge part of my life.

The thing of it is this:  I never really had a plan when I started out in my twenties, although "getting published" somehow, somewhere was always a goal.  To that end I tried a little bit of everything and sent those bits everywhere.  Along the way a few things did, indeed, get published.

Meanwhile, certain unexpected opportunities presented themselves along the way, and I rarely said no--not even to the offer (when I was first starting out) to write manuals for MLMs that sold bee pollen and endorsed cryogenics.  This means I have a CV that lacks focus.  On the other hand, this tendency has taken me to this place--a chance to be the Salt Lake Tribune's Dear Abby.

Except for the part where I'm not dead.

It's kind of exciting at this age to be starting something brand new.  Am I nervous?  Yeah.  I am.  But feeling nervous makes you feel like a kid again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I have a feeling

. . . that I may be writing a lot about my dad--about both parents, actually.

I'm actually doing well.  You don't need to worry or anything.  But it gives me a lot of pleasure (and some comfort) to think about him and to write down tiny snatches of memory.

Last night Geoff asked me about a certain person.  I thought things over and then I said, "Well, you know, he's a different cat."

Geoff laughed because that's what my dad would say sometimes.  I've said this about the Coach before, but he was an interesting mix of salt-of-the-earth farm boy and cool rat packer.  I can remember him leaning against the bleachers at one of my boy's games, wraparound sunglasses shielding his eyes, and saying about someone we both knew, "Yeah.  That guy's a different cat."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Listening to Tana French

Or maybe not actually listening to Tana herself--listening, instead, to her novel Broken Harbor, read as an audiobook.

Lisa B  is a great fan, so when I told her I was finally becoming acquainted with the French's work, Lisa told me to start at the beginning with In the Woods.  However, I had already become hooked on Broken Harbor--not so much on the story at first (although I am now), but because I am a sucker for stories read to me by men (sorry, ladies) with any kind of British (English, Scottish, Welsh, or Irish) accent.

Meanwhile, I am marveling at Tana French's prose.  Soooooo amazingly fine.  I can't believe I've waited this long to invite into my life.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Oh, Sean Spicer

I can't tell you how much noise my jaw made as it dropped to the floor during Sean Spicer's press conference on Saturday when he said that the media had made up the story about Trump's rift with the intelligence community (because, yeah, the media is the entity that dropped the term "nazi," not Trump) and also that the media had lied about the number of people at the inauguration (because, yeah, size matters and the press deliberately framed photos to make the crowds look smaller).

I just felt so . . . depressed by Spicer's performance.

Here's the deal.  The press and the POTUS always have a contentious relationship.  If they don't, that means the press isn't doing its job.  But this attack from Trump's team is unwarranted, unprecedented, and unfair.  DUDES!  HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD OF THE FOURTH ESTATE?!

I can't believe that Spicer, in his heart of hearts, believed a single thing he said.  But I've come to the conclusion that this is Trump's end game.  He won't be able to deliver on all of his grandiose promises.  He ran for president.  Not dictator.  This means Trump has to work with other people who don't want the same things he wants.  So when it becomes clear that he can't deliver, Trump has already set up a perfect patsy.  The press.

He can point a finger and say, "I could have done everything I promised to do-- if only the press hadn't lied about me.  SAD!"

I'm rarely political online.  Not my style, really.  But this.  This made me ill.  I somehow expected better from Spicer.



Friday, January 20, 2017

What I'm reading

My friend Dr. Write had this to say about books.  Lovely, isn't it?

Meanwhile, I thought I'd account for what I've been reading.  Which isn't much, frankly, although I hope to change that.

This week I've read Advanced Reading Copies of soon-to-be-released graphic novels by Shannon Hale and Nathan Hale.  (Not married.  Not related.)  I liked them both.  (I mean the books written by the not-married Hales, not the Hales themselves.)  (Although I like the Hales themselves, too.)  And let me say that reading graphic novels is a pleasure because it takes me back to the days when I sat on Wendy and Diana's front porch during the summer, eating cookie dough while we read Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not comic books.  Also, I was a fan of Tales from the Crypt, although that series induced in me a life-long fear of accidentally being buried alive.

CAN'T YOU TELL I'M NOT DEAD, I imagined myself shouting.  From the crypt.

I've also read part of CLEOPATRA by Stacy Schiff and part of THE GIRL FROM VENICE by Martin Cruz Smith.  I like them both.

What are you reading?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nude vs. Naked

For some reason this morning, I woke up thinking about my old seventh-grade art teacher, Mr. Greer at Farrer Jr. High, who was famous for his "Nude vs. Naked" lecture.

Mr. Greer looked like he could be a stunt double for Jacob Marley.  Or even for Scrooge himself, not counting the George C. Scott version of "A Christmas Carol."  He was thin and hunched with a skull sparsely populated by random hairs.  He wore a painter's coat over his clothes with paintbrushes sticking out of his pockets, and it was apparent that by that time in his career he genuinely disliked kids.

Still, we'd all heard about his "Nude vs. Naked" lecture and were eager to hear it for ourselves.  Also, I should point out here that when he said "Naked," it sounded like "Neked."   So yeah.  Bring on the "Nude vs. Neked" lecture, we all said.

Because this was titillating stuff in the late sixties before stuff like the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show hit network TV for all of us to see.  And see and see and see.

Good stuff, right?

And here is the difference, in case you want to know.  Nude is art.  Naked is pornography.  Or regular unglamorous people just crawling into the shower each morning.

(I made up that last distinction, actually.  Because I just got out of the shower myself.)


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gratified. But mystified.

So suddenly I realized I had a deadline and NO IDEAS for a column.  Somehow I ground out this one.  And I did think unto myself, "Yeah.  This probably really sucks."

But it's gotten more hits online than usual, which is a good thing in NewspaperWorld these days.  It's just . . . surprising to me.  I wonder why some things seem to work and other things don't.

I felt that way at the TKE today as I pulled for returns.  Why do some novels take off?  And other equally worthy novels never do?

It's a mystery for sure.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trigger

My neighbor Johanna--a tall and beautiful Dutch woman in her sixties--told me that when she heard about my dad's death, she remembered how she used to pick berries with her own father when she was a little girl.

"I haven't thought about that in years," she said.  "It's like the floodgates have been opened.

It's strange how triggers work.  In the past few weeks I've been thinking as much about my grandparents as I have about my dad, hearing their stories and feeling thin Wyoming sunlight on my bare brown arms.

Monday, January 16, 2017

TRQ and I today at the Nordstrom Bistro

So TRQ and I met for lunch today at the Nordstrom Bistro.  I ordered the special--a kale salad with roasted Brussels Sprouts and cauliflower.  TRQ had a margarita pizza.  You know.  Ladies-Who-Lunch food.

She looked at my salad.

"Kale is going out of style," TRQ said.

"It's about time," I said.  "Who needs a high-maintenance vegetable that requires you to massage it before you can eat it?"

We both took bites of our food, thinking about how the three of us--TRQ, the Coach, and I--often met for lunch at the Bistro.

"Dad hated this place," I said.

"Yes," TRQ said.  "Yes, he did."

And we both burst out laughing.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How to be non-compliant

I was once whining to the Coach about how hard some of my kids seemed compared to other kids in our extended family.  He looked at me and said, "Their kids?  Compliant.  Your kids? Non-compliant."

This was not said critically at all.  In fact, there was more than a little non-compliance in that man's soul, as I remembered today when talking to one of my boys.

Shortly after the Coach had a major skin graft on the bottom of his foot (Melanoma!  Weird!) TRQ was eager for him to a) heal by b) not doing anything stupid.  So when the Coach wanted to plant flowers that spring, she called up my son, who was living in Provo at the time, to assist.

Mostly my son remembers his grandfather getting annoyed with him for not digging the holes in the right places.  Meanwhile, TRQ took off with these instructions, "DON'T LET YOUR GRANDFATHER PLANT THE FLOWERS!"

As soon as she backed out of the driveway, the Coach grabbed the shovel away from my son and started digging.

With his bad foot.

Non-compliance at its finest.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

De-cluttering

Well, I love Christmas and I love Christmas crap.  BRING ON THE CHRISTMAS CRAP is my life motto, which means I have Santas and snowmen and candles and elves and fake reindeer tucked into every corner of my house during the holidays.  And I always hate to put the Christmas crap away.  Good-bye, Christmas Crap, I always say wistfully as I stuff another Santa into a box.

But this year it feels good to clean, to leave surfaces bare, to enjoy the clean lines of winter.

This won't last, of course.  I'll be putting out other crap soon enough.  But right now?  Peaceful.  That's how bareness feels.

I love you, my friends.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Attending to the living

As you all know, death is disruptive.

Even when you know it's coming, there's really no way to prepare for how it upends everything for awhile.  I realized this morning when I awoke that I haven't opened my mail, folded laundry, made my bed, or combed my hair (except for that once when KUTV asked me to do an interview) for almost a week now.

Here's what else I haven't done.  Watered plants or fed my animals.  Fortunately there have been people here who've taken take of the dogs and cats, although the parrot was overlooked some.  The plants, however, are suffering.

And so today my goal is to stay in my pajamas and tend to the living.  Not a bad way to begin a new year.