Friday, January 25, 2019

Now Appearing at a Blog Near You--a Poem!

Lately I've been free-writing prose poems at night in my journal.  It's a fun exercise and a way to capture and crystalize a thought.  I was happy-ish with the way this one came together.

Thank you, I said to the orchid
When the last blossom folded its mottled white wings
And floated gently down to the counter.
I release you now, I said.
I’d bought the orchid one day soon after my father died.
Looking at it gave me soft comfort,
Made me think of my father the gardener,
Who told me I needed to discipline myself,
To resist the temptation to plant things too close together
So that each plant would have the space it needs to grow.
Like people.

The orchid bloomed and bloomed.  
Then stopped.  
Then bloomed and bloomed.
Then stopped.
Then bloomed again.
And I believed my father somehow had a hand 
in all that wild unexpected blooming from a grocery store orchid
And I also believed that when the blooming stopped for good
My heart would break all over again.
Until recently.

The blooms were gone from the green stick-insect stems, 
had been gone for a while this time and I felt . . . fine.
So I said I release you now. 
You’ve done your job.
I can manage from here.
I lifted my orchid from the counter to take it outside
And give it back whole to the ground
Because from dust to dust
But noticed that another tiny half-hidden bud
Was willing itself to be.

Thank you, I said to my father.

Monday, January 21, 2019

What I Love About TRQ

She called right now to ask if it's snowing in SLC.

ME:  Yes.

HER:  Are your snowflakes fat?

ME:  I'll look.

HER:  Well, I looked and the snowflakes here are fat.  Some of them are little and dainty though, but Doodle [one of TRQ's poodle-types] likes to bark at the fat ones.

And at this point TRQ sighed happily.  "Isn't Nature amazing?"

Yes.  Yes, it is.  And it's equally amazing to have people in one's life who notice and who take delight.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Thank you, Mary Oliver

. . . for this poem, "The Journey."  And for all the others, too.  RIP.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

When a Butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world . . .

. . . it causes a hurricane in another part of the world.

I've been thinking a lot lately (because I'm old now) about the long-range unintended consequences of certain actions.  Take the Writers' Guild strike in 2007-2008, an action I completely supported because when you looked at the puny percentage writers were being paid for successful  projects (the guy who wrote the screenplay for Forrest Gump, for example, hardly made anything) you  said UNFAIR!  Or at least I did.

Anyway, the strike gave rise to reality TV, which was a way for networks to keep producing content.  And what they discovered was that reality TV is cheaper to produce AND also there's an appetite for it.  Enter Donald Trump and The Apprentice.  David Frum, George W. Bush's speechwriter, had interesting things to say in this article about how Trump's image as a titan of industry and business was actually crafted and burnished by the producers.  And yeah.  That's the Trump that the American public saw and that't the Trump they elected.

So there you have it.  Writer's strike.  Reality TV.  The Apprentice.  And now this moment in America where our president is refusing to sit down at the high school lunchroom table with our allies and having keggers up the canyon with a former KGB agent instead.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

White Teeth

I'm watching FBI right now, a new show which I actually like.  BUT.  I am so distracted by how WHITE everybody's teeth are.  The characters don't often smile given the fact they're busy busting drug kingpins and so forth, but when they do . . . WHOA!  I AM BLINDED BY THE LIGHT! (Also, I'm revved up like a deuce.) (Also, I'm another runner in the night.)

I definitely like white teeth.  Some days I do nothing all day long but sit on the front porch and think about how much I like white teeth.  I want whiter teeth myself, in fact.  But I'm trying to decide if so much white-ness is actually a good look. #firstworldgrooming

Monday, January 14, 2019


Dear Dylan,

This time 35 years ago I was holding you in my arms at LDS hospital, rejoicing in the perfection of you.  It was snowing outside, the flakes wide and soft landing against my dark window pane.  I'd had a few visitors earlier, of course.  Your dad.  Your two older brothers.  Grandma.  Aunt Becky, who was working at the hospital at the time.  Also some people from the ward I didn't know very well who came and stayed FOREVER which taught me that short visits to people in the hospital are the best.

After I was alone I held you close and said a silent thank you to the all the stars in the universe for sending me another boy.  And I have been so grateful for you ever since.  For your loyalty, your sense of humor, your absolute tenacity, your kindness.  It hasn't always been an easy go for you.  But I can truthfully say you always have and you always will make me proud.

Happy birthday.


Friday, January 11, 2019

The More Things Change . . .

The more they remain the same.

So last night at the store I shelved baby board books with these titles.

Feminist Babies
A is for Activist
(And my personal favorite) Baby Loves Green Energy 

When I first started writing for kids a million years ago, the mantra was DON'T PREACH! Because of course that's what kids books often did.  Preached.  They had morals, don't you know, like Aesop's fables.  And the sentiment when I started up was that you shouldn't preach--that a story should be a story and if there was a takeaway from the story, fine.  But an agenda shouldn't be the reason for writing the story in the first place.

This is a principle I have taught my own students and, frankly, it's a principle I still subscribe to.

HOWEVER!  First World America, which has honorable and admirable intentions, clearly didn't get the memo.

Different agenda.  Same religious fervor.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

On Pulling Books and Sending Them Back to the Publisher

Yesterday at work (I'm a part time bookseller at The King's English) I "pulled" our YA section.  In other words, I loaded up a bunch of books that haven't sold well to ship back to the publisher to get a credit against our balance.

It's tedious work under the best of circumstances, but for a writer, it's a particularly disheartening job. Every time I took another book off the shelf, I thought to myself, "This represents months, if not years, of work for an author who cared enough about a story to write it. And poof! Here it goes up in smoke after a couple of months of sitting on a shelf."


What the experience did do for me, however, was to remind me that writing a book should be a labor of love . . . for you. There's very little you can control after you finish your book, so you ought to enjoy the journey while you're writing it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

On Movies You Liked But that Critics Mostly Hated

I finally watched The Greatest Showman this past weekend while taking care of grandchildren in Flagstaff. And wow. Much to my surprise I kinda loved it. Elephants! Hugh Jackman! Spurting Flames! Chicks with beards and pink hair! Hugh Jackman! Also Zac Efron! Singing! Dancing! Angry mobs! Dudes dressed up like nutcrackers! Horses! Hugh Jackman!

Yeah, I know it wasn't historically accurate. And maybe Michelle Williams was just a little too happy about hanging sheets out to dry on that slum rooftop where she and Hugh Jackman lived. And maybe the soundtrack will sound dated ten years from now. And maybe the drama part was kind of cheesy what with Hugh Jackman rushing into that burning building to save Zac Efron's life, although (personally speaking) I am very glad he did because the world might be a less good-looking place without Zac Efron in it.

BUT STILL.  I really enjoyed the movie.  So I got online and read the critical reviews, which were mostly snarky although actual audiences seemed to like the movie as much as I did. And, lo, I am pleased to say that I didn't care.  I no longer feel bullied by critics who disagree with me.

Oh yes. I am such a grownup now.

P.S. I feel kind of bad that my grandkids will probably never see a circus in real life now.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

On Re-reading Books

Which is something (with the exception of LOTR) that I don't often do.  Because my experience is that books I once loved often disappoint later on.  And, frankly, I hesitate to re-read LOTR these days because I'm afraid it could do the same.

BUT! I re-read VENETIA by Georgette Heyer this weekend in response to feeling a very strong need to escape entirely into another world.

Oh, Georgette Heyer.  I discovered her when I was going through my high school/college rabid Jane Austen/anglophile phase, as all bookish girls of my generation were wont to do, and I enjoyed her novels hugely in spite of their overabundance of Regency slang.  The women were strong and independent and anyway who can resist a comedy of manners?

Then . . . I don't know.  I got over my anglophile-ness, largely due to DOWNTON ABBEY, which irritated me beyond reason.  And, also, somewhere along the way I turned into a communist.  KIDDING!  But the older I've gotten, the less patient I've become with the whole freaking notion of class.  Living in New York, btw, was a big catalyst for that development.

Anyway. I re-read VENETIA in spite of all the above and discovered I enjoyed it even more this time around. The characters are sharply drawn and the story, while largely comic, had (for me, at least) real emotional power.

Well, who doesn't love a pleasant surprise like that?

Monday, January 7, 2019


I'm wearing a ring right now that TRQ and I pass back and forth, depending on who needs it the most at the time.  We like to think that whoever is wearing it gets a little extra love and guidance from her mother, my grandmother.  So if TRQ is in a bad way, she gets the ring.  Same holds true for me.

TRQ slipped the ring off her finger at Christmas and put it on mine and told me I needed it and WHO AM I EVER EVER EVER TO ARGUE WITH TRQ?!

So I'm wearing it now and yes.  I am thinking of my grandmother.  Both grandmothers, actually.  I've been taking care of some granddaughters myself for the past few days and I am remembering all the small ways my grandmothers took care of me--especially my maternal grandmother with whom I spent more time.  How she combed my hair.  How she let me run around practically naked in the fruit orchard behind our house because I wanted to feel the sun on my skin.  How she told me trees could talk if only I would listen.  How she smelled like cold cream when we snuggled in bed at night.  How she said I'd look like Jackie Kennedy if I ate my beets at dinner.  How she knit me carpet slippers for Christmas.

I had lunch with my cousin Deb this Christmas who came into the big boisterous Edwards clan when her mother married my uncle.  Deb was four at the time--Dorothy had been married before--and Grandma Edwards sent her the same sparkly birthday card with the same crisp birthday dollar bill tucked inside that she sent to all 86 of her other grandchildren.  Deb told me she still has those cards--those sparkly pieces of paper that said yes.  Welcome to our family.  You are no different than the others.

I was so lucky to have grandmothers that knew how to love well their small ones.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Therapy animals

So you sure see a lot of dogs in airports these days.  I feel like I'm in Europe thirty years ago where I first saw people take their dogs to places like restaurants and so forth.  At home in Provo where I grew up you never saw dogs in restaurants.  They were too busy roaming the streets in packs with fellow dog gang members like Otto and Ferd and Daisy.

Also, you barely saw restaurants in Provo when I was growing up.

But now I'm starting to see the dogs show up in all kinds of places as (I'm assuming) "therapy animals."  Which is great.  If a dog or a cat or a peacock or whatever helps a person manage anxiety, more power to everybody involved.

It's just that MY dogs--even though I love them-- cause me a certain amount of stress.  Especially in public places because they're all PARTY! PARTY! PARTY! and IT'S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!  Stuff like that.  If I took Tinkerbell to the airport, for instance, I think she'd knock over the first Auntie Anne's Pretzel Stand she saw and immediately consume all the pretzels in sight, as well as the pretzel clerk's right shoe.

And yeah.  That would NOT make me feel totally zen as I was about to board an airplane where there is nothing between you, your seatbelt and the hard ground below except miles and miles of empty air.

Not that flying makes me nervous.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A New Year's Resolution for 2019

. . . because why would I keep making resolutions for 2018?  Even though I accidentally put on my husband's running shoes after we finished bowling with the grandkids yesterday instead of my running shoes ("Wow!" I said to myself when I put them on.  "Who knew bowling made your feet shrink!") I am not stupid enough to make resolutions for a year that's already in the rearview mirror.

Anyway.  I had a moment not long ago when my friend Vikki was reading my Native American medicine wheel cards, which is a thing, yo.  I realized that I have spent that last few years walking away from my self-identity as "a writer."

There are a lot of reasons why all the walking away has happened.  Discouragement. Fatigue.  Family issues.  Distractions like the internet.  Changing interests.  So on.  So forth.  And mostly I told myself I felt okay about it.  Hello.  You don't need to be a writer to be happy in this life.

But guess what.  I need to be a writer to be happy in this life.

And so my goal this year is to own my true identity and write.