Friday, May 31, 2013

When I was growing up

. . . I seriously never thought I'd be the kind of woman who'd take to motherhood.  But I can say truthfully that the five happiest days of my life were the days my five sons were born.

Today is Alec's birthday.  He was fat and round and red, and all I could think when I first saw him was, yes.  This is exactly what I wanted.  Another boy.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Facebook and the ER

This morning on the news I heard an interesting statistic.  Apparently the busier an ER gets, the more time ER employees spend on FB while on the job.  Did you know that?  Just think.  While you're there waiting with your kid who needs stitches because he got a garden trowel stuck in his forehead (true story), staff people are seeing if a poodle wearing a tinfoil cap can get more "likes" than Glenn Beck.

The announcer said people plan to study why this is the case, to which I can only say duh.  If you had to look at kids with trowels stuck in their foreheads all day long, wouldn't you want a diversion, too?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An afternoon in Springville

My granddaughter and I spent the day in Utah County visiting my friend Shelley and her three little girls. Shelley told me that she loves childhood, and you can tell she's committed to protecting its magic.  She has a large rambling yard with trees and birds, a swing, a sandbox, a playhouse, an old sink for splashing, a "mountain" for climbing, and a friendly Labrador named Samwise.

The Bean (my granddaughter) was in heaven.  And watching her reminded me of myself when I was that age, taking in the whole wide world through my pores.

Thank you, Shelley.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

PSA for the lady quails of America

This morning on our walk, my neighbor Kathy gave us a rundown of her long weekend in Arizona.  Among other things, she told us that a mother quail was nesting on Kathy's daughter's front porch.  So cute!  Except any time people had to use the porch (as people often do), the mother quail kinda freaked.  Even if anyone peeked at her and the egglets through the drapes, she kinda freaked, too.

So THIS is why I am sending a memo to all you mother quails out there:  if you want your privacy, STOP BUILDING NESTS ON FRONT PORCHES.

You're welcome.  And have a nice day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday prompt

This prompt comes from one of my favorite books for writers, Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See.  See recommends that you make up a list of ten influential people in your life and use that list as a starting point for character creation.  She also recommends coming up with a list with a nemesis or two.

This is a fun one.  Do it!

A Morning on the Antelope Island Causeway

 This is the back of Ken Cannon's head.  He's wearing Q's helmet.  Q would have definitely been an outstanding student at Pedros Tacos--if he'd grown up in San Clemente.
 This is me saying, "What?"
 This is me saying, "WHAT?"
 Look at that reflection!  I thought I'd never say this but I kind of love the Great Salt Lake!
 Flags on Memorial Day
My guy

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Snowballs in May

My friend Becky always loved snowball bushes, so in her memory a few years ago I planted one in our backyard.  And this year?  Bingo!  Lots of blooms--just in time for Memorial Day weekend.  I cut huge armfuls, and yesterday we decorated graves from here to Provo, including Becky's.  Today we visited Ken's grandparents (Eugene and Edna) (not to be confused with our parakeets, Eugene and Edna) in the Salt Lake Cemetery.

Hope your Memorial Day weekend has been a good one.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Best Wishes Wilsons'

I posted this earlier on facebook, but I love it so much, I'm giving it airtime here, too.   I'm the one in the pink.  Gigi is the tall one.  I'm standing next to her brother, Phil.  She's standing next to my brothers . . . who are wearing shirts that match their socks.

We are standing on the tarmac of the old Provo airport sometime in the late 60s, bidding our neighbors the Wilsons adieu as they headed out for Pittsburgh where their dad had taken some big time job with US Steel.

It's very clear that TRQ was dressing my brothers in those days, because what boys in their right minds would pick those clothes out for themselves?  Especially those lime green shorts?

Oddly, no one beat my brothers up on our way home from the airport.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sky Mall: my favorite place to shop when I'm thousands of feet above the ground

Of course you can't NOT look at Sky Mall and wonder WTH?  This week's column!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Black Dog

Winston Churchill referred to his depressive episodes as that Black Dog that showed up and took residence in his life for awhile.  It's a good description.  Ever since my early twenties, the Dog has sometimes shown up at my house, too.  He's been around lately, but the good news is that I know what to do with him.    One of the best things about getting older is that while you may not have your stomach muscles anymore, you do have perspective.

I only tell you all this, because I want to mention what happened to me when I drove up 8th North in Orem today and looked at the familiar sight of the rocky mouth of Provo Canyon.  My heart lifted.  What a gift--to see sun glinting on stone.

What vistas make you  happy?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Trouble with the Curve

Ken Cannon and I just got back from a Bees game (Bees NOT looking so hot, sadly), which made me think about a movie we watched this weekend, The Trouble with the Curve.  Have you seen it?  If so, what did you think?

It's a quiet movie.  And ultimately predictable.  I liked it well enough as I watched it, but it has stuck with me, and I find myself liking it more and more in retrospect.  Not sure why exactly--maybe because I liked the world of the movie, and I liked that it was about fathers and daughters.  I might even watch it again.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Garden love

It occurred to me the other day that I'm a lucky girl because I have a little bit of everything I love in my garden!


Oriental poppy (not a great shot)

begonias (not my favorite, actually, but look at this color!

Snowball bush!  Now appearing for Memorial Day!

Peony (the best flower in the history of the universe)

Early roses


Monday, May 20, 2013

And also! A vow!

The Coach once told me that early in his career when things were looking grim--he had a losing record at Granite High and there were more than a few lean years at BYU--he made up his mind that he wouldn't become one of the Bitter Ones.  He'd chosen a dicey line of work--one where things may or may not pan out.  And in fact, chances were good that they WOULDN'T.  Still.  He chose it.  He decided to give it his all and then be good with whatever happened.

As it turned out, he had a singular career.  Very few people in any field get to experience some of what he did, which is why you can't really try to model your career after his.  He was good at what he did, and he was lucky, and both things contributed to his success.

However, I'm pretty sure that if things had gone south, he would have stuck to his resolution.  I think he would have been very disappointed, of course.  Underneath all that stony calm he is a fiery competitor. But I think he would have eventually shrugged his shoulders, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to try his hand at something he loved, and walked away.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because wow.  It is very, very easy to get discouraged in this business.  And when you're discouraged, it's easy to go to the Bitter Place.  I know whereof I speak, People.    So today I am re-newing my vows to stay grateful, to stay positive, and to stay busy writing.

Damn, I'm inspirational!

Today's writing prompt

Again, this is taken from The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood, which (btw) you should consider purchasing.  It's full of engaging, user-friendly prompts and advice.  Sara gave it to me for Christmas one year, and I've hearted it very much.

Here goes:

Write about TROUBLE resulting from a good deed.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Another opportunity to feel some first-world guilt

So this week I took the granddaughter to Hogle Zoo, which has substituted Lego animals for real animals (not kidding) since everything's under construction.

Anyway, one of the Lego animals was a snake.  The docent explained that just like the rabbits in Australia, a certain species of snake (I can't remember which one) accidentally introduced to a new environment (I can't remember where) went crazy and ate all the birds.  And so now those birds are extinct.

"And now pet cats are doing the same thing," the docent told us, "WHICH IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER LET YOUR CAT OUTSIDE."

Which is probably good, responsible advice.  But seriously.  I have to worry about dead birds now, too?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Column, Column, Who's Got the Column?

So, I was busy reviewing books for TKE this week--thought I'd get a column out of the experience.

What are some of your favorite picture books?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Theme Days

I used to shop at the old Albertson's on Second South, partly because it was close to home and partly because it was always an urban trip whenever I went there--especially in the 80's before downtown got so gentrified.  One thing I noticed was that (oddly and inexplicably) there were often spontaneous theme nights going on.  Like one night all the customers would be hookers.  Or one night all the customers would be old ladies with thick bra straps showing.  Or one night all the customers would be gangsters buying bouquets of dyed carnations.  And one night--I am not exaggerating here (or at least I'm not exaggerating very much)--I was the only customer in the produce department who had all my limbs.

So yeah.  Theme nights.

Anyway, I relived those heady days of the 80s when I was running in Liberty Park today, because we came damn near close to having a theme morning.  It was Random-People-Shouting-Random-Things-at-Me.  It wasn't personal.  I was just the person there when everyone (apparently) was having some sort of psychotic break.  The guy on the bike.  The guy at the bus stop.  The guy with the shopping cart beneath the pine tree.  It was . . . weird.

But kind of wonderfully nostalgic at the same time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What I'm reading now

There's a whole little sub-genre out there of books about the imagined life of Queen Elizabeth II.  I'm reading one of them right now--a new novel called Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn.  It's likable enough, but IMHO nowhere near as devastatingly funny as Sue Townsend's The Queen and I or as charming as Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader.  

What are you reading these days?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Oh, what fabulousness!

Thanks for responding to the prompt.  Please keep it up.  I'll be posting one every Monday--probably even after WIFYR is a distant memory, because I've enjoyed reading you.

I think the worst guest that ever showed up at our house wasn't a person--it was a disease.  Hepatitis, to be exact.

I've written about the Days When Our Eyeballs Were All Yellow before, so I won't go on and on.  But it was a terrible time.  I was pregnant and sick and everyone in the neighborhood ran away from us yelling UNCLEAN!  UNCLEAN!

I think TRQ was the first to suspect that we had the hepatitis going on at our house.  I finally took Alec to see the pediatrician who said that he (Alec) was yellow because he'd been eating too many carrots BECAUSE of course you know how four year-old boys are--just chowing down on carrots whenever they get the chance.

But I was desperate to believe we had a carrot problem and not a third-world-disease problem, so I told my mother what the doctor said.  To which TRQ said, "Yeah?  Your doctor's an idiot."

And she was right.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday writing prompt

I've told students signing up for my WIFYR class that I would start posting prompts on Mondays.  Awesome idea, right?  So today's prompt comes from one of my favorite books--THE POCKET MUSE by Monica Wood.

"Write about the worst visitor who ever darkened your door."

Ready!  Set!  Go!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

I've been AWOL for the past few days.  In spite of my commitment to blog every day, I was too buy enjoying my son and his little family in North Carolina.  So I'll catch up on posts here and there this month.

Meanwhile.  Mother's Day.  Here's my column, which has generated practically zero response.  I'm not sure why.  These things can be baffling for writers--why one thing seems to work, why another doesn't.

Also, meanwhile.  I often wake up feeling kind of bad about things on Mother's Day.  Also again, I'm not sure why.  I dig being a mom.  Obv.  So it's hard for me to account for this traditional feeling of Mother's Day malaise.

ANYWAY.  Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer.  If I haven't already depressed you too much, Happy Mother's Day.  Do whatever floats your boat.  Me, I get to speak to the missionary, which I look forward to with much joy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Things that do not inspire confidence

Well.  Just one thing today, actually.  Your pilot.  Who keeps updating you from the cockpit about why you're stuck on the tarmac.

"We have a maintenance issue."
"Maintenance should be here soon."
"There are so many redundant systems on a plane like this, you don't know what is wrong when you get a message like the error message we just got."
"But your safety is our utmost concern."
"It's a switch problem."
"We're replacing the switch."
"Maintenance is on their way with the part now."
"Maintenance is here now, replacing the switch."
"Replacing a switch takes 10 minutes.  That's good news."
"Okay.  We can take off as soon as everybody gets out of the lavatory."

Maybe it's comforting to other passengers to hear updates like this from the pilot.  But I'm not one of them.  In fact, I don't want to see or hear my pilot.  I don't want to experience my pilot as a human being at all.  I just want to pretend it's the Almighty Himself sitting up there.

Flying my damn airplane to North Carolina so we can see our son graduate.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

And here's my intro for the Sara Zarr event tonight . . .

Fine.  I’ll confess.  I always feel a little panicked when friends of mine give me something to read written by friends of theirs.  What if I hate it?  What then?  This is exactly the position I found myself in a few years ago when my friend Dawn Houghton gave me an ARC of STORY OF A GIRL by someone in her writing group.
            That someone was Sara Zarr.
            Well.  I put that book in my TBR pile.  And I ignored it for awhile, until I finally got to the place where I wanted to stop avoiding Dawn.  So.  I picked it up.  And I began reading.
            Okay.  Have you ever had one of those reading experience that was so transfixing, you remember exactly where you were while you were reading so the memory of reading is almost as precious to you as the book itself?  It’s only happened to me a few times, and one of those was when I fell into Sara’s first novel.  It was night.  I was sitting on our back porch beneath a bright light.  My right leg was hanging over the side of our Adorondack chair.  I remember all this because Sara’s book engaged my senses fully.
            From that night on, I became a fan, admiring Sara’s work on so many different levels.  First of all, there’s her prose.  Clean and lean.  Evocative and elegant.  Sara is a careful craftsman and a superior stylist.  And then there are the themes she tackles.  They’re big.  In all of her books, including The Lucy Variations, Sara explores love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and finally, redemption.  And who can forget her cast of characters?  Whenever I read a Sara Zarr novel, I think of that sentence from Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”  It goes like this:  “The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled.”  Critics say this reflects O’Connor’s attitude toward her characters, and the same could be said of Sara’s attitude, as well.  Her characters are flawed, sometimes deeply so.  Lucy, for example, is self-absorbed, heedless.  Her mother is distant.  Her grandfather, rigid.    But Sara regards all these people with such compassion that we, the readers, do the same, because they are so very human, full of desire and fear and hope.  They are us.  And even though there are no paranormal beings, no spies, no car crashes in the Lucy Variations, we still find ourselves racing through the pages, eager to find out what happens next.
            How does Sara do it?
            I don’t know.
            I’m just so happy she does.
            Please join me in welcoming National Book Award finalist and critically acclaimed author who is being featured this weekend in the New York Times Book Review, my friend Sara Zarr.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sara Zarr at The King's English

For those of you in the area, consider yourself invited to Sara Zarr's launch party for THE LUCY VARIATIONS.

Where:    The King's English (15th and 15th)
When:     7:00 p.m. Tuesday May 7

I loved Sara's last book so much that I wondered if LUCY might be a letdown for me.  The answer is NO WAY! ( JOSE! )

THE LUCY VARIATIONS manages to be both subtle and sophisticated while still keeping its very real appeal for young adult readers.  I really, really, really like this book.

I'll be introducing.  Sara will be speaking.

Join us, okay?

The gang's (almost) all here!

I've started running (a little) in Liberty Park again, and I'm starting to see the Old Familiars, including--

--scruffy man with scruffy dog
--inline skating girl
--mom and daughter tag team
--chatty elderly woman
--bandy-legged war vet who walks three miles a day, seven days a week
--tandem bike-riding hippie couple

Still haven't seen the Latino man who runs around the park at the speed of blistering in spite of wearing tight jeans.  Hope he shows up soon.  He's the best.

Summer.  It's a-comin'!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spring garden

A view from the front porch

The tree and all those who dwell beneath it . . . 

Those black tulips?  They're called Queen of the Night.  My current faves . . .

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hooray for Sara Zarr!

Because I'm getting old and all set in my ways, I sometimes think I'll never make another friend.  Like you're only allowed a certain number of friends in this life and I've already used up my friend allotment.

And then.

One day Sara Zarr shows up and asks if maybe you'd consider renting the office space next to hers and next thing you know you're asking yourself how it's possible that you haven't known this funny, straight-shooting, talented, and deeply kind-hearted woman all your life.

So it makes me GIDDY that her newest book, THE LUCY VARIATIONS, has been featured in the May 12 issue of NYT Book Review.  Check out this line:   "An elegant novel . . . A rewarding journey for readers."

Proud of you, Missy.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sleepover at TRQ's house

It's so beautiful outside today that this past Wednesday is becoming a distant memory.

A bad distant memory.

Meanwhile, I must report that I spent last night having a sleepover at TRQ and the Coach's house.    I had an event at the Provo Public Library, so I stayed in town after it was over.  TRQ and the Coach watched PERSON OF INTEREST with me--the first time they'd ever seen it--so they had a LOT of questions, which made me realize how complicated that show has gotten.  Can P of I pull it off w/o jumping the shark ala REVENGE?  It's walking a fine line right now.  We'll see.

MEMO TO PERSON OF INTEREST:   I am lighting candles for you as we speak, because I want you to stay good and keep your eternal soul so that my Thursdays will still have meaning come this fall.

Anyway.  TRQ remains one of the most interesting, original people I know.  This morning in the kitchen she made the following pronouncement to me and my father:  "The thing is that I find a smile is important.  But that's not what I wanted to say."

I grabbed a napkin and wrote those words down immediately so I would not forget them.  And, people, I'm gonna stitch them on a damn pillow.  Because, as often is the case, she's right.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to smoke like a princess

Ken Cannon saw this obituary today for the woman who was our oldest's son's fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Farman.  If you read the obituary you will see that her life was movie-worthy.  Among other things, she spent some time being a princess in Iran, because who doesn't do that?

Like I say, she shoulda been in pictures.

Mrs. Farman was an inspired and inspiring teacher, but the thing I loved about her the most was that she was a heavy smoker who used one of those old-fashioned tortoise shell cigarette holder things.  Does anybody know what they're called?  At any rate, I always loved seeing her lounge elegantly against a wall or in a car, taking deep drags like she was Cruella Deville.

Smoking was her deal.  Which is why she told me with a world-weary roll of the old eyeball that she wasn't gonna bother to teach the required drug and alcohol unit because that would make her a hypocrite, obv.

RIP, Verla Gean.  You were absolutely fabulous.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

An unfortunate choice of words

Today I took the granddaughter to story time at the downtown library which was (yet again) AWESOME.  Hats off, Salt Lake City Public Library!

Anyway.  Today the kids made puppets based on Mo Willems' pig and elephants books.  The kids colored Pig or Elephant faces, cut them out, glued them onto a paper bag and then selected a nose to glue on the puppet face.

So.  The granddaughter followed the puppet procedure.  And when it came time to the nose part, I said in a loud voice, "NOW PICK YOUR NOSE.  PICK YOUR NOSE."

You understand today's headline now.