Month: June 2012 (page 1 of 2)

Dear Gardeners, I Need Help.

I really do. This yard of mine is misbehaving. The grass is okay, considering we had almost no snow this past winter, and it hasn’t really rained, um, at all. But my lilacs? Never bloomed. Boo, lilacs. Badly done. And my apple tree? Not a single blossom. Not one. And my strawberries? Nothing. (Actually that’s not quite true. I saw a demon magpie eating a strawberry about two or three weeks ago. It was a lonely strawberry, and  I decided not to begrudge the demon magpie, but HEY, STRAWBERRIES — where are you?) Raspberries? Nary a blossom. (I think that’s the first time I’ve used that phrase in my life. It was fun. I shall do it again someday. Soon.)

And then there’s the garden. I didn’t try again. I thought I might, this year. Last year I did nothing, as you may recall. The year before that I couldn’t even produce a single zucchini. I know. Give me a break. We are enjoying the fact of volunteer chives. That’s the only non-grass/non-weed (debatable) thing in the whole garden box. I didn’t try partly because I am lazy (90%) and partly because I don’t need to fail at one more thing these days (10%).

If you know what is the matter with my hands-off produce and flowers business, tell me. Is this related to bee colony collapse? (Remember that I subbed a whole lot of science at the end of May? I know a thing. Or two.) Is it personal? Do my plants hate me? Is it some kind of solidarity thing — plants vs. Becca, because of the huge vat of RoundUp I’ve been using on those lumps that should be flowerbeds?

*Sigh*

I can live without this stuff, but I’m the most sorry about the lilacs.

Goings On

* writing essays * paying bills * cleaning a little corner of the house * watching the inbox for the latest revision notes * teaching writer kids the business * counting the 24 hours till Kids 1 and 2 come home * praying for rain, for firefighters, and for safety of homes * loving Gatsby, despising Daisy * contemplating weeding * deciding against weeding * blending spinach * compiling a TBR list (ideas?) * answering emails (if I’ve missed you, resend) * boy birthday shopping * opening windows until the ashes fly in * deep breathing about the political climate * anticipating * grinning * writing * reading * enjoying

Today.

I tried to steal the photo from FaceBook. Fail. But today is the day that Doc takes Marty back to the future. June 27, 2012. I posted a screen shot of it on Husband’s wall. It made me strangely happy.

It’s Kid 3’s birthday. She’s eleven. And adorable. And has great hair. We saw Brave and went out to lunch at Los Hermanos with the Penns. Penns were delightful. Los H was delicious. Brave was interesting. Quite. From the back to the front, it had more women’s names in the end credits than any other Pixar movie ever (this is just my completely unscientific opinion, but I bet I’m right). It was the story of a girl and her mother. Not that I’m going all feminish or anything, but have you ever actually counted crucial female characters in a Pixar movie? It’s a boys’ club over there. They do brilliant work in that boys’ club. I’m not denying that, not at all. But the plots and characters are not generally very feminine. This was. Interestingly so. It was quieter than the usual, and also more frightening. A little girl (5? 4?) on our row had to be taken out of the auditorium for a few minutes. (She came back.) There were times I thought I was looking at a real bear. Very sophisticated animation. I know. I’m not telling you anything. I think I need to see it again. But my overall impression is this: Change what you can change (YOURSELF), and listen more than you speak. Good themes, if those are even themes. Who knows. Theme always sort of escapes me. I’m more of a sound-byte kind of girl.

Speaking of sound bytes, Nora Ephron died yesterday. I was sad in a way I am not usually sad about the death of strangers, but have become increasingly likely to be. (Maurice Sendak, I’m thinking of you.) Nora has brought me many, many hours of movie happiness. And book giggles. I don’t harbor any delusions that she would have wanted to be my friend, but I find her fascinating and a little foreign. Exotic in an American kind of way.

Some favorite Nora-written lines:

“Your destiny can be your doom. Look at me and Rick.”

“The Godfather is like the I Ching.”

“She hates me. Julia Child hates me.”

“You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.”

“Don’t cry, Shopgirl.”

“It’s easier to be killed by a terrorist than to be married after forty.”

“Bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils.”

“Kiss Howard.”

“I’m very rich. I bought Intel at six.”

“I’m going to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out all day long. And someday, I won’t have to think so hard about getting out of bed and breathing in and out all day long.”

Women’s Pull

There is a lot to say about this Pioneer Trek we did last week [1]. Some of it is only to say to each other. But some of it I don’t want to forget, so I’m going to say it here.

Four days of camping in a dress.

Moving on.

There is this thing, apparently a tradition on these pioneer trek re-enactments, called the Women’s Pull. Here’s what I’d heard about it before I went (a whole lot of people do these re-enactment treks, and they lots of them talk about the Women’s Pull). Only the women are yanking these wooden handcarts up a long and treacherous hill. Men aren’t allowed to help. It’s hard. Okay, so that’s about the extent of what I’ve heard. Except this: It’s the most incredible part. Now, Incredible is an interesting word. It actually means “unbelievable” — right? So I wasn’t sure which part not to believe.

Here’s how it went down.

We’d pushed and pulled handcarts across a sandy, dusty track for several miles. Cows watched us. We saw a few snakes. No humans, though. About 10 people were attached to each handcart, (220 people total in our group) so 5 or 6 pushed and pulled, and the rest walked alongside or helped others. At one point, we were stopped, and the man in charge took all the males away. All of them. My 8-year-old, even. As the men walked away, up a long hill, we women and girls and babies and toddlers (the female ones) gathered, listened to a talk, and tried very hard to sing a song. The song was written by Emily Woodmansee, a member of the Willie handcart company. I was the music leader person, and I struggled to make words (much less tune) come out past the tears. That was a surprise — I’m not a huge crier, but I was very touched by the spirit of the occasion.

As sisters in Zion, we’ll all work together;
The blessings of God on our labors we’ll seek.
We’ll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We’ll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.

The errand of angels is given to women;
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.

How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission,
If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed.
Oh, naught but the Spirit’s divinest tuition
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.

We lined up and started up the hill. My girls and I, with our friend Tina (who has 4 sons and a husband who disappeared up the hill) and our neighbor Kiersten (who’s mom and sisters were ahead of us in the lead cart) pushed the cart up the hill. I’m not going to exaggerate either way, here, because I’m trying to give a faithful representation of the facts: It was work, but not crazy hard. The group ahead of us had a woman in her sixties who is in less than prime shape, even for her age. She had to stop frequently. I’m talking about every couple of minutes. Something inside me felt a twinge of annoyance, but that did not last. I tried to think about the original pioneers, struggling with every kind of unmedicated illness and incapacity, and that helped. Also, we (of necessity, being behind them) had frequent stops, too.

Pushing a handcart (full of coolers holding lunch and water) up a hill is a new kind of work for me. But pushing it through soft, 3-inch-deep sand is an entirely different story. Grunting may have occurred, is what I’m saying. But listen to this: My two oldest girls (one of whom turned 17 on this trek), who are champions in many things, but not so much in outdoorsy, dress-wearing, cart-pushing, 91-degree sorts of things, did not utter a word of complaint. Instead they sang. Pioneer-era hymns. In harmony. All the way up the hill. More crying for me.

When we reached nearly the top of the uppermost hill, we saw this: A beautiful woman (the only one to go ahead, quickly, up the hill) playing her violin (“Come, Come, Ye Saints”) to encourage us along. And this: Three or four men wearing white shirts and khaki pants, holding their hats over their hearts, silently watching us push up the hill. As we crested in, we saw that the entire path was lined with men and boys, hats over their hearts, silently nodding us on, into our goal. The silence. The peace. The combination of honor and desperation on their faces. It was a precious gift.

And here’s what we didn’t know at the time. Manolo, one of our neighbors, got to the top of the hill with all the men and then said, in his improving but still broken English, “I go back now and help my family.” No, he was told. You stay here. “And do what?” he wanted to know. Stay here and pray for them.

When I heard that instruction, the meaning of the Women’s Pull became clear to me. This was not about showing up the men and letting them see what we strong women could do. This was not about giving them guilt so they’d take better care of us. This was not even really about honoring the physical sacrifice of the pioneers. This was a great, giant metaphor for salvation.

We don’t carry or push each other to heaven. We step out of the way and let God bring us home. We ask for His help along the way. We do things that are hard (but not impossible), and we claim the blessings that He has waiting for us.

Blessings.

 

[1] Why did we do this? It’s a Mormon thing, mostly. We went where the Martin and Willie pioneer handcart companies became stranded and then rescued (not quite Donner Party, but close), and there is a great and noble history of service, sacrifice and spiritual/physical rescue. It’s an exercise in remembering and honoring the past, a chance to feel just how “good we’ve got it” and a terrific opportunity to learn together.

Camping: It’s What’s for Dinner.

Not really. But we’re going. Camping. Me and the kids. Does that surprise you? It should. This is completely out of character for all of us. Completely.

Not only camping, but Pioneer Re-Enactment Camping.

Yes, really.

Stop laughing.

I’m promised it’s going to be epic, life-changing, and stunning. I’m totally counting on it.

I will wear a dress. Camping. Also a bonnet. I’ll take some pictures, because having a camera on my phone is totally re-enactment-y. I know. Try to keep it together until I get back and download my photos.

See y’all on the other side.

Don’t tell me what to do.

I try to do what I'm told, you know.

See? This is why I love the internet.

Kiss Off

Lookie here. It’s a new video. My family helped make it. Mostly Husband, who wrote, directed, produced, semi-edited, and sweat some blood over it. Also Kids 1, 2, and 3, one of whom is visible. (Mostly I wrangled preadolescent young ladies, showing them my entire repertoire of Skills: Cartwheels, Ninja Fighting, and three jokes, none of which translate to print.)

Guys, I’m trying to embed. But that goes beyond my skill set. However, I CAN link. And so, I will. Here it is:

The Great Kiss Off

It will take you to the CleanShorts channel, where you will find exactly one video. Today. But go watch it, if you want. If it makes you laugh, tell a friend. Then we’ll talk Husband into making a few (dozen) more of these things. Because it’s fun.

(The credits are my favorite. I go around singing that song all the time. Ba da da da. Da, da, da.)

Becoming Bayley by Susan Auten

Here’s another book I just read. For your review pleasure. BECOMING BAYLEY by Susan Auten. (*DISCLAIMER* I know Susan. We’re internet friends who met to be Actual friends. But even if we weren’t, I would have liked this book. Ready? Go.)

Here’s the Deseret Book write-up:

Bayley Albrecht’s dream is to play soccer on BYU’s South Field. When she is invited to soccer camp the summer before her senior year in high school, she just knows she’s one step closer to her dream. Things get even better when she meets Matt Macauley, the star of the men’s soccer team. When they decide to write each other while Matt is on his mission, Bayley figures her life can’t get any better. But it certainly can get worse . . .

After she receives a minor concussion from playing soccer, Bayley discovers she had a disease called alopecia which causes her to lose her hair. As Bayley struggles to deal with the reality of her baldness she finds herself having to make some tough decisions. Can she still play soccer? Does she even want to? More importantly, should she tell Matt? And will he still want her when she does? Becoming Bayley is the story of one girl’s journey through self-discovery, of the definition of true love, and of the realization that as a daughter of God, she is of infinite worth.

I have a friend with Alopecia, and it’s really pretty horrible. She can usually hide the (occasional) circles of baldness under her other hair, but it’s certainly not a pleasant thing. When I started reading Becoming Bayley, I wondered if sympathy for the illness would make me connect with Bayley — a character completely unlike myself. But it wasn’t that. It was just some really fun writing. Okay, and the illness, too. And the dynamic with her younger sister. And her great roommate. And the boy. Oh, the boy. The relationship between Matt and Bayley is nothing like any reality I ever lived, but everything like I used to dream about.

Also his mom is a witch.

(Note: Matt’s mom is not an actual witch. BB is realistic fiction and does not include witchcraft. Please don’t write angry letters to Deseret Book or to Susan Auten. I was just trying to be clever.)

What I liked: People make mistakes. People have weaknesses. People do mean things. Also, people rise above, people discover their inner generosity, and people forgive the dumb stuff. Also the dialog is fun. There is laughing and crying and soccer. And soccer legs. And reading about a super confident girl who suddenly finds herself without a shred of confidence is oddly opposite of every experience I ever had dating, wherein I would be the utterly non-confident girl who would find myself … still without a shred of confidence. And so, it’s a peek into another kind of mind. And even though there were moments when it felt like an adult was telling the story, mostly it was a great journey into/onto Bayley’s head, metaphorically and a little bit literally. (Please, Lord, if you are listening right now, I’m going to repeat my oft-repeated prayer: Even though it’s not great, this is the best hair I’ve got. Please don’t take it away from me. Amen.)

This is LDS fiction, which I don’t often read, because sometimes it crams stuff down your throat that should be delivered in a quiet, small way, you get me? But this is well done, and I’m glad I got to read it. Thank you, Susan. Now passing this one on to my girls.