Month: July 2013

Satisfaction

I’m going to tell you this thing that’s true right now, but isn’t always. But right now it’s true (like I may have mentioned) and so I will share it, because it’s good to be true.

I am satisfied.

I like my life.

I enjoy the people with whom I share my days and nights, I like my house (mostly), I like my neighborhood, my town, these mountains. I crawl along at All The Things, and all is well.

That’s not to imply that I don’t have my dreams — big ones and little ones and ones that change my whole world. Because of course I do. The thing is, instead of my big dreams making my reality feel small, my gentle reality makes my dreams seem HUGE.

Maybe that doesn’t make any sense. But inside this head, it does. So here. A gift, a gift of understanding. If you want to know what it feels like to be me, right this minute, click the link right down there to watch a short video. (It’s from Sesame Street. I love me the Street.)

<I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon>

Since we’re all friends here, and we all know my tech-inability to imbed videos, I’m giving you the lyrics here. But I suggest you take a couple of minutes and just LOVE ERNIE. Because Ernie.

Well, I’d like to visit the moon on a rocketship high in the air.
Yes, I’d like to visit the moon, but I don’t think I’d like to live there.
Though I’d like to look down on the earth from above,
I would miss all the places and people I love.
So although I might like it for one afternoon, I don’t want to live on the moon.

I’d like to travel under the sea. I could meet all the fish everywhere.
Yes, I’d travel under the sea, but I don’t think I’d like to live there.
I might stay for a day there if I had my wish,
But there’s not much to do when your friends are all fish,
And an oyster and clam aren’t real family, so I don’t want to live in the sea.

I’d like to visit the jungle, hear the lions roar,
Go back in time and meet a dinosaur.
There’s so many strange places I’d like to be…
But none of them permanently.

So if I should visit the moon, well, I’ll dance on a moonbeam, and then
I will make a wish on a star, and I’d wish I was home once again.
Though I’d like to look down on the earth from above,
I would miss all the places and people I love.
So although I may go, I’ll be coming home soon
‘Cause I don’t want to live on the moon.
No. I don’t want to live on the moon.

Remain Unnamed

Years ago, I used to see her always:
Cook things at her house.
Help her fold her laundry.

Once we made sweet bread —
Zucchini or banana,
I don’t remember. It hardly matters now.

When we pulled it from the oven
And sliced it hot and crumbling,
She spread the slices with butter.

It’s never quite
Tasted just right without the butter
Since.

When I Know I Did One Thing Right

When my kids come to me, from their nightmares, or from their parties, or from their heartbreaks, when they come to me for comfort, for validation, for vindication, then I know. I know that — for that moment — I am HOME to them. I am, for that kid, for that second, the place to seek peace.

And then I know that I did one thing right. Once. At least. And that is all I really need.

Introducing Jenny Proctor

Guys, I have a new friend for you. I’d like you to meet the (truly) lovely Jenny Proctor, whose book “THE HOUSE AT ROSE CREEK” is available right now. 

Here is the description from the Deseret Book website, (one of the places you can order yourself a copy).

Deep in the rolling hills of North Carolina lay the idyllic town of Rose Creek. Home to the Walker clan for generations, the family farmhouse was the ideal place to grow up. And for Kate, orphaned at age six, the home her mother grew up in was a haven of healing and love. But as the future beckoned, Kate slowly pulled away from her family and her home, never to return. Until now.

 

Beautiful career woman Kate Sinclair has built a successful life for herself, even as she’s haunted by the decisions that led to her estrangement from those once so dear to her. When tragedy strikes her family, Kate realizes the time has come to return home. Awaiting her is an animosity she expected, as well as a shock she never could have anticipated: her family’s home is in danger of being destroyed.

 

Despite her reservations, Kate makes the decision to stay in Rose Creek for a time to help her family. As she slowly begins to reestablish her roots in the close-knit community, she finds herself increasingly attached to Andrew, a man with charm, charisma—and a secret.

 

And when Kate discovers the diary of an early family member who has immigrated to the United States, she finds strength in his belief in God as she explores her new relationship with Andrew and works to rebuild ties within her family. But when the pressures of the house problems and the disdain from family members gets too tough, the lure of the city calls, and Kate is forced to make an impossible decision: will she return to the life she worked so hard to build in the city or risk everything for an unknown future in Rose Creek?

Sounds so great, right? I know. Jenny and I met virtually and then we met actually, and she is lovely (I think I already said that) and witty and clever and sincere and such a good writer. She cares about many of the same things I care about, and she finds funny in the right things. Do I need to tell you how that’s a joy? I think you already know.

This week Jenny and I “sat down” (at least I was totally sitting) and had a little chat about books and writing and being published and well, you get to read it. It’s as if we were actually in the same room! in the same state! and you were there too!

How did you come to write a book? Have you always been a writer? 
Well, funny thing. I guess the answer is yes, and no. When I was growing up, I liked writing when it was required of me. English papers were fun, never hard, and I kept a constant journal. I guess in many ways I was a writer before I really knew I was a writer, if that makes sense. It wasn’t until I started blogging, of all things, and I had a few people mention that I was a good writer that i started thinking about taking my words a little more seriously. I felt inspired to take an Independent Study Creative Writing class, and I fell in love with fiction. The House at Rose Creek actually stemmed from a short story that I wrote in that creative writing class. I wrote the story of the main character Kate’s ancestor, Ian, and then Kate’s story evolved from there.
How do you feel about your book cover? 
I love my cover! It wasn’t what I expected, but in a good way. I was so sure they were going to put a picture of a big white farmhouse on the cover. (The farmhouse is pretty central to the story, and with the book title, it wasn’t too far a leap, no?) The thing is, I know exactly what the farmhouse looks like, and I worried that as great as Covenant’s graphics team is, their depiction might not live up to what exists in my head. When it wasn’t a house at all, I was surprised, then relieved, then absolutely thrilled with how gorgeous it is. I think it’s perfect and wouldn’t change a thing.
How do you react to getting published? Giddy hand clapping? Tears of Joy? Grateful sighing? 
I’m definitely more exuberant over exciting things than I am tearful. My kids were the first to hear the news when I found out The House at Rose Creek was going to be published. They were all outside on the trampoline and I ran out onto the back deck and yelled across the yard. I’m pretty sure I pumped my fists in the air and jumped around a little, and thoroughly startled them, and the dog.
What’s in the future for you book wise? 
I’ve just sent my second novel over to Covenant not too long ago, and am hoping they love it just as much as I do. It’s also set in Rose Creek, and could be called a companion novel, though it’s definitely not a sequel. It’s another love story, about an English teacher named Henry who works at a rehabilitative boarding school in Western North Carolina. The honest truth?  I’m pretty sure I love this second one far more than I love the first, and I really love the first one! My current work in progress is something a little different, something (not LDS Fiction) that might be suited for an even broader audience. I’m very excited about it and can’t wait to see where it takes me.
What makes it easy for you to write? What makes it hard? 
That’s a tough question, because really, there isn’t much about my life right now that seems to make writing easy! I have six kids, ranging in age from 12, down to 1, and it’s summer time. So life is crazy busy and full of children and it’s been really hard to carve out real time to write. If it doesn’t happen late in the evening after kid’s bedtimes, or early in the morning before they’re awake, it generally doesn’t happen. And for right now, that’s fine. I figure there’s a time and a season for all things and the season I’m currently in requires me to focus on keeping the baby from eating the cat litter and teaching my three year old to leave my lipstick alone and not drink water out of the toilet. (Can we pretend that doesn’t just happen at my house so I feel a little better about things? Just for a minute? That’d be great.) Having said that, I still try to write a little bit every day, even if it’s just a couple hundred words. The longer I go without writing, the harder it feels to pick it back up. I keep my goals small, and do the best I can, and try not to discouraged when some days, it just doesn’t happen.
What are your favorite books to read? 
I’m not one to jump on the science fiction or fantasy bandwagon, though there are definitely a few titles in each genre that I do like. Mostly, I love books about people and relationships (not just romantic relationships but people relationships) and the way we all fit together in the world. I love books that make me think and that make me cry (no small feat… I’m not an easy crier) and that challenge my way of thinking. And of course, I love a good clean romance.
What makes you laugh? 
My kids make me laugh a lot. My oldest is just old enough to really demonstrate witty, playful sarcasm in ways that make me laugh out loud frequently and I love him for it. Also, just today, my three year old brought me her finished Popsicle so I could read her the joke off the stick. I read the first part of the joke, and she burst out laughing, slapping her hand against her knee. She didn’t even need the punchline. That made me laugh too.
Have you ever found a mysterious book or journal in an old building? 
Wouldn’t it be cool if I had?! I’ve never discovered any treasures myself, but I love old things and old places and always feel I should be looking. . . I try to stop when I’m in other people’s houses though, cause that could get a little awkward. (Oh, I’m sorry. You didn’t want those floorboards ripped up? I was certain it sounded a little hollow underneath. . .)
Thank you, Jenny, for stopping by to let us inside yourself a little bit. Let’s all go pick up a copy of “THE HOUSE AT ROSE CREEK” and explore the workings of Jenny’s mind a little more.

Journaling

I was just writing about some memories of my mom, and how they’re foggy and unreliable. And here is a list (unedited, unproofed, and possibly completely untrue) of things I’m sure I remember about my mom.

Things I actually remember: She said “Dammit” once when she was mad. I laughed, but not out loud. I was only a tiny bit scared. I had a few inches on her by then.

Spaghetti sauce. So delicious.

She laughed through her nose, not like a snort, but like people who sing through their noses. If she’d closed her mouth to laugh, it might have sounded the same. I remember her sitting at some YW camp-ish function in Batesville (but I was there, too, so she might have been acting in a stake capacity) and laughing with Carolyn Crawford and they both laughed similarly.

Her fingernails clicked on the piano keys, so you’d hear the strike of the nails and then the note just after.

She had very pretty fingernails and I did not.

I think she loved our clawfoot bathtub in the Boston house. There wasn’t a whole lot she loved about our year in Boston, as I recall, but I think she loved that tub. I was a tiny bit afraid of drowning in it. I wonder if it was deep. (Also re: Boston house, I must have read “A Wrinkle in Time” when we lived there, because that house is the setting for the book in my mind.)

She had a music studio called “The Tin Bucket” – as in, he couldn’t carry a tune in a tin bucket. I love that.

She wrote margin notes when she read fiction. I wish I had some of that fiction. I’d love to read the notes.

Dad’s lack of promptness made her itchy. Dinner was ready, and he should be home. He made up for it by (always?) picking up plastic 2-liter bottles of root beer on taco night.

She had arthritis in her hands (and probably everywhere) and her docs told her that if she avoided white flour and red meat she could probably lessen her pain. Whole wheat tortillas. And ground turkey. It’s just not the same, you know?

Once she burned pork chops in the microwave. The story got a little legendary in our house, but I think I actually do remember that smell.

And then there was the time she roasted a leg of lamb while our cat dragged itself around the kitchen in a body cast. Lamb (cooking) still reminds me of cat (dying).

She taught me to use gravity to fill up my bra (the bend over and shake/shove it all in trick), which works better when you’re near 40 than it worked at 13.

She bought margarine, dreaming of butter. One Christmas, my dad put a box of butter in her stocking because it was a treat.

She hated orange flavored candy, because she had chosen orange as her medication flavor when she was little. And when she was grown, all the orange flavoring reminded her of medicine. She once told me she wished she’d chosen chocolate, because then she wouldn’t be a chocoholic. Which is funny, because I don’t really have a memory of her eating a lot of chocolate.

I do remember one time she lied to me. I came in from school and lay down beside her on the carpet. She had a drink in a mug. I could see bubbles and it was a little golden. I asked her if I could have some. She said, “It’s just water, go get yourself a cup,” but it was totally ginger ale. I forgive that one. She didn’t want to share. Understood.

Once I found 4 quarters on her dresser and swiped them. I traded them for 4 nickels from my money box. Later she said that money was for Melanie Low, who had lent her a dollar. I was unrepentant and did not confess.

She loved Gone With the Wind. I wonder if she read it. I assume so.

When she saw “West Side Story” she didn’t know what Tony and Maria were doing in her bedroom until she was in college. (I think I was 12 when she told me that.) Also, she said she was in college when she understood “There is a green hill far away / without a city wall” was talking about a hill OUTSIDE a city wall (as in, opposite of WITHIN), not a hill that was missing its city wall.

Left handed. And gorgeous penmanship.

She wrote letters to her mother in Oakland. Her mother who worried if the letters were later than expected and maybe sometimes even called to ask if everything was okay. I remember her saying “If anything was wrong, I’d be sure to call and let you know” but I don’t remember if she said that into the phone with an actual connection to my grandma, or if she just muttered it in casual annoyance.

She sang in the car.

She was in Auntie Mame and the Music Man and The Sound of Music. I was in those too, except not Mame.

Belted dresses. And blouses. With bows around the neck.

She declared (yes, she really declared it) that it was impossible to make just enough rice. There was always either too much or too little.

I don’t remember if she liked pets or just tolerated them, but I do remember the Golden Retriever named Josh (Seattle?), which she named because her mother hated that name, so she couldn’t really use it on a son. (I recall that dog went to live with some family on a farm. Classic cliche. Were we taken in? Did the dog get put down?)

When we lived in Boston, she was pregnant. She told a neighbor child that she was going to have a baby. She was wearing a red dress, peasanty and smocked. We were in the kitchen. I was seven, sitting by her on the tall, green step stool (with the upholstered seat), and she put her arm around me and told the visiting child, “Becca is my baby, too.” And I loved her so fiercely right then.

Reading

Here in the Independent Study Class of Fabulousness, I’m reading Romantics. Poets, novelists, essayists. And I just finished my assignment from Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” which was written in six weeks. (*WHAT?!*) It’s interesting in the way any Romantic era writing is interesting (read: why say it in thirty words when you can say it in two hundred?) but also awesome in the way that Mary Wollstonecraft (I do enjoy typing [1] her name) cries out for Education. Because GIRLS ARE PEOPLE TOO. And women, no matter how fetching and charming and lovely they are at 20, will need something to fill their heads for the next several decades after they use their charms to catch their man.

Educate us. All of us.

I knew Mary Wollstonecraft was Mary Shelley’s mom, and I sort of imagined Little Mary sitting at Big Mary’s knee, spinning stories and sighing over yearning, handsome poets. But in fact, Mary the Mother died from blood poisoning contracted at the time of Mary the Daughter’s birth. They didn’t even know each other. Tragic, but so awesome that Daughter could read the words of Mother and say, “Hey, look. My mother thought I was worth the time and effort to educate. She trusted that I had thoughts. And ideas. And something more to offer the world than a corseted waist and the ability to simper.” [2]

Ladies. We are more than pretty. We have more to offer than reproductive capacity [3]. We are more than playthings. We are HUMANS. and that’s pretty awesome, don’t you know.

I don’t pretend to know anything much, but I know how I feel about being a woman, and I know that I expect the world to continue to open its doors to girls and women everywhere. Because we as a people know better than to live with doors closed. Because we, all of us, deserve the better.

[1] I twittered about this reading last night. And I had to use two tweets to say what I wanted to say, because you know. Mary Wollstonecraft. And “A Vindication of the Rights of Women.” Leaving me very few characters to make my point. (I’m sure there was a point then, too…)

[2] This is not actually a quote from Mary Shelley. If you want to read actual words from Mary Shelley, read “FRANKENSTEIN.” Because it’s gorgeous and tragic and symbolic and lovely.

[3] Not that the reproductive capacity is anything to diss. I often claim that my children are my best thing. And I believe it. But they’re not my ONLY thing, you see.

How to Get it to Rain

(A Drought-Year User’s Guide)

1. Stare at wilting plants and withering grasses for a month.

2. Gasp in shock, every day, when you somehow forget what 90+ degrees feels like in your yard.

3. Sleep with the AC on, even though you live in the high mountain desert, and everyone knows it gets very cold every night (except when it doesn’t) so you should always sleep with the windows open (except when you can’t, because SWEATY).

4. Plan a river float trip for the 4th of July, including talking your Totally Adult, University-Attending Daughter into joining you.

5. Wake up on said Independence Day holiday to sheets of gorgeous rain.

Any questions?

Schooling

It’s my turn.

I’m taking an English class.

See, remember how I got a job? Teaching English? And how I don’t actually hold a teaching degree? Or an English major? I’m totally on my way to remedying that. Also, I just spelled remedying correctly. First try. (Twice.)

So I’m taking a British Literature class. Reading the Romantic poets. And studying Miss Jane’s NORTHANGER ABBEY, which I was pretty sure I’d read, but it turns out that I haven’t. Until now. And it’s funny and satirical and funny and Jane-esque and funny. I love her style of mocking things — not hurtfully or hatefully, just ironically. I love me a well-placed sense of irony. I’m reading things and synthesizing and writing and submitting assignments online and basically just going back to school LIKE A BOSS.

(not so much like a boss — more like a middle-aged student)

And it’s good, and I’m really grateful to be doing it, and I think it’s going to be particularly helpful, and I have a very good excuse to go lay in the grass under the big tree and read a book. Yahoo for school.