Monday, March 10, 2014

Why I Love Living in Small Town, USA

Today I went on a walk like I do nearly every day. My walk is along a country road. I usually travel the same path. One of the families along the way recently acquired a new dog. The new dog watches from her owners' house and gallops up the hill to join me on my walks. Sometimes, she doesn't return home and instead continues to follow me. She did this today. Last time, she followed me she seemed to have no sense about cars, trucks, or school buses. She trots right down the center line and doesn't move out of the way. Today, I was relieved when she ran up a hill when the school bus came. I did not want the bus to hit her. I didn't think either I or the children on the bus would want to see that happen.

But today, unlike other days, the school bus stopped. The bus driver then opened up the window of the bus and called the dog by name! (I'm not naming the dog to protect the innocent) Then the bus door opened and out popped one of the children who own the dog. The boy chased the dog up and down the street, but the dog kept dodging capture. I realized, he needed my help. I grabbed the dogs collar and turned her over to the boy. The boy tried to drag the dog. The dog refused to budge. Yes, the bus is still waiting! Finally I pushed from behind and we got the dog to walk begrudgingly to the bus. He balked at the door, but with the boy pushing and the driver coaxing the dog by name, she got on the bus. 

This reminded me of my own children's bus driver. He passed away a few years ago of a terrible degenerative disease called Lou Gehrig's. He used to wait for our kids when they were late catching it. They would run clear from the house to the end of the road, and he would wait. And once, my son forgot his musical instrument. My son called from the school with that desperate tone and pleaded for help. I didn't have a car. I took the instrument to the next bus that came about an hour later--the bus for the younger kids. I explained the situation. The bus driver took the instrument for my son and delivered it to him at the school. The school was a bit off his route. When I went to the viewing honoring his life and waited in the long, long line of people who might have had a similar experience, that's the image that kept coming to me--of him graciously offering to take the instrument. 

And back to today, after the dog got on the bus, I smiled all the way home. Then, as often happens in a small town, my neighbors stopped their car for a chat. If you are from a small town, you'll know that we talked right in the middle of the road. We caught up on all the latest news until the next car came up behind that one. But that one also was a neighbor who rolled down his window to say hello. In a few weeks I'll be heading to the other side of the country to visit my daughter in Brooklyn and I will love every minute of it, but I will be more than glad to get on that return flight for home.

Friday, February 21, 2014

An Inspiration Dies

I have to admit that I know very little about renowned artist, Nancy Holt who recently passed away. The obituary tells me that she was 75 and died of leukemia. I used her remote land art Sun Tunnels as inspiration for my book Sun Tunnels and Secrets. My husband Mick and I had tried to find the Sun Tunnels a couple of times and when we finally did, it was between novels. My first book, A Question of Trust was out, my second was on its way, and I was hoping to keep writing about the west desert area of Grouse Creek, Utah. When we saw the land art, my husband suggested that Sam, a character in both books find a body at the unique and desolate sculptures. I liked the idea and had been toying around with that idea when my good friend Diane called and told me a story about some friends of ours, older women, at least older than us, who had ventured out from Grouse Creek to the Sun Tunnels and had come across a man who had been abandoned in the desert by "his friends." Wow, the story was full of interesting tidbits and even though a serious situation, was kind of comical. My mind leapt at the idea of not Sam finding a body in the desert, but older women. That was the beginning of my novel when three sisters in their late 70's to early 80's find a naked man who by all appearances is dead.

I've written two books since that one, but for some of my readers it's their favorite. While researching the book, I found out a little more about Nancy Holt. I was so fascinated by her, and feel so badly now that I missed my one chance to meet her. She came out to speak about her projects a couple of years ago. My family and I drove clear out to the Sun Tunnels, about 150 miles, to see her at her beloved sculptures and I didn't dare introduce myself. Still I could tell by her delightful smile and by her work that she is someone I would have loved to meet. It's sad that her husband, also a land artist Robert Smithson, responsible for the Spiral Jetty, was killed in a plane crash decades ago. The obituary said she had no survivors which leads me to believe she never married. I romanticized this in my book and imagined that the Sun Tunnels had been a tribute to her late husband. But this is something I don't know--her inspiration for creating the sculptures, but I do know that they are an inspiration for me, not just for my novel, but for the feeling that you get from the dramatic view of the sun setting encircled in the dark frame. Next time I go out there, I'll feel gratitude for the life of Nancy Holt and her vision.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Authors, Books, and More--Oh MY!

Somehow I've let a lot of time pass without updating this blog. Whenever people ask me to list my favorite books, I always start with "To Kill a Mockingbird," because that book had such a powerful impact on me, but there are definitely others too. For me it's easier to list my favorite authors. I love anything written by Barbara Kingsolver and Anne Tyler. Just for fun I enjoy books by Tony Hillerman, but I wish he were still alive. I did get to hear him speak once at USU and wish I'd been braver to go up and meet him. I've always been very chicken about meeting people. Even people who aren't famous, I have a very hard time introducing myself to. I've always been envious of outgoing friends.

For instance, last year the artist Nancy Holt, came out to the Sun Tunnels. I drove clear out to see her, and even though I wrote a novel called Sun Tunnels and Secrets, featuring her artwork, I didn't dare introduce myself. I regret that. I almost got to meet Ray Bradbury. I waited in line for over a half-hour, but they finally decided that he didn't have time to sign our books. The same thing happened with Madeline L' Engle when I went to hear her speak and yet she couldn't sign books either. They even had us put our addresses on a list and she was going to send us her name on a bookplate, but that didn't happen.

Since then, I can only hope some of my local author friends become famous, a few already are. Robison Wells has had a lot of success and so has Jeffery Savage. Someday perhaps I can put a sign in our downstairs bedroom, that says Jeffery Savage slept here. On Thursday, I will go down to Salt Lake to a good friend's book launch--Marion Jensen's, Almost Super. It's bound to be very super. Another friend, that I kept forgetting to take my books to sign when I would see him, is James Dashner, whose book The Maze Runner is being made into a movie.

Whether famous or not, I'm blessed by my friendship with books, and my friendship with authors and aspiring authors. I get to each lunch quite often with Josi Kilpack (she has about a dozen books published). One thing I've discovered is that writers, famous or not, are just like anyone else. They may, even be pretty insecure like me.

I'm curious about what books others have loved. Some of the books I loved as a young child were: Harriet the Spy, all the Oz books, some of Jules Verne's, The Twenty-one Balloons, The Secret Garden, other Frances Hodgson Burnett books, and of course Nancy Drew. I know there were a lot more. I read almost constantly when I was young, and not nearly as much in my adulthood.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Keeping the Wheels of Creativity Greased

I'm between major writing projects. My last book was published in March of 2013, Poaching Daisies. It was such a fun book to write and to research, but I don't have anything new started, at least not a novel. I've launched a new blog to increase understanding about the LGBT community, especially among the Mormons, the religion I was born into. I haven't given up on writing a novel, I've just been immersed in this for a while. Creating my pottery keeps those creative juices flowing too.

Meanwhile here's a review about Poaching Daisies that's pretty fun: By 
Jennifer Moore (Kaysville, Utah United States) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Poaching Daisies (Kindle Edition)
In the small town of Cooke, environmentalists live alongside hunters, and everybody endures tourists. When Penny, a Yellowstone Park ranger finds a bear that's been lured and shot, in the park, someone tries to kill her. But the park service doesn't believe her. She and her aunt, Iris, a crusader against invasive plants have nowhere to turn but to Russ, a professional hunter. But things get tricky when the guy Penny is dating is a suspect in the bear poaching, and Russ isn't who he seems. Everyone is a suspect, and the action and tension built to an exciting end.
I found myself torn between racing through the book, trying to figure out who to trust, and not wanting it to end because I loved the characters so much. The banter between Iris and Russ was so funny that there were times I laughed out loud.
A fun, exciting and satisfying read. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Feeling Grateful for Grouse Creek

It's been kind of fun reading other people's gratitude posts on facebook everyday this month. I've enjoyed coming up with my own too. The great thing about gratitude is that the more you count your blessings, "and name them one by one," the more you seem to have. It has been so easy to think of something to post. I've thought back to my childhood friends, wanting to name them one by one, then on to college, and my early married life, then on to Grouse Creek where I started to really find myself. Then on to Paradise where our children really grew up, had fantastic friends, teachers, and neighbors. Now, here we are in Avon where we look out and see the beauties of the earth and feel the bounties of the earth. 

I am grateful for my years in Grouse Creek. Here's a few of the reasons why. Not everyone can live seventy miles from a town with a grocery store and most of that over dirt roads. We only had one station on the television and that one was fuzzy. My husband and I taught school together, twenty-four kids total from ages 5 to 16. We could throw a frisbee from out porch and it could hit the back of the school--that's how close we were to work. Our children played outside a lot. They read books, hiked, rode bikes, played in the gullies and hills, and did a lot with us--their parents. Kids in Grouse Creek learn how to communicate with adults because there were almost as many adults in the school as students. Instead of playing a ball game in the gym with only fifth graders, they learned to play with first graders too. Cooperation was the norm, not the exception. At the church, just a little further from the school, everyone who showed up had a job to do. It didn't matter if they were very active, it took everyone in town to run the ward. Life was simple. And it was good. It was in Grouse Creek that I really began writing stories.  A few were published. Once we moved into "town," it would take years before I would start writing again. I wish every kid could have a Grouse Creek experience. I wish every family could have a Grouse Creek experience. For me, it made such a huge difference in my life.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

If I'm Somebody, it's Because of Somebody

Once a month my family gets together for potluck Sunday dinner at Mom’s. We’ve been doing this for over a year now. The first Sunday in October toward the end of our afternoon,  Mom whipped this poem out of her pocket and said she’d written it the other night.

I used to be somebody
With lots of get up and go
But that get up and go
Already got up and went
Now I’m a nobody with years near spent,
So I go to Curves three times a week.
So that when the time comes—
(And the Lord’s so inclined)
At least I’ll go with my behind refined.

The ditty is funny and yet says a lot. It must be hard to see the years pass, the memory fade, the energy gone, and begin to feel as if at anytime the lights will go out. It must be hard to feel like the somebody you once were is gone.

My mother is somebody. One of my first memories is sitting on my mom’s lap at church. She would puff out her cheeks and I would pop them with my little hands.  I’m the end of the line—the last of five and the only girl. Mom said the whole neighborhood rejoiced with her when I was born.

My mother is somebody. She sewed my clothes, Halloween costumes, dolls, and more. My brothers always said I was spoiled, and if I was, I think it was because my mother knew it was hard for me--the only girl. My brothers weren’t always nice, in fact, were hardly ever nice to their little sister, so Mom made up for it.

My mother is somebody. She never told me to stop being afraid when the monsters under the bed sent me scrambling out of bed and into my mom and dad’s bed in the next room. Out of all the moms in the neighborhood, our house was the place to be. We could play loudly. We could make messes as long as we cleaned up. We could sleep outside in the summers or make tents out of tables and chairs. We could toss all the cushions on the floor and play the ground is poison. We could climb trees and jump on the beds. We were allowed to be children and not grow up too fast. 

My mother is somebody. Neighbors came and cast their votes in the patriotic striped booths set up temporarily in our living room. At other times that same room would have a quilt stretched the length and width of it while women gathered around, stitched and talked while I played beneath. Those quilts were made for newlyweds in the ward. At harvest time, the sticky syrupy smell of grape jelly and canned peaches filled the kitchen. Numerous cakes, breads, and whole meals were prepared in for new mothers in our church community and for the sick, or sad.

My mother is somebody. Once she visited an immigrant family and found them in bed in the middle of a cold winter day to keep warm because their heat had been shut off. It didn’t take long for her to fix that situation. My mother is somebody because she and our father managed to raise five children and give each of a sense of worth, values, and work ethic. But somehow Mom did it with ultimate patience and without ever (at least me) spanking. I was never grounded either, and didn’t even know what that was until some of my playmates got grounded. I never felt judged or berated or criticized.

My mother is somebody. She worked for years at the Orem Geneva Times. She wrote nearly every article they had in the days when everything had to be typed on a typewriter and then handset in the printing press. Sometimes when I was in the fifth grade and attending Spencer Elementary, I could walk home from school and see her behind the desk. She let me search through the coins in her desk drawer to add coins to my coin collection, replacing the coins with money from her purse. She served on boards, PTA, and councils, and in numerous callings in church, reliable to the core. 

My mother is somebody. She quit the job she loved when Dad was diagnosed with cancer. And on the bad days when that cancer ravaged dad’s body, she took care of him. And on his good days, months and years, she was his best and closest companion. And in the end she took care of him until his eyes shut and never opened again. She was only fifty.

My mother is somebody. She left behind her grown children and first grandchildren to serve a mission for the Lord. She gained her own strength and learned that she too could learn and understand, and boldly teach the gospel she loved.
Mom right after her mission. We met her in California where she met her grandson Trevor. 

My mother is somebody. After her mission, and on her own, she moved to a new home. Her door has always been a revolving one. One by one, she let those who needed a place to land, for however long, land with her. Her own aging mother spent a decade and again Mom took care of someone--this time her mother, who lived a long a lovely life and died in my mother's home at age 96. Mom's own grown children because of divorce or hardship sometimes needed a place too, and their children. Then those grandkids grew, and when life got hard or when grandkids were headed for school, or between jobs or dreams—again Mom’s and now Grandma’s place is the place to be.
Grandma--Mom's mom (Somebody too)

My mother is somebody. With so many somebodys she's helped along the way. I could go on and on about all she is. In October, I watched my two-year-old grandson cuddle next to his great-grandmother while she read him a story. To that little one, she is still somebody and always will be. If you are a somebody, or were a somebody, you can’t be a nobody, because no one ever is.  I’m definitely a somebody because of my mother who is also a somebody and her mother was a somebody, too. 

Mom holding the son of her grandson (our son). 

And here she is with all five of us. 

Thanks Mom!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Confession Time

Confession: I don’t share the same enthusiasm as many of my Facebook friends for a current music video that’s circulating called “Virtue is so Beautiful.” Or something like that. It’s very cute. Handsome and talented boys dancing around and telling girls that virtue makes them beautiful. What could be wrong with that? I suspect that had these same boys been singing this when I was in high school, I would have not have believed they were singing to me. They would have been singing to my beautiful and popular friends. And I would have felt a twinge of shame for not being in the included group. Oh, I dressed just the way these boys are telling the girls to dress. My skirts came to my knees. My necklines weren't plunging, of course not, what would the point have been? But I knew that boys still were only attracted to a certain look. And that look wasn't me. 

Not all that long ago, in a galaxy, I mean a ward far, far away, ok in a ward two miles from where I am now, I was Young Women’s president for a while. I loved it in so many ways. I worked with fantastic women, and got to interact often with a fabulous group of girls. Our bishop was very respectful of me as a leader. Once he pulled me aside in the church hallway and asked me what I thought of the idea of having a special fireside focused on modesty. I said that I didn’t like it. He wanted to know why and all I said was something to the fact that they hear it enough. He respected that and we thought of another topic.

Well, now I’ve thought about it. Most of the discussions on modesty and virtue aimed at  young women are focused on shame or pleasing men or in helping boys and men keep themselves moral. I don’t believe these should be the motivators to respecting yourself. Respecting yourself and committing to your religious faith are far better reasons for virtue and modesty. Let the men be in charge of themselves. 

Confession: I hated my body in my teenage years and way up into my 30’s.  Why? I had allowed the judgment of society tell me how a woman’s body should look. Truth be told, I had little else to tell me otherwise. My church told me to cover up. My brothers made fun of me. My classmates made fun of me. I was teased even by school teachers. I was teased even by my best friends. Why? I was skinny. Carby Stick was a nickname I embraced. I learned to laugh and mock myself. People liked me for that. A boy in high school made me feel shame every time I saw him in the halls because he yelled, SNAKE whenever he saw me. Even though I never talked to him, I allowed him to have power over me. I don’t blame myself for that. I had few weapons in my arsenal. But even as I type this, I remember the racing in my heart when I saw him coming. And even though I remember few other boys by name that I didn’t know personally, this boy’s name was Joel White. I write it now because he doesn’t deserve to have power over me any longer. I have never told anyone of that secret shame.
Confession: Every time I sat in a Mutual Standard’s Night and learned about how precious and beautiful I was as a daughter of God because I was virtuous, I felt ashamed. Why? Because I felt anything but beautiful. I felt awkward and skinny. I used to look in the mirror and wonder if the reason no boy ever asked me on a date (ever) in high school was because I was too skinny. Now if you didn’t know me in high school, by now you may be feeling sorry for me, but I was not a pathetic wall flower, well ok, maybe I was a wall flower, but certainly not a pathetic one. I loved school. I had lots of friends and loved life, then as now. But growing up is really hard. Growing up as a strong female is even harder when we measure our self-worth by messages from boys and men.

Confession: I was jealous of my pretty friends. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love them any less, but I was jealous. I remember in fourth grade telling my mother I didn’t understand why one of my friends liked this other friend more than she liked me, because I was nicer. My mother said, “Well, she is pretty.” Now I know my mother didn’t mean by that,  and you are not, but that is the message I heard. And that message I carried with me. If you know my mother, you will be surprised that she said this because she truly is a saint. How sad that a little girl carried this careless thought around and didn’t forget it. How sad, that any of us define our worth by our looks, or even by our virtue.

Confession: I knew that the questions the bishop asked me about my moral worthiness didn’t really apply to me because boys didn’t like me enough to even hold hands with me, let alone want to go too far.  Lessons on chastity embarrassed me, but not because they were about private matters, but because I knew I had never been tested on these things. And I suspected that if I were tested I would probably fail. I mean with all the secrecy and yet overblown “worth waiting for talks”sex had to be something so magnificent and I knew I liked doing magnificent things so…

Confession: I have no idea why I managed a high self-esteem with so much shaming that is consistent with our society. I look back and see that tall skinny girl and realize had she known how to dress, talk, and act around the opposite gender she may have attracted attention from them. I’m not sure that my life would have been better because of it.

Confession: I’m not sure the continual focus on the highs and lows of hemlines, how much skin, cleavage, body defining and so on voices girls hear from their church leaders and well-dressed and handsome righteous boys are all that much different than the societal and trendy voices they are hearing from school and media. I know, they are hearing the opposite message. On one end of the spectrum our youth are hearing that virtue is so beautiful and on the other end we have Miley Cyrus (need I say more)? But when it comes down to it, the message is the same. Females are told by the extremes on both ends that it’s bodies that are important, not WHO they are.

Confession:  In spite of all these confessions, I really liked myself. I was fun. I was smart. I was creative. I was a deep thinker. I was talented. All of these things are still true about me. Once in a high school class that was quite unusual because it seemed to be focused on character and family life, the teacher asked the mostly (if not all—I can’t remember) female class to raise your hand if you liked yourself. Guess what? My hand shot up. I looked around the room and only one other hand in a class of twenty-five or so seniors and juniors was up. I was shocked. And so was the teacher’s. We had a discussion on self-esteem. 

Confession: In spite of all the negatives, I managed to hear and instill and nourish a positive one. Somehow that tiny message is the one I chose to listen to. I was very lucky. I had great teachers in church and in school. I had great friends. I had good parents. I was very blessed. Maybe that's why the message of my own worth managed to plant itself in my very skinny body. I still like me. When there is no one else around, I’m still having a good time because I’m with my best friend—Me.