Sunday, December 28, 2008

As Long as He Knee'ds Me...

It's just about three weeks now until the joint in my left knee is replaced with an artificial one that works, and a few weeks later, I'll get a new right knee. I went online to WebMD to learn more about what will happen. I might even get to be awake enough to watch some of it. It sounds kind of gross when you read that they'll make an 8 to 12 in incision, fold the kneecap back, and clean up the bone spurs and other gunk between the bones before they insert the artificial joint. But I think it's a miracle and I'm grateful I'll have a chance to walk again like a normal person. A couple of years ago I had my cataracts removed, and that was a miracle, too.

Over the past few months, as I've become less and less mobile, I've looked at other people and been jealous of their ability to walk and stand and move. Most of the pain I've had has been in my muscles, which is why I didn't go to an orthopedic surgeon sooner. I didn't realize that the pain was compensatory, which means the muscles have been trying to compensate for what the knee joints can't do anymore. (I'm still surprised that my primary care physician didn't recognize those symptoms and tried to treat the muscle pain alone.) Consequently, I have good strong muscles in my legs; they hurt right now, but they're strong. Maybe that'll turn out to be a good thing when I get into therapy. I have the surgery on a Tuesday, and on Friday the doctor will assess my progress to decide if I go home or go to therapy. Some people walk out of joint replacement surgery four days later and resume their lives. I've had several surgeries before and have bounced back from each one. I trust this one will be the same, as will the next one a few (2 to 4) weeks later. My goal is to be able to walk to church (in the next block) by the time we have good spring weather.

Last summer we went to the beach as a family, and I wasn't able to move they way I've been able to in the past. Since then my kids have encouraged me to see a specialist. Heather made my first appointment with Dr. Parry, then went with me for the consult. I'm an idiot but even I could see that the x-rays showed no appreciable cartilage in either knee.

People have been very kind and helpful through all of this. I've been helped to the car after church or choir practice by some of the most wonderful members of the ward. I gave a talk in church and sat on a stool to do it. A lifeguard at the pool helped me limp to the dressing room one day when I thought my knees might buckle when I got out of the water. I substituted in Sunday School and sat on a stool to teach the lesson. Even the people at the dentist's office had a pillow to put under my knees and relieve the stress on them as I sat/reclined in the chair my body doesn't really fit very well. I did appreciate people who pushed the wheelchair on our vacation last summer (where wheelchairs were available) and those who let me lean on their arms getting in and out of cars and restaurants. The motorized carts in grocery stores have been a wonderful service; I look forward to not needing them.

Roger has earned his place in heaven. As if being married to me for 39 years (next Tuesday) didn't already qualify him, the way he has waited on me and attended to my needs has been exemplary and kind. He's even taking a day off school to go with me to my pre-op appointment the first week in January.

When I consulted with Dr. Parry in St. George, he said, "You'll get your life back, and you'll have about 80 percent mobility." Anything's better than ten percent, I thought. Then he warned me about therapy and said, "You'll hate me for the first few days." That seems ridiculous, like hating your husband because childbirth hurts. I have a high pain threshold; I'm confident.

All in all, I feel blessed and loved and cared for. I know what the song means when it says "Sheep May Safely Graze." I feel the Shepherd near me. I'm looking forward to being able to resume my life and keep up with my family a little better.

So that's what I'll be doing on Inauguration Day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Music: The Heaven and Hell of It

My husband and I were on a phone call recently that required us to wait on hold for about half of the total one-hour time it took to complete the transaction. While we were on hold, we were subjected to the torturous sounds of New Age ‘music,’ put there by some well-meaning person convinced we needed to be entertained while we were waiting. Running barefoot on broken glass would have been infinitely more satisfying. I am convinced that New Age ‘music’ destroys brain cells and breaks down resistance to truth, logic and common sense, making people believe that evil is good and good is evil. It dissolves any conscience a person may have hitherto possessed. Suddenly everything is hunky-dory for these people and they think all the problems of the world would go away if we would all just sit around listening to and grooving on this foulest form of air pollution. New Age ‘music’ is the sorry consequence of bra burning, free love, and Woodstock.
That’s one way of saying I’m picky about music, especially now that it's Christmas time and there's more questionable music in the air. My eclectic musical tastes were formed in a home where we listened to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast on Saturday mornings, and ended the day with both the steel guitars, sweet harmonies and ukuleles on Hawaii Calls, and the authentic Western sounds of Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch.
Because music has such power, my deeply personal celebration of Christmas very often centers on great music inspired by a heavenly source, and its effect on me is profound. Most especially, probably because I pay close attention to the precise meanings of words, my soul yearns to hear or sing appropriate lyrics from significant texts, paired with satisfying and rewarding melodies expressing the deepest meaning of Christmas. Let me worship through reverent music in the most sublime, eloquent way, as the Savior of the world deserves. My heart is touched by so many inspired works – Handel’s Messiah, O come O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, Lo How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming, Mary Did You Know, O Come All Ye Faithful, Angels We Have Heard on High, Once in Royal David’s City, and authentic folk music like Rise Up Shepherd and Follow, Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella, and The Cherry Tree Carol.
However, there is some Christmas music so patently offensive that I want to wipe out all memories of ever having heard or sung it. I want to slink, Grinch-like, into all the music stores, radio stations, private collections and sheet music publishers and obliterate some sounds I hear over public address systems in stores during the holidays. You don’t have a choice when you hear this drivel in a shopping mall. They mean well, but it doesn’t entertain. It annoys and brings out the Scrooge in me, making me want to buy less so I can leave the premises as quickly as possible. That’s how I first heard the number one selection on my Top Twenty List of Christmas Songs I Never Want To Hear Again. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the complete list of losers with the heartfelt scorn and derision each so richly deserves:
20. It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas – …to which I want to respond, “Well, duh! What was your first clue – sundown on Thanksgiving Day?” It sounds like the guy who says during a heat wave, “Hot enough for ya?” This is something clueless Goofy would have said to patient Mickey, who is far more tolerant of stupid remarks than I.
19. (tie) Winter Wonderland/Marshmallow World – Ain’t no time nowhere winter is a wonderland for me; I cannot celebrate the charm I do not find. Winter is a slip-on-the-ice, sprain-your-ankle, freeze-your-tushie-off, endlessly boring season broken only by the sweetness of celebrating a sacred holiday. Don’t let’s confuse the two.
18. I’ll be Home for Christmas – Total schmaltz when you first hear it, mind-numbingly dull after that. So you’re not going to be there except in your dreams – get over it.
17. Let it Snow – This is nothing but a seductive (you’ll excuse the expression) invitation to use bad weather as an excuse for someone to stay over at his sweetie’s house, a one-of-a-kind gift that can only be given once.
16. Have A Holly Jolly Christmas – Actually, this sounds like the worst kind of Christmas to have, completely unrelated to the real meaning of the holiday.
15. Jingle Bell Rock – Social events at holiday time are nice, but this lyric is unencumbered by logic or a description of an appropriate observance of a sacred day.
14. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – See #15 and #16.
13. Frosty the Snowman – Christmas is not mentioned in this stupid winter legend and after you’ve heard it once, subsequent hearings are migraine-inducing torture.
12. The Christmas Song (you know… chestnuts roasting… yada, yada, yada) – Nothing is more offensive than clichés, and this one is loaded with them. In fact, Santa has loaded his sleigh with THINGS. Isn’t that what’s wrong with Christmas in the first place? We don’t need more things.
11. White Christmas – Another string of clichés. What’s the big deal about snow? What about Christmas in Australia that takes place in the summer? Huh? Did you ever think of that?
10. Silver Bells – Not much wrong with this one if you like a boring melody and totally mindless lyrics. Can you say platitude?
9. It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Really? You love spending too much money, eating too much rich food, going to parties you don’t want to go to with people you don’t really like? What’s wonderful about that?
8. Twelve Days of Christmas – Repetition is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Again, we’re stuck on using things to express love, a pitiful substitute for the genuine article.
7. Deck the Halls – Nonsense lyrics are Exhibit A in the case against this song. I don’t drink, but I should think that drunk would be the best way to find meaning in it. Far more appealing, rewarding and cogent was the Mad Magazine version of this I read in my youth, which began, “Deck us all with Boston Charlie, Walla Walla Wash and Kalamazoo…”
6. (all songs referring to reindeer with or without red noses) – completely idiotic, without redeeming value or even a modicum of charm. Lord of the Flies teaches kids to play nice together, too.
5. (all songs referring to Santa Claus, especially Santa Baby) – He sees you when you’re sleeping? Really? He knows when you’re awake? Really? Isn’t that what God does, and didn’t He do it first? How can kids NOT get confused?
4. Jingle Bells – Translation: people with the IQ of pinecones ride around in the snow apparently unwilling to take refuge from the weather and protect themselves against frostbite.
3. We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Nobody even knows what figgy pudding is anyway, and simply repeating the sentiment ad infinitum doesn’t make it more intelligible.
2. Feliz Navidad – If a guy sang this to me, I’d poison his eggnog. I do not want this derivative, dreary rubbish stuck in my head for the month of December.
1. Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time – No, we’re not. We’re paralyzed by the tedium of this inferior music and pointless lyric written by Paul McCartney in a fit of acute uninspired tastelessness. The last chorus repeats ad nauseum until you think you’ve entered a new rung of Purgatory Dante must have created just for you. If Christmas shopping doesn’t trigger insanity, you haven’t spent enough time in the Walmart listening to this on the PA system.
And while I’m on a roll, here’s a bonus: I never want to hear another roomful of third graders shouting I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas, or Up On the Housetop, or All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth. It’s only cute once.
If I’ve left off this list any songs worthy of contempt, add your favorite Christmas music you love to hate. Here’s the rule for participation: we’ll just talk about music; we won’t cast aspersions on the intelligence or the parentage of people making comments.
And by the way, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Swept Off

Yesterday in Sunday School, we were discussing the repeated warnings of the Lord through prophets that the disobedient wicked will be swept off the land. Someone asked how many groups that was, and various class members started naming them. My nominee: "…Republicans…"

It disrupted the class only momentarily.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don't Say 'Oh You Shouldn't Have,' Just Say 'Thanks'

I read somewhere that during their first winter in Plymouth, the Pilgrims' rations got so low that they were down to five kernels of corn per day per person. That's not much. Only four women survived that winter because the rest died of starvation, having given their rations to their children. Sometimes we don't realize what we have to be thankful for until we experience a time of not having something vital to our quality of life, like good health or certain creature comforts.

There's no one more offensive than an ungrateful person. They're focused on, "Well what about me and my needs?" Grateful people are so much more palatable, even if the gratitude seeps over into maudlin. I can forgive that. It may be corny (I'm guilty myself), but at least it isn't selfish. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, then, here's what I'm grateful for lately:

Electricity, indoor plumbing, vacuum cleaners, heat when it's cold, cool when it's hot, people who keep me groomed (like the hairdresser and the pedicurist), motorized carts in grocery stores that save my knees, raspberries, chocolate, giraffes, grandchildren, children who gang up on me and make a doctor's appointment I've been avoiding, The Love of My Life, keeping in touch with friends, young people who don't get tired of being good, trees, rhododendrons, irises, daffodils, roses, electronic banking, my computer, live theater, chocolate, raspberries, painkillers, Imodium, people who acknowledge that I'm worthy to draw breath and occupy space on this planet, the Internet, talents and capabilities, America's Constitutional guarantees, my right to vote, people who bless my life with humor, the Oregon coast, Tillamook cheese (and ice cream), potatoes, chocolate, raspberries, writers who make me stretch and strive to be better rather than pandering to the lowest and basest instincts for the sake of a cheap laugh, Almond Roca, goodness and decency I see in people around me, chances to write and share the things that are most important to me, turkey, Some Dude's Fry Sauce, chocolate, raspberries, kohlrabi, my valiant pioneer progenitors who fought in the Revolutionary War and crossed oceans and plains to come to Zion and live as they chose, prayer, people who recognize sincere efforts, people who recognize the person (prophet) who is otherwise without honor in his own country, Americana jigsaw puzzles, people who are part of the solution and not part of the problem, General Conference, the capacity to think, sacred places, family ties, my husband's siblings and their spouses (who accept and love me anyway), genius, minestrone, language, humble ambition, purity, integrity, nobility, the heart turned outward to do good in the world, people who take the time to read and understand my poems (NOT the judges in the LUW contest), people who lean on me and let me comfort them, little people who 'cut the pickle,' knock-knock jokes, puns, beauty, giftedness, authentic country music (not the Osmondized kind), cool jazz, garnet and opal and turquoise and azurite with chrysacola (these are a few of my favorite rings), fudge, Walnettos, Licorice All-Sorts, raspberries, genuine gospel music with good close harmony and not the screamy kind, the Book of Mormon, chances to say how thankful I am for my good, happy life.

Okay, now it's your turn.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

excerpt from 'Living It Down' (Accidentally Removed, But it's Up Again)

Polly went out with hope and enthusiasm in the morning, looking into all the job possibilities she could think of, but it was discouraging. Back at the apartment mid-afternoon, the phone rang and she wondered if someone she just interviewed with wanted to see her again.

“Polly, there are still some ripe tomatoes in the garden. You’re falling down on the job.”

“Aunt Sophie!”

“I’m home, girl. Can you come up and see me?”

“I’ll be right there.”

She ran upstairs, excited to hear all of Sophie’s adventures. They sat in the parlor where Sophie watched every afternoon through the ecru lace curtains for the mailman. Polly was shocked at her aunt’s appearance. After a three-week cruise she should have been tanned and rested, but Polly only saw tiredness. Sophie’s eyes didn’t have their usual sparkle.

But she found strength enough to regale Polly for twenty minutes with her adventures, with pictures, and tales of the people she met. She raved about the food. “Every night we had a pitcher perfect dinner,” she reported, “always starting with horse’s doovers, of course.” Sophie mangled English, but she didn’t get along with French, either. “I don’t know how those cooks did it, but every meal was a grand slang home run as far as I was concerned. I really liked their special Chinese chicken. It was laminated in a little honey and soy sauce and something citrius, and talk about melt in your mouth. But don’t you know – the waiter cut it off the bone for me, as if I haven’t been doing that all my life.”

“They said you’d get personal service,” Polly smiled.

Sophie’s traveling companions, mostly acquaintances from the Senior Center, both surprised and disappointed her. “Walter’s old friend Roy has such bad artheritis, you know, in his feet, walks with a lymph, but he got around anyway, even went dancing on big band night.”

“Did you go dancing, too, Aunt Sophie?”

“Well, I got a nasty garfunkle on my foot and I thought my dancing days were over, but I put a bread and milk poultrice on it overnight, and by the time the dance began, I was back in business.”

“It’s a good thing you know those remedies.”

“Leonard was there, too and he and Roy kind of fought over me,” she admitted. “That’s the first time that’s happened since Walter and I were courting.”

“That does wonders for a girl’s ego,” Polly said. “How was the dancing?”

“Roy can’t dance but he’s more interesting to talk to, and Leonard can dance, but he just tells one boring antidote after another about selling insurance.”

But Sophie was upset, however, with Muriel, who was never pleased with anything. “I don’t know what the matter is with that woman,“ she confided. “Some of the others think she’s got Old Timers, but I think it’s DHEA.”


“You know, where you can’t pay attention. Anyway, she had me running all over that ship with her trying to find the right people to complain to, a wild goat chase if you ask me. Every time, it turned out to be just another tempest in a B-cup. I tried to tell her.”

Sophie reported going to the stage shows every night, and Polly had to smile when her aunt said for her the highlight was the magician who fascinated everyone with his “optical conclusions.”

“What did you like best about the whole trip, Aunt Sophie?”

“Mostly I liked being waited on and catered to,” Sophie smiled, her tiredness showing again.

“They really make you feel special. They turn down the bedcovers and put a chocolate on your pillow every night. And I liked taking a book out to a deck chair or up to the library, or just sitting there on my glutinous maxius for as long as I wanted, watching the water go by.”

“It sounds glorious. I think I’d like that, too.”

“But on our last night at sea, the craziest thing happened,” Sophie said, taking an envelope out of her apron pocket. “They held a drawling for another cruise, just because they want to keep your business, I’m sure, but look, Polly – I won.” She handed her the envelope. Polly opened it and pulled out two tickets for a five-day cruise.

“You’re going again?”

“I don’t know about that, but when they called my name, it was really a thrill, I tell you. I was completely ground-rounded.” Sophie’s shoulders shook as she laughed.

Polly chuckled and handed the tickets back. “I would be, too, Aunt Sophie. I would be, too.”

(This excerpt is the property of the author and may not be copied or published.)

Gaffe Watchers

A gaffe is a verbal miscue, a brain glitch that shouldn't have come out of one's mouth, a goof, a ridiculously inane statement. I've found several that were good for guffaws at, a website of the Media Research Council, where bad reporting, arrogance, and stupidity come humorously together for all to point fingers at and laugh. Here are three:
• Chris Matthews of MSNBC is appalled that Sarah Palin talks about her faith in God, and that she will make her decision to run for president, or not, in 2012 based on guidance she receives as a result of prayer. "Talking about God in a political settling is troubling to a lot of people," Matthews said. (Maybe before Chris decides to run for the Senate from Pennsylvania, where ignorant people cling to their guns and their God, he should follow Sarah's example.) Chris also says that Joe Biden, the gaffemeister, is the most picked on politician in 30 years. Or maybe Chris is auditioning for Press Secretary in the Obama Administration...
• Katie Couric's advice to Sarah Palin: She should keep her head down, work really hard and learn about governing. (Maybe if Katie took her own advice about her own career, she might have a news program that didn't stink on ice.)
• From NewsBusted, a little comic vignette posted on the website every week: Barack Obama was elected president and the stock market fell ten percent. That must mean the stock market is racist.
Look at it like this: a few laughs a day keeps the ulcers away. Let's keep yukking it up out there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Roots and Wings

We went to see the high school production of MacBeth a couple of weeks ago (Halloween, actually... quite appropriate when you think about it) and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were sitting in front of a row of high school boys who were enjoying it, too, and I was pleased to hear that. This production reminded me that this is essentially a love story. It's a fierce, frank, earthy love, and the young actors played it as well as two teenagers could. (It wasn't Romeo and Juliet, after all.) I emailed the director to commend her for the fine production.

Mainly we went to see the play because the set was designed by a young friend of mine, Garret. He is a gifted writer and artist, and at almost the last minute, he was pulled onstage to take a small role as the doctor in the mad scene. I was impressed that he was such a good listener. Having worked with a lot of actors, I know how crucial that is to the believability of the performance. An actor has to perform as if he's never heard those lines before, even though he's been through weeks of meticulous and grueling rehearsals. When an actor listens, the audience feels the spontaneity.

Another young friend of mine, Dallen, is soon headed for Washington, D.C. and the United States Senate. He was accepted for the Senate Page program last year by Senator Robert Bennett's office. Only sixteen young people are given this honor nationally, many of them sons and daughters of senators and governors. Dallen will spend six months in Washington, December to July, being an eyewitness to history, attending the Inauguration, having dinner at the White House, and so on. I cautioned him recently that he would grow and learn so much more than his peers here at home, but in the end, he will have to come home, and he will have to be patient. After he graduates from Richfield High School in 2010, he will have a full scholarship to any of the top colleges and universities in the country. Dallen is also a gifted writer, having just completed a novel and started another.

Last night I spent some time critiquing six poems sent me by another young friend, Elysa. She came to me for tutoring in writing when she was 13 years old because she wanted more than she was getting in school. She is a gifted poet, and now as a college student she still sends her poems to me for my response.

These three young people are very important to me, and I treasure their friendship. To mentor is to touch the future, and when I read their writing or sit with them in conversations in my office or living room or online, I have great hope. Garret, Dallen and Elysa appreciate their roots and the solid values they were raised in, but they are not root-bound. They know the world is bigger than the borders of Sevier County, and they are preparing to take flight. I hope I have helped them strengthen their wings.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Keeping Warm This Winter

I have a new blankie.

As a child, I was never encumbered by an object I associated with thumb-sucking comfort. I seemed, as my husband later described it, to have sprung full blown from the forehead of Zeus. I never sucked my thumb, either; as a very verbal child, I just talked people to distraction, which eventually put me to sleep, too. Maybe it's my lack of thumb-sucking that keeps me now from being a gum chewer. No oral fixations for me; can't stand the stuff.

However, a lot of kids have what starts out as a blanket they drag around to facilitate the pleasure of thumb-sucking. As essential as air and food, this blanket eventually becomes a pathetic little rag embarrassing to parents and siblings, but everyone is programmed to stop what they're doing and find the blankie when it goes missing. Some children have their blankie until long after they start school, and it's a huge trauma to be apart from it for any length of time.

My new blankie isn't just a rectangle I throw over myself. It has sleeves; I wear it like a surgeon's gown and wrap it around the back. The sleeves are loose, allowing me to read a book and still keep my hands warm. It's acrylic, a manmade fiber, the warmest, softest substance ever to come from a chemistry lab. My beautiful new blankie also has extra fabric at the top to bundle around and keep my neck and the tops of my shoulders warm. This is important because I sleep sitting up. It has a kangaroo pocket in the front, and the hem is attached only at the seams, leaving a little pocket there for feet. Yes, it's brilliantly designed, and adding to my pleasure is the fact that it's my favorite burgundy color.

While I am not obsessive about my blankie, I don't need to go back and touch it during the day for reassurance that I'm still alive. I'm okay with delayed gratification, but I find more and more it is the pleasure I look forward to at the end of the day, the arms of comfort, the assurance of sleep. I always smile when I think about my blankie.

Yesterday I checked the ten-day forecast on the weather channel website, and starting this week we are going to have freezing temperatures at night. I paid an inordinate amount of money for my new blankie, but it was a small price to pay for the peace and comfort I'm feeling now, and the confidence I expect to feel over the next few months while the storms rampage and the winds threaten and the frost and snow attempt to paralyze me. Whatever the winter brings, I'm going to be just fine, wrapped in my burgundy acrylic blankie with sleeves.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

excerpt from 'Living It Up'

John Marchbanks was ten minutes late meeting Polly and Lainie for lunch to discuss making Sophie’s Place a business partnership. Polly spent the time convincing Lainie what a brilliant attorney he was. He rushed in, out of breath, and made no excuses. He kissed Polly’s cheek and she introduced Lainie. John smiled engagingly. He was blond, blue eyed, and had a deep dimple in his left cheek. His dark blue suit with a subtle plaid was exquisitely tailored, and his tie was silk. Lainie caught on to his sense of humor right away and enjoyed the conversation. As they ate, she noticed, too, that he was left handed.

After the meal, John ordered a piece of apple pie, and when the server went away, he asked, “Why do you want to do this? Why do you want to complicate your lives with owning and operating a business?”

“Didn’t Winston tell you about the great Single Adult party we organized?” Polly asked.

“Yes, and it sounded fun,” he admitted. “Almost made me wish I’d broken my own rule and come to it.”

“What’s your rule?” Lainie scowled.

“I don’t get involved in dating services,” he said condescendingly.

“I don’t want to hear this,” Polly groaned, leaning her head in one hand.

“What do you mean, dating services?” Lainie demanded.

“Isn’t that what Single Adults is all about? Matching people up?”

Lainie stared at him in disbelief.

“Forgive me, John,” Polly interrupted reassuringly, “but I’m only saying this because you’re an idiot – you’re a colossal idiot.”

Just then the server put John’s pie in front of him, and he frowned as he picked up the fork.

Lainie calmed herself while Polly was talking, then answered John’s question. “No, it isn’t a dating service. You should have done your homework.”

“I stand corrected,” he shrugged. “Now I’ve got two sassy dames on my case.”

“I’m not sassy,” Lainie retorted. “You have no reason to call me sassy.”

John frowned at Polly as he started on the pie. “Looks like I got her Irish up.”

“Our point is,” Polly said, “if you had come to the party, you would have seen what a spectacular, fabulous bash we put together. That’s not bragging. I’m only stating the facts.”

“We developed a great working relationship,” Lainie added, “and it was so much fun, we didn’t want to stop.”

John looked at each of them, bewildered. “You’re really determined to do this.”

“We’re not wasting your time here, John,” Polly said.

He laughed. “You didn’t think this wasn’t a billable hour, did you?”

“Did you think this was the only billable hour you were going to spend with us?” Polly retorted.

“We have the funding,” Lainie added. “It’s all here in the prospectus I put together.” John’s eyebrows went up. He took the portfolio Lainie handed him and stared at her. She sat back in her chair with a “so there” look on her face. “I told you. I have a strong business background.”

“Aunt Sophie’s selling her house for a very reasonable price,” Polly said. “Her daughters knocked off a considerable chunk just to thank me for being there when Sophie got sick.”

John was still astonished. “So this isn’t just some Relief Society whim.”

Polly leaned toward him and said, “John, it’s going to be hard to finish that pie with both feet in your mouth.”

Lainie put her hands on the table, restraining herself from springing across it and choking him. She spoke slowly and deliberately as if he were six years old. “Just put my name on the papers, Mr. Marchbanks, and I’ll sign them. Or would you rather we find another attorney?”

John smiled his most charming smile, the dimple deepening as his eyes flashed. He took a sip from his water glass. “Okay,” he said, “now I’m sure you’re serious. I have to be certain. As your legal advisor, I don’t want you getting involved in something that could overwhelm you. Do you understand what I’m saying? The puppy may be cute and cuddly, but it has to be fed, and it might grow up to be a Saint Bernard. Are you ready for that?”

“Wouldn’t that mean we’re successful?” Polly asked. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Surely you’ve been listening to what we’ve been saying for the last fifteen minutes,” Lainie said. “This isn’t a difficult concept.”

“John, we’re not doing this on a capricious impulse,” Polly added. “There’s a passage of scripture that describes perfectly what we want to do at Sophie’s Place. I called Lainie right away when I read it and we decided this is our mission statement. The earth was created for the use of mankind, and all the beautiful and pleasant things were put here to please the eye and gladden the heart.”

Lainie watched his eyes as he listened to Polly. He focused completely on her. His were the kind of eyes a person wouldn’t be afraid to wander around in for a while. Lainie waited for an opening. “That’s what people want when they celebrate important moments in their lives,” she said, holding his eyes now with hers, “and we have the creativity and imagination and business sense, and a fabulous place, to make it all happen.”

“John, we’ve explored every possible scenario,” Polly said. “Lainie and I are both at a place in our lives where we can settle into the thing we love and go on doing it till we’re too feeble to walk in the front door.”

Lainie leaned forward on the table, smiling, focused on him. “John, don’t you love the law? Isn’t that why you spent three years devoted to learning it in law school? Doesn’t it satisfy your passion? What are we here for if not to make life better for somebody else?”

Startled by her insight, he caught his breath. It was as if she had opened his heart and mind and read verbatim. “Yes,” he said, putting down his fork, “I do love it that much.”

“Then you understand,” Lainie smiled.

He held her gaze across the table. This woman was dazzling. “I have a question for you.”

Leaning a little further forward, she asked, “What’s that?”

John leaned toward Lainie. “What’s your legal name?”

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Polly said.

“Elaine Thomas McGuire.”

“Thomas?” Polly repeated.

“My parents thought I was going to be a boy,” Lainie explained, “and I was born on my grandfather’s birthday, so they named me after him anyway because he was a redhead, too. My dad calls me Tommy sometimes. But it’s okay. My grandmother’s name was Elaine.”

John chuckled. “That’s really something.”

“It’s not as interesting as some other Southern Utah names I could mention. I grew up with twin girls named Relvadeen and Revaleen.”

“That’s a good one,” he said. “I once had a client named Chance Daykin.” Lainie and Polly laughed. “He was a stockbroker. True story,” he said, taking another bite of pie.

“Are you two going to spend the afternoon one-upping each other,” Polly asked, “or are we going on to the next step?”

He put his fork down, pushed the plate away and wiped his mouth with a napkin. “I couldn’t have known it until we talked, but this prospectus might alter the partnership agreement in some way, and I want to read it before we finalize things. If necessary I’ll amend what might need to be amended.” He took a drink of water.

“Another billable hour?”

He grinned at Polly. “Not only are you sassy, you’re also relentless.”

“I’m in business now,” she said. “I have to be. It’s called protecting your interests.”

He reached over and put his hand on hers. “Are you interested in telling Winston about this, or do you want me to?”

“No. I’ll tell him myself. He doesn't know it yet, but we're having dinner tomorrow night.”

He raised his eyebrows. “That’s promising.”

“First things first,” she said. “I’ll tell him he can read the prospectus.”

“I’ll send a review copy of the partnership agreement by courier tomorrow afternoon,” he said. “Call me by noon Thursday if you’re unhappy with anything in the document. Then Friday, you can sign the papers when we look at the house together with the real estate agent.”

“I’ll call him and arrange to meet at three,” Polly said, looking at John and Lainie. Both nodded. “Well, I’ll see you then.”

(This excerpt is the property of the author and may not be copied or otherwise published.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Does This Sound 'Finished' to You?


Like cataracts on ancient eyes,
a window opaque with mineral salts
prevents my clear vision of the world.
Can I say of my soul
I don't do windows?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

background of 'Living It Up'

Lainie McGuire and John Marchbanks are minor characters in Living It Down, and meet briefly at the end. Now, in Living It Up, which takes place in 1991, Lainie is ready for a change in direction, with Polly Burke as her business partner at Sophie's Place, Polly's aunt's beautiful old home. Lainie and John, Winston’s law partner, meet when he draws up incorporation papers for the business. John and Lainie are two never-marrieds approaching 40, and are both at peace, madly active in the church, happy with their single lives. When they fall in love, their worlds are turned upside down. He’s an LDS convert of 20 years, oldest son in a big Catholic family, and his parents still don’t approve of his conversion. In many ways, John and Lainie are opposites. He’s a talented artist, acts in community theater, plays the piano, teaches Primary and has a small beach house on the Oregon Coast. He’s devoted to his law practice. She’s from Cedar City, Utah, a dedicated people person, works with the Single Adults in her ward, and does a lot of volunteer work in the community. John lives in a Quail Valley condo on the east bench of Provo, and Lainie lives in a house on the west side near Utah Lake. She is a breast cancer survivor who appreciates every day, even a bad one. John and Lainie are compatible, have a mutual attraction, and just as John is ready to acknowledge that he loves Lainie, he is diagnosed with malignant melanoma, and the world is upside down again. What they learn about themselves and each other through his treatment and recovery, given their cancer statistics, helps them work out the necessary compromises for a future together. Ultimately, it’s all about life. In this book, we also find out what happened to Polly and Winston after they reconciled, and we follow through with the teenagers. There's another parallel/contrasting subplot with Angela and Kyle that has been WAAAY fun to write. These two people really burst into life, and if I ever write another book in this series, it would be about them. But I'm not planning on it right now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

an excerpt from 'Living It Down'

In the second novel in my trilogy, Living It Up, the main idea is that life can be so rich and sweet and wonderful, and there's no sense putting it off until a more convenient time. Lainie McGuire and John Marchbanks are minor characters in Living It Down, and meet briefly at the end. Now, in Living It Up, which takes place in 1991, Lainie is ready for a change in direction, with Polly Burke as her business partner at Sophie's Place, Polly's aunt's beautiful old home. Lainie and John, Winston’s law partner, meet when he draws up incorporation papers for the business. John and Lainie are two never-marrieds approaching 40, and are both at peace, madly active in the church, happy with their single lives. When they fall in love, their worlds are turned upside down. He’s an LDS convert of 20 years, oldest son in a big Catholic family, and his parents still don’t approve of his conversion. In many ways, John and Lainie are opposites. He’s a talented artist, acts in community theater, plays the piano, teaches Primary and has a small beach house on the Oregon Coast. He’s devoted to his law practice. She’s from Cedar City, Utah, a dedicated people person, works with the Single Adults in her ward, and does a lot of volunteer work in the community. John lives in a Quail Valley condo on the east bench of Provo, and Lainie lives in a house on the west side near Utah Lake. She is a breast cancer survivor who appreciates every day, even a bad one. John and Lainie are compatible, have a mutual attraction, and just as John is ready to acknowledge that he loves Lainie, he is diagnosed with malignant melanoma, and the world is upside down again. What they learn about themselves and each other through his treatment and recovery, given their cancer statistics, helps them work out the necessary compromises for a future together. Ultimately, it’s all about life. There are some other subplots, too, that contrast and parallel the John/Lainie story. We find out what happened to Polly and Winston after they reconciled, and follow through with the teenagers.

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Out-of-Mind Experience

Since retiring this spring and submitting novels to a publisher I've learned a lot about myself and my limitations emotionally and intellectually. If you like action novels you'll have to go somewhere else because mine are about people and relationships and the action mostly takes place inside the characters' hearts and minds. I decided early on that I respect my readers' intelligence enough not to talk down to them. Reading my books will be an emotional AND cerebral experience.

Writing a novel is almost an out-of-mind experience in the sense that there are these extra people inhabiting my mind and telling me their stories, and I'm at the keyboard taking dictation. They exist independently, and I know them rather well, but I've never met any actual person like them. I don't even know that we have enough in common to be compatible dinner companions, but I like and admire them; they're far more interesting than I am. Once they come alive in my imagination, they start telling me their backstories. Character is plot, and every character has a history, so I don't worry much about elaborate plotting; I just let them do what they will, and a story unfolds.

In the first novel, 'Living It Down,' which takes place in 1990-91, the premise is based on this question: What would an LDS woman do if she went to counsel with a priesthood leader in her new ward and discovered that he was the reason she needed to talk to a priesthood leader in the first place? You know how ideas trigger other ideas and pretty soon you're a million miles away from where you started. That's how I got to that question, but I didn't have an answer for it, and it intrigued me. In this case, the two people involved were college students together twenty years ago and he wasn't LDS. When she, Polly Hamilton, broke up with Todd Kendall, he quit school, joined the Navy, and met an LDS chaplain. Now, 20 years later, things still bother Polly, now Mrs. Winston Burke, and so she takes a time out from her marriage to reevaluate her life. She's in her late 30's now, unhappy, and can't name the reasons why. Winston is devastated but gives her the space she needs because he is completely devoted to his wife. She moves with her two teenage daughters from her big beautiful Orem, Utah home to the student housing basement apartment in her Aunt Sophie's elegant Victorian home in Provo. Polly's first meeting with the bishop, when she learns his identity, is a disaster, but he persists and convinces her that he's the only person who can help her through this; his hope is that in the process, she will also finally forgive him. He's a completely different man now, changed by his conversion, a humble man with genuine Christian love. His goal is to help her heal so she can return to her husband.

A very important issue for LDS women comes up with the premise question - trust. You have to trust your husband enough to marry him and allow him to be the father of your children and help raise them and support you, and you have to trust your priesthood leaders enough to confide in them and depend on their leadership. There is a sub-plot involving Polly's teenage daughter who is rushed by a predatory boy. Girls have to learn who they can trust, too, and dating is the process by which people reveal the level of trust others can have in them.

This is a contemporary LDS story in which there are several kinds of love portrayed. Issues of trust and loyalty come up frequently for these characters. I vetted the teenage subplot with some teenagers I know, and they corrected some things, but assured me that there really are predatory boys out there, in growing numbers with devastating consequences, and girls really do talk like this, only worse. My how times have changed.

Sophie's malapropisms are one of the threads of wit and humor in the book. (…he's got bad arthuritis, walks with a lymph…) A malapropism is confusing two similar words with hilarious results. Sophie says, for instance that a real escape agent contacted her about selling her house, and in another place she tells Polly she's glad she found her glitch in life. I'll post a scene with Sophie so you can get in on the fun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Welcome to my diablog

Yes, I'm good at making up new words. Diablog is a written conversation on my new blog. Let's have one. I'll start.

You've got to wonder what kind of day it's going to be when you wake up from a dream where your friend who's divorced is having a civilized conversation with her ex, and 'Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight, Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight and dance by the light of the moon' is running through your brain. It makes you want to run screaming out of the left side of your head. But I calmed myself and went on with my day. So far so good.

Today I'm going to proofread some pages of a document my son Jordan sent me from Diamond Ranch Academy where he works, and then I'm going to type up the school newsletter for my husband Roger who is in his LAST year of teaching middle school. I was the writing tutor there for the last seven years, but I figured that's a lucky number so I quit this spring to pursue writing and publishing. I just submitted three manuscripts to a publisher, and while I'm waiting for their response, I'll keep busy with stuff like this, as a reasonable alternative to climbing the walls.

I can easily email my manuscripts if any of you would like to read them. I'd love to get your feedback. In fact, I'm looking for salient quotes to put on the cover, so this could be your lucky break.