Saturday, November 3, 2012

How to Think Mo' Bettah

I am happy to announce that I made it through the shock and awe of becoming a high school teacher.

The first stage, commonly known as the I-wish-I-had-cancer stage, lasted approximately 8 weeks. There is nothing you can do to ease your discomfort during this stage, unless of course you know a good anesthesiologist who would be willing to jam an epidural into your brain.

Thank goodness the second stage, otherwise known as the I-wish-my-students-had-cancer stage, only lasted 40 minutes. I was teaching critical thinking via poetry explication at the time, with song lyrics, but I discovered that there are three things you should never discuss in the classroom--politics, religion and song lyrics.

Oh, and ghosts. It's astounding how controversial ghosts can be.

And also, never accidentally refer to any of the other teachers as brother or sister.

Oh, or say, "I would now like to turn the time over to . . . " during student presentations.

Anyways, I was teaching critical thinking via poetry explication when I went through the second stage of becoming a high school teacher. I looked back and forth, and back and forth between the angry students.

"Uh . . . whatcha doing?" I said.

"Thinking critically," they replied.

It struck me then that I was doing my job too well. So I blinked and shrugged and said, "Whatevah."

Then I put on a YouTube video of Glozell explicating Ke$ha.

"This is how you do it," I said.

It's all about modeling when you're trying to teach 95 teenagers how to think mo' bettah.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'll tell you what now . . .

Remember that time I watched my Mt. Carmel grandma die? And then I stood on my aunt Elaine's front porch at 2 a.m. watching three men in suits drive her down Tait Lane for the very last time, past her childhood home where she was born out of wedlock in the pink bedroom off the parlor?

Remember how at that moment my oldest child was just about to graduate from high school, my middle child was just about to get his driver's license, and my youngest child was just about to grow his mohawk out into a mullet?

Oh, and my pantry was just about to get infestated with moths that would spawn maggots that would fall from the ceiling during dinner?

And remember how as I stood there, teetering between what lay behind me and what lay ahead, I asked the Universe a stupid question?

What now? I said.

Well I should have known better. At least while my grandma had the peculiar advantage of being still within earshot, yet without physical limitations.

"I'll tell you what now," she must have chuckled to herself. "You are now going to stretch and grow and reach your full potentional so you can begin living my dream."

One advantage my grandma's childhood, spent as the town "devil's spawn," afforded her was a mental wall to push against until her delicate will became as strong as steel. That's right, she developed an iron will, with an eye single to the glory of making sure all her posterity made it into the Celestial Kingdom.

What I didn't fully grasp when I asked "what now?" was that when a child graduates from high school, she goes away, and when a child gets his driver's license, he goes away, and when a child grows his mohawk into a mullet, it goes away.

Even pantry moths eventually stop dropping on you during dinner.

But dead relatives who want you to get into the Celestial Kingdom never. go. away. Especially if they want to live their dreams vicariously through you.

In short, my Mt. Carmel grandma is finally living her dream of becoming a high school teacher. Or maybe I should say, I am finally living her dream of becoming a high school teacher.

No doubt she had to move Heaven and Earth, and realign the stars and cosmos to make this happen, (exactly one week before school started). But hey, she's connected now. She's rubbing shoulders and pulling strings with that great big principal in the sky.

That's conjecture of course. (Notice I'm using words like conjecture now that I'm a high school teacher? I never used conjecture before my grandma died, which means not only is she imposing her will on me, but she is also imposing her vocabulary on me.)

But anyways (that sounds more like me), I will not disclose the name or the location of the school I am now working for, but it rhymes with Blogwarts and it's off I-15 exit 9 and 3/4. It's the kind of school where the students wear uniforms, play Quiddich, and beg you to let them read Shakespeare for their birthdays. Fer reals. It's also the kind of school where the students think I'm funnier than Jerry Seinfield when I talk about Rhode Island.

"But Jerry Seinfield isn't even that funny," said my oldest son when I told him. But what does he know? He's never even been to Rhode Island.

Bottom line: The reason I haven't been writing in my diary is not because I have been grieving over my Mt. Carmel grandma's passing, but rather because I have been standing in front of 95 juniors and seniors for six freakin' hours a day.

If you want to know what that looks like, let me paint you a picture.

Except when I'm talking about Rhode Island, and then it looks like this:

When you first start reaching your full potential by teaching high school you can expect to have at least 1-2 panic attacks per day, particularly if you only have a week to learn everything there is to know about American history and AP language

When you're not panicking, you're sobbing into your pillow.

"I can't do this!" you wail. "I'm just a dummy!"

When you're not panicking or sobbing into your pillow, you're on your knees praying that you will get cancer ASAP.

If it be God's will, of course.

Somehow Cancer sounds like an epidural when you're standing in front of 95 juniors and seniors for six freakin' hours a day.

If I could pass on any advice to new high school teachers it would be, don't be alarmed if during the first few weeks of school you begin to covet others in new and unfamiliar ways. For instance, when you see the custodian scrubbing the bathroom toilets, you might think, "I wish I was a custodian!"

When you pass a car accident on the freeway, you might think, "Why can't I ever get into a car accident?"

When you visit your sister in the hospital, you might think, "Why does she have all the luck!?"

You honestly can't believe the inequalities of life--your sister gets to lay around all day in the hosptial while you're standing like a human dart board in front of 95 teenagers.

For a while it feels like the road to hell is paved with juniors and seniors, but then you start getting thank you notes and you get the feeling that at least you're making a difference:

Dear Mrs. Dummy--You make me feel so smart. Thank you for being so dumb. You have done wonders for my self esteem.

The hardest part about becoming a high school teacher after three years of laying around watching Project Runway and Celebrity Rehab is that you just don't feel like yourself anymore. You spend most of the day, at least from the hours of 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., being someone else--someone who reads and thinks and plans. Your mind is completely focused on the task at hand, so much so that you become smarter and dumber at the same time. One day, for instance, I ate lunch in the faculty lounge with the other high school teachers. I took my left over beef and broccoli from the fridge, warmed it up, sat down and began eating it. Three bites later I had an epiphany. I didn't bring leftover beef and broccoli, I brought leftover chicken curry.

I was eating someone else's lunch.

Maybe someday I will be living my own dream, and eating my own lunch, but for now I am just eating my own words.

There's a moral here. There's a definite moral here. Be careful who you poke in the eye in your public diary, because you just might have to walk a mile in their moccasins with a bullseye taped to your back.

Hmmmm . . . I wonder what all those things I said about my mother-in-law will taste like going down?

(Can you excuse me for a moment? I need to go write "MY MOTHER-IN-LAW ROCKS!" a hundred times on the chalk board.)


Saturday, August 4, 2012

What Now?

There are three phases of life that are impossible to be ready for no matter how much you prepare: When your oldest daughter graduates high school, when your oldest son gets his driver's license, and when your youngest son gets a mohawk which grows out into a mullet.

The pantry moth infestation phase can also catch you off guard; even more so than the flea, head lice, and cane spider infestation phases because, how much trouble could a moth get into in a pantry, anyway? You'll never know until it lays a bunch of eggs in that open bag of slivered almonds on your top shelf  and little maggots start dropping down on you from the ceiling during dinner.

Do you need a minute?

And then there's the death phase. You never see the death phase coming, ever. Even when you do.

You can never predict your reaction to the death phase either.

My Mt. Carmel grandma died on May 15th and I haven't blogged since. Whodda thought?

I 've been expecting her to die for years, but when I got word on my birthday that the time was close at hand, I hesitated. I mean the last time I heard a loved one was near the end, the end didn't come for 18 months.

The timing was also a little bit inconvenient, because my husband had given me a writing retreat for my birthday and I was at that very moment in a secret, undisclosed location, near the football stadium in Provo, writing about . . . I kid not . . . my grandma.

To go, or not to go. That was the question. Close my laptop, check out of my hotel, and hit the road, or stay and take the chance that my grandma could hang on until the weekend.

I decided not to second guess death, or ask him to work around my schedule, so I hit the road. But first I hit the grocery store to buy a watermelon--her favorite--and some drinkable yogurt to get me through the four hour drive ahead of me.

I arrived at 9:25 p.m. By that time all of my family had already come and gone, except my brother, Eric, who was sitting at the foot of the bed.

"I think she knows you're here," said my cousin, Emily. "Look how her fingertips are turning blue. I think this is it."

I humored Emily, but that's not the way things go down in real life. In real life I was going to sit by her bedside for two or three days and watch her suffer. Maybe I would help administer morphine and talk story about our good ol' summer days in Mt. Carmel. Eventually I would kiss her goodbye and return home to my family, where a few days--or weeks, or months--later, I would get the call that she had passed.

I took my grandma's hand and stroked her hair, which was clearly in a state of shock. A state of shock rivaled only by my own state of shock when, 10 minutes later, my grandma took her last breath and died.

10 minutes! That's one pit stop--a drive-thru at Burger King, or a refuel at Maverick, or a trip to buy cheese curd in Beaver.

I did none of these things. I just drove. And drank yogurt. And listened to Dave Matthews.

Did I just happen to make it before the last grain of sand slipped through my grandma's hour glass, or did death wait for me to arrive so he could properly introduce himself?

Whatever. I'm glad we finally met face to face, because I got to see his softer side. I found death to be kind and considerate. Peaceful and compassionate. Almost joyful. It's life that twists the knife and stands back as we squirm. Death steps in and say "Enough! I can't bear it anymore!"

I thought I would burst into tears--loud wailing sobs--after meeting death, but while you are in death's presence, the grief comes gradual. My grandma was gone, yet she was still there, lying in her pink house coat and white ankle socks with tennis rackets cross stitched on the cuff. She was still warm and soft when my aunt Elaine climbed into bed with her and gathered her up in her arms, and when my grandma's cat, Boo, curled up on her lap and tried to bite anyone who reached out to pet her.

When my dad died I didn't know what to do with myself. I wandered around the house, in and out of every room, up and down the stairs, over and over until I ended up in my mom's closet, where I finally understood why some people never want to come out of the closet. After my grandma died I tried on her dance shoes from high school and walked around like Cinderella. I chattered and giggled with my relatives. I did the dishes and cut the watermelon.

"Let's stay up all night in here and talk," said my aunt Elaine.

It was our way of hanging on the moment--the last moment before arrangements needed to be made and plans needed to be executed.

But then my grandma's body got stiff and my aunt Elaine got grumpy, and at 2 a.m. reality set in that someone needed to come to the house and cover my grandma with a blanket, place her on a stretcher and carry her out of the house for the last time--past the 110 year old family home at the end of Tait Lane where she was born out of wedlock in 1924.

I stood on my Aunt Elaine's front porch watching the car creep reverently away past the family home cloaked in utter darkness below us. I shuttered. This was it. The end of the story. I was living the last page. The last remaining family member to grow up in that house was at the corner intersect on a stretcher, waiting to turn onto the highway and drive away forever.

After she disappeared, the air hung heavily around the house and I held my breath.

What now?

My oldest daughter would graduate from high school, my oldest son would get his drivers license, and my youngest son would get a mohawk, which would grow out into a mullet.

And I would clean out my pantry.


It's good to be back. Thanks for waiting.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The apple always falls close to the tree

One of my twins had to type up a self evaluation for his math class, and his answers gave me an epiphany about apples:

Cheating has been a problem with some this year. What should the teacher do about the people who cheat?

If he or she cheats on a test, quiz or homework the teacher should give them an F for the rest of the term because what I have learned in choir is that cheating makes u dumber. 

Hmmmm . . . how do u cheat in choir again? Oh right, watermelon, watermelon, watermelon . . .

That explains my IQ.

My personal favorite question/answer, was of the nature every teacher dreams of:

How accurately did your grades reflect your learning and understanding of the material? 

Not great. I think this class wasn’t the easiest class for me. I didn’t really get what you were saying. I thought you taught it like a B level for the other students, but for me I just didn’t get it that well. I didn’t get what you were explaining. 

Did I already say hmmmm?

I guess it's true what they say about the apple falling within a reasonably close proximity to the tree. It usually doesn't fall quantum leaps away from the tree, is what I'm saying. And if the apple falls at a 90 degree angle, or at a slope–intercept or on a line parallel with x or y, poor thing hasn't got a chance. Unless of course the tree is named Pythagoras.


Monday, May 7, 2012

An exercise in description of, without commentary on, macrame wedges and mullets

It was LDS Storymakers weekend again, which means anyone who is everyone was in town for the Whitney Awards.

It's also means the amount of super cute macrame wedges walking around Utah tripled.

I, myself, was wearing macrame wedges before it was even cool, so I moved on to Fit Flops years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if within five years everyone is wearing Fit Flops to Storymakers.

A few dear-to-my-heart author friends were in town (and sporting super cute macrame wedges) for the Whitneys, including Melanie J. from Write Stuff and Miss Heidi from Dunhaven Place. On Friday night I got to see them at the King's English bookshop in Salt Lake City.

Have you been there? If not, you must go! Alls you do is take I-15 to I-80. Pretend you're on your way to Cheyenne, but before you get there, yell PSYCH, and turn off at 1300 E.

From there follow your heart to Sugar House.

In other words, turn left.

When the road slims down and the neighborhood gets vintage, turn up to 1500 E. where you'll happen upon a hipster local business district adorned with twinkly lights and a jazz band. It's the kind of street that might remind you of Cal Berkeley.

I've never actually been to Cal Berkeley, but I've been to a lot of places that remind me of Cal Berkeley, and this place reminds me of the places that remind me of Cal Berkeley. Also my History Professor in college was from Cal Berkeley, before he got fired for his liberal ways, and this street reminds me of a street he might stroll down to purchase a latte, or an out-of-print book about original ideas.

So anyway, Luisa Perkins was having a book signing at Kings English bookshop for Dispirited, which I hear is an excellent read, and if chapter one is any indication then, yes, it's captivating. I bought the book, had Luisa sign it, then sat around chit chatting with all the authors wearing super cute macrame wedges. I think the only other person besides me who wasn't wearing wedges was Jami from Superfluous Miscellany, who was the first person to leave a comment on my blog.

You never forget your first comment.

She is also the person who inspired the conclusion to my memoir.

You never forget the person who inspires the conclusion to your memoir either.

Jami and I have known each other for years now, and yet she was surprised when she met me. I wasn't what she was expecting.

She thought I would be taller.

She thought I would be larger than life. But actually I'm smaller than life.

It's a strange feeling when you get people wrong like that.

I think it's the same way with places. Probably when I actually visit Cal Berkeley I will think, huh, this doesn't remind me of all those places that remind me of Cal Berkeley, after all.

I think it's the same way with things too. Like my youngest son's mullet, which is an outgrowth of his mohawk. It throws people off when they hear he named it Fredward.

"Huh," said my brother-in-law, "It strikes me more as a Billy Ray Cyrus."

Huh, I guess this wasn't really an exercise in description of, without commentary on, macrame wedges and mullets after all, was it.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Midas Touch

My Gigi was struck by lightening three times. That explains why I inherited an electromagnetic gene that enables me to attract excitement into my life. I passed this gene on to my 15-year-old son, which combined with my husband's raw-talent and sheer-force-of-will genes, has somehow endowed my son with the Midas Touch.

Mostly everything he touches turns to Under Armor basketball shoes, but there are other perks too. For instance, he has already traveled to almost every major city in the United States, besides Fargo, North Dakota and Casper Wyoming.

Last weekend he was in Philadelphia shooting hoops and checking out the crack in the Liberty Bell, and that wasn't even the exciting part.

The exciting part happened when his plane landed in Salt Lake City on Sunday night. Just as the passengers were about to exit, the pilot came over the intercom and instructed everyone to please stay seated until further instruction.

Suddenly, and without warning, at least 10 cops rushed the plane. For all I know they were waving guns in the passengers faces as they shouted, "Edgar, we know you're on this plane! Give yourself up."

But Edgar didn't give himself up, so each passenger had to break out his ID until Edgar was finally located 15 minutes later, seated directly behind my son.

I repeat, he was seated directly behind my son.

I looked Edgar up on Facebook and his profile pic is a stake in the ground with Go Away! spray painted down the side. It looks like he's a faculty member at the Arts Institutes, but don't quote me on that because there are several Edgars on Facebook.

Speaking of Midas Touch, thanks to DeNae Handy, your Mother's Day gift giving decisions just got a whole lot easier:

We've had the most wonderful response to our story collection "Tell Me Who I Am," and now it's available in a gift set which includes a pretty bookmark and -- that's right! -- a box of Utah Truffles!  All for just $20, which includes shipping.


You'll want to order quickly; quantities really are limited, and the last day we can take orders and guarantee you'll receive your gift is Tuesday, May 8.   

Price Includes Shipping


P.S.  Remember my awkward commercial debut? Click on this link for GoalZero if you want to witness it. Notice they took out all the speaking parts and left only the smiling pretty parts. (Or technically, the smiling pretty awkwardly parts.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Prince and Princess Charming

Sometimes I like to put words in my daughters mouth. I've fessed up to it. But sometimes she likes to take words out of my mouth, especially if those words are on Facebook.

Which is the worser offense? I know not.

Remember that time I Liked all of her dance photos on Facebook, and she forced me at gunpoint to Unlike them? Well this week I commented on all of her senior pictures on Facebook using words like GORGEOUS! and Beautiful! as well as important questions like, She's preeeeetty, who made her?

Once again she called me from work--and from the depths of humiliation--and specifically instructed me to "Untoot my horn."


For the record, I couldn't find the Untoot button on Facebook, so I kept all them words in my mouth. (Take that, supermodel daughter of mine!)

What I don't get is how come when her Prince Charming Prom date arrived tonight and told her she looked like a princess, she didn't try to take them words out of his mouth.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Extra

You know how I love to share both movie wisdom, and advanced movie wisdom? Well, today I would like to share some advanced, advanced movie wisdom:

Movies ain't real, peeps. They're staged.

I know this because last week I made my acting debut in a commercial.

I didn't mean to do it, I happen to know a filmmaker who needed an extra "extra" because the original "extra" bailed at the last minute. He probably figured that since I was an adjunct faculty for 12 years I had a lot of experience being an "extra."

"Alls you have to do is open a fridge door, and maybe sit at a table," he told me.

He probably figured that since I've been a mom for 17 years I've had a lot of experience opening fridge doors and sitting at tables.

When I arrived on set, I introduced myself to the director as the "extra."

"Great," he said. "You'll be playing the mom, today."

"The mom? But I was hired to be the extra," I said. "Mom's aren't extra. Moms are the star."

He smiled. "Around here the product is the star, and the mom is the extra."

Another example of the media objectifying objects and deobjectifying moms.

While the film crew set up the room and staged the dinner table, and the producer ran to pick up Chinese food for everyone, the make-up artist fixed my hair and face and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the role.

But then the director began dishing up and serving me and my extra family dinner, so I had to speak up.

"Shouldn't the mom be serving the food?" I said. "I mean to get into character."

"You're just an 'extra" mom," said the director. "Your role is to look pretty and do what we ask you to do."

"But I usually don't look pretty at the dinner table," I said. I wasn't complaining, I was just saying. "Just worried that we might be sending the wrong message that's all, " I added. "And perpetuating stereotypes, and creating unrealistic expectations . . ."

My extra husband, who was played by a professional, raised one eyebrow, so I put a lid on it. Not only did he play in Oceans Eleven and 21, he was a CHiP in real life (California Highway Patrol).

"Is Eric Estrada as sexy in person as he looks on t.v?" I asked, while we waited for the crew to set up the lighting. He raised the other eyebrow.

Then he told me that George Clooney is way nice, Brad Pitt is pretty cool, Matt Damen is okay, and Julia Roberts is short and snooty.

"She also has a body double, so Julia Roberts isn't Julia Roberts at all," he said, wrinkling his nose up.

"Maybe that's why she looks so tall and friendly in the movies," I added.

My extra son was in the 8th grade and scored a 30 on the ACT the first time he took it. He wanted to be a brain surgeon and his favorite book was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. When the camera started rolling he smiled a lot and said he was excited to clean his room. My part wasn't to judge, but to look pretty and make dinner conversation so I pouted my lips and asked him how his basketball practice went.

"GRRRREEEEAT!" he said, as if he were Tony the Tiger.

"Why?" I asked. Then I turned to my extra husband and asked him how his day went.

He also said, "GRRRREEEEAT!" (Like fake father, like fake son, I guess.)

"Why?" I asked again.

"Cut!" called the director. "Dummy, can you not interrogate your fake family please, unless you're smiling."

"It just doesn't seem very realistic is all." I said. "Why is everyone GRRRREEEEAT? This isn't a breakfast commercial."

On the next take I asked my fake daughter if she had her homework done, and she said, "YES, I've had it done since 1995."

"And monkeys fly," I said.

"Cut!" called the director.

Next my extra husband asked our extra son what he'd been reading, and he said Harry Potter.

"I read the whole series in four days. 34 times."

"CUT!" I called. "Seriously! Who reads Harry Potter 34 times? I mean, someone is going to call social services on us."

"Dummy, you don't get to call cut, you're the extra."

"But shouldn't this kid be burping, or insulting my cooking, or telling me my waistband is too high? And shouldn't I be telling him to stop slurping or to get his elbows off the table, or that money doesn't grow on trees?"

 "Dummy can I speak to you for a minute. In private," said the director.

I was just keepin' it real, you know. For the betterment of mankind. But I learned a valuable lesson that day: The extra doesn't get to keep it real.

And the only thing real about movies is the wisdom. 


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Aye, there's the rub

I don't know what that means, but I like to say it sometimes because Shakespeare said it sometimes, and when Shakespeare talks, people listen.

That's my philosophy; If you want people to listen, throw some Shakespeare into the mix. Nod your head sympathetically once in a while and say, aye, there's the rub. It works especially well when someone is confused, or conflicted. Or, if you're conversing with Hamlet while he's trying to decide whether to be or not to be.

Aye, there's the rub!

I said this to my daughter last night after she read yesterday's post about American Promises (in bed).

"WOW, Mom," she said. "You put a lot of words in my mouth."

"I know," I said. "I'm good at it, huh?"

"But like, you made it sound like I was not only in the conversation, but also of the conversation."

"I know," I told her. "And I made it sound like people like you too."

"Only thing is, I wasn't in the conversation, or of the conversation," she said.

"Aye, there's the rub!" I said. "There's. the. rub."

Truth is, the only thing my daughter actually said while I was reading all the American Promises and adding (in bed) was, "Mom, you're making me uncomfortable."

I don't know why alluding to sleep makes her squirm, but she turns away when vampires kiss on television too.

True story.

But true stories are dull. That's where I come in. To capture the essence of a conversation--not the conversation as it was, but the conversation as it was meant to be.

I don't necessarily repeat what people say word for word, I repeat what I want them to say, word for word. It's called wish fulfillment.

Wish fulfillment is why writer's write. Learned that in college.

See sometimes I wish my daughter wouldn't say, "Mom, you're making me uncomfortable," so I pick up my pen and write in what I wish she would say. Somewhere deep inside her I believe there is a place that doesn't get uncomfortable when I speak (or when vampires kiss). By putting words in her mouth I am tapping into that place.

I'm not lying, I'm just liberating.

Sometimes I liberate my hub's words too. I'm like an artist that way--a great French photographer, maybe, or a painter--not a literalist, but an impressionist, who communicates other people's exact thoughts rather than their exact words.

My hub may not say all the words I put into his mouth, but he thinks all the thoughts I put into his head.

For example, he may not say, "Frailty, thy name is woman!" like Shakespeare did, but I know he thinks it, especially when I water the new grass for 34 minutes instead of four minutes like he told me to, over and over.

See 34 minutes makes new grass puddle and you want to avoid puddling new grass at all costs, particularly after your husband spent 18 hours a day over the weekend tilling and shoveling, and seeding, and moving rocks, and as Shakespeare would say, "throwing compost on the weeds."

There's the rub!

You get me?


P.S. For the record, I have never had to liberate any of my MIL's words. I always quote her directly because she is totally in tune with her inner uncomfortable thoughts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

American Promises (in bed)

My daughter gets more love notes than any person I've given birth to. And not just from prince charming's who ask her to Prom, but from friends and neighbors and leaders and cousins too.

Someone is always dropping off brownies or cookies or candy or rainbow roses. Last night she got a necklace made from a Hawaii quarter with the word BEAUTY stamped across it, and a Mustache Mug full of Dove chocolates.

"These are American fortune cookies," I squealed.

"Technically they're chocolate promises," said my daughter.

"Tomato, tomahto," I said as we unwrapped each piece of chocolate, read our promises, then added the secret ending (in bed).

Can I just tell you that American promises are much more on point than Chinese fortunes. It's almost like Americans write their promises with the secret (in bed) ending in mind. Take my first promise for instance: "Get a good nights sleep (in bed)." I mean, how much more spot on can an American chocolate fortune teller be?

Check this one out:

Americans really get that a good day's sleep is as valuable as a good night's sleep.

My daughter's fortune said, "Too much of a good thing is wonderful (in bed)."

"True that!" I said. "You can never get too much sleep in bed. It's next to impossible."

"Unless you start worrying about all the things that happen while you are sleeping," my daughter added.

"Touche," I said.

My next fortune said, "There are no limits today (in bed)." I took that as permission granted to sleep in as long as I wanted today, and I didn't roll (out of bed) until 5:45 a.m.

There was only one promise that didn't work with the secret ending, although it could work if you had a water bed. "Create your own spa (in bed)."

"I wonder why Americans are so fixated on relaxing and sleeping?" I mused to my daughter.

"Sick and tired, I guess," she shrugged.

After we finished reading all the promises, we re-wrapped each piece of chocolate and returned it to the mustache mug. Then my daughter opened the note that came with the mug:

"I mustache you something. How come you're so amazing?"

I was kinda glad that wasn't an American promise.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

While You Were Sleeping

Have you ever wondered about all of the things that happen while you are sleeping?

You could be curled up in your bed counting sheep at the exact moment your sister starts throwing up blood. She's rushing to the emergency room, writhing in pain, losing consciousness, receiving blood transfusions, while you're just breathing deeply.

Other things could happen too. You're brother could get divorced, your neighbor could die of cancer, your mom could move into her dream trailer park.

Sometimes it makes my head spin just thinking about all of the things people are doing while I am sleeping. That's not including all the things I am doing while you are sleeping, especially when I'm striving. Striving and striving and striving, insomuch that I have become a stiff-necked people. Literally. Because my striving is your sitting and staring.

Imagine sitting and staring for 10-12 hours a day, with occasional breaks for a hot bath and a Sunrise Serenade. (That's yoga speak, for dummies.)

That is my striving.

My world has become so small. So infinitely small. This must be what Olympic athletes feel like, if Olympic athletes sat and stared all day. It's just as hard on the body is what I'm finding, and yet not as attractive on the body, is what I'm also finding.

But sitting and staring pays off if you stick with it. I'm happy to report that I'm more than halfway through my third draft of my memoir/diary. Or should I say memoirs/diaries, because there are multiples. Maybe even a series of them, depending on how many more darlings I kill. (That's writer speak, for dummies.)

Oh, and there's also a guidebook, Crash Test Dummies for Dummies. And a pamphlet for the young people--For the Warmth of Youth, about appropriate winter wear.

And Vern, I'm working on that Hunger Games for Mormons Parody. Stay tuned.

Striving has revealed one thing about myself that I was only vaguely aware of: I enjoy re-writing WAY WAY WAY more than I enjoy writing.

Blank pages make me itchy.

Please forgive me if you've emailed or called or texted or Facebooked or dropped a plant off on my doorstep, and I have not yet responded. Also, forgive me if I have not offered to babysit your children or cook your dinner. I am in a state of temporary striving, with a capital TEMPORARY.

I pinky promise I'll babysit and cook for you after the fifth draft. And maybe I'll remove my Christmas decorations from my window box after the fourth draft.

Most importantly, forgive me for not posting the winners of my Tell Me Who I Am contest.

Drumroll, please . . .

1st place goes to MOMZA because she made me see that it really is our stories that tell us who we are. She has listened to all of my stories and she's got me down to a nutshell--if that's even possible, because like I always say, we don't live in a nutshell now, do we. Although I am kinda living in a nutshell right now. An infinitely small nutshell.

The only thing Momza forgot to mention about me is how my eyeballs get stuck on my plate. (I would link to that post if I wasn't so busy striving.)

2nd place goes to CAROL YUEN because she really tugged at my Hawaiian heartstrings, and stroked my ego at the same time.

3rd place goes to SANDI because she told me who I used to be, (now I'm just somebody that she used to know) and that I hope to be again. One day. After I finish striving and move into a bigger nutshell.

Congrats girls, I've got autographed copies of Tell Me Who I Am ready to send--even got DeNae Handy and Jana Parkin to sign them so they may be in the Smithsonian someday.

And bonus, I've got free autographed copies for my honorable mentions too: Brittany, Garden, 2Busy, Scooby and Jon, and Anjeny (because Anjeny proved to me that she takes her blog title, Ramblings of and Islander seriously. I'm telling you, that's who she is.)

And Mariko, I will throw one in for you too, even though you already bought one, because honestly I loved your concision:"You're a writer." In a nutshell, you're right. Almost. If you had said "You're a re-writer" you would have been a shoe-in for first place.

Tell Me Who I Am is getting great reviews, btw, and will be available for upload on Kindle soon. Also there will be a Mother's Day promotion beginning April 23rd and I think chocolates may be involved.

Stay tuned.


P.S. If you won, email me your address and I will send you your prize. After I finish my 6th draft.

J/K peeps. I need a break from my striving anyway.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thirty years after

Mariko, my daughter's hoity toity English teacher from Hawaii, doesn't think I'm selling Utah very well and told me to work on it.

I may not be one to accentuate the positive, but I am one to do what I'm told, so . . .

Actually I'm not one to do what I'm told, but I'll give it a whirl.

While Hawaii may have many things that Utah doesn't have, like cockroaches, kane spiders and head lice, Utah has many things that Hawaii doesn't have, like tanning salons, Sono Bello billboards and 25 mph speed limits.

One thing both states definitely have in common is hoity toity English teachers. And equally awesome next door neighbors!

Anyways, I've decided to write a Good Things Utah list, in no particular order, to highlight my favorite things about Utah that I never enjoyed in Hawaii:
  1. Lulu
  2. My mom's new dog, Bella
  3. My mom's new mobile home, Edward
  4. My sister
  5. My five brothers, (almost all of) their wives, and (all of) their kids
  6. Lawnmower ownership
  7. Helpful school administrators
  8. All-you-can-eat restaurants
  9. All-you-can-play basketball tournaments
  10. All-you-can-love in-laws
  11. Lulu
  12. Lunch with my writing friends
  13. Dinner with my writing friends
  14. Slumber parties with my writing friends
  15. My daughter's bank account
  16. Prince charming on the doorstep
  17. Good hair
  18. Back-to-back state basketball championships
  19. St. George
  20. Hobby Lobby
  21. Sam Hawk's
  22. My field of dreams
  23. The first snow
  24. The last snow
  25. My fireplace
  26. Lulu

Wait, did I mention Lulu?

All of these things are perks, fo' sho, but one of the most rewarding things about living in Utah is being present to face this day, March 27th, 2012--30 years after--with a soft heart and a forgiving spirit.

LY Dad! It's all good in the hood.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

That Darn Romance

My daughter got asked to Prom. Not in the regular knock-and-run manner, but in the unusual knock-and-find-a-little-boy-dressed-in-a-suit-holding-a-rose manner.

"When I grow up will you go to Prom with me?" he asked my daughter.

I wasn't home at the time, but she called me instantly. "Mom, I got asked to PROM!!!!"

"Hooray!" I said. "By who?"

"Some little boy."

It gave me pause, but hey, I'm not picky. I just want my daughter to be loved.

After we got off the phone, she jumped into the shower. Just then another knock came at the door. The little boy was now a big boy, and he stood on our porch like Prince charming, with a dozen red roses in hand.

"Looks like your prom date grew up," called my son through the bathroom door.

Like I said before, I wasn't there, but I imagine she looked a little something like this when she said yes:

That darn romance will catch you off guard every time.


P.S. There are still five days left to win one of the three free Tell Me Who I Am books. Click here to enter.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I double dog dare you.

Every year or so I like to ground my kids. Just to keep them . . . well, grounded. Of course I always offer a get-out-of-jail-free card, tailor-made according to my kid's individual dislikes and weaknesses.

This past weekend was my oldest son's turn to get grounded, and I was positively intoxicated by all of the power I had over him. But with great power comes great responsibility so I thought long and hard about the most appropriate key to unlock his freedom. It had to be something rewarding, yet hideously terrifying. Which left me with only one option.

A book. I would make him read a book.

The Hunger Games.

Timely, right? And a sure bet.

Ya think?

Let's just say I wasn't too far off when I told him, "this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you."

So hey, if any of you ever want to get grounded I can recommend a good book. You've probably already read Hunger Games so may I suggest Tell Me Who I Am--that little Mormony diddy I contributed to, along with more than a dozen other Mormony writers.

You might like it. It's kinda like The Hunger Games for Mormons . . .

Actually it's not. I lied to peak your interest. But that would be a funny book, huh? Maybe there could be a lottery and one Bishop and one Relief Society President from each state could be thrown into an arena together to fight to the death. They could try to kill each other with kindness. Or with meetings. Whoever survives all the meetings wins.

No wait! I got it. Throw a bunch of inactives into the arena and make the actives hunt them down and fellowship them.

I kid, peeps. I kid. The Hunger Games for Mormons would probably be a cookbook, full of recipes for green Jello and funeral potatoes.

But seriously, remember a few posts ago how I said Mormons are people too? Well Tell Me Who I Am proves it. When you turn the last page of the book you will know who we are.

We are people.

Not just peculiar people, regular people too. (Although, for the record, some are a little more regular than others. (Not including my MIL, who has to eat black licorice to stay regular.))

I got my shipment yesterday and now I'm giving away three copies of the book for absolutely FREE. That's absolutely FREE, and if you act within the next four minutes I will give it to you for even more free. Just leave your credit card number in my comment box and answer a few simple questions about your temple worthiness.

Unless you'd rather not pay for it. Or be worthy of it. In which case you can just have it.

Alls you have to do is, get this, tell me who I am.

No fer reals, tell me. I double dog dare you.

Who am I? Ready, go.

The top three answers will win a FREE copy. In the case of a tie, whoever can accurately guess how many posts I have in my draft box will be crowned victorious.

I can throw in autographs too, which, who knows, might be worth something on eBay one day.

In the case that only two people enter, I will give the third book to charity.


P.S. If you don't want it free, you can order the book, minus the autographs, from Amazon

Or press this magic button:

If you really can't tell me who I am, and you don't want to pay $15 + shipping, you can always go to Good Reads where Josh Bingham is giving away 10 free books, (without my autograph).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tell Me Who I Am by DeNae Handy

Tell Me Who I Am

by DeNae Handy

Giveaway ends April 08, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


Monday, March 19, 2012

. . . and we Liked it like that!

Remember that time I Liked my daughter's dance photos on Facebook?

And she threw a fit?

And made me Unlike them?

Well she went to another dance on Saturday, and guess what? Her date's mom Liked the photographs.

On Facebook!


But what's not to like? It was the 70's.

His sideburns are fo' real, btw. As is his chest hair. (Told me so hisself.)

Yes, men had chest hair in the 70's.

And we Liked it like that!


P.S. My hub wants me to add that men also had unibrows. And we Liked it like that too.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mormons are people too!

I recently saw The Iron Lady and of the fistfuls of memorable quotes, my favorite line was, "I will not die washing out a saucer!"

And yet . . . the movie ends with Margaret Thatcher washing out a saucer.

Which made me realize that one of the biggest perks of writing movies would be making powerful people eat their words!

I also recently saw The Artist. My favorite line? "We need to talk, George."

Get it? We need to talk? And it's a silent movie?

Another perk of writing movies--making powerful people swallow their words.

As if that wasn't enough movie watching, I also saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and I quickly discovered that the incredibly closer you sit to the screen, the extremely louder a movie becomes.

My favorite line was "Maybe everyone is looking for something?" True that. I actually was looking for something--a seat farther away from the screen because I find the less extremely loud pain is, the more I can enjoy it.

You get me?

I only say this because I am not a pretty crier. If my eyeballs even think about breaking a sweat, they swell up like a blowfish and my hub has to turn away and avoid eye contact so he doesn't turn to stone.

Sometimes I'd rather not feel and be cranky, than feel and be ugly.

Is that vain?

You probably think there's no pleasing me, huh? Since my last post was dissing the loud happy, and this post is dissing the loud sad.

It's just that at times the sheer volume of the collective sad is so deafening I think my head might spin around and pop off.

But I assure you I don't discriminate. I can see the up and down sides of both.

DOWNSIDE TO LOUD HAPPY: it can make you oblivious to sad.
UPSIDE TO LOUD SAD: it can chip your stone cold heart and make you want to spread happy.

Especially if the loud sad people are people you love.

Gosh dang love. Makes you prettier and uglier all at once.

And that, my friends, is why I love The Crash Test Dummy. She looks at both the bright side and the dark side and laughs in the face of both.

And then she chases life down with a Coke.

Because it's the real thang, baby.

Wish I could do that.

But I don't even like Coke.

Anyways, that's not my point. I actually came here to tell you that I may have been a little off on the happy Mormon thing. My ex-door neighbor, Martha put a few Gallup Poll links in my comment box which claim that while the Provo-Orem area ranks #1 in optimism, the state of Utah only ranks #4 in happyness.

Of course Hawaii ranks #1. For the third year in the row. Which is weird since I moved away from Hawaii almost exactly three years ago.

Also weird is that Utah ranked #1 in happyness before I moved here, but has now fallen behind North Dakota and Minnesota.

Do you think . . .

Nah, probly the year-round construction that's bringing us down.

So I know what Hawaii has that Utah doesn't have (except me), but what do North Dakota and Minnesota have that Utah doesn't have? (Besides Lawrence Welk and the artist formerly known as Prince.) Inquiring minds want to know.

Maybe if the Gallup Poll did a study on which state's happy was the loudest, Utah would rank #1, because if we're happy and we know it, we clap our hands, stomp your feet, and shout HOO-RAY?

I bet North Dakota and Minnesota don't do that.

You know, if you think about it, it's pretty cool that everything I need to know about happyness I learned in Primary.

Except one thing. That it's okay if you're not okay. I learned that on Smash.

It's okay if you're not okay.

Even if you're a Mormon.

Because Mormons are people too.


P.S. Since I'm telling you my favorite lines . . . here's my favorite line from my 15-year old son this week:

"Can you please do your laundry so I can do my laundry. Every time I do my laundry I have to do your laundry first."

P.S.S. He figured out the folding thing so his room doesn't have the stomach flu anymore.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Is your happy too loud?

An important question if you think about. Which I have been lately--ever since I saw We Bought a Zoo.

In the story, 7-year-old Rosie can't sleep because the neighbors are always partying at the top of their lungs. Oh, and also because her mother recently died.

In one scene her dad tries to help her fall asleep. They're looking out the window watching the neighbors dance and laugh, and Rosie makes the most profound observation in the history of the world: Their happy is too loud.

Ain't that just the truth? When the volume on your sad goes up, suddenly everyone puts their happy on surround sound.

Why can't happy people just plug their headphones in once in a while?

I only say this because I live in Happy Valley. If I lived in Death Valley I would say, why can't the sad people push mute once in a while? And if I lived in Silicon Valley I would say, why can't the perfect people stop pumping up the volume on their implants?

(Wait, did I take that out of context?)

It's about balance, peeps. That's alls I'm sayin'.

(Wait, did you take that out of context?)

Balance your happy with your sad. And if you don't have your own sad, borrow someone else's. Believe me, there's plenty to go around. I've been borrowing other people's sad for the past several weeks and it works like a charm to take your happy down a few decibels.

You can borrow from the sad I'm borrowing if you want. I wouldn't mind some help carrying it.

Never mind. I probably shouldn't be lending out things that aren't mine. And anyway, we keep our sad on the down-low here in Utah. I think it's a Mormon thing.

Or is it?

I sometimes worry that Mormons are trying to corner the market on happiness, and maybe that's why Utah is the most depressed state (not to mention the most stressed state). Think about it logically; not only is it capitalistic, it's also depressing (and stressful) to be as happy as a clam all the time (even if you think you're shaping pearls).

Dang oxymormons.

Take me, for instance. I'm a Mormon. Oh yes I am. and if you want to study a Mormon I'm a living specimen. (Not like a bug-pinned-wriggling-to-the-wall specimen, but a religious specimen.)

Feel free to study me. To do as I'm doing. Then follow, follow me.

As a child I learned that no one likes a frowny face. So I changed it to a smile. I quickly turned it upside down, then smiled all the while.

But then I started getting cavities.

Not from smiling, from watching other people smile. Which is the reason I started blogging. My teeth were practically falling out of my mouth from hearing about everyone's wonderful husbands and wonderful lives and wonderful children, and I realized someone needed to step up and help fight the tooth decay.

(You're welcome. And don't forget to floss.)

It was easy to fight tooth decay when I lived in Hawaii because everyone's happy was way too loud, but then so was their sad, and their mad and their bad. I once witnessed a man beat his grandson up at ward camp for smoking pakalolo and laying on top of his girlfriend in the bushes.

During testimony meetings it wasn't uncommon to hear people get up and say they wished they could leave their spouses, or stop screaming at their children. Of course no one ever did leave their spouses or stop screaming at their children.

They were just sayin'.

I've never heard anyone in Happy Valley say they wish they could leave their spouses or stop screaming at their children, but then they do stop screaming at their children, and oh my, do they ever leave their spouses! Do. They. Ever. Seen it with my very own eyes.

Also seen way too many people here leave their lives, or try to leave their lives--as in shuffle off this mortal coil of their own volition--although I've never heard them say they wanted to.

But then maybe I wasn't listening because my happy was too loud.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Exuding a hormone

Warning: NOT the best choice of words to use in front of your teenagers, even if you are merely trying to find an explanation as to why your dog might be in love with your 15-year-old son.

"Maybe you are exuding a hormone," I said.

Try saying that three times fast: excuding a hormone, excuding a hormone, exuding a hormone . . .

"STOP saying EXUDING a HORMONE!" My fifteen-year-old finally shouted from his position atop the table.

Not a great photo since I was understandably LMFAO (laughing my friggin' arse off) at the time I snapped it.

Lulu is in heat, btw.

Later, after we put Lulu outside and stopped laughing and finished homework and put groceries away, we all took a deep breath and settled into a comfortable silence on the couch.

"What does excuding a Hormone mean?" asked my thirteen-year-old.


P.S. I found some photographic evidence of Martha's magic earrings after the state championship celebration.

MAHALO Martha! Too bad your name wasn't in the paper for your contribution to the big win.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Oh the things you will see . . . while I watch t.v.

I was just about to pull out my Braggeddy Anne doll and tell you something about my 15-year-old son.

Something I'm really, really, really proud of . . .

Something I could Like about him on Facebook, and then Unlike again if he got embarrassed . . .

He's been doing his own laundry.

By his very own self.

Been doing it for a month now so I can have more time to sit around and watch t.v.

He's got the washing and drying part down, but he hasn't quite gotten the hang of folding yet, which means when you walk into his bedroom you get the distinct impression his dresser has just come down with a severe case of the stomach flu.

I was going to tell you all about this, but then my ex-door neighbor, Martha (remember her?) politely demanded that I talk about basketball instead. (Why does basketball always trump domestic accord? That's what I want to know.)

But when Martha wants me to talk about basketball, I talk about basketball, especially after she sent me a pair of magic earrings to wear to the state tournament last week.

Now if only I had something interesting to say about basketball . . .

Unless, of course you want to hear about the state tournament last week?


I guess you could say it was just like every other week that we attend four basketball games in Salt Lake.

Except the price of admission was a little higher. The stakes were higher too. Oh, and the stress and adrenalin levels were through the roof!

Plus I shushed my MIL three times in the car on the way to the semi-finals for interrupting me while I was trying to yell at her son. I usually don't do that.

And my 13-year-old kept telling me I was weird. He usually doesn't do that.

Other than that it was just like every other week. Up until the championship game, when my 15-year-old son had to step in and play out of position for most of the first half because some of the starters were in foul trouble.

Oh Martha, I wish you could've seen it! He made the most gorgeous three pointer in the history of the world. Or as they say in the paper, he stuck a trey. Whatever that means.

Oh, and btw, your magic earrings worked and they won the state championship.

His papa was kinda proud:

And I think his cute "chica" was too. Look:

There was no kiss though because she's waiting until she's 16. How SaWeeeet is that?

My son's friends leaked it to me, and now I am leaking it to you, that someone (powerful) is donating $300 to her if she stays VL till her birthday. I think my son might be dangling the fruit of the tree of knowledge in front of her. For this reason I am taking up a collection with the hope of earning $301 to offer her if she will partake of the fruit before her birthday. If any of you would like to donate to this worthy cause, please leave your credit card number in my comment box.


Okay, back to Martha. Look Martha, guess who my boy is buds with:

And just for fun, check this out:

Not even embellishing a teensy bit.

Here's one more shot you can buy for $6.99 if you want. (It might make a lovely Christmas gift for a friend or neighbor.)

Just sayin'.

Here's another one, but you don't have to buy it because I already cut it out of the paper.

BTW, if you feel like reading about my boy in the paper, have at it.


But, Martha, promise me you won't lose sight of what really matters about the state tourny, and that is the fact that my boy came home after every game and washed his own uniform.

While I sat on the couch and watched t.v.