Thursday, June 25, 2015

Oops, Your Relationshiop is Showing

So recently I read that a sure sign of a good relationship or a bad relationship is how you respond to your partner when they make a comment or show you something that interests them. For instance if your significant other, says "Look, the moon is just coming up," and you either say nothing or shrug and say something like "Don't bug me, I'm watching America's Got Talent," then you might be heading to either a life-long disengagement or a permanent split. Instead, if you got up from your Lazy Boy to look out the window and watch the moon rise together, then chances are you are in a healthy place.

We all mess up sometimes, but after witnessing something this last weekend at my booth at Summerfest in Logan, I'm committed to being a more present, a more interested spouse, and a more interested and invested friend. 

My booth was in a great location under a beautiful oak tree, providing shade on a hot summer day and adding to the ambience of my handmade pottery. Two couples were strolling boy. They were probably in their 60's. One of the men turned to enter my booth and his eyes brightened. His wife and the other couple kept on walking past. He paused at one of my pie plates. It had a lovely mountain scene on it with wax-resist design. His hand lingered on it and he turned to see where his wife was and she was already past by now. He turned to get her and bring her back. She took a few steps back and stepped momentarily into my booth without letting her eyes rest anywhere except on her husband. She loudly said, "no, no, no." as if she was scolding a child who was about to touch a hot burner. Then she walked on. 

In that moment, with his hand still on the pie plate, the husband's eyes met mine. We shared a knowing sadness. He knew that I knew he had been scolded. He was embarrassed both for the rudeness of his wife to me, but the lack of respect she showed him. I too, was embarrassed for him. How could someone treat someone else like that? How hard would it have been for her to at least look at the pie plate. I admit I don't know the backstory, if there is one. Maybe the man has a fetish for pie plates. Maybe he bakes up a storm, pie and pie and expects her to eat them. Maybe he spends too much money, but I doubt any of this is true. Instead, I see a man who is sadly married to someone who doesn't get him. 

I said, "Thanks for appreciating my work."
He said, "I really do." And I knew it was one of the highest compliments I'd been paid. Now, I only wish that I could take that moment back. I wish, oh how I wish, that I would have handed him the pie plate and said, "Enjoy!" 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Celebrating some of the Females in My Life on the Relief Society's Birthday

To celebrate the birthday of Relief Society this year, I decided to blog about some of the women who are or who have been closest to me in terms of family relations. This means that I will be leaving out some my closest women friends of which there are amazing, beautiful souls. So in no particular order.

Grandma Anderson: (My mom's mom) Generosity. If there isn't a good reason to say no, say yes. When I was about 12 or so, I wanted to go ice skating. In Provo there was an amazing ice skating rink called the Winter Gardens. The building was shaped like a turtle shell. It was huge, too. When we got tired of skating, we could warm up by the fire, or have a snack. Many will remember that it was later turned into a Macey's grocery store before being torn down completely. 

Well, I asked if I could go with some friends and my parents immediate response was not today. They didn't really have a great reason, from my point of view. And I admit, I would be upset as a parent, if the grandparent stepped in and undermined me, but that's what she did. I remember that she intervened and asked my parents why I couldn't go. She'd said, if I was ever going to be a good skater, I needed to go as often as possible and that it was good for me no matter what. I'm pretty sure she offered to pay. She very often handed out money when she visited. Needless to say, I got to go skating.

Plus she'd ask me what I wanted as far as her crocheting went. She made me slippers and several ponchos. They were actually popular in those days. Grandma was generous and kind. Generous with time, praise, gifts, money, and her exceptional even tempered personality. 

Nana Thayne: (Dad's Mom) Faith. When I was about 17, I stayed a couple of nights with my Grandma. This was unusual for me. Most of the other grandkids stayed with her often, but our family lived a ways away, and didn't hang out there much. So it was the first chance I had at really getting to know her. I knew she had asthma because she always carried around an atomizer in her big purse. One of the nights that I was there she went to bed in a room next to the guest room (the study with the pullout bed) and I could hear her wheezing in the next room. I finally got up to check on her and she was lying sideways with her feet sticking off the edge of her high bed. I asked what I could do and she said to call the elders. She told me to call her neighbor and ask her to get hold of someone from the ward. It must have been around midnight when they came, but they seemed more than happy to be there. Ready to serve. Happy to help. After they left, her labored breathing calmed and she slept through the night. Another thing I remember about her is that she believed that her dreams held answers for life. A visionary woman.

Mom: Grace. Not in the religious sense, though she is very faithful in her religion, but in the sense that she offers grace to everyone she knows, meaning she believes in the inherent goodness of people.  She assumes the best. I can safely say, I never heard my mother gossip about anyone in my growing up years. And if I tried to tell her a scandalous story, she seemed completely uninterested or offered an explanation of some kind, or that I shouldn't believe what I hear, or that there might be a reason for it. And most importantly, not to hold a grudge. She treats everyone with respect and kindness and nearly everyone treats her that way too.

Mother-in-law Ruth: I miss her. Read! Not only did she have a great education in a day when not many women from rural Utah did, but she continued learning and reading to the day she died. Whenever we would visit, there would be a book or two or three opened face down on the table next to her recliner. It doesn't seem like she used book marks though I could be wrong. The fact that she read and enjoyed, and bought and passed around copies of my novels was a great compliment to me. Her knowledge of the world was vast and there wasn't any subject that she couldn't talk about with at least some degree of knowledge. A truly brilliant woman.

Daughter Ginger: Adventure and courage. I once asked Ginger if she was ever scared, and she said "sometimes I am scared to death, but I just do it anyway." It over the years includes, to name only a few: rock climbing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, traveling nearly all over the world, living most often by herself in Central and South America, Denmark, San Francisco, and New York where she opened and ran her own restaurant, and now is learning Yoga in India. Take life and go. Anything is possible with enough desire and hard work. Make your own luck. Dreams can come true. A little courage goes a long way. Be confident and smile, you've got this. And she does. She has life by the tail.

Daughter-in-law Joanna: We won the lottery when it comes to our daughter-in-law, and there's a lot I could say about her as a wonderful mother and wife, but the trait that I'm trying to learn from her is diplomacy. As someone who sometimes speaks too quickly out of impatience, anger, frustration, hurt, or defense, I'd rather learn to hold my tongue, or when needed engage in a thoughtful meaningful way. Case in point. A couple of years ago, we attended an LDS branch near our cabin in Montana. There was a Relief Society lesson that was given that was not only racist, but railed on these "terrible feminist women who want the priesthood." At the time, I was in a place of deep hurt in regards to my faith. This lesson was not what I needed. Joanna raised her hand, and gently offered an alternative perspective about where a woman who wants the priesthood might be coming from and that always we should not judge the motivations of others, and to remember the Savior's example of love. Well, it calmed my heart. I whispered to her that she was my hero. Whenever, I'm able to calmly offer a loving response even when someone is triggering me, I call it being able to do a Joanna.

Granddaughter: Be authentic. She's only six, but she knows herself quite well. When she was five, she asked me if she could be something besides a mother. I told her she could and she said that her brother told her she if she was a mother she could be nothing else. I said, "well your dad is a teacher and father. Your mom teaches exercise classes besides being a mother." She said, well I want to be and listed five or six things that she wanted to be. I told her that was really great and that I was sure she could be those things. When we were back in the car, I said, I think it's great that granddaughter wants to be everything. She piped up, "I didn't say I want to be everything, I said that I want to be everything that I want to be." I loved that distinction. How silly to think or even want to be everything--there are far too many options. But to be what you really want to be--well that's pretty doable. What a great start she has. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

"Gabriel's Daughters" by Janet Kay Jensen

I really love this book! Zina Martin, is an artistic, but naive young woman from the polygamist community called Gabriel's Landing.  At sixteen, she's already past the expected age to marry.  Terrified to marry the much older man who is chosen for her, her heart is easily turned by a handsome "gentile" school teacher. When the forbidden relationship has unwanted consequences, she can't bear to bring shame to her family. There's only one thing to do and that's run away, but she's never been away from the tightly controlled community. How will she survive?

Janet Kay Jensen has an unusual talent in being able to weave a captivating suspenseful tale in a literary style--a writer's writer. We are drawn in by the fully-fleshed characters, especially Zina Martin, but also the new people she meets along the way, and those she left behind. 

I had a chance to interview my long time friend Janet Kay Jensen. I'm lucky enough to belong to a writers' group with Janet, and know what an excellent writer she is. I've loved being a part of this wonderful book form the beginning. You can read more about Janet Kay Jensen on her blog.

Book is available at Barnes and Noble, The Book Table in Logan, Amazon and more.

What inspired Gabriel’s Daughters?

Zina’s story was originally included in early drafts of my first novel, Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys. I began to write the stories of both Louisa and Zina in alternating chapters. That led to logistical problems as the events occur in different time periods. Zina’s story also began to take on greater significance and in fact threatened to take over the whole book. To do it justice, I had to pull it out and promise Zina her own book. She was very patient. 

Does Gabriel’s Landing have a “prophet?”

No. I chose to create a governing body, the Council of Brothers. They are a committee of very like-minded men who govern all matters secular and religious in the community.  I deliberately avoided writing a character who was the prophet or all-powerful leader, to avoid comparisons to current events. Gabriel’s Landing is a quiet community. Though life is tightly controlled by the Council of Brothers, the extreme abuses and violence uncovered in other groups, which often make headlines, do not occur in Gabriel’s Landing. It’s a town that strives to keep the traditions of their fathers. As we know, however, not everyone in Gabriel’s Landing has a happy or satisfying life. 

Given all the recent public scrutiny, do you think polygamy will survive?

Polygamy has always been with us throughout history, and is common in many cultures. In America, some feel that prosecuting it will simply drive its followers underground. Others, citing the significant cost to taxpayers in terms of financial assistance given to women who declare themselves to be single mothers, feel the welfare system is being abused. There are certainly no clear answers. 

How do you feel about polygamy?

I’ll let the readers form their own opinions about that. I was very surprised, however, when doing some research on the Internet—when my own photo popped up as I searched for “pictures of polygamous women.” Yep, there I was, with my three dogs, in my own backyard. That photo had appeared on my blog and as I had written a book about polygamy, it somehow became associated with the topic, or at least the search engines thought so. There’s a lesson in this: you never know where you’re going to show up on the Internet. It’s a bit disconcerting. 

Why do quilts appear prominently in the book?

Quilts convey our heritage and culture from one generation to another. They speak of economy and necessity as well as artistry. I think every quilt has its own story, and I love the intricate varieties of patchwork quilts, both old and new. 

Why did you choose to have Zina hitchhike to Chicago?

Because that’s where Mo and Callie were going! I really had three reasons. First, I wanted to put some some significant geographical distance between Zina and the place where she was raised. It’s the only way she can begin to learn who she is. Second, I have always loved Chicago; my husband and I honeymooned there for three years when we attended graduate school. Third, I wanted to give a little shout-out to a city that is full of diversity and vitality and class. Chicago is a good fit for Zina, and she learns to love the city, too.  

Andy and Louisa could have higher-paying jobs in larger cities. Why did you choose to have them stay in Hawthorn Valley? 

Andy fell in love with Hawthorn Valley when he first arrived there, just out of residency, and Hawthorn Valley fell in love with him. When Louisa married him, it was with the understanding that they would share a joint medical practice in Hawthorn Valley. It’s a place where they feel needed and appreciated. They want to give their children a healthy upbringing, and neither is too concerned about material wealth. That is consistent with their upbringing, I think. 

Why did you choose to write Simon as a gay character? 

Because he is. Seriously, I asked myself what kind of man Zina would trust, given her devastating experience with her high school teacher, and almost marrying a man twice her age. It’s not a surprise that she doesn’t doesn’t trust easily, and Simon presents no sexual issues to negotiate. He simply offers friendship and companionship to his roommate. It’s something he wants, too. And he sees Zina’s potential. 

Yes, there is a bit of the Pygmalion myth in their relationship. 

Right. I loved having Zina “bloom and grow,” to borrow from another musical. She gains some survival skills in Chicago, though Mo and Callie provide her with the tender care of parents while she acquires the ability to support herself. Her native talents and intelligence are appreciated wherever she goes. Starting with Chef Damian’s tutelage at Harry’s in Chicago, Zina continues to grow intellectually. Simon can, in some ways, give her the world. He’s educated, well-traveled, and well-read. And, most important, he is trustworthy. 

You seem to like strong female protagonists. 

I do. Girls and young women need to know they have unlimited potential, even if it means they may have to fight for it. I didn’t want a high-cheekboned, square-jawed, broad shouldered romantic knight with long, flowing golden locks to gallop into town on a white horse and rescue Zina. She doesn’t need rescuing. She’s become her own person. Readers deserve more, and so does Zina. And she may find it in James. 

What elements in Gabriel’s Daughters are based on real-life people or events? Quilts, hope chests, bread-baking, book-burning, a visit to Russia, the nesting dolls, and friendships between women and gay men. Oh, and a smart border collie. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thoughts on Valentines' Day

Thoughts on Valentines’ Day

It used to be about stalking around the neighborhood, knocking on doors and leaving store bought Valentines, then running and hiding in the bushes to watch the recipient come out and pick it up. It provided more fun than it should have. For my good friends, candy would be stuffed in the envelope. And for my best friends, a big chocolate kiss. It meant covering a shoebox with pink paper and cutting a slot into the top. It meant coming home from school with so many Valentines that the lid wouldn’t stay on. It meant laying out all the cards in the living room, taking out the candy, seeing if anyone wrote an extra sweet message along with their name. It meant sorting out the favorites either by the person who gave it or the cutest cards. 

I’ve really only had two actual boyfriends in my life, and I married the second one. The first one broke up with me on Valentines. I did not see it coming. I was expecting an extra nice Valentine date. Maybe even dinner, so when he said he wanted to see me, instead of saying let’s go out, I should have figured it out. But I didn’t have much experience. I was the wallflower that stood alone at the dances, both dreading and hoping that someone would ask. Dreading because I was awkward, shy, and didn’t know how to dance. And yet hoping, because there had to be a reason everyone seemed to think boys were the greatest. The lack of positive experiences with the opposite gender, left me wondering. Having only brothers who ignored me at best and picked on me at worst had taught me to wither rather than shine. 

Then the very next year, I was in a quick, but serious romance. And on Valentine’s Day Mick asked me to marry him. I saw it coming. We both knew we were in love and knew we wanted to be together 24/7. It didn’t matter what we did, as long as we were together. He was doing his student teaching at the time, and it was fine with me if we sat on the floor of his apartment and graded papers together, or reserved a room at the USU library and watched a film—pre video days. So when he got down on his knee in my apartment, I was giddy with excitement. No more agonizing goodbyes at night. Because after we married we could be together—forever. I wouldn’t recommend to others to marry your second boyfriend. I would always tell them that they need to get as much experience as possible. I would always tell them to make sure they’ve dated at least a year, instead of a few months. I would tell them to learn as much as you can about the person, see them in every situation. I would tell them to be cautious.
But sometimes you just know. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"Success Is Having The Courage To Try"

Recently I caught a few minutes of an interview with Janie Pauley. I remember her from the Today show and that she is married to the Far Side guy. After her success with the Today show, she was given the opportunity to do a daytime talk show, similar to Oprah. It was cancelled after a year. How did she look at that? She said, “Success Is having the courage to try.” Isn’t that the truth? How will we ever know the answer to what could have been? if we don’t try something. 

If you are like me, you’ve only done a fraction of the things you’ve really wanted to do. Often what holds us back is fear of failure or fear of the unknown. But the only failure  is in not trying, not doing, or not going. I admire the go-getters, and the doers in the world. Some of the people I admire most are my own children. They both are doing incredibly difficult things, but right now I’m focusing this on my daughter for reasons that will be clear. 

We knew early on that she was no ordinary child. She walked at 8 1/2 months and ever since then you couldn’t stop her even if you wanted to. But why would you? She always has been a force of nature, full of creativity and ideas, always thinking about some new dream. If she wanted to do something she usually found a way. Once she started earning her own money and once she was 18, she was off to see the world. Scuba diving, rock climbing, canoeing, and kayaking and what ever adventure she could find. She’s either worked, studied, traveled, and lived in Guatemala, Denmark, Alaska, Argentina, Thailand, Cambodia, Spain, France, Germany, and on and on—something like 19 countries. I remember when she decided she wanted to live in Argentina. Basically it went like this. “I really want to learn Spanish better. I’ve never been to Argentina and ticket prices are cheaper there than other places in South America.” She lived and worked there for a year. When she ended up in San Francisco, I breathed a sigh of relief. I could drive there and did. Then off to NYC where she lives now. Which is still ok, because I can fly there and not go completely broke. But the thing is, I regret that I let fear and money stop me from seeing her when she was in some of those other places. Remember the saying, “You can’t take it with you.” Now I'm still just as broke as I ever was and have never been to South America, Central America, or Denmark. 

I’m super proud of Ginger’s latest endeavor. She had a goal to have a restaurant by the time she was 30. And when her 30th came around last March, she was fully engaged in making that happen. She and her business partner renovated a space in Brooklyn. Learning as she has always done, by doing, they conquered numerous setbacks and finally opened a very charming place called Brooklyn Proper. I love eating in NYC, but admitting bias just a little, had my very best meal at her restaurant. Everything was going great. She was working 24-7, but had made the dream, the goal of a restaurant by 30, a reality. They were on their feet, getting great publicity, reviews, and business. Then more financial setbacks and rent increases, and she and her partner made the difficult decision to close. I’m so glad that I got to see this wonderful little space with my daughter at the helm. Food and wine expert, designer, creator, business manager, accountant. She crammed a 4-year business degree in one and did it all. She succeeded. I look forward to seeing what she’ll do next. But no hurry! Life is always an adventure but sometimes a slower pace is just fine. I once asked my daughter is she was ever scared. She never seemed to be to me. She said, “I’m often scared to death, but I just go ahead anyway.” Just think what we could do if we stepped into the unknown and just tried.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

So Here's the Thing

I'm a little late writing a gratitude post for Thanksgiving. It's been on my mind a lot lately. I hesitate to write about my blessings because I have and have had so many. There are so many people who have not had the advantages in life that I've had. It's with that painful awareness of the vast human suffering and the unequal chances we have in life, that I write about my blessings. None of us choose our beginnings. We don't choose our parents, our families, our neighbors, our homes, our towns, our ethnicity, our religion, our gender and so on. And yet all of these circumstances play a large part in our ultimate choices and who we eventually become. Some experience truly horrifying things even though they grew up with advantages. Some experience a joyful life in spite of multiple disadvantages. Most have a mixture of both. The truth is that I have no idea who I would be if I had grown up in a different part of the world or country, or with a different family, or ethnicity, or religion.

I grew up in a Mormon middle class family. My parents treated each other with love and respect. I never saw a day of true hunger or cold. I could walk in any house in my neighborhood and not expect anything but a warm greeting, often followed by an embrace and some home cooking. My dad worked hard. My mother often had a part-time job, but her primary job was taking care of the home and the family. To this day, my mother is the least judgmental person I've ever known. We grew up with plenty of freedom that few people even in rural America are afforded anymore. During summers, I most often played unsupervised in open fields, and orchards, and parks and only checked in at home at the appointed lunch and dinner times. Every need was supplied. Every want was discussed and sometimes given. Besides public school, I was offered piano lessons, swimming lessons, and often saw a movie every saturday afternoon. I could go to recreation camps and girls camps. We had family vacations to the extended family cabin. We were one of the first in the neighborhood to own a color television. I remember the day Dad carried it into the house. I couldn't wait to watch The Wizard of Oz to see the scene change from the black and white in Kansas to the colorful land of Oz. We were one of the first to own a dishwasher and a microwave oven.

Higher education was expected and my parents helped me pay for it. In spite of myself, I fell in love with the most decent man on campus. We've raised a couple of great kids and now have four great-grandkids. We live in one of the most beautiful places on this earth surrounded by open fields and mountains. I've been able to do pretty much whatever I've wanted to do much of my adult life. I'm grateful for the love so many have offered me; my family, my friends, my kids, and my grandkids. I'm lucky enough to live within a mile of the spot where even before my husband and I were married, I'd said I wanted to live someday. There's a hymn familiar to all Mormons Because I Have Been Given Much, I too must give. It pretty much sums up my life so far.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Check your Self-Esteem at the Door

Twenty-eight years ago I taught school at Pleasant Grove Junior High. It was a blow to my self-esteem. I had about 180 students divided up into six classes of Art and English. I was young had difficulty motivating the kids and keeping them disciplined enough to get them through forty-five minutes. Danny was sort of a class smart-alec and it was obvious that he was smart and probably knew more than I did on the subject of English grammar--which to be honest is still not my strength (though since them I graduated magna cum laude in English. But I digress, back then Danny loved to throw me off my game and it worked. A few times, what he said was actually quite funny. I'd quickly turn my back on the kids so they wouldn't see me laugh. Other times, I turned my back so they wouldn't see me cry. Once I did cry--not a cool thing--to a bunch of rowdy thirteen-year-olds.

I taught for one year at P.G.J.H and then joined my husband to teach  in Grouse Creek, Utah. We had 24 students K-10. Since my self-esteem was already rock bottom it improved some over the few years. I had fun. I loved the kids we had though some of them still loved to throw me off my game. I taught for a few years before we moved to Paradise.

As most of you know, I'm back out to Grouse Creek teaching once again with my husband. This time around we have only have ten kids spread from K-5th grade. My self-esteem was pretty good before I started teaching again. I'm a fairly respected potter in Cache Valley and an author of five published novels, so you know, I was feeling pretty good about myself. So how is it that a kindergartner can throw you off your game with a few comments and say things so funny that it's hard not to laugh out loud.

Here's just a bit of wisdom from a couple of very cute five year olds. While I was attempting to teach reading, one of the kids said, "Hey, you're growing a mustache, you've got hairs right here," as  he pointed to my face. Another time this same child warned me to be careful "you might break it," while I was hanging from the tricky bars sturdy enough to hold an elephant. Another time, this same child mentioned that I was "painting sloppy." Did I mention my art degree? Just the other day, I was trying to console a 7-year-old who was very upset that he couldn't draw a butterfly as well as I could. I told him, that I was a whole fifty years older than he was and so had fifty more years drawing butterflies. One of the five-year-olds piped up with, my grandpa is really old too..."damn old." I burst out laughing.