Mt. Timpanogos in Orem, Utah. The view we saw from our kitchen window in the 1970s, an emotionally painful decade. Though I don't yet know how painful the journey will be as my memoir In the Mirror begins. Or how much I'll learn from the journey. "When a writer is young, he has style. When he's older, he has subject matter," said Pulitzer prize-winning poet C. K. Williams. It's true you must live long enough to have memories.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

75 Years...and Still Going

It's that time of year ...

Another birthday. Have I really been on planet Earth this long? In some ways it seems like but a few moments....

So interesting to see who we were. This is the way I was, according to my dear late friend's camera, in 1983 ...

I wanted to be reflective, but I'll have to ponder this topic for a while to do it. Won't be today, as today is busy already and it's not yet noon. My daughter's aide is here, they've sung happy birthday to me, I've gotten several birthday wishes through Facebook, one of course from my youngest daughter who's such a sweetheart. She always remembers...and is usually the first! She also called me as I was composing this.

Then there are the friends, so many of them like Denise Covey. Most if not all of you know Denise, the lady from "down under." She's got a "From the Couch" going, and I'm honored today to be the first on it. Check it out here.

So what am I going to do on my big SEVEN FIVE? Jen's favorite at a restaurant. I'm taking her and our sweet aide Jessica aka Jess to the Cracker Barrel. It's quite good home cooking, and we have one here in town about ten minutes away. Then a senior missionary couple from Idaho serving here in Harrisonburg, Virginia are going to drop by and bring me my favorite dark chocolate. They asked what I like, and I told them!

A Day that's a Bit Bittersweet ...

I've been praying very hard for my son to find a good job, one that's best for him and his wife and two sweet little boys. So I can't complain that my prayers were answered. SAIC, a government contractor that's been in business for decades, hired my son Derek about two weeks ago. He's going to be one of four web developers in the Albuquerque, New Mexico office ... the place where they wanted to go! He's heading out in two days, the 15th, to start work on the 18th. He has to leave his wife and children behind; they want sweet Connor to finish kindergarten here in Virginia. 

Here they are again. My favorite picture that I posted a few months ago (Connor beaming from his dad's back, sweet and very active Gavin posed on his mother) ...

I'm very happy for them. It's just bittersweet, of course, for me and Jen and the rest of the family he's leaving behind. I'd like to, but I don't think Jen and I can make another road trip. I'm the only driver, and it would be three motel nights for us. I console myself with the fact that they will mostly likely come East each year for their vacation. And that there is Skype, which isn't as good as in person. But still....there's much in our technological world that's a blessing ... phones, texting, and so on and on ... 

In so many ways it's an amazing time in the earth's history, and I have so many blessings on this day that I celebrate three-quarters of a century living here ... great family and friends, a comfortable house with indoor plumbing, electricity for heat and cold, food on the table, and so much more. Though it's a small duplex by some standards, it's a palace compared to what many, many people in the world have...and don't have. And we have the most wonderful landlord ...

I Do Feel Blessed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When NOT to Try Learning a New Language....

When you're Old(er). As I am. Or will be (75 on May 13th).

The foreign language? An Android. 

I just read about Androids on the Internet. But I barely have a clue what they're talking about.

I do know that there's a Play Store that's equivalent to the same feature on my Apple iPad, so at least I know how to use the Apps. I immediately installed the Kindle so I could read my purchased books. That's most important.

But the phone...that's what gave me a NIGHTMARE WEEKEND.


For years I've resisted getting a so-called Smart Phone (explain to me what Smart means). I've clung to two very old cell phones, one for me and a backup for my daughter should I have to leave her alone for a bit in her hospital bed. 

But they only had 700 peak minutes total, and I was paying $75 a month. I had no landline because the phone wires went out in the duplex we're renting, and I didn't want to pay to get them fixed. I was really open for something new.

Our current aide, Jessica, told me Friday, again, about her phone. NTelos. $45 a month for unlimited minutes. Plus you get Internet access (I think most if not all of you know all this?)

Jessica went with me and Jen to the local NTelos store, and I got a free phone (since I was transferring from Verizon) and the phone is only costing ME $30 a month on their FRAWG plan...whatever FRAWG means.

I'm still in mild SHOCK, going from $75 a month for limited calling to $30 a month for unlimited...including Internet access. What a time to be alive on planet Earth. The technology is amazing.

And confusing. If only I were younger...if only my brain were more flexible...because it was a NIGHTMARE trying to learn how to use the phone, which now I see is really SIMPLE. But I was trying to switch my OLD BRAIN from one language to another. As a result, Saturday evening my youngest daughter got about 12 missed calls as I tried to figure out the phone.

It really is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. Really!!

 So this is the critter that gave me such grief??!!

As for writing my next (spiritual) memoir....

I am now finally ready to begin. But I'll be stopping by to see what you've come up with, which I have always found to be delightful as you are all amazingly creative people.

I HAVE begun my memoir many times in my head (and on paper), and have finally decided which scene to begin of this morning. It would be so much easier to do the A to Z, but I am determined to do what my friend Denise Covey has also determined to do....get a solid draft completed by the end of April while checking into A to Z blogs that catch my eye.

But as for posting on my blog, I'll be doing what Author Paul Anthony Shortt is doing....suspending blog posts through the month of April. When I come back, I'm going to try to post something at least once a week.

That's my update. Thanks for listening. "Best" Wishes to all of you as you pursue your writing and other projects in the month that poet T. S. Eliot called "the cruelest month." Below: first lines of The Waste Land...memory: so intriguing. Here's a link for any of you who are poets who might want to read the rest of the poem that usually only gets studied in college literature classes.....

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding 
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing 
Memory and desire, stirring 
Dull roots with spring rain. 
Winter kept us warm, covering        
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding 
A little life with dried tubers.    

I don't think the MONTH is cruel. I think it's wonderful, because at least for us on the East coast of the United States, we're beginning to see signs of SPRING. Trees budding. Our landlord spreading mulch (chips) around his trees. Daytime temperatures getting out of the frigid zone. HOORAY. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I Need to Write Another Memoir

On my friend Denise Covey's latest blog post, I found this on her list of ways to approach what you're trying to write. This one struck me with the force of a sledge hammer. Write in islands.

This struck me with such force because a few days earlier something else struck me: I need to write one more memoir. I had already decided that before I die I needed to write my spiritual journey memoir for my children and other family, including close friends. But I got a strong impression to write it for possible least, to try, even though there are only a few LDS (Mormon) publishers. If it didn't get published, I would still have done what I felt very strongly I should do for my family. Either way I win, so I'm going to relax and enjoy this (probably) last writing journey.

Main audience: Mormons, who wouldn't be confused by the "jargon,".... and anyone else who might be interested. There's a movie distributed nationally that doesn't really have much "jargon" in it: The Saratov Approach that's on Netflix, the story of two Mormon missionaries who were kidnapped and held for ransom while serving in Russia. 

But what really interests me is that there will soon be a movie distributed to national audiences about a man in Salt Lake City who in February of 2007 was injured in a car crash by a young man, almost 18 years old, driving drunk, who ended up responsible for the deaths of this man's pregnant wife and two of his four children; a man who unconditionally forgave this young man after "hearing" a voice tell him to "Let It Go," the title of the book, published in 2012, on which the movie is based. This story that I finished yesterday also struck me like a sledge hammer...because in my long life I also have had to learn how to "let go"....and let God, as the AA motto goes.

There were some "Mormonisms" in my memoir In the Mirror (that some objected to or wanted more of (shrug: you can't please everyone), but my "spiritual" one would involve much, much more of these, especially what we call "priesthood" blessings, as well as many, many "miracles." A woman, a stranger, who reviewed In the Mirror several years ago, said she thought there was a good story with my daughter (she was interested in this, though there was much in In the Mirror that she didn't like; shrug again: you can't please everyone). I've wondered how she would react to the "spiritual" aspects of my journey with Jen, my parents, and my brother. But as both Denise Covey and Karen Gowen quote at the beginning of their blogs: 

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart 

I say don't worry about what the reader might think. Just write, and you'll discover that writing is self-discovery, whether you write fiction or non-fiction. In this last memoir, I want to discover who I've become through 29 years of taking care of my disabled daughter....

Therefore....Back to Denise's post. "Islands are single scenes, or snippets of information, or a setting description, or a character sketch. They do not necessarily have a beginning, middle, and end." You don't use an outline or chronology.

I got even more excited when I read this: "Islands are single scenes." I have scenes, scenes, scenes I've accumulated since my daughters' accident. 

I've decided I have to:

First, determine the main theme, and
Second, make a rough outline to determine where the SINGLE SCENES go. Within those scenes I can flash back to fill in necessary information about the characters. I can even flash forward. This is, after all, a memoir. Back and forth can work. The outline, of course, can be flexible; but I've learned from long years of trying to write a memoir that it will reduce the stress considerably if I do an outline. 
And humor is good. I need to remember the humorous times with Jen.
And what will my daughter JEN do while I'm pacing myself? While I'm not sitting too long at a stretch at the computer so the sciatica I got about a year ago won't flair up, and praying that I'll get the first draft well on its way while visiting those of you who will be doing the A to Z Challenge?

Jen will be playing her favorite computer game Bookworm, that I have to stay away from because for me it's too addictive and rolls around in my brain when I fall into bed, and I get furious at myself because I feel afterwards like I could have better used my time. It does make Jen feel good when I watch a favorite show with her, such as A-Team, one of her favorites, so I'll do this to relax. (Sorry about the photography. I need a new digital camera. And I also need to learn how to use the latest computer photoshops...which ain't gonna happen at my age!)

Intense Concentration. 
She tends to lean left, which isn't good for her neck.
Must get her to bed soon.

The View from Jen's Hospital Bed

I'll make sure Bookworm isn't on the desktop of the computer I'll be using, and I'll try not to watch Jen's computer screen. She doesn't like me to suggest words, and gets very annoyed when I do. She shouts at me, "I want to do this myself," and I remember there isn't much she can do herself, as her brain stem has never healed enough so she can get herself out of bed, or out of her wheelchair without help.

It's been a long journey that isn't over yet. And thus the story begins....

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snow Memories

It began like this on Friday, February 20th
in the Shenandoah Valley where Jen and I live ...

then yesterday progressed to snow, all day, snow ...

Our Red Van Getting a White Hood

Next-door Neighbors' Children Lined their Sidewalk with Cones
Snow Getting Deeper

When Jen and I went to bed last night, this bush was completely covered.

This morning our wonderful landlord and a young man did snow removal ...

And we're having a warm Sunday ... in the 40s. 
But that temperature isn't going to last.
Winter is still a reality, not a distant memory.

* * *

In my seventy-four years I've accumulated many memories of snow, 
some of them through words. 
I have a memory of a poem by Wallace Stevens, 
one of the most significant poets 
of the 20th Century, and found it online. 
It's one of my favorites.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves, 

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place 

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is. 

(found online at Modern & Contemporary American Poetry)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Surviving Blizzards

No church today. All meetings cancelled. (It's still Sunday as I post this.) I wouldn't have gone outside anyway in this ICE. My van looking like it's been through a very cold, very high mountain,drifted snow frozen all over it. Icicles hanging from its edges. 19 degrees that feels like minus 3 says the weather station. Brrrrr.

Ice. Reminds me of a poem by one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

But I feel absolutely no hate on this cold bright blue-sky day. I'm joyful because Jen and I got to see some of my beautiful children yesterday. My youngest daughter for professional haircuts and her husband, whom we hadn't seen for many months.

Jen's sister Stephanie. After she cut Jen's hair, she gave her belated Christmas presents, this one her favorite yearly kitten calendar. Stephanie's husband's in the background, probably watching Titanic on television, the Valentine day movie the station kept repeating. Don't look, Connor. It'll give you nightmares. Maybe not, he's such a happy boy.

We're at my son's house. I highlighted him and his sweet family in my previous post, asking for good thoughts and prayers as his last day on his present (contracting) job ends on the 20th. It looks like I accidently deleted that post, so here's their picture again....

Gavin behind his mother Kasey, Connor on his dad Derek

Thanks for your positive responses. (Which of course I've lost also. But you're all on my blog roll, and in my memory folder. I'm not senile yet, thank goodness!) He will probably have an interview this week for a job that would be only a 20 minute commute from his home. Considering most people in the Washington D.C. area have gruesome commutes, this is amazing, and a possibly great blessing.

He has also sent out other resumes. He's very excited. It's a good job market right now, especially for someone with his web design/IT skills.


A lovely afternoon it was. But if yesterday had been today, Jen and I would have been trapped in our duplex. I wouldn't have even dared try getting us in the van. I couldn't risk slipping on the ice that began forming yesterday when we left our family, heading south on I-66 toward the Shenandoah Valley. An hour and a half drive at the most....on a good weather day.

It was fast becoming a bad-weather evening. Less than twenty minutes down the road and the wind was like a wild horseman whipping white powder around us as if  he hated us, the dark sky hidden in thick white sheets undulating around us. A sea of white.

"Jen, I can't see a thing." I gripped the steering wheel, but I didn't panic because I remembered what I did in another blizzard almost thirteen years earlier. I drove slowly, very slowly. I stayed in the lane. I told Jane to pray. I always tell her to pray. I pray silently too, but in my years with her I've discovered that her prayers usually have more power than mine.

Thank goodness there seemed to be only a few car lights on the other side of the lanes, and I couldn't see any car lights behind me. I didn't want anyone rear-ending me. I didn't want any surprises. I couldn't see anything beside us, in front of us, behind us.

Flashback. How long had it taken me in that other blizzard to get to the outskirts of Albuquerque, way back in 2004 when on election day Jen and I were caught in the worst, and only, blizzard in the United the Texas Panhandle? It took me  about two hours, at five miles an hour, to get out of a white hell into what felt like snow, clear blue sky

Now I was traveling maybe twenty miles per hour, on a familiar highway. From that experience in the Panhandle, I knew to keep a slow steady foot on the accelerator. To concentrate. To trust that we weren't alone.

I hoped this journey through a white hell wouldn't last for two hours.

It thankfully didn't last more than ten, but it seemed like ten hundred before the swirling snow diminished in intensity and I could see some cars and trucks ahead of me. It was still snowing when I followed the curve in the highway onto I-81, the route that would take us directly home. There were places where there wasn't much snow on the sides of the road; other places where it was obvious a fair amount of snow had fallen in the last hour.

The temperature gauge had dropped from 43 degrees when we left our family in Haymarket to 27 when we pulled into the area of duplexes in Harrisonburg. Home had never looked so good.

Except....the sidewalks were ice sheets. I deployed the van's ramp, and almost slipped when I stepped off it onto the sidewalk. I didn't want to frighten Jen, so I didn't shriek out loud. But oooh, I had to step carefully. Don't even think about possibly slipping and breaking a bone.

I made four trips from van to the front door, getting Jen and belongings inside. I left one item in the back seat, and as I write this I have yet to go out to get it. Right now (8:49 p.m.) it's 10 degrees and feels like 2.

This is how my car looked the last time I opened the front door....when it was still light outside. Coated in snowy ice. 

I'm not going to set foot out my front (and only) door until Wednesday. Tomorrow is Presidents' Day. Happy day to all of you, whatever climate you're in.

Cheers, Ann

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I Had to Come Back....

I started a new blog, but my blog addresses and emails, as always, are scrambled. This is a test. To my old blogger friends, whom I wanted to reconnect with....please stop by and say hiya so I'll know you got this...

Love you all. Thanks so much...