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.

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...