Wednesday, December 18, 2019

beautiful christmas tree 7 hd picture     Hi everybody! I’m accused of writing less-interesting letters these days, but art imitates life, as they say. Here is Maria’s emergency email on 3 Dec. 2019, after reading my first attempt (which I wrote in the afterglow of Thanksgiving): “Dad wrote a depressing Christmas letter that I have rejected so now he says he would like each of you to send him a paragraph about your most memorable moment of the year--good or bad, serious or funny.” I think the main problem is “grown up” children: accomplishments are incremental and largely invisible to parents. There’s a reason people don’t make family movies at work, right? And so the weeks roll by in a blur of sameness. And the parents’ current routine looks shockingly similar to rejected material from last year’s letter! Some may think it wrong that our neighbors’ two-year-old twins—and their infant sister—are the most interesting element of our lives, but just you wait and see. Consider what our own family members said about that memorable moment of their year and then decide for yourselves what you want to read.

Riley (taciturn son-in-law): Yet to answer the request. Enough said. No need for quotation marks or to place my commentary in brackets. I nominate the ER trip after too much Tylenol for tooth pain.

Hannah (anxious, resilient daughter): “I drove to Chicago. I slept in my car sometimes. Gas prices were cheaper in the Midwest. Driving in Chicago was terrifying for 2 minutes, and then I adjusted and became really aggressive like everyone else and it was good. When I got to Chicago, I ate lots of food, went to lots of plays, and made fun of Renoir. Is that anything?” [Well, is it? Most people love a good road trip, I hear. She went solo, by the way, and it seems to be an extended “moment.”]

Hailey (affable daughter-in-law): Free-rode on Jordan’s terse response below. Enough said?

Jordan (laconic son): “Jordan went to China. Hailey works really hard and her career is on the same trajectory as an 86kg projectile shot from a trebuchet.” [He doesn’t usually refer to himself in third person. He did come back. Where did that career metaphor come from? Who even talks that way? Here’s what I know: every projectile goes up and then down. So which stage of the trajectory are we tracking? Meanwhile, did you picture many memorable moments there?]

Brooke (tender, tough, comparatively verbal daughter): “I guess one of the most life-changing
memorable moments, or series of moments really, was getting and working with my very first speech and language client. It was sometimes really difficult and exhausting, but overall very rewarding. It was cool to see him actually progress! And then on the last day, he gave me a gift and card, hugged me several times, and told me I was a great teacher. It was a very sweet and rewarding moment.” [Did it rate a selfie, or is that against privacy norms for speech-therapists in training?]

Maria (compassionate neighbor): “I can’t remember.” [I believe it; she sleeps too little and relies too much on her phone to remember everything. She is compassionate to neighbors, nonetheless.]

John (fallible narrator): “Lying on the exposed concrete kitchen floor, having finally mastered use of the wrench, I watched a little spray explode into a powerful stream of hot water shooting from under the dishwasher across the floor. I yelled and screamed and desperately tried (again) to close the valve under the sink. I yelled for Maria to shut off the main supply valve, then did it myself. We threw down towels to slow the spread of hot water across the room.” [Such terror, rage, and impotence crammed into a minute. But is it interesting? Liverpool 4-0 over Barcelona was interesting, but it also wasn’t really us—except that I yelled that time too, in dazed joy.]

And look at that! We’ve reached the end of the page. So, what do you think? Should next year’s letter simply tell the stories of Neal, Glen, and Anna? To clarify, they are not our kin; they have family of their own. But it might make for a better letter. You decide. And you’ll never walk alone!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas letter 2018

December is cold and dark at 5000 feet and nearly 44 degrees north of the equator in Rexburg, Idaho. In summer it was warm and dry and smoky, as other places burned. Smoke in Glacier Park obscured mountain views when Maria met John there in August, and friends in Paradise lost their home to wildfire in November (with many others). Elsewhere hurricanes and floods wreaked destruction. We endured comparatively little turmoil, but we did learn how to brighten your life: borrow babies. That’s right; it turns out that parents with twins will typically welcome assistance. So now Maria wakes up to “Baby Signing Time” songs in her head and hears phantom babbles and cries around the house. Our weekday and Sunday mornings are livelier, thanks to time with the Anderson boys, Neal and Glen. Maria hasn’t looked forward to mornings like this since she was a child; our life as pseudo-grandparents (aka Auntie Ria & Uncle John) has been a lot of fun. Weary parents don’t mind the break, and two medical miracles means we both get the play and affection we evidently need. 

I thought the letter should be an extended meditation on the year’s joys as auxiliary parents, but Maria says to make it funny. This disappoints me, for I feel that I have so much more to offer through thoughtful observation and reflection, and she just wants a jester for hire. I offer depth and humanity and she wants glibness and snark. It reminds me of my life at work. I joke about my wife there too.

So on to the snarky: Maria says that time with the boys makes her feel younger, but does it show? She cheers poopy diapers, yet only I “can” change the cat litter (still). She has those songs on her mind and lullabies the boys to sleep, but “can’t” go with me to choir practice. She has gigabytes of pictures and videos of the twins on her Facebook page, phone, and laptop, yet lives for the 30-second video their mom compiles at month’s end. Should our own children visit (in person or online), they see signs of her true love everywhere. There are cribs in two bedrooms, and toys in the family room, along with food and diaper paraphernalia. She arranges baby time for Jordan and Hailey (our local couple), though it’s unclear that this will inspire the emergence of actual grandchildren anytime soon. And yet with no direct familial legacy implicated in the boys’ development, we can celebrate happy milestones and delight in silliness, but also laugh when they vex their overworked parents. I think it might not be so easy to laugh at the struggles and fits of your own children’s children. You can now rent pets (ask Hannah); is that what we are doing with the twins? I think we’re more invested.

In fact I had more to say about them, but tradition (Maria) requires news about our grown-up family. Neighbors took me backpacking in Glacier Park along the Continental Divide Trail—splendid. Maria visited family in Oregon a few times; I went with her once to see them and to soak my battered feet in the Pacific. She did a craft fair this fall and made more money than she expected, though not enough to compensate her time. We sponsored a little family reunion in Salt Lake City in June, with “hikes” and tours of gardens, aquarium, and candy factory, excursions to Golden Spike and Spiral Jetty, a
baseball game, a movie, and too little game time (for some). Brooke went back to school this fall for graduate training in communication disorders. This will not qualify her to improve our family interactions or people’s post office orders (she has illustrations), but it will prepare her to give speech therapy in coming years. Jordan’s job in online retail outlasted the brick and mortar craft store when its owners retired. Hailey moved beyond the “administrative assistant” ranks at her firm. Hannah simplified her life by dropping one part-time job and gaining a full-time job at the Springville art museum. Riley learned more of the ropes of the solar energy business. Jordan and Hailey went camping in Idaho and touring in Montana; Brooke and Hannah took a winter holiday in Europe; Riley worked like crazy and broke it up with marathon board and video games.

None of that was very funny, nor was it very deep. If you want depth, read a book, a good one. Try the prophets; they see irony but are not glib. Or play with infants. Most of all, remember the Redeemer. He was once a little child, but look what He did. Happy Christmas and Peace to you.

Monday, November 12, 2018

#TFBRC prompt for today is non-fiction

I don't read a lot of non-fiction but one book I love and have read more than once is Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place.  Incredible story that Corrie shares about WWII and ending up in a concentration camp.  She learns many great lessons including forgiveness, hope, and gratitude among other things.  I loved it. 

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

#TFBRC #nonfiction

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Today's TFBRC prompt is heartbreaker.  The first book I thought of was Old Yeller.  I haven't read it since I was a kid but I remember crying and crying while reading it.  But more recently read, the first book I thought of was For Love or Honor by Sarah M. Eden.  For Love or Honor (The Jonquil Brothers #5)It is part of my beloved Jonquil brothers series.  I teared up through much of the book and the tears spilled over more than once.  It was hard for me to read because I don't like feeling sad or crying.  It is a good thing it wasn't the first book I read in that series because I'm sure I wouldn't have continued with the other books. The book deals with the brother Stanley who has returned home from war broken in body and spirit. And it was #heartbreaking      #TFBRC

Monday, November 5, 2018

Today's Thankful For Books Reading Challenge is Did Not Finish.  

I try to be a little picky when I start a book and avoid harsh language, sex or bad violence.  And any of those things can make a book end up in my DNF pile.  Occasionally a book ends up there for other reasons though and that is one I'll highlight today.  
I couldn't bear to finish Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson. 
 Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded
I try not to be too harsh in reviewing books unless there is something I feel really strongly about. And this book got a harsh review from me and others.  Some liked the book, probably because it was considered groundbreaking and "marked a defining moment in the emergence of the modern novel". But it only has 2.78 stars on GoodReads so I'd have to say not a big hit among the GR members of today. 
This is the review I wrote on GoodReads about this book:

I forced myself through the first half of the book and then set it aside and never picked it up again except to shove it back on the shelf. It seemed to me to be pages and pages about the merits of virtue and its importance to Pamela and then she unbelievably is suddenly in love with he that would have taken her virtue from her which included attempted rape. What? I found I could skip pages when the author once again expounds on the importance of virtue because there were many pages that repeated the mantra. I thought Pamela was an insipid character that I could not love pursued by a horrible man who I found unlovable. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. Unless of course you enjoy boring and insipid. 

So yeah, sadly this book is on my most hated bookshelf.

#TFBRC #dnf
The Thankful For Books Reading Challenge prompt for November 2 was classics and I missed it.  

My first favorite classics are always going to be Jane Austen books but I like other classics as well.  I love Little Women and Anne of Green Gables.  I always liked Huckleberry Finn until I listened to the audio book and then the racist language made me cringe so much that I am not as enamored with it anymore.  Somehow listening to it said was way worse than reading it.  I get that it was the time period etc but hearing it was just bad.  



Thursday, November 1, 2018

Reading challenge prompt for today is #goals

My reading goals for this challenge are to try to make headway on the huge stack of books I have while not adding more than I read to my TBR list.  Also to find a better balance between reading and doing things like, you know, cleaning, cooking, talking to my husband...that kind of thing.