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smell the roses

Simon's haircut

Posted on 2011.06.23 at 16:37
Today Simon got his long hair all cut off. It was bittersweet for me because it was like a symbol of him getting older. In some ways it seems like yesterday he was getting his first haircut.

Here it was:

Today was kind of like that first haircut. Simon's had long hair since 2009--since he started being a young man instead of a big kid. I knew when he got his long hair short, he'd probably look old--and he does. I just can't believe how fast he's grown and how old he looks now. Here's today's haircut:

smell the roses

Middle of the Night Royal Wedding Party

Posted on 2011.04.29 at 12:05
So, I'm a romantic. Big shocker when you see my user pic and all that, and I have been very excited about the Royal Wedding. When I was in college, my friend Heather sent me a beautiful post card with a lovely aqua blue background that was a photograph of a non-creepy mannequin in Princess Grace's wedding dress. I LOVED that dress. It was--until this morning, my very favorite royal wedding dress of all time, and I had that post card hanging up for years. I probably still have it among my papers somewhere. I remember watching Princess Diana's wedding. I remember being out with my mom and being in some office building when they announced Prince William's birth over the loudspeaker. If I remember correctly, my mom was pregnant with my baby brother Adam at the time--we might have even been at an OB appointment when we heard his birth announced, and whenever I see Prince William, I think of Adam. It has been fun to watch him grow up over the years--William and Adam, but I mean William here. No, I'm not a Royals stalker or anything. I mean every few years, see him in the news and think, "Wow, he's growing up to be such a nice young man. I think he would make a ripping King!" And yes, I had to say ripping, or brilliant, or lovely, or some other British word because, well, I just do. I was very excited to see his wedding.

Like everyone else, I wondered about Kate--or should I say Princess Katherine. Would she be like Sisi, the 16 year old bride of the Emperor of Austria (who's portrait hangs over my couch) and cry with terror and overwhelm the entire procession through town and through her wedding? Would she have a very--VERY big puffy dress and very, VERY big bouquet like Diana? Would she look happy and natural with her brand spanking new husband--unlike William's parents? We watched her step into the car from the hotel and wave at the crowd through the windows and it was obvious, even without seeing the dress yet, that she was magnificent! She was so poised and seemed so happy and relaxed. She was dignified and cool, down to earth, but still sophisticated--and just perfect for the future Queen of my beloved imagined-homeland. No, England is not imagined. I just imagine I'm English. How very American of me.

Anyway, we had a party. The wedding was at 4AM our time, so I spent yesterday afternoon baking and preparing British kinds of treats--at least what we Americans imagine are British treats. I baked some lovely cakes with a special pan I bought just for the occasion. I glazed them with lemon curd and they were delicious! I think I always want my cakes glazed with lemon curd from now on--and in lovely shapes. My favorite shape was the cathedral window one--very fitting.

I also made a few dozen finger sandwiches, got chips and dip (that one is very American, but I did it anyway), fruit and a pot of orange spice tea.

I got the kids up at 3AM so we could see the procession of wedding guests and participants from various places around London to Westminster. Only the girls woke up. Tyler hasn't been sleeping well and has been so stressed that I just let him sleep. Simon set his alarm for 2:30AM. He said, "It's like the olympics, even if you aren't into sports, you just have to watch it." Well, he got up before us, decided to go back to bed for a minute and when I went to wake him at 3, he was so out, he missed it. As consolation, we let him skip school today--as was the plan for if he had stayed up all night watching it.

So, the girls and I ate treats, drank tea and watched it all. First we watched William and Harry leave Buckingham in the beautiful Bentley and arrive at the cathedral. We watched Kate's parents arrive. I couldn't help imagining how surreal it all must have seemed to them. We watched Prince Charles and Camilla, the Queen and her man Prince Philip, "lesser royals", darling little bride's maids and paige boys, and Kate's sister Pippa in that gorgeous mermaid dress--so elegant!

It had been a gloomy almost-drizzly day in London, and when Kate stepped out of the car at Westminster in her stunning dress--my new personal favorite, the sun broke out and it seemed almost divine. There could hardly be a more romantic moment than that, with the bells pealing and the million people around the city cheering and us, across the pond watching in our very own livingroom in PJs. It was a moment, I will remember for a long time.

That dress! It was so my style! It was old-fashion and antique-like in a way, but also very modern and sophisticated. It was elegant, understated and simple with perfect feminine, but not fluffy shaping. Her bouquet was also small, simple, elegant and understated. I loved the simple filmy veil and the understated tierra (if it is possible to call a tierra understated). If I was princess, that would so be my dress--well, if I was princess and two stones lighter.

Prince William looked so handsome and, well, princely in his uniform, and Prince Harry, as always, looked darling and somehow a bit naughty and endearing like a little boy. All the royal family looked so well. I'm sure I looked lovely, too in my bright orange t-shirt, my bold hot pink fake-silk oriental flower PJ bottoms, and my slumber-messed pixie cut--all of which I am still sporting at this very moment.

When the wedding began, I was very glad the news anchor banter stopped--except for how they always started talking during the singing, like the music didn't count. It was very irritating to hear the songs and the choir boys and choir school discussed in detail--right over the music itself.

Anyway, here are Prince William and Kate with Kate's father and Prince Harry just arriving at the alter.

The ceremony was lovely. The reading and the addresses and the music (which I only imagine was beautiful because all I could hear was Katie Couric talking and talking), and the cathedral with the trees and sprigs of Sweet Williams and Lillies of the Valley and hyacinths and myrtles. It was so romantic that I kind of wish I'd had a million people at my wedding--maybe I'll have a bang-up shindig for my funeral--or my next book launch--or something. I suppose I should have a spare billion dollars before I plan something on that scale and right now I think I probably only have $999,999,975 to go.

The ring:

The carriage awaits--and not a van, they called those carriages, too, but I mean an actual carriage. I'm going to have to start calling our van a carriage. It sounds much more romantic that way. Time for school, kids, the carriage awaits! Time to go to Wal Mart, my carriage awaits!

Prince William and Princess Katherine setting off on their procession to the palace. Sigh. How romantic. They look so happy and natural together. They both seem to have the proper dispositions to meet their many life obligations, and they look like they will enjoy meeting those many life obligations together.

I was sad when it was over--although, I kind of wished it was over at a couple of points during the ceremony--no matter how much you enjoy a good wedding, it is hard to stay completely alert when it's 4AM and the addresses do go on a bit, but that was only a couple of times for a very few minutes. We watched until 6AM when they arrived at the palace and Katie Couric went on to discuss real-life domestic news like horrible tornadoes and all that. I needed to stay in that magic place a little while longer, so I turned it off and went to bed--and dreamed that we owned two houses and one was haunted by a bad spirit and we didn't like to go there, and that a lady I know from the stake YW had rows along her walk of life sized statues of Young Woman age girls in various animated poses like reading the scriptures, helping with the laundry and enjoying other wholesome activities. I thought it was creepy and weird, but everyone else LOVED them, and to me, that seemed creepy and weird--so not that romantic, but still.

My girls had a great time getting up in the middle of the night, eating lots of treats and watching the wedding. They were pretty sleepy, though, and I think I enjoyed it most of all. I think they will always remember it, though, even if they were doze-y and sleepy. I know I will. What a magical wedding! I'm so glad to live in these modern times so I can watch in real time, this amazing event half a world away.

smell the roses

The New Jane Eyre Movie Review

Posted on 2011.04.06 at 16:47
I just got back from seeing the new Jane Eyre movie. I have been looking forward to this for a long time. I even wore my fan-girl t shirt that says, "I know what Grace Poole does in the attic..." Yes, I am a geek. I restrained myself from bringing my Charlotte Bronte bag. I figured one fan-girl prop was enough. No one got it anyway. They never do. I'm that geeky.

I liked this version. That is my basic opinion and what most of my friends have said when they've seen it. The writer and director stayed very close to the book. The costumes, sets and music were lovely. They did a good job condensing a huge sprawling story into two hours. The acting was decent. It was nice. Was it the best version I've seen? No. I still love the recent Masterpiece version better, but it was firmly up there with the better versions I've seen.

Here is a piece of advice for you for when you go see it. Do not go to a matinee like I did. During today's viewing I acquired a new prejudice--a senior citizen packed theater. No offense to any seniors reading this. I'm sure you are better behaved than they were.

I was probably the only one under 65 in the theater. People always complain about how kids are so loud and annoying at the theater, but the loud and annoying thing reaches the other end of the spectrum as well. I knew I was in trouble during the previews when they were showing a clip of a movie staring Christopher Plummer. A guy behind me said (very loudly), "That's that fella from Sound of Music."
The lady by him said (very loudly), "What?"
"The fella from Sound of Music."
"Oh, Sound of Music. I remember that show."

They (and pockets of other seniors who also talked very loudly) kept commenting through the whole thing. It was so distracting. The part where Jane is at Lowood and has to stand on the chair because Brockelhurst said she was a liar and Helen sneaks her some bread, the lady behind me said (really loudly), "Really, that's all you need if you're starving--some good bread. That would be enough for anyone who was really hungry." EVERY SINGLE THING that happened they had to make some kind of comment like that. Also, they laughed all the time. It's not a comedy--at all. I guess they just didn't get it. After a while, it started cracking me up, and I started paying attention to them instead of the movie--or bracing myself every time something happened because I knew I was about to hear commentary about it behind me. "That's some good looking bread. That's really all a person needs if they are really hungry." "I didn't expect that bird to fly up there like it did. It made me jump. Everyone jumped. I didn't expect that." "Now who's that fella with the funny hair?" "His wife? It figures."

Even with all the dozens and dozens of slightly amusing, slightly annoying distractions, I was able to enjoy the movie. I don't think it was quite award-winning quality because they tried to squeeze so much this-happened-then-this-happened into the screenplay, that they forgot to explore the characters' deeper natures, and that might make things confusing to a viewer who hasn't read the book before. But it was nice.

That really is my main complaint with the film--and what I believe keeps it from being great--the absence of deep character examination. In the book, Jane goes through a journey that Charlotte Bronte, with her fierce religious upbringing might have described as "putting off the natural man." It's a scriptural term meaning becoming a charactered, whole and complete person, not controlled by or shut off from passions, but someone in control of herself with virtue, integrity and self-respect. That's really what the book is about--Jane's journey from being the natural man to a complete woman of character and dignity. That's what I love about the book. It was written in a time when women weren't believed to be passionate, or that the natural man thing didn't apply to us, but it does. It was one of the first books ever where the female lead character is a human being and not just the proverbial "angel in the kitchen" as they called it back then.

Jane in this movie didn't seem to have that passion for growth and learning and becoming the best person she could be. True, in the book, it can get a little overbearing sometimes, but for a book about what it's about, it is surprisingly undidactic. In this movie version, Jane seems to be a girl that a lot of hard stuff happens to. That isn't character growth. That's just a bunch of stuff that happens. Actually, the same thing could be said (and was said) about my WIP, so I can personally understand how these oversights can occur. But it left the movie a little flat.

Again, I want to say that I liked this movie. The character depth problem I had with it would be very difficult to correct when you are trying to put a meaty novel like that into a two hour time frame. Things have to be cut and condensed and over looked. The screenwriter has to emphasize some characters and some character traits while getting rid of others for the sake of time and keeping the story tight. I just felt that maybe the writer didn't quite know the characters as well as she should. But that's just me.

Another thing that I wish was emphasized more (and this is just personal preference and not necessarily a flaw of the film) was, as the latest screenwriting book I'm reading calls it--the "Monster in the House" element. I love this stuff. I love the idea of the big old rather creepy house. I love the idea of creepy, mysterious Grace Poole. I love the strange sounds in the night and mysterious fires and strange don't-go-to-the-west-wing kind of thing. Maybe it's not very literary of me, but I just love a good monster in the house scenario, and this book was built for it. This movie version kind of skipped over it except for one scene. It was a really creepy scene, but for something like that to work, the underlying anxiety has to be set up ahead of time and we have to see it play out in signs and symbols and little escalating hints all throughout. You can't just suddenly make it scary. We have to have a sense that something is going on here right from the beginning. We have to have the sense that we need to look over our shoulders, or sniff the air, or pull back a mysterious curtain, long before there is a need to do any of it.

I tend to dwell on the things I wish were different when I'm reviewing a film and this one especially because I liked a lot of it and what can a person say about that other than, I liked it. Overall, it wasn't perfect, but it was for sure good--and one of the better film versions out there. Even if you are a Jane Eyre snob like me, go see it--also buy the soundtrack. It's great! I don't think you'll come out of the theater saying WOW-EE like with The King's Speech or anything, but you will have had a nice, rewarding experience at the movies--especially if you also get treats--really, though, a good piece of bread is all you need if you're hungry and this movie was a good piece of bread.

smell the roses

Books and Movies--Really amazing ones!

Posted on 2011.02.15 at 10:05
I haven't written in a while because, well, I've been a bore.

About two and a half weeks ago, I started not feeling great. Two weeks ago today, it knocked me off my feet and I'm still on the floor. It all started out as a cold and feeling blah, then all of a sudden morphed into full blown flu, then stomach flu, then it all went to my lungs. I still can't walk down the street without collapsing into horrible coughing, gagging trying to breathe fits. As a result, no writing, no running, no playing with friends, no church, no almost anything but laying in bed for two and a half weeks.

The up side has been a stellar couple of weeks for movies and books. Since I couldn't do anything else the first week, I did a lot of reading. One of the books I read this past two and a half weeks was Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. It was seriously one of the best books I have EVER read. I am a very slow reader but I devoured it in two sitting--two very, very long sittings, but still. Her writing was so amazing that it not only had it's own voice and style, it seemed to have it's own breath. This book is what I love about words!

Movies have been fun, too. I never go to the movies, even though I LOVE them. I have a million DVDs and generally watch several movies a week. Well, I have had cabin fever to the extreme with it being February and me being sick, so twice this week, I have doped myself up and Tyler has taken me to the movies. I always forget how great February is for films.

First we saw The King's Speech. WOW! That was one of the best movies I've ever seen! I expected good things from it, but it was much better than I expected. I think the thing that really worked for that movie--even more than the wonderful acting, the wonderful costuming, the wonderful directing, the wonderful music and all that, was the execution of the theme. Really, it wasn't about a king and a queen and a speech therapist, it was about a guy who had to do something out of duty that was practically (at least he thought so) impossible for him to do. They took the theme to an individual psychological level and because of that, we in the audience can all relate and the movie becomes about us. We have all had to do things that we were sure we couldn't do, and that terrify us. We have all had responsibilities placed on us that were more than we thought we could handle, but we did it anyway because it was the right thing. In this way, even though it was about royalty, it was really about each and every person alive--and it was WONDERFUL!

Films like that tread a fine line. They can easily drift into a sort of affectionate, but not quite realistic portrayal of the characters. They can stoop to being about costuming and fall flat on story and depth. They can be so internal, that it ends up being a movie where people talk instead of do. It could have easily been an all star cast weakly directed so that even though they are great actors, they are falling flat. It could have been didactic and preachy and hit us over the head with the theme--that is an element that particularly grates on me. This movie had none of these failings and was, in my opinion, a masterpiece!

Those of you reading this who don't watch rated R movies, quit your policy this once. I am going to take all my kids to see it. It is very appropriate and beautiful and edifying. This movie is the perfect example of our flawed rating system. I'm SOOOOOOOO glad they don't rate book! Really, go out and see it--today! You won't be sorry.

The next movie we saw was True Grit. We saw it last night. That was a great movie, too! I didn't think it was quite as good as the King's Speech, but it was definitely right up there. The acting, the directing and the writing were wonderful! How do the Coen Brothers do it! They have such nuance that they present as sort of exaggerated, base and ugly, that ends up having a delicate quality somehow. It's like their movies are what they aren't. For example, take O Brother Where Art Thou, how they made it trashy and ignorant, but the way they did it made it a smart, sophisticated, intellectual film. What the heck!? True Grit was like that, in that it was base and ugly in a lot of ways, but at the same time, beautiful, smart, sophisticated and so tight it was nearly perfect! I really liked this movie!

I think the best things about this film were the acting, the directing and the writing. Jeff Bridges and that little girl were just amazing! The directing was just what you'd expect from a Coen Brothers movie--exactly right on! And the writing was excellent--the kind of thing that feels literary somehow and pulls you right in. This movie of theirs I think had even better writing than usual.

I think the only disadvantage this movie has, at this point, is that it came at out the same general time as The King's Speech. It may not take as much at the Oscars as it normally would because of the other movie. Alas, that's how things can go.

I was so excited to see two such wonderful movies in the same week, that I made a plan to go more often. These two movies were so fulfilling and nourishing to my spirit, that I couldn't wait to see what was coming out next. Hmmm. Once I started looking about me for what was coming out in the next few months, I got less excited--a sexy cheap Twilight kind of movie about Little Red Riding Hood--no I am not joking, it's for real, The Smurfs in 3D, and a movie I didn't catch the name of but the girls on the posters had their boobs out, legs spread, and were holding machine guns. Hmmm. Well, when all else fails--and it looks like it will in the Summer, we have Netflix--and next February.

I'm so grateful to live in modern times where I can be sick and spend my resting time filling myself up with these amazing works of art!

Tonight was the Annual Salt Lake City Zombie Walk. Yes, Salt Lake City has an annual Zombie walk. Everyone knows Salt Lake City has Mormons. Everyone knows it has great skiing. Everyone knows it has a cool, weird, large salty lake. Everyone knows it's generally politically conservative. Not many people know it has a vibrant and very playful arts community. That arts community sets up this walk every year and this is the first year we have gone. We didn't dress up, but we might next year. It was so fun!

Here's the city county building where the walk started. We gothed up the photo for your benefit. It was actually bright and sunny, but that just didn't seem right.

We parked the car and followed the drips of fake blood to the crowd of zombies gathered on the grounds. It was so fun to walk around and see all the costumes. Some people got WAY into it and looked so gross, I didn't take photos of them, but that's probably a sign of a very well made zombie.

I think this photo looks like Salt Lake--family values, having fun, and being way weirder than people would expect.

The walk started a few minutes later. They took about a two mile loop around downtown. We stood on the sidelines with the rest of the "normals" and took photos.

We even saw loved ones among the dead. Here is Tyler's step brother Jeremy and his darling son Noah:

One of my favorite parts was the group of fake protestors that stood on the street corners heckling the zombies--brilliant!

They must have had so much fun coming up with those signs!

It was also fun to see the thousands of zombies walk by restaurant windows and seeing the faces of the people inside. At one point, we were standing by a group of people taking photos. They were from out of town and this was their introduction to Salt Lake City. It was pretty great!

It was a fun, gross, silly, and weird evening. We'll be back next year and maybe we'll be one of them.

smell the roses

So long

Posted on 2010.04.16 at 13:58
I started this blog four years ago right when I started working on Palace Beautiful and started persuing my writing career in earnest. It has been a wonderful place for me to get to know other writers and to share my life with family and friends.

Now that my book has come out and I am more in the public, I am being encouraged, and rightly so, to keep my private life private. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do blog-wise, if I'll start a private blog that only family and friends can see, or a professional blog for my readers or both, but either way, this place has been my personal journal and it's time to close it to the public.

I'll let you all know what I'm going to do in the next little while, and by "you all" I mean my family and friends, but not the general public. Sorry, General Public. I may have a blog for you as well. It just won't be here.

I really do love you all and it has been a wonderful four years. I think this is a good place to finish this blog. Hugs and kisses for all the support you all have given me over these last four years.

So long!

smell the roses

Release Day!

Posted on 2010.04.15 at 21:11
A year and a half ago, I got my book deal, four years ago last week, I started working on the book, nine years ago, I wrote a few short stories that were the seeds for some of the story lines in the book, and today it is released to the public!

I woke up this morning in a panic. I had so many feelings, and they were all bursting out in one overwhelming whorl. My daughters helped me get ready for my TV interview by getting my outfit and accessories just right. My husband suggested that I take Ellen with me and let her skip school. He reminded me that I haven't had much time with her lately and it might be a special day to have together. I thought it was a good idea. Tyler and Simon and Charlotte left for school and work and Ellen and I left for the TV station.

Now, I am not a big watcher of morning news shows, but I often watch the news at noon. We lived in Utah when we were first married for several years, then moved to Phoenix for six years, then moved back to Utah. All those Utah years, I have been watching the same news channel. It was strange to be on the news with the people I have watched for so many years.

Here I am in the lobby waiting for them to call me into the studio. I look a bit subdued. I was pretty scared. I thought I was either going to cry or start shaking convulsively, or both--for a local morning news show. That's how chicken I am about public things.

They took us to the studio next to the stage (I don't know what they call it. It looks like a stage to me). We watched the anchors yawning, talking, resting on the news desk and exercising during commercials or clip stories. It was kind of funny how totally informal it was. It was fun that Ellen could be there, too.

Then they had me go on the stage thing and sit in a very tall chair and hooked me up to a mic. The two anchors that I have watched for years had chairs next to mine. During the break before my interview, they were joking around with me saying things like, "so, you're come to give us some tax advise are you?" I just laughed and said, "of course" or something like that. I was in a blind panic, so I'm not totally sure what I said. Of course afterwards, I thought of all kinds of sparkly, clever things I could have said, but at that point, I was just trying not to cry from sheer terror.

As soon as the interview started, I was fine. I'm sure I looked a bit nervous, but I was able to turn most of it off and do well. The problem is that I forgot to tape it and they don't put morning news segments on the web so I guess no one in my family, including myself will ever see it. Actually, Ellen saw it on the monitor so, I guess she was the only one. As scared as I was, I think I did well. It was really neat and totally worth it!

When it was over, Ellen and I left and I started shaking. I felt so relieved! She and I went out to breakfast at Mimi's. It was very nice and I started crashing. I've hardly relaxed for a second the past few weeks. All my feelings are so intense right now and everything seems like a big deal-- the good and the bad and everything else.

I got home and retreated to my computer. I found the story about me and my book in the Tribune online. I guess they are printing it tomorrow. One fun thing is that it was an article about me and another local writer together. It wasn't quite as good as the article that aired in the Deseret News Sunday. That was just an exceptionally good piece of writing! But it was still pretty good and hey, free publicity, and I got the bonus of sharing the spotlight with a new writing friend. :)

After that, I tried to nap, but today is release day! I could hardly rest even if I wanted to--and I wanted to. When Charlotte and Simon came home, we started getting a family party ready. We went to the dollar store and to the grocery store. In the grocery store parking lot I suddenly realized something. It was BEAUTIFUL outside! I almost never miss that, but I was so distracted, I didn't stop to look around all day. Overnight last night, all the redbuds bloomed. It was 70 degrees, and the mountains--the parts that aren't covered with snow--were green. Spring came literally overnight--on release day! Thank you Universe!

The kids picked out Palace Beautiful themed decorations and food like a plastic far far away blue table cloth, sugar punch pink punch, cutsie Zuzu cups that were bright pink with big read hearts, red bird red streamers, oh so noir black balloons, etc, etc, etc. Charlotte even hung spoons, like the ones the girls found in the back yard in the book, from the ceiling. Here is a place card Charlotte made for me with my author name on it. She wrote it on a Grandma Brooks doily.

Ellen wanted to get a big blank rectangle cake she could decorate. We couldn't find a plain one, she she chose this one and added the writing.

The girls did it all. They love doing that kind of thing. When it was time, the whole family had a party/dinner. It was such a nice time. The shopping and the party were the most fun parts of release day today. There was no terror involved, just fun. I'm VERY glad I could do the terrifying parts as well, but the second half of the day was more, well, chillaxed.

I have tomorrow to rest and clean and work on my talk that I'm still not finished with. Then my mom comes in the evening and we are going to writer girls tomorrow together. Fun! Let me say, I LOVE release week! I loved release day! I can't believe it! I'm a published author!