Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Extending Extended Family

As a young woman growing up in Salt Lake City, behind the Zion curtain, I always planned on having one husband and several children. It never ocurred to me that it might be the other way around. I've had one husband die, one marriage die, and one husband live to tell about it.

One day years ago stepson Christopher stayed home from school sick. Not sure how "sick" he really was, I told him he was missing history class and made him watch Gone With the Wind with me. That was when it hit me: I'd been married as many times as Scarlett O'Hara.

Although inheriting Thom's five children has given me the large family I always wanted to have, I only gave birth to one child. To provide Scott with close sibling-like relationships, my nieces and nephews became an important part of our lives. For that matter, prior to that, before I married, my older brother's two daughters were my substitute children, and once I married, I still continued to maintain close relationships with them and any new nieces or nephews that came along.

Jessica and Alisa were such adorable little girls. I have so many memories of funny and cute things they did. I remember the time Jessica emptied an entire huge bag of Puffed Rice in the living room, waving the bag and laughing hysterically as the cereal blanketed the floor. (It is amazing how much damage a little one can do in the few short seconds it takes for a parent to get to them from across the room .) I used to carry a bottle of bubble blowing solution in my purse, a cheap way to entertain the kiddos. One Sunday as I sat in church holding little Alisa, she reached into my purse. "Bubbles, Aunt Susan," she pleaded. Shaking my head, I couldn't help but giggle inwardly as I imagined bubbles wafting Lawrence-Welk-like* through the chapel during the meeting.

Jessica has always kept copies of my poems and writings, and she had a copy of a poem I wrote called Jumper Cables, about giving people a jump when they are down. I still have somewhere a pair of cardboard and fabric "heart-to-heart jumper cables" Jessica and Alisa made for me when I found myself once again a single parent at the age of 40. Jessica is now the mother of four and teaches parenting classes and has always been one of the most organized people I know. Alisa has a baby boy. A couple of years ago she and her husband, Glenn, came over to our island for a visit, and we had a fun couple of days together.

When my sister-in-law, Sherstin, was expecting the twins, I picked up preschoolers Evan and Sterling every day after school for several weeks so that she could stay down. It was on one of those visits that we decided to make cookies. I had taught my son Scott how to crack an egg against the counter and then hand it to me to break and put into the cookie batter. I asked Evan if he knew how to crack an egg. Smiling proudly, he said he did. Then he took the egg and smashed it down on the countertop. Then, unsure that was what I had in mind, he looked at me warily, waiting to see if I was going to yell at him for making a mess, perhaps. So I picked out the shells and scraped the remainder of the egg into the batter. Good memories! Now Evan is one the verge of becoming a lawyer, and has a beautiful little family.

Sterling, who was about three when I moved to Florida, just added a little girl, Maylee, to his family--a baby sister for adorable Graham. I have a memory of Sterling eating a bowl of ice cream, and one of his twin sisters asking for a bite and Sterling saying "It's all gone" before taking another bite. Somewhere around here I think we've got that on video.

Even though I moved away just after my niece Lindsay was born, I told myself I would find a way to stay close to my nieces and nephews despite the distance. Lindsay is a newlywed. When she was in elementary school, she used to send me copies of little stories she had written. Now she has a journalism degree and when I need someone to understand why I don't like a certain book, I know I can count on her to understand.

One of the things I have done is bring each of them over for a visit when they graduate high school. I hosted Jessica, Evan and Alisa in Florida and had memorable visits to Disney World with them. Sabrina and Elaina, the twins, came over to Hawaii, and we had many adventures. I remember them on their cell phones telling friends back in cold Idaho that they were watching a movie on the beach at Waikiki. And I especially remember the one where the two experienced kayakers, myself and stepson Rob, tanked while trying to show them how it was done. Now Sabrina is a new mother and Elaina is expecting, which means all those good lines I came up with for her to feed to those enquiring after her reproductive status will now go unused. Dang!

Lindsay and Randall have both been over for a visit, as well. I just got back from attending Randall's wedding. I still remember the first time I met him, a little blond guy hanging out the window of the truck at Bear Lake. Every time I would try to get him to say me name, he would say "tractor," just to tease me. So I became "Aunt Tractor." Lauren is next on the docket for a trip, arriving this coming week. I've watched her go from a shy child afraid to give a talk in Primary to a confident young woman and runner up in the local Junior Miss pageant. We've got a couple of more years before Reggie graduates, and I'm looking forward to getting know my youngest nephew better. The only one I missed was Sterling, because we couldn't quite match up schedules and then he went on a mission and got married. Maybe someday, Sterling, we'll get you over here.

I am grateful for all the ways these extended-children of mine have blessed my life. I am grateful to my brothers and sisters-in-law for raising such awesome kids, each of whom have been a bright spot in my life.

*ask your grandparents

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hooey Ho

Greetings fellow earthlings,

Okay, any of you out there with any knowledge of the Hawaiian language know that it is "hui ho," and "Aloha hui ho" means, loosely translated, "God be with you." That's my favorite translation anyway. More on that later. I chose that title today because I'm not sure my stream-of-consciousness writing will end up to be anything besides a bunch of hooey. As for the "ho" part, that is "ho" as in "westward ho." In other words, hooey that just keeps on coming.

Until now I have resisted becoming a blogger. I don't climb on bandwagons. My parents never had to say "if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?" I fear this contrariness was passed on to my son. I once apologized to him for raising him in the less-than-wonderful environment of south Florida.

"Mom, if we had stayed in Utah, I probably would have had to stand out by being rebellious against the Church. In Florida I could stand out by being religious."

Go figure. I did something right, by accident but right nevertheless.

Anyway, I am probably the only one on the planet who still hasn't read any Harry Potter books. It isn't because I don't think they will be good, it is just that I don't read what everyone else is reading just because they're reading it. I wait for the excitement to die down, see if whatever it is has any staying power, an indication that it wasn't all hype, and then I pick it up, usually cheaper. If not cheaper, at least without having to pitch a tent outside Borders. You see, I don't need someone in Paris to tell me that sage is a hot color, because I already like green. If something is good, it will stand the test of time--books, relationships, granite countertops. Therefore, I am usually reading a little behind the pack, and my recently-redocorated bathroom is done in coral, gold and teal, simply because I like those colors.

But I digress. (That would have been a good name for my blog, too, come to think of it.) So because of the above-related tendencies, I have resisted having a blog because of "blog overkill." My assessment is that there used to just be a few bloggers, and people had time to read their blogs, but now everyone and their dog is busy blogging and no one has time to read the blogs. Hey, another great name--the "Everyone and Their Dog Blog." That might be false advertising, though, because sooner or later readers would figure out that it was just me, and I'm not sure my dog would truly have anything meaningful to say. (He's more into the visual arts.) Anyway, I did recently note that even though I am short on time there are a few bloggers that I follow, perhaps not religiously (although come to think of it, I go to their websites about as often as I go to church), because I know they always either make me laugh, brighten my day or lift my spirits. So I am going to blog, in hopes that I can do the same for someone.

I also cannot discount what it means to an author for people to know who they are. In case you missed the campout at Borders waiting for one of my books, there wasn't one. My first book came out on September 11, 2001. Need I say more? (My conspiracy theory involves Anita Stansfield in cahoots with Osama Bin Laden and remains unproven at present.) The release of my next two books roughly coincided with my husband's two back surgeries and promotion of books took a backseat to keeping my husband alive. Book four in the series, entitled "Are We There Yet?" came out quietly in 2004 at the same time as another LDS author released a book by the same name. Anyone who did go in search of my book, probably ended up with his. (Again, I suspect Anita could be involved. Please, if you know her, do not compromise my ongoing investigation by tipping her off.)

I have learned many things from my quadruplets, such as that you are not supposed to let a character talk for three pages without taking a breath, POV is not supposed to resemble a ping-pong game, and if you are going to include a current event in your book, it shouldn't be in the work that it takes you two decades to finish, although I don't see why it can't just morph into the "historical fiction" category. First books are like first children, you make all the mistakes on them, but you love them because they endured your learning curve. I still have much to learn about writing, even more about marketing and promotion. Still, all things considered, I managed to create characters people care about and because of the lack of publicity, I know that the people who buy my books, buy them on purpose. I know you're out there somewhere, my stealth fans. Thank you!

I am also hindered in my self-promotion by the fact that I live out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii. (If I hold this shell to my ear, I can almost hear the cries of pity all the way out here.) It is with pangs of envy and longing that I read the posts from fellow authors about their book signings and events. On this last unplanned quick trip to the mainland for a funeral, I sold a book to the lady who runs the Crown Room for Delta, and offered to send a freebie of Are We There Yet? to the grandparents of triplets that I met in the Salt Lake airport. Perhaps as payment the mother of said triplets can write me a heartfelt thank-you note and let me know whether I put Beverly through the paces realistically with her triplets, as I'm sure she has lots of time on her hands. Anyway, the point I was attempting to make, quite a while back, is that I realized that I need to blog, because people need to know who I am, and also, if anyone can make it through this, they might actually want to know what Beverly has to say on pages 45-62.

So more about the "hooey." "Hui ho" actually has great meaning for me. My dear departed first husband, Paul Corpany, coming or going, used to always say "hui ho." I never knew what it meant. He told me it was a Hawaiian greeting he picked up from his brother, David, who served his mission in Hawaii. I never researched what it meant. It wasn't something you heard anybody say in Salt Lake City, which is where I lived at the time. About a year after he died, I took a trip that qualified me to purchase a round-trip airfare to Hawaii for $100.00. (I never told the relatives I flew to visit that I really did so in order to qualify for the cheap trip to Hawaii.) I couldn't find anyone who could afford to go with me, because they didn't have the special fare. In need of a break from being the sole parent, I left my two-year-old son with my aunt and uncle and cousins, knowing he would be in good hands, and set off for some rest and rejuvenation in Hawaii. As I was preparing to disembark, the flight attendant came over the loudspeaker and said, "Aloha hui ho." Tears sprang to my eyes. It was Paul sending a message to me. I realized then that I had no idea what "hui ho" even meant. I figured it was Hawaiian for "how's it going?" I waited and let everyone else funnel out of the plane ahead of me. Trying not to let my emotions show, I asked the flight attendant if she could tell me what "hui ho" meant.

"Aloha hui ho" means "God be with you," she informed me. I've heard other translations of it since then, but that was what that flight attendant said to me that day. I wonder sometimes if Paul had a hand in my moving to Hawaii, so I would hear "hui ho" all the time, since he was no longer around to say it to me.

So to my readers, whether of my books, my Meridian column, or now my blog, I say "aloha hui ho." If you got this far, I thank you for your time. Ya'll come back now.


(Am I supposed to sign my name? Did I do it wrong? Maybe it is like my mother when she says "love, Mom" at the end of her message on my voicemail, like she's writing a letter or like I have forgotten what her voice sounds like. Oh, I hope I didn't do it wrong!)