Talking Story

Mainland Living

blahYou ever get the blahs? It’s like being hungry but nothing looks good on the menu. Blah. When I feel that way, phrases like a change is as good as a rest and only idle hands make bored minds rattle around in my brain. The voice is my grandmother’s.  It also says things like if you think you’re bored, I have some chores that’ll wipe bored right off your face.

Grandma is a no-nonsense quit-yer-bitchin’-I-survived-the-Great-Depression-walking-uphill-both-ways kind of lady. She has no patience with blah.

I don’t either, but I deal with it more in a stand-in-front-of-the-fridge and futz-around-on-the-computer way. I’m hopeful something good will magically appear in the five minutes since I last scanned the shelves or clicked a link.

Yeah, not so much.

Grandma’s right. I really should clean the house. It’ll sweep cobwebs both metaphorical and literal out of my life.


I feel like this guy, only he seems blissfully happy. Must be the beer.

I feel like this guy, only he seems blissfully happy.
Must be the beer.

Oh my, &*(^&^@#%^!!! It’s SNOWING again.

I bought little cute sandals, capris, and tee-shirts. I got my toes painted a sunny orange-creamsicle. There’s a tube of sunscreen in my day bag and even a fold up hat. The calendar says spring—winter should be over.

But now it’s snowing big, fluffy, Christmas card flakes that are rapidly piling up outside my window. I haven’t seen more than a hint of sun in a week. Writing at my desk in shorts with the space heater on isn’t cutting it. I think the real reason so many writers commit suicide is because they can’t all live at the beach. People think the world will end in a fiery ball, but I know the truth. It will end in ice, in frozen wasteland, in snow.

Snow. Worst four-letter word ever.


The calendar says first day of Spring, but the snow flurries are flying. In defiance I’m wearing my new summer capris and a t-shirt, but in the space heater under my desk is on. The sun peeks through bare branches to shine hazily through my office window. I know in a couple of months I’ll be longing for frozen ice pops and air conditioning, but right now a little heat sounds good.

Until then I’ll shiver in my slippahs and try to soak up the weak winter rays that trickle through the slatted blinds. Staring at the computer screen, I’ll dream of the taste of saltwater in the back of my throat, the tightness of too much sun across my shoulders, and the sand-kiss hiss of shore-break as it marks the changing tides.

Maybe tomorrow the trees will bud and the snow will melt.



I’m not sure if it’s his hands on the steering wheel or me in my seat, but the rain is turning to sleet as we wind up the canyon. I give him side-eye, my son now taller and broader than me with his shiny new driver’s license tucked in his wallet. His arms are relaxed, but I can see the tension in his jaw, the same line his father gets when I remind him about trash or the need to buy horse feed.

Pushing my foot through the passenger floorboards, I’m stressing him out.

I take a deep breath and count to five, but it comes out as a sigh.

His eyes get squinty and his shoulders hunch forward.

I count to ten this time and try not to breathe too loud.

When did I last check the tires?

“So you excited about speaking at the conference?” he asks.

“Really more trying not to throw up,” I say.

“You’ll be fine,” he tells me. “Want to stop for Coke or something? It might settle your stomach.”

When did we switch? Aren’t I supposed to be the one driving the car, reassuring, and giving dubious medical advice?

On one hand, there’s a maternal pride that I have shepherded a fussy, unwilling to nurse infant into a capable young man.

But I’m a really crappy backseat driver and the trickiest s-curves are coming up.

“Roads are getting a little slick,” he says. “I better ease off the gas a little.”

I count to three and think about daffodils and spring. It’s gonna be fine.

lehua_flower“It’s pronounced L’wah. It’s French,” proclaimed the guy sitting next to my son, Aaron. Aaron gives him side-eye. The guy and his girlfriend are studying the bios of the authors seated on the platform in front of the room. It’s the first day of a writers’ conference and I’m here to talk about how to write children who sound, act, and think like children instead of mini-adults. Seated in the middle of the table, I figure I’m in a power-spot.

“No, says the woman, spotting a dark-haired, olive-skinned author seating herself to my right. “It’s Native American. It’s Leh-huish-hah.”

Aaron tries not to snicker.

“I’m telling you it’s French. L’wah!”

“Welcome everyone. Let’s start by having each of our panelists introduce themselves.”

“Aloha! My name is Lay-who-ah Parker and I write…”

When they hear me say my name, they both shake their heads. “No,” the guy says, “she’s wrong.”

pony bead lizards

At first glance you’d think my fourteen-year-old daughter is a pretty, self-confident jockette and honors student growing up sheltered and cherished in ways only the truly privileged take for granted. But get to know her and you’ll realize that she’s a deep thinker who knows how to blend. At her core she’s a can-do, no-nonsense, uber-competitive, authority-questioning young woman with the analytical brain of an engineer.

It’s a potent combination that usually leaves people underestimating her until she eviscerates them with her tenacity and logic.

Last night she came home spitting nails from her weekly teenage girls’ church youth group activity. “You know what we did? We made little toy lizards to go on backpacks.”

“Okaaayyy,” I said. “And you didn’t want one for your backpack?”

“The lizards weren’t for us; they were for kids in Africa. It was a service project. I asked how tiny beaded lizards were a service project—wouldn’t starving kids in Africa rather have a sandwich? And they said these were to go on the outside of the backpacks that other people were filling with things kids need. This wasn’t a service project—this was decorating someone else’s service project.” She was deeply and thoroughly disgusted.

I totally got where she was coming from. I also understood why the adult youth group leaders thought this was a brilliant idea: weekly activity, check; service project, check; fun thing to do, check. Now who has an idea for next week?

There is one inescapable fact of a lay ministry—it requires a lot of volunteer work from its members. And sometimes people don’t grasp all of the purposes and reasons behind what’s being asked of them.

Too often in teen girls’ programs the focus becomes what’s cute, easy, and fun instead of worthwhile. Somehow the idea that we’re supposed to be helping girls grow into capable young women of faith gets confused with entertaining them. We avoid asking more of them out of fear that they’ll stop coming and lose sight of why we want them there in the first place.

Combine a skewed focus with a checklist mentality, and you’ll understand why so many church youth camps are held in somebody’s vacation cabin, meals are pre-prepared off-site by other adults and ferried in three times daily, and a twenty-minute hike is deemed as good as the five-mile requirement. We all know it’s a serious pain to set up tents in the wilderness. It’s also far easier if adults plan, shop for, and cook all the meals—double-bonus points if leaders can avoid doing that over a smoky campfire or wonky propane burner. Throw in some spiritual thoughts, a couple of crafts, and check, check, check—girls’ summer church camp is done.

But that’s not the point.

Young women need to do hard things in order to learn that they can. They need experiences that teach them that their service has real value. And that takes time, effort, and a non-checklist mentality from the adults. To do less is to underestimate them—and ourselves.

God never said it would be easy, only worth it.

I know my daughter dutifully made as many of the lizards as she could to the best of her ability. I suspect the whole time she was calculating the man-hours and hard costs that went into them, figuring if they’d sold the lizards for $5 apiece as a fundraiser and then taken the money they raised and…

But beyond asking why they were making the lizards, I doubt she said a word. Like I said, she knows how to blend.

On her way up the stairs to her bedroom she paused. “You know, Mom, when I’m grown up I hope I get to work in a girls’ youth ministry. That way I can make sure we do something real.”

Me, too.


Lately, behind me in the shadows and corners of dimly lit rooms, Death stalks softly.

I’m uncertain if it’s simply the rule of three—three good things in a row, three bad—or if having my foot in a cast has made me more aware of the inevitability of age and the gradual entropy that all things slid toward. But in the past few weeks I feel like I’ve been confronted with too many near misses—a friend diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, but cured with surgery; a niece in a car accident escaping bruised, but not broken—along with the death of a dear colleague’s spouse from complications of lung cancer and the death of the father of one of my high school friends.

It feels like Death is gliding by, culling whom he chooses, his chill fingers caressing the back of my neck.

Things come in threes.

How far back can I go to round out the threes? How far removed is too removed to count?

As much as I want this grisly set of threes to be done, I know that this trio’s ending is really just resetting the countdown clock. It’s the illusion of completeness that brings a sigh of relief.

One, two…


Native Forum Party - 2011 Sundance Film Festival

The PiBs are back in town. You can spot them in a New York minute or L.A. heartbeat, the People in Black, dressed for an ice age in 30+ degree weather—a bleak, but chic ice age—walking very quickly and importantly wearing bright Sundance badges, drinking skinny lattes, and talking a little (way) too loudly about Bab, Mark, and JJ on cell phones. They park anywhere they please, cut in line, and will run small children over to get to the counter where they take forever to order because they have to know the provenance of every item on a burger so that they can order a salad, sans croutons and dressing, with an organic cruelty-free  lemon-wedge on the side.

Gotta watch the carbs, you know.

To save us all time and misery, I’m telling you upfront that our Heber mom and pop burger joints don’t have dairy-free cheese or sugar-free ketchup or free-range pickles. Part of the adventure of traveling is eating new food. Branch out a little, PiBs. Try the fry sauce.

Like the swallows and Capistrano, for the past 30 years the PiBs have annually flocked to our little town chasing the magic of the Sundance Film Festival. And yeah, I remember the first one—I was a budding director and writer myself attending a nearby university and was bribed with free tickets to point people in the right direction and to keep the riff-raff like me out of dimly lit rooms over-crowded with non-fire marshal compliant rows of folding chairs.

Since those college days I’ve been to some of the big galas and events as both a paying and comp’d guest. Meh. The food’s always pretentious, tiny, and undercooked—something you’d forgive and forget if you were there to stargaze instead of to sample the celebrity chef like I was. I’ve seen remarkable movies—and a lot of crappy ones, too. People forget it’s a film festival, not the Oscars. Best way to tell if you’re in for a stinker? Average the age of the people in the theater around you. Sub-25? It’s really going to suck. You’ve got average at least ten years older for it to be any good.

But back to the PiBs.

Am I glad that they spend money in my town? Abso-danm-lutely. I love to see jets worth the combined GNP of most third-world countries lining the tarmac of our small town airport. I like watching the local fuel truck filling them up and all the taxi cabs buzzing in from Salt Lake City. Our quaint artisanal cheese, jams, jellies, and candy shops sell out. It’s a post-holiday season boon to local ski instructors, photographers, and restaurants. I have friends who rent out their houses and escape to the beaches every January—double score.

I know that the benefits continue when attendees see the quality of our ski slopes, hiking trails, and reservoirs and come back for a vacation when the craziness is over. I’ve even met people who moved here after attending the film festival.

There are clear benefits to having Sundance here, check.

And if it were only about watching independent films, I wouldn’t mind the crowds. We get crowds with all our world-class athletic events, too. My real problem isn’t with the films; it’s with the wanna-bees and their assistants. I’ve actually been in line at Wal-Mart trying to buy the kinds of things Moms need to keep on hand when a gaggle of gel-slick hipster PiBs demanded their own checkout line because they were in a hurry. Didn’t we know who they were?

Seriously? You pulled that line while shopping at Wal-Mart for bottled water, folding chairs, and cheap Park City sweatshirts?

And then there are the people who wail and gnash their teeth in the street, shocked that their car was towed after it was parked under a no parking sign. Once a guy actually called the cops and complained that towing his car was rude and demanded they bring it back.

Yeah, good luck with that. Our sheriffs don’t know (or care) who you are either. They’re too busy making sure the emergency service vehicles can make it down the street.

Now that I don’t work in Park City, most of the time I can avoid the worst of the plague, but this year with a foot in a cast, rocking a knee scooter and a daughter who would rather ski than breathe, I’ve been spending too much time around them. My favorite recent run-in was at a movie theater where my husband and I went to kill some time before dragging the ski fiend and her friends off the slopes. (We were watching a non-Sundance film at a mixed use  venue.) I was trying to maneuver through a crowded hall lined with double red velvet ropes that cordoned it down to a narrow one person pathway. (Fire marshal, anyone? Anyone?) A big guy was headed toward me, noticed my predicament, and stepped to the side to let me by. At least five Botox betties and two skinny jean wearing dudes with tasteful grey temples immediately leaped through the gap, blocking me from going anywhere. Big Guy rolled his eyes.

“Can you see me? ‘Cause I can see you,” I said as each person shimmied by.

It wasn’t until Big Guy growled, “Don’t worry. I got your back. Next one I tackle,” that someone woke up from his it’s-all-about-me daze long enough for me to roll by.

Yep. It’s the yearly PiB plague. I much prefer the Olympic athletes and their crew. They always grab a door for me. “Bummer man,” they say with a headshake, “And during prime ski season, too.”


towelsI took a shower all by myself today. Usually, the best you could say about that is how boring and the worst congratulations, did you feed yourself, too?

Well, yeah, I did, but that’s another blog post.

Life lately has been full of small victories and accomplishments that on the surface don’t look like much. When you’ve got a foot in a cast that you can’t put any weight on and are congenitally crutch-challenged, things like stairs and showers and cooking a meal feel like summiting Mt. Everest, swimming the Atlantic, and feeding the 5,000 with a couple of fish and a loaf of bread. You know it can be done—you even remember doing it, but the complications of managing too many things with too few hands and keeping track of things that can get wet vs. things that can’t become like solving a physics problem.

And I never liked math.

Yeah, I knew about the surgery a month before it happened and prepared for all the anticipated things, but of course, it’s what you don’t expect that bites you in the butt. Along with stocking the fridge, I should’ve headed to the gym and built up muscles in arms, shoulders, and gut. I should’ve practiced standing on one leg while the dogs and cats swarmed underfoot. But one thing I did get right was preparing for showers.

Here’re my tips to make bathing with a cast easier.


This is genius and will work for any cast you can get a garbage bag over. You will need:

  • A kitchen garbage bag
  • A roll of stretch plastic wrap, the kind that’s used to wrap things for shipping.

Put the bag over the cast and fold it tight against the skin, getting most of the air out. Take the plastic wrap and wrap the edge of the kitchen bag against the skin several times. Make sure you’ve stretched it tightly enough that it creates a waterproof seal. The best part? After the shower you can simply lift the self-sealed edge, unwind it, and reuse the bag.

The Chairshower chair

If you can’t stand on both legs, having a place to sit makes it much easier to manage soap and water. A snazzy official chair like this one is really cool, but any water safe seat—like a kitchen step stair—will work, too.

showerThe Nozzle

A hand sprayer is not absolutely necessary, but it does help with getting shampoo out of hair and soap out of all the crevasses. Several years ago we installed a combination hand and wall mount shower in the guest bathroom so we could more easily bathe the dogs. My husband handily swapped it out for the one in our master bath. If this isn’t an option, have a small bowl or big cup handy to fill and strategically splash.

It all sounds silly, I know, but never underestimate the healing power of good salt scrub and freshly shampooed hair. Guaranteed to wake the dead.


Days since heel surgery: 7

Days drug free: 2

Days attention span longer than a goldfish: 2

Books read: 0

Books started: 4

Chapters written: 0

Attempts at writing chapters: 733

Random checks of Facebook and Twitter: 2587

Catan/Candy Crush/Carcassonne games played on iPad: 7256

New York Times crossword puzzles solved: 5

History documentaries watched: 41

Movies watched: 1

Movies started: 15

Real Diet Cokes drunk: 1

Days family filled sippy cup with caffine-free Diet Coke and lied: 6

Ice packs filled: 47

Max number of pillows propping leg: 9

Number of times knee scooter needed but being used by kids doing wheelies: 13

Times ran over own toes with scooter: 5

Falls with crutches: 2

Attempts with crutches: 3

Days to walking cast and being able to sit at desk: 21

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