Saturday, May 30, 2009

Count Your Blessings

Sometimes it does some good to count your blessings. I suppose you could almost say it always does good to keep them in mind and to be grateful


Our oldest daughter is a biological daughter. She is married. She and her husband have two children, our grandchildren.

Our other three children are all adopted.

Our oldest son is Caucasian and was born in Idaho. He was placed with us on my birthday, nine days after he was born. He turned thirty today. Happy birthday! He is unmarried.

Our youngest daughter is Korean. She was born in Seoul. She was almost 6 months old when she came to us. Not long after we got her we learned that she had cerebral palsy. As she grew older, we come to learn that she had a partial paralysis on her right side, diminished brain capacity, and epilepsy. She is unmarried.

Our youngest son is also Korean. He, too, was born in Seoul. Like our Korean daughter, he arrived in our home when he was about six months old. He is unmarried.

We love all of our children and hope the very best for them.

Korea is a country divided. There is North Korea and South Korea. North Korea is communistic and the people there are subject to a dictatorship and/or military control. Our children were not born in the North, but the South. From about 1995 to 1998 North Korea suffered a terrible famine that killed about two million of its people, about ten percent of its population. During that period, little children were sickly, emaciated, and had stick-thin bodies. To survive, people had to eat weeds, grass, and cornstalks.

They say two thirds of the world's population goes to bed hungry at night. About a quarter of the people in the world survive on less than a dollar a day.

We were so very lucky to have our children come to live with us. Yet sometimes we mope about our situation and circumstances, but, in contemplating it, it is never for a good enough reason.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage

I am for same-sex marriage. My church, as far as I understand it, is opposed to it.

On May 26, 2009, the LDS church in Salt Lake City welcomed the California Supreme Court's decision relative to Proposition 8. In essence, the court ruled that the vote to ban same-sex marriage in California should stand. It also ruled that marriages already performed are valid and should be honored.

The church's news release indicates the LDS Church "recognizes the deeply held feelings on both sides, but strongly affirms its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman." I wonder if the verbiage, "marriage should be between a man and a woman" means what it says or if it should say "marriage should only be between a man and a woman"? As things stand, marriage is between a man and woman. And in California, before this latest California Supreme Court ruling, it was between a man and a woman and between members of the same sex who wanted to marry. So, it seems to me that the LDS news release should include that word "only" to make it clear what they mean. Unless, of course, they have changed their position.

Nobody of sound mind can argue with the statement that the LDS church wants to stand firmly for what it believes is right for the health and well-being of society as a whole. That is a noble aim, it seems to me, that anyone would be hard-pressed to argue against. It would also be difficult to criticize its understanding that all of us are children of God, except for the fact that many people don't even believe in God at all, so I guess atheists and perhaps agnostics may argue the point but probably would not be too upset about being categorized in the same inclusive set as everybody else.

There is not much to criticize in the church's observation that all deserve to be treated with respect. However, it seems to me, there is a fallacy in saying that all deserve to be treated with respect but then saying that being treated with respect doesn't include being allowed to be married like other folks. That is the crux of the problem. The church believes that tradition should rule the day in secular society, while I don't believe it should. There's no question but that societal bias against same-sex attraction throughout the ages has often wreaked havoc upon a class of citizens of the world. We all should rue that havoc and do everything we can to make it so it doesn't continue.

The news release says that the church believes parties of the discussion should not demonize each other. Demonize means "to turn into or as if into a demon." A demon is a devil. The devil is Satan and his followers. Mostly, those on the pro-side of same-sex marriage indicate that those against it are bigots. A bigot is a person who is strongly partial to his/her own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ. That seems to be a pretty apt description of the church and those against same-sex marriage. On the other hand, the church indicates that those who engage in same-sex sex, apparently, even those who are validly married under the jurisdictional law where they live, are committing grievous sin and have allied themselves with the devil. In other words, it seems to me the church demonizes them.

I'm opposed to that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Correlation?

I haven't felt that well most of today. Headache, almost on the verge of nausea, that sort of stuff. A little achy. The symptoms have waned as the hours have passed. Now it is 10:30 PM, almost bedtime, and I'm almost back to normal. Hooray.

My inclination is to believe it had something to do with a change in the weather. It had been stormier the past few days leading up to today. Today was more settled, more constant. Anyway, it seemed like my body needed to adjust to it, to the change in the weather. The reason I believe this is so is because I have experienced this kind of headache and other symptoms before. It seems to have some correlation with a change in the weather. I haven't done any study, made any notes, kept any calendar. It is just, I guess you could say, an intuition, my intuition. Man's intuition? This man's intuition.

On the other hand, yesterday, my wife seemed to have similar symptoms. So is she just out ahead of the game, more sensitive to a change than I? It appears that way. But it is just a feeling, an intuition, my idea. Nothing scientific. Nothing certain.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Utah Stigma

As a writer in my community who belongs to the predominant religion here in Utah, I often find myself contemplating what it takes to be accepted and gain a larger audience than the local, parochial one. In fact, at critiquing the other day, as one writer in my group completed her novel intended for the Christian market, one of the critiquers told her to" shop" the novel, but not to give any clue of where she lives when she does so because it will taint her submission and its potential for review and acceptance. Essentially, it will be limited because those who receive it and see that it is from Utah will automatically be biased against it.

I don't know where I am on that question for sure. Obviously, some of that goes on. Ultimately though, publishers and agents must look for work that will sell well. That has to be their bottom line. Money.

There's an old joke about the politician invited to the television show of a talk-show host to talk about his success. And he says something like this: "Truthfully, Don, it was more than simply doing the right thing at the time. It was that I went to the right schools, was a member of the right race, wore fashionable clothing, was a male, belonged to a prominent religion, and married the right woman. Oh, and I had money. And no accent. All of that. It was all of that."

My most recent purchase of a book is one by Carol Lynch Williams, The Chosen One, a young adult novel about a young girl of thirteen being forced to marry an old man who is her uncle in the polygamists' compound.

The book was published by St. Martin's, a Griffin. It was released May 12, 2009. I'm not certain where Carol Lynch Williams resides, but I think she's living now in Utah. In any event, she was able to get through to an agent/publisher to get this book published. Of course, she is not a new published author or the only Utah novelist able to do so. There are many authors from Utah now making it into the national markets.

That doesn't necessarily mean the stigma isn't there, though. But it does mean that publishers and agents are looking for good books no matter where they come from.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rabbit, Run

Last night we met as a reading group to discuss John Updike's Rabbit, Run. Nobody liked the book, including me. To a person the members of the group in attendance didn't think the book had any redeeming characters except Harry Angstrom's son, Nelson. And Nelson didn't have a significant role in the novel.

I first read Rabbit, Run in my late thirties or early forties. I didn't like it then either. In fact, after that reading of it, I decided to avoid reading anything John Updike wrote. I saw Updike several times on television --- in the news or as a guest on a talk show, etc.. I didn't like him in those appearances either. It was as though we lived in two different worlds, he and I, and we had lived totally different experiences , so much so that we couldn't find any common ground.

Because my life has not been peopled by anyone that seemed as self-centered or uncaring as Harry Angstrom, it was hard to identify with the Rabbit. I found him despicable and found myself totally incapable of identifying with the place he was at. What is more curious to me are the many awards and platitudes John Updike received for his work, not just including Rabbit, Run, but for his entire body of work, and, especially, for his series four books featuring Harry Angstrom.

The blurbs on the back of the trade paperback we bought include one by the Washington Post:

Brilliant and poignant... By his compassion, clarity of insight, and crystal-bright prose, [Updike] makes Rabbit's sorrow is and our own.

Not one single reader in our group --- and it included me, my wife, Janice, Juanita, Kris, Cheri, and Sue (regulars Brian and Merrilee were absent --- Merrilee had selected this book) saw any compassion whatsoever in Harry Angstrom. Nor did we see any clarity of insight in the man. Now, it is perhaps debatable whether or not Updike's prose was crystal-bright or not. So, giving him the benefit of the doubt for that, one out of three is not too good.

One blurb I have to agree with:

Updike's punches powerful. --- Newsweek

I'd say it knocked us all out, completely out, and it surprises me Updike was able to make a living by writing, judging by this novel.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Berated by a Hummingbird

I love this time of year, especially looking out my window. The Gambel Oaks are as beautiful as they can be; their new leaves are almost perfect with that spring green, which is closer to yellow than blue on the spectrum. The sky is blue. The day is warm. Life has returned and is burgeoning. It is truly inspiring, especially for one as old and feeling as decrepit as I sometimes do.

The birds flock to the feeder and we've had the usual profusion. One day, in the kitchen looking out the window while visiting with our daughter, Amy, when the weather was still relatively cool and verging on rain, a hummingbird showed up, incredulous. It hovered there, an inch from the windowsill as if to say, "Didn't you have a hummingbird feeder here last year? Could you please find it and put some tasty nectar in it? What's wrong with you, anyway?"

Tonight is the third Monday book reading club and we meet at Barnes & Noble. The book we will be discussing tonight is Rabbit, Run by John Updike. The person who selected that book to read for this month --- she selected it probably because Updike had recently died and the death had been given quite a bit of press time in the news --- will not be there. A couple of other people have indicated they, also, won't be able to attend. I read the book probably in the eighties, but didn't like it and therefore never read anything else by John Updike, at least that I can remember that I did. His worldview, at least in the book, and mine didn't match.

It is also the final episode of 24 for this season. Shelley made double sure I had it scheduled to record. She can't miss it! Now watch, something will go wrong, and it won't record and then will we do?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Apple Core

When I quarter an apple, I like to make my first cut right through the center of the core. Sometimes I don't succeed, but it doesn't have much overall effect other than it's irritating, and I have to work harder to get it quartered. (Ha ha, working hard on quartering an apple. Go figure.) It doesn't ultimately change the taste of the apple, my horrible quartering of it; the apple seems to taste the same no matter how badly I mangle it. And if I quarter with near perfection, the apple still tastes the same. All that is different is my attitude, but that is something within my control, also.

In writing, it is the same thing. You want to get your first draft down as nicely and effectively as you can. But sometimes it goes awry, and you have to spend more time to fix it. In the end, though, the piece you have written reads just as well either way. I don't think I'll quit trying to quarter my apples to perfection or to write my first draft that way either. I'll just remember that either way, both will satisfy me in the end .

Friday, May 15, 2009


I've been to Arco, Idaho. Or rather, I've been through Arco, Idaho. Many times. I used to drive through there all the time circuit riding to hold hearings with disgruntled taxpayers.

In any event, Arco isn't much to speak of, set in the sagebrush plains near the base of a range of mountains. Nuclear power as a source for electricity got its start near there when scientists or technicians lighted four 100-watt light globes from nuclear energy. The employees worked at the Idaho National Laboratory, or as I knew it, INL, one of those government-funded places where taxpayers are usually not welcome unless they work there or have business there.

That was way back in 1951, in December.

Brrr! It gets cold up there with the wind blowing through. I was just three years old then. I didn't even know they made scientists that far back, at least not ones that worked on nuclear energy intended for a good purpose and not for blowing things to smithereens

Anyway, those folks probably thought it was pretty nifty to use the power they had produced for something as smart as light. They probably dreamed big dreams after that, imagining all of the nice things they could use such energy for. They probably later felt like I do now, that their big dreams hadn't and likely wouldn't ever be realized.

But maybe they will be. Life is so short in the total scheme of things. If you throw enough effort and money at it, often it can and will happen. People's fears often drive out necessary innovation and determination.

Of course, it happened in Arco, or near there. So why should we be surprised?

Thursday, May 14, 2009


In the future with respect to energy we need a new paradigm, one that allows us to think differently than we have about energy before. We need to think the impossible is possible, not that that is a new notion but that it is a new notion over against our prior thinking that we thought we had enough energy that we didn't need to worry about it or about the consequences of its use for a long, long time.

They say we need to worry about CO2 emissions, among other problems. There is now what they call carbon capture and storage technology that captures CO2 and stores it underground where they say it will be safe. Somehow I'm skeptical about it being safe there underground, but what do I know? Particularly am I worried when those working on capturing and storing it are trying to make money. You always have to be worried about those motivated by money and allied with oil companies that helped create the existing problems. They have big bucks to advertise and market themselves and to make their enterprises shine, even though its past actions may have been dull and scary.

So we as a culture are deciding to shrug off fossil fuels --- at least, we have decided to make the attempt to do so, to make them so yesterday. And now, again, we will be looking to the sun for energy and to the wind and who knows where else? In the eighties, I tried to do my part by purchasing a solar panel that was supposed to reduce the heat bill of our house in Boise. It cost a lot and yielded little, if anything in savings.

We have scientists hurrying off to the Arctic and Antarctic to study the ice and the meltwater from glaciers to validate their theories that there is global warming or to discover new theories about liquid water dynamics in the Antarctic where H2O is usually solid.

"Green" is the biggest new buzzword. You've got to use it if you're in marketing and advertising. Even a surge protection and battery backup for your computer has to be green. Even if it's made to look black with white writing and its black holes to accommodate your plug-ins. Green. I think I'll make this posting green.