There is a baby bumping inside me. It is pretty much the main part of being pregnant that I enjoy. I have a massive list of things I do not enjoy about being pregnant. When the sweet women in my ward find out I’m expecting, they are excited for me, and I feel a sort of pressure to be excited too. But usually the list of Things I Hate About Being Pregnant looms in my mind. I can’t pretend excitement; instead I try to make a joke or change the subject so that I don’t start spiraling down into that list of pregnancy whines.
Not just whines. Also fears. High risk pregnancy (I’m too old, and too fat, and my blood pressure is too high) is not so fun. The fears are real. They happened last time around, with bed rest, an early delivery, a NICU stay for my baby. And just when I’m finding some order in my home, a bit of cleaned-off counter, I will have a new baby and we will descend again into the inevitable New Baby Chaos. I can’t express how much I dread that, how stretched and pulled I know I will feel by the needs of four older children and one innocent baby.
But the baby’s kicks are the good part. He’s inside, biding his time, maybe grabbing his toes like he did on the ultrasound. This is a real person, and however unprepared we may feel, he’s going to be born, and I hope God gives me the strength and grace to enjoy him when he’s here, no matter how chaotic life will be for a while.
I attended LTUE a little this weekend. It was a busy weekend–Matt had deadlines at work, and it was his grandpa’s 90th birthday, and my daughter had a spotlight at school, so of the many sessions available I was only able to make it to five. Next time I go I am hoping for a little more bang for my buck, but it was still fun. I hate asking for babysitting favors for things like this, because it feels selfish, but I made an exception so I could attend the Monsters and Mormons panel yesterday.
I have a story in Monsters and Mormons, “The Living Wife.” I attended the panel to hear some other contributors talk about their experiences with it, and at the end they asked non-panelist contributors to take a minute and talk about their stories. I was super awkward and didn’t really say what I wanted to, so the kind people on the panel compensated for that by saying that it really was a good story.
And I do feel very pleased with it, although it’s not all me. When I reread it I recognized again the genius editing that helped shape it. But I wish I’d introduced it better at the session. I am rarely at a loss for words, but it happened over and over the last couple of days. Ah well. Nerves.
The panelists spoke about the advantages of blending genres, and this is a pioneer domestic drama polygamy ghost love story. But I think the genre blending lends itself well to the issues I was thinking about when I wrote it. For me, polygamy is every bit as creepy as ghosts, and the reality of our doctrine is that we still practice polygamy, it’s just posthumous. A ghost story allows for that exploration. And the end of it (spoilers) has the living couple together and in love, but it also has her reconciled with the ghost wives, all of them together. It’s a polygamous reconciliation, and the story bills it as a happy ending, but the truth is that it kind of weirds me out. Is it really a love story when it ends that way? Is this the way Mormon eternal love stories are doomed to end, with all the wives making nice with each other?
I don’t know. It’s the way Zina’s story ended, but it’s not an entirely happy ending if you’re squiffy about polygamy. She sees it as happy, and in the context of her story it is, but it’s also unsettling in its way. There’s an ew factor, and also a fascination with polygamy. Two faces of the same experience, and I never really allude to the ew factor in the story, but it was there for me writing it, and I think it may be there when you read it too.
I was able to get a bunch of other contributor signatures on my hard copy–yay! And I also found Steve Morrison’s blog, and the pictures that illustrated my story. Overall, a great time.
Because we’re supposed to be talking about Nephi and Laban this week in Gospel Doctrine, I’m posting this poem, which will appear in the Justice and Mercy issue of Segullah this spring.
I did a ton of drafts with it, thanks to the excellent feedback of the Segullah poetry staff, and I think I like where this is. I don’t think it captures the full impact of Nephi’s experience over his lifetime. There’s no “and thus we see that they got the plates, which are really really important,” there’s just the moment right after a teenage boy kills an evil old man because God told him to. But I liked writing it; I didn’t write much last year, so it was good to do something, even if it’s a short little poem.
NEPHI AND LABAN
by Emily Milner
the Lord prepares the way
would mean a softened
an easy path,
at most a gold-encrusted
not a choice demanding all my
honor, all my soul.
I will go and do
His head thunked.
His glassy eyes rolled back.
and blameless self
it is better that one man
for bloodied clothes,
a stolen sword,
and brass plates.
I have become
what I disdained.
I too can kill.
and my relief,
welled up together,
I was led
by the Spirit,
For the Today’s Mama contest, because I think my kids would love Orlando:
1-Publish a novel.
2-Have everything, every closet, every drawer, in my whole house, organized at the same time, including all the laundry clean.
3-Weigh what I did when I got married.
4-Have practice yoga five days a week for at least five years.
5-Get my black belt in tae kwon do.
6-Go on an Alaskan cruise with Matt.
7-See all my children married in the temple to people who love and appreciate them.
8-Go on a mission with Matt.
9-Get a graduate degree (bonus points if it’s the writing for children MFA at Vermont).
10-Teach at BYU.
11-Have been to the temple every week for at least five years.
12-Find an ancestor’s name to do temple work for. There’s nothing new in our family history after 1800.
13-Hike to the top of Timp again.
14-Send my sons on missions, and my daughter if she wants.
15-Pay off our mortgage.
I was scraping the bottom of the barrel at the end here. Some of my bucket list things are not very quantifiable, like at the end of my life I want to feel like I did right by my children, that they see me with mercy and grace and remember more the things I did well than the things I messed up on. The thing about a bucket list is that it’s often a specific item, and not a way of being. And I think I need to figure out ways of being that allow me to accomplish goals.
This is my entry in the Just Ask Bucket List Getaway Giveaway. Just Ask offers a breast and ovarian cancer screening and is encouraging people to share 15 things that I want to enjoy in my lifetime as a reminder to be aware of my health. Want to enter? Head over to TodaysMama.com to get the details.
Twelve years ago today I married Matt. I’m still amazed, every single day, that I got to marry him. He is the best man I know. If he were here instead of on a business trip, he would be doing the dishes right now. Or maybe ironing. Or folding baby laundry. Or reading me something funny from the Wall Street Journal.
That makes it sound like I gauge his worth based on the amount of housework he does. And I guess I kind of do, a little. It’s an area in which he constantly shows me how much he loves me. I’m always grateful for the way he helps me stay on top of the chaos that is my house. I am grateful for his deep, deep goodness. I am grateful for the unselfish way he seeks to make my life better. And he’s witty to boot.
My sister recently celebrated her anniversary too, and she said on her blog, “I hope I don’t mess it up.”
That is exactly how I feel. Time has only made me more aware of Matt’s solid, essential kindness. I hope that I don’t mess it up, that I get to be happily married to this man forever.
And now it’s off to the dishes again. Since he’s not here to do them for me.
(p.s. I had a baby, who was in the NICU, and I have not read anything much for the last three months. Instead I have watched Netflix streaming on the ipad while feeding the baby. All the reviews I planned to do, including ones for three books I did read, have not happened. I have extreme baby brain, by which I mean that I repeat myself, forget things I intended to say, and am frequently incoherent. So the ambitious plan is at a standstill, at least until I can regularly get eight hours of sleep a night again.)
I am not as consistent as Shelah; I am frankly too lazy to review every book I read. But I want to keep track of Whitney-eligible books that I read this year. So far it’s just one, Brandon Mull’s The Beyonders.
My son loves this book. He’s read it like three times already.
I liked it okay. I can see why my son likes it; it’s got clever magic and an engaging plot. I felt like it was a lot about the adventure, though. Iin a nutshell: boy and girl go to another world through magic portals and get caught up in finding all the syllables of a magic word that is capable of destroying the evil emperor. The protagonist didn’t have a compelling need/hole/empty place that got filled by experiencing the adventure. SPOILER ALERT–Getting back home at the end of the book wasn’t quite enough for me–I wanted there to be another layer, something about the protagonist’s personality that was completed by this adventure.
But I am all about finding non-potty humor books for boys (and yes, it is kind of violent in places. Why do I prefer violence to potty humor?), and this is a great one.
I think that if I do more reviews, which I have avoided, I need to 1-not stress about having them be as comprehensive as a real book review; these are really mostly for my personal reference, and 2-make it clear for the odd person who stumbles upon them whether I’m the best audience for that book. I will tell you up front, I am not the best reader for The Beyonders. But my son, who is in its target audience, adores it.
Whether I’m the best audience matters a great deal, I think, both for my own self-awareness as reviewer/writer, and for anyone who reads these reviews. It’s also a good way to explain things should an author read these reviews: if you’re reading my review, and it’s not as positive as you’d hoped, realize that I’m not the best audience for your book, but someone else out there is, or it wouldn’t have been published.
Every so often I also want to answer this, too: 3-what can I learn from this book as a writer? how would I edit it differently?
What can I learn? I think a compelling hook is a great thing. Entering another world (SPOILER) via hippo mouth grabbed my attention. And the ups and downs of adventuring are great things for young readers. Also, the (spoiler) betrayal towards the end was quite effective, something I didn’t see coming at all, but totally believed in when it happened. Nicely done. Gotta have a betrayal in there someplace. Or a stunning revelation, or something that makes all the pieces come together. It was a great example of the inevitable surprise.
How would I edit differently? Two major things: 1-I’d give each of the two main adventurers some need, some flaw, besides getting home, that would be filled by their adventuring. Possibly you could go with getting home again, but that’s a need that seems to get lost in the adventure. We never get a sense in the middle of the fun of what’s so great about home, what they miss the most. I would either make him more homesick, or preferably give him some emptiness that his adventure restores.
2-There were an awful lot of deus ex machina rescuers: protagonist gets in a pickle, and there’s some cool magic friendly person to help work things out. This happened a lot. I wonder how you could make those same scenes feel less machina-y, and more like the protagonists worked on their own to figure things out.
There’s a great little book called the Hounds of the Morrigan, by Pat O’Shea, that has two kids adventuring. They also run into helpful magical beings, and at first they think their journey is orchestrated by those beings. But in the end, you see that the children were assisted, yes, but did lots of the heavy lifting themselves. I wanted this book to be more like that one, so I could believe in the bravery of the characters more.
But again, I’m not the best audience for this book, and I do think that makes a difference.
Next up: I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells, which arrived in the mail today. Looking forward to it. I would be looking forward to it even more if I had not read major, non-warned-about spoilers on a different blog. Sigh. I should have known better than to read on, and I am also guilty of writing spoilers, but I do try to advertise first.
After that I need to get Emily Wing Smith’s Back When You Were Easier to Love.
FTC note: I bought this book.
The top two recent posts at Segullah, as measured by number of comments, are Beauty in the Age of Plastics, and I Love You, but Not Like a Sister Wife. I was not really following the discussion on either of these, and since I missed out, I thought that I would combine the two ideas here: what would happen if polygamist wives decided to get plastic surgery? (I will ruin it for those who like satire to be a surprise by saying up front that this is supposed to be funny, even though polygamy and plastic surgery and modesty are all serious issues and so forth.)
Colorado City, AZ
When Ted married Susanna, his latest eighteen-year-old bride, his older wives began to mutter and complain. “If you’ve got the resources to marry again,” said LaDarla, wife #1, “you’ve got what it takes to fix these!” She pointed to her chest, which was loose and sagging after nursing fifteen children.
Attempting to placate LaDarla, Ted agreed. And that was how it began. Thomasette, wife #2, demanded that her sticking-out ears be fixed, as well as the protruding ears of her five daughters. Georgina, wife #3, insisted on a derriere-lifting procedure, which Thomasette and LaDarla resented, because Georgina had only birthed three children. “She shouldn’t be allowed treatment until she’s had at least five,” LaDarla said.
But all the money Ted spent on LaDarla, Thomasette, and Georgina rankled with Susanna, the young wife who started everything. She wanted Ted to spend at least as much on her jewelry as he’d spent on the others’ surgery. This did not sit well with the post-surgical women. “Save your money,” they said. “After five kids (three, Georgina put in) you can pay for her surgery too.”
Modesty, which had never been an issue before, soon became hotly debated as well. LaDarla had a tendency to let her neckline ride just a little lower after her surgery, and Thomasette took to muttering “cleavage! cleavage!” whenever she walked past. But she, too, lobbied to have more work done, and begged Ted to call Dr. Olson (who was not available immediately, since he’d left on a month-long European cruise).
Finally Ted put an end to it all. “Not only is this making me go broke,” he said, “but it’s also causing you to bicker over things you’re not supposed to be noticing anyway. Be holy and plain again! Vanity is not of me, saith the Lord. Plus it’s expensive.” Ted says he may allow the occasional Botox treatment, but in the future if he wants a tauter, shapelier wife, he will either buy a Gold’s Gym pass (with a group discount!) or marry Trixie, their fifteen-year-old neighbor. Sixteen in October.