Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Shame on us?

Reading comments on Tim's videos has been an amusing pastime in the last few weeks. One of the comments really stuck with me though. It said, essentially, "Shame on all you people who watch this because you are supporting this man in wasting his life."

The reason it struck me is he expressed a pressure that we've felt all our married life--that pursuing creative things is a waste of time. I have struggled long and hard over whether I should even allow myself to write because isn't that a waste of time? I mean, nobody gets published/famous anyway, right?

There are so many fallacies in this that it's unbelievable that I even struggled with it. For one thing, who said the end purpose of doing something creative is fame and fortune? Why is that the only thing that makes a pursuit valid? For another, the implication of the pressure on us is that music is a waste of time because it doesn't make money. So is money the only thing we should spend our time working on? Nobody would claim that.

Now, I do agree that people should work hard to become self-sufficient and try their best to earn what they need to live on.

But for some people, creating is not a hobby. It's not even a passion. It's a necessity, as much as food or sleep. More than sleep. Thing is, even if you don't listen or watch or publish and read, we're creating these things. So what's the harm in sharing them?

I think the problem comes from the disconnect between product and producer that we have in our society. You like ice cream? Have a favorite flavor? Someone 'wasted their time' messing with ice cream flavors to create that. Ever read a book? Listen to a song you like? Watch a movie? SOMEBODY had to make that. If we tell all the creative people they are wasting their lives, does that mean you don't want any more music? No more comedy? No more murder mysteries? Don't want any pictures on your walls except ones you paint yourself?

You see how ludicrous it is to say "Creating things is a waste of time"?

I just can't see how making people happy is a waste of time, even if a given story/joke/song/movie/etc only makes one person happy. Especially if that person is me. Or my kids. There should be no shame in enjoying the good things in life--even the silly good things.

So, yes, it might be possible that Tim is 'wasting his life'. After all, he could be flipping burgers. Or playing World of Warcraft or looking at sleaze, like so many other men do in their free time.

In times of crisis, people should help each other, right? Well, we can't provide those things that keep people alive. We can't give anyone food or a place to live--we're just barely making it on those counts ourselves, and we're wearing our clothes so much out that they fall off before we get rid of them, so we can't even donate them to the homeless. So what's the harm in making something available--for free, no less (You can watch it at any public library)--that makes people's existence a little brighter for 3 minutes and 17 seconds? We can't keep you alive, but we might be able to make your life a little more worth living. And, as my Dad says, "It's really the things that make life worth living that keep us alive."

Even God had this in mind when he made the world. In D&C 59:15-20, God tells us, "Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion."

And, in John 10:10, Jesus says, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

And God gave us talents, not just to gladden our own hearts, but to share--and not just during church services or with religious topics, although Tim does that, too. You can hear some of his less comedic and religious stuff here: http://www.mistertimdotcom.com/hymns/ and here: http://www.mistertimdotcom.com/christmas/

So is creating silly things a waste of time?

I think not.

Sure we could live without any of the creative things in life. But who would want to?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some people dig for the positive....

Las Vegas is falling apart. The economic crisis here is greater than in most of the nation--so bad that the Stake President has asked all the families in the stake to let him know what (if any) of their food storage they're willing to share. The economy here, built on tourism and construction, has been at a standstill for MONTHS--almost since we got here. Speculation is that Vegas getting greedy is what caused the severe reaction to the economic woes in the country (when it used to be so 'recession-proof'). They're saying that because the resorts changed their focus from 'cheap room/cheap food' to 'high end party like the stars', we became overly subject to the recession.

For whatever reason, the jobless rate here is unbelievably high (8%, not counting people who have given up, gone back to school, or tried to go freelance; and that counts as employed everyone who is working part-time or in jobs that don't pay enough). Construction is at a complete standstill, with tons of projects on the Strip completely put on hold, lots of condos and resorts sitting unfinished--seemingly indefinitely. The lady who helped us apply for Medicaid says she sees people coming in who have been carpenters for 30 years and never once been out of a job--and they can't get work. People who used to be in demand as construction supervisors can't find a job--any job.

Vegas was never really a safe place for construction workers to ply their trades, anyway. Vegas has a reputation for a reason, and as soon as the higher ups (the ones who claim to no longer be running things by organized crime....) figured out that the fines for doing shoddy work were less than the cost of doing the work to code, the rules went out the window, much to the Union's chagrin.

So this headline struck me as somehow....wrong.

From google news:

"Evidence of change: Six months, no fatalities
Las Vegas Sun - 14 hours ago
By Alexandra Berzon Twelve workers died in accidents at Strip construction sites during the first 18 months of Las Vegas’s current building boom - an average of one death every six weeks....
Unions: 6 months with no construction deaths good San Jose Mercury News"

22 articles are proclaiming the good news: the Unions win, and everyone is now safe.

Nobody is mentioning there have been no deaths because there is no work happening! I suppose that's one way to convince people things have changed for the better and Vegas cares more about workers than the bottom line, but really.... I wonder if the unions are really that stupid as to buy it.

Tim's videos

I never thought I would know or care so much about YouTube stuff, but here it is, part of our life now. And people keep asking what's up with Tim's videos, so here's the update:

Corey Vidal/moosebutter "Star Wars" is inching toward 3.6 million views and is in the running for a People's Choice Award. The awards ceremony is on Jan 7. Vote every day and then tune in and we hope you'll see the video win. We hope. It's been played on TV in Poland, Brazil, France, Spain, and who knows where else (lots of comments in languages I don't speak!)--and hopefully in America on Jan 7.

Moosebutter "Star Wars" response has close to 150,000 views and lots of funny comments (although beware the language is foul).

"Enter Kazoo Man" is growing rapidly, with well over 50,000 views in 10 days, and getting more every day--there is some evidence it's going viral, and this is pleasing to me, at least. Again, lots of good and funny comments (ranging from "How can you support this man wasting his life" to "Oh--you're THAT Mister Tim?" to "I can't believe the talent!"--but again, beware the language. Metallica fans have a particular affinity for the f-word.) It has hit some networking sites and forums around the world, including Germany, which has really pushed its' growth. There is some debate about whether it's all one guy. And a great deal of debate about which member of Metallica he's lampooning in which box. Oh, and Tim has now been compared to the guy from Mythbusters!

Corey Vidal's/Mister Tim's "Barbary Coast Christmas Card" exploded in the last 2 days, going from less than 10,000 views to nearly 30,000 almost overnight. Apparently it's spreading rapidly around China! Tim is going to try to spend some time remembering his Chinese characters to see if he can ferret out the meaning in all those comments, and I am being probably overly pleased that this time it really was the vocal talent of only one person--and it happened to be Tim--and they happened to credit him right in the 'more info' of the sidebar.

And there are plans for more. Lots more, both from Mister Tim and from the collaboration of Corey Vidal and Mister Tim (which is, despite comments on the videos to the contrary, a very happy and productive collaboration so far). I'll keep you all posted.

Meanwhile, with all this excitement, I keep hoping it will turn into a paying job--or more contracts--of some kind soon...and that the contracts that have already come from it will work out.

more funny kids

Right at this moment, Anda is playing at being a lion. "A lioness?" I asked. "No, the male one." "But only the females hunt," I said, observing her actions. "Well, I'm just waiting for the cheetah mother. That's not the same as hunting." She's actually playing both characters. It's rather dramatic to watch her sneaking up on herself, and the two characters having a very dramatic disney-esque dialogue about the relative ages of their cubs and who is destined to be the king of beasts--based on whether power or speed is the best characteristic to have. Anda doing all the voices, of course.

Earlier, Anda and Dan watched "Beauty and the Beast" (thanks Aunt Beth and Uncle Ryan!). Afterward, they came running out, and Anda said, "Let's play Beauty and the Beast."
"Okay," said Dan.
"I get to be the Beast," Anda said.
"No, I get to be the Beast," Dan countered.
"No. I'll be the Beast," Anda insisted. "You can be the princess."
"Okay," Dan happily agreed.
And so they ran off, my son the princess and my daughter the Beast.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

funny kids

Daniel was talking about me going to the doctor's office that was too far away, and he said, "When you go to that doctor that's way off in the distance...."

Benji, helping us clean up so we could wrap presents for each other, sang along with the other kids the 'nursery cleanup song', only Benji's lyrics were, "Clean bum, clean bum, everybody everywhere..."

Daniel, on finding his internet window had disappeared, "Mom! Come help. I lost my mind."
I think we all feel like that with computers sometimes.....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

christmas program

Caleb sang a solo in sacrament meeting for the Christmas program--Two verses of 'Angels we have heard on high' all by himself at the mic. He sounded fantastic (think classical boys choir soloist) and was very pleased with his performance. And it never occurred to him to be afraid. I think he was a little nervous, but he didn't sound nervous. He enjoyed it. Turns out he has a very clear voice and unbelievably good pitch.

Before church, Tim and I had both expressed our own nervousness about Caleb singing a solo (it was supposed to be a duet, but Anda backed out)--what if he messed up? What if he forgot the words, or picked his nose, or just decided at the last minute that he didn't want to do it? What then?

Caleb did great.

It was an interesting opportunity for him. Tim is the choir director and put together the program, and he initially asked at least one other family with 4 kids to have their kids sing, and our kids, and nobody else was interested. So we just let Caleb and Anda...and then Caleb alone...do it. The reason this was an interesting opportunity for Caleb is he is the kind of kid you just don't ask to do something like sing a solo in sacrament meeting--unless he happens to be your kid and you know he has this hidden talent and you pray his disabilities don't get in the way. Nobody asks the kid who wanders out of primary, lays on the floor, or spends the whole time tuned out reading the Friend magazine to do special things. They ask the kids who they know will do the rehearsals, show up, and do a passable job. I totally understand this.

I just wonder how many other kids don't get the chance to have a positive experience because they are different. And what we could do about it...even Tim and I were afraid we'd taken too big of a risk, and Tim had prepared the sopranos in the choir to fill in just in case. How can we include and 'show off' the kids who need it most when they are the hardest to count on?

Big risks have big payoffs, though--and for Caleb? It was so nice to see him appreciated for once in the ward, instead of merely tolerated as just another 'disabled' kid. I know he's brilliant and kind and thoughtful and talented. But when you don't fit the mold, it's hard for anyone else to see anything but that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Video Link for Holiday Greetings from Barbary Coast

The Barbary Coast holiday greetings video that uses Tim's voice (and only Tim's voice) can be watched here:


Sorry I didn't include the separate link before; I've had requests for it directly.

Also, on a vaguely related side note, the Metallica Kazoo video I put up a few days ago has suddenly become hot. This morning at 4:00 am there were 384 views, which I thought was pretty outstanding considering it was an unknown video from an unknown performer who had no subscribers to start the chain with. As of 9:00 tonight, there are over 3700 views and counting--with positive comments and positive ratings. What this means I don't know, but I'd welcome two hit viral videos using Tim's talent in a row--it could be a good thing for his career.

Metallica on Kazoo? Who would have guessed.... I would have put more stock in a six-month run with positive reviews on the Strip in Las Vegas, but then, I'm often wrong about these things.

ANOTHER ultrasound

We had a high-tech ultrasound today.

The baby is fine. He has a little too much liquid, but there is no sign of any of the dangerous causes of that, and at least two of my previous babies also has a lot of extra fluid and were fine. I watched as they measured his brain, tummy, kidneys, bones, etc.

He looks like Benjamin. That's how clear the ultrasound images were.

And the due date?


The baby is coming in the next 4 weeks. Probably the first week in January. The ultrasound tech said that he's either really large for his age, or really small for his age, but we have no way to accurately determine his age, so....

So the doctor came in. I really liked him. He's a specialist in high-risk pregnancy and ultrasound stuff. He was very personable, very communicative, very honest.

And his conclusion? We'll be fine if we just let the me go into labor naturally--no inducing me at all--and watch for fetal distress if we go past the beginning of January, just to be on the safe side.

This was standard procedure in Colorado.

It took a specialist to declare it here in Nevada. Why, you might ask?

Because induction is standard procedure here, despite the fact that pitocin has been withdrawn in its approval for elective induction. They can always find an excuse, I guess, to term it 'medically necessary', and all the moms get induced around their due dates, and it's a given that they're going to have an epidural, which makes sense if they're all getting induced.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out how to explain to my doctor that, despite the fact that we're worried we won't make it to the hospital in time if my water breaks spontaneously during labor, I don't want to be induced--I think that, unless there is clear evidence of fetal distress, it's best to let nature run its course, and let babies come when they are ready.

For me--sometime in the next four weeks.

Good thing this isn't my first baby, or that 'due date' would make me nuts. As it is, that's kind of what I figured anyway--once you hit 36 weeks, the baby is coming sometime in the next 4 weeks anyway, and won't be stopped if it tries.

I'm guessing the first week in January? I'm tempted to have a contest--you post in the comments when you think the baby will come, and we'll find a prize for the winner (probably a candycane, just to warn you--and you'd have to come to us in Vegas to get it!).

In the Chronicle

One of Tim's latest projects with Corey Vidal was an online holiday card for a company called "Barbary Coast."

Apparently it wasn't as private a matter as I assumed it was because the holiday 'card' they created was reviewed positively by the San Fransisco Chronicle.

The review appeared here with a link to the card:


and here:


And if you follow the links and watch the videos, you should be warned: all the lovely, annoying, interesting, and diverse voices you hear came out of Tim. He arranged the music, recorded it, performed it, mixed and mastered it. And then left it to Corey to somehow lip sync to it--no small fete, considering the music he was given!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

more of Tim videos

Tim rapping in French with Duwende near Boston in 2006.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Metallica...multi-tracked....on Kazoo...by Mister Tim.

SNOW...and a tale of two due dates...or make that three...

It snowed today. For several hours. Truly delightful.

I went to a new doctor today. Turns out he has been an OBGyn since I was born, and he also spent 3 or 4 of the last 7 years as an attorney working defending doctors in malpractice cases. He went back to doctoring because lawyering can be so miserable.

Anyway, I really liked him. He discovered that my records showed that I had a yeast infection that the other doc not only failed to treat me for, but also failed to inform me of even though I asked about it. And he noticed, as I did, that the ultrasounds the other doctor did all came out funkily unmatched--and, unlike the other doc, he was concerned about that. As have I been.

So he got me a prescription for medication and a referral to the Center for Maternal Fetal Medicine for an accurate ultrasound. The problem? According to my dates (which I know are accurate), the baby is due January 17. According to the first ultrasound I had, right before thanksgiving, the baby is due December 30 and was nearly 7 lbs. According to the second, which I had 2 weeks later, the baby is due December 19 and weighs 7 lbs 12 oz. You see the problem? The baby appears to be growing like a mutant! And my biggest baby so far was barely over 8 lbs--not really considered a big baby--and they've all been between 7.5 lbs and just over 8. Tests have ruled out diabetes, so the new doctor was really concerned about getting this right. He was also concerned that the two previous ultrasounds did not include a complete physical profile of the baby, even though they should have.

So we get to go down and have a high-tech ultrasound from specialists! This should be interesting, since I am fairly certain we have a healthy baby in there who is normal-sized to just slightly small for me (I'm not nearly as big as I was for my first three--more like Benji, who was my smallest baby).

So I've settled myself into the idea that we're having a baby sometime in the next 5 weeks. Since it's my fifth baby, this is a comfortable idea to me--it's really the way babies come anyway. Still, it wouldn't be bad to have a real due date, just for future reference.

Oh, and the appointment was made doubly exciting by the fire alarm going off in the middle--so we all had to traipse outside and stand in the falling snow while the security men determined that nothing was wrong.

Monday, December 15, 2008

the latest crisis

Tonight, Caleb ran in to where Tim and I were sitting and said in a slightly panicked voice, "Mom! You have to come in here!"

"What?" I said.

"Anda doesn't have a blog!" he said. Anda is 5 years old.

I caught my laughter and said seriously, "Then she'll have to sign up for one."

By the time I waddled after him into the computer room, they were hard at work getting her set up.

I guess even in Kindergarten you aren't a real person unless you have a web presence!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What is ADD?

This question appeared in the comment stream on another post, "http://beccajones.blogspot.com/2008/10/add-jokes.html" and I thought it warranted it's own post.

First of all, let me state clearly, for the record, that my family uses jokes and songs to handle stress. In fact, we've even written and sung and laughed about music that dealt very specifically with mental illnesses and child abuse! It's not because we are making light of those things, but because we are making those awful things lighter in our own lives--taking hold of them, accepting them, and then putting them in a place where they do no define and control our entire existences. For us, it's a healthy way to accept our lives for what they are and move forward.

Thus is it with those specific kinds of ADD jokes. We aren't mocking people with ADD, since most of the family has it. We are accepting it for what it is and laughing at ourselves as a way to not let the negative take over. I mean, really--there is humor in ADD, despite the fact that it can be a debilitating disorder.

Now, the question:

Defining ADD, I had always pictured people overly distracted and/or easily distracted, unable to control their ability to concentrate. The way you talk I am hearing something different. You make it sound like a positive (blessing/curse), is it just a hypersensitivity or over-need for stimulation?

I completely welcome comments on this one--and if they get emailed to me directly, I ask your permission to copy them into the comments stream so that people can get various feedback--because there is a lot to say about this subject, and everyone's experiences are different.

ADD is the label for a set of behaviors that result from a group of specific brain anomalies. There are actually several places in the brain that can function 'wrong', and there are actually several varieties of disorder that are labeled ADD. In fact, most childhood disorders, both mental and physical, include symptoms of ADD, including things as diverse as juvenile fibromyalgia, childhood bipolar disorder, and having alcoholic or bipolar parents.

Around my house, we have the theory that there is physical ADD (your brain is wired wrong in a specific set of ways), which is genetically inherited and active from birth, and cultural ADD (while not wired wrong, your brain has been trained to react to stimuli in very ADD kinds of ways), which is learned or triggered by environment, like being abused, having ADD parents or siblings, or the scientificially-indicted watching too much TV as a toddler. I also believe strongly that many cases of ADD are actually reactions to food allergies--specifically to preservatives and artificial colors (including Red 40 and Yellow 5, and there is some evidence pointing to sodium benzoate).

So what IS ADD?

Dr. Hallowell says: "ADD is a misleading name for an intriguing kind of mind. ADD is a name for a collection of symptoms, some positive, some negative. For many people, ADD is not a disorder but a trait, a way of being in the world. When it impairs their lives, then it becomes a disorder. But once they learn to manage its disorderly aspects, they can take full advantage of the many talents and gifts embedded in this sparkling kind of mind. Having ADD is like having a turbo-charged racecar brain. If you take certain specific steps, then you can take advantage of the benefits ADD conveys--while avoiding the disasters it can create."

As far as my experience is concerned, major ADD characteristics include not being able to control where you focus or for how long (sometimes you skip around too much, other times you focus too intensely on one thing), an inability to organize your life (which is also a characteristic of random people) in conventional ways, an inability to think--even when you want to--unless something else is going on, too, and a frustrating inability to comprehend and fit into 'the box' of societal expectations, behaviors, and norms. There are many other factors, as well, and I imagine different ones are more prominent in different people than others. For example, a major characteristic for one of my sisters' forms of ADD is a propensity for seeing the negative in every situation--but it's not depression. And the worst thing about all of these is the harder you try to be 'normal' or 'like everyone else' or 'focus', the worse the problem gets.

These characteristics sound exclusively negative, but they really aren't.

The jokes I posted make fun of the first characteristic I mentioned. Sometimes in conversation, people with ADD jump around a lot--verbally or physically. Sometimes they tell you the same story over and over and make the same point over and over because they are overfocused on that and can't move on. And sometimes they just 'don't listen' because something you said set their brains on a track and it raced away. Or they start bouncing around, get up and literally run or jump, or start fidgeting with things--cues that a non-ADD person is bored, but cues that a person with ADD is deeply interested and trying to get their brains to stay focused (physical motion for some reason helps the brain keep on track). Upsides of this are creativity and the ability to make novel and significant connections where other people don't automatically see them. And then, in those times when they are overfocused, to fully develop a project quickly and in a more complete way than you'd ever guess (or 'win' a computer game in one sitting, which isn't necessarily a plus to moms and wives who can't break in).

People with ADD don't organize well. They make piles everywhere, so their physical and digital desktops are crowded with stuff, and they can't seem to get places on time, turn papers in, finish things even when they want to, or work on only one project at a time. This can seriously hamper their lives--they miss appointments, double-schedule their calendars, and forget to pay bills and speeding tickets, can't find their drivers' license or passport to save their lives, and never quite get around to other important things, like seeing a dentist for a broken tooth, or taking finals in college. It can also allow them to work on more than one project at a time and get them all done well. It makes for high productivity possible because they can mentally keep track of and work on hundreds of things at once. Medication can help them get over the inability to finish these millions of things without getting rid of their ability to work on them and do them well--which lets someone like Tim write, record, edit, and fully produce hundred of songs in the time it takes 'normal' songwriters to just get the notes down for a dozen or so. In the meantime, he also has created and manages dozens of vocal groups, goes to conferences all over the nation to speak and teach, has taught himself how to run live sound and a home recording studio. The trick seems to be to get the ADD under control enough that you can 'organize enough' and then recognizing what you just can't do and getting help with that (like having your wife pay the bills). Also, because people with ADD can't organize in the conventional way, they have a strange and marvelous ability to look at chaos and not be overwhelmed by it, making them particularly helpful in dealing with disorganized situations like natural disasters or cluttered rooms--not because they can get them organized, but because they cut right to the human needs and provide attention, love, and help where the people need it, not where the room needs it. So so so many 'normal' women walk into the house of a woman who is in need and only can think to get the mess cleaned up because they don't have that ADD ability to ignore the chaos and focus on the people. People with ADD also have an unusual ability to look at chaos and discern patterns, making them really good data analysts and creative problem solvers--as long as they don't have to implement the solution.

ADD can prevent you from thinking without also doing other things. However, if you are free to do other things, ADD brains are highly creative, as I mentioned. So I've learned, as a mother, not to say, "Could you please stop running about?!" to my children and instead say, "What are you thinking about?" when they are dashing madly about the house, bouncing off walls and crashing into each other. Turns out the running and jumping allow their unusually brilliant minds to function--and more often than not their brains are working on novel storylines, solutions to problems, computer game designs, inventions, or other highly creative things that 'normal' people would never come up with. So it can be a serious problem--nobody lets you learn at a jog in public schools!), but when an ADD brain is allowed to think, it is often unusually bright and creative--and my kids are in pretty good physical shape for computer addicts because they have to hop down and do laps several times a day in order to write that novel (at ages 5 and 7) or complete that computer game they're designing. This also is easily managed through diet, exercise, and medication, so it's not really the end of the world.

The inability to fit into the box or comprehend social norms can be a serious problem for people with ADD. Instead of comprehending that 'this is the way it's done', they see every situation as a new thing to think about and see no reason to accept 'the way it's done'--they always want to know why, and if the answer isn't reasonable to them, they don't accept it. This makes it hard to keep jobs, fit in socially, sit through primary (instead of, say, walk out or lay on the floor) or meetings at work, respect personal space, play what everyone else is playing, etc. This makes them feel like outcasts, even if they have a large social group that really likes them a lot. It also makes them inclined to do things that other people think are odd. On the other hand, it tends to make them more inclined to see each individual around them as a person with flaws and talents, and gives them an unusual ability to analyze situations and people and customs and really 'figure them out'--often allowing them to come up with solutions to social and governmental problems that people 'on the inside' can't see. Being outside the box is not always a bad thing, especially if you are grounded in something solid, like the gospel, so that you aren't just drifting randomly (trying drugs, joining gangs, shoplifting).

I could go on and on.

Bottom line, to me, is that every person on earth has a package of challenges and talents, and part of the point of life is to learn how to overcome or work within your challenges and how to use your talents. People with ADD are lucky--their challenges have been clearly defined, in some ways, and thoroughly analyzed, and there are actually pills you can take to help with them (how many of us wish we could take a pill and have our handicaps minimized!). They are unlucky because their challenges can mask their talents and put them in a position (especially if they are forced to conform, like in school, and are subject to ridicule for being different) that it's hard to discover them, and their mental make up can make it hard for them to accept and use their talents (people with ADD tend to see every small imperfection--in themselves and others--and tend to be fearful of producing work that is less than perfect, so they can be paralyzed in their production).

It has been much easier to understand and study who we are (me with fibromyalgia and Tim with ADD) so that we don't condemn ourselves or each other, and so that we can finally accept what we are and move forward, working around our weaknesses and capitalizing (and focusing) on our strengths.

I think of it in terms of story (as I do so many things). It's like that novel plot I published here years ago--everyone on earth is born to be a super hero, and every superhero has both super abilities and super handicaps. The people who become heroes (instead of normal folks) are the ones who learn to use their super abilites to serve and not let their super handicaps stop them.

So yes, ADD is a disorder. But so is being human. We have to work with what we have--color with the box of crayons we were given, as Sister Lee used to say--and not spend our whole lives focusing on what we can't do or don't have.

I'm trying to raise superheroes.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

CBS People's Choice Awards--a shameless plea for votes

The Corey Vidal/Moosebutter Star Wars video was nominated for CBS's people's choice awards in the 'user generated' category.

We want them to win.

So go here: http://www.pcavote.com

Ignore the messages about categories being closed, and click the purple rectangle that says "Vote Now".

Enter the security code if it gives you one. Don't worry about logging in.

Wait for the options to appear, then click 'next set'. This should take you to the 'user generated content' nominations.

Watch the videos if you want--I like the Star wars one and where is Matt. Click on your vote. The Star Wars one is the one with Tim's song on it.

If you care to, do it again tomorrow and again the next day and again....until the voting closes.


Oh, also, I put a link to Tim's blog on my side bar. Check it out. His page is www.mistertimdotcom.com.

Benji talks

Benjamin has started to understand the value of speaking the same language as the rest of us--so we're starting to get some sense out of his long speeches.

He has grasped some interesting words, like "zap!" which he uses when he points at something to turn it into something else (and which he got from the end of "little bunny foo foo", when the fairy says, 'Zap! You're a goon!') He says 'pitty' for pretty, and "Peeooh" for Winnie the Pooh. He can't say the 'tr' sound, so he uses an 'f' sound, which makes it rather embarrassing when he starts looking at trucks and pointing them out to people. He told me yesterday that the Christmas tree was 'pitty fwee'. It's actually really fun because he is old enough that he can say any word--so we have enjoyed playing, "Benji, can you say -______(kangaroo rat, serendipity, etc)?" Just now he turned Dan into a serendipity, "Zap! Dippy!"

Benji has learned some words that are important in a family full of computer-addict kids, like "Hey! Hey!", which he says when he pushes someone off their chair to take the computer or hands me the mouse to get his program turned on. He also says "'ess kids" for pbskids.org, and 'sue per why' (one of the shows there) and 'buggie' for some of the Odyssey lessons. He loves the Curious George videos, and can make a pretty convincing monkey sound. He now uses the word "monkey" to mean any animal he can't identify readily, from pigs to snowmen (which he seems to think are animals, since there's no snow here and they show up in conjunction with reindeer all the time).

Other favorite phrases include "kitty", "read" and "book", "where'd it go?", "cack" (quack), "eat", "gwee" (drink), "Kay-bee" (Caleb), "annie" (Anda), "Dan", and "Benjimin". He uses 'no' freely, and 'yeah' sometimes. He barks pretty well. He's just learning 'peas' for please, which makes me nervous to send him to nursery, where they are Please Nazis, refusing to give 18-month-olds snacks if they don't say please, and always attributing it to stubbornness or rebellion that must be quelched (like that's their business to teach anyway). He knows more, and is constantly surprising me with words, like this morning when he walked into the living room where Dan and I were sitting and said, "Oh. Poopy, Dan?"

He's finally figured out that when I say no, it's a lot better if he stops what he's doing--and then I praise him highly for it so he gets the point.

The thing I'm most worried about right now is when the baby comes, how will I go grocery shopping with a toddler who must be buckled into the seat or he pulls things off the shelves and runs with wild abandon? If Benji is in the cart seat, then you have to put the baby in the basket in the car seat, and then there's not room for a loaf of bread, much less 6 gallons of milk and Daniel. I might have to let Caleb push a cart for me.....I tried putting Benji in the basket today, and he was back to pulling things off shelves and trying to climb out, so that won't work.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

moosebutter--more on YouTube

This is one of my favorite of Tim's original compositions, sung by moosebutter, with the puppet performance by Maxed Out Puppetry--my favorite puppet troupe. The song was written and arranged by Tim (aka Mister Tim); lead was sung by Glen Sawyer, all other vocals were done by Tim.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

moosebutter's version

this is moosebutter performing "star wars" live, in answer to the video I posted earlier. Keep in mind that this is a live performance, and the last was recorded professionally in a studio for a cd, so the performance is not identical, but I still like it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Fox news must have fired their copy editors to save money....

My favorite headline ever, right at the top of foxnews.com today:

"Labor Pains Expected"

Very funny when you consider I'm nine months pregnant--although I suspect I might have a different meaning in mind than they did!

Just below, we find this gem:

"Easy-to-Use 'Palm Pistol' Aimed at Elderly, Disabled"

Did they really mean that?

And this isn't a copy editing problem, but rather a 'really? you can't be serious' problem: "Fla. Man charged with Assaulting Girlfriend With Burger"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The cast of this blog

I realize I throw a lot of names around with no explanations, so here is a brief bio of us, since I haven't updated for over a year.


Tim, my husband, who is a musician.

Caleb, my son, age 7 but in 3rd grade

Anda, my daughter, age 5 but in 1st and 2nd grade

Dan, my son, age 3 but in kindergarten

Benji, my son, age 19 or 20 months

Unborn baby that could be due in 3 weeks or in 6--we're not quite sure yet.

And various friends, neighbors, experts from online, etc, who I try to identify when i mention them.

And, yes, to answer the questions I get any time I tell people my kids' ages: We did that on purpose, and we do know what birth control is and how to use it, and we plan to have more kids.


Last night we boiled eggs. At bedtime, I put the eggs in a bowl and put the bowl in the fridge, but I left the pot of water on the table, empty except for a few strings of white and yellow egg from one that cracked in the hot water.

This morning, Dan went looking for breakfast and came to me mildly distressed.

"Mom," he said solemnly. "I want an egg but you left them out overnight and they decayed in the pot into little bits of white and yellow. They all decayed."

Smiling, I told him I put them in the fridge in a bowl.

"Why?" he asked.

"So they wouldn't decay,"I said. What other answer could there be?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pondering, lately

Lately, I've come to the conclusion that, despite the circumstances I am living in, I ought to embrace the life I've been given and get what I can out of each day.

I think it's important to learn from the past and look to the future, but LIVE in TODAY.

And not spend all my time worrying, regretting, planning, complaining, or waiting.

Not to say we shouldn't be prepared, take steps that lead us to a better future, have goals, etc.

Just to say that, in doing those things, we sacrifice our futures if we don't embrace the day we have been given and do what we can with it, however wonderful or awful it might be. I don't want to end up with all those empty yesterdays President Monson warns about.

Has this actually changed much about my behavior each day? Not that you'd notice (I always did try to live transparently and without regrets). But it has changed some subtle things about my outlook--like I'm less inclined to gossip, complain over and over, spend time worrying about next year, or agonize over what other people think of my house/writing/car/hobbies/etc. And I'm more inclined to look at my day and say, "Today we have a place to live and food to eat; I'll worry about tomorrow when it comes." I'm also more inclined to read to my children, write what I want to write, wipe off the stove, bake cookies, work and rest at the right times without guilt, and kiss my husband (which I already did a lot of, but more is always better in that case).

After all, this is the only life I get, and I think I'll get more out of it if I embrace what is given me and let God make of me and my life what He will.

A rejection?

I got a 'not perfect yet' letter from the agent who had asked me to revise and resubmit. It didn't specify, though, whether it was a further 'revise and resubmit' or an outright rejection, but it did include detailed comments and suggestions.

Comments and suggestions that lead me to believe the agent is looking for the next 'Twilight' (a paranormal romance.) And why shouldn't she be? It's a massive hit.

But it's a massive hit because nobody had done it before.

The comments she gave, honestly, were sound. But, unlike last time, they didn't drive me to my computer to open the file again.

I think part of it is that she seems to be looking for a romance with fantastic elements, where I wrote a fantasy with mystery and romance elements. Now, if someone said, "This is great, can we rewrite to make the mystery more of the focus?" I might bite. But for some reason I don't feel inclined just now to really play down the complexities that are left in the plot and really play up the relationships, although I completely agree in some ways that 'deepening' the relationship between Kate and Tom would make the book more satisfying.

Maybe the problem is I don't know how to do that.

Maybe the problem is that a fantasy is, characteristically, more complex in plot, more sweeping in action, and less focused on intimate emotional feelings in the characters that don't play directly into the action.

The agent also still has the impression that I personally don't have a real grasp of my own plot. This must be a flaw in the storytelling because I think I do have a firm grasp of the plot--I can summarize the 350 page book into a couple of paragraphs easily--and probably into one sentence if I need to, which you can't do if you don't have a grasp of the plot.

Maybe the 'problem' is that I have a couple of intersecting plots (or up to 3 or 4, depending on how you look at it--which characters you want to focus on), and the depth in the story comes from the collision of those plots and of those characters' realizations about themselves. I could easily remove the subplots and focus on Kate (not that I don't already), but the entire story would suffer because Ali Babba's, Beauty's, and Tom's stories are what let us see the real development in Kate.

Perhaps I should take the conglomerate of the comments as "Still a little confusing and intellectual".

Unfortunately, the sticking point for everyone who has read it was the joy for me--the complexity and mass of information that it's possible to include. The essence of the story is what would a smart, literate girl from 21st century Provo experience if she met the (oft-maligned by academia but idolized by little girls everywhere) characters from the fairytales? And its corollary: what would happen if a fairytale character and her problem were transferred to modern-day America? These are the two stories that collide in the novel--but that very exploration has been seen as confusing (too many fairytales!) by many people.

Oh, and she said there's too much dialogue with information that Kate could just think to herself, the way it happens in real life. Funny--I've been praised by other agents for the dialogue, and also have really had a hard time 'verbalizing in her mind' her thinking because I don't think that way. I don't realize things in my head--instead, I get an inkling and then have to talk it out to really get to the 'realization' stage. So I might need to smooth all that out in the text someday.

So I've come to the conclusion that one of two things will happen: I will re-expand this book into a 3-5 book series, so that you get it slower and feel less like you got avalanched (and I can put back a lot of cool stuff I had to cut), or it will be my second or third novel published because it's just too much of a risk for a publisher to take an unknown author and publish something that is at once clean as a whistle and intellectually complex. I guess, overall, it's just not 'there' yet.

Any way I look at it, though, I don't feel inclined to open the book again. So I'm going to put the letter aside for a few weeks or a few months and look at it and the novel with fresh eyes another day. Or year.

Maybe I'm just waiting to hear back from the other agent who has it still--fully expecting a form rejection but hoping for something more positive.

Meanwhile, I'm learning a lot about plotting in the clues for a mystery--and how much knowing the minute details of the ending play into the formation of the clues and plot up to that ending.


Today, Daniel spent ten minutes trying to convince me to give him licorice before dinner because 'it isn't bad for you.' His argument was it's not made from sugar or flour (I never told him flour was bad for you, but that was his argument). I said, 'So what's it made from?'

"Just from licorice," he said.

"So where did the first batch come from?" Anda asked.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the After-Party

For us, thanksgiving isn't so much about the food as about the music afterward--this time Friday evening. Everyone is welcome to come play, sing, dance, listen, or whatever--and they do. Skill and talent ranges all over the place, from next-to-none, to shower singers, to full-fledged professional musicians. Tim, who falls into the last category, in this clip is playing the keyboard--an instrument he doesn't even play!

Thanks to my brother Jon for making the video and posting it on his blog: http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/video-how-do-mormons-have-fun-without-drinking-alcohol-heres-how

Sunday, November 23, 2008

more funny headlining from the big guys

From the LA Times, the way the headline appears on google news:
"Guard fatally shoots man with sword
at Scientology church"

How do you shoot someone with a sword? Thrust, hack, run through--these I can visualize. But shoot?

When the whole headline appears on one line, it's okay, but the way google news broke it up was confusing.

And the word of wisdom comes out on top once again....


Apparently, eating too much meat can be linked to cancer of the gut, and diets high in fruits and veggies actually reduce risks of breast cancer, as does getting enough sleep (although that part wasn't mentioned in this article).

Once again, we see that God is right, and science is only 170 years behind (or so).


Anda is a real renaissance woman--she prefers to eat with her fingers.

I don't suppose I'm the only mom who thinks this, but thanksgiving with relatives could be interesting. My kids, despite my best efforts, seem to display the worst manners at the most inopportune times.

Funny thing around here lately:

The kids named their doll Anna-anna-anda. Cumbersome, and quaint, right? It ends up being downright hilarious when they're fighting over her.....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Much-needed encouragement

I got a rejection from a top-notch agent today.

I didn't cry this time.

She actually said she took a long time to respond because she thought my writing was really strong, but just wasn't interested in the concept of the book, but please send her my next project if someone else doesn't snatch me up (although she suspects someone will).

This was really really encouraging, since I'd come to the conclusion that I can write a query but not a novel (based on the responses I've had so far).

Now to that next project....

anyone else bothered by this, or is it just me?

"The CEOs of the Big Three automakers reportedly flew private luxury jets to Washington to plead for a $25 billion taxpayer bailout to save their debt-ridden industry — ringing up tens of thousands in charges even as they cried poverty.

Recipients of eight-figure bonuses in 2007, the corporate cowboys used their executive perks — which for GM's Rick Wagoner include the run of a $36 million Gulfstream IV jet — to arrive in style as they went begging before Congress.

Wagoner, whose flight reportedly cost $20,000 round-trip — about 70 times more than a commercial airline ticket — told Congress he expected about $10-$12 billion from the requested bailout.

"This is a slap in the face of taxpayers," Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, told ABC News. "To come to Washington on a corporate jet, and asking for a handout is outrageous."" http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,454844,00.html

Maybe they should start with two things: a good tight budget and a product that is worth something in the free market-place. You know, the things any small business has to have to survive.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Insurance is what's wrong in medicine today

I mentioned previously that I thought there was no cure for the health care crisis unless we found some way to get rid of the insurance companies--THEY are the health care crisis.

This was in the news today:

"Of the 12,000 respondents, 49 percent said they'd consider leaving medicine. Many said they are overwhelmed with their practices, not because they have too many patients, but because there's too much red tape generated from insurance companies and government agencies." http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/11/17/primary.care.doctors.study/

Looks like the crisis is just about to get worse. The Insurance companies are driving doctors out of medicine, causing an enormous crisis and worse care in America, theoretically because nobody is overseeing the care of each patient (which is what a primary care doctor is supposed to do). If 30,000 of these doctors leave the business because of the insurance companies, that exacerbates an already serious problem.

Already the insurance companies don't let doctors give the care they feel is necessary. Already they approve care after patients have died when the care was available and the doctors were anxious to give it. Already they force the poor and needy into the emergency rooms, overwhelming the hospitals with non-emergencies and non-paying patients. Already they cancel or refuse coverage for the people who need it most (those who are sick). Already they pay their own doctors to say what benefits the insurance companies, denying claims of the injured (in accidents--like those who need workers' comp coverage) and destroying lives. And they do all this because they 1) have no medical training, and 2) are driven primarily by profit.

Now they're driving the doctors out of the business altogether.

And we're letting them because they are paying our politicians, and nobody can think of a plan that will provide excellent care without either letting the insurance companies run things, or letting the government do it (socializing things), neither of which will really work.

I'm still laughing that Obama's health care plan boiled down to 'put more people in medicaid'. Nobody takes medicaid except the incompetent and the new (not all of which are bad)--people who have no practice otherwise. Medicaid is a way for rich people to feel like the poor people have care. It doesn't actually work. It's a bandaid. People on medicaid suffer and die--literally--from lack of care. How is that going to solve the problem? "According to the foundation's report, over a third of those surveyed have closed their practices to Medicaid patients and 12 percent have closed their practices to Medicare patients That can leave a lot of patients looking for a doctor."

Maybe we should ask the doctors what to do, instead of asking the politicians. I'd go for this solution, mentioned in the same article: "In order to manage their daily work schedules, many survey respondents reported making changes. With lower reimbursement from insurance companies and the cost of malpractice insurance skyrocketing, these health professionals say it's not worth running a practice any longer and are changing careers. Others say they're going into so-called boutique medicine, in which they charge patients a yearly fee up front for care and don't take insurance.

There's more:

"...only 2 percent of current medical students plan to take up primary care. That's because these students are wary of the same complaints that are causing existing doctors to flee primary care: hectic clinics, burdensome paperwork and systems that do a poor job of managing patients with chronic illness."

"So what to do? Physicians don't have a lot of answers. But doctors say it's time to make some changes, not only in the health care field but also with the insurance industry..."

"One of President-elect Barack Obama's health care promises is to provide a primary care physician for every American. But some health experts, including Pocinki are skeptical. "People who have insurance can't find a doctor, so suddenly we are going to give insurance to a whole bunch of people who haven't had it, without increasing the number of physicians?" he says. "It's going to be a problem.""

Maybe the media and government are looking the wrong way in this crisis.

Apparently, doctors weren't too stressed about insurance until PPOs and HMOs came into being. I've always seen them as an institutionalized conflict of interest. Maybe all of insurance doesn't need to go. Maybe just insurance the way it is now needs to go.

I'm not a 'big government' person in the least, but maybe it's time not for the government to step in with some oversight--not of the medical field at all, but of the insurance field. Someone needs to reign in their power and put them in their place as servants of the people instead of as rulers of the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am interested to see where this all goes....

I found the following quotes here:


The first:
'"My goal was to make it socially unacceptable to give huge amounts of money to take away the rights of one particular group, a minority group," says Fred Karger, a retired political consultant and founder of Californians Against Hate.'

In other words, he's trying to make it socially unacceptable to believe in something he disagrees with. And he's doing this through public humiliation and economic persecution, which may be his right in this country but isn't a very good response to people exercising their duty to vote with their beliefs about what is best for the country as a whole, not with their ideas of what is socially acceptable.

The second:
"The negative publicity is having effects on both companies and individuals. Scott Eckern, artistic director of the California Musical Theatre in Sacramento, whose $1,000 donation was listed on ElectionTrack, chose to resign from his post this week to protect the theater from public criticism. Karger says a "soft boycott" they started against Bolthouse Farms, which gave $100,000 to Proposition 8, was dropped after he reached a settlement with the company. Bolthouse Farms was to give an equal amount of money to gay political causes. The amount ultimately equaled $110,000."

I feel for Brother Eckern, who is now out of a job because he expressed his beliefs and acted on them. Brother Eckern, you notice, did not back down from his stance, but proved his dedication to the arts. Bolthouse Farms, on the other hand, has proven they are wimps. Further, nobody should be subject to any kind of 'settlement' for having beliefs. It's ludicrous. You don't see anyone forcing the Gay and Lesbian Alliance to donate significant amounts of money to anti-abortion campaigns, for example, or to a catholic charity purely because their beliefs are in opposition to those things. Ludicrous may be too gentle a word here. Unbelievably ridiculous, really. And for Bolthouse Farms to agree? How bizarre.

The reason I'm mentioning these (as if I haven't said enough already!) is that I'm interested to see if the persecution and rallies and boycotts and assaults/vandalism and temper tantrums being thrown here are actually going to have the opposite effect than the offended parties intend, making others stand firmer in their convictions rather than back down.

For one thing, the rallies and protests aren't saying anything new or informing anyone about anything we didn't already know and have an opinion about. Consequently, the rallies may be a way to vent anger and frustration, but they are not functioning to enlighten or win over anyone. Conversely, any really thinking person ought to look at the extreme responses and wonder what the problem is. It's like when a 3-year-old throws a fit after being denied a cookie. Doesn't make you want to give it to him, does it? Even if he breaks the cookie jar and calls you names.

For another, the offended parties have assumed that we don't agree because we either are weak (and therefore will change our minds with a little bullying) or just didn't understand (and therefore can be 'won over' or convinced of the error of our ways). They still aren't giving credit to people for actually having beliefs that may differ from their own about what's best for our country as a whole. They also aren't giving enough credit to the powerful pull of religious beliefs.

Do they not realize that they are dealing with people who believe in a tradition that holds it as a badge of honor to be persecuted for your beliefs? Do they not realize that persecution might be a sign to these people that they made a right choice and now should defend it to the death (literally)?

I'm not talking about just Mormons, but all Christians, some of whom tend to be lukewarm in good times but all of whom tend to become fiercely loyal to their religious beliefs when persecuted or faced with staunch opposition. These are people who, if they are true believers, are willing to die defending God's word, and give their all to convince others of it. I imagine non-Christian religious people, many of whom have also dealt with immense persecution in their past (who can deny the Jews that history?) respond the same way. Many religious peoples have firm traditions regarding not backing down under persecution because they've all had to deal with it for centuries.

These are people who sing, with reverence and deep belief, that "Jesus, mighty King in Zion, Thou alone our guide shalt be. Thy commission we rely on; we will follow none but thee" and "God is our sun; he makes our day. God is our shield; he guards our way from all assaults of hell and sin, from foes without and fears within." The Mormons sing: "...Fear not, though the enemies deride. Courage, for the Lord is on our side."

By spending a great deal of time putting a great deal of pressure on the people who donated to the pro-marriage cause, the offended people might just be sealing their own fate. They're dealing with people who are no strangers to persecution, no strangers to difficulties, no strangers to both living and teaching their beliefs in the face of incredible cruelty--and, if they're right in their belief system, have God on their side. And if He's real and if He is what they say He is, no boycott will ever turn them aside, and nobody will be able to prevail against them in the long run, especially through persecutions and temper tantrums.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

dare I write this? I'm getting myself in trouble again....

Among religious people, the debate over homosexual marriage has an aspect that nobody is allowed to talk about in the press (why? I don't know. I don't see any shame in believing in religion or the Bible, but it's certainly anathema to the media to do anything other than belittle it--even though the majority of the country is still religious.). They believe homosexuality is a sin.

So I just thought I'd put in a little perspective from our experiences interacting with high school and college kids in a liberal town in the last 5 years.

Because homosexuality is widely accepted in parts of Colorado, the kids in the liberal towns are all taught about it, exposed to it, and completely tolerant of it, just like the gay community hopes we all would be.

Consequently, when the local kids are 'discovering themselves' in junior high and high school, and their emotions run high and their hormones run higher, and nobody is telling them to save their bodies for marriage (rather, they are taught that following your natural inclinations is both good and healthy), the kids experiment. Now, realistically, close your eyes (or get drunk, which they also do) and kiss someone of either gender and you're likely going to have a hormonal surge. Play at sex and it doesn't matter if its a guy or a girl you're with--if you are 13 or 15, it's gonna be an experience that will feel like a 'defining' experience.

To complicate things further, all emotions to these kids are being methodically tied to physical sexual expression--by their friends, by the media, etc. So if they like someone at all, it's translated in their minds to a sexual thing, even on a slight scale. All warm and friendly feelings are love and all love is sexual. We see this all over the world with teen girls who think they're in love with any boy who smiles at them--that's not new. Acting sexually on it is newer, but even in the 50s it happened a lot. It was just more socially unacceptable then than it is now, when it's not only acceptable, it's expected.

As these kids grow older, they have the usual frustrations that every one of us has had in dealing with the opposite sex--the same frustrations that traditionally have driven women to coffee with their girlfriends and men to drink with their guy friends. People have always gone to their same-gender friends for comfort and solace. But if every warm and friendly feeling is love, and all love is sexual--you see the problem?

We personally know people who broke up in a heterosexual relationship, went crying to their same-gender friends, and announced the next day they were actually gay. If these kids' experiences is any indicator, being gay is actually easier and more immediately 'safe' and 'satisfying' than being heterosexual in terms of the relationship--and if there is no stigma involved socially or religiously, it's easier in every way (especially in communities where 'tolerance' actually means greater respect and more rights). If it's easier to be gay, and cooler to be gay (especially among teens, who LOVE the highs and lows of emotional rollercoasters, 'tempests in a teapot', and social/political crisis of any kind)...what's the motivation to develop the skills necessary to find an opposite-gender spouse, have children, and raise a family? It's the relationship equivalent of moms choosing to have a career instead of have and stay home with children--the career is not only easier, it's more socially rewarding, but the social and cultural implications are enormous, as are the more individual ramifications for long-term satisfaction with your life.

Now, I'm a firm believer that some people are born with homosexual tendencies. Research indicates others may legitimately be driven to it by abuse, and rumor is that others may be 'groomed' and taught by members of the gay community. I am not trying to belittle people who have inborn challenges with homosexuality. We all have challenges with something and don't need people condemning us for that.

On the other hand, when the culture is warped in such a way that there is no motivation to go through the work of a man-woman marriage and work out the difficulties of interacting the the other gender...that doesn't seem very productive for families or for the long-term prospects in the country, where we have to interact successfully with the other gender on a daily basis, even if we aren't married. And if every person who is physically or emotionally or sexually abused believes (as many do) that it automatically makes them gay...what gives?

And if you further believe that homosexuality is a serious sin (which many many people still do, despite the media)--maybe you can see why religious people (even liberals)tend to be deeply opposed to the legitimization of the lifestyle by granting it legal marriage status and by teaching it to young children in schools (and no matter how much they deny it now, that would be in the future--already schools only teach traditional family as one option instead of as the ideal so as not to offend children who have only one parent, are being raised by grandparents, etc).

I'm not sure how to conclude this without getting lots more hate mail and being accused of 'hate speech'.

I suppose the reality is that if you consider homosexuality a sin, then it's important to realize that the implications of making it totally legal and socially acceptable are far far greater than the gay community make it out to be. It's not just a choice between two consenting adults who love each other because they were born with brains that are biologically wired that way. It's not even about children adopted and raised by gay couples. It's not even about grownups who decide they want to sin, if you look at it that way. It has major ripples through all of society in terms of the 'biological' physical/neurological and social development of our teens as their brains and social beings develop, the way people react to and recover from abuse, how heterosexual couples treat each other, expectations for marriage (both in the making of a marriage and how it's supposed to go after that, and how it's 'allowed' to end), the way children are raised and educated, the meaning of and appropriate expression of friendship (little girls used to hold hands and hug to show they were friends...and they can't anymore--even among kindergartners it's considered a defining sexual expression now), and probably a million other areas that we haven't even thought of yet.

It's not the 'little thing that's not hurting you and would make me really happy' that the media makes it out to be. It's not a matter of civil rights only, despite what you hear (It is totally NOT akin to giving black people civil rights like they claim--race is not a sin and never has been). Accepting homosexuality has major implications in our entire culture--for good or ill, depending on which camp you belong to.

Fox news does it again!

"He was breathing and didn't appear to be uninjured."


" Educators, lawmakers and city officials will try and determine why one in three Nevada high school students quit before graduation Wednesday."


"Mom Grounds Boy After Cop Car Hits Him While Biking"

foxnews.com home page Why was that car biking?


Here is the link to Tim's first published song, so you can all look and go 'cool!' and then tell your friends when they happen to be looking for mens' chorus sheet music about pirates.


What happens when you go viral

No, this is not another post on my computer breaking down.

I've had a lot of people say, "So what happens?" now that the Corey Vidal/moosebutter video of 'Star Wars' got 1.6 million views in 2 weeks.

Well, Corey and Tim are fielding phone calls from all over--from news outlets like the one in Atlanta that I linked to earlier and CNN, and from media outlets like NBC and MTV, and from lots of private companies, schools, choral conductors, radio shows, and other people who want to cash in on what they see as emerging potential popularity. Everyone wants to cash in on the next big thing, whatever it might be, and they move fast to guess and get it before the 'next big thing' is 'oh, that again?'.

These things seem more exciting than they really are. Tim and I have been navigating this business for almost ten years now, and that was long enough to learn that most things don't come through. Even if you get so far as arriving in MTV's studios at their expense, if they do bother to film you, you most likely end up in a 5-10 second spot (if that) over the credits of some obscure show that plays at dawn on MTV2 (or whatever their alternative channel is called now). And that's IF they show the video at all, which they usually don't.

Shows are never guaranteed until they start. Contracts with companies to produce songs are never set until they're signed and dated, and then there is still only a 50/50 chance they'll use the product you produce. Radio/internet appearances are only sure when they play on the air--and then it's usually shorter than you thought it would be, and reaches fewer people because there just happened to be a fire in the Library of Congress right at that moment and the viewing public is watching our nation's heritage go up in smoke. Just because a choral conductor buys enough sheet music to use it for a choir doesn't mean it will be sung in the concert.

So, yes, it's exciting. I honestly never thought I'd say we were waiting for a call from MTV to nail down details, but we are. But it's more exciting in the flattery of it all than in the surety of a future from this.

I know--people make millions and launch careers from YouTube hits. But many billions more people DON'T--even after a million and a half strangers see their stuff. I guess that's a little cynical, but it sure is easier than the artificial ups and downs that come from believing that every good thing you see is coming your way right now--and that they are all really good (I mean...can you really see four thirty-something Mormon men doing a talent showcase on MTV? Seems incongruous to me...).

So we're excited. And right now Tim is being forced to work for moosebutter more than full-time just answering phone calls and emails, sending cd orders out, updating websites we'd intended to be archival, and getting songs posted for download (sheet music, mostly) that are ready but have never been readily available. There is talk of more videos (one might get made this week!). There are negotiations going on for concerts/school appearances across the nation, contracts to produce songs/videos for companies, interviews, etc. Stuff is happening. It's fun and new. A lot of it is not stuff I can go public with until the companies do, just to be on the safe side.

It might get the rent paid for next month and hold us over until some of the other jobs Tim has been promised start paying. Or it might not. Or it might take off and we'll be forced to never look back, like Toxic Audio did for a few months.

Whatever happens, we've learned to enjoy the ride and take it for what it is, without getting too excited about all the possibilities.

I mean, really--most of you probably don't even remember five years ago when moosebutter was contracted to perform this very song for the official dvd release party of the remastered original "Star Wars". That call came from LucasFilm--and so did the call that canceled the gig two days later.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Has Tim's song really entered the national consciousness?

I found this while browsing google news yesterday:

"MGM Deal Brings More Premium Content to YouTube
ClickZ News - 52 minutes ago
By Douglas Quenqua, The ClickZ Network, Nov 10, 2008 YouTube has taken
another step in its quest to diversify it content beyond satirical
Star Wars videos and homemade political rants."

Satirical Star Wars videos....that's us!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hate mail?

I'm an obscure Mormon housewife in Nevada.

And I'm getting hate mail because I expressed my opinion that Mormons shouldn't be targeted (nor should Utahns) for being part of the majority on the Proposition 8 vote in California.

I have no problem with people feeling strongly about it. But I don't think I, personally, should be equated with the KKK or any other like thing.

Some stats for you. According to info I found online, only 2% of California's entire population are LDS (which is, apparently, around 770,000 Mormons there). Assuming that all of them were of voting age, all of them voted, and all of them were in favor of Proposition 8 (none of which are true), that still leaves 4,898,960 people who aren't Mormon who voted in favor of Proposition 8. If you eliminated all the Mormons who are children (and there are usually a lot in any population of Mormons), all who were against Proposition 8 (I have no way to determine what this number would be), all who just didn't vote...the Mormon vote probably didn't even make a difference. The difference between the fors and againsts was less than 500,000 votes--there weren't enough Mormons involved to really tip the scale, now, were there?

So why are we targeting Mormons? Why is the former Mayor of Salt Lake City picketing the Temple in Salt Lake?

Why is an obscure pregnant housewife in Nevada getting hate mail?

Now I have to decide what to do about it--post the comments because I believe in letting people have their say and letting people expose themselves as idiots, or deleting the comments (since this is a moderated blog....) and not opening the door to being flooded with hate mail that I don't want to deal with?

Note, from later:

I have since gotten some nice comments explaining the logic of why they target Mormons and also apologizing for whoever is sending hate mail. I'm still on the fence about posting comments, so that's why the nice ones aren't up yet either. This is my comment about it, though:

Apparently Mormons have been targeted because someone has spread the lie that the Church itself donated $20 million dollars to the Yes on Proposition 8 cause. Members of the church probably did donate that much out of their own resources, but the church as an institution most certainly did not--it would be against the law. Members of the church also donated a significant amount of time in the cause, and the opponents to Proposition 8 believe it would not have passed had the Mormons not invested that much money in the cause.

This is a pacifying explanation for a bunch of angry, hurt people who want someone to blame, but it is not really valid unless you honestly believe that all people vote with the money, not with their beliefs. Now, it may be true that Obama won the election because he had more money to put into it, and the Proposition 8 passed for the same reason. If so, it reflects extremely poorly on all the people who voted because it means they voted purely based on money and propaganda, not on their thoughts and feelings on the issues.

I seriously doubt all the conservative people in California voted not with their beliefs, but because someone either bought them out or manipulated them. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they're dumb, selfish, intolerant, or manipulated by cash.

Further, if the Mormon people, of their own free will, spent $20 million for Proposition 8, and the total spent on both sides was $75 million--we're still not accounting for the majority of the money spent on the campaign, nor even identifying which side of the issue spent more money, further weakening the argument that the "Mormons did it to us!"

I still think it's bigotry that causes people to figure they can take their pain and anger out on any other group of people.

As for the other argument I keep hearing: "You should have realized this would happen before you spoke against us..." That's just plain bullying. People not only have the right to voice their opinions and vote in this country, it's a duty and obligation, and it should not be met with hate and bullying, even if it hurts to lose.

The funniest thing to me is that I have been targeted purely because I'm Mormon. I'd say that's the height of prejudiced behavior. I don't live in California, so I wasn't part of that vote. I had no money to give, so I personally didn't donate. I have no time, so I didn't donate that way either. I didn't email friends or neighbors, or put signs in my yard, or even speak a word to my own husband about the issue before the vote. Nobody has even bothered to ask where I stand on the issues or which way I would have voted had I the chance. I am being attacked purely for my religion--and that's just the same as being attacked for my race or my sexual orientation, isn't it?

addendum: Some stats (from here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,705262228,00.html?pg=2)

"LDS Church members undertook a perhaps unprecedented mobilization, contributing an estimated 40 percent of the individual donations made to the Yes on 8's $30 million-plus campaign. Yet the Salt Lake-based church, which did not contribute directly to the campaign, sees its involvement in politics as unusual."

So the 'nos' actually had a bigger budget! So much for their accusations that Mormons caused the yesses to win by paying for it.

"Exit polls show that religious views had a profound effect on the result, spanning racial lines: 84 percent of those who attend church weekly voted yes; 81 percent of white evangelicals voted yes; 65 percent of white Protestants voted yes; 64 percent of Catholics voted yes. Catholics accounted for 30 percent of all voters."

Mormon numbers were just too small to make a difference in terms of votes, it looks like, although I realize every vote does count.

Prop 8 in CA

I can't believe a gay rights advocate actually said the words, "We're going to teach those Mormons a lesson." His proposal was boycott the state of Utah, who didn't vote for or against Proposition 8, and most of whose industries that are boycottable (like the Sundance Film fest) would punish non-mormons who happen to live in Utah! Weird logic from people who have always held themselves up as pillars and advocates of tolerance and 'clear thinking.'

The other funny thing about the temper tantrum after the vote is that the legal challenge they have put forth is that the measure wasn't legal to begin with. You know, had they won, they wouldn't be saying that, but if it was illegal now, it sure as shootin' was illegal before they put it to the vote and should have been questioned then. I'd say these pillars of tolerance sure are sore losers.

But I am impressed with the Catholic Bishop who wrote this:


Thank you for a sensible voice in a time of turmoil!

Also, this is the LDS Church's statement on the issues:


"SALT LAKE CITY 7 November 2008 The Church issued the following statement today:

It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election.

Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States — that of free expression and voting.

While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information. "

And you should read this one, too:


I love the way the Church responds to things. There is no sign of being intimidated, or just taking the abuse with no response, but also there is no fight. Elder Hales talked about this in conference, and it is a worthy goal for all of us, not just with people who are throwing fits in our direction, but also with our own families, siblings, and personal contacts in normal daily life. You can read the talk here:


Friday, November 07, 2008

persecution--and a sad show of civic irresponsibility

This will be short because I don't want to jump into the fray. I'm just wondering why it's not okay to persecute homosexual minorities, but it's completely okay to persecute religious minorities?

I have emailed at least 2 major media outlets today requesting they correct misinformation about the LDS church they were passing off as fact.

And what happened to the concept of responsible democratic processes, meaning 'we vote and abide by the majority decision even if we lose'? Isn't that the point of having a vote? How is it okay to insist on a vote if we're sure we will win, but refuse to let someone else win? Is our government that far gone? Or is it just that the media is?

I mean, I, personally, am pretty sure that the democrats are the wrong party to have in power when there is an economic crisis, but you don't see me out attacking abortion clinics and jumping on police cars, or making commercials that are deeply offensive to a large minority group's sacred sensibilities. Really, if I made a commercial about lesbians persecuting mormons, I'd probably be charged with a hate crime. It certainly wouldn't be allowed to air on TV.

The fallout from Proposition 8 is pretty straightforward emotional abuse, designed to harass and intimidate people for expressing themselves. This is scary because studies have shown that many people already are afraid to express opposition to gay marriage because they're fearful of being labeled 'discriminatory.'

The thing that has me most appalled about the whole situation is not just that the losers are getting away with it, but also that the media outlets are openly, unabashedly siding with them against not only the majority in California, but also the majority across the nation--and they've got so many people so intimidated of offending the liberals (it's okay to offend conservatives and white men) that nobody is calling them on it!

And how on earth do they think boycotting Utah (which is only 60-something-percent Mormon) will accomplish anything? It was California that voted to offend them, if you insist on looking at it that way, and the Mormons are a world-wide church, with far more members outside Utah than in.

And can you imagine the media and legal storm there would be if someone tried to insist that we boycott all blacks? Or Jews?

Shame shame shame on a country that puts the will of the minority above the will of the majority, and favors the rights of one minority group over all others.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Guest Blogger Post....

I was guest blogger here today:

Go look!

writing sample: The Poison Spindle Problem

I have often talked about writing on my blog, and the joys and frustrations of looking for an agent, but I don't think I've actually posted some of my fiction on here before. So I decided I ought to correct that failing. Here, for what it's worth, is the first chapter of The Poison Spindle Problem, as it stands now. This chapter has given me hours and hours of agony as I've rewritten it at least 2 dozen times and never been happy with the balance between introducing the main character and getting to the action. (If it's all character, you don't go beyond the first chapter because nothing is happening. If it's all action, you don't go beyond the first chapter because you have no reason to care what happens to the heroine....As Winnie the Pooh would say, "Bother.") I'm still not sure I got it right, but I think we're finally on the right track.

Don't feel obligated to read this if you don't want to (I usually don't want to read other people's fiction, either); likewise, don't feel obligated to comment or offer suggestions--I am so tired of rewriting that I likely won't do anything about them (other than read them, which I will do) unless you happen to be a reputable editor or literary agent.

So, without further blabbing....

Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time

Kate hefted the last box—this one full of antique books from her private collection--onto the heap in the living room and looked around. Uncle Stan had replaced Grandma’s lace curtains with blinds, but, save Kate’s pile of boxes in the middle of the faded floral rug, the rest of the apartment looked the same as it had when Grandma Clark had lived there, only not quite as clean. Even the old green “grasshopper couch” Grandma had had before she went to the rest home was right where it had been Kate’s whole life. She remembered leaning over the back of that couch when she was a kid, pressing her forehead against the tall second-story windows, watching the cars go by on Center Street while the grownups talked.

Kate felt like she was trespassing.

The apartment would probably be great, once she got used to it.

She went into the kitchen and turned on the light. Grandma’s chrome-and-yellow-Formica table, purchased brand new in 1950, still stood in the middle of the room. The cheerful yellow gingham she’d papered her ceiling with was more gray than cheery now, and it was peeling in the corners. One white-painted cupboard stood open, revealing a few mismatched dishes and a shelf full of random cans of food.

Lightning flashed outside, and Kate suddenly thought about all of Uncle Stan’s personal stuff that was left in the apartment--his clothes in the closets, his pillow on the bed, his old jug of milk rotting in the fridge.

What was she supposed to do with a dead man’s stuff, anyway?

She turned off the light, locked up, and went downstairs to the store, twisting her waist-length blond hair into a thick coil at the back of her head and grabbing it with a plastic “bear claw” as she went.

Melba, the bookstore manager and Kate’s new boss (even though Kate now owned the place), was talking to a skinny wannabe cowboy who looked like he was about thirty-five and had never even smelled a horse before.

“Do you think she’ll like this?” the cowboy asked, setting a copy of The Annotated Mother Goose on the counter. The white fringe on his red plaid shirt hung smooth and straight except for a single strand that was snagged on one of the mother-of-pearl snaps. He combed his wavy brown hair back with his open hand. Kate could see sweat darkening his armpits, despite the fact that it was chilly outside and in.

Kate joined Melba behind the counter and started collecting scattered books, the rejects and returns of the day.

“It’s a little hefty for a six-year-old,” Melba said.

“She’s not your average six-year-old. She read this in one day,” the man said. He set an almost new hardback copy of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz on the counter beside the first book. “That’s why I want to trade it in.”

“She might enjoy the Mother Goose, then,” Melba said. “With the trade, it’ll be six fourteen.”

Pulling a leather wallet out of the back pocket of his tight jeans, the man extracted six perfectly smooth, crisp dollar bills and fourteen unusually shiny pennies and set them on the counter. “So when did you start hiring beautiful princesses to work in the store?” he asked, gazing at Kate and leaning on the counter in a studied way that Kate guessed he had seen on TV and practiced at home, hoping to appear both charming and casual.

“This is our new owner,” Melba said with unusual reserve. She dropped his book into a bag and handed him the receipt.

“What happened to Stan?” the man asked.

“Plane crash.”

Unfazed by the news, he kept gazing at Kate. “You don’t look old enough to own a business,” he said with a smile.

“I’m in college,” Kate said. Melba shot her a look that made her stop talking.

Apparently satisfied that she wasn’t jail bait, he smiled a smile that matched his lean—studied, but neither charming nor casual. “Most pretty coeds aren’t interested in running a used bookstore. You must love to read,” he said.

“Actually,” Kate said, “I don’t like to read much anymore, but I love books. I’ve been collecting them for years. Just yesterday I got a copy of a 1942 booklet about arranging flowers, except the last chapter is about how to arrange and serve bottles of Coke. How can you not get a kick out of that?”

The man laughed.

Melba wasn’t smiling. “Closing time, Jake,” she said.

“Go ahead and lock up. I’ll help you tidy up and then take the trash out the back when you’re ready to leave,” Jake said. “Alleys aren’t safe for women, but I...”

Melba didn’t even wait for him to take a breath before she cut in. “We’re skipping the usual stuff tonight,” she said quickly and firmly. “I have to pick up my son at the airport. But thank you for the offer. See you next week?”

“I’ll be here, rain or shine,” Jake said, picking up his bag. “Nice to meet you, Princess.”

Melba followed Jake to the door and locked it behind him.

Kate watched him jaywalk across Center Street. The old two- and three-story buildings across from the bookstore were partially obscured by leafless maples that stood in a gray row down the middle of the street. Rusty dry leaves blew past, piling up against the green metal trashcan that stood on the sidewalk outside. With a rumble of thunder, the rain that had been threatening all day started to fall, splashing against the windows and turning a month’s worth of dust into muddy splotches and streaks.

“He seems nice,” Kate said absently.

“Jake? You don’t want anything to do with Jake. He irons his bills, polishes his pennies, and is fifteen years older than you,” Melba said.

“Nobody polishes pennies,” Kate said.

Melba handed her one of the shiny coins. It was minted in 1987. Bizarre. “What a waste of time,” Kate said.

“Uh-huh. Just be careful,” Melba said. “Falling in love is usually more trouble than it’s worth.”

“Who said anything about love?” Kate asked, taken aback. “Didn’t you notice the sweat tacos he was sporting?” She hoped the disgust was evident in her voice. “I wouldn’t mind falling in love, of course, but Jake belongs on a dude ranch with all the other dudes from the half-way house.”

Melba laughed. “You said he was nice,” she reminded her.

“I know,” Kate said. “I was looking for something to say that wouldn’t offend you or anyone else who might be in the store, since he appears to be a regular source of income for us. Besides, even if he hadn’t been…weird…I thought it wasn’t kosher to let customers pick up on you while you were working.”

“I don’t think you are going to have much choice. The guys will try whether it’s kosher or not,” Melba said. “Might be good for business, though, to have the guys on campus realize you’re here.”

Kate blushed and looked past the displays of antique books in the front window to the rain pelting the cars parked outside. People always said stuff like that to her, but it was all talk and wishful thinking. Stuff like that might have happened in ‘50s movies and fairytales, but it didn’t happen in real life.

Melba finished counting the sparklingly polished change into the drawer and turned to Kate. “All moved in?” she asked.

“My stuff is upstairs now,” Kate said, finally looking away from the dusty display in the front window. She wondered why she hadn’t noticed before that it never changed. She thought maybe one or two of the books had been replaced—probably when the originals were purchased by some collector—but mostly they looked like they’d been sitting there for twenty years. She’d never really paid attention to the condition of the store before, but now that she owned it, she was noticing a lot of things—things that had been that way for so long, she didn’t know if she could do anything about them. “I’m not sure I’ll get it all unpacked right away,” she added.

“I can come up and help later tonight if you want,” Melba said.

“No, thanks,” Kate said, running her hand along the edge of the smooth mahogany counter. The counter was original to the building, and it was darkened with time, polished with use, and beautiful. Kate had always thought it looked a little like a bar from a saloon in an old movie. “The apartment’s not really ready for me to live in yet. Stan’s stuff is still up there, and the whole place needs to be cleaned. I think I’ll go back to my mom’s house until I can get the apartment fixed up some.”

“I thought your parents were in England supervising a study abroad,” Melba said, picking up her book and putting it in her purse.

“They are,” Kate said. “But my brother, Michael, is watching their house while they’re gone. I think the apartment could use a good coat of paint and a serious carpet cleaning, and I want to drag him back here and get his input before I do anything to the old family home.”

“Well, if Michael has time between med school and his wedding preparations, you and he might think about ripping out that old carpet instead of cleaning it,” Melba said. “Stan told me there’s a solid oak floor underneath.”

That actually sounded like a fun project. “We’ll look into it,” Kate said.

“I’m already late picking my son up at the airport, and I still have to drop the deposit by the bank, so I need to get out of here. Do you mind shutting everything down?” Melba asked, putting on her sweater as if the question were already answered.

“Sure,” Kate said.

“Be careful,” Melba warned. “Don’t let anyone in, even if you know them. Jake is notorious for coming back on some pretense or other and then wanting to stay and ‘help’ while he talks your ear off.”

“He’s crazy,” Kate said.

“You never know,” Melba said. “And he’s not the only regular who raises eyebrows. So just be careful. You didn’t park in that alley did you?”

Kate nodded. That was where Stan’s permanent reserved spot had been.

“Don’t go out if anyone’s there,” Melba said. “Jake may be weird, but he’s right about alleys not being safe for women.”

“Are you sure you want me to lock up? Sounds like a two-woman job at least.”

“Usually is, but you’ll be fine this once. Just be careful,” Melba repeated again. Slinging her purse over her shoulder, she unlocked the front door and stepped out into the gusty wind.

Kate locked the door behind her employee-boss and watched her hop into her car as thunder rumbled again. It wasn’t late, but it was already getting dark. She turned off the main lights and went back around the counter to shut down the computer.

Lightning flashed, making creepy shadows appear on the walls just for an instant. Kate stared out at the bare branches of the maples that were waving in the wind in front of the yellow streetlight. They were suitably creepy for October, especially when she was alone, surrounded by hundreds of dusty old books. A dark figure staggered past outside, bumping into the front window. Startled by the noise, Kate jumped. Nervously, she watched the man move on into the wind. Lightning flashed again, briefly illuminating another man, this one hovering in the shelter of the bookstore entryway taking a drink from a bottle that was mostly hidden inside a wrinkled paper bag.

What was Melba thinking leaving her alone in a creaky old building with glass doors and no security gate?!

Kate dug her keys out of her pocket and headed into the labyrinth of mismatched shelves, dodging haphazard piles of books that were scattered here and there. She could finish tidying up the front of the store tomorrow. It wasn’t worth the risk tonight.

As she stepped over yet another cascade of books that had completely overwhelmed their disintegrating cardboard box, Kate realized the apartment wasn’t the only thing that needed updating. The whole building could probably stand to be fixed up. But what could she do? It had always been like this.

In the back of the store, hidden in the shelves and books, Kate felt safely invisible. Even if Jake came back, he’d think she was gone for the night. And this spot, as far from the front door as you could get without leaving the bookstore, was comfortingly familiar to Kate. She had spent hours here as a child, undisturbed while she perused the fairytales and dreamed of magic and princesses. It was like her own private hideout, full of books and happy memories. She’d probably made some of these piles of books herself years ago.

Still, she wished she hadn’t parked in the alley. What if Jake or some off-kilter alley rat were waiting just outside? They certainly seemed to be hovering around the front door, so why not the back? But the car was in the alley, and it was safer to go out this way than walk the length of the alley in the dark.

Kate wiggled Stan’s old brass key into the lock and swung the door open. Then, puzzled, she poked her head through and looked both ways. Admittedly, she had never come out of the bookstore this way. Family members always used the private entrance on the side of the building. And she hadn’t come in this way this afternoon when she arrived--she’d parked the car in the alley, but carried her boxes around to the private entrance so she wouldn’t disturb the customers.

Nonetheless, she had been certain this was the back door. Everyone called it the back door. There was a glowing “exit” sign over it.

But this was definitely not the alley.

She was standing on the threshold of a small room overflowing with old books. Her personal collection looked like garbage compared to the beautiful leather- and cloth-bound volumes that lined the walls and lay in piles on the floor. The only other doorway in the room was hung with a faded red velvet curtain. That wasn’t the alley door either.

How could she have practically grown up in the family bookstore and not known about this? She thought of all the times that Grandpa had set aside valuable new arrivals to show her before he put them up for sale to collectors across the globe. Why hadn’t he brought her back here? Someone should have at least mentioned it!

Leaving her keys dangling in the door, Kate headed in to examine the treasure-trove. She was just reaching out to touch a thick, leather-bound volume with gold lettering on the spine, “Classification of Creatures by Discoursal Ability,” when there was a small shuffling noise behind her.

“Princess?” a man’s voice said.

Kate spun around to find a dark figure standing in the shadows in the corner behind the door. Jake? He must have gone around to the alley and come back in that way. Fully expecting him to say, “Let me walk you to your car,” Kate said firmly, “The bookstore is closed.”

Somewhere beyond the red curtain, a bell tingled, and a man’s voice echoed hers, “The bookstore is closed.”

Also beyond the curtain, a woman’s voice replied, “Do you know the alarm is ringing?”

What alarm was she talking about? There was no alarm ringing.

“Get in,” the man in the shadow said urgently, stepping forward and gesturing to a wooden crate in the corner behind him.

“Are you talking to me?” Kate asked, pointing to herself, her heart pounding.

“You’re going to get us all killed!” the man said with panic in his voice. He stepped forward again, this time into the dim green light that spilled from the exit sign above the door. Jake must have picked up some warmer clothes from his car—a long, ragged cloak hung from his shoulders, and a peaked hat, like the Pied Piper wore in storybook illustrations, obscured his face.

“Go home, Jake,” Kate said, trying to sound authoritative.

“Who is Jake?” the man said, looking over his shoulder.

Without another word, Kate turned to rush back through the door toward the front of the bookstore, but the stranger grabbed her from behind, clamping a strong hand over her mouth. She squirmed, her screams coming out as squeaks against her attacker’s sweaty palm as he dragged her back toward the corner. With a swift movement, he tossed Kate into the large wooden crate.

“Make any noise at all and you’ll die,” he warned, and then he dropped a heavy wooden lid down over her.

Too scared even to wiggle into a more comfortable position, much less to scream, Kate forced herself to breathe slowly so she wouldn’t hyperventilate. She heard the door slam, the key grinding in the old lock. Then there was movement on the lid of her prison-crate, and she heard what sounded like someone eating an apple and turning the pages of a book right over her head. She heard footsteps, and the smell of Christmas unexpectedly filled the air, spicy and sweet like gingerbread men fresh from the oven.

Suddenly, a woman’s voice startled her. “You won’t mind if I check the back room, will you.” It wasn’t really a question, and the cruel condescension in the voice sent chills down Kate’s spine. If the threat of death hadn’t stopped her from crying out, that woman’s voice would have.

“Why are you here after the store is closed?” the woman demanded a moment later.

“I’m reading,” said the cloaked man’s voice over Kate’s head.

“He writes reviews for me,” the other man’s voice added.

There was the sound of someone flipping pages, and then the woman said, “Who is Orson Scott Card? I guess someone named Card might be qualified to write a book about a game, but this looks like utter nonsense to me. And if you’re just back here reading, why did the alarm go off?”

“I didn’t hear any alarm,” the cloaked man said.

“Of course you didn’t. It only rings in the castle,” the woman replied.
Castle? What was she talking about?

“Then only the people in the castle know why it was ringing,” the cloaked man said.

“Don’t be smart at me,” the woman snapped back, “or I’ll rip your eyeballs out and eat them on the spot.” Kate stifled a gasp. She sounded serious.

“The alarm rings when this door is opened,” the other man explained quietly.

“Well you should have told me that in the first place!” the cloaked man said jovially. “Of course I opened the door. I had to use the alley.”

“For what?” the woman demanded.

“I drank a little too much cider.”

“You got me out of bed because you had to…” the woman seethed.

“I didn’t get you out of bed,” the cloaked man interrupted calmly. “The alarm did. If I had gotten you out of bed, I would have piped you to your death in the stream or locked you in a mountain like I do to all the other vermin people hire me to get rid of. I also do weddings. Care to dance?”

The man wasn’t just dressed up—he was actually playing the Pied Piper! What was this, some kind of Halloween trickery? It was the right month for it. Kate heard a light shriek and then quick footsteps leaving the room.

There was a little shuffling overhead, and then, “Are we supposed to wait for Stan?” The whisper in a knothole near her ear made her jump and she bumped her head. It sounded like they were talking to her. Stan? Did they mean her uncle?

“Stan is dead,” Kate said. Suddenly she realized these people had probably been waiting for him, not her. Perhaps she should have shown more tact in the announcement. Of course, they hadn’t shown much tact in locking her in this box.

There was a pause, a jangle of keys, and then the Pied Piper’s voice said, “Let’s get out of here before they come back.”

Out of the crate? That would be a welcome change. Before who come back? Where were they going?

She heard the door open. With a jolt, the crate was lifted and carried, lopsided, a short distance. Kate’s heart sank. They weren’t going to let her out, after all. Air seeping through the cracks felt cold and moist. They were outside. And it wasn’t raining anymore.

How did they get outside? It felt like they’d come back into the bookstore.
There was a scraping sound under her—wood against wood--and then a voice warned to keep quiet, “or else!”, and then everything was still.

Kate tried to slow her panicked brain so she could think. Yes, she was being kidnapped, but it was by people who knew her uncle.

But were they friends of her uncle, or people who wanted him dead? Kate took a deep breath.

What kind of scheme would Uncle Stan have been involved in? Not drugs, knowing him. It seemed unlikely anyone in the government would be dressed as the Pied Piper on an assignment. And why would someone waiting for Stan, knowing they got the wrong person, take her anyway? Unless they thought she knew whatever it was they wanted Stan for. And what was it they wanted Stan for? “That is the question,” her dad would say, making sure she knew he was quoting Hamlet.

Shivering in the fall air, Kate wriggled until she was lying on her side curled in a tight ball to keep warm. Her heart sank as she realized that nobody was going to miss her and come looking. Dad and Mom were off for the next six weeks touring poets’ graves with Dad’s English Lit classes, and Michael and Melba each thought she was checking in with the other. She doubted any of them knew about Stan’s appointment with the Pied Piper, anyway. Maybe Stan hadn’t even known the Pied Piper would be there, waiting in the back of the bookstore.

With a little jerk, the crate started moving, bouncing and swaying in time to the steady clop-clop of…horse hooves? Kate swallowed a sob. She knew what happened to most girls who got kidnapped. Maybe if she cooperated, they would let her live.