Tag Archives: dena.netherton.me

I Miss My Grandparents

My grandmother was born in 1900, and grew up on a farm outside the very tiny town of Anita, Iowa.

Her mother had died when she was a girl. Her father needed a wife to take care of the domestic duties and to mind the six children, so he advertised and married a woman “in name only.”

This new wife, in time, became much beloved by the children, and eventually Grandmommy’s daddy, too. Soon, their marriage became a real love story.

Grandmommy watched her brothers travel to Berkeley, California to study at the University. Since she was anxious to escape the farm environment that held her a prisoner (Oh, she wanted excitement and glamour), she followed them to UC Berkeley to get her college degree…and a husband. My grandmother was a beautiful woman and many guys wanted to marry her. But she sensibly chose my grandfather, Jay Reed, a man with good moral character, a strong work ethic (he, too, had grown up on a farm), and business ambition.

(That’s my grandmother, in the center of the photo, with her siblings. Still good-looking even at the age of fifty!)

Granddaddy eventually became the CEO of a successful import/export firm in San Francisco, and a few years before World War II broke out he bought a lovely home in an exclusive district in the city.

But the farm ethic was strong in both of them.

In one corner of the garage, they had an old wash and rinse tub with a wringer overhanging the tub. On Mondays, the two of them would dunk their laundry in the steaming tub and wait while the old machine slowly churned. Granddaddy always made us stay well away of the tub and the wringer. He was super cautious about everything that could possibly endanger us. They put the laundry items through the wringer, then the rinse, then the ringer again. Even years after Granddaddy died, my grandmother kept that old washing machine.

After the wringer,everything got hung on a wire that Granddaddy had strung down the length of the garage. Grandmommy had a contraption call a mangle. Some of you older people know what that is. Her sheets and table cloths and napkins had been heavily starched, and then they would go through the mangle for pressing.

A coal man used to deliver coal and set it in a bin in their garage. On cold days, Granddaddy would tote a big lump upstairs for their fireplace.

Granddaddy worked in the financial district of San Francisco right at the bottom of all those impossible hills that cable cars climb. He rode the street cars there and back, and when he arrived home, Grandmommy would have his favorite bourbon and soda and some little appetizers ready for him. They’d sit in the lanai (a kind of sun room) and talk for about an hour while Granddaddy’s favorite chicken was baking in the oven.

Their life was predictable and organized, quiet, and unemotional. They had rules, which we followed without question. One did not question people of that generation.

No running in the house. No yelling. No “unglamorous frowns.”

Put your wraps in the closet immediately. In fact, everything in its place.

No feet on furniture.

Do not touch Grandmommy’s international dolls in the linen closet.

And especially…do not sit in Mr. Howell’s chair. Ever. Grandmommy had explained who Mr. Howell was, but that memory had become buried or lost by early childhood mental pruning We didn’t dare ask for a re-telling of the story of Mr. Howell and the reason for my grandparent’s devotion to his memory.  Still, we never touched Mr. Howell’s chair, even though the man had long since passed away.

My grandparents had lived a long time, and even though they didn’t tell too many stories from the old days, we knew their brain’s mental archives had shelved a wealth of them.

Granddaddy played the piano sometimes, usually at the end of a dinner party. He especially liked to play 1920 era pop duets with my uncle Harold. I loved the funny old lyrics. Granddaddy put his heart into his playing, which was about the only time he let emotion show.

I loved my grandparents and respected them. I loved their rules, even the ones that didn’t make sense, because I knew their wisdom far exceeded mine.

I miss the days of respect for older people. For the old memories and stories, the lovely rules of etiquette, the way men tipped their hats and held doors and carried packages for women,  the culture that makes no sense to the younger generation, the civility, the expectation of good behavior, and the censure of wrong speech and actions.

Do you feel sad, too, for the loss of that generation?

 

 

 

Hate To Write Bios

 

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Today, I was tasked with writing two bio’s, a short one and a longer one for my publisher. Really short is not so hard because there’s so little you can say. You just write, “Dena Netherton used to sing and teach, but now she writes. Here’s what she writes…”

Bada bing, bada boom.

The slightly longer bio is harder. Because, if it were a really long bio I could write all sorts of boring stuff that you really don’t want to read, and it would be okay, ’cause it’s supposed to be long.

But @250 words is challenging. I can’t be boring, but I can’t do the Joe Friday style—”just the facts, Ma’am—” either.

Should I leave out all the usual stuff about being born and raised near San Francisco, where I studied (the Midwest), and where I’ve lived? (Just about everywhere in the continental US.)

The middle-sized bios I don’t like are this kind: “Jane lives in the country with two cats, three dogs, and a grumpy husband. But she loves coffee. Lots of it. In her free time she loves to go to yard sales.”

First of all, I don’t have a dog or a cat (please don’t come down on me; I love animals, particularly donkeys), and my husband is perfectly lovely. I’m not a particularly interesting person, either. On the plus side, I have musical talent, a high IQ, and I’m told my stories are pretty exciting. And I find everyone fascinating, so I’m good at listening.

On the negative? I’m short and looking older every time I pass the mirror. I love donuts, but I shouldn’t. Things stress me out because I’m a perfectionist. My memory isn’t as good as it was two decades ago.

Some weird things happened to me:

A police officer practically tackled me one dark night in San Francisco because he thought I was intending to bomb a high-ranking city official’s house.

I—a shy, Christian, non pot-smoking gal— road a hippy bus, packed with pot-smoking, skinny-dipping, free-lovin’ hippies cross country. Somewhere between Cheyenne and Lincoln, NE, I got to share my faith with a guy. I still wonder what happened to him.

I’ve been assaulted several times—never seriously, though—while traveling to some of my many musical gigs.

I tumbled down a dark flight of stairs, but some unseen force—obviously an angel— caught me and gently placed me in a seated position on the steps.

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Now that you know these weird facts, you’ll never have to read an entire long bio of Dena Netherton.

But I’m still trying to figure out how to be interesting at under 250 words.

 

 

What If?: Writing Suspense

I have an imagination that seems to be suited for suspense. Maybe it comes from being the youngest child in my family and having to sort out when my bigger siblings were joke-threatening, or when they really meant it.

Disclaimer: I love my brothers and sisters and our sibling disagreements never amounted to more than squabbles. Nothing serious.

For example, when I annoyed my older sister too much, she’d say, “You’re going to get it.”

And I’d say, “Yeah? Well, what are you gonna do to me?”

“Just wait and see.”

She’d make a sudden move toward me—which might start as a wrestle to the floor, followed by an awful tickling session—and I’d squeal and run away.

My older brother left me with worse angst. The kind that comes from not having things fully explained. For a child too young for much abstract thought, my brother’s stories about the horrors of getting a cavity and having a “giant drill” blasting away inside my mouth sent me running to my dad for confirmation. Naturally, I’d pictured the dentist wielding a jackhammer.

And then there was the other story he told me about giant ants who ate people. This was loosely based on a newspaper article about swarms of giant ants attacking villagers in the Amazon. But I didn’t know where the Amazon jungle was when I was five. And my brother didn’t bother to explain that “giant” might have been one inch long, not six feet long. He joked about the ants coming up from my grandmother’s kitchen cabinets to get us at night. I was really scared of cabinets for several years.

Like earlier generations of children fed a nightly story-time of Grimm’s fairy tales, I learned to fear the dark, and what’s around the corner or inside certain cabinets, and to wonder if that horse in the pasture down the road is really just a horse, or an enchanted prince.

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Suspense—whether I’m writing a scene or a chapter or an entire novel— is all about unanswered questions. Now that I’m not wondering about the tall tales my brothers and sisters told me, here are the suspenseful questions I mused about this week. (I particularly like number 5)

  1. Is that religious gal I met at the bookstore for real? What’s behind her smile? Am I a new friend to her, or a potential cult follower?
  2. Do I know my friends well enough to trust them with a secret that means life or death for me?
  3. What if I woke up to find my family has disappeared and everyone insisted I never had a family?
  4. What if my husband were a foreign agent and he only told me this on his deathbed? But he left me with a post office key.
  5. What if anyone you were touching could not die? What if the wrong sort of people found out about your gift? What if they kidnapped you?

 

Do you like to read suspense? Some people read for escape. Is that why you read? What did you wonder about this week?

 

 

 

Above My Pay-Grade

“I gotta tell you, I’m not techy.” Imagine me screaming these words and you get the picture…or the audio.

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My publisher wants me to build my newsletter list. Simple for her. Not so simple for me.

My stomach is in knots, my head hurts, and my eyes are starting to blur.

I’m getting used to an email distribution system. The system instructions say:

“Type the recipient name here.”

Okay, but what about all the other names?”

“Drag this block over here…or wherever you want it.”

But it won’t stay where I put it.

“Upload a photo.” Ugh, it’s too big. How do I resize it?

“You have some text that needs to be removed.”

I go to remove it. “Are you sure you want to delete this text?”

“Cause once you do it, you’ll never ever, ever, ever, ever get it back. So ARE YOU SURE?”

Okay, it’s my first newsletter, so I hope my recipients are going to be understanding, even though I probably put the wrong names at the top of the letter.

Forgive me. I’ll do better next time.

This experience reminds me to show people grace. Just as I would want others to overlook my mistakes and perhaps give me an encouraging word. I’m trying to improve, and I’ll bet you are, too.

It’s good to learn new things. It teaches us humility!

 

 

 

We Love Our Readers Sweepstakes

 

FRONT Havens Flight

Hello Readers!

Several of the authors of Write Integrity Press (me included) are giving one lucky entry of the We Love Our Readers Sweepstakes a free Kindle or a 100 dollar Amazon Gift Card.

The Sweepstakes runs now through September 28th.

To enter, here’s the link:

sweepstakes

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

Tiny, But Powerful

I turned off the news yesterday.

Not gonna watch it for awhile. It’s too distressing. It’s not the tragic stories themselves. It’s that every news media outlet spins the latest occurrences to reflect its own biases. Drives me crazy.

On a personal level, I do the same thing. I wish I could turn off my own tongue, too. My mind is filled with judgments, prejudices, criticisms, harsh words, or snarky comebacks. And my tongue practically pants to articulate those negative thoughts to anyone who will listen.

It’s not that I don’t also have some lovely thoughts, too. Those slip off my tongue like rain from our backyard big-leaf maple, nurturing the shrubs and flowers below.

May I alway rain this way!

Last week, Bruce and I stayed in the Seattle Marriott by the water. The scenes outside our windows thrilled me. To the west I viewed long ferries carrying cars and people to and from Bainbridge Island. To the south, towering office buildings, piers, restaurants, the Ferris Wheel, and beyond, magnificent Mount Rainier. Below, bustling car and pedestrian traffic moved along Alaskan Way.

Out in the sound, a gigantic cargo ship was being escorted south into the Harbor by a tug boat. Bruce and I watched for nearly a half hour, entranced by how such a tiny ship could pull the black behemoth, loaded with box cars. I imagined that the weight disparity between the two boats would be staggering. Yet, the cargo ship submitted to the leading of this tiny boat.

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Then, of course, the verses from James popped into my mind:
“Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body…No man can tame the tongue.” (James 3:4-7 NIV Bible)

In the world of boat and harbors,  a tiny tug boat is a good thing.

But in the heart and mind of a woman who sincerely wants to bless people, my tiny tongue leads me where I don’t want to go.

My tongue expresses the real thoughts and intentions of my heart. It mocks my occasionally self-satisfied state, those days when I think I’ve got it all under control.

“Aha, you super-Christian. You think you’re so mature and godly. Well, if you’re so good, how come you just said what you said?”

And I recognize again, that I simply lean into wrong-doing as easily as a dog to a fire hydrant.

It’s a comfort to know I’m not a lone in my struggle to tame my errant tongue. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul said, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Col. 3:15)

My goal is to sideline my negative speech with words such as these:

  • “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col. 3:16)
  • “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer everyone.” (Col. 4:6)
  • “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” (Psalm 34:1)
  • “Whoever of you lives life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34: 12-14)

What are your favorite verses on the subject?

Where’d That Come From?

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“Where’d you ever come up with the idea for your book?”

I get asked that question at least once a week.

Why would a sweet little old lady write about an evil, delusional man who thinks he has met the re-incarnation of the girl he loved, but murdered?

My answer: I came up with my story idea years and years ago after I read a news article about a teenaged girl who had been abducted by a crazy guy, and taken into the wilderness.

At the time, I was about the same age as this girl, and I kept thinking, “What would I do if this happened to me? How would I survive? Would I be able to keep my wits about me even if I were terrified?

Gradually, over the years, a suspenseful but adventurous story began to percolate through my mind. Bits of my own experiences, scary imaginings, dark dreams, things I have read, suspenseful movies I’ve seen: these all contributed to the formulation of Haven’s Flight.

Can you imagine being lost in the densely forested Cascade Mountains, being injured, running from a man with murder on his mind? He’s got all the odds in his favor. He knows the woods, he’s an expert hunter and tracker, he’s big and strong, and he never seems to tire.

But Haven has more in her favor than she thinks.

She’s got a big, strong God who has promised never to leave her or forsake her.

Find out more about Haven here:

Have you ever doubted God’s ability, or willingness to come to your rescue?

Remember this: “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him.” (Psalm 91:14, 15)