Monday, April 30, 2007

Penguins, Otter Pops and Icebergs

As the weather heats up, Jack's imagination has been entrenched in a world of ice and snow. He worked very hard on a written and oral report about penguins for his language arts class at school (he got a 50 out of 50 on the written report!).

He's completely obsessed with the sinking of the Titanic, particularly why it sunk and how it could have been designed differently to keep it from sinking. He announced the other day that if he doesn't grow up to be a Lego engineer, he wants to design ships.

And the other day, he and his friends spent the afternoon selling Otter Pops on the corner. After paying us for cost of goods sold and splitting the proceeds with his friends, Jack pocketed three dollars!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fearless (Part 2)

I have several new heroes who are standing up for what they believe in.

One is Diane Bailey, the president of College Democrats at BYU, who organized the on-campus protest against Dick Cheney's visit (which happened yesterday, by the way). Here's an excerpt from a recent article in The Deseret News.

"The reason there wasn't (a sanctioned political campus protest) for more than 15 years is students assumed it was against school policy, which it's not," she said. "As soon as I heard Cheney was invited, within 10 minutes I was picking up the appropriate forms. The next day I submitted a two-page proposal so I could give it the time for planning and to go up the chain."

Still, she felt pressure not to embarrass an administration that surprised many by approving the protest, or the church to which she is faithful.

"I was so scared," Bailey said. "I threw up that morning."

Wow! I always admire people who go through with something even if it's scary enough to make them puke. (And as an aside, I'm so sad that the political and social climate is such that she'd be as scared as she was. When my hero Roger decided to run for a seat on the Utah County Commission a few years ago as a Democratic candidate, it was that same climate that led us to have serious discussions about possible repercussions for our bookstore. If anyone did decide to take their business elsewhere, they didn't tell us.)

Another hero of mine is my sister-in-law Chris, recently quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune in an article about a campaign that "scuttled a scheme to build an office building in This Is the Place Heritage Park." She stood her ground against big business to help preserve something she loves.

In the end, not even Ivory could stand up to the righteous indignation of people like Christine Graham, a pioneer re-enactor who endured the 1997 sesquicentennial wagon train that ended its journey at the park.

"We have watched with increasingly heavy hearts as park management weighed itself down with inappropriate and unsustainable development," she said with tears in her eyes.
"Probably because it lacks expertise, the park tends to choose pricey 21st-century solutions when 19th century solutions would be much less expensive, far more appropriate, and more satisfying to visitors."

And last but not least, another hero is my nephew Drew Merrell, who voluntarily joined the Army after the war in Iraq started and who is currently serving there. He was recently quoted in a Washington Post article about the struggle to train Iraqi soldiers who aren't being given the tools they need to do their jobs (um, maybe that's a clue leaders both here and in Iraq should pick up on?).

[The Iraqi] soldiers came out with old, rusting AK-47 assault rifles and mismatched uniforms. One soldier wore baby blue running shoes with his beige camouflage gear. Some wore black masks so they wouldn't be recognized in the community. Another soldier tucked silver shears into his chest strap.

"This is one of the more squared-away units," Hill said.

"That's something," quipped Merrell, looking at the soldier with the shears. "The Iraqis are always ready to prune a good hedge."

Drew will be staying in Iraq longer than he expected due to the surge. I pray that he keeps that sense of humor.

Fearless (Part 1)

I'd like to believe that I've lived my life with integrity and that I've never been a hypocrite, but lately I've realized that I put very little effort into standing up for things that I believe in. That needs to change.

A few weeks ago, my friend Millicent called to see if I'd head up an effort to circulate a petition in our neighborhood about school vouchers. I had been working on a big project and hadn't been keeping up on the local news like I usually try to, so I wasn't sure exactly what she was talking about. I mean, I knew the state legislature had routinely been considering a voucher program for the past several years, but I did not know that they had actually passed legislation and that the petition drive was to get the voucher issue on the next election ballot in an attempt to override that legislation.

Generally, I am uncomfortable with petitions. I think people often sign them without really knowing what they are signing. So unless I'm passionate and well briefed about an issue, I'm unlikely to say yes to a request to head up a petition drive in my neighborhood. (I do like the new model of online petitions--people can sign them without feeling pressured to.)

Even though I probably would have turned her down, Millicent's call shook me up. I was embarrassed that I didn't know what she was talking about and that I hadn't really considered my position on school vouchers. But more significantly, I realized that I don't often act on my beliefs. If I was passionate and well briefed on the school voucher issue here in Utah, would I have actually done anything about it?

Well, let's take a look at my commitment to the environment for illumination. I truly believe that human beings are meant to be good stewards of the earth, but I'm not sure my track record reflects that.

Even though I've recycled paper and aluminum cans for years, I have yet to sign up for the not-so-new-anymore city curbside recycling that would allow us to recycle more. I also haven't gotten around to buying reusable grocery bags, nor did I say anything at the grocery store this morning when the bagger put just three oranges in a bag and nothing else. And the oranges were already in a plastic bag!

I'm an incompetent housekeeper who relies on the most potent chemicals I can find to get the grout in my shower clean. I was too lazy to find a more organic solution to lawn fertilizing and bug control this summer, so I finally said "yes, come spray" to the company we've used for the past several years (in my defense they called us relentlessly). And of course I cringed but remained silent when they came, sprayed, and then said to keep children off the lawn for at least 24 hours so it doesn't make them sick. Nevermind the issue of having such a large lawn here in the middle of the desert.

To my credit, Jack and I do have daily discussions about turning off the bathroom light when he's done. If I find it on, I make him come turn it off straightaway, even if he's in the middle of playing with friends. One day he'll develop the habit, won't he?

I hereby renew my commitment to live according to the dictates of my own conscience, even if it scares me.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Skipping the Party

This morning I woke up unable to face a baby shower for three of my neighbors, all of whom had (or, in one case, adopted) baby girls within a week of each other. I was planning to go, but am apparently having an emotionally unbalanced day, so I stayed home.

Over the past months I've been trying to face up to the fact that barring some sort of miracle, Jack will be an only child in our family. While he has half-siblings who are with his birth mom, he will not have anyone to commiserate with about all of the dysfunction Roger and I create in his life.

I have always been ambivalent about motherhood (though I must say that I’m not at all ambivalent about being Jack’s mom—that’s absolutely one of the best things in my life). Growing up I figured I’d have two or three children, and that being a mom would just be a natural part of my life. I didn’t stress about or fear becoming a parent, but I never had a sense of urgency about it either.

When it became fairly clear in my mid-thirties that I probably would never give birth to a child, Roger and I went through the process to adopt Jack. Ironically, Jack was born nine months after the agency approved our application. When Jack was a year old, we went through the process again, but years went by and we never got a call.

Throughout those years, we never made any herculean attempts to grow our family. No medical procedures, no international adoptions, no adopting older children or taking in foster kids. Nothing. We did not feel inclined or inspired to take those extra measures so we didn’t.

Then after Jack started school and Roger and I were firmly in our forties, we let our approval status lapse—in part because there were so many other couples in the pool for so few children and we knew they really hungered for them while we were ambivalent.

I’ve often thought the three of us make a fine family together, and I’ve only rarely yearned for another child despite the fact that I live plunk the middle of a culture that values and encourages large families.

But as I approach my 44th birthday, I realize I’ve got a lot to sort through. Should I have fought my ambivalence and worked harder to have more children? Have I just been lazy and selfish? Aaagh, all of the regret and guilt tied up in that line of thinking!

Or has my ambivalence really been a blessing in disguise—a coping mechanism of some sort? I may well have gone through one herculean effort after another and still ended up with one child. Maybe my ambivalence is a result of knowing deep down inside that I would never really have any control over how many children we have. If I didn’t really care too much, my heart wouldn't break.

Where I think this may lead to in the end is succumbing to Jack’s pleas for a dog. And let me tell you, that’s a big, big leap for me!

Friday, April 06, 2007


My alma mater, BYU, has been in the news this week—lots of furor over the fact that Dick Cheney is going to speak at commencement this month. I am very, very happy that BYU suspended its strict no demonstration policy to allow students to voice their opinions about his upcoming visit.

My personal opinion? I wish BYU would invite more high profile speakers with a wide range of political views. And I wish they hadn't invited such an ethically challenged person to speak at graduation. Commencement should be about the students who worked hard to earn their degrees and who are going out into the world, not about the speaker.

When I think about my time at BYU in the 80s, it didn’t seem so partisan. Or maybe as a native of predominantly Democratic Massachusetts attending college in predominantly Republican Utah, I just saw what I wanted to see.

But as a political science major I hung with as many College Democrats as College Republicans (I am a registered Independent so I felt comfortable floating freely among them all).

I had fabulous professors like Dr. Gary Bryner and Dr. Joe Black (click on link and scroll down until you get to his name). They pushed us to see thorny issues from all angles. I listened to well known national Democrats like Senator Joe Biden who came to speak on campus.

I worked on the annual Peace Symposium committee, and invited my Quaker grandmother to speak about her experiences traveling on a mission of peace to Nicaragua at the age of 80. The auditorium was packed with students who were concerned about US involvement there.

I watched my friend Becky get up exceptionally early for months to coordinate student volunteers serving breakfast at the community food and care coalition (I did help her a little, but not nearly enough). Inspired by her, I wrote bleeding heart articles for the Student Review, the alternative off campus student newspaper, and dreamed of making a difference the world.

Here in Utah I am quite left of center. As a US citizen I’m left of center, though not as dramatically. And I owe much of that to spending many happy formative years at BYU.

Monday, April 02, 2007


I've been distracted from my blog with a big writing project I've been working on, and am today recommitting myself to posting here on a more regular basis. I thought I'd mark the occasion with a snapshot of my current life--something I do in my personal journal from time to time, especially if I haven't written in a while.

Favorite recent Jack quote: "All of my favorite things are having a party in my heart."

Last out-of-town trip: A weekend with Roger and Jack in Moab a few weeks ago. We had fabulous weather and found two fun trails we've never been on.

Current exercise routine: I've become a complete yoga convert, and I'm trying to work up to running three miles in time for a 5k run at the end of May. Spring is here so that also means tennis!

Most persistent food craving: Pancakes made with a little bit of lemon juice and sugar.

Most dreadful thing hanging over my head: Getting our taxes done. I've got to focus on some data entry for the bookstore to bring the books up to date. I just don't want to do it!

Current volunteer projects: (1) Finishing up the last bit of work getting all of the books entered in the computer at Jack's school library and (2) Curating an art exhibit of original children's book illustrations at the Springville Museum of Art in 2008.

Current potential income producing projects: (1) Writing a proposal for a non-fiction book that will hopefully get the attention of a good agent and subsequently a good publisher, and (2) Getting inventory left from our bookstore listed online to sell.

Current job at church: Primary secretary (Primary is our Sunday School program for kids up to the age of 12).

Books I'm reading: Too many to list here. Seriously, I've got at least 30 books stacked near my bed. As a bookstore owner, I developed a bad habit of starting a new book before I've finished the last one and I haven't shaken the habit yet. But the book I've most recently had my nose in is Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos. I like it. And I'm planning to finish it before I read anything else.

Thing I'm most looking forward to: Leaves coming out. I am so, so ready for some green!