Monday, February 28, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again

It's been nearly five years since we turned off the red neon leaf that hung over the entry of our happy, happy bookstore.

Today I went into the toy store that moved in after us for the very first time.

Five years ago I was unprepared for the emotional toll it would take on me to spend three months publicly dismantling our business, and I was even more unprepared for how lost I would feel for so long after it was closed.

Only recently have I felt I've begun to regain my footing.

So today, when Jack asked me to take him to the toy store because he knew they'd have what he was looking for, I took a deep breath and decided I was ready.

There was barely a trace of our old space. And it was okay! Truly, truly okay.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"It's a Major Award! And I Won It!"

Look what we have in our front window!

Sadly (because who wouldn't want a leg lamp in the front window?), it's only a temporary home for it. Roger will be sneaking it in to work early in the morning to surprise a coworker.

The leg itself, originally part of a full human form, was made for an exhibit at BYU that never saw the light of day. The reasons for that are shrouded in mystery.

Apparently all that remains is the leg. Which, of course, screamed "leg lamp"!

(If you don't know the hilarious origin of the leg lamp, click here to watch the clip from the movie The Christmas Story.)

So yesterday we went to Ikea and found a lamp on clearance, stopped at Hobby Lobby to pick up the gold fringe, then stopped by Roger's office to pick up the leg, which he had been storing under his desk for just this moment.

Roger put it all together in a complex operation that involved drills and wire splicing and hot gluing and a bit of physical pain. Et voila!

I wish I could be a fly on the wall when Roger's coworker discovers it on his desk. This is the stuff of leg-ends, er, legends.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It Was a Big One

Today we went to our friend Scott's 50th birthday surprise party. He is the first of my college friends to turn 50. Crazy!

Just for the record, Scott is a few years older than me, which reminds me of a great birthday card I saw once. On the front a couple of friends are talking and one says, "I know. Let's get older!" Then on the inside the other one replies, "You go first!"

Thanks for paving the way, Scott!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Meeting Ashley

My nephew Tim, who is in graduate school in Boston (excuse me while I pause for a moment of pure envy), got married to Ashley last fall.

I haven't had a chance to meet Ashley in person yet, but am happy that she let me friend her on facebook sight unseen. Especially because today she posted a link to her new blog, in which she writes about her student budget dollar-a-day "splurges" designed to avoid true budget busting splurges. Her personality shines through, and I love the little glimpses of her Boston neighborhood.

What a fun way to get to know her before I meet her!

Plus there's this: I've put off getting a wedding present for Tim and Ashley (according to the "rules," I have a year, right?) because I want to pick something that will suit them. Even if it ends up being an impersonal gift card, I want it to be a gift card for a store they'd really like to shop at. Her blog is going to give me all sorts of ideas!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Accessory Impaired

I am generally accessory impaired.

Except for my wedding rings on my left hand, a friendship ring on my right, and (yes!) a toe ring that I always wear, I rarely wear jewelry. Maybe the odd bracelet or string of pearls. And once in a while I try to get earrings through the disappearing holes in my ears. I don't even own any belts.

Accessories never feel quite right on me.

Lately I've been a bit envious of the scarves my friends wear. They look so hip. Like maybe they've just come home from a weekend in Paris.

I want to look hip and like I've just come home from Paris. So I bought a scarf and I wore it for the first time today.

I'm afraid I am still just as accessory impaired as I've always been. Even after doing a bunch of research online, I couldn't figure out a way to tie it that didn't make me feel extra voluminous or make my collar go all wiggy, so I just let it hang around my neck. It didn't really make me feel hip.

Maybe what I really need is to actually go to Paris for the weekend.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Packing a Lifetime into a Lunch

I had lunch today with an old friend I haven't been in touch with for maybe 20 years. She started a new job at Utah Valley University a few months ago, and I headed over to meet her at the Hogi Yogi in the student center after classes today.

So fun to catch up with her!

I loved hearing about her on again off again transatlantic relationship with the Irishman she eventually married. They knew each other in grad school in Utah, and then met again a few years later. They dated awhile but things petered out. She was about to take a job in Seattle when he called to say let's try again. She flew to Ireland to see him figuring she'd end things once and for all, but a spark lit them on fire again. Two children later, they're still going strong.

And the whole time I had no idea all that was happening. I want to find all my old friends and hear their stories. Just think about all the living that's been going on all these years!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I have learned far too many times that procrastination can pay off. I can't even count the number of times I have put off a task only to find it wasn't necessary after all. Or the number of times I have put a task off and then discovered a better way to approach it. Or the number of times taking care of a task in a timely fashion would have actually created more work.

It's not a particularly good lesson for someone who tends to procrastinate.

Today I learned that lesson (yet again) in an unusual way--by actually doing something without putting it off first. I was cooking dinner and decided to empty the dishwasher while I waited for some water to come to a boil. The dishwasher had just barely completed its final cycle.

Let's just say that I will be waiting for the dishes to cool off from now on. My fingertips are still feeling the trauma.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Witching Hour

I am actually going to turn out the light and go to sleep before midnight tonight. It's true!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rationalizing Rations

I caught Jack's cold.

Feeling sorry for myself, I rationalized, "I deserve a treat!" (even though I had already snarfed down a couple of fun-size Snickers bars and four Golden Oreos earlier in the day).

So I cracked open a box of Peppermint Crunch Junior Mints that I got in my stocking for Christmas and gave them a try for the first time.

A tasty treat, but I think I prefer my Junior Mints smooth. That said, the box of Peppermint Crunch will be gone by the end of the week.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This Explains the High Notes

Not sure how I missed this tidbit in the past 47 years, but did you know that the tune of The Star-Spangled Banner was originally a popular British drinking song? I learned that today.

I'm going to tuck that knowledge away next to things like the fact our Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist and the irony of Patrick Henry saying "Give me liberty or give me death"** when he was a slave owner.

I downright revel in the rich complexity of our nation's history that is, well, human. Let me have it in all of its paradoxical glory. None of that one-dimensional lore for me!

**Click here to play an actual 9 second recording of me reciting a line about Patrick Henry in my sixth-grade bicentennial choir performance. Yes, it's really me. Feel free to laugh at my accent.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Then and Now

One of my students just emailed me a makeup assignment because he missed class today. He wasn't in class because he is in Nicaragua for a week. He is visiting a friend who is working construction at a new resort there. He will be spending his days on a surf board.

This is the first time I've ever had a student submit an assignment from another country. I confessed I was jealous when I emailed a reply.

Before he left, we talked about how Nicaragua was not exactly a vacation destination when I was in college in the early 80s. During those years of counter-revolution in the aftermath of revolution, however, several of my more radical family members (including my 80-year-old grandmother) traveled to Nicaragua for political and humanitarian purposes (not necessarily in support of official U.S. interests).

As an international relations undergrad and because I was intrigued by the work my grandmother and cousins were involved with, I ended up writing several papers about U.S. foreign policy toward Nicaragua and human rights issues there. My grandmother even flew out from Chicago to speak about her experiences with Witness for Peace in Nicaragua at a peace symposium I helped organize at BYU (my own small but passionate attempt at being radical).

If I'd had a chance to go to Nicaragua as a college student, I'd have jumped at it. But I'm not sure surfing would have been on the itinerary then.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Judy's House, Joe's Luggage

Earlier tonight I picked up my friend Emolyn under the rising full moon and it followed us all the way to our friend Judy's house for book club.

I've never been to Judy's house before! What a pleasant place to spend a few hours with interesting women discussing Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (which I recommend) and catching up on all of their various adventures.

The fat full moon reminded me of a favorite scene from Joe vs. the Volcano in which Joe is lost at sea, floating on steamer trunks he's lashed together. Basking in the company of good friends and intelligent conversation reminded me to be thankful, like Joe, for my life.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Serious Turn

Heartbreaking news this week here, here and here. And just in the last few weeks I've had three students write about or talk in class about similar situations in their own lives.

I work hard to put myself in other people's shoes, to try to understand how they see the world. But I don't know how to understand this. I mean really understand it, not just intellectually know the reasons.

How do people get to a place where they feel free to wreak havoc on a person's mind and spirit by wreaking havoc on their bodies?

I have personally never considered myself a victim of abuse, but it astounds me that when I think back over my own life, I need at least two hands to count the number of times boys and men--unequivocally uninvited--have crossed darn inappropriate lines with me, including three that actually broke laws currently on the books.

Two hands! That's not okay!

When I was in graduate school, I focused my studies in political science on public policy. I worked in the Utah County Attorney's office and wrote a thesis evaluating a Utah statute designed to minimize trauma to children testifying in abuse cases. After graduating, I continued to be involved as a volunteer with the interagency Utah County Child Abuse Council, which ultimately founded the Children's Justice Center in Provo.

For years I was steeped in a whole lot of reality. And while there has been legitimate push back against things like false allegations of abuse in custody battles and people recovering false memories, there have been far, far too many real perpetrators and real victims.

What gives me hope is that I have seen up close so many people working so diligently to protect adults and children, to stop cycles of violence and abuse. Most valiant among them are victims who tell their stories and who give others hope and perspective that can be healing.

I have to believe all of their efforts are not for naught. But honestly, it's been hard to believe this week.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


A contribution from Jack, who shared this funny trailer parody with me this evening. Thanks for a good laugh, Jack!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be Still, My Beating What?

Valentine's Day brought an unexpected surprise to our house.

Roger found this electronic drum kit for less than half of retail price at one of his favorite websites:

Every night at midnight central time (11:00 p.m. in our neck of the woods), Woot! updates its website with the one product it will be selling for 24 hours or until it's sold out, whichever comes first.

Random stuff, awesome prices and $5 flat-rate shipping no matter what it is. Happy, happy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Common Ground

My grandmother became a Quaker fairly late in life. She was the daughter of Scottish Presbyterian missionaries, the wife of an active Episcopalian, and a life-long skeptic who could never quite bring herself to profess a belief in God, but who remained steadfast in her life-long study of religion. Once I asked my grandmother what she truly believed in. She paused for a minute and said, "world peace."

When I was a teenager, she gave me a slim little volume called The Faith & Practice of the Quakers by Rufus M. Jones. She thought that if I wanted her to learn about my family's religion, I should learn about hers. Like most teenagers would, I thanked her and then tucked the book away somewhere without looking at it. Today, more than 30 years later, I pulled it out and started reading it.

I can see why my grandmother was drawn to the Society of Friends, who were committed to reviving New Testament Christianity, the essence of which they believed had gotten lost over the years in a sea of creed, ritual, and dogma. Quakers focus on peacemaking, alleviating human suffering, light, truth, life, love, redemption. The Reformation wasn't enough for them. They felt it "failed to restore the original spirit, power and authority of the apostolic church."

I wish I'd read that slim little volume before my grandmother died. I think we'd have found a lot of common ground to talk about.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Force Is Strong with This One

Jack picked the topic for today's post.

This is his newest Lego construction project, the Star Wars Imperial Shuttle.

At 2503 pieces and for ages 16+, it is the largest and most complex Lego project he's built so far--probably twice as big as any other.

Jack had to save up his own money to help pay for it, and even though he received a gift card for Christmas that put his earnings over the top, we made him wait until February to order it. He had a lot of Lego under the tree this year, and we thought some pacing would be good for all of us.

It arrived yesterday afternoon, and Jack worked on it straight--except for forced food breaks--until the midnight deadline we set. When he woke up this morning, he went right back to work. The whole project took him about eight hours.

That's a boy with focus. Proud would Yoda be.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Am I a TEDster Now?

I am basking in the after glow of attending my first live TED event at BYU this afternoon. I've been a TED fan for years and have enjoyed watching many of the speakers online at the website. What an awesome new dimension the TEDx concept is!

As someone who believes in the TED mission of spreading good ideas, I liked everything about it. The organizers did a fabulous job, from keeping things running smoothly to selecting inspiring speakers to serving amazing refreshments. Seriously. Fabulous.

Here's just a smattering of what I reveled in:

Innovation and social entrepreneurship. Seeing things in new and often counterintuitive ways. Making unexpected connections. Building relationships. Designing simple, elegant solutions. Honoring the dignity of every human being. Trusting and being trusted. Being bold, not reckless. Believing we are all on the same team.

TEDsters are definitely my kind of people.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dark Thoughts

A couple of days a week, I'm totally booked between 10:30 and 3:00 without any break for lunch. I've been on the lookout for snacks to pack along that are easy to eat and that will tie me over until I get home.

I found these at the grocery store today:
Low fat Quaker Oats dark chocolate cherry granola bars. Mmmm.

I grew up in a predominantly dark chocolate loving family and married into a predominately dark chocolate loving family. I will always choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate, and will generally pass on milk chocolate altogether.

A couple of years ago, I learned a good lesson about strong, enthusiastic family preferences and the pressure that can put on individual family members when Jack approached us very sheepishly with a confession.

"I like milk chocolate better than dark chocolate," he said. And then, encouraged by the fact that we didn't freak out, he went on. "Actually, I don't like dark chocolate at all. Is that okay?"

So okay! And however much I love it, I will always choose that boy over dark chocolate!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My Newest Oldest Hero

An ironic turn of events today in light of yesterday's post.

A few days ago, my 94-year-old neighbor slipped on the ice while she was getting her mail. Her back hurt a bit, but she thought she'd be okay. The pain, however, continued to grow to the point that she couldn't eat or sleep. She ended up in the emergency room this morning.

I stopped by the hospital to check on her after class this afternoon. Two bones in her back were crushed! Another neighbor and I kept her company until they wheeled her off for an ingenious surgical procedure in which an interventional radiologist uses a needle to inject glue to fuse the bones. If it works, she'll be in a lot less pain and walking out of the hospital tomorrow.

While we were waiting and chatting and waiting some more, we joked about the impact this injury would have on her golf game. I asked her when she last played. Turns out it was a mere three years ago, when she was 91!

And on top of that, when I helped her take off her socks, I discovered her toes were painted bright red.

I want to be like her when I grow up.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Meeting for Drinks

At about 10:00 this morning Jack calls from his school's office. Slipped on ice during recess. Leg really, really hurts.

Mean Mom wins out over Enabling Mom. "You can make it through the day, Jack."

About 11:30 the phone rings again. "Please, please come get me. My leg still really, really hurts."

Enabling Mom is wavering, but Mean Mom still thinks she's right. "I'll be there in a half an hour, but no promises."

At noon I pack up a bag with a can of apple beer, two cups and a bottle of Advil. I drive to the school and have the secretary page him. We hang out together in the office for about 20 minutes drinking our soda and having a chat until his lunch break is over.

"So I've got to go back to class?"

"Yeah, you really should."


It's such a relief when Just Right Mom emerges in the nick of time and keeps both Enabling Mom and Mean Mom at bay.

Monday, February 07, 2011


I typically have my alarm set for about 8:00 a.m. It's basically a safety net just in case I don't wake up by then. I usually beat it by at least five minutes.

Yeah. I'm not a morning person.

Last night, though, I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. I needed a couple of extra hours this morning to get some work done.

(Feel free to read between the lines and come to the correct conclusion that yes, I procrastinated, and so I had to pay the price.)

It's true that it's still dark at 6 a.m. this time of year. It's really true. Ugh.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

So Fine

Every Christmas for the last three years, Roger has treated me to a new set of these oh-so-very-satisfying-to-write-with pens to help ease the pain of grading papers.

I broke out this year's brand new pack for a marathon grading session this weekend.

Using bright colors helps make writing things like "comma splice" and "keep verb tense consistent" and "simplify your wording" a little easier. I hope the bright colors make reading things like that a little easier when I give the papers back tomorrow.

Back to work now. I think I'm going to pick orange next.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Ice Castles

(No, this is not a post about Robby Benson.)

Tonight we drove up to see the ice castles in Midway. I have never seen anything like them! It's amazing what a couple of guys can do with some irrigation pipes and freezing temperatures. I'm going to let the pictures speak for me.

Friday, February 04, 2011


I finished a book today.

People who know me (except for people in my book clubs who know better) might not believe that finishing a book is an out-of-the-ordinary experience for me.

But it is.

I have no trouble starting a book. I start books all the time. And now that I have a Kindle and can download free samples of books, I start even more books than ever before. It's not that I lose interest in what I'm reading. It's that I get distracted by the next one, and the next, and the next.

It wasn't always like this. It's possible that owning a bookstore wrecked it for me. So many books + Much desire to be knowledgeable for customers x Seemingly insatiable curiosity ÷ So little time = Loss of all semblance of discipline.

Well, maybe not all. I did finish a book today.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Lucky Rabbits

Tonight we celebrated Chinese New Year at our friends' Chinese restaurant. Our bookstore was right next to the China Cafe for nearly 10 years, and we became friends with the owners and their two sons, who have been like older brothers for Jack.

This is a particularly special Chinese New Year as the year of the rabbit begins. You see, Roger, Jack and I were all born in the year of the rabbit.

According to the placemat at dinner, the following applies to us: "Luckiest of all signs, you are also talented and articulate. Affectionate, yet shy, you seek peace throughout your life."

We are a family of rabbits entering the year of the rabbit. I do believe this means planets will be aligning in our favor.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


I've actually got a lot of out-of-the-ordinary things to report today.

I thought of writing about a discussion we had in class today that led to one student sharing ideas for how to fake a drug test that I had never heard of before. But I decided that wasn't the direction I wanted to take my post. TMI.

I thought of writing about meeting someone who turned out to be my sister-in-law's sister-in-law (she recognized my name). But other than writing that she was very nice and it was fun to meet her, there wasn't much else to tell.

I thought of writing about visiting my 80-something neighbor in rehab and watching her do some serious leg presses with her new knee. But not much else to say other than we had a pleasant visit and I think she's awesome.

I thought of writing about the nerf gun Jack bought with some of his Christmas money and how I never knew they made nerf guns that use batteries. But really all I can say is that it's a pretty intense nerf gun.

At the end of the day, I decided to write about my first ever visit to Five Guys Burgers and Fries (I know!). Extra friendly service: check. Tasty burgers: check (even Jack gushed, which is very unusual). Peanuts in their shells to snack on while you wait for your order: check. Free soda refills: check. Fry sauce: check (A Utah specialty. Do they have it at Five Guys in other states?). Stacks of bags full of Idaho potatoes everywhere: check. The freshest tasting french fries ever: check.

A new go-to place for our whole family: check.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Meeting Hazel

We had the honor of meeting sweet baby Hazel, the girl with the loveliest toes, for the very first time today.

She's heading home from the hospital tomorrow to join her twin older sisters, who are not yet two. This is what I have to say about that: "!"

We couldn't stay long because Hazel was pretty insistent it was time for her dinner. In the few minutes we had to get to know her, it was very clear that she'd be able to hold her own as the smallest member of her family. She's a feisty one!

Congratulations Shelley and Trevor!