Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happily Overwhelmed

I'm not even sure what to write about today. I had one new adventure after the next!

After I dropped Jack off at school I headed up to BYU to meet with Maggie Kopp, who is the curator of the Louisa May Alcott collection at the library. The sizable collection is second only to the collection at the Orchard House in Concord, Mass.

Maggie is arranging for BYU Special Collections to lend some items from the Alcott collection to complement the artwork in an exhibition I am putting together. The exhibition, which will feature artist Bethanne Andersen's illustrations from a recent picture book biography about Louisa May Alcott, will open on Saturday, September 10, at the Springville Museum of Art.

So exciting!

After lunch I headed to the Springville Library to work on a new library board assignment: helping to develop adult programming. I met with the librarian who is in charge of the programming and we spent more than an hour thinking up all sorts of ideas!

So fun!

Then I headed to my new (if I pass all of the tests) employer for mandatory harassment avoidance training. That was a first for me. I found the overwritten and overacted video dramatizations of various forms of workplace harassment quite entertaining. Especially as relief from dry bullet point lists on overhead transparencies.

So, er, enlightening?!

After dinner I went to book club and reveled in friendship, insightful conversation, lots of laughs and a few tears. Our host actually served caviar, which I've only had once before.

So salty!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Today I picked up a copy of my driver license record (MVR) for the background check application I'm working on for a new job.

I am pleased to report the following:

No citations on record
No arrests on record
No department actions on record

The MVR only goes back three years for citations. According to the helpful man behind the counter at the Driver's License Division, the last citation I have on record was a speeding ticket in 2003. I remember that day. I was rushing to get to a nursing home to do a good deed (um, karma?!) and was going 35 in a 25 mph zone near the high school (important note: I was not driving in a school zone). School had just gotten out so the police were eagle-eyed. The officer said that he wouldn't have given me a ticket if it hadn't been recently raining, which made the road wet. Sheesh.

What was not on my record was the speeding ticket I got at Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming in 2007. Be warned that the moment you drive into the park, the speed limit drops to 25 mph. I got caught doing 40 (which seemed so slow after the 75 mph speed limit on the road to the park). While the very pleasant park ranger wrote up my ticket, I read the park newspaper we were given at the entrance gate. The lead story was all about the high number of wild animals that had been killed by speeding cars, thus the painfully low speed limit. Thank heavens the pleasant park ranger pulled me over before I had a chance to run over any of the hundreds of prairie dogs we saw there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Man in Black

Tonight we bought Jack his very first suit (and I actually tackled the hemming of the pants!).

He's managed to get by without a suit his whole life. Now all of a sudden he's got all sorts of reasons to need one.

In April he needs a suit for his performance as one of the Beatles in a school production, a family wedding, and my brother's memorial service.

In May he turns 12 and will take on special duties at church that don't technically require a suit, but it will be nice for him to have one to wear when he chooses.

He's my (almost) man in black.

Monday, March 28, 2011

When Is a Rut Not a Rut?

Roger, Jack and I went out to dinner for family night tonight. Not too unusual.

We ate at our favorite Mexican restaurant (Mi Ranchito by the University Mall). We all ordered what we usually order (a veggie burrito and a sangria for me). As usual we inhaled the chips and salsa while we waited for our food. And as usual, because we were stuffed from the chips and salsa, we took home the leftovers for tomorrow.

So what, you may ask, was new or out of the ordinary about that?

Well, we had company, that's what. We were lucky enough to share the evening with Roger's brother and his wife who are visiting from Jefferson City, Missouri, for a couple of days. Thanks for the good times, Jim and Cindy! No estábamos en una rutina esta noche!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Heading West

We headed west looking for an adventure this afternoon.

Roger and Jack loaded up the Jeep with a .22 and some cans of expired v8 juice that I cleaned out of the pantry last week. I tucked in a copy of The Whistling Season, the Ivan Doig novel I need to read for book club this week. The story begins in rural Montana in 1909.

We drove out past the southeast corner of Utah Lake. While the boys set up cans for target practice, I settled in with this spectacular view and began reading.

Not three pages in I came across the following passage, and I knew I'd embarked on quite a journey with these characters.

"Boys? Boys, what would you think of our getting a housekeeper?"

"Would she do the milking?" asked Damon, ever the cagey one.

That slowed up Father only for a moment. Delineation of house chores and barn chores that might be construed as a logical extension of our domestic upkeep was exactly the sort of issue he liked to take on. "Astutely put, Damon. I see no reason why we can't stipulate that churning the butter begins at the point of the cow."

We headed west this afternoon looking for an adventure. Lucky me, I got two!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


My husband and son left me for nearly 24 hours while they went off on a scouting adventure. It was really strange being in the house all by myself overnight.

My favorite part was when they came home and I got to hear all about it.

“I am a true explorer," Jack announced. "My pockets are full of rocks, and my shoes are full of rocks.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Frozen Over

Nope, not talking about the spring snow storms we had today. I'm talking about the rare occasion that the Utah State Legislature does something major with which I wholeheartedly agree!

The governor called a special session and today the legislature repealed an unfortunate bill it passed a couple of weeks ago which represented a huge step backward for transparency in government. Goodbye HB477.

Public outcry to the rescue!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


A few months ago I started doing something really smart. Jack and I always get our hair cut at the same appointment, but we'd always end up being pretty shaggy by the time we went. I'd only remember to call for an appointment when the salon was closed or our stylist wasn't working, and we'd end up waiting too long between appointments.

One day while we were getting our hair cut, I asked if we could make our next appointment right then. And we did! We don't get as shaggy now that I don't have to remember to make appointments in a timely fashion.

Today I picked Jack up at school for our scheduled appointment. Just as we were leaving, he said, "I can't get my hair cut because I'm one of the Beatles."

"No, he can't get his hair cut for two more weeks," said his teacher.

The sixth grade is doing a Music Through the Ages performance on April 4th, and, yes, Jack is one of the Beatles and must sacrifice for his art, even it it means getting shaggy.

I was the only one to get my hair cut at today's appointment.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Texas Toad

Time for a little something new that isn't life changing.

Roger wrote a post for his daily library blog about the Mountain West Digital Library, which is a repository for digitized items, some of which are pretty unusual. It includes things like images, stories and audio clips.

Click here to hear the voice of a Texas toad. It's the sound of summer on its way!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Keeping the Mystery Alive

I decided to accept the job offer I was given yesterday. I can't say where I'll be working quite yet because the employment offer is contingent on a few things, including a background investigation, a polygraph test and a drug screen.

Even more curious now?

Here's another tidbit. Before I start the job, I will be required to attend "training for avoiding sexual and other harassment."

Monday, March 21, 2011


So, completely out of the blue I got offered a job today. I actually think I might take it, but I'm going to sleep on it first, because, well, it was completely out of the blue.

Here's why I'm leaning toward taking it:
  1. It involves something I believe in, and I might really be able to make a difference in the world.
  2. I would be given fairly free reign to design the program I'd be responsible for. Very little micro-managing from above.
  3. It involves developing relationships with a variety of non-profit organizations and connecting people with their services, which sounds like satisfying work.
  4. It involves teaching without grading.
  5. The pay isn't awesome, but it is respectable.
  6. It is a highly flexible job, which would enable me to work more during the school year and less during the summer.
  7. It's a part-time job, so I can continue teaching classes at UVU without being stretched too thin.
  8. It could easily lead to new and unexpected opportunities in the future.
You never know what might happen when you wake up in the morning.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jim the Mouth

This morning I attended the church I grew up in with my family. Lots of people have moved in and out over the years, so I didn't know most of the people there, but it was good to see a few old friends.

Pictured here is Jim (circa 1979), who was one of our youth leaders when I was a teenager. That's me behind him, trying to make the same face. (I did finally learn how.)

For a while, my brother worked at the same company with Jim, and they often drove in to the office together. Mom and Dad thought it would be nice to have Jim speak at Robbie's memorial service in April, and he graciously agreed.

You can tell by looking at him that he'll do a fabulous job, no?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bound Together

My brother is free of the body that tortured him his whole life, especially in these last months.

But because we are inextricably linked forever, Robbie, you will never be free of the little sister who tortured you.

I will remember you every time I stuff every color of gumball in my mouth until I’m chewing a big old gray wad as loudly as I can. I will remember you every time I improvise and don’t sing a song the way it was meant to be sung as loudly as I can. I will remember you every time I win a game of Monopoly and flaunt it as loudly as I can.

Did you know that the first big word I learned was “provoke”? As in, “Margy, don’t provoke your brother!”

No, dear Robbie, you will never be free of me!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Day with Charlie

The easiest way to get around Boston today was on the MBTA, so I got to buy a Charlie Ticket, which is named for Charlie in an old Kingston Trio song.

I only rode the Red Line. First from the parking garage at Alewife to Harvard Square to meet my sister Maryann, who teaches English as a second language at the New England School of English.

Then to the Charles/MGH stop to visit my brother. We got there just in time to see my aunt Sigrid, who drove up from Connecticut for a short visit with Robbie, before she turned around and headed back home again.

Little by little the family gathered in Robbie's room--Mom and Dad, both of my sisters, and me. I looked at my brother, talked to him and touched his cheek. He opened his eyes just a bit. I thought about how much he looks like our Grandpa Charlie, which surprised me.

One of his doctors, a nurse, and a social worker asked us to meet with them in a conference room. We talked for a long time. His situation is deteriorating rapidly.

Dinner with the family nearby the hospital to talk some more about hard stuff. When the rest of the family headed home, my sister Maryann and I took the Red Line to Park Street. We were planning to go to a reading--a plan we had made before the serious talk with the doctor. After we got there, we decided our brains were much to scattered to focus on anyone else's stories.

We left and found a local coffee shop, ordered some hot chocolate, and hung out on a big leather couch talking, trying to process everything. It's all so surreal. I vacillate between rational thought and deep emotions that catch me off guard.

More than anything I want my brother to have peace.

When the coffee shop closed, we hopped back on the Red Line at Downtown Crossing and took it back to Alewife.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

And We're Not Even Irish!

Everything went according to plan today with lots of serendipity thrown in for good measure.

Despite the fact my alarm clock went off later than I expected, I got to the airport in plenty of time. No lurid stories to report about airport security. No problem finding a spot for my carry-on in the overhead bins on a very full plane.

I sat in between two interesting people on the plane. I diligently graded three student papers, then gave up and enjoyed great conversation all the way to Boston. The man on my left works for a food wholesaler and was on his way to the International Boston Seafood Show. The woman on my right was on her way to visit her grandmother. At one point during some turbulence, she grabbed my hand and begged, "I know you don't know me, but do you mind?" When the plane settled down she let go of my hand, and laughed as she said, "The ironic part about being afraid of flying is that I'm an aerospace engineer." Turns out we're booked on the same flight back to Salt Lake City on Sunday.

Even though we were late taking off, we landed a little early. Dad pulled up to the curb just as I got there, and we took the scenic route to the hospital, right through the heart of St. Patrick's Day celebrations around Faneuil Hall. We enjoyed our own little private parade when a troupe of bagpipers played as they crossed the street in front of our car.

We found a parking spot straightaway at the hospital and headed up to see my brother Robbie, who is still hanging in there. Mom showed up, then one of my sisters. My parents' bishop came and he and Dad gave Robbie a blessing. Jack called when he got home from school (his braces are now off!), and Roger called to make sure I got there safely.

It was too hard to tell if Robbie could really understand us. He didn't open his eyes, but he did move his head. I hope he knows we were all there. I hope he knows.

When I got ready to settle in for the night, I realized I forgot to pack pajamas. Mom produced a nightgown for me. Of course it was fine. The luck of the Irish was with me today.

I hope it's with Robbie, too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Order Amid Chaos

When I got home from Costco the other day, I realized that I couldn't fit everything I bought into the pantry (like, yes, an entire case of boxed macaroni and cheese).

Time to eliminate all excess packaging. Time to purge all expired food (um, chicken broth that expired in 2007? Ugh!). Time to impose some order on the rest.

This week has been full of uncertainty. Getting news about a cousin and his family in Tokyo after the earthquake--they are okay! Getting Jack's report card and meeting with his teachers--he gets all the concepts, but he, uh, needs to do more of the work to get credit for what he knows. And getting updates about my brother--still hospitalized and not recovering.

Yesterday, my parents and sisters had a conference with his doctors and some other hospital personnel about his condition, and the all-around report is that his situation is grim and could deteriorate rapidly.

Today, I booked a flight to Boston, finished reorganizing the shelves (look at all the extra space!), and took a load of cardboard packaging to the recycling dumpster at Jack's school.

Tomorrow, I fly.

I do not know what is in store for my brother or if I will get there in time to see him. I do not know how things will play out in Japan. I do not know if Jack will embrace the concept of turning in work to get the grades his mind is capable of.

But I do have an orderly pantry, an empty recycling bin, and a reservation for seat 13E.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


This afternoon I worked a shift at the elementary school book fair. When I got there I discovered that the librarian wanted one of us to pick something from the book fair inventory and read to the fifth graders coming in for their library time.

I raised my hand first. Lucky, lucky me!

I looked through my options and settled on a theme: precocious birds. Before I read the books, we talked about what the word precocious means. (I make a point of taking every opportunity to share a new vocabulary word. And precocious seemed to be a good word to share with a bunch of fifth graders.)

First I read Terrific by Jon Agee, which is about a grumpy man and a smart parrot with a broken wing stuck stranded on a desert isle. The parrot engineers their escape and the grumpy man gains a more optimistic outlook on life.

I followed that up with a story about the most awesomely precocious duck ever in Thump, Quack, Moo by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. Farmer Brown works hard on a corn maze during the day, but Duck puts on his night-vision goggles and reworks it during the night. They (and we) finally see their masterpiece when they take a balloon up to see it from above.

Duck never fails to pull the fast one on Farmer Brown. He quacks me up every time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Annual

Enjoyed our first Pi Day celebration with friends and lots and lots of pie. Mmmm. I think I'll just slip into a coma now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Today I researched flight information for a trip to Boston next month. Jack and I will be flying back for a family wedding in Connecticut and some other important activities, like visiting my brother in the hospital. Sadly, Roger must stay behind to keep the home fires burning.

When I was a teenager, I didn't want to spend my money on clothes or makeup or music. I was a total travel geek and worked hard to save up for plane tickets.

Having an adventure to look forward to is the best!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Duck Was My Favorite

Here's one of the reasons I like Facebook: Last night one of my Facebook friends (an old work acquaintance) posted about today's performances of Peter and the Wolf at symphony hall. I checked the Utah Symphony website and discovered he was the narrator! I immediately pitched the idea of attending to Roger and Jack, who couldn't resist my enthusiasm even if they wanted to, and booked three tickets for the 12:30 performance.

We thoroughly enjoyed the show, both the symphony and the ballet. We had second row seats way on one side, and because we were so close to the stage, which was just above eye level, some of our view was obscured by the scenery. We couldn't see the conductor, much of the orchestra, or the narrator, but it turned out that we had absolutely perfect seats for the arrival of the wolf!

The sassy duck, though, was my favorite. So sad she got eaten.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Into the Weeds

I've decided that I'm going to write up examples for the series of research papers I require my students to write. At first, I was going to do something straightforward. Or perhaps something random to show how nearly any topic can be pursued within academic parameters.

But I ended up choosing something truly complex--a topic we often discuss at a theoretical level with seemingly clear moral principles guiding us, but then our thinking starts to fall apart when we apply it to real life situations. And now I'm publicly committed to my topic because I've presented the first exploratory essay I wrote to my classes this week. I've got to see it through!

Generally, I'm writing about how we balance our societal value of the sanctity of life with our values of individual responsibility and the freedom to make choices about our own lives and families. Specifically, I'm writing about what can/should guide our decisions about health care on behalf of family members who can't speak for themselves and who are facing serious quality of life issues. And even more specifically, what role should the law play?

Today, independently of the research I'm doing for class, I came across this video of a couple telling their painful story to a reporter from the Des Moines Register. They faced a crisis in the wife's pregnancy after 20 weeks, the point at which abortion is no longer legal in Nebraska under any circumstances. As I watched the video, I realized that their story illustrates many of the issues I am exploring in my research.

So now I may draw on debates about abortion when the life of an unborn child is in jeopardy as well as debates about end-of-life care and the right to die.

What am I thinking?! I hope I can actually model a way to untangle the threads and frame the issues effectively in a relatively short paper. Here's to giving it the old college try!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Jack's eyeball met a baseball tonight. His first black eye is coming on. This has been a tough week for the Jackmeister.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

My Bad

I'd like to think that I rarely make big parenting mistakes. Jack may hold a grudge about this one for a while.

A week or so ago, Jack said that one of the brackets for his braces was loose. He said it more than once. I pretty much blew it off thinking that his next appointment was so soon.

Plus he'd be getting his braces off anyway.

Well, today was the day he was supposed to get his braces off, and the orthodontist said he needed another week. Apparently the loose bracket actually slipped down on his tooth and put enough pressure on it to mess him up.

One day, maybe, Jack will look back on this and laugh. Really a week is just a week. But today it feels like a massively unfair setback. And the blame rests squarely on me.

My bad, Jack. I'm sorry.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Please Don't Let It Kill Us

Jack was in charge of planning and cooking a dinner for his scout troop to pass off a requirement. Roger and I were invited. While we sat by a campfire in his scout leader's backyard, Jack cooked up some hot dogs on the grill.

He decided to say the blessing on the food himself. "Thank you for the food. Please don't let it kill us."

Our hearts are all still beating. Good job, Jack!

Monday, March 07, 2011

No Good Deed

Today no good deed went un . . . rewarded! This afternoon, I helped a neighbor get to an appointment with her ophthalmologist. We took her car because our Jeep is tough to get in and out of. And she's got herself a spanking new Cadillac. So we breathed in that new car smell and enjoyed that smooth, smooth ride all the way to Provo and back.

I am a driver at heart. Yes, I am.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Five Things I Learned From Student Papers

I never know what I'm going to learn reading student papers. Here are a few tidbits from today's batch:
  • In Hawaii, people do not have to pay property tax on their cars. (Glad they get a break on something. I hear it's very expensive to live there.)
  • It is smart to wait an hour after exercising to eat. (Flips the old wives' tale on its head. I need to check into that one further. Could be onto something.)
  • Getting a college degree used to guarantee that you'd get a good job. (Really?)
  • Only 5.7% of nurses are men. (Source not cited, and not clear whether stat refers to nursing in the United States or elsewhere as well. Sounds about right for our neck of the woods, though.)
  • The president of Uzbekistan has a thing for erecting golden statues of himself. (I googled him and discovered that is among the least of his problems.)

Saturday, March 05, 2011


Jack finds treasures everywhere, and he almost never wants to let go of anything. It can be overwhelming for a purger and wannabe minimalist like me.

On my way to Salt Lake City yesterday, I stopped at Ikea and bought inexpensive boxes to help Jack wrangle at least some of his treasures by getting the shelves over his bed more organized.

Today I got the boxes assembled, cleared off the shelves (including much dust despite the cat constantly roaming around on them and knocking things off), and neatly arranged it all. Little by little I will help Jack figure out what he'd like to keep in the boxes and label them accordingly.

And although I'm a purger and a wannabe minimalist, I'm also a big fan of color and fun design. So while I was at Ikea, I also picked up a little something for me.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Traversing: A Triptych

Part One

All day and into this night my thoughts are with my brother Robbie, who is being flown by air ambulance from Nairobi to Cairo to Prague to Reykjavik to Newfoundland to Montreal to Boston. By the time I wake up tomorrow, he should be settled in at Mass. General.

I worry that he has not been able to breath on his own for nearly four months and that he cannot move his body. Robbie is someone who has demanded control over his circumstances and the people around him for as long as I can remember.

I wonder what he must think and feel now that he is at the mercy of others.

Part Two

A couple of stories made the rounds today. Opposite ends of human nature.

The first was this ugly, ugly video of people, including at least three elected officials, protesting Muslims at a fundraiser held by the Islamic Circle of North America for a women's shelter. I wonder if the protesters know that Allah is Arabic for God, and that Arabic Christians worship Allah. If God exists, it stands to reason that we are all children of the same God regardless of our faith or understanding.

The second story was a hopeful one about an LDS congregation in Missouri that shares its church each Friday with a group of Muslims who are in need of a place to worship while they work on building a mosque.

More of the latter, please.

Part Three

High on the side of a mountain with a stunning view of the lights of Salt Lake City, my nephew's wife, Cambria, was showered with gifts this evening in anticipation of the birth of their first child, who will change their lives forever. When he is a few months old, his parents will take him to California or Ohio or Wisconsin or New Hampshire so his dad can attend medical school.

My niece Megan, Cambria's sister-in-law, gave the mom to be this most awesome gift.

Driving back on I-15 after the party and lost in thought, I missed my exit. But I made it home.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


On the way in from the school bus, Jack grabbed the mail for me. As he walked up the front steps, I saw him holding an envelope of Valpak coupons and a giant flier from Brent Brown Chevrolet.

"Ugh. So boring!" I whined.

Jack plopped the mail down on the coffee table. And then I saw the corner of a white envelope peeking out from the middle of the stack.

A real letter! So rare! (Thanks, Carolyn!)

The immediacy of the internet is fabulous, but I truly love getting real letters, especially when they're handwritten. My far-flung friends and I used to correspond like mad well into adulthood. Great, great memories.

And way, way better than stacks of coupons for oil changes, carpet cleaning and dental services.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Cow in Kenya

Well over a year ago, my niece Lauren sent a message out to the extended family asking us if we'd like to join a family team at Kiva, an online microfinancing organization. I quickly said "Yes!" because it was something I'd already been thinking about doing.

Fast forward (as only a serious procrastinator like me can do) to the present day and the fact that as of this morning when I woke up, I still hadn't followed Lauren's lead.

Shortly after waking, I read this article. Mohammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist and pioneer of microfinancing, has run into trouble. From what I can gather, he's being called on some possible technicalities, not on anything nefarious.

I have followed Mr. Yunus' work for a long time, and I decided that today was the day to honor his work and get down to business with Kiva.

I recruited Jack to help me find an entrepreneur to make a loan to. We decided to find someone in Kenya, thinking that might send some positive energy in the direction of my brother, who is still in a Nairobi hospital and unable to breath on his own.

We have officially thrown in with Mr. Mwangi to help him buy a dairy cow!

Update: The day after I posted this I learned two things. (1) Mr. Mwangi's loan was fully funded, and (2) After months of waiting for my brother's condition to stabilize and for everything to fall into place, arrangements were finally made to fly him by air ambulance from Nairobi to a hospital in Boston.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Just Say Nein

As Jack transitions into his teen years (oh my!), we want to be sure he's armed with information that will help him make good choices. Tonight we went over the drawbacks of using illicit substances.

We found this to be a helpful, if unconventional, visual aid:

Maybe this isn't the the most auspicious way to put it, but my hope is that a little humor helps the medicine go down and stay down (unlike the alcohol in the video).