Saturday, April 30, 2011

When Old Becomes New

I brought back some of my favorite childhood books from my parents' house to share with Jack. He'll be the fourth generation to enjoy them! Many of the copies we have of the books in this delightful series by Thornton Burgess originally belonged to my Grammie and her sister, Aunt Fran, when they were girls nearly 100 years ago.

Jack and I are having fun reading them together (note: I will read to him until he goes to college if he lets me). Even though I read them at least million times when I was a kid, my memory is so lousy it's like I'm reading them for the first time.

Tonight we will find out how Danny Meadow Mouse escapes the clutches of Granny Fox.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Busy Hands

Today I engaged in the true spirit of my 2011 blogging adventure and did something completely out of the ordinary.

It all started when I was in Massachusetts last week, and I was visiting my friend Julie. While we talked, she knitted. By the time I left, and despite my dysfunctional relationship with crafting, my hands were itching to try it.

(Full disclosure: Technically, I learned how to knit a little bit when I was 11 or 12, but I never actually made anything. I did, however, successfully complete a crocheted handbag in the sixth grade and then retired from the fiber arts altogether.)

Then this morning I discovered this site and these happy little knitted animals:

Not that I think I can/should aspire to make them, but seeing them made my hands itch to knit again. And because I was faced with a stack of papers to grade, I thought, "What better time to learn?"

So I hopped in the car and drove to Heindselman's in Provo, which this website describes as "the oldest yarn store in the United States." Really?!

A fabulous 82-year-old knitter (and, I learned, playwright) named Elizabeth helped me pick out some yarn (a beautiful lake blue) and some needles. Then she spent more than an hour giving me a knitting lesson on the spot. We had a fine time chatting with each other and with other customers who came and went. Turns out Elizabeth lived in Concord, Mass., for several years back in the 50s! What a small, small world it can be.

I never did get papers graded today, but I do have an awkward square of knitting to show for my time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Today I wore my new Maine Isle Flip-Flops that I bought at L.L. Bean last week.

I am so, so ready to leave the shackles of socks and shoes behind for the next six months.

Welcome warm weather! And check out that green, green grass.

Update: The very next day it snowed and snowed and snowed. I defiantly wore my flip-flops again, but couldn't wait to get home to warm slippers. Soon. Soon it will be flip-flop weather again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The new issue of UVU's literary journal Touchstones was just released, and I was honored to have the opportunity to judge the prose entries.

It's fun seeing it all in print, though I'm a little sad that part of a sentence was left out of my write-up for the third-place winner and it doesn't really make sense. So I found the author of the piece on Facebook and sent her a message, telling her how the sentence was supposed to read. She sent back a nice reply. I feel better now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


As a reward for heading back to school after a two-week break without complaint, I took Jack to the coin shop so he could invest some of his money in, well, money.

But this post isn't about that kind of bread. This post is about the kind of bread sold at the bakery next door to the coin shop. The kind of bread I hardly ever treat myself to.

A few years ago, I read a book called Bread and Butter: What a Bunch of Bakers Taught Me About Business and Happiness about the founding and franchising of the Great Harvest Bread Co. It's a great read for business book junkies like me.

One of my favorite stories in the book is about a franchisee who wanted a challenge to put his meditation practice to the test, and he thought opening a bakery would fit the bill. If he could stay calm and centered operating a business that requires constant vigilance like a bakery, he'd prove something to himself.

Personally, I enjoyed meditating on a couple of slices of the bakery's new squaw bread (whole wheat and rye with whole oat grains sprinkled on top) along with a salad for dinner tonight.

Monday, April 25, 2011


The alarm went off this morning and flung me headlong back into my regular life. Pretty much a routine day. I've been racking my brain all evening trying to come up with something out of the ordinary that happened that is also somehow interesting. I'm coming up empty.

Sounds like it's time to stretch my rules. So . . .

The other day I mentioned that we bought my uncle a birthday present, but I couldn't reveal what it was because it was a secret. No need to keep it a secret any longer.

Who couldn't use one of these from time to time?

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Easter took on a special meaning for me this year as we said goodbye to my brother.

Today we carried some of his ashes with us on our trip back to Utah. Sometime in the next year or so, we're going to take them to Kenya because that is where his heart was.

Cremation is not a tradition here in Utah, but it is the only tradition I have known in my family.

My Grandpa Stuart died when I was six, and his ashes were buried in a Chicago cemetery. I held my mom's hand during the burial and asked her how Grandpa fit in the little box. I don't remember her answer, but I do remember the way she stiffened up, concerned that whatever she said might scar me. I don't think it did.

My Grandpa Charlie died when I was in college. He wanted his ashes scattered on Long Island Sound, where he spent some of his happiest times sailing. This picture is of the day we did that for him. (Bottom to top: my sister Maryann, my sister Linda, my cousin Sandy, me in the gray sweater, my mom hidden behind me, my brother Robbie in the tan pants turned away from the camera, not sure who's at the bow).

My Grammie died in 1997, and her ashes were buried in the garden of her Presbyterian church. Last weekend after my cousin's wedding, my sisters and I left a blue hydrangea from the reception on Grammie's grave marker. We told her what a beautiful celebration it had been, that we missed her being there, and that she'd have approved of the man our cousin married.

My Grandma Jan died just weeks before September 11, 2001. In retrospect I was grateful she did not live to see that day. One of the things I loved most about her was her wanderlust, so it seems appropriate that her ashes went three different directions: to Lake Michigan near her home, to Lake Geneva where we had such happy summers together, and to rest beside my Grandpa Stuart in the Chicago cemetery.

In case you are wondering, airport security did take special note. The ashes had to come out of Roger's carry-on and go through the scanner separately. The TSA agents were very kind.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rest in Peace

Today we had a memorial service for my brother, Robbie, who passed away last month at the age of 50 after a long illness.

He would have absolutely loved the stories, the memories, the pictures, and especially the family gathered in fondness, tears and laughter.

The world is not the same without you, Robbie. Rest in peace.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Green Is Blue

Happy, happy Earth Day from a girl who got to spend the day in Maine replenishing her soul. There is nothing like breathing in the sea air and drinking in the sight of water everywhere for that.

(The Bailey Island Bridge pictured above is reportedly the only granite cribstone bridge in the world.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Mom and I went on a field trip to Fruitlands today. I always thought I'd been there before, but nothing seemed at all familiar.

In June 1843, Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott's father, took his family and several of his associates to this farmhouse in Harvard, Massachusetts, to pursue a communal utopian dream. A very strict vegan utopian dream. No use of animal byproducts whatsoever. Not even wool to stay warm in the winter.

Alcott lived his life at his visionary extremes and his family always went along for the ride until his pragmatic wife, Abigail, would put her foot down for the sake of their four daughters. In the case of the Fruitlands experiment, Abigail lasted until January 1943, a mere nine months after it began.

I'm thinking a bit of wool could have made all the difference, but then I'm not an eccentric radical like Bronson Alcott.

I'm actually very thankful for eccentric radicals like Alcott. Did you know that because of people like him, our kids are encouraged to ask questions at school when they don't understand something and they get to have recess to invigorate their minds?

Speaking of eccentric radicals, Henry David Thoreau, a close friend of the Alcotts, never actually went to Fruitlands, but his desk is on display there now.

I actually saw Thoreau's desk today!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Something So New It Didn't Even Exist Yesterday!

This little lamb was born this morning at Old Sturbridge Village. We saw him when he was just a few hours old, so tiny and shivering in the chilly air of the open barn.

Learning about life around the turn of the 19th century and seeing people work in all of the old buildings--like the pottery shed, the blacksmith shop, and the one-room school house--was fascinating.

But not quite as fun as meeting the animals!

Or having a portrait taken with a few friends!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Shameless Promotion

A couple of years ago I discovered that a sister (Julie) of one of my best friends from college (Sally) lives about five miles down the road from my parents. It was a pretty big coincidence since my friends grew up in upstate New York and my parents live in Massachusetts.

Really, what are the odds?

Julie and I now make a point of getting together when I'm visiting my parents, and it's especially nice because Jack enjoys hanging out with her four boys (he's plunk in the middle age-wise).

After yesterday's marathon adventure, today was a deliberately unscheduled day. Connecting with Julie and her family was the only thing on our official agenda.

Now for the shameless promotion. Julie (a writer) and Sally (an illustrator) are the creators of a series of books for kids ages 8-12 set at a school for disruptive boys. Funny, funny stuff. (Hmmm, wish I had a bookstore so I could sell them myself.)

After spending a few hours in Julie's house full of boys today, I can't imagine where she gets all her ideas!

Monday, April 18, 2011

All We Were Missing Was a Tricorner Hat

What I really want to blog about is the Boston marathoner we saw this afternoon who pulled a garden gnome out of his backpack, set it on the edge of a fountain and snapped a photo. I have never actually seen anyone do that in real life! But I wasn't fast enough to snap a photo of him. So I will blog about Jack's first Patriots' Day celebration instead.

I suppose I dragged Jack out of bed before he was really ready. But I was dying to share one of my favorite childhood memories with him: the Isaac Davis trail march, in which we hiked with the Acton Minutemen seven miles to the Concord Bridge, basically following the route they took in 1775.

Here is Jack at 6 a.m. You can see how he'd caught the vision of reliving my childhood.

I was especially excited to join the march this year because Steve, a high school classmate, was the captain of the Acton Minutemen. He's the guy in the lead. He did a great job captaining.

When we got to the bridge, the Minutemen fired their muskets three times in honor of the men from Acton who were the first to die in the battle with the British that day.

After lunch we went to the Hosmer house in Acton to pick up our scrolls, commemorating our participation in the trail march. They had all sorts of Revolutionary War era activities for the kids, including an entertaining and informative lesson on loading and shooting muskets taught by the Minuteman pictured with Jack here.

If that wasn't enough Patriots' Day patriotism to pack into our day, Jack and I headed to the North End of Boston with my sister Maryann to see the iconic statue of Paul Revere, sculpted by a favorite son of our hometown in Utah, Cyrus Dallin.

As an added bonus my nephew Tim and his wife Ashley met us in the North End for dinner. Italian, of course. You can imagine how hungry we were after our long morning hike and our traipsing around Boston, but honestly, we ate as if we'd actually run the Boston marathon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Fribble

Those of you who know Friendly's know exactly what I'm talking about. Mine was chocolate, purchased at the take-out window of the Friendly's in Sturbridge and consumed as we drove east on the Massachusetts Turnpike. We didn't really need lunch because we'd eaten such a huge breakfast with cousin Tracey and her family before checking out of our hotel in Connecticut and heading back to my parents' house.

I think Friendly's and Fribbles would be very popular in Utah should the chain decide to expand there. Just sayin'.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

In Which Jack Goes to a Wedding

Technically I went to a wedding, too. But the pictures of Jack are much better!

Here is Jack at the church in Greenwich. (P.S.: He did a great job tying his own tie.)

The ceremony was beautiful. The whole wedding party did a wonderful job supporting the bride and groom. I was especially proud of the three-year-old ring bearer, cousin Boone, who did not have to resort to the plan B his parents came up with after a challenging rehearsal. He made it down the aisle just fine without his mom.

Here is Jack with the flower girls, cousins Abby and Jessie.

In the car yesterday, Jack told me that his dad instructed him to say “yes” and politely oblige if Abby or Jessie ask him to dance at the reception. He ended up having a lot of fun on the dance floor.

Here is Jack with the bride, Lillan.

She looked beautiful and happy today. I think she’s married a man who loves her and will be a good husband to her. One of my favorite moments was watching her father wipe away a few tears as he watched his youngest daughter dance with his new son-in-law.

I’m very glad Jack (and I) got to go to a wedding today.

Friday, April 15, 2011


My Uncle John arrived from Maine in time to celebrate his birthday at lunch time. Everything went well despite the fact that I didn't realize the cake we bought was in the grocery bag I carried in from the car, and Mom had to salvage the frosting after the whole thing tipped on its side! Between the frosting fiasco and the candles we bought that melted way too fast--only four or five of them were even still lit by the time the cake got to the table for the birthday boy to blow them out--it was the saddest birthday cake I've ever seen. But it sure was tasty!

Despite traffic that set us back an hour, my sisters, Jack, and I arrived in Connecticut just in time to celebrate my cousin's wedding at her rehearsal dinner. It was wonderful to meet her husband-to-be for the first time and to catch up with her family.

Here are all of the sisters and cousins. I believe we look better than the birthday cake!

Top left to right: cousin Lillan (the bride), cousin Sandy, Me
Bottom left to right: cousin Tracey, sister Linda, sister Maryann

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Long Day's Journey into Night

Jack and I spent the entire day traveling, first to the airport in Phoenix, where our 2 ½ hour layover turned into a 3 ½ hour layover, and then to the airport in Manchester, NH, an airport I have never flown into before.

We kept track of some of our unusual experiences, like driving through snow flurries on the way to the airport and seeing a group of veterans welcoming back soldiers while we waited in the security line.

We met lots of nice people, like a grandma who was flying home to Pittsburgh after visiting grandchildren in Orange County and a grandma who was flying from her home in Orange County to visit grandchildren in Massachusetts. The man we shared a row with from Salt Lake to Phoenix was a Southwest Airlines shareholder. He thanked us for flying Southwest and said, “full planes are very good for stock prices.” The woman we shared a row with from Phoenix to Manchester is married to a man who once worked as a brakeman for the Silverton-Durango railroad. While we waited at the gate in Salt Lake we chatted with UVU's long-distance track coach. He'd have been pleased to know that we later met several people who were heading to Boston to run the marathon on Monday.

We talked to a very nice shopkeeper in Phoenix who sold us an awesome present for Uncle John’s birthday tomorrow (shhh!). I will say this much: she told us she almost quit when they started stocking gigantic hairy tarantulas in the shop.

We took advantage of family restrooms at the airports. The family restroom is the best invention for moms traveling alone with their sons who are increasingly embarrassed about being dragged into ladies’ rooms.

By far the most amazing family/special needs restroom we used was in the Phoenix airport. Not shown in this photo was the chaise where Jack relaxed while he waited for me to use the facilities, which were hidden behind the privacy wall in the photo. And check out the shower!

The thought that kept Jack going all day was getting to meet his aunt Maryann's cat named Squirrel. We settled in well after midnight, and Squirrel made a point of sniffing him from head to toe. Welcome to my house, she said.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"So, a Real Journey"

We're pretty much all packed! Jack and I are heading east in the morning and we have all sorts of adventures ahead of us.

This occasion calls for one of my favorite scenes from Joe Versus the Volcano:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who's Afraid?

Sorry I'm going to be a little cryptic in this post, but I want to write about the best thing that happened today.

A few weeks ago, I started a new library board assignment at our city library. I'm working with one of the librarians to expand adult programming, especially after we move into our new library building next fall.

One of the ideas we're working on is a lecture series to introduce readers to genres and authors they want to try but might be a bit intimidated by--poetry, classics from various eras, Shakespeare, Transcendental writers like Emerson and Thoreau, and so on. Maybe even some Beowulf or Virginia Woolf.

I want to find fun and interesting people to do the presentations, and I immediately thought of two of my favorite young adult writers to kick off the series for us. I asked them if they'd be willing to do a tag team presentation on reading that has stretched them in unexpected ways or opened new worlds for them.

While I can't reveal who they are until everything is finalized (they should speak sometime in January), I can say that as of today they both accepted the invitation and Springvillians are in for a real treat!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Test

I passed a polygraph test today. It was an unnerving experience. The guy who administered the test says that's normal.

Before I took the test, he patiently listened to my compulsive confessions.

"I made up the date a rock chip hit my windshield. I couldn't remember exactly when it happened, but the repair company insisted I provide a date."

"I don't think that counts as insurance fraud," he replied.

"I might have inhaled marijuana."

"When did that happen?" He perked up.

"Once in high school and once in college when I was with some cousins who were smoking, but I didn't actually smoke it myself."

"I don't think that counts as using an illicit substance."

He said that people like me--and by that I think he meant the kind of people he laughs about with his wife over dinner--will second guess ourselves, combing our memories for something that might contradict our answers.

I left his office feeling vaguely guilty. For what? I don't know. Or do I?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eating up Words

If I had to pick a favorite book genre, it would be the memoir. I love learning about people and the context of their lives. I think it's especially interesting to read about them in their own words. What they choose to focus on, what they choose to ignore, and how they express themselves is so revealing--more revealing than they probably intend.

Earlier today I caught a podcast of an interview with journalist Peter Godwin about a book he wrote called The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe. His insight is unique because he grew up there.

As I listened to the interview, I became as intrigued by the interviewee as I was by the topic. I googled him and discovered he recently wrote a memoir called When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa.

Impulse buy.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A Smash!

The other day while I was hanging out waiting for Jack to get his hair cut (finally!), I read this review in a back issue of Utah Valley Magazine. For two days my mouth watered as I waited to try my very first Smashburger, which I knew would be the local Beehive Burger described in the review.

This afternoon, we braved the snowy weather (Yes, snow! On April 9th!) and treated ourselves to enough food to last us through tomorrow. Maybe even Monday.

We enjoyed every single bite.

Friday, April 08, 2011


I've been following my friend Luann's basement renovation through the photos she's been posting on her website. (She's a fantastic photographer, by the way).

Tonight Roger and I got a tour of the big project, which is just about complete. What a great new space they have! They enlarged the tiny basement windows to let in all sorts of light, carefully planned every inch of the space, and made lots of fun design choices.

After the tour I made Roger take me to McDonald's to get a cherry pie. (I can be a pretty cheap date.) He asked if I'd seen the renovations there, and I said I didn't even know they'd made renovations. So we went inside rather than doing the drive thru. (Okay, seriously? Spell check thinks "thru" is spelled properly!) They've got the whole McCafe thing going on there now.

Seeing Luann's house was much cooler! (Even without the cherry pie.)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

This Time I Laughed

I made an attempt to participate in a crafting project at a Relief Society meeting tonight. This was totally out of character for me. I still feel a knot of anxiety in my stomach when I think about a dried flower/painted wood misadventure I had nearly 20 years ago. I'd forgotten my keys that night, and when I got home and Roger opened the front door for me, I just stood there on the steps holding my pathetic creation in my hands, tears rolling down my cheeks.

Tonight was another epic fail.

It was a simple project. Really. All I needed to do was tape a stencil of my last name onto our 9 x 13 Pyrex pan, glop some etching goop on it, wait a while, then rinse it off. Inexplicably it didn't take. Or maybe I'm just cursed when it comes to crafting.

This time, though, I laughed.

Having our name etched on our baking pan is a brilliant idea. I wouldn't have to use masking tape and a marker to label it when I make up a batch of funeral potatoes anymore.

The nice neighbor who organized the project said she will help me try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

And She's Out

I was so tired this afternoon I actually took a nap. I think I might have worn myself out trying to keep the energy level up in class today. We were talking about punctuation. Especially commas. Talking about commas is exhausting.

It's not unusual for me to want to take a nap or to think I'm going to take a nap but be unable to fall sleep. It is unusual for me to stop whatever I'm doing and actually take a nap. When that happens, I know I really needed it. And I'm still looking forward to turning out the light tonight and getting some more sleep!

Apparently commas lead to comas.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Five Random Experiences

I'm in the middle of grading a big stack of papers, and my head is full of paper-grading fog. I've got to get back to the stack, so here are five quick random out-of-the-ordinary experiences I had today.
  • The phone rang before my alarm went off this morning. Grrr. (A possible contributor to my fog-filled brain?)
  • I got to drive my neighbor's Cadillac again. While I was adjusting the rear view mirror, I accidently pushed the OnStar button. I've never talked to an OnStar operator before. She was very nice.
  • I stopped by the local art museum and met several people bringing their submissions for the Spring Salon, an annual juried exhibition showcasing pieces by Utah artists. I understand it's quite competitive. It's consistently a good show.
  • Someone called me to schedule an appointment for a background check polygraph test next week.
  • I missed hanging out with Jack at bedtime like I usually do because I was in the middle of grading a big stack of papers. Which I need to get back to. Now.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Shake It Up, Baby

The day of the performance. Jack and all of the sixth graders did a fabulous job entertaining the audience with Music Through the Ages (1910-2010). Here is the number from the 1960s. Jack is the Beatle on the right.

Sunday, April 03, 2011


We woke up this morning to this view:

We weren't expecting it (70 degrees and lawn mowing yesterday!), but it was beautiful!

Later in the day, we were privileged to sing to our niece's daughter Lily on her first birthday. She didn't quite get the candle blown out without help from Mom, but she literally licked her lips (so cute!) and then relished her cupcake all by herself.

I'm glad that life has lots of frosting.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


A few years ago I practiced yoga every single day for about six weeks and I felt transformed. Then I got a terrible case of strep throat, which seemed to take forever to recover from. I lost all of my momentum and haven't done yoga since.

Until today.

Today I spent a solid eight hours sitting at my desk organizing information for taxes, doing class work, etc. About 5:30 I couldn't take it anymore. My back ached. I needed to stretch! So I decided to follow one of the Kate Potter Namaste Yoga programs I'd recorded on my DVR. I feel much better now.

If I'm smart, I'll find that momentum again.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Who Moved My Cheese?

I found out today that the woman who recently hired me has gotten a promotion, and so I won't be reporting to her when I start my new job. I have no idea who is replacing her. Fingers crossed it's all good!