Monday, December 31, 2012

Fifty


When my Aunt Jody (pictured on left, and technically my dad's cousin, not my aunt) turned 50, she learned how to roller skate. I was just a teenager and thought it was amazing. Fifty seemed so old to take up roller skating.

Of course, it isn't. Is it? Because I'm turning 50 this year.

To celebrate and to pick up some momentum for the second half of my century, I am going to do 50 physical feats in 2013, and I will tell the story of each one here on my blog. I want to get in shape, test my stamina, face down fears, and have lots of fun along the way.

I'm looking for ideas and, more importantly, partners in crime. To friends and family (including those back east because I'll be coming this summer): let me know if there's something you've been wanting to do and you want some company doing it. I won't say yes to everything (Roger has yet to talk me into a jumping out of a plane for this project, the first thing he thought of when I told him about it). But I won't say no without serious consideration.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Forever

Act One

The summer of 1969, my mother, my father, my brother, and I headed west in our baby blue camper van. After driving across the plains, it struggled mightily to make it up high mountain passes. It took some coaxing and a little extra water for the radiator, but we did make it to our destination: an LDS temple in Logan, Utah, where we were sealed together as a family for eternity. I still hold in my mind an image of my mother, my father, my brother, and me kneeling around the altar together, hands clasped.

Act Two

The summer of 1990 in the Salt Lake City temple, Roger and I were married and sealed, kneeling across the altar from each other, hands clasped. There were a few glitches. Roger had underestimated the Tuesday morning rush hour traffic and was late. Everyone else was worried, but I wasn't. And then I was held hostage after the ceremony by a conscientious temple worker who insisted we had to leave the temple together even though I knew Roger had already left. There was no way he had taken as long as I had to freshen up for pictures. I was right; he'd slipped out the door unnoticed while the temple workers were changing shifts. The glitches just made our wedding day more perfect, though, because now we have stories to tell.

Act Three

The week of Thanksgiving 1999, we took Jack to the Provo temple to have him sealed to us. Roger and I knelt at the altar with Jack in our arms, hands clasped. I don't know whether the ritual has inherent power or if its power is derived from what is in our hearts and minds. I do know this: his adoption had been finalized a few days before in a court of law, but it was the sealing ceremony that clinched the feeling Jack would always be a part of our family. A true blessing.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Hard Lesson


When I was in the fourth grade, I won first place in floor exercises during a gymnastics meet at my elementary school.

But no one knew it.

The gym teacher handed out awards for the event, and then discovered that my score was higher than the person he'd given the first place award to. It was nice of him to make me a certificate, but the award ceremony was already over, and he made no mention of it to anyone.

It's not like I could go to school the next day and announce that I, in fact, had taken first place in floor exercises.

No one would ever know.

When I got home I cried and cried. My mom was very understanding as she consoled me. She told me that--whether I believed it or not--one day it would only matter that I had achieved something, not whether anyone knew.

She was right, but it took me a long time to believe her.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Rush. Stop.

Running late, I hurried down the road past the high school to a local nursing home to speak at a midweek church service. And by hurried, I mean I was going 35 miles an hour. In a 25 mile an hour zone.

If it hadn't been raining, the police officer said, he would have let me off with a warning.

I rushed into the nursing home just as they were finishing the opening hymn, and after the prayer, I took my place at the front of the room to address the topic I'd been assigned: inner peace. My heart was still racing.

Everyone saw me come in late, so I figured I'd tell them about the irony of getting a speeding ticket on the way to giving a talk about inner peace. The moment they laughed, I regained my balance.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Indiana Jack


This is one of my favorite pictures of Jack. He's a guy who always knows how to dress the part. And often does.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A State of Emergency

Except for a trip to get our car inspected and registered this morning, I've been holed up indoors watching it snow, snow, snow. It's a cozy way to spend a bit of vacation time.

The biggest snow storm I remember was the blizzard of 1978. Most, if not all, of Massachusetts was declared to be in a state of emergency, and we were forbidden to drive. School was cancelled for at least a week.

One of my favorite memories of that storm was cross country skiing down the middle of Main Street.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Bright

We drove up to Salt Lake City to enjoy Christmas dinner with Roger's sister and her family in the Avenues. On the way home, we passed the governor's mansion all lit up with Christmas lights.

Somehow I ended up attending several gubernatorial events in the 1980s. Studying political science helped, I'm sure. Back then, I hung out with all sorts of movers and shakers on campus and with leaders in the community. It seemed my future was bright!

I remember at least two events at the governor's mansion itself, a dinner with the governor and a small group of students at a hotel in Provo, and during spring my senior year, I had the opportunity to help with the annual Governor's Ball at the Hotel Utah. All we had to do was seat the dignitaries as they arrived, and then we were free to join the other 2,500 people attending the party.

One of my friends had the honor of seating Senator Jake Garn, who was to go into outer space a month later on the shuttle. We ate shrimp cocktail and filet mignon, got interviewed for the society column of one of the Salt Lake papers, and danced until they shut the place down.

I'm less well connected now. I think I'm going to work on that. Not so much to attend fancy parties, but because I've got real stuff I want to accomplish now. Real problems to solve. It may take a while, but stay tuned!

Christmas, with light and love all around, always gives me hope.

Midnight

We enjoyed hosting our traditional pizza on Christmas Eve with Roger's family tonight. My Uncle John started the tradition in Connecticut many years ago, and we have faithfully carried it on here in Utah.

Only I wish we had Uncle John's fireplace. And I wish we didn't always miss the Christmas Eve service at the Presbyterian church here in town, which is held at 7:00 p.m., plunk in the middle of our pizza feast.

When I was growing up, my Grammie would sometimes take me to the midnight service at her Presbyterian church, which was all lit up by candles. We would dress in our Sunday best, listen to the angelic choir, hear the Christmas story, and sing our hearts out.

Maybe next year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Do You See What I See?

As a freshman in college, I took a Water Safety Instructor course. At the end of the semester, the professor called us one by one into his office to ask us what grade we thought we earned. I don't remember what I told him, but I definitely remember what he told me.

"If you came to me for a job teaching swimming, I would not hire you," he said. "You are unenthusiastic."

What did he see of me? I suppose I was unimpressive because I was a bit blind in class. We were constantly in and out of the water so I couldn't wear my contacts or glasses. I guess I don't interact very well with people when I can't see their faces.

-----------------------

A few years ago, our church girls camp director asked me to be in charge of a skit about Esther in the Old Testament, who risked her life to save her people.

"It's important that you take this seriously," she said. "I don't want you to make people laugh."

What did she see of me? I suppose I made her a little nervous because I do have a tendency to, um, try to lighten things up whenever I speak in church. Especially when I am in front of a congregation or class and can see their faces.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Awkward

I lost count of how many dances I went to as a teenager and young adult that ended with Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." The quintessential last song.

Once in a while they played Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird," which I loved, even though it was a bit awkward when it shifted from a slow dance to a fast dance part way through.

But that was not anywhere near as awkward as the time a guy I didn't know and who was much shorter than me asked me to dance. I said yes, because I didn't want to be rude. In the middle of the dance, he wiped his nose with the back of his hand without letting go of mine.

When he asked me for another dance, I turned him down.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Good Moment

I rarely have good clothes moments. You know, when you are wearing just the right thing at the right moment and you feel good. And, well, cute.

One perfect fall day in college, a boy offered to help me write a paper for my French literature class. He met me after school to take me home on the back of his motorbike. I climbed on and we roared down the hill to the old neighborhood south of campus, where I lived in a red brick house with a wide front porch.

I was wearing my black watch plaid kilt, a turtleneck and a navy blue sweater, tights and loafers, so I had to sit side saddle, my arms wrapped around his waist. 

I was living that life, at least for a moment. A good, good moment.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Margy Dreams of Sushi

The first time I tried sushi was in a restaurant full of Japanese people in New York City with a college friend who really knew his sushi.

That spoiled me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Gift of the Left Eye

A dozen or so years ago, I volunteered to come up with a story for a white elephant party. This is the game: participants each take a wrapped gift from the pile, sit in a circle, and as the story is read they pass the gifts to the left or the right each time they hear the words "left" or "right." When the story is finished, participants take turns opening or trading the gift they end up with.

Here's what I wrote. Special thanks to O. Henry and "The Gift of the Magi" for the plot. Feel free to use it if you need to liven up a white elephant party this year!
_________

The Gift of the Left Eye

Harold rubbed his eyes with the heel of his right hand and sighed. He looked across the kitchen table at Agatha in despair. "We've managed to pay our bills, but there isn't any money left. This is downright depressing! Especially with Christmas right around the corner."

"Oh Hairy Bear." That was Agatha's pet name for her beloved Harold. "It's going to work out all right. It always does!"

"But Aggie, I wanted our first Christmas together to be truly special. At this rate, we're going to have to eat left-over macaroni and cheese for Christmas dinner."

Despondent, Harold got up, left the table, and headed outside to think things through. He found his baseball and glove right where he'd left them. He put on his glove and started tossing the ball. But it wasn't the comfort he'd expected. Harold lived for baseball. Every year he scraped together enough money to play in an amateur league. This year, he'd hidden his stash in a box in the tool shed.

Even though he lived for baseball, Harold had never had enough money left over to get the right kind of glove. You see, left-handed Harold had a glove designed for right-handed players (it was a hand-me-down from his older brother). That meant he had to wear his glove on his left hand and throw with his right, instead of wearing the glove on his right hand and throwing with his left. What he really needed was a left-handed glove that he could wear on his right hand. It may sound confusing, but Harold knew it was the key to improving his game.

As he tossed the ball, Harold had a sudden realization and headed right to the tool shed. He found the box, opened it, and stared down at the money that he'd carefully saved all year. "Tomorrow I'm going to take this money and buy just the right present for Aggie."

Meanwhile, Agatha was getting ready for bed. She always made a point of going to bed right at 9:45 every night and getting up right at 6:45 every morning. And she always went through the same exact routine. First she'd brush her teeth, then she'd wash her face, and so on. She always did things in the same order, and she never left out a step. She believed in living a very orderly life.

But tonight was different. A couple of days earlier, she'd lost the contact lens for her left eye. So she had to wear her glasses instead. She hated wearing her glasses. She supposed the only benefit was that she didn't have to take her contacts out to clean them, first the left one and then the right one. So she skipped that step and went straight to her moisturizer. First her left leg, then her right, and so on.

As she climbed into bed, Agatha thought about her contact lenses. It seemed she'd waited her whole life to get them. She'd finally saved up enough money to buy them in time for her wedding. And now she'd have to dip into their precious bank account to buy a replacement lens for her left eye. While they were paying bills, Harold had insisted on setting aside just the right amount of money for her to visit the eye doctor the next day.

"Of course," she murmured to herself as she drifted off to sleep. "I know how I can get a present for Hairy Bear."

The next day was Christmas Eve. Just before Harold and Agatha headed off to work, they promised each other that they'd come right home and have a candlelight dinner to start the holiday off right. Candlelight always made their peanut butter sandwiches seem more romantic.

Harold got home first and started getting things ready. He hummed Christmas carols to himself as he hung a string of lights on a potted plant, carefully wrapped his gift for Agatha with the comics from yesterday's paper, and left it under the plant. Just as he was lighting the candles, Agatha came through the door. He swept her into his arms and kissed her right on the mouth. He noticed that she was still wearing her glasses. Maybe she was just waiting to get home before putting her new left contact lens in.

The gloom they'd both felt in their hearts the night before had left. In its place the spirit of Christmas grew. They talked about how happy they were as they ate their sandwiches. When the last crumb was finished, Agatha spied the package Harold had left under the potted plant.

"What's that?" Agatha asked.

"What do you mean?" Harold said innocently.

"That package." She pointed. "Right there!"

Harold picked up the gift and looked at it. "It must be for you. It says so right here on the tag."

Before he could hand it to her, Agatha jumped up and ran into the next room where she'd left Harold's present when she sneaked home at lunch time. Breathless, she plopped it into his lap and said, "You go first!"

Harold grinned from his left ear to his right as he tore off the wrapping, and then stared at her with amazement. Gently he lifted the new glove out of the box and put it on his right hand. It fit perfectly. So what if he'd have to wait another year to test it out in a league game. She had given him just the right gift.

He thanked her, kissed her right on the mouth again, then said, "It's your turn!" He couldn't wait to see her face.

Agatha carefully opened her present. First she took off the bow. She undid the tape on the left side, and then on the right. Though Agatha's orderliness was something Harold loved about her the most, he got impatient. "Hurry up!" he cried.

She pulled the paper away and found a beautiful pair of new sunglasses. "You can wear them now that you have contact lenses," Harold explained, beaming. "By the way, why aren't you wearing them?"

A tear trickled down Agatha's left cheek as she looked into Harold's eyes. In an instant he knew where she had gotten the money for his baseball glove. As they kissed right on the mouth in the glow of the potted plant, they both knew in their hearts they had married just the right person.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Admission

When we were putting together our bookstore, I started doing research on children's books because I knew they'd be an important part of our inventory. The thing was, I hadn't paid any attention to children's books for probably 20 years. I was basically starting from scratch.

The research was engaging, so it wasn't hard to get up to a decent speed fairly quickly. One of my strategies was to ask everyone I knew who was paying attention to children's books to tell me about their favorites.

Years after we opened I came across an old scrap of paper with the name "Erik Carlisle" written on it in my handwriting along with a note that someone told me he'd be an important children's book author to stock. Ha! Eric Carle is only one of the illustrator/authors we needed to carry if we wanted to consider ourselves any kind of bookstore at all. Luckily we did, early on and always!

Thank you, Mr. Carle, for this message of hope and peace today.

"Some people are very good at finding calming words during unsettled times.
 I would like to add to the chorus with one of my pictures.
May there be peace for children everywhere.
May there be peace for all" - Eric Carle

Monday, December 17, 2012

All Done

One of my very favorite feelings in the whole world is being caught up on everything. Everything!

The only time I remember feeling that way was flying home for Christmas when I was in college. With the semester behind me, and if I had all of my bills paid and my Christmas shopping done, I was literally caught up on everything. Everything!

I know that I will probably never have that feeling again, not in its purest form. But I'll take whatever little snatches of it I can get.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Just Right

I've long since past the point of wanting very many things. In fact, I dream about the day that I can purge nearly everything I own and live a simple, uncluttered life.

When someone I love passes on, which has happened only a handful of times in my life, I'm not interested in taking on all sorts of possessions. But I love the idea of having a useful item that I associate with them and that I can continue to use in my own life.

Nearly every day we use a pair of my Great Aunt Fran's scissors. Quality scissors. Heavy duty. The kind that are worth sharpening and keeping forever. We keep them in the kitchen drawer. And we always call them Aunt Fran's scissors.

Nearly every day we use a set of glass salt and pepper shakers from my Grandpa and Grammie's house in Connecticut. They had maybe a dozen sets, some strategically located in various parts of the house just in case they were needed. When I picked a set to take home with me, one of my uncles confessed that some of them had been lifted from a favorite restaurant. I had no idea they had such a scandalous history!

This tradition is just right for me.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lulled

Almost every summer while I was growing up, we drove from Massachusetts to Wisconsin to spend two weeks with Grandma Jan at our family's cottage on Lake Geneva. Sometimes we drove part way and stayed overnight with cousins in Rochester. Sometimes we drove straight through the night, often arriving in the early morning hours before anyone was up.

Dad always made sure we owned a full-size station wagon so that we could put the back seat down, creating enough room for the off-duty driver to get some good sleep before taking another turn at the wheel. I usually slept all stretched out in the back, too, lulled into a sound sleep by the hum of the car on the highway.

I remember waking up whenever we pulled into gas stations, feeling all disoriented by the change in speed and the bright lights. It always felt like we were floating, sort of like we were in a plane about to land.

And then I'd remember where I was and what we were doing. Taking comfort in that, I was usually sound asleep again by the time we were back up to speed on the highway.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life Affirming


Every year, Jack's kindergarten teacher (oh, we loved her!) organized an assembly for parents that culminated with Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."

All of the kids painted big pictures of the images in the song, and whenever the lines played that matched their pictures, they held them up high over their heads. Trees of green, skies of blue and clouds of white, bright blessed days, dark sacred nights.

Jack painted a palm tree, he said, because it was my favorite.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brushes with Fame

Inspired by last night's post . . .

I flew on a plane with actress Andie MacDowell. She was gorgeous even after our overnight flight across the Atlantic.

I walked right past John Denver in the lobby of a Hampton Inn while I was on a corporate retreat.

I rode in an airport shuttle with comedian Tom Dreesen. I recognized him from his many appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. We had a nice, long, entertaining chat.

I saw actor William Devane, who played JFK in The Missiles of October, buying toilet paper at Albertson's.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Do You Do With Something Like This?

I once had a roommate who adored Barry Manilow. I knew this because she hung a framed portrait of him on the wall across from her bed so his face would be the first thing she saw when she woke up each morning.

One night she went to hear Barry Manilow in concert. She smuggled a tape recorder in. When she got home she played a specific little bit of it over and over and over again.

"Can't you hear it?" she asked.

"Hear what?"

"This!" She played a bit, then rewound it, then played it for me again. "Can't you hear it?"

"All I hear is the song," I said.

"No, no!" she cried, "Can't you hear him looking right at me when he sang this part? He looked right at me!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Entropy Redux

My entire journal entry dated 12 June 1986:
I'm trying so hard to be organized but I don't think I'm doing a very good job because it's almost 3:00 in the morning.
Yeah, well, I'm still working on that. If and when the mood strikes, I'm actually very good at getting organized, but I'm not very good at being organized. Not on an ongoing basis. It's that gradual decline into disorder that gets me every time.

Must get back to digging myself out of the current holes I am in. Yeah, that's plural.

Update: It turns out that I already wrote a post on this same topic and even gave it the same title. One day I am going to conquer this vicious cycle. One day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Shingles and Pipes


Just today, I discovered that Roger's grandfather's roofing company once repaired the roof of the old tabernacle in Provo. I am so glad it is being restored after last year's fire, even though it won't be used for community events any more. It's an iconic part of downtown Provo.

I actually performed there once when I sang with a French choir in college. It was magical, especially with the pipe organ. Except for a distinct lack of frescoes, it almost felt like we were in a church somewhere in France.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Changing Course

Roger and I were exploring British Columbia in our red Jeep, and during a lunch stop in Pemberton, we overheard a couple of guys talking about how they were hitchhiking from Guatemala to Alaska.

Sometimes when I am on an adventure, I will see someone on a more adventurous adventure. I will say to Roger, "Look, now they are really living life!" as though we somehow aren't.

We'd been thinking about driving to Alaska and had talked ourselves out of it. After lunch that day, we changed our minds. We got back in our Jeep and drove to Alaska.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Joysticks? Meh.

I've never been very big on video games. When I was a kid, I couldn't bear to spend my hard earned quarters on them, and as the first home systems came out, I hardly knew anyone who had one.

Two early memories: (1) Splurging on an arcade driving game with an actual steering wheel and being sorely disappointed that it didn't feel like driving at all, and (2) playing some sort of racing game with a controller, thinking I was doing pretty well, and then realizing that, no, I was the car spinning around and around in the lower corner of the screen.

Then only one adult memory: Getting sucked into the Simpsons arcade game at the mall in the early 90s. Roger and I went back multiple times to get through all the levels. Once we beat the game, it was over. Zero desire to ever play it again.

About the only thing I can be talked into is a little Wii tennis or golf. It's a good thing Jack has his friends and his father.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Little Bathroom Humor

We hired our talented niece Bethany to paint this gem of a story on the bathroom wall at our bookstore. We believe it was because of her creative genius we were awarded Best Bathroom by Utah County Magazine one year. We even beat out Nordstrom!



the story of a tuna sandwich
a tuna sandwich 
went 
for 
stroll 
and met a cat named George
the end

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Under the Influence

I had my wisdom teeth out while I was home from college on a holiday break. They knocked me out with some sort of intravenous anesthesia. I think the whole procedure only took about 15 minutes. I was hoping that I would be in bad shape for at least a day or two so that people would feel sorry for me and keep me supplied with milkshakes, but I didn't even experience any swelling. The only real pain I suffered was my sore jaw from having my mouth pried so wide open. I guess I was lucky. But I really did miss being pitied.

The most entertaining part of it all was the ride home, while I was still a bit under the influence of the anesthesia. For some reason I thought my mother would like to be regaled with any jokes I could remember. I'm not sure she laughed at them, but I do know I laughed. A lot. Too much.

Here's one of them.

A farmer in France took his pig to the fair and boasted that it could do arithmetic. A crowd gathered around as he shouted out equations. "Deux plus sept!" "Quatre plus cinq! "Douze moins trois!" Each time the pig muttered the correct answer, "Neuf, neuf, neuf."

Finally someone shouted out, "Hey, you keep giving the pig problems that equal nine!"

"Oh?" said the farmer. "Watch this!" He shouted "Cinq plus trois!" then pulled hard on the pig's tail. "Huit! Huit! Huit!" the pig squealed.

Heh heh. Still funny even without medication, non?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bull

I was thinking today that I needed to write a followup to yesterday's post. Jack said he thought about shoes and cows, and I only wrote about shoes. So now I must write about cows.

Taking a bit of literary license, I'm going to write about bulls instead.

Well, one bull in particular.

The bull that stopped us in the middle of a mountain road while we were taking my mother, who was in town for a visit, on a scenic drive. The bull that looked inclined to charge us if we made one false move.

We would not have been as intimidated by that bull if the hood of our car wasn't already crumpled up by the deer we hit a few days earlier on the way home from a family wedding in San Pete county. That crumpled hood made us feel a bit more vulnerable than usual as we watched the bull eyeing us suspiciously, pawing the ground with his front hoof.

Eventually he wandered off. Relieved and thankful that we would not have to explain a second incident to the insurance company, we pressed on.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Sign

I was thinking of writing about a fabulous pair of bright blue flats I owned about 25 years ago, wishing I had a pair of shoes like them now.

Then I thought that would be a lame excuse of a post.

But then I read something Jack posted on Facebook tonight: "Some times i think about cows and at other times i think about shoes and then on a very rare occasion i think about cows in shoes -_-"

I'm taking that as a sign, and will hereby remember that fabulous pair of bright blue flats and wish I had a pair of shoes like them now.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Intermittent

Drizzly day today.

The first time I used intermittent windshield wipers was in 1984 when a friend and I drove her car from Boston to Binghamton, New York, to help a couple of college friends celebrate their wedding. Here we are with the happy bride, who is now a happy grandmother (!).


I swore the next car I bought would have intermittent wipers. It did. One of the best inventions ever. The perm I had that year, however, did not do as well on drizzly days. I'm very glad that era of my life didn't last very long.

Friday, November 30, 2012

30

Happy birthday to my mom, who turned 75 today!

I first became aware of my mother's age when she was about 30 and I was about 5. In my head she was in her thirties for a lot longer than she actually was in her thirties. It's funny how that happens.

It also made me more aware of turning 30 myself, especially in terms of comparing where I was in life relative to where she was at that age. Around 30, my mom had two children, completed a masters degree in English literature, and made a major life change by joining the Mormon church. Around 30, she and dad bought the house that they still live in today.

She seemed way more grown up than I was around 30.

But then I remembered a time we were sitting around the table eating dinner and Dad was away for some reason. Mom suddenly started laughing and said, "I feel like I'm one of the kids and the grownups are away!"

I didn't totally get it at the time, but I totally do now. Do any of us ever feel grown up? Maybe when I'm 75 . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why Am I Glad I Said Yes?

Because of things like this.


This is a picture of the Lego mini-figure that Roger asked Jack to make when his dad passed away. Jack dug through his bins and carefully selected pieces to make it look as much like Grandpa as he could--glasses, beard, sweater. Then Roger took the mini-figure and slipped it into his dad's pocket while he and his siblings dressed him for burial.

I am blessed to be married to the kind of person who thinks up such a gentle and memorable way for his son to say goodbye to a loved one.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Misnomer

I found this note from a college roommate today. 


She knew my name wasn't Marge. But she and our other roommate, Ruth, thought it would be funny to call me Marge because a neighbor kept calling me Marge despite being corrected numerous times.

Ruth and Christina called me Marge for years. If I hadn't lost touch with them, I bet they'd still be calling me Marge.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This


If I could be any time and any place at this moment, I would choose this 2012 summer day floating in the crystal clear water of String Lake, Grand Teton National Park.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mortified

One time, when I was a tender and insecure young teenager, I thought I saw someone I knew walking down one of the aisles in a store. I went up behind her and put my hands over her eyes.

"Guess who?" I said.

She turned around. It wasn't the person I thought it was. I was mortified. I ran around the corner to the next aisle, then the next and the next.

A few minutes later, I heard her telling a friend about what I did. When they came around the corner of the aisle I was in, she pointed at me and cried out, "That's her!"

I was even more mortified. I ran out of the store.

For a long time, I considered this one of my most embarrassing moments. I think that's actually the funniest part of the story. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Genetic Memory, Part Two

Mom, me, and my sister Maryann in Norway, Summer 1984

My parents took us to Europe for their 25th wedding anniversary. We made quick stops in Paris and Copenhagen before taking a ferry to Norway, where we spent most of our time.

We drove up the west coast through Stavanger and Bergen before cutting east across the country to Oslo. I felt deeply connected to this land of my great grandfather, Einar, who emigrated to New York City as a young man.

The landscape, the architecture, the people. The waterfalls, the rivers, the fjords, the lakes that were the most impossible shade of blue. The fresh cherries we bought by the side of the road. The hikes in the mountains. The streets that wound through neighborhoods of clapboard houses, some white, some brightly colored. The clean, spare aesthetic. The friendly cousins we met in Oslo.  The bread and cheese and open-face sandwiches piled high with shrimp.

I could see myself making a home there.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The More They Stay the Same

Just came across our first family Christmas letter, which we didn't manage to send out until our second Christmas together in 1991. A little backstory - I had a miscarriage earlier in the year and was told by doctors to wait at least a year before trying to conceive again. Still, we weren't really in a hurry to grow up.

Dear Family and Friends,

For those of you who haven't heard from us since our wedding announcement the summer before last we are alive and well and living in Highland, Utah. 

We're settling rather rebelliously into domestic life--both of us want more excitement and adventure before taking on all of the responsibilities of home and family. We spend our Saturdays playing in the mountains rather than tending to our dying grass and cleaning our bathrooms. We talked ourselves into several spur-of-the-moment weekend getaways and have had some wonderful times driving through the west--visiting national parks, ghost towns and places like Santa Fe, Durango, and Lake Powell.

Despite a struggle with some health problems over the past year (apparently now resolved), Margy has kept busy with freelance writing and editing jobs and a variety of other projects. She is excited to tackle a new project in January: teaching several English composition classes at Utah Valley Community College. She's hoping for more success than we've had team teaching rambunctious seven year olds in Sunday School for the past year.

Roger continues to work at WordPerfect in the Publications department but prefers not to be defined by his job. He'd rather drive out to the desert and shoot pumpkins and shaving cream cans or drive on dirt roads that will take him as high as possible up in the mountains. Roger also enjoys our fish tank and our toads and lizards. As long as he doesn't bring home any snakes . . . .

We wish you all the best this holiday season!

Love, Margy and Roger

It's funny how our lives are so different but so much the same today. We no longer live in Highland, but we still aren't in any hurry to grow up and prefer adventure to responsibility. We still avoid dealing with the grass and the bathrooms (those are literally the two main jobs we delegate to Jack!). Roger just took Jack exploring ghost towns in the west desert yesterday. And within the past couple of weeks all of our jack-o-lanterns became targets. I've gone back to teaching at Utah Valley, which is now a university. And Roger works as the communications manager for a library, so he is still very involved with publications. We no longer have the fish, toads, and lizards. I imagine our cats are sad about that. And Roger and Jack have kept their promise that they will never bring home any snakes (that I know of).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Genetic Memory

The following is not my own memory, but one written by my Great Aunt Elizabeth--known simply as Tia in the family--in her 1952 memoir published by the University of Minnesota Press. I never met Elizabeth, who was a French professor, but there is no question in my mind that I am who I am in part because she was who she was. Her joyful seeking after adventure, her curiosity, her delight in making surprising connections, the way she felt compelled to put it all into words. I'd like to have known her.

This is how she begins in Chapter 1.

In March of 1933, when I was sixty-eight years old and a professor emeritus of several years' standing of the University of Chicago, an episode occurred which showed me the important role played by chance and coincidence in the matter of ancestry.

I had sailed from New York to the island of Mallorca, planning to stay there a few days before going on to Barcelona. I found Palma swarming with English half-pay officers or their widows, and not a room to be found in any comfortable hotel. I suddenly remembered that a Minnesota friend of mine had asked me to be sure to stop at the island of Ibiza, should I be in its neighborhood, to see her daughter. . . . Upon making inquiries, I found that a small steamer would leave for Ibiza at noon, that it would take five hours to sail over the rough intervening seas, and that I could send . . . a cablegram warning them of my imminent arrival.

Everything went beautifully, and I was met after a stormy voyage by tall, lovely Ruth and her Spanish-looking husband, swathed in a Spanish cape and wearing an Andalusian hat.

We landed in Ibiza, the capital of the little island, and then motored to the picturesque little village of Santa Eulalia del Rio, thirty kilometers away . . .

The morning after, Jack and Ruth announced that they were going to take me to see the tiny but well-appointed Museum in Ibiza, where I should have a course in Phoenician, Greek, and Moorish occupation, after which my education would be considered complete and we could enjoy ourselves whole-heartedly.

She goes on to tell of an encounter with a gentleman at the museum who thought she looked like his aunt, and when he discovered her last name--Wallace--he was sure there was a family connection. And, of course, there was!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Stark Contrast

My junior year of college I drove to San Francisco to spend Thanksgiving with cousins. For four or five days, I left behind a life where I never really quite fit in. Compared to other girls at BYU, I was pretty unconventional in my thinking. Maybe even radical.

We all met up at my cousin's old Victorian flat that she shared with her boyfriend from Nepal. She was studying architecture at Berkeley. Her organic farmer brother, with his long hair in a ponytail, flew in from Maine. Another cousin was visiting from Nicaragua, where he was working with the Sandinistas to rebuild housing for people who were displaced during the revolution. He spent the weekend pulling us in to every leftist bookstore he saw. His sister drove up from Santa Cruz. She was a freshman at the University of California and told us tales of what it was like to live in co-ed dorms, where the partying and smoky haze never dissipated. We slept on mattresses on the floor just like true Bohemians.

On Thanksgiving day, while the six of us waited for the turkey that we'd basted in wine to roast, my cousins passed around a little something something grown on the farm in Maine. They all looked hip in their tie-dyed t-shirts and peasant blouses. And there I sat in my turtleneck and baby blue Fair Isles sweater, nursing a glass of non-alchoholic sparkling cider. Utterly conventional and not the least bit radical. 

Stark contrasts like that have always been a part of my life. Sometimes in comparison I'm the rich one. Sometimes I'm the poor one. Sometimes I'm the smart one. Sometimes I'm the one who doesn't have a clue. Sometimes I'm the faithful seeker. Sometimes I'm the skeptical doubter. But I'm always me.

I've come to realize that I actually seek out the contrasts. And, mostly, I like it that way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Out in the Cold


This is Jack toasting marshmallows over the fire at my parents' house the year before last.

I always loved it when my dad said that we were going to have a fire. We'd hang out for hours gathered in the living room, basking in the warmth. Then it would be time for bed, and we'd have to face the rest of the house, which was always freezing cold. I don't think it helped any that the fireplace was right next to the thermostat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Narrow Escape

One day while I was in high school I stayed home sick, and for at least part of that day I was home alone. I woke up to the sound of sirens and a helicopter hovering over the woods just behind our house.

Turns out they were apprehending three men who had escaped from the prison in Concord a few miles away. Apparently the car they were driving broke down on Route 2A by the railroad tracks that ran behind our house. They ditched the car and headed on foot down the tracks through the woods.

A bit too close for comfort if you ask me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Prep

When I was a freshman in college, I took a French class from a grad student named Buffy with bobbed hair and a sparkling personality.

My favorite memory from that class was hanging out with the girls I studied with. We decided that we'd honor Buffy by taking on our own preppy names. I remember Lynn was Corky and I was Muffy. I think we had a Mitzi, too.

I wonder if Buffy ever caught on? She was really nice. I'm sure she'd have laughed. And thrown her head back so her bob would swing disarmingly.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life Aquatic

One of my very favorite things to watch on television when I was growing up: Jacques Cousteau specials.

Charmant accent sur ​​un bateau et dans l'ocĂ©an. 

For a while I actually thought I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then I realized that would require studying biology.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Good Heart


Even though we have a vaulted ceiling in our living room and could have a very tall Christmas tree, Jack always picks one of the small ones, especially if it's a bit scraggly, just to make sure someone picks it.

One year Roger took Jack to buy a tree while I held down the fort at our bookstore. They stopped by to see me on their way home, and Roger told me the man at the Christmas tree lot thought I'd be really mad when I saw the tree Jack picked and would send them back to pick out a "better" one.

That man didn't know me at all.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flat

One of my favorite chores when I was growing up was ironing pillowcases and my father's handkerchiefs. I remember using the heavy glass bottle topped by a metal cap with holes in it to sprinkle them with water. And I can remember how they smelled when I touched the hot iron to them.

Neat rectangles and squares. Easy to press flat, easy to fold perfectly.

Today I wish a little more of life was like that.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Taking Care

My aunt Sigrid unexpectedly ended up in the hospital today. She should be okay, and I'd rather have a happier reason to be thinking about her, but this is life.

We went on several vacations with extended family to the Caribbean while I was growing up, and I think it may have been Sigrid's professional background as a stewardess that compelled her to bring a carryon case packed with every conceivable contingency item (bandages, medications, lotions, etc.) in case any of us met trouble. I was entranced by that.

When my brother was in the hospital in Boston with just days left, Sigrid got in her car and drove round trip from her home in Connecticut to see him. With traffic, I think she was on the road for more than eight hours. We were late getting into the city, and nearly missed her. Luckily we pulled up just as she was leaving so we could hug and thank her.

I sure hope her doctors and nurses are taking care of her like she's taken care of us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Top

I drove to the UVU campus for a staff meeting at 5:30, enjoying the spectacular light from the setting sun on a snowy Mt. Timpanogos on the way.

Click here for photo credit.

One summer while my hike-loving Dad was in town, I organized some girls from the neighborhood who needed to go on a tough hike to pass off one of their requirements for camp certification. We decided to climb Mt. Timpanogos.

I thoroughly enjoyed the hike until we got to the top of the mountain, which is a long narrow rocky ridge. We wanted to slide down a glacier on the east side, which meant we needed to follow the trail along the rocky ridge for half a mile, maybe even a mile. For someone who doesn't like heights, it was terrifying. The trail was only a few feet wide with a low wall of rock on the left and a sheer drop on the right.

At one point I saw a big horn sheep laying on the slope about 100 feet below the trail. I thought, "If even big horn sheep can lose their footing and fall to their death up here, I'm in big trouble."

Then the sheep suddenly got to its feet and trotted off. It was not dead, just asleep.

Even so, I'm not sure I'll ever go up to the top of that mountain again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shocked and Appalled

Today we held the first annual UVU Conference on Writing for Social Change. After months of serving on the planning committee, it was a pleasure to see it all come together. We had a fantastic keynote speaker, a full afternoon with enough student and community presentations to fill three concurrent sessions, and attendance was better than expected.

I can't imagine that I would have had the guts to submit a paper to present at a conference, at least as an undergrad. The only actual piece of writing for social change I put out publicly during that time was a preachy letter to the editor of the student newspaper about illegal parking on campus.

One year I worked as a volunteer student defender for parking court and couldn't believe the number of students who wrongly received parking tickets. Then the university announced a new probation policy for parking tickets, which seemed harsh. Me being me, I wanted to get a better sense of what was going on, so I called BYU police and arranged to shadow one of the officers on parking patrol. That experience opened my eyes to another side of the story; I was astounded by all of the blatant illegal parking. And so I preached. The editor actually titled my letter "No virtue?"

That wasn't actually the only letter to the editor I wrote to the student newspaper, though.

My other letter was in response to an AP article about a nude wedding in another state. I thought it was hilarious. Seriously, at BYU? And so I wrote:

Dear Editor,

I was shocked and appalled to see a story about a nude wedding in The Daily Universe. Thank heavens you didn't send a photographer to cover the event.

I thought I was being so clever. But it turned out that even my closest friends weren't sure whether I was being serious or not. A couple of readers wrote rebuttal letters, one of whom accused me of being so prudish that I probably didn't even drink Coke. Heh heh.

Writing fail.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Link

When Jack was an infant, he loved laying on his back and looking at the light coming through the blinds. Sometimes I would look at him taking in the world through his physical senses and wonder how he'd grow from that into a person capable of abstract thought.

Tonight Jack found me in a puddle of tears over a setback in our community that left me wondering what we really mean when we say we follow Christ. He listened to me and understood.

Then he went to find one of our cats and brought him to comfort me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Preference

A little more poetry, this time co-written with my friend Sal and read by my boyfriend's American Heritage teacher in front of an auditorium with hundreds of students our freshman year in college. I was extending an invitation to Preference, a girls' choice dance.

We based the poem on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." Name changed to protect the guy who married someone else. But he did go to Preference with me! He answered yes by cooking up an original song with his friend Steve, putting a band together, and singing to me in front of hundreds of students in our religion class.

Once upon a midnight dreary
While I pondered, weak and weary
Wondering who on earth my Preference date could be.
And I sat there, quite unknowing
I then stood up, my face was glowing
A wondrous thought had just occurred to me.
"Why Blankity-blank," I murmured
Once again, and louder, "Blankity-blank!"
Could maybe? Oh, if only! Maybe? Possibly?
Would a man so suave and neato condescend to go with me?

Ah, distinctly I remember
It was only last December
When Blankity, my dear Blankity, danced the night away with me.
At the thought of it I shivered 
I must be brave and cannot quiver
If poste haste I don't request him
Other invites will infest him
So quickly, quickly to him I must flee.

Please then, Blank, make a poor soul happy 
Don't say no, but make it snappy
I need to know if you will go with me.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

May I Be Excused?

Last night's post reminded me of this poem I wrote for an 11th grade creative writing class. It reflects a typical exchange at the dinner table while I was growing up. Here it is, unedited. I must have written it during my ellipsis period, which I believe may also be known as a period period period.

"At the Dinner Table"

Do you want some more?

Hmm . . . what?

I said,
Do you want some more peas?

Why?

Will you just answer?

Well . . . I don't know . . .

Do you want some more?

You can have them.

But do you want them?

No,
That's all right . . .
You can have them . . .

I DON'T WANT THEM --
You can have them . . .
Honest.

All right,
If you're sure you don't want them . . .

Friday, November 09, 2012

Confidence

Our first wintery driving of the season today reminded me of the time our family was driving home from church on the highway and a car spun out on the ice in front of us, landing in the median.

"Laurie, be careful," said Mom.

"Oh, we're okay. See?" said Dad as he tapped on the accelerator and then on the brakes a few times.

I just sat in the back seat holding my breath.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Oblivious

I've only got vague memories of the time I took the train into New York City without, apparently, getting permission from my parents. I'm pretty sure I had a good time, but I think the shock of coming home to a panicked mother and a good deal of trouble eclipsed it all in my brain.

We were visiting my grandparents in Connecticut, and I was a teenager. Maybe 14 or 15? Not really sure. I was hanging out with my aunt and uncle's fosters kids--two teenage boys named Bill and Russell. I don't know why or when we decided to go into the city, I can't imagine why my parents didn't know, and I have no idea how we got to the train station, where I got the money I'd have needed, or what we did when we got there.

But there I was. In New York City. Riding around on a subway. In the late 1970s when the crime rate was notoriously high. With two teenage foster kids who I didn't actually really know anything about. And even worse, they were teenage boys. (Though I must say they were always nice to me. Very respectful.)

All I really remember is that when I got back to my grandparents' house and my mother was angry and relieved all at the same time, I didn't understand what the big deal was. I was okay, wasn't I?

Once again, sorry, Mom!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Rhythm

Roger and I once spent about six weeks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the off season. We were there over Christmas and through the end of January.

Because our days and nights were wide open and we didn't have many outside obligations, we settled into a routine driven by our biological clocks and our apparent inability to cut short a project or put down a good book. I think our bodies and minds must be naturally inclined to settle into a 25-hour day when left to their own devices. Every night we stayed up a little later than the night before, and then we slept a little later the next morning.

If I hadn't been so committed to walking for at least an hour on the beach every day while the sun was shining during those short winter days, I wonder if we'd have eventually worked our way completely around the clock to a normal sleeping pattern again.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Crimson Tide

A few years ago, Roger graduated with his masters of library and information studies (MLIS) from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. When he started the program, he flew out to spend a week to meet his professors and the other students in his online cohort.

He brought back t-shirts for us. Jack's said BAMA in big letters across the front.

Roll Tide!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Checkered

About ten years ago, I got suck-my-soul bored with the pebble tan walls throughout our entire house. On the main floor I decided to go bright. Blue, green, yellow. Like we lived on the beach in Florida.

One of the walls in our living room goes up two stories and needed special treatment. I decided to paint a white and yellow checkerboard.


So we rented a Very Tall Ladder from the hardware store, and I set to work taping off the grid. I was 14 feet up when Jack, three, decided he wanted me to come down. He stood at the bottom of the ladder and started to shake it. I think I may have experienced a panic attack up there at the top. I managed to squeak for help, and Roger came to the rescue.

Then he ended up taping off the grid--perfectly, by the way--so I could paint it. I think it suits us. The cat looks thrilled, at least.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Tied

I consider myself exceptionally lucky whenever I'm given a job working with the teenage girls at church. Lucky me, I've got that job now. As one of the leaders, I attended a night of excellence program tonight. Several girls were given their Young Womanhood Recognition awards, the culmination of six years of completing goals in the Personal Progress program.

I remember working hard to get that award when I was a teenager, and one memory especially stands out.

The last project I decided to do was to make a quilt for college from scraps of fabric I'd used in other sewing projects. I designed a pattern, cut squares, and pieced them together.

Not surprisingly, I started running out of time. One of my leaders jumped in, tracked down a quilting frame, and organized a quilt tying party. I found myself surrounded by friends who helped me get the job done in no time, a loving act that made me feel like I was being wrapped in a warm quilt.


That's why I consider myself lucky. I get to pay it forward. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Pot Stash

When my family moved into the house that my parents still live in, there was an old greenhouse in the backyard with lots of broken window panes. Little by little, my parents took it apart and expanded our lawn.

The biggest treasure in the greenhouse was the stash of clay flower pots. Hundreds of them, I think.

We put a sign on the side of the road advertising the pots, sold a bunch of them, and then used the proceeds to supplement our old television--which was so sad that when our house was broken into twice, the burglars didn't bother to take it--with a small 14" black and white.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Recovery

Watching coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy brings back some memories of the aftermath of 9/11, especially the energy of people pulling together to get through and the sense of helplessness I felt being so far away.

We owned our bookstore in 2001, and I couldn't help but think of all of the small businesses like ours in New York City, struggling to get back up and running. I called the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce to ask if they knew of a way we could "adopt" a business to help them get hold of some of the things they'd need. The Chamber ran with the idea, included me in some conference calls to get more input, and then set up an Adopt-a-Business program. They even had Business Week call to interview me (click here to read the article, and please note that despite what the article says, I was only a marketing manager, not an actual executive).

I wish I could say that I made a real difference for someone. We adopted a small graphic design firm owned by a single mom with young twins. She had posted before and after pictures of her office on the Adopt-a-Business website. The before picture perfectly reflected my own aesthetic, so I felt an immediate bond with her. The after picture was devastating. Her office was in a building next to the World Trade Center, and it was completely gutted by fire. She lost everything.

I called one of the florists on the Adopt-a-Business website and ordered flowers for her.

We corresponded by phone and email, and I was able to do a few small things for her. I even had a chance to meet her several months later when I was in New York City on business. She was struggling with ambivalence, not sure if she had it in her to rebuild. She thought maybe she'd take her children away from the city and start over somewhere else. Eventually we lost touch.

And so here I am today, thinking about the NYC area dealing with another crazy tragedy barely a decade later. What can I do?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Deceived

One of my students is writing a paper on bad drivers and is struggling to figure out how he can turn it into a scholarly research project. I shared a few of my theories with him to help him brainstorm possible academic angles, including the following.

Six or seven years ago, I met my sister Maryann in Mexico to study Spanish in Playa del Carmen. We flew into Cancun and rented a car. It was a little beat up stick shift that served us well for a week of narrow roads and crazy traffic. I loved it!

When I got back to Utah with our broad streets, I was surprised that I felt less safe. People weren't paying attention to their driving as well as we all did in Mexico! I think we are deceived by the wide berth we're given here.

Engineering and public administration meet neurology and psychology. Throw in a little anthropology. Ba-da-boom. Viable research project.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Desperation

The first Halloween after Roger and I got married we had more than 200 trick-or-treaters. It completely caught us off guard, and even though we had a decent stash of candy, we ran out too early.

We scoured the kitchen for treats to hand out and even raided the brightly colored lollipops off of the tail feathers of a stuffed turkey that Roger's sister had made for us for us to use as a Thanksgiving decoration.

From then on we we've been more prepared. We still stock up on enough candy to handle 200 trick-or-treaters. We live in a different neighborhood now, and we haven't had anywhere near that many for years. But we sure don't want to be caught off guard again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Anticipation

The first Christmas after Roger and I got married, I talked him into opening all of our presents at midnight on Christmas Eve instead of waiting until Christmas morning.

For many years I had lobbied my parents to at least let us each open one present on Christmas Eve. They sure were sticklers about making us wait until Christmas morning. So when I realized that the only person I had to convince that first Christmas together was Roger, who was pretty ambivalent about the idea, I went for it.

It was fun!

Then Christmas morning. Meh.

I learned my lesson. We have never done that again. Except we did start our own family tradition of opening one present each on Christmas Eve. The rest have to wait.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Franglais

My thoughts are still back east with family and friends dealing with Hurricane Sandy so I thought I'd write an early childhood memory from about the time I was eating this bowl of cereal in our dining room in Watertown, Massachusetts.


I went to a French nursery school called Ecole Bilingue, and remember especially learning vocabulary with flash cards, doing worksheets, and drawing pictures. Based on this thank you note (not sure who it was to or exactly what the dresser things were), it looks like I picked up some French but mostly embraced simultaneous bilingualism. In this case, franglais.



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Batten Down the Hatches


Hurricane Sandy is coming and my mother's old stomping grounds have been evacuated. My grandparents used to live on Pratt Island in Connecticut on Long Island Sound. We spent lots of our holidays and summer vacations there.

I heard stories about hurricanes all my life, and even experienced one or two of the milder ones while I was visiting. Power outages, flooded basements, waves crashing over the sea wall and the causeway.

It was always exciting. Of course, I was a kid and didn't have to deal with any of the actual reality of the storms.

Sandy has already wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. I sure hope no one has to face too much reality this week.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Have I Mentioned Yet

how much Lego we own?


Roger wanted to be sure our future children had plenty, so we started investing in it when we got married. Christmas presents. Birthday presents. We collected it for nine years before Jack was born. Then after he was born we kept collecting it. Christmas presents. Birthday presents. (And, okay, bribes for good behavior.)

I don't think we've stopped yet. Jack gets a monthly catalog from Lego. Roger gets regular email updates from lego.com. Not ten minutes ago he showed me the one offering free shipping on the awesome new camper van set.

One time I made the mistake of asking whether we had enough Lego. Apparently it is impossible to have enough Lego.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I Hope It's Okay I Made Him Tell Us His Life Story

We made a nice new memory tonight spending the evening in Salt Lake City with my sister Maryann's boyfriend Lars who is visiting from Pittsburgh.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Laugh With Those Who Laugh

Roger came up with a funny idea for my family for Christmas (shh, no hints). Jack laughed when he heard about it, so we're going to make it happen. In fact, we've already got the main component.

As we talked about it, I could imagine my brother Robbie laughing out loud when all the individual pieces were opened and it suddenly dawned on him what it all meant. He always loved a good joke.

I felt it deep in my heart. The missing it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scared, the Sequel

A friend of mine posted a story today about a movie theater in England that accidentally showed the beginning of a horror movie to an audience full of kids who were there to see an animated film. I would have been one of the kids having nightmares after that! Not okay.

When I was in elementary school, my best friend's older brother David used to come babysit us. He was a great babysitter, but I'll never forget the time he turned on the TV to watch Hawaii 5-0. It was the very first time I ever saw someone get killed. Of course, I knew it wasn't real, but I was used to watching shows like Gilligan's Island and My Three Sons! 

I still remember how shocked and sick it made me feel, and it was a long, long time before I started watching detective shows after that. And then, how easy it was to become desensitized.

P.S. I just realized that this is not the first time I have written this year about being traumatized by scary shows when I was growing up. See here. Huh. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Secret to a Happy Marriage

This post is courtesy of being curled up in bed after a long hard day of getting Jack to school on time, grading papers for two hours, teaching three classes (each over an hour long and two involving excruciating details about comma usage), attending two hour-long meetings, driving at least two hours in the car getting from place to place, trying to concentrate on a book while Jack had his saxophone lesson, shopping for groceries and making sure we got fed.

Here it is:

Roger and I each brought a twin-sized duvet into our marriage. We decided to go on using them because they made it easy to share a bed without fighting over the covers (which I may or may not have a habit of doing).

Using twin-sized duvets has also turned out to be especially nice when the weather turns cold. I can swap out my summer cotton cover for a thick flannel cover and it doesn't affect Roger, who keeps his light-weight year round, at all.

Oh, I am so cozy. Must sleep soon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Groovy

Here are the first three record albums that were my very own and no one else's. Up until then, I only owned singles. I think I was in sixth or seventh grade when I got these for Christmas, along with my very own turntable and speakers. I still have the Jim Croce album on the shelf in our family room. Don't know what happened to the other two. Maybe they're in my parents' family room?




Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Know a Guy


During the spring of 2008, I was asked to transform the shop at our Springville art museum in anticipation of a Wayne Thiebaud exhibition. To see before and after pictures, click here. It was a crazy whirlwind, imagining and executing the project--which included painting the walls--in less than three weeks.

One of my goals was to brighten the shop up and add color wherever possible so it would be reminiscent of Thiebaud's work. With that in mind, I decided to use fabric panels in a variety of patterns and colors in back of the shelves.

I got all of the panels put together at home, and then Jack and I brought them to the museum to install. What happened next was one of my favorite memories of this project (the other was meeting Mr. Thiebaud).

Jack, who was only eight at the time, immediately took charge. He hopped up on the counter and figured out the most efficient way to take down each set of shelves, put the fabric panel in, move brackets to adjust the shelves to the right levels (which sometimes required a pair of pliers), and then put the shelves back in. I just took orders as his assistant, holding things and handing things to him.

It's good to know a guy who can get a job done!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Friendly Face


In Utah, adoptions can be finalized after six months. Here we are with our judge, who also happened to be one of my LDS bishops while I was a college student. It was a happy day made that much happier by a familiar and friendly face!

(And oh, man, I miss that six-month-old Jack. I do love 13-year-old Jack, but he sure was an adorable baby to hang out with!)

Friday, October 19, 2012

If We Stand Together

Jack had a choir concert at the high school tonight. All of the choirs from both the junior and senior high schools performed, then came together to sing one final song. It was darn impressive. The quality of the music programs in our schools is just one of the reasons I love living in our community.

As we sat in the auditorium, I remembered another reason. For several years I was on the committee for our city-wide book club, Springville Reads. We'd select a thought-provoking book (sometimes two or three along a similar theme for different ages) and encourage everyone in town to read it and have conversations about it.

Shortly after 9/11--a critical time for us to consider carefully who our enemies are--we selected the book When the Emperor Was Divine, a beautifully written novel by Julie Otsuka about a Japanese-American family interned at Topaz during World War II. Elegant and so powerful in its spareness.

We invited two speakers for our kick-off event, which involved a crowd that filled the high school auditorium (!): Michael Tunnell, local author of a non-fiction book called The Children of Topaz, and a gentleman from the Japanese American Citizens League with personal connections to Topaz.

Now a dozen or so years later, it feels as though we've lost ground in the lessons we tried so hard to learn then. But the final number at the concert tonight--all the choirs together more than 250 voices strong--gives me renewed hope.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thawing Out

Roger sometimes laughs at me because I get cold easily. He doesn't.

One time we were driving in his old blue topless Land Cruiser, and he sped through a mountain stream that was crossing a dirt road in a narrow sunless canyon. A wall of icy water went up over the windshield and landed on our heads.

While I can be a good sport about things, I wasn't a good sport about that. I was cold. Freezing cold. Roger laughed. I didn't.

At least not until I warmed up again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Switch

Something about a situation one of my university students is dealing with reminds me of a college friend.

Colleen had gone blind as a teenager due to diabetes. She recruited me to help her study for her French class by reading the textbook to her. I readily obliged because I was taking a similar class and thought it might help me be more disciplined about studying.

As the semester progressed, Colleen's health degenerated, again due to diabetes. I continued to study with her even after she went into the hospital. Eventually it became clear that she was too sick to finish the course. But we still studied together.

Then one day, she just let go of studying French. We stopped working and simply hung out together. It's like a switch flipped in her mind and she knew she wasn't going to recover so there was no point. Not long after that, she passed away.

My student is not dealing with a life or death issue, but I worry that in his mind he might believe he's lost all chance of completing his degree. I'm hoping the switch doesn't flip.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Getting a Lift

I loved the fluttery feeling in my stomach when I rode in the back of our family station wagon over the Wisconsin hills in the summer.

I loved the days my friends and I were in the backseat of the school bus and the driver would drive up the unpaved bumpy hill at the end of Wampus Ave. to avoid turning left at a busy intersection.

I loved discovering that the best car to ride in on a roller coaster is the one in the very back.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Check Was in the Mail

When I was in high school, I went on a camping trip with some of the girls from church and our leaders. We loaded into my parents' station wagon and headed north to somewhere in New Hampshire.

On the way home, I realized that we were going to run out of gas. We stopped at a gas station to fill up and then realized that no one had thought to bring cash, not even the adults. Credit cards weren't an option either.

Somehow I managed to convince the gas station attendant to let us put enough gas in the car to get home, and I promised to put a check in the mail that very day.

We either looked very trustworthy or so pitiful after a night of camping that he was willing to write off the cost of gas to help us out.

I mailed a check that very day.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shorthand

Families tend to develop shorthand references to certain phenomena, and we are no exception. Here are three of ours.

Struts: A friend of ours once worked as an illustrator for computer-based flight training programs and she regularly met with engineers known as subject matter experts. At one of the meetings, a SME told a story that he ended by holding up his two pointer fingers about six inches apart and exclaiming "the struts were like this!" Everyone else in the room busted up laughing, and our friend realized that she had no idea why it was funny. Were the struts too big? Too small? At a weird angle? What? Whenever someone says something that flies right over our heads for whatever reason, all we have to do is hold up our pointer fingers six inches apart and we bust up laughing.

Cow Painting: Years ago, Roger and I went to the Park City Art Festival. At one of the first booths, we fell in love with a watercolor of a cow in a field, but decided that since we had just gotten there we we'd come back to buy it later if we still wanted it. After visiting all of the other artist booths, we still wanted it. Of course, it was gone when we went back. Whenever we have to make a decision and we realize we'll miss our chance if we don't act straightaway, it's a cow painting.

Bryce Points: A friend of mine came into work one day really cheesed that he'd gotten in hot water with his spouse for buying a new TV without consulting her first. "I should get credit for all of the times I didn't buy something I wanted!" he raged. Roger and I now regularly report our own Bryce Points to one another when we see something we want but resist. We've got a load of credit built up.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ooooooooh!

When leaves turn, the days get noticeably shorter, and the fall rain comes, it reminds me of the October my junior high school English teacher assigned us to read Daphe du Maurier's Rebecca. Creepy novel. Perfect time of year to read it.

And I learned that even though the story was scary, I didn't have to be afraid of thick novels with small print written for grownups long before I was born.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Legacy

My father-in-law's funeral today was just what it should have been. All seven of his children spoke. Many of his grandchildren participated. I marveled at the family Bob created with my mother-in-law Betty, and more than once, I thought about how much it has grown and changed since I first met them 27 years ago.

During the service, our nephews Brian and Glen contributed a beautiful rendition of Abide with Me on piano and cello. They were born about the time Roger and I got married and are university students now.

Early in our marriage, Roger and I took care of his sister Christine's three children for a day. Brian is on the left, his brother Eric (who is in Indiana with his wife and son and attending medical school) is in the middle, and Megan (who is expecting her first baby in January) is on the right.


After our adventures that day, Brian needed a nap. But he was so wound up and exhausted he couldn't sleep. I took him into a quiet room and held him close while he cried and cried, releasing tension for more than half an hour. At last he relaxed and nodded off with his head on my shoulder, his sweet blonde curls matted with sweat. I held him while he slept. My reward.

I watched Brian at the piano today. He's an accomplished musician, confident and sure. A grown man. And, like his grandfather, a good man.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Burned into My Brain

We had a very near tragic moment tonight when Doublestuff (one of our cats) nearly got squished by the garage door. It's an image that I'm afraid is burned into my brain. Thankfully, he's okay.

Thinking back, I can remember two near tragic moments when my own life was in peril.

One was when I was in my twenties, driving home from the airport in an icy storm. All of a sudden realized that I had absolutely no control over the car. I calmly asked all of my friends in the car to make sure they had their seat belts on, then held my breath until I could feel the wheels grip the pavement again some long moments later. Thankfully, the car in front of us maintained a constant speed. If it hadn't, we would have crashed right into it.

The other time was during my first experience kayaking in the Snake River. No one told me that I needed to keep paddling when I hit the rapids, even though they were fairly mild. I lifted my paddle, thinking I'd ride them out, and immediately tipped over. The water rushed past me so fast, I couldn't understand why I wasn't being ripped out of the boat. I tried to get upright. It proved impossible, but I did manage to get my face out of the water for a breath of air. Thankfully, I finally remembered to pull off the skirt, and as soon as I did that I immediately slipped right out.

My family, including my poor mom who still shudders at the memory, were all in a raft ahead of me, watching and worried. It's an enduring family story that I apparently will never, ever live down. But I'll be okay.


Just before the fateful moment. Oh, and it was really cold that Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shoot

We're heading toward that time of year. Cold and colder.

The coldest night I ever remember was a night one January when Roger, Jack and I were driving near Cove Fort, Utah, and the thermometer in our car dropped to around 22 below. We were very glad that we didn't break down along the highway.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Blues

Jack's saxophone teacher introduced him to the blues tonight during his lesson, and they did a little improv together. This is going to be a fun new adventure for him!

When I was a college intern in Washington, DC, some of my friends and I agreed that we needed to experience some live jazz. We looked up the weekend events in the newspaper and decided that the Ice House Cafe in Herndon sounded good.

We had no idea how long it would take us to drive from our apartment in Alexandria to Herndon.

We drove and drove and drove. We started to get punchy. That led to many bad jokes. "I went to the doctor because I thought I had a herndon." Eventually we made it, and it was definitely worth the drive.


Now I'm looking forward to Jack bringing some of it home. Here he is on the right, his teacher Ben on the left, the two of them taking turns. Jack did well for his first time ever! Oh, yeah.