Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Poor Jack is pretty sick, feeling lousy with a high fever. We had a quiet day at home.

Right after Roger and I opened our bookstore, we both got very sick. I suppose it wasn't too surprising, but it was sure inconvenient. We had our grand opening and then we closed. Roger was worse than me that first morning, so I drove down to leave a note on the door explaining that we'd reopen as soon as possible.

For days we were utterly incapacitated. We just laid there. Luckily we weren't parents yet. And luckily we had a furnace to keep us warm. We decided that if we had to put logs on a fire to survive, we'd pretty much just have to give up and die.

Ultimately it was cold applesauce that saved my life. My throat was so sore, and it was the only thing I could bear to eat. I think it took a week before we had enough strength to go back to work.

Life works much better when we take turns being sick. The worst, though, is when it's Jack's turn.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My Cheerleader

Jack just requested a cough drop to soothe a sore throat. I hope he's not getting sick. He already missed some school the first week of the term due to illness, and he's barely caught up from that.

Sore throats make me nervous because they can lead to throat cultures. And I am so not a fan of the throat culture. I believe that the older I get, the less equipped I am to deal with them. It is so hard to let the swab touch the back of my throat without grabbing the nurse's hand to stop it.

When Jack was little, maybe three or four years old, I had to take him along with me to the doctor when I was sick. The doctor decided I had to have a throat culture. As I sat on my hands, I asked Jack for some moral support.

"You can do it, Mom! You can do it, Mom! You can do it, Mom!" he chanted over and over until it was over. And I did it!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Building a Relationship

My dad became Gramps when Jack was born. Roger and I were sort of joking when we suggested we call him Gramps, but it stuck and I think it fits!

In honor of Gramps being in town for a visit, I thought I'd post these early memories of Jack and Gramps building a house with Lincoln Logs and a tower with Duplo when Jack was probably a few months shy of two.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


My dad is in town, and he's hanging out with Jack while Roger and I run away for the night.

The first time Roger and I traveled together was for a quick trip to Las Vegas. No, we weren't eloping. In fact, we weren't even dating yet. But we were taking a scuba diving class together, and we were headed to Lake Mead to get certified.

Somehow we ended up staying at the Klondike Hotel at the far end of the strip. It was pretty cheap and rundown. I confess that I felt no guilt flinging my sandy wetsuit and all of my scuba gear around my bathroom to let them dry.

We're staying in a nicer place tonight. I'll probably keep the bathroom a bit tidier.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Car troubles that left me stranded for a few unproductive hours earlier today reminded me of the time I drove my aunt and uncle's old Land Cruiser from Massachusetts to Illinois. They needed it transported, and I needed to start working my way across the country to get back to college in Utah at the end of the summer.

It was a grand adventure driving something that size. I loved owning the road. What I didn't love, though, was breaking down over and over along the way.

The truck was okay unless I stopped twice in a row without letting the engine run long enough in between stops. For example, if I parked to get something to eat at a rest area, then drove to the gas pumps, I'd have to wait an hour or so before I could get the engine started again. Turns out there was some sort of kink in the fuel line.

But the old Land Cruiser and I did make it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Seeing More Clearly

Jack is trying out contact lenses. As soon as we got home from the eye doctor, he begged to take them out. Time for tough love. I told him he had to keep them in until 7:00. He didn't take them out until 7:30. Good job, Jack.

I started wearing glasses in the fourth grade and didn't get contact lenses until I graduated from high school. Of course, back in those days we didn't have disposable lenses and we had to be extra careful with the one pair we'd get. I'm much more willing to let a 12-year-old get contacts knowing that he'll get 12 pair to last all year.

When I was a little bit older than Jack, my mom took me to my yearly checkup with the eye doctor, and while he was examining my eyes he asked me if I used drugs.

"What?!" asked my mother. She was alarmed.

Apparently my pupils were very dilated, and the doctor was suspicious. The answer was no (I have polygraph results to prove it), but if it was yes, I can't imagine saying so with my mother in the room!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I am so tired tonight I can barely focus my brain. When I got home from class at 9:00 p.m., I found Roger making our bed with the clean sheets I'd left in the drier. He's always doing thoughtful things like that.

When I was a teenager, I remember coming home late one night, and while I was dragging myself up the stairs, I realized with much regret that I hadn't made up my bed. When I opened the door to my room, I discovered that while I was gone, my mom had found my sheets and made my bed for me. To this day I am grateful to her for that.

I believe I have hit upon one of my love languages. And now to lay my head on my freshly laundered pillow . . .

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hanging Out in D.C.

Political geek that I am, I enjoyed watching the president's State of the Union speech tonight and was reminded of the very first time I voted in a presidential election. It was 1984, and since I was doing a college internship in Washington, D.C., I cast an absentee ballot from my home state of Massachusetts.

The ballot came with a thin sheet of styrofoam that was meant to be placed under the ballot so that when I punched holes with a pin to indicate my selections, they'd be more likely to go all the way through the paper.

At that point, the idea of a hanging chad hadn't yet entered the nation's consciousness. In retrospect, I hope my votes counted!

Monday, January 23, 2012


After class tonight I discovered that one of my students, who left the class coughing, had a really scary time of it trying to catch her breath and had almost called 911. By the time class ended and I found her in the hall with some of her classmates, she'd pretty much recovered from the worst of it, but didn't think she could drive herself home. She was waiting for her husband to come pick her up.

While we talked, she asked me to take her pulse. I'm totally out of practice, but I have had some training!

When I was in high school I took a CPR class. As you can see, I've never filled out the bottom half of the certification card because I've never administered CPR. I did have the chance to come to the aid of two different people who were in obvious distress soon after I took the class (a woman in Mexico who couldn't quite stay conscious and a man at a campground in Utah who seemed to be suffering from heat stroke). But neither of them required mouth-to-mouth or CPR.

Although I kept surprisingly calm as I helped them, I realized that I wasn't going to be cut out for any sort of job in the medical field. The clincher? When the heat stroke victim's wife suggested that we take out his dentures in case he vomited. Yeah. Not my strong suit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Child Labor

Putting Benny and Jack to work to keep our bookstore doors sparkling (circa 2003).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Would Not Eat Them Here or There

We're getting our first really good snow of the season, which made our drive to Sportsman's Warehouse this evening a bit more adventurous. But we had to go to take advantage of a special, one-day discount for law enforcement personnel. (It still makes me laugh, by the way, to think I work for the sheriff!)

After we picked up the things we were after, we browsed a bit. I discovered they have quite a selection of food there, including freeze-dried eggs.

Once upon a time, long long ago, my dad made me eat freeze-dried eggs. I think we were testing them out before a camping trip. Oh. Ew. Even after all these years, I can still taste them when I think about it. They were especially nasty when I washed them down with grape juice. Ew. Ew.

I'm sure freeze-dried eggs have improved over the years, but I don't ever want to eat them again. Even with a special discount.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The First Roll

These are pictures from the very first roll of film I ever shot. It was summer 1972, the year I turned nine. We had the kind of box camera with a view finder that you look down into. Apparently, I thought it would be nice to take a portrait of everyone at the house that day.

Here's my dad and my mom:

And here's my best friend Judy holding my brand new sister, Linda, on the left, and my older brother Robbie on the right.

These black and white photos are aging far better than many of the color snapshots I took in high school and college.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Up Too Late

Tonight we launched our new "So You Want to Read" series at the Springville library. Our speakers, authors Ann Cannon and Louise Plummer, were absolutely perfect for the kickoff presentation. They spoke about books they've read over the years that they loved, that they hated but then loved when they reread them as adults, that surprised them, and that stretched them. And they completely charmed us.

So I thought I'd write a memory about reading in their honor.

When I was in early elementary school, I always made sure that my bedroom door was a little ajar when it was time to turn out the lights. I only had to lean a little bit from my bed to catch the light from the hallway and stay up longer than I was supposed to reading books. The book I remember the most from that time was Danny and the Dinosaur. My favorite part was when the dinosaur totally failed at the game of hide and seek because there was nothing large enough for him to hide behind. (What would a psychoanalyst have to say about that?)

I still like to stay up too late reading in bed. Roger loves that about me. Don't you, Rog?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Being Wrong

My reach back to junior high school memories continues for a third day in a row. In class tonight I shared the following video with my students, then had them write a short personal essay about a time they were wrong about something.

As an example, I shared a story about the time I got into a big argument with my 8th grade science teacher. I remember so clearly that I was right and she was crazy. I was unwavering in my conviction.

I knew that if an object like a potato or a rock was broken into pieces, total surface area would decrease because the pieces would be smaller. I was so sure. And I was so wrong.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Being Horrid

Jack started a new term today, which included starting a couple of new classes. He traded science for social studies and PE for Spanish. I happened to meet his Spanish teacher in the hallway this morning, and I flashed back to my 7th grade Spanish class.

Every once in a while I am horrid without really understanding why. I did something horrid to my 7th grade Spanish teacher. I wrote a very mean insult, directed at my teacher by name, on a test paper before I turned it in. I wrote it very lightly, somehow thinking he wouldn't actually be able to read it. Duh! It was a situation that warranted a written apology and several trips to the school counselor, who just sat there waiting for me to explain myself. I had no idea what to say. She finally gave up.

In retrospect, I realize that my teacher had been making me very uncomfortable. He sat me in the front row and constantly drew attention to my work in front of the class. My little 12-year-old brain didn't know how to stop it and may have sensed something a bit more insidious than just being the teacher's pet. I felt guilty for years for being so hurtful, but I think my subconscious was simply protecting me.

In 8th grade, I started studying French.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I'm watching a reunion interview with actors who appeared in the mini-series Roots. It seems like a very appropriate thing to do as this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day winds down. When Roots aired in early 1977, I was 13 years old and I remember being completely glued to our little black and white television, watching the entire series.

I was not alone. The final episode ranks as the third most watched television show in the history of U.S. television, beating out every single Superbowl.

Even with my terrible memory, I can remember many scenes and how they made me feel. I know that I was influenced on a very deep, formative level. In a very real sense, the story rooted itself in me.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


We played cards tonight, and Roger and Jack totally creamed me.

I used to be more competitive. One time I made Roger play cards with me until 2 a.m. because he kept beating me at gin rummy and I wanted to win.

I can't decide if I don't do that anymore because I grew up or because I got old.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Menace in Venice

This is a receipt from lunch on my 19th birthday in Venice, Italy. I was traveling with friends while on break from a study abroad program in Paris. I have no idea what we ate, but I'm certain it was delicious.

What I do remember is what happened the moment we walked out of the restaurant.

Sparing the details, all I will say is that it involved a pigeon and my t-shirt was history. Luckily I had a sweatshirt in my backpack. But I needed a private place to change.

I found that place in a quiet corner of St. Mark's cathedral. Yes, I did. Happy birthday to me.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shower the People

Remember the days when top musicians came to play at BYU and we packed the Marriott Center to see them? This was one of my favorites.

How sweet it was.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

All I Want for Christmas

When Jack was six, he tried to discourage customers from buying this little guy for sale at our bookstore. He was hoping Osbert would be under the tree for him on Christmas morning. How could we resist? Osbert is still part of the family.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I had one of those packed, logistically challenging days.

Dropped Jack at school at 8:00, got ready for work, met with two inmates at the jail, drove to UVU to listen to a live recording of Radio West (yes, I got to hear Doug Fabrizio say "and then we'll invite you to join the conversation" in person), totally miscalculated how long it would take to hike back to my car which was in the hinterlands (and being waylaid by an instructor acquaintance who felt moved to recite a lengthy poem for me didn't help), was late to a meeting with the marketing director of the Mountainlands Applied Technology College and people from the Department of Corrections workforce development program, headed back to the UVU campus after filling up the car with gas and filling up my belly with a sandwich, hung out in the faculty lounge in the library preparing for class, stopped by the English department to photocopy some handouts, chatted with another instructor who totally validated one of the new teaching strategies I came up with yesterday when she mentioned something she learned at a recent conference, taught from 5:30 to 8:15, walked out to the hinterlands to find my car, realized that no, that was where I had parked earlier in the day, backtracked to my regular parking area, headed home, got lost in thought and missed my exit, finally made it there just after 9:00.

Phew. But I love cramming it in like that from time to time!

One of the most complicated trips I remember taking was a combination of friends' weddings and law school visits back in the late 80s when I was thinking about going to law school. All within the course of a week, I had stops planned at the University of Michigan (but I missed a connecting flight for that), Omaha (wedding), Connecticut (Yale), upstate New York (wedding), and Chicago (Northwestern). I can't remember exactly what order I went in, but I do remember flying through the Cincinnati airport four times.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Apparently I am taking teeny tiny itty bitty baby steps organizing my office. Today I managed to empty the waste basket. I went in to find a copy of an old textbook to use in preparing for class tomorrow and felt that I had to do something, no matter how small.

When I was growing up, my family had a very complicated system for waste disposal. We separated into at least a dozen different categories.

  • Organic waste like banana peels and egg shells went into the bucket beside the kitchen sink, ultimately destined for the compost pile at the far end of the garden (a very long trek when we had deep snow).
  • Meat bones went into the in-ground garbage can just outside the back door. Raccoons quickly made off with them so we never had to worry about formal garbage collection. I still remember the clang of the heavy lid of the garbage can in the middle of the night.
  • Separate boxes under the kitchen sink collected recycling: rinsed plastic bottles, clear glass, green glass, brown glass, tin cans (lids off, cans squished flat with our feet), and aluminum soda cans (which I believe my parents now collect for 5 cent return).
  • Plastic bags, including bread bags, went into a rack on the cupboard door below the sink to be reused.
  • Paper went into a box by my mom's desk to be recycled. We also saved some newspapers in a bin by the fireplace for fires and other projects, and Mom was very good at reusing scrap paper for miscellaneous notes.
  • Odds and ends went into a bin by the refrigerator or waste baskets throughout the house. We collected all of this trash in giant bags and store them in the barn until the next trip to the dump. No curbside pickup for us.

When I grew up, I rebelled by throwing all of my trash into the same bag and letting the city collect it. So easy! Bit by bit I've grown up and reconnected with at least some of the good lessons my parents taught me. Not quite there with the composting, though.

Monday, January 09, 2012


Jack and Gracie
Waiting for the kindergarten bus
October 2004

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Screamer

When I started grad school I took a job as an editorial assistant at an educational software company called Wicat Systems. I worked there off and on for about five years in a few different positions in a couple of different locations, including this very industrial former carpet warehouse. Eventually I became the manager of the documentation team.

Now that I think about it, I started working for the company shortly before I met Roger in 1985, and I left the company for the final time shortly after we got married in 1990.

Speaking of Roger, how could I have not married him after he and our friend Sally made this guy, affectionately known as The Screamer. I came into work one morning to find him hanging from the pipes over my cubicle, complete with a syphon tube and a can of Diet Coke strapped to his leg.

That's what I call courtship!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Drop

When I was in the fifth grade, our teacher had us pair up to pack an egg in a shoebox using any sort of packing material we thought would protect the egg. Then he dropped them from the roof of the school. According to the article that accompanied this picture, the first time we did the experiment half of our eggs broke. The second time only 3 out of 14 broke.

One of the challenges I've had in designing the transitional skills course I teach at the jail is that most of the inmates aren't going to be applying what we talk about straightaway. Whenever possible, I try to give them images that represent some of the concepts so they'll have a better chance of remembering them later.

I use the egg drop experiment to illustrate the idea of creating cushion in our lives--a margin of error that can keep our eggs from breaking when something goes wrong. Like having a backup plan for child care so we don't risk losing our job when the regular babysitter falls through. Or giving ourselves extra time to get to a job interview in case the bus is late. Or not using up all of our sick days when we're not really sick so we can use them when we are.

I'm so glad I found this picture. I honestly couldn't remember the outcome. Now I can tell my classes with confidence that, at least on our second try, our egg survived.

Friday, January 06, 2012

For Grandpa Charlie and My Friend Carly (In Case You're Listening)

Today my Grandpa Charlie would have been 100 years old. He passed away the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, and it was the first time I really faced the death of someone close to me.

I remember we got the news while we were at Lake Geneva, and my first impulse was to find a quiet place to think on my own. I went out to the end of a pier and watched the waves while I thought and probably prayed.

What did I think about life after death? Would I see my grandfather again? I wasn't sure, but I had been taught that I would, and it was a comforting thing to hope for. I wished faith came more easily for me.

Why not believe?

Today I attended the funeral for Carly, a beautiful 21-year-old neighbor of ours. It is a comforting thought--especially for her family--that after such a short but brilliant life, she would be reunited with her father, who doted on her adoringly before he preceded her in death.

Carly's parents adopted her from Romania when she was six months old. During the service, a family friend shared the story of their journey, including a description of the plight of children raised in orphanages there. She told how children would be sent out to fend for themselves on the streets with virtually nothing when they turned 15.

My thoughts turned to an inmate I met with at the jail earlier in the day. She's just 18, her father is in prison, her mother is an addict. On Monday she'll be sent out to fend for herself on the streets with virtually nothing. We spent time going over some of her options, and I wrote down a few names of people she could contact to help her get on her feet.

By some sort of cosmic coincidence, or perhaps an answer of reassurance to my silent pleading, one of the names I had written down for her was the name of the man who gave the closing prayer at Carly's funeral. Worlds can collide in the oddest ways. I shook his hand before he left and told him that I needed to talk with him on Monday about someone to look out for.

Why not believe?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Are You Going to Play It?

Shortly after I started working full time and got my own apartment in my 20s, I decided to purchase a full size electronic keyboard.

When I told my mother she said, "Are you going to play it?"

I suppose I deserved a question like that. I was never, um, very disciplined about practicing the piano. The last piano teacher I had told me that the following year she'd only be taking serious students. I took that to mean I wasn't welcome back.

In my defense I have played it over the years. Not seriously. But I love sitting down and noodling around. And every once in a while I go on an actual practicing binge.

My investment all those years ago has, however, paid off in spades with Jack.

For Christmas we gave him a midi adapter so he can plug the keyboard into a laptop and record what he plays. He can also manipulate the recording on the computer and generate scores for original compositions and arrangements.

Not only does he play it, he can now play it over and over and over on a continuous loop.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Early Out

I decided that I needed to use my new scanner today, so I reached into a box of old papers and pulled this out at random: my schedule for my senior year of high school. I figured out that if I doubled up on English and PE, I could meet all of the requirements for graduation and graduate in January instead of June. My plan worked! (If you look carefully you can see that I'm signed up to go to the library every period spring semester.)

I generally remember that I enjoyed all of my classes that last fall, especially because as seniors we had the latitude to pick classes that interested us. But I only have a few specific memories. Like writing a final paper on Tolkien's The Hobbit for my British literature class and being told that I should have used more examples from the text to support my ideas. And getting a comment on one of my stories for creative writing that suggested I avoid using the words "a lot" and "really" all the time. Valuable comments that I still try to apply in my work. Really.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Cut

Roger was organizing some of his photos yesterday and came up with this gem documenting the very first time I gave Jack a haircut. I had absolutely no idea the cord was in his mouth until Roger developed the picture. Such a good mother.

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Big Dig

There's another layer to this 2012 writing project. Actually many layers. Of buildup. In my office. It's just been a place to deposit things; I haven't actually worked in there for months and months.

I figure that organizing my office and mining for memories will go hand in hand.

After debating about posting a photo, I decided in the end that a public visual confession will help motivate me to action.

I meant to start tackling it today (once I packed up Christmas decorations, which I also didn't get to). My token effort was throwing away the long dead roses in a vase on the windowsill.

Flash back to my 16th birthday when my grammie sent me 16 long-stem red roses with a crisp new dollar bill tied to each one with a ribbon, delivered to our house by an actual florist. Sweet.

Update: Three days in and I've already had a serious memory fail. I woke up the morning after I wrote this obsessed about finding the picture of the 16 roses I knew I had somewhere. Turns out there was not a dollar bill tied to each rose, but rather the bills were tied together in a bouquet, which was then tied to the roses with a ribbon. Still sweet!

Sunday, January 01, 2012


Memory is such an unreliable thing. When the idea that we could have false memories took hold a couple of decades ago, Roger and I used to joke that we'd implant positive false memories in our future children. "Don't you remember the time you met Mickey Mouse at Disneyland?"

Our bookstore once hosted a very famous children's book author and illustrator who lived in New England. She was visiting relatives in Salt Lake City and graciously offered to do a signing for us.

I drove up to Salt Lake to pick her up. On our drive back to Springville, we passed Provo and the campus of BYU. I described how stunning it was to go to college at the foot of towering rocky mountains after growing up in the gentle hills of Massachusetts. My whole freshman year I felt like I was at a resort, with a spectacular view out my dorm window. We even had tennis courts and swimming pools!

After the signing, Roger and Jack joined us for the ride back to Salt Lake. As we passed the BYU campus, this lovely woman started telling Roger about her first visit to BYU to give an address at a children's literature symposium. As a New Englander, she was stunned by the towering rocky mountains and felt like she was at a resort, with spectacular views and tennis courts and swimming pools.

I sat in the backseat of the car listening to the same words I had spoken hours earlier coming out of her mouth. I suppose her experience had been very similar to mine. But still. She had co-opted my memory!

My memory, by the way, is particularly dodgy. That's one of the reasons I want to take this journey, to get some experiences down in writing before I completely lose track of them. Please feel free to correct me if you think I'm making something up. Or co-opting your memory.