Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Simultaneous and Contradictory

There's been a firestorm in the LDS world today. A BYU professor made some truly unfortunate remarks in a Washington Post article about the fact that black men were not allowed to hold the priesthood from the time of Brigham Young until 1978 (by the way, black men were ordained into the priesthood before Brigham Young became president of the church). Click here for a good concise summary of the recent controversy, including the swift renunciation of the professor's comments by the LDS church.

I don't want to dwell on his comments in this post, but I do want to write about some of my experience with the issue.

My parents joined the LDS church when I was five, so I was essentially raised Mormon. When I was in the sixth grade, we were assigned to write a report about a religion, our own if we chose. It made sense for me to write about our family's faith.

For part of my report I interviewed my mother. After I asked her whether she was "bored reading alot [sic] of scriptures at one time" (biased questioning much?), I asked her if there was anything about the LDS church that she didn't like. Part of her answer addressed her dislike of the policy regarding blacks and the priesthood. I learned an early and valuable lesson about the possibility (and probability) of being ambivalent even if you believe the leaders of a faith are generally inspired. This lesson has sustained me in many areas of my life.

I was 14 in 1978 when the LDS church changed the policy and black men were welcomed into the priesthood. I remember my mother whooping through the house when she heard it about it on the national news. What a joyful turn of events!

I also remember my Sunday school teacher at the time. He was a black man. I remember being impressed at his capacity for faith given the circumstances of his restricted status. And I remember feeling truly happy that things would change for him.

I can still picture his face.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Go Figure

I'm helping Jack study for a math test tomorrow. Solving for variables. Very satisfying. Wish Jack could feel that way, too. Maybe one day.

I read something the other day that made it sound like geometry students (at least in Utah) no longer do proofs. Remember these?

Not that I really know much about math education, but it seems like learning how to do proofs is extremely valuable because they teach students how to use logic across all sorts of disciplines.

Even though I outwardly professed to hate math in school, I actually really liked it. Especially doing proofs in geometry. And I liked balancing equations in chemistry.

Monday, February 27, 2012

While He Was Sleeping

When I turned seven, I got a turtle as a pet and named him Max, though technically I don't think I actually knew whether he was a he or a she.

One day I came home from school and my mother told me gravely that Max had died and she had buried him.

A while after that we learned that turtles like Max are prone to hibernate. He may well have been dead when Mom buried him, but it's more likely he was just sleeping.

Sorry, Max.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Night Noises

The wind is howling outside tonight.

When I was five, my family moved to the house my parents still live in. Our best estimate is that the house was built in the 1730s, an old center chimney colonial on a stone foundation.

For the first few years before we added on, my room was in the old part of the house. Once in a while I could hear scratching and scampering coming from inside the wall, most likely little critters who had snuck in through the cracks.

I can't remember if I especially loved books like The Littles and The Borrowers because of the critters in the wall, or if I embraced (rather than feared) the idea of critters in the wall because of the books.

Either way, I'm thankful for feeling cozy inside then and now.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In Which I Discover Han Solo

Roger and Jack have gone off to see Star Wars in 3D. Big fans are they.

I saw the first (um, fourth) Star Wars when it was first released with my Uncle John, who often took me out to see movies when we visited my grandparents in Connecticut. It was one of my favorite traditions. We saw some true classics together, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.

Uncle John is still a little mortified, though, that he took me to see Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I. Hee hee.

Friday, February 24, 2012

On the Fringe

I drove up to Salt Lake today to do some research on issues related to helping inmates and ex-offenders obtain the trifecta of personal identification required to participate in society (birth certificate, state ID card, and social security card) and to meet with a state senator about putting together legislation to eliminate some of the unique obstacles many of them they face as they try to get this documentation. It's just the beginning of a new adventure which will likely consume much of my mental energy over the coming year, but it was a very successful beginning.

While I was driving on I-15, I was listening to someone talk about the 1992 election and his involvement with far right politics, including interning with Gayle Ruzicka and the Utah Eagle Forum, meeting Cleon Skousen, and supporting the Bo Gritz presidential campaign.

I flashed back to 1992. Roger and I lived in Highland at the time, and our neighbor was Bo Gritz's Utah County campaign chair. She was really very nice, and she was happy to help me out the time I locked myself out of my car about half an hour north of town and our other car was in the shop. She lent Roger her van, he drove up to rescue me, then he suggested I drive her van back.

When I dropped the van off at her house and started walking home, I caught a glimpse of all of the bumper stickers on the back that I'd never noticed before, like "God, Guns, and Gritz" and "No New World Order." It was an odd sensation to realize that as far as other drivers were concerned, I'd owned those political views while I was behind the wheel. How did I look out there on the fringe?

We were sad when armed IRS agents came to repossess our neighbor's house. She and her husband hadn't paid taxes for 15 years as a political statement, and they had to move away. She was really very nice.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Hand

Today I attended a conference on addiction at Utah Valley University to get a better sense of what many of the inmates I work with at the jail are dealing with and to get a better sense of the resources available to help them in our community. I'm encouraged by recent research that was presented. It was well worth my time.

Conferences seem to be a part of my life no matter what I'm involved with. Except for the reminder that it can be hard to keep the energy up when I sit through too many presentations in a row, I love the opportunity to learn and to interact with people who have varied interests in and relationships with the topic at hand.

The first professional conference I attended was when I was in graduate school in the mid-1980s. I was studying political science and writing a thesis on how Utah prosecuting attorneys could go about implementing a recent statute that would allow children in abuse cases to testify via videotape or closed-circuit television. The purpose of the law was to protect children in a justice system that is designed for adults. It's one thing to pass a law; it's a whole other thing to figure out the policy for implementing it, especially when it walked a precarious constitutional line in relation to the rights of the accused to be faced by their accusers.

During that time, academics and professionals in many fields were grappling with the newly emerging range and scope of child abuse issues. So when the opportunity arose to hop in my car and drive to Reno to hear some of the most prominent voices speak in person and engage in immediate conversation with one another, I couldn't pass it up. My research, my writing, and my understanding of real-world problem solving took on a whole new dimension after that.

Epilogue: The US Supreme Court handed down a decision in an unrelated case shortly after I defended and passed my thesis that essentially nullified the Utah statute before any prosecutors took the chance to test it. Was my work wasted? Not in my mind. What I learned was priceless.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


During the last period of school today, Jack and I attended an assembly about class registration for eighth grade. His elective choices included band, chorus and exploring technology. The counselors also had the students write down careers they've been thinking about. Jack wrote jazz musician (a lovely idea, but maybe not too practical).

One of my favorite electives in junior high was mechanical drawing, and I dreamed about becoming an architect one day. I designed a triangular house for the class (a creative idea, but maybe not too practical) and wrote a report about Frank Lloyd Wright.

I didn't grow up to be an architect, but I do spend a good deal of mental energy thinking about how spaces work (or don't work) for people. I believe good architectural design can change the world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This One Dates Me

So here's how old I am. Diet Coke was not launched until 1982, after I graduated from high school

My drink of choice when I was a teenager was Tab, which I still enjoy from time to time. Every time I buy it, someone says, "I didn't know they made that anymore!"

I once heard a deejay on the radio speculate that they haven't actually made Tab since 1972, they're just still trying to empty the warehouse.

My friend Janine was my best Tab drinking buddy. We worked together at the Great Road Pharmacy when I was in high school. One of our favorite things to do was drive to the Burlington Mall and hang out drinking Tab while we people watched. Living in style, we were.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Not as Suspicious as It Seems

We met some friends at the BYU library today to do a photo shoot for an upcoming Friends of the Library newsletter Roger is working on.

My second most dramatic memory of the BYU library is the night that I got locked in with my boyfriend. They used to play the theme song of Hawaii 5-0 at closing time and somehow we missed it. I'm sure we were just studying really hard. Can't say it wasn't an adventure being alone together in the library with all the lights out.

My most dramatic memory was the time I passed out while I was waiting in line to take a physical science test in the testing center, which used to be in the library. I was so sick, but I had a deadline. The line was so long, it went out of the building and down the sidewalk.

It seemed to take hours, but I finally made it to the head of the line. Just as I got up to the counter to get my test, I felt really horrible and the next thing I knew I was lying on the floor and someone behind me in line was saying, "I know her! She lives in Helaman Halls!"

I couldn't just leave when I came to. Oh, no. I had to be escorted by campus security to the health center to get checked out. So there I was with my No. 2 pencil in hand and an officer at my elbow guiding me past the long line of students on the sidewalk to the waiting patrol car. Can't say at least some of them weren't thinking the worst.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Relatively Speaking

Once upon a time, many years ago--I think I might have been home on a break from college--I was listening to an elderly woman speak in church.

I can't remember what she was talking about, but all of a sudden she paused mid-sentence, looked out sort of above the congregation, and said that she felt especially close to her mother. Then she went stiff and keeled over backward, dead.

Nothing like that happened at church today.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


My uncle sent us a link to this regional accent quiz. Only 13 questions and the answer was dead on. A bit freaky if you ask me.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Boston

You definitely have a Boston accent, even if you think you don't. Of course, that doesn't mean you are from the Boston area, you may also be from New Hampshire or Maine.

The West
The Midland
North Central
The Northeast
The Inland North
The South
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

When I was a growing up, we spent part of each summer with my dad's family at our lake house in Wisconsin. My cousins from Illinois used to tease me about my accent. They made me say certain things over and over while they laughed and laughed.

"Let's go in the wahtah!"

I love them anyway.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Changing Gears

When I was 16 and learning to drive with my permit, our family owned one car with an automatic transmission (a giant gray station wagon that we dubbed the Elephant) and one car with a stick shift (a bright yellow Pinto hatchback).

First I learned how to drive the automatic. Of course.

Then on New Year's Eve, I asked my dad if he would take me to a party at a friend's house. He said he would, but only if I drove and we took the Pinto. Way to throw me in the deep end.

I did pretty well until we got to the center of Chelmsford, where I needed to pull out of an intersection on a slight incline. It took a few tries, but then the whole clutch/accelerator thing suddenly clicked for me, and I connected with driving on a whole new level.

From that day forward, I've chosen stick whenever I can.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Continuous Loop

We haven't had much snow around here this winter, so here is a happy memory of winter past. I love the way the camera caught the giant flakes still falling.

Gracie and Jack, January 2005

I'm most likely past the point of safely writing about Jack in the same breath with girls, but I'm going to do it anyway. Sorry, Jack!

My fantasy about Gracie and Jack ending up together isn't about them actually ending up together. I promise I'm not a schemer like that (click here for a little more backstory).

No, my fantasy about Gracie and Jack ending up together is about compiling the video of photographs that would run in a loop at their wedding reception. Can you imagine? They've grown up knowing each other. We could make the entire video showing the span of their lives comprised only of pictures of the two of them together.

How romantic would that be?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Putting It Off

A marathon day of teaching at the jail in the morning and at UVU in the evening with jam-packed hours and hours of grading in between. Truly, I brought it on myself by procrastinating.

When I was in college, I realized that the bathroom was never cleaner and my things were never more organized than in the days leading up to finals week. Anything but study! My roommate and I dubbed it constructive avoidance behavior.

Now I still procrastinate, but I no longer feel guilty enough to use the time productively. I'm much more inclined to hang out and read instead. Or catch up on all of the CSI episodes that have built up on the DVR. I like to think of it as "learning."

Is it too much of a stretch to call that instructive avoidance behavior?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I should probably write a memory of love since it's Valentine's Day, but I've been under the weather and working all day, including grading a big stack of papers. So the romance will have to wait until the mood strikes.

Instead I'll tell a story I shared with my class at the jail this morning about getting my job at Novell. We were discussing resumes and job applications and how important presentation is. One of the recommendations on the handout I use is to avoid wrinkling or folding applications before turning them in.

In the early 90s, I started doing some freelance work writing customer success stories for Novell corporate communications. One day Mike, the manager of the team I worked with, asked if I'd be interested in meeting right that minute with someone named Darrell about a full-time job.

"Sure," I said. "But I don't have a copy of my resume."

"I think I might have one somewhere," said Mike as he disappeared into his office. He emerged with a copy of my resume all wrinkled. "I think I must have sat on it. Sorry."

So I carried my wrinkled resume to the education department and carefully presented it to Darrell. We had a good laugh, he interviewed me, and then he hired me.

Rarely have I gotten a job without breaking at least one cardinal rule. It makes it a little ironic that I teach a class on how to get hired.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I just took a survey to give input on the three finalists for Provo's new logo design. (I know, I don't even live there, but doing the survey was the only way to see the designs. I'm a bit of a design junky.)

One of finalists reminded me a bit of this Novell logo that was unveiled the same day I gave the company notice in the mid 90s.

Leaving Novell marked the end of a nearly 10-year stint in the computer software industry. I had never meant to work in that industry. It just sort of happened. While I wouldn't have traded the experiences I had and all of the valuable things I learned, I never looked back when I left.

Novell's new logo was meant to revitalize the company, which had been struggling to find its way after buying WordPerfect. I took one look at how that expensive new logo fell totally flat in a full-page, black-and-white newspaper spread, and I knew I'd made the right choice.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Can Laugh About It Now

When I was a teenager, I was asked to play the piano for someone who was going to sing in church. I practiced and practiced and practiced. But I didn't really have a chance to practice with the singer. We had about ten minutes to run through the song the day of the performance.

Turned out he was an improvisor. And I was totally inexperienced with accompanying anyone, never mind an improvisor.

In front of everyone and somewhere in the middle of the song, I completely lost track of what I was supposed to be playing in relation to what he was singing. Luckily, he was an experienced musician and he simply carried on without me. I think I managed to get back on track during the last verse (or maybe I just wished I did that). What a long, long song it was.

We sang it in church today.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


My dad built an addition onto our house in 1972, the year my sister Linda was born. I turned nine that summer, and one of the new bedrooms would be mine. I got to pick the paint color.


So it would feel like I was swimming in a pool.

Friday, February 10, 2012

On My Father's Shoulders

So as you can imagine, I don't actually have any memories of the moment captured in this photo. But tonight is Dad's last night here, and I thought it would be fun to post the earliest picture I have of the two of us together.

The picture was taken at our house on Mt. Hope Terrace in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, in late 1963. Dad was 26, and he worked for Texas Instruments while we lived there (if you look closely, you can see his ID badge). Above our heads is a little sailboat mobile with hulls made from walnut shells, which I do remember because we had it for years.

Dad looks pretty engaged here (and handsome, no?). Not sure what's on my mind.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Tumbling After

Jack was born a few months after we opened our bookstore. He was a darn cute baby, but it turned out that he and the store weren't always a good match, especially at nap time.

Roger and I decided that we'd trade off shifts at the store and at home with Jack. We hired our first employee to help us out with the transitions.

I love that her name was Jill.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Sheep in a Jeep

Story time at The Read Leaf Bookstore, May 2003

We had many visitors for story time over the years at our bookstore, including several dogs, baby chicks, and even a one-day-old calf that the kids got to name.

The morning the lambs were scheduled to come, their owner called and said he couldn't make it. But we were welcome to come pick the lambs up ourselves. Roger took the call, and because he didn't want to sound like a city boy, he said he would be right over.

Heh heh. With a little help, he managed to get them into their crate, get the crate in the back of the Jeep, and get back to the store in time. Then we let the lambs out of the crate, and things got a bit crazy. It was immediately clear that we lacked the necessary lamb wrangling skills.

At one point the lambs were running freely through the non-fiction section, pooping as they went. We had to shift into high gear, wrangling the lambs and wrangling kids to keep them from stepping on the lamb poop (which, thankfully, consists of easy to clean up pellets).

And then, somehow, we managed to get the lambs back in the crate, back in the Jeep, and back to where they came from.

The end.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Truth in Advertising?

While I was looking for the Mick Jagger photo for yesterday's post, I came across these two fine Parisian images that still make me smile.

Having done a bit of urban parallel parking myself, I was impressed with this parking job. The emblem on the car on the left that reads "elegant" sums it up beautifully (especially when you read it with a French accent).

This billboard made me worry a bit for customers who might be disappointed when they get to New York and don't find the wild west there.

Monday, February 06, 2012

This Close!

On the way home from class tonight, I was flipping radio stations, stopped on an old J. Geils Band song, and cranked it up. When I was in high school, J. Geils lived in the town next to ours. He used to bring his film into the pharmacy I worked at for processing.

I never saw the band perform in Massachusetts. But I did get to see them when I was a college student studying abroad in Paris during the summer of 1982. They were part of an all day outdoor music festival headlined by the Rolling Stones.

Yeah, yeah, it was fun seeing J. Geils, but I was this close to Mick Jagger!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Calling

Substitute teaching Jack's Primary (Sunday School class) 8 or 9 years ago

I got a new job at church today. In the LDS church most of us have jobs--known as callings--that we're asked to do. We usually get swapped around to different callings every year or two. It's often a bit of an adventure, a stretch outside our comfort zones.

Over the years, I've done all sorts of things. Teaching adults, teaching teenagers, teaching kids, hanging out with the really young kids in nursery, putting together monthly newsletters and typing up the Sunday bulletins, organizing ward activities, being in charge of girls camp, and so on.

Today I found out I'll be working with the teenage girls as the secretary in our Young Women's organization. I think it might be the best job yet: I get to hang out with truly awesome people and I will be the adult leader with the very least responsibility.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

La Dolce Vita

Jack pouring a Limonata at La Dolce Vita, age 5

We took advantage of Dad being in town to go out to dinner at one of our old (as in college days) favorites, La Dolce Vita. And we were very happy that our niece Sarah and her husband Jason, who are in town for the weekend, were able to meet us there.

Now our hearts are happily full with a new family memory and our bellies are happily full with our long-time family tradition of gnocchi and Limonata. Sì, la dolce vita!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Roads Not Taken

Jack got to go with Roger to work today as part of the 7th grade take your kid to work day. Lucky for Jack, one of the items on Roger's to do list was to deliver fliers to bookstores all over the Salt Lake Valley for the upcoming annual book collecting conference hosted by the BYU library. No surprise they came home with a stack of books!

I never had the chance to get a day off of school to go to work with my dad (which would have been ironic as he was a high school teacher), but I did get to go on a few field trips to explore various careers options. We also took a comprehensive career assessment test my junior or senior year. The top two jobs it recommended for me:

(1) funeral director
(2) being in charge of evacuating cities

Helping people meet death or helping them escape it. Does my destiny still await?

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Jack requested a volcano cake for his fourth birthday.

I could use a bit of work on my technique with the lava frosting, but the dry ice eruption was captivating!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Doctor Love

Jack's throat was a mess this morning. Time to go to the doctor. And, yes, he got to enjoy his first throat culture. Strep confirmed. Antibiotics prescribed.

Just before Jack was born, I asked a few conscientious moms around the neighborhood who their pediatrician was. They all told me about the same doctor and how much they loved him.

Turns out the doctor was a guy I knew from the dorms my freshman year in college! The last time I saw him we were 18, and the main thing I remembered about him was that he dated the girl next door to me the first semester, broke up with her, and then dated the girl across the hall the second semester. Good times.

He wasn't really taking new patients, but because he knew me from way back he made an exception for Jack. We're very glad about that. My conscientious neighbors were right.