Saturday, March 31, 2012


I spent much of the day working hard to dig myself out of some holes. All winter long I have done just enough to get by and it's catching up with me big time. Need to spring clean! Need to organize notes from dozens of meetings and conferences I've been to over the past few months! Need to get taxes done! Need to purge! Need to get caught up on grading papers! Need to finish at least some of the oodles of books I've started! Need to shave my legs!

Really I should figure out a healthier way to manage this pattern of mine. Even when I was a kid, I'd get my room perfectly clean and organized, but then I'd fail to maintain. Slowly my life would give in to the chaos, then I'd get desperate and dig myself out again.

I will never forget how proud I was when I'd tell my mom that my room was a mess, convince her to come see how bad it was, then "surprise" her with all the spanky cleanliness.

Friday, March 30, 2012

As Women's History Month Winds Down

When Roger and I got married in 1990 we moved to our house in Highland, Utah, and I went out to get us set up with utilities. During one of my stops, I was totally caught off guard when the woman behind the desk started off by asking for my husband's name and not my name.

I asked her why, and she said, "Well, that's the name we'll put the account under."

"Why not my name?" I pushed back.

She explained that just wasn't the way they did things. Suddenly it became a serious matter of principle, and I needed to take a stand. I insisted that the account be put in my name. After all, I was the one setting up the account, and I would be the one writing the checks.

Egalitarianism 1, patriarchal bureaucracy 0.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Yesterday's post reminded me of an unfortunate incident in the sixth grade. As we read books, we were supposed to look for words that we didn't know, look them up, write down the definitions, and turn them in.

I was reading The Outsiders, and I didn't find any words I didn't know. My teacher didn't believe me. She picked up a copy of the book, opened it to a random page, found the word "rue," and asked me what it meant.

"Regret," I thought to myself. "But my teacher must know something I don't know. I must be wrong." So I didn't say anything. I probably shrugged.

"Regret," she said. "It means regret."

Yeah. Regret. And yet, she taught me to trust what I know.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Down the Hatch

Some of my favorite treats when I was a child (and after I was cleared for possible allergies):
  • Most mornings before school when I was in the third grade and Mom was expecting my sister Linda, she would make me a giant pancake. I'd put butter and sugar on it and eat it while I watched reruns of Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. When Linda was born, the pancake service pretty much dried up. But that was okay. I just learned how to make them for myself. And I knew my mom still loved me.
  • Slicing up fresh tomatoes from the garden and sprinkling them with a little salt and pepper.
  • Eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chicken noodle soup, especially when I was on the mend after being sick.
  • Snacking on dilly beans (whole green beans pickled and canned with dill) and cucumbers sliced up and marinated in vinegar. More garden treats.
  • Putting chocolate milk the blender and frothing it at the highest setting so it was light and full of bubbles. I especially liked to drink it when I had my nose in a book. I'm sure it was my treat of choice all the way through Dr. Dolittle, and I'm guessing through Harriet the Spy and The Outsiders as well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Stark Realization

Yet another story in the news spotlighting racial tensions. I have hope that as a society we're generally moving in the right direction, but it's sure not a very straight path. For as long as I can remember, I've been pretty sensitive to issues of stereotyping, prejudice, and racial injustice. Why can't we all just get along?

I discovered one day that I am not immune from seeing the world through the lens of race.

In the mid-90s, Roger and I were driving through Alabama and spent the night in Mobile. Roger was wiped out, so he stayed in the hotel while I went out to find dinner. There was a mall near the hotel, so I thought I'd grab something at an eatery.

I parked, went into the mall through a bookstore and starting hunting for food. About halfway through my hike down the main hall, it dawned on me that I was the only white person around. Everyone else was black.

At first I didn't think much of it, but then I started to get self-conscious and I wondered if it was okay that I was there. I began to worry a bit that someone might not like the fact that I was there, might think that I'd invaded the wrong turf, and that I might be in some trouble.

My discomfort was based purely on my own imagination. Not a single person did anything to make me feel that way. In fact, I'm not sure if anyone noticed me at all. Yet in my mind, I went to that place of judgment and fear.

I confess I was a little relieved that I could not find a place to eat there. But I was also disappointed in myself for not stopping to ask anyone for information.

I went back to my car and drove to the other side of the highway where there was another mall. I walked in and discovered that all of the customers were white, which made me feel uncomfortable in another sort of way. It was far more upscale than the first mall, and there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. I found a nice place to get noodles.

And I confess I was relieved to chat for a while with the Filipino woman who owned it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Turning Water into Whine

We're talking about elements of argument and what constitutes sound logic in my UVU classes this week.

The first argument I heard and recognized as illogical was at Camp Arcadia in Maine, where my parents were counselors the summers I turned 3, 4 and 5. I was too young to be a camper, so I was put into a group with other counselor's kids. We were called Cubs, and we did all sorts of activities while our parents were working. Mom was a sailing counselor and Dad taught waterskiing.

Every day we had rest time, and there was a strict rule that we weren't allowed to take a drink from the water fountain right before we rested. The rule didn't make sense to me, so one day I complained. I was told that we couldn't take a drink because then we'd have to use the bathroom when we were supposed to be resting.

Even as a little kid I knew that water didn't go through a person's system that fast.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Unexpected Blessings

Today my thoughts keep turning to some friends who lost their first grandbaby early this morning. To save their daughter-in-law's life, doctors had to induce labor at 21 weeks. My friend Gideon, baby Olive's grandpa, wrote a lovely and heartbreaking poem in remembrance (click here to read it).

My own experience with losing a child was not the same as theirs. My life was not in danger. My pregnancy was not far enough along to know whether we were having a boy or a girl. I'd never heard its heartbeat or felt it move in my womb. My baby did not yet have fingers and toes. But today my thoughts keep turning to that time as well. My memories are so clear and the emotions so fresh.

We found out we were expecting just before our first Christmas together in 1990, then I miscarried at about 12 weeks. Being pregnant was harder than I thought it would be on me. When I finally turned a corner, Roger and I went out to dinner. Shortly after we got home, my water broke and I started cramping and bleeding. The doctor advised me to stay as still as possible. We spent a long, tortuous night that ended with a trip to the emergency room in the morning.

I didn't know then that I would never get pregnant again. In the years since, and because I never did give birth to a child, my experience with that short-lived pregnancy became increasingly meaningful.

Because it made me more human.

I tasted the irony of throwing up every day for more than two months, then heading to the kitchen to put something in my stomach to alleviate the hollow feeling that remained. I tasted the uniquely female pain and rhythm of my body instinctively contracting and pushing. I tasted the anguish of fighting to hold on to something I could not keep and did not know what I would do without.

I also tasted the transcendent state of having new life growing inside of me. And because of our shared joy and our shared loss, the bond I had with Roger became stronger than I ever imagined it could be. That tasted so good and still does.

God bless you, my friends.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

An Honor and a Privilege

One of the interesting women I was hoping to interview for the book I was thinking about writing a long time ago was the Honorable Judge Helen Nies (pictured here with one of her colleagues). During the summer of 1986, I worked for her in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where she later became the Chief Judge.

Judge Nies was a phenomenal example of a woman who broke barriers in her field--not just law, but patent law--despite the fact that she took nearly ten years off to stay home with her children. Seriously, she took all those years off and still made it to the tippy top.

All summer long, I basked in the light she cast on the path for other women.

She hired me to fill in for her secretary who was on maternity leave. At the end of the summer, her secretary decided to leave her position to stay home with her baby. I imagine the judge was sad to lose someone that competent, but she expressed only delight for her and told me stories about staying home with her kids.

Can't express how lucky I was to have someone like her help me imagine my own possibilities.

Friday, March 23, 2012

An Inadvertent Time Capsule

I'm avoiding grading a huge stack of papers, so I decided to dig into a filing cabinet full of old papers in Roger's closet. I spied a folder labeled "Ideas/Dreams" that I don't think I've touched in at least 15 years. I'm about to open it up and see what's in there. I'll report back soon . . .

. . . Here we go:
  • A list of "habits I need to develop by 30th birthday" that includes things like flossing teeth daily, never going to bed without doing dishes, using lunch hours wisely, and waking up happy every morning.
  • A quote by Erica Jong clipped from a magazine: "I don't personalize rejection anymore. I realized that the way people treat me often has more to do with them than with me. It's totally liberating."
  • Another magazine clipping: "20 Indulgent Destination Spas."
  • A list of questions I put together for a book I thought about writing once, telling the stories of women who've led interesting lives and how they balanced having a family and pursuing their dreams.
  • A catalog for an MBA program.
  • A 1995 Volkswagon brochure.

Oh, well. I've done lots of other things.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One of My Favorite Places

I don't think I have a single bad memory associated with going to the beach. This picture might have been taken on Cape Cod when I was 8 or 9. That smile on my face reflects pure contentment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pay Day

Jack is really little, a fairly new talker. I hold him in my arms, settling him in to go to sleep. He lays his head on my shoulder and pats my back a few times with his hand. "I love you," he sighs.

One of the best moments ever.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Time for a little change of pace.

The night before heading to camp one year, us girls got together for a sleepover. Someone (I don't know who) managed to get hold of my bra during the night and run it up the flagpole across the street from the house we were staying in.

The morning was very chilly. So was my bra.

Monday, March 19, 2012

One Year

A nice longish post in memory of my brother, who passed away a year ago today. These are the remarks I made at his memorial service.

Rob was the oldest child in our family, and I am the sister who is just younger than him, so I am the sister who has known him the longest. Nearly 48 years! It doesn’t seem possible. Today I’d like to share some of the memories I have of Robbie.

As you might have gathered from Mark and Jim’s remarks, from the time Robbie was young, computers utterly intrigued him. One of my earliest memories is watching Robbie pace the house, talking excitedly about owning his own computer someday. Honestly, I thought he was completely nuts! When we were kids, the only computer I had ever really seen was at the Smithsonian, the one that took up a whole room.

I remember when I was a teenager he tried to explain to me what hardware and software were, and I just stared at him not understanding a word he said. I had no frame of reference. But fast forward to today, and it is because of people like my brother—you know, the ones who are absolutely obsessed—I was able to hang out in a comfortable chair, on a plane, and in a car, writing and rewriting this on a laptop.

I was envious of my brother’s single-mindedness. Because he loved computers, he always knew what he wanted to do with his life. However, he didn’t exactly follow a conventional path to get where he wanted to go. He quit high school once, then he went back and tried hard to put up with all of the social drama and the busy work that was, frankly, teaching him nothing he didn’t already know. He never did graduate from high school, but he was able to convince a computer company to let him work for free until he proved that he was capable of the work they needed him to do. He did prove himself, they hired him, and he was able to live his dream of being a software engineer for many years.

In the same way he carved his own unique career path, he didn’t particularly follow other sorts of conventions like, oh, say, giving gifts at Christmas or on birthdays. But when he was struck with an idea of a gift to give, it was often an unusually generous sweeping gesture. We have several things in our home—beautiful art books and so on—that he gave to us on a whim because he thought we’d like them (and we did). Last week Robbie’s good friends in Kenya, who considered him part of their family, emailed me with memories they had of Robbie, and the messages were full of stories about his kindness and generosity, treating them to things they had never experienced before and supporting them in their efforts to gain education.

Robbie loved to read, and it was stunning how quickly he’d go through books. He just inhaled them and was always hungry for the next. When we were in high school together, the one place he felt most at home was in the school library. Our librarian was very kind about letting him help out in the library whenever he was free (and, I suspect, at times when he was supposed to be in class). When one of my classmates read about his passing in the newspaper, she sent me a note, remembering my brother taking care of business at the circulation desk.

Robbie loved to laugh, and he loved to make other people laugh. As I was growing up, I thought his sense of humor was really unusual. When I was older I got a job in the computer industry, and, well, I met all sorts of people who had a sense of humor like his.

I will never forget the way he’d try so hard to suppress a grin when the punch line was coming. He struggled to contain himself when we performed plays with our cousins at Lake Geneva every summer, or when we’d sing his favorite rendition of “Row, Row, Row the Boat,” in which we’d sing the song over and over, dropping the last word each time until we got to the end and sang “row, row, row; row, row; row.”

Robbie loved to cook, especially if it was a dish he had mastered or when he had an opportunity to please the crowd. His adopted family in Kenya fondly remembers lining up for his famous grilled cheese sandwiches that he cooked, one sandwich at a time, in his small kitchen. Everyone loved them! Once he hosted a birthday party for one of the children--one of the “little monsters” as he called them—and when they were all completely stuffed with food, he asked, “who wants a grilled cheese sandwich?” They all looked at one another and burst out laughing at his joke.

For all of the things Robbie loved, he struggled with many things throughout his life, and, honestly, it was challenging at times to be his sister. He was the know-it-all older brother and I was the younger sister who just wanted a little respect. But I don’t think Rob always found it particularly easy to be my brother. The first vocabulary word I learned was provoke, as in “Margy, don’t provoke your brother!”

He was bigger than me, and he liked to believe that he was always smarter than me. Most of the time he was, but I’m really sure that at least once or twice I was the one who was right! At any rate, the only way I had any power in the relationship was to do things that bugged him. He hated it when I put lots of different color gumballs in my mouth and chewed up a big ‘ol gray wad of gum. So I did that whenever I had the chance. He didn’t like it when I sang songs and improvised the words or the music, especially when I embellished the ending. So I did that when I could. He had no absolutely no sense of humor when his little sister beat him at games like Monopoly, so, however rarely that happened, I flaunted my wins and it drove him crazy.

I was definitely a pesky little sister. Sometimes it came back to bite me. One time I found a huge icicle hanging from the roof of our house, and I thought it would be funny to put it in his bed. Despite his sense of humor, Robbie didn’t think it was funny. The next day I came home and he had taken an oscillating fan and a bag of flour and covered everything in my room with a fine white coating. He even opened all of my drawers for good measure. I spent days vacuuming my socks.

A memory that I will hold close for the rest of my life is that our whole family was able to spend time with Robbie at the end, and we were all together with him when he passed away. I hope that he knew we were there and that he could feel our love for him, love that I think often eluded him.

When Robbie was 17, my mom was expecting our youngest sister Maryann. She received a blessing in which she was told that the baby she was carrying would be a comfort to Robbie. I imagine that has been true many times since then, but I am left with a particularly striking image from the last moments we had with him. As he took his last breaths, his head was turned toward Maryann who was at his side. She leaned in, held his head, and spoke gently to him, providing him what I’m sure was immeasurable comfort.

In all my life I have never met anyone like my brother Robbie. The beauty of being connected through family relationships is that we are bound together despite our differences. And, in fact, it is our differences that enable us to learn to love a Christ-like love as we move through this world.

I am thankful that I am bound by eternal family ties, but also by love, to my brother, Robbie, a fellow child of God.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Can Can, Maybe Still Can?

For three years in elementary school I took dance classes at the Phyllis Richards School of Dance in the basement of a church in West Acton. Ballet, tap, and jazz.

My second year our class performed the Can Can. In addition to our regular recital, we took our act on the road to the army hospital at Fort Devens. The Vietnam War was still going on then.

I think our performance went alright, but at some point I lost my garter. It slipped right off my leg, probably while I was kicking my heart out.

I didn't realize it was missing until we were leaving the stage, so I had to run back out to get it. Let's just say the wounded soldiers went a little nuts, hollering and whistling. And let's just say I played right along, flipping my little skirt up as I turned and ran back off stage.

I'll bet that girl is still inside me somewhere.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Is It Green Inside?

A few years before Roger and I got married, I decided to buy a house. It made very good financial sense to be putting money into mortgage payments rather than rent. And it made especially good financial sense when I sold the property a few years later for a tidy profit.

My favorite option was a house on the NW corner of 500 East and Center Street in Provo. Tons of character, hardwood floors, lots of windows, a studio apartment over the garage that I could rent out for extra income.

For some reason, Roger asked me if it was green inside. It was such an absurd question that I thought I'd dreamed it. But it seemed so real. So a few days later I asked him, "Did you really ask me if the house was green inside?" He just stared at me.

Every once in a while, I'd ask him if he'd asked me such a strange question. Seriously, is it green inside? He'd just laugh. Finally, like years later, he confessed to me that he had indeed asked me that question, but he didn't give me a straight answer because it was too entertaining to watch me try to sort out whether it was reality or a dream. Yes, he downright played with my head like that.

I decided not to buy that house because I loved it too much. I wasn't ready for that kind of commitment, far too young to settle down. I put a deposit on a townhouse in a new development in Orem, but construction was taking too long so they returned my money. I ended up settling on a cute old pioneer house (256 N. 300 W. in Provo) that had been turned into a duplex. It was a good choice.

My heart still skips a beat, though, when I drive past that house on Center Street. It wasn't green inside back then. I wonder if it's green inside now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Fire

We headed up to Salt Lake City tonight to cheer for Roger's sister Joan, who received an award for a piece of her artwork currently displayed in the exhibition of the Ninth International Art Competition at the LDS Church History museum. It was a pretty big deal in these parts. Congratulations, Joan!

Because this year's blog posts are all about my memories (sorry to overshadow you, Joan), I thought I'd write about the one and only time I got an award for my artwork. Fifth grade, fire prevention poster contest. Do yourself a favor . . . don't play with matches!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is That True?

In honor of our illustrious state legislature and our governor who will likely sign a bill tens of thousands of people have requested him to veto, I will share one of my most memorable educational moments.

I was in sixth grade. My mom and I were driving home one day, and for whatever reason, I decided it was a fine time to ask her if something I'd heard about the male anatomy was true. Without a word, she immediately pulled over to the side of the road.

"Where did you learn that?" she asked.

"J. and I read it in the encyclopedia," I said.

"It's true," she said, and then she pulled back out into traffic and drove home without saying another word about it.

Update: Well who could have guessed it based on his earlier comments? The governor vetoed the bill. Good on him!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Birthday Pi

Happy Pi Day! We celebrated by waiting for an entire hour for a table at Village Inn, then giving up and getting slices of pie to take home.

This is a picture of my sister Maryann on her first birthday and our family's traditional and very tasty birthday pie (cream cheese filling in a graham cracker crust with sliced peaches on top). For many years we had birthday pie instead of birthday cake because my brother was allergic to wheat.

Sometimes it was hard having a brother with so many allergies. Out of both a sense of caution and a sense of fairness, my parents often deprived me of foods that he couldn't eat. Thankfully I didn't develop any food allergies. And I think I've long since let go of any residual resentment. The hardest to get over was the annual confiscation of Halloween candy. Robbie was allergic to chocolate and Mom would buy other kinds of candy that she'd trade for our candy bars. That may be why I often don't have dessert unless chocolate is involved.

Except when it comes to pie. My top choice? When I can't have birthday pie, I choose cherry.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Such a Sacrifice

My family took a trip to Mexico when I was in grad school. We stayed in a small fishing village called Akumal on the Yucatan Peninsula. One day we drove down to the ruins at Tulum. The tour guide picked me to sacrifice on the altar. It's funny to think that I probably ended up in the vacation pictures of some of the strangers who were on the tour with us.

Favorite adventures on that trip involved scuba diving, which I highly recommend and which I haven't done enough. On one of the dives we went down about 80 feet. The ocean floor was a tangled mass of coral. All of a sudden there was a giant sea turtle right in front of me. I tried to swim after it, but I even with my flippers I was clearly no match for something so powerful and awesome. I didn't have a camera with me, but my memory of it is picture perfect.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Who's That Walking Over My Bridge?

Visiting the bridge that Gramps and his engineer friend built across the
Nashoba Brook for a trail he maintains on conservation land behind his house.
Winter 2007

We went on lots of hikes when I was growing up, and Dad always made it entertaining. Sometimes he'd get way ahead of us on the trail and hide behind a tree, then jump out and growl like a bear making us scream and laugh. Sometimes he'd hide under a bridge and pretend he was the troll and we were the billy goats. It never got old.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dear Diary

Some friends and I were laughing about our old journals this afternoon, so I decided to pull mine out and look through them. The earliest one I kept starts halfway through 8th grade. And I actually began each entry with "Dear Diary."

Some random quotes:

Monday, March 21: "I wish Mr. C. [music theater] saw me in the road show because he thinks I'm an idiot with no spirit."

Monday, April 4: "Mr. H. [metal shop] is such a jerk. I did a perfectly good job of welding and he still won't grade me."

Thursday, May 5: "I think P.T. has a crush on G.J., but I think he sort of likes me. I don't mean to sound conceited and I could be totally wrong, but it's the way he looks at me. I hope he doesn't ask me to the dance. I mean I hope he asks me, but I can't go."

Wednesday, May 18: "I found out G. asked P. a week ago. What about me?"

Friday, May 27: "We didn't get our tests back in math so I have to suffer until Tuesday, I skipped lunch, and J. said my pants were too short."

Monday, June 27: "Why me? I'm only 13 years old. Why am I going through this? I never act right. I never know what to say. Nobody has invited me anywhere for who knows how long. I'm stuck with a brother who embarrasses me to death, a mother and father who say I'm lazy and I never do anything for other people so they want me to wash windows. How pathetic can you get? I even have a best friend who hates my guts (I think). I'll show everybody. By the way, I went to see The Sting and it was excellent."

I'm so glad we don't have to live through junior high twice.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Flirt

My first real job was working at the Great Road Pharmacy for Bob. I happened to ask him for a job the same day he happened to be hiring. Mostly I worked the register, inventoried magazines and cigarettes, that sort of thing.

One day I was using the restroom in the back of the store and I heard a whistle, the you're-a-pretty-girl kind of whistle. I heard it again and again. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from, and I was beginning to feel very self conscious.

Then I remembered the pet store next door. When I got off work, I stopped in. Sure enough there was a parrot in a cage, right through the wall from the pharmacy's restroom. It whistled when it saw me.

Friday, March 09, 2012

No Where To Go

An anatomy class I took in college involved a weekly lab with three cadavers. More advanced classes actually dissected them. We just studied them and took quizzes that required us to identify various parts of them.

I handled it pretty well until the day the lab instructor had us crowd around one of the bodies, and I ended up trapped in the middle of a bunch of students, our backs up against the wall. It was a tight fit. I was directly in front of the cadaver's abdominal cavity and the instructor started scooping up the intestines and plopping them on the cadaver's rib cage so he could show us something underneath. Waves of formaldehyde assaulted me. I suddenly felt a little woozy, and I realized that if I were to pass out, the only way I could fall was directly into the abdominal cavity.

"Mind over matter, mind over matter," I chanted silently to myself. Thankfully, I made it through without incident. But I wasn't very hungry for lunch afterward.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


In honor of International Women's Day, I will now share some of my memories about the Equal Rights Amendment. Apparently I've hit on a theme. And sorry, this is a long one. I've been in bed sick for three days with time on my hands. I'm actually surrounded by the books I refer to below, which I've been meaning to revisit for awhile. I'm curious how my position on the ERA might have evolved differently if I'd been older and more aware at the time it was an issue.

By the time I really knew about the ERA, it had already passed in Massachusetts (1972), so I never had the opportunity to vote on it myself. Frankly, I didn't really think much about it. A few years later, the LDS church came out against it. I have no idea how my mom voted in 1972, but I do remember her carefully studying up on the church's position and expressing some concerns about the amendment long after the Massachusetts vote.

In 1981, when I was 17, I visited my aunt and uncle, and while we were sitting around the kitchen table, the subject of the ERA came up. I think that my uncle asked me my position, and I hesitated because I had no idea what my position was. Seriously, I hadn't really thought about it at all. It had already passed in Massachusetts. I wouldn't be voting on it. He slammed his fist down on the table, loudly recited the language of the amendment, and then demanded to know what on earth was wrong with it.

Of course I believed in equal rights for women, but even though the ERA seemed straightforward enough, I didn't know what I thought about it. I stared my uncle down (which was, in retrospect, extraordinarily brave because he was a Very Intimidating Person) and said, "All I know is that if my mother has concerns about it and my church is against it, I need to learn more about it before I decide what my opinion is."

That experience stayed with me, but it was a while before I really took the time to learn more.

The next memory I have is when our new LDS chapel was built in Littleton and reporters were at the open house. One stopped me in the hall and asked me whether I thought it was fair that I couldn't go fight in a war because I was female. I confess I was fairly oblivious to the larger context of her question. I have no idea how I answered her, but I know I wasn't particularly keen on the idea of going to war whether I was male or female.

At some point in college at BYU, I was asked to give a lesson on the ERA in church (this was before I developed my aversion to political discussions at church). Remembering my earlier exchange with my uncle, I dug into the research with zeal. And because I believed in equal rights and didn't understand what on earth was wrong with the ERA, I figured I needed to focus that research on why the LDS church was against it.

So I read these books, all by members of the LDS church:
  • A Lawyer Looks at the Equal Rights Amendment by Rex E. Lee
  • The Equal Rights Amendment: Myths and Realities by Orrin Hatch
  • From Adam's Rib to Women's Lib by Maureen Ward

Despite the fact that I was a college student, it never even occurred to me to read opposing views. Of course, my job was to teach a class that represented the church's view. That view was primarily based on concern about unintended consequences that could negatively impact families. The basic protection of equality for all already existed in the 14th amendment, the LDS authors argued. Ongoing issues should be decided on a case-by-case basis with scalpel-like precision.

After being steeped in all of the anti-ERA arguments, I don't remember having any issues teaching the anti-ERA class. Funny how looking at only one perspective does that to a person. But here's the irony (I don't think this is at all where the anti-ERA voices intended for me to go): after all that reading, I was concerned that without being privileged, women could find their reproductive choices restricted and they might end up with even less support as mothers in the workplace. This was all back in a day when the idea of widespread paid paternity leave was an even more elusive dream than paid maternity leave. At the end of it, I don't remember feeling much one way or the other when the ERA was ultimately defeated. I just assumed we'd continue to move forward, tackling the outstanding issues case by case.

All through those years, I was pretty darn clueless about why people were agitating so fiercely for women's rights, even though I was an avid reader of the Exponent II. I think this was because I had personally never felt held back because I was a girl. I give my parents great credit for that, as well as all of the people who had already broken down so many barriers by the time I came of age. At the most, I remember being irritated that boys at church got to do cool outdoor activities and the girls always seemed to be doing sort of lame things. But I pushed back, and as a result we girls got to do cool activities, too, sometimes right along side the boys. Rappelling, camping, canoe trips.

The past few years my inner feminist has reawakened. I'm having a hard time, for example, with the way my community has reached a relentless fevered pitch on the issue of modesty that is objectifying women and girls. The latest image that keeps niggling at me is the recent Congressional hearing on contraception and religious freedom that consisted entirely of men. Lots of people were bothered by the fact that women were not included in a discussion that involved contraception. But what especially bothered me was that all of the religious leaders in that hearing were men. Seriously, where were the women of faith? I know, I know, I belong to a church that excludes women from the priesthood. The world is complicated, isn't it?

So there you have it. This is what happens when I've been cooped up at home for three days without much energy to get anything else done. I'll get back to work and post something short and sweet tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Is This the Tail End of an Era?

In honor of the upcoming Republican caucuses here in Utah next week, I will now share one of my favorite memories about Senator Orrin Hatch.

In 1984, I did an internship in Washington, D.C., and every week our group of interns met with various dignitaries around town. One week we headed up to Capitol Hill for some time with Orrin Hatch.

Toward the end of our meeting, he took us on a tour of his office. He stopped in front of a rocking chair that held a couple of Cabbage Patch dolls, picked one up, pulled down its bloomers and gleefully pointed to an inscription that read "Cabbage Hatch" on the doll's little behind. Yes, he did.

Also, I don't know what cologne he was wearing but he smelled very nice.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Is it Over Yet?

In honor of super Tuesday and the Republican primaries, I will now share one of my favorite memories about Mitt Romney.

It was during the 2002 Olympics and Romney had gotten into a bit of hot water with a volunteer who had apparently followed the security rules a bit too carefully and prevented some VIPs from getting where they needed to go. The volunteer accused Romney of yelling at him and using vulgar language.

On the evening news, Romney laughed at the accusation and said something like, "I haven't even said h-e-double hockey sticks since junior high!"

I sure wish someone would dig up that clip.

Monday, March 05, 2012


Everyone in our family enjoys a good shower with plenty of water pressure. All three of us are prone to getting hypnotized under a steamy stream of water. Maybe not the most responsible habit here in our Wasatch Front steppe, but lovely nonetheless.

My parents' house had practically non-existent water pressure when I lived there growing up. It's much better now, but I remember taking showers and washing my long hair early in the morning before school, wondering if I'd have time to rinse out all of the shampoo with the tiny trickle.

I come by my guilty pleasure honestly.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Life and Death by Committee

I taught a class for the teenage girls at church today about supporting family members, and I shared a little bit of the story about how difficult it was to love my brother and a little bit about his death nearly a year (!) ago.

Robbie's death was not a simple death. He struggled for months with a debilitating condition. In the end he could not move, he could not breathe on his own, he didn't open his eyes and he wasn't really conscious, he required heavy dosages of pain medication, and after months in a hospital, antibiotics could no longer help him fight off one infection after another without serious ramifications. The last one in the arsenal was shutting down his kidneys.

We sat in a conference room twice with his team of doctors, nurses, a social worker. At the second meeting it was decided. Technology was prolonging an untenable life. We would take him off his respirator. The decision was heart wrenching and unanimous. I consoled myself with the thought that if he was meant to live, he'd begin breathing on his own.

Sitting in the conference room having those discussions was surreal. I couldn't help but remember the last time I sat in a conference room discussing a matter as weighty as the end of Robbie's life:

The beginning of Jack's.

When Jack's birth mom was seven months pregnant, we were summoned to the agency to meet her and her parents. Both of our caseworkers were there to facilitate the meeting. It was simultaneously the most natural and the most unnatural experience I've ever had. Good, but totally surreal.

While I watched Jack's birth mom talk, I kept seeing members of my family in her face and her mannerisms. My cousin in the set of her jaw. My grandfather around the eyes.

On the way home I said to Roger, "Between her childhood allergies and the allergies in my family, this kid doesn't stand a chance." Of course that was absurd, but it made me realize that Jack had already become a part of us on a deep, subconscious level.

My only immediate experience with bringing life into the world and letting life go involved meetings in conference rooms. Surreal, yes, but the only actual real for me.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Cookies and Brownies

Got the word that our Girl Scout cookies are on their way. Mmm mmm.

I never was a Girl Scout, but I did join the Brownies for about a month. We met on the second floor of the Acton Women's Club in the center of town.

Remembering the 10 cent dues I was supposed to bring every week was a problem. And even though we probably did only one activity that involved picking and arranging flowers, it seemed like that's what we did every time. It awakened my general angst about crafting in public. The uniform was cool though. And I liked singing that song about the smile in my pocket.

Frankly, I just don't think I'm a joiner.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Big B Little b

Because today is a very special day, I'm dipping back into the file for another paper from my school days.

Apparently the effort I put into the cover of a paper about Dr. Seuss my sophomore year didn't save me from a B minus. Topic sentences didn't always tie into my thesis or were missing altogether. I lacked examples from his books to prove my points. And my teacher felt that I'd digressed for several paragraphs after my introduction.

I closed the paper with this quote from an eight-year-old fan of Seuss who wrote the following in a letter: "You sure thunk up a lot of funny books. You sure thunk up a million funny animals. Now this I want to know. Who thunk you up, Dr. Seuss?"

I'd cite my source for this quote, but I neglected to cite it in my paper. I have no idea where it came from.

Yeah, a B minus was probably about right.

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Double-Edged Sword

Yesterday's post generated some discussion about religion in public schools. It would be nice to have a healthier balance in our current approach. Learning about religions and what people of different faiths believe is critical to understanding one another and understanding human civilization. What I don't believe we should do, however, is practice religion in public schools. Separation of church and state is key to living peaceably together in a pluralistic society, each of us enjoying our own freedom of conscience.

That said, learning about religions in school--like just about anything in our world--can be a double-edged sword.

When I took U.S. history in high school and we discussed westward expansion, my teacher talked about Mormons in an extraordinarily derogatory way. The guy sitting next to me raised his hand and said, "Miss S___, did you know that Margy is a Mormon?" Let's just say it was not the most comfortable moment for me or my teacher.

So while I'd like students across the country to learn about various faiths, I'm not so sure every teacher across the country would teach the basics with appropriate objectivity and an eye toward increased understanding. The backlash from the faithful wouldn't be pretty. People within religions tend to share positive, faith-promoting stories among themselves and anything that smacks of criticism begets entrenchment.

As it turned out, it was a valuable reality check for me to hear my history teacher present such a negative view of Mormons. I began to understand that persecution of the early saints did not happen in a vacuum.

Maybe we don't just need to learn about one another's beliefs. Maybe we also need to learn about why people fear/distrust/misunderstand/overgeneralize/and even hate one other because of their beliefs (or lack of belief). And maybe we (and we includes me) could all then humbly self-reflect.

Oh, wait. That might lead to world peace, thus disrupting the path to armageddon. Never mind.