Monday, April 30, 2012


I came across Jack's baby book yesterday and I went through the parts I'd actually filled out with him. It looks like I was pretty careful about writing things for the first few months and then nothing. We talked about some of the things that were missing, things I do remember. But so much is forgotten.

One thing we talked about was his obsession with letters and words when he was really young. A good indication that he would be a strong reader!

At the post office one day, when Jack was two or three, we were waiting our turn in line. Jack spied the trash can. For some reason he loved trash cans and noticed them everywhere we went. He went over to it and said each letter on the swinging door as he pointed to it. "T-R-A-S-H." Then with a grand flourish of his hand he proudly said, "GARBAGE!"

He advanced quickly from there.

A bit later I watched him studying the sign we had in our yard when Roger was running for County Commissioner (as a Democrat so, no, he wasn't elected). "LAYTON," it said, in big, bold letters. Jack pointed at the "T," then the "O," then the "Y." "TOY!" he proclaimed.

Fast forward to today. I had to beg him to put down his book so we could get some sleep tonight.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Confirmation de Votre Réservation

That was the subject of an email I just received. Air France. Salt Lake City--Paris--Nairobi--Barcelona--Salt Lake City. In a couple of months I will be taking that trip with my sister Maryann. Our main purpose is to deliver some of my brother's ashes to the place and the people he loved before he died. And, since we have to fly through Europe to get to Nairobi anyway, we figure we might as well take advantage!

With all of my sister's travels, I didn't realize that she hadn't been to Paris since we went there with Mom and Dad during the summer of 1984. She was only seven. I doubt she remembers that the two of us hung out on the banks of the Seine together, but here's proof!

And I've never been to Africa or Spain before. Adventure awaits!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Music Man

Jack's band teacher has asked him to move to alto sax for band next year, and he's already recruited Jack for the jazz band the following year. So (shhh, don't tell Jack), we've got a used alto sax we found online winging it's way to us from Indiana, which of course reminds me of that song from The Music Man.

"There is just one place that can light my face--Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York or Rome!"

I was in exactly one musical in high school--yes, The Music Man. This is the only picture I have from our performance. I think I must be in the back row. I was just in the chorus, which was fine with me--all of the fun and very little of the stress.

I sewed a long yellow dress for it, and some of my friends in the chorus and I worked in a couple of cartwheels during one of the songs while everyone whooped and hollered. It was our big moment!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Powder Blue

It looks like prom season has begun back east: more than one high school friend has posted pictures of their kids all dressed up on facebook.

I went to my senior prom with my friend Jim. I actually asked him to go with me months in advance because I was finishing up school in January, working for a couple of months to earn money, then heading to Europe for a couple of months with a Eurail pass and list of friends and family to visit (boy, I sure love my parents for letting me head off solo at 17!). I'd be coming home just in time for prom and graduation, and I didn't want to risk not being asked. 

It was awfully nice of him to go with me. Thanks, Jim! You looked great in that powder blue top hat and tux! And I'm sure loving my wrist corsage, Bermuda bag, and Farrah Fawcett wings.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Le Petit Déjeuner

We met at Sharon's house for book club tonight, and we sat out on her back porch as we talked and talked and talked. A front came through and it got a little chilly. Sharon whipped us up some hot chocolate. Amazing hot chocolate that her husband had just brought home from France. Délicieux.

We stayed in a youth hostel called Le d'Artagnan when I was on study abroad in Paris the summer after my freshman year in college. The cafeteria was on the main floor. Every morning for breakfast I had a bowl of the same delicious hot chocolate we had tonight along with a small baguette smothered in butter and strawberry jam. Parfait.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Will it Keep?

I stopped by Costco tonight to pick up a few things after finishing up my last finals period with my students (yay!) and noticed that they carry dried seaweed. I tasted it once when I was seven and my mom brought some home from Hawaii.

She and Dad had been in Japan for a week attending a special memorial for my grandfather, who had been very involved in supporting the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP). They were naming their library after him. Dad had to come straight back because he had to teach school, but Mom took some extra time to enjoy the islands.

I'd totally eat dried seaweed again, but I'm not sure I could handle a Costco-sized box. Maybe it would keep?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Moving the Goalposts

I feel I need to followup yesterday's post with a little something just in case anyone was left with the impression that I primarily went to college to meet boys or if anyone leapt to the erroneous conclusion that I chose BYU to find a husband. I had all sorts of reasons for going to college, and dating--while fun--was not at the top of my list. I believe I was reared with good, healthy priorities.

Just before I left for school, my mom, a little worried that I was going to put boys at the top of my list, said, "I hope you'll finish your bachelor's degree before you get married."

When we were halfway across the country, she said, "You know, I wish I had gotten my master's degree before instead of after I got married and had children."

When my family dropped me off in Provo, she said, "I've been thinking. If you're going to major in psychology, you're going to need a Ph.D. to really do anything."

I ended up changing my major from psychology, so I no longer had my sights set on a Ph.D. But I did get my master's before I got married. And by the time I finally (per Utah standards) got married at 27, I think my mom was good and ready.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Setting a Course

I was on the highway this evening, driving south from UVU, just before sunset. I had a broad view of Utah Lake, mountains and clouds glowing pink. Even though I've lived in Utah longer than I've lived anywhere else, the drama of the landscape still catches me by surprise.

Though I visited Utah the summer I turned six, I didn't have too many memories. So when I returned my senior year of high school it felt adventurous and new. Almost prehistoric. So unlike the gentle hills, woods, and meadows I grew up with.

Mom and I flew out, she to do genealogy research and me to stay with friends and see BYU as a prospective student. The entire weekend I was in awe of the mountains. I also had crazy amounts of fun with my friends, and I was asked out by three different boys. You know, all of the things upon which a sound decision about college should be made.

The other two colleges I was seriously considering were women's colleges in Massachusetts: Simmons in Boston (where a very good friend was a year ahead of me) and Mt. Holyoke (my mother and grandmother's alma mater). Both would have been good choices for me, but in the end the lure of being in a completely different environment 2,500 miles away from the security of home (and, okay, with boys) won out.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Two adorable children, a brother and sister, sang a duet in church today. They did a fabulous job; the congregation was charmed. I love that children have the opportunity to participate in our church services. 

I actually had a chance to sing a solo in church when I was 12. Because I was 12, I was no longer adorable. But I was still young enough that I didn't have to have a beautiful voice, just an earnest one.

My mom picked out a hymn for me to sing that she loved growing up--For the Beauty of the Earth--and it is one of my very favorite hymns to this day. (In fact, for anyone who might have to plan my funeral, this would be a nice hymn to include in the service. Especially if it is sung joyfully as indicated. To read the words of the hymn, just click on the image and it will get bigger.)

That was the only time I've ever been invited to sing a solo. I never developed a beautiful solo voice. But I am quite happy being a steady alto in a choir of voices.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Too Young

This is me and my Grandpa Stuart (my father's father) when I was about three. I'm sad that I don't have any actual memories of him. He lived north of Chicago, and I saw him maybe once or twice a year. The summer I turned six, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and he was gone before Christmas. He was only 69.

I do remember two things about visiting him in the hospital that summer. First, the roof rack we had on the top of our baby blue camper van got crunched by an overhead beam in the parking garage. We were too tall. Second, I had to stay in the waiting room while my parents went in to see him. I was too young.

Everything I know about Grandpa Stuart makes me think I would have liked him. He was an adventurer with a big heart.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Secret Stash

One of the best things about owning a bookstore was getting the shipments of Harry Potter books several days before the official release dates. We had to swear in writing that we would keep them absolutely secure until we handed them out at our midnight release parties. I have to say, it was pretty darn cool being on the inside of it all.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


A favorite summertime family tradition: shucking local corn on the porch of the cottage at Lake Geneva. Eating it is even better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Test

My students' turned in their final research papers in class tonight. I've already been through most of them once, so I pretty much know what I'm getting into. I see the light at the end!

When I discovered it was an option, I decided to test out of freshman English in college. We selected a book to read from a short list, then under strict supervision with access only to our copy of that book, we were given one essay question and were expected to create a handwritten masterpiece in the blue books we brought.

I chose Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl because I'd read it before (and, so as not to appear too lazy, I knew it would be worth reading again). I don't remember the essay question I was assigned, but it turned out that passing the exam wasn't going to be a no brainer.

The English department had two readers evaluate the essay, and if there was a disagreement between the two readers, the department would have a third reader take a look at it. My first two readers disagreed. One thought I did a fine job; the other thought I hadn't answered the question. I was a little nervous, because I could see the second reader's point.

Thankfully, the third reader thought the essay was worthy of a pass. Whew!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Tonight we went to the Utah Symphony's Magical Music of John Williams concert, conducted by the charming and passionate Vladimir Kulenovic. They played pieces from Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters, Superman, and, of course, Star Wars. My favorite piece, perhaps ironically, was the Shark Theme from Jaws.

We sat way up on the third tier, which gave us a marvelous view, but it took nearly half an hour for me to adjust to the height. I don't do very well with heights. And Jack leaning over the railing didn't help.

I first became aware that I had an issue with heights on a trip west we took the summer I turned six. We stopped in Aspen, Colorado, and rode a chairlift up to get a view. I was fine at first, but then we passed the first peak, the ground fell away, and we rode to the second peak at a height I'd never experienced before. It felt like my legs, and especially my feet, were going to fall off. No, no, heights are not my thing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Moving Up

This evening I picked up my class schedule for teaching next fall at Utah Valley University. They've got me assigned to two sections of English 1010 Introduction to Writing at exactly the times I need to fit with the rest of my schedule.

I started teaching as an adjunct instructor at UVU back in the early 90s when it was actually Utah Valley Community College. Even though my masters degree is in political science, I'd been working as a writer and an editor in the corporate world for five years and the college loved hiring people with workplace experience.

I taught for a couple of years, then left to do some other projects, then went back again for a couple of years in the late 90s. By then it was Utah Valley State College.

In 1999 we started our bookstore, so I left teaching again. This next week, I'm wrapping up the end of my fourth year back at the now university. Each time they re-hire me, I seem to get a "promotion" just by virtue of the fact that the school keeps evolving!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Zen and the Art of the Family Vacation

I have no rule against posting about new memories this year and we just made some good ones during four fabulous days in Oregon. Four-day trips seem to suit our little family. Long enough to get away, but not so long it breaks the bank or drives Jack too batty hanging out with his parents.

On Thursday we got up early and flew to Portland, then headed straightaway toward the coast. We visited the huge old Naval blimp hangar in Tillemook and, of course, the cheese factory there. We watched them package 40 pound blocks of cheese heading to storage for aging. Then a drive to the beach at Oceanside, which we remembered from an earlier trip, for a couple of hours of sand, wind, and wave time. Then a drive up the coast to spend the night at a seaside motel in, well, Seaside, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the beach.

On Friday we were up early to enjoy the beach at Seaside, then after we checked out of our motel, we drove down to enjoy Cannon Beach and the tidal pools there (we all saw starfish and crabs, but Jack was the one who spied the octopus below). In the afternoon we headed inland again to see the Hughes Flying Boat, also known as the Spruce Goose, at the air museum in McMinnville. It's wingspan is crazy wide! On to the hotel, some dinner, and a movie.

Saturday we headed into the city and fed our souls. First to Powell Books for a leisurely browse and a nice stocking up. Then to an art supply store for drawing pads and pencils. Then to the Japanese Garden, which we'd heard was amazing and it did not disappoint. One of my favorite moments was when I looked up just as petals from a blossoming tree caught a breeze and gently showered down on me like a blessing. We ended the day with dinner with my cousin and her family in their quintessential Portland bungalow.

Today we drove along the Columbia River Gorge. Hiked stunning waterfall trails. Saw the Bonneville dam and locks. Visited the largest fish hatchery I've ever seen. Drove over the Bridge of the Gods. Then headed to the airport.

Our plane was late taking off from Portland, but that just meant we landed exactly as the sun set over the Great Salt Lake.

I am declaring an official end to my winter funk.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


When I was a kid, we'd often drive through a nearby town called Ayer. Sometimes I'd ask my mom where we were, and she'd say "Ayer" but I'd think she said "air" and I imagined we were in the space between towns.

Friday, April 13, 2012


We finally saw The Hunger Games tonight. We've all read the books, so we basically knew what to expect, but it was still pretty intense. I'm not sure I would have gone to see it when I was Jack's age.

The movie Jaws came out when I was just a little younger than Jack, and I decided that I couldn't bear to watch that. I figured that if I was as freaked out as I was by the picture on the book and the movie posters, I wouldn't be able to handle the movie. It took years for me to swim, even in freshwater lakes, without picturing a gigantic shark coming up from the depths.

I suspect my life long inability to deal rationally with snakes might have roots in watching the 1960 version of Swiss Family Robinson when I was little. Remember the scene in the river when they have to wrestle the gigantic snake? I didn't. When I saw the movie years later I realized I'd completely repressed it.

And I was afraid lepers would sneak into our house at night after watching Ben Hur when I was maybe six or seven. I didn't know what lepers actually were, but I knew people were afraid of them. I finally figured out that if they were going to try to come in my second story bedroom window, they'd have to use a ladder. I'd lay in bed at night listening for the ladder to hit the side of the house so I'd have fair warning.

I don't scare as easily now. But I still covered my eyes a couple of times tonight.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


The first time I ever saw the Pacific Ocean was on a trip I took to California the summer I turned 17. Some old friends of our family had moved to Acadia, and they invited me out for several weeks.

Of course we did Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, but by far my favorite memories were of a week of Girls' Camp on Catalina Island. We took the ferry, then piled into open trucks with all of our gear, drove for several hours on a dusty road to a remote beach, and pitched our tents.

The beach was wild and our camp was perpetually encircled by buffalo who eyed us suspiciously. We braided our hair and laughed and built huge fires when the sun went down.

Pacific. They got that right.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


One of my very favorite feelings was the feeling I used to have when I finished final exams in college and headed home for Christmas or summer break. It was the feeling of having absolutely nothing hanging over my head.

I don't exactly have absolutely nothing hanging over my head, but our taxes are filed, I'm caught up on laundry, I handed back a huge stack of graded papers to my students in class tonight, and I won't be going back to work until Monday.

It's feeling pretty darn good!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tomorrow Is a New Day

I'm just going to whine for a moment about the most horrendous head cold I've been suffering from for the past couple of days. It's extra sad because it has been so nice out, I had to miss the family Easter party, I had to work on taxes, and I still have a huge stack of papers to grade by tomorrow.


So I thought I'd write about something worse: the time I barfed in the bus line waiting to go home in the first grade. Oh, I felt so awful.

But the part I remember the most? When the boy next to me said, "Teacher, some girl threw up back here." All I could think was, "He knows my name!" Of course, I have no memory of who that boy was. Self involved much?


Monday, April 09, 2012

The Wang

When we're talking about revising papers in my UVU writing classes, I make sure my students know I went through my entire undergrad program using a typewriter. And that we had to do full-blown footnotes! No cushy in-text citations. It's my walking-uphill-both-ways story.

I didn't learn how to use a computer until the summer I graduated from college. I took a job working for the staff attorneys at the federal court where I interned my senior year. One of my tasks was to listen to recordings of case summaries and type them up on the computer in a format that would fit on index cards, which meant I had to do a ton of abbreviating. (If I was a tweeter, all that experience would come in handy.) I also had to type up court opinions which easily ran 20-30 pages and included a boatload of lengthy footnotes. Thankfully, the software had just been updated with a cutting edge feature: automatic repagination. That meant I didn't have to repaginate the text and footnotes by hand every time someone made a revision.

We used Wang computers at the court. That doesn't date me too badly, does it?

Sunday, April 08, 2012


My niece Megan and her husband Scott, who got married in last night's post, started a new blog this past week called The Holiday Candy Review. In their first post, they set up a bracket and tasted 16 types of jelly beans (graphic below shamelessly stolen from them.)

Jelly beans were an essential part of our Easter mornings when I was growing up. Mom--er, the Easter Bunny--would hide them along with the eggs we colored and one bigger treat for each of us, like a chocolate rabbit.

Every year without fail we'd find black and white jelly beans on the piano keys. I tried to be the first to get them because the black ones were my favorite.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Charmed Life

Jack has no idea what a charmed life he leads. He just seems to attract good things. Like the time we were at our niece's wedding in Salt Lake a few summers ago, and friends of her family showed up in pioneer clothes with old muskets to salute the couple with a rousing volley. Jack missed it because he'd gone off to find a restroom.

But wouldn't you know, when he returned and discovered it was over, the guys took pity on him and offered to let him shoot. Lucky kid!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Island Getaway

We woke up to snow this morning after being teased with temperatures in the 70s. I decided it was time for one of my favorite summer memories: swimming out to the island near my grandparents' beach on Long Island Sound.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Honeymoon and Stars

A friend and I went up to Salt Lake City tonight to watch a live performance of Radiolab at the Capitol Theater. The show was all about light and dark. Each audience member was given a little disk battery and a tiny lightbulb that we were to put together and hold up at a certain point during the show.

When we did we were suddenly plunged into a sea of stars.

The spring before Roger and I got married, I attended a conference at the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird. One of my favorite memories was having the rooftop pool all to myself after dinner. I floated on my back in complete silence under the starry night sky for a long time.

Roger and I decided the hotel would be a good place to go between our wedding on Tuesday and our reception on Saturday. But it was impossible to recreate the magic of that spring night. The hotel (including the rooftop pool) was full of ecologists there for meetings. Lots and lots of earthy ecologists.

We escaped the crowded rooftop, but no worries. We managed to find a bit of heaven anyway :).

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

History Repeats Itself

In 1981, my parents, my sisters and I spent the summer driving across country to deliver me to BYU for my freshman year. One of our stops was Dinosaur National Monument in Vernal, Utah.

This is my sister Maryann, who was almost four then.

When Jack was almost four, we happened to take a family trip to Dinosaur National Monument. Had to take a picture of him with the same bone, which is more exposed after 22 years. A couple of cuties, I say!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Hot Wheels/Cold Wheels

I bought my very first car at the beginning of my sophomore year of college from a friend's parents. I'd moved off campus and into an apartment with five other girls. All six of us could fit quite comfortably in the car--an ugly green 1972 Ford LTD sedan. I don't think I have any pictures of the actual car, but resourceful Roger found this one for me on the internet. (I'm pretty sure that's me and my boyfriend there, maybe off to the club for lunch.)

When I bought the car, the seller told me that the horn had a funny short. When the weather dropped below a certain temperature, he said, the horn would start blowing and I'd have to disconnect it to make it stop. Of course that happened on a Friday night after midnight when I was in my pajamas. I ran down the stairs to the parking lot of the apartment complex, and while a crowd gathered, I threw up the hood and disconnected the horn.

Driving without a horn all winter broke me of some of the (possibly bad depending on your perspective) habits I'd developed when I learned how to drive in Boston.

Three friends and I drove the LTD to Seattle for Thanksgiving that year. At some point we realized that the heater had stopped working and we got colder and colder. We crammed all four of us in the front seat--which wasn't all that much of a cram because the car was massive--but eventually I couldn't tell that it was my frozen foot on the gas pedal. We decided it might be smart to stop for the night and drive the rest of the way the next morning.

And then there was the day I somehow edged out into the lane of oncoming traffic when I was waiting to make a left turn and dinged the front end of a car driven by a lady with a French poodle. Luckily she was stopped at a red light so it was a very low speed accident. But, hoo boy, a lady with a French poodle. She was downright chilly about the whole affair.

By spring, I wisely decided to trade in the old car for something a bit more reliable (and not as huge). I wanted to be sure I could get all the way home for the summer.

Monday, April 02, 2012


More than once in my life I've burned out.

The first time I was working for a software company, managing the documentation department. All of our product shipped just before school started and we typically had to produce 25-30 manuals simultaneously, often before the software was finalized. I had a very small staff and a very tight schedule, so in addition to my job as manager, I assigned myself as many manuals as I assigned any of the others.

One Saturday I was at work after a long, hard week, pushing myself to make an overwhelming number of changes to an overwhelming number of files. Something inside me snapped. Tears ran down my face as I sat in front of my computer feeling as though I couldn't bear to make another keystroke.

Somehow I made it through the deadlines. But burnout is like mono. It takes a long time to recover, and once you've suffered from it, you are more susceptible. I'm worried that I'm experiencing the warning signs again, and I'm not sure how to combat it. Chocolate only helps so much.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Magic Bus

I recently booked my plane tickets for a cousin's wedding in D.C. in May and was talking to Roger about relying on public transportation rather than renting a car while I'm there.

"There's a bus I can take from BWI to the city," I said.

"Is that the Magic Bus?" asked Jack.

Oh, the Magic Bus. A solo trip from Paris to London to rejoin my group when I was on study abroad.

You know when you see someone board a bus or a train or a plane and you think, "Ooh, please don't sit by me," and inevitably they do? (I think it might be that karma thing.)

In this case I spent hours and hours next to a chain-smoking, extremely talkative drama teacher from Canada wearing a kilt that rode a little too high on his thighs.

Oh, oh, the Magic Bus.