Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where Is He Now?

I have no idea why I thought of writing about this particular memory, but I thought about it as Jack and I drove home from Roger's parents' house tonight in the Wrangler, stick shift, no roof, perfect temperature. Bliss!

When Roger and I first got married, we moved to Highland, Utah, and were immediately asked to teach the 7-year-old Primary (Sunday School) class at church. When our new neighbors asked us what job we'd been assigned to, they shook their heads and said, "Oh, that class."

It was a pretty rowdy group. There were 14 of them. All but two were boys, though the girls held their own quite well. We soon learned that all of the head shaking was about one of the boys in particular.

He ended up being our hands-down favorite kid in the class. Sure, he wasn't very interested in settling down during Sunday School and that was a bit of a challenge. Okay, a huge challenge. But he was interesting. And funny. And his eyes sparkled. And he'd find amazing bugs and bring them to our house to show us.

We moved about three years later and lost track of him. I think his family moved to southern Utah soon after we left the neighborhood. I hope no one squashed the spirit out of that boy just for the sake of classroom management. And I hope his eyes still sparkle.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Something happened today that reminded me of an experience I had in the dorms when I was in college. The details were different, but the feeling it left me with was similar.

My roommate and I had boyfriends that year. We were both pretty serious about our relationships. Despite my mother's admonitions, I thought I might marry him, but didn't. She was serious enough to marry hers a few years later.

One day a group of girls in the dorm came to me and requested that I talk to her. She and her boyfriend had been involved in a fair amount of PDA as we called it. Public Displays of Affection. In the dorm lobby. It was making people feel very uncomfortable.

So I screwed up my courage and talked to her privately. "I know you guys care about each other, but it's making people feel a little uncomfortable," I said. Ugh. I don't know anyone who enjoys either end of a confrontation like that.

Soon after that I was saying goodnight to my boyfriend at the back door of the dormitory, definitely holding hands, likely a kiss was involved. My roommate brushed past us and hissed, "You are making me feel so uncomfortable."

I'm sure that I was. But I don't think it was because I was saying goodnight to my boyfriend. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of confronting people, especially when they aren't expecting it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Photo Roulette

Picked a random picture from our photo archive tonight. Summer 2008, searching for trilobites at U-Dig Fossils an hour west of Delta, Utah.

We've got a jar full of them in our collection, which includes all sorts of jars full of rocks, shells, sand dollars, sea glass, salt crystals, sand, etc. from various adventures across the country. Fine souvenirs.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Memorial Day Post

My personal experiences with the military have always been a bit peripheral. Ever present, but not an integral part of my life.

I remember an uncle being a member of the National Guard and sometimes I'd see him bringing his uniform home and hanging it in the closet. I knew another uncle had served on a Navy ship, but I didn't know much more than that.

I remember going to church with people stationed at Fort Devens. Once a girl there laughed at me because I didn't know what the PX was. It wasn't fair! Her father was in the army, so she knew about things like that. My father was a science teacher. I asked her if she knew what H20 was. She was stumped. It didn't really make me feel better.

Friends from Fort Devens often went overseas. When I was 17, I visited some of them in Belgium and Germany.

Then later I married Roger. His brother was named after an uncle who had died in the Korean War. And I always make a point of listening to his father tell stories about serving during World War II as a radio operator on a B-29.

After 9/11, I'd often meet customers at our bookstore who had served or who were closely related to people on active duty. I especially remember a man who came in looking for a book his wife wanted him to get for a friend of hers. He couldn't remember the title, and I asked if he wanted to call his wife. He said he couldn't; she was in Afghanistan. I looked at the baby in his arms, thinking about how his mama was really far away and wouldn't be able to hold him for nearly a year.

A neighbor we'd watched grow up enlisted. One of our Merrell nephews enlisted. He was quoted once in a Washington Post article when he was on patrol in Baghdad.

Then I went back to teaching at UVU, and almost every semester I'd have students in my classes who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or students who were thinking of enlisting. One of them wrote his research paper on whether the major US military actions in the last 30 years were justified. He desperately wanted them to be.

So grateful for everyone who has served. So hopeful that one day no one will ever have to serve in vain.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tucked Away

My cousin, her family, and a couple of her geology field camp colleagues blew threw town last night for some emergency lodging. While their students were all taking break between field camp sessions in Salt Lake City, my cousin and her group had been camping in Moab. They spent Friday night in a crazy wind and sand storm getting very little sleep. Then Saturday, the wind took out a couple of their tents. We were happy to give them refuge.

I don't really remember much wind while I was growing up in Massachusetts. Most of my childhood memories of crazy wind were connected to one particularly wild sail on my uncle's boat on Long Island Sound and battening down the hatches when storms came up at Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. I loved the adrenaline surge, running around making sure boats were safe and that anything loose was stowed away.

But the winds here in Utah are something else! We often have strong canyon winds after the sun sets. If people want patio furniture around here, it has to be either heavy or put away at night. We can also have pretty intense wind storms. Over the years at various homes we've lost fencing, we've lost siding, and we've lost shingles.

I'd never heard of a microburst before living in Utah, but now I've experienced more than one. The most surreal memory I have of being in the middle of a microburst was watching a trampoline blow through the fields a block away, on its side and about 20 feet in the air. I was glad to be tucked away in our solid, brick house.

I think our house guests last night were glad for that, too. And the silver lining? Their student will be reunited with her pillow today.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Warning: snake story. I appreciate it when I'm given fair warning. I'm still traumatized from the time I was flipping TV channels and inadvertently saw a snake coming up out of someone's toilet on the screen. It was years before I stopped jumping up at the slightest breeze, especially in the middle of the night.

Anyway, I can't remember how old I was when the following happened, but I was probably 10 or 12. My mother found a snake in the yard and decided that I needed some aversion therapy. I was up in my room when she called me. From the top of the stairs, I could see her at the bottom, holding up a two or three-foot snake by the neck, its body twisting and turning.

"Come down here and touch it," she said. "I want you to see that it's not slimy."

"Gah!" I cried. "Just take it outside!"

I either won and my mother took it outside, or my mother won, I touched the snake and then repressed the memory. I honestly can't remember anything beyond the image of my mother at the bottom of the stairs, holding that snake by the neck, its body twisting and turning, twisting and turning, twisting and turning.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Left Behind

For most of the past six years, my cousin Sarah, a geology professor at the University of South Florida, has brought a group of students to Utah for field research. We've become a bit of a base camp for them. Last night we had Sarah, two of her colleagues, and five of her students stay over. One of them left a pillow, which is going to make sleeping on the ground the next couple of weeks a little rough.

I lost a favorite pillow once. Left it in a motel room in Cortez, Colorado. I actually still miss the pillow case, which was a fun Marimekko one, part of a set of sheets my aunt and uncle gave me when I graduated from high school.

It was during the first few years we were married. Roger called from his job at WordPerfect on a Thursday morning and said, "Let's get out of town."


We had no idea where we were going to end up, but we decided to head south to see Mesa Verde. Then we figured we might as well go to Durango, Colorado, because we were so close. Then Los Alamos seemed close. Then why not Santa Fe? And Albuquerque?

On Sunday, we had a long, long, long drive back home. And I missed my pillow. But it was totally worth it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Getting Our Feet Wet

Five years ago this month, and Jack had just turned eight. We have so many happy memories of playing in the creek that runs down the canyon near our home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Confession

So I'm feeling slightly guilty that I may have lured some readers to yesterday's post with a tantalizing title for a memory about folded laundry. I thought I might make up for that by making a confession. It's not crazy juicy, but--except for a few potentially scandalous stories involving romance--it's about the best I've got.

(Note to Mom: I suspect some of this will be new to you. Please don't panic. It was more than 30 years ago and I'm okay. And if you read through to the end of the post, you will know you were right to trust me as much as you did.)

Generally speaking, I've been a Very Good Girl pretty much my whole life. I learned early on that if I have integrity and don't break the rules, I have better relationships and so much more freedom.

But for a few weeks my junior year of high school, I did not want to be a Very Good Girl. I wanted to know what the parties were like. I wanted to cruise around with some of my friends who were edgier than I was. I wanted to know why they wanted to drink and smoke.

So I started to cross over into that world. I went to a few parties. I cruised around with my girl friends. I tried to drink beer a few times. I smoked some cigarettes. (I had already been scared straight from trying drugs because I'd read Go Ask Alice. Yeah, it didn't take much.)

Things started spinning out of control very quickly.

The first party I went to, which happened to be next door to a couple who attended our church, was broken up by the police. The next morning at church, the couple joked with me about being at the party. Of course they assumed I wasn't there. I remained silent. [Update: My mom reports the couple saw our car at the party and suspected I was there. So funny! And so much for thinking I got away with something.]

I ended up getting a ride home from the next party in a crowded car driven by a guy I didn't know, who may or may not have been sober. At one point I looked down at my feet and realized there a gaping hole in the floor of the car. I could see the pavement speeding by. A close call on so many levels. I was lucky.

Then one night I was driving around with my friends in my parents' car (no drinking, by the way), and we decided to stalk a boy that one of them had a crush on. We knew he was with a bunch of his friends, so we drove by the house they were in over and over until we got their attention. They came out to see who we were. We sped off laughing, then turned the car around to see if they were still there. The next thing we knew, the passenger side window of the car was shattered. Someone had thrown something, maybe a bottle. I pulled the car over, got out, and--steaming mad--chased the boys into the woods. They got away. We called the police, but when the officer questioned me, I realized I couldn't snitch. I told him I had no idea who might have broken our car window. And when I told my parents the story, I left out the parts that implicated my friends and me in any way.

At one point during this time, I went on a school trip and some of our antics resulted in two of the boys in our group kicking a hole through the door of our hotel room. Though I wasn't directly responsible for the hole in the door, I wasn't exactly innocent either. I had, for example, climbed from our fourth floor balcony over to theirs, sneaked into their room, and filled their beds with ice. The teacher in charge absolutely lit into me and accused me of being the ring leader (which, I confess, I took as a compliment despite feeling thoroughly chastised).

In just a few weeks, so much danger and destruction and run-ins with authority. No freedom in that! And even worse, at least in my mind, I found myself being less than honest.

The turning point came when one of my friends called to ask me to go to a party. I was babysitting my younger sisters and said I couldn't go. Could I at least give her a ride? She tried to convince me it wouldn't take long, my sisters would be fine without me, and my parents would never know.

Some friend. No way. Rebellion over.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Secret

While I was folding laundry this evening, I was thinking up ideas to write about. I was also wishing that the laundry would be more cooperative as I folded it. Well folded laundry sits much more nicely in drawers and on closet shelves, no?

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college I worked as a camp counselor at the same camp my parents worked at when I was a kid in Maine. I was a lifeguard and a swimming instructor. At the end of the summer, my cabin co-counselor, Anne, was trying to figure out how she'd get home to Quebec City.

Since I had a little time on my hands and had never been to Quebec, I offered to drive her.

When we got to her family's house, their housekeeper confiscated all of our dirty laundry. While Anne showed me around town--such a good trade for driving her home, what a spectacular city!--the housekeeper washed and folded my motley collection of t-shirts, shorts, and jeans.

When we got home, I discovered she'd transformed it all into the neatest, most pristine stack of clean laundry I'd ever seen. Seriously, I couldn't believe the clothes were actually mine. One day I want to discover her secret. (Or maybe hire someone just like her.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

In Color

Tonight I turned to my box of old journals for inspiration. I randomly opened to an entry I wrote in college. April 1983.

A friend invited me to her grandparents' cabin in West Yellowstone, Idaho, for a weekend. "The snow was beautiful and the snowmobiling was great," I wrote with stunning attention to detail.

I remember that we watched The Wizard of Oz on TV one night while we were there. All of a sudden, I realized that the movie was in color! I'd only ever seen it on a black and white TV because that's all we had while I was growing up. I had no idea the movie starts out in black and white and turns to color when Dorothy isn't in Kansas anymore.

It was like I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Word

It seems fitting to write about a memory that ties into the eclipse we watched earlier this evening. And this what I came up with: Jack's first word, as he pointed to the pattern on a quilt his grandma made for him, was "star."

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I hope I'm okay posting a picture of other peoples' children here. It is from nearly eight years ago, so I think I'm safe. I just can't resist sharing it.

This photo was taken at the graduation picnic for Jack's preschool class in June 2004. He's on the far right. Nearly everyone else is concentrating on posing for the pictures. Jack is concentrating on a stick.

We actually had him enrolled in two preschools that year. He continued with Teacher Linda, who he had the previous year. We loved her because she refused to have a strict schedule. "If they had fun playing with the magnet table and they want to do it again the next day, well, why not?" she'd say. Jack responded well to that.

But we also wanted him to have a bit more preparation for the rigors of kindergarten, so we signed him up with Teacher Joyce (pictured here). We loved her because she was committed to a strict schedule. And because she already knew and appreciated Jack's imaginative spirit.

He was very successful in kindergarten.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Born Yesterday

Roger and Jack celebrated their joint birthday yesterday. Pretty neat to get a son for a birthday present!

If anyone is wondering why I didn't write about memories of Jack coming into the world yesterday, it's because we didn't actually meet him until 13 years ago today. When he was a little over 24 hours old, we went to the hospital and spent a couple of hours with Jack, his birth mom and some of her family. We got to hear all about his birth and about how he didn't open up both of his eyes at the same time until we got there. As soon as we heard that story, we were sure he'd be Jack (the bold, happy name) instead of Stephen (the solid, safe name).

Later that afternoon we took him home. The first thing he did was nestle in on Roger's belly and nap. We, of course, were in awe and weren't about to do any napping at all. Going to sleep that night wasn't very high on our list either.

That was the first of many, many nights that Roger and I stayed up late talking about how cool Jack was and about how blessed we were to become his parents. It's truly been an amazing adventure. Seriously, look at that face! 

And I'm sure Jack is going to continue to be such a cutie now that he's a full-on teenager!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Speaking Truth

I've been hosting a series at our library since January called "So You Want to Read." Each month we have a different presenter talk about an author, a specific book, or a genre. It's really about approaching reading that may stretch us as an accessible, enjoyable adventure.

Tonight my friend Wendy gave an excellent presentation on John Steinbeck's East of Eden, which is one of my favorite novels. I hadn't quite realized before just how controversial his writing was. I knew about farmers in the Salinas Valley being unhappy with the way they were portrayed in The Grapes of Wrath, but I had no idea that there was so much backlash against him receiving the Nobel Prize in literature in 1962.

One of the things I've long admired about Steinbeck was his capacity to tell the truth as he saw it. I've been trying to sort out how to do that more myself. I know it's in me somewhere. Growing up I couldn't bear witnessing injustice, like if someone was accused of something they didn't do. My freshman year of high school, for example, I remember standing up to my French teacher who thought the boy sitting in front of me had cheated on a test. I knew he hadn't, and I defended him boldly.

The thing is, I actually think my French teacher respected me for it.

Yes, I need to keep sorting this out. I need to keep working to find my voice, because sometimes I feel like I'm swallowed up by truth I see but don't speak.

(I also think I should get extra points for earnestness on this one. Sometimes I'm just so damn earnest. There. There's some truth I need to speak!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


One of my favorite exhibitions I saw the other day at the National Museum of Women in the Arts was a collection of letters that Frida Kahlo and her mother wrote to one another while Frida was traveling with her husband Diego Rivera in the United States during the early 1930s. I think she led a fascinating life--so passionate about the things she believed in, especially opportunity and equality for everyone, not just the wealthy.

I discovered a few years ago that Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacan, Mexico, in 1907. There is a good chance my Grandma Jan was living there at the same time. My grandmother was born in Saltillo, Mexico, in 1905 and soon after, her Presbyterian missionary parents moved the family to Coyoacan to run a mission school. I wonder if Grandma Jan and Frida ever walked past each other on the street. Maybe they even knew each other.

Grandma left Mexico when she was eight, about three years after the Mexican Revolution broke out, and headed to Palo Alto, California, where she graduated from high school and then Stanford University. Like Frida Kahlo, she was passionate about the things she believed in, especially opportunity and equality for everyone. I can't imagine she wasn't shaped by some of the same forces Frida Kahlo was shaped by, growing up in the throes of revolution.

Grandma Jan at a monastery in Mexico, February 1980

When I was 16, my parents and I traveled to Mexico with my grandmother. We made a pilgrimage to Coyoacan and found the place where her family lived and worked. Grandma always told lots of stories about her childhood there. I was most entranced when she talked about the secret hole in the wall of the courtyard that she and a friend used to exchange letters and other treasures.

I don't doubt that her stories and the legacy of her Mexican childhood has shaped me, especially the passion I have for working toward a world in which everyone can enjoy opportunity and equality.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Okay, I shouldn't promise a specific blog post the next day when I know I'll probably end up crazy tired. Up early after a late night, a last morning full of walking in DC, then metro to the end of the green line, bus to airport, plane, drive home. I finally got on eastern time and now I'm completely done for.

So a quick memory tonight.

I caught the travel bug early, and was determined to be as independent as I could be. I remember taking a solo bus ride from Massachusetts to Connecticut to visit my grandmother when I was maybe 10 or 11. I loved the sheer act of being on the move like that!

And the summer I turned 12 or 13, I saved up my money to pay for a plane ticket to Chicago to visit my other grandmother at the lake house (in addition to the annual visit my family made earlier). I remember washing every window in the house, sewing dresses for my sisters, mowing the lawn, washing and waxing the car, cleaning out the barn. Anything to earn money for that ticket!

All through my teenage years (and actually still), I was way more interested in saving money for adventures than spending money on clothes and record albums.

The last six days = money very well spent in my book.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Walking in Their Footsteps

A wonderfully relaxed, rainy day strolling around Washington, D.C. After I dropped visa applications off at the Kenyan embassy on R Street for the upcoming trip my sister and I are planning, I did some casual sightseeing, a little birthday shopping for Roger and Jack, and visited the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which I will write a bit more about tomorrow.

I ended up back at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit by the White House and Lafayette Square to meet my friend Pat, who is the librarian there. I worked at the court as an intern during the fall of 1984, and then as an actual employee for the summers of 1985 and 1986.

Working at the court was an extraordinary experience, and was the perfect place to learn how to function in a high stakes professional environment with people at the top of their profession as I transitioned from undergraduate work, through graduate school and into longer-term jobs. Wouldn't trade my time there for anything.

I also discovered some things I hadn't known before today. Most of the court is in the modern red brick building in the photo above, but the administrative offices have gradually taken over the historic row homes you can see in the foreground. The building on the corner is the Dolly Madison House. This morning I walked through a room in that house where Abraham Lincoln once sat. 

That's really neat, but just a few houses to the east (sort of behind a tree in the photo above) is the Tayloe House. Here's a better picture:

Despite all of the times I've been in the Tayloe House, I never knew that it was once the headquarters of the National Women's Party, which was founded by women's suffragist Alice Paul. I have walked the halls once walked by the women who fought for and won our right to vote!

And if it weren't for women like them, and so many women who came after them, I might never have had the opportunities I had to work for the federal court that now occupies that property. Thank you, my sisters!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Salt of the Earth

If I was at home right now, I'd find the picture of my mom floating on her belly in the Great Salt Lake, head held high, thumbs in the air, and a big grin on her face. Then I'd scan it and post it on my blog.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! Thanks for being game for so many adventures when I was growing up!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Closing down the hotel bar after the wedding. Taking the night off. Back tomorrow!

Okay, I'm back. I've had a good night's sleep, and I now I have a brain to write. And of course attending a wedding brings back memories of my own wedding.

One of the funniest memories I have of our reception was hearing later that one of my friends had my Quaker grandmother completely convinced that he was a polygamist. She was a world traveler who had a very anthropological perspective, always curious about learning how people think and live. I'm sure it was a highlight of her trip to her granddaughter's wedding in the mysterious land of Utah.

What made it even funnier is that I believe it was my friend who just celebrated his anniversary with his husband--no wives at all.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I didn't even realize I took this picture today. A serendipitous push of the button.

After taking the train into the city from Maryland early this morning, I couldn't bear to take the metro in such gorgeous weather. So, with carryon luggage in tow, I walked from Union Station to the Capitol, then down the mall and around the White House to my friend Pat's office by Lafayette Park.

I love this city. Everywhere I walked memories followed me like shadows.

The Capitol, where my friend Sara charmed an old security guard and on a whim he took us to parts of the building tourists never get to see. The sidewalk near the Capitol, where a squirrel dropped from a tree and landed on my head, probably scaring him even more than it scared me.

The Mall, where on my first day working for a federal court judge, she took me to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and we ate barbecued ribs with our fingers. The expanses of lawn between the Mall and the White House, where I played with the court softball team.

Lafayette Park, which I ran around four times (a mile) for my independent study Fitness for Life class final exam. I should have gotten extra credit points for dodging pigeons.

Did I mention I love this city?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

First Comes Love

Today I flew from Salt Lake to Baltimore for my cousin's wedding in Washington, D.C., this weekend.

Tonight I'm staying with my brother-in-law Bill and his wife Lorraine. Eleven years ago this summer, Roger, Jack, and I flew to D.C. for their wedding. I remember that we barely, barely made it to the airport in time for our flight because there was an accident on the freeway. But we did, and the wedding was beautiful.

Now Bill and Lorraine have four lively children, including a set of twins. The minute I walked in the door, they all started talking at once. They had lots to share! I'm not sure I caught it all, but we had fun anyway!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


I had lunch today at the Hobble Creek golf course. One of my lunch companions asked if I was a golfer. I've only played a few times, so I can't really claim to be one. I did tell him the story of my very first experience playing golf and the moose we encountered. A good memory, but I already told that story on my blog here.

Don't worry, though. I've got another one.

Tomorrow I'm headed to Washington, D.C., for my cousin Julie's wedding. I'll get to hang out with her childhood friend Sahar while I'm there. I don't think I've seen Sahar since we crossed paths in Paris when I was in college. [Update: Roger says that he met Sahar at my grandmother's 85th birthday party. So I have seen her more recently. That was only 22 years ago.]

Julie, her sister Sally, Sahar, and I met for dinner there. We ordered chocolate mousse for dessert and the waiter brought a gigantic bowl of it to our table along with four small bowls, one for each of us. I'm guessing that we were supposed to exercise polite restraint and each take a single portion. Instead we kept refilling our bowls until it was pretty much gone.

I pretty sure that's one of the reasons Parisians love Americans so much.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


This week brought news of two deaths, one near and one far. Our friend Angel, who we met when we opened our bookstore, and Maurice Sendak, who we rediscovered when we opened our bookstore.

Angel was an elementary school librarian who loved children and who loved books and who loved sharing books she loved with children. When she was at our store, she often became one of our best booksellers, jumping in to help other customers find something to treasure. When asked to name a favorite book, she'd say, "I could no more pick a favorite book than a star in the sky."

Of course we carried Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are from the time we started building our children's book inventory, but the first time I actually read it as an adult was after Jack was born. I remembered Max and the wild things, but I hadn't remembered Sendak's simple lilting language. I reveled.

". . . and he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are."

Angel, now that Maurice is there, resting in peace might have to wait. The wild rumpus may be starting.

PS: Thanks for the great cartoon in the Salt Lake Tribune today, Pat Bagley!

Monday, May 07, 2012

But We Didn't Inhale

When I was in sixth grade we did oral reports on various illicit drugs. I was assigned marijuana. Because I'm always looking for a more interesting angle, I decided to go to the police department to ask them some questions for my research.

A very nice officer loaded me up with pamphlets and then said he had just the thing for my report. He pulled out a little packet with a couple of tablets and told me that if I burned them, they'd smell just like marijuana. So I took them to school, along with a container and some matches, gave my report, lit the tablets on fire and passed them around the class so that everyone would know what marijuana smelled like.

If I was in sixth grade today, I'd probably just google marijuana, jot down some notes, maybe download an image or two, call it good, and miss out on a real adventure.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Where Are We Going?

This is a picture of my family in 1965. I wasn't even two yet, so I don't have any memory of this day. I don't actually have any memory of living in this era--of our family looking like this (the unfortunate styles of the 70s soon overwhelmed us)--but this was plunk in the middle of my formative years, so it must be a fundamental part of me.

We might have been heading to church when this was taken.

My mom grew up as a Presbyterian, and my dad as an Episcopalian. After they got married, they decided to be Unitarians. Then, when I was five, they decided to be Mormons.

I have a few memories of being in the nursery at the old Unitarian Church by Harvard Square in Boston, looking out the window at the street below. My earliest memories of attending the Mormon Church in Cambridge involved going to Jr. Sunday School and riding in the car on the way home from weekday Primary with the neighbors.

What's fascinating to me is that people who decide they don't want to be Mormons anymore but still want to be part of a religious community often become Unitarians. Just the reverse of my parents' journey.

I think I might experience Mormonism differently than many people I meet because of my family's early history and because my extended family includes lovely and generous people who are Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Jewish, Quaker, Catholic, Lutheran, agnostic, atheist, and, at least at various points, Wiccan, Pagan, and Buddhist.

To be honest, I'm not always sure what to make of my spiritual journey, but I'm glad my parents started me on it. I catch glimpses of what I perceive to be pure truth and light, I bang my head against dogmatism, I am inspired by the deep faith of others, I don't really want to live forever, I believe it is all bigger than we can understand with our limited senses, I know that loving one another is our best hope for taking humanity forward, I seek.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Life Saving

Jack went to the pool tonight to complete his lifesaving merit badge. It's not anywhere near the full life-saving course that is required to be a life guard, but it was a good reminder of water safety skills for him.

When I was a teenager, I took advanced lifesaving from a very demanding instructor over the course of a couple of months. He pushed us hard. When it came time for our final testing, he appointed himself to be the drowning victim we took turns rescuing. He did not make it easy. He wanted us to know exactly how dangerous it is to approach someone who is panicking in the water. Then when I got him into a cross-chest carry and towed him the length of the 25-yard pool, my arm was rubbed raw by the three-day-old beard he'd grown just to torture us.

He made class hell, but we all learned what we needed to learn and we sure learned it well.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Jack and I were on the way home from the metal recycling place this afternoon--took in nearly $30 with 16 pounds of cans we collected all winter and an old Jeep radiator!--when we were overcome by the smell of skunk at the north end of town.

Smell, as I understand it, is the sense most closely linked with memory.

It was summer 1998. I was the church girls' camp director, and we were camping at Payson Lakes. It was very stressful being in charge of girls' camp--not just because it was important to make sure the girls were having a good time and learning valuable things, but because I was responsible for their safety and welfare. After the first day, I was not wearing the mantle of leadership particularly well.

Then it was 3:00 in the morning. I was woken up with screams of "Margy! Margy! Come here!" The mantle was mine, no turning back. The girls had discovered a skunk in their tent, trapped under one of the cots. Suddenly there were more cries, "Margy! Margy!" I left one of the assistant camp directors to deal with the skunk under the cot (luckily there was no room for it to raise its tail and once the tent was clear of girls it was relieved to make a peaceful escape). I raced to see what else had gone wrong and discovered skunks nosing around our kitchen area. Somehow we chased them off without creating a bigger problem.

The next morning we had a Very Serious camp meeting. It was essential to reign in whatever treats had lured the skunks to our campsite. The girls rallied. We saw no more skunks for the rest of the week.

One crisis handled. Then we found out we couldn't use the flush toilets anymore due to a water shortage . . .

Thursday, May 03, 2012


I think I might have been in sixth grade when this picture was taken. I started wearing glasses when I was in fourth grade. The big style then was wire-frame granny glasses. Then came the wire-frame bottle cap glasses. Then, when I graduated from high school, thankfully, contact lenses.

When I was nine or ten, I forgot to take off my glasses once before I dove into Lake Geneva. My dad's cousin's husband Tom (we have so many Toms in our family I have to be specific!) spent hours with a mask looking for them in the weeds at the bottom of the lake. Hours! I couldn't believe he did that just for me. Since I was just a little kid there wasn't much I could do to thank him for finding them, but I did make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and delivered them to him while they were still warm.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Routine

Just about every school day since Jack started first grade I've made him the same thing for lunch: a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly), cheddar cheese goldfish, and a few cookies (lately Oreos). For a while I included baby carrots, but he confessed that he didn't eat them so I stopped. He now eats baby carrots under supervision at home.

The only exception was when the elementary school cafeteria served pizza, which happened two days a month. Now that he's in junior high? He eats the same thing. Every. Single. Day.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May Day

One time Roger and I were miles out in the middle of Utah Lake in a motor boat when the engine died. We called for help on our cell phone and a guy came out and towed us to shore.

I'm sure there are details I could include that would make that story much more interesting, but my eyes are drooping and I must close them. I have run out of gas.

Maybe I'll dream of rocking back and forth in a motor boat on the waves way out in the middle of Utah Lake tonight. That would be nice.