Friday, June 22, 2012


I'm off soon to make some new memories. I'm meeting my sister in Paris, then we're taking some of my brother's ashes to Nairobi--where he lived before he died and where he wanted to live forever--then we're stopping in Spain on the way home.

Will report back on July 15th.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


After our event at the Springville library tonight, we went to a wedding reception at a hillside home in Provo. Perfect weather, spectacular views and, sigh, an infinity pool.

I obsessed about having a swimming pool when I was growing up. Sometimes I filled up our aluminum canoe with freezing cold water from the hose and swam laps under the thwarts. I was serious.

My parents swore they would never put in a pool. Turned out that "never" meant "until you grow up and leave home."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Getting in Touch with Nature

Tonight we celebrated the Summer Solstice with friends and neighbors, toasting marshmallows over the burning embers of our Christmas tree. We were spirited, but not skyclad. We are only the fringiest of pagans.

So I may not be inclined to dance around a fire without anything on (especially in a suburban back yard), but swimming that way? Count me in. Many happy memories of that over the years.
(No photos available.)

When I was a summer camp counselor in Maine, we used to organize skinny dips on really hot, hot days. The girls would line up along the shoreline and run in together, dropping their towels into the water at the very last minute.

They could also go skinny dipping on their own early in the morning before breakfast as long as they woke up one of the lifeguards to go with them. It was usually me because I was in the cabin closest to the water front. 

The girls were required to wear a white swimming cap in the lake so that if they sunk to the bottom we'd be able to see them to fish them out. But when they were skinny dipping, the swim cap rule was suspended.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I studied French in high school and college, but never really learned to speak it fluently. It comes back, though, when I try to study Spanish. Funny how our minds work.

One year in high school I took a psychology class, and was selected to be one of the participants when a hypnotist came to do an assembly. I remember being on stage, pretty aware of everything, and--at least as far as I know--the hypnotist didn't single me out for anything. I'm not sure I was actually hypnotized.

But I was definitely very, very relaxed.

Right after the assembly, I had French class and was scheduled for an oral exam. Because I was so relaxed, the French just rolled right up into my consciousness and off of my tongue.

Incroyable, mais vrais!

Monday, June 18, 2012


Jack and I are reading Harriet the Spy. I had forgotten that Harriet's full name is Harriet M. Welsch.

When Jack was born, we decided to give him the middle initial M. It doesn't stand for an actual name, but it is in honor of his birth mom, whose name begins with M.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

On Not Being Pedantic

Roger and I finally watched Midnight in Paris tonight (sometimes these things take me a while), and all of the protagonist's interactions with writers, artists, and musicians in Paris in the 1920s reminded me of a class I took in high school on 20th century drama.

Over the course of a semester, we read nearly two dozen plays by a wide variety of playwrights, including Thornton Wilder, Henrik Ibsen, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter, and Samuel Beckett. The teacher loved every minute and his passion was contagious.

For one of the exams, he had us write a play of our own: a dialogue among three of the playwrights we studied arguing about the purpose of theater. Is it to reflect life? To examine life? To shape life? To distract us from life?

He staged a reading of his favorite, a brilliant and funny exchange written by one of my classmates that not only captured the playwrights' ideas, but their personalities as well.

It was the first time I remember realizing that making a serious study of something did not mean we had to suck the soul out of it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I tracked down a pair of the inexpensive sunglasses I always wear to have as backup this summer. They were described as "80's Style Vintage Wayfarer Style Sunglasses."

80's? Vintage? But I've only been wearing them since college.


Friday, June 15, 2012

In the City of Love

I got caught up in reading my scrapbook from my first visit to Paris when I was 17 tonight. It's interesting what I remember, what I've completely forgotten, and what I remember incorrectly. 

Here's an excerpt:

I headed towards Notre Dame and on the way I somehow picked up a puppy dog named Karim. I passed him and he smiled at me. The next thing I know he's following me. I went inside the cathedral and sat down, figuring that if I "studied the architecture" long enough he'd get bored and leave. He stayed. One nice thing was that he took me up in the towers of Notre Dame at his own expense. The view was beautiful and worth every step up. We all stood under the bell and the guide hit it with a metal bar. It didn't take much to create a loud, resounding ring. Karim made me take a picture of him on the very top of the cathedral. So I took one . . .

I could have sworn this happened when I returned the following year for study abroad, and I thought his name was Hamid. But Hamid was a different boy altogether. He worked at the hostel where we lived as students and wrote me sweet notes like this on the days I was sad because there wasn't a letter (especially from my boyfriend) in the mail for me.

I don't suppose when I go to Paris next week--my first visit since college--I'll get attention like this. And when I don't, I'll blame it on the fact that I have much shorter hair this time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Homesick No More

I'm staying up too late working on organizing things for a trip to Europe and Africa with one of my sisters next week. At this point, my biggest challenge is figuring out how to fit everything I need into carryon luggage. I want to travel light because I'm going to be hauling my stuff all over the place.

Though I will definitely miss my boys as they hold down the fort at home, I can't express how much I am looking forward to this adventure!

Given that, it seems so funny to me now that when I was eight and nine, I used to freak out and call my parents in the middle of the night to come get me when I was sleeping over at a friend's house. Not every time. But it happened more than once.

It was awfully good of them to not only come get me, but to let me try again the next time I got an invitation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Tonight we went to a concert to root for a friend of mine who plays in a band that was competing with seven other bands to perform at the Stadium of Fire concert on July 4th. They did an excellent job, but the competition was fierce.

I am always so amazed by good musicians, and I love, love, love live performances.

For years at our bookstore we were lucky enough to have live music on Friday nights during the fall and winter, and during special events like our summer Harry Potter release parties. 

Over the years, we had so many fabulous singer/songwriters, bands (one a rock band with 20 amplifiers!), jam sessions with jazz musicians, open mic nights, Christmas concerts, and even a drum circle. Some of the most magical nights happened when several musicians were booked to share the same evening and ended up improvising with one another. We even collaborated with some of them to record their performances live, and we selected songs for a Live at the Read Leaf CD, a favorite treasure from that time in our lives.

I can't even begin to thank them all enough for helping us take our bookstore adventure to a whole new level. It was awesome!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Me circa 1965

Remember these old orange life jackets? I couldn't wait to be old enough to shed mine as a matter of comfort and a matter of dignity. Going without was so much cooler on both counts.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Moms Love Stuff Like This

There is a near ten-year gap between Jack and his older cousins, all 18 of them. I love that they've always paid attention to him even though he was so much younger. Here are Ben and Jack doing a little bonding a few summers ago.

Thanks, cousins! You are awesome!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rewriting the Rules

Today I finished reading the memoir Hole in My Life in anticipation of meeting author Jack Gantos at the BYU Books for Young Readers Symposium in July.

In the book, Gantos writes about his experience getting caught smuggling hashish into the U.S. and spending several years in a federal prison. It was there he was able to focus on actually becoming the writer he had imagined himself to be.

"My struggle as a writer was a lot like my life, I figured," he wrote. "I made up rules for myself and broke them and made others until I got it right."

Not that I've dabbled in drug smuggling or anything like that, but I related to Gantos' epiphany. I have tried to figure out how best to go after various aspirations and failed more times than I can remember.

Sometimes I write a to do list. Sometimes I keep it in my head. Sometimes I use a planner. Sometimes I use a calendar on the fridge. Sometimes I leave messages to remind myself on voice mail or send myself an email. Sometimes I ask Jack or Roger to remind me. Sometimes it just falls out of my brain.

Sometimes I get up early to get things done. Sometimes I stay up late. Sometimes I do specific things on specific days. Sometimes I do things in small increments. Sometimes I do things all in one day. Sometimes I don't do them at all.

Sometimes I get things done ahead of time. Sometimes I wait until something becomes an emergency. Sometimes I'm very disciplined even when I don't want to do it. Sometimes I wait until the mood strikes.

Sometimes I work in my office. Sometimes I work in the living room. Sometimes I work in bed. Sometimes I am organized and efficient. Sometimes I am scattered and creative.

Sometimes what I'm doing clicks and I actually achieve something I set out to do. Sometimes my ideas turn to dust and blow away. Often I accomplish something I didn't expect at all.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Full of Possibility

Jack and I are reveling in summer mode. No alarm, lots of unscheduled time. I can't say that we're using our time particularly wisely, but we are trying to have some productive moments. It's been nice to decompress.

One of the things I remember most about my own summer between seventh and eighth grades was walking to the Triple A shopping center on Route 2A, about a mile from home, with a friend of mine. We spent a lot of time in the stationary store where I nurtured my fantasy of having a store like that one day. Our bookstore helped scratch that itch because we sold things like notecards and blank books. 

I am a total sucker for blank books. So much space just waiting to be filled with, well, about anything. That's the same reason I love summer so much.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Anxious Engagement

We had a nice visit this evening with Roger's brother and his wife who are in town from Iowa and ended up swapping engagement stories.

Roger and I had a mostly on, sometimes off, relationship for several years before we got engaged. I wasn't sure it was really heading anywhere so I'd break it off. Then I couldn't resist him, and we'd end up back together again. That happened several times.

In 1990, I flew home for my sister Linda's high school graduation, determined to make some changes. While I was there, I finalized my plans. I'd sell everything I owned, including my house and car, turn in a letter of resignation at work, and head off to Denmark. My brother had contacts there and thought he could line up some freelance work for me.

When I got back to Salt Lake City, Roger met me at the airport. As we drove south toward home on I-15, I told him all about my plans.

"Before you turn in that letter of resignation, would you consider staying here and marrying me instead?" he asked. Twice. Apparently I was too busy talking or lost in my own thoughts to hear him the first time. I'm still working on that.

I looked out the car window. We were driving right past the state prison at the point of the mountain.

"Um, I have to think about that," I said. "Can I let you know in the morning?" My mind was so set on the plans I'd made, I had to unwind it. And I didn't actually know what it was like to be in a relationship with someone who had asked me to marry him. I had to wrap my brain around it.

Roger probably wasn't expecting that response.

By morning my mind was very clear. Of course I would consider staying and marrying him instead. And once we were engaged it seemed crazy that I had any question about it.

We got married exactly eight weeks later. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Dream

Last night I had a dream that I had been sucked back to work in the corporate world. A lucrative offer was too hard to resist, and I was intoxicated. I took it. Then little by little I realized each sacrifice I would be making, including giving up the far less lucrative but far more satisfying jobs I have now. Any sense of control I had over my life was sucked right out of me and the dream turned into a nightmare.

When I woke up, I remembered that I'd been skimming through one of my old journals last night, looking for things to write about. The journal covered about a five-year period from the time leading up to our wedding until shortly after we moved to the home we are in now. Getting married seriously hampered my journal writing, by the way. We got married at the end of July, and I didn't write about it until October!

One of the themes that ran through the entries was my desire to extricate myself from the computer industry. But when I figured out how to leave one job, I'd get sucked right back into another. Part of the struggle was that I couldn't put my finger on what else I wanted to or could do. And the salary and perks were enticing.

I think my dream last night worked out the last of any residual doubt I had about leaving the corporate world. I may not have the salary and the perks (thank you, Roger, for pulling that weight for our family!), but I've got freedom, flexibility, and the chance to make a real difference in the world every day. I'll take it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Jack riding the dragon, June 2003

Art City Days have begun here in Springville! I can hear the some of the carnival rides through my open window. Maybe this year I'll get up early enough for the hot air balloon festival. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Out of Time

An old friend has been on my mind today. I can't remember exactly when we became friends, but we went back at least as far as elementary school. I loved that I had a girl friend named Laurie because my dad's name is Laurie (after Laurie in Little Women).

We were actually pretty unlikely friends. I was a teacher's pet kind of kid while Laurie was a bit of a wild child, always pushing the boundaries and seeing what she could get away with. She wasn't afraid of getting into trouble. I was both in awe of her and glad I wasn't her at the same time.

Laurie was the one the boys were drawn to. I was the one the boys would call to confess their crushes and to find out more about her. So she got the boyfriends, but I consoled myself with the fact that I got lots of practice learning how to be friends with boys. She was, though, directly responsible for my first kiss. One of her boyfriends set me up with a friend of his and we double dated.

I looked through my pictures of her tonight. In quite a few of them she had, on purpose, a goofball expression like this:

Or she was posed like this:

I didn't see much of Laurie after I went away to college. She left home, got married and had a baby. She sent me pictures and wrote that her spirited daughter might have been payback for all the grief she caused her own parents. The last time we talked, we arranged to meet up when I was passing through the town where she lived. That was five or six years ago, maybe even longer. She wasn't home when I got there. I figured we'd just gotten our wires crossed. We lost track of each other after that.

Her little brother found me recently, and I learned that Laurie took her own life four years ago. I don't know any more than that, and though I've been grappling with it, it's not my story to tell. I still haven't even quite grasped that she isn't in our world anymore.

I'm so glad she was such a part of my life growing up. And I'm so sorry that I thought we'd have plenty of time to reconnect again one day. I sure love you, Laurie, my friend.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Rubbing Shoulders

I just finalized my hosting assignment for the upcoming Books for Young Readers Symposium in July. It's a fabulous opportunity to mix it up with the always awesome faculty and introduce one of the speakers--a residual benefit of connections I made when I was a bookseller.

It's not hard to imagine that one of my favorite parts of that era was meeting so many interesting and talented people. Some of the highlights include:

Sitting right next to writer James Patterson at the Author Banquet for Literacy during a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association trade show. I had a hard time reconciling the mind that came up with books like Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider with such a nice dinner companion. (But isn't that how the story always starts out?!)

Driving three-time Newbery honor book author Zilpha Keatley Snyder (The Egypt Game) to the airport after she spoke at a conference at Utah Valley State College (now University). She's led such a fascinating life, and I enjoyed talking with her immensely about all sorts of things. I just wish I could remember now what they were.

Meeting the voice of Blue from Blues Clues at BEA, the big national booksellers' trade show in New York City. And even better? I got to sit in the real thinking chair. Fans of the show will understand just exactly how cool that was.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

I'll Have a Little Bit of Everything, Please

I've been re-reading The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner lately, brushing up on various economic theories. The copy I have is the 5th edition, which I originally read when it was assigned in one of my college classes in the early 80s. I'm going to have to track down the chapter he added in the last edition (7th, 1999) when I'm done. It's very readable; not dry at all.

One of the key reasons I got degrees in international relations and political science was because they were the most inter-disciplinary majors I could find. I didn't realize then how resistant I was to the silo effect of academia. All I knew was that once I decided I wasn't going to major in psychology like I thought, I didn't want to have to narrow down my choices to one thing.

I took classes in economics, sociology, political science, history, geography, law, and even social work. Sure the world needs specialists, people who dig deep in their disciplines and push the boundaries of knowledge. But the world also needs people like me, people who want to figure out how it all works together.

(I also like ordering combo plates at restaurants.)

Saturday, June 02, 2012


Benny, Jack, and Johnny circa 2004 in the back offices of The Read Leaf bookstore

Growing up in a bookstore meant a fairly unlimited supply of cardboard boxes, bags, and packing tape. Add a gigantic $2.00 box of popsicle sticks from the craft store and a kid can create all sorts of reinforced weapons and shields. 

Literally years of fun for the boys.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Wunnerful, Wunnerful

Fondly remembering how much my Grandpa Charlie enjoyed watching Lawrence Welk. And how funny I thought it was that a girl I babysat for when I was a teenager loved it, too.

I used to wonder if she'd actually been someone my Grandpa's age who died and came back as the girl I babysat for. Reincarnation would explain all sorts of anachronistic behavior like that.

I also used to wonder if I'd end up in a nursing home listening to Lawrence Welk when I got old. Then I realized that I'd be old with all sorts of people who grew up listening to Led Zeppelin. Well, and the Bee Gees.

Now the way things are headed, I wonder if I'll end up in a nursing home with a microchip in my head listening to whatever I darn well please.