Sunday, September 30, 2012

At Their Mercy

Besides the time I was born, I've only ever stayed in a hospital once. It was shortly after Roger and I got married and I developed a bladder infection--yes, go ahead and snicker at my cliche life--that wouldn't respond to standard antibiotic treatments. I was there for three nights.

Being in the hospital reminded me that even if we have a good imagination and even if we listen carefully to other people tell about their experiences, we still can't quite know what some things feel like until we experience them for ourselves.

The way your life is suddenly not at all on your terms. The interruptions. The vulnerability. The orders. The gowns. The procedures. The way you must humble yourself over and over so they can get--let's just say--a proper sense of how your body is functioning.

But also the toasty warm blanket that a kind nurse brings and puts right up against your skin when you're so cold in the middle of the night and wait longer than you need to push the call button because you don't want to be a bother. And the realization that you aren't.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hole in the Wall

One time I was so mad at my brother that I kicked a hole in my bedroom wall. My dad made me fix it. At least I learned how to repair drywall.

Friday, September 28, 2012

On the Road

I loved school field trips when I was growing up.

Some of the clearest memories I have include going to China Town in Boston to conduct social studies research and inadvertently walking past the Combat Zone, going to a science museum in Worcester, taking a tour of the kitchen at our local McDonalds, visiting the Peabody Museum and being genuinely confused about how archeologists could draw such specific and various conclusions about implements that looked an awful lot alike, and visiting the Wonder Bread factory where we got free twinkies.

I loved riding the school bus with friends who weren't on my regular bus route.

And I loved getting a can of soda (a rare treat) to drink with my sack lunch. I usually picked orange or grape.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Book of Changes

While Roger and I were organizing all of the pieces we needed to put in place before opening our bookstore, we hooked up a trailer to our Jeep and drove across country, looking for ideas and fun things to sell.

On the way home, we stopped to visit my Grandma Jan outside Chicago. She was excited about our plans and announced that she wanted to give us some of her books to sell at our store. She'd been working on paring down her collection, but wanted to pare it down more before moving to a retirement home.

She had us pull all the books off the shelves and put them in stacks on the floor. Then she went through them one by one.

Every single one was a treasure. A book she loved, a book given to her by someone she loved, or a book she read at a time in her life or in a place she loved. One by one they all went back on her shelf. She couldn't part with any of them.

Except for one.

When she picked up a copy of the I Ching, she said without a trace of sentiment, "You can have this one. I never really understood it." And she handed it to us so we could take it away.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wool in the Dye

A high school friend of mine recently took up weaving on a big loom. She posted a picture of her first completed project: a set of placemats made with bamboo warp and scraps of fabric she'd saved up over the years. It reminded me of a time I went to visit my Uncle Tom and Aunt Sandra in Illinois.

The summer I turned 12, I was invited to stay with them for two weeks to help take care of my two little cousins. I'm not sure I was particularly responsible, but I tried my best. It's entirely possible that we watched too much television because I wasn't a very imaginative babysitter.

My aunt Sandra had several looms and loved weaving wool that she carded, dyed, and spun herself. One day she sent us out to gather wild flowers from the fields around their house and flowers that grew in her garden. She boiled them up in big pots on the stove to dye the wool.

I will never forget the way it smelled.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


When I was a kid, one of my favorite sandwiches was a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich. If I had access to marshmallow fluff out here in the west, I would make me a fluffernutter sandwich right this minute. All we have here, though, is a marshmallow cream and it's just not the same.

I was envious when I discovered that by the time my sisters were in elementary school, a fluffernutter sandwich was always the third choice on the lunch menu.

Once in a while someone brings us a jar or two of fluff from back east. A few years ago, my uncle sent us some through the mail (one of the plastic containers exploded just a little, but since he had the foresight to pack each one in a ziplock bag, we were able to salvage it all).

Oh, fluff, you are too far away from me tonight!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Infinite Loop

Spent the evening grading papers. Brought back too many memories of grading papers.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Horsing Around

One year for Christmas, my parents covered the extra fee required for a riding class at college. I had very little experience with horses, and in fact needed to overcome a bit of a traumatic moment from my childhood. My dad and I were on a horse somewhere in a Utah canyon the summer I turned six. Dad got off the horse for some reason. The horse decided to eat some grass by the side of the road. I was left staring down its neck and over the edge of a steep cliff.

I enjoyed the class a great deal. We spent the whole semester inside an arena with a very flat floor.

One of my favorite parts of the present, though, was the drawing my friend Sally did for the card.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Deux Histoires de Pain


Thirty summers ago in Paris I met my grandmother's friend, Madame Ascoli. Every few weeks or so, she would take me somewhere in her car for an adventure.

One day we ended up eating bowls of noodles at an Asian restaurant. The only utensils they gave us were spoons, and the noodles kept slipping off them.

Madame Ascoli scowled and complained that it wasn't civilized to serve food without bread. A true Frenchwoman, she just wanted to use some bread to hold her noodles on her spoon so she could eat them with some grace.


The year before that, I stayed with a French family in Avignon for a couple of weeks. One morning, the mother, Madame Augier, shook me awake and pressed some coins into my hands. She urgently explained in French that I needed to go out into the street to meet the truck selling bread and ask for "deux gros pain." So I did.

When I got back with the bread, I learned that Madame Augier had a long standing feud with the driver of the bread truck and she thought we'd get better quality bread if he didn't realize it was for her.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Steeped in History

Roger gave a interesting, well researched, and (I thought) charming presentation at the Utah State History Conference today about Frank Beckwith, a man who was fascinated by a wide variety of subjects and who edited and published the newspaper in Delta, Utah, for many years.

Frank Beckwith traveled far and wide by horseback and then by Model T Roadster and even airplane to document things like industrial projects, petroglyphs in Nine Mile Canyon and day-to-day community life; to collect things like fossils, trilobites and geodes, which he often passed on to the Smithsonian; and to explore areas like Moab, which led to his appointment as director of the survey expedition to the then-proposed Arches national monument.

As I listened to Roger speak, I realized that I was married to a Frank Beckwith soul mate: curious about his surroundings, naturally drawn to notice things that most people don't even see, interested in documenting what he finds with images and the written word, driven to explore the unbeaten path (particularly in a high clearance vehicle).

Someone at the presentation asked Roger how he discovered Frank Beckwith. It was not surprising that his answer involved an adventure to find some mysterious ruins on top of a remote dormant volcano. Roger wanted to know what the ruins were and it took a bit of digging. Turned out the ruins were part of an old wind power project Beckwith had followed.

We have a happy family memory of picnicking on the top of that remote dormant volcano in the shadow of those old ruins. Because, of course, Roger wanted to share his discovery with us!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Hair on My Head

One of my high school English teachers told me to stay after class one day.

"What have I done?" I worried to myself. I was generally such a goody-goody, I couldn't imagine why I was in trouble.

After the rest of the class left, she said, "I just wanted to ask you something. What did you do to your hair?"

"My hair?" I was mystified. I hadn't done anything to my hair.

"The streaks," she said. "The blonde streaks in the front. I want to do the same thing."

"Oh, well, nothing. It just is that way," I answered, disappointed that I couldn't help, but glad I wasn't in trouble.

I wonder if anyone will ask me now what I've done to get the silver threads in my hair.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Early Effort

I wouldn't have guessed I was a cat person in the second grade. Maybe it was an assigned topic. How about that penmanship?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Bunch of Weiners

We talked in my writing classes at UVU today about the importance of seeing things from various points of view. I used the following story as an illustration.

In the early 1990s, Roger and I lived in Highland, Utah, and one of our neighbors worked for the R.C. Willey in Orem. Every Saturday, the store served free hotdogs and they'd hire various youth groups to work the event. A couple of times our neighbor arranged it so we could take a group of teenage girls from church to raise money for camp.

The lines were always huge. At least I heard they were huge. I always spent the whole time out back on the loading dock grilling the hotdogs.

Inevitably the girls who were serving them up would hear complaints about the way they were cooked (sorry, that would be me not pulling them off the grill in time) or that they had too much ketchup or mustard on them. We'd talk about it on the way home, everyone wondering why people thought they had a right to complain about something that was free.

It was true no one paid money for the hotdogs. But they did pay with their time in line. An hour, maybe even more! Imagine investing that much time only to be disappointed. That's not too hard to understand.

Still, it doesn't justify whining at my girls.

Monday, September 17, 2012


We went to hear author David McCullough speak at UVU this evening about the U.S. Constitution. One of the things he talked about was how the founders studied existing state constitutions as they drafted and debated and redrafted the U.S. Constitution.

Likely inspired by the fact that he was delivering his address at an educational institution to an audience who would especially appreciate it, he shared one of his favorite passages from the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I've put in bold some of word choices McCullough especially loved. I love them, too.
Chapter V, Section II
The Encouragement of Literature, etc. 
Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people [as in everyone, he added], it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.
I feel lucky to have received an excellent education at the following schools that were born of this extraordinary vision: Paul P. Gates Elementary, Acton-Boxborough Regional Jr. High School, and Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. Thanks for reminding me of that tonight, Mr. McCullough.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Down the Drain

Jack and I are reading a book with a character named Alice (who is actually an alligator). The whole time we were reading about her tonight, this song my mom used to sing to us was running through my head.

Alice, where are you going?
Upstairs to take a bath.
Alice, with legs like toothpicks
and a neck like a gir-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-rafe.

Alice, into the bathtub,
Pull out the plug and then . . .
Oh my goodness, oh my soul,
There goes Alice down the hole!

Glub. Glub. Glub.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Broken Heart

I suppose I should really mention at some point during this year of posting memories that I did have a serious relationship with someone before I met my husband.

But I don't want to get into lots of gushy, angsty details. So here's the story in a nutshell.

We met in the dorms our freshman year, and by the time school got out in the spring we had declared our love for each other. He came to visit me in Boston a few weeks later. He wrote me passionate letters while I was in Paris that summer. I walked along the Seine, wallowing in the knowledge that I would not see him for nearly two years. Before I got back to school in the fall, he left for an LDS mission in Sweden. I visited his family in Seattle for Thanksgiving once while he was gone.

He wrote to me every single week from Sweden. He said he loved me in every single letter he wrote. Every single letter, that is, until the very last one.

When he got home, he came back to school, took me snowshoeing in the mountains once, then dumped me. I hear he eventually became a podiatrist.

Yeah. That's about it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A New Look?

Since we rarely take family pictures, I thought I'd post this one of us at the wedding this past weekend, which was held outdoors at Camp Wandawega.

The bow ties may be a one time thing for the boys, though one never knows. Roger did say that it was surprisingly comfortable compared to regular ties, which he despises but has to wear at least five days a week during the school year.

And it looks pretty darn awesome with those reading glasses.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I always love when my dad and his siblings get together. They are full of stories and laughter!

Photos taken by my cousin Julie at Talia's wedding last Saturday. From left to right: Uncle Tom, Aunt Mary, Dad, Uncle Stuart (aka Tooey).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

But I Will Still Hope

This is updated from a post I wrote on September 11, 2006, called "Random 9/11 Memories."

Watching the news unfold on one TV, while 2-year-old Jack innocently watched Sesame Street on another. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that he would be growing up in a very different world than I had.

Doing business over the phone with people all over the country in the days that followed was charged with this sort of electricity. We rarely talked about what happened, but the mutual grief and shock seemed palpable over the wire. The customer service rep at one small publisher headquartered just outside New York City was so thankful that I called to place an order a day or two after 9/11. They were terrified that their business would come to a grinding halt.

Waking up on 9/12 and seeing the flags that the local boy scout troop placed in each of our yards. My emotional reaction caught me off guard--I'd never really put much thought into what the flag meant to me. What it meant to me that day was that we were all in this together and that we would all pull through it together.

The flags are flying in our yards again today. Even though the veneer of our unity has cracked over the past eleven years, I want to believe that at the core of it we'll all move forward together and triumph in the ways that truly matter. I want to believe that. But honestly? I am not as hopeful as I was in 2006. The cracks seem pretty deep these days.

Monday, September 10, 2012

They Do

We're just barely home from a whirlwind trip to Wisconsin for my youngest cousin's wedding.

I was thinking on the plane flying home that I've been to nearly all of my first cousins' weddings. Not that I have that many cousins--just eleven--but I do have many good memories of many lovely family celebrations, welcoming exceptional people into our fold.

On my mom's side of the family, I saw Tracey, Sandy, and Lillan all married in Connecticut where they grew up.

On my dad's side of the family, I saw Sally, David, and Talia get married in Wisconsin, Megan get married north of San Francisco, and Julie get married in Washington, D.C.

The weddings I missed were Charles' in Japan and Tom's in New York. At least I think he got married in New York. I don't think anyone actually knew about his wedding until after the fact. Maybe his parents did. Maybe they didn't.

Sarah is the only cousin who is not married yet, but she's well on her way, engaged to a great guy. Whether they quietly elope one day or have a big party, I'm happy for her!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Makes Perfect Sense to Me

I've been quizzing Jack--who is feeling a lot better tonight--on state geography for his U.S. history class.

We had a wooden puzzle of the United States while I was growing up, and we used it to teach my little sisters the names of each state.

I loved my sister Linda's logic when she called Utah "Mytah."

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Poor Jack hasn't been feeling well with a cold for the past few days and tonight he developed a fever and is having trouble breathing. He took a long steamy shower and is trying to get to sleep as I type this. Bronchitis maybe. We're keeping a close eye on him.

When he was less than a year old he developed RSV and the doctor had us use a nebulizer several times of day to administer his medication in the form of mist. He wasn't an easy patient and struggled against the treatment. I didn't handle that very well, which probably made it worse. 

It's so hard to sit by and not be able to do much to help. 

Breathe, sweet boy.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Cold Feet

It's cold and rainy where I am right now. Time for some good warm memories.

Like the fourth of July bonfire we built on my grandmother's beach on Long Island Sound one year. Or the time I slept at my friend Sally's old farmhouse and her mother put rocks that she'd heated up on the stove and wrapped in towels at the foot of my bed.

Hmm. That doesn't help. Maybe some bad memories.

Summer cross country drives without air conditioning, peeling myself off my seat every time I stopped for gas. Heat waves that made sleeping even under a thin sheet unbearable. Being trapped on a plane for hours on the tarmac at Washington National without proper ventilation.

Still not helping. Still cold. I'm going to go find some more layers. And socks. Socks would be smart.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Return of the Pink Panther

Roger just discovered our complete set of Pink Panther cartoons on dvd that went missing a few years ago. Though our house can be a bit of a black hole, they were lost somewhere else.

One of my favorite memories of Jack--and something I still enjoy though it doesn't happen quite as often--is listening to him laugh and laugh at cartoons like the Pink Panther, or especially Tom and Jerry.

Do other parents breathe a sigh of relief and pleasure like I did when I first heard Jack laugh at something that was truly funny? I was so happy to discover he had a good sense of humor.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Family Meal

Utah is a fabulous place to bring up a boy who likes dinosaurs. At the College of Eastern Utah museum in Price circa 2003-2004.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Guest Post

BY: Jack Layton :D


One of my favorite memories is when I first got my cats. It was late afternoon when my dad came in and said we can go get the cats, who were kittens. At first I was excited, but then my dad said that we only get them if the house is clean. So I got to work, and I cleaned the house in about five minutes. My dad was actually surprised that I got it done so fast, so he had to take me to get the cats.

Oh, and my mom was there, too.

P.S. That was the same day that we saw the space station orbiting in the skies above Utah.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

What Lies Beneath

One summer I swam across the reservoir in Spanish Fork. I was about in the middle when I saw something under the water out of the corner of my eye.

It looked like a pale, bloated body, floating upright, arms raised above its head.

I stopped short, treading water, heart pounding. What should I do, what should I do? If there's a dead body, what should I do?

"If" was the operative word. I had to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. So I screwed up my courage and stuck my head under the water to take another look.

Dead tree. Branches reaching. Relief.

My palms still sweat when I think about it.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

No Fear

The first time Roger held my hand was when we were heading into a carnival haunted house. Smooth move, eh?