Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The first Halloween after Roger and I got married we had more than 200 trick-or-treaters. It completely caught us off guard, and even though we had a decent stash of candy, we ran out too early.

We scoured the kitchen for treats to hand out and even raided the brightly colored lollipops off of the tail feathers of a stuffed turkey that Roger's sister had made for us for us to use as a Thanksgiving decoration.

From then on we we've been more prepared. We still stock up on enough candy to handle 200 trick-or-treaters. We live in a different neighborhood now, and we haven't had anywhere near that many for years. But we sure don't want to be caught off guard again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The first Christmas after Roger and I got married, I talked him into opening all of our presents at midnight on Christmas Eve instead of waiting until Christmas morning.

For many years I had lobbied my parents to at least let us each open one present on Christmas Eve. They sure were sticklers about making us wait until Christmas morning. So when I realized that the only person I had to convince that first Christmas together was Roger, who was pretty ambivalent about the idea, I went for it.

It was fun!

Then Christmas morning. Meh.

I learned my lesson. We have never done that again. Except we did start our own family tradition of opening one present each on Christmas Eve. The rest have to wait.

Monday, October 29, 2012


My thoughts are still back east with family and friends dealing with Hurricane Sandy so I thought I'd write an early childhood memory from about the time I was eating this bowl of cereal in our dining room in Watertown, Massachusetts.

I went to a French nursery school called Ecole Bilingue, and remember especially learning vocabulary with flash cards, doing worksheets, and drawing pictures. Based on this thank you note (not sure who it was to or exactly what the dresser things were), it looks like I picked up some French but mostly embraced simultaneous bilingualism. In this case, franglais.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Batten Down the Hatches

Hurricane Sandy is coming and my mother's old stomping grounds have been evacuated. My grandparents used to live on Pratt Island in Connecticut on Long Island Sound. We spent lots of our holidays and summer vacations there.

I heard stories about hurricanes all my life, and even experienced one or two of the milder ones while I was visiting. Power outages, flooded basements, waves crashing over the sea wall and the causeway.

It was always exciting. Of course, I was a kid and didn't have to deal with any of the actual reality of the storms.

Sandy has already wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. I sure hope no one has to face too much reality this week.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Have I Mentioned Yet

how much Lego we own?

Roger wanted to be sure our future children had plenty, so we started investing in it when we got married. Christmas presents. Birthday presents. We collected it for nine years before Jack was born. Then after he was born we kept collecting it. Christmas presents. Birthday presents. (And, okay, bribes for good behavior.)

I don't think we've stopped yet. Jack gets a monthly catalog from Lego. Roger gets regular email updates from Not ten minutes ago he showed me the one offering free shipping on the awesome new camper van set.

One time I made the mistake of asking whether we had enough Lego. Apparently it is impossible to have enough Lego.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I Hope It's Okay I Made Him Tell Us His Life Story

We made a nice new memory tonight spending the evening in Salt Lake City with my sister Maryann's boyfriend Lars who is visiting from Pittsburgh.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Laugh With Those Who Laugh

Roger came up with a funny idea for my family for Christmas (shh, no hints). Jack laughed when he heard about it, so we're going to make it happen. In fact, we've already got the main component.

As we talked about it, I could imagine my brother Robbie laughing out loud when all the individual pieces were opened and it suddenly dawned on him what it all meant. He always loved a good joke.

I felt it deep in my heart. The missing it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scared, the Sequel

A friend of mine posted a story today about a movie theater in England that accidentally showed the beginning of a horror movie to an audience full of kids who were there to see an animated film. I would have been one of the kids having nightmares after that! Not okay.

When I was in elementary school, my best friend's older brother David used to come babysit us. He was a great babysitter, but I'll never forget the time he turned on the TV to watch Hawaii 5-0. It was the very first time I ever saw someone get killed. Of course, I knew it wasn't real, but I was used to watching shows like Gilligan's Island and My Three Sons! 

I still remember how shocked and sick it made me feel, and it was a long, long time before I started watching detective shows after that. And then, how easy it was to become desensitized.

P.S. I just realized that this is not the first time I have written this year about being traumatized by scary shows when I was growing up. See here. Huh. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Secret to a Happy Marriage

This post is courtesy of being curled up in bed after a long hard day of getting Jack to school on time, grading papers for two hours, teaching three classes (each over an hour long and two involving excruciating details about comma usage), attending two hour-long meetings, driving at least two hours in the car getting from place to place, trying to concentrate on a book while Jack had his saxophone lesson, shopping for groceries and making sure we got fed.

Here it is:

Roger and I each brought a twin-sized duvet into our marriage. We decided to go on using them because they made it easy to share a bed without fighting over the covers (which I may or may not have a habit of doing).

Using twin-sized duvets has also turned out to be especially nice when the weather turns cold. I can swap out my summer cotton cover for a thick flannel cover and it doesn't affect Roger, who keeps his light-weight year round, at all.

Oh, I am so cozy. Must sleep soon.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Here are the first three record albums that were my very own and no one else's. Up until then, I only owned singles. I think I was in sixth or seventh grade when I got these for Christmas, along with my very own turntable and speakers. I still have the Jim Croce album on the shelf in our family room. Don't know what happened to the other two. Maybe they're in my parents' family room?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Know a Guy

During the spring of 2008, I was asked to transform the shop at our Springville art museum in anticipation of a Wayne Thiebaud exhibition. To see before and after pictures, click here. It was a crazy whirlwind, imagining and executing the project--which included painting the walls--in less than three weeks.

One of my goals was to brighten the shop up and add color wherever possible so it would be reminiscent of Thiebaud's work. With that in mind, I decided to use fabric panels in a variety of patterns and colors in back of the shelves.

I got all of the panels put together at home, and then Jack and I brought them to the museum to install. What happened next was one of my favorite memories of this project (the other was meeting Mr. Thiebaud).

Jack, who was only eight at the time, immediately took charge. He hopped up on the counter and figured out the most efficient way to take down each set of shelves, put the fabric panel in, move brackets to adjust the shelves to the right levels (which sometimes required a pair of pliers), and then put the shelves back in. I just took orders as his assistant, holding things and handing things to him.

It's good to know a guy who can get a job done!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Friendly Face

In Utah, adoptions can be finalized after six months. Here we are with our judge, who also happened to be one of my LDS bishops while I was a college student. It was a happy day made that much happier by a familiar and friendly face!

(And oh, man, I miss that six-month-old Jack. I do love 13-year-old Jack, but he sure was an adorable baby to hang out with!)

Friday, October 19, 2012

If We Stand Together

Jack had a choir concert at the high school tonight. All of the choirs from both the junior and senior high schools performed, then came together to sing one final song. It was darn impressive. The quality of the music programs in our schools is just one of the reasons I love living in our community.

As we sat in the auditorium, I remembered another reason. For several years I was on the committee for our city-wide book club, Springville Reads. We'd select a thought-provoking book (sometimes two or three along a similar theme for different ages) and encourage everyone in town to read it and have conversations about it.

Shortly after 9/11--a critical time for us to consider carefully who our enemies are--we selected the book When the Emperor Was Divine, a beautifully written novel by Julie Otsuka about a Japanese-American family interned at Topaz during World War II. Elegant and so powerful in its spareness.

We invited two speakers for our kick-off event, which involved a crowd that filled the high school auditorium (!): Michael Tunnell, local author of a non-fiction book called The Children of Topaz, and a gentleman from the Japanese American Citizens League with personal connections to Topaz.

Now a dozen or so years later, it feels as though we've lost ground in the lessons we tried so hard to learn then. But the final number at the concert tonight--all the choirs together more than 250 voices strong--gives me renewed hope.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thawing Out

Roger sometimes laughs at me because I get cold easily. He doesn't.

One time we were driving in his old blue topless Land Cruiser, and he sped through a mountain stream that was crossing a dirt road in a narrow sunless canyon. A wall of icy water went up over the windshield and landed on our heads.

While I can be a good sport about things, I wasn't a good sport about that. I was cold. Freezing cold. Roger laughed. I didn't.

At least not until I warmed up again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Switch

Something about a situation one of my university students is dealing with reminds me of a college friend.

Colleen had gone blind as a teenager due to diabetes. She recruited me to help her study for her French class by reading the textbook to her. I readily obliged because I was taking a similar class and thought it might help me be more disciplined about studying.

As the semester progressed, Colleen's health degenerated, again due to diabetes. I continued to study with her even after she went into the hospital. Eventually it became clear that she was too sick to finish the course. But we still studied together.

Then one day, she just let go of studying French. We stopped working and simply hung out together. It's like a switch flipped in her mind and she knew she wasn't going to recover so there was no point. Not long after that, she passed away.

My student is not dealing with a life or death issue, but I worry that in his mind he might believe he's lost all chance of completing his degree. I'm hoping the switch doesn't flip.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Getting a Lift

I loved the fluttery feeling in my stomach when I rode in the back of our family station wagon over the Wisconsin hills in the summer.

I loved the days my friends and I were in the backseat of the school bus and the driver would drive up the unpaved bumpy hill at the end of Wampus Ave. to avoid turning left at a busy intersection.

I loved discovering that the best car to ride in on a roller coaster is the one in the very back.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Check Was in the Mail

When I was in high school, I went on a camping trip with some of the girls from church and our leaders. We loaded into my parents' station wagon and headed north to somewhere in New Hampshire.

On the way home, I realized that we were going to run out of gas. We stopped at a gas station to fill up and then realized that no one had thought to bring cash, not even the adults. Credit cards weren't an option either.

Somehow I managed to convince the gas station attendant to let us put enough gas in the car to get home, and I promised to put a check in the mail that very day.

We either looked very trustworthy or so pitiful after a night of camping that he was willing to write off the cost of gas to help us out.

I mailed a check that very day.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Families tend to develop shorthand references to certain phenomena, and we are no exception. Here are three of ours.

Struts: A friend of ours once worked as an illustrator for computer-based flight training programs and she regularly met with engineers known as subject matter experts. At one of the meetings, a SME told a story that he ended by holding up his two pointer fingers about six inches apart and exclaiming "the struts were like this!" Everyone else in the room busted up laughing, and our friend realized that she had no idea why it was funny. Were the struts too big? Too small? At a weird angle? What? Whenever someone says something that flies right over our heads for whatever reason, all we have to do is hold up our pointer fingers six inches apart and we bust up laughing.

Cow Painting: Years ago, Roger and I went to the Park City Art Festival. At one of the first booths, we fell in love with a watercolor of a cow in a field, but decided that since we had just gotten there we we'd come back to buy it later if we still wanted it. After visiting all of the other artist booths, we still wanted it. Of course, it was gone when we went back. Whenever we have to make a decision and we realize we'll miss our chance if we don't act straightaway, it's a cow painting.

Bryce Points: A friend of mine came into work one day really cheesed that he'd gotten in hot water with his spouse for buying a new TV without consulting her first. "I should get credit for all of the times I didn't buy something I wanted!" he raged. Roger and I now regularly report our own Bryce Points to one another when we see something we want but resist. We've got a load of credit built up.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


When leaves turn, the days get noticeably shorter, and the fall rain comes, it reminds me of the October my junior high school English teacher assigned us to read Daphe du Maurier's Rebecca. Creepy novel. Perfect time of year to read it.

And I learned that even though the story was scary, I didn't have to be afraid of thick novels with small print written for grownups long before I was born.

Friday, October 12, 2012


My father-in-law's funeral today was just what it should have been. All seven of his children spoke. Many of his grandchildren participated. I marveled at the family Bob created with my mother-in-law Betty, and more than once, I thought about how much it has grown and changed since I first met them 27 years ago.

During the service, our nephews Brian and Glen contributed a beautiful rendition of Abide with Me on piano and cello. They were born about the time Roger and I got married and are university students now.

Early in our marriage, Roger and I took care of his sister Christine's three children for a day. Brian is on the left, his brother Eric (who is in Indiana with his wife and son and attending medical school) is in the middle, and Megan (who is expecting her first baby in January) is on the right.

After our adventures that day, Brian needed a nap. But he was so wound up and exhausted he couldn't sleep. I took him into a quiet room and held him close while he cried and cried, releasing tension for more than half an hour. At last he relaxed and nodded off with his head on my shoulder, his sweet blonde curls matted with sweat. I held him while he slept. My reward.

I watched Brian at the piano today. He's an accomplished musician, confident and sure. A grown man. And, like his grandfather, a good man.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Burned into My Brain

We had a very near tragic moment tonight when Doublestuff (one of our cats) nearly got squished by the garage door. It's an image that I'm afraid is burned into my brain. Thankfully, he's okay.

Thinking back, I can remember two near tragic moments when my own life was in peril.

One was when I was in my twenties, driving home from the airport in an icy storm. All of a sudden realized that I had absolutely no control over the car. I calmly asked all of my friends in the car to make sure they had their seat belts on, then held my breath until I could feel the wheels grip the pavement again some long moments later. Thankfully, the car in front of us maintained a constant speed. If it hadn't, we would have crashed right into it.

The other time was during my first experience kayaking in the Snake River. No one told me that I needed to keep paddling when I hit the rapids, even though they were fairly mild. I lifted my paddle, thinking I'd ride them out, and immediately tipped over. The water rushed past me so fast, I couldn't understand why I wasn't being ripped out of the boat. I tried to get upright. It proved impossible, but I did manage to get my face out of the water for a breath of air. Thankfully, I finally remembered to pull off the skirt, and as soon as I did that I immediately slipped right out.

My family, including my poor mom who still shudders at the memory, were all in a raft ahead of me, watching and worried. It's an enduring family story that I apparently will never, ever live down. But I'll be okay.

Just before the fateful moment. Oh, and it was really cold that Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


We're heading toward that time of year. Cold and colder.

The coldest night I ever remember was a night one January when Roger, Jack and I were driving near Cove Fort, Utah, and the thermometer in our car dropped to around 22 below. We were very glad that we didn't break down along the highway.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Blues

Jack's saxophone teacher introduced him to the blues tonight during his lesson, and they did a little improv together. This is going to be a fun new adventure for him!

When I was a college intern in Washington, DC, some of my friends and I agreed that we needed to experience some live jazz. We looked up the weekend events in the newspaper and decided that the Ice House Cafe in Herndon sounded good.

We had no idea how long it would take us to drive from our apartment in Alexandria to Herndon.

We drove and drove and drove. We started to get punchy. That led to many bad jokes. "I went to the doctor because I thought I had a herndon." Eventually we made it, and it was definitely worth the drive.

Now I'm looking forward to Jack bringing some of it home. Here he is on the right, his teacher Ben on the left, the two of them taking turns. Jack did well for his first time ever! Oh, yeah.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Gospel Truth

Many years ago while visiting my grandparents, we attended church in New Canaan, Connecticut. Someone had invited a member of the church from another congregation to sing during the service. She was an exuberant African American woman who played the piano from one end of the keyboard to the other as she joyously praised God in song.

It was one of the loveliest experiences I have ever had in church, and I was thrilled that we'd broken out of our usual staid reverence in favor of some heartfelt revering.

While she was singing, I glanced at the church leaders sitting on the stand. One was beaming; the other was mortified. A perfect illustration of ambivalence in our culture.

As for me? I seek truth wherever it is found.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

About Bob

Roger's dad passed away late this afternoon. It wasn't unexpected, but it still feels like it happened too soon. Bob was a great father to Roger, a great father-in-law to me, and especially a great grandpa for Jack. A good, good man.

One of my favorite things about Bob was his curiosity about the world, which led to his chosen profession: he was a geography professor. I loved hearing family stories about living in far-flung places like Guatemala and Spain, exploring industrial sites, and being quizzed on what was growing in nearby fields as they sped past them in the car. Talk about an awesome family to marry into!

I also loved Bob's sense of humor, his broad grin and his gleeful laugh. He enjoyed wordplay, and in his last years, he recorded many of the little ditties he wrote, like this one:

I had my physical exam
So they could tell me how I am.
I have no get, no up, no go.
I once was fast but now I'm slow.
The doctor turned and said to me,
"There is no problem that I see.
Your trouble is you're eighty-three."
If that's the problem, I've the cure.
Next month I'll be eighty-four.

Rest in peace, Bob. We sure love you!

Saturday, October 06, 2012


When Jack was born, I told the neighbor kids we named him after them. They were named Zack and Jessica. Great kids! I wonder if they believed me.

Friday, October 05, 2012


I am writing this in memory of a Facebook thread that began yesterday as a serious conversation about political civility and devolved today into, well, a conversation that inspired this.

My Aunt Mary and Uncle Uli were on sabbatical in Munich, Germany, in the early 1980s when windsurfing was becoming all the rage. During one of my visits, they decided to teach me how.

We drove out to a little lake on the outskirts of the city, rigged the windsurfers, discreetly changed into our swimming suits, then put on wetsuits because it was chilly.

Because the wind was perfect for learning, it didn't take long to become functional enough to enjoy it. The hardest part was coming about, which required some fancy maneuvering of the sail and some fancy footwork--both of which took a beginner like me a bit of concentration.

After coming about successfully for the first time, I looked up in triumph to see if my aunt and uncle had noticed, but something was blocking my view. Not ten feet away, another surfer was cruising by, grinning and buck naked.

I lost my balance and fell off my board. He turned and laughed, then sailed away.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Luring Them In

This is a picture of our friend Amy, taken by her husband Justin. He currently has a photography exhibit in the library at BYU (30 Strangers). We went to the artist's reception tonight, and enjoyed listening to Amy read an essay that she wrote. (I will be begging her to send me a copy of it because it was really very good.)

We met Amy when she became a customer at our bookstore. We decided that we liked her an awful lot, so when we had a job opening, we asked her if she'd like to work with us. She said yes. Lucky, lucky us.

That's usually how we found people to hire. We'd like them, target them, then lure them in. We had many truly awesome employees friends over the years.

The person we had to wait for the longest before luring in was Shelley, pictured here with her family's dog Walter. Her mom was one of our very first customers, and when we opened I think Shelley was just a freshman in high school. As soon as she graduated, we snagged her. Totally worth the wait.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Not Fair

In 9th and 10th grade, I took individualized science courses. Biology in 9th, chemistry in 10th. It was nice to move through the material at my own pace.

I don't remember all of the grading criteria for each unit, but I know that one of the things we were graded on was how well we worked on our own.

When I came to the unit on blood types, I couldn't bring myself to prick my fingertip to collect a sample. I ended up asking my teacher to prick it for me.

She totally dinged me on points because of that. It's like she drew my blood twice.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Monday, October 01, 2012

Interpretations, Anyone?

I used to have recurring dreams quite often when I was younger. Not so much anymore, though I still dream a lot. Here are some of the recurring ones I remember.

The odd:
  • Going into some kind of building with a vestibule full of ironing ghosts. Yes, ironing. With boards and irons. Ghosts.
  • Losing teeth and watching them turn into lima beans.

The classic: 
  • Being able to run in huge leaps and bounds from one end of town to the other in mere minutes.
  • Being able to breathe while swimming underwater. I think this was my version of flying.
  • Discovering while waiting for the school bus that I have forgotten to get dressed.

The last one morphed into discovering that I was registered for a class in college the day before final exams. Then when I finished college it morphed into trying but failing to find some mysterious box in the basement full of financial paperwork that I needed for any of a variety of reasons. Thankfully, I haven't had any dreams like that for years, though I'm not sure why because I have a million things I should be doing but don't.