Friday, November 30, 2012

30

Happy birthday to my mom, who turned 75 today!

I first became aware of my mother's age when she was about 30 and I was about 5. In my head she was in her thirties for a lot longer than she actually was in her thirties. It's funny how that happens.

It also made me more aware of turning 30 myself, especially in terms of comparing where I was in life relative to where she was at that age. Around 30, my mom had two children, completed a masters degree in English literature, and made a major life change by joining the Mormon church. Around 30, she and dad bought the house that they still live in today.

She seemed way more grown up than I was around 30.

But then I remembered a time we were sitting around the table eating dinner and Dad was away for some reason. Mom suddenly started laughing and said, "I feel like I'm one of the kids and the grownups are away!"

I didn't totally get it at the time, but I totally do now. Do any of us ever feel grown up? Maybe when I'm 75 . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why Am I Glad I Said Yes?

Because of things like this.


This is a picture of the Lego mini-figure that Roger asked Jack to make when his dad passed away. Jack dug through his bins and carefully selected pieces to make it look as much like Grandpa as he could--glasses, beard, sweater. Then Roger took the mini-figure and slipped it into his dad's pocket while he and his siblings dressed him for burial.

I am blessed to be married to the kind of person who thinks up such a gentle and memorable way for his son to say goodbye to a loved one.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Misnomer

I found this note from a college roommate today. 


She knew my name wasn't Marge. But she and our other roommate, Ruth, thought it would be funny to call me Marge because a neighbor kept calling me Marge despite being corrected numerous times.

Ruth and Christina called me Marge for years. If I hadn't lost touch with them, I bet they'd still be calling me Marge.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This


If I could be any time and any place at this moment, I would choose this 2012 summer day floating in the crystal clear water of String Lake, Grand Teton National Park.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mortified

One time, when I was a tender and insecure young teenager, I thought I saw someone I knew walking down one of the aisles in a store. I went up behind her and put my hands over her eyes.

"Guess who?" I said.

She turned around. It wasn't the person I thought it was. I was mortified. I ran around the corner to the next aisle, then the next and the next.

A few minutes later, I heard her telling a friend about what I did. When they came around the corner of the aisle I was in, she pointed at me and cried out, "That's her!"

I was even more mortified. I ran out of the store.

For a long time, I considered this one of my most embarrassing moments. I think that's actually the funniest part of the story. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Genetic Memory, Part Two

Mom, me, and my sister Maryann in Norway, Summer 1984

My parents took us to Europe for their 25th wedding anniversary. We made quick stops in Paris and Copenhagen before taking a ferry to Norway, where we spent most of our time.

We drove up the west coast through Stavanger and Bergen before cutting east across the country to Oslo. I felt deeply connected to this land of my great grandfather, Einar, who emigrated to New York City as a young man.

The landscape, the architecture, the people. The waterfalls, the rivers, the fjords, the lakes that were the most impossible shade of blue. The fresh cherries we bought by the side of the road. The hikes in the mountains. The streets that wound through neighborhoods of clapboard houses, some white, some brightly colored. The clean, spare aesthetic. The friendly cousins we met in Oslo.  The bread and cheese and open-face sandwiches piled high with shrimp.

I could see myself making a home there.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The More They Stay the Same

Just came across our first family Christmas letter, which we didn't manage to send out until our second Christmas together in 1991. A little backstory - I had a miscarriage earlier in the year and was told by doctors to wait at least a year before trying to conceive again. Still, we weren't really in a hurry to grow up.

Dear Family and Friends,

For those of you who haven't heard from us since our wedding announcement the summer before last we are alive and well and living in Highland, Utah. 

We're settling rather rebelliously into domestic life--both of us want more excitement and adventure before taking on all of the responsibilities of home and family. We spend our Saturdays playing in the mountains rather than tending to our dying grass and cleaning our bathrooms. We talked ourselves into several spur-of-the-moment weekend getaways and have had some wonderful times driving through the west--visiting national parks, ghost towns and places like Santa Fe, Durango, and Lake Powell.

Despite a struggle with some health problems over the past year (apparently now resolved), Margy has kept busy with freelance writing and editing jobs and a variety of other projects. She is excited to tackle a new project in January: teaching several English composition classes at Utah Valley Community College. She's hoping for more success than we've had team teaching rambunctious seven year olds in Sunday School for the past year.

Roger continues to work at WordPerfect in the Publications department but prefers not to be defined by his job. He'd rather drive out to the desert and shoot pumpkins and shaving cream cans or drive on dirt roads that will take him as high as possible up in the mountains. Roger also enjoys our fish tank and our toads and lizards. As long as he doesn't bring home any snakes . . . .

We wish you all the best this holiday season!

Love, Margy and Roger

It's funny how our lives are so different but so much the same today. We no longer live in Highland, but we still aren't in any hurry to grow up and prefer adventure to responsibility. We still avoid dealing with the grass and the bathrooms (those are literally the two main jobs we delegate to Jack!). Roger just took Jack exploring ghost towns in the west desert yesterday. And within the past couple of weeks all of our jack-o-lanterns became targets. I've gone back to teaching at Utah Valley, which is now a university. And Roger works as the communications manager for a library, so he is still very involved with publications. We no longer have the fish, toads, and lizards. I imagine our cats are sad about that. And Roger and Jack have kept their promise that they will never bring home any snakes (that I know of).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Genetic Memory

The following is not my own memory, but one written by my Great Aunt Elizabeth--known simply as Tia in the family--in her 1952 memoir published by the University of Minnesota Press. I never met Elizabeth, who was a French professor, but there is no question in my mind that I am who I am in part because she was who she was. Her joyful seeking after adventure, her curiosity, her delight in making surprising connections, the way she felt compelled to put it all into words. I'd like to have known her.

This is how she begins in Chapter 1.

In March of 1933, when I was sixty-eight years old and a professor emeritus of several years' standing of the University of Chicago, an episode occurred which showed me the important role played by chance and coincidence in the matter of ancestry.

I had sailed from New York to the island of Mallorca, planning to stay there a few days before going on to Barcelona. I found Palma swarming with English half-pay officers or their widows, and not a room to be found in any comfortable hotel. I suddenly remembered that a Minnesota friend of mine had asked me to be sure to stop at the island of Ibiza, should I be in its neighborhood, to see her daughter. . . . Upon making inquiries, I found that a small steamer would leave for Ibiza at noon, that it would take five hours to sail over the rough intervening seas, and that I could send . . . a cablegram warning them of my imminent arrival.

Everything went beautifully, and I was met after a stormy voyage by tall, lovely Ruth and her Spanish-looking husband, swathed in a Spanish cape and wearing an Andalusian hat.

We landed in Ibiza, the capital of the little island, and then motored to the picturesque little village of Santa Eulalia del Rio, thirty kilometers away . . .

The morning after, Jack and Ruth announced that they were going to take me to see the tiny but well-appointed Museum in Ibiza, where I should have a course in Phoenician, Greek, and Moorish occupation, after which my education would be considered complete and we could enjoy ourselves whole-heartedly.

She goes on to tell of an encounter with a gentleman at the museum who thought she looked like his aunt, and when he discovered her last name--Wallace--he was sure there was a family connection. And, of course, there was!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Stark Contrast

My junior year of college I drove to San Francisco to spend Thanksgiving with cousins. For four or five days, I left behind a life where I never really quite fit in. Compared to other girls at BYU, I was pretty unconventional in my thinking. Maybe even radical.

We all met up at my cousin's old Victorian flat that she shared with her boyfriend from Nepal. She was studying architecture at Berkeley. Her organic farmer brother, with his long hair in a ponytail, flew in from Maine. Another cousin was visiting from Nicaragua, where he was working with the Sandinistas to rebuild housing for people who were displaced during the revolution. He spent the weekend pulling us in to every leftist bookstore he saw. His sister drove up from Santa Cruz. She was a freshman at the University of California and told us tales of what it was like to live in co-ed dorms, where the partying and smoky haze never dissipated. We slept on mattresses on the floor just like true Bohemians.

On Thanksgiving day, while the six of us waited for the turkey that we'd basted in wine to roast, my cousins passed around a little something something grown on the farm in Maine. They all looked hip in their tie-dyed t-shirts and peasant blouses. And there I sat in my turtleneck and baby blue Fair Isles sweater, nursing a glass of non-alchoholic sparkling cider. Utterly conventional and not the least bit radical. 

Stark contrasts like that have always been a part of my life. Sometimes in comparison I'm the rich one. Sometimes I'm the poor one. Sometimes I'm the smart one. Sometimes I'm the one who doesn't have a clue. Sometimes I'm the faithful seeker. Sometimes I'm the skeptical doubter. But I'm always me.

I've come to realize that I actually seek out the contrasts. And, mostly, I like it that way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Out in the Cold


This is Jack toasting marshmallows over the fire at my parents' house the year before last.

I always loved it when my dad said that we were going to have a fire. We'd hang out for hours gathered in the living room, basking in the warmth. Then it would be time for bed, and we'd have to face the rest of the house, which was always freezing cold. I don't think it helped any that the fireplace was right next to the thermostat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Narrow Escape

One day while I was in high school I stayed home sick, and for at least part of that day I was home alone. I woke up to the sound of sirens and a helicopter hovering over the woods just behind our house.

Turns out they were apprehending three men who had escaped from the prison in Concord a few miles away. Apparently the car they were driving broke down on Route 2A by the railroad tracks that ran behind our house. They ditched the car and headed on foot down the tracks through the woods.

A bit too close for comfort if you ask me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Prep

When I was a freshman in college, I took a French class from a grad student named Buffy with bobbed hair and a sparkling personality.

My favorite memory from that class was hanging out with the girls I studied with. We decided that we'd honor Buffy by taking on our own preppy names. I remember Lynn was Corky and I was Muffy. I think we had a Mitzi, too.

I wonder if Buffy ever caught on? She was really nice. I'm sure she'd have laughed. And thrown her head back so her bob would swing disarmingly.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life Aquatic

One of my very favorite things to watch on television when I was growing up: Jacques Cousteau specials.

Charmant accent sur ​​un bateau et dans l'ocĂ©an. 

For a while I actually thought I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then I realized that would require studying biology.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Good Heart


Even though we have a vaulted ceiling in our living room and could have a very tall Christmas tree, Jack always picks one of the small ones, especially if it's a bit scraggly, just to make sure someone picks it.

One year Roger took Jack to buy a tree while I held down the fort at our bookstore. They stopped by to see me on their way home, and Roger told me the man at the Christmas tree lot thought I'd be really mad when I saw the tree Jack picked and would send them back to pick out a "better" one.

That man didn't know me at all.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flat

One of my favorite chores when I was growing up was ironing pillowcases and my father's handkerchiefs. I remember using the heavy glass bottle topped by a metal cap with holes in it to sprinkle them with water. And I can remember how they smelled when I touched the hot iron to them.

Neat rectangles and squares. Easy to press flat, easy to fold perfectly.

Today I wish a little more of life was like that.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Taking Care

My aunt Sigrid unexpectedly ended up in the hospital today. She should be okay, and I'd rather have a happier reason to be thinking about her, but this is life.

We went on several vacations with extended family to the Caribbean while I was growing up, and I think it may have been Sigrid's professional background as a stewardess that compelled her to bring a carryon case packed with every conceivable contingency item (bandages, medications, lotions, etc.) in case any of us met trouble. I was entranced by that.

When my brother was in the hospital in Boston with just days left, Sigrid got in her car and drove round trip from her home in Connecticut to see him. With traffic, I think she was on the road for more than eight hours. We were late getting into the city, and nearly missed her. Luckily we pulled up just as she was leaving so we could hug and thank her.

I sure hope her doctors and nurses are taking care of her like she's taken care of us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Top

I drove to the UVU campus for a staff meeting at 5:30, enjoying the spectacular light from the setting sun on a snowy Mt. Timpanogos on the way.

Click here for photo credit.

One summer while my hike-loving Dad was in town, I organized some girls from the neighborhood who needed to go on a tough hike to pass off one of their requirements for camp certification. We decided to climb Mt. Timpanogos.

I thoroughly enjoyed the hike until we got to the top of the mountain, which is a long narrow rocky ridge. We wanted to slide down a glacier on the east side, which meant we needed to follow the trail along the rocky ridge for half a mile, maybe even a mile. For someone who doesn't like heights, it was terrifying. The trail was only a few feet wide with a low wall of rock on the left and a sheer drop on the right.

At one point I saw a big horn sheep laying on the slope about 100 feet below the trail. I thought, "If even big horn sheep can lose their footing and fall to their death up here, I'm in big trouble."

Then the sheep suddenly got to its feet and trotted off. It was not dead, just asleep.

Even so, I'm not sure I'll ever go up to the top of that mountain again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shocked and Appalled

Today we held the first annual UVU Conference on Writing for Social Change. After months of serving on the planning committee, it was a pleasure to see it all come together. We had a fantastic keynote speaker, a full afternoon with enough student and community presentations to fill three concurrent sessions, and attendance was better than expected.

I can't imagine that I would have had the guts to submit a paper to present at a conference, at least as an undergrad. The only actual piece of writing for social change I put out publicly during that time was a preachy letter to the editor of the student newspaper about illegal parking on campus.

One year I worked as a volunteer student defender for parking court and couldn't believe the number of students who wrongly received parking tickets. Then the university announced a new probation policy for parking tickets, which seemed harsh. Me being me, I wanted to get a better sense of what was going on, so I called BYU police and arranged to shadow one of the officers on parking patrol. That experience opened my eyes to another side of the story; I was astounded by all of the blatant illegal parking. And so I preached. The editor actually titled my letter "No virtue?"

That wasn't actually the only letter to the editor I wrote to the student newspaper, though.

My other letter was in response to an AP article about a nude wedding in another state. I thought it was hilarious. Seriously, at BYU? And so I wrote:

Dear Editor,

I was shocked and appalled to see a story about a nude wedding in The Daily Universe. Thank heavens you didn't send a photographer to cover the event.

I thought I was being so clever. But it turned out that even my closest friends weren't sure whether I was being serious or not. A couple of readers wrote rebuttal letters, one of whom accused me of being so prudish that I probably didn't even drink Coke. Heh heh.

Writing fail.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Link

When Jack was an infant, he loved laying on his back and looking at the light coming through the blinds. Sometimes I would look at him taking in the world through his physical senses and wonder how he'd grow from that into a person capable of abstract thought.

Tonight Jack found me in a puddle of tears over a setback in our community that left me wondering what we really mean when we say we follow Christ. He listened to me and understood.

Then he went to find one of our cats and brought him to comfort me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Preference

A little more poetry, this time co-written with my friend Sal and read by my boyfriend's American Heritage teacher in front of an auditorium with hundreds of students our freshman year in college. I was extending an invitation to Preference, a girls' choice dance.

We based the poem on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." Name changed to protect the guy who married someone else. But he did go to Preference with me! He answered yes by cooking up an original song with his friend Steve, putting a band together, and singing to me in front of hundreds of students in our religion class.

Once upon a midnight dreary
While I pondered, weak and weary
Wondering who on earth my Preference date could be.
And I sat there, quite unknowing
I then stood up, my face was glowing
A wondrous thought had just occurred to me.
"Why Blankity-blank," I murmured
Once again, and louder, "Blankity-blank!"
Could maybe? Oh, if only! Maybe? Possibly?
Would a man so suave and neato condescend to go with me?

Ah, distinctly I remember
It was only last December
When Blankity, my dear Blankity, danced the night away with me.
At the thought of it I shivered 
I must be brave and cannot quiver
If poste haste I don't request him
Other invites will infest him
So quickly, quickly to him I must flee.

Please then, Blank, make a poor soul happy 
Don't say no, but make it snappy
I need to know if you will go with me.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

May I Be Excused?

Last night's post reminded me of this poem I wrote for an 11th grade creative writing class. It reflects a typical exchange at the dinner table while I was growing up. Here it is, unedited. I must have written it during my ellipsis period, which I believe may also be known as a period period period.

"At the Dinner Table"

Do you want some more?

Hmm . . . what?

I said,
Do you want some more peas?

Why?

Will you just answer?

Well . . . I don't know . . .

Do you want some more?

You can have them.

But do you want them?

No,
That's all right . . .
You can have them . . .

I DON'T WANT THEM --
You can have them . . .
Honest.

All right,
If you're sure you don't want them . . .

Friday, November 09, 2012

Confidence

Our first wintery driving of the season today reminded me of the time our family was driving home from church on the highway and a car spun out on the ice in front of us, landing in the median.

"Laurie, be careful," said Mom.

"Oh, we're okay. See?" said Dad as he tapped on the accelerator and then on the brakes a few times.

I just sat in the back seat holding my breath.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Oblivious

I've only got vague memories of the time I took the train into New York City without, apparently, getting permission from my parents. I'm pretty sure I had a good time, but I think the shock of coming home to a panicked mother and a good deal of trouble eclipsed it all in my brain.

We were visiting my grandparents in Connecticut, and I was a teenager. Maybe 14 or 15? Not really sure. I was hanging out with my aunt and uncle's fosters kids--two teenage boys named Bill and Russell. I don't know why or when we decided to go into the city, I can't imagine why my parents didn't know, and I have no idea how we got to the train station, where I got the money I'd have needed, or what we did when we got there.

But there I was. In New York City. Riding around on a subway. In the late 1970s when the crime rate was notoriously high. With two teenage foster kids who I didn't actually really know anything about. And even worse, they were teenage boys. (Though I must say they were always nice to me. Very respectful.)

All I really remember is that when I got back to my grandparents' house and my mother was angry and relieved all at the same time, I didn't understand what the big deal was. I was okay, wasn't I?

Once again, sorry, Mom!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Rhythm

Roger and I once spent about six weeks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the off season. We were there over Christmas and through the end of January.

Because our days and nights were wide open and we didn't have many outside obligations, we settled into a routine driven by our biological clocks and our apparent inability to cut short a project or put down a good book. I think our bodies and minds must be naturally inclined to settle into a 25-hour day when left to their own devices. Every night we stayed up a little later than the night before, and then we slept a little later the next morning.

If I hadn't been so committed to walking for at least an hour on the beach every day while the sun was shining during those short winter days, I wonder if we'd have eventually worked our way completely around the clock to a normal sleeping pattern again.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Crimson Tide

A few years ago, Roger graduated with his masters of library and information studies (MLIS) from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. When he started the program, he flew out to spend a week to meet his professors and the other students in his online cohort.

He brought back t-shirts for us. Jack's said BAMA in big letters across the front.

Roll Tide!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Checkered

About ten years ago, I got suck-my-soul bored with the pebble tan walls throughout our entire house. On the main floor I decided to go bright. Blue, green, yellow. Like we lived on the beach in Florida.

One of the walls in our living room goes up two stories and needed special treatment. I decided to paint a white and yellow checkerboard.


So we rented a Very Tall Ladder from the hardware store, and I set to work taping off the grid. I was 14 feet up when Jack, three, decided he wanted me to come down. He stood at the bottom of the ladder and started to shake it. I think I may have experienced a panic attack up there at the top. I managed to squeak for help, and Roger came to the rescue.

Then he ended up taping off the grid--perfectly, by the way--so I could paint it. I think it suits us. The cat looks thrilled, at least.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Tied

I consider myself exceptionally lucky whenever I'm given a job working with the teenage girls at church. Lucky me, I've got that job now. As one of the leaders, I attended a night of excellence program tonight. Several girls were given their Young Womanhood Recognition awards, the culmination of six years of completing goals in the Personal Progress program.

I remember working hard to get that award when I was a teenager, and one memory especially stands out.

The last project I decided to do was to make a quilt for college from scraps of fabric I'd used in other sewing projects. I designed a pattern, cut squares, and pieced them together.

Not surprisingly, I started running out of time. One of my leaders jumped in, tracked down a quilting frame, and organized a quilt tying party. I found myself surrounded by friends who helped me get the job done in no time, a loving act that made me feel like I was being wrapped in a warm quilt.


That's why I consider myself lucky. I get to pay it forward. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Pot Stash

When my family moved into the house that my parents still live in, there was an old greenhouse in the backyard with lots of broken window panes. Little by little, my parents took it apart and expanded our lawn.

The biggest treasure in the greenhouse was the stash of clay flower pots. Hundreds of them, I think.

We put a sign on the side of the road advertising the pots, sold a bunch of them, and then used the proceeds to supplement our old television--which was so sad that when our house was broken into twice, the burglars didn't bother to take it--with a small 14" black and white.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Recovery

Watching coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy brings back some memories of the aftermath of 9/11, especially the energy of people pulling together to get through and the sense of helplessness I felt being so far away.

We owned our bookstore in 2001, and I couldn't help but think of all of the small businesses like ours in New York City, struggling to get back up and running. I called the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce to ask if they knew of a way we could "adopt" a business to help them get hold of some of the things they'd need. The Chamber ran with the idea, included me in some conference calls to get more input, and then set up an Adopt-a-Business program. They even had Business Week call to interview me (click here to read the article, and please note that despite what the article says, I was only a marketing manager, not an actual executive).

I wish I could say that I made a real difference for someone. We adopted a small graphic design firm owned by a single mom with young twins. She had posted before and after pictures of her office on the Adopt-a-Business website. The before picture perfectly reflected my own aesthetic, so I felt an immediate bond with her. The after picture was devastating. Her office was in a building next to the World Trade Center, and it was completely gutted by fire. She lost everything.

I called one of the florists on the Adopt-a-Business website and ordered flowers for her.

We corresponded by phone and email, and I was able to do a few small things for her. I even had a chance to meet her several months later when I was in New York City on business. She was struggling with ambivalence, not sure if she had it in her to rebuild. She thought maybe she'd take her children away from the city and start over somewhere else. Eventually we lost touch.

And so here I am today, thinking about the NYC area dealing with another crazy tragedy barely a decade later. What can I do?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Deceived

One of my students is writing a paper on bad drivers and is struggling to figure out how he can turn it into a scholarly research project. I shared a few of my theories with him to help him brainstorm possible academic angles, including the following.

Six or seven years ago, I met my sister Maryann in Mexico to study Spanish in Playa del Carmen. We flew into Cancun and rented a car. It was a little beat up stick shift that served us well for a week of narrow roads and crazy traffic. I loved it!

When I got back to Utah with our broad streets, I was surprised that I felt less safe. People weren't paying attention to their driving as well as we all did in Mexico! I think we are deceived by the wide berth we're given here.

Engineering and public administration meet neurology and psychology. Throw in a little anthropology. Ba-da-boom. Viable research project.