Monday, March 31, 2014

Mom Points

I get major mom points for spending three hours in a car with three teenage boys this afternoon.

Took cans to the recycling place to help raise cash.

Spent a crazy long time at an understaffed McDonald's where the boys ordered the Pony Pal happy meals. (May I say how proud I am that they were secure enough in their soon-to-be-manhood to order the girl happy meals?) (And may I say how shortsighted it was of McDonald's to assign a gender to the Pony Pal happy meals? Haven't they heard of Bronies?) (And may I say how sad it is that in 2014, boys are still shamed for liking something that is "supposed to be for girls"?)

Stopped at Deseret Industries (a local thrift store) where the boys looked for trench coats. No luck. Then went to Savers (another local thrift store). Pay dirt. Jack nabbed a basically brand new Christian Dior trench coat for $17.99. One step closer to being Dr. Who, he is.

Seriously, major mom points.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Five movies I always get sucked into watching again and again. Make of it what you will.

Joe vs. the Volcano

Enchanted April


So I Married an Axe Murderer

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Taxing Thoughts

On my mind this time of year, and for a good part of my day today:
  • It is both aggravating and satisfying to work out thorny problems with financial records. 
  • I consider myself inordinately lucky that for most of my adult life I've had a computer to help me keep track of finances.
  • I find a silver lining in being required to file a tax return once a year: it requires me keep our financial records in order. Yeah, I depend on outside pressure.
  • In my head, the taxes we pay go directly to the things I care about and not a penny goes toward things I don't care about or downright disagree with.

Friday, March 28, 2014


As were driving home from a night on the town tonight, Roger noticed this tree house just off Center Street in Provo, warmly lit with fairy lights and filled with dancing shadows of happy people.

Truly this world is filled with magic, created by the talent and imagination of amazing human beings. I'm lucky to come across so much of it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Range of (E)Motion

Today was crammed full. But in a good way. This isn't even all of it.

Morning: Class prep. Graded papers. A new class at the jail. A good group, and we're off to a good start. Scrambled to find lunch on the way to campus, but ran out of time. Relieved to find in my purse part of Snickers bar left over from the other night when I was running late between an adjunct staff meeting and meeting Roger and Jack for a concert. Ate it on I-15 (the candy bar, that is).

Afternoon: Talked about thesis statements in my writing class. Consulted with a couple of students on their research. Arrived home at the same moment as Jack and three of his friends. Realized we had an appointment to get our hair cut. Loaded all the boys in the car. Jack's friends roamed the streets downtown while he had his hair cut. He went to find them while I had my hair cut. Then I went to find them, loaded them back in the car, and headed home. Showered. Read over a graduate school application essay for a friend. Took a little break.

Evening: Hung out with my friend Shelley to give her an extra hand with her four little girls while her husband worked late. Held her littlest one for the very first time. She stuck her tongue out for me. I was honored. Ran to the jail to meet with someone who is getting out tomorrow. Headed to book club at 9:30, but the discussion was still going strong. Rejuvenated. Home in time to read to Jack. Now sleep. Yes. Sleep.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


All of a sudden this week has become jam packed with cultural activities:
  • A BYU Jazz Ensemble concert to see Jack's saxophone teacher Ben play a couple of awesome solos.
  • Jack's choir concert at the junior high.
  • A "So You Want To Read" presentation about elements of folklore in contemporary literature given at our city library given by my friend Ronda.
  • A book club discussion about Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel.
  • The premier of a new play written by our niece's husband Mahonri called Jimmy Stewart Goes to Hollywood.
We're usually not this good at making plans! It helps to know people who are doing interesting things.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gas Tank's Empty

Today I planned my entire class at UVU around the fact that I was tired of hearing myself speak. That feeling is spilling over into writing this as well.

On days like today, I'd much rather be quiet and listen to other people.

Monday, March 24, 2014

No Answer

We decided to shut down voice mail on our home phone after discovering that no one in the family ever remembered to check it. There is no flashing light to remind us! And we usually use our cell phones to make calls so we never hear the funny dial tone that alerts us that we have messages!

Our sincerest apologies to anyone who left us a message that we never responded to. You'll have a much easier time reaching us on our cells. Or emailing us. Or sending us a PM on Facebook.

I'm betting this means we are one step closer to abandoning our land line.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lean Not

Starting with an early ward leadership meeting, a recurring theme at church today was the Old Testament scripture Proverbs 3:5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

One of the challenges I face more than I'd like in my religious community, and in the larger Christian community, is feeling at odds with some of the voices I hear--voices that insist their points of view, their cultural traditions, their politics, or their interpretations of the gospel are, well, gospel.

While I daily witness amazing acts of human goodness, some of the things I hear coming out of the mouths of some followers of Christ make my heart ache.

Instead of listening to and trying to understand people who are in spiritual or emotional pain or who are at the margins (either in the church or in our society), some openly make assumptions about them, swoop in with religious certainty, and tell them they are to blame or that they are unequivocally wrong for feeling what they feel, being who they are, or thinking what they think.

Instead of loving the ones, some scapegoat them and circle the wagons around the 99s, ostensibly for all of our sakes. But is it really? Or is it about controlling the herd?

Instead of being open to further light when we don't actually know why something is the way it is, or even if it should be the way it is, some fill the vacuum with reasoning that has no real basis, including, sometimes, claiming that it is what God wants (click here for a case in point).

To be clear: I know that I am often wrong about things, both small and large. Even though I am well into my middle age, I am a neophyte when it comes to faith and believing. So I wonder, am I the one who is wrong when my heart aches? And, honestly, if I am, geez, do I want to be a part of it all?

I took a drive after church to untangle some of my thoughts. This kind of wide open view can help with that.

My gradual epiphany over the course of the day (well, really over the course of my life): The passage in Proverbs admonishes us to trust in God. It does not admonish us to lean unto the understanding of other people (their own understanding). In fact, there are scriptures that specifically tell us not to do that. Sometimes people are right. But sometimes they are not. Just because a person in authority says something, or a majority of sincerely faithful people believes something, or people we look up to agree about something, it does not make it so.

For followers of Christ, perhaps the hardest truth of all to discern is truth that contradicts the things that sometimes come out of the mouths of people who are otherwise following Christ.

At least for now, and likely forever, I'm going to keep working at it. With all my heart. An open heart. Which sometimes aches. And is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Jack made a goal to practice his upcoming solo with the jr. high jazz band 100 times. Almost half way there!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Because Karma

After making him wait several months to be sure it's what he really wanted, we finally let Jack use some of his money to buy an expensive Dr. Who Sonic Screwdriver. It arrived and was everything he hoped it would be. He enjoyed it for a while. Then, sadly, it malfunctioned.

He decided all on his own to send an email to the manufacturer to see if he could get it repaired or replaced. By the next day, he received a charming email from Andrew, who works for The Wand Company in the U.K.

"Hi Jack," it read. "Many thanks for getting in touch and I'm very sorry to hear about the button issue on the Tenth Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver. It definitely sounds as it if is faulty so please return it to us for repair/replacement."

He goes on to give the shipping instructions (including "please package it up carefully" and "we're happy to refund" the "postage costs"), then closed his message with, "Apologies for this hassle with your Sonic and we'll get you a working one as quickly as possible. Best regards."

After we shipped the package, I told Jack that we'd most likely eat the "postage costs" because they responded so quickly and treated him with such kindness and respect. Thank you, Andrew and The Wand Company, for setting such a good example of true customer service for my heartbroken son.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


A few things have been weighing heavily on my mind lately. 

But I found this on the car radio to listen to on the way home from work tonight. Music makes things better. Especially Bach. And especially while driving a six-speed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

From My Inbox

I can't think of many things that brighten my day more than a friend emailing me old pictures of our Jack. Here is today's bounty. He's a fine looking cub scout. I say that as a totally objective observer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Outside the Box

On the first day of class with my students at the jail, I have them play a classic connect-the-dots game. To win, they have to connect all nine dots using only four straight lines without lifting their pencil off the paper.

The key is to think outside the box. And that is usually the takeaway from the game. But I push the lesson further and use it to introduce the idea of learning systems (the jail, probation, school, work, etc.) and figuring out how to use that knowledge to win at them, for real, not to just work them.

We talk about how the purpose of a system drives the written and unwritten rules and procedures. We talk about the ways to figure out those rules and procedures by asking, listening, observing, reading the handbook, and learning by experience. We talk about how important it is to use good judgment--you can't trust just anyone. We talk about how to handle it when we're called out for breaking rules we didn't know existed or for not properly following a procedure we're not familiar with. We talk about how systems are created by human beings, who are imperfect, which means the systems themselves are imperfect. We talk about not letting arbitrary things that result from that imperfection throw us off.

And then I go back to the first takeaway and we talk about how important it is for us to think outside the box. We can't forget the unique things we bring to the system and the fact that many of us don't fit neatly inside the dots. In fact, if we try to cram ourselves into the box of dots, we end up banging our heads against the sides of it. We not only risk losing the game when we do that. We may even lose ourselves.


The older I get, it seems the less neatly I fit inside some of the places I'm expected to fit. Maybe the boxes are getting smaller. Or maybe I'm seeing the dots too clearly. Or maybe my bleeding heart is too swollen. Whatever it is, I've got to figure out how to draw my lines before I lose myself.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Not So Ancient History

Yesterday I stole my post from someone else. Today I'm recycling (a slightly edited) part of an old post from 2006. Is that cheating? Eh, it's my blog. Jack was seven when this happened. Seems fitting to re-post it in light of several heated conversations I've been following on the internet lately (and in honor of Women's History Month).


Jack and I went to see Roger in his new office today. He started his job at the BYU library yesterday and, except for the part where he has to wear a tie (!), we're all really excited for him. Everyone we met this afternoon is very happy he's on board.

On the way to campus, I explained to Jack that we needed to hurry a bit in order to meet Dad's boss because she was leaving at 4:00.

"She?" said Jack. "You mean Dad's boss is a girl?"

"Sure she is."

"But boys are supposed to be bosses, not girls."

I'm sorry, what??? How on earth did Jack get an idea like that? Especially since his very own mother (who happens to be a girl) has pretty much been a boss his entire life? (Though in his defense, we never actually used the word "boss" at the bookstore.)

Needless to say, we had a good little conversation.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Simple Miracle

I stole the following from a dear friend, written anonymously a few years ago. I think about it a lot.

Reflecting on the story of the loaves and fishes, I realized that the miracle of the story might be as simple as Jesus asking for help and finding one boy who was willing to share. Perhaps heaven didn't need to provide the bread and fish. Perhaps other people, who had food but were keeping it for themselves, watched the boy, felt the spirit and had a change of heart. Perhaps when they all shared--when they all took a moment to think about others' needs--there was more than enough food for everyone. Perhaps the lesson Jesus needed to teach was how we can solve our problems if we work together. With the fear and anger in our communities, perhaps the miracle we need most is the miracle of changing hearts.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It Really Works!

Time for a helpful household hint,  I think. I shared this one with someone earlier today.

To get the smell off your hands after slicing and dicing onions, rub your hands all over with a stainless steel spoon under cold running water. I believe there is some magical alchemy involved. Well, at least some basic chemistry. Anyway. It's supposed to work also with garlic and fish odors.

I do have a few domestic bones in my body. Not many, but there are some in there!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Way My Life Works in Five Acts

When I do my work at the jail, I always try to strike a helpful balance between recognizing on the one hand that life is hard, especially when systems work against us, and on the other that we often have more power than we realize to choose how we move through this life.

Act One
A week ago, I meet with a woman who is getting released from jail the next day. She is divorcing her husband, who is also in jail, and has recently revoked her rights to be her son's mother. She's scared, but hopeful. "All my life," she says, "I have been totally dependent on my parents or my husband. I want to prove to myself that I can be independent. I want to be an independent woman." I share with her something I read recently that I've been chewing on: The moment you lose everything is the moment you can create anything. I'm not sure I buy into the "anything" part, but I do buy into the idea of someone who has lost so much emerging from the ashes with new strength, an independent woman.

Act Two
The next day, I'm teaching my class, and something an inmate says reminds me of the conversation I had with this woman. I share the story. One student enthusiastically asks me to repeat the idea I'd read somewhere so he can write it down. Another shakes his head and openly scoffs at the idea. In fact, he openly scoffs at several things we discuss that day.

Act Three
When it happens, I realize that I've long thought my students might see me as naive about their experiences, which I am, and therefore overly optimistic about their futures, but it does not quite prepare me for the open scoffing.

Act Four
As I reflect on it after class ends, I am glad for the reality check. I revisit the balance I work hard to strike. I will continue to openly acknowledge the many uphill struggles my students face. No sugar coating from me. But I will not give up my optimistic ways. They are the point of why I'm there.

Act Five
A few days later, I attend a department training meeting. Serendipitously, the guest speaker talks about being positive. He says that while things are what they are, we use our imagination to evaluate whether they could be better or worse (both are always true, by the way). Then we imagine whether things will get better or worse from there. Our response springs from that imagination. Key to creating positive action (as opposed to curling up and pulling the blanket over our head or worse) is being more aware of how we evaluate what is and how we imagine what can be. If we are aware of our thinking, we can shape it, and that, in turn, can shape what we do.

I figure out how to incorporate some of the ideas from the training meeting into my class to help shore up the balance I work so hard to strike.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Five Things Finished

The theme of my day. A good day. There's even a smile at the end :).
  • This morning, I handed out certificates to the men who completed my two-week course at the jail. After "graduation" I usually treat them to a short, fun video (because I can't treat them to any actual treats). Click here to see the one we watched today. I've seen it a bunch of times and it still makes me laugh. I love that there are people like this in the world!
  • After working the maximum numbers of hours I can report on a time card in one pay period, I "had to" leave work at 11:30 a.m. and I "have to" take tomorrow off. Oh, well!
  • Roger and I went out to lunch with his sister Joan, who is in town from Missouri, and I ate my entire Slab Pizza order (though only half at the restaurant, then the other half at home later).
  • After about 20 months, Jack got his second set of braces off! No more brackets and wires and rubber bands for that boy! Well, if he wears his retainers faithfully enough that is. His teeth are free until they arrive from the lab on Tuesday.
  • Tonight was my last Springville City Library Board of Trustees meeting after six years as a board member (we're kicked off after two three-year terms). It's been a great ride! I started the assignment before the bond election to build a new library, served through the design, construction, and grand opening, and have enjoyed watching the ever-increasing circulation numbers and event attendance over the years. It truly is our community's living room.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Five Answers

I never know what useful information I might learn finding answers to questions from inmates at work. Here is just a sampling from the last few days:

  • If you need to designate someone to collect your Social Security checks they can apply to be a "Representative Payee." 
  • If you need to get a drug assessment at the county, you have to come up with $80 (cash, check or money order). They don't accept credit cards.
  • If you are in Utah and want help signing up for health insurance in the marketplace, you can go to to find someone who is trained to help.
  • The Utah State legislature killed the bill that would have raised the smoking age to 21. 
  • The only way to get from Utah Valley to Salt Lake City using public transportation on a Sunday in the late afternoon is get the 811 bus at 6:09 p.m. at the Timpanogos Transit Center east of the University Mall and take it to 11800 S. TRAX station where you can catch the Blue Line at 7:31 p.m.  No Frontrunner service and no buses to get from downtown Provo to the University Mall. Not on a Sunday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Oh, wow. I'm even less inspired to write something than I was yesterday. Tomorrow. Tomorrow something brilliant will happen.

Monday, March 10, 2014

With Four Minutes to Spare

It is eight minutes to midnight, and I am utterly lacking inspiration to write my daily post. If we didn't just go on daylight savings time, I'd still have an hour and, now, seven minutes to come up with something.

Speaking of daylight savings time, when I suggested it was probably just a matter of time (no pun intended) before the legislature got rid of it, a coworker told me his theory about why we haven't abandoned it yet. Golfers. Golfers who want longer hours after work to play.

And where is there a large congregation of golfers and friends of golfers? The legislature.

PS: I am ambivalent about daylight savings time, I have friends and family I love who golf, and one day I might even be a golfer myself. I will, however, never be a legislator.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Other Half

Brian Kershisnik, She Will Find What Is Lost

This painting has been swimming around in my consciousness ever since I saw it hanging on a gallery wall at the Springville Museum of Art last year. It floats to the surface from time to time.

When I listen to a friend talk about feeling God's love fill her soul while she was in solitary confinement, grappling for a way to turn her life around. When I visit a friend whose daughter has been in the NICU for seven months, and I ache for her to feel sustained by so many of us who deeply care about her. When I hear a friend call out for someone to talk to when she was at the hospital late one night with her unconscious daughter, who had been hit by a car and left for dead, and I yearn to be with her in her pain so she doesn't have to bear it alone. When I read this post, written by a friend who had always felt the presence of God but inexplicably lost it for a time.

The painting goes straight to the heart of my often still fledgling spiritual journey. It is love that we give and receive that sustains us. It is love that connects us with the divine, in us and around us. The divine itself is light and love. And we are meant to draw on the light to see and the love to transcend.

While I have fervently believed in and have long striven for others to feel this sustenance of love, especially in all of their humanness we see in the light, I have come to the stark realization that I have never actually believed it is for me. I have never felt what I so earnestly hope others feel. I am missing an essential half.

Even though I have seen this Kershisnik painting many times, I didn't notice the title of it until today. She Will Find What Is Lost. Maybe one day I will see that she is me and I can be whole.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

A Long Shot

I think I might apply for this.

Over the next year, twenty-four emerging and established writers will be given round-trip train travel on a long-distance route, complete with private sleeping quarters with a desk and "a window to watch the countryside roll by for inspiration." And, hehehe, "applications will be accepted on a rolling basis."

Because trains. Because adventure.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Details, Details

In addition to Jack introducing me to my first episode of Dr. Who the other night, I decided to check out another BBC show that I've heard a lot about: Sherlock. Also very entertaining.

While I was driving to work this morning, I was thinking about how Sherlock Holmes paid attention to every detail of every thing and how that is just not me. I pay attention to certain kinds of details, but I can be totally oblivious to others.

So I decided to pay more attention to details. Like businesses I've passed a hundred times and never seen. Like the way the willow trees have started turning green (actually, that is something I notice every year because my soul yearns for spring). Like the bird's nest in the tree right next to the back entrance at work. It looked neat against the blue sky. Neat enough to take a picture.

I mentioned it to the woman at the reception desk. She said, "Yeah? That bird's nest has been there for years."

Um, yeah? Hadn't noticed. Need to work on that.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


If there is life after death, one of my fondest hopes is that when I die, I will remember everything I ever learned. My brain is full of a lot of really good stuff, but I can't seem to access much of it at any given moment. Seems sad to think it all could be lost in there forever.

PS: I tell my writing students to avoid using vague expressions like "a lot" and "really" and "good." Looks like I didn't remember that advice when I wrote the above.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Dr. Who, that is. Last night Jack and I had a date to watch Dr. Who. It was my very first time. I told Jack to select an episode he thought would make a good introduction for me.

He chose Planet of the Dead (2009). David Tennant. An entire London bus went through a wormhole and sucked me in, too. It was pretty entertaining! I think Jack and I will have to have some more Dr. Who dates.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Kindness of Strangers (Or, Tuesdays with Jackie)

I was talking with my 90-year-old neighbor during my regular Tuesday night visit with her. She went out to lunch today with some of her high school friends, and while she was out she ran into another old friend.

"He's a year older than me," she said. "For the first time, I saw that he actually looked older. He'd never seemed to be aging before." She went on to tell me how his wife has Alzheimer's. She'd never really thought about what that meant for him on a day-to-day basis, living with someone who doesn't remember who he is. He hired a woman to help his wife get dressed every morning and get ready for bed every night because, well, she doesn't remember him. He is a stranger to her.

My friend was struggling with this new insight and ached for her friend.

So I shared with her something I'd learned today: in two weeks one of my coworkers will be donating her kidney to another coworker. He's been in dialysis for nearly two years. About eight months ago she approached him with the idea, and it turned out she is a perfect match. Not a close family member, not a close friend, but a coworker. A relative stranger.

What people do for others they barely know. What people do for those they love who don't remember them at all.

It's astounding.

Monday, March 03, 2014


Is it too indulgent for a father to name a crater on Mars after his son? That happened today.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Out of Time

No time to get a post written tonight. Jack and I just had to finish the last few chapters of the book we were reading, and now it is very late.

What book should we read next?

Saturday, March 01, 2014


The other day, Roger and Jack installed a dart board in the garage. They decided to mount it on a panel to protect the wall, and since they had to paint the panel, they decided to paint it with chalk board paint. It comes in handy for score keeping. And for making me feel loved when I come home late.

The most entertaining part of this new addition is that Jack and his friends don't just play darts. They pull out a table and chairs, bring out bottles of root beer and bowls filled with party snacks and have serious tournaments. It's like having a pub in the garage!