Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dust to Dust

Someone recently tore down an old mortuary in town that I've driven by thousands of times in the past 20 years. It's so strange to see the empty space left behind.

I stopped to take a picture on the way to work today and discovered something I'd never noticed before because the building had always blocked the view.

The yellow sign in the background? Reads "Dead End."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No Soliciting

I got a call today from a real estate person asking about a rental property. I said he must have the wrong number and asked him what number he called. It was ours. "Oh," he said, "It must be a bad number. Hey, while I've got you, do you have any real estate needs?"

Was the whole wrong number bit a ruse for a cold call?

Tricky if it was. But maybe that was okay. I was able to tell him "no" without feeling the least bit put upon.

Normally, solicitors make me squirm. Truly. I don't like dealing with them at all, no matter how nice they are. Even if they are trying to sell me on something I might actually want.

Monday, April 28, 2014


So I made Roger take this picture the other day at the grocery store because the product placement made me laugh.

Jack was looking at the pictures on Roger's phone--in church no less--when he came across it and looked at us both in confusion.

"We'll explain later," we whispered.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Three Good Things

Every night Roger asks Jack to tell him three good things about his day. Here are mine:
  • Roger and Jack made an outstanding banana bread. Between us, I think we ate the entire thing.
  • On the way home from a party to celebrate a cousin's wedding, we saw a rainbow. It was pointing us straight home.
  • I am now bundled up under two thick quilts listening to the rain on the roof.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Enjoyed celebrating our nephew's wedding with family and friends. Brought home clever wedding favors (test tubes filled with candy) to remember a special day for the bride and groom, who both graduated from college this week with degrees in chemistry. Congratulations, Brian and Samantha!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mud Bath

I'm not sure exactly what happened with the weather tonight but when I left work to come home, I discovered my car was absolutely covered with mud. I had to wash my windshield in order to see where I was going.

We will have to wash it in the morning, because we're going to a family wedding tomorrow and we've all got to look our best!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Learning to Float

I thought I'd share the following passage from a novel I'm reading called Benediction by Kent Haruf just because I think it's beautiful and because it reminds me of what we are doing here in our world when we are at our best: having the courage to figure things out and being there for one another. 

To set the scene, three women and a girl called Alice are skinny dipping on a hot day in a stock tank for cattle on the Colorado range.
Then Lorraine said, Alice, do you know how to swim? 
Can you float?
I don't know how.
It's time to learn. Come out here in the middle. Alene, will you help?
The two women held her as she lay back. 
Now just breathe. And spread your arms out.
When she began to sink they lifted her up, and after a while she was able to stay up and they stepped back and she lay out on the water, half-submerged, her blue eyes open to the blue sky.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Arms Race?

I honor of my record three students writing about gun control this semester, I thought I'd post the following essay I wrote a while ago:

Shortly after the Utah State Legislature passed a law that made it legal for people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on public college campuses, I had two students who wanted to write about it.

A few weeks into his research, one of my students came to me, dismayed.

"I thought I'd turn up more data than not to support my opinion that having guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens will make us more safe," he said. "But I'm finding it's a bit of a draw." (Okay, so that last bit wasn't his exact phrasing, but I'd have laughed at the pun if he'd said it that way.)

According to his findings, sometimes people are safer if someone has a gun and sometimes people are in more danger. It can go either way, and there aren't enough instances of public shootings or attempted shootings to make a definitive claim one way or the other.

We talked about what his options could be as the data he was turning up were inconclusive. Ultimately, he proposed a thesis that stated if that is the case, we must err on the side of the Second Amendment. His position was sane and well reasoned, and, because he had learned about situations that flew in the face of his original opinion, he was not afraid to address legitimate safety concerns. While he argued that people with concealed weapons permits should be free to carry a gun on campus, he also argued that the process involved in issuing concealed weapons permits should be wisely regulated.

At the end of the semester, I had to ask him if he ever carried on campus. Turns out he did. Every single day.

Personally, I told him, I would not choose to carry a weapon like that. I would not want to live with an ever present reminder of a threat that would most likely never materialize. It would make me more fearful, less free. I think he felt empowered. I would feel imprisoned. I'd rather take my chances. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Closest Thing I Have to a Mission Statement

Apparently, there has been some debate about whether it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who actually said the following, but it has guided me for many years.

"To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch . . . to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Monday, April 21, 2014


Once again, all of the things I can think to write about are all too much to tackle at this late hour. So I'm going to go check Facebook and then write something about the first thing that pops up on my feed. 

Here goes . . .

And I am in luck! My friend posted a picture of her husband doing a little whale watching on a recent trip they took to California. 

First, I am envious. 

Second, it reminds me of the time Roger, my sister Maryann, and I went whale watching in the middle of nowhere in Baja California about 20 years ago. We were in a tiny little fishing boat and the whales were gigantic. Perhaps we are lucky to be alive.

Third, I am excited to be in the market for airplane tickets to take Jack to visit my sister Maryann in Mexico when school lets out. We may go to the coast while we're there. I don't think we'll see whales that time of year, but perhaps we'll see dolphins?

Okay, I'm less envious now. It's good to remember I'm living a life, too.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Day

Nothing says family get together like gearing up for battle. Thanks for entertaining the little ones this afternoon, Jack! (And please note the irrefutable evidence of a mother's love: bookshelf space has been sacrificed to create nerf gun lockers.)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dealing With It

Made the mistake of starting to listen to a Radio West podcast on minimalism while I was cleaning the house this morning. When I realized it was making me grumpy because our house is TOO BIG and TOO FULL of stuff, I turned it off.

Finished listening to it tonight, sitting in my clean, organized living room. Which is full of a crazy number of chachkies, like jars full of rocks and shells from adventures we've had and things built out of Lego. But I love the people I share space with and I love the memories we've made together, so, in between breakdowns about it, I will deal with it.

PS: If you listen the podcast, caller Shelley from Springville is a good friend of mine. She's not kidding when she says she has four children under the age of five.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Modernism, Postmodernism, Now What?

A week ago Thursday, I went to a faculty meeting that included a presentation by one of "writing study's leading composition theorists" who talked about "pedagogy for a postcomposition world." That's how he and his talk were pitched. Scintillating, eh? Actually, he was an interesting guy and it was a useful presentation.

During the Q&A portion, someone asked him what his thoughts were on letting students use cell phones in the classroom. After saying that he thinks it's up to college age students to police themselves when it comes to paying attention in class (is being distracted by checking text messages really any different than studying notes for different class?), he said that today, it makes total sense for a student to use a phone to snap shots of lecture slides instead of writing it all down by hand. As an added bonus, it enables them to pay more attention to what the instructor is saying.

Exactly a week later, I was hosting a talk on modernist writer Ernest Hemingway at our library and wanted to remember the titles of four short stories the presenter recommended. Pulled out my phone and boom. Got it all and didn't miss a word he said. Like the fact that he only included Old Man and the Sea on the reading list because it seemed he should, not because he enjoyed it. Because he didn't. Which is good to know. Or is at least entertaining coming from a guy who likes Hemingway so much that he literally has a Hemingway quote tattooed on his forearm (which is how I came to invite him to speak). But not a quote from Old Man and the Sea.

I love picking up a hot tip and using it straightaway. Makes me feel like I'm keeping up with the times.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Today was comma day in class. Always thrilling for everyone involved, I'm sure. I started off easy with commas in dates and places, and the examples I used were sentences that describe Jack being born on May 17, 1999, in Provo, Utah, and Roger being born on 17 May 1963 in Provo, Utah.

I told my students it's a true story, and one of them asked, "Were they delivered by the same doctor?"

LOL, no. But Jack was actually delivered by the very doctor I had gone to several years previously in an attempt to figure out why I wasn't getting pregnant. The fertility gods move in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I don't think I will ever quite get used to working in an environment where I regularly encounter people that I read about in the news. It can be especially disconcerting to know them as students in my class, then see their faces plastered on my screen.

That said, I always appreciate being reminded that they are all three-dimensional human beings, not one-dimensional headlines.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Brain Dump

Spent much of the day neck deep in my students' research projects, grading annotated bibliographies and holding consultations. Maybe if I list all the topics here, I can clear my mind for a while and think about something else.

  • Main stream medical establishment acceptance of chiropractics
  • Controlling emotions for peak athletic performance
  • Encouraging responsible gun ownership without compromising second amendment rights
  • Concealed weapons permits
  • Ban on assault weapons
  • (Yes, I have a record three students writing about guns)
  • Brain death and life support
  • Requiring U.S. students to study languages other than English
  • Stem cell research
  • Ayn Rand's theories of Egoism and Objectivism
  • Influence of media on self-perception, particularly in men
  • K-12 teacher tenure
  • Child rearing by same-sex parents
  • Censorship of books in schools
  • Parental rights and the role of the state in protecting the rights of children
  • Title IX and college sports
  • Influence of video games
  • Steroids and baseball
  • Arranged marriages 
  • Art as a viable career choice
  • Free tuition for higher education

There. My brain is empty until their next assignment is due.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Broken Stones

Criminal justice debt drags people further away from reintegration with civil society. A person's life can spiral out of their control when interest, late fees, revocation of a driver's license and ineligibility for public assistance, mean that unpaid criminal justice debt snowballs. You can't get blood from a stone but if you try, you can break the stone. ("Debtors' Prison for Failure to Pay for Your Own Trial")
In the past few years I've met many broken stones.

I've been surprised to learn how many inmates at the county jail are there for failure to pay fines and how many of them have lost their jobs due to incarceration for failure to pay fines. I was also surprised to learn that people who are serving sentences for misdemeanor charges are required to pay to stay. If they have no resources, they can be thousands of dollars in debt to the community when they are released.

Besides saving taxpayer money, the thinking behind our local pay-to-stay program is that it will encourage people to stop committing crimes. I get that, and it may be true for some. But based on my experience, I suspect it is a predominantly counterproductive idea, and I was glad to read in the news yesterday that it could be on its way to becoming a thing of the past.

Sure inmates are in a bind because of their own choices. I do believe we all need to face the consequences when we screw up. But most of them are already paying for their choices in a multitude of ways. And they will be paying for their choices long after they've served their sentences. If we want them to choose a legitimate path, it doesn't make sense to me to marginalize them even more by pushing them further into debt. It also wouldn't surprise me if the pay-to-stay program actually ends up costing taxpayers more money than it brings in because it can keep people revolving in and out of jail longer.

What does make sense--from both a public safety standpoint (politically feasible) and a humanitarian standpoint (which seems to be less politically feasible these days)--is to do what we can to draw people in from the margins of society.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Not So Sure Anymore

One time my Grandma Jan, who was a good hearted woman but not known for her tact, announced to my husband that he looked more like Winston Churchill ever time she saw him.

We were like, "What?!"

Then in the past couple of weeks, the following two pictures came my way, one in my email inbox and the other on my Facebook feed. I don't know what to think now.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


This afternoon we went to Jack's saxophone teacher Ben's senior recital, which was held in a great old lecture hall in the oldest building on BYU's campus. Roger and I reminisced about the one class we took together in college and which was held in that same room.

After half an hour of classical and more technical pieces on the flute, clarinet and sax that I think were required for his recital, we listened to another half hour of Ben playing in his true element: jazz. Even though it was 4:00 in the afternoon, the quartet played like it was midnight at the club.

I mentioned to Ben's mom afterwards that Roger and I had taken a class together in the same room. She said, "I'll bet it was a lot quieter than this was." Roger and I laughed. The class was a mock constitutional convention. Deliberating, caucusing, arguing, jockeying for position, delivering rousing speeches, celebrating every point won. It was anything but quiet!

During the concert, I reflected on something I'd heard earlier today about how we so readily focus on competition in politics at the expense of other methods of working together, and that is part of the reason we aren't so good at sorting through our differences.

It's mesmerizing watching musicians improvise together. It's true collaboration. Giving each other the floor to riff, listening carefully for cues, covering for each other when they have to adjust their instruments, operating within the constraints of rhythm and key that paradoxically enable individual voices to come together to create something unique and interesting and worth listening to.

We should take note.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Trip Envy

My Facebook feed is full of happy and gorgeous pictures that friends are posting while they are on vacation. Moab, southern Utah, Disneyland, Santa Barbara, Hawaii. All happy and gorgeous. It's been spring break in our school district. But it's not school break for me, so we are home.

It is what it is. I'm glad for my friends. Even the friends who got to hang out with dolphins and palm trees.

And at least I didn't have to set an alarm all week.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Was Today Real?

I had a hard time leaving campus today. College helps keeps me young and curious and hopeful. Especially in the spring time.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Earlier today, I listened to a podcast about synchronicity, and on that podcast, my friend Zina made a comment that reminded me of something I wrote last year. So I decided to continue a theme from yesterday, revising the following and posting it here. Because synchronicity.


The story of Adam and Eve can be read as a metaphor for the development of human consciousness, when we shifted from operating on instinct to becoming sentient beings who began to understand our world on a whole new level. We became aware of our actions and the actions of others. We became aware of the impact of all of those actions, for both good and evil. We became children of God.

I think that on some level, to our detriment, we've been trying to create the illusion of the Garden of Eden ever since.

It can manifest itself in different and multiple ways for different people. We resist commitment (to people, to ideas, to meaningful work). We search out and cling to pat answers. We don't face hard things straight on. We create dogmatic checklists of rules that lull us into believing we're doing enough good when we follow them. We numb ourselves with addictions. We refuse to listen to people who don't see things the way we do. We whitewash history (of our faith, of our nation, of ourselves) because that is more soothing than owning up to and learning from mistakes. We use what we earn not just to sustain us, but to make ourselves comfortable. We ignore things that make us uncomfortable. We separate ourselves from people we view as sinners. Or from people who are poor. Or from people who are different from us for whatever reason.

It seems we fear knowledge, the fruit of the tree. Instead of following the admonition to live in the world, but not of the world, we want the safety of living on the world, but not in the world.

Engaging is painful and messy and dangerous and hard work.

Here's the rub: We think we are protecting ourselves. Perhaps we think creating a bubble will enable us to get through this life unscathed and on to the next. But instead we miss out on true growth. Growth that comes from knowledge and engagement in the world. And as children of God we are meant to grow up.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Swallowing Whales

Not long enough ago, I had an epiphany:

My attempt to embrace all of the very specifically defined and literal beliefs that surround me in my faith community was actually preventing me from believing in much of anything. While I'm open to possibility, I am challenged by certainty. I'm a skeptic by nature, tending to reserve judgment until I can see or experience things for myself. Many times that works for me, but sometimes it gets in my way.

I had to find a way to move forward in my spiritual journey that would, well, keep me moving forward. With a new approach, I was able to plant seeds of faith in much more fertile ground. Spiritual understanding began to blossom.

I realized, for example, that it didn't matter if I believed Jonah had been swallowed by an actual whale. Or that, perhaps, Jonah had been swallowed by a metaphorical whale of pride or fear. Or even that Jonah existed at all.

What mattered was that I grasped how we can hold ourselves back from doing what we are inspired to do. That it is possible to overcome what holds us back. And that when we follow through on our inspiration, the results may not be what we expect and may involve a new lesson we need to learn.

If someday I happen to meet a man named Jonah in a place called heaven and he tells me about the time he was literally swallowed by a whale, I will think, "Well, I'll be."

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Heights and Depths

I know that I whine too much about grading student papers, but I have reached new heights in my aversion to it.

Honestly, I don't mind reading the papers. I don't mind giving feedback. I just really, really don't like assigning grades.

I know that the actual grading is what I stew about because when I give assignments that aren't graded (points for completion), I have no problem getting right on it.

Gah. I need a new strategy. The holes I am digging for myself by procrastinating are getting deeper and deeper.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Day Dreaming

Time out from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this memory from Long Island last summer.

Saturday, April 05, 2014


Yesterday, I wrote about how maybe I'm fine with the idea of being part of a liminal, unnamed generation. I actually don't care for being labeled. People tend to brush with broad strokes when labeling is involved.

I remember being very glad when I filled in for a secretary on maternity leave the summer I graduated from college and heard my boss tell someone I was "not just a secretary." While I have tremendous respect for the work secretaries do--seriously, good secretaries can hold a place together in amazing ways--I didn't want to be defined by the label. I didn't want people to assume I couldn't do something simply because of my job title.

Truly, I don't like people to make assumptions about me. To think they can surmise everything about me (my views, my abilities, my beliefs, my interests, my motives) because they know something about me. Gosh, as a work in progress, I don't even begin to know everything about me.

I am far more complicated than I appear on the surface.

Aren't we all?

Friday, April 04, 2014

On the Cusp

On my way home from work today, I stopped to talk to a couple of friends who were out for a walk on this fine Spring day. One was born the same year I was (in fact we met each other in the dorms our freshman year of college), and the other was born two years later.

We discovered that we all three feel left out of the named generations. Even though we are sometimes counted at the tail end of the Baby Boomers, we're really too young. And even though we are sometimes counted as the beginning of Generation X, we're really too old.

What should we call our liminal generation, we wondered? (And, if you can believe it, just after I typed that sentence, I discovered that someone on Yahoo Voices nailed the issue in this post and believes we should actually be called the Liminal Generation.)

I think my neighbors and I came up with a much happier name.

We were born in the 60s, so of course it should follow that we are Love Children or part of the Love Generation. Even though, technically, none of the three of us were born to hippies. And even though, technically, all of our parents were married when they had us and would thus be mortified at the various implications those names hold.

So, um, okay, maybe not. We'll just have to float along in our liminality. On the cusp. Undefined. Unnamed. Which actually suits me. I don't like to be labeled.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Unforced Error

In my writing classes, I award extra credit points when students find errors in any of my work (presentations, assignments, email messages, etc). I figure it (1) helps them better swallow the critiques I make of their work and (2) gives them an incentive to pay closer attention to details in writing.

It's especially fun and satisfying when someone points out a mistake I've made in the middle of class.

Usually students find proofreading level errors, but today, a student found an error of some substance. I had inadvertently credited Shakespeare's "All the world loves a lover" to Emerson, who actually said "All mankind loves a lover." Technically, I had borrowed the syllogism the quote was in from someone else. A good reminder not to trust sources to have everything right.

Well played, attentive student with an iPhone and access to a database of quotes. Well played. I served; you won the point.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


One of my favorite topics to discuss in the writing class I teach at UVU is basic principles of logic. Especially because we start class with this classic clip:

Throwing one starfish at a time into the sea in an attempt to elevate the level of dialogue on the Internet and the quality of our memes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

So, I'm Pregnant

With possibility, that is!

My friend Jerry asked me at work this morning if I'm good at April Fool's Day jokes. Actually, not so much. While I can be good at and enjoy fishing people, I'm not very good at coming up with brilliantly deceptive plans on demand.

So, I'm pretty safe to be around on April 1, but best beware of me the other 364 days of the year! Bwahahahaha!