Saturday, May 31, 2014

Shifting the Discussion

Intense talk continues online about sexual assault and rape. All week it's been making me think about an incident that happened to me in college. It is not one that I counted on my fingers and posted about about the other day, but it was, perhaps, one of the most dramatic times I realized that I was at someone else's mercy simply because he was stronger than me.

He was tickling me. We were in a room full of people who were laughing. I was laughing, too. Then something shifted. I don't know if the shift was just in my mind, or if it was also in his. He had me pinned to the floor. He was intent. I couldn't breathe. I started to panic. It wasn't funny anymore. I didn't want to laugh, but I couldn't stop because I couldn't breathe.

I knew he couldn't read my mind. I knew I couldn't expect him to.

I needed him to anyway.

What if we understood more about listening? Not just to words, especially if people can't or won't speak them. But listening to other forms of communication. Body language. Facial expressions. Even silence. Or the subtle change in the way someone laughs.

I think about that experience, how trapped I felt, every time I realize that I'm holding my son against his will when he is upset. As a mother, I so want to believe that if my arms are around him, he will be able to pull back from the edge of whatever abyss he is standing on. That might work with another child, but it is not what he needs from me. It's a lesson he's had to teach me more than once.

What if we learned to honor what we hear, to respect another's humanity when it is not what we want to hear? Especially when we are the one with the upper hand? Or the desperate desire?

Could we make the change we need in this world?

Friday, May 30, 2014

The End of an Era

Our last time through the four-way stop on the way to drop Jack off at the junior high this morning. And almost the last time ever through the four-way stop. By Monday, the city will be closing it off and turning the intersection into a roundabout, aka a rotary.

Oh, yeah, and school's out. Jack's done with junior high forever (in fact, the junior high itself is done forever). He's in the backyard with his friends right now. They're all burning their homework in our fire pit, aka the celestial cauldron. Sorry, neighbors. It'll be over soon.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


I went for a walk in the fading light of day. Got home after dark.

I walked by the homes of people who have lived here longer than us (20 years!), and I walked by homes that have changed hands since we moved in, sometimes multiple times.

So many stories in all of the houses. Next door a new engagement. On the next street a wedding coming up tomorrow. Posters in the windows announcing the graduating seniors who live inside. Babies born, gardens grown, sudden deaths, slow deaths. Broken marriages, second marriages, third marriages, coming outs. Business startups, jobs lost, books published, prison terms, church missions, college degrees, retirements, camping trips. Cancer, infertility, heart attacks, depression, stolen trucks. More than one Olympic hopeful.

So much life packed into just a few blocks. I haven't even scratched the surface. I'm exhilarated and worn out thinking about it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Progressing Along Nicely

A few updates on one of my very favorite people:
  • Jack finishes ninth grade in two days. 
  • He just showed me his current grades online and it looks like he's made honor roll this term.
  • He shaved for the first time two days ago. (Why didn't I get a picture?!)
  • Now that he is 15 he can get a learners permit, but he still has some studying he has to do before he takes the written test for it.
  • In just over a week, he'll get to use his passport for the first time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Two Hands

It is good that we are currently having a widespread conversation (well, at least a tweeting back and forth) about rape and sexual assault. But I've been truly disturbed by certain elements of the pushback I've seen as people have voiced their experiences, trying to help others understand aspects of culture that fly in the face of what we otherwise proclaim to be obvious: that people shouldn't rape or otherwise sexually assault other people.

I want to add my voice. The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote in 2011.

I have personally never considered myself a victim of abuse, but it astounds me that when I think back over my own life, I need at least two hands to count the number of times boys and men--unequivocally uninvited--have crossed darn inappropriate lines with me, including three that actually broke laws currently on the books. Two hands! That's not okay!

We need to work harder to make the world a safer place. 

Monday, May 26, 2014


Dad sent me this picture from today's Memorial Day activities in my Massachusetts home town. My memories of the town Minutemen run deep. I am right there with them, listening to the fife and drum corps, breathing in the wooded air.

It seems like I should write something about Memorial Day today.

All I can think of to say is that as human beings across the globe we need to figure out ways to stop killing one another. Maybe one way to do that is to remember the people who die on the other sides of whatever conflicts we are involved in, not just the people who die on our own side. Especially, but not only, the innocents.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Table at the Place

Yesterday's trip to Spring City yielded another happy treat. I may have met the man who made the table I used in the Louisa May Alcott picture book exhibition I put together for the Springville Museum of Art a few years ago. I needed a table to hold copies of the picture book to serve as gallery guides. The museum turned up a beautiful Shaker table that was made by someone from Spring City. That was the only clue I had.

Then yesterday I walked into Jock Jones' workshop where he handcrafts Windsor chairs and Shaker tables. I told him the story of my show at the museum and how perfect the table was--not just aesthetically, but also because the Shakers lived in the same area as the Alcotts, influenced Bronson Alcott's vision of utopian communities, and therefore influenced many of Louisa May Alcott's life experiences.

I suppose there's a chance it wasn't his table. But he was so friendly and his neatly organized workshop was such a treat to see, I'd like to think it was.

PS: That is not my finger in the way of the camera at the top of the shot. That is a fierce looking storm cloud rolling through.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Imagined Life

We went on an off-the-beaten-path adventure to Spring City today for its annual Heritage Day celebration. At the end of our visit, we stopped in to see this cottage, which is for sale.

It's the old 1893 Chester Schoolhouse that someone moved stone by stone about three miles to this site. A large open space on the main floor with the original wood floors, tall windows, and classic old metal French doors that could make a person believe Monet would be dropping by for a visit any moment. A couple of surprisingly spacious bedrooms are tucked under the eaves on the second floor. Room for all three of us.

After touring it, we headed home. Before we even reached Fairview, I'd planned out our entire life in Spring City. In that cottage. Roger would work at Snow College in nearby Ephraim, and I'd teach a class or two there. We'd open up a shop selling something we love in one of the charming empty spaces on Main Street (and on the internet so we could actually make some money). Jack would be a day student at Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant, where Ansel Adams sent his children once, joining 300 students from 40 different countries and 25 different US states. I'd have breakfast or lunch (or both) every day at Das Cafe, lapping up creative energy from local artists and artisans. We'd buy fresh eggs from a local farmer. Or maybe we'd even have chickens ourselves.

Yeah, I can imagine it all.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Night and Day

Today was one of those days when I got pulled deeper and deeper into the dark side of humanity. I'll be honest. I've spent the last half dozen years or so being stripped of illusions on pretty much every front. While I haven't lost my natural inclination to find silver linings in just about anything, I have become depressingly capable of cynicism.

But then Roger came home.

I put on a skirt and sandals, we went out on the town in our Jeep, and I was reminded over and over how much good there is in the world to love.

Joining with friends, who were celebrating their son's wedding under streamers of tulle and fairy lights.

Calling Jack afterward to see if he'd like to go with us to dinner and hearing him answer "yes" without hesitation despite being deeply entrenched in his teenage years.

Eating perfectly cooked veggies and noodles at the Chinese restaurant next door to our old bookstore and catching up with our old friends who own it.

Taking a seriously random gift--old catalog cards for French special collection titles from Roger's work--to a friend who is always bursting with creativity and who knew immediately what she was going to use them for. Getting a tour of the glamper she's been fixing up in the backyard for her four little girls with bright paint, charming fabrics, and even a chandelier!

Dropping Jack off for an end-of-school-year party and hearing his friends call his name when they saw him, thrilled he had come.

Coming home, pouring an icy glass of blood orange San Pellegrino that the boys gave me for Mother's Day, and curling up with a Julia Glass novel that we're reading for book club this month.

I met her once. Julia. I still believe she and I would make good friends. Maybe I'm not as disillusioned as I thought.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Life Changes

So the last book Jack and I read together involved a little more romance than we'd ever encountered before. Slightly awkward. For him at least.

Now I can't help chuckling at the fact that one of the main characters in the book we're currently reading just got her first period (which was, in defense of the book, plot driven - she had come from a scientifically modified civilization that had eradicated menstruation, and her body was just responding to being in cast out into the real world).

The Education of Jack continues . . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

He's Bad

A month or so ago, I overheard music coming from Jack's iPod and discovered that he had discovered Michael Jackson.

The whole thing was a bit of a mystery, which was solved tonight at Jack's final junior high band concert.

What is no mystery is that the awesome music programs he's participated in the past few years are one of the reasons junior high was actually pretty okay.

Like who wouldn't love a band teacher who takes off his suit coat and moon walks in front of a live audience?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Around and Around

I once had a customer say to me when her unemployment benefits ran out, “Oh, well, my vacation is over and now I must go find a job."

Because there are people who milk our safety net, does that mean I think the system shouldn’t exist?

No, I don’t.

Of course, we should always seek ways to make the bureaucracy more effective and cost efficient. And we should never lose sight of helping people stand on their own feet whenever possible. But in far more cases than not, the safety net meets real needs--needs that often exist because capitalism has some pretty sharp edges. It’s nice to think that only the people who take the risks with their capital are the ones who will suffer if they miscalculate. But they aren’t.

I once went in to my job at a computer software company an hour late because I had a doctor’s appointment and discovered that my boss and my entire staff of six had been laid off while I was gone.

Because there are companies that fail to plan perfectly and use layoffs as a management tool to make their short-term bottom lines look better to shareholders, do I think we should prevent them from ever laying anyone off?

No, I don’t.

Companies need flexibility to cut their operating costs in order to stay in the game. 

I once saw a company that had been in my family for two generations permanently shut down during a recession due in part to union demands that were entrenched and inflexible.

Because unions sometimes fight for a level of worker benefits and protections that ultimately compromise an entire enterprise, do I think we should abolish them?

No, I don’t.

Can you imagine a society in which the right to organize and stand up to tyranny--whether public or private--didn’t exist? It’s not hard. There are plenty of examples.

I once got called into my new boss’s office the day after my old boss and my entire staff had been laid off. She was looking for assurance that I would still be able to meet all of the deadlines the following month. My job was on the line. At first I gave it a shot, but I recognized very quickly that it would break me. I was blessed to have resources that enabled me to walk away. Many people don’t have that luxury. Many people end up broken.

What do I make of all this?

The public sector has strengths and flaws. The private sector has strengths and flaws. Any organization that exists for any reason has strengths and flaws. Every single individual has strengths and flaws.

What we need to do when we problem solve is to find that balancing point at which strengths are relatively maximized and flaws are relatively minimized. But that requires real discourse in which everyone acknowledges not just the strengths but also the weaknesses of their proposed solutions, their ideologies, and the people and organizations they represent.

We could kick some serious problems in the butt if we did that.

Monday, May 19, 2014


Summer 2012

A lake, a raft, a couple of boys with their fishing poles, a sunset. That's about all a person needs to have a good view of the world.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Making Life Easier

Tomorrow morning at an interagency meeting, I have the privilege of unveiling a tool that I hope will be useful for people when they are released from our county jail. I got the green light to work on it a couple of months ago and have been working on it a little bit here and there ever since.

What is it? A website specifically designed to provide information to help people transition back into our community: Utah County Reentry Resource.

It's actually a tool I wanted to create for my own use on the job as I teach classes and meet with inmates. I had developed an unwieldy collection of notes, brochures, and bookmarks for links to information and resources and wanted to be able to access information in a more efficient way.

Then I thought, why not make it available to anyone else it might help?

I use the site every day at work. It's not quite done. Even when it is, I'll continue to tweek it as I use it. And hopefully other people will use it and provide additional suggestions for tweeks.

It sure has made my life easier. I hope it helps make other peoples' lives easier, too.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Jack has been celebrating his 15th birthday ever since he woke up this morning. A rolling party all day long with various friends coming and going. That worked out well, since due to indecisiveness, we failed to plan anything ahead of time.

I'm not sure Jack's all that interested in getting older. He's quite content living this stage of his life. He seemed relieved the other day when I told him that even at my age, I don't think of myself as grown up.

PS: Roger will just have to celebrate his 51st birthday another day. And how cool is it that this year Jack is 15, and Roger is 51?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why We Live Here

Jack's got a whole gang of energetic kids playing night games in the back yard. I can hear them through the wide open window in my bedroom.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

I spent a good part of the last two days in a homeless outreach training class at a police station in Salt Lake City. It was really valuable, especially listening to presentations by many of the service providers in downtown Salt Lake.

Every time I am in interagency meetings like this, I experience a mixture of hope for what's possible and a sense of devastation for what actually is.

The shelter in downtown Salt Lake, for example, typically houses more than 700 people a night. More than 700 people they let in, then send out for a few hours in the morning so the place can be cleaned, then again they fill up the next night. Their policy is that if they can squeeze another mat on the floor without breaking fire code, they won't turn a person away. Sometimes the population in the shelter swells to over 1,000.

Every night they are dealing with numbers comparable to the number of people we house in our county jail.

The book I had with me to read during breaks was I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, the outspoken and courageous Pakistani girl who was shot on her way home from school a few years ago. Ironically, the chapters I read yesterday and today describe the mass exodus her family was a part of when the Pakistani military attempted to drive the Taliban out of the Swat Valley where they lived and the horrible flooding they experienced after people returned to their homes in 2009.

The number of people who were displaced during the violent conflict was two million, nearly four times the number of people who live in our entire county.

The number of people who were affected by the flooding, which washed away entire villages and drowned around 2,000, was 14 million. That is more people, Malala says she has heard, than the number of people affected by "the Asian tsunami, [Pakistan's] 2005 earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake combined."

It sure puts what we're up against, which is a huge and ongoing challenge, into some perspective.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All That Jazz

Went to Jack's very first jazz band concert tonight. They played six numbers, but this is the one I have to post here because Jack solos twice and he does an awesome job (while looking awesome in his black shirt, black suit, and purple tie).

And here's a post concert pic with Grandma (left) and our 90-year-old neighbor Jackie (right) who was thrilled to dress up and go out for a night on the town with us. Her husband played the trumpet with a jazz band for many years. She danced in her seat during the concert and was giddy all the way home.

Not pictured here: Jackie's fabulous gold shoes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Digging It

I never know what might come up in conversation with an inmate when I'm doing a pre-release interview with them.

Today I was talking to a guy about finding work in the construction industry--which, by the way, is doing so well around here that contractors are concerned about finding enough employees to help with the projects they've got lined up. He mentioned his range of skills, including operating heavy equipment.

I told him that I've long wanted to take the heavy equipment class at the college where I teach. He thought that was just awesome and started giving me all sorts of tips, like how to coordinate excavation with dump trucks for maximum efficiency.

"It's expensive," he said, "To keep a dump truck waiting."

Monday, May 12, 2014


When we were renovating our building for our bookstore, we had to hire an architect to draw up plans to meet building code requirements. At one point he told us that we'd need a mirror for the bathroom above the sink. We told him we were all set, because we'd already found this fabulous mirror at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake.

The artist who made it called it "Peeping Toms." Every bookstore needs cats, right? 

The architect just stared at us. "Why would you spend more money on a mirror than you need to? You could have met code with something really inexpensive," he said.

We stared back at him. "Why did you become an architect if you have so little imagination?" we thought to ourselves.

Sure, it wasn't practical.

Practical can be overrated. Especially if it sucks the life right out of us.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


I've been under the weather this week, and last night I gave up on any pretense of being productive to watch three very different movies back to back (At Middleton, The Italian Key, and Jackie). After I watched them, I realized that they were all in their own ways about daughters searching for their mothers and about mothers searching for themselves. A synchronistic theme heading into Mother's Day.

Becoming a mother, being a mother, and being mothered can be really complicated. That means Mother's Day can be really complicated.

For example, I was just so glad on the Mother's Day right before Jack was born that it would be the last time I'd be asked to stand during a church service to be honored as a mother when I was not actually a mother. At 18, I suppose it was nice to be recognized as a potential mother, but when I was 35 and still not a mother, it was fairly excruciating.

I'm quite content to keep Mother's Day a simple personal affair rather than a overwrought community affair. Like getting an extra big hug from my son when I wake up. Like having a lovely conversation with my mom on the phone. Like sharing brownies and ice cream with my mother-in-law at a family get together.

Like today.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Stealing a post I wrote in 2007 to meet my goal for the day because it reflects exactly how I feel at the moment. And pretty much always.


Within the last 24 hours, I've read two amazingly similar ideas in two dramatically different books.

From Fahrenheit 451, written in 1950 and which I'm reading for a book club discussion later this week:

"If only they could have taken her mind along to the dry cleaner's and emptied the pockets and steamed and cleansed it and reblocked it and brought it back in the morning."

From Peter Pan and Wendy, written in 1940 and which Jack and I are reading aloud:

"It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered through the day."

I can certainly see the appeal. I've got a lot of stuff crammed into my head, and it would be fabulous if someone could go in there and organize it all for me!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

It Won't Bite

Roger's latest exhibition at the library is on track to open on Monday! It's called BYU's Expeditions of Discovery: The World Is Our Campus and highlights early natural history faculty research adventures. He's borrowed artifacts from other museums on campus, like his new friend pictured here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Laughing Out Loud

I'm listening to Jack crack up at a video he's watching in the next room. I love hearing him laugh out loud.

I remember the first time he laughed at something that was actually funny when he was small. Something that required him to have a good sense of humor.

And I remember feeling relief and joy at discovering he had one.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Monday, May 05, 2014


Jack randomly signed up for a sculpture class in school this semester and helped expand our collection of original art.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

It Got Complicated So Fast

Five things I need to work out now that I have to wear reading glasses:

  • How to make sure I have a pair handy whenever I need them. Somehow they all end up in one place (on my nightstand, in my purse, on my desk, in the car) and that one place inevitably ends up being the place where I am not.
  • How to stop putting my sunglasses halfway down my nose when I put them on. That totally defeats the purpose of wearing them.
  • How to make sure I've actually got my sunglasses with me when I'm out and about. It no longer works to simply reach into my bag to feel around for a pair of glasses before I go. I must now actually grab them and pull them out to make sure they are sunglasses. I have inconveniently discovered multiple times that I have two or more pairs of reading glasses in my bag and no sunglasses at all.
  • How to still be the same person I have always been when I am peering over my reading glasses at my students or at someone across the table in a meeting. All that peering makes me seem much more serious than I actually am. (A corollary: How to stop apologizing for peering over my glasses at people.)
  • How to avoid being seen in public when I am wearing my regular glasses instead of contact lenses, then wearing my sunglasses on top of them because I am driving, then wearing my reading glasses on top of them because I have pulled over to the side of the road to read a text message on my phone. This happens on a semi-regular basis when I take Jack to school in the morning. Actually, maybe the fact that I am often still in my pajamas when I take Jack to school is a more important reason to avoid being seen in public than wearing three pairs of glasses at once. And that's why I'm always sure to have my phone with me: in case I need to call Roger if I get stranded somewhere and can't get out of the car to find help on my own.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Drinks Anyone?

Even though we had to drive there in our car with a roof, we had a nice family outing to try a new place for treats. One of Roger's colleagues and his wife recently opened a place called Sip-N Spot in Payson, wisely located right by the high school and junior high.

It's a new trend here in the valley, where the predominant culture doesn't have a habit of hanging out in coffee shops and bars: A place for special drinks like Italian cream sodas and Cokes spiked with coconut or lime and snacks like pastries and onion rings. With couches for lounging.

Roger had an orange soda float, I had a peach-pear-apricot smoothie, and Jack had a Fresca spiked with strawberry, vanilla and cream.

I think we need a place like this in Springville. Anyone up for opening one?

Friday, May 02, 2014

Please Send Positive Thoughts

I got a call today from Roger, who needed me to rescue him when our beloved Jeep Wrangler wouldn't start. Luckily she was in his mom's driveway and we were able to push her into the garage to protect her from the sprinklers.

We bought her new 20 years ago. She's a member of the family, really.

And, boo, it's Saturday tomorrow, it's supposed to reach 80 degrees, and her roof is off. Hopes of adventure are dashed.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Goldilocks and the Three Weddings

We went to our third wedding celebration in less than a week tonight! A neighbor married a real-life fire fighter, and they glamorously rode off on the back of a fire engine to start their new life together.

You can't really tell from the picture, but the bride is over six feet tall. And she's not the tallest one in the family. I made the mistake of wearing flats and felt dwarfed.

Contrast that with our nephew's wedding last Saturday. I am quite a bit taller than many in Roger's family. Some are under five feet tall. I made the mistake of wearing heels and felt like I towered over them.

The wedding party in between? I don't remember what shoes I wore. I felt just right.