Sunday, August 30, 2009

School Days Graduation

I hope you're wearing your cap and gown!

Your diplomas are in the mail:
  • Two Honorary Prizes: Most students recruited
  • Eight Master's Degrees with prizes: Every single assignment.
  • Thirty-eight Associate Degrees: Every assignment in one class.
  • Forty-six Graduate Degrees: Most of the homework, most of the time
  • Sixty-five Participation Degrees: Some of the homework, regular attendance.
  • Ten Honorary Degrees to students who audited the classes, and left frequent comments.

I don't have email addresses for the following students, but they were regular visitors to class and often contributed to the discussion.

  1. Alana
  2. Allison
  3. Beck
  4. Cannwinn
  5. Diane
  6. Eloisestory
  7. Greek Goddess
  8. Jordan at Mean Mommy
  9. Katie H.
  10. Kristina
  11. La Yen
  12. Marissa Marie
  13. Middle of the Table
  14. Mrs. Organic
  15. Queen Scarlet
  16. Smeager
  17. Taylor-Maid
  18. Wrath of Khandrea
  19. Yiota
  20. Zen Yen


It's not too late. School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. Do the coursework whenever you want.
Click here for an orientation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Passing of a Hero: Ted Kennedy

Teddy Kennedy has always been a hero of mine.
I'm vastly impressed that a man,
who didn't need to work a day in his life for his own living,
would work all the days of his life to improve other's way of living.
I find that noble.

“We are giving assurance to American families that help is on its way.”
—Edward Kennedy

Three older, adored, brothers dead at young ages,
directly because they were serving their country,
two of them assassinated because they stood up for Americans
who hadn't been blessed in the ways their family had been blessed,
did not scare him away from public service.

"I know this decision means I may never be president.
But the pursuit of the presidency is not my life. Public service is."

—Edward Kennedy

Why would a man who had it all, who could spend his days traveling,
sailing, skiing, living a life of leisure and adventure,
give it up for the stress, name calling, death threats and
unappreciated hours of work he chose instead?

He said it himself in a tribute to his older brother,
Senator Robert F. Kennedy:

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he
was in life, but to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw
wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw
war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that
what he was to us, and what he wished for others, will some day come to
pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched
and who sought to touch him:

"Some men see things as they are and say why.
I dream things that never were and say why not."

—Edward Kennedy

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives
and the dreams shall never die.”

—Senator Edward Kennedy

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Post Card: Newlyweds

Art by S. Hurford

We had humble beginnings, but we were never poor.
"Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted."
—Albert Einstein

Friday, August 21, 2009


It's been almost forty years,
so we've decided to run away together!

I'll send postcards!

Our love story starts here.

(For the rest, click on Love Story in the sidebar under
Special Collections.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is it Gone With the Wind?

It was the longest book I'd ever read, and I was afraid to even start it. But by the time Scarlet fell down the stairs, I was more afraid that I'd finish it. I was sitting on the striped carpet in my bedroom, with the bonnet of the hair dryer puffed up and drowning out all sound while Scarlet moaned in agony, calling silently for her true love. Rhett wept in Melanie's lap, confessing his sins, unaware of Scarlet's fevered cries. I sobbed, too, so loudly that my brother came in to see what was going on. Even he couldn't break the spell. I was caught in the story. "Tell her," I begged him. "Tell him," I begged her.

Does Gone With the Wind resonate with people nowadays, or is it too old-fashioned? I read it the summer between 8th and 9th grade. Laying on the flowered wicker couch on our screened-in porch at night, with a background of whirring mosquitoes amongst whispering trees, I was transported to Tara, where I fell in love with the visitor from Charleston.

Scarlet and Rhett on the bridge.

Mom described the movie in rich detail, so that I recognized Scarlet's green dress when I finally saw it on the screen four long years later. Back in the day, we had to wait for the classics to return to theaters, and when I saw the announcement in the newspaper in April, I marked the day in November when it would open.

Sher, Polly and I flipped a U-turn in a snowstorm for a parking spot on Main Street, and arrived just in time for the Overture. When the music started, all three of us burst into tears. (I'm sure our row was thrilled to have emotional teenage girls seated nearby.) The book was better by far, but the movie didn't disappoint me at all. I bought the soundtrack and a poster of Rhett Butler playing poker for my college dorm.

Would Hollywood ever re-do the original Gone With the Wind? Dee needed to see the credits for a project, so I scanned through my favorite parts of the movie (I know the dialogue by heart) and I wondered . . .

Could anyone besides Clark Gable play Rhett Butler with such dash?

Johnny Depp looks like a likely rogue.

Brad Pitt has the same devil-may-care swagger.

What about Vivien Leigh's bratty charm?
Is there another Scarlet O'Hara?

Emily Blunt might pull it off.

Leslie Howard was miscast in the first place, I think.
He made Ashley seem wimpy.

How about Mark Strong?
He seems strong.

Olivia deHavilland was perfect as Melanie.
I can't think of any actress sweet enough to replace her.

Tonight when I heard the familiar music and saw Mammy whirl in her red petticoat, I wondered what makes this story so lasting. The history is romanticized and one-sided, and politically incorrect by today's standards. Although Scarlet is almost modern with her lumber mill and independence, Melanie is my heroine with all the strength of femininity. Does she still fit an ideal? Do girls still want to be rescued by a guy in a white hat? Or are stories like this gone with the wind?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Super Heroes

You may remember my secret identity:

Yes, under this squishy, cuddly exterior, I am an indomitable force, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings, and bend steel in my bare hands. And who, disguised as TravelinOma, a mild-mannered blogger, fights a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

But some actual robbers visited my loved ones today.

The Bad Guy

Nim's voice quivered when I answered the phone. "Mom! Our house has been robbed! I just walked in, and they might still be in the house!" Episodes of Superman filled my mind. I flipped a U-ie, and flew through rush-hour traffic to the crime-scene, knowing I had nothing to offer. SuperOma is just a figment of my imagination, and this was reality.

Everyone and everything was already under control; the policeman took charge, and the CSI team was on it's way to dust for fingerprints and photograph for clues. My job was with the private eyes of the family.

They were wide and teary.

I gathered them together and we pieced together the case.

Private Eyes #3, #2, #1

#1: The garage was open when we came home, and I went in to watch TV but it was gone! I said, "What the heck? The TV is gone! What are we supposed to do without a TV?"

#3: Mom started running all over the house going crazy and yelling, "Did you move my computer?" We didn't want her to worry so much, so I said, "Maybe a cat got in here and messed everything up." We tried not to disturve any fingerprints or DNA.

SuperOma: What's DNA?

#1: It's a code that tells everything about you. You get it from spit and hair. It's a bar code for your whole body, like a can of peas.

#2: Why would the robber take our TV and computer?

#1: Maybe he was poor and couldn't buy one.

#3: Why doesn't he just get a job?

#2: Maybe he wanted the computer sooner so he could find a job.

#1: If he was poor he was probably dressed in tattery and ragged clothes that would be falling apart. There's a 50% chance some tattery rags are laying around for evidence.

#2: I estimate there were 4 to about 6 robbers because the TV is too heavy. When my dad moves it, he's like a mouse lifting an elephant. I bet there were at least 10 robbers.

#1: Let's play with playdough and examine our fingerprints!

This is why I call my grands Super Heroes. They deal with challenges in an upbeat way. When their mom came to pick them up her first words were, "You know how we always pray that we'll be protected? Sometimes we don't notice that our prayers are answered, but today we noticed."

The writer Spaulding Gray said,
"I have to make myself up every day."

Write Away:
The idea for this assignment comes from Bonni Goldberg: "We each walk around with an image of who we are and how others experience us. But what would you notice if you could see yourself through someone else's eyes?"

Today describe yourself though the eyes of a character you've created, or someone you actually know, who admires you. Maybe you'll discover you're somebody's Super Hero!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Write Away

I can relate.

I'm snooping around for some writing techniques
that will make my fingers fly and my keyboard sing.
For instance:
  1. "Tell everybody you're a writer. Eventually it gets so embarrassing you actually have to write something."—Janet Evanovich
  2. "Leave out the parts that readers skip."—Leonard Elmore
  3. "Convince people that when you're just staring out of the window you're doing your hardest work of the day."—Charles Schulz
Please contribute your writing strategies generously!
(I'm going blank.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Response to a reader on being a Mormon

In an email, a reader said she had attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a child, and now had a new curiosity about it. She was especially interested in how I could have a little bit of the rebel in me, and still be a member of what she called a very strict religion. Also, she wondered what would happen if she attended services on Sunday. Here's my response:

I don't know how much you know about Mormonism, but I love the teaching that we came to earth for the chance to choose which direction to take. Jesus said, "I stand at the door and knock" which means we get to choose whether to let Him in or not. Because I've watched the gospel plan in action in other people's lives, and tried it for myself, I totally trust it. That's why I've chosen to live it. I see the commandments as eternal laws that always work, and I have the opportunity to choose to keep them, or to try something else.

Experience and observation has now combined with my faith, and I know for myself that breaking commandments leads to unhappiness. I've seen how adultery, abuse, alcoholism, meanness, dishonesty, envy, pride, etc. destroys individuals, marriages and families. On the other hand, I've seen that service, charity, forgiveness, kindness, faithfulness, etc. build people up. An eternal perspective of the family gives me hope and motivation.

My understanding is that Heavenly Father is my partner as I try to live the commandments; He's understanding and helpful when I fall, and always there to help me back up, if I ask. So, I don't feel forced. My rebel isn't raised. I am happy, in spite of challenges and problems, and I think it's because I've made choices that lead to happiness. My bad choices have been turned into blessings over time, when I've asked God to take over and fix things.

I realize that bad things happen to good people. We can be victims of other people's bad choices. But that doesn't mean the gospel plan failed; people fail. I know that bad circumstances can be turned into good ones, with the help of Jesus Christ, and we can choose whether to ask for his help or not. When I've humbled myself, acknowledged I can't do it on my own, and sincerely asked for help, it's always come.

I view the Church of Jesus Christ, and the Latter-day Saints separately. The Church is the organization set up to teach the Gospel (the perfect plan for happiness) and help us live it fully. The Saints are just a bunch of imperfect people trying to apply the plan to their lives.

The Saints can sometimes be annoying. My rebel comes to life when somebody arbitrarily says we have to wear nylons to church, or that the Republicans are the one true party. I'm trying to develop Christ-like attributes, like patience and kindness, so my attitude is that these people mean well, but often they're preaching their own gospel and it isn't necessarily true. I read the scriptures and the General Conference issue of the Ensign magazine so I can tell the difference, and pray that I'll recognize the truths that will lead to happiness. Then I let everyone else make their own choices.

There are some things I don't understand about the Gospel so I take them on faith. I study things out, pray, and do what seems right. I guess I don't feel rebellious against the LDS Church because I've never felt forced to live it. When I hear all the rumors and gossip and different opinions, it bugs me, but I don't put people in the same category as the gospel. The gospel is true, and people are trying (in both senses of the word!)

Being active in the church, serving in callings, and teaching the principles to my kids have definitely given me peace of mind, eternal perspective and happiness. It's a commitment, but it's worth it.

I don't know your circumstances, or how familiar you are with your ward, but if you want to go back to church this is what I'd recommend: There are three meetings in a row on Sunday—it's a 3-hour block, with Relief Society, Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting. Just go, and attend whatever you feel like, and stay as long as you want. I think Relief Society is great. It's just women, and the lessons are usually very good and applicable. You'll probably feel like you're standing out as THE NEWBIE, but you won't. Every ward has a few visitors each week, and every ward has members who show up just occasionally. Some wards are friendly and you might feel overwhelmed, but they're just trying to be nice. Other wards (like ours) have visitors a lot, and people are offended because the lady next to them didn't introduce herself and act welcoming. It's usually because she was a visitor, too.

If you want to, introduce yourself to the Relief Society president. When the roll gets passed around, sign as a visitor if you want. The truth is, the presidency will notice you're there, and want to make you feel welcome, but they'll be worried that they might offend you in some way. They want you to have a good experience. You can sneak in and out without talking to anyone (people do it all the time) or you can join in the lesson, make a comment, ask a question, whatever you feel like doing.

Sunday School is as good as the teacher. You can usually sit in there and never be noticed at all, or you can participate. This year the lessons are from the Doctrine and Covenants.

When you go to Sacrament Meeting a few people might introduce themselves. They're not singling you out, necessarily. They're just being friendly. Sit wherever you want to. Everyone will assume you're visiting or that you've just moved in. Sing if you want, or just listen. Nobody will notice or care if you take the sacrament or not, so don't feel self conscious about that. Just pass the tray along. Don't judge the church by the speakers. They're sometimes interesting and sometimes boring, but they're always trying to do a decent job.

If you want to really jump in with both feet, introduce yourself to the bishop and ask for an appointment to see him. Then just explain yourself to him, and tell him your situation and how involved you want to be. Usually bishops are pretty sensitive and they become protective of people, anxious to help without too much interfering or pushing too hard. I have never had a bishop who is judgmental. They usually feel very humble about their responsibility and aware of their own shortcomings and mistakes to be disapproving. My experience is that they're loving and sympathetic.

Sorry to ramble on. I love talking about myself, and the church is a big part of me. Good luck with whatever you choose to do. I'd love to hear about your experience either way.



Temperatures are still rising on Health Care.

The whole subject has given me a fever. And I'm not the only one. Some people seem to be hallucinating, dreaming up crazy maladies, while others are going into shock.

"I found this site helpful in clearing up some of the rhetoric going around," wrote Pete, with a link to an excellent site: Health Insurance Reform Reality Check. His comment popped up today on one of my Health Matters posts, and it's just what the doctor ordered. Thanks Pete!

I'm anxious to examine the actual symptoms myself instead of listening to the fear-mongering blather that is rampant and contagious. Panic provides a poor bed-side manner when discussing a nation's health care. I'm impressed with anybody, on either side of the emergency room, who presents a reasonable cure to our complaints. An intelligent discussion on how something will or won't work would move us toward compromise and solutions: it could cool the fevered frenzy.

But trying to find logical, calm, fair dialogue on the health care predicament isn't easy. I am nauseated by the hate-filled attacks and rumors that blast from my radio. It's becoming epidemic. My blood pressure goes up, my stomach churns and my heart aches. This fever is bad for my health!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just Add Enthusiasm

Two Wows!

Kids know how to have fun. When they woke up, Lucy said, "Today's the Oma Outing." Chelsea made the sign of the WOW and said, "No. It's the Oma Wow-ting!"

It was pretty simple, as outings go. We rode the train 1/2 hour, walked across the street to Ben and Jerry's, and hopped back on the train for the ride home. The whole excursion cost less than $10. But the WOW factor was priceless. Here are a few highlights:
  • A cop, wearing his badge and gun, walked past our seats on his way to the exit. Four giant eyes followed his every step. Then a whisper. "Is he a policeman? I've seen one on TV, but I didn't know they were really real."
  • "Can we get grown up ice-cream cones? We have the kind that are flat on the bottom. I've always wanted one that is pointy."
  • "Is downtown a different city? Is it called Rib City?"
  • "I know we're downtown because of all the cool signs. That one says Muffler Heaven."
Wow. Sometimes we think kids need Space Mountain while they're just as happy to ride a city bus. It's all new to them. And seeing it through their eyes, it's all new to us.

Any ideas for cheap, simple outings that kids love?

Monday, August 10, 2009


"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart well enough to sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in them than you can in two years by trying to get them interested in you."

"None of us needs another person pointing out where we have failed or fallen short. What each of us does need is a friend who believes we're trying to do the best we can."

(Guess what I learned about at church?)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stand on Your Own Two Feet

Cesky Krumlov, 2008

"In order to be happy, we must learn to think for ourselves
as well as to stand on our own two feet."
—Alexandra Stoddard

I love authentic people: the ones who dress like they want to, because it expresses them. The folks who say what they believe without being embarrassed or ashamed and without waiting to see what the general consensus is. It takes confidence to express who you are deep down. And it takes self-awareness. How can you stand for something, if you don't know where you stand?

Remember all the Seventeen quizzes to find out if you're a romantic, a trendsetter, a classic, or a diva? Remember taking the Color Code test? Have you got a fiery, bossy red personality, a sunny, cooperative yellow disposition, or a combination laid-back blue/natural green temperament? It's fun to discover ourselves.

Becoming authentic is one of my goals. Most of us arrive in adulthood with a desire to find out more about our true selves. Dig deep down and ask yourself:
  1. What attracts me? What am I drawn to?
  2. What excites me? What do I think about all day long?
  3. Do I feel passionate about a hobby, cause, goal, belief, subject? Why?
Now take your new understanding of yourself and create a mission statement. It's not going to be written in blood, or published in the newspaper, so you have time to work on it, and make changes as you go along. Give yourself a few days to let it fall into place.

Outline yourself to yourself. Discover what means a lot to you, order your priorities, and how you'll include them in your realities.

I organize every project using this same idea.
In fact, I did it yesterday with some writing goals.

When my priorities are safely written down somewhere,
I don't waste brain space trying to remember everything.

I never beat myself up over my results. Each day will present decisions, and I'll have to compromise. But I remind myself that I thought this up, so I can make changes. What helps me most is having an actual plan to remember what my priorities are. Knowing who I am gives me balance, which helps when I stand on my own two feet.

New Photo Shop

My personal photographer (a professional, who's been masquerading as an amateur) launched her new website today. I heard I was featured.

When I visited, I clicked on the senior portrait category, assuming I was an example of a senior citizen. I couldn't believe what she had done to these old folks—we looked absolutely incredible! I didn't recognize myself. We looked like high school . . . uh . . . seniors . . . Ah-h . . . I get it now. (Us real seniors are a little slow.)

But who needs brains when you've got a headshot like mine?? I may take up acting. Thanks, Christie, and good luck with your new photo shop!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grandmother Tips: Babyproofing

Hi. I'm from the demolition crew.

So, where's your stuff?

My work here is done.

*Oma tip: Put everything hazardous or fragile away, then sit back and watch the action.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Opa's Miracle Subaru

199,998 . . . 199,999 . . . watch it . . .

Almost there . . .

Opa’s 1994 Subaru turned over 200,000 miles!

Guest blog by Opa:

"On August 1, 2009 I was driving home from Midway, and I noticed my odometer. I had my camera with me so I pulled over and took pictures of it going from 199,999 to 200,000 miles. My mind went back 15 years to August 11, 1994 when I drove my new Subaru away from the Nate Wade Subaru dealership. It was a miracle deal.

(This is now. It was brand-new then.)

"We were in the middle of restoring the Miles Goodyear cabin in Ogden, making a 120-mile round-trip every day. Our old Subaru was giving out and we needed something dependable immediately.

"The past couple of years had depleted our savings. With two missionaries serving at the same time, a couple of weddings, college students and teenagers, money was tight. Supporting a missionary cost the equivalent of a car payment, and Micah wouldn't be home from his mission for another five months. It seemed crazy to be shopping for a new car without a dime to pay for it.

"I went to Nate Wade Subaru and talked to Nate himself. I explained that I needed to buy a car, but that I wouldn't have the money to make the monthly payments until January 1995. When I told him about our missionary, he said he was willing to make me a special deal:

"I agreed to buy The Subie for the full price of $13,500. But at the closing, I didn’t have to pay anything down. Instead, Nate Wade gave me a check for $1,400 that I could use to make the monthly payments until Micah came home. Talk about an answer to our prayers!

"The Subie has continued to be a miracle car. I love this little white automobile. It has provided me with steady transportation in all kinds of weather, consistently, through good times and bad. We treat each other well. I plan on driving it for as long as it runs, or until someone makes me a straight-across-trade deal for my antique in the making."

Congratulations to a couple of road warriors!

Cover Story

Art by Vicky Enright: Read Anything Good Lately?

New writing gig: We're writing articles for some magazines!
I wonder if Oprah has to be on the cover.
Stie—will you do my headshot?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Clock's Changed

Art by Esther Wilkin

Remember late-night ramblings into the nether regions of my Ambien-soaked brain? Remember my 3:30 a.m. publishing deadlines? Somebody reset my clock!! I woke up in a new time zone.

Lately my eyes pop open at 6:30 in the morning; my fingers itch for the keyboard, and ideas pull me off my pillow. But after my long-standing routine (open drapes, straighten bedroom, prayers, scriptures, breakfast, newspapers, and self-maintenance) when I sit down at the screen, it's blank and so am I. My timing's off.

The old me drifted off during the lack of news at ten, perked up for the forecast, and jotted post this on post-its while Dave read the Top Ten. I now jolt awake on the couch at 1:30 a.m. and groggily stagger past my computer, trying to remember if I even made it through Dave's monologue.

I've been in Neverland for a week, which has meant Neverblog. This morning I'm entering my new time zone with purpose. I'll go bravely where my body clock leads—and post in the morning.