Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day Back At Work

I am thinking about some really deep things that I'd like to really talk with you about. About faith and the nature of prayer and miracles and all that. But I also started back to work today. And I'm trying to move in the next two weeks. So deep thoughts may have to wait.

However, I probably forgot to tell you that I'm teaching English this year . . . and even better I'm teaching seniors. AND, wait for it, Jane Eyre may be one of our offerings this fall. Work is a lot of work, if that makes any sense, but Jane Eyre? New textbooks? Seniors? It is going to feel like book group every day.

At least, in my mind. I'll be hopeful; I haven't met the little darlings yet!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Letter to the Editor. Because When I Get Really Miffed I Write.

So I didn't have time for this, but I just got a bee in my bonnet. No doubt it will end up in a black hole with very low priority in the bowels of Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, but I just had to do it.

To Whom It May Concern:
My school district has adopted your excellent collections curriculum for use in our high school. The selections are engaging; the materials are beautiful from a design standpoint; and as a teacher with a strong background in educational technology, I find your interactive aspects very exciting. 

I have spent the last several days reviewing these materials in preparation to begin the school year. In my reading I came across the essay, "The Clan of the One-Breasted Women" by Terry Tempest Williams. It is found on Page 187 of the Grade 12 collections book. 

The essay is mostly about seeking social justice for wrongs committed by government agencies (in this case, nuclear testing in northern Nevada), but it is also ostensibly about Williams' Mormon upbringing. 

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The nickname of our church has traditionally been "Mormons" for our belief in a book of scripture titled The Book of Mormon. Because the name was once meant to be degrading, however, it is preferential for LDS people to be referred to as LDS or by the church's full name. "Mormon" is also used, but it is a slang name for our church. Williams uses the term in her essay purposely to demonstrate herself as an insider or a disaffected member, but in all three of your footnotes and your introduction the proper name of the church is not once included. While certainly unintended, your use only of the informal name is disrespectful and incorrect. It certainly is wordier to get it correct, but your fact checkers really messed up on this one. The style guide on all press releases from the LDS church and on our website,, respectfully request those writing in the media to make this distinction. 

A second, and even more glaring factual error regarding LDS practice is found at the bottom of page 188. The book says that the author's use of "the Service" is in reference to LDS missionary service. This cannot be correct. The referenced paragraph tells about the author as a young girl on her mother's lap, and her mother as being pregnant and they "had just gotten out of the Service." In that time period, while both LDS men and women did serve missions, they did so before marriage while they were single, and certainly before children. In addition, I have never, in my nearly 40 years as a member of the faith, ever heard anyone call their mission "the Service" with a capital "S." That term is reserved wholly for reference to the military, a place where many LDS people also serve with distinction. The paragraph clearly refers to her young, married parents, just finishing a stint with the military. And while Williams' mother and/or father may have certainly served an LDS mission, this is not the author's meaning in the suggested paragraph. 

The other two footnotes that discuss Latter-day Saint beliefs are accurate and succinct. Even the reference to "Mormon" here would not be too glaring if the proper name of the church was given in story heading.

My comments here are not prompted by the author's obvious rejection of her LDS upbringing and her both subtle and not so subtle criticisms of things we take to be sacred and profound. It is, however, one of the only essays I've so far encountered in your excellent materials that seem to relish in a critique of a certain belief system or culture (as many writers on the subject will tell you that if being a Latter-day Saint is a religion, being a "Mormon" is a cultural identity like Judaism). I find many of Williams' arguments rather absurd when my perception is that more rural American members share a strong Libertarian bent that is anti-establishment concerning government. In addition, her family proclivity to breast cancer is certainly as much to blame on genetics (the havoc that the BRCA genes wreak on families is especially well-documented) as on environmental pollution, and certainly much more to blame than her childhood belief system. These last comments could, of course, be a partial basis for engaging in a discussion about the piece in pushing back against the text, and it is healthy for students to examine their beliefs about all kinds of things. I am just not certain that you have chosen the best example for a chapter on Voices of Protest.

If you want to really use the Mormon story to make a point, you should publish a copy of the extermination order signed into law by the Missouri governor in the 1830's. the LDS people were designated as enemies of the state . . . either to be driven out or killed. Before they were driven out of their main city at Far West, their men were disarmed and made to stand in the outskirts while a militia plundered the city and raped some of the women left behind. They were then driven to Illinois in the winter with only what they could carry. It was less than a generation ago that the Missouri governor made a formal apology for his state's role in this egregious violation of American rights.
I sincerely hope this letter made it to the desk of somebody in a position to improve later editions of collections, which I sincerely hope will be in print for many years to come. 

Science Teacher Mommy

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Because When Everything Happens at Once, It Is WAY More Exciting!

This summer has been one for the books.

Not sure what I mean by books, because, really, who on earth would want to keep track of all of this?

We had one slow week and then everything just exploded (imploded? What is the difference?) 

Jedi Knight went on trek in Washington, and the boys went to gymnastics camp. Lest you think I just coasted, however, please keep in mind that I had to take a series of tests in order to keep my teaching license. It was like studying for an AP test or being in college without any of the credit or fun. I also watched a friend's daughter one day and we just did girly stuff.


At the end of that week Plantboy and I took a weekend on the coast where we lamented having a second offer on a house not pan out. We knew the house we wanted was a vacant one around the corner from ours . . . so we vowed to come home and do all we could to track down the owner and make an offer.

On Saturday our ward hosted a chili cook off that I ended up at the last minute kind of being in charge of. It was a big community-wide event that the missionaries were taking the lead on, but it was realized with about a week to go that the ward really needed a contact person. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time to get the assignment, I guess! Still, the kids had a blast; the local pet store even brought some of their exotics to help break the ice. I had to inform the kids at the end of the night that no, we would not be buying a lemur.

We found the right neighbor to talk to about the house and by Sunday night and started the ball rolling, making an offer on the 3rd of July, less than 24 hours after it had officially gone on the market. The house is in short sale and we were told these could take months.

We went to the coast again on July 5th, this time taking the kids back to Cape Perpetua to hike. When Plantboy and I went earlier in the summer we just drove it. The hike is incredible and not to challenging for the boys. WHAT A VIEW!

Then Padawan went to Cub Camp where I helped much of the week. We spent the next week cleaning the house and hauling much junk to the garage in the event that our offer on the short sale came through and we had to put the house on the market.

At the same time we got word from a family we knew some years ago in this ward that they were going to be attending the temple for the first time. This was a huge deal for them, and for us. We have loved and prayed for this family often over the years and they asked Plantboy and I to attend both the sealing (Friday night) and the sealing (Saturday in the day), keeping in mind that our temple is a four-hour round trip and that we were leaving for a two-week vacation Sunday morning. 

Here is how it played out:

July 17--found out our house offer is accepted, seller wanting to close by the end of August
July 18--cleaning house and prepping it to sell and attending temple
July 19--Attending temple, cleaning house, filling out paper work to sell and packing for vacation

July 20--Travel to Washington to visit Plantboy's childhood home, the Columbia River temple and to catch up with an old college roommate in the tri-cities. Spend the night in Spokane.

July 21--Travel to Bozeman


July 22--Spend the day in Yellowstone, including two hikes, one dip in the Boiling River (on purpose!), thirty elk sightings, eleven buffalo sightings and two bee stings. Spend the night in Cody, Wyoming with Plantboy's family at our biennial reunion.

July 23--Visiting the Buffalo Bill Dam, Swimming, catching up with family, attending the rodeo

July 24--River rafting, Cody museum, Cody shootout, the Minion performance


July 25--Travel back through Yellowstone including more hiking, buffalo and Old Faithful. Travel to Ogden to spend the week with my family. Top the day off with a viewing of Austenland with my mom and sister. Hilarious!

July 26--More swimming and lunch with grandpa. I attended a baby shower with my mom and sister and saw several family members I haven't seen for years. Facebook hardly counts.

July 27--Church with parents where we heard an awesome Sister report on her mission and my dad bore his testimony. Traveled to Ogden Valley to a condo and met with my family for a mini-reunion before my nephew heads on his mission. We showed a video I spent several hours making that includes pictures of many family members. 


July 28--Boating and a day at the lake. Drove Plantboy to the SLC airport so he could head home and work for the week. I can still slalom ski. Barely. I'm feeling every minute of my 40th year when I try it!
July 29--A morning at the rec center and then another afternoon at the lake for kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. 

July 30--Cleaning the condo while the older kids boat again. Lunch with my excellent sister-in-law and her sweet little ones. The afternoon was mostly spent in recovery from two days in the sun.

July 31--Hiking with cousins and an afternoon at the movies. How to Train Your Dragon 2 . . . so much different and worse than the first. We then went to Cache Valley that evening to visit my dad's cousin who has a huge electric train set. The boys were in heaven. I was happy just to enjoy the mountains out the back. 

August 1--Met with cousins for the Ogden temple open house. Ice cream and a trip to Deseret Book afterward, of course. Spent the evening laughing with my nephew whom I won't see again for quite some time.  



August 2--Drive to Ontario to spend the night.
August 3--Drive to Eugene; a very long and difficult drive on your own across the mostly desolate center of my lovely state on two-land highway. Pack Jedi Knight for Scout Camp so that I can deliver him there at 3:30 Monday morning.

Since arriving home two days ago it has been a flurry of cleaning, regrouping and making sure all is on track for the house . . . which is supposed to close in two weeks. And I'm supposed to be back at work in three weeks.

Does it all sound frazzling? It is supposed to. I am frazzled.

However, it was one of the best trips to family we have ever had. Things were actually planned and organized more than usual. People took time off to spend with us, and except for the last day or two, my kids were mostly very good. So much less work than they were even two years ago. I don't think I would trade any part of this summer, though I'm already gratefully thinking about how relaxing the next one will be in comparison. At least, I hope it is; this is me we are talking about after all.