Friday, May 08, 2015


The last book my seniors are reading for the year is called Room. Many of you probably get a chance to actually read for leisure and have already had the pleasure of this book. I'm a little bit late to the party. Still, I would like to add my resounding accolades for this fine piece of work.

No spoilers here, the jacket cover says as much, but Room is narrated, brilliantly, from the viewpoint of a five year-old boy. A barely five year-old boy. His experience is very limited because his mother happens to be enslaved by a man who kidnapped her when she was just 20 years old from her university campus and has held her in captivity for seven years. Her son is five. He knows nothing beyond the room in which they live. To him there is no Outside.

The novel is a fascinating look at the psychology of the first few years of life and how important that time is formatively, but even more so for what it says about the intense strength of the mother-son bond. It is the story of a remarkably remarkable woman exposed to the most prurient evil and the purest innocence at the same time and her heartbreaking effort to keep the two apart.

I remember that when my oldest was born, until he was about five, we only had ONE car. When I stayed at home, I very literally stayed at home. Of course, I could go on a walk, and I could use all the rooms of my house. But if you have ever been cooped up for days on end with a cranky toddler, you know how quickly the walls feel like they are closing in. I cannot even imagine. 

One of our other teachers, whose own tastes have always seemed less reserved than mine as we choose selections, emphases, etc. for for our seniors, says he finds the book rather appalling because of the subject matter. And yes, when you ponder this woman's existence, it is appalling--a crime of the darkest evil imaginable--but when you see her and their life through the eyes of her boy, you see only love and wonder and strangeness. Even smack in the middle of the most evil situation imaginable, he is innocent, perfect . . . a child.

The women who survived a ten year enslavement ordeal in the home of a Cincinnati man published their collective memoir recently and have been all over the news. I say the topic is timely and worth discussing; Room makes it possible to do so from this remarkably innocent viewpoint.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Four Hundred Years of History

For the first time ever, I taught Shakespeare this year. Oh, I've read Shakespeare, both in and out of classes. (Yes, that's right, I've read Shakespeare just FOR FUN, what about it?) But teaching it was a new thing entirely. I couldn't just read it, I had to be prepared to explain it, and, gulp make it INTERESTING.

Believe it or not, some people, actually lots of people, don't find literature just inherently wonderful or read just for reading's sake. They have to be encouraged. Enter the English teacher.

I think the others in my department didn't quite know what to make of me this year. I would sit in our preliminary meetings discussing literature and lesson plans and ideas with them, while all the time they are thinking I'm a science teacher. And some days, when the English classes are really going great, I think, "I can't believe I'm paid to do this!"

But toward Hamlet I didn't feel quite so confident . . . Shakespeare is the holy grail of English teaching, and Hamlet is the holy grail of Shakespeare. I didn't want to do what Mrs. Forsberg did to Romeo and Juliet when I was in the ninth grade (can you say butchered?); I wanted to bring all the subtlety and complexity and beauty to it that Mrs. Reed did with Othello. I read and studied and forced my husband to watch varying versions on Friday nights for movie night. I agonized.

For four-hundred years these plays have been taught because they are just so good. So many other plots are based on Shakespeare stories; indeed, there are few original stories left. Shakespeare is foundational to our culture and to refining your language and understanding. We celebrate this man because he was, truly, a genius. Oh, how I agonized.

And then I got some good advice.

That I actually listened to.

A wise English teacher (I hesitate to say "old" as she might be younger than I am) shrugged at my dilemma and said, "Don't get caught up in the symbolism and the imagery and the making it GREAT LITERATURE, just let the kids play with it. It is a performance piece, after all. Just engage them in the greatest revenge story of all time with a protagonist that is just an emo teenager." Prince Hamlet is actually 30, but like, whatever, he seems more like an angsty 17 year-old. Believe me, I know what angsty 17 looks like.

And it worked. The kids, not all of them, but by in large, they understood it and connected with it. They grumbled at Ophelia's brother and father who thought it was their business to tell her whom to love and could see that it was their interference that set certain events in motion. They argued about whether revenge and justice were the same thing and which Hamlet was really seeking. They empathized with his actions, even as they didn't condone them. They saw that truly dark path that revenge takes you on. They discussed mental illness and suicidal thoughts and how sometimes really hard things happen in your life that make you wish you didn't have to deal with them. They laughed at Polonius' famous advice and brilliantly translated it into modern English. The played the final scene for laughs, even as they recognized the waste and irony of it all.

It wasn't glorious. But it worked . . . and they connected in some small measure as so many English students have before. And, I hope, as they will for generations to come.

Science fascinates me because it explains the how of life. But literature . . . literature gets us closer to the why.

Where Have You Been?

Right here. Really. You know, when I'm not at work or running my children around or doing church stuff or home but working too. And I do blog very regularly. I appear monthly over at Aspiring Mormon Women, which is kind of awesome and the deadline thing really helps. I think it has also boosted my readership here. Why else would I have nearly 100 hits on posts that are months old? And in an almost impossibly tiny font? Yeah . . . I've got to fix that. I also keep two blogs for my students--one for my English classes and the other for my science classes. My science blog, in particular, is nearly always up-to-date and my class can just about be taken on-line for all the content that is there.

Anyway, I have some unusual "free" time tonight and decided to forgo my 85th round of Trivia Crack in exchange for something useful. What is this "free time" I speak of? Well, you may not be aware of it, but sometimes people actually get discretionary time in order to do things they enjoy. Or to recharge their batteries. It is probably good for me to get on board with that. I've been trying to use tacos, Dr. Pepper and chocolate to recharge my batteries. Newsflash: it just makes your butt bigger.

So I'm dealing with that too. The bigger butt thing. That will be in an upcoming post about the fact that I turn 40 this year. Free Geritol for everyone!

The thing is that I've really learned so much this year. About myself. About teaching. About living. Maybe it is the getting older thing, but I feel that I know less than I used to. I have more doubts and less surety about all kinds of things. . . but oddly enough I also am a lot less bothered by it than I used to be.

Anyway, while I have a space for doing so tonight, I am going to jot down some of these musings and schedule them to go out once a week or so . . . it might appear that I'm blogging that way.

In truth, though I blog regularly and really write all the time (curriculum creation), it just isn't the same. I miss both this format and my novel writing. I miss sharing my musings in a way that feels private (just me and my 100 closest friends, eh?) and I miss writing what I think so that my thinking gets better.

I know that to everything there is a season. At least I know it intellectually. But in truth, I want the season for everything to be now. I have a really hard time deciding how to spend my time and what to "focus" on. Yeah, I understand "focus" about as well as I understand "free" time. As I contemplate my upcoming birthday, the first milestone for which you can buy black balloons, I realize that I'm about halfway through this life--maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Is there time for all I want to do? See? Experience? Become?

Monday, December 15, 2014

The End of an Era

Yesterday in church I leaned over to my 7 year (and 7 months) old and mentioned something about Santa and Christmas . . . .you know, the rigamarole we feed our kids this time a year in the hopes that they will learn something about magic and joy and anticipation and innocence.

He looks over his glasses at me in a way that only he (and supercilious college professors) can. "Mom, there's no Santa."

At that moment, I'm backpedaling like crazy. It is church; it is quiet; my baby has grown up. "Who told you sweetie,"

"Mom (again, in THAT tone), I just figured it out. No Tooth Fairy. No Santa. No magic."

And just like that my last little one passed a terrible milestone, without a regret or backward glance. I wanted him to at least rage and cry and question so that we could have a real talk . . . one of the few talks I get right with my kids, the way my dad got it right with me. But, no, he is a practical and logical little fellow and facts are facts.

But, by golly, I needed the speech. So I whispered something to him about the real magic of Christmas being about love and sharing and at this rambling, hastily whispered point I know I am botching the speech and motherhood and all the rest.

He shrugs in response, not noticing the very real tears that are somehow leaking out my eyes, "I know how it works. You and dad just get up in the middle of the night and go shopping. You're Santa."

I smiled, relieved to know that he doesn't quite have everything figured out. I also understood in that moment one reason why people have big families--when one loses some measure of innocence and delight, there is always another coming along behind who will see the world with fresh eyes. When it is the baby . . . there is no one. And when your family is small, there are a lot of long, child-free years before the grandchildren come with their delight and faith and wonder.

I've read arguments against teaching Santa. I like some of those arguments and I can understand why some families choose these more factual and realistic approach to Christmas. But I'm like my little boy: practical and logical to a fault. Once a year I need to believe in a little bit of magic. I hope he understands that too when he has littlies of his own.

Having been outed, I feel like Christmas has certainly lost something special. I have a beautiful new home this year, turned out for Christmas in a way that has defied all my expectations and makes me so happy, but something will be missing too.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Do you remember when I used to post regularly?

Yeah . . . me neither. 

Although I'm finding lately that NOT writing for myself, either fiction or blogging, is really affecting my psyche. I feel like I'm holding everything together but myself. I'm starting to realize that it was probably the writing the kept me sane (happy, even) during those long years home with little ones and during those sleepless nights of newspaper delivering. 

I still write plenty now, but it is lesson planning (for Sunday School too) and e-mail and Scouting related work. It isn't exactly what I'm talking about. My work with Aspiring Mormon Women helps, but even that is on a fairly tight deadline and for a very specific purpose. 

Long walks and hours to write--this sounds like heaven to me. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Yeah. It is a Rant.

A few years ago in the state of Oregon, a law was passed that essentially said that school grades had to be tied to actually learning skills and demonstrating knowledge. The bill, in part, reads as follows:

The bill said, "Each district shall adopt a grading system ... that shall ... be based on the student's progress toward becoming proficient in a continuum of knowledge and skills."

The purpose was to a) help encourage districts to stop allowing teachers to give grades based on things like: extra credit that was totally unrelated to the class; allowing students to still pass grades (and even earn A's) without ever having to pass a test, when many of those point heavy class projects and homework assignments were completed by somebody else; never missing class all semester and getting 100 bonus points, etc. 

The second purpose was to allow districts already strictly adopting a proficiency-style grade system (in other words, you have to really prove what you know) the leeway and backing to do so without people raising a stink.

The bill was meant to be interpreted very narrowly.

Then it was sent to the Oregon Department of Education, where it was interpreted very broadly.

The ODE handed down new rules to the district three years ago regarding grading practices. Teachers were forbidden for giving points related to behavior. Oh, and homework was regarded as behavior. In fact, no more than 10% of any students grade could be related to anything that was considered "proof" of learning. Daily assignments became called "practice" and lumped into that 10%. Quizzes generally too. Some lab work. All homework. If the work is not done independently (by, by group work for points), in class and after sufficient practice, it cannot be given points. In addition, students may continue to retake-rewrite-redo this scored work indefinitely with an eye to continually improving their learning and therefore their scores.

I am all for a high school diploma meaning something. Absolutely. I think it is ludicrous for a teacher-coach to award 50 bonus points in a math class to students who come help at games. I think students should get second chances to demonstrate learning, particularly on things like writing assignments. I think schools should be more demonstrated-skills based than rote memorization. Absolutely.

But there are realities, too. And students see points as currency in the classroom. If you can't "pay" students, then there are very few (particularly among young teenagers) that are motivated to do the work required to pass the tests. By not awarding the process, you inadvertently downplay it as well. I may take hours to carefully craft a test that adequately reflects all that we learned in class . . . students doing retakes need a test that is different. And so I might spend hours writing that one too.

In the first year after implementation, teachers balked at all these things: the time commitment (so much of which is never paid for); the pounds of re-grading; our inability to reward the process as a valuable part of learning; the scorn for any question that isn't a written answer or a hands-on type of task despite what those types of tests mean for grading load; the very expensive administrative position added to our district staff to oversee implementation; the edicts coming time and again from people who have never had boots on the ground in a classroom.

Proficiency practice expectations have coincided with huge increases in class sizes. I teach five classes. Twenty years ago, this meant 100 students. A decade ago it meant 150. In 2014 it means 180 . . . though I'm supposed to bite my tongue and be grateful it isn't 200. Proficiency practice has also coincided with the adoption of the Common Core which will result in vast changes to our classes, much of which is good, but all of which is very, very new. This year it also coinciding with new professional standards that are causing lots and lots of extra work, but cannot possibly set out to prove what they think they can.

After tens of millions to implement these proficiency rules--money from the districts, not the state-- not to mention tens of thousands of frustrated parents and teachers, the Oregonian released this report last spring:

Oregon Schools' Big Switch is Kaput

The politician who passed the bill, and the nearly 100% majority who agreed with, realized what the ODE was doing and said, "WAIT!! THAT ISN'T WHAT WE MEANT!!!"

And yet, in spite of everything, our district decided to go ahead because they are so ridiculously invested at this point. And they aren't just going ahead, they are expanding--even to the point of introducing an even more rigorous grading standard that puts everything on a 5-point scale. This whole post is the result of, six weeks into the school year, is that my middle school-er has a C in history based on one assignment that he got 3/5 on. He has no math grade, just a test tomorrow that will also be worth 5 points. His English grade is a B based on the fact that he seems to be earning more 4's than 5's on his assignments. At the high school our heads exploded over the 5-point scale when we pointed out that our grading program will ONLY do total points; that a 3/5 cannot in any way be a C, but only a D-. On a five point scale, in fact, there is no way to earn a C at all. 

They have also taken alignment (horizontal and vertical) so far that they are not only going to specify what should be taught in each grade, but mandate that we teach it on nearly precisely the same schedule. In other words, not only do I need to be teaching the same things that the teacher next door to me teachers, but we need to be within two days of one another when we do it. This is nearly impossible, and it looks a helluva lot like Texas: the place I left teaching in order to get more freedom.

I love kids. I have moments of perfect clarity when I love my job and know I'm in exactly the right place. But I will say it, flat out, the expectations and paperwork and the constant changing of systems and approaches and on and on and on is sucking the joy out of what I do. And, there is no way around it, it is hindering my ability to do it well and to focus on my students' needs. At this fledgling end of my career I can honestly say that I don't see how I could survive 20 or 30 years as a classroom teacher.

Education is a trendy field. Today's proficiency is tomorrow's debunked idea. Legislators pass laws and throw money around like it is no big deal. But everything they do affects my job in real ways that are painful. All of this legislated and mandated pain is happily coinciding with our district digging in its heels over a modest raise despite running a huge surplus this year. Not only are we expected to do a better job under worse conditions than ever, they expect us to do it on a food stamp budget. 

So while I hate the big government stupidity that handed down these enormous problems, I'm still going to gladly march with my union. How is that for being a conflicted democrat with five weeks until election day?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

On Miracles

Every few years I feel like I re-examine what it means to have faith. I'm not talking about whether or not to be a part of a Faith . . . using the word in a way that it makes it synonymous with religion, or insert the name of a certain church. No, I believe that your relationship to a church, while certainly being an element of faith, is separate from the question of faith as an expression of deep belief that inspires you to action. 

Two events have unfolded in the last few months in my life that have cause this re-examination to take place. The first is that a friend of mine was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. Despite symptoms of major colon issues, she spent several months praying and believing that whatever she had going on would just clear up. I don't see her as a person who believes in faith healing, per se, but she did spend several weeks with whooping cough last summer before her very practical teenage son insisted she go to the doctor. I think she is busy . . . she has seven children and a hundred things she enjoys doing. I think she puts off such visits, as many of us do, thinking we'll eventually get better on our own. 

Anyway, by the time she was diagnosed, she had a malignant tumor the size of a golf ball obstructing her bowel. It obstruction was discovered Friday and they had the surgery scheduled by Monday. While hospitalized, all of her lymph nodes were checked and cleared as cancer free. The tumor was completely excised and she won't even undergo chemo or radiation. 

And yet, despite my very real gratitude for her clean bill of health, I have had a hard time getting my head around the language of miracles she and her husband have so freely spoken of in the last few weeks. You see, many years ago, my family likewise fasted and prayed for a miracle and my aunt died of colon cancer anyway. She had a family of young children and was just 34 years old. Our lives are in God's hand and we are subject to natural processes. We cannot change His mind nor erase the fact that we are born to eventually die. 

I am not the best at prayer, or maybe faith, but as I get older I have come to believe, as CS Lewis once spoke, that we don't pray to change God, we pray to change ourselves. And yet, of the many prayers uttered in my friend's behalf the Sunday before she went to her surgery, I heard very little thy-will-be-done type prayers and very many of those other types. Please Lord, give us exactly what we want.

From my friend's Facebook page,  "My heart is so full of deep gratitude for the results I learned today. . . To deny the reality of a divine creator, a merciful God and a loving Savior would deem me an ignorant fool in not recognizing to whom the power of the prayers of so many has blessed the preservation of my life and the ability to continue to love and serve and raise my children and others upon this earth for some while longer. I'm very grateful for all the love and support our family has been given and received during such a challenging time. Faith precedes the miracle. I love you all."

This is a lovely, public expression of gratitude and her faith, already very strong, is clearly stronger now. 

But what about when faith does NOT come before a miracle? My thoughts of my aunt have been very heavy in the last few weeks. I will not deny that her family has indeed experienced miracles, and I know that her daughters have at times felt their mother very near as they have grown. But it has been a very, very hard road for them in many ways. They dealt with trials as children (related to their mother's death and their father's subsequent, disastrous re-marriage) that I can hardly even begin to comprehend. I don't think I could ever say that any child is better off without their loving, and lovely mother. I know that God is in charge of the universe, but I also know that he wouldn't be God if he intervened every time we were uncomfortable. Part of what makes Him God is that He allows the world to proceed as it will, so that we can learn and grow from this experience. Even when it means we suffer. Especially when it means we suffer.

My friend's faith is lovely. Beautiful. Almost childlike in its simplicity and trust. 

It is not a faith that works for me. And when I read her piece I felt strongly that such simple expression belittles those who have prayed in great faith . . . with the greatest faith they knew and still not received the hoped for blessing. I hope that I would not imply to another that if they just had a little more faith they would see a few more miracles. For nothing is more personal than faith.

The second thing that has happened is the process of selling our home and buying another. It has been a ride. In June, after bidding on two homes, I was practically ready to give up and just chuck it all in for a while, continuing to endure the small house. I had begun praying for patience, humility and most of all, gratitude for all that I'd been given rather than discontent for what I didn't have. 

And then the house we wanted came through. Not luck or even coincidence. It was an empty short sale and we hounded the neighbors until we got the needed information and put the process in to play. That process was much shorter than expected (as noted in an earlier post) and we have spent many hours in the last few weeks making sure our financing was in place--a tricky proposition because we had no contract on the home in which we currently live.

In the past weeks, many have told me to pray that the new house would come through and the old one would sell. You've earned this! You deserve it! You do the right things, God will bless you! I have heard each of these and more from my delightfully sweet friends who have more faith in general, and certainly more faith in me than I have in myself.

But I couldn't do it. Not once have I been able to bring myself to my knees to pray specifically for this particular blessing. I just couldn't. The world is such a hot mess right now. There is actual suffering and pain and . . . well, I'm sure you can watch the news as well as I can. About three weeks ago, I was on my knees, knowing we needed a blessing. We nearly ran to the point of bankruptcy with a house nine years ago; I am deeply fearful to go through that again. 

I found there were things I could pray about. I prayed that if it was a bad idea then our loan wouldn't come through. I prayed that whatever happened we would not be foolish enough to clean out the boys' mission fund. I prayed that we would continue to be generous with our time and talents despite our greater obligations.

And then I had a moment of inspiration during my jumbled prayer of desperation. This scripture came to mind from Luke:

27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
 28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

 29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.

 30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.

 31 ¶But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

And I finally knew what to pray for.

I spent a happy fortnight praying for experiences that would allow me to serve others. Oh, I still did all the things necessary to work on getting the house, etc. And I still worried. I can't help it; it is my nature to do so. But little by little I was able to let go of really caring if it went one way or the other. I felt the joy of spontaneous chances to serve and was able to sleep. I felt at peace with whatever happened next.

We fasted 9 days ago, but I was in a better place to do so. Our fasting was about gratitude and a desire to serve and give our boys a place to grow and gather with their friends. I was finally able to approach my question with proper humility and in the right frame of mind, but with trust that it would all proceed as it must.

Four days ago, We got a perfect offer on our house the same day our new one was recorded in our name.

Getting the new house feels like a LOT of hard work over the past year. Selling the house we are in? That feels like a miracle. The scriptures tell us that faith precedes the miracle. I don't doubt it. But in my case, I had to learn a lesson in faith first. The miracle isn't selling the house. The miracle is the change in heart. Maybe the miracles are not what others see, but what we come to understand as we learn to exercise faith.

I didn't pray about the house, though I've expressed much gratitude since. I am coming to see more and more that my prayer needs to be a supplication to the Father of the Universe that he will find a way to use me. I don't think it is fair for me to ask anything else. God will bless us as he will, but I am going to try to focus less on the the blessings I think I need and more on how I might be a blessing to others and recognize more miracles as they come, while allowing others to see what miracles they see as well. 

Oh, I'm still the girl that would go get checked out right away, if I was dealing with the symptoms my friend had, but it doesn't mean I have to be a skeptic either. By seeing the world as it is maybe I'm better able to help it. Maybe my leap of faith, my gift, is to feel the doubt about so many different things and still behave as though there is no doubt. To not know of a surety, but to still plead that the Lord will help mine unbelief.

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.