Sunday, March 27, 2011


When I was still growing up, not yet grown, I remember telling people that March was my favorite month. In March in the mountains, you can smell the ground thawing. Mud. And while the world is still mostly shades of gray, you know that winter is losing. Spring will come. And then summer. And then you can go barefoot indoors without cold toes. Which is perfect.

March is supposed to be the month for kite flying. My parents' house had a gate that opened into a large field, and I would take a kite out for flying nearly every afternoon, in the gray of March that smelled like mud. I was a free-range child.

Once, in a strong wind, my string unwound so quickly that I lost the end of the roll, and my kite flew off up the hill faster than I could chase it. I eventually found the end of the string, and walked slowly, winding it and winding it, until I located the kite in a tree in someone's backyard a bit of a walk from my home. I counted the houses, marked the look from the back, then walked two blocks around to knock on the front door.

"Excuse me, but I think my kite has landed in your tree. Could I go get it?"

The middle aged man at the door at first thought I must be mistaken. His house was too far from the nearest kite-flying field. Surprised, he finally let me, a stranger, walk through to his back yard, and I pulled the kite out of a low tree and went back home.

I learned to tie the end of the kite string to its holder.

After a few years of declaring that March was my favorite month, because it gave hope for summer, I decided to jump straight to the summer itself, skip the hoping. July was my favorite month, because my toes were already warm.

But this year, I think there is something to be said for hope, and mud, and March.

Less to be said for kite flying: Our nearest field is too far to be convenient. Something to think about for future home purchases.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Works too hard

Tim has been away this week, taking this thing that is called a vacation. Apparently in certain lines of work, one can actually take whole vacation days. And it doesn't matter where the days land in the semester, because in these lines of work I am referring to, there actually is no semester. There is spring and summer and fall and winter, but no finals week or drop deadline or graduation ceremony. And they let their people take these things called vacation. Even in the middle of midterms. And apparently Tim has one of these jobs. And he has taken a vacation, to spend time with a friend in a warmer climate, watching basketball. And me, I sit around grading papers, with my green pen. For envy.

Saturday morning I was at the student research conference at the Good Old Dude's University. I had three groups of students presenting, starting at the unholy hour of 8:30 am.

My brother, his wife, and their three little children who are all favorite cousins of Jonathan, were fifty miles north, visiting my parents over their spring break. I drove Jonathan up Friday afternoon and spent an evening, but because of the research conference, I had to leave the boy and drive myself home in the dark, in time to be fully awake, dressed, and showered at 8:30 am on a Saturday.

My students did a very nice job, which was especially nice because the judges of their session included my department chair and my research mentor. And those are two people I'd like my students to do well in front of.

I left before the judging was over, and waited outside in the hall to see if I would be needed for the next session as an alternate judge.

And then I thought about how I could have spent the night at my parents' house with the cousins, and the morning eating the pie that my brother had baked, rather bran flakes.

And then I thought about all the projects that I keep piling onto myself, without being able to finish another project first. I have a stack of projects so high that I have to walk around the week balancing projects precariously. One wrong move and they'll all topple and shatter around me.

And then I went home to my empty house, called my parents to hear the screaming laughter of cousins in the background, and they informed me that they wouldn't be back with Jonathan for a couple of hours. So I scrubbed the bathrooms and dusted the furniture and fell asleep on the living room couch. From working too hard.

Today Jonathan and I left for church at the unholy hour of 8:50 am. And during church, I resolved not to work so hard anymore. To start by enjoying my post-church Sunday.

So we came home and Jonathan and I played video games until I felt physically ill. Now what?

"We could play Settlers," he suggested.

"Not enough people. ... We could take a walk."

"Too boring."

"We could fly a kite."

"Too cold."

"Read our book together?"

"Not until tonight."

"Then what?"

"Can I play my own video game?"

So he played games on the couch, and I sat and watched for a minute. And then maybe pulled out a project. And then maybe another one.

And now, projects strewn over the table, I sit here and feel sorry for myself. And guilty. I was not supposed to let my Sunday turn into this.

I hear that in other lines of work, they have this thing called a vacation. I want one of those.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Spring is coming.

I know it is coming, because this morning, there were a million dead worms sprawled across the sidewalk, chased from their homes by last night's rain, and then frozen into brown sticky worm corpses overnight.

Worm corpses smell like spring.

I know it is spring, because the little boy who walks to school with Jonathan has been wearing shorts to school. Teeth chattering, cheeks pink in the frosty morning air, he declares that he is not cold. It is warm outside. Almost hot. And he only stopped to zip his sweatshirt because his shirt was a little wet underneath. This morning I sent him home to get a jacket.

Little boys pretending it is warm enough to wear shorts reminds me of spring.

And I know it is spring, because the heads of 260 tulips, and about 20 daffodils, are beginning to break through the cold mud in the garden. Remember how I planted 260 tulips in October? They are actually coming up! Really! They are.


I am going to go outside with a clipboard this weekend, and count them all. I will make sure that all 260 are accounted for, because putting all 260 of them into the ground was a giant pain.

Tulips actually growing?

Looks like spring.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The family's other big news

You need a little background in religion for this post to make sense.

Item #1: we belong to a church with lay clergy. That means if a church job must be done, an assignment is extended, and a volunteer ends up doing the job for a while. All leadership positions on the local level are volunteer positions. The typical bishop is a guy in a business suit with a day job. In all positions, someone takes their turn for a while, and then the job is passed on to the next sucker volunteer.

There is a lot of social pressure to accept assignments that are asked of you in this church, and almost all members have an assignment at any given time. For example, my current assignment is Sunday school teacher. We are working through the New Testament, and I teach my take on the scripture, with heavy bias from a church-sanctioned manual. Manual is important when the teacher is a volunteer, and hasn't actually had any Bible classes, unless you count the ones I took mornings as a teenager.

But this post isn't about me.

Item #2: The typical bishop is a guy in a business suit. I already said that. He is typically middle aged, white male, clean shaven, short haircut, wear a tie to work kind of guy. The guy over the bishop is called a stake president. And he is even more likely to fit the above description. And the guy over the stake president was pulled from the ranks of the stake presidents. With a few exceptions, they're a pretty homogeneous bunch.

Now, let's put Item #1 and Item #2 together. How does a leader guy in my church pick out other leader guys? (and gals)? Well, I think there may be some prayer and soul searching involved, but typically he just looks around the room on a given Sunday and tries to determine which members of the congregation would be likely to keep the ball in the air.

Person who gets a relatively important assignment should have some important personality traits: Likely to show up on Sunday, not likely to declare himself the new prophet and lead half the congregation astray, and it would be convenient if they don't have many opinions too far off from those of the business suits up a level or two. Avoid contention and all that.

It's easy to spot the people who are likely to show up on Sunday: they show up every Sunday. Spotting those who will go apostate may be a little trickier, although it's a skill that probably can be developed with practice. But those controversial opinions can hide under many skins. So, if you are a business suit, looking for a leader type, what do you look for?

Typically, clean shaven, white male, short haircut, conservative suit type of guys.

Tim only satisfies one of those four traits. In all the congregations we have belonged to in the past, Tim has been totally immune to time-consuming church assignments. And me too, by association, even though I never shave but still can't grow a beard.

Until now.

For Tim, that is, not me growing the beard. Still no success there.

Anyway, Tim has been very recently assigned the job of Elder's quorum president. Which sounds a lot like he'll supervise a parliament full of stooped over gray haired men. But actually most of them in our congregation are middle aged. The stoopy guys are called High Priests and they offer the best stories in Sunday School. I love our stoopy old men.

I do love Tim, too, and wish him luck with the new assignment. He gets to do things like clear snow if it should happen to fall on a Saturday, set up chairs if it should happen to be January or April, and attend meetings meetings meetings.

Last week, Tim dressed up all nice and neat for the first time as Elder's quorum president. Long hair, beard, blue button up shirt, white tie with lots of little red U's on it.

We wish you luck, Tim.