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Friday, August 31, 2012

Why I Write (First prompt in my Nonfiction Class)

            Thanksgiving 2012 will mark six years since Ron Shumway passed away. In life he was a harsh, outspoken man; impossible to please and constantly finding the negative in every situation. He was loud, abrasive, and hurtful in his words and tone. For a period of  years in my adult life I avoided all contact with my dad because his pessimism took me to a dark place I didn't like.
            In the early 1990s I set up an email account and began a regular correspondence with my mother. One day I received an email message from dad. He had been reading my emails to mom and he responded simply, "You are a good writer." Shortly afterwards and for a number of years,  he sent me brochures, magazine clippings, and newspaper notifications requesting writing samples for possible publication, but I was in the midst of raising kids, running the PTA, and still holding a grudge so I didn't respond to his suggestions. I also doubted the validity of the offers and my capacity to contribute anything of value. I did; however, reopen communication with my dad.
            Six years ago when he was struggling with and dying from cancer, "You are a good writer" became lodged in my head and it has been there ever since. It was truly the first and only compliment I ever remember receiving from my father. Suddenly it became my mission to authenticate his assessment of my skill. Since then, I've taken every opportunity to write. I started a blog, I wrote grant applications for schools and nonprofit organizations, I struck up a conversation with a newspaper editor and started writing weekly columns and special interest stories, and recently I returned to school working towards a degree in Creative Writing.
            Writing seems to be the one thing I have an affinity for. I can more easily express myself in a written format than by any other mode of communication. When I have composed a lovely sentence, paragraph, or page, it brings me joy which is rarely duplicated by other tasks. I write to remember and record. I write to convey feelings or sentiments or moods. I write because something inside me desires to find its way out.  I write because it is the connection I have with my dad. He recognized writing was something I needed long before I did. His confidence in my ability to string words together on a page established a father/daughter relationship which spanned the last 20 years of his life and granted me the opportunity to love and respect him beyond life.
            Since dad died, each phrase I construct, each sentence I craft is, at least in some part, directed to him. It is a marvelous and miraculous thing to feel his approval. For me, writing not only converses with the living, but also communes with the dead.

Friday, August 24, 2012

End of Summer 2012

The corn is done and it's time to pull it out.

The squash plants are huge and prolific.
The Hollyhocks are spent and I cut them down.
I've started picking peaches and bottling produce.
Chili Sauce, Raspberry Juice and Zucchini Relish I bottled yesterday.

New blooms on the front porch.

The flower pots are full of color and so beautiful right now.
Coleus of many shades (I wish I could make this photo go the right direction)

Loaded Tomato Vines

Raspberries galore!

We delivered Camille to Logan to attend USU.  
Back to school for me too.  I will be driving to Logan
three days a week this semester.
Wish me luck!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Utah Olympic Park II

One year ago today, we took a trip up the canyon to spend the day at Utah Olympic Park.  I blogged about it here.  Yesterday we went again.  We had had another fabulous day.  Camille invited her friend, Kallie, to go with us and Bryan came this year so I would have someone to ride with on the chairlift and zipline. We purchased the unlimited passes and did everything at least once.
Camille and Kallie when we arrived at Olympic Park
in front of the Ski Jump Pool
It was another fabulous August day. The high temperature in Park City was only 87, and with clouds floating past the sun, we received periodic shade throughout the day so we never felt too hot or uncomfortable.  The ski lift threaded us through the trees on the leisurely ride up the mountain and a soft breeze kept the lift rides cool and relaxing so we arrived at the top ready for the hair-raising races down the alpine slide or xtreme zipline.
Camille and Kallie in the Chairlift
After a run on each of the rides, we took a break and ate our picnic lunch.  After refueling we were ready for a couple more runs and then up the mountain in the Jeep for the Bobsled ride.  I opted out of this particular thrill. My neck gives me trouble every day since I was rear-ended while stopped at a light in 1993, so I skipped the opportunity to fly down the mountain at 70-80 miles an hour in a four-man bobsled.  Bryan, Camille, and Kallie were game for the chance though. They got suited (helmeted) up, were instructed on how to sit, what to hold on, and how to keep breathing for the one minute ride down the long track. Bryan was invited to help push bobsled #15 before he climbed into the next sled with the girls.
Helmeted for the Bobsled Ride
Bryan doing a Bobsled Pushstart
Loaded and ready to roll 80 mph down the mountain track
The score/time board is running for each of the bobsled rides.  It shows the number of runs each day and then ranks each ride.  Bryan, Camille, and Kallie were sled #16 for the day and at the end of their ride, they were ranked #1!  We are pretty certain they hold the world record in warm-weather bobsledding now!  Yay, gold medals!! 
Number 1 Ranking belongs to Bryan, Kallie, and Camille!
Back to the top after the Bobsled run
After the Bobsled Run - Fastest of the Day!
Utah Olympic Park makes for a fun day trip. In addition to the great rides, they have added a junior and an adult ropes course and are working on another attraction that will be open next summer.  The only problem we had was wanting to stay longer and continue to play, but the park closes at 6:00.  Bryan had plans for the evening so we didn't linger and shop at the outlet stores this time like we did last year.  We have an excuse to go back! 
Chairlift to Zipline

Kallie ready to slide on Quicksilver
Chairlift to Quicksilver Alpine Slide

Sunday, August 12, 2012


            My morning routine begins while it is still dark with a few laps around the track at Weber High School. I typically walk up the hill, stretch, and jog 10-12 laps, but this past Monday as I started my first circuit, I saw something in the shadows moving towards me. Most days I wouldn't be overly concerned because there are joggers, cats, deer, mice, owls, rabbits and other wildlife often making use of the track; but on this day the animal ambling towards me was distinctive in its waddle and double white body stripe. I came to a screeching halt, turned the opposite direction, and ran. I am almost positive that had I been running alongside the Olympic track athletes at that moment, I would have taken the gold medal in the Monday Morning Dash and possibly set a new world record in the event.
            When I finally slowed to a walk, the memory of a Millard County skunk floated into my memory like a bad smell. I wish I had been able to run away from that one and the scent that lingered for days back in 1979.
            We knew our chickens were receiving a late-night caller in the form of some kind of clawed, egg-loving animal. My dad was on alert and had his gun ready on the third night of disturbances. He rushed out into the dark when the chickens started making noises; the rest of us were awakened by shots. I'm not sure which sense first warned my father of type of critter he had killed, but when he came in, he gruffly instructed my brothers and me, "Go out and bury the skunk I killed in the coop."
            All of Hinckley had to have been aware a skunk was in town that morning--it reeked! Jim, Mark, and I took a flashlight and a shovel down to the chicken coop but could not believe our poor, watering eyes when we saw the size of the thing lying in the dirt. The chickens were all huddled in a corner terrified by the racket or possibly nearly asphyxiated by the stench. The surrounding air was so saturated with scent that it appeared yellow, felt wet, and tasted nasty! The closer we got to the toxic cloud the more painful it was to breathe and see.
            In that terrible atmosphere, we debated over the pros and cons of digging the hole close to the coop so we wouldn't have to move the skunk far OR of digging the hole across the lot from the coop where the air quality was slightly better, but we would have to move the body further. We opted to dig a hole close to the coop, but first we ran back to the house and got wet towels to cover our eyes, noses and mouths. We each took turns holding our breath and digging a few scoops then handing the shovel to the next one while we stepped away and breathed through the wet cloth. When we finally had a sizeable hole, we staggered into the chicken run and forced the blade of the shovel under the skunk to drag him through the coop, out the door, and into our waiting hole. We were surprised at the heft of the dead skunk and argued about how much he weighed through moans, groans, and streaming eyes. Unfortunately our hole wasn't near big enough for the huge creature. We stuffed him in as best we could and started mounding dirt on top, hoping a good Millard County breeze would start clearing the air and that hot showers would cleanse the smell from us. As I recall, it took quite a number of windy days and scalding showers to finally deodorize our property and our hair of that scent.
            Walking home Monday without having completed my morning ritual, my eyes started watering and the back of my throat felt oily from that memory. Then I thought about how fast I had just run and the cardio workout I had experienced without even making one full trip around the track. I realized that a skunk could be a powerful Olympic training tool. What great motivation to move fast! Records are bound to be smashed with that kind of stimulus! Watch out Rio de Janeiro in 2016!