Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

When I was a freshman in college, I went through a deep funk. I couldn’t manage to pass any of my classes (One aspect of my life that has definitely changed over the years), and my love-life was a wasteland (Another aspect of my life that hasn’t changed at all).

To console myself in my misery, I decided I would buy myself a rodent friend: a hamster.
So I went to the local pet shop on Main Street in Provo (I think it was called “Jay’s Jungle, and I’m fairly certain it’s still there), in search of a brainless fur-ball. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I discovered three cages full of mice, two cages of feeder rats, and not one blessed hamster in the whole stinkin’ store.


Be that as it may, I would not be deterred: I had just purchased a $10 ten-gallon tank from off a Wilk-board advertisement and bought nine-hundred pounds of cedar shavings. I was determined not to leave the store without a friend. So I went back to reexamine the mice and rat selections.

The mice were pitiful, with their blind stares and pink albino eyes. I became totally uninterested.
Then, I looked at the rat cages.

I stared for a long time.

First, I saw two rats licking each other’s faces and cuddling together to stay warm, and I thought how bizarrely endearing they both were, if not somewhat disgusting. Then a little black-hooded boy popped his head up from out of a mass of others eating from a communal food bowl. He was smaller than the others, but he looked curiously straight up at me.

I bought him five minutes later.

I was obsessed with Jackie Chan movies at the time, and I wanted to name him something Chinese. My roommate’s fiancĂ© spoke Mandarin (I didn’t realize at the time, Jackie Chan was from Hong Kong, where only Cantonese is spoken), so we named him “Way-ba” or “tail.”

Wayba was something special. His disposition was sweet, and he was smart. He learned tricks, and he would sit on my shoulders for hours while I wrote papers or talked on the phone. He was the perfect friend, and when I would cry, he would lick the tears from my face. He was not unlike a very, very small dog.

I kept Wayba for two and a half years. During that time, I moved three times. He handled it well. For a while, he even lived at my sister’s apartment, when an unreasonable roommate would not let me keep him in the apartment (Neener, a best friend, would hide him during winter cleaning checks by rapping his cage up like a gift for a day or two).

When he died in the spring of 2003, my heart was broken. I don’t think, with exception of one dog I had, I ever loved an animal more.

I took his little body to the mountains, and buried it in Rock Canyon, after digging a more than adequate hole in the sand stone with a pick axe I “borrowed” from BYU Grounds Crew.

I tell this story, because after two years of being petless, and almost five years of being ratless, I’ve been looking into the possibility of some new friends.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!


(You can have this baby for a song and a cool $800.)

A number of years ago, in the midst of unfocused undergraduate boredom, my best friend Jemima and I got what she called, “a scathingly brilliant idea.” We would plan a trip to Europe.

I wanted to visit Belgium, because I had friends living there at the time, and she wanted to visit a place where people actually spoke German, because she had taken all those years of German classes.

I had maybe $500 saved. I have no idea how much she had. Tickets to Europe were going for $850-$1600 a round trip ticket.

As usual, we hadn’t planned very well, money was tight, and we were running out of time. Then one of our friends told us about an “Internet Deal.” We could get tickets to Europe for $120 round trip.

We were overjoyed with our “luck.” We went home, carefully read the internet site for what seemed like minutes, and then we both pulled out our credit cards.

What were we thinking when we thought that deal was for real?

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Final Conclusion: We didn’t go to Europe and were both out $120.

I was reminded of this story the other day, when my boss came to tell me he had just purchased a used vehicle: a 1998 fuel injected 3/4 Ton 4X4 Chevy Truck with 215,000 miles on it.

“Can you believe it? I got it for only $1700.” He smiled, incredibly pleased with himself.

Let me spell it out for you if you’re not mechanically savvy or much into automobiles: this truck had way too many freakin’ miles on it. If its engine were sound, it would have cost him at least $4,000.

My eyes stared blankly, and then I said with the fakest excited tone I could, “That’s awesome!” Naturally, what I was actually thinking was, “S-M-R-T! Dumbass. You just bought a lemon.”

Three days after he bought it, the engine threw a rod. I kid you not.

These lessons bring to mind Some Principles to Live By:

1. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

2. The flavor for hard work has an infinitely better taste than “Quick and Dirty.”

3. NOTHING is for free. You pay for everything eventually.

4. Gambling is a tax for people who are bad at math.

5. You get what you pay for.

6. Resist the tempting moment. There's almost always more than one option.

7. Never be afraid to be honest with yourself. Plenty of people will lie to you; you shouldn't be one of them.

8. Learn your lesson: Eat the humble pie. It's yummy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Common Denominator is Me

Hi. My name is Becky. I'm your new roommate, and three things you should know about me are I'm mean, I'm bigger than you, and I enjoy making people cry.

I am about to share a piece of information that isn’t news to anyone who has lived with me, but has come as quite a stinging slap to me:

I suck as a roommate.

I’ve always operated under the precious delusion I was the one being put upon. Year after year, I would end up with a new batch (sometimes up to 20 different roommates in one year) of girls, and I would think to myself:

These people are seriously flawed.

List of Grievances

1. Loud
2. Dirty
3. Lacking in Musical Talent/Expression (You wouldn’t think this would be a factor, but my roommates are/were privy to my unveiled venomous musical criticism. I’ve been downright insulting.)
4. Demanding
5. Temperamental
6. Hormonal
7. Rude
8. Ignorant
9. Unstable
10. Not Very Bright
11. Cantankerous
12. Possess a Myopic Perspective
13. An Intrusion on My Space
14. Incapable of Changing The Toilet Paper Dispenser
15. Insidious
16. Temporary
Naturally, I never once fell into any of these categories. I have never been culpable.
Unfortunately, the years are passing, and I’ve started to see a factor in my roommate failures: The Common Denominator is Me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tell Us How You Really Feel

Disclaimer: The following is a gripe-fest against football. Please feel free to either amuse yourself by reading this “misguided/embittered” girl’s blog or click the x button.

A few Saturdays ago, I was asked by a friend if I wanted to attend BYU’s homecoming football game. Before she could even tell me the price of the tickets ($35, BTW), I said with the smuggest tone I could muster, “No. I hate football.” In truth, I have not always held the sport with such distain. But, after working for the BYU Grounds Crew for five years, with four of those years spent exclusively on the turf of Lavell Edwards Stadium, my perspective was forever tainted.
Here are few of my reasons.

1. It takes several dozen employees working year round and hundreds of thousands of dollars to sustain a playing field which is only used twelve times a year.

2. Football is a flawed game. It rewards bulk (juiced-up muscular, fat, guys) and downplays endurance (Hello! Players only play offense or defense). Consequently, contenders only have to be good for essentially half a game.

3. Reinforced individual narcissism has never been so rampant among so many undeserving. Numerous football players, because of their elevated physical and social status, would often justify poor behavior just because they could get away with it. I realize this qualm is true of many athletes, but please remember, I also took care of soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, track, and rugby fields. I was never treated poorly until I dealt with football players.

4. Hockey, Ultimate, and Soccer are totally ignored in this area of the country, because the beefbrains of the West don’t want to watch sports that require them to maintain their attention span for longer than 60 second plays. When you can watch a replay of a sequence three times before the next time the ball moves, you’re watching the wrong sport.

5. The Average Game Times—Ultimate: 1 hour 15 minutes. Soccer: 1 hour 30 minutes. Hockey: 1 hour forty five minutes. Football: 3 hours. Do you know how many things you can accomplish in three hours? I wrote this in less than one, so you do the math.

6. I’ve seen men put their marriages in jeopardy, because they were addicted to watching College football. “Jeeze, man. Uncle Rico still lives in a trailer, and you’re 37 with a beer gut. Go run or something.”

7. It cost $35 dollars to attend a BYU football game. It costs $2 (student price) to see a hockey game. Let me ask you this, “Where are you most likely to see more blood?”

So there are my reasons. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Have you ever wished to live two lifetimes?


I’m not suggesting I want to live longer. I’m saying I wish I lived two separate lives.


Recently, I spent a week in Fort Fraser, Canada. It’s one of my favorite places (although, the natives would spell that “favourite places”). And while I visited, a part of me longed to stay permanently.


I’ve always felt this way about Canada. When I was a teenager, I spent many collective summer months in the southern provinces. During these visits, I would fantasize about someday marrying a Canadian Mounty/Cowboy/Rancher/Farmer.  I even researched becoming a Canadian Citizen.


However, my life’s course has taken a far different direction than my adolescent dreams envisioned. My hopes of affordable academic pursuits (Ph D in English) and staying near my family (Millers, Elliotts, and Holladays) are only possible when I am here in my homeland.


Therefore, my heart remains split in two.  The greater part is content to stay in the high desert mountain plateaus of Utah and Idaho, or in the deep green rolling woods of Missouri.


But the lesser portion longs to be in a snow-bent birch grove on the edge of British Columbia’s Nechako River. There it would patiently stay with the hope of seeing a moose rise from the river.

September View

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. –Elvis Costello

Recently, I have acquired a goldmine of Bluegrass albums through the wonderful Salt Lake City Library System, and this good fortune has sparked a blazing emotional fire.

I am moved, as they say, to speak.

I realize by attempting to discuss or describe a subject that many consider arbitrary (Music is a constant; but from a certain standpoint, it doesn’t hold a specific value beyond personal opinion.), I might turn a few people off (Especially when I’ve come forth with every intention of paying homage to a “twangy” genre of Southern mountain music.). Nevertheless, if for no other reason than to articulate or solidify my own personal regard for the significance of Bluegrass, I wish to explicate and inform.

Bluegrass is a variety of American Folk music that first became popular during the 1930s and 1940s. Its greatest influences are Irish, West African, Scottish, Welsh, and English traditional music. Immigrants from these nations and cultures settled the Midwestern plain lands and round top ranges of Southern Appalachia: It is here their posterity brought Bluegrass to life.

The content of the genre, as can be said for all genres of music, is varied and eclectic. However, the best of its storylines center on the plights of poverty and lost or won affections. Additionally, indicative of most European immigrants that came to this fertile nation with absolutely nothing—their connection to the land is palpable in their songs about mountains, farm fields, and plains.

Most Bluegrass pieces are arranged to include the following six acoustic instruments: fiddle (violin), mandolin, upright bass, banjo, acoustic guitar, and the dobro (resonator guitar). Sometimes artists choose to venture beyond this grouping (Listen to Crooked Still. They add a cello, and it’s gorgeous.), but in general, these are the staple instruments of Bluegrass.

In addition to the specific set of instruments, it is also important to consider the arrangement of the music itself. Harmony is the key to all happiness with Bluegrass. Even relatively unsophisticated songs will include a “tenor/descant” line that inlays the melody with a golden value. This quality is a drug for me. I am addicted.

Bluegrass is the staple of my musical nourishment, and I often feel alone in my feast. If you have a strong love for this country, a thriving connection to nature, an appreciation for intricate and flawless harmony, and affection for the occasional banjo, fiddle, or mandolin solo, I suggest you sample from a few of my favorites below. They’re yummy.

(Please forgive YouTube's Crap Quality)

  1. Alison Krauss & Union Station (“Oh, Atlanta”, "Take Me for Longing")
  2. Dan Tyminski (“Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Carry Me Across The Moutain”)
  3. Nickel Creek (“The Lighthouse,” “This Side,” “Doubting Thomas”)
  4. Rhonda Vincent ("Heartbreaker's Alibi," “Fishers of Men”)
  5. Wailin’ Jennys (Bring Me Little Water Silvy)
  6. Crooked Still (Ain’t No Grave)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Change Is Good. Especially When You’re a Lard.

Name: Becky

Age: 27

Height: 5’ 6”

Weight: 195lbs

Weaknesses: Dr. Pepper, Cherry Coke, Chocolate of any Kind, Chicken Burgers, Sugar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I have recently rediscovered an indisputable truth—breaking a bad habit and replacing it with a good one is freakin’ HARD.

What brings this up? Well, I just turned 27, and I also hit 195lbs on the scale.

When was the last time I was this heavy? Seven years ago, during my sophomore year at college. That wasn’t a good year for me. I was depressed; I had no friends, and I was convinced school existed for the sole and expressed purpose of torturing me (I had not yet discovered my true literary calling). I had also discovered the joys of eating whole loaves of French bread, followed by Mountain Dew: Code Red chasers.

Naturally, my body dealt with my eating choices the only way it could—I got very, very heavy.

What stopped my rapid descent into the abyss of fatty? Well, three things, really. First, I met Jemima, who utterly abhorred all things soda and chocolate (She hadn’t eaten any in years, when I met her.), and she “encouraged” me to give up the crap food (More like, I quit eating crap food to impress her.). Two, I began running and playing sports. Three, I declared myself an English major. These life choices changed my life—I got friends, I was playing sports again, and I had a purpose. I dropped my weight to around 170-180lbs (The lowest it got was 167; but I had pneumonia, so I don’t think it counts.).

So what’s the matter with me now?

Ironically, school and work have taken over. I sit at my cubicle-ish “battle station,” located at my place of employment, like a veal bull-calf waiting for execution. I just eat and sit. Well, sometimes I sit and eat. But you get the idea. Then I drive four blocks home, where I do more of the sitting and the eating. Mind you, my sitting is not idle. I am doing homework or reading. But the only muscle I’m exercising is my brain. The rest of me has slowly metamorphosed into a lard slug thingy.

You see my problem?

Actually, I’d rather you not.

So here comes the regimen:

1. I need to complete a cardiovascular activity at least once every other day.
2. Absolutely NO soda of any kind.
3. Go to the temple at least twice a month (Yeah, I know this one doesn’t have anything to do with losing weight, but as long as I’m writing a list, right?).
4. No Buffy past midnight (This one is particularly hard to do, since Buffy is like milk or chocolate: I always want more. Also, I don’t usually start watching until around 11:00 pm because of homework or school.).
5. Go to bed before 12pm; get up before 8am (I know it sounds easy to do, but I am a true night owl. Unfortunately, my preferred sleeping schedule—bed at 2:00 am, up at 9:30—is not conducive to a healthy, productive lifestyle.).

Change has to start somewhere. Here's where I start.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where in the World is Becky Doodle?

It’s been a long time…

A very long time.

I guess I owe everyone an explanation.

Remember at the beginning of the summer when I said I wouldn't have time to blog? And remember right after I wrote that "disclaimer" I proceeded to write consistently every week for about two months?

Yep...me too.

Then July and August hit, and I saw every last free moment get sucked away from me right before my eyes. School finally started to have deadlines.

What’s happened since I last wrote?

(This list was not necessarily written in order of importance.)

  1. “The Beast” was damaged in a hit and run. She still works, but she definitely not gonna win any prizes for beauty (Not that she would have before)—her handle bars are a bit wonky (not dangerously) and she’s got a few more “character” chips on her paint and framework.
  2. I finished 20 pages of my thesis.
  3. My best friend Jemima moved to Arizona.
  4. K got married.
  5. My parents and my Floridian cousins visited me in Utah.
  6. I completed more than 50 pages of academic writing (NON thesis) in less than 9 weeks.
  7. I participated in the Park City ultimate tourney.

I can’t think of anything else. But I tell you what…it’s been “fulled up” here.

Want to know a list of things I learned?

  1. I can only write when I’m cold and when the room is entirely silent. What did this mean for doing schoolwork at home in my A/C free house? I didn’t spend much time there. I am a firm believer in finding a “room of one’s own.”
  2. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love motorbikes anymore, but I’ve found them to be the most addictive distraction on the face of the planet. Hopefully, in the next year or two, I’ll be upgrading from my Beast to a bike more conducive to my interest and needs. I’m researching the Kawasaki KLR—a duel sport “thumper.” If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry…I will definitely be talking about this again.
  3. I’ve discovered that Steve McQueen just might have been the most BS-free actor on the face of the planet, and I’m really starting to appreciate his work on a deeper level than when I was younger.
  4. I love Thomas Hardy’s poetry.
  5. I love Rudyard Kipling’s poetry.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The King is Dead


“I want someone to say it, Becky. I want the most influential person—someone with respect, clout, money and power—to say it: ‘The GREATEST pop singer the world has ever known has died, and we should mourn his tragic life.’”


My sister said this to me last night in reaction to all the crap that’s been written about Michael Jackson’s death, and it struck a chord. She’s right. His music has had a profound effect on my life. Michael Jackson’s “HIStory” album came out when I was in the 8th grade (1995), and I listened to it until my ears went numb. I worshipped and adored the words and unsurpassed quality and poetry, and I was compelled to discover Michael’s previous decade of work. He was beautiful.


Unfortunately, though his art was matchless, his life was a damn mess.


Roger Ebert said in his eulogy:


“We have all spent years in the morbid psychoanalysis of this strange man-child. Now that he has died we will hear it all repeated again: The great fame from an early age, the gold records, the world tours, the needy friendships, the painful childhood, Neverland, the eccentric behavior, plastic surgery, charges of child molestation, the fortunes won and lost, the generosity, the secrecy, the inexplicable marriage to Elvis's daughter, the disguises, the puzzling sexuality, the jokes, and on and on.


I have no idea whether Michael abused the children he "adopted." It is possible those relationships were without sex; he seemed frozen at a time before puberty. Whether he touched them criminally or not, it is easy to see what he sought: To create, with and for these Lost Boys, a Neverland where they could imagine together the childhood he never had.


His father Joseph was known even then as a hard-driving taskmaster, and was later described by family members as physically and mentally abusive, beating the child, once holding him by a leg and banging his head on the floor. Michael confided to Oprah that sometimes he would vomit at the sight of the man.


Mixed with that was perhaps a lifelong feeling of inadequacy, burned in by the cruelty of his father. That might help explain the compulsive plastic surgery, the relentless rehearsal, the exhausting tours, the purchase of expensive toys, the giving of gifts.”


I am now filled with a sense of loss, and even more, a sense of compassion. Michael was a mysterious, lonely, sad, and strange creature. I’m inclined to believe he spent his entire life attempting to regain and/or heal an utterly devastating and shattered childhood.


I refuse to demonize or reduce him to a “pot shot” joke. I also refuse to believe he was a sinister creature.


He was the GREATEST pop singer the world has ever known, and I mourn his tragic life.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Love The Beast

“There’s not a lot of room for bonding with objects and even people sometimes. I think that’s tragic.”

--Dr. Phil McGraw

In 1990, when I was eight years old and still living on the now shut down naval base in Philadelphia, I met a neighbor down the street who was washing his red cruiser style motorcycle. I don’t remember the make, model, or year—I just remember hearing it rev and wanting a ride.

He then called to his three children, who were scattered in different places on the very small backstreet in the neighborhood, and proceeded to give them each a ride around the block, one by one. After everyone took a turn, he called out to me and asked if I wanted a ride.

I wanted one alright.

But I also remember feeling apprehension that my mother would find out what I'd done, and for some reason that scared me. The machine itself also left me with a weird mix of exhilaration and terror—it was so much bigger than I was. In the end, I chose not to take his offer.

image 1230348388-1
(A 1990 Honda Gold Wing, with similar color and style to that first motorcycle.)

The years passed, and I completely forgot about the experience.

A little more than a decade later, I was twenty and attending college at BYU. I was broke, but dying for some means of transportation. Up until that point, I had owned two indisputable lemons—a beat up 1990 Plymouth Sundance and a crappy little Indian-made (as in the country) moped. I was ready for something better.

So I started browsing the BYUWilk Board,” where students essentially place 3X5 index-card-classified ads with promotions of everything from vehicles to used hair dryers. And that’s when I saw an advertisement for this—
CM450 (USA) image
A 1982 Honda CM 450.

Asking price? $850.

Did I have the money? Barely.

Did I own a helmet, leathers, license, insurance, or even the ability to ride it from the selling location to my apartment three blocks away? Absolutely not.

My life until I acquired that bike? An endless torment of misery.

It took me a half an hour to get it home after I bought it. I was still unsure of which side was the clutch and which was the brake. When I finally got it home, I parked it and stared at it for another half an hour.

I was in love.

Its greasy smell, its loud engine, and its amazingly fast pick-up—I'd never felt that way before about any piece of machinery.

When I sold it three and a half years later to help recover the costs of tuition and impeding surgery fees—I was graduating and I had also blown out my knee—I wept.

Nevertheless, after only a brief year’s stay in Florida post graduation, I was back in Utah and broke once again.

I did have a truck, but the summer I bought it, I drove from Florida to Ontario, Canada and back. When I left Florida, I put an additional 2,500 miles on it. I was racking up the mileage, and I knew that if I kept up the pace, I would ruin my truck—a vehicle that would have to last me through grad and post-grad school.

While contemplating different ways to spare my truck, I was walking through the library and came across a documentary I had never heard of, The Long Way Round, with Ewan McGregor, of Star Wars fame, and Charlie Boorman.

(The cover art for their same autobiography that accompanied the 2004 film version.)

The film was a six hour ode to cross-country motorbiking. Charlie and Ewan took their bikes all the way from London, England to the furthermost eastern tip of Russia. There, they hopped a flight to Alaska, drove through Canada, and then the United States, finally ending into New York City.

Here, watch an advertisement for it.

Here's another advert for its 2008 sequel, Long Way Down.

I saw the first film, and I got an idea of how I was going to "save my truck." I was going to buy a beast.

I knew that I couldn't afford the fancy BMW's pictured above. Now that I think about it, I couldn't really afford anything, as I had just barely gotten a job as a security guard. But I had $1200 in the bank I was eyeballing with the express purpose of acquiring a motorcycle.

I knew I couldn't settle for anything less than 900cc. My Honda 450 had been a great vehicle, and I loved it. But I learned a few things about having a bike with that small of an engine. One, it was too light--even moderate wind could blow me dangerously out of control. Two, it was too small--I felt like a bug when I went around semis. Three, driving uphill, the engine was pathetic. And finally, its top speed was 70 miles an hour on the freeway.

So I began looking through the KSL ads (a local online classified for Salt Lake City), searching for my beast. And then I came across this--

A 1982 Yamaha XJ 1100 Maxim (Mine is confederate red.).

It was love all over again.

For the last two summers I've driven this, and only this. Wind, rain, sunshine--I can't get enough of it.

Maybe someday I'll finally get one of those fancy BMW GS 1200 Adventurers, but until then, I'll love my Beast.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Going It Alone

Lately, I’ve felt a streak of melancholy enter my existence. The streak is made up of two things. So I guess, technically, you could call it two small streaks. Or maybe the two streaks combine to make one big streak. Perhaps streaks are the wrong metaphor altogether.

I digress.

Let’s talk.

This past week, I came to a realization—the women’s BYU ultimate team is beginning to dissolve. People are jaded, injured, or ready to move on (marriage, grad school), and the time has come to say good-bye for awhile—maybe forever.

This change got me thinking about how many years of my life I’ve invested playing this obscure sport. How much joy and heartache it has caused me mentally, physically and emotionally.

(A side-by-side comparison of my legs after my second knee reconstruction surgery in 2006.)

I’m not really interested in a “walk down memory lane,” as of yet. What I am interested in talking about is the emotional hole I’m beginning to feel open up.

This loss is combined with another problem I’m starting to face—the loss of youth. I’m getting older, uglier, and fatter by the day.
(This 2005 picture of my bicep shows me in peak condition. Why don't they warn you're not going to feel that good forever?)

These are just the cold hard facts. Life is changing.

I’m not saying I don’t have some constancy. My older sister and my parents are a big help in that department. But I am single, and I'm sure most people would agree, out of preservation for healthy autonomy, single people require semi-permanent relationships in order to cope with their lack of permanent family structure. The only problem with this is, eventually, these structures fall apart, and one is left to emotionally fend for oneself.

Consequently, a festering question has formed in my mind—“If home is where the heart is, and the heart is where loved ones are, what do you do with yourself after everyone has left? Where is home?"

I’m tired of being the one left behind.

I’m tired of my ambition, because as gratifying as it is, it offers little consolation for this particular brand of lonely.

When I stare into my undivined future, I realize how many miles I have left to go. And I'm afraid I might have to go them alone.

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there’s some mistake.
T he only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Eclectic American Heritage.

I lead a very charmed life when it comes to where I live. I say this for several reasons. First, it is absolutely beautiful living in down town Salt Lake. Second, I'm just a few miles (sometimes less, sometimes more) away from every amazing natural attraction on the Wasatch. Third, I have very sane roommates (which has, unfortunately, not always been the case.). Lastly, I am exactly where I'm supposed to be right now. And nothing feels better than knowing where you belong. Es las verdad?
Anywho, last night I went for a quick jog around the capitol building, and I noticed the beautiful arrangement of the state and national flags. And that got me to thinking about all the places I've called home and all the flags that I've lived under. I even got a little misty eyed (although that could have been the sweat from my forehead rolling into my eyeballs.).
So here's the Utah flag. Ain't it grand? I get a bitter kick out of the two "established" dates. The US government has a lot to answer for when it comes to their bigoted treatment of my Mormon forefathers. I guess the U.S. just wasn't ready for us.
Nevertheless, I wasn't always here in Utah. If we want to get nit-picky, my genes started somewhere in Germany...



And, according to one family legend, the Iroquois Confederacy.
You could call the majority of me British, but I wouldn't.

Life actually started for me in Fort Ord, California. The only thing I could remember about living there was a pile of dirt I ate as a two year old in the backyard.
Then there was Alabama.

Then Germany (It was two countries back then.).

And let's not forget Pennsylvania...

Where I met my favorite Canadian friends.

At times, I felt more "at home" in Canada, than some of the places I was actually living. In total, I've probably lived there for less than a year. But many of these provinces I've thought of as home.

Quebec... New Brunswick... Ontario...

British Columbia...
Nova Scotia...
and P.E. Island.

And now I want to shift my focus to the glorious state in which I went to high school: Florida.
Which makes me think fondly of this flag.

Unfortunately...because so many ignorant white rednecks insisted on turning it into a symbol that has more in common with this piece of crap....

These will have to do.
The Confederate States flag.

And the Bonnie Blue.

Isn't if fun to think about all the places you've been and all the places you'll go?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Does "Family" Mean, Anyway?

This is the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls Idaho. It provides substantial proof that Idaho isn't completely ugly.

My relationship with my biological father is strained at best. Not because I don’t feel love for him or wish him well, but because his role in my formidable years—age 11 to 21— is an absolute blank. Was he a good man? Was he a bad man? I have no fair answer. He was absent, nonexistent, estranged—which is to imply a pejorative impact, but it's not necessarily reflective of an evil character.

I mention this because over this past weekend, my older sister and I had the opportunity to go to a family reunion of sorts in Idaho. There we met with my biological father’s entire side of the family for the first time in my memory. Two of my father’s three younger sisters I hadn’t met since early childhood. One of the two I couldn’t remember at all.

It was surreal to look at these family members--many of whom look a lot like me--and realize that I probably knew my co-workers better than these people. They were all very polite, if somewhat indifferent, and with exception of one Aunt (we'll call her amazing Aunt Alaska for the sake of this blog), I couldn't think of one thing I had in common with any of of them.

When we finally left the reunion, I started to feel depressed and ambivalent. My heart and mind began to wander into a room that has long since, for the most part, been shutoff and left to collect dust in the inner sanctums of my conscious. I have deliberately avoided this room, because it contains hundreds of empty boxes where memories with my father should be. As I tentatively entered to drop off these new memories, all I could hear was an echo. It left me feeling angry and dejected--I resented this room's emptiness.

Perhaps one day this will change. In the future, it might be better for me to store the new memories in a different room altogether. I’m not sure. What I do know is not all of my memory rooms are this sad and lonely, and for that I’m eternally grateful. I have been blessed in my life with a series of unconventional familial connections. These connections have made such indelible impressions that I am forced to reevaluate my definition of “family.”

1. First, I have a step father who has been absolutely supportive since the first day we met. I am moved by his kindness and impressed by his unfathomable capacity for patience. I'm also grateful for someone in the family who has similar interests to mine. He's an outdoors enthusiast, knowledgeable about the Southern culture, highly educated, and he loves the gospel. He truly is the father I never had.

2. The second set of people who've had a huge impact on my life are my uncle and aunt--who, in actuality, are only related as fifth or sixth cousins. That familial connection, however slight, was reinforced to within an inch of its life while I was growing up. I cannot say how many meals I've eaten at their table or how many times my uncle helped me with homework in high school (-"Want to hear a joke about inertia, Becky?" -"Now that you mention it Uncle, No. No, I don't."). I am also excessively fond of my cousins. One I idolized (we shall call him Sethie-poo) and another with whom I have enjoyed years of sibling rivalry, fighting, and eventually an quasi-intellectual truce ("-My argument is logically sound." -"But you're still wrong." -"How wrong would I be if I offered you some chocolate?" -"How 'bout you give me the chocolate, and let me think it over?").

3. Lastly, I have enjoyed an incredibly short list of best friends who've had an astounding impact on my life: Jaime, Jea9, & Bep. You ladies know who you are. I would not be who I am today without you.

"Family" doesn't just mean blood. It means love.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy, Happy…Joy, Joy!

Ah...the wonderful Girlyman. We'll talk more about them later.

Author’s Note: I realize some of my more devoted fans have wondered what I’ve been up to the last little bit. I apologize, but I feel guilty writing for pleasure, when I should be writing thesis pages. Thus, “My World” will be getting “short-changed” until the end of the summer. This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing altogether—it’s just gonna be less until my thesis board grants me life again.

Dollhouse & A Brief Message about Independent music

In an unexpected move, Fox TV Network has given Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse a second chance at life. Dollhouse, before season one ended, was barely averaging 3 million viewers a week. Comparatively, Fox TV’s highest rated series, American Idol, averaged 35 Million viewers a week. Even if we were to compare Dollhouse to a relatively close in genre show like Fox’s Bones, we’re still talking an average of 8 million viewers a week. Dollhouse wasn’t even doing half of that.

So why is Dollhouse being saved when its ratings should make it the number one show Fox wants to get rid of? There are three reasons. One, Dollhouse is not only distributed by Fox, it’s owned by Fox. So Fox Corporation eventually sees all of the revenue this show will ever produce—DVD sales, online viewing advertisement income—any monetary gain associated with the show. This wasn’t the case for The Sarah Connor Chronicles—distributed by Fox, but owned by the WB Corporation. That show, which was faring a little better than Dollhouse at certain points, finally gasped its last breath and died at the end of its second season.

Secondly, Dollhouse’s upfront costs were relatively steep, but now the show will require very little monetary maintenance. Whedon spent a huge amount on his fully encompassing set, which will allow him to make future episodes for incredibly cheap prices. If Fox were to scrub the show now, there’s a good chance they’d end up spending a heap of money trying to development yet another show not likely to do any better in the dreaded Friday Night timeslot—Friday night shows haven’t done well on Fox since the cancellation of X-files in 2002.

The last reason—and this one is really a vindication for all of those Whedonites that suffered through the death of Firefly—has to do with Fox kicking themselves. When Joss’s show Firefly was cancelled after not even a complete first season was finished, DVD sales indicated it was an incredibly stupid move. They lost big time in potential revenue—fans were rabid enough to help get the show produced into a one-time film/ show finale: Serenity. The film made millions.

So there you go.

My feelings on the subject? I am ecstatic, and my fondness for the show has increased ten fold, due to the last four episodes of season one.

Explanation? It’s simple really. In the tradition of Joss Whedon’s previous shows, it took a while for Dollhouse to gain any emotional momentum. There were too many “stand alone” episodes in the beginning, and I simply didn’t care what was happening. Nothing was set up in the storyline to compel me to come back the next week. But then the writing staff and Whedon finally figured out a rhythm that worked. It is my personal belief the drastic improvements started to take shape when former Buffy writer, Jane Espenson, came on midway through the season.

In addition to those changes, guest actors (most of which were previously introduced to Whedonites in shows such as Angel and Firefly) and surprise twists took this show in a whole new direction, and ultimately, to a whole new level. I’m very pleased Whedon has found a vein of his A-game juice, and I hope he continues to milk it.

And now for the music…

It’s been an extremely exciting summer for music here in my now hometown of Salt Lake City, UT. Perhaps the most exciting experience of all happened this past weekend, when I had the opportunity to attend the concert of my favorite band Girlyman.

Over the many years they have unknowingly enjoyed the top position on “My Favorite Band” list, my efforts to see them in concert have been thwarted by cross-country moves, severe lack of funding due to unexpected early grad school admittance, and excruciating gas prices (Last summer we hit the top of that at $4.20 a gallon.). Driving my truck to their Denver concert, a mere 450 miles away, last year would have cost me somewhere around $150.00. Ouch!

This year, however, was different. They were a little closer—Fort Collins, CO (about an hour closer). Gas has made its way back down, at least temporarily, to a “within reason” price. And I’m in a lot better financial positioning—I’ve paid off my initial student loan. As soon as I read they would come again, I knew I had to go. I HAD TO!

The concert did not disappoint. They sang most of my favorites, a few of their new songs (I can’t wait for their new record to get out at the end of this year!), and they were, most of all, enormously entertaining. I know I said the Brandi Carlile concert was the best I’ve ever been to, but it’s hard to top seeing your favorite band.

After the show was over, I stood in line to meet them, and they were incredibly gracious. They signed a poster, and I even got gutsy enough to ask the great Nat Borofsky for one of the paper play lists they had on their stage that night (a piece of paper with their song sets). They even took a few pictures with me. OMH (that’s: “Oh, my heck!”)!!!!

Thankfully, the summer has a lot more to offer by way of live music here in SLC. Indigos are coming next month, as well as Greg Laswell. So many wonderful artists! "It's my birthday present to me. I'm so happy."

Friday, May 8, 2009

We are, all of us, Mothers...

This morning I got up four times. Once at 1:30. Then at 2:30. Once more at 4:00. Finally, I got out of bed at 5:30. My sister showed up 15 minutes after that, and we were off to the hospital.


Before I go any further, let’s back up a bit. My nephew, whom we shall call Rollie for the sake of this blog, had to undergo anesthesia for the third time in as many weeks, due to repetitive shifting in the glorious fractures he acquired in the radius and ulna of his cute, fat, little right arm(Please see the above illustration of a similar injury.). When my sister called me about it last night, she explained she would have to get up at four-something in the morning, drive forty-five minutes to downtown, and wait hours and hours while a doctor set and cast her son’s arm.


Most people, when they hear of their loved ones experiencing incidents such as these, offer sympathy and verbal encouragement. But before I could even evaluate the implications of my enlistment, I volunteered to wake up and ride with her to the hospital and stay with her while Rollie underwent his third setting and casting. As a consequence of this volition, I woke up every few hours the night before, because I was afraid I would not wake up in time.

The whole situation, begs the question, “Why did you agree to do this?” It’s simple really. I had to. A deep instinct compelled me, and I realized just how much I love my sister and my nephew. I yielded to the best portion of my feminine nature, I realized I acted in accordance with my most important role as a woman—I am a mother.


No. Rollie is not my son. He’s my sister’s. I don’t have children. I’m not married. I may very well die in a pit of despair, completely alone, on an enormous pile of various scholastic accolades, degrees, books, and films in various formats.

Maybe I should phrase “I am a mother” a little differently. I am a woman. And as a woman, I feel a gargantuan desire to help, protect, and support the people that I love. I guess, when it comes to children, “desire” doesn’t cover it. It is instinctual and reactionary. I feel enormously compelled by some unseen force. I must do the above things when it involves a child. I must. There is not one iota of thought put into it. The need becomes even more intense, because my sister’s children are kin.

I can’t imagine what my sister feels in relation to her own children. That emotion must defy description.

I guess I bring this experience up for several reasons. First and foremost, I am exhausted right now, and I needed an analytical topic to occupy my mind during the slow hours of work, lest I fall asleep at my desk. Secondly, Mother’s day is on Sunday, and I am reminded of my own mother’s love and of the enormous sacrifices she made as a single parent of three. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, because I’m starting to realize the incredible value of my roles as a woman and as a mother.

In times past, I’ve looked upon on “Old Maids” who doted on their nieces and nephews as somewhat pathetic. I assumed they were simply over-compensating for the fact that their own lives lacked substance, in addition to leaching off of their sibling’s ability to marry and bear children.

What a cruel reduction. I am such an ass. Thankfully, justice is getting its due reward. I turn twenty-seven this year, and look who’s leaching now. Ha, Ha.

P.S. Happy Mother's day Mom. And Happy Mother's Day Marissa--it's a first.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ryan Reynolds, Broken Babies, Brandi Carlile, & Motorcycles

Before you read the musings I posted below, I just wanted show off how I’ve learned to post pictures. Isn’t Ryan just beautiful?

Go ahead. Take a moment.
Jeeze. That’s nice.

Broken Babies:

Two Sundays ago, my younger sister invited all the siblings together so we could meet her cutie-patootie boyfriend. She was about to send him off to his internship in Washington DC for the summer, and she wanted to give us all a chance to meet him before he left. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the whole situation, but I more than once heard the phrase, “Be nice.”
What? Like I’m not capable of being nice?
*Pause. Eyes roll up into the back of my head. Hands held up in honest confusion.*
Anywho...while we waited for the happy couple to show up, my older sister was fixing dinner, and everything seemed pretty chilax. That is until my nearly two year old nephew, in an attempt to slide down the front of the couch, lost his balance, and fell off of the back of it.
I was three feet away, half asleep on the other couch. I felt like I should stop him from playing that way, but I didn’t, because I saw him do it successfully several times. That was a mistake. I should have yanked him off, yelled at him in nervous fear, have him scream for his mom, and that would have been the end of it.
But I didn’t.
He fell off the back of the couch, and he broke his arm so severely, his hand was literally flopping: It was completely detached from the rest of his arm.
Naturally, my older sister was panicked for a few moments. Thankfully, she gained the clarity of a mother's instincts, and after those seconds passed, she was all business. She grabbed her husband’s keys and calmly said, “Becky. You’re driving. We’re going to the hospital.”
For the next five hours we waited for a surgeon to come and for little guy’s dinner to digest. Then they sedated him to set the bones.
The situation was traumatic for me, and periodically I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up. I kept thinking, “I should have stopped him. He’s so little, and so defenseless. I should have stopped him from hurting himself. I’m a terrible aunt.”
Also I learned how impatient I can be when one of my own is involved in an accident. I just felt like no one was fast, competent, or smart enough to take care of my nephew. I wanted to shout,
“Hurry up! Where are his meds? Why can’t you fix him so he doesn’t have to be in pain? Who made you people doctors? You’re a bunch of eff-ing morons!” Thankfully, I kept my mouth shut, and tried not to get in anybody’s way. Emotion really is absolutely useless in these situations.
Sadly, the original set didn’t take, and my nephew and sister are going to the hospital again tonight.
Brandi Carlile:
On a bit of lighter news, I thought I would mention, before Sunday happened, I got a chance to go see Brandi Carlile in concert on Saturday before last. I got there late, and the theatre didn’t have any more seats left, so I had to stand near the base of the stage for the opening act. Because I was there alone, I slowly got shoved up right next to the stage. It turned out to be one of the best seats in the house when Brandi came out. What an incredible voice that woman has!
It was the best concert I’ve ever been to. If you like folk rock, you should check her out. She is a phenomenal talent.


Last but not least…it’s spring, and I’ve just gotten my motorcycle out of storage. Oh…I love that stupid bike. I just love it. I’m so pleased spring is finally here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Vices

The Ancient Romans had a wonderful little term which meant “failing or defect”: They called it “Vitium.” It’s modern English entomological great, great, great, [insert many more “greats” here] grand baby is a noun called “vice.” Most people know that vice is a generally deplorable practice or habit. I think today I want to discuss a few of mine.

What can I say? Acknowledgment is the first step.

Carbonated Caffeinated Beverages-
I seriously know better. Soda pop, in general, causes too many health problems to list—honestly; it offers not one healthful quality. But every time I even smell a Pepsi these days, I want one. Even the pop of a tab gets me excited. It’s so wrong, and yet it feels so right. Well, maybe not when it keeps me up until 3:00 am, but otherwise, very artificially stimulating and tasty. I’ll probably give it up again in a week. I go through “on the wagon” and “off the wagon” cycles.

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches-
In the olden days, when I had no real job and was still in college (Oh, wait. Not much has change.), I used to “treat” myself to one bought lunch a week. It was usually something simple. I’d spend no more than three dollars for a sandwich and an apple beer. Not much has changed. Except now I’ve upped the “steaks” (I just kill me.). There’s a sub sandwich shop a few blocks away from work that makes Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches. For every ounce of beef in these things, there’s at least three ounces of grease. Occasionally, I have to pound my chest to get the last bite of the sandwich down. Another problem with them is they’re 7 bucks a pop—more than twice as much as my old habit. I’m pathetic.

Ellen DeGeneres’ Productions Posted on You Tube-
I don’t think I’ve ever loved a comedian more than I love Ellen. Well…maybe I loved Lily Tomlin as much once. But let’s be honest, in some ways, Lily was just Jane Wagner’s highly expressive puppet for most of the seventies and early eighties. Ellen, on the other hand, is the one holding all the strings. She’s a “real boy”…er…girl (She has a wife. It was an honest mistake.).

Bad Pinocchio allusions, puns, and cheap gay marriage shots aside, I think I owe everyone an explanation. I’ve taken to watching Ellen’s old stand up and postings of her show on You Tube, and I am completely enthralled. I waste hours watching some nights. She’s just incredibly hilarious, and she gets all the good guests (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Mc Dreamy, Mc Steamy, and many, many more.).

I have just two justifications for my behavior. One, she keeps it clean. She’s not Robin Williams, and more importantly, she is NOT Rosie O’Donnell. Tangentially, Rosie is a complete disgrace to what it means to be a woman. I don’t care if she’s gay, I don’t care that she has her own political views, but I do care that she cannot say one thing these days that doesn’t involve a string of distasteful vulgarities or something that will result in her imminent firing or a lawsuit. What happened to her? She’s disgusting. But back to Ellen…

And secondly, Ellen is a gay, liberal, vegan, in her fifties, and I am a straight, conservative, meat-eating, Mormon, in my mid twenties, and yet I still find myself disarmed and enthusiastic about what she has to say. That says something, no?

Okay, so she’s good. Everyone can acknowledge this fact. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure any amount of You Tube-ing over ten minutes is a substantial waste of time, and therefore a vice.

Some people are under the false impression that it’s charming to be a gossip. It’s not. It’s just addictive and mean. The biggest problem with this vice is it makes you feel artificially superior. Count how many times you’ve smiled, either inwardly or outwardly, when you’ve passed on negative information about someone else. Have you even stopped to gloat to yourself, “I’m too good to ever be caught up in something like that.” I’m sorry, but a person who conducts themselves this way is not charming: They are a particularly despicable breed of Bitch.

I shouldn’t have put this one so far down my list. It’s really the first one I should be eliminating from my personality.

Potty Language-
This one needs no explanation. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully be able to give it up, but I will say I only use it selectively. It should NEVER be used in a moment of flippant anger. Expletives should be used to emphasize a strong point; they should never be the point.

Cards or on a Windows Powered PC, I can’t help myself. It is mindless, and yet I still find myself almost nervously playing it at times.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Funeral Blues

Stop All the Clocks, Cut off the Telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let airplanes circle moaning overhead,
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

-W.H. Auden

I have recently experienced a loss. Don’t worry. It was nothing serious. It’s just my Masters Thesis Project died last week, and I took it rather hard.

I realize it’s a bit overdramatic to post the above eulogy, but I never was one for subtly, was I?

Perhaps I should explain. I’ve been banking on a certain thesis topic for the last year—an extensive folkloric mapping of the Vampire Myth in the 20th century America. Absurd, es las verdad?

I couldn’t help it. It’s been a lifelong fascination. I remember reading Stoker’s Dracula and a “History of” book about werewolves when I was ten, and I just knew occult fiction would be a longtime interest for me. When I was twelve, the film Interview with the Vampire premiered, and I could not imagine a more euphoric prospect than a movie involving Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Antonio Banderas mixed with a vampire theme. I finally read Anne Rice’s novel in high school, but at the time it proved totally unreadable. Let’s face it, when you’re fifteen you can’t really grasp the concept that becoming an immortal might turn out to be a magnificently disappointing experience. That…and I’m pretty sure that Brad Pit’s character in the story was gay, or at the very least bisexual.

But I digress. Where was I?

More recently, I’ve become enthralled with DVD versions of Buffy and Angel, and although I’d hate to admit it, I’ve even read all of the Twilight (AKA Twit-light) novels. My interest reached a high point early last year, and after a lot of searching and pondering, I felt ready to explore the topic thoroughly in a Masters Thesis paper this summer.

Alas, it was not to be. Last week on Monday, I was notified by the Program Director the project wouldn’t fly. Not because it wasn’t literarily sound, but because we couldn’t get a professor with the proper expertise to chair the project. The rejection was brutal. I argued with the Director for two hours about who we could use. In the end, it was to no avail. Slowly but surely, my thesis was staked.

In my process of mourning, I’ve pulled all of my vampire shrines down. You might think this was a small project, but you’d be wrong. At work I had a shrine that displayed 25 Buffy comic book covers, and at home I had a Buffy shrine on my book shelf and wall. I pulled it down. I was just too disheartened to look at them anymore. These characters which have occupied my every thought for the last year are now going into storage to make room for a different topic: The American Cowboy: A Cultural Symbol’s Reflection of the 20th Century American Dream.

This was an acceptable topic, and I’m sure in a month I will think so too.

But tonight I want to wallow in my loss. I want to say good-bye to Bram, Buffy, Willow, Angel, Spike, Xander, Oz, Anya, Andrew, Tara, Anne, Stephanie, Knight, Louis Point Du Lac, Lestat, Edward, Bella, and all of the other Vampire creatures I’ve grown to love. “The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; /Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; /Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. /For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

Friday, April 3, 2009

Here...Have an intellectual cookie. It’s on me.

I originally meant to send this message exclusively to my parents (You know who you are, my Midwestern peeps.), but I found the topic too interesting to withhold from my almost ten off-and-on followers.

So grab a glass of milk, ‘cause here comes an intellectual cookie.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have always firmly believed e-mail forwards are despicable things that take up space in my inbox and give me the brief and false impression that someone cares enough to write me an actual e-mail. Which tempts me into a tangential discussion of the “lost art of letter writing” to the terse electronic advents of text messaging, Facebook, and Twitter, but I think I’ll spare you.

So rather than just “forward” her message, I wanted to discuss something my company’s Senior Admin decided to forward to the rest of us, the groundling secretaries, this morning. I don't know who gave it to her. Heaven only knows who sent the original document, some millions of forwards ago. But back to my original point...

Somebody out there found a copy of an 8th grade final exam from 1895. And in light of the fact that I am a former public educator and aspiring university professor/graduate student, and because both of you are educated educators, if not by profession, at least in practice, I thought you might want to take a peek at an interesting pedagogical find.

[Please pause to review the attached Exam below.]

I can honestly say I wouldn't be able to answer half of those exam questions without some extremely intense weeks of study and contextual training. But I want you to notice how the questions are posed. Yes, they do require a buttload of memorized information, which I kind of expected considering the period and nature of late 19th century pedagogy. Yet, what strikes me as particularly mindboggling is how they ask the student to substantiate their answers.

Can either of you ever recall meeting a thirteen-year-old who was capable of taking the information they were taught in the public school system and using it to create original, detailed, and fleshed out intellectual expression?

Forgive my candid cynicism and utter lack of faith, but I sure as hell never have. I remember being thirteen, and I couldn’t even zip up my own pants consistently.

Take for example question #10 of the Grammar exam:

“Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.”

I will bet my next month’s salary that students taking this exam in 1895 would never dream of approaching the exam administrator, let alone asking stupid questions like, “Um. What do you mean by ‘show’ the rules of grammar?” Or, “What does ‘therein’ even mean?”

Also notice how most items in the Grammer, History, and Geography sections are posed as essay questions. When I taught 9th grade English, I was still reviewing what basic grammatical components make up a complete sentence, and what information constituted a paragraph. I can’t imagine more than a few pupils of mine being capable of writing coherent answers to these questions. And can you imagine having to grade 220 exams like this? I would kill the students; then I would kill myself.

So what’s my point with all of this? I guess my point is education has completely changed since the advent of uniform, streamline, public education came into existence, and I’m trying to figure out why. You got any insight?

Let me know.


8th Grade Final Exam 1895

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.
8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza, and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of 'lie,''play,' and 'run.'
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft.Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs.what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. District No33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour) [Do we even know what this is??]
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals & nbsp;
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' [HUH?]
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall, and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.