Worth a listen

April is National Poetry Month. For a shot of the beauty, insight, and grace that poetry can  lend your life, it’s a perfect time to hear some recited by some of the country’s best.

The national finals of the Poetry Out Loud competition will be livestreamed from Washington DC this week. The recitals start Tuesday in Washington, DC, with the preliminaries all day on Tuesday (4/24) and the final round on Wednesday night (4/25).

If years past are a forerunner, I expect the diversity of poems and students will likely be remarkable.  To hear an inner-city kid present Wordsworth or Burns and a rural one take on Adrienne Rich — incredibly heart-warming. These students show that the art of memorizing and interpreting poetry is definitely alive!

 

For a look at some poetry talent closer to home, Mason Moore, the Teton High School Poetry Out Loud champ, recited “Undivided Attention” by Taylor Mali at April’s board meeting of Teton School District 401. On this  video, he starts talking about the POL program about three and a half minutes in (when the sound comes on); the poem performance starts at about 7.5 minutes and lasts only a couple of minutes.  Just a sophomore, Mason received third place this year at the state competition, and second at state last year.

I have a fondness for POL, as it’s called by anyone involved, as here in Idaho it is sponsored by the Idaho Commission on the Arts, and POL began when I was serving on that board.

Congratulations also to Teton High teacher Diane Green, who was recently named “Idaho Poetry Teacher of the Year.”  Diane has been organizing the local poetry competition at THS since the event started here. I was lucky enough to judge a couple of these sessions, and there’s something special about hearing each student pour their heart and soul into the delivery of one, two, or three poems. I’m sure you’ll hear it from nationals too.

So, if it’s been too long since you heard a poem, why not now? Or if you’d like to learn more about Poetry Out Loud, here’s access to the Poetry Foundation’s poems that are suggested to students to learn.

Enjoy!

poetry out loud

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Reading, again

I love to read, and am always thrilled to talk to anyone who unabashedly will tell me what title they’re into at the moment, no matter what age the person.

It fills my heart to know my next-door neighbor’s kid liked the book I gave him for Christmas (Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs, by Katherine Applegate). I like to check out what friends’ book clubs are doing, and see what people were reading on each of the legs of our most recent trip — everything from Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann to White Rage by Carol Anderson, The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert, and Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance.

Some are new, some are not; some have been made into movies and some are non-fiction. This half-dozen is a pretty good cross-section of people’s tastes — eclectic at best. (Curiously, I also noticed more “real books” of the paper variety and fewer electronic devices.)

As a former bookstore owner, I’m instinctively drawn to people who “flaunt reading,” who aren’t shy about talking about books, or recommending something, or mentioning their viewpoint about what I consider an essential part of life.

For example, a local teacher I’m just beginning to know — I loved seeing the signoff on a recent email from her. It quoted Kevin (the freak) in Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick : “Books are like truth serum. If you don’t read, you can’t figure out what’s real.”   

Well, that pretty much sums it up. In my opinion, you MUST read to be able to cope with the rest of the world.

Not to be political, but honestly, that’s probably my biggest beef with President Trump. How can he be the leader of the modern world if he doesn’t read and read widely?

Just came across some stats gathered by the Pew Center for Research. Granted, these aren’t considered current, but I believe they’re still thought-provoking — and probably haven’t changed drastically.

Summarized in Iris Reading‘s blog (my thoughts to each point in italics)

  • “Roughly 72 percent of American adults read a book in 2015, continuing a gradual decline over the last 5 years (from 79 percent in 2011).  Really? Ouch.
  • “However, these stats include people who reported reading “one book…in part”, so it’s unclear how many made it all the way through. Can’t even FINISH one book?
  • “The average number of books each person read over the course of a year was 12…but that number is inflated by the most avid readers. Pretty sure we’d qualify as the latter 🙂
  • “The most frequently reported number was 4 books per year.  One book a quarter; at least that’s better than a single unfinished one annually.
  • “Of course, there’s plenty of variation among demographics.  Certain groups read more, or less, than the country as a whole.” Oh, OK, maybe some light here.

In fact, young people read more than seniors — that surprised me, since I’m in this latter group (as are so many of my book-reading friends). Women read more than men, in general — nothing new there. CEOs read much more than the average person. The higher your education level, and the higher the income bracket you fall into, the more likely you are to read. It may have to do with having the spare cash to purchase books or the easy chance to explore the stacks at a library.

Reading also takes time, and brain power. Admittedly, I read less when stressed, or when I’m pre-occupied scrolling my phone, looking for truly escapist entertainment.

In my heart, I know that reading is an active way to be entertained.  It engages your mind. It can absorb you, fully, and carry you to different worlds in different people’s shoes and put you there at different times of history. Reading is about learning, and expanding what I know, bringing others lives into my own.

Truly, I can’t imagine a life without reading.

And one of the real delights in reading is gathering insights into the universal condition, like this gem of a quote from what I’m currently reading, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. It’s on page 165: “… to love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you.”

Oh my.

Such a well written bit of wordsmithing gives one cause to pause, and THINK. For me, well, I’m pretty likely to mark such a quote with a bookmark.

What are you reading?

If you don’t read, why not? No judgment intended, I’m just very VERY curious.

Oh, adding these images as they represent, to me anyway, some important selections from our collection. And lastly, since we just finished National Library Week, you can read more about how I feel about libraries here.

Books read in 2018

This year, I’m participating in the “Book Geek Challenge” — to read 50 books in 50 weeks — at the Valley of the Tetons Library. Prize is a fleece hoodie sweatshirt, which will come in handy next winter.  Here’s what’s in my “reading journal” so far; kinda went on a Maggie Hope spree for a while, didn’t I?

 

Current books

My “in process” books, including the stack that I keep next to the bed. Some of these I’ve just received from a fellow booklover, and haven’t even cracked ’em.

 

 

Books from Tyler teammates

Each of my teammates from Tyler Technologies gave me a book at my retirement part earlier this year.  I also consider them current books, even if there’s too many to have on my night table…. So special, touching, and personal. (Thank you again, my friends!

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“Back in the Saddle”

 

Oh my. I haven’t written a blog post since Joe died, more than a year and a half ago.

It’s been way too long. Much has taken place since then.  Significantly, a year ago in February, I got really (REALLY) sick, and missed three weeks of work, and then began a slow upward trend healthwise. I escaped into knitting, the first thing I felt I could try, but largely ignored my multi-media artwork (although I did organize all my craft bits by color, which was actually quite an accomplishment).  I started walking the stairs in our library to build up some endurance and graduated to running the bleachers at the high school football field in the summer.  Peter gave me a FitBit; it says I’ve walked across New Zealand (990 lifetime miles, or least that’s the distance I had walked by the end of last year). I started dancing again last fall (yay for Oula!), and have lost about 15 pounds.   I started re-evaluating the stress level I can handle and determined I wasn’t doing so well in that regard, professionally.  Most recently, after four-plus years, I retired from my full-time job as a project manager at Tyler Technologies; tomorrow I start a part-time position here in Teton Valley, giving back to the community, assisting the local school district with PR. In a nutshell, I’ve gone through some life changes since you last saw a blog post from me.

This record is not meant to be a diary of doings, and I appreciate you hanging in through that last long paragraph. Several constants bear mentioning right here, though: Peter and family and traveling  — all of which I love to write about, although one lesson I’ve learned better as I grow older is to respect other’s privacy. (Not everybody wants me to write about them, in other words.)

So — what is my blog going to be about now, if I am going to revitalize it?

Our trips provide never-ending fodder for writing. I must have several hundred ideas of things I think merit exploration.  I jot these down by the dozens in whatever notebook I happen to be carrying on a journey.

In the Piazza di Pietra in Rome  And the photos!  We have some 2,000 pictures *just* from our most recent adventure in Italy and Malta, and about half that many from Singapore and Cambodia last fall (the only reason being it was half as long a trip). But all of them need to be organized and sifted through with some discipline before sharing — a daunting task in and of itself. That will take a while, I know, so will start with just this one, in the Piazza di Pietra, Rome.

I’m also reading, a LOT, again, which has re-widened my world, which I’d somehow let slide into smallness.  In fact, my Tyler teammates all gave me books at my retirement party — a gesture so touching and so personal I’m moved to tears whenever I look at one of the notes that went along with each gift.

But that starts my inner debate — How do I pick THE book to write about?  Would the two book clubs I belong to mind if I write about what we’re reading there (and maybe even relay parts of their respective discussions)? Should I reactivate the old grouping “My Weekly Reader” to talk about books on a regular schedule?

Which prompts another internal discussion: in the past, I’ve often set goals to write a post every day for a month about a single topic, or to do one a month for a year, or whatever.  I’d set limits like a maximum number of words, or using only ONE picture per post. However, Peter has (wisely) shown me that this kind of self-imposed obligation, while helpful in providing structure and creating expectations on the part of readers, can be demoralizing if I don’t meet whatever goal I’ve set.  And that’s not why I want to write….

That said, writing a blog, as I’ve told others, is only worth it IF YOU DO IT. In other words, it’s not enough to just “have a blog.” It needs INPUT. It needs THOUGHT. It needs ATTENTION.  The words don’t just appear magically.

And that’s why I’ve been reluctant to get “back in the saddle,” I guess.  The stats say this blog has had 12,000-plus posts; I know I have many friends who have been loyal readers, and I don’t want to let them down.

Can I even live up to my own expectations?

When every day provides new inspiration from — and concern about —  so much of the world’s happenings — where do I start?

Well, for now, I’m just going to begin.

It might take a while for me to gear up; when I sat down at my laptop today, I didn’t even recall how to access my site to start composing. I’m fuzzy on adding links; it took 10 minutes to refresh my memory on how to insert a photo (and it has no caption or anything fancy like that).  How exactly does the rollover to Facebook work? I’m not exactly sure. Have I already written so much that no one will read this whole entry?

None of that matters.

I certainly have “the need to express life in a creative way.” As I explained to a friend earlier today, that’s the BEST reason I want to resurrect this blog. (It’s also the reason  why, as we speak, I’m also planning out a new artwork.)

Here’s hoping I will find some leftover wordsmithing ability deep in my brain, an insight or two into the universal condition that will strike a chord, an observation about a place or happening to bring a smile or the spark of curiosity to someone.

This post has a new grouping that’s called “The Sunday Open.” While I may not write every week, this day of the week has proven to be good creative time for me. Plus, it provides, at least, a catch-all category with a suggested timeline, with no commitment except the goal of posting on a fairly regular basis.

Please comment here or on FB — I’d love to hear your impressions and reactions.

Thanks and see you on the trail of new “Jewelry and Junk” to come!

 

 

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RIP, Joe Anderson

How does one tell an 88-year-old woman that her first-born son has tragically died? There is no good way. We were as gentle as we could be when we faced that task last Wednesday, both Peter and I holding Rusty’s hands as he shared the devastating news that Joe had been killed near the curb as he started to cross a busy street at sunset in Idaho Falls on Tuesday night.

We were concerned the shock could well do her in, but she is a strong soul, immediately more concerned about Joe’s wife Sandy, his twin daughters Erika and Michelle, and how the other boys (Bill and David) were taking it. Everyone is heart-broken.

Truly, such a shock; we are all stunned, and it has been a very rough week.

Joe’s passing leaves a gigantic hole in our family. Joe was the spark for Anderson get-togethers, always curious about everyone’s travels (although he much preferred to stay home), the first to help bring in stuff from the car, build a fire, to do whatever needed  to be done.  He had a giant guffaw of a laugh and a lopsided grin that couldn’t help but touch your heart.

As Rusty put it — and it’s completely absolutely true to those who knew him — Joe was “the most positive person she ever knew.” He was faithful about calling her every single night, no matter where he happened to be — home in Jackson, on the road somewhere for his sales job, or at the Jackson Hole airport fulfilling his hosting duties there.  She didn’t want to talk to anyone but family, crying so often and rubbing her eyes so hard that by the end of that day, her sweet face was marked with a raccoon-like mask of bruises.  Poignantly, Rusty said sadly that he was the last person to remember her when she and Emory were young — what a sad realization.

Normalcy seems distant. As Rusty said, she doesn’t feel like life should go on — dressing, eating, thinking about things like whether the cat box needs to be emptied and if there’s a kink in her oxygen hose. “Parents shouldn’t have to bury children,” as my sister Judy put it, and at 67, Joe should have a lot more time to enjoy his grand-kids and serve on the ski patrol (which he has done for FIVE decades). But such is not the case.  We are now in the logistic muddle of memorial planning and at last reaching out for support. I appreciate the words of concern and offers to help. At the moment, there’s not much to be done.

Joe’s death is a terrific — in the true senses of the word (“of great size, amount or intensity,” and archaicly, “causing terror”) reminder of the fragility of life. It offers much needed perspective…. of what truly matters and what is valued.

Hug your loved ones today, or if they’re not in reach, call and share your love. We never know what might be our last communication with those we care about (and who care about us as well.)

Three special pix —

Peter, Joe and Bill, top of the tram in Jackson, from September 2009: w_-peter-and-bill-top-of-the-tram-sept-2009

Rusty and her sons Bill, David, Peter and Joe, on her front porch on Easter, 2013:

rusty-and-sons-easter-2013

Celebrating Easter 2016, at Rusty’s — Joe’s wife Sandy and the twins and their family were with Sandy’s sister but this was the first time the four boys had been together for a while, with Leslie and Theresa there, too.

best-from-easter-2016-at-rustys

Lastly, here’s the link to the story that was in the Jackson Hole Daily on Thursday. Joe’s obituary will be in Wednesday’s weekly Jackson Hole News and Guide.

 

 

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On traveling — 2015.4

All year I’ve been feeling philosophical about the notion of wanderlust. We joke about the desire to travel being in my blood — after all, my parents were travel agents, some of my first memories are of trips with them, and I learned early where every bathroom is in the world (you know, down the hall and to the left — or it might be on the right side, or in a corner, but think about it — it’s true!)

Peter in doorwayAnyway. I love to travel.

Luckily, I found, fell in love with, and married someone who likes to travel as much as I do.

We watch out for each other well. We have regular routines — passport check, carrying a food bag for picnics, that sort of thing.  When in doubt, we grab a coffee and water and reconnoiter.

I’d have to say that we’re still holding hands, and I’m glad of it.

We go through many doors, usually together, but occasionally one or the other must lead. This is one of those photographs that seems to capture our mutual spirit of adventure….

Peter has a lot more vacation time from work that I do; although he doesn’t likpic of Peters flighte going without me, he took a couple of flying-solo trips last year (to ski in the Alps and to check out Stockholm), and in February he headed to Japan.

Through the wonder of technology — United’s flight status on my cell — I even know where his planes happen to be at a particular point in time.

The biggest miracle of modern-day travel is that we can go so far so fast.

Between us, we’ve been lucky to visit 62 other countries (along with several visits to a small handful of locations).  We love the challenge of discovering the layout of a previously unknown place, like Madrid’s “bow-tie.”

We like knowing how to navigate somewhere new.

We love learning about history by walking on what’s left behind after centuries. “When in doubt, walk on cobblestones” is one of the philosophies we share.

We believe one’s world is enlarged in trekking about places like the Acropolis, Machu Piccu, Pompeii, Teohuatican, Tikal, or Easter Island — the perspective on time alone makes the journey worthwhile. (You can see photos on my Facebook page of many of our journeys.)

sunset on the Rio PlataWe’ve shared some fantastic sunsets (this one, in Colonia, Uruquay, looking across the Rio Plata, Buenos Aires off to the south), ferries across famous waterways, meals of fish pizza and Florentine steaks and frites in a paper cone.

We’ve stayed in a variety of spots: next to a metro under construction in St. Petersburg; in an apartment up 112 steps for three weeks in Rome; and with a host-family on Isla Tequila (on Lake Titicaca in Peru). We’ve booked rooms in a wide range of B ‘n Bs over the years — from a Rick Steves’ recommend for “best loo in Britain” to a place in Ireland where condensation ran down the walls overnight. We’ve even lodged a few nights in a five-star hotel or two.

It’s not about notching our belts with passport stamps, though. There’s so much more that we’ve learned from our experiences.  Serendipitously, we’ve encountered the red-balloon peace rally in Sibiu, Romania; a near-empty Vatican Square (the next day, it was filled to the gills with the faithful); colorful parades in Lima and Oslo.  I’ve written about many of those memories in this blog. I’m optimistic this won’t be the last entry about our adventures.red ballons peace event in Sibiu Romania

The most important thing we know about traveling is not to take it for granted. We have no idea what tomorrow might bring, whether we’ll be healthy enough or whether we’ll be able to afford to do what we like to do.

That’s one reason we’re not “waiting until retirement” to have these adventures.

In July, the two of us were in Norway, following several days of amazing sunshine in Oslo and some time recharging our batteries (and resting our feet) on the Sognefiord. feet on the fjord

Then I worked on this post while we were sitting in the airport of Philadelphia, homeward bound (albeit on two different flights — Peter through Chicago, me through Denver).

On the eve of the last day of August, Peter was packed to take another trip on his own, this time to Malta. Malta? Yep. It’s one of those destinations that calls us — charming and historically significant, but not all that well-known — yet — as a tourist-dominated spot.  It was a good trip for him; the solo reconnaisance provided a chance to check things out, and we’d like to return on another occasion to soak up its heat and history.

We like to think we’ll always return, that a place we love will stay constant — and that we’ll get everywhere we want to go — on an African safari, to hike in New Zealand, listen to an opera in Sydney, see the sunrise over the Taj Mahal — but there are no guarantees. We work at our jobs to be able to afford to go, and we work on ourselves to stay healthy so we can go.

So far so good….

Enjoy your next travels, wherever they may take you!

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Old friends — 2015.3

The late-60’s song Old Friends never fails to bring me near tears. But as I’m closer to the “terribly strange of seventy” than I’d like to think about, the song now vividly reminds of the riches in friendships that last decades.

A couple months ago, a woman I worked with — about 30 years ago, when Peter and I lived in Seattle — “found me,” not via Facebook or in some other techno way, but instead by asking about us at the local Ace Hardware and calling me out of the blue on the phone. It was so fun to reconnect! She was in the Tetons visiting her mom, and we had a good chance for catch up on the decades and miles between us.

Renee sounded exactly as I remember her — and well, of course she did! I love that, even as we age and our physicality changes, whether due to wrinkles, weight or hair color, our voices, expressions and mannerisms stay the same.

A week ago, I spent a fabulous day with another old friend, from even farther back (i.e., my cast year in Up With People, 1973-74). Pam and I have been in closer touch more recently — an absolutely wonderful rekindling of our relationship and much of it online — but that certainly didn’t diminish our quality personal time together on a sunny early-summer Sunday…

Well, just this morning I heard from another UWP castmate. She happens to be coming to Philadelphia — where I’m working remotely this week — for a conference. I haven’t seen Mary since 2011 at an Uppie reunion in Colorado, and I can’t wait to see her again.

It’s a long way from her home in Alaska and mine in Idaho, but what a wonderful coincidence that we happen to be here, on the far side of the country, at the same time. Whoohoo!

While the Simon and Garfunkel song is sometimes heartbreakingly poignant, the reality of old friends is a sweet and special treasure.

UWP pic in Breck -- Mary and PamThis pic is from our cast reunion in Breckenridge four years ago (Pam in yellow, Mary in red)! Looking forward to seeing many of them at UWP’s 50th, in Orlando later this summer. Unfortunately, Rufus Barkley, the fellow I’m standing by (back row) passed away about six weeks after we were together — another vivid reminder that life is precious and we never know what tomorrow will bring.

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Watching the ball game — 2015.6

dad as ref

One year for his birthday, Judy found Dad a ref shirt — he loved it! This is one of our all-time favorite photos of him.

Growing up, it was almost a religious rite to “watch the ball game” at our house. That comes from a sports-crazy dad with three daughters (whose initials were the same as Baltimore Colts’ star Johnny Unitas) and no sons to push from the sidelines. It’s not that we weren’t athletic — all three of us played something competitive in high school and Judy co-majored in Phys Ed in college — but from an early age, we learned that when there was a ball game on the TV, well, we’d likely be watching it.

OK, I must admit, it was mostly certain kinds of sporting events — and we also attended plenty in person. We rarely missed anything played by the University of Wyoming and never stuff at our high school, the now-gone Cheyenne St. Mary’s. But mostly, on a staticy black and white televsion, we watched both football and basketball.

Our dear grandmother, Mimi, was a huge baseball fan — she followed the Kansas City A’s closer than her soap operas (and that was pretty darn close!) But baseball wasn’t *it* at home. Honestly, tennis was not a ball game; neither was golf. And although we went to a hockey game in Denver once, neither was hockey — it just didn’t quite enter into the Uphoff consciousness.

But the pros rated — think Denver Broncos, primarily — and of course the big events like the NBA finals, the Super Bowl, and March Madness (did they even call it that then?)

A lot of history behind this family tradition…. for example, Dad was the president of the Cheyenne Quarterback Club when we were kids. While Joan and I were visiting Judy recently, we found a letter signed by six Green Bay Packer star football players (Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Boyd Dowler, etc.), from when they’d visited Cheyenne in the early 1960s. Dad had arranged the whole thing! What a treasure!

But we knew it wasn’t about winning. We learned to cheer for our favorite teams even when they were on a losing streak….  And that seemed to be the case more often than not. In the early 1970s, St. Mary’s struggled on just about any kind of playing field. The Gaels once lost a football game to Torrington, by a score of something like 96-6 — how sweet it was when we came back and beat Douglas for our first victory in several seasons (and then were undefeated my junior year in high school!)

My mom was such a good sport, too. She was the best escort for football tours. And for us kids, she took care of us when injured, made cheerleader uniforms, baked countless chocolate sheet cakes for bus trips, put up with tears about boyfriends being hurt before Homecoming dances, etc.  She ultimately said she “couldn’t stand the excitement” of a close game — but boy, dad always loved ’em.

So tonight, when the Golden State Warriors are playing Game 2 against the Cleveland Caveliers, and a few days before the 24th anniversary of my dad’s passing — I’m thinking about “watching the ball game,” Uphoff style.

Even today, when one of my sister use that expression, I know EXACTLY what she means.

Here at our home in the Tetons, we’re not quite as crazy about it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of this family ritual fondly. I stay aware of what’s on, and check for the final score — if only to check in with my siblings and keep my father’s memory alive.

Enjoy!

PS. For those of you who watch such things, I still have posts for 2015.3, 2015.4 and 2015.5 to write.  Don’t worry, they’re coming 🙂

 

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