Category Archives: The Sunday Open

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.


poetry out loud


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Filed under Around the Valley, Fun art, Scrapbook, The Sunday Open

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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Filed under My Weekly Reader, The Sunday Open

“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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Filed under Journeys..., On writing, Sorting things out, The Sunday Open