Thursday, April 28, 2016

Restaurant Recommendations from my Students -

For my Argumentative Writing students' final paper, I assign them a restaurant review. They need to take someone else with them, it can't be chain fast food, and it needs to be written subjectively objective. The students think this is going to be an easy assignment, until they enter the restaurant and begin to see more than the items on the menu.

The assignment is: 

The restaurant review should be between 750 and 1000 words. Typed, double spaced, and written as a narrative rather than outline.
Specific information about the restaurant should be included in the title, i.e. name, address, phone number.
Mention the names of guests, the items ordered (including drinks), and the prices of the dishes ordered.
You need to include an objectively subjective analysis of the restaurant from décor to service to food and bill. Some things to observe while dining and then writing your review are:
·         Get down the address, hours, phone, prices, day and time of day, web site (ask if you're not sure)
·         How many people were there? (Mostly full, three people, packed with how long of a wait time, etc)
·         Is food properly hot or cold?
·         Is it watered down?
·         Did it seem fresh?
·         Anything unusual?
·         Did they pay attention to aesthetics (color, layout, etc.)?
·         Aroma?
·         What were the prices? were the prices commensurate with the expected quality/quantity?
·         Service:
o    Were they helpful?
o    Did they rush you?
o    Did they deliver the food to the right people?
o    Were they knowledgeable?
·         Problems:
o    Was the gazpacho hot and the fajita cold?
o    Was the fly in the soup flavorless? (pardon the humor — but you catch my drift)
·         For buffets: How many items were there? Were items labeled?
·         Anything else noteworthy?

This semester's top choices are: 

Asia Palace - West Valley City

3 reviews - The Cheesecake Factory

Texas Road House

3 mixed reviews - Bombay House, Provo

Station 22, Provo

Original Pancake House, Sandy

Noodles and Co., Provo

Savory and Sweet, 182 West Center Street, Orem

Village Inn, Orem

El Pescador, Ontario, CA

Cravings Bistro, Pleasant Grove

India Palace, Provo

4 reviews - Maria Bonita Mexican Grill, Orem

Pizzeria 712, Orem

Black Sheep, Provo

4 mixed reviews - Chili's, Orem

Rice King, Provo

Rincon Peruano, Orem

Tucanos Brazilian Grill, Provo

Galilee Grill and Bakery

Cafe Molise, Salt Lake City

Chedda Burger, Salt Lake City

2 reviews - Home Cooking

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

William A (Bert) Wilson - RIP

Dang - as much as I like to study death, and as unafraid of dying as I am, I still hate loss. I hate losing relationships - even those that have waned with the years.

Bert Wilson died last night. He was a good man, a great scholar, and a wonderful mentor. I will miss him tremendously. I will remember his keen smile, his quick wit, and his sigh of wisdom. He was brilliant, yet everyday in his approach - academic yet pure-blood Idahoan. Perfect blend - something I try to mirror.

Bert taught me how to be comfortable writing scholarly about every day life. He taught me that I could be the expert on my culture, and then he grilled me, making sure I could support my claims. He was my go-to when it came to Mormon culture, to missionary culture. Of my thesis he said, "Every mission president should read this, so they better understand missionaries and their relationships with their mothers." I felt that my work had been validated!

Thirteen years ago, I graduated from USU with my degree in Folklore. I did not attend graduation, but rather, a couple of weeks later Bert came to my house, and in a surprise home graduation, he gave me my diploma. It was a beautiful night.

I had the privilege of spending time at his house about twelve years ago, looking through his photo albums, listening to his and Hannele's stories about their lives. Aaah, good storytellers.

I will miss you, Bert. Thank you for the lessons and the legacy. (Photos from 2003 in honor of Bert and the dedication of the William A Wilson Folklore Archives at BYU; photos and food that I coordinated.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Crossing Boundaries -

Folklore exists for four reasons in any culture, any community. They are to: 

Social Control
Reinforce Values

We learn to tie shoes; we tell jokes; we walk on the sidewalk rather than the road; we fold our arms when praying. And we do this all informally, learning from those within our culture. 

It's all about putting boundaries in place to maintain order and a sense of oneness within the community. Anyone who doesn't know the boundaries isn't a member of the community, and anyone who crosses boundaries may await expulsion from the community. This breeds the insider - outsider aspect of culture, or the us - them language. 

Anthropologist Wade Davis said, "The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit." But when attempting to strengthen the community, we dare not look at those outsiders, for fear of what they may bring into the community, or what may draw us out of the comfort, or awkwardness we call ours.  

"Good fences make good neighbors," is the last line of the Robert Frost poem, "Mending Wall." And in this poem Frost talks about what we will or won't allow into our world, including people, even friends, not mere acquaintances. Social control? 

With this running thought - can we live inside those boundaries and outside of the boundaries, simultaneously (or nearly so)? I was reared with this - "The Church is not a buffet, you can't pick and choose what aspects of it you want and what you don't, and live that way." I was also taught, "Just because everyone else does it doesn't mean you have to." And I've lived my life in-between boundaries, speaking the cultural language, but not always feeling like I'm one with any specific culture. 

I mean - let's see - I'm Mormon, two children (only), worked, went to school while rearing them; divorced, remarried to a recovering alcoholic. I go to church on occasion, but I'm bugged by many of the cultures mor'es, yet hymns sing to my soul. I pray to my Heavenly Father with deep sincerity, and I have a Buddha and a Kuan Yin sitting on my dresser. I have a tattoo, but I keep it covered. I'm a chaplain (rare for Mormon women), and I decorate the bulletin board at church, anonymously. I've been a boundary-walker for most of life, beginning as a young girl, fifth grade, being told I couldn't be a member of their group - and deciding that I would be my own group, my own person, find my own way. 

Lately my boundaries are not nearly distanced from each other as in the past. I'm finding that I can, indeed, dine from a buffet - even on Sundays. 

Sometimes I stay within the fences of the community, sometimes I open the gate and walk out. And sometimes boundaries are meant exactly for this reason - to know they exist, and in knowing this, have the freedom to wander from side to side; exploring the structure, looking at its origin, questioning and understanding its purpose, and then - hopping over this fence, lifting a leg over that one, crawling through another. Stubbing a toe, tearing britches, getting stuck and calling for help, or digging through and out; often with not much grace! I'm occasionally asked why I do this, why do I wander? I'm curious; more often than not, I'm delighted with what's on the other side, and I am the better. 

Education has given me the language to express, and understanding culture has given me the opportunity to choose to look and wander. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Anti-Prince and Idols -

Yeah - I've never really been a fan of Prince, the person formally known as Prince, or his music. I'm a product of the music of the 60s and 70s, and to some degree the 80s, but his stuff just never spoke to me.

Today on all the news channels around me were up-to-the-minute reports on his death and his "musical legacy." And the media had such a news frenzy around his life, even Google has a doodle just for him. Today in folklore we talked about music, and not a single student even mentioned him. They mentioned the influence their families had on their music, but not the influence musicians had on their music choices. I understand - he'll be a hero soon, but the media is telling its viewers who to worship by putting him in our faces and delivering their message - supposedly the message we want to hear, or they want us to hear. How about celebrating the Queen's birthday rather than the Prince's death?

I had a client die last Friday. Her funeral was Tuesday. She was a mother of 3 children (all adults now) and the wife of one crazy guy. This couple lived on the "edge," had lots of non-conforming habits, had friends and enemies. Yet she died. Her family loved her; she was their sunshine. Her 3 children are her legacy.

I have another client who will be knocking on heaven's door in the next few days. You'll never hear of her in the news; she hasn't done anything newsworthy. But she's a mother of 2, grandmother of 1, daughter, sister, friend, lover of nature. Her mother is one heck of a strong woman, and I see why this client has been able to hang on to life as long as she has.

I have another client who is dying, and has probably weeks to live. I have watched her slow decline. Her husband's greatest fear is to walk into their bedroom, where she naps, and find her not sleeping, but not breathing.

And the list goes on. My clients will be leaving families, friends, careers, and debt. And these clients of mine are every bit as important as Sir Prince. May he rest in peace, and may my clients and their families find peace.

Be careful who you worship -

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Entitlement -

Every single semester I tell my students that I do not accept late papers, that I do not give private make-up lessons, I do not give extra credit, and that all course material can be found in the class online repository. I tell them if they stay on track, come to class, do the assignments as required, they will succeed; I don't guarantee an A, but I do guarantee success.

Every single semester I have students beg to turn in late papers, ask for special accommodations, miss classes and ask for extra credit, ask for extensions, and tell me they didn't understand the assignment.

Oh. My. Goodness.

And every semester I have students who come to every class, do the assignments as requested, stay on track, and they succeed.


And tonight was no exception. I stood my ground with whining, please, but you didn't . . . , but I didn't know . . . , can I get just 2 extra points, I need an A.

Good night Irene . . .

noun: entitlement; plural noun: entitlements
  1. the fact of having a right to something.
    "full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered"
    • the amount to which a person has a right.
      "annual leave entitlement"
    • the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
      "no wonder your kids have a sense of entitlement"

Monday, April 18, 2016

Third Happy Anniversary -

My sister has a dinner plate that says, "First Happy Anniversary." The plate was made in Japan, and while this is an Engrish error (how about Happy First Anniversary), there is some depth here. What if you've been married thirteen years, yet the fourteenth year is the first happy one?

Today I'm celebrating my third year anniversary of finishing my cancer treatments, and it is a third happy year as well.

So much has changed, I keep learning from my experiences (thank heavens), and I'm almost to the point where I can say I'm grateful for my year of cancer treatments and years of working toward health.

The summer after my treatments I was at a retreat where I received the prompting, "The life you led no longer serves you." I've thought of this often, and yet that life seems to keep creeping back into my life. And just this week I had a realization, based on this prompting. Perhaps it's not just the outward life I was leading, but the inward one as well. I just about allowed myself to be pulled back into some conversations regarding some things I'm pretty passionate about this week. And just as I was tip-toeing in that direction, this prompting surfaced - and I became aware that it's the internal life I was leading that is also no longer good for me.

I need to stay away from negative energy, even when I want to partake, it is not healthy for me (probably never has been) to be a member of a collection of folks who spend their time looking for wrongs and at wrongs, rather than living in goodness. This means walking away from people, conversations, and topics I find tantalizing and energizing, while also diminishing.
Cancer has taught me that I do not want to live in darkness, that light is where I belong, and it is not Pollyanna'ish of me to strive to be positive, with a shake of realism.

This third happy anniversary, and moving into the fourth year, give me cause to contemplate where I want to be going, and how I want to continue this collaboration with my cancer journey. I'm grateful for the distance I have between me and it, and I'm grateful for the perspective distance gives. I'm grateful for progress - personal progress, and the insight to be able to recognize, acknowledge, and move forward.

Here's to three years -

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Finding Peace -

Every once and awhile I read something that I wish I would have said. This is one of those moments:

April 17, 2016
An Inner Choice 
by Madisyn Taylor
Peace starts within us- we cannot bring to the world what we do not have to offer.

Often we look at the outside world and find it in a state of seeming chaos or disorder. We feel compelled to transform the situation from one of turmoil into one of peace, yet we are often disappointed in our best attempts to do so. One reason for this is that we cannot bring to the world what we do not have to offer. Peace starts in our own minds and hearts, not outside of ourselves, and until its roots are firmly entrenched in our own selves, we cannot manifest it externally. Once we have found it within, we can share it with our family, our community, and the whole wide world. Some of us may already be doing just that, but for most of us, the first step is looking within and honestly evaluating the state of our own relationship to peacefulness.

Interestingly, people who manifest peace internally are not different from us; they have chattering thoughts and troubled emotions like we all do. The difference is that they do not lend their energy to them, so those thoughts and feelings can simply rise and fall like the waves of the ocean without disturbing the deeper waters of peacefulness within. We all have this ability to choose how we distribute our energy, and practice enables us to grow increasingly more serene as we choose the vibration of peace over the vibration of conflict. We begin to see our thoughts and feelings as tiny objects on the surface of our being that pose no threat to the deep interior stillness that is the source of peacefulness. 

When we find that we are able to locate ourselves more and more in the deeper waters and less on the tumultuous surface of our being, we have discovered a lasting relationship with peace that will enable us to inspire peace beyond ourselves. Until then, we help the world most by practicing the art of choosing peace within. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Son - Plugfones -

I've bragged before, but I'm doing it again.

My son, Tyler, is a thinker. I used to tease him that he would think first, and then do, if there was time. He likes to think through a project, talk through the process, and once all of his bases are covered, he creates.

Tyler and his cousin, Shaun, make a fine team. Shaun has ideas, and Tyler takes those ideas and turns them into a reality. Together they are a great think/create tank. And they're using local entrepreneurs to help them make their dreams come true.

Tyler and Shaun have created Plugfones. And you'll have to take a gander to understand his company. But I can say I'm a proud momma. Of course I am - nothing is as gratifying as seeing my children turn into awesome adults.

So I'm bragging and placing a plug for Plugfones. What can I say - I use their products!

Plugfones' newest baby and a kickstarter here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Talking About Others - Karma -

Today I read this phrase, "What Suzy says of Sally, says more about Suzy than Sally."

Of all the wickedness' of the world, talking negative about others, I believe, is the most dangerous. When we talk about others - good or bad - we open the door for others to do the same to us. And by darn, I don't need bad juju floating around, not at all.

I will not talk negatively about my ex, about this company or that company (particularly the ones I work for), or anyone else, for that matter; it just isn't worth my time.

I'm a firm believer in - "Be the change you wish to see in the world," so when I feel negatively toward someone, I have to look at myself and see what I need to change.

It's more than, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I believe in removing myself from negative energy - including walking away from a conversation when back-talking is happening. I have before; I will continue to. Integrity/Karma -

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Embracing Age -

For the past 30 years I have lived my life semester to semester. My kids were in school; I began school shortly after Jenna began school, and a year before I graduated with my Masters, I began teaching at UVU. That's a long time in the classroom!

I have loved nearly every minute of this semester life. Nearly. Going on to campus is like time standing still. Campus life is static - although I get new students every semester, the names and faces change, but their ages and stages don't. Students have similar concerns, similar lives to those who came before them, even 20 years ago, and I would imagine my students next semester will be similar. So I can walk onto campus, and nothing has changed; every single day I teach the same lessons, see the same people, hear the same thoughts.

And to the students, this is all brand new - they think they're the originators of thoughts, views, proposals, issues. No; Vagina Monologues has been performed for years - new actors, new audience, same issues. There's always an appeal for better parking, smaller class sizes, variety in menus, always, every single semester.

I love this about UVU. I am comfortable here. I know the styles, know the lingo, know the music, know the culture and the hot topics; which is fun and has kept me young and in step with these folks. But this year I've had a few moments of squirming. Because while my students remain the same, I have changed! UVU is the "Tuck," and I am the community that grows and changes.

I have done my best to not evolve, to remain forever 28, but since cancer I'm realizing I'm really significantly older than my students, even my older students; I have students now younger than my kids - weird. And while I have a few "hot chilies" in "Rate My Professor," those were years ago, and whereas that was a compliment years ago, I'm not the younger woman I was then. These "kids" are not my peers! And these folks are the ones I am the most comfortable around. I know how to talk with them; I'm not intimidated by them. I don't want to be one of them, I just want to be hip enough they will embrace me like I embrace them. And I haven't spent much time around people my own age.
What's a woman to do? So this past week I've set about beginning to be comfortable with my over-50'ness. This is hard. I've deleted "boutique stores" from my Instagram account and replaced them with higher-end stores; I've added some "mid-life" accounts to both IG and my reading loops. I'm trying to look hip without looking trendy. I'm walking straight by Forever 21 and H&M.

I'm over 50, I need to get used to this, embrace it instead of fight it, knowing I am the best I can be at this age, not at another age, and while I want to reincarnate as a 28 year-old, I'm who I am now for a reason, for a purpose, and my wisdom - that comes with age and experience, is valuable. And that saggy skin, extra weight, sleepy eyes, graying hair are part of who I am, and I really need to love this me. This is good for me, and my students.

"Grow old with me, the best is yet to be," will be an invitation to myself - to embrace my here and now and tomorrow, as I am, as I grow. The best has been coming for years; I have no doubt this will continue. Time to be comfortable with the process.

Monday, April 4, 2016

LDS General Conference and Reinforcement -

I know what I know; I do what I know; I'm totally capable of handling the ups and downs of my life - in fact, I'm personally responsible for most of those good and bad days. And yet, I'm a believer in positive reinforcement, in whatever form I can get. I'm a follower of Pema Chodron, Depak Chopra,and many other contemporary philosophers and religious guides as well as spiritual leaders who influence my life's choices - including a Higher Power. I believe there is goodness all around me, if I only open my eyes to see it. And I'm a believer that if I sit and meditate and contemplate and listen, I will know, because of the goodness that is in me, what I need to know and understand. 

And so this weekend was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' semi-annual General Conference. And I listen - with my soul wide open for words and messages and feelings shared that will lighten my load (mostly the load I put on myself), and reinforce the hope that I'm on the right life's path. 

I was touched by these messages this weekend: 

"Please remember tomorrow and all the days after that that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christ-like virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; call on the Savior to help you and keep going." -Jeffrey R. Holland

"God sees us as we truly are—and He sees us worthy of rescue.
"You may feel that your life is in ruins. You may have sinned. You may be afraid, angry, grieving, or tortured by doubt. But just as the Good Shepherd finds His lost sheep, if you will only lift up your heart to the Savior of the world, He will find you.
"He will rescue you.
"He will lift you up and place you on His shoulders.
"He will carry you home.
"If mortal hands can transform rubble and ruins into a beautiful house of worship, then we can have confidence and trust that our loving Heavenly Father can and will rebuild us. His plan is to build us into something far greater than what we were—far greater than what we can ever imagine. With each step of faith on the path of discipleship, we grow into the beings of eternal glory and infinite joy we were designed to become." -Dieter F. Uchtdorf 

"Children need parents willing to listen to them." -M Russell Ballard

"When we reach out to lift one another, we prove those powerful words: 'No one goes his way alone.'" -Ronald A Rasband

"There are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before.
"This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life." -Thomas S. Monson

The below thought grabbed me this weekend as well; you'd think that at 57 I no longer doubt, but I do, and I need these self-confidence boosters as well. 

Here's to starting a new week, a new month, with my eyes wide-open and my soul well-fed.