Community, Memoir

Mourning the loss of local newspapers

I have a new cause.

I want to revive small town newspapers.

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I know that’s beyond my capacity, and that hometown papers are quaint relics now,  but I wish I could wave a magic wand (or hit an old typewriter key) and restore them in all the small towns across America.

The demise of these papers has left a void that large newspapers (also sadly failing) and social media can’t fill.

Social media doesn’t create or sustain a sense of community like a town newspaper.

Scrolling through a Facebook feed and seeing an occasional, brief newsy post does not come close to holding a newspaper in your hands and reading about everything happening in town.

Now, keep in mind, I majored in journalism back in journalism’s heydays, right after Nixon and Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein. Back then, strong, robust, independent newspapers were the norm.

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Every town had its own newspaper. Seems quaint now — like back in the “olden days.”

If you can imagine it, we even learned about things like “objectivity” in journalism classes.

It was drilled into our heads that reporters should tell both sides of a story.

We learned the difference between news stories and opinion pieces.

Yes, it was a different world then.

While a student, I spent a summer as the editor of The Springville Herald, my hometown newspaper. Then, I became the editor of the university’s student newspaper — The Utah Statesman.  

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Yes, that’s Geraldo Rivera back in the 70s, teaching us about journalism as the institution of social change.
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This is how The Statesman looked back in the 70s. 

I loved the newspaper world — all of it.  I loved the concept of gathering news, trying to present it fairly, and making the university or the town seem smaller, more intimate, more unified by keeping people informed about what was going on where they lived and worked.

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After college, I worked in the press department for U.S. Senator Jake Garn from Utah. One of my favorite parts of the job was traveling around the State of Utah, visiting small-town newspaper editors. It gave me a sense of not just what was happening, but what mattered to people in different parts of the state.

It was always abundantly clear by these visits and by reading the different papers that what people cared about in Beaver, Utah was different than what mattered to people in Tremonton. Each different newspaper captured the essence of its people, its geography,  challenges, and unique personality.

After I quit working on the Hill, my mom always gifted me an annual subscription to The Springville Herald. I loved when it showed up in my mailbox.

I loved knowing about everything happening in my hometown —  who was celebrating a first birthday, who was getting married, the issues before the town council, who won the local golf tournament or football championship, which couples were celebrating big anniversaries, and who was running for office.

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This is a photo from The Springville Herald of the football team — Snow Dairy — that my dad sponsored and coached. My dad is in the upper left corner. My brother, Kelly, is #62 in front of him.

Since my mom passed away a few months ago, I keep running into old family friends who didn’t know she died. They all say, “I miss The Springville Herald. That paper always kept me updated on things like that.”

I miss The Springville Herald too — and all the other newspapers that have folded. I miss the local flair, the feature stories that capture the flavor of a town and its people.

When I worked at The Springville Herald, I wrote a feature story about a local character named Ivan Tryfonas. I called him “the town crier” because he roamed the town keeping everyone informed about what was happening.

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“At a glance,” I wrote, “Ivan looks as though he could fill a doorway with ease and take on the biggest of athletes without hassle. But, Ivan uses his strength to work for the betterment of the community.”

His size and omnipresence on Main Street often made him an intimidating figure in town. But, the article personalized him, and helped people see the gentle side of someone they may have feared.

I heard he couldn’t stop smiling after that article was published. He died five years later of a heart attack. I’m glad I captured his one-of-a-kind presence in our hometown.

Personalizing a man like Ivan is just one of the benefits of a local newspaper. I always liked reading about the new businesses, art exhibits, and plays in town. All of that often seems to go unnoticed now. A banner across Main Street hardly does the same thing as the full story and photos in a newspaper.

Some towns have tried to make up for the loss of newspapers by putting a few local stories in a newsletter that’s tucked in with the city bill. But, that hardly serves the same purpose, and is of no worth at all to those who pay their bills online.

When we first moved to Herndon, Virginia, there were at least three newspapers — The Observer, The Connection and the Times. They made our town tucked into the sprawling Washington, D.C. suburbs seem homey and unified. It gave us a separate identity from the broader D.C. metro area. But, one by one, they all went out of business.

You can still get a taste of the value of old newspapers, by visiting newspapers.com.

You’ll be surprised at the gems you can find there. (It is primarily a genealogy site.)

I found the actual story about Ivan and a lot of stories about my family — including a story about my parents’ wedding that described my mother’s dress in great detail and even listed everyone in her wedding party. These are priceless gems.

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Yes, I’m mourning the loss of newspapers.

I know it’s unrealistic to hope for a revival of  small town newspapers, but an old journalism student from the 70s can hope and reminisce, right?

Anybody with me on this?

 

Change, Friends, Home

10 Lessons about moving

I keep a five-year journal , a charming little gem that allows me to write five-line entries for five years.

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Every day, it tells me exactly what I was doing the previous year on the same day.

My daily entries from last year at this time included :

  • Last visit to our home in Virginia. That house is packed with memories. Not sure I can handle any more tears or goodbyes.
  • Signed our closing papers and hit the road for Utah. I can’t believe it.
  • Staying in Missouri.
  • Just outside Denver.
  • Arrived in Utah at our new home. Stood on the deck and marveled at the beauty.
  • Roughing it with a folding table, two lawn chairs and an air mattress until the moving van arrives.

As I read these entries, I thought about everything that has happened and changed in our lives in the last year.

Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned:

  • While moving is a major life decision and a big risk, it turned out to be easier than I expected.
  • At a going away party last year, a wise millennial friend said, “Don’t compare Utah to Virginia/D.C. Just take Utah for what it is.” Best advice ever.  It’s not better or worse. It’s just different. (Thank you Jason McDonald.)
  • There is beauty everywhere. While I love the green, lush world of the East Coast,  I love the spectacular mountains and scenery of Utah.

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  • Being near family is better than I imagined.
  • My Virginia friends are still my friends. I’m grateful for phone calls, texting, social media, and lots of visitors. fullsizeoutput_942

 

  • While I miss the vibrancy and closeness of the Mormon church community in the DC area, I’ve learned there are unique cultural challenges and tests of faith in different places. Again, one place is not better or worse. It is just different.
  • Going to the Outer Banks is still worth it. Even if we have to fly, rent a car, and go less often, it’s definitely still worth it.
  • Making new friends doesn’t mean I’m forgetting my old ones. I can cherish old friends and still make new ones. In fact, it’s essential. We all need friends — near and far.
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Reuniting with old high school friends — “You always go back to the people who were there in the beginning…”
  • Another wise friend who has moved many times in her life told me to give it a year to adjust. She said it takes a year to find doctors, hair stylists, dentists, favorite grocery stores, etc. and to feel comfortable in a new house, new neighborhood, new community. She said not to judge whether I like it until a year passed. She’s right. It requires some patience to rebuild your life in a new place.
  •  Finally, I’ve learned that being happy is a choice. So, I’ve decided over and over to be happy, and guess what? I am.

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Change, Home, Uncategorized

Welcome Home

Several years ago, I interviewed Jeanne Marie Laskas, a columnist for The Washington Post Magazine, who wrote the weekly column Significant Others.

I asked her how she came up with a column topic every week for over 14 years.

She said her ideas came from thinking about what moved or touched her that week.

I often ask myself the same question when trying to come up with a blog topic.

What has caused an emotional reaction in me?

The answer to that question came instantly this morning  — the stunning beauty all around me.

I confess I wondered if we’d made the right decision while driving through the desolate landscape near the Colorado/Utah border.

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It felt like we were driving through a Western movie set and I worried we’d get caught up in a train robbery — even though there wasn’t a train in sight.

I scanned the barren landscape looking for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc and Festus from Gunsmoke.

What have we done? I wondered.

All that changed a few hours later when we met our daughter Sara and our friend Peggy at the front door of our new house.

The beauty around us is astounding.

 

img_6631I’ve never yearned to live in the mountains. In fact, I’ve always felt more comfortable in a busy city.

When I moved to Washington, D.C., my dad couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay.

“When are you moving home to Utah?” He always asked.

The more years that went by, the more Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia felt like home.

Utah wasn’t home to me. It was where our families lived — a place we visited.

But, after 37 years, something changed.

Now, surprisingly, Utah is where we live. 

img_6629We’re not planning to pack our bags at the end of this vacation and go back home to Virginia.

Utah is our new home.

 

 

And, we’re learning there’s a lot to love about living here.

At the top of the list are our “significant others.” We’re surrounded by people we love.

So, what caused an emotional reaction in me this week?

Living near our daughters and son-in-law, my mom, our brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and … all this beauty.

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Memoir, Personal, Relationships

Regrets and Do-Overs

While in Utah visiting my family, my sister and I got into a conversation about regrets.

What do I regret? What kinds of things would I do differently if I had a few do-overs?

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Do I regret filling yards of surgical tubing with water and spraying an apartment full of poker-playing boys in college? No.

Do I regret filling up my first semester of college with classes like trampoline, tennis and dance?

Or making a spontaneous decision at 9 p.m. at night to load my car with college friends and drive to Las Vegas for the weekend?

Nope.

What I regret are the times I could have been kinder to people.

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I remember a girl in junior high and high school that everyone teased mercilessly because she had acne and a nervous twitch.

As she walked down the halls, people imitated her twitch as she passed them.

I hated walking that same gauntlet as all the boys sat on the hall benches and called me “Little Bob,” after my Dad who was a little league football coach or “Little Snowsie,” after my brother.”

If I hated that kind of attention, how must it have been to be mocked for bad skin and a sudden jerk of the neck I couldn’t control?

Luckily, I can’t remember directly teasing her myself, but maybe I’ve conveniently forgotten that detail because I’m ashamed of myself.

Even if I didn’t personally injure her, I never once stood up for her.

I’m ashamed of myself for the times I could have stepped back from the teasing or stepped in to stop it; for the times I kept my mouth shut when I could have jumped to someone’s defense or when I opened my mouth only to add to the cutting remarks.

Doug shared a story on Facebook from The New York Times Magazine called, “George Saunder’s Advice to Graduates.”

http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates/

He wrote about regret he’s carried for  42-years. He regrets that he wasn’t nice to a shy girl who joined his seventh grade class.

She wore blue cat-eye glasses and nervously chewed on her hair.

Students teased her, asking if her hair tasted good, or they simply ignored her and never tried to befriend her.

I don’t know how many kids passed through my life like that. How many did I ignore because they didn’t look or dress right or simply because I had plenty of friends?

Saunder’s said, “Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her. But it still bothers me. So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”

That phrase “failures of kindness” hit me hard because that is what I regret most too.

“Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly,” he said.

But, what about the times I didn’t respond sensibly, reservedly or mildly and without even knowing it, may have been downright cruel?

There are no do-overs for those times.

In his graduation speech, he wisely shared that: “as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will be gradually replaced by LOVE. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You won’t really care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit.” (One of the best reasons ever for having children!)

His end-of-speech advice was, “Since , according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up! Speed it along. Start right now.”

If I had one do-over, I would definitely follow his advice and err on the side of kindness. I’ve clearly become a much kinder, more selfless person as I’ve aged.

But, if I could dial the years back to my adolescence and do a few things differently, I’d still do the crazy things like hose down the poker-playing boys, master my trampoline moves, and skip off to Vegas; but, I’d also be a lot kinder.

Related articles

Family

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

I miss my dad.

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It’s been 21 years since I heard his voice, felt his strong hugs, and smelled the Old Spice Aftershave on his cheeks.

What I wouldn’t give for a conversation with him.

Sometimes I imagine him showing up, like when I’m walking on the beach by myself, thinking about him.

As I walk past the fishermen on the beach, I remember how my dad struck up conversations with anybody and everybody holding a fishing pole.

“Are they biting? What are they taking?” He’d ask.

Before long, he knew a bit about everybody and a lot about where the fish were biting, and what bait they were taking.

I try to imagine how a conversation would go with him if I saw him fishing by the shore.

Maybe I’d start by asking whether he’s getting any nibbles on his fishing line.

But, that small talk would not be enough.

I’d probably pepper him with questions that were too big to answer.

You know, questions like “what’s heaven like?” “what do you do all the time?”

I imagine me asking them so fast that he couldn’t answer one before I was on to the next one.

Then, I visualize him smiling and shaking his head at me, and saying, “You still can’t slow down, can you?”

It reminds me of the story about when I was born.

It was October when my mom called my dad from their little two bedroom apartment in Utah to tell him she was in labor with me, and he said, “Now? But it’s the opening of the deer hunt!”

As the owner of the town dairy, Dad had just finished his home delivery route and I’m sure he was ready to start cleaning his hunting rifle or seasoning his Dutch oven for his campfire dinners.

“You can’t have the baby now!” he said. “I’m getting ready for the hunt!”

“To hell with the deer hunt,” Mom said. “This baby’s coming whether it’s the hunt or not, so you better get yourself home now and get me to the hospital.”

Even with the deer hunt looming, he dutifully drove his milk truck back to the dairy, parked it, got into his red Chevy pickup truck and headed back to their apartment to pick up Mom.  He helped her up into the cab of the truck, and then hurried her to the hospital for the delivery.

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Then he waited patiently in the lobby like a good fifties dad.

At the end of my birth story, he always said, “You were in a hurry to get here and you haven’t slowed down since.”

I’m sure he’d still think I haven’t slowed down, even though I’m always trying.

Aside from knowing what it’s like where he is, I’d want to know how he’s involved in our family life.

It doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t still be involved.

I believe our family members are closer to us than we know, like our guardian angels.

Maybe God dispatches them to answer some of our prayers.

Jeffrey Holland, one of my favorite LDS apostles, said, “From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children.”

 

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/the-ministry-of-angels?lang=eng

He said, “Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times.”

I believe my dad’s been around during some of my difficult times to give me some of that merciful attention.

How could he have stayed away during those long months I battled cancer?

How could he have stayed away when my brothers, sister, mom, or his grandchildren have needed comfort?

Elder Holland said,  “I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face…On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting. And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal.”

Because of this and my belief that my dad is one of those angels, I can confidently wish him a Happy Father’s Day and know he’s near enough to hear it ,and know I mean it.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Uncategorized

Milestones and Proud Mamas

Today my daughter, Sara, graduates from college.
This milestone brings to mind so many memories…

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  • When I took her to orientation day at preschool to meet her teacher and classmates, she walked away from me to interact with the other children. She kept looking back at me, surely needing reassurance that I was still there. Then she walked up to me and said, “Mom, it’s time for you to go home now!” I pointed out that parents had to stay. “Why? I’m fine. Just go home and pick me up later.” I told her I couldn’t leave, but I tried to fade out of her sight to help her enjoy her independence. So much for her needing my reassurance.
  • After her first day of kindergarten, I met her at the bus stop, and asked about her day. “It wasn’t anything like I thought it would be,” she said. “I thought I would just sit at a desk and learn, but all we did was play!”
  • When we went to New York City for the first time, Sara was about six years old, and took on the job of calling all our cabs. We couldn’t believe this little blonde child standing on the corner of those busy streets waving down cabs and directing us around the city.
  • When she was in elementary school, she used to slip notes under my bedroom door or put them on my pillow that said, “Mom, this is my schedule for the week.” She had detailed weekly agendas with all her activities and plans neatly written on notebook paper.
  • When she was 10, we sent her to Utah to stay with her grandparents. She sat down and planned out her entire itinerary. She planned to go to the northern end of the state to the small town of Syracuse first to be with Doug’s family, then she would go to my hometown of Springville about two hours away to be with my family. “How will you get from one place to another?” We asked. “I’ll call a cab,” she said. We had to teach her about the small towns of Utah and the lack of available cabs on the rural roads. But, she developed an alternative plan, stoically got on the plane without hesitation, and took off for her first journey alone. Annie and I stood at the gate and cried, amazed at her confidence and poise.
  • We went with Doug’s sister’s family and his parents on a Disney Cruise when Sara was about 11. When we got home, I put all our photos in a scrapbook and asked everyone to write their favorite part of the trip to put in the book.  Sara wrote, “My favorite part of the trip was having my own room key and being able to go all over the ship with my cousins.”
  • When I dropped her off at her college dorm for the first time, I wondered if she might get a little emotional. True to form, she hopped out of the car and off she went. We’d spent several days together before that so there was no need for a big goodbye. I watched her walk into the dorm and felt torn between wanting to sob that my baby girl would be living thousands of miles away from me and feeling overjoyed that she was so well-prepared for her new college life.

I’ve watched her apply these strokes of independence to her life as a college student — detailed day planners and calendars, keys to her own apartment and her own car, sitting at a desk learning, organizing a study abroad to London and traveling throughout Europe. Just like she led us around New York City, she escorted us around the streets and the underground of London. She’s boarded planes, buses, trains, subways, boats, and bikes, and loved every minute of it. She’s made lifelong friends, had her heart and mind stretched in every way, and received an education far beyond what shows up on her diploma.

Now, today, I get to watch her in her blue cap and gown as she marches into the commencement exercises at the Marriott Center with all that knowledge, experience, growth, maturity, and beauty under that cap. And, I get to say, “That’s my girl — the smart, striking blonde in the high heels wearing that pink lipstick. Yeah, that one, she’s mine.”

These milestones are more for the parents than the students anyway, right?

We need our moments to marvel, and say, “See that one, she’s mine!”

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Congratulations Sara!

 

Religion

Ready for a Sweet Weekend

 

 

Imagine spending eight to 10 hours of this beautiful spring weekend parked on the couch listening to about 30 religious speeches.

 

 

 

That’s how millions of Mormons will be spending this April weekend – glued to the television, listening to the radio or taking advantage of satellite and Internet broadcasts from Salt Lake City where more than 100,000 people will be watching it live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of Conference Center spire taken from sou...
View of Conference Center spire taken from south of the Center on North Temple St., Salt Lake City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We call this General Conference. And, we’ve been doing this twice a year since 1831 – every October and every April for all those years.

 

 

 

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It’s a Mormon ritual and we love it. We happily, even excitedly, tune in to be taught and uplifted by the leaders of our church.

 

 

 

While growing up in Utah, I remember listening to General Conference on the car radio or watching it on our local CBS News affiliate station.

 

 

 

It sounds like drudgery, doesn’t it? Listening to one speaker after another for hours on end during two of the most beautiful weekends of the year?

 

 

 

Typically, the first weekends of October and April are beautiful, and most people want to be outside enjoying the weather.

 

 

 

Not us Mormons.

 

 

 

No, we turn on our televisions, set the DVR in case we miss something, pull out journals, pens and paper for serious note taking, settle in for each two-hour session, and soak it up like other people who are outside soaking up the bright spring sun.

 

 

 

It’s crazy, isn’t it? But, General Conference is a staple in our religious culture.

 

 

 

Silly fools that we are, we live for it. I think we spiritually thirst for it like nomads thirsty for water in the desert.

 

 

 

But, why, what do we get out of it?

 

 

 

For starters, spiritual sustenance and manna, hope, courage, strength, faith, knowledge, revelation, wisdom, peace, comfort, insight, love, compassion, understanding, a sense of belonging and well-being, and motivation.

 

 

 

What I like most is the feeling that pours into our homes as we watch it.  I imagine it’s how an infant feels while being cradled by a loving parent singing a soft, melodic lullaby – safe, protected, and nurtured.

 

 

 

So, while it sounds crazy, we love conference weekends. It’s like church, but better because we can wear pajamas if we want.

 

 

 

Although I rarely do because my Great Aunt Anna would scold me good for being so slovenly during Conference. She sat up straight in her old rocking chair, dressed in her finest Sunday clothing and didn’t miss a word that was spoken. She loved and reverenced those prophets and apostles so much that she wouldn’t even consider not wearing her finest clothes around them, even if they were just on TV.

 

 

 

While I won’t be dressed in my finest clothes, I will be taking in every word, just like my sweet Aunt Anna. And you know what? I’ll be sad when it’s over. When the Tabernacle Choir sings the last hymn and the closing prayer is said on Sunday evening, I’ll feel like it all went by too fast, and I’ll want to run around my house and gather up all the sweetness that distilled on my home over the weekend and savor it until October when I can experience it all over again.