If you need something, ask

A few years ago, I realized that there were a lot of issues inside my classroom that could be managed if I just asked — or, even better, if my students asked.

Time wasted and off-task can be minimized if I have tools like pencils, pens, laptop chargers and paper available. In purple marker, I added “Rule #6.” It reads: If you need something, ask.

The other day I revisited Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking and watched her TED talk.

In her first example of asking, she shares a story of being a street performer.

So I had the most profound encounters with people, especially lonely people who looked like they hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks, and we would get this beautiful moment of prolonged eye contact being allowed in a city street, and we would sort of fall in love a little bit. And my eyes would say — “Thank you. I see you.” And their eyes would say — “Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.” 

Giving and receiving, especially now — in this economy and moving into the holiday season, prolonged eye contact, seeing each other, and connecting, means more than ever.

Consider, then, what you need. Consider what you can give.

Happy Holidays from Heidi, who gives unconditional love, and Hooker Horde.

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Be the ONE to Give What Someone NEEDS

Close to Christmas time, my 5’4″ towered over Iris Durfee, the smiling squat Princess of Treasure Mountain Junior High School — a veteran teacher filled with creativity, passion, and love. Mrs. Durfee was a force in the classroom. Students learned and they loved learning. Mrs. Durfee inspired teachers to teach better and students to learn more.

During passing periods, teachers stood in the crowded hallways to monitor behavior. Some complained. I loved it. Not only did I get to interact with students outside my classroom, I got to chat it up with colleagues, like the Princess.

“I went to Salt Lake last night to pick up my car,” I shared. “Jeff had it waiting for me at his house. When I got there, he handed me the keys and said, ‘I put new tires on it.'”

“Wha—at? How?” I asked, knowing that tires are expensive.

Charlie, our mechanic fixed everything that was wrong on my Subaru. The charge to my credit card was over $3,000.

Jeff explained, “When I was driving it, it didn’t feel right. I looked at the tires and knew my sister couldn’t drive on these. Merry Christmas.”

“I wish I had a brother like yours,” said Iris Durfee with tears in the corner of her eye when I finished my story.

That’s when I realized that not everyone has a Jeff.

With 65 days until Christmas, take the time to consider how to be the ONE who gives what someone NEEDS.

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#4: Most Famous

17 January 2022

I’ve been COVID-tining. That means that since Wednesday afternoon when our school nurse caught me with a fever while I was rapid testing for the vid, I’ve been down.  Not down in a good way.  DOWN.

That means I’ve spent too much time scrolling through Instagram and Facebook along with too much time watching TV. (By TV, I mean Netflix and HBO Max.) In my defense, until today my eyes were scratchy and it was hard to focus. Yep.  I’m rationalizing the wasted time I spent on my sofa.

Yesterday, Jim posted a question on his Facebook page:  Who is the most famous person you’ve ever spoken to?

I didn’t reply. But, I thought about it.

Robert Redford? No.  There was that unfortunate conversation when he thought I was married to the neighbor, Bobby. I explained, “I’m Julie HOOKER.  I’m Dwight’s wife.”  Bob looked puzzled. When I told Dwight about it, Dwight said, “Bob’s eyes aren’t very good.”

Jonny Depp? No.  Everyone spoke to him when we filmed Pirates of the Caribbean on Grand Bahama Island.

Oh, Pierce Brosnan’s hair stylist?  That was funny. And, no. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember him talking about his box rental. (I never understood how a hair dryer made as much in box rental as a semi truck trailer filled with special effects equipment.) I asked. He explained, “You have no idea how difficult it is to go from a wet scene to a dry scene.” Yeah. . .that’s rough.  Thank God for Conair.  I mean, seriously, during a 6-week shoot, you wouldn’t even need a haircut.

Dennis Hopper?  No. We didn’t actually speak. He just saw me naked in the window.  That’s another chapter.

Today, while I spun on my recumbent bicycle to rehab my knee, I watched “Somebody Somewhere.” Near the end, the protagonist belts out a Peter Gabriel song.

Peter Gabriel?  Yes.

Peter Gabriel is the most famous person I’ve spoken to.  

Peter Gabriel’s daughter had a private art exhibit at Sundance. I was working in Mountain Operations running the kids’ camp. That meant my office was in the bike shop. It must’ve been in the early 2000’s (which still seems like yesterday) because I used a VHS tape to record the legs of The Tour de France each day and we’d play them on the TV.

The boys in the bike shop were fabulous.  They did everything for me from changing my flats to catching and releasing mice. 

Late one afternoon, I mentioned I was going to the exhibit. Brian, kinda’ a chunky patroller, asked me with wide eyes, “will Peter Gabriel be there?”

“I think so,” I replied.  I’d met Peter the night before at a dinner party.

“Can I please go with you?”

Brian, Dwight and I went to the exhibit.  Brian played guitar and wanted more than anything to meet Peter Gabriel.
When I introduced them, I said, “This is Brian. He plays guitar and is on the bike patrol here.”

Brian started asking questions about music, but Peter Gabriel changed the subject. He said, “Tell me about bike patrol.  What do you do?”

I was charmed.  To have someone so famous switch the focus from his accomplishments to a fan was magic.

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#3: Faux Fur is Fabulous

I was invited to celebrate Christmas Eve with old friends in my old neighborhood. For years, well, forever, I’ve been guilty of getting into a relationship, putting all of my energy into that, and neglecting the friends that really love me.

I didn’t make it to Christmas Eve at Jodi’s last year.

At 2:18, Jodi messaged me:  

Last year Juliann and Vanessa wore their mother’s fur coats to our cocktail hour. They are going to make a tradition out of it. Juliann is so excited. I only have a faux fur scarf, but if you have something like that, please wear it.

Being a vegetarian that tries to avoid animal products like leather or fur, I messaged back:

I will go full on Keeley in faux fur.

After getting dressed, I stood in front of Kenneth’s umbrella stand, the only full length mirror in my home. 

Tucked up in the corner is the post-it note I made with his message to me:  Calm down and get back in your groove.

Standing there, I thought, BOSS. ASS. BITCH.

A few months ago, two students painted a box pink and filled it with biscuits – just like on Ted Lasso.  They wanted to have “biscuits with the boss” and considered me, “the boss.”  What a compliment.

Moving into 2022, find your BOSS.  ASS.  BITCH.  I recommend starting with faux fur.

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#2: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Kermit the Frog was right, “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.”

For years, I’ve joked, in a not very funny way, that “I didn’t reproduce so I can put whatever I want in the landfill.” The ridiculous amount I consume and have delivered post/present pandemic, got to me this year.

In addition, I saw the toll my consumption takes on my mail carriers and delivery people. 

I have a lot of excuses for my over consumption. At 5’4” and 110 pounds, the bag of kibble I use for croutons for five dogs is half of me. My knee still hurts. It is easier to have things like, dog beds, towels, books, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies, delivered to my doorstep than carry it from a store to my car.

Now, I will also own that I loathe, truly loathe, visiting my local grocery store, Food Town, the Petri Dish.  Both staff and patrons look at me like I’m speaking in tongues with snakes coming out of my head when I wear my mask and wipe down my cart. (To my great surprise, they do offer wipes which are, most often, full. I think I’m the only person who uses them and they’ve had the same bucket of wipes since 2018.)

In addition, the prices at Food Town, for the things I need – almond milk, organic almond butter, frozen vegetables for the dogs, and granola – are high. However, they are the ONE place that stocks fresh cut marrow bones.

At Food Town, I bag my own groceries because the children that work the cash registers and bag, snap their gum, eat Cheetos and Sour Patch Kids, sip giant sodas, and seem, generally perturbed that ringing up my items takes them away from their TikTok, Snapchat or whatever else they are doing on their phone.

I know, I sound like a grumpy old lady.  

It’s not their fault.  The management at the Petri Dish should step in and train them in the finer arts of basic human decency.

I digressed.

But, you get the idea.  It is easier to click on my Amazon account, order and have items delivered.

Over the last several months, watching the Earth Club at school do more with recycling, I’ve considered my consumption and made real efforts to curb it – literally with my recycling, and figuratively with my habits.

Since I couldn’t find an electric snowblower at my local hardware store, I purchased a Greenworks corded blower. It arrived on Wednesday.

I dragged it into my home from the front porch to assemble it.

On Christmas Eve morning with a few inches of snow on the patio, I unboxed and built my new blower.

At the end, I realized the chute rod was missing. 

Using my Amazon wizardry, I found the number for Greenworks. The website said they were open, but the message told me to “call during business hours.” I reached out to Amazon. 

Both associates from India (yes, I had to go up the command chain), said the only solution was to send me an entirely new snowblower and have me send this one back. Parul even said, “when you receive the new one, take out the part you need and return it.”

I noted the irony and chatted with:

My solution is to wait for Greenworks to get back to me. I have to believe that someone will see the idiocy. 

I am not defeated. I am committed to a greener 2022.

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#1: I’m a Writer

#1:  I’m a Writer

“Let me dance for you.”

Remember that scene in A Chorus Line where the premiere dancer begs for the chance to “dance for you” because “I’m a dancer, a dancer dances?”

Well, years ago, when Bob O’Connor hired me back into the Park City School District it was because I told him, “I’m a teacher.  A teacher teaches.” 

Now, the morning after Winter Solstice 2021, the most difficult year of my teaching career – yep, harder than 2020; the most difficult year of my personal life – yep, harder than 1989 when my dad died; harder than getting a divorce; harder than Dwight dying in 2015, the sun is breaking through the pink clouds outside my window and I am getting started on the first of the intentions I set last night.

It’s hard to call myself a writer. It feels pretentious and like I’m playing dress up. 

A few weeks ago, I wore a pair of red Pistola faux leather trousers with a beautiful Gucci blouse to school. My seniors in third period, walked in and complimented, “the fit.”  Fit is the current term for outfit. 

Lizzie, who happens to be kind, warm, gracious and intelligent, said, “You look like a writer.  I don’t know what a writer looks like

Later, Lizzie asked, “Do you have a passion project?”

I paused.

“I suppose I’d be a writer instead of just dressing like one.”

An old soul, Lizzie nodded. She understood.

Today, 12-22-2021, I’m a writer.  

I mulled over ideas in my mind. I sat down with my rose gold MacBook Air next to the window that looks out over my almost an acre, past the horses in the neighbor’s corral, and over to the Uinta mountains.

I’m not dressed like a writer. Instead, I’m wearing a fuzzy gray onesie with “LOVE” embroidered in red plaid across the chest. A year ago, I wrapped up three matching onesies, including this one, with jammie bottoms for Ray and his children – the family Ray kept saying needed me. 

Turns out, they didn’t need me and they really didn’t want me. But, that’s another story, another personal essay.

Since I will turn 52 in 2022, my intention is to write one essay each week. By next Winter Solstice, I’ll have 52.

This is the first.

Now, I’ll immerse myself in mentor texts from Ann Patchett and Dinty W. Moore (that appears to be his real name).

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Rules for Engagement

Rules for Engagement

4 December 2021

Okay, I have to admit that I don’t love Brene Brown. By that, I mean, I don’t love her the way other people love her.

During the pandemic, I bought Willie Nelson’s Letters to America. In it, he shared the family rule: Don’t be an asshole.

Today, Saturday morning, looking out at the far vista of the Uinta mountains and nearer, the cows in the pasture, I happened to GOOGLE “Willie Nelson’s Family Rule,” and found this podcast.

In it, Willie and Waylon put things into perspective including, but not limited to, sharing the three family rules.

Waylon: Rule #1, don’t be an asshole.

Waylon: Rule #2, don’t be an asshole.

Willie: Rule #3, don’t be a Goddamn asshole.

Willie continued, “it’s not hard.”

Right now, at the end of 2021, as we re-learn how to be in shared spaces. We need to practice the Nelson Family Rules.

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Hope –it’s a survival trait: 28 November 2021

In these difficult dark times, we need hope more than ever. Goodall claims “hope is contagious.” I hope so. She explains that hope is survival trait.

I just started reading the book this morning. I’m hoping it helps me survive and teach the essential trait of hope to others.

So, today, let us have hope.

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My Defensive Line is Strong

27 November 2021

2021 put all of us on the defensive. Trying to navigate trauma — a pandemic, violence, racism, careers, and, of course, personal letdowns.

On January 14th, Bob O’Connor left our world.  When I paid tribute to my principal, my friend, and my mentor on September 26th, I shared, “Eric Green said that losing a starting linebacker is like losing the heart and soul of your defense.”

With Bob in it, the world felt a little safer. We felt a little safer. Bob stood up for us — his teachers, his students, his staff, and his family.

Dwight Hooker died on January 3rd, 2015. A week later, there was a service for him in Salt Lake City. That’s when I saw Kenneth Thomason for the last time.  Kenneth left just over 15 months later.

Not particularly welcome at the celebration for my first husband, I hid in a back room with Kenneth and my daughter-in-law, Bonnie, drinking High West whiskey. I remembered Kenneth, at 24-years-old, my age, kneeling next to Dwight after Tommy died. Kenneth spoke to Dwight with the wisdom of the ancients. They talked about “the black dog” of depression. Kenneth knew and communicated something I will never understand. He connected to Dwight. He was gracious. 

On that Saturday at the funeral home, Kenneth told me about the cancer he’d been battling. He told me about his love, Cara. There was a lot left unsaid — no words about his father (who ultimately came into the back room to disrupt our conversation), his siblings, or, his life in between kneeling next to Dwight and January 10th, 2015.

Kenneth lives in my heart as the “kindest of the Thomason family.” Kenneth is the one that knelt beside Dwight and cried over the loss of Tommy.  Kenneth is the one that saw my discomfort and sadness and tried to make it better. Kenneth is the one that showed up when no one else would for his sisters and his mother.

Now, at the end of 2021, the year that took the heart and soul of my defense, I’m here, in my home, with the treasures Kenneth left behind. Not the guitars, not the art, not the furniture — the real treasures, his words, his writing, his story. I am the keeper of his the portrait with him writing. It sits next to Jeff Metcalf’s silhouette and Dwight’s pictures.

Somehow, after 30 years and 34 months with the Thomason family, I am the keeper of Kenneth’s journals. I am the keeper of Donna’s photos. I am the keeper of the secrets.

I am the one who Kenneth trusted to tell his story, to tell the story of his “family.” 

Just as I was both humbled and terrified to speak about Bob, I am both honored and afraid to be tasked with Kenneth’s story. After all, he was the writer. 

But, rereading his farewell note, he promised, “I’m running defense on the other side.” Even for me, someone he knew very little, but saw at the most devastating moments, he ran defense — he pulled Dwight out of a depression and he made me feel like I mattered when no one else did.

My line of defense is strong.

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Etiquette and Ethics with Vaccines

Etiquette and Ethics with Vaccinations

I read Kwame Anthony Appiah’s column for The New York Times addressing ethical questions for ordinary folks each week. I have questions about etiquette and ethics regarding Covid vaccinations.

Yesterday, on the 3rd of July, I engaged in this conversation:

Me (to a 30-something woman):                    What brings you joy?

Her:                                                                 Oh, I like to plan vacations.

Me:                                                                  Where is your next adventure going to take you?

Her:                                                                 Ibiza. But, I’d have to get vaccinated.

Her (turning to her BF):                                  That’s the ONLY thing that would make me get vaccinated.

Her 45-year-old BF:                                       You could just buy one for 5 cents online.

Me (grateful my sunglasses covered my shock and disgust knowing that she was spending the night in our home).  Nothing came out of my mouth. Here was the son of a physician with an advanced degree and his girlfriend acknowledging that she was not vaccinated, but sitting in our home.

Me (to the 45-year-old):                                 Are you vaccinated?

Him:                                                                Yes. She had Covid.

Me (my brain calling up the facts I know

about Covid transmission and sure that

 you can still carry the virus, especially

the new variant, but not wanting to be

rude):                                                              What were your symptoms?

Her:                                                                 No big deal.  It felt like strep throat.

Personally, my closest loss to Covid was my cousin, Mikey. I kept my mouth closed thinking that these two would ask about underlying conditions.  Mikey was 54 and had Downs Syndrome. 

Personally, my friends, including their 93-year-old mother had Covid over the holidays. Seven months later, they still do not smell and taste.

Personally, my friend’s sister is on a ventilator in Las Vegas right now. She is a transplant patient making the fight even more difficult. Her father wrote this: “No one’s fault.  Just mad at the situation. But let me tell you, if you may be one of those that thinks Covid’s a hoax, I sure as hell don’t wanna’ hear about it.”

Which brings me to my question on etiquette and ethics – does one have an obligation to get vaccinated? If one chooses to not be vaccinated, should they acknowledge that before staying in someone’s home? Should someone wear a mask when visiting to identify themselves as unvaccinated?

The other day when I visited the Utah Museum of Natural History, all of the children were wearing masks and most of their parents wore them, too. 

Now, the bigger question, why would the next generation of be so cavalier about the health and safety of others? Where is the basic human decency?

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Maude (2006-April 5, 2021): Your Head is in the Stars

Maude 2006 – April 5, 2021

Gray kitty. You blew into the neighborhood behind REI 15 years ago. Jennifer told me about you. Her neighbors “adopted you.” When I met you, I saw that their idea of adoption was leaving the garage door open a few inches. You had a big gash on your right thigh.

I looked at the neighbors and said, “I’m taking her.”

That night, you sat on my lap while I ate supper at Jennifer’s. Then, you purred on my lap driving home to our little house in Park City.

You fit right in with the Cat, Mandu. Being all gray and having an old soul, the name Maude chose you.

Your old soul taught me patience.

Do you remember when you spent the entire evening on the gray wool yoga blanket? I called and called for you. I cooed “Here kitty, kitty, kitty . . .” But, you never came. I had all the neighbors out looking for you while you slept under the coffee table–camoflage.

When you crossed the bridge, I think the Cat, Mandu, Gorby, Midas, Faith, Princess, the Little Prince, Diesel, Booker T. Washington, Hefty Hefner, Mr. Sunny Sunny Bun Bun, Timmy, Maggie Mae, Fluffy, Blackie . . .and, Dad and Dwight met you. You won’t sneeze anymore. Breathing will be easy.

Please stay close.

You’re purrfect. I love you.

Now, you’re on the road to find out.

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