Posts Tagged ‘utah’

When I was a child, I kept a journal infrequently.  I’d write a few sentences…nothing too exciting.  By the time I turned 12 I started writing more often, and my teenage years got even more frequent entries.

my journal cover               my journal inside cover

These journal entries are silly…fluffy…embarrassing…and hilarious to read now, looking back.  They’re full of crushes on boys; my hopes and fears; incidents from my daily life, both mundane and earth-shattering.  They also show some things I was truly sad about.  I wrote about them as I wanted, giving full sway to my feelings because, hey, these were totally private, right?  No one would EVER read them…unless I gave my kids permission to read them when they were old enough.

This seems like a basic truth, or right, that everyone on earth should have: their own right to privacy in their thoughts and feelings…their private thoughts, kept in a private journal, diary, or notebook, contained safely away from prying eyes, not something that anyone else should ever see unless the writer chooses to share.

My friend Susan Cox Powell kept many journals during her teenage years and beyond.  She filled volumes with her private thoughts, her private feelings.  Her hopes, her dreams…probably a lot of angst…teenage melodrama, fun, anger.  She felt free to vent her feelings and thoughts in those journals, secure in the knowledge that they were safe to her.  She may have at some future point chosen to share those journals with her sons, but she certainly never read even one page of those journals to her closest friends or even her family.

Now Susan is gone: missing, disappeared, snatched from her boys, her parents and sisters, her friends, her life.  She has been missing for 19 months without a trace.  Susan’s parents have nothing left of her but memories and photographs.  They don’t even have her sons—Susan’s husband Josh has denied them access to even visit their own grandsons. 

Who has Susan’s journals?  Is it her parents, who respected Susan’s right to privacy and never read her journals? 

NO.  Susan’s private journals—the diaries of a teen girl—are in the hands of the Josh and Steve Powell family. 

Do the Powells respect the privacy and sanctity of her journals?  Do they offer, out of the kindness of their hearts, to give these journals to the Cox family for safekeeping?  Do they keep them stored away safely, so her sons could read them someday and get to know their mother, who was ripped away from them?

NO.  The Powells READ Susan’s journals.  Her father-in-law, Steve Powell—a man who should be trying to find Susan, and who should be cooperating with the police, and urging his son, Josh Powell, to cooperate with police—has gone on national television, not once, but twice, most recently this morning on the NBC Today show—to announce to the world that he has not only READ all of Susan’s private teenage journals, but he is planning to publish them on a new website, starting this week.

What kind of a man does this?

What kind of a person not only violates the sacred privacy of a young girl by reading her thoughts…thoughts that she wrote down before she ever met Josh, his father, or anyone in his family…but also decides he’s going to publish her private thoughts to the entire world?

Susan is gone.  She was taken away from all she holds dear.  Her family and friends are heartbroken, and her sons are without their mother.  She is not here to be her own voice, to stand up in defense of her thoughts, her feelings, her past actions, her life. 

This is so wrong, on every level.  This is an act of total depravity.  And I hope the people of this country and this world will realize this and stand up for Susan, for truth, for justice.  Tell your friends and everyone you know in any way you can—in person, through blogs, Facebook, Twitter–that Susan Cox Powell is still missing, that she has been taken away from her sons, that her life is not the Powell’s to lay open and expose every detail of her teen years.  Those things are Susan’s alone to reveal, and she is not here to do it.  Stand up for Susan.  And please, pray for her, her sons Charlie and Braden, and the Cox family.  Truth WILL prevail.  Justice WILL be done.  And there is a loving God in heaven who will not stand by and watch these immoral, cruel acts to be perpetrated over and over on the innocent.


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I’ve been into birdwatching (or “birding” as it is commonly called) for a little less than a year now, and this year the kids and I are participating in the GBBC—The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Basically, everyone in North America can count the birds wherever they go this long weekend (Friday through Monday)…whether it be on birding trips or hikes, or just on a trip to a local park or running errands to the grocery store.  Did you see 6 pigeons when you went to WalMart?  You can count that.  Were your kids playing at the park when a flock of 30 starlings flew by?  Check.  Did some adorable black-capped chickadees come visit your yard bird feeder this morning?  The GBBC people want to know. (Scientists use this information gathered every year to track bird trends, health and other things.)

Here’s the website with all the information you need to participate.  There’s also a section for kids with a birdsong quiz, puzzles, recipes for bird treats, and more.

We are having a blast watching the home page for the GBBC change constantly as it’s updated every 30 minutes or so with bird finds from across the country.  Yesterday morning, when it started, there were a few red dots marking submitted checklists in the west part of the U.S., with a large cluster of them on the East Coast.  Now the map is nearly full of red, with lots in Canada and Mexico, too.  We love to see the bird count and species count change.

You can also access lists for your state and even city.  We are following Utah (because we live here) and Wisconsin (my beautiful home state…I love that my hometown of Eagle River even had 1 checklist submitted! Thank you, unknown Eagle River birder).

Yesterday we watched our back and front yards for a while and counted 1 Black-Capped Chickadee, 1 Mountain Chickadee, 12 House Sparrows, 5 Starlings, 1 House Finch, 1 Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon variety) and a Spotted Towhee.  The Spotted Towhee was a thrilling find…we’d never seen one before, let alone had one visit our yard!  They’re beautiful birds.  The kids decided they have the head of a Junco, the tail of a Magpie, and the stomach of a Robin. 

Spotted Towhee (from Wikipedia)

Last night we went out to the International Center, near the airport, and saw a Great-Horned Owl.  He was more awake than the last time we’d seen him and the kids were so excited to see him wide awake and looking at them.  We tried to get some pictures but our cameras aren’t the best:


Here’s the nest, which is a bundle of pine needles, sticks, and leaves, and the owl peering out of his nest

We also had a fun time feeding the ducks in a nearby pond, despite the bone-chilling wind.



Nia thought it would be fun to pretend this bench was a bed

The kids were beyond excited to come home and enter their count on the GBBC checklists.  They loved the fact that we counted the only Great-Horned Owl and the only Killdeer (as of this morning) for Utah.

Note: In the half hour or so I’ve been composing this blog post, the national bird count has gone up by 4,000 birds.  We hope you’ll consider taking part in the fun!

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Shooting Fun: Shotguns

Due to computer issues and a need for relaxation around the holidays, I have sadly neglected this blog.  I do have a lot of pictures and things to share that I’ve been saving up, though, so I hope to have more regular posts in the future.

First up: some friends and I have organized a homeschool 4-H club.  I was in 4-H as a kid and dearly loved it (some of my childhood projects included: karate, gardening, cooking, cross-stitch, dogs, hamsters, and cats).  I wanted my kids to have fun 4-H experiences, too.

One of the first things we did in the 2010-2011 4-H year was shooting at the Lee Kay shooting range.  We began in October and the first day we did shotguns.

I was surprised they started with this…the guns were quite heavy and some of the smallest kids (Nia included) needed help even holding them up.  The kids also had some trouble holding the guns tightly enough to avoid bruising on the kick-back after the shot was fired.

But the wonderful people at Lee Kay were GREAT with the kids, and so patient and helpful.  The kids had a great time shooting clay targets.

bran and ciara shotgun1

Bran and Ciara receive some help with shotguns

nia shotgun2

Nia getting shotgun instruction


nia shotgun5

Doing her best to hold the heavy gun, with help


ciara shotgun2

Taking aim

bran shotgun1

Waiting his turn with the gun pointed safely down and away

Even though shotgun shooting wasn’t their favorite kind of shooting, it was a good experience…I can’t say enough positive things about the great staff at Lee Kay and how wonderful they were with the kids. 

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Six months ago today, my dear friend Susan Cox Powell disappeared from her home under very suspicious circumstances.

I’ve written a blog post about it on the other blog I keep for Susan.  I just can’t believe it’s been six months and we still have no answers or resolution.  Her husband still refuses to cooperate with police or answer any questions, and her little boys are still without their mother.

This morning I got up at 3 a.m. to go downtown and be on the weekend Today show live.  These things don’t get any easier with time.  While I am beyond grateful for the media’s interest in Susan and their desire to keep her in the news, it is heart-wrenching agony to not have her back with us and have to mark yet another one of these anniversaries.

I know that Susan is in God’s hands, wherever she is, and that he is also watching over her sweet little boys.  We WILL find her and justice will be served. 

I’m thinking of you today and always, my friend.  I love you.

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I’ve been really sick the last 3 weeks with some kind of cold or respiratory gunk, so it’s been quite a while since I’ve felt up to doing stuff online.  But three weeks ago tomorrow the kids and I went to the Utah Renaissance Festival and Fantasy Faire.  It was so much fun, even though I was a day into a horrible cold.

Last year the kids and I didn’t have costumes but this year we wanted some.  Time was short, so we modified what we had, shopped thrift stores, and made it work.  Nia used clothes and fairy wings she already had.  I found a long thrift-store skirt for myself and we modified an old vest.  My mom made me a poufy shirt and apron.  For the older kids, including their nephew Benjamin, we made hooded cloaks.  Friday morning before we left I made some drawstring bags to get around the problem of needing a place for money, keys, camera, and phone but still look authentic.

The first thing we did upon arriving was put each kid in the stocks.  You can’t tell really, but he’s smiling.  Maybe we need some rotten tomatoes. 🙂

I’d crossed my fingers every day for two weeks on checking the weather and it was supposed to be mostly sunny and 66 degrees.  Perfect!  Unfortunately, in the afternoon a big rainstorm hit and it was pretty cold and wet for a while.  We kept warm by huddling around the blacksmith’s fire.

A kind lady named Susan cuddled Nia in her cloak

The blacksmith, complete with wooden leg

There were all manner of colorful characters wandering around…our favorite was Captain Jack Sparrow himself.  He had the look, the costume, the mannerisms, the walk, the lingo, the ship, and even the voice.

The kids loved playing in the Belegarth fortress and guarding it with their new swords and baldrics:

A highlight of the faire is always the jousting with the hilarious Knights of Mayhem.

A knight suiting up

One of our favorite parts of the Faire is all the awesome shops and booths where you can buy authentic costumes, weapons, treats, and accessories.  We let each child take $20 this year and they had so much fun spending it.  Nia got a parasol, a gorgeous inlaid box made of stone, and a necklace with a real flower imbedded in it.  Bran bought himself a boken—a wooden samurai-type sword and also a leather baldric to hold his wooden sword he bought last year.  Ciara bought a sword and baldric combo and a crystal.  I got a messenger-type bag and a handmade white wide-brimmed hat, which the makers stretched for me to get the perfect size. 

Besides the jousting and shopping we watched a magic show, a massive jenga-type game, and a shop owner demonstrating “Contact juggling” like Jareth in the Labyrinth movie.

It was so much fun and as we drove away, exhausted, hungry, and footsore, we were already talking excitedly about next year’s Faire.

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Yesterday morning after I dropped my oldest girl off at ballet and made a quick run to the LDS Humanitarian Center, I noticed some birds in a little marshy spot right next to a very busy freeway.

On the way back from the Center, we decided to check it out.  We parked at a gas station across the street and walked down the road a bit.  There was a stream on our side of the road and the dried reeds lining the stream were higher than our heads!


Apparently they also make good swords—the kids felt the need to bring some home and try it out.

We finally got up the nerve to cross the busy street and climbed carefully up the hill, making sure to stay far enough away from the equally-busy frontage road/freeway area.  I was so surprised that birds wanted to live in such a noisy area.


Little wetland area next to Highway 201 and 3200 West


Another view, before we crossed the road

This little wetland is absolutely loaded with a gorgeous type of bird—bright golden-orange head, black body, and white stripes on the wings—that I guessed was a yellow-headed blackbird.  (This guess was made on my less-than-a-week-old information from looking at various birds on websites.  Turns out, I was right!  Was I ever shocked. :))

Isn’t he a beauty? From Allaboutbirds.org

We couldn’t begin to count how many of these blackbirds are living in this area—we saw at least 8-10 at various times.  We also caught a glimpse of the female, who is much less noticeable but still very pretty.


You can’t tell in this picture taken with my cell phone, but that black smudge in the middle of the picture is a yellow-headed blackbird. 

The kids usually humor me on my interests (some would say “obsessions” :)) and often get really interested themselves, but the birdwatching was one where they were rather skeptical.  They couldn’t see how sitting quietly looking at birds would be that fun or cool.

However, yesterday Bran and Nia were absolutely glued to my binoculars that I luckily had with me.  I barely got a chance to use them because they were so fascinated by the birds.  We also saw Canada geese, mallard ducks, and an odd black duck-looking waterbird with a white bill that we later found out was an American Coot:


We also saw a couple of other birds, including one brown and white bird that decided it would be fun to take a nap on the side of the road.  I haven’t been able to identify it yet, even with the help of websites and the various bird guides I got from the library last week—I guess we didn’t get a good enough look at it.

The kids screamed with laughter (due to the roar of traffic, we didn’t have to be quiet during the birdwatching) over the bottoms-up antics of the mallard ducks looking for food in the water.  They also couldn’t believe the beauty of the blackbirds.  I think I’ve got some new birdwatching converts-in-the-making!  We can’t wait to go out again, just as soon as this awful weather clears up.


Ciara and Bran, trying out the new binoculars we got from Recreation Outlet a couple of weeks ago


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Just a quick post to squash a couple of stupid, silly rumors that I’m really sick of.

I’ve seen this rumor everywhere the past few months and this post probably won’t do any good because the kind of people that spread this garbage don’t believe me, anyway—but here goes:

No, I am not writing a book.  Not about Susan, or anything or anyone else.

How do rumors get started?  Lots of reasons, I suppose…malicious people who have nothing better to do with their lives…or someone who sees or reads something, says “I wonder if” or “I bet this person thinks” or “Maybe this happened” and then someone else reads it and takes it as fact without ever bothering to check the truth out.

People see that I have an English degree and that I’m interested in writing children’s novels.  So for some reason they assume this means I want to write about Susan.

I think the people that obsess about this kind of thing need to find something productive to do.  Go outside, take a walk, enjoy some fresh air, fill your mind with good literature, do something kind for others.  Or—if you’re so concerned with every minute detail of Susan’s friends’ private lives—do something to help Susan such as printing and passing out fliers in your local area.  Volunteer at a homeless shelter or donate items to women’s shelters. 

I spend 99.9% of my time trying to find Susan in every way I can, and the tiny bit of time left over all goes to my family.  I homeschool my children and try to give them a strong foundation for their lives and a sense of security…not an easy thing when their mother’s friend suddenly disappears from their lives and they’ve got to be wondering, if it could happen to her, could it happen to anyone?  I don’t have time to write anything more than I’m already doing with blogs, e-mails, Facebook messages, Twitter accounts, and all the other online things to keep Susan in the news and in people’s minds and hearts.

I hope that some people who like to spread and perpetuate rumors of this type and others will stop and consider what they’re doing, who they could be damaging, and what lives they could be destroying.  Find out the truth before spreading lies.  Gossip is never good, whether in person or online. 

Instead, why not go out and do something real with your day and go to bed feeling that you’ve contributed something good to the world.

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