Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

Happy Leap Day!  Leap days occur in a leap year, and a leap year is any year whose date is exactly divisible by four, except those years which are divisible by 100 but not by 400.  Are you with me so far?  Since our yearly revolution of the earth around the sun is technically longer than 365 days, every four years we have accumulated an extra day.

Scene from the movie "Leap Year"

The movie "Leap Year"  starring Amy Adams is a fun romantic comedy based on the premise that on Leap Day, a woman may propose marriage to a man.  When the movie was released, I read a review that found the whole Leap Day proposal premise of the movie preposterous, but in doing a little research, I found the tradition has existed for quite some time.  The origin is either St. Bridget negotiating with St. Patrick to set aside a day for women to propose to men once every four years, or, a law passed in Scotland in 1288 that seems to give women the same permission.  The latter version was popular in the 19th century.

Amy Adams as Anna in "Leap Year"

In the movie, Anna is surprised with a gift of earrings from her longtime boyfriend, Jeremy.  Jeremy leaves for a medical conference in Ireland, and Anna, frustrated by the lack of a marriage proposal, decides to travel to Ireland to propose marriage on Leap Day.  The movie becomes a sort of chaotic road trip movie at that point as Anna struggles to make it to Dublin in the company of Declan, played by Matthew Goode.  It is a bit of predictable, romantic-comedy fluff, but is still fun.  I also like the movie for its stunning views of Ireland, although the castle ruins were doctored with CGI for the movie.

Rock of Dunamase, Ireland

The idea of doing something bold and different on Leap Day, as Anna does in the movie, is a good idea for the rest of us.  We actually have an extra day this year.  What will you do with it?  Most of us will be functioning in our normal daily routines, but isn't the idea of an extra day tantalizing?  It would be great if Leap Day were a holiday, and we could really take advantage of the whole day to do something different, but perhaps you can sneak in something you have really wanted to do today, or at least find some small way to mark the occasion, even if it is just dessert!  And if you haven't planned anything wonderful for today, relax.  You have four years to come up with something good for the next Leap Day.  Enjoy your extra day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Farewell Jan Berenstain - Co-Creater of the Berenstain Bears

Image from "Inside Outside Upside Down" originally published 1968

Like many of you, I grew up with books featuring the Berenstain Bears.  Stan and Jan Berenstain created this successful line of children's books that have influenced generations.  Jan Berenstain passed away on February 24, 2012, at the age of 88.  Stan preceded her in death in 2005.

Jan Grant was born on July 26, 1923.  She met future husband Stan Berenstain at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art in 1941.  During World War II, Jan worked as a draftswoman for the Army Corps. of Engineers and as an aircraft riveter. She and Stan married in 1946, and published their first children's book in 1951.  

Image from "He Bear, She Bear" published in 1974

The Berenstains' stories were simple and focused on family experiences.  However, the books also delved into topics appropriate for the time.  In "He Bear, She Bear" Brother Bear and Sister Bear explore a wide variety of careers, summing up with "We can do all these things, you see, whether we are he or she."  Books like this helped children see beyond gender and tradition when considering their future education and employment, and opened up a wonderful range of possibilities.

Image from "The Day of the Dinosaur," 1987

"The Day of the Dinosaur" was published a few years before my own budding paleontologists were born.  As we have culled picture books from our shelves, this is one that remains.  Children fascinated with dinosaurs love the colorful illustrations and simple text in this book.  We have read it many, many times.

Cover of "The Messy Room," 1983

And of course, we used Berenstain Bears books to deal with family issues throughout the years, whether it was greedy requests at the store or cleaning a messy room.  I am grateful to Stan and Jan Berenstain for years of creative, charming works that spanned generations and were warm, funny stories to share as a family.
Thanks for the memories, Jan!  You will be missed.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - 171st Birthday

Renoir Self-Portrait, 1897

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on February 25, 1841.  He was trained as a porcelain painter, but when the company for which he worked folded, he embarked on a career as a painter.  Renoir was given permission to paint at the Louvre.  (Today, you will often see people copying paintings at the Louvre, but apparently back then it was more restricted).  He also studied painting for several years before successfully entering the famed Salon (a juried show) in Paris and having paintings accepted for exhibition.

Renoir was involved in the Impressionist movement and had a long-time friendship with Claude Monet.  He associated with Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, and when Impressionism was shunned by the Salon in Paris, he participated in the separate exhibitions staged by the group.  However, he skipped the last of their exhibitions, having exhausted his exploration of Impressionism.  After that phase of his career, Renoir turned back to a more classical style in his painting.

The Skiff (La Yole), Renoir, 1875

"The Skiff" is a good example of a Renoir Impressionist painting.  Renoir said, as he moved away from the Impressionist style, "About 1883 something like a break occurred in my work.  I had reached the end of 'impressionism,' and I had come to realize that I did not know how to paint or draw."  Renoir expressed the frustration of many working artists who at various points in their career, reach for something more.  Successful artists continue to explore in their art and develop their skills throughout their lives.  The artist who thinks he knows all there is to know about drawing and painting will not progress.

Dance in the City, Renoir, 1883

Renoir did a series of "dance" paintings.  This one, Dance in the City, is my favorite of the three.  He made a living painting well-to-do women and their children.  He continued a long friendship with Monet, and met him to paint out-of-doors many times throughout the years.  Renoir also painted Monet and his family on many occasions.

Renoir's portrait of Monet hangs at the Louvre in Paris.

Even as Renoir moved toward a more classic style, the influence of his impressionist paintings can be seen in his later works.  Sometimes a well-defined figure in the foreground is offset by an impressionistic background in the paintings.  He continued to work on his style and skills throughout his career.  Renoir said "Be a good craftsman; it won't stop you from being a genius."  His words of wisdom could serve as guidance for many artists today.  You will never be hurt in your work by having good skills as a craftsman!

Luncheon of the Boating Party, Renoir, 1880-81

Aline Charigot modeled for Renoir in this painting, and eventually became his wife.  She was often his model both before and after their marriage. and they had three children together:  Pierre, Jean, and Claude.  Although Aline was much younger than Renoir, she preceded him in death by four years.

 Renoir's work is colorful and often of pleasant subject matter, such as his "Luncheon of the Boating Party" painting populated by a number of his friends..  He said "Why shouldn't art be pretty?  There are enough unpleasant things in the world."  I personally prefer art that uplifts and adds beauty to the world, so perhaps that is why I enjoy the work of this amazing painter.

Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, Renoir, 1876

 Pierre-Auguste Renoir died in 1919, but his work lives on.  Happy Birthday!  Read a more detailed biography of Pierre-Auguste Renoir and see other examples of his work here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Black History Month - The Poetry of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was born in 1902.  His extensive body of poetry includes poems about black American life (including poetry about jazz and Harlem) and also about common human experiences.  He admired greatly the poetry of Walt Whitman, and was also influenced by Carl Sandburg.  Although his poetry has been criticized for being the equivalent of folk-art and for being too simplistic, I find much in his writing that resonates with me.  He wrote mainly for an audience of African-Americans, and wanted his poetry to be accessible to them in both style and subject matter.  Taking a cue from Carl Sandburg's Jazz Fantasies, Hughes included jazz influences and African rhythms in his verse.  Some have also criticized Hughes for his radical political poetry. However, writers often are a reflection of the times they live in, and the fact that some of Hughes' poems have Marxist and socialist thought in them is descriptive of the era as much as the man.  He also wrote religious poems, and poetry that described the human condition during the Depression. Langston Hughes died in 1967.  His poetry is definitely worth reading, and he should be included in any study of American literature.  I am including two of his poems here:  the first is a poem with historical references (in honor of Black History Month), and the second is simply a poem that I like.  As Black History Month draws to a close, take a moment to celebrate the creative legacy left to us by artists such as Langston Hughes.

(poems reprinted from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, 1994, Vintage Classics).

Frederick Douglass:  1817-1895
Douglass was someone who,
Had he walked with wary foot
And frightened tread,
From very indecision
Might be dead.
Might have lost his soul,
But instead decided to be bold
And capture every street
On which he set his feet,
To route each path
Toward freedom's goal,
To make each highway
Choose his compass' choice,
To all the world cried,
Hear my voice!...
Oh, to be a beast, a bird,
Anything but a slave! he said.

Who would be free
Themselves must strike
The first blow, he said.

He died in 1895.
He is not dead.

The Dream Keeper
Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamers,
Bring me all of your 
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

Do you have a favorite Langston Hughes poem?  What do you think of the ones I included here?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Skiing in Utah 2012 - Brighton Ski Resort

Ski run at the Brighton ski resort

February skiing is my favorite.  The weather is good, and the snow conditions are perfect.  I am not a powder hound, so the skiff of soft snow on top of the groomed runs at Brighton was just the right amount for me last week!  The snow consistency was amazing, and squeaked under our skis as we went down the mountain.  In March, the warmer temperatures can leave the snow slushy for part of the day, and then icy late in the afternoon, but February snow is neither icy nor slushy, and Utah resorts can guarantee good snow.  Even in a relatively lean snow year like this season,  the base at Brighton is a respectable 70 inches.

Top of the Majestic lift at Brighton.

I returned to skiing last year after a twenty-odd year absence, and had so much fun that I am skiing again this year.  I skied Brighton several times growing up, and although there have been many changes to the resort in the last two decades, it is still the casual, friendly place I remember. The resort welcomes both skiers and snowboarders, and I find that the two co-exist quite well on the slopes.  Brighton has installed terrain parks at several points on the mountain, and it is fun to watch skiers and snowboarders alike practice their skills.  The Majestic lift goes right over one terrain park, so you get extra entertainment as you ride the lift.

You can watch the snowboarders from the Majestic lift.

We arrived at the resort about 9am.  At this hour on a Friday morning, there was ample parking in the lot, and there weren't any lines for the lifts.  In fact, we didn't encounter any long lines all day at Brighton.  We ate lunch a bit earlier than the crowd, and then returned to skiing while everyone else paused for lunch, and got in several runs with virtually no wait time.  The Brighton Ski Resort offers several lifts and a variety of terrain.  We stuck mostly to beginner/intermediate runs, but Brighton also offers moguls and black diamond runs for the more adventuresome skier.

View from the top of the Majestic lift.

Brighton offers ski lessons and rentals for all abilities.  The Explorer lift is for beginners to use during lessons.  Majestic is a slow, short lift.  All other lifts are faster.  For a longer run, try the Crest Express lift adjacent to Majestic.  It takes you much higher on the mountain.  You can also ski over to Snake Creek Express, and take that lift to the top of the resort (10,000 feet.)  The views of the Heber Valley and the backside of Mt. Timpanogos are incredible from the top of the Snake Creek lift.  The Great Western Express and Milly Express are Brighton's other two lifts.

View of Mt. Timpanogos from Brighton ski resort.

All lifts are quad chairs, which greatly increases the resort's ability to move skiers quickly to the top of the mountain.  The sun was out on the day we visited the resort, and we made sure to apply sunblock.  At this altitude and with the sun shining on the snow, sunburned cheeks can occur rapidly.

Overlooking the Brighton Ski Resort from Snake Creek.

Brighton lacks the high rise condominiums that house multitudes of tourists at some of the other resorts, but welcomes locals and out-of-towners alike.  There are cabins and quaint chalets for rent on the Brighton loop, and as we left Friday, we saw several boys skiing from the run, across the parking lot, right to their doorstop.  Brighton is at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and shares the canyon with Solitude Ski Resort.  The resort offers all-day and half-day passes, and also has night skiing.

Eating lunch outside on the patio at Brighton.

Food is available at the resort.  My son and I like to stop in for a brownie at the end of the day.  Although like most resorts, the food is pricey, the eatery offers both breakfast and lunch/dinner items.  The weather was so nice Friday, we ate outside on the patio.  Indoor seating is also available. There are racks outside to hold your skis while you eat, but do keep an eye on your equipment.  Brighton does provide some areas for brown-baggers to eat their food from home in a separate area.  

Brighton Ski Resort - building for lockers, passes, skis, food, and more.

If you haven't tried skiing before, Brighton is a great place to learn.  The resort offers many options for all ages, including "learn to ski" rates for locals every January, and several "ladies" programs.  You can try your hand at either skiing or snowboarding.  I love watching the youngest skiers making their way down the hill with short skis and no poles.  They are so close to the ground and so bundled up in their snow suits they look like they will bounce when they fall.  They do get up quickly and happily get going again, following their instructors in curving "S" paths down the hill. 

Skiing is a great way to get out of doors and exercise in the winter time, and what's not to love?  The lifts take you up, and gravity brings you down!  I can be at any of six or seven different ski resorts in about 30 minutes.  I am so lucky to live near the mountains and have great skiing literally minutes away.  If you are not a Utah resident, consider coming on your next ski vacation to try out the greatest snow on earth! 

View from the top of Majestic

See you on the slopes!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy President's Day!

Lincoln Memorial

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other."
                                                                         --Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romeo and Juliet - Happy Valentine's Day!

Romeo and Juliet by Frank Dicksee

Frank Dicksee, an English painter (1853-1928), created my favorite Romeo and Juliet painting.  His handling of fabric and lighting is exquisite, as is the emotion on Romeo's face.  I love this painting, and have an inexpensive print of it.  But, on this Valentine's Day, I can't help but find myself questioning the use of Romeo and Juliet as an example of romance.  In Shakespeare's play, a 13 year old Juliet is swept off her feet by an impetuous Romeo, and Romeo himself is on the rebound from an infatuation with Rosaline.  This does not make him a good catch.  You can almost excuse Juliet because of her youth, but this story of star-crossed lovers is more of a cautionary tale--an example of what love should NOT be.  Despite the tragic end, however, the fascination with Romeo and Juliet continues.

The story of Romeo and Juliet emerged from other early romantic tales, including that of  Pyramus and Thisbe.  Perhaps the earliest version of the story is set not in Verona, but in Siena, Italy.  Anne Fortier explores this story in her wonderful book, "Juliet."  The heroine, Julie Jacobs, is in Siena in pursuit of a purported old family treasure.  Once in Siena, she is entangled in a sometimes perilous journey that includes researching the story of her medieval ancestor, Giulietta.  Fortier deftly blends the story of Giulietta with that of Julie Jacobs.  Medieval Siena comes alive with all the drama of the famous Palio de Siena horse race, as well as the timeless tale of forbidden love.

The famous Palio de Siena is still held in modern Italy.

Shakespeare is the one credited with moving the story of Romeo and Juliet to Verona.  He also made Juliet much younger.  Although there is some historical basis for the existence of the Montagues and the Capulets, there is no evidence that the two families were in a feud.  Nor is there any evidence that Romeo and Juliet really existed.  Today, Verona entices tourists to Juliet's house, and her tomb.  Not bad for a literary fictional character!  

"Juliet's Tomb" in Verona, Italy

"Juliet's House" complete with balcony.

The book, "Letters to Juliet," recounts the history of multiple Romeo and Juilet stories, as well as the development of the current tourist sites.  The book also chronicles the trend of people writing letters to Juliet asking for help with their romantic problems.  Several years ago, volunteer secretaries facilitated by  the city of Verona began answering these letters, and this continues today.  The book has excerpts of letters, and tells the story of the secretaries of Juliet and their dedication to writing replies to the lovelorn.  

2010 movie "Letters to Juliet"

In the movie version of "Letters to Juliet," the letters and secretaries are background, and provide the jumping off point for the story of Claire searching for her long-lost Lorenzo.  Starring Vanessa Redgrave as Claire and Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, the fact checker and aspiring writer who assists Claire, this 2010 Summit Entertainment film is a fun romance for Valentine's Day.  It is a bit predictable, but is worth it for the scenery of Tuscany and Verona.  Siena has a cameo in an overhead shot of the famous piazza where the horse race takes place.  Vanessa Redgrave is the scene-stealer here, and has a commanding presence every time she graces the screen.  It is a treat to watch her.  Both the book "Juliet" and the movie, "Letters to Juliet" have happier endings than the original Shakespeare play.  But if your Valentine's Day is shaping up to be tragic, Shakespeare's version may be just what you are looking for.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Technology vs. the Family - Where Do You Draw the Line? Part 2

Camping at The Spruces, outside Salt Lake City, UT

I recently read "The Winter of Our Disconnect," by Susan Maushart. This book chronicles the experiences of a very-wired family in Australia who went "screen-free" for several months.  That's right, folks, nothing with a screen was utilitzed in their home.  No computers, smartphones, ipods, televisions, etc.  Now, technology was allowed outside the home, so the kids could use the computers at the library for homework, or play video games at a friend's house, so they weren't completely cut-off from technology.  However, this family chose to free their home life from the chains of constant connected-ness, and the results were not only dramatic, but positive.

I thought I only needed to be aware of the lure technology is for my children, but as I read this book, I became more aware of the hold it has on me.  Specifically, I noticed the changes having a smartphone has made in my life.  I have only had one for a few months, and it has been a huge convenience to be able to check a map when we were lost, or to answer emails while I am waiting for one of my kids.  However,  I also noticed how hard it is for me to NOT check that phone when I am at dinner or in a conversation and I hear that little noise indicating a new message has come in.  Since when do I have trouble getting through dinner without wondering who sent me an email?  This book was an eye-opener, and is worth reading if for no other reason than it helps you observe what the effects of technology are on both you and your family.  What do you spend your time on now?  What did you used to spend it on?  The author found her son, who spent hours gaming with friends prior to their disconnect experiment, picked up his saxophone again and joined a jazz band.  Other members of the family wanted to renew their gym membership, and long neglected board games came out of storage and became a staple of family interaction.  If you disconnected your family, what could you do?  The possibilities are endless.

Playing games instead of gaming.

While writing her book, Susan Maushart read a large quantity of research on technology and the family.  She weaves her findings into her own observations of her family's experiences.  She writes about the myth of multitasking.  When her kids were "multitasking" and doing homework while listening to music and messaging their friends, they were in reality accomplishing almost nothing.  After the disconnect, Maushart writes "...I watched as my kids awoke slowly from the state of cognitus interruptus."   Maushart found in her research that although the idea that technology allows us to multitask has become prevalent, that is not the reality.  Researcher Clifford Nash set up a study to show the advantages of multitasking.  In Nass's own words, he sums up what he discovered--"multitaskers are just lousy at everything."  Maushart found that in reality, multitasking makes people worse at things instead of more productive.  Turning off the technology and tuning in to what we are doing, in other words, makes us more productive and successful.  So the next time your children tell you they can do their homework while doing several other things with their electronics, realize that their brain is switching rapidly between tasks, and not very well.

A non-electronic activity--making apple pie.

In an article entitled "Is Technology Fracturing Your Family", Dr. Gary Small writes about the many benefits of having regular family dinners, and also about the negative impact technology is having on those dinners, and family life in general.  He says "The potential negative impact of new technology on the brain depends on its content, duration, and context.  To a certain extent, I think that the opportunities for developing the brain's neural networks that control our face-to-face social skills--what many define as our humanity--are being lost or at least compromised, as families become more fractured."  Think about your family life, and ask yourself if technology is bringing you closer to or farther from the people you care about?"

Watching the waves

I have heard before that if you want your children to be creative, let them get bored.  In "The Winter of Our Disconnect" the author points out that boredom does not exist as a concept in every culture, and that it is actually a recent cultural concept in our society.  Boredom is almost a luxury, and our fear of it is unwarranted.  Maushart writes "...boredom--far from being an energy-sucking black hole to be avoided...has actually served to fuel human progress...."  It is healthy for all of us to disconnect enough each day to have some reflective time in which we might nurture our own creativity.

Susan Maushart has a great deal of humor about the whole experiment, and this book is a worthwhile and interesting read.  Be warned if you read her book, however, that you may see yourself in its pages.  As instant information and instant electronic gratification become more pervasive in our lives, it is worth thinking about how much is too much.  Could you disconnect?  For how long?  And would it be a wonderful experience, or would you go through withdrawal?  After reading this book, I want to make sure my family controls our technology instead of letting it control us!

Maushart concludes her book with her family's 11 commandments.  Her list includes such rules as "Thou shalt bring no media to thy dinner," and "Thou shalt keep thy bedroom a media-free zone."    What would your commandments be?  Where do you draw the line?

See my other post on technology and the family

Friday, February 10, 2012

2002 Winter Olympics Remembered...Happy Anniversary!

Olympic cauldron burning - February 2002

During the Olympics we took advantage of as many free activities as possible.  One afternoon we went to take pictures of the Olympic flame.  The cauldron is a permanent fixture by Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah.  We took all the typical photos, including ones where it looks like you are holding the cauldron as a torch.  Today, the site features other commemorative Olympic items on display.

Flags flying during the 2002 Winter Olympics

Salt Lake City became an international city during February of 2002.  It was wonderful to walk the streets and hear different languages, to talk to people from other countries, and to see things like this amazing flag display.  Some days we went downtown just to soak it all in.

Our boys learn the art of pin trading.

Pin trading is an unofficial Olympic sport.  I confess I never got really good at it, but did trade a pin or two.  It was fun to watch our children interact with people as they tried to get a pin they thought looked interesting.  I doubt any of my Olympic pins have large dollar values, but I am happy to have amassed a small collection.

A successful trade!

We also went to a pin show in a local Greek church.  It was free of charge, and several pin traders had tables set up.  We enjoyed wandering through and seeing pins from previous Olympic games, as well as ones from the Salt Lake games.

Snake winding through the streets of Salt Lake.

We watched a parade, which was fun for kids and adults alike.  The weather was bitterly cold one day when we were downtown, but on other days, the weather was quite pleasant and made activities like viewing the parade or watching Japanese drummers perform outdoors really enjoyable.

Another view of the parade.

The parade highlighted Utah's western wildlife and featured large puppet horses, buffalo, a rattlesnake, and more.  I was glad we took the time to see it.  It was an inexpensive way for our children to enjoy the Olympics.

Photos like these on venues and buildings provided the look of the Games.

We were privileged to host a friend and his son who came for a few days of Olympic events.  Having someone crash in our living room while hotel accommodations were in short supply was another of my favorite Olympic experiences.

The Salt Lake organizing committee arranged several cultural events that were held during the Olympics.  Although you had to get a ticket, the tickets were widely available and not terribly expensive. We went to two cultural events:  a Navajo exhibit, and the Dale Chihuly blown-glass exhibit.

A woman at the Navajo exhibit.

At the interactive Navajo exhibit, we were able to talk to people about crafts like blanket weaving and basket making.  Several skilled people were on hand giving demonstrations.  In one area, we listened to Navajo words on headphones and tried to pick out which words had which meanings.  Navajo is a difficult language, and I was terrible at matching the words!

Navajo Codetalkers

It was a tremendous honor to meet these World War II heroes who served in our military as codetalkers.  The Nazis were never able to break the Navajo code.  These men were sworn to secrecy and were unable to discuss their great contributions immediately after the war.  It is only recently that these heroes are getting the recognition they deserve.

Chihuly art - Salt Lake 2002

Dale Chihuly's art was on display on the street, in Abravanel Hall, and in a special exhibit.  We bought tickets, watched a movie about Chihuly and glass-making, and walked through an amazing "underwater" exhibit where blown class scenes and creatures floated above our heads.  It was enchanting and beautiful.

We also attended a free Beach Boys concert outdoors.  It was a festive couple of weeks.  But the Olympics are, above all else, a sporting event.  We applied for tickets early, and tried to maximize our dollars and variety of events.  I attended part of the ice dance competition, short track speed skating, men's and women's aerials, and two women's hockey games.  It was our first introduction to post 9/11 security procedures, however, all the volunteers were efficient and friendly.  Every venue was wonderful, the crowds were great, but most of all, we loved seeing the best athletes in the world compete!

USA women's hockey game

During one hockey game, we met speed skaters from Kazakhstan.  They graciously let us have our pictures taken with them.  I think they were impressed with the torchbearer jacket my husband wore throughout the games, too.

Me with speedskaters from Kazakhstan

Even the "nose bleed" seats that I could afford for most sporting events were good seats.  My son loved short track speedskating, and although Apollo Anton Ohno was a hero of the 2002 Winter Games, my son became enamored with the maple leaf flag and cheered for Canadian athletes throughout the competitions.  We also had tickets to a medals ceremony and got to attend the night Derek Parra received his gold medal for long track speed skating.  The band Creed performed, and it was a great party as the athletes were honored with their medals.  

Short track speed skating relays

The night of the closing ceremonies, the TV coverage cut away just as the big fireworks display was taking place at Rice-Eccles Stadium.  We hurried outside into the cold night air, and standing on our street, watched the fireworks soaring above the stadium in the distance.  It was a wonderful end to a wonderful Games.  Of course, we were a bit sad to see it all come to an end, so we went to a Paralympic hockey game in March.  As is common, Salt Lake hosted the Paralympics after the Olympics had ended.  These courageous athletes were fun to watch, and carried on the spirit of sportsmanship and competition we had experienced during the Olympic Games.

The governor of Utah announced two days ago that he would form an exploratory committee to see if it is feasible to bid on the Olympic games again.  I hope the answer comes back as a resounding yes! I would definitely go again.  Just think, if Salt Lake were to be awarded the Olympics again, you would once again have SEVEN years from the time the bid is announced until the Games are held to save up for tickets!  

What do you think?  Should Salt Lake City host the Olympics in 2022?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Salt Lake 2002 - Ten Year Anniversary of the Winter Olympics

Olympic flame burns in Salt Lake City, February 2002

Can you believe it has been ten years since they lit the cauldron for the Salt Lake City winter games?  Today, that cauldron will be re-lit to commemorate the anniversary.  Where were you ten years ago during the Olympics?  Were you watching them on TV?  Were you lucky enough to be there?

When Salt Lake was selected as an Olympic city after years of proposals and hard work by the bid committee, it was a day of celebration!  I went downtown for the bid announcement party, and we held our breath while then IOC-head Juan Antonio Samaranch awarded the bid.  When he read "...the city of Salt Lake City," the whole crowd erupted into applause and cheers.  I figured I had several years to save up for a ticket, and there was no way I was going to miss out on this once in a lifetime experience.  

I had always dreamed of going to the Olympics, and since early in my life it became evident I wouldn't go as an athlete, having them in my own backyard provided the perfect opportunity.  With a wonderful blend of cultural and athletic events, pre-Olympic test events, free and low-priced events, it seemed very easy to take part in this amazing international experience.  The winter games in Salt Lake came just months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, and there was some question as to whether or not the games should take place.  How glad I am that the world had this opportunity to come together in sport and camaraderie.  It helped bring us back to life after those dark days in September.

Building decor provided the "look" of the Games.

My children were small, so I was unable to volunteer for the Games.  The time commitments for volunteers was significant.  However, I learned there were three ways to be an Olympic torchbearer.  Nominating essays were considered by the sponsors (Chevy and Coca-Cola), and they each selected a third of the torchbearers.  The remaining torchbearers were selected by the Olympic committee in Salt Lake. I wrote an essay nominating my husband, and he was selected as a torchbearer by Coca-Cola.  The great advantage to this was, Coke paid for his torch, so we didn't have to buy it!  Thanks, Coca-Cola!

Greg gets ready to carry the torch.

Early in the morning, my husband scraped snow off our little Hyundai Excel and left to meet the shuttle that would take him to his spot to carry the torch.  That left me with cameras and kids in tow to meet him at the appointed stretch of road where he would get to run.  It was a chaotic but exciting morning.  We had many friends and family members come to see him run.

Lighting the torch.

Fortunately, a nice security person let me cross a bridge they had closed for the torch run (my plight of running late while carrying kids and posters and camera bags apparently tugged at his sympathy), and we made it to our spot before Greg arrived.

Carrying the torch - moment of triumph

I had gone to see the torch relay go through Salt Lake City in 1996 on the way to the summer games in Atlanta, and it was really exciting to be a part of it on February 8, 2002.  My husband was surrounded by people after his short leg of the relay who wanted to get photos and talk to him.  We had great family support, and also met people from all over the world.  I remember talking to a young couple from the Czech Republic who wanted to take a picture of him.  It was a taste of the minor celebrity experiences he would have throughout the games when he wore his torchbearer jacket.  We even got interviewed during the USA vs. Germany women's hockey game and they broadcast the interview over the large video screens in the arena. If you'd like to read Greg's first-person account of carrying the torch, click here. 

If you are one of those who has a volunteer jacket or a Roots beret from the 2002 Winter Olympics, now is the time to dust them off and wear them on the streets as we celebrate the anniversary of a wonderful sporting event and world party held right in our own backyard.  Stay tuned for more about the things we did during the Olympics in 2002!

Salt Lake City is hosting some anniversary celebration events.  Although the public is not invited to the lighting of the cauldron, there will be a free sports festival on Saturday, February 18 at the Gateway in downtown Salt Lake.  For more information about the anniversary events, click here.