Memoirs of a (sometimes) football fan

25 Sep

I did something the other evening which I hadn’t done in years. In fact, probably not since I’d graduated from high school.

I attended a high school football game. (Go Trojans!)

The last football game I attended in person was at my alma mater, the University of Oregon. (Go Ducks!) I didn’t go to a lot of games over my four years of college but from time to time I wandered across the Willamette River with my friends and we enjoyed rooting for our (then perpetually losing) team.

That was fun enough, but it’s a whole lot more fun to watch them winning these days on television. That way I can stay dry (it rains a lot in Eugene) and I can go to the bathroom without having to stand in line.

Back when I was in high school I didn’t attend too many games, either. I actually have some pretty good reasons for this. For one, I attended three different high schools, due to my father’s job.

I do remember going to one or two football games my 9th grade year at my school on Orcas Island, Washington. Forget about Friday Night Lights, our games were always played on Saturdays because the opposing teams had to take a ferry to get there and that added a huge amount of time to their traveling schedule. (Go Vikings!)

The next year I lived in Bend, Oregon, and there at Mountain View High School I attended just one game. I didn’t know very many people, and going to football games alone is no fun. (Go Cougars!)

Then I moved to West Berlin, Germany, and I was there for my last two years of high school. There, at Berlin American High School, I attended a handful of games (Go Bears!) but my best friend was the school mascot – which meant that she got to run around in a bear suit for the entire game – so I didn’t have her to sit next to and my other friends weren’t really into football so mostly I stayed home on Saturday afternoons. Yes, the games were on Saturdays there, too, also due to travel issues. It was kinda a big deal getting to and from West Berlin.

So all in all, being at any kind of football game was an anomaly for me. I do remember, way back in third grade, briefly considering becoming a football fan simply to improve my math scores. All the boys were really good at their 7 times tables whereas I hated and despised the 7 times tables and I knew that somehow their talent was involved with football scores.

I don’t really understand the sport of football. Ok…I don’t understand it at all other than I know that a First Down is a good thing and that field goals are sometimes worth one point and sometimes worth three, depending on if they’re accompanied by touchdowns or not. And I know that to get a touchdown the guy with the ball has to cross the end line without dropping the ball and somehow Mary, the Mother of Jesus is often involved.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never attended a game here in Worthington prior to this year, but there it is. And the truth is, I enjoyed myself.

Does that mean I’ll be going to a lot more games from here on out?

Let’s not get crazy here. I mean, I enjoy hearing my son play tuba in the pep band, but I can only take so much sitting in the cold cheering for the home team before I zone out and begin wondering why some of the players have long black socks and some of the players don’t and wouldn’t they all be more aesthetically pleasing if they all matched and do they need to hire a fashion consultant to take care of this problem?

Apparently the snappy uniforms of the Oregon Ducks have rubbed off on me.

(Incidentally, I’m a little worried about the Ducks this year, what with losing Marcus Mariota and all. And even I know, deep down, that snappy uniforms or no, it takes more than that to win a football game.)

And to that I say: Happy Homecoming, Worthington!

Comfort Books

11 Sep

I don’t have comfort food. I have comfort books. There are certain books which, if I’m feeling ill or weary, I’ll go to on the shelves. The Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter. (Obviously there’s a theme to my comfort books!) Just the title, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” makes me feel happy. That book, plus a cup of coffee with just a tad bit of cream…well, what more could a girl ask for?

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. I had shelves along three walls of my bedroom growing up – not the entire walls, and there were just three shelves, but there were so many books that I sort of grew up in a library. If I sneezed, I knew the Kleenexes were located between C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. It was a handy thing to know.

The living room in the house I grew up in had (surprise!) four walls: one wall had the fireplace, one was a huge sliding glass door out to the deck, one was floor to ceiling windows (and it was a cathedral ceiling, so yeah, a lot of glass) and the last wall was floor to ceiling book shelves.

In other words, my parents had a lot of books.

When it came time for us to move out of that house, the ratio of boxes of books to boxes of everything else was pretty humorous. I’d wager that the ratio was about equal, actually, though I might be wrong. There might have been more boxes of books.

Over the years I have come to follow in my parent’s footsteps. Though, I admit, this hasn’t always been a good thing. Especially when, combined with my husband’s appreciation of the written word, it means that the bookshelves in the playroom (yes, books belong in the playroom) are three-deep, resulting in our Ikea shelving giving way over the summer and revealing a terrible truth: we needed to thin out our library.

And so began a process which is almost done – I say almost because really, it must continue if I’m ever going to buy more books…which of course I am. We started sorting and the piles grew higher and higher: piles for give-away. Piles for the library book sale. Piles for nieces and nephews. As the process went on, it became easier and easier to ditch certain books. You know: the ones that weren’t mine.

But when it came to my books…oy, that wasn’t so easy. I mean, maybe I don’t want to read it ever again, but maybe my kids will someday? And hey, this is a classic, we can’t get rid of this. And my old college anthologies will come in useful someday. You know…when our kids go off to college and maybe find themselves doing research into late 1980’s textbooks…

Okay, okay. I know. I still have some work to do. But for now, the shelves are fixed. The books are neat. Everything fits. And who knows? Maybe when I bring the biggest box of all to the Bookshop in Sioux Falls to sell, they’ll give me so much money for them that I can shop to my heart’s content and get a whole lot of new books? Won’t that be fun?

Trouble is, my husband says that we need to have a new goal of getting rid of one book for every new one we buy.

(Why do you think I kept all those anthologies?)

Okay. Gotta go. I’ve got some book readin’ to do.

The Last Time I Went to a Bible Study

19 Jun

The last time I went to a Bible study at my church I felt safe. I harbored no fear that a dangerous person would walk in. No fears that he would bring a gun with him. No fears that he would use it.

The last time I went to a Bible study at my church I sat down, opened my Bible, and knew exactly what to expect: that we’d spend the next hour talking about the Bible. Surprise! We’d read passages, look up corresponding verses. Maybe I’d write down a few lines about what I was thinking. Maybe, if it was a particularly heart-searching lesson, I’d even underline a verse with red pen. Wild and crazy times, I know.

The last time I went to a Bible study at my church I was distracted. By the last words I said to my children before leaving the house. By my shoes. By the taste of coffee in my mouth. By what I needed to do after the study was done.

The last time I went to a Bible study at my church I couldn’t remember if I had prepared my lesson beforehand and then I remembered I hadn’t and I felt a little guilty about that but then I figured that God loved me anyway so I shouldn’t let it bother me even though it did.

The last time I went to a Bible study at my church I had no thought of racial tensions outside of the building. Or even in the building, for that matter. I didn’t think once about my white Scottish ancestors or my German blood on my father’s side or the little smattering of Swedish that my children inherited from their dad. I didn’t think about what any of that meant to my life, my plans, my family. I didn’t think about entitlement or racial profiling or people who might judge me by the color of my skin rather than the content of my character.

The last time I went to a Bible study at my church I didn’t think, in other words, about anything very important. Because, after all, I was attending Bible study, for goodness sake! A nice, pleasant, uncontroversial, calm, understood, safe, place.


For me. A white woman in middle America. Who, when she goes to Bible study, does not need to worry about being shot. I’m not saying that I want to worry about that. I’m saying that it’s horribly, terribly wrong that anyone should need to worry about it.

We live in a messed up world. And it’s not getting better; it’s getting worse. I want everyone, everywhere, to be able to go to Bible study and not worry about anything worse than what they’re going to fix for dinner when they leave. That’s what I want. But that’s not reality. And I don’t think that anything short of Jesus coming back is going to change that.

Is that fatalistic? Possibly. All I know is that there are millions of people out there who are helpless in light of the few fanatics who set out to do horrible things – like shooting up a Bible study in South Carolina – leaving millions of innocent people afraid of what will happen the next time they go to a Bible study, or to school, or to work, or to the grocery store, or step out of their front door.

That is not what America is supposed to be.

The next time I go to a Bible study at my church I’m going to pray. Because, in all honesty, that’s the only solution I see to this horrible problem.

Remembering the BOOM: Mt. St. Helens 35 Years Later

17 May

Gretchen O'Donnell:

This is a slightly updated version of a post from two years ago…because it seemed appropriate for today.

Originally posted on A fine day for an epiphany:


I remember the boom that Sunday morning, May 18th, 1980 – 33 years ago this week – as we were getting ready for church on Orcas Island, Washington. It was 8:32am – or however long it takes for sound to travel 300 miles. My oldest sister was off at college, my Dad was down in Oregon at work with the Air Force, and my other sister, our Mom, and I were slipping on our Sunday shoes and just about to head out the door when we heard it.

“Oh, they’re dynamiting on Buck Mountain,” Mom said dismissively.

But Jenny and I said, “No! It was Mount Saint Helens!”

“No,” Mom disagreed. “We couldn’t hear it this far away.”

“It was the mountain, Mom,” we said again. “Turn on the radio.”

Sure enough, Mount Saint Helens – which had been steaming and belching and threatening to explode for weeks – had…

View original 801 more words

The Telling Stone

12 May

Hey! It’s me again. I’ve been writing for a newspaper, creating a radio show, finishing up writing my second book (though the first one still is sitting on the shelf for a few months waiting for me to edit it down yet again) and doing all of the usual things a mom of a 15, 13, and 8 year old does all day. I’m hoping to begin shopping around for a publisher for this second book by autumn.

Obviously, all of my writing and running around hasn’t included much blogging. But here I am for today, at least!

A few years ago I reviewed a book written by my friend, Maureen McQuerry. (You can read that review here.) Today I get to review a second book by Maureen! I know that book reviews by friends are perhaps subject to suspicion. I mean, she’s my friend for a reason and I’d probably like anything she likes, right?

Not necessarily. I have a lot of friends who, if they wrote books, I’d never be able to honestly write my opinion of them because while they may be my friends…they don’t necessarily read and/or write stuff that I’d agree with or enjoy.

But, thankfully, I like Maureen’s book. A lot.

I have always like fantasy books. C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien were some of my favorites. Still are. I also like a lesser-known children’s writer, also British, named Susan Cooper. In fact, for years I regretted the fact that I had not kept my series of Susan Cooper books, The Dark is Rising. Well, turns out, my mom had given them to my sister and she had given them to her daughters and finally, a few years back, I got them back.


These books are fantasy, yes, but they’re more myth-based, and less magic-centered. Yes, there’s magic, but it’s not Harry Potter flashy magic, it’s more subtle, more realistic, if that’s possible to say!

Enter Maureen’s Time Out of Time series. Book one, Beyond the Door, came out last year. I enjoyed it as a well-written, entertaining, appropriate-for-kids book. I didn’t LOVE it, but I liked it. It reminded me of the Cooper books, and that felt good.

Then along came it’s sequel, available as of today, The Telling Stone.

This time I loved the book. I tend to like children’s books anyway (the kind kids call “chapter books”), but so often these days there is something in them to hold back my full love. They’re inappropriate in spots, or they’re badly written. This book is neither of those things. (Not that any of Maureen’s books are!)

Here’s my official review. (Yes, I’ve learned to be more succinct since the first review I wrote of her book, The Peculiars as linked above!)

The Telling Stone, while a sequel to Beyond the Door, stands perfectly well on its own. Full of adventure from the start, the story keeps its readers hooked though intrigue, suspense, and compelling characters. I felt like a kid again, sitting in my playhouse reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, books which I have gone back to as an adult. The Telling Stone too, will bring me back in the future because it is told by a writer who correctly handles her research. She includes interesting details that don’t overwhelm, has realistic characters and exciting plot twists, all of which prove McQuerry’s powers as an exceptional storyteller. We need more books like this in today’s world!

So there you go. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your kids or grandkids or neighbor’s kids. Or at least ask your local library to acquire it. Thanks!

And I’ll be back again…hopefully more reliably soon…

Here’s the Amazon link…

The Sound of Musings

21 Mar

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the movie, The Sound of Music. I’m 45 years old. This means that one of my favorite movies of all time is older than I am. I am not alone in this love of The Sound of Music. There are many people who regard it as their favorite. People who know the lines, the songs, and even the exact movement of every character as they sang the songs or delivered their lines.

It’s like it’s a cult and they’re devoted fans.

I’m not that fanatical about it, but the movie’s endurance is rather interesting, I think. It means that of all the fancy, high-tech, special-effects-laden films that have been made over the last 50 years, this musical with the singing nuns and dancing children out performs them all. And it has Julie Andrews. Can’t forget about her.

When I was quite young, in the days before Blue Rays and DVD’s and even VHS tapes – not to mention re-releases of movies for the big screen – the only chance we had to watch something like The Sound of Music was at Thanksgiving or other holidays when they’d air them on TV. I loved those opportunities, and so did my older sisters. We’d scan the TV guide (the kind inserted into the newspaper, not the kind you could buy) to see what time it was coming on and we’d arrange our schedules so that nothing interfered with our watching. Because, after all, there were no DVRs, either, to mean that we could watch a televised show later on. It was then…or never.

And then one day I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. I was 10, I believe, so it was 1980. This friend lived on a commune, inhabited by a group of individuals who believed in a lot of things that my parents did not believe in, but for some reason my mom allowed me to attend the party. My parents considered them to be a cult…though probably they did not refer to themselves that way. Anyway, this…group…must have had a lot of money because, for the first time in my life, I saw a VCR and there, on the top of the stack of movies they owned, was The Sound of Music.

“You mean you can watch The Sound of Music at any time you want?” I squealed, amazed and impressed and excited beyond belief.

“Sure,” my friend shrugged. “Big deal.”

We were about to put it on but her mom said that the party games took precedence. I remember nothing about the games, just the disappointment I felt at being denied The Sound of Music. I do, however, remember that there wasn’t any birthday cake. Apparently sugar was against their religion.

But that’s neither here nor there. What is applicable is that, ironically, The Sound of Music has become, like the commune my friend was a part of, a cult classic, with a following of obsessive fans, and 50 years of sustainability under its belt.

Which, as far as I know, is a lot longer than the cult my friend was a part of. She – and the entire commune full of people – moved away not long afterwards and I’ve never heard of them again.

Funny thing, that. Quality lasts, I guess. And The Sound of Music has “lastability”. Danger, humor, love, music, children, nuns, Nazis…and Julie Andrews. Now there’s a description of a cult I could be a part of.

I guess it’s time that I learned the exact movements of every character so that I can apply to be a member. Care to join me? I even own it on Blue Ray, so we won’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to start learning…

A Duck Fan Through and Through

13 Jan


The truth is, life is easier when you don’t care about sports.

This deep thought occurred to me Monday night as I finally admitted to myself that three minutes of game play was probably not enough time for the Oregon Ducks to make up their point deficit against Ohio State in the college football national championship game. It was painful to admit. But it was, sadly, true. Ultimately, the game was a loss for my Oregon Ducks.

I never remember a time when I wasn’t an Oregon fan. My mom attended the U of O and ever since I was old enough to think about such things, I decided that I wanted to be a Duck when I grew up. When the time came to apply to colleges I sent my application off from my home in Germany and waited with baited breath to learn my fate. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I guess I was either very confident or very foolish.

When I found out that I was accepted I took it in stride. None of my classmates really knew anything about the U of O – they were mostly going to east coast schools – so I didn’t talk about it much, but I began secretly buying up green and yellow clothes and even a button-down shirt covered in ducks which I found in a German department store.

By the time I got to Eugene I dove into college life like a duck taking to water. Well, ok, I did have a few weeks of homesickness, in which the orange carpet of my dorm room absorbed more than a few tears, but I quickly came to love college and my life as a Duck.

I didn’t attend a whole lot of football games during my four years of school and I only remember going to one basketball game. I did go to a Track and Field invitational where I saw Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner and Carl Lewis running just a few feet away from me which was easily the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever seen in person.

You see, back then Oregon didn’t win many football games. It was fun to go to a game or two a year, but we went just to support our team, not to see a fantastic football game. It wasn’t until several years later, after I moved to Minnesota, that Oregon began to win consistently. Somewhere in there I married a U of Minnesota alum and we moved to Worthington and, much to my amazement, found out one year that Oregon and Minnesota were set to play each other in the Fiesta Bowl. That was a lot of fun in our household. (Oregon won, by the way. But the same match up happened a year or two later in which Minnesota won, so we’re even.)

And then, suddenly, Oregon seemed to blossom as a team. We were winning! We were on TV! It was exciting to be a Duck! Our perpetual underdog feeling was beginning to dissipate!

And then along came this year. It’s been amazing. We were winning (except for that Arizona game but we made up for that in the Rose Bowl) and we even had the first-ever Duck Heisman Trophy winner! Whoo hoo! We were even favored in the championship game!

But it was not to be.

Oregon has never won a national championship. Ohio, on the other hand, now has yet another trophy to add to their case. Yes, I’m bummed about that. “Number Two” doesn’t have the nice ring to it that “Number One” does.

But that’s life as a sports fan I guess.

Like I said, life is easier when you don’t care about sports.

And to that I say, Go Ducks!


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