Tag Archives: University of Oregon

A Duck Fan Through and Through

13 Jan

Oregon-Ducks

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!

My Stint As A Journalist

22 Oct

For the past several weeks I have been filling in at my local newspaper, the Daily Globe. They’ve been a little short handed so they called in their second string. I’m okay with this moniker. I don’t want to be first string. First string would mean that I have to get up and go to work every day and, as I told my husband, bringing home a paycheck is hard work!

Ah, but it is rather nice to get paid for one’s writing.

On the other hand, I’ve had zero time to work on my book. Which to this point is showing no signs of generating a paycheck whatsoever. So I guess I’m okay with the occasional stint as a journalist.

I started out at the University of Oregon (GO DUCKS!) as a Journalism major. I planned to study Russian as well, and then go to Moscow as a foreign correspondent and uncover fabulous spy stories of the Cold War.

Only the Cold War pretty much ended before my career started. But, really, that’s not what ended my journalism career. It was J101 which did that. Grammar For Journalists – the class that every journalism major had to take – and pass with a “B” – in order to be accepted into the J School.

And so fall term of my freshman year began. I leaped into J101 and Russian 101 full of confidence, a smile firmly upon my face.

Four months later I waved goodbye to my dream. I didn’t pass that stupid grammar class – oh, I passed…as far as the University was concerned – but not as far as the precious J School was concerned. It was, in fact, the worst grade I ever got in my entire educational life: K-12, college and graduate school combined.

I could have taken it again. But I’d discovered something else during that term. I hated journalism.

I wanted to write creatively, free as a bird, with no strings attached, no rules, no horrid grammar police breathing down my neck.

Plus, I stunk at Russian, which, after failing to enter the coveted J School, seemed kind of like a waste of time anyway.

“I’m not competitive enough to be a journalist,” I told people when they asked me why I’d switched majors from Journalism to English.

Which possibly was true. But, the real truth is, I’ve learned a thing or two since then. One thing is that a major which actually provides a job when you graduate is a nice thing. Another is that forcing oneself to do something difficult in order to reach a goal is actually a good thing in the long run – and maybe, just maybe, majoring in English was a cop out. I tell people it’s a good thing I married an engineer ‘cause otherwise I’d be the proverbial starving artist living in a drafty garret somewhere.

Mostly what I’ve learned, though, is that I don’t actually hate journalism. Especially when I’m filling in and the expectations upon me don’t include me knowing when to say, “He said” or, “He says”. I have frequently heard writers thank their editors…now I totally understand why.

Over the past month I have learned more about insulation than I ever hoped to know. I have learned that not everyone will return a phone call, and not everyone wants attention brought to themselves or their situation. I have also learned that people are eager to thank others in print – which is lovely – and that they’re eager to share their story if it’s something they think others will benefit from. I have smiled during interviews, and shuddered (to myself) and marveled at the human spirit.

And I have to say, I really liked it when a person who makes his living off of speaking in front of vast crowds said to me, “You’re the writer. I trust you to make me sound good.”

“I’m a writer?” I thought to myself as I hung up the phone. “I’m a writer!”

The next day I introduced myself in a meeting as a writer. And my lovely friends in the crowd smiled and patted me on the back, and whispered, “Yes, you are.”

That was actually a rather marvelous moment in this flunked-out-of-J-School student’s life.

I have learned one other thing. I have learned that just as I tend to talk too much, I tend to write too much. There is beauty in brevity.

I’m still working on that one.

PS – Yesterday I posted this same basic post over on my other blog The View From My Window, which is connected with the Daily Globe, and is more local in focus. Audrey over at Minnesota Prairie Roots – who is a lovely friend and encourager – commented on it and said, “I find it difficult to believe that you would not do well in a grammar class when you went on to major in English. That’s pretty contradictory.”

This made me think (I love that about Audrey) and here was my response: I think that my problem with that grammar class was that it was so technical – it took the joy out of writing and made it stressful. I think I truly am a bit Bohemian in my approach to writing and all the rules and regulations were horrid. I have never liked or known the technicalities of grammar – I just use it properly and don’t care what it’s called! Taking apart sentences to name all the different parts just seemed – still seems! – sacreligious! But as an English major I just had to read and write – all of the technical stuff was left behind!

To that I add this: ever since 9th grade English class, when we had to diagram sentences and suddenly my “A” in English was threatened, I have found grammar to be irritating and suffocating. Yes, it’s vital that the basic rules of grammar are followed…but why do I have to know what a gerund is when I can use it properly without knowing the proper definition?!! (I know, I know, it’s an “ing” word…I do actually remember that one!) Here’s the deal: as a kid I read and read and read…and that taught me my grammar. Not Mr. L in 9th grade, and not professor whoeverhewas in college. If you want to be a writer, read, read, read. It’s that’s simple.

One more thought: I am NOT advocating not teaching grammar in our schools. American’s are bad enough with grammar already and it IS being taught. (If I see one more person on Facebook write, “I like that to,” for example, I am going to scream!!) I guess I’m just venting. Can you tell that I really, really, have issues with grammar?!!

Oh, and also this: I know that I use too many commas.  And also that I’m not perfect, grammatically speaking.  I figure, that’s what editors are for.  🙂

There’s Nothing Like a Reunion

31 May

The University of Oregon is the only university whose mascot is a Disney character. Legend has it that a couple decades ago Disney got cross about it and said that the U of O couldn’t keep using the duck. They went to the archives and found a snapshot of the then president of the university shaking hands with Walt Disney himself – and that was the proof that he had agreed to the mascot’s use. I must say, I prefer the U of O duck over any other Disney character! GO DUCKS!

I am in SLC, fresh from EUG, heading to MSP and ultimately FSD.

Yes, I’m traveling. Alone, this time. No kids to keep an eye on, no dollies in tow, no Dora-the-Explorer suitcase trundling along behind my curly-headed child, stuffed with drawing paper and pencils and toys and snacks and used Kleenex.

It’s quite nice to be alone.

It’s also a little bit lonely.

The U of O campus.

I’ve been in Eugene, Oregon for a friend’s wedding. The wedding was lovely – outdoors, not too big, not too long, delicious cake. My friend and her smiling husband drove away in a 1947 (or was it ’48?!) fire engine and it was cute, quaint, and perfect.

The happy couple.

But Eugene held more than my dear friend’s wedding – it held family, friends, and innumerable memories.

It was 20 years ago exactly that I graduated from the University of Oregon. I’d been back to Eugene once, five years ago, but that was just for 36 hours and I was too distracted to spend much time on campus. This time I was able to walk around leisurely, gaze at the new buildings and old, and enjoy the atmosphere. I didn’t feel 18 again – no, the gray in my hair doesn’t allow for that fantasy – but I enjoyed myself immensely…perhaps BECAUSE I didn’t have to rush back to my dorm room and cram for a final exam.

My old dorm!

There’s nothing like a reunion – with old places or old friends or family. I was able to see many family members who graciously drove down from Washington to see me, and I met my new great-niece. She is, of course, adorable. I also saw my Eugene relatives and I had the privilege of staying with my aunt, which felt like coming home as I spent a lot of time with them over my college years. I think that I spent every single weekend at her house for at least the first 6 weeks of my freshman year. Mom and Dad were still in Germany, so my aunt’s home was a gift for a homesick kid.

I LOVE the rhododendrons and azaleas that abound in Eugene. I tried to grow one here in MN…it failed.

I also saw many college friends – some of whom I hadn’t seen in two decades – and was reminded of their quirks, their ways of speaking, their wonderful laughs. We sat outside at a restaurant along the Willamette River watching ospreys, river rafters and each other. I am so glad to know these people.

The Willamette River in Eugene, OR

Now I have to return to reality. To dirty clothes and dirty dishes. To unread piles of mail and a garden that has yet to be planted. To irritable kids and sticky kisses.

I’m ready to be back. Bring it on.

If you ever watched the movie Animal House…this is where it was filmed, at the University of Oregon. (Not that I’d necessarily recommend it as a movie!) Food fight, anyone?

The Matthew Knight Arena – just built within the last couple years. Phil Knight – a U of O grad and of Nike fame – gave the money for the arena in memory of his son who passed away.

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