Stay Gold, Knights.

Stay gold.




To my very first students:

I’d like to leave you with a story. It’s a short and simple one.

Once upon a time, a great American poet named Robert Frost penned a poem.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Years later another great author named S.E. Hinton wrote a book titled The Outsiders, one of my favorite novels of all time. I never got a chance to talk to you about The Outsiders, just as I never got a chance to tell you a lot of other magical literary things I would have liked to stuff into our last two months of school. However, I do have high hopes that maybe you were introduced to this great American classic in junior high. To jog your memory it’s about a bunch of American boys stuck in the socially-constructed life of violence. Read the book. You won’t regret it. Then, watch the awesome movie.

In Chapter 9, while struggling to breathe (that’s all I will say because you know how I hate spoilers) Johnny turns to Pony Boy and admonishes, “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold…” In his dying state, the one message Johnny has for Ponyboy is to “stay gold.” Here S.E. Hinton is making specific reference to Robert Frost’s poem. You should go back and read and analyze the poem to contrive so many meanings packed into these two words. Meanings such as:

  • Life is short.
  • Change is inevitable.
  • Carpe diem.
  • Accept what is.
  • Cherish the early experiences that shape you.
  • Shine to your fullest.
  • Everyone’s time will be up eventually.

My students, my last words to you are “stay gold.” Not just because I am Mrs. Gold, but because the message packed into the two words include everything I want you to know, everything I hope for you in  your lives.

Stay gold.

I love you. I love each and every one of you. Thanks for sharing your lives with me. Thanks for teaching me. Thanks for giving me one of your golden school years. I’ve loved almost every minute I’ve spent with each of you and the minutes that weren’t so hot, I still will cherish in my heart forever. You are all some of the best people that ever happened to me.

S.E. Hinton started writing The Outsiders when she was fifteen. That is younger than most of you. I challenge you to really think about that. Some of you might not bloom until later. I hope I can write just one mediocre novel before I die. I don’t know why some people can do things at fifteen that I am still working towards, but I will never stop trying to play catch up. And neither should any of you. You all have miracles to create of your very own. It might not be in writing. It might not even be in reading or speaking, but it will be from our three class principles: listening, learning, and loving. Your miracles will be something that comes from your heart. Teaching you all was a labor from my heart. I know I wasn’t perfect. In fact, I know I was far from perfect, but I am better because of each of you. Every one of you has shaped me into more of an S.E. Hinton than when I started as your brand new teacher. And, that is a miracle that I will never EVER forget. If any of us exist after this life, I will look for you. I will always be looking for you to tell you I love you and I believe in you, no matter what.

Stay gold.


The Peace of Wild Things

When I was eighteen, a few of my friends brought me a stuffed animal wild thing for my birthday. This was back in the days when my nickname was Crazy Ali, and I was a wild thing. I was free. I wanted nothing more than to wander. I also loved the book Where the Wild Things Are. I didn’t even associate loving that book with my own desire for adventure where Max had the ultimate adventure when he met the wild things.

If I were to write a book about my own perfect adventure, I would be the wild thing, and my adventure would be finding my way to peace. But, gosh dangit, Wendell Berry beat me to that story. And, how I love him for it.

My Post

Just another scholarship application


I began my college journey at UVCC in 1992. I was barely eighteen, and I had scrimped and saved money for my tuition working full-time at Stevenett’s Malt Shoppe while also paying my own living expenses. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life back then, but as I rode the UTA bus back and forth from Provo, I would stare out the window and think about how someday I would graduate from college. If I would have known then how long it would take me to achieve my Everest-sized goal, I probably would have thrown in the towel, but over the last twenty-seven years, my aching for a college degree would only grow. I think the real story of my decades-long commitment is in my why. Why is graduating college so important to me?

A college degree is so important to me for many reasons. One, I am not a quitter. I always have and always will finish whatever it is that I start with an iron-stubborn will. Even if it takes me a third of a lifetime. Two, I have a sick passion, almost an obsession with reading and writing, and I am driven by the inescapable strings attached to my fingertips that attach my brain and heart to books and dictionaries, papers and pens, and computer keyboards with word processing windows open in monitors. My strings are more like fetters, and they won’t let me be. They sing to me, whisper, and often shout that my calling in life is to preach the power of the word. Three, I am a proud life-long learner. During the last thirty years, I have been a professional blogger paid to review books, a PTA board member, a Title I school community literacy coordinator, and an ESL adult education instructor. I never stop learning and growing and increasing my capacity to know and teach. It’s what I love to do. I currently work at UVU as a part-time administrator which has allowed me to continue to provide for myself and my family while also privileging me with an unofficial study of art on a daily basis.

A college-degree is important to me for the greater future it will provide for my family. Over the last twenty-seven years, I have been a wife of a double-achieving grad student and a mother of five. (My husband earned his undergrad at UVSC in 2002 and his JDMBA from the University of TN in 2008.) I earned my own associate degree from UVSC in 2002. I was cume laude, working part-time at Kinko’s every night to save money for my husband’s law-school applications, and soon-to-be pregnant with my third child. Never, not ever, not even for one second, did I give up on my goal of becoming a college graduate. For many years, the goal was on the back burner because of resource scarcity and the time it took me to support my husband and nurture my children, but it was always boiling over in impatience. I came back to UVU in 2015, and I am now proudly (and proud is a gross understatement) three semesters away from a goal I wrote for myself over three decades ago. The moment I walk into my first classroom as a certified English teacher with a college degree, I will be passing out sunglasses to all of my students because I am sure that I will glow as bright as the sun. I am a living breathing example of what I hope all of my students will become: a college graduate, a lifelong learner, and a committed goal setter. And my paycheck? That will hopefully pay for my children to attend college. My husband and children are my fourth why, but really my first.

There is one last why. Actually, two. Their names are Richard and Sharon Wills. My beloved parents. They never graduated from college even though they both valued learning deeply. Like me, they were always busy providing a living for their seven kids. They were both farm kids. My dad’s family raised dairy cows; mom’s raised chickens. They got married right out of high-school and both went to a community college on scholarships. Mom’s was in band; dad’s, in football. However, my dad would be drafted into the Marine Corps for Vietnam, and my mom would follow him wherever he went. When it came to college, they never finished what they started. My dad passed away two years ago from the Agent Orange he contracted there. As I stared at his casket draped with the American flag, I heard him tell me, “Keep going, Alice. I know what you are doing is not easy. You have 5 kids, a husband with crippling anxiety, a part-time job, and you are in college. I am so proud of you. Don’t give up. Please finish what your mom and I started.” When I walk across the UVU platform and receive my diploma, the tears down my cheeks will be the ones that my mom and dad granted me by giving me life, instilling in me my work-ethic, inspiring in me my love for learning, and most of all because of my farming heritage that will not ever allow me to give up on a worthy goal.

What if

Today society is being bombarded with online messages.  It happens at my house, that is for sure. While cooking dinner the other night, I listened on with equal parts entertainment and disgrace as my three teenage daughters were hashtag-searching for all available Kardashian trivia. The idea of the newly discovered brother, Rob, was “epic”. They laughed at the idea of him being too self-conscious from weight-gain to be included in the family photo concluding that he must be just as vain as his sisters. My daughters’ brother, Max, is a heavy-weight too. It’s a good thing he’s too young to be embarassed. Of course, that led them to the natural succession of assigning other Kardashian equivalents to our family. Finishing with the completely insane idea of their dad having a sex-change to become a Kaitlin. Roars of laughter. I even chuckled at that.

This conversation got me thinking about the mind-numbing nature of the internet. As a mother I want to withstand the harmful culture. I want more for my kids. I have big plans for our front room when we move. It will be an electronic-free zone. The only thing available will be books, records, musical instruments, notebooks and pens, art supplies, and comfy chairs for lounging, pondering, sharing, and creating. The only rule will be to seek out the best things of the world. The wisest things. The secrets of the universe. All will be encouraged to find answers for troubling things and to seek serenity. I cannot wait. I have a feeling when my kids discover the joy of a distraction-free zone, it’ll become the best gathering place in the house. If they don’t discover it, I will have a totally quiet space to enjoy it for myself. I’m not gonna lie: both conclusions sound equally legendary. You see, even though I try to be a really good mom, I’m still by nature, selfish. I need a room where I can figure out how to change.

great minds

So, as I’ve been planning the details of my new home’s room of intellectual glory, I’ve simultaneously been learning about a literary analysis called deconstruction that is focused on assumptions in the reading/writing process. The scholar, Jaques Derrida, encourages taking apart literary works and looking at them from a new angle. He thinks that as readers we should find a point of emphasis and then ask ourselves “what if”. What if the meaning were different? What if there were no limits of language, but we could open our minds to endless possibilites? I know. I know. It all sounds a little too new-age and LSDish, and yes, this is a discovery from the 1960’s. It’s taken me a lot of time to understand its usefullness. I found the answer on facebook, of all places. Homework procrastination can be helpful sometimes.

So, here it is:

What if that black rapper who does all the crazy stuff (you know the one who people call a sad excuse for a human) is really battling some kind of mental illness?

What if those people on food-stamps actually work harder than you,  and are doing  better than you with the little resources they’ve been given in life?

What if butter is really good for you?

What if those people who have more kids than they can afford actually listen to  God more than you do?

What if God is trying to tell you to help them?

What if there is no life after this where you will ever be able to eat again?

What if all you’ll be allowed to eat are the things that you didn’t overindulge in now?

What if that star is your future?

What if the alcoholic was beat and raped throughout her childhood and she drinks to keep the nightmares away?

What if you really learned to love  yourself?

What if evolutionism and creationism are both true?

What if it’s easier to get into heaven as a homosexual than it is as a heterosexual?

What if light is dark and dark is light?

What if you automatically go to hell if you have never owned a family pet?

What if the Bible is true?

What if the least of these is really the greatest? Like the janitor?

What if sexy is nonexistent?

Anyhow, I could do this all day. Even though  I am not quite getting to the really deep ideas that the literary theory intends, I think the less deep ideas hold greater life applications.

What if asking “what if” only accomplished a world where people would quit judging each other and start loving each other more?

Then, desconstruction would actually have worth.  Instead of just making everything have no meaning, and being the biggest liberal warcry of all time, it would literally provide worldpeace. I think God likes that.