Sarah Palin Dishes Out a Uniquely American Word Salad

Sarah Palin, an Idaho Celebrity

Sarah Palin and potatoes both emanate from Idaho. Yes, it is true! While Sarah is identified with Alaska; she was born in a small northern Idaho town, Sandpoint, population 7,000 people.  Shortly after her birth, the Palin family moved to Alaska, her main home stomping grounds. However, Ms. Palin did return briefly to Idaho for college when she attended Northern Idaho Community College and eventually graduated from the University of Idaho with a communication degree. She is ranked as the most famous University of Idaho Alumnus on Ranker.Com right above former U.S. Senator Larry Craig.  For those of you who don’t follow Idaho politics, Craig is best known across America for defending a potential homosexual pickup in a men’s restroom by “Having a Wide Stance!”  As you can see from this very short list, the University of Idaho is desperate for celebrities.

I am fascinated by Ms. Palin.  As the 2008 Republican Party nominee for Vice President, alongside Arizona Senator John McCain, Sarah’s selection to the Republican ticket created a series of firsts including first Alaskan and first woman to be on a Republican national ticket.  She is also the first former beauty queen to be on a national ticket, having placed first in Miss Wasilla Pageant playing the flute for talent and subsequently coming in third in the Miss Alaska Pageant.  We know from the 2008 Presidential campaign, Ms. Palin is a lightning rod for controversy. Even when competing in beauty pageants, hullabaloo is not far from Sarah’s side. She reportedly won  the Miss Congeniality award in the Miss Wasilla contest, but this is disputed by another contestant and former classmate of Palin’s.    Apparently,  the oxymoron, “the contested Miss Congeniality”  is not surprising when Ms. Palin is in the mix.

As a Palin watcher, I have learned over the years that Sarah has many versions of reality, none of them easy to dispute because most of us have such a hard time understanding what she is trying to say. Sarah’s star rose again last week  (January 19, 2016) when she endorsed Donald Trump for President on the campaign trail.

January 2016, Palin and Trump on campaign trail, 2016

If you watch the endorsement, you’ll see Sarah sporting a dazzling Dolly Partonesque, spiky sequin sweater, shouting out a strange rambling of disconnected thoughts on how to make America great again.  The New York Daily News described her word salad, almost unintelligible rant,  as “gaffe prone”.

Sarah has become a national icon of the Tea Party largely because of her tendency to transform complex public policy into  a string of  zeitgeist slogans with pithy punch lines such as, “Mr. President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.” (March 8, 2014).  This trait has made her easy fodder for comedians.  Some of the best political humor, I have ever watched was Tina Fey’s comedic sketches of Sarah on Saturday Night Live (SNL) during the 2008 presidential campaign.  Sarah once again provided the inspiration for a Tina Fey reprisal of the Trump endorsement  on SNL, January 23, 2106.  The New York Times described the skit as “brilliant parody!”  Dressed in the same black and silver spiked sweater as Palin, Fey ended  her sketch with the zinger,  Sarah had endorsed Trump as a quid pro quo for a Trump cabinet appointment, “I belong in a cabinet! Because I’m full of spice and got a great rack.”

Saturday Night Live, Fey and Hammond as Palin and Trump, 2016


While many view Palin’s wacky speech patterns consisting of slogans, rhymes and new words as a sign of ignorance or inability to use the English language correctly, I believe history may prove she is one of the great malapropoists of our time. A malapropism is the misuse of a word through the confusion with another word which sounds similar, sometimes resulting in ridiculous speak.  An  everyday example of malapropism  is “the numbers don’t jive” when the correct wording is the” numbers don’t jibe”  In the first “ jive” means lively dancing and so the statement would only be correct if we were watching Sesame Street and colorful, performing numbers were being  used to teach children to count.  In the second example, “jibe” means the numbers are not in agreement and if you are an accounting major and have this problem, you may be in danger of flunking the test.

The most brilliant example of Sarah’s use of malapropisms is the word “refudiate”.   Until Sarah Palin arrived on the scene, this word did not exist (Even today, my spell checker thinks it is still not a word). The word is a mixture of “refute” and “repudiate”.  When one refutes something, they prove something is in error or false.  When one repudiates something, they deny any connection to something such as a family member.  Sarah started using the word “refudiate” in 2010 in a TV interview, challenging President Obama to “refudiate” the NAACP’s charge that the Tea Party had racist elements (NPR, August 6, 2010). She also tweeted the word, asking peaceful Muslims to “refudiate” violent Muslim acts. The word became the salvo of conservatives who argued that refudiate shows a commitment to refute the liberal agenda while repudiating (defeating) liberals at the polls.  In the midst of a raging pundits controversy about whether this was an example of Sarah’s failure to grasp the English language or her ability to be clever like a fox, Sarah complimented herself by tweeting; “English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” In November 2010, the New Oxford American Dictionary  (NOAD) agreed with her by listing “refudiate” as the 2010 new word of the year.   The NOAD editors wrote in a release: “From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used ‘refudiate,’ we have concluded that neither ‘refute’ nor ‘repudiate’ seems consistently precise, and that ‘refudiate’ more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of ‘reject.’”

During the Trump endorsement, Sarah once again treated us to a variety of malapropisms. She referred to members of Emily’s List, the pro-choice, Democratic women political action committee, as a “cackle of rads”. Cackle replacing either gaggle or cabal, I’m not sure which and rads replacing radical. The image of cackling, radical women similar to a group of old crones is not a pleasant one. In three words, Sarah managed to slap progressive women down with a spiteful imagine and appear as if she wasn’t even aware of her rhetoric.

My favorite word from Sarah’s Trump endorsement was “squirmish”. This word is an adaptation of “squirm” to wiggle because of discomfort and “skirmish” to brief fight sometimes part of a larger battle.    But I was left perplexed and disturbed that Ms. Palin, a leader on the national stage, would described the Syrian conflict, resulting in more than 330,000 causalities and uprooting more than four million people as a squirmish. To quote Ms. Palin, “,And you quit footin’ the bill for these, nations who are oil-rich, we’re paying for, some of their squirmishes, that have been goin’ on, for centuries. Where they’re fightin’ each other and yellin’ Allah Akbar, callin’ jihad on each other’s heads forever and ever. Like I said before, let ‘em duke it out, and let Allah sort it out!

I think a better use of the term squirmish is as a descriptive noun for the 2016 Republican Presidential Race. All of the candidates are making me squirm (uncomfortable and wanting to break free) with their personal attacks on each other and the media, trivializing of complex issues and hate messages directed at Muslims and refugees. So far the primary season can be viewed as a series of skirmishes (small contests) leading up to the great battle, the Republican National Convention. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to have “squirmish” used to describe this year’s Presidential race in future U.S. Government text books. But right now I would like to refudiate all of the Republican Presidential candidates.

Seattle, Flying Monkeys, and Magic

“Mom,” my 16 year old daughter said to me last week. “Scott found the flying monkey again in his room. I heard it squealing!”  The flying monkey refers to a small stuffed animal about six inches long wearing a cape and mask.

Flying monkey complete with cape and mask

The hands of the monkey are attached to a large rubber band and when launched correctly the monkey flies through the air, screaming a high pitched yowl at its intended victim.  My son Scott is 22 and a senior at the University of Idaho.  He has owned a flying monkey since he was 11. The monkey has suffered torn arms and numerous failed flights but has been part of our household since more than ten years.  Our pets live in fear of the monkey which when launched correctly can harmlessly shoot after a cat or dog who wisely runs at its terrifying sound.  My daughter hates the monkey because as soon as it arrived on Christmas, Scott learned to shoot the monkey into her bedroom from his room  without his parents knowing he was annoying his younger sister yet again.


I actually fell in love with monkey when I first saw it. My husband and I were in Seattle for couples get-away.  It was December and we were celebrating our joint birthdays which are both in December.  We had a house sitter for the kids and for two glorious days we were free to wander and eat gourmet food in Seattle, one of my favorite cities. We flew to Seattle on Friday night right after work.  You can fly out of Boise at 5:30 and get into Seattle at 5:30, one of the amazing features of different time zones.  We were staying on the Seattle harbor at the Edgewater Inn, a beautiful older hotel resting atop Pier 67 on Seattle’s Elliott Bay. The four story 223-room Edgewater is Seattle’s only waterfront hotel.

Edgewater Hotel
Edgewater Inn, Seattle’s only waterfront hotel

Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the hotel has hosted the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, KISS, and the Village People.   The hotel has large romantic bedrooms with gas fireplaces, cozy quilts and big windows looking out on the bay.


The weather was absolutely miserable when we landed on Friday night, pouring cold rain and sleet. When we left the hotel to walk to the restaurant, the wind turned the hotel’s umbrella inside out.  We ducked in one of the closest restaurants to  eat and warm up.  I don’t remember the food or the restaurant but the cold weather made the escape back to our room with quilts and fireplace even more romantic. The rooms of the Edgewater have windows that look out on the ocean. The next morning those windows showcased  bleak gray clouds with no rain but lots of wind churning up white caps and  slapping the murky ocean water up against the pier.

Seattle is a walking city. We spent the cold, brisk morning exploring small shops and stopping for coffee and snacks between Pikes Place Market and Union Square.  Somewhere in our travels, we stopped at a toy shop where several monkeys were flying through the air along with other moving toys.  I was enchanted by all the high energy in the shop filled with squealing children, excited for Christmas and many toys I hadn’t seen before. I thought we should buy two monkeys, one for each of our children (then 11 and 5).  My more conservative husband limited my purchase to one and so the flying monkey came into my possession.

Elliot Bay Bookstore
Elliot Bay Consistently ranked one of the best bookstores in America

We finished our afternoon by wandering down to Elliot Bay Bookstore then at Union Square (Elliot Bay has now moved to Capitol Hill). Elliot Bay is rated  one of the great independent bookstores in this country with over 150,000 books, set on cedar bookshelves in exposed red brick rooms. I have never been in the book store when it wasn’t busy and Christmas is, of course, it’s busiest time of year. We spent several hours out of the cold Seattle wind, drinking coffee and browsing through new  books along with crowds of other people.


That evening we had dinner at Wild Ginger, a premier Pan Asian restaurant, ranked as one of the top restaurants in the world. Wild Ginger is located at 3rd and Union, easy walking distance from Seattle’s main downtown hotels. The web site boasts of providing diners with a culinary tour of China and Southeast Asia. I remember my  Hanoi tuna, seared rare with almonds, garlic and shallots being a delicacy fit for the Gods.  I don’t think I have ever had tuna since which was prepared as well.Wild Ginger

We flew home on the 10 A.M. Alaskan flight the next day, touching down in Boise on Sunday around noon

Recent research has shown (not surprising to my way of thinking) that experiences bring people more happiness than things. Whenever the flying monkey takes flight through our house with its hideous high pitched squeal, I am absolutely delighted.  The monkey reminds me of a magical weekend (10 years ago) spent in Seattle with my husband of 27 years.  I once again feel the sting of cold rain, zapping my face like a thousand miniscule needles as I run towards the beckoning warmth of a highly rated hotel room.  I remember holding hands as we dashed across streets not walking to the signals as we should because few cars were out in the down pour.  I remember my delight at throwing open the door to our room and finding the gas fireplace lit and down comforter folded back as if welcoming us to climb right in. If I take time to savor the experience, I can feel the busy, bustling atmosphere of the Wild Ginger, the push of people trying to get seated, the excitement of waiting for a superb dinner, the clank of dishes and sliver ware, the swish of waiters moving quickly and efficiently through tightly packed tables.  The monkey also reminds me of my strong ties to my home in Boise.  My kids are never far from my mind when I travel.  I am always glad when I open the door to the welcoming surroundings and familiar sounds of our Boise home.

Little did I know when I bought the monkey, that the odd skinny plush toy would become an experiential purchase. An experiential purchase is one which provides an association with one’s identity, connections and social behaviors.  For me, the monkey, which is really only an ugly useless toy when left  dormant and forgotten in a young man’s room, becomes a magical creature when launched through the house  producing groans of “ not again” from a younger sister,  wild barking from two dogs, puffed up hair and bristling tails from  two cats and enchanted memories for me.


Comparing Sun Valley and McCall-Two Idaho Ski Resorts with Very Different Personalities

This year the snow hounds are running Idaho’s ski slopes with gleeful abandon. The snow started early, late October.  By Thanksgiving, Sun Valley, Idaho’s premier, internationally-known ski resort was open.  With an average of 220 inches of snow and 3,400 vertical feet of mountain, Sun Valley deserves the kudos as one of the World’s great ski resorts.  Sun Valley was recently ranked by National Geographic as one of the top 25 ski resorts in the world.Sun Valley Logo

Sun Valley has a long and storied history, opening the first chairlift in 1936. Sun Valley has produced some of the nation’s best skiers and snowboarders, including a large share of Olympic team members and medalists. In honor of this history, Sun Valley has runs  named after medalists such as Gretchen’s Gold (Gretchen Fraser, first American to win gold medal in skiing, 1948), Christin’s Silver (Christin Cooper, silver medal, 1984), and Picabo Street (Picabo Street, first American woman to win the World Cup and three Olympic medals, 1998).

The summit of Bald Mountain (Baldy), the main hill, rises a majestic 7,540 feet. The resort hosts 19 lifts transporting skiers to 80 runs, the longest providing 4 miles of terrain. Sun Valley attracts celebrities and the wealthy to its slopes.

Straight down Sun VAlley
At Sun Valley, skiers get 3400 vertical feet of mountain.

The hill and base of Baldy are populated with 5 day lodges offering a relaxing mid-day break at the bottom or a quick stop off at the Round House at the top or at several other stops along the hill. The resort village is filled with condominiums for the well-off. The internationally known Sun Valley Resort (Lodge and Inn 4 miles from the main ski resort but a stone’s throw from a small hill called Dollar Mountain) offers outdoor skating, bowling, movies, spa treatments, sleigh rides, Nordic skiing, year-round outdoor swimming, an array of restaurants all within a small Nordic village. In and around, the western town of Ketchum, home of the resort, the uber wealthy live in multi-million dollar homes and ranches and dart in on their private jets regularly for long weekends.

Sun Valley reminds me of a wealthy, eccentric older uncle–fun to see occasionally, elitist by nature and difficult to keep up with because of the expense. The lift tickets for Sun Valley this year are adults, $115 ($125 over Christmas Holidays) and children, $65 ($75 Christmas).  The lodging in Sun Valley echoes the bluster of Old Baldy. They are beautiful to see but expensive to utilize.  The restaurants provide exquisite delights at equally astounding prices.

BrundageBecause of the sometimes haughty and expensive nature of Sun Valley; many Boiseans drive 80 minutes north to ski in McCall, Idaho (Sun Valley’s cheaper, friendlier and smaller cousin). Located 8 miles from McCall, Brundage Mountain has no condos at its base.  But it sports 46 trails, 2 terrain parks, 5 lifts and this year has 75 inches of snow at its summit (average snowfall over the winter 320 inches).  The vertical drop at Brundage is only 1800 feet.  So unlike Sun Valley where you can peer over a ridge and look straight down into Ketchum, Brundage terrain is more rolling.  Make no mistake, many Idaho skiers know how to find challenging terrain at Brundage by hiking up parts of the mountain or skiing in the trees.  With one run of 2 miles, Brundage offers wide expanses of skiing before hitting the tows again. Brundage ski tickets cost $62 for an adult, $37 for teens and $23 for children.

brundage powder
This year Brundage has provided skiers with waist-deep powder!

If you buy a mulit-day pass, a teenager can ski for 5 days for about $150.  There are lots of families on the hill and in the single lodge on the mountain.  Because Idaho’s population is small, many days, you will see people you know from Boise (Idaho’s largest city) on the lifts, in the tow lines or taking a break at the lodge.  My daughter’s 30 second elevator speech to describe Brundage this year is “Waist Deep Powder with great food in the lodge!”


Brundage is a much better location for children to learn to ski than Sun Valley. Both of my children participated in the Brundage Bear ski program. We would drop them off in the morning, pick them up for lunch and then drop them off in the afternoon.

Children skiing
Brundage Mountain is more kid and family friendly than Sun Valley

This left us free to ski the hill without little children in tow. Now ages 22 and 16, both of my kids are excellent skiers.  On the other hand, when we went to Sun Valley, Bald Mountain is too difficult for young children.  While a children’s ski program is offered, you drop your children off at Dollar Mountain and then ski Bald Mountain 4 miles away.  We actually never utilized the full ski program at Sun Valley. Rather we chose the Kinder Care program where children were offered an hour of skiing with excellent day care.  We weren’t comfortable with young children being in a full day ski program with such a large distance between Dollar Mountain for children and Bald Mountain for adults.  Other parents may feel differently.


We own a cabin in McCall, as do many other folks from Boise, because the cost of real estate is relatively inexpensive. We bought the cabin to have a haven for family gatherings.

We have lots of snow at our cabin in McCall this year!

Like Brundage Mountain, the town of McCall focuses on being friendly and accessible with reasonably priced dining and family activities including an indoor ice skating rink, tubing hill and several natural hot springs located a few miles outside of town. The only movie theater is 30 minutes away on winter roads, so most folks utilize streaming or DVDs for media entertainment.  Winter in McCall is a much more rustic experience than winter in Sun Valley.  If you don’t own your own place, there is one resort, Shore Lodge, and an array of lodging of the Holiday Inn Express variety.  With possibly one or two exceptions, the McCall restaurants while tasty are not gourmet and the prices reflect  this.


In conclusion, both Sun Valley and Brundage are part of the Idaho ski hill family but they have very different personalities.   If you are planning a skiing vacation in Idaho and have lots of money and you are expecting a five diamond experience or if you are an expert skier, go to Sun Valley.  If you have a family, or many different levels of skiers in the group consider McCall.  Both resorts are worthy of a visit but depending on your skiing ability and pocket book one may have more appeal than the other.



Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach-Destination Resort Los Cabos, Mexico

Lobby terrace Pueblo  Bonito, Sunset Beach, Los Cabos, Mexico 

“Welcome to Paradise!” Is the greeting we receive from the doorman when our van pulls up to Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach. After several long flights originating in Boise, Idaho, we have arrived in Los Cobos, Mexico. Los Cabos is on the Baha Peninsula.

Gorgeous walking beach but don’t go in the water

Outside the van from the airport,  the glorious mid- seventies weather,  sparkling blue ocean and cloudless sky does seem like paradise.

I am traveling as a guest of my sister who owns a timeshare at Pueblo Bonita. We are spending 7 days under her timeshare agreement in a junior suite. Our suite has a full kitchen with granite counter tops stocked with kitchen ware, beatiful tile bath with glass shower, two double beds with down comforters, an eating area with lounge chairs, and porch with pool and sea views.

View from the junior suite terrace.

I spent one glorious morning on the porch watching the whales jump along the shoreline surrounded by little sightseeing boats. I wrote this blog watching the sunset on the terrace.

Pueblo Bonito is a destination resort. Once the weary, over-stressed traveler arrives there is no need to venture out into the real world. The resort has six resturants, four pools plus a children’s pool, access to a golf course, tennis courts, spectacular spa services, a walking beach, beautiful grounds, a small deli, and a chapel. The resort also has a children’s center. The only thing it doesn’t have is water sports on the beach. While there is a beautiful public beach in front of the hotel, signs caution of rip tides and even casual wading is not allowed.

Attention to detail by staff makes for a special visit. Folded beach towels like swans.

Pueblo Bonito is not the dangerous  Mexico we have all read about. The facilities are spotless. When I am out on my early morning walks, I see many workers scrubbing entry ways, sponging down pools, and even folding beach towels into swans.  Customer service is obviously emphasized. We are greeted graciously by all staff and people appear from nowhere to see if we need a drink, towels, or anything else.

The resort is built up a hillside. Access to services, pools and resturants could be quite daunting for anyone with limited mobility problems. Access is not a problem here, however. Small golf car vans that hold 9 passengers and a driver circle through the resort every five minutes. Because of the size of the resort, there are three lines: red, blue, and green. We are in a suite near the beach and overlooking the pool. We are on the blue line. If we walk down to the main pool and large resturant, we can catch the red line directly up to the lobby avoiding the twisting rodes of the lines going to rooms. If you watch the vehicles from the lobby terrace racing around, it looks something like a Disney Land race track.

There are signs encouraging walking. I have found the short cuts through lobbies and upstairs.  There are not many of us out walking the hillsides to our desinations. Enroute I have discovered the black swans, flamingos, flowers, and butterfies who share the resort with the tourists.

Flamingo on the grounds.

Many guests arrive with large bags but after a couple days,  everyone has unkempt hair, sandals on and some type of beach clothing. Faces look more relaxed and smiles come more quickly and frequently.

In another blog, I wrote about the tourist, who likes everything planned, the traveler who likes to mix with the general population and see the local sights and the adventurer who goes without an agenda. Pueblo Boniti is definitely a resort for tourists.

I would recommend to couples, who want to rekindle romance,  travelers of any age seeking comfort, relaxation and safety. The resort also serves the needs of familues with children younger than 3 or 4.  Since the hotel doesn’t have water sports on the property, i would encourage familes with older children to seek out a different venue for their Mexican holiday.

I still have a few more days in paradise. I am thankful my sister let me tag along.







Idaho and The Martian—Both Surviving on Potatoes

Idaho greeted 2016 by dropping a potato on Steroids in front of the Statehouse.

potato in front of capital
Giant Potato ready for 2016 New Year Drop, Boise Idaho

Yes, it’s true, Idaho has a potato fixation. Thirty percent of all potatoes grown in the United States come from Idaho. The potato is Idaho’s leading agricultural crop. We even host a national bowl game, called the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (suggesting that in some other unworthy location is another football game named for a tuber).


To publicize the game, the Idaho Potatoes Growers  annually send The Great Big Idaho Potato Truck across America. Great Big Truck The six ton spud spent 2015 traveling to 29 cities covering over 22,000 miles.  For folks into trivia, the giant potato is comparable to 32,346 medium potatoes, weighs 1,102 times more than the largest potato ever grown (11 pounds) and could be made into 1.5 million French Fries (pass the ketchup!) The national advertising for the commission features an Idaho farmer, who has lost the truck, asking people who see the giant roaming tater to send it home. According to the President of the Idaho Potato Commission, wherever the truck goes people shout, “Go Home!” (see clip below)

Given that Idaho is known for potatoes, I was not surprised when Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) in the movie, The Martian (2015) survived on Mars by growing spuds. The movie is based on  Andy Weir’s novel (2011) of the same name. In interviews, Weir has said he tried to make the novel as accurate as possible.   The movie begins with the crew of Ares 3 collecting Mars samples  outside the spaceship. A huge sand storm forces a hasty exit. Watney, who is struck by an antenna as the crew flees to the ship, is left behind for dead. Watney miraculously survives his injuries and has  to figure out how to live on Mars,  contact NASA and contrive a way home.  A botanist, Watney knows that the potatoes available in the space station have the potential to grow.  His job is to “science the hell out of this!” until somehow help can arrive.  The main theme of the movie just like the Idaho Potato Commission advertisement for the Great Big Idaho Potato Truck is “Bring Him Home!”Potatoes and Mark.jpg

 The Martian is thrilling, funny, and age appropriate for a wide range of ages. I took my two children, a college senior and tenth grader on Christmas day and  both enjoyed it.  The movie is on the Oscar short list for Best Picture, Best Director (Ridley Scott) and Best Actor (Matt Damon).  If your family includes children ten or over and you need a family night together, watch The Martian.  You’ll have fun cheering Astronaut Watney on, you’ll learn something about solving one problem at a time instead of becoming paralyzed by doubt, and you’ll end up having more respect for the lowly potato.