Man Bun vs. Mom Bun


Our competing Muns at the breakfast bar

My son Scott headed out for his last fall at the University of Idaho this week. He is President of his fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau and had to be at U of I early to get the fraternity  house ready for Rush.  Before he left he took time for our Man Bun versus Mom Bun (MUNs) head shots.

The family teased him all summer for his long hair on top, cropped short on sides.

Scott’s hair , looking great!

His hair looks great for work but for lacrosse or workouts flops down his face in a long veil unless it is held back by a bun and sometimes bun and headband. When he has his hair up, he is part of the man bun crowd started a few years back by hipsters in New York, moving to San Francisco and becoming popularized by  celebrities Jaquin Phoenix, Jared Leta, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik. (both of One Direction, boy band fame).

MUNs are popular enough now that you can purchase one on if you don’t have enough hair.  Nick Cannon has been wearing  a  MUN the last few weeks on America’s Got Talent.  Mr. Cannon told folks on Good Morning America that it takes a couple of hours to get his corn rows and man bun in place.  Man buns aren’t for everyone. Since many men have a hereditary tendancy to loose their hair as they age, there have been recent cautions that wearing a too-tight man bun can pull out your hair permanently, prematurely.  Scott doesn’t have to worry about that. The hair loss gene comes from the mother’s side of the family.  My dad had fabulous wavy hair until he died.  The popularity of the man bun has moved it into the realm of humor.  If you want to see  politicians with man buns including Donald Trump check out this link:

My hair is a different story.  By the time I hit thirty, I was in professional jobs and kept my hair short to ensure  I had some semblance of a coiffeur at work.  Before short hair, I had extremely thick, long, and amazingly unruly hair.  In my late twenties when I had long hair and  was at a meeting of all men, I turned my head and a rocket shot across the room.  Everyone in the room asked what it was.  When we finally rescued the flying object from under a table across the way from me, it turned out to be an electric roller caught under my very thick mane, left in-place unnoticed as I hurried out the door to work.  Turning my head displaced it and propelled it across the board room.  Since the late seventies were a time when women were just clawing their way into management positions, it was essential that I look as prim and polished as possible.  I challenge you to  remain dignified when claiming a sailing roller from your supervisor at a major meeting.  The roller incident was the beginning of my many efforts to tame my wild mane by keeping it short.

By my early thirties, I was starting to get premature white hair.  Both my mother and grandfather had gorgeous white hair by 35 but  I chose to color my hair to be in step with the times.  I have now been coloring my hair for almost 35 years.  I actually have no idea what color my hair is now.  I thought about letting it grow gray when I retired but decided to wait to see my true color until my daughter Kayla is out of high school.

I started growing my hair the day I retired.  My hair is now down to my shoulders but hard to pull up into a bun.  It takes two small buns to make one.  My hair is long enough to whip around in the Wyoming wind on vacation.  I love the freedom of feeling my hair blow when we are out on our bikes or on a boat.  I have also gotten my hair long enough that my daughter can braid it though it ends up with a little tiny pig tail rather than an long beautiful streamer.  I plan on growing my hair to about the length of Meryl’s Streep’s hair at the Democratic convention, slightly below my shoulders.   The ability to grow my hair and let it do as it pleases in retirement has been a great joy.

I miss my son already though he has only been gone a couple of days.  I have no competition now in the MUN contest.  When he is around the house, there are moments every day of great laughter about silly things.  University of Idaho you are lucky to have him this fall and I was fortunate indeed to spend the summer growing my hair along with him.



LAX Coach Provides Metaphors for Life and Politics

Metaphor: a symbol of something abstract

The last game of the University of Idaho 2016 lacrosse season was a loss to Boise State University. For a loosing season, however, there were a lot of wins.  The Lacrosse End-of -Year Banquet turned out to be one of the most surprising wins from my vantage point.  This was a season that took great fortitude. Fourteen young men played 12 games against teams in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) from much larger, better funded programs such as Simon Fraser, Canada (lacrosse is the national sport), University of Washington, Brigham Young University, University of Utah, University of Oregon, and Oregon State University.  The U of I ended the season with 10 losses and 2 wins.  But we learned at the banquet, most college teams would not even take to the field without at least 20 players to allow for substitutions. To compete in a major conference with only 14 players and play every game was truly remarkable.

My son, Scott, was recognized as one of 3 seniors on the team. First year, head coach James Courter, talked about Scott’s high energy pursuing a finance/accounting degree, serving as president of his fraternity and playing lacrosse. Coach Courter remarked that Scott has an outlook he labeled “SPA”, superior positive attitude, in all situations.  Courter described how when he first met Scott, he found Scott’s  smiling demeanor somewhat disconcerting.  Courter would be talking about something serious the defense needed to do and he would look up and Scott was smiling.  Courter said by the end of the season, he came to learn that Scott just takes on anything with a smile (not a bad trait in life).

Scott Lax banquet
Scott exhibiting SPA with Coach Courter


The biggest surprise to me at the Lacrosse Banquet was not the kudos from the Coach for the team and volunteers but the Coach himself. Thirty-one years old from Florida, Courter moved to Moscow, Idaho for a part-time coaching position just to get into college coaching.  An outstanding college defensive player in the large eastern lacrosse divisions, Courter played lacrosse at Providence from 2004-07 leading his college team to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2004, 2006 and 2007. He earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAAC) Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2007.  Since graduating, Courter has worked his way up in coaching from assistant program director of a youth lacrosse program, to head coach of a high school program, and finally to head coach at the University of Idaho.  His vita tells me Courter absolutely loves lacrosse.  He has travelled across the country to work for a pittance for a team with no funding for scholarships or even the power to get the University to allow them to use the much ballyhooed Kibby Dome during inclement weather.  Courter’s resume also reflects a tremendous tenacity to stay with the sport while climbing the difficult to access college coaching ladder.

Courter is tall, slim, losing some of his hair. He came to the banquet microphone with a slightly wrinkled shirt and tie coming unknotted.

Coach Courter
University of Idaho, firs-year, head coach, James Courter

He is obviously uncomfortable speaking to groups from a podium.  But his presentation was outstanding, not because of the delivery, shaky at best but because of the thoughtful content.


He gave the three team captains a map, a compass, and whistle. As we all know who do any backpacking, this is survival gear.  However, Courter is from Florida not the wilds of Idaho.  He never alluded to the true function of the equipment in his presentation.  Rather he talked about metaphors, he had learned from his father.   For success in life, one needs to have a mental map of where you want to go.  But that map needs to be tempered by a heart which serves as a compass.  Is the map taking you in the right direction in terms of your moral compass, the ability to know what is right or wrong and act accordingly.  The whistle can serve two functions; first, stop the action that is not going according to plan or second, alert others that you need assistance.

I spent the weekend reflecting on Coach Courter’s remarks to his captains.   The metaphors of map, compass and whistle resonated for me because of my degrees in public administration and my life-long career focus on government and politics.  I have sat in many meetings where the map would have been much easier to develop and follow if we did not have to be concerned about the moral implications of the plans we are developing.

In my own neighborhood in recent months, St. Lukes Health System, the largest employer in Idaho has developed a master plan over many years to expand their Boise campus by closing off one of the main streets, Jefferson.  The administrators at Lukes have seemed surprised when the neighborhood has raised an outcry about the blocking of a main bike artery and their  failure to ensure the plan was pedestrian and bicycle friendly.  Given the outcry, St. Lukes has subsequently revised their plan, hosted numerous neighborhood meetings and recently sent out post cards to the neighborhood.  But it would have been much easier if Lukes administration had started their plan with not just what is easier and most efficient for St. Lukes (map) but what does the community’s moral compass tell us would be the best approach for serving the East End.  Final decisions have not been made on this issue.  The East End neighborhood was very effective at bringing out their whistles quickly and loudly when they were not involved from the beginning.  The neighborhood protest about the unfairness of not being involved from the beginning was shrill and loud, significantly slowing down the approval process.

We have another example of the map, compass and whistle metaphors in our national government. In the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court was established as the final arbitrator of whose map and moral compass should be followed during any period of American history. The Republican majority in the  U.S. Senate have delayed confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice in the hopes of electing a Republican Presidential candidate who will appoint a justice  closely aligned with their conservative moral compass.  In other words, their map for the rest of the year is delay. During this interim period, the Justices are not able to rule on many controversial issues because they have a tie vote between liberals and conservatives. The fact that the Republicans in the U.S. Senate have essentially negated the power of the court by not allowing a replacement should concern citizens of both political parties.  This is a fundamental violation of the U.S. Constitution.  The Republican Senators are allowing their partisan strategy to interfere with their moral principles.  Without a strong referee, in this case the U.S. Supreme Court, the potential for unintended consequences and long-term harm particularly to vulnerable populations is great.  Right now in our country, there is no one in place to enforce the whistle.

In the end, these three simple metaphors, a map, a compass, and a whistle provide a measure of who we are as individuals and a country. A key question for each of us every day is: How do we develop a positive, ethically grounded future with the ability to ask for help or stop ourselves when we have gone too far?

Mom’s weekend, A quintessential college experience

Quintessential: a perfect example

 My first choice for college was Duke in North Carolina.  My dad was from South Carolina so I had traveled the South extensively as a child.  I knew as soon as I saw Duke’s gorgeous campus as a kid I wanted to go there. When I started my college search in earnest in high school, my parents told me that they couldn’t afford the tuition at a school of the caliber of Duke and travel back and forth from Wyoming made any East Coast school cost prohibitive.  I never applied to Duke.  Instead I set my sites closer to home.

 I attended a small private Presbyterian college in Nebraska, called Hastings College. My primary reasons for going to Hastings were: 1. I didn’t want to go to the University of Wyoming where most of my friends were going, 2. My sister, 3 years my senior, was already at Hastings and was having the time of her life traveling all over the world during interim session (the month of January between fall and spring semesters), 3. My parents could afford both the tuition and the travel though in the end I had a substantial scholarship award, and 3. Ted Menke, a tall, handsome, blonde- haired, blue-eyed senior had led my tour group.  At 18, I was boy-crazy and the thought of an entire new world of good-looking guys in a location outside of Wyoming was a huge motivator.  My sister and I still laugh raucously about what a superb ambassador for Hastings, Ted was. In my case, he had graduated by the time I got there.

Chapel at Hastings College, Nebraska. When I was in school, we had mandatory chapel every Friday.


I was not disappointed with my Hastings experience though I would never send my kids all the way from Idaho to Nebraska to have a small college experience.  There are many fine small colleges in the Northwest.  I bring up how I chose my college because choosing a college is one of the largest financial decisions a family will ever make.  If I am perfectly honest at 18, expense and quality of education weren’t even considerations for me.  I wanted to go somewhere I could have a good time, make new friends and learn about the world.  Somehow when my son Scott started looking for colleges, I forgot how frivolous I had been.

Scott began his college search in earnest the beginning of his junior year. We did what the high school counselors recommended.  Scott wanted to go to school in the West, if possible on the coast.  We toured schools in Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado. Based on these tours, he narrowed his search down to five. The top being a stretch to get into but worth dreaming for, the fifth being a sure thing with others in-between.  My son’s dream school was Santa Clara University, a private Jesuit School in California with a gorgeous campus.  His sure thing was the University of Idaho.  He got into all the schools with scholarships. The last school we heard from and the one  he waited anxiously on every day  was Santa Clara.   He received $10,000 a year to Santa Clara.  After reviewing the costs of Santa Clara, we had to tell Scott we simply couldn’t afford it.   We are a physician family and have substantial resources. However, Pete (my husband) didn’t start practicing until he was in his early forties.  By the time Scott was headed to college, Pete was 65 and we still have a daughter to send to school who was 12.  Santa Clara would have cost us $60,000 a year on top of the scholarship.  We had saved for Scott’s college education and had $65,000 in Scott’s  529 college savings account designed to cover the cost of an in-state education at that time.  The costs of Santa Clara would have used all the savings the first year.

Given the costs of education, my husband, Pete set up an elaborate excel sheet so we could compare all the offers.  The best offer was from University of Puget Sound where Scott got $20,000 a year. We thought we could afford the extra cost for Puget Sound though it would have meant more money than we had saved.  But once we told Scott we couldn’t afford Santa Clara, he had no interest in the other schools.  On decision day, Scott was traveling for a business conference. I called to ask him which school I should accept. He said the University of Idaho. I was hoping for Puget Sound.  I was a little sick inside because I had wanted him to go out-of-state. Let’s face it, Idaho is not a cultural mecca.

Scott’s first semester at the University of Idaho did not go well.  He had a strange roommate in the Honor’s dorm.  When he tried to change, the resident assistant told him the only way he could get a different room was if someone would trade with him.  Lots of people were willing to room with Scott but no one was willing to move in with the undesirable roommate. In addition, Scott is a vegetarian and the food situation in the cafeteria was getting desperate.  He sent me pictures from the Cafeteria where there was a big sign that said, “Vegetarian” and then underneath the food was labeled  “chicken wings.”  Pete and I both went up for Dad’s weekend in the fall because we felt we needed to provide support just to keep Scott in school.  We traveled with another family.  We all went bowling.  I will be forever thankful to one of the men in our group.  He said to Scott, “This is your life.  You need to take the necessary steps to make this work for you.”

The next thing I know Scott had joined a fraternity (Phi Kappa Tau), moved out of the dorms and into the frat house.  At the time,  I thought this was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

This past weekend, I visited Scott at the University of Idaho for my 4th and final Mom’s weekend.  I started the blog today with the intention of writing about attending Mr. Idaho, a beauty pageant  to raise funds for charity (very fun), the Turtle Derby where the sorority houses train turtles to run out of a circle (captivating in a strange way), and the lacrosse game (another loss but a rousing good time).  But upon reflection, the real story is not how I spent my weekend (truly fabulous) but how much Scott has grown and matured at the University of Idaho.  Despite my misgivings and several stumbles along the way, the U of I has provided Scott with a quintessential college experience.

For example, being in a fraternity  has proven to be a great opportunity for him. The fraternity gave him an instant group of friends.  In addition, they have a cook so his vegetarian needs are addressed if he leans on the cook.  I would be lying if I didn’t say it is hard to be the only vegetarian in a congregate living situation.

Scott has also served as treasurer of his fraternity and is now the President.  He has paid bills, collected funds from reluctant payees, developed budgets, managed staff, and had to figure out how to motivate young men who have many diverse interests. The fraternity has paid for him to attend a number of national meetings where he has made new friends and had the opportunity for additional leadership training

Scott has a Graue Scholarship from the University of Idaho.  The Graues are business students who must maintain a 3.5 grade point.  They receive tuition assistance as well as a funded annual field trip. Scott has travelled to California to meet business leaders as well as major companies in Portland and Seattle such as Nike and Starbucks.

Last fall, he utilized the U of I international program to spend a semester in Spain at the same cost as attending school in Moscow with the additional cost of round-trip transportation.  We went to visit him as a family over Thanksgiving.  All of us got the benefit of that experience.

In summary, he has travelled in this country and abroad.  He has had opportunities to lead and learn beyond the classroom.  He has done all of this without taking out any loans. The funded 529 plan has paid for all his costs including his books. He is, of course, our son so we are proud of him.  But he is not a-typical of the University of Idaho student.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about the Naval Officers we visited in Florida who are recent graduates of the University of Idaho. These two young men are not from Idaho. They went to U of I because that is where the Navy assigned them.  But they graduated able to compete with new officers from all over the country including Ivy league schools.

Upon reflection, the University of Idaho has been good for Scott and I think in turn Scott and his friends have been good for the University of Idaho. None of us can predict the future, but looking back  Scott’s college outcomes have been much better than I expected when I pushed “yes” to the University of Idaho on decision day.

Scott and I had a great time on our last Mom’s Weekend at the University of Idaho, 2016