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Your IQ Demands It

By Catherine Arveseth

We were 208 feet off the ground and teetering on the edge of insanity. White-knuckling the seat in front of me, I stared at Ali, my eight-year-old, with wide eyes. In a matter of seconds we would plunge into a 116° inverted free-fall, followed by a series of loops and corkscrews through which this new roller coaster would spin at speeds up to 70 mph.

What were we thinking? A few days earlier the ride was still being tested! It’s name? The Cannibal. Because it eats other coasters in its tracks. As well as cell phones, sun glasses, hats, and any common sense you had on the ground. Billboards around town are advertising the new screamer with this bit of advice, “The Cannibal. Bring a change of shorts.”

Wise counsel. The ride was nutso! We screamed. We fell. At an angle beyond vertical! But we survived. Even without a change of shorts.

We laughed our way out of the exit and yelled to my sister, “You gotta do it!” My kids and their cousins were wearing neon yellow t-shirts. Couldn’t miss any of the them as they dodged in and out of crowded lines. My sister-in-law made the shirts for our Keddington reunion, and on the front she displayed one of our favorite family sayings, “Our IQ demands it!” A philosophy preached by my Grandma Dorothy, who believed life was best lived with a curious mind and an adventurous spirit.

And that’s why we were riding the scariest ride in the park. Our IQ demanded it.

My Dad remembers, as a little boy, learning his father’s office building had caught fire. When my grandmother heard about it, she gathered up her children and drove them downtown to watch firefighters tackle the flames. Why? Their IQ demanded it.

He remembers her excitement the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. No one was allowed to leave the living room. She circled them round the television set and told them everything she could about space exploration and this significant leap for mankind. Then together, they held their breath as Armstrong planted the American flag on lunar soil.

My uncle remembers traveling with Grandma when she was much older and stopping at the windiest spot along the Pacific coast, the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Although she had arthritis and two knee replacements, she was determined to walk the 308 steps down to the lighthouse. (And back up). Why? Her IQ demanded it. He recalls her triumphant smile as she stood next to the lighthouse for a photo. White waves crashing below her feet.

Grandma approached everything with contagious enthusiasm. Books, school, family trips, news, weather, music, LIFE. She taught third grade and knew the name of every dinosaur, every Star Wars character, every kind of spider. To me, she was like an encyclopedia. But way more fun.

Some summer evenings growing up, I remember the phone ringing and it would be Grandma on the line. “Have you seen the sunset?” she would ask. “It’s glorious!” She would call to tell us tidbits of world news or to make sure we were watching the lightning storm as it rolled over the Oquirrh mountains.

She taught me about prisms and how they refracted light. She helped me with my rock collection for school, told us where to find the best shale and granite in Utah. We collected bugs and spiders in mason jars. Sometimes we even put them in the freezer for a few hours then got them out, just to watch them reanimate.

When you traveled with Grandma, you stopped to read historical markers, ventured into interesting shops, and learned everything you could about where you were. Why? Your IQ demanded it.

In 2004, Doug and I were living in Virginia during the invasion of the cicadas. Brood X, scientists called it. An insect phenomenon that happens every 17 years in which cicadas surface to find a mate, breed, and die. That spring cicadas were everywhere, hanging in every tree, covering every sidewalk. It was astonishing. And I was on the hunt for the perfect cicada with bright red eyes, and its casing.  I found both and put them in a box to wrap. When Doug asked me what I was doing I said, “Mailing them to my Grandma, of course! She’ll love it!” And she did. After she passed away, my Dad found the cicada among her scientific treasures.

She sounds eclectic and maybe a little crazy. But really, she was brilliant, refined, and lovely in every way. This same woman left Salt Lake as a young woman to sing opera in New York City, became a premiere soprano soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, lost her sweetheart husband to a heart attack in her fifties, but never lost joy at living on this remarkable earth. Never saw it as anything but a gift, a thrilling journey, with endless truth to discover.

She traveled globally with the church choir and young women’s general board, always sending postcards to her children from fascinating points of interest. With her affinity for travel, came a natural love for all kinds of people.

I learned so much from my grandmother, who taught us to follow our question marks to the closest  museum or road sign, into a new book, or to an interesting menu, just so we could see what quail, bison, or chocolate covered ants taste like.

My Dad believes she got this love of life from her mother who always told her, “Take every opportunity given to you. Go out. And get experience.”

Life gets muddled for me sometimes. Occasionally I lose the joy, forget the purpose of being here. I forget that simple truth that Nephi taught. We are here that we might have joy. Then I think of Grandma, her eyes sparkling with interest, and I remember.

I miss you Grandma. But I believe you are closer than we think. You are there when we push ourselves to do something scary, try something new. There when I stop my children to examine purple monk’s hood on the trail, watch the State of the Union, or pull off the boulevard to marvel at lightning in the western sky.

Yes, sometimes I hear your laughter on the wind. I’m sure you are still here. Your IQ would demand it.

Share with me your own “IQ demands it” moments. Who or what reminds you that life is about joy? How do you maintain a love for life and learning?

About Catherine Arveseth

Catherine Arveseth is mother to five children, including two sets of twins. She is an exercise physiologist by profession, writer by passion, loves hiking with her family, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and the edge of an ocean. She and her husband, Doug, began their family in Virginia but now live in Salt Lake City, Utah. She blogs at wildnprecious.com.

19 thoughts on “Your IQ Demands It”

  1. Thank you Cath for the beautiful tribute to Dorothy and her amazing life. We all need to be reminded to live life more fully. I think we all need one of those t-shirts. Awesome!

  2. THank you for the beautiful prose and tribute! I feel like borrowing you family motto for one of our reunions! What a great thing to teach our grandchildren! I went to an alumni event at Virginia Commonwealth Univ last spring and as I listened to grad students share summaries of their literary research, my IQ demanded that I go back to school and become an semi-expert on some topic.

  3. I adore this tribute and it makes me wish I knew your wonderful grandmother. I hope I can have half that much enthusiasm for life!

  4. Have you been told that you look a lot like your Grandma? Same beautiful smile! I remember those cicadas much less fondly than you. But your post reminds me of Emily in Thornton Wilder's Our Town when she says: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?" There is something to enjoy every day just because we are alive. Time is short, but it sounds like your Grandma made the most of it. Thanks for the great post!

  5. Thanks for the wonderful reminder of the zeal towards life grandma had! I remember my parents waking us up in the middle of the night to go upstairs and sit with grandma on her bed to watch a lightning storm. I remember her eagerness to hear what I'd been learning in school. I remember her ability to make the most tedious tasks fun. In all of this I especially remember the love she had for everyone. I hope that as my children grow I can encourage them the same way grandma encouraged me to find a passion for life and a desire to embrace the mantra – your IQ demands it!

  6. Kim, I know that IQ nudge. I was on BYU's campus this last week and felt a similar longing to be in classes again, go back to school. Do you live in Virginia now? Thank you for your comment.

  7. JP – yes, those cicadas were both fascinating and repelling at the same time! JP and Kim – Our Town is my favorite American play. I love that script so much. In fact, I wrote about it years ago, after my twin boys were born. That line… "Oh life! You're too beautiful for anyone to realize you!" I love learning from those who do try to realize it. You sound like one of them. A link… in case you're interested:


  8. Mary, those are such sweet memories you shared. You and your siblings definitely had the gift of proximity when it came to learning from and loving Grandma. And you're right, her love for you and others was so evident. Thanks for reading. See you today. Love you.

  9. LOVED, LOVED the blog/journal entry….you are so right. When we take the time to NOTICE even occasionally it's like "freeze-framing" and perhaps we can call it back….certainly when we take time to write it down it's ours to keep.

    Your darling grandmother will LIVE forever with the powerful memories she's left behind in the hearts of her grateful family. I good goal for each of us!

    I still live in Virginia to the chorus of the nightly cicadas…saw a husk on the dining room screen the other day. Love the sound and the memory, but I can wait awhile for another big swarm…

    Keep writing…I LOVE reading what you write!

  10. Thank you for letting me read that post. I think Wilder got it right in that we can not, in this life, see how beautiful it is every minute or we would not be able to live our life. But now and then, it hits me and I am so happy to be reminded of how beautiful life is. Here is one of my favorite poems. It is called Sometimes and the author is David Budbill. Have you read it before?

    Sometimes when day after day we have cloudless blue skies,
    warm temperatures, colorful trees and brilliant sun, when
    it seems like all this will go on forever,
    when I harvest vegetables from the garden all day,
    then drink tea and doze in the late afternoon sun, and in the evening one night make pickled beets
    and green tomato chutney, the next red tomato chutney,
    and the day after that pick the fruits of my arbor
    and make grape jam,
    when we walk in the woods every evening over fallen leaves,
    through yellow light, when nights are cool, and days are warm,
    when I am so happy I am afraid I might explode or disappear
    or somehow be taken away from all this,
    at those times when I feel so happy, so good, so alive, so in love with the world, with my own sensuous, beautiful life, suddenly
    I think about all the suffering and pain in the world, the agony and dying. I think about all those people being tortured, right now, in my name. But I still feel happy and good, alive and in love with the world and with my lucky, guilty sensuous beautiful life because,
    I know in the next minute or tomorrow all this may be
    taken from me, and therefore I've got to say, right now,
    what I feel and know and see, I've got to say right now,
    how beautiful and sweet this world can be.

  11. What a magnificent poem! I've never read it before, nor do I know Budbill's work! I love the message which resonates with me! Thank you!

  12. I loved this cath. What a great mantra. Mortality is beautiful when we grasp it like it seems your grandma did. I want someone some day to write a similar tribute to me. I want people to look at my life and know I really lived, the breadth of my life, not just the length of it.


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