he’s mine all mine


Last night I was telling Derek about my misspelling of ‘millennium,’ and how every once in a while, you get that really weird sensation of forgetting completely how a word is spelled. You can’t visualize it in your head, and no combination of letters seems right. You know, words like ‘gratuitous’ and ‘cantaloupe.’ ‘Irradiation’ ‘Aspberger’s’ ‘genuflect’ ‘hoarsely’ ‘communicable’ ‘mitochondrion’ ‘Rachmaninoff’ ‘bellicose’

Derek said, “Yeah, one time I forgot how to spell ‘if.’

To answer Compulsive Writer’s question, cliché, you ask? I think I can top anyone’s meeting-the-husband cliché, especially if you are Mormon. I am from Salt Lake City. I had already been on a mission, and was finishing up my bachelor’s degree at BYU. I had already spent a few too many years in school, and was about to start my Senior year. I met Derek in church. He is from Bountiful. Well, Woods Cross, to be exact, but to anyone who’s not from there, it’s the same thing. And yes, he came to BYU after his mission president told him to transfer to BYU from the University of Utah, in order to find himself a wife. He was 21, but looked like he was 16. He was adorable. When I saw him, I’m pretty sure I leaned to my roommate and said, “I think I need to marry that boy.” To finish the cliché contest, our ward, the BYU 95th ward, met in the Wilkinson Center, in the Cougareat. Right next to Subway. Derek was addressing the Relief Society (the women’s group), as a member of the Elder’s Quorum (the men’s group) presidency. He called us “The Sister’s Quorum.” It was too cute.

Oh wait, there’s more. We got engaged about 6 weeks after we started dating for real, and got married 4 months later. Derek wanted to propose at Stewart Falls, but got lost. He droves us back down to Bridal Veil falls, and proposed there. We reserved a the tower room of the Manti temple right after Christmas, but because Derek’s cousin and grandpa couldn’t climb the stairs and Derek’s mom thought it was too soon, we changed it to the Salt Lake temple right after Valentine’s day. So by the time we were married, we had know each other for 9 1/2 months. I know, I know. It sounds so foolish. And perhaps it was, for Derek. But if you know him, you know I was right to snatch him up before anyone else could get their hooks into him.

Since we got married just before Presidents day, we had a three day weekend for our honeymoon. We took another two days, and drove to Logan and stayed at a bed and breakfast, where Derek discovered spinach-bacon quiche. We got back to Provo in time for mid-terms.

I didn’t want a reception, a bouquet, or a cake, but our moms won out. Since it was the middle of February, we decorated with Valentine’s stuff. It was cute. We had three pink heart-shaped cakes, each a different size, that my brother NungNung decorated. My step-dad hired a harpist, and the reception was at the ballroom at David Gardner Hall, at the U of U.

It was all really wonderful. I still can’t believe my good fortune, finding someone as spectacular as Derek.

*If you want to do this meme, go to CW’s house and get the real questions. You know we all love to read each other’s love stories.

You can now call him Dr. Derek. He has completed all the requirements for a doctorate in electrical engineering. He defended his dissertation yesterday, and passed without reservation. That means his committee felt his research was good, his conclusions based on the research were good, and that he presented it well. And they probably liked the muffins I baked for them. At least I hope they did.

So now, he just has to correct a few grammatical errors, get the department’s approval, and publish the dang thing. Then he will officially graduate in December. Or maybe he will decide to do it in April, so he can get the robe and hood, and walk. He’s never walked before. All I remember about walking is that I was really, really hot, and it took a really, really long time sitting there under the heat lamps. Like fries, waiting for the dinner rush.

Derek told me he doesn’t think he’ll go to work on Monday.

I tagged Derek and he thought that was cheating. Too bad. I made him do it any way. This is how he spent his time waiting for our delayed flight out of Oakland yesterday.

1. I love ice cream. And not just a little bit. When I was growing up, my brother and I would spend a few weeks every summer with my grandparents. My grandpa used to tell everyone, “There are small bowls of ice cream, large bowls, and Derek-size bowls.” Needless to say, things haven’t changed and a half gallon of ice cream really disappears fast in our house.

2. I can fix those cheap electronics toys that your kids love to get and then destroy. Unfortunately, mechanical toys (especially things with springs) give me trouble. Luckily I married Sarah 🙂

3. I’ve learned that for a sufficiently loose definition of “best” I can be the best at anything. For example, when Carrie proposed a contest for determining who the best husband is, I decided that if the definition of best was a combination of skill on Street Fighter 2 and number of papers published in the cooperative control area, that I should be the best in the world. You’d have to agree, it’s just as arbitrary as skill in an obstacle course.

4. I’ve always looked younger than I am. When I was serving a mission in Russia (age 19-21) people thought I was 16. Since attendance at BYU requires men to be clean shaven, I’ve never had the chance to look older by growing a wild beard.

5. My nightly routine involves reading stories and singing songs to my two boys. Sometimes they ask me to make up stories and songs and things get really crazy: I’ve created songs about bunk beds, Spiderman, ceilings, toys, dragons, fishing, and fans.

6. I once volunteered to take notes for a deaf student in an upper division psychology class and learned a bunch of interesting things about how the brain works.

7. The first time I tried sushi was with Sarah for my 22nd birthday. Now for every special occasion, getting sushi is near the top of the list of things to do.

8. As a teenager, I spent a few summers roofing with my uncle. It really made me want to go to college.

9. Growing up, I was very interested in space and the solar system and was determined to become an astronaut. Turns out that they don’t let just anybody become an astronaut and they definitely don’t let you if you are color blind.

10. Once, on a trip to LA, I learned that I wear the same size shoe as Tom Cruise. I used to use this fact as the “interesting fact” that you tell everyone along with your name in class. I have since realized that Tom Cruise is a weirdo and I shouldn’t try to associate myself with him.

Ahh, you’re wondering where we have been. Here we are! The chillins and I have been staying at our vacation home. Ha. My parents in law have been so graciously allowing us to take over their home for a week and a half, giving Derek some space (and full-nights’ sleep) to finish his dissertation without distraction or scheduled meals. And now behold, it came to pass that when Derek arose in the morning, he wrote all the day long, even into the night. And behold, he slept. And he arose in the morning, and began to write. And behold, he wrote for the space of 10 days without ceasing, only resting on the seventh day. And behold! His work is finished.

For those of you who are just too curious, here is an excerpt of the dissertation:

With the recent development of reliable autonomous technologies for small unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), the algorithms utilizing teams of these vehicles are becoming an increasingly important research area. In many cases, a team of small UAVs can accomplish tasks in a more efficient manner than a larger, more capable single vehicle. Of course, methods for cooperative control are used by a variety of autonomous robotic agents with a myriad of potential applications including: chemical spill monitoring [1]; forest fire fighting [2]; search and rescue; exploration (planet mapping); surveillance [3]; perimeter approximation [4]; manufacturing [5]; maintenance; inferometery [6]; cooperative manipulation/transportation [7]; power systems [8]; sensor networks [9]; cooperative target engagement [10]; radar spoofing [11]; and automated highway systems [12]. It is our intent to investigate the key elements of cooperative control systems and design algorithms that allow teams of UAVs to perform surveillance tasks.

I realize he used “myriad” incorrectly, and I’m going to talk to him about that. I have to have something to feel superior about, since there are some words in there that are not even in my lexicon. Inferometry? Radar spoofing? I married a smart man with super-powers that I am not likely to ever understand.

But he’s DONE! He’s not even 29, and he has done 3 degrees, gotten married and propagated the species by another 3, and he even took 2 years off school to learn Russian and go to Russia to tell people the Good News (Old English godspel “good news,” from god “good” + spel “story, message,” translation of Latin bona adnuntiatio, itself a translation of Greek euangelion “reward for bringing good news” ).

And today, instead of sleeping in, he took the boys to Lagoon.

And the correct answer (continued from Chapter 2) is… A, C, and D. Sort of. But before you go on, I should warn you that this post is way too long.

Yes, Derek did paint my toenails one night. I’m still not sure why. My best guess is that he was trying to come across as unafraid of girlie things, unafraid of other people’s feet, and willing to sacrifice just a little bit of manly dignity in the name of keeping his woman content. It was weird. Cause honestly, he volunteered. I didn’t ask him to paint my toenails. It was his idea.

And yes, he did have one of his friends pluck his eyebrows, but only the once. That was at the beginning, before he knew that I thought the uni-brow was cute. Besides, I have a uni-brow too, and the last thing I needed was the expectation of having to constantly pluck it.

So the real answer is that his high school girlfriend, who shall remain nameless, came home from her church mission. This was important because up until then, he still wasn’t sure how he felt about her. So he spent some time with her, gauged his feelings about her and about me, and made a decision.

Here’s how it went down. I was sitting around on a Friday night when he showed up at around 8:00. I should have pretended like I was busy, like he shouldn’t just expect me to be home on Friday night, but I was never into playing games. So there I was when he came over and asked if I wanted to go to the International Cinema. Of course I did. I don’t remember what was playing that night, but I think it was in Chinese. Dan Daring was there, as was said former girlfriend. I think there might have been conversation, and perhaps some sort of after-movie activity. I can’t remember.

What I do remember is coming back to the apartment with Derek, and nobody was home. I made some quesadillas (it bears mentioning that Derek had never had a real quesadilla, with skillet warmed corn tortilla and jack cheese, so this was his first) and we sat on the two separate couches and talked. At one random point, Derek asked me, “So why am I over here, and you’re way over there?” I quickly remedied the problem. Derek told me about his other woman, and told me that he’d chosen me. In retrospect, I should have been at least a little reluctant, but I was pretty far gone by then. Later that night, Derek kissed me for the first time.

That was the beginning of us being completely inseparable. We spent every day together, ate dinner at my apartment, went to church together. (We actually hit all of the Mormon clichés. We met at BYU, at church, which met in the Wilkinson Center IN the Cougareat. You don’t get more cliché than that. Except he wasn’t my home teacher. But he was in my Family Home Evening group.)

I had always been opposed to the typical short engagements found in Utah. I also never thought I would date someone from Bountiful, but concessions have to be made sometimes. So six weeks later, Derek told me he was going to pick me up early on Saturday morning. He arrived at 6:00 with one red rose. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, but drove up Provo Canyon, and then up to Sundance. After we drove around for a while, we went back down. Turns out he’d gotten lost trying to find Stewart Falls, so he gave up and took me to Bridal Veil Falls. I know, more cliché. At least this one was unintentional.

Derek wanted us to be at the falls for the sunrise. Unfortunately, the sun never rose that morning. It was rainy and overcast. We got out and walked to the falls anyway. He made me stop at a bench and hugged me for a minute. I was not such a dummy to not know something was going on, especially since his heart was beating so hard and he looked like he might faint. He made me close my eyes, and when I opened them, he was kneeling on the cold, wet ground, with a ring in his hand. It was a pearl ring, since both of our mothers had had pearl engagement rings. He gave me this little speech that he’d been practicing, and I totally ruined it by not answering him.

We were all giddy and goofy the rest of the day. We decided we’d have 7 kids. Which, in retrospect, is really funny. We have 3 now, and that’s as many as I can ever handle. We shopped for a “real” engagement ring, since Derek thought I should be able to pick one I liked. The pearl one was just so he would have something for the proposal. We told our parents, who were all excited except for my dad, who said you should always say no the first time you get proposed to.

That was Saturday, October 14th, 2000. We planned to get married on January 6th, but Derek’s mom wasn’t thrilled about a 2 1/2 month engagement, especially since we’d only really known each other about 4 months, and had seriously dated for 6 weeks. So we got married on February 17th, 2001, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since it was just after Valentine’s day, we had Valentine cookies, cheesecake, and chocolate dipped strawberries for the reception. It was the best day of my life. We were young (Derek was only 22) and naïve, but we got really lucky. He is the best husband in the world. I like him a lot. A lot a lot.

Where did we leave off? Ah, yes. In Chapter 1, I had just left the country for a 5 week whirlwind tour of Europe with Liz, Sheila, and Isaac. There are several stories there that deserve a good telling, like when Isaac and I blew up our brother’s car in Gothenburg, Nebraska and had to Greyhound it to Indiana, or when we got to Paris and had to find our way to the bus station to go to London, but had too much luggage, and the directions Sheila had given us were, “Take Metro to Center.” (Do I need to tell you about the Metro in Paris? Is there a stop called Center?) Or how Isaac went to Soho and didn’t come back till the next day, after we’d called the police and hospitals, only to tell us he couldn’t remember the day before, and he didn’t know where he was when he woke up? Or how about the nice Belgian Jesuit priest that found us in the square in Bruges and offered us a place to stay, dinner at a crepe place, and a tour of the town in his car? Then gave us each a Mozart CD to remember him? Or the bombing in Madrid, 6 blocks from my aunt’s apartment? But these stories will have to wait. Love is on the brain.

When I came back from the trip, one very important thing had happened, and to this day, I’m a little shocked that I still chose to go to Europe. My older brother, David, had gotten married to his girlfriend of 10 years. I guess I thought I might never have an opportunity to go to Europe on that kind of tour again. But jeez, I’ll for sure never be able to go to my brother’s wedding again. Anyway, they had an open house at my mom’s house a few days after I got back. I had been emailing Derek through the whole trip, and sending him postcards, I think about 10 in all. If that doesn’t say stalker…

I had sent Derek my mom’s phone number, and he called on the night of the open house. I was so excited that I sat in the hall off the dining room talking to him for I don’t know how long. He asked if I had plans for the 24th of July, which is big in Utah. It’s like statehood day, but it’s really a celebration of when the Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. There are always fireworks, big parades, party stuff. So we agreed to “do something” for the 24th. We didn’t really discuss what, so I was a little surprised when he took me home for dinner with his family. It was, after all, our first real date.

When he picked me up, he had just gotten a “summer haircut.” A buzz. I thought it was pretty cute that he still had his mom cut his hair. And I noticed that his eyes were not blue, but grey-green. Even better, I thought. With that hair, though, he looked about 16.

This is where things get a little blurry. We spent a lot of time together for the next few weeks. We went on a backpacking trip to Mount Timpanogos with some of Derek’s high-school friends (Hi Carrie and Crystal!), we went to another party with Dan and some people from church, and we even went on a spur-of-the-moment camping trip to Yellowstone with Sheila, wherein we had a very weird DTR in the tent one night, with Sheila asleep between us.

The day we went home, it was Derek’s birthday, so Sheila and I took him out for sushi for the first time. You know how someone can say a very simple thing, and suddenly you know you want to spend your life with him? Well, Derek tried the sushi without flinching, pondered for a few moments, and said, “Wow, this is like a religious experience.” He’s been a sushi addict ever since. And I’ve been a Derek addict.

But still, for me, there was so much uncertainty. We never even held hands. It drove me crazy, but with my total lack of experience in the world of romance, I couldn’t do anything about it. Then on September first, everything changed.

Wanna know what happens next? I have to go to bed right now, before my eyeballs start bleeding. But I’ll get to chapter 3 tomorrow. What was the big change? Was it:

A. The new nail polish that Derek so lovingly applied to my toes one night?

B. That he broke the news that he was really a 34 year old married man with a secret wish to move to Colorado City?

C. The return of his high-school girlfriend from her mission?

D. The fact that he plucked his uni-brow because someone had told him that girls like guys with two eyebrows.

Find the answers in Chapter 3.

Everybody is so curious where I found such a man. One who washes dishes without being asked, who believes taking out the trash is the man’s job, who loves his wife’s short, short hair, who eats what I cook, who secretly pads the stats on the I Love Derek post so it will stay in the top posts list, who likes to snuggle with his kids, reads to them every night, sings to them (that part is a tiny bit amusing), and is the handsomest man on the planet to boot. Yes he is. Yes he is. Yes he is. Kathryn, stop it, mine is cuter. YES HE IS!!!

I thought I would never get married. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I really did want to, but I never thought anyone would fall in love with me. I never dated much, and most of my dates were ones I had asked. I’m pretty sure they all thought I was stalking them. Which I was. Needless to say, I didn’t manage to even ever have a boyfriend.

When I was 25, I was about to graduate from college (don’t laugh, but it really did take me 8 years to get my BA, not because I’m dumb, but because the school I went to had so many, many foreign language classes that by the time I graduated I had over 40 hours of language credits that I didn’t need, and because I couldn’t decide whether to major in music or microbiology, two fields that are not very related…) anyway, graduation nearing, I was living in my apartment alone, and very lonely. I had sort of dated a guy for a couple of months who turned out to be dating someone else, and I decided it was time to get out a little more.

So I started organizing hikes and parties. I had noticed Derek one day at church, when he made an announcement to the women’s group, calling us the “Sisters’ Quorum,” and I thought he was the cutest little dimpled, blue-eyed 19 year old I’d ever seen. I knew his roommate, Dan (now husband of the famous Kathryn), so I went about inviting them both to these events of my creation. Inevitably, Derek had plans with his family. He really, really liked his family.

After about a month, a girl in the neighborhood was getting some people together to go country dancing, so I used it as an excuse to call Dan and Derek. Luckily, Dan wasn’t home, and I got to talk to Derek with a pretense all lined up. We talked for an hour, agreed to go dancing (without Dan), and I warned him not to wear sneakers, which he did anyway, for fear of looking like a geek. When he dropped me off, we stayed in the car talking for 5 hours. I knew he was different when, at 3:00 am, he asked me why my parents had split up. Only someone who wants to keep the conversation going would do that, right?

Two days later, I left on a trip to Europe for 5 weeks with my cousin, Liz, my best friend, Sheila, and my brother, Isaac. When Derek asked me if I would send him a postcard, I said, “Of course.” He asked, “From every city?” I tried. We also emailed while I was gone, which made me desperate to find internet cafes wherever we went. I drove Liz and Sheila crazy.

This story is turning out to be exceedingly long. I think I will serialize it. Plus, Calvin is about to put me over the edge, begging me to read The Hero and The Crown. Come back tomorrow and find out how old Derek really was, what color his eyes really are, and whether or not it’s possible for him to look geeky. And how long it took for us to be madly in love and decide we should hook up for good.  Find out the answer to these questions and more, in Chapter 2.

1. My tiny girl who can simultaneously suck her thumb and grab my nose with the same hand. And pat my face with her other hand.

2. My three-year-old boy who falls asleep on the couch with a HUGE bag of popcorn (thanks bon) on his lap. Then wakes up and continues to plow through it.

3. My five-year-old boy who climbs onto my bed when I have a headache and rubs my head.

4. Lilacs.

5. Little tiny pink pants.

6. My sweet husband who calls if he’s going to be 3 minutes late, because he knows if he doesn’t, I will believe he has died in a freak accident and will have planned his funeral before he gets home.

7. Eating lots and lots of popcorn (again, thanks bon) and then drinking a bunch of Fresca until I feel really sick.

8. Pretending like I’m smart.

9. Aganju, by Bebel Gilberto, Latin Project remix. (You can listen to it here, but you’ll have to watch a random guy and his dog.)

10. Clean, unspotted carpet. At least I think I’d like it.

Derek has been hit with something I thought everyone had. But he apparently has never had this before. He is mad at himself. He has learned about self-loathing. And not even for any good reason. I’ve always had it, for not doing housework, for eating enough for 3 people every day, for not going running, for not reading scriptures every day, etc, etc, etc.

Derek is now in the home stretch of finishing his PhD. He has finished his course work, and is writing his dissertation. I never went to graduate school, mostly because I didn’t want to have to write any great big papers. My max is about 6 pages, and even those ones took me months. So I know it can be hard, but I don’t ever want to experience anything that hard.

With 4 months left to go, Derek has writer’s block. He goes to work every day, he has a schedule, he has a date for his defense. Why is it so hard when the end is near? He came home today and said he would be willing to stay home with the kids if I wanted to go back to school and get a job. It is incredibly tempting, since I have discovered how unsuited I am to the life of a nurturer, but I would never make enough money to support a family of 5 by playing the organ. And Derek doesn’t like to cook.

I wish I could help him somehow. I would help him write, if I could. I can’t even read the stuff he writes.

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