1. My brother NungNung called today, just to chat.

2. Zeeb has the most musical, delightful laugh in the universe. I can’t help myself from tickling him every singe day, because he’s so ticklish, and he’s guaranteed to rip out continuous, glittering, precious jewels of giggles. If I could bottle the sound, I could bring the world universal peace.

3. A funny doll I acquired while in Mexico in 1980. It’s a girl in traditional dress. My kids have discovered the doll, and love her, so I use it as an opportunity to teach them some Spanish, using funny voices and requiring responses.

4. Rugs. I’m so glad I bought a bunch of area rugs at Target when we moved into this apartment. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain why.

5. Sheila. She drove 6 hours to visit me this weekend, and we went to the farmer’s market, the Wool Gathering, and house hunting, while she prepared her syllabus for her American Lit class that started yesterday.

6. Farmer’s markets. The one we went to on Saturday was in Yellow Springs. I bought garlic, green beans, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelon, apples, parsley, basil, potatoes, chinese lantern peppers, and a purple cabbage. I don’t think I spent $20.

7. The Simpsons. Yes, I know I’m a bad parent, because what morally responsible parent plunks her kids in front of the TV and turns on the Simpsons? But honestly, I think it makes them smarter. That’s why I do it. That’s the real reason. I swear.

8. Sunglasses. I can’t believe how painful it is to walk outside into a bright, sunny day. I must be getting old.

9. Jem. I admit my preferences in popular music are quirky at best, infantile at worst, but I really like this album right now. My kids love to dance to it.

10. Maytag Blue. Cheese. So fantastically good with the farmer’s market green beans, some pecans sautéed in butter, and the cheese cut into small chunks and added while everything was still warm. Oh my heck.

Do you read all the mail you get? Even if it looks like junk mail, and says across the top, “Open Immediately!” or “Do not discard!” What about if it says, “Check enclosed?”

I’m in the habit of tossing anything that wasn’t addressed by hand. I’ve always been pretty sure of my junk mail judging capabilities. If it’s from Wilmington, Delaware, it’s a credit card solicitation. We get lots of those. If it has a window through which you can see coupons, I don’t need to open it to know the coupons are from such fine establishments as carpet cleaners, auto detailers, and seedy chinese buffets. If it’s from Deseret Mutual Benefits Administration, I can be sure it’s a detailed list of all the money they won’t pay towards our medical bills.

But this week, I’ve come to be proven lacking in my junk mail judging skills. A representative from Men’s Wearhouse called to inform me of the current sale, and to tell me that my time was running out to use the $50 gift certificate they had sent me, a valued customer. I was not aware I had received a gift certificate. Which is sad, because when Derek starts his new job in August, he will have to wear a shirt and tie every day. And he has a shortage of nice, clean ties. We realized a couple of years ago why ties are such popular gifts for Father’s day. Because fathers don’t have ties that are clean and haven’t been beaten to a pulp by their loving children. So, no new tie, because I tossed the Men’s Wearhouse junk mail without opening it.

The other day, I was looking at our auto insurance policy, and I realized the card we keep in the car is expired. We get a new card every 6 months. We also get updates on the policy, solicitations to buy more insurance, loan opportunities, and personal birthday cards from our insurance agent, who once went to far as to drive two hours to meet us and invite us to purchase life insurance. We get a lot of mail from the insurance agent.

This morning, as I was cleaning off the piano (my repository of junk), I found an unopened insurance envelope, and since Derek was standing right there, I handed it to him to deal with. He opened it, and there were our auto insurance cards. They’d been on the piano for a month. (I know, I have a problem. The piano is sort of a void. If you set something on it, you won’t see it again. Derek handed me my insurance card, I set it down to continue de-cluttering, and he said, “No, go put it somewhere safe, now!” I laughed, kept working, and he said, “Right now!”)

I came across another insurance letter, and this time I was sure it was something worthless. It said, “Policy information enclosed.” How important could that be? There haven’t been any changes in our policy for several years. I handed that to Derek as well. He opened it, and there was a check for $27. I know, that’s barely enough to cover dinner for 2 at Bombay House, but sheesh, I was gonna just throw it away.

I think I’ll start reading my mail. Cause what if it’s not Junk Mail? What if it’s Treasure Mail?

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.

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.

Derek was fascinated by my adolescent journal. He began reading it out of curiosity, and kept reading out of compulsion. After a few pages, he said he had no idea teenage girls were like that, that he has been completely oblivious to other people’s feelings all these years, and he wishes he’d known when he was a teenager, so he could say things that would make people understand their own worth.

When I started this particular journal, I was 11 years old. I wrote about things that concerned me: being ugly, being rude, boys, which school I would go to the next year, guppies, best friends, wearing makeup and pantyhose, music, and my family. I had no idea at the time that my writings would provide such a window into my soul. I was fairly certain that no-one would ever read what I wrote, so I was uninhibited. As a result, my teen-age self consciousness shines through like a lighthouse on a foggy night.

I can’t speak for all teenage girls, but I know many went through the same things I did: feelings of inadequacy, especially when compared to friends, or those who I wished were my friends, desire to be recognized by authority figures such as parents and teachers, conflicting emotions about physical change, feeling invisible, feeling misunderstood.

I wrote down every compliment I received. Everything my parents said to me, every time a friend told me a boy “liked” me, every time a teacher praised my work. It’s like I was trying to convince myself that I was worthy of that praise, or that I was sure I wasn’t worthy and wanted to explain why it could never be.

Other people have feelings like I do, I know I’m not the only one. Yes, I still feel those exact same things now, only it’s about whose kids are better behaved than mine, who is a mom of 5 kids and still always looks like she just stepped out of a salon, who is teaching literacy to the underprivileged, who has a clean house, who home-schools and still likes her kids, who is famous for her awesome blog because she’s so witty and poignant at the same time as being a great writer, who has a PhD and teaches and goes to Europe every summer, who sews millions of original stuffed animals,who never loses her temper with her kids, who plants a giant garden and keeps chickens and goats in the back yard, who runs marathons every year, who takes her kids to museums and planetariums and parks, who spins her own yarn and knits up beautiful sweaters from it, who lost all the baby weight after 3 months and is now smaller than she was before, who reads scripture and prays with her family every day, who decorates her home with things she finds at the thrift store, but makes it look like she spent many hours an lots of money at antique shops.

I know I’m not the only one who does this. I know it doesn’t end when you become an adult.

We went to my mom’s house yesterday and opened up the cedar chest that still lives in Mom’s basement, even though it has my junk in it and I haven’t lived with Mom for 14 years. I promised that we’d take it with us when we move this summer. That, and all the other junk that she’s been holding onto for me.

I pulled out each piece of crazy old knick-knacks, stories, diaries, dolls, and friendship bracelets for Derek to see and admire. Then I made 3 piles: Back in the box, garbage, and yard sale. Before I could toss anything, I had to recount it’s significance. If I couldn’t remember the provenance of a particular piece, into the trash or yard sale pile it went. That included friendship bracelets whose giver I couldn’t remember, Christmas tree ornaments, a really ugly doll and all her clothes, a white lace pillow that said “Friends Forever,” but I don’t remember who gave it to me (I hope it wasn’t you, Karee), a bunch of porcelain and pewter unicorns, and a stack of “art” that I had made as a teenager.

I also tossed

  • a box of cookie Christmas tree ornaments I’d bought in Germany when I was 13,
  • four Coke cans from Germany, with fantastical 80’s designs that I’m sure you’ve never seen,
  • a pair of soccer shin guards that my friend Chandra had given me when she got new ones,
  • a whole bunch of leather necklaces that I made or were given to me when I worked at a church camp for girls and my nickname was Magpie,
  • a plastic jewelry case my dad gave me for my 12th birthday, with earrings still in it,
  • a whole bunch of cassettes of reggae, ska, and Led Zeppelin from high school.

Some of the things I put back in the chest:

  • A cabbage patch doll my aunt Barbara made for me while she was working on her PhD, raising 3 kids, and avoiding mid-terms. Vanessa Lynn has 6 fingers on both hands,
  • My Garfield doll that I got because my best friend Karee had one,
  • Some jewelry my Grandma had brought back from Pakistan when Grandpa was a Fulbright Scholar,
  • A woven poncho from when I lived in Mexico,
  • 3 envelopes of my own hair from when I was 5, 9, and 11,
  • A bunch of report cards and certificates for good spelling and attendance,
  • My trophy for being MVP of the Cross Country team freshman year,
  • My 4 generation pedigree chart,
  • Several writing projects from elementary school,
  • A diary from 1988-89, wherein I tell each and every one of my crushes, exactly why they would never like me, a chronology of the doings of my guppies, exactly how many pictures of Kirk Cameron I had taped on my wall (96), how great Peter Cetera was, and how bored I was every single dingle day.

The most important part of changing your life permanently is to do it gradually.

So today is Start Small day. You don’t have to wait until Monday to begin a new habit. Start today, with something small that you would like to change. read more…

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