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?

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.

I am organizationally challenged. This is a source of much frustration. There are so many problems in my surroundings that I can’t even number them. I live in a basement apartment with my husband and three small kids, 5, 2 1/2, and 3 months. We have 3 bedrooms, a hall/kitchen, a bathroom and a living room. There is no storage space except for two miniscule closets, one of which has our water-heater in it, and a “cupboard under the stairs” that is currently housing camping equipment, all our dress clothes wrapping paper, two quilting projects, lots of shoes and an old Singer sewing machine, all in one lovely, unapproachable pile.

We also have no shelves. And only two dressers, one for me and Derek, and one for all three kids. My baby grand piano is also a table for putting everything from junk mail, to used batteries, to my brothers cast-off Nintendo. Under the piano are the bucket car-seat, the DI box, a basket of clothes waiting to be put away, and the baby’s bouncy seat.

That’s just the beginning. I cannot stand it that we have so much stuff and nowhere to put it. I feel like I’m drowning. I periodically take a load of stuff to the thrift store, but I always manage to fill the space somehow.

On a lighter note, I ran 6 minutes today at a 10 minute pace and felt good. The girl I ran with is training for a 1/2 marathon in May, and she had a baby just 3 weeks before I did. I guess I could commit to something like that, but I’d count on walking a good bit of it. then again, I still don’t feel completely whole yet. I think I’ll wait. The last race I ran was the Hobble-creek 1/2 marathon in August of 2005. I took a month off to recover (I had run another 1/2 marathon two weeks previously), and then in October, I got pleurisy. That’s an inflammation of the lining of the lungs. It’s very, very, very painful. So the doctor told me not to do anything that could possibly be at all strenuous. Including vacuuming. I love it when you have such a good excuse not to vacuum.

So I had to skip the 10K my parents-in-law had planned in Zion. I had to watch. I always feel so incredibly jealous, watching races. Especially ones in places like Zion. My next scheduled race was the Blue Mountain to Canyonlands triathlon. I was teaming with my uncle, since I hate biking, and I don’t know how to ski. Anyway, I found out I was pregnant about a month before the race. It’s low key, so I figured I’d do it anyway. I kept training, and sure enough, I got the worst cold of the century. Plus, the weather took a dive and temperatures were consistently below 10 degrees. With asthma and a fierce cold, I couldn’t even breathe at all if I went outside.

It was my good fortune that I didn’t have to bail on my uncle, because Monticello, Utah got a blizzard the night before the race and it was cancelled. No one could even get to Monticello at all. But that was when I pretty much gave up on running for the rest of the pregnancy. I don’t have comfortable pregnancies. I usually lose 10-15 pounds and can’t walk by about 5 months because of the pain.

So it’s been a good long time since I had a good long run. My 6 minutes today is a small victory, but a victory none the less. I love running.