Tailgating for Romney

Do you have plans for tonight?

David does.

It's the second presidential debate.

I know.  I'm excited too.

I just can't wait to hear the same questions and the same answers all over again.

But wait.

This time it's town hall style.

What?  Holy cow, that changes everything.

Now I'm totally excited.

Because different people will be asking the same questions that the same two guys will be answering in the same way.

Oh yeah, we're kickin' it town hall style tonight.

But what I want to know is if any of this is really necessary.  I mean, I could do all the answers for them at this point.  In my sleep.

What is left to suss out?

Do people really not know who they are going to vote for? 

I don't believe it.  It's not that hard.  Do you want more or less of what we've had for four years?  See?  Easy.

I want to know who all these "undecided" voters are and ask them why they can't get their junk together.

Get your junk together, people, so the rest of us can get on with our lives.

I thought about having a tailgating party for the debate.  You know, invite the neighbors, break out the grill, use red and blue paper plates, and napkins that say "Power to the People."  Maybe my neighbors will bring beer because I am pretty sure I cannot do another one of these without alcohol.

What?  Too far?

Not far enough, CIM says.

If I was at that townhall tonight, and Candy Crowley handed that microphone to me, here are the burning questions I'd ask the candidates:

Why are there no good designers on Project Runway this season?

Are skinny jeans actually an ironic joke that make us all look fat?

When is Starbucks starting up their salted caramel flavor again and what do we have to do to get that to be a year-round thing?

How does Connie Britton look that good all the time?

Is it wrong that some guy has the energy and determination to get himself 24 miles above the earth and I have trouble getting the energy and determination to get myself up 24 stairs to put the clothes away?

Should I join my ward bookclub or is my eventual disappointment inevitable?

Is using eventual and inevitable in the same sentence redundant?

Can I use the shrimp I didn't use last week, but put in the refrigerator to defrost, or is that just asking for trouble?

What do you think we should wear for our upcoming family picture?  Keep in mind that the last official family picture we took was four years ago when one of you took office, so this is most likely going to be on the wall for some time.  The voters cannot afford a mistake.

Should I curl my hair or wear it straight for the aforementioned family picture?  Should I color it the same color as Connie Britton's?

Forget that last one.  That's just silly. 

Or is it?

Regardless, as Fox News let us know this morning, there are only twenty days until the election, and then David will be all mine again.  And for the record, I am really hoping Romney wins tonight.  Because when Romney gets lucky, we all get lucky.

What?  Too far?

Yes, says RIM.

Not Many Stranger Things Have Happened

Don't you wish I had something to say? Something funny? Something clever? Dare you hope, something worth reading?

Ya, me too.

I've figured out that Monday night is the perfect time to write, while I wait for my kids to finish practicing Mozart's 40th Symphony with their orchestra. I have a couple of hours to kill, with no one to interrupt or nagging laundry to protest.


Trouble is, my inspiration has not coincided with my calendar.

Pity, that.

What's left is a recitation of our strange-but-true weekend. (Sure to be less than brilliant. If you give up here, I'm not going to say you made the wrong decision.)

I had a mild-to-moderate breakdown on Thursday night. (David would definitely characterize it as more moderate, bordering on complete lunacy, but he's not telling this story.) Anyway, by the time Friday morning was upon us, I think he had given up all hope of a decent weekend.

(This is not the strange part.)

After I dropped the kids off to make their way through the final day of the quarter, I went to the gym. (Again, contrary to popular opinion, this is also not the strange part.) But instead of the treadmill or the Zumba class, I went to yoga, to try and get my brain or my hormones or my chakras in line. While I was in downward dog, I realized I needed my toes painted. (Look how focused I am in yoga! I am so good at so many things!) So, uncharacteristically, I went to get a pedicure. The girl at the salon said "Do you want a manicure too?"


"Are you sure?"


And while she was doing my manicure and we were sitting face-to-face, she said, "Do you want your eyebrows waxed?" I think if anyone asks you that question, it's just like if someone asks you if you want a mint. They're trying to tell you something. And yes, you want one.

So what else could I say? "Yes."

And while she was waxing my eyebrows, she said, "Do you want me to do your lip too."

You got it.

It was a strange morning.

But I did feel better.

Strangely so. Even David noticed the change and found something a little odd when he kissed me at the end of the day. "What happened?" he asked.

On Saturday between sessions of General Conference we ran to Old Navy to get fleece coats for our weekend in Utah. While we were there I tried on (gasp!) and bought (shock and awe!) a pair of skinny jeans. I know, downright eerie. Who knows what possessed me, as normally I don't like my clothes to actually touch me. But there you go.  It's fair to say that by the end of the weekend, I was practically unrecognizable.

And then, perhaps strangest of all, on Saturday night, after priesthood session, all the other kids were at friends' houses, so Caleb and David and I went for sushi. And over chef special rolls and wonton soup we talked about the new missionary age announced that morning. And what it would mean to us.

My sister Rachel had texted me that morning: How does it feel to have just lost a year?

Strange, indeed.

(And yes, to answer your question, that is an enormous amount of sushi for three people.  We strangely, notoriously, invariably overorder.  Saturday night was no exception.)

The Art of Seduction

Late last night, after the fireworks, I was trying to seduce David.

"Wanna make out?"

I'll admit it wasn't my best effort. He changed the subject.

"What was your post about?"

I handed him my phone so he could read it.

Then he said, "Three out of the last four posts have a picture of me."

I may have a little obsession going and admitted as much to him. He smiled.

"I'm glad you're writing again." And he nuzzled my neck to prove it.

"Me too. Though the first chance I get, I've got to clean up that sidebar."

"Are you going to change the banner?"

I nodded, wondering how I could get him to nuzzle my neck again.

"And change the name?"

My eyes opened. Whoa. Tread carefully now. "No," I said, warning in my voice.

"But aren't you done having regrets?"

Poor man. He can't stand the thought of me being the least bit miserable. Even worse when it's my own doing.

"No. And this blog is the answer to those regrets."

And so I rehearsed it again. About how my greatest regret is the way I treat the people I love, how I don't say the things I should and how I always say the things I shouldn't, how I leave the most important things out, and only remember to include things about taking out the garbage and picking up the clothes. This blog is the answer to that. So that they will know for sure how deeply and fiercely I loved them, how awed and amazed I was by them, how carefully I watched them and how constantly I thought about them and how completely I measured and treasured my life by them.

The other regret, of course, is that I never did any writing, that I was too scared and too overwhelmed and too utterly terrified to even try.

"But did you ever explain that?" he asked, "About the two regrets?"

"Yes," I said, "and it's implied in every post I've ever written."

"I think you should make it a subtitle."

"A subtitle?"

"Ya, 'The Two Regrets: and then what you just said.'"

"You mean that paragraph I just said?"

He nodded. I grinned at the thought of a two hundred word subtitle. And it just got funnier and funnier until I laughed and laughed, loud enough for the whole house to hear.

Which turned out to be quite seductive.

Two Posts in One Week: It Must Be Love

(I would do this post for the picture alone.  Be still my heart.)

This morning, David leaned down and kissed me hard.  Aftershave, cologne, starch, and toothpaste.  Delicious.  He said, "Do you know where I was sixteen years ago?" 

Yes, I said.  Waiting for me.

And he was.  I had a 6 a.m. hair appointment in order to meet David at the temple in time for our sealing and I was running late.  He was standing in the foyer grinning at me from across the room when I finally arrived. 

"Yeah," he said, "Why did we get married so early?"

We couldn't wait, I said.

He smiled.  It was the exact same smile from sixteen years ago.  It always says the same thing, "Hey, we're together.  What could go wrong?"

The truth is, plenty.

After the last nine months we know that for sure.

But also, the truth is, nothing.  Nothing, really.

And after the last nine months we know that even surer.

Remember Adam and Eve?  I think about them a lot.  I think about the part when they had to leave the garden and how much sense it made and how it was part of the plan and how God gave them his blessings as they left.  And then I think about what they had for dinner that first night. 

I mean, really.

I think it's a great plan, I think they thought it was a great plan, I am sure it was the only plan that would work, but on that first night in the wilderness with the cold and the bugs and the predators and the vastness of space above them, what did they do for dinner?

But then there are moments--moments like the one I just had, when David came home, his arms full of roses, the love all over his face--when I think they didn't even care what they had for dinner.  As long as they were together.  As long as they sat across the fire, across the table, across the altar, from each other. 

I love most every thing about married life.  The waking, and working, and struggling, and laughing, and growing, and birthing, and fighting, and fixing, and praying, and necking.  But today also especially these:  the hand holding mine in the wilderness, the covenant binding us together, and the smile that still says, despite all our familiarity with the vast, gaping maw of reality, "Hey, we're together.  What could go wrong?"

Manna, Again

I noticed today that I've written so few posts this year, that my Christmas letter is still at the bottom of the page.  


I keep thinking that at some point I will have something good to share, something exciting to share, something different to share.

But the limbo continues.

Every week at church people come up to me to ask for an update.  And they are always disappointed.

Imagine how I feel, I think.

And so, fundamentally, things are still the same.  David is still looking, I am still praying, the kids are still hoping that at some point their parents will wake up and return to the present.  But life also goes on in its dependable, inexorable way.

Caleb's science fair came and went.  The snails were examined under his microscope and then met their ignominious end in my large soup pot.  His conclusion?  Plastics are very bad news, especially if you're a mudsnail.  Not so great for humans either as it turns out, and so we've started a slow, steady purge.

My painful root canal came and went, thanks in part to a friend who intervened at just the right moment.  I was nearly out of my mind with pain and had lost all ability to reason well.  By the time the endodontist saw it, I had a very nice abscess coming along.  I begged for death.  Instead he prescribed two hours in his chair and a round of antibiotics.  Delightful, with more dental work coming next week.

David's surgery came and went.  Without complication.  Thank heavens.  He has been happily eating whatever he wants for two weeks now with no problems whatsoever. 

David and I came and went back east for second interviews and a "get-the-wife's-approval" trip.  We found a charming community, six inches of snow, a job that David was made for, as well as a terrible longing to be settled and employed.

Other job opportunities came and went, a few of them more painful to see go than others, but we move forward believing we are being led to "the right place."

I had a few speaking assignments that also came and went.  One day I went to the temple with such a long list of things I needed help and inspiration on, I thought the Lord would turn me away at the doorstep. 

I'll be honest.  Most days I vacillate between terror and calm, fear and faith, abject discouragement and happy optimism, and all that before I've even had my shower. 

But it's the limbo, the monotony, the waiting, the every-minute slow crawl of the clock towards the unknown future that is the hardest.  It's given me new appreciation for the children of Israel who complained that yeah, the Lord was providing for them, but couldn't he please provide something different.  And this makes me humble and repentant. 

And also, acutely aware of the miracles.

A couple of days ago I was standing on the banks of the Susquehanna, a river I never imagined I would have the opportunity to see in person.  A couple of nights ago I was eating dinner at a tavern in Delaware with some of our dearest friends in all the world, stunned to be sitting across a scarred wooden table from them.   A couple of mornings ago sat on a 727 next to my husband and as I watched him preparing for his upcoming interviews I thought I had never loved him more, that maybe I was just beginning to understand marriage for the first time in my life.  It was a revelation.  And a couple of evenings ago, as I knelt next to David in a strange hotel in a strange town on the other side of the continent and begged for blessings, I remembered Nephi's words that the Lord is mightier than all the earth, then why not this, and I felt the sure witness of those words as strong as I ever had before.

None of which would ever have happened without leaving the fleshpots of Egypt in the first place.

I see that now.

There is no other way, afterall.

The Plot Thickens

There's no good place to start this story, so I'll just give you the end.

This morning David had his gallbladder removed.  Good riddance.

You can fill in the rest...pain, anguish, emergency rooms, ultrasounds, CT scans, and hospital television.  A repeat performance of the dance we did nearly two years ago, only worse.

And so, in the middle of the night in the middle of last week, I sat, cold and tired, in an emergency room waiting for the doctor.  It was nearly morning by the time he came back with word.

Gallstones.  A lot of them.  Fluorescing bright as day all over the screen.  His gallbladder would have to go.

I started to cry.  Hard.

The doctor looked alarmed.  He assured me that this was very routine, an easy surgery, my husband was going to be fine.

I told him that I just have a lot going on in my life right now.

And I do.  Enough things to fast and pray for to keep me on my knees permanently.  

Luckily, I have other people helping me with that part.  (I love you all.)

As for me, I spent yesterday morning in the dentist's chair before I went with David to see the surgeon and visit the lab.  Lots of drilling.  A temporary crown.  More pain and anguish.  The dentist said it might need a root canal because I'd left it so long.  "Fifty-fifty," he said.  I am ready for things to fall my way.

I am trodding as cheerfully as I can.  But you might be surprised just how long and just how dark the night can actually be.  When the only light at the end of the tunnel is your husband's glowing gallstones on the CT screen.

Refine.  Humble.  Teach.  Something is happening here.  One day last week, in the fourth watch of the night, when I was sure I could not go one step further on this journey, I had the distinct feeling that heaven cares less about the destination, and more about what happens to me on the way.

I can only hope it won't take me forty years.

But let's be honest.  Given my brass brow and neck of iron sinew, I'd say it's probably fifty-fifty.

2248 Miles, Give or Take

I died a small death last night.

And I'm still sore.

Rachel and I gave our body image fireside last night in my home stake.  Except the audio/visual portion of the presentation would not work.  It worked fine before the fireside started.  But somehow between the opening song and my getting up in front of a congregation full of people, it stopped working.  I've had this nightmare before, but usually I wake up.

There we were.  Working without a net.

I flapped my arms a bit, but it was still pretty close to a crash landing.

This morning I thought of a joke I should have told as I stood there with the blood rushing through my ears.  Rushing so loud, I couldn't hear or think or breathe.  Dying a small death is louder than you might imagine.  At least from the inside.

David was in Pennsylvania slaying the dragon, and so I cried myself to sleep.

I talked to him tonight after his very full day of exhaustive interviewing.

We cried a little together.

Cause we were both feeling for the other.  Him with his dragons, me with my spectacular failure.  Both of us doing our best to be a comfort from opposite ends of the country. 

And tonight, the only consolation is that at the end of the day, at the end of the worst day at the end of the worst month at the end of the worst season of our life, we still have each other.

Tonight I cannot adequately say how glad I am to have married so well.

P.S.  Yes, we are still in limbo.  We've had lots of discussions about birds in the hands and birds in the bushes and gift horses and dead horses and fishes of all sizes in ponds of all sizes too.  We move forward, in the dark...for now.

Scouring the Country for Bacon

On Sunday morning I packed David's bag.

He was headed across the country to bring home the bacon.

I got a tutorial from my dad (the expert) on how to pack a business suitcase and arrive without a single wrinkle.  I was pretty brilliant at it.

I picked David up late last night.  He was exhausted and smiling and wrinkle-free.

As we lay in bed Saturday night I asked him if he was nervous.  He said no.  But when I picked him up last night he had a cold sore.  (A sure sign of stress, a dead give-away...but I didn't let on.)

He also had a mind full of things to say and process, a carry-on bag full of laundry and dry-cleaning, and a camera full of pictures of a quaint downtown, rolling hills, houses with trees out front, and even a barn or two for me.

I expect this will be our new kind of normal for a while.  Me packing and praying and picking up.  Him exploring the country's various airports while sporting new cold sores on his handsome, not-nervous face.

I cried a little when I dropped him off on Sunday.  Overwhelmed a bit, I guess, that he would do all this for us.

Even if he wasn't nervous.

Not one little bit.

[This morning when I served cold cereal for breakfast Savannah said, "I thought Dad was bringing home bacon."  Ha!  I'm still smiling about it.]

The Dense Forgettable Middle

My blog has been sadly neglected--for a million reasons that have disappeared into the minutia of daily life.  

For the record, I had things to say.

I was going to write a funny post about when David read aloud a chapter heading in the Book of Mormon that said, "Moroni is angry with the government."  And Olivia said, "Wow, just like us."  And we laughed our heads off.  Ha.

I was going to write a tender post about how my youngest girl got braces and grew up just like that, and my oldest girl had her first Evening of Excellence and I wondered (again) where the time has gone.

I was going to write a charming post about how David and I watched the season finale of Spooks and how good it was and how if you haven't started watching this show yet then you really ought to and how this was the best season yet.  And how even now David checks every day to see if there is an episode we missed somehow.

And of course I was going to write an obligatory post about how its finally cooled into the 70's here and so my kids have taken to wearing scarves and mittens and trying to see their breath in the morning.

But instead, you've got me where I am today.

Aggravated.  Introspective.  Repentant.  All at once.  Bear with me.

A couple of weeks ago (and just in time), my aunt sent me a link to this poem by Gregory Fraser. 

Essay On Criticism

It's hard not to think of yourself sometimes
as a passing mention in the dense
forgettable middle of a Russian novel,

as the brief description of a minor
character's gesture, the offhand reference
to a body of water, smell of rye bread.

The plot would falter without you,
the grand style momentarily flag,
but you could just as easily be scratched.

Still, you can't help seeing yourself
as the brash initial sentence, those ambiguous
final lines, or dialogue choked through sobs.

Perhaps it's not so awful to settle in
to a small remark on a peddler's
mule-drawn voz, glint off a samovar.

Then again, there's always the chance
of a critic (diligent, not unbeautiful)
prepared to make more of you

than any could imagine. In such a case--
you Aside, Casual Comment--propose 

on the instant, latch on till The End.

I know.

The perfect words in the perfect order to say just what I am feeling.

I have been feeling harassed.  And here is why.  (I'll just say it then.) 

David's unemployment has taken over my life.

I imagine I have that same look on my face that he always had when I was throwing up non-stop for the first five months of my pregnancies.  When my mothering took over his life.  When he had to earn all the money and then come home and feed and bathe all of us because I was too sick to do it.  When he wondered if it was ever going to end and if he'd ever get his real wife back. 

Yes, I imagine I have that exact same look.

It is everywhere.  The unemployment, I mean.  Sometimes I think I just can't talk about it any more--that I can't discuss the pros and cons of this health system or that hospital,  or whether or not we could live in Wichita or Sioux Falls or Kalamazoo, or what this position or that position will mean to his long-term career plans, or what color tie he should wear to his interview.  And every morning when we wake up and every night when we go to bed, it's still there, waiting to be talked about again.  The job.  The one he lost, the one he wants, the one he applied for, the one he's interviewing for, the right one, the wrong one, the golden one.

Sometime last week I asked David, "What do you want to do for Christmas this year?"  He just stared at me.  Flummoxed.  Because that is not the topic at hand. 

And sometimes, between David and his job and the kids who never stop needing (heaven help me), I wonder if there is any space left for me in my own life.  And I start feeling and fearing that my brash initial sentence has disappeared amidst the tiny details of everyone else's life.  That I could just as easily be scratched, as it were.

But what I remember this morning (this is the repentant part) is that in those dark and horrible days of pregnancy, I could not have survived without David.  He was the only thing moving the plot along in our lives.  We would have ground to a halt without him. A sad and ignominious end.

And this morning I wonder, did I say thank you enough?  I doubt it.  I was too nauseated to say anything but, "Help."

Here we are in the dense forgettable middle.  Where you can't see the forest for the trees.  Where you are afraid you might have lost the thread of the plot and you can barely see the outline of your own life. 

And yet, I propose to latch on until The End.  Because even in the dense forgettable middle, I am not too dense to see that I am needed.  To see that he is too sick with worry to say anything but, "Help."  I have not forgotten that he did the same for me once or twice, four times if we're counting.

This is what the covenant means.  That in the dense, forgettable middle of life, we do not forget.  He holds my hair back as I vomit.  I hold my tongue as he talks.  We hold on to each other, to The End.