Something Like Romance

Are you tired of stories about interviews and plane flights and having faith?  Sigh.  Me too.  Believe me, it is even more tiresome to be living them.  (This morning David said, "How do you feel about Waco, Texas?"  Um, yeah, not exactly top on my list.)  This morning then, how about a story of romance?  Don't worry.  There is little or no necking involved.

On Saturday night, Caleb went to Teen Elect.  He dressed in his new suit and his dad's hand-me-down tie, put gel in his hair and let me comb the back down.  I could smell cologne and toothpaste.

Teen Elect is where you learn about manners and dancing and how to make conversation with someone of the opposite sex.  Olivia has been looking forward to it for two years now.

When I dropped Caleb off, he said, "Aren't you going to come in with me?"  I wasn't.  But I parked and led him inside.  He got his nametag, he found out where to go, he gave me a side-shuffling hug, and disappeared into the unknown.

I picked him up three hours later.

"Did you have fun?  How was it?"

"It was interesting."

"How was the dance?"


"How were the classes?"

"Interesting.  Kind of boring."

"What did they talk about?"

"Wearing deodorant and always having a mint."

"Did you have fun?"

"I'm not sure.  It was interesting.  And awkward.  Very awkward."

Olivia and Savannah were waiting on the couch for us when we got home.  Waiting with bated breath.  They have been waiting for weeks, truth be told.  They were ready for a story of romance, a story of love and lust, of fancy ballrooms and meaningful looks.

"Soooooo, how was it?" 


"Tell us everything!  Did you dance?" 

"Of course.  They made us."

"Who did you dance with?"

"Lots of people.  We had to."

"Were the girls cute?"

"I don't know."

"What were they wearing?" 

"I don't know."

"What color were their eyes?"

"Oh, come on, Olivia."

And then Olivia sighed hugely, "Oh, it sounds sooo romantic."

I looked at her.  Romantic?  The way Caleb tells it, it was just this side of painful.

And then she said, "I can't wait for teen elect.  My favorite part is the hip part."

I asked, "What's the hip part?"

"You know, the part when the boy puts his hand on your hip." 

Heaven help us.

The next day we pried a few more details from him.  I asked him if he talked to the girls while he was dancing.

"Of course," he said. "They taught us that."

"What did you talk about?"

"I asked them their favorite color."

"O...kay.  Anything else?"

"One girl asked me what school I go to and I said 'Stapley'."

"But you don't go to Stapley."

"I know, but it seemed easier.  But then she said, 'I go to Stapley.  Why haven't I ever seen you?' and I was like 'Umm, yeah, I lied about that.'"

Olivia gasped, "And then did she slap you?  Oh that sounds soooo romantic."

The View From Space

Last weekend when we went camping, when David and I were the only ones awake in the tent and the night was filled with soft snuffles and deep breathing and a whole lot of quiet, I tried to say how I was feeling.

It was nearly impossible.  (Bear with me.)

I tried.  And said sentences about just how much space was really up there, how up here on this high mountain, spinning around an axis, you could almost catch the breeze of the universe as it spun past.  It was like sticking your head out a car window, but with stars and milky ways and supernovas streaming past.  All that was above us was the deepness and vastness of space!  I felt so exposed and vulnerable. 

And yet at the very same time, I could hear my children breathing beside me, dreaming birthday dreams, melted smores smeared on their cheeks and cool mountain air on their eyelids.  I felt charmed and blessed, I felt endowed with the greatest gifts that vast universe had to offer.  I felt completely known and seen and watched by heaven, like maybe this night with my little family was just what heaven had in mind when they did all the work to create this mountain.  

It was a jumble.  It was a feeling...of being both big and small at once.  I could picture myself from space, our very blessed tent just a tiny dot on a globe turning its way from dark to light, slowly, slowly.  I waved.

David uh-huhhed beside me and put his face in my neck, his way of saying he had no idea what I meant, but he likes my company anyway.

I felt like I was on the very precipice and in the hand of heaven at the very same moment.  I lay there in the dark, feeling the slow rotation of the earth underneath me, unaware of the changes that were just a few rotations away.

Last Saturday, Olivia didn't wear make-up.  This Saturday she wore both mascara and lip gloss and the tiniest bit of light blue eyeshadow.

Last Saturday, Olivia had the hairy, happy legs of a child.  This Saturday she had the smooth, freshly shaved legs of a young woman.

Last weekend, Olivia had never been to a young women's meeting at church.  This weekend, her first beehive activity made it onto her "list of highs" around the dinner table.

Last Friday, David was late getting back from work and so we got a late start and set up our tent in semi-darkness.  This Friday, David and I went to a movie in the middle of day because he had no where else to be.

Last Friday night, we packed the car with the campstove and sleeping bags, and spent the night howling around a campfire.  This Friday night, we cleaned out David's office and loaded the car with ten years of memories and work accumulation, and spent the night sobbing into our Oregano's meatballs and making lists of states we'd always dreamed of living in.  (It was some consolation.) 

Last week, David and I had separate work spaces.  This week, we are sharing.

Last week, David had a job.  This week, he doesn't.

I have had the same feelings that I had that night in the tent.  So acutely aware of the vastness of space...aware of the gaping maw, the loss of the ground under my feet.  And an even deeper awareness of the gracious hand of heaven that is watching over us and providing a new way in the darkness.

One of my very favorite scriptures is in the book of Luke:

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 

Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give good gifts, through the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

I have said that to myself a hundred times since last weekend.  Our Father in Heaven does not give evil gifts.  I am a witness to the absolute goodness of his gifts. 


Brace Yourself

David told me to be sure to take "before" and "after" shots.

As you wish.


And after:

I'm still reeling.

(Which tends to make me melodramatic.)

David and I stared at each other over dinner, half-bemused at our children trying to navigate new ways for food to move around their mouths and half-confounded that so much life has apparently come and gone. 

Across the table David asked me quietly, "When did we get so old?"

I looked at him, at the gray hair at his temples, at the creases across his brow, at this man who was just barely one when I became his wife, and the years we've shared together stretched between us.  A brief moment and an eternity at once.  I just shook my head.

Today I went to the temple.  I needed back-up.  Reinforcement and buttressing.  And a reminder about the promises of forever.  When time feels scarce, views of eternity are required.  While I was there being tended to by a lovely white-haired angel who told me several times how beautiful I am, she asked me if I was a member of a student ward.  She could hardly imagine the truth.

And neither can I.

"I was yesterday," I wanted to say, "Today I am taking three of my four children to the orthodontist.  I can't even think about tomorrow."  Time is a bully.

So I find myself staring at my children.  I am at a loss to do much else, the gorgeous creatures.

And brace myself to be undone by beauty, by brevity, by becoming.

I've shared Mr. Hershon's poem before, and now after, I will share it again.  It is only getting truer.


Sentimental Moment or Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road?

by Robert Hershon

Don't fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are huge

My son, whose hair may be
receding a bit, says
Did you really just
say that to me?

What he doesn't know
is that when we're walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to reach
for his hand

Killing Off Valdez

Yesterday I woke up early, before the alarm, before David, before Caleb even.

I could hear Olivia breathing from the family room.

It's that time of year again. 

The time when our nebulizer gets put through it's paces and really starts earning its keep.  Last night when I was going to bed the ten o'clock news told me not to worry, because those people who have died from the H1N1 flu all had underlying causes like asthma. 


Lungs are not my family's strong point. 

I am surrounded by Reuben Lands.  I imagine myself as Swede by the way.  Is that reaching?  Oh well.  I can't help myself.  I just about die of love when she starts banging on the walls.  I suppose instead I ought to wish I was Reuben's dad and could produce a miracle whenever I needed one.  It is very likely we may need one before this winter is over.

An Overdue Ode to Olivia, at Eleven

Nearly a week ago we celebrated Olivia's birth with shrimp linguine and lemon cake.  We toasted her eleven years and remembered the early days of her arrival on earth. 

I think she was my hardest baby and toddler (there were days I hardly thought we'd make it to her third birthday), and yet she became my easiest child to raise.  Full of compromise and empathy and peacemaking, she gives easily, repents easily, and mothers everything she can get her hands on.

She started out demanding and turned out soothing.

(Which gives me hope for myself.  Perhaps it is not too late.)

She once told me that she felt different than everyone else in our family.  I told her it was only because she was better than every one of the rest of us.

She has the kindest heart of any one I know.  A few weeks ago we were at the table eating Sunday dinner and discussing what we had learned in church that day.  Olivia told us that her class had learned about Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, about the conditions of the jail, and the prophet's prayers to heaven for help.  She then said incredulously, "And do you know what Heavenly Father said?"  And then, not waiting for an answer and tearing up, "He told Joseph Smith that these things were for his good."  Then she was quiet, and softly said, "I think that was a terrible answer."  She couldn't help herself.  She cannot stand to see suffering and, while we explained and she understood that there were things the prophet had to pass through, she was heartbroken that heaven's help could not be immediately forthcoming. 

That's my girl.

I count it as nothing but privilege to be the mother of such a girl.


Olivia and her friends dressed as lovely ladies from Milan, New York and Chicago, respectively. 

Naturally, their dolls were invited as well...


I Gave Birth to the Opposite of "Stolid"

Last night Olivia had her first drama class.

She was unusually trepidacious when I dropped her off, brimming with worries.  She confided some of them aloud.  I kissed her and wished her well.  "Trust me," I said.

She was busting when I picked her up.  Grinning and laughing, she gave me a high-velocity, wildly ebullient run-down on the class, her new friends, their plans for the season, and a play-by-play of her first attempts at improv.  The joy was pouring off her.

The girl was in raptures.

At the end of class she said they had to make an alliteration with their name and then act it out.

"For instance," she chattered, "Kaitlyn did 'I'm Kangaroo Kaitlyn' and then she acted like a kangaroo."

I looked at her, waiting for it.

She smiled.  "Mine was a little different."

"What did you do?"

She beamed and raised her hand dramatically in the air, "I'm Obviously-in-love-with-acting Olivia," and then she swooned for the audience.

That's my girl.