A Retraction of Sorts

Wow.  I don't know if you read that last post, but I just did and boy, I have to say that it may have bordered on whiny (gasp!) and also it's possible that it came pretty close to bratty (who me?).  My apologies...my editor is on summer vacation.  (Clearly.  I mean, did you see that last sentence?  Three punctuation marks in a row.  Ahem.)

Speaking of which (bad editors and bad writing), I joined the Relief Society book club.  I won't tell you the name of the book I was supposed to read for this month, but I will share this sentence with you:

There weren't any washcloths smeared with makeup left behind, no sounds of water running hollowly through the pipes from upstairs while Josey and her mother and Helena sat in the sitting room downstairs and watched television.

I nearly killed myself after that one.

It was on page twenty-eight.  I had been bullying myself through it up to that point, talking myself down from every bad simile and heavy-handed adverb, but I could not read past this sentence.  You only live once.

I told David, "I just can't.  The writing is so bad."

Caleb overheard us and said, "Don't all of your book clubs end like this?"


You know what this means don't you?  I may be a brat and a snob.  Sobering news.

On a positive note, The Closer started up again this week.  Thank heavens.  Last night when we went to Lowe's for a gallon of paint, David asked me for the synopsis.  I gave him my best Brenda Lee impression.  (He was not very impressed.)  Well.  It sounded better in my head. 

Then again, most things do.

And on an even more positive note, did you see the great shot of my cleavage in the picture above?  (You can't have too many of those.)  In a few days, my darlings and I are headed back to the beach.  We almost cancelled because I forgot that I was supposed to be enjoying my life.  David reminded me just in time.  Good thing, too, because my favorite things in life are sunscreen and sand and salt water and little pools of drool under my children's sunburned cheeks.  Oh baby.

Why I Became a Mother

For moments like this one:

Last Sunday night David had meetings.  The dishes were done.  The house was quiet.  The kids were turning on lights and finding pajamas and pulling down the blinds in their rooms.  I suggested we all meet on my bed for a story.

We began reading a book Savannah received for her birthday, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt.

Every night since then, the kids have asked, "Can we read again tonight?"  It has been a lovely refuge in the storm of busy life.

Last night, the kids laughed out loud as I read.  I kept reading until we got to a good stopping place.  We had prayer.  Then Olivia begged for one more chapter.  I gave in.  But that chapter ended in suspense.  (Perish the thought!)  The children erupted,  "One more, one more, you can't leave it there!"

I gave in again.

The next couple of chapters ended in tragedy.  I started to cry while I was reading.  (Couldn't help myself.)  Ethan was tucked into my side and he looked up at me, worried.  I kept reading, trying to talk around the choking lump and struggling to see the swimming words.  Everyone was sober when I finished.  Some of us were crying.  I kissed them all and sent them to bed.

I lay there for twenty minutes or so and then Savannah came in.  Eyes, red-rimmed.

"Mom, I thought when you started reading again that something good was going to happen."

She wept on my chest while I put my fingers in her damp hair.

We stayed like that for a while, Savannah weeping silently, my shirt getting wetter, her hair slowly getting drier.

Oh, this is the good stuff.  It was one of those moments I live for.  My children snuggled around me, their hearts and minds full of story and the whole-hearted empathy that comes from good writing.  The room still, they all ears and breath, and me the voice to a story so good you have to weep, unabashedly. 

And especially the afterwards.  The openness, the tenderness, the vulnerability, the shared joy and the shared sorrow, the shuddering breaths, the steady beat of our broken hearts, the sighs, the satisfaction of being comfort, the quiet.

Be still my heart.  I am undone.

The Weekend Vices

On Friday night David and I went to dinner.

While we waited for a table we wandered over to the bookstore, my favorite place in the world to wander.

I started greedily stacking books into my arms, because I can't help myself.

David said, "Do you know I don't think I've ever read a book all the way through?"

I nearly died right there.

I told him, the best I could, about the kind of sheer joy he was missing in his life.  And then he said that if I ever write a book he would read that one and we joked that then he could say it was the best book he'd ever read in his life.

And he surprised us both by saying, "I want to read a book.  What book should I read?"

I was flummoxed.  That's a lot of pressure after all my high praise about the glory and magic of books.  And where do you start?

I offered a few suggestions.

He hemmed.

I found an author I thought he might like and offered that.

He hemmed again, and told me it looked too long, but this time I pushed just a little.

We left with two books for each of us.  Unheard of in our marriage.

On Saturday night I was working on my Sunday School lesson and David came and lay down by me.  He picked up his book.

I felt a stab of jealousy so pure and so thick I nearly cried.

"You're going to read fiction while I work on my lesson?" I asked, aghast and a little hurt.

He grinned at me and turned back to his book.

The longing nearly consumed me.

And then this morning as I got out of bed he reached for his book.

I teased him, "Wow, you've only been reading for one weekend and you've already found the vice...reading when you should be doing something else."

He just smiled and kept reading.  I walked out of the room to find breakfast and hair-do's and lunch money for my children.

I don't mind telling you that I was overwhelmed with envy that he was again enjoying one of the greatest of all pleasures without me, and I was nearly undone by a deep and hungry lust for the pile of books on the table by my bed.  It was only by exercising my strongest willpower that I was able to walk out of the room.

Just now, David came in and asked me to iron his shirt.  He's running late.

I bet you can guess what I said.

I'll admit it was mostly pride with a little drop of wrath and irony...all delivered with a haughty smile.

It was a very wicked weekend.

Oh, To Be As Brilliant As She!

First some news, some anxieties, and then I'll do my best to bless your life.

First news.

Last week I was asked by a real-life editor to write a foreword for a new, soon-to-be-published book.  I know.  You can bet I did a little jig of happiness.

Which leads us, already, to the anxieties part.

I worked on it this morning.  I think parts of it were just shy of brilliant, or at least good.  Not sure about the rest of it though.  I emailed it off to him today with my heart in my throat and my ego on my sleeve.  Gulp.  We'll see.

After the first draft I left the house to get away from it a bit before I edited it.  I have to get a little space before I can start killing and maiming my babies, see?  I went to the college to get my student ID and my parking pass.  The student ID they gave me has my maiden name on it, as the computer refused to believe that I had gotten married.  I told David this morning in the shower that I needed to get a ring between now and next Tuesday just in case some other boy wants to ask me out.  He just smiled.  ("What?" I said, "I was very popular in college."  At which, his smile broadened.)

Anyway, while I was there I went to the bookstore for my required books (can I tell you what a little thrill that was?) and saw that one of the requireds is a book I already own, a book already sitting on my writing table, on top of the stack even!, a book I've already read and tried to learn from.  And I had the brief and horrible thought that what I might need is not more information (i.e. this class I've registered for) but more talent (i.e. no professor can help you there).  And the dream nearly died right there on the bookstore linoleum.

But then RIM raised her voice over CIM's freaking out and I pulled myself together.  That is, until I got home and murdered my forward, gave birth to a new version, and sent it through cyberspace to be critiqued and analyzed by a real-life editor.

Good night, what am I thinking?

There's no help for it.  Best move on to the part where I bless you life.

Last week I went to to lunch with my brother who was in town just briefly, and my sister who lives here all the time but whom I never see enough.  We had a delicious conversation over sandwiches and fries and water with lemon.  Near the end, my brother mentioned a masterful talk he had heard at church that had blessed his life.  I looked it up and now it has blessed mine as well.

So here it is.  It is by Sister Julie B. Beck--the B. stands for Brilliant by the way, and that is always how I refer to her in our house, Sister Julie Brilliant Beck.  I think you'll agree.

And, you're welcome. 


(P.S.  I know some of you might be sorely tempted to leave an encouraging comment about my "brilliant" writing, but honestly I can't bear it today.  I am restricting all comments to agreements about the gorgeous and wise, Julie Brilliant Beck, and to those of you who think it is entirely plausible that I could indeed get asked out my some cute boy in my class next week.)

The Secret Delights of the Week

First of all, may I just point out that this makes five posts in five days.  You already know that of course, as I'm sure this was one of the secret delights of your week.

But before the weekend comes, a few more of mine, for the record.

1.  This book.

I am completely in love with Flavia de Luce.  I could eat her for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Better than pie, I say, and I find myself wildly grinning through Mr. Bradley's every paragraph.  

2.  This game.

Caleb got this game for Christmas and by New Year's we owned the expansion.  We have played hours of it since then, including a stolen hour last night between dinner and Roundtable meeting that David had to rush off to. 

3.  This conversation.

This morning as I was in the shower and David was putting the finishing touches on his tie, we were reviewing my posts from the week.

David remembered the one from Wednesday morning and got a little red under the collar remembering the last couple of paragraphs.

He rolled his eyes at me and said, "I wonder what people think."

I said, "They think you love me.  They think that's crazy, but they definitely think you love me."

"But can't they know that without being inappropriate?"

"Probably not," I assured him.

His eyes did another roll but I just smiled at him and he got distracted because I was just coming out of the shower, remember?

4.  This text.

Hey love hope u r having a good day

This afternoon, quite out of the blue, David sent me a text.  Unheard of.  Especially in the middle of the day with the hospital always absorbing all of his daylight-hour attention.

Of course I texted back.

wow...how nice to be thought of in the middle of the day...cant wait for date night

And then I waited.  For something witty perhaps?  For something steamy perhaps?  But he didn't text back.

I was hoping for something like:

me too


where do you want to go

or even

i think of you in the middle of the day every day

But the exchange was over.  Still.  I'll take what I can get and count it as one of the delights of the week.  I am so easy to please.  (That was funny, right?)

5.  The rest of today.

I spent the day at Christine's (my sister-in-law) house quilting.  Or actually, mostly talking and planning and fabric shopping and plotting ways to get my sister, Rachel, to quit her job so she can join quilt day too, but we call it quilting.  We had plans to work on some unfinished projects but mostly got excited about starting a couple of new projects instead.  It was easily among the best hours of my week.

Next week already looks less delightful as I have jury duty bright and early on Monday morning.  I am sincerely hoping I don't consume all of Flavia between now and then as I would love to have her with me through jury selection. 

But the week after that school starts.  And I, for one, can't wait.  This week I went and peeked through the window of my classroom and my inappropriate heart did a fluttery bounce and started pounding madly away, undone by the sight of desks and chairs and whiteboards.

Heaven help me if I ever find myself in a classroom with David.  I will surely spontaneously combust with all that lust.   

Five Posts in One

I've done all my recent writing in my head.  Which is fun for me, and not as much fun for you.  Anyway, the posts are starting to stack up.  In their entireties they were both clever and profound (you would have liked them), but for the sake of time and in consideration of all the people around here clamoring for clean underwear (the nerve!), you are getting the Reader's Digest version.  (Did I ever tell you the story of how I was actually published in the Reader's Digest and lied about my name?  True story.)

And so, Post One:

On Thursday night I took the girls to see Little House on the Prairie, The Musical at Gammage.  It was just marvelous, and it is quite possible that I cried through half of it.  At one point Olivia looked at me with tears in her own eyes and nodded compassionately.

I sat there in the auditorium with my own Mary and Laura and thought about love and sisters and sacrifice and hard work and faith and building a life for your family and long winters and what we would do to keep warm if we lived in the Dakota territory before insulation and central heating and indoor plumbing.  I thought about what it means to live in a happy family and over and over again I told myself, "This is now, this is now," just like Laura did in Little House in the Big Woods.

When it was all over we went to the talk-back where Olivia raised her hand and asked the cast if they had all read the books, and then with my girls clutching their own treasured books we waited outside the stage door for autographs.  

And on the way home, over the Christmas music, I could hear the girls talking about their favorite parts, and how it is so sad to read such good books when you are young because you might never find as good books the rest of your life.  I smiled at that and secretly agreed.  And as I drove home through the dark streets and listened to their voices in the back seat and heard Savannah ask Olivia why she was crying at that one part, I was grateful that they each have a sister.  And that in the long, cold winters of their lives, they will always have each other.


Post Two:

 The makings of 23 centerpieces.

If you've been reading this blog for a bit, it becomes fairly obvious, fairly quickly, that I married better than I deserve.

What can I say?  It is an indisputable fact that I have excellent taste in men.

This week offered more evidence of this. 

David and I were supposed to put on the ward Christmas party on Saturday night.  Food and seating and entertainment and Christmas cheer for two hundred.  Saturday was also the day of a one-day quilt retreat with my family in Park City, Utah, about 700 miles from here.  I hemmed and hawed about going.  I tried to change the date of the ward party.  I decided not to go to the quilt retreat.  Then I hemmed and hawed some more.  Finally David said, "Let's just buy you a ticket.  I can feed two hundred people by myself."  Unbelievably I said, "Okay."

And that it just what he did.  The party was a roaring success.  Last night in bed he told me in complete honesty that he thinks it was the best ward Christmas party he's ever been to.

I am not a bit surprised.

After all, I have excellent taste in men. 


Post Three:

We finally had a cold snap.

Cold enough to wear beanies and knit gloves with our jackets in the mornings.

Did you know it only takes about one day for children to lose one or both of their gloves?

Lucky for us, the cold snaps around here only last about two weeks.  I don't know how all you real-winter folks do it.  My entire month's budget would be spent on gloves.  30 days, 4 pairs of gloves per day...it adds up.

The other day I was at Target for a completely different reason and saw that they had their gloves on sale, 2 pairs for $1.50 in all kinds of cute colors.  I thought, "Sold."  I bought everyone two pairs of gloves.  This morning the girls were both down to one pair and Ethan couldn't find any.  He finally ended up wearing mine.  I suspect I will never see them again.  Oh well.  It will likely be summer weather again by the end of the week.


Post Four:

Remember that post about wanting to be snowed in somewhere?

On Sunday morning after a delightful quilt retreat, we were in Park City preparing to leave.  The man who plows the driveways in the neighborhood came by and laughed at us and told us we weren't going anywhere.  It had snowed 25 inches in less than 12 hours.

We went back inside and considered staying another day and I called David and told him I thought we might be snowed in and he said the roads looked fine from here.  If we could just get down off the mountain he thought the highway would be passable.  It was, but just barely.

As we were white-knuckle crawling our way down the mountain I thought about how when my romantic notions actually come to pass in real life, they are not nearly as romantic as I thought they would be.

My readers in Wisconsin and Michigan and Massachusetts have my apologies.


Post Five:

My Christmas cards are still sitting neatly in their boxes. 

I have threatened several times that they are going to end up in the recycling bin. 

David just nods.

He's been through this before.

And now every time someone else's Christmas card arrives in the mail, a little trickle of ice-cold panic sluices through me.

But still they sit.

I am waiting for inspiration. 

I am waiting for Christmas spirit.

I am waiting to figure out just what it is I learned this year.

The writer in me is still sorting.  Sorting the lessons from the regrets, the gold from the sand, the moving from the mundane.  There is something there, the water just hasn't cleared enough for me to see it yet.

I hope it clears by Christmas.  If not, I have given myself permission to fill the recycling bin.

And David will just nod.  (See Post Two.  I told you.)

Better Than a B12 Shot

There is a story that is told in my family, especially among the women.  A family folk tale of sorts, but I heard it from my Aunt Margaret who swears it's true.

It goes that when my mom and her sisters were young and my grandmother would get in a particularly bad mood, one of my aunts would call my grandpa and tell him to bring home the B12 shot.  My grandpa was a doctor and on really rough days he would bring his doctor bag home and while my grandmother was madly stirring away at something on the stove he would lift up her sleeve, swab her arm, and give her a shot.  The story goes that neither of them acknowledged that he'd done it, she'd go on doing whatever she was doing without even looking at him, and he'd put everything back in his bag.

(I told this story to David once and he said, "Really?  Did it work?" and then wondered aloud how you go about getting B12.  He said he was just kidding when I protested indignantly.  But sometimes when I am particularly hard to live with and I see him staring off into space, I know he is secretly wondering if there is a B12 black market.)

There were several things this week that just made me happy.  Better than a B12 shot, I say.  The picture above was one of them.  The American Girl Christmas Catalog arrived this week.  When David got the mail he said, "Oh no."  I just smiled.  The girls poured over it, took it to school for conferences with their friends, let their dolls peruse it, and sat with David oohing and aahing over the holiday spreads.  This morning, after the girls had gone to school, I found Olivia's dolls making their own Christmas lists.  The anticipation has begun already.

And while I'm at it, just for the joy of it, here are a few more things this week that made me happy:

I found a get well note under Olivia's pillow from Savannah, that was mostly a long paragraph listing the fun they could have together once Olivia was feeling better and a profession her love.  Eighteen x's and o's with lots of exclamation points.  And speaking of sisters, I got a comment on my post yesterday from both of my sisters and one sister-in-law, all of whom knew exactly what I was alluding to.  I thought how very nice it is to be known.  I was completely delighted at this happy gift and the little impromptu book club on my blog. 

Yesterday David suggested that we meet for lunch.  I put him off thinking that we were both too busy, but then changed my mind after I got ready for the day because I thought I looked so good he really deserved to see me.  We met at In-n-Out and ate outside in the decidedly pleasant weather.  It is so rare to see him in the middle of the day, I have decided that lunch is my favorite kind of date.  The only downfall of the lunch date is there is no place for passionate necking.

Savannah and I have plans to tea-dye her mummy rags after school today, and we are going to pick pumpkins this Saturday.  For whatever reason I am embracing the Halloween season this year and my children could not be more pleased.  Perhaps it is all the spooky movie watching...we have plans for another movie marathon this weekend.  On tap, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Casper, and Ghostbusters.  And David and I have our own late-night plans for Wait Until Dark, my personal Halloween favorite which I could watch any time of the year.

Yesterday I took Savannah and Ethan to the school book fair in the afternoon.  They both spent their birthday money on new books.  (Thanks Greg and Becca!)  Can I tell you how happy it makes me that I have children who would rather spend their money on books than anything else?  Deliriously so.

And speaking of books, Caleb has been working on his Reading Merit Badge.  One of the requirements was to read to a child for four hours.  He completed the requirement by reading to Ethan every evening, but they both enjoyed the experience so much that they've continued reading together every night since.  Last night they finished The Enormous Egg.  My heart does little thumps of joy as I hear Caleb reading and Ethan laughing from the other room and see their heads tipped towards each other in a pool of yellow lamp light.  Be still my heart.

Best of all, the weekend is here.  Mine is going to include date night, stake conference, sugar cookies, an indian-food dinner party, a trip to the thrift stores for our missing costume essentials, and maybe even a nap.  Color me delighted.

Finding True Love at Barnes & Noble

Last night, as we were talking through my anxieties, David confided to me that he didn't like to read or write.  He said it like he was confessing a long-buried secret, that had been burdening him all these years.

I said, "I know."

He has no secrets from me.

Over the years, I have overlooked his reluctance to read (his only character flaw) and he has overlooked everything else.

We've made it work, see?

On Saturday, David and I took our boys to the bookstore while the girls ran a lemonade stand with their friends.  David got stuck for a while in the international travel and maps section while the boys and I hunted through the shelves in the children's section and got lost for a while in the Newberry's.

We passed a table with all kinds of writing books--there are many people with the dream--and I found a little book, which has apparently been quite famous for a decade or two in the writing world.  I added it to my pile.

When it was time to go, David asked, pointing at my considerable pile, "Which of those are we getting?"

I was thinking, "All of them.  That's why they're here in my pile."  But instead, I put a thoughtful look on my face and sorted through the pile, taking one of the paperbacks I had considered for Olivia out.

I smiled up at him.  "These ones."

We checked out.

The clerk handed me the bag.  It was heavy.

On the way to the car I was filled with that joy that only books can produce.  Adrenalin and endorphins and falling in love, all at the same time.  David took my hand.  He could feel my joy.  I looked up into his bemused eyes.  And his hand whispered to me all the way to the car, "I don't understand you, but I adore you.  See how much I adore you?  Even when I don't understand you." 

And mine answered back.

And said the very same thing.

A Must-Read

David and I spent our date night at the bookstore looking for travel guides of Victoria, British Columbia.  We have a roadtrip in mind, and the only thing David enjoys reading more than the atlas, is a really good travel guide.  He is already typing our trip itinerary, and the trip is at least four months away.  He can't help himself. 

But while David was debating the merits of Fodor's versus Frommer's, I overheard a father reading a lovely book to his daughters.  I could hear him reading: "Compassionate means..."  "Envy means..."  "Patient means..."  When they left, I sifted through their pile and found this charming picture book all about words and cookies.  Two of my favorite things. 

Since then Ethan have read and reread and reread it again and again.

Ethan's favorite part is the page on "Content."   It is so lovely.  The pictures, the words.  One of them is even "Regret," which I've always been partial to.  (The pages on "trustworthy" and "compassionate" will steal your heart.)

I recommend you read it with someone you love and find out what "Content" really feels like. 

Things I Believe In

Last night when David got home from work, I was frosting cookies.  Dinner had not been started.  (I have priorities.)  David said that was fine, we could eat cookies for dinner.  But I was already feeling a bit emotional (who, me?) and I knew a really bad blood sugar episode (with the high and low only a sugar cookie with cream cheese frosting and pink sprinkles can produce) would likely threaten the very fabric of my marriage.

And technically, I believe in marriage.  So I made pasta primavera.  And I only cried a little bit when I was sweeping the floor.  (Who could blame me?)

Today was "Dress as Your Favorite Book Character Day" at school.  Which just makes my heart throb.  If they had had such a day when I was growing up, it would have been as good as Christmas.  I lived most of my young life as a book character.  So yesterday I dropped everything and drove around town finding a yellow sweater for Ethan, Eskimo boots for Olivia, and a blonde wig for Savannah.  The yellow sweater proved the hardest to find and I finally ended up altering a yellow sweatshirt I found in the Junior's department.  I told David that I spent more on Book Character Day than I did on Halloween.

But this morning, Ethan was worried because he didn't have any ears.

I heard Savannah say, "Don't worry. Mom can make ears in two seconds."  And then told him about the year she was Lily and I sewed her some ears while she was making her bed.  I don't remember that.  But it's probably true.  I am amazing like that.

When I was doing the girls wigs this morning, Ethan said, "I can't wait to go to school.  Everyone's going to be dressed up."

Not wanting to burst his bubble Savannah said slowly, "Well, actually, not everyone."


"Well.  Not everyone believes in books.  Our Mom does."

And how.