Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My 500

A few weeks ago, I took two-thirds of our children to the grocery store with me while CPod took the other third to the dentist.

As I wound my way past the bananas and peaches, the bread and peanut butter, I kept running into this very nice woman. We made small talk through the store, and then made our simultaneous departures.

A few days later, we took our kids out for hot dogs, and the grocery store lady was sitting in the booth across from ours with her cute teenage son. Also eating hot dogs. Our town is small, but it's not that small.

This made me remember one of my roommates in college. Everywhere we went in Provo, she knew someone. One night, we made her draw a map for us, a kind of Venn diagram with her in the center -- of all the people she was related to, and how they were connected to this person we'd met on campus, and how she dated this guy in high school, whose sister's best friend's uncle was once mission companions with . . . you get the picture. I was amazed at the connections, until I began to think about the people I know, have known, in my own life, and, really, it was no different.

Then I read Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, which I loved. And I found this quote, near the end:

"It is a small world. You do not have to live in it particularly long to learn that for yourself. There is a theory that, in the whole world, there are only five hundred real people (the cast, as it were; all the rest of the people in the world, the theory suggests, are extras) and what is more, they all know each other. And it's true, or true as far as it goes. In reality the world is made of thousands upon thousands of groups of about five hundred people, all of whom will spend their lives bumping into each other, trying to avoid each other, and discovering each other in the same unlikely teashop in Vancouver. There is an unavoidability to this process. It's not even coincidence. It's just the way the world works, with no regard for individuals or for propriety."

I've been thinking about this for weeks now. And every time I go shopping and see the same person pushing her cart through the store who was there last time I was there, I take Neil Gaiman a little more seriously.

This happens in the blogging world, too. Have you noticed? It's a little easier to explain here, though. I mean, we leave much more visible footprints on the internet than we do in real life, and it's easy to find a blog you like, and then look at the ones that the author likes to find more that you like, and pretty soon, you're frequenting the same on-line joints and buying a round of virtual lemonades for the same group of people.

Are you one of my 500? I think you are. I think we all belong to this great, big group of amazing women (and the occasional man) who all hang out in the same blogspots. I think if we all got together in one room, we'd be amazed at the real-life overlaps: how interconnected we all are even though we are scattered across the world.

So. Thanks for being one of the 500 people I keep running into over and over again, for being connected to me in some inexorable way. Just maybe, if we're lucky, one of these days we'll end up "discovering each other in the same unlikely tea shop in Vancouver" and recognize that the virtual world bleeds through to reality with surprising regularity.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Atrophy of Roots

On our first anniversary, CPod and I graduated from BYU. We spent that week taking finals and packing up all of our earthly belongings, and the morning after graduation, we headed out to Memphis, TN where CPod would embark of the next stage of his education.

We rented a little apartment in Midtown close to the school. We only had one car, and once I had a job, I would drop CPod off for class, drive out to the other end of town for work, then pick him back up after I finished working, or at 11PM if he was closing the library.

Here's what they don't tell you about Memphis: it's patchy, in a strange way. You can go from well-maintained 100-year-old estates a city block in size to housing projects to slums to buildings with signs that announce "Drug dealers evicted here" by just crossing over to the other side of the street. Once you know the safest route through to your destination, you don't look for shortcuts because you're never sure what kind of area you will encounter on the way.

Our apartment complex was safe enough. After all, it was surrounded by a chain link fence topped with three feet of razor wire, and an armed guard manned the entrance at all times. It felt like a prison compound, and the cockroaches didn't do much to dispel my gloom whenever I thought about our living situation. You just never get used to pouring bleach down the drain before you take a shower. You can try. You can pretend. But you will never like it.

I had a good job -- a great job, really. And CPod had his work study job at the library (which I still hold single-handedly responsible for any honors he received at graduation) as well as another job that accommodated his limited student schedule. Housing is cheap in Memphis, and after crunching some numbers, we decided to look for a house to buy. If we played our cards right, we could end up spending less on a house note than we were on rent. For cockroaches.

We searched, and found a great little house. And it had a tree in the front yard. I was sold. It was one of the only trees on the street, and it was lovely: tall, and broad, and it provided shade to the little flower garden by the front porch. I had been longing to get my hands in some soil, and it looked like I would have the opportunity.

I loved that tree. I fertilized it, and pruned it, and took great care to keep it healthy. In return, it ensured lush grass and blooming flowers in my little planter. It's H.O.T. in Memphis -- the kind of sticky, humid heat where you just become complacent in your discomfort, when your clothes always make you feel like you are encased in hot dog skins, when your sunglasses fog up between the front door and your car even if it is only 7:30 in the morning.

The tree was a Bradford pear. Do you have one? You should get rid of it. They're useless.

One early Sunday morning, we were experiencing one of those Memphis storms, with a lot of wind. (It's the only place I've ever lived with tornado warning sirens. Scary.) We heard an awful crack, and when we checked the front yard, our beloved tree had split down the middle and half had fallen on our neighbor's new truck. Nice.

Turns out, Bradford pear trees are the antithesis of delayed gratification. You plant one, and just a few short years later, voila! You have a big, beautiful shade tree. But all of that growth you can see comes at an extreme sacrifice: very little growth under ground. The Bradford pear expends all of its energy branching out above the ground without building the necessary support system underneath, and when a little wind comes along, it doesn't have the strength it needs to stand strong through the storm.

It only took a few days for my flowers to die. You see, they relied on the shade of the pear tree to protect them from the brutal Memphis sun. And when the tree was no longer there to shelter their delicate blossoms, they did not have the resources they needed to survive in their environment.

Lately, I've been feeling pretty drained. I've had a few strong contractions that have worried me a bit, but I've taken it as a cue that I need to slow down. (Don't worry, my doctor is in the loop. I'm talking, like, 5 contractions. Total. Over the course of a week.) I mean, I'm supposed to have 14 more weeks of this! I've figured out (duh) that I don't eat enough, I don't drink enough water, I don't sleep enough, and I don't rest enough. And I don't take care of my spiritual roots enough, either.

I'm determined not to be that Bradford pear tree, because my responsibility to shelter my family is one I take very seriously. But taking it seriously means, first, strengthening my roots: caring for myself physically, and paying attention when my body tells me I need to take it easy; partaking of the spiritual sustenance that comes only through the activities of personal discipleship and maintaining a relationship with my Savior; saying "no" to outside activities and additional stressers when it's time to slow down.

How many of us look great to the outside world, but are really withering inside because we have neglected our roots? I would wager there's more of us out there with atrophied roots trying to maintain the facade of well-being than we would imagine . . . like, maybe, all of us, to a degree.

We are responsible for so many things -- as my mom used to say, semi-jokingly, when I was growing up, "If there's a war in the middle east, somehow I'm responsible." But the thing we are responsible for first and foremost is our own well-being. My ability to provide shelter, to bless others with my talents, to care for those both in my own family and out of it is directly related to how much care I have been taking to ensure my own physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. And yet. It's those very actions that demonstrate care for others that I choose to do instead of first working in my own vineyard.

I will not be that Bradford pear tree. The winds come every day, and I pray that my roots will be strong enough to support me, to withstand the buffeting that, certainly, will not lessen before my job is through.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting to know you . . .

Are you hearing Deborah Kerr right now? Because I can't hear those words without sashaying about the room looking for Yul Brynner as the King of Siam.

Anyway. Many of you know about my penchant for listmaking. The obsession continues as I present here, for your reading pleasure, some things I love and some things I hate, in varying combinations.

Nine Things I Hate to Hate

1. Pickles
. No offense intended to Elder Bednar, but I DON'T WANT TO BE A PICKLE. I would choose the crisp crunch of a fresh cucumber over a limp and sour pickle 100 times out of 100. If my husband has had pickles any time in the last 12 hours, even if he has brushed his teeth 7 times, I can still smell it on his breath. He thinks it's a magic trick. I always try to like them. I never do. I feel exactly the same way about olives, even the really expensive ones.
2. Walt Whitman. I know, I know, I'm literary. I'm supposed to LOVE him, to swoon when I hear his words. Mostly, I just wish I were reading Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson (my namesake. Oops. There goes the anonymity.) or Billy Collins or ANYONE else.
3. Canon in D, by Johann Pachelbel. No matter how highbrow you think it makes you seem, I guarantee that every time you ask for this to be played at your wedding, two things happen: all of the musicians immediately know you are not one, and the viola player instantly decides that you are in league with Satan because why else would you choose the most boring 4 measures ever written in the alto clef and require me to repeat them ad infinitum? I may even refuse to hold my instrument as anything other than a guitar, since the piece requires no bow and that much pizzicato could be performed by a monkey. A barely trained monkey. I also hate Ravel's Bolero for basically the same reasons, and I hate anything by Respighi because . . . it's just really awful.
4. Tulips. I think their foliage looks angry.
5. Country music. Yes, I know all the words to that auctioneer song that came out when I was in high school because MommyJ listened to it OVER and OVER again. (Hey, pretty lady won't you give me a sign, I'd give anything to make you mine all mine, I'll do your biddin' and be at your beck and caaaalll . . .) And I grew up listening to my grandparents singing bluegrass and old Gospel music (have you seen O Brother, Where Art Thou? You should, if you haven't. It's great. I knew all those songs before the movie came out.) And I have tried to enjoy country music. But I just can't.
6. Condiments. I don't do mayonnaise or mustard or ketchup. When I make a sandwich, it has butter on it, and maybe some cranberry chutney. My condiment of choice otherwise is the king of cheeses, Parmigiano-Regiano.
7. Legos. Please don't curse me. If my children could keep them out of the shag area rug in our living room, maybe I would stop swearing every time I step on one.
8. Summer. More specifically, any temperature above 80 degrees. Maybe I'm okay with 90 if it's dry. This is why I live in heaven: it has only topped 80 degrees a few times this summer. It's blissful. If you live in Vegas, I will only visit you in the winter.
9. Pets in the house. I know, I know! I'm horrible! I wish I could just tell you it's because I'm allergic to all things furry, but that's not the only reason. I really think that animals are built to live outside. And I am not built to deal with animal hair on my furniture. We had a Dalmatian when I was growing up (the world's dumbest dog) who could shoot her wiry white hair onto your black pants like a porcupine's quills. I don't have the patience or the time to deal with defurring everything I own, and I would be forever congested to boot. So there.

Ten Things I Love to Hate

1. Facebook.
There, I said it. I hate texting and Twitter, too, and I am absolutely unapologetic about it. I tell you what -- if I were single right now and a boy interested in me didn't have the cajones to ask me out in person, his absolutely inadequate substitute of a text message would not be dignified by a response. Except for a big, fat, wet raspberry right in his face the next time we met in person.
2. Huge baby headbands. Moms, what, exactly are you trying to cover up by plastering a gerber daisy as big as your child's head right over the cutest part of her? Little bows? Fine. Even little flowers are almost okay. When you notice the child as an afterthought, there's something wrong with the accessory.
3. Unintentional asymmetry. I couldn't live in the house across the street from ours because the three dormer windows of the upper story are not centered, or evenly spaced. I've been inside the house. It wouldn't have been hard to center the middle window over the door, or to space out the other two dormers. Instead the house just looks lopsided.
4. Protocol. Really? There's a way that's always the only right way to do things? I don't think so. I understand that sometimes you have to go through the "proper" channels to get things done. But sometimes you have to completely avoid them to get anything done. That's where I come in.
5. Duke University basketball. Mike Krzyzewski is the devil. Or, at least the 'Devil's coach. I cover my children's eyes so they can't lipread his bad language during Carolina games. I graduated from BYU, but my heart belongs to the Tarheels -- I've been indoctrinated to the superiority of Carolina blue since the womb.
6. Passive aggression and manipulative behavior. What's wrong with a little plain speaking? You can be forthright and diplomatic at the same time, believe it or not. And if what you want is so subversive that you have to manipulate to get your way, maybe you should reexamine your motives.
7. Nicholas Cage. They should just call every character he plays "Nicholas Cage" because they're all basically the same person anyway.
8. Poorly-designed parking lots. I have a friend who thinks parking lots are unnecessary anyway. He's a little kooky. But they should have a clearly established traffic pattern and adequately sized parking spaces with plenty of room in the aisles. Are you listening, Target?
9. Mispronunciations and misspellings. Have you actually looked at the word "nuclear"? Because there's only one "u" in it. And it ain't after the "c". And spell check, people. Spell check is a gift from God!
10. Debt. I attack it like a pit bull. And I can't wait until it's gone.

Ten Things I Hate to Love

1. Dirty Dancing.
I am compelled to stop and watch every single time I notice that it's on. It's sad, I know. I wasn't allowed to watch it when it came out, even though all of the extra dancers were from the studio where I took lessons. So, instead, I suggested that we watch it at every slumber party I went to until I graduated from high school. And now, I can quote it. And I can sing you every part of every song on the soundtrack. Sad, sad, sad.
2. American Idol. 'Nuff said.
3. The smell of coffee. And coffee ice cream.
4. Unbaked treats. Let me lick the bowl you've used to make brownie batter and I am in heaven. I might not even eat one that's been baked. Cookie dough, bread dough, cake batter . . . once in college, my roommates and I mixed up a yellow cake mix and dipped apple slices in the batter. Yum. And AWFUL for me.
5. France. I don't know why I hate to love France, but for some reason being a francophile in this country seems a little subversive. Not like in a socialist kind of way. I love the food, I've never had a problem with the people, I adore the countryside, and I speak the language. Or I used to. Haven't had much reason to use that skill lately.
6. My minivan. Respect the van, people. Respect the van. I'll drag race you any day and my Odyssey will take it to the bank.
7. Coca-Cola. I know it's bad for me. I know the carbonation leaches phosphorous from my bones or something crazy like that. I know it's bad for my teeth and contains tons of sugar. But I love it. And I'm not quitting.
8. Old Blue. CPod has this old sweatshirt he's had since he was twelve. That's 23 years and counting. It's the perfect fit for my pregnant belly, and I can't stand the sight of it, but nothing feels better.
9. 30 Rock. It's awesome in an "I just can't stop watching" kind of way. And the perfect punctuation to follow The Office.
10. Expensive clothes and shoes. (I'm not talking couture here. Just, you know, not Target. ) I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I just have to. Did you know the size of the clothes is inversely proportional to the cost of them? It helps make the purchases slightly less painful. And I swear, you pay for quality.

Twelve Things I Love to Love

1. Fresh produce.
Right now, it's peaches. If I had been Eve, peaches would have been the forbidden fruit, and that serpent wouldn't have had to do much to tempt me. I love to eat fruit that is still warm from the tree, and these are "sink peaches" -- you have to eat them over the sink to catch the juice running down your arms.
2. Masterpiece Mystery. See Jane Marple solve. Fantastic.
3. Books. The words! OH, the words!
4. Excellent tools. From my cilia forceps to my Global knives to the enzyme that untangles DNA strands when they're unzipping for replication, tools with high utility give me a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction.
5. Hydrangeas. Purple ones. In a bouquet with pink calla lilies.
6. Fabric. Lovely, colorful, 100% cotton, wonderful quilting fabric.
7. Fantastic bras. See this post for more on this one.
8. Wind chimes. In a summer storm, preferably.
9. Dishes and linens. This is when I know I belong to my grandmother.
10. Paul Hindemith, Ernest Bloch and the viola supremacy composers. There aren't many, and we have to love what we've got. Bach and Dvorak aren't half bad either.
11. Food. In my perfect world, the four food groups are fruit, bread, cheese, and chocolate. And I prefer to drink my chocolate. Every Christmas, we import hot chocolate mix from Switzerland. Once you've tried it, you can never go back. Remember, I am a confessed food snob, and it's a great way to be.
12. Lovely smells. Origins Peace of Mind vapor bath. Lepi de Provence lavender hand soap and foaming bath. My beloved L'eau d'Issey. I'm nearly comatose right now just imaging the relaxation that could be going on were I to draw a hot bath for myself right now . . . sigh.

And bless you if you made it all the way through this one!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm boycotting my kitchen

Until CPod finishes what he started.

Our house was new when we bought it 6 years ago. We loved it then. We love it still, but the bedrooms are small and our only options are to cram three little boys into one room, or let MayDay share with the baby. Both are viable, but only for so long.

We own some land -- just a couple of acres, but it's lovely and close by and as soon as CPod's student loans are paid off (soon!) we'll be building something that suits our needs a little more fully: a big bunk room for all the boys, large enough for all of them to have personal space, and close enough quarters to let them keep tabs on each other; a better spot for a good garden (the property overlooks farm land, after all -- we'll have to follow suit); a studio for all of the musical instruments and accompanying accessories, so I'll be ready when the time comes to begin teaching again; a capacious and accessible pantry for food storage.

In the mean time, we're DIY-ing some minor upgrades and updates to make this house a bit more marketable.

I say minor. But how can anything be minor when it consumes every available (read: when children are sleeping) hour and turns your kitchen into something out of one of those disaster shows on HGTV.

CPod is actually quite capable. He worked his way through undergraduate doing electrical contracting work during the summers, so he installed hard-wired under-cabinet lighting all the way around the kitchen. It's wonderful.

We also installed a smaller cabinet above our stove to make room for an above-the-range microwave. This will free up the counterspace currently occupied by the behemoth dinosaur we've had since we got married 12 years ago, increasing the available work area a ton. (It smells like burnt popcorn anyway. Every single time we use it.)

Once all of the other stuff is done, we'll have someone else install moulding on top of our cabinets. Some things, CPod just isn't willing to do, and complicated use of the miter saw tops that list.

He has self-educated himself into tiling expertise. Our new subway tile backsplash will look wonderful -- as soon as it's finished. Therein lies the problem.

Our time is so limited that you can only make so much progress in an evening, and still get enough sleep to function the next day. So, in 4 nights, he's finished about a third of the kitchen. But all of his materials stay out -- except for the tile saw, which spends its days on the deck. Everything that ordinarily inhabits the counters (basket of sweet potatoes and Vidalia onions, knife block, paper towel dispenser, etc.) has been crammed onto the only available bit of counterspace left. Which means I have no place to work.

It's not that I mind. Really, I don't. I've been folding laundry in the living room the past couple of nights, and since CPod is otherwise occupied, I've been able to indulge in one of my small obsessions: TiVoed episodes of Miss Marple, on Masterpiece Mystery. CPod hates this show. No exaggeration. It's so dry and British that he just can't take it. He doesn't get Are You Being Served? either, but I could crack myself up right now just thinking about Mr. Humphries picking up the phone and saying, "Menswear."

I should just pause it every time he uses the tile saw, but somehow, it makes me feel smarter to know that I've unraveled the mystery too, even though I'm missing 30 seconds of essential puzzle-piece dialogue every five minutes or so.

It WILL be done soon. Otherwise, we're going to have to seriously increase our food budget to compensate for all the take-out. And it will be wonderful when it's finished. But then we'll move on to another project, and before too long, we'll be working on sweat equity projects in the house we'll build. It's just like laundry: never done, unless you're naked. Or dead.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Public Nudity

Last weekend, we went to Staples to look at printers. My kids had had a pretty good day of semi-reasonable behavior, so we got ice cream and then took them all with us to the store. As opposed to leaving them home alone. Right.

Anyway, they were so beguiled by all those rows and aisles and open floor space that they just couldn't contain their energy. While C-Pod and I talked to the recent high school graduate pushing for the HP Laser Jet, they ran through the store, chased by some invisible but apparently persistent force. Thankfully, they didn't knock over any store displays or have office chair races through the passages. It's much worse than that.

As we discussed the possibility of finding a wireless-ready color laser printer (nearly impossible, unless you have a lot of money), G-Dog came flying around the corner of the aisle. I say flying, but really, he was only moving as fast as you possibly can when your pants are around your ankles. Which is where his were.

"WHAT are you DOING?!?" I screamed, because, seriously, I lost my composure over this one. I ran over and pulled his pants back up, hoping the sales guy had not been blessed by a glimpse of little boy parts.

"No, Mommy, there's POOP in there!" He struggled against me as I re-clothed his booty, trying desperately to keep his underwear from touching his body in any way.

At this point, Craig swooped in, threw G-Dog over his shoulder, and hurried to the bathroom.

I returned to my conversation with the stunned sales dude, and learned that you can't buy off-brand toner cartridges for HP printers. Bummer. And why are you looking at me so strangely, Mr. Staples? I have THREE CHILDREN aged 4 and under. They have poop accidents, even if they are infrequent. They are regularly nude in places they should not be. You're lucky they didn't decide one of your wooden office tables looks a lot like a tree and pee on it.

I met CPod at the entrance to the bathroom. G-Dog launched himself through the door proclaiming, "I'm going commando!" to all who were in earshot. Which, with his bombast, was basically the entire store. CPod handed me a wadded up papertowel.

"What is this?"

"Big-boy pants. There was poop in them."

"I am NOT putting these in my purse."

"It's not a lot of poop. Just a little skid mark."

Still. I had to draw the line somewhere. The Staples trash bin is now one pair of big-boy pants richer.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hidden Potential

I have a rock. My kids call it my special rock. I found it in a river up in the mountains when we were on vacation a couple of summers ago. It doesn't look like much now, but in the water, clear, cool, and sparkling, it seemed to have a glow about it, a lovely green inner fire that compelled me to touch it, handle it, take it home with me.

I was convinced I had found a fist-sized emerald, raw and uncut, but fraught with potential -- for purity, for beauty, for a nice fat ring on my finger.

The rock sits on my kitchen windowsill where I see it every day. As I wash dishes and stare out the window, I think about that rock. My emerald. We have a little gem & mineral museum downtown. Gemstones are actually more common around here than you'd think, so it's not all that far-fetched for me to imagine great value in my find. Every time I drive past the museum, I think I should take my rock in to have it identified, once and for all.

But I never do it. When I can only imagine the possibilities, when its true identity is still shadowed by the mystery of conjecture, it seems more valuable to me. It might be just a rock, but as long as I don't know for sure, it might also be something extraordinary.

This got me thinking about rocks in general. Is anything just a rock? Time out for some science. I promise to go easy on you.

Rocks come in three basic types: sedimentary, metamorphic, igneous. Sedimentary rocks are formed as particles of sediment are deposited and then subjected to pressure intense enough to bring about "lithification", or rock formation. I really like that word. Sedimentary rocks have layers: think the stripes on the top of Mt. Timpanogos, the painted sandstone of Antelope Canyon, the tortured shale striations visible on the exposed rock faces of my own Appalachian mountains.

Igneous rocks are what's left over after a volcanic eruption: magma cools and solidifies, leaving us with such useful stones as obsidian, basalt, pumice, granite and tufa (out of which the ancient Etruscans carved the city of Orvieto in Italy, one of my most favorite places on the planet). Though they all vary vastly in density and mineral composition, all of these rocks have one thing in common: an explosion had to happen in order for them to happen.

Metamorphic rocks -- now these are magical. Metamorphic rocks are formed when an existing rock is changed. The metamorphosis can happen when any rock -- sedimentary, igneous, or an older metamorphic -- is subjected to extreme heat and pressure. More extreme than a volcano, which forms the igneous rocks in the first place. More extreme than years and years and years of sedimentation, which forms the sedimentary rocks. Metamorphosis gives us marble and slate, diamonds and gemstones.

We all have parts of us that have been formed by layer upon layer of sensory intake, external stimuli, and our own introspective processing of those experiences. And then we undergo something big, something explosive, something igneous, and an entirely new type of person emerges: sometimes hard and piercing, like the obsidian used anciently to make spear and arrow heads; sometimes soft and porous like the pumice we use to smooth and erode rough patches.

I'm hoping for some metamorphosis. Take my sedimentation, my sharp obsidian, my flinty shale, my pumice that won't hold water, and turn it into marble, to slate, to diamonds. To emeralds.

Rocks and stones are many in number, just like souls. But common, ordinary? Never. Not them, and not us, either.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Some fireworks a day late . . .

How was your holiday weekend?

Mine was great. I'm serious.

My entire family went camping. And by entire family, I mean all of the people I lived with growing up and all of our respective spouses and children. 21 people in all.

Wanna know how crazy it was? 11 of those people are 8 or younger. Baby brother has no children yet, but the shakedown works like this (my kids in purple; MommyJ's kids in green; Jared & Mel's kids in blue): 8, 6, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 4 months. All boys except for little Lucy. Oh, the energy!

We ate. We swam. We reveled in the cool weather -- no warmer than 80 degrees. Heaven. We watched fireworks. We laughed. We ate some more. We slept on the ground. Well, I slept on the ground. My parents slept on a double-stacked air mattress. Their tent looked like an actual bedroom, complete with handmade quilts and throw pillows.

And now we're home. And clean. The campsite had flush toilets, but no showers, so for two days, no one bathed. I smelled like a Mexican restaurant dumpster. When I finally showered this afternoon, as I bent over to scrub the "dirty burt", as my mom calls it, from under my toenails, my already washed hair swung into my face and it still smelled like campfire smoke.

My kids are all sleeping. Which means it's time for me to turn in, too. Yes, I know it's only 9:15. I promise to be a real person, with some real posts about some interesting things I've been thinking about lately, very soon.

Love you all!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

To U2

Dear U2:

Today, I am 22 weeks pregnant. We are happily expecting our first baby girl after three rambunctious little boys. At the October 6 concert in Atlanta, I will be 8 months pregnant. Just look for the beached whale about 4 rows back.

I have never really been one of those people who wants to meet celebrities. I don't want to meet any of you guys. I think when two people meet, the impact should be mutual, and so I've never been really interested in meeting famous people who will not remember me 5 minutes later. So I do not write this with secret hopes of being pulled up on stage or invited to meet the band. Good gracious, please don't do anything that might plaster my hugely bloated and pregnant body onto the gigantic jumbo-tron. I need to see myself larger than life about like I need a hole in the head.

However, I wanted you to know how much I love your music. I listen to a great variety of music. There are many pieces of music that have touched my life in many ways: some of them classical, some of them sacred, some of them popular.

But the music that takes me back to times and places and experiences more than any other is yours: it's U2.

When I hear the first twang of guitar at the beginning of "Running to Stand Still" I am taken back first to the time my husband and I spent dating before we were married; and then, more recently, to the day we brought our twins home from the hospital. We were absolutely unprepared, in the way all parents are the first time around, for most of the challenges we faced, and the first one hit us before we were out of the hospital parking lot. As both of our precious babies started to wail and scream in the backseat, we did the only thing we could in a moving car: we turned on the CD player. It was Joshua Tree and the song up next was "Running to Stand Still". Instantly, they were calmed. Today, they're 4 years old and that song still hushes upset little boys. I hope it always will.

When I hear "Beautiful Day" I am taken back to the time we spent in Memphis, where my husband attended graduate school. I remember vividly sitting in my car on the interstate, stopped dead in home-bound rush hour traffic under a brilliant blue Memphis spring sky, windows down, listening gloriously to "Beautiful Day" blasting on the radio. In that moment, it didn't matter that I was stuck on the road and late getting home. It was truly a beautiful day.

When I hear "Miracle Drug" I remember the smallness of my first two children, who arrived together. I hear the line, "Freedom has a scent -- it's the top of a newborn baby's head" and I can smell the tiny baby smell and I look forward to welcoming another one, probably our last, into our family.

When I hear "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" I am again 13 years old, at summer music camp, captivated by this band, new to me, but known to many others. I am borrowing the Auchtung Baby tape from the blond and goofy Elizabeth, who's older siblings have been listening to U2 for years. I could not get enough -- still can't.

When I hear "With or Without You", followed very quickly by "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" I am in college again, lamenting the vagaries of love I thought would be permanent but wasn't.

Nearly every pivotal experience I have had in my life has had some U2 song as part of the soundtrack, and now that music is inextricably tied to my memories of those seminal moments: "All I Want Is You", "Numb", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Yahweh", "Desire", "Mysterious Ways", "Electrical Storm", "I Will Follow".

Thank you for living lives parallel to mine, for having your own experiences as the genesis for songs that would accompany me through life.

I will be there on October 6, barring any unforeseen early labor. Any chance you'll play me a song? I even have a few suggestions. How about a little "Miracle Drug", in honor of the new baby who will be hearing you for the first time in utero? I was disappointed when we didn't hear that one during the last tour. Or even better, how about the acoustic version of "Stuck in a Moment"? Just a voice and a guiter -- no offense intended to Adam & Larry. No matter what, I'll be reliving my own life with every song you play.

Thanks again for the music.



Side note: I also e-mailed this to U2. I'll take my camera with me to the concert just in case they're really paying attention to all of their fan mail!