02 December 2008

Many More Memories...

Remembering is fun! So here is another dose of my biggest memories (both happy and sad) from my first 31 years. Again, I'm trying to go in roughly chronological order, but of course, I can't guarantee that my memory always cooperates....

* Participating in a "food fight" at the Fullmer's house, when Robyn pretended to flip mashed potatoes at her sister and then her sister actually flipped a spoonful of potatoes across the kitchen. Not the messiest of food fights, since only one spoonful of food actually flew, but we all had to clean the kitchen anyway!

* Trying to count all of the horses in Robyn's bedroom and losing count somewhere around 200.

* Learning to sew, kind of, and making my own clothes with Misty Jensen. We were so proud of those clothes and wanted to wear them to school, but our mothers wouldn't let us! (Good thing, since we had used sheer fabric!)

* My dad's pilot lessons - and dreaming of a day when he would be licensed and we would have our own private jet to take on vacation. (Still waiting for that day, dad....)

* Robyn's baptism - it took 9 tries before they got it right!

* My baptism. It was so cool and amazing to share my special day with 2 of my close friends, Shannon & Spencer!

* Being the first student ever to be awarded the Northpark Elementary School Student of the Year award!

* The tragic carnival accident at the Sweetwater County fair that killed my best friend, Robyn. I still can't see a carnival without fighting tears.

* Our trip to Vancouver, Canada for the 1986 World's Fair. - Spending the first night only about 20 miles from home, at Little America - Camping at the campground with a pool filled by hot springs and getting to swim for free when Dad fixed their computer system for them - Falling in love with a really cool concept car that was supposed to be released the year that I turned 16... (It was going to be my first car - but alas, it was never on the market...) - My brief recording career as a backup singer in the group "Bug & the Roaches" as we tried out a recording studio to sing the song "Tomorrow" from Annie - Leaving my brother in Canada (just for about 5 minutes at a park on the border, because he got out of the car and we didn't notice...) - My sister and I getting really tight perms from my cousin who was going to beauty school, and our song that we made up about being "pink poodles"! - To this day, I think this was the most fun I've ever had on a vacation!

* Moving to Santa Maria, California in 4th grade - and losing all of my new friends within the first week of school when I wouldn't choose sides when 2 of them got into a fight.

* My parents surprising us by driving all night long to bring us back to Rock Springs for Christmas, just because they knew how much we missed being "home" for the holidays!

* Moving back to Rock Springs over spring break in 4th grade - and finding that all of my friends had chosen a new best friend while I was gone.

* Sneaking a peek at my notes while taking the quiz on state capitols in 5th grade - and then feeling guilty for years afterward (still).

* Setting my own curriculum in 6th grade. (I had finished all of the elementary school books - even the advanced books - by 5th grade, and the district didn't allow skipping grades, so the teachers had nothing for me in 6th grade. I got to sit all day in the library and teach myself whatever I felt like learning, as long as I did one project a week and turned it in...)

* Sitting in the hall with all of the other 6th grade girls, while our teachers tried to patch up the feud that had been going on between Veronica Cox and "Cara's Group" since I moved back to Rock Springs in the 4th grade. Nothing came of it except for a full afternoon of not doing any school work...

* The school-wide celebration when I graduated from 6th grade - to commemorate the first class of students to attend Northpark Elementary School from Kindergarten all the way through 6th grade.... And Justin passing out while we were filling the helium balloons, because he was sucking the helium out of about every 3rd balloon filled! (I still don't let my kids suck helium out of balloons!)

30 November 2008

What Do I Remember Most?

Recently, I read a list that a friend wrote - his top 150 memories from his first 30 years. (Of course, I had to give him a hard time, because I didn't make the list.) Since then, I've been thinking about this concept... What are my biggest memories from my life so far? The good, the bad, pleasant and unpleasant... What events, people, places and ideas have shaped me into the person that I am today? So I decided to make up my own list. I don't know how many memories will make it onto the list, so I'm not going to set a number. But here is what I remember most (in roughly chronological order...)

* Preschool - working as quickly as I could each and every day to color as many pages as possible, so that I could show my mom how much work I was doing in class! (She tells me that this was because she always asked my older sister, Carin, how many pages of work she did in school, and I was competing. I don't remember that, I just remember sitting at the long table with a stack of papers and a pile of crayons, busily working long after all of the other kids had moved on to other things.)

* Eating almost 2 full bottles of Flintstones vitamins with my sister Carin and going to the hospital where they had to induce vomiting. (To this day, the smell of multivitamins turns my stomach!)

* My very first boyfriend, Seth Richards (in preschool & kindergarten). I was going to marry him someday! I was heartbroken when he moved all the way to Green River (12 miles) after kindergarten!!

* Learning how to read. I loved the book "The Fire Cat" and asked my sister to read it to me over and over and over again. Finally, she got tired of it and started skipping words, phrases or whole pages to get through the book faster. I of course, had the book memorized and called her on it. So she taught me how to read so that I could read it to myself.

* North Park Elementary School - The school was completed and the doors opened for classes midway through my kindergarten year. I still remember the excitement as we watched a brand new school being constructed near our house and the thrill of riding the bus from our old school (Desert View) to the new school for the first day of classes!

* Watching Seth and his best friend, Kenny, fight over me on the playground. I thought it was a silly thing to fight about, because it didn't matter who won. Seth was my boyfriend, and Kenny was just annoying. However, I did enjoy the instant fame I got over the fight. Even the big kids (4th, 5th & 6th graders) knew that I was the girl that the boys were fighting over, and I was something of a celebrity for a day or two!

* Mr. Kirtland's magic tricks on Fridays. It was the best thing about kindergarten! We figured out how he did all of the tricks but one - and the M&M's trick still feels like magic to this day!

* My huge crush on my Aunt Becky's boyfriend, Maurice. I didn't want anyone to know about the crush, so I always called him "More Grease" to prove that I didn't like him. And I just couldn't figure out how everyone knew that I liked him anyway....

* Eating 2 big bags of mini marshmallows at Kenny's house and getting sick. (I haven't liked marshmallows since!)

* Drawing a glitter picture for Santa - and then being amazed on Christmas morning when I discovered that Santa had supersized the teddy bear I had helped Grandpa wrap for Grandma because he was so happy with the picture! (We wrapped a 6-inch teddy bear, and Christmas morning, there was a 5-foot teddy bear in a box next to the tree!)

* Eating too much frosting at my kindergarten last-day-of-school party and getting sick (I can't eat frosting to this day, either!)

* Being the first family in the neighborhood to own a trampoline.

* The computer program that my dad wrote for our Apple computer. It was called "The Starting Gate" and it was lots of fun. My sisters and I even got to help with some of the creative aspects of the games!

* Cutting my hair all by myself (well, I made my little sister help with the back where I couldn't reach) - and then getting really upset with Santa, when he thought that I was a boy!!

* Going to QUEST - the program for gifted students - once a week and learning how to draw with a turtle on the computer (what was the name of that program?)

* Playing Oregon Trail in the amazing computer lab where we had enough computers for everyone in class. (And being beyond proud when I discovered that my dad was the one who donated the computers to the school!)

........ Which brings me to 2nd grade.............. This trip down memory lane may take a while!

19 November 2008

Who Needs Depth, Anyway?

Okay, so I admit it. I am shallow. But who needs depth, anyway? It's overrated!!

Actually, I am a little bit ashamed to admit it. Well, kind of....

The point is, I am the person who always talks about how looks really don't matter. I am a huge proponent of the idea that beauty truly is found within - that physical appearance is just a shell and not an indicator of real beauty at all. And I really believe that - most of the time.

Phil always laughs at me because I am the worst person in the world for describing a person. When I'm talking about someone and he asks "who is that?" I can tell him, "Oh, she's the person with 4 children who sings alto in the choir and has the great sense of humor. She worries too much, but she loves board games as much as I do, so we really get along well. You know, the kids are friends with her kids, and she told that really funny story about her mom the first time I met her." Yeah, great description - and sometimes, he can figure out who I'm talking about, if I continue talking long enough, or if he happened to actually be present for some of the events that define that particular person in my mind. But my descriptions don't usually help him pick someone out of a crowd!

Conversely, when Phil tries to tell me about someone, and he tells me, "He's 6'4" with light brown wavy hair and hazel eyes," I just stare at him blankly. I almost never know who he's talking about! It's become quite the joke in our household, because I don't ever even notice (so Phil says) the obvious physical characteristics. ("You could have mentioned that he was bald!" "Oh! Ooops! I guess I never noticed.") And really, I don't usually notice.

So I tell myself that I am not a shallow person. I had myself convinced that looks really weren't important to me.

But I admit it. I guess I do dwell on physical appearances. At least, I dwell on my own physical appearance. I'm still the last to notice if my friend gets her hair cut and whacks off 12 inches or if she's 5 months pregnant with a big baby belly or if a guy gains 20 pounds or shaves his head... I guess I'm not very observant.

But in 2006, when I had to take the steroids before and after my brain surgery, and I gained more than 100 pounds in less than a month (going from size 10 jeans to size 18 literally overnight).... Yeah, I noticed that! I still cry when I get dressed in the morning and I see the stretch marks that cover probably 85% of my body. I would be the first in line if they ever brought back those 1920s full-body, long-sleeved, down-to-your-knees bathing suits. And I am painfully aware that the scale in my bedroom seems to have broken, because the numbers just aren't coming down. And I really meant it when I told my doctors that I absolutely refuse to ever take steroids again, no matter what. Nothing is worth going through that kind of reaction again! Yep, when it comes to Veronica, I have trouble seeing past the physical. I don't usually see what lurks beneath the surface....

And I haven't allowed more than one or two pictures of myself in almost 3 years. I hate the idea that there might be evidence to show the way that I look now, post-surgery.

So about a month ago, when I started to interact with friends on Facebook, I realized that I didn't have any good pictures of myself to post on my Facebook profile. I had a choice between old high school senior portraits and the few post-surgery photos that I allowed simply because my kids wanted me to pose for a picture. No brainer! I went with the high school photos! And it's been bugging me ever since. Why should I be ashamed of the way I look? I mean, my appearance doesn't make up who I am, so why should I let it define me?

I finally decided that it was time to have some actual photos taken, to stop being afraid of the "evidence." So I made plans with a friend of mine, Trish Larsen, who is a photographer. I showed her my old high school pictures, and I told her that I would like to take some photos in the same style - just showing me the way that I look now. And yesterday morning, we went to the little park area across from the BX here on base and she took my picture.

Okay, so here is how you know that I really am extremely shallow.... The pictures were amazing! I couldn't wait to post them up on my Facebook profile, because Trish is an absolute magician and made me look gorgeous! And I have been reveling in the praise from friends. In fact, I have been going back to my Facebook page and re-reading the comments over and over again! I feel better about myself now, with these amazing pictures that make people say I'm beautiful, than when I graduated from college with honors after only 3 1/2 years! College degree? No biggie. Building furniture for my daughter's bedroom with no training or tutorials? Okay... A great picture and friends telling me that I'm beautiful? Yeah. That's worth bragging about. That is something special and wonderful. I even caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror while I was getting dressed this morning (whoever designed these stupid base houses with mirrors all along one full wall of the master bedroom is NOT my favorite person in the world, by the way), and it didn't make me cringe. I just thought of the pretty picture I had saved to my computer upstairs, and I smiled. "I'm beautiful."
So, why is it that I can see the beauty that lies within for every other person I know? Why is it that I can glory in this friend's musical ability or that one's artistic talent, but I can't see any value in myself until and unless I am beautiful first?

Sad, maybe a little bit disheartening, not something I'm proud to admit. Yes, I am very shallow. Apparently, I care more about the way I look than about who I am. And I have to admit that my favorite reading material is now the one-line message that an old friend sent to me: "you look amazing..why do you criticize your looks" (I think I've read it about 20 times now!) Why does it matter? It doesn't, I guess. At least, it shouldn't. But I like being beautiful. I guess, deep down inside, I'm just shallow... (But don't you agree that I look good in these pictures?)

30 October 2008

I am a Novelist!

At about 2:30 this morning, I finally finished the first full draft of my novel!! Of course, I am extremely biased, but I think it turned out well. I sent the draft to my staff of volunteer proofreaders, so I guess we'll see what everyone thinks...

Right now, I am extremely tired (3 nights in a row of staying up 'til 3:00am working on the novel), but I have a great feeling of accomplishment! The next step (after some creative feedback, and many revisions I'm sure) is to submit it to a publisher - so maybe you'll see my name in print sooner than you thought!!

17 October 2008

Tired of the Childish Games

Every time an election comes up, I get more and more discouraged with the state of our government and the choices (or lack thereof) that we are presented with. This year, more than ever, I am irritated, angry, frustrated - but mostly just sad. Why is it that no one can focus on what's good for this country? Instead, we have a bunch of candidates acting like preschoolers! No, it's worse than that. With preschoolers, you can eventually get the kids to "use their nice words" and work out the differences. 9 1/2 times out of 10, you can get them to come up with a solution that actually fixes the problem, instead of continuing to blame each other for the problem.

Not the case with politics! We have gone way beyond "He did it first!" Both candidates, as far as I can tell, have been involved in some shady deals. Both are very much tied to special interest groups and lobbyists - and both are so busy pointing their fingers at the other that NEITHER is willing to take the time to talk about real issues!

As a busy, temporarily "single" mom (less than 3 months until my husband returns!), I haven't had a lot of time to watch the debates and such during this election. However, I have been setting my DVR to record things, and when I get a free moment, I watch this or that part of the debate - or an interview with one of the candidates, etc. I believe in getting as much information as possible about each candidate and each issue, so that I know what the heck I'm voting for when I send in my ballot. So, even though I'm usually a few days behind, I have been watching the coverage.

I'm tempted to stop!

I just watched an interview with Sarah Palin from earlier this week on Fox News. She spent much time talking about how the public had a "right to know" about Obama's connections with this or that individual. She called it "scary" - and she said that, because he was asking us to trust him in the Presidential office, it had to be an issue that was addressed (something like that - I wish I had written down her exact words!) Okay, so maybe she's right. Maybe the public does have a right to know who Obama bumped into when he was walking out of Starbucks on January 10, 1998. Maybe it's even significant that he spilled 5.8 drops of coffee as he tried to hold the door open for this person. (Okay, so I have no idea if Obama even goes to Starbucks - and IT DOESN'T MATTER!!!) Maybe we do need a list of each and every person that Obama has ever done business with or talked to for more than 30 seconds. It could say a lot about his character, right?

Well, here's where the HUGE double standard comes in. Immediately after Sarah Palin explained that the people had a right to know all about Obama's interactions with this particular person, the interviewer asked about McCain's business relationship with another individual. "What would you say about Senator McCain's dealings with...." We, the American people have a right to know, correct? Isn't that just what Palin had just finished saying, regarding Obama? Well, apparently, that only applies to THE OTHER GUY! Sarah Palin's response? "It's really not our place to discuss it. I'm going to decline to comment. I'll leave that up to Senator McCain." Again, not an exact quote. I was just so flabbergasted that she would take the whole "His dealings with that person are nobody's business" approach SECONDS after lambasting Obama for not being more upfront about his dealings with each and every person he may have ever talked to!

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to imply that Obama's campaign is any better. I'm just citing a specific example of the kind of depressing hypocrisy that is running rampant through this campaign! I still say that the first one to stop badmouthing their opponent and grow up will get my vote for president this year!!!

12 October 2008

The Novel is Coming Along....

I don't know how long a story has to be before it's considered a "novel" rather than a "short story," but mine is coming along pretty quickly. I am having so much fun with this. It's been too long since I wrote simply for the joy and pleasure of writing! I have even found a publishing company that caters to first-time authors that is NOT a vanity press and doesn't charge any kind of "author fees", so I am hoping to submit my book to them when it is finished.

Which brings me to my question: I think that I would like to have a few friends read the finished draft before I try to submit it for publication. I need people who can be brutally honest with me and help me to iron out all of the kinks, because I am bound and determined to see my book accepted for publication! If you think that you can fill this role for me and would like to volunteer, please do so! Thanks so much to all of you for your encouragement and support so far!

08 October 2008

I'm Gonna Go For It!

When I was young, I had two big dreams for myself. I wanted to be a mother, and I wanted to be a famous author. I've always been pretty good with children, and my own mother was such an amazing woman that I just wanted to be a mom like her. She was the original "Supermom" - she sewed clothes for us, she cooked amazing meals (from scratch - she didn't even use a mix to make birthday cakes when I was a little girl!), she volunteered at the school, at church and in the community, and she did it all on virtually no sleep, because she would also stay up half the night cleaning the house so that everything would always look perfect. Well, I have been accused of being "supermom" from time to time, but I'm just not as good at it as my mom was! (No matter how late I stay up or how early I'm out of bed in the morning, my house just never seems to sparkle...) Still, I have 4 amazing children, and they love me and tell me that I am the best mom ever, so I must be doing something right. I always thought that I would have at least 8 kids, like my parents did (I even made a set of 12 matching Christmas stockings so that I would have plenty ready for each child that came along), but I'm beginning to accept that 4 might just be enough. Our family feels complete, and I think I'm okay with my "small" family. So I have accomplished one of my major life goals. Obviously, I can't just check it off of my "to do" list and forget about it, because this is a job that takes work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - no time off for sick days or holidays. But I have great satisfaction in knowing that I am what I want to be when I grow up.

Except.... I also really want to be a "famous" author. Okay, so maybe I don't really care about fame. I just love to write, and it would be more than amazing to me to see my work on the bookstore shelf someday. When I was growing up, I told everyone that I was going to have something published before I graduated from high school. (I did actually accomplish that goal, kind of. One of my poems was published in an anthology during my senior year of high school, but I wasn't actually paid for it.) I used to enter the state young authors' competition on a regular basis, and I even won 1st place a few times. Teachers, friends, even my siblings used to tell me that I should seriously consider writing as my career, and I would always tell them that I already had chosen that path. I was so certain about my future success that I even presented a few of my friends with my "autograph" and told them to hang onto it as proof that they did, in fact, know me before I was famous. Even in college, my professors would return my papers to me with notations that told me I should continue writing and make it my career. I always just smiled and said, "Of course." There was no doubt that I was going to publish my first book before long.

I don't know exactly where I got sidetracked, but somewhere along the road to my major goal of being a great mother, I neglected my writing goal. I started telling myself that my stories were fine for personal fulfillment and for entertaining my family, but really they weren't good enough for the general public. Slowly but surely, I talked myself out of the goal and told myself that it was enough to be a great mother. I don't ever need to have any of my work published to fulfill my potential. Besides, I wouldn't even know where to begin. And I didn't want to be a "working mom." I enjoy the time I have each and every day with my children (and when would I fit a regular job into our busy schedule??)

This is all true. I don't need to be published. I am happy with who and where I am in life. I enjoy writing and telling my stories just for the enjoyment of it. Still, I've started to think about it a lot lately, and I really think that I am good enough at this to make a career out of it - without sacrificing the time I have to be a mom. In fact, most of the stories that I write are written with my children in mind. They absolutely love it when I come up with new stories to tell - especially when the story is a true story from when I was young.

So, I still don't know how to get started. I have no clue about the whole publishing process. How do you go about submitting your work anyway? (My poem in high school, I think, was submitted through the Young Author's competition and simply selected for the anthology.) I don't know. That is something I guess I will just have to find out about. But I am not going to make excuses for myself any more. I am just going to go for it!!

I have one children's book that I wrote when Ben was 3 years old, and my kids absolutely love this story. I've told the story to some of their friends too, and every child who has ever heard this story has loved it. I think I will start there. (Anyone know how you would go about getting a children's picture book published? Do I have to have the story illustrated before I submit it, or would the publisher find an illustrator to pair me up with? Where would I find a publisher in the first place? What is the process for submission? These are all questions that I need to answer...)

I'm not going to settle for just that, though. For the past couple of weeks, as I have been reading through my old journals and letters, I have come to realize that my life is pretty interesting. (Not trying to sound conceited - just observing.) My children and their friends are always asking me for new stories about things that happened to me - mostly the embarrassing jr. high and high school years. Even my own friends often end up laughing pretty hard when I start telling stories. More than that, there are some gems of wisdom to be discovered among some of the things that I have experienced (or helped friends through). I have been toying with the idea of writing a novel (or two or three) based on the experiences, thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, wishes and devastations that I have recorded on these many spiral notebooks. I have been wondering whether or not it would be interesting to anyone but me, whether this could be my great accomplishment.

Well, a couple of nights ago, I wound up chatting online with one of my best friends from high school. We haven't been great about keeping in touch over the years, so we had a lot of catching up to do. We started reminiscing about the old days, and I was laughing right out loud as I remembered myself through someone else's eyes. I started again to think about maybe turning all of this old "high school drama" into my great American novel. Then, as we talked about the direction our lives had taken us, and admitted that neither of us would trade what we have now for what we thought we wanted back in the day, he told me that I really should write a book based on my old diaries. Then, of course, he proceeded to tell me exactly how he should be portrayed in my new book. We'll have to see about that, but I am going to write it.

Of course (here's the disclaimer), this will be a work of FICTION!! Everyone in the story (including "me") will be a composite character. I couldn't work everyone into one story if I tried, so I will combine qualities that I remember from 4 or 5 people at a time into each character. (Those of you who knew me back in the day may see yourself or someone you know, but some of my friends' qualities are divided between 2 or 3 different characters in my story. Didn't want to make anyone too familiar!!) And I reserve the right to give myself whatever qualities I choose, or even to become a minor character in the background of the story if it goes in that direction, by the way. There will be events in this story that actually happened, events that are representative of a combination of actual events, events that I wished would actually happen, events that I was afraid would happen and even some events that only ever occurred in my dreams/nightmares!! Hopefully, it will become something that will be a fun story to read as just a pure work of fiction, a hilarious trip down memory lane for those of you who walked the path with me on this part of the journey, a reminder that we are more than we believe ourselves to be and a recognition that each person who enters our lives blesses us with a little part of who we become, even if the encounter is a painful one. Just don't assume too much. This isn't an expose. When (notice, I said when not if) this book is published, you can read it with confidence, knowing that even though it might be based on real events, most of the things that happen in my story didn't actually happen that way in real life. (I reserve the right to throw in one or two events as they actually occurred - just to keep everyone guessing!!)

So wish me luck! Pray for me! Any encouragement you wish to offer will be greatly appreciated, as I know I will go through valleys where I doubt the wisdom of this endeavor. Any stories that you remember (about me or not) from those jr. high/high school years would be appreciated too. Who knows? Your stories might also make it into my book!

05 October 2008

Flashback to 1993!

Wow! I guess that things don't change much over time, do they? I've been so pleased with myself lately for coming to the realization that it's impossible to recognize ourselves as we really are (see my theory about that on the post from earlier today). I guess I've been thinking about it longer than a few months, though.... From an entry in my Diary (Monday, March 8, 1993):

"Ya know, I just thought of something... Why is it that we can never recognize our own voice when we hear it on tape, but we always assume it's our own face we see when we look in the mirror? And what if the color red to me looks like the color blue looks to someone else? How could you ever know? Just think, I could see myself as someone completely opposite of how everyone else sees me? Maybe that's the problem..."

I guess I've had glimmers of my theory of self-perception for years, just not in the concrete terms I've been thinking in the last little while... (Thanks again, Colby, for making me want to read through these old notes and journals again!! What a trip!)

My Theory of Self-Perception

Wait! Stop! If I have asked you to help me out with my theory by writing a description of me as you see me, please write the description before you read this! (Otherwise, your response might be influenced by what you read!!) If you have already completed your description, then here is the explanation I promised you. I realized that it might be difficult to email this long and convoluted theory to everyone, so I figured this way you can read it at your leisure while being seranaded by my wonderful playlist of my life's theme songs....

Oh! And if you have no idea what I'm talking about here, that means I probably don't have an email address or anything for you, because I've been requesting help from virtually everyone who has ever met me! If you would like to participate, I would love your help - I'm asking everyone to describe me as if you were explaining who "Veronica" is to someone who has never met me. This includes physical characteristics, personality traits, annoying habits, irritating qualities, even your impression of our relationship... The good, the bad and the ugly! Please don't sugarcoat anything or try to be nice - just hard, honest opinions. You can email me or post a comment here with your response (or, you can send me a message on Facebook - I check that regularly too). Thanks so much for your help, everyone!!!

And now, without further ado...

My Theory of Self-Perception!

I suspect that we never see ourselves the way other people see us. (Okay, I admit, that’s kind of a “duh!” statement, isn’t it?) We always grossly undervalue ourselves as we compare our weakest traits with the strongest traits of those around us. Thus, our self-image is never entirely accurate. Further, our perceptions of other people reflect the way we see ourselves, and we assign motivation to others’ actions based on the way that we see ourselves. In other words, what we think that other people think of us and the way we react to other people is based on the way we see ourselves and has nothing really to do with the way people actually see us. Okay, this is harder to explain than I thought. It all makes sense in my mind – let’s see if I can figure out how to express it…. (I wish I’d had a recorder going the other night when I was explaining my theory to my friend on the phone – it all came out clearly then…..)

Hmmm…. I guess the only way to really describe what I’m thinking is by making it really personal. I know how I think about myself. I could sit down and give you a detailed description of who I am – from physical appearance to talents and abilities to personality traits and even a full analysis of how much other people like to be around me. This mental picture of myself determines the way that I act in various social settings. This, in turn, influences the way that other people are able to interact with me. I shape my relationships with other people based on what I believe a relationship with “someone like me” should be.

However, my mental picture rarely matches up with (and is often the exact opposite of) what other people actually see, and I suspect that my friends and acquaintances see the relationships based on differing perceptions. In other words, I don’t see the same kind of relationship between myself and a friend as that particular friend sees between us. We have, in essence, 2 very different relationships within the same friendship, based on point of view. (My relationship with you is not the same as your relationship with me.) My theory is that the conflicts we have in life rise from the fact that we are living our lives in “one-sided” relationships that only sometimes intersect, and because we have the tendency to assume that our relationships have 2 sides to them, we are surprised/irritated/saddened when the other party suddenly doesn’t act as if he/she is in the same relationship that we are in. (The truth is, they’re not.)

For instance, I have always been very self-conscious of my body. I started developing early in the 4th grade, and I was wearing a bra before any of my friends. By 8th grade, I was wearing a D cup, and I felt like I really “stuck out” in a crowd (pardon the pun)!! It didn’t help when I would hear people talk about how “unrealistic” and “degrading” a Barbie doll was because of her massive chest and tiny waist. I used to hear people talk about what Barbie’s measurements would be if she were life-sized and how much of a freak she would be – and then I would go home and cry my eyes out because, if the proportions quoted were accurate, my waist and hips matched Barbie’s. The only difference? My chest was bigger!!! (I determined then and there that my daughters would someday have lots of Barbie dolls to play with!!!) Anyway, I have always been so conscious of my body that it’s hard to imagine anyone else noticing my other qualities. I didn’t date much in high school because I could never find anyone who cared at all about my personality or my intellect. I’m beginning to wonder if my own perception of myself as “too voluptuous” didn’t just translate into the way I assumed everyone else saw me too. Were there guys who would have dated me in high school? Maybe there were. Maybe they even would have been interested in a real relationship where we could have an intelligent conversation. Maybe I just didn’t see it. Maybe I didn’t have to spend so many lonely nights…

On the other hand, I have always been “the smart one” while Carin was “the pretty one” and Angie was “the popular one” and Sheryl was “the artistic one.” (Carin, Angie and Sheryl are my 3 sisters.) I was reading before I started Kindergarten (Carin was a really good teacher), and as far back as I can remember, I knew that I was “super smart.” At first, it was really cool, but then I started to suspect that it was the only thing I would ever be remembered for. I knew that smart = nerdy and geeky, so I wasn’t surprised when I never had any really close friends. Who wants to hang out with the class geek on a Friday night? Whenever I was in a group of people and they started making plans for the weekend, I would quietly slip away and find a quiet place to cry (I still do that, actually), because I knew I wouldn’t be invited along. Every once in a while, I would “get desperate” and “invite myself along” – and I always had tons of fun! We would end up laughing the entire time! Then, I would come home and (more often than not), I would cry myself to sleep wondering what jokes were being made at my expense once I was safely out of earshot. (I still do that too, come to think of it.) Now, I wonder whether my perception of myself as a geek is all that accurate. Were (are) they really just laughing at me, or were they actually laughing with me and enjoying my company? Was I really forcing myself into the group when I “invited myself along” or were those merely the times that I didn’t turn away from the implied invitation that everyone else thought I already understood???

It might seem odd that I have simultaneous fears that I would be noticed only for my brain or only for my mind. Okay, it is odd. I guess I don’t have an explanation for that one. The only thing that I can say is that I have always had kind of a clear division in my mind about who I am in which situation. When I was with guys that I was attracted to, I was certain that the only thing that I had to offer was my body. (And since I wasn’t willing to actually offer that, I figured that I was out of luck.) With family members, girls or any guys that are “just friends” I always feel like that geeky nerd that everyone loves to make fun of. I have always felt that I might never have any real friends because none of the “cool kids” ever wants to hang out with the “geek!”

At the same time, I’ve always been “the good little girl.” I have an intense desire to be “perfect” in everything that I do. I decided years ago that I had to always do the right thing and I couldn’t slip up. I want to be the best I can possibly be in every aspect of everything I try. Of course, it only makes sense to me that everyone else would have the same desire, so I try to always help my friends and family members see their wonderful qualities and to reach their full potential. I like to try to point out the good in everyone and help them to recognize their strengths. I often wonder why people sometimes act like they think I won’t forgive them for little (sometimes big) mistakes. Why would I hold a grudge against someone just because they aren’t perfect? Well, is it possible that in my quest to obtain perfection for myself, I give off a vibe that says nothing less than “perfect” is acceptable to me? That would be awfully intimidating, wouldn’t it? It could explain why my children get so upset when I try to offer correction…

Honestly, for years, it never occurred to me that other people might see me in a different light than the one in which I see myself. But a few years ago, I had an experience that really got me wondering. I had my 10-year class reunion coming up, and I decided that I absolutely had to be there. To tell the truth, I didn’t expect anyone to remember me. I anticipated a weekend of standing “all by myself” in a corner, watching all of the “cool kids” reminisce about the days of yore. However, I absolutely had to be there, because I remembered a friend from high school, Sean Andersen, telling me one day that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t find anyone to date me because at our 10-year class reunion, I would show up with my perfect husband and 4 kids, and I would still look absolutely amazing, and all of the pretty, popular girls would be jealous while all of the guys who wouldn’t give me the time of day would be kicking themselves over what they let slip away. Well, as the time approached for the reunion, I realized that I had a pretty amazing husband who treats me like a queen and 4 very beautiful children. What’s more, I was wearing the same size jeans that I wore in high school. So of course, I had to go “get my revenge!” I figured that, even though I would spend the entire time “by myself” I could be smug about the fact that I got everything I was supposed to have!! I warned Phil, my husband, that we probably wouldn’t have anyone but each other to talk to, then I bought the tickets and we made the trip.

Imagine my surprise when we walked in the door and the first person I saw not only recognized me but wanted to actually talk to me!! Repeatedly, throughout the weekend, friends approached me to reminisce about the high school years and to catch up on the 10 years or so since we had last seen each other. At first, I just chalked it up to the fact that you’re supposed to be nostalgic at class reunions. But then, something very strange happened. People started telling Phil, “Your wife was the most popular girl in our entire class. Everyone wanted to be her friend, and we always wanted to be the lucky ones that got to go out and do things with her or to hang out at her house.” (I always thought that people were coming over to see my sisters….) I left the reunion in a state of shock. Could it be that I’m not the social leper I always thought I was? Could it be that when I thought I was being excluded from the fun, my friends thought that I must have other plans with someone else? Could it be that I wasted so many tears and sleepless nights?? Ultimately, I decided that I must have just imagined the reunion experience. I just wanted to be popular so badly that I created a delusion for the weekend. After all, who would ever think that some geeky girl whose only redeeming quality was a good body could ever possibly be one of the most popular girls in school?

That might be the end of the story, if it weren’t for my children.

My son, Benjamin, is 10 this year, and he is the most popular kid I have ever known. This kid makes friends so easily that I am amazed. We can be walking through Wal-Mart and he will see someone his age and strike up a conversation. Before we make it down the aisle, invariably his “new friend” is begging mommy or daddy to get our phone number so that they can get together sometime! Ben makes this whole friend thing seem absolutely effortless! In fact, in 1st grade, I had to sit him down and have a discussion with him about treating people with kindness when I heard from the other moms in the class that their kids were coming home and asking to look at the calendar so that they could find out how many days it was until the day that Ben agreed to play with them at recess. (I explained to him that sometimes he could play with more than one friend at a time at recess, and that mostly solved the problem. He was only scheduled a week in advance, and I guess the other kids were okay with that.) I look at him and think, “This kid will never be lonely. He will always have more friends than he can make time for!”

My daughter, Emily (who turned 8 this year), isn’t quite as outgoing as Ben is, but she consistently has a small group of friends that she hangs out with. Being in the military, she often has to say goodbye when one of her small group of friends moves away, but at the same time, she is usually first to make friends with the new kids, and so her circle of friends stays pretty consistent in number. I think it is absolutely amazing that, even though she is incredibly shy and reserved, she can reach out to people like that and make lasting friendships.

Rebekah and Katherine (6 and 4, respectively) constantly have other kids seeking them out. They walk into a room, and it’s like everyone has just been waiting for them to arrive. “Becky Bartles! Becky Bartles! Sit by me!” “Hey! It’s Katherine!! I want to sit by Katherine!!” As I watch these two little ones, I’m sure I’ll never have to worry about them being lonely, even if we have to move regularly with the military. (Actually, we’re moving for the first time in 7 years this January, but we could end up moving more frequently… You never know with the Air Force!)

Anyway, my point is that I watch my children and wonder how I will ever relate to any of their issues as they grow up. How could the girl who never had any friends, the girl who couldn’t get a single guy to date her all through high school, the girl who cried herself to sleep more often than not ever possibly understand the difficulties that arise from having too many friends? What advice will I give my daughters, for instance, when they have to choose which of the 4 or 5 guys that have asked them to Prom to say yes to? (I still wish I’d had the opportunity to go to my Prom!!!) I feel like an ugly little caterpillar compared to these social butterflies!!!
So imagine my absolute SHOCK when I found Benjamin in his room, crying because he didn’t have any friends!!!! He honestly believed that no one really wanted to play with him at recess, and they must be laughing at him because he is shorter than the rest of them! After I picked myself up off the floor, I comforted him the best way I could. We talked about all of the friends he does have, and he made quite a list. Still, as I walked away, I wasn’t really sure that I was able to convince him of what I see. I don’t think he realizes how popular he is, and how much all of the other kids enjoy spending time with him. He has convinced himself that he isn’t athletic and that he’s too small, so he is sure that the other kids don’t want him to join in their games. Yet, everywhere we go, we see someone that is beyond excited to see him – obviously, the kid has friends!!!

It’s really made me think. All along, I have been telling myself that who I am really depends upon how other people see me. But maybe the opposite is really true. Maybe the way that I see myself determines the way that I perceive others’ impression of me. If that’s true, then I have no need to ever be lonely again. All of my lonely moments may just be my own fault (gasp)! Maybe I don't need to be sad about my lonely adolescent years. Instead, I need to re-evaluate what really happened during those years and realize that maybe I wasn't as alone as I thought I was. Maybe we all define ourselves according to some ridiculous and impossible standard and then imagine that everyone else sees only those qualities we see in the fun-house mirror we insist upon standing in front of!!! Maybe we need to step back and take a look through the window instead.

02 October 2008

I Wonder.....

So, thanks to Colby, I have been having tons of fun this week, reading through my old journals and notes and letters from Jr. High and High School. I was "truly in love" with a different guy each week, it seems! It really makes me giggle and smile to see how silly the drama was. I can't believe some of the things that I got so worked up about!!

At the same time, it makes me kind of sad. I wasted a lot of my adolescent years finding fault with every aspect of myself, and I spent a lot of time explaining to myself why I was so disliked and truly hated by everyone I knew. I didn't ever have a boyfriend in high school. (In fact, I only went on a handful of dates before I graduated!) I was absolutely convinced that it was because there really wasn't anything to like about me. I could sit and write in my journal for hours, listing all of my wonderful and amazing qualities, and then debunking each and every one of them!

Now, as I read through these old journals and letters, I can see that I was really missing a lot of the picture of who I really was. I was pretty amazing, and I really had a lot of good friends who stuck by me through some really difficult and trying times. But the really sad thing is that I have noticed that I still often do the same thing to myself that I used to do back then. Whenever I start to recognize and appreciate the wonderful qualities that I possess, some little part of me kicks into gear and picks apart all of my talents until I'm left with a big lot of nothing. Countless times, throughout my teenage years, I wrote with amazement and wonder because somebody said hi to me or invited me to go somewhere or do something with them. I never could believe that it was really because they enjoyed my company, and so I always analyzed, reanalyzed and over-analyzed the situation until I could come up with a rational excuse for why they "really" wanted me along. (If we took my car, I knew that I was invited just because my car was big enough to hold everyone. If we spent the entire evening laughing and having a great time, I just knew that everyone was secretly laughing at me and making fun....)

I still do it. A few weeks ago, I went to Sacramento with some friends to a Time Out for Women event. We left our kids and husbands at home (those of us whose husbands are overseas or something got babysitters), and we had 2 days of fun "girl time." This was in the planning stages for months! Originally, I wasn't even going to think about going, because I knew that it would be difficult to find an overnight babysitter for my kids while Phil is overseas. But my friends worked long and hard to convince me that I needed to go along. I had SIX different friends working on me, repeatedly inviting me along and telling me that I just had to go because we would have so much fun! Finally, I realized that I really did need a break from "mommy time" and that it would be really fun to spend two whole days with so many friends who obviously enjoyed my company enough to make sure I was coming along!! And it really was tons of fun! We stayed up until almost 3:00 in the morning, giving each other pedicures and laughing and giggling and just acting like teenagers. Then, we settled down and everyone went to bed (we had to be up again by 6:00 for the second day of the conference!) - and I spent the rest of the night quietly crying to myself, because for some reason, I was certain that no one really wanted me there. I even told myself that they had only invited me along because they needed me to help with the cost of the hotel room!!!! Now, of course, I know that is completely untrue. It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, logically. Still, I can give all kinds of "evidence" that "proves" my theory..... Just like I did in high school....

For years, I have looked back on my adolescent years and thought about how sad it was that I spent so much of my life "alone" - I was sure that I was the most unpopular kid in my class. Then, I went to my 10-year high school reunion a couple of years ago. I went, by the way, because way back in high school, a friend of mine (Sean Andersen) told me that I shouldn't worry about not finding a guy willing to date me, because at our 10-year class reunion, I would show up with my perfect husband and 4 children, and I would still have a phenomenal figure and look absolutely amazing. Well, as luck would have it, in 2005, my husband (who is madly in love with me) was just back from a year-long tour in Korea, and I had 4 beautiful, amazing children - AND I was wearing the same size jeans that I wore in high school, and I looked good!! So when I heard about the reunion, of course, I had to go fulfill Sean's prophesy!! (Too bad I didn't see him there.....)

Anyway, I went to this reunion, and I introduced my husband to all of my old high school acquaintances. I was extremely shocked and amazed to find that so many people remembered me! In fact, there were even a couple of people who came over to reminisce with me that I didn't even remember..... The thing that really got me, though, was that several of these people informed Phil that I was "the most popular girl in our class" and that "everyone wanted to be [my] friend"!! Why didn't I remember it that way? What was I missing?

It really has me wondering: I know how I saw myself in high school.... I wonder how other people saw me? And I know how I see myself now.... Is that really an accurate picture of who I am????

So, my question is (and feel free to post your honest comments - good or bad - I'm on a mission of self-discovery here).... Who is Veronica? If you were to describe me to a total stranger, what would you say about me? Thanks in advance for your input!! I hope to hear from you all really soon!!!!!

28 September 2008


Colby had a fun post on her blog this week about "Project Mortified" (I think that's what it's called, at least) - where you look through your old journals / poetry / stories / letters from when you were young and publicly share some of the embarrassing writing that makes up who you are. I think that this is a terrific idea! I'm always up for some public humiliation! In fact, my kids' favorite way to pass the time is hearing about the embarrassing stories of my childhood - and they usually get me to tell these embarrassing stories to their friends as well!!

Anyway, as I read Colby's post and determined that I would also participate in this project, I knew exactly what journal entry I wanted to find - I have the perfect "Mortified" story!! I spent the afternoon yesterday reading through my old journals to find the entry. Unfortunately, as I searched through my box of journals, I realized that the journal from that particular time period is missing!! That means you get a bonus, because I'm going to tell you about my mortifying moment, and then I will also share a snippet from one of the journals I have as well - Wow! A two-fer!!

Okay, so probably the most embarrassing, mortifying moment of my entire life was when I was in 9th grade. We had just moved from Rock Springs to Cheyenne (Wyoming), and I was just starting to get to know people and make friends. Well, one day, after school, I was standing around with one of my new friends, Amy, while we waited for our parents to come pick us up. (We had stayed after school for an extra band practice.) We were the only 2 people still waiting for our rides, and we were a little bit bored and getting silly, so while we waited, we started making fun of this really silly commercial that was on the radio all of the time. It was for the E.P.T. pregnancy test, and it was a bunch of girls saying "Mike, I hope I'm pregnant" "Bob, what if I'm pregnant?" "Bryan, I think I'm pregnant..." (etc.) So we were quoting the commercial and really hamming it up. I got all melodramatic and said (rather loudly), "Bryan, I think I'm pregnant!" Suddenly, Amy's face went absolutely white and she got this panicked look on her face. I asked what was wrong, and she couldn't even speak - just pointed behind me. So I turned around and was absolutely MORTIFIED to see Bryan Bell standing right behind me!!!! I had just met him that morning (maybe it was the day before, but I think it was that day), so we didn't know each other very well - and he was incredibly freaked out that I would be "sharing" such personal information with him!!! I really wanted to sink into the floor! Of course, I had to quickly explain to him that it was NOT what he was thinking - the last thing I needed at my brand-new school was for the rumors to start flying! Here we are, 17 years later, and when I think of "the most embarrassing thing that has happened to me in my life," that one still tops the list!

Of course, I found plenty of "mortifying" moments in the pages of my old journals. I think that the hardest part of this whole thing is narrowing it down and trying to figure out what to post for all to see and laugh about!! I think that I will have to go with an installment of a story that a friend and I were writing together. We were really bored one day and writing notes back and forth in school, and Jenni wrote, "Did you know that Jack threw Jill down the hill and got himself in trouble with George because he loved Jill. Then George's dad didn't want Jill even near George and so he went to Jill's house and made Jan, Jill's sister go to the mountains and eat with the hungry bears. Then Veronica got mad at George because Jan was her best friend, she was so mad and then Veronica went right over to George's house and gave him some of her mind and then she couldn't think anymore! So she wandered around the countryside lonely until...." Jenni left the story for me to add to, and of course I did, and we passed the story back and forth for weeks! Of course, it got more and more bizarre with each installment, and we managed to work in the guys we had crushes on and all kinds of weird "romantic" episodes. The funny thing is, I was fighting with the guy she had a crush on (don't remember why, but I swore up and down that I would never speak to him again for as long as I lived), so I kept trying to write him out of the story. Meanwhile, apparently, I had a ton of different guys that I was "in love with" and they all had to have a part in the story, but Jenni really didn't like one of them, so she kept trying to turn him into the villain.....

So here is one page out of our "masterpiece"!! (In case you can't read this lovely scanned image, I will transcribe:)


"I'll just start with the story. "Oh no! cried Jenni... "She really is crazy! Everyone's always saying that she is, but I never thought they were serious!" "What's wrong with being crazy?" Chris, Jason and Kenya all yelled together. "Vern wouldn't be Vern if she wasnt' crazy!" "I'm sorry people," the policeman interrupted, "but we came to arrest someone, so one of you is coming with us! We don't know which one of you is guilty, but I think Vern had every right to try to kill Jon. It's obvious that she's telling the truth, but we can see Jenni and Jon's point of view too. Who should we arrest? I know. You! - You're under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. If you don't want to be silent, you can talk." They grabbed Toby's arms and dragged him off into the woods. He was protesting all the way. As soon as they were gone, Vern ran to Chris and thanked him. Then..... Your turn! What happens next?


Let me just say, this was truly a masterpiece! It's hard to believe that such an amazing work of fiction was written by two 9th-grade girls in between classes, isn't it???

Thanks, Colby, for sending me on this stroll down memory lane with all of the grins and giggles it produced along the way!!

16 September 2008

The Importance of Friendship

My friends and family are the most important things in the world to me. I try to always be there for my friends, no matter what, and I know I have friends who would do the same for me. (It amazes me how easily I arranged babysitting for my kids for my trip to Maryland next week! I thought that it was going to take a monstrous effort with lots of schedule juggling and bribery, but all it took was a couple of phone calls! In fact, I wound up with more people willing to help out than I actually needed!! Thanks guys!!)

I must admit, though, that my level of commitment to my friends didn't actually hit me until tonight. At about 8:00 tonight, as I was tucking my kids into bed (it was a late night for us - they're usually in bed by 7:00, but I was chatting with Phil about houses on the webcam and lost track of the time), the phone rang. It was my good friend, Elizabeth. She was playing a game with the Officer's Spouses club, and they needed to know the address for the U-Fix-It shop on base. Of course, none of them knew the address, but Elizabeth remembered that it was just down the street from me, so she called. I couldn't remember the address either, and it was dark enough that I couldn't see clearly to count how many houses were between my house and the U-Fix-It shop. So what did I do? I set down the phone, slipped on some flip-flops, grabbed a flashlight and ran down to the end of the block to read the address for her!

No big deal, right? Okay, so if you know me well, you know that I am terrified of being outside in the dark! If I forget to turn my sprinkler off before the sun fully sets, it stays on until morning, because I start hyperventilating when I think of going out to my porch (with the porch light on) to turn off the hose! Yet, my friend called to ask a favor, and without even thinking about it, I not only went outside in the dark, but because it was too dark to see clearly between my house and the end of the block, I ran through the shadows all the way to the end of the block, among the vacant lots and abandoned houses to get an address so that Elizabeth could get a few extra points in her game!!! Then, I ran back home and gave her the address and hung up the phone. And only then did it hit me what I had just done! Maybe that should have been an empowering moment, when I realized that it is incredibly silly to have such an irrational fear of the dark. Perhaps it should help me to get over this silly fear, so that I can go outside and turn off the sprinkler that is still running before I go to bed.... But, yeah, that's not what happened. No, instead, here I sit in awe and wonder that I would do something so completely out of character just because a friend needed my help! (I may or may not gather the courage to go out and turn off the sprinkler that is still on in my yard tonight.) I guess friendship really is a powerfully motivating force!

12 September 2008

I Want to Write a Song!

People always tell me that I have an amazing voice. It didn't come easily. I practice singing all the time. (My dad told me, when I was a little girl, that if I practiced every day, I would be able to have that beautiful singing voice that I wanted, and so I have!) I love to sing, and I hope it doesn't sound conceited, but I freely admit that I do actually have a great voice - it's an amazing talent that I like to share as much as possible, so I'm always ready to join a choir or sing a solo whenever I'm asked. Again, I'm not trying to brag, but I think people like to hear me sing as much as I like to sing for them!

I have even had people tell me that I should sing professionally. I've had total strangers advise me to audition for America's Top Idol (that doesn't seem right - what is the name of that show? - anyway, I'm sure you know which one I'm talking about). When Phil was at DLI, one of his classmates heard me singing lullabies to Ben and said that I put him to sleep too - which might not sound like a compliment, unless you take into consideration the fact that this guy had a really bad case of insomnia. He hadn't been able to sleep for about a week, and he was so tired that all he wanted was a good nap! But every time he tried to sleep, he just couldn't keep his eyes closed. He told Phil that, listening to me sing, he had the best rest he'd had for weeks!

Anyway, every time someone suggests that I might consider trying to make a career out of singing, I have always just kind of shrugged it off. I can't see myself as a famous person. I'm just little old me, quietly filling up the background and trying not to stand out in the crowd. I don't think I would even know what to do if the spotlight was on me!

Still, there is that part of me that really wants to try. I remember when I was in Jr. High School, and my sister and cousins and I decided that we would form a band and become famous singers. We wrote a song together and practiced hard - and everyone said that it was really good.... until we got in a fight over some silly little thing, and I tore up the music and stormed off. (Who knows? Maybe we would have been something great...) Ever since, I have wanted to try it again, but I haven't ever really had the courage to make the attempt.

Lately, I've been thinking about it a lot. I've found myself listening almost exclusively to music by artists who write their own songs, and I keep thinking, "what if?" I don't think I'll ever be famous - I have no clue as to how someone even goes about recording an actual cd. I wouldn't even know how to start that process. (I really can't see myself auditioning for one of those reality show competitions - since I can't even bring myself to watch them!!) Still, it would be cool to write songs.

Last year, I got to write the songs for our ward roadshow (for church), and I had so much fun in the process. I didn't write the music, I just put my own lyrics to music that people already knew (mostly Primary songs), but I was pretty proud of the lyrics I came up with - and everyone told me that it was really good. And I used to write poetry that people told me was pretty good - so I think I could write lyrics for a song....

Recently, I tried my hand a little bit at composing music too. There is a song that was written for our Stake Young Women's camp when I was 12 years old - I love this song! Anyway, the lady who wrote it for our Young Women (I think she was in the Stake Young Women's presidency) gave us the lyrics and taught us the melody so that we could all sing it together, but as far as I know, she never wrote out the music for the song. Over the years, I have wished on several occasions that I had the music so that someone could accompany me on the piano while I sang the song. So, finally, I decided to try it myself. I bought a program for my computer for composing music. You can put in the notes, and it will play it back for you so that you know what it sounds like. I played around with it, singing along with the computer until I got the notes, the rhythms and the tempo just right for the entire melody. Then, it occurred to me that I have never seen a piano accompaniment for a song that didn't have some notes for the left hand to play to fill in the sounds... So I spent a few weeks composing the rest of the accompaniment - and it turned out great! Right now, I am in the process of trying to learn how to play it myself, and it's pretty difficult, but I'm confident that eventually, I can learn it.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a Time Out for Women event in Sacramento. It's put on by Deseret Books, and if you've never heard of it (I hadn't until my friends told me that I should come with them), let me just tell you that it is such an amazing experience! If you ever have the opportunity, you need to make sure to go! (They also have Time Out for Couples and Time Out for Women & Girls - something to fit just about anyone!) It was a 2-day event, filled with musical numbers and inspirational speakers and a generous dose of the Spirit! As I listened to Kenneth Cope and Cherie Call singing their amazing songs, it reawakened my dream of writing music. I have so much to be grateful for - so many blessings that I have been given - and mere words never seem to be adequate to express my gratitude. So I have been thinking about it all week, and I've finally decided that I'm just going to jump in! I'm going to start writing songs. Maybe they will be amazing masterpieces, or maybe they won't be any good at all, but I'll never know if I don't try it, will I?

01 September 2008

I'm So Loved!!

I was sick this weekend. I caught the yucky bug that seems to be going around here lately. All of my friends and/or their children have been sick in the past couple of weeks - starting the night before school started. Actually, I guess I'm a bit surprised that I managed to avoid catching the bug for as long as I did, but it hit me pretty hard this weekend. I was wiped out - didn't get to do anything fun!! I had to stay home from church yesterday, because I felt like I was going to pass out or throw up or both every time I got out of bed. You know me, it's like torture to stay home from church. - And of course, I always feel guilty for not being there to fulfill my calling or to take my children to church....

Well, I must say that I was very proud of Rebekah. Knowing that I was sick and couldn't take her to church didn't quench her determination to make it there. She got all dressed and ready to go, and then she picked up the phone and called my friend, Elizabeth, to ask for a ride! (Ben then tagged along, so he got to go to church too.) -- Katie would have done the same, but she was sick too, so I wouldn't let her go to church, and she wasn't very happy about that!! It always makes me so proud to see that my kids have their priorities straight. I don't know if I would have been that dedicated at age 6....

Anyway, I feel extremely loved. Elizabeth not only gave my children a ride to and from church, but then she brought me dinner so that I didn't have to cook - and when she dropped it off, she stayed and washed my dishes for me!! Wow! Talk about spoiled! Maybe I should get sick more often! (Just kidding - it's not worth it, even for that!)

Elizabeth wasn't the only one, though. I had TWO other friends call to check on me and to offer to bring me dinner or whatever else I needed in order to feel better. (Thanks Regina and Barb!) I guess sometimes the Lord gives us trials in order to remind us how lucky and blessed and loved we truly are!!

30 August 2008

Random Thoughts

First the frivolous: I love peanut butter!! Lately, I just can't get enough of the stuff. No, I'm not pregnant - it's not some weird craving like that (my husband is overseas, remember?) I don't know really why, but tastes are strange sometimes, you know? I used to be a huge peanut butter addict. I suppose that there's a reason that my kids like to spread it on thick. I used to go through a jar a week! Then, when I was pregnant with Becky, I suddenly couldn't stand the stuff. It made me so sick whenever I ate peanut butter, and for years, even the smell of it has been enough to turn my stomach. My kids still loved it, and I am determined not to pass on my food prejudices whenever I can avoid it, but it has been so hard to serve PB&J with a smile when I was sickened by the thought of it!! So, a couple of weeks ago, I got a craving for chocolate peanut-butter ice cream. It just sounded so good to me, but unfortunately, most brands of ice cream lately have palm kernel oil, which does not do well in my system. So I tried to ignore the craving. Then, I was at Target with Katie, and we picked up a few groceries (which I never do, but I really didn't want to make a separate trip to the grocery store). As we passed through the frozen foods aisle, Katie pointed out the ice cream that was on sale. It was the Target generic brand - chocolate peanut butter, with no palm kernel oil!! I bought it, even though it wasn't on my list, and proceeded to eat the entire 1 1/2 quart container of ice cream in only a week!!! (Usually, a container of ice cream will last me for about 1 1/2 months, because I'm not usuallly an ice cream fan...) Then, the kids asked for peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, and it smelled so good that I made one for myself as well. It was the yummiest dinner!!! I guess that whatever happened when I was pregnant with Becky has finally worn off. It just goes to show that tastes change. Just because you don't like something right now doesn't necessarily mean you won't like it tomorrow. You just have to keep trying new (and sometimes even old) things!!

Speaking of the old and the new, McCain has picked his running mate, so now it's official: no matter who we elect this year, we will have a historic "first" in the Presidential elections. Either we will have the first woman or the first black in office. So now, the question remains: Who will be the "first" to set aside petty partisan politics and work for what is actually best for this country, instead of what will make the best sound bite to make him (or her) the most popular with shallow, self-centered American voters? Who will be the "first" to risk the chance of not getting re-elected in order to truly accomplish something in his first term? Who will be the "first" to say: "I don't care about being popular, I only care about doing what is right for the American people" - and mean it? Who will be the "first" to draw together the warring political parties and work for the country as a whole, and not just for the special interests of the few who donated the most to the campaign? Who will be the "first" to put aside what he wants in favor of what we, as a nation, need?? That person would be my pick - no matter what other qualifications he did or did not have!

On another note, sometimes, I wonder at the level of incompetence in military circles. In the civilian world, I guarantee that people would lose their jobs for the haphazard way things are sometimes handled! Case in point: with our attempt to get medical clearance to go to Korea with Phil, it took 7 months for our paperwork to be processed!! Was this because my medical issues are so severe or confusing that it took them ages to wade through all of the paperwork and red tape? No. It's because they decided that they needed more documentation, but they neglected to tell me about this extra documentation... So, as I called and emailed repeatedly, wondering about the status of our application (calls that went straight to voice mail and emails that weren't acknowledged, by the way), our paperwork was sitting at the bottom of a pile of paperwork on someone's desk!! And when I finally got frustrated and physically went into the office to find out the status, I was able to get the extra medical records to them fairly quickly. I was assured: "I am going to send this off right now, and I'll tag it so that they know to rush the process. You should hear a decision within 2 weeks." So that took care of the problem, right? Wrong! The paperwork was not processed. Instead, it was pushed to the bottom of a pile of papers, and the Ssgt in charge went on leave for a few weeks - without giving her alternate any updates on anything!! It took me weeks to again get in contact with anyone (phone calls and emails unacknowledged), at which time, I found that I had been waiting in vain! My application hadn't even been submitted yet! (The alternate finally submitted my application while the gal who was in charge was on leave - I guess I'm glad she had to take leave, or I'd still be waiting to hear on that one!!)

All of that work, and what was the result? Denied, of course. In fact, they looked at our files and announced, "With these codes, you (Phil) shouldn't even be here (in Korea)!" Funny how they ignore regulations when it's convenient, isn't it? This is the 2nd time that Phil has served a remote tour to Korea in spite of the codes that say he shouldn't be sent overseas because of my brain tumor! And are they going to send him home early because it turns out that he shouldn't be there in the first place? Of course not!

So, now that our clearance has been denied for Korea, we find that my brain tumor means we have to go through the entire clearance process again for our orders to Maryland. Phil can't get his orders (which means he can't come home from Korea) until I'm cleared for that base. No problem, we turned in all of that paperwork, so they can just submit all of our information to the new base, right? Of course not! We have to go through the entire process again!

Wednesday, when Phil told me about this, I went in to the clinic here to find out why they couldn't just process it with the paperwork they have on file. Apparently, it has to be done within 6 months of his return date. So they informed me that they can't actually start the clearance process until next month because it has to be within 6 months! I'm not quite sure which calendar they go by here at the Beale AFB clinic, but my calendar at home says that there are only 4 months left before January... It's no wonder that orders sometimes take so long to get to people, if the different agencies involved in the inprocessing and outprocessing of personnel all have different, top-secret calendars with extra months! It makes sense that things would get a little bit screwy if you don't know to take those extra months into consideration when planning a move! (Too bad the rest of us don't know how to add extra time to our lives at will....)

Still, even with the extra months that they've appropriated for themselves, it seems that the staff at the clinic here can't manage time for training in privacy laws. The Ssgt in charge of this clearance process, in explaining to me why I was wrong in worrying about the time it would take to process all of this paperwork again (in addition to telling me that my past experience with her had absolutely no bearing on how well she would do her job this time: "You have to quit worrying about what happened in the past, ma'am.") - actually referenced the case of a friend of mine!! Now, I admit that I'm not a lawyer, but I was sure that it is against the law to discuss, in any detail, a case with anyone not authorized to share in that information! Now, she didn't go into much detail, but she did make some pretty discriminating comments, announcing that my friend was having trouble with her clearance because "you have to expect that when you have as many children as (they) have." Of course, I let my friend know about the exchange, and she is now in the process of filing a complaint for privacy violations. - Because it doesn't matter that this happened to be a friend of mine, and it doesn't even matter that I already knew everything about that particular case, because this friend and I talk regularly. What matters is that this Ssgt. had no way of knowing whether or not I even really knew this family - and even if I did, I am not an authorized person for her to be discussing any matter with!

And that's really a minor violation in comparison to what happened next! This same Ssgt handed me a new packet of forms to fill out and bring back to get our case started again. I took them home, and I was fairly upset, so I didn't actually get to them until the next morning. Thursday morning (a full 24 hours after I was given the paperwork), I opened up the file so that I could start filling out forms. Imagine my surprise at finding that one of the forms was not blank!! It was the education clearance form for another aquaintance of mine (not even a good friend this time, although our kids have attended school together)!! This form contained social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, signatures... all kinds of confidential information that, had I been an unscrupulous person, I could very easily put to use in not-very-nice ways!! The kicker is that I had this information in my possession for a full 24 hours before I noticed and brought it back to the clinic. For all they know, I could have gotten into all kinds of mischief with it - and they didn't even notice it was gone!! In fact, when I brought it back, this Ssgt. informed me that it wasn't a big deal, because this family's application had already been processed, so it didn't matter what happened to the paperwork at this point!! (Of course, I let this family know about the violation to their privacy, and they too have filed a complaint.)

I realize that I'm not making myself very popular with the woman in control of submitting my paperwork for the clearance process. And perhaps I'm committing "clearance suicide" by opening my mouth (especially since I gave both families permission to use my name in reporting their complaints about this Ssgt). Still, 2 privacy violations in the course of less than an hour - it doesn't make me very confident in this woman's abilities to perform her job properly! I will say that I fully intend to take my paperwork with me when we leave - I refuse to leave it in her hands, if she thinks that it's okay to distribute it to other people once the file has been processed!!

Meanwhile, the kids started school on the 20th. Well, the older 3 did. Katie started school on the 26th. Ben and Emily are in the same class this year, because the charter school they attend combines 4th and 5th grade. They do separate work, but with the same teacher. (She's really good at combining lesson plans so that they're working on the same theme and each grade level gets the appropriate skills out of the assignments.) It sure makes for interesting days, as they fight over who gets to tell me about what they learned and what they did at school. (I finally had to say that they aren't allowed to talk to me about school if they're both in the room at the time!)

I'm really going to miss the schools here when we move. It's highly unlikely that I will ever again find such a collection of such highly-qualified teachers who care so much about each student individually, who will work with each student on individual study plans, whenever necessary. I'm really going to miss walking onto campus and knowing each and every teacher and every member of the administrative staff by name, and knowing that I can call with concerns or questions at any time - knowing that they know me, they know my children, they know our strengths and weaknesses, our needs and concerns, and they know when they can call me for help as well! It's really been like a big, extended family. I really wish I could pack them all up and take them with me!

21 August 2008

Too Many Commitments - I Think I Should be Committed!!

So, here I am at 2:00 in the morning again. Why do I always find myself sitting here in the wee hours of the morning, typing jibberish when I should be in my bed, sleeping soundly?

I was just reflecting today on all of the things that I have to do in the next couple of months to prepare for our upcoming move. There is so much to be done around this house! And I have to be all packed and ready to go by the time Phil gets home from Korea, so that we'll have enough time for our drive across the country in the middle of winter (what if blizzards close the roads and it takes longer than we anticipated?) - He will get a few days of permissive TDY to look for a house when we get there, but I'd rather use that time to actually find a place to live, rather than spending it just to get to the area!! Anyway, when I look around this house and see everything that needs to be done, I honestly don't know how I will do it all by myself!

Meanwhile, my parents have planned a really fun, unofficial family reunion for the week of Labor Day in Las Vegas and San Diego. I had plans to go all summer - and now, come to find out, I have 4 doctor's appointments (one is actually for Becky) on the 4th, 5th and 8th of September. (I hadn't been concerned, because when I agreed to go to San Diego, what I heard was "Labor Day" - so I was thinking that the plan was for the week leading up to Labor Day, not the week following the holiday!)

Throw in 2 brothers who are getting married this fall. Robert and Jenn are planning to get married in November (in Vegas), and Mark and Mary are planning their wedding for December (in Cheyenne). I just found out that Mark is actually changing his wedding to the 29th, rather than the 19th of December, which is good, because that means I won't have to take the kids out of school in order to go. But I have to take them out for this Labor Day trip and for Robert and Jenn's wedding. This is stressful in itself, because the "excused absences" policy here is pretty strict. Basically, if you're not sick enough to go to the doctor, it's not excused. Even a death in the family is only excused if it's the immediate family!

But aside from the school issue, I'm starting to worry about the time that I'll have to take out of everything for all of this travelling back and forth. Somehow, I have to fit the actual packing in... and find time to spend with friends, because we'll all be so sad if we leave without even getting a chance to say goodbye to the people we've grown so close to over the past 7 years here at Beale... and still keep up with homework and church callings!

I'm stressed enough tonight that I spent several hours wandering from room to room, trying to decide which task to tackle first: Should I try to get caught up on the laundry? Maybe I should change the litter in the cat's box first? Would it be better to give the kitchen a good scrubbing? The computer room is getting pretty cluttered. Should I organize that first, since it's the first thing people see when they come to our house? - You get the picture. The point is, I was so stressed about trying to figure out what the starting point was that I never actually got started. Now, it's so late, and I really don't want to stay up all night long to clean, so it will all get pushed onto the back burner.... (That ol' back burner is going to burn out soon, if I don't get it together!!)

But I can do it. I know that the Lord will help me to figure it all out, and to start, I will just have to go on a schedule tomorrow... I'll start with cleaning up the cats' area, then put in a load of laundry. While that washes, I can take the kids to school and have breakfast (not necessarily in that order, although it's not unlikely). Then, I can change the wash and get started on this cluttered computer room, while a housing maintenance contractor comes by to fix the doors on the girls' closet (the track is so broken that it's not actually fixable, so they're removing them - and I had to go through all sorts of hoops to get that approved!) After lunch, hopefully, I'll have time to get the kitchen to sparkle before the kids get home from school. (After that, the house will be too chaotic to try to fit in scheduled catch-up tasks!)

So, if I'm going to dig in and get to work tomorrow, I had better tuck myself in and go to sleep tonight!! Thanks for listening!

17 August 2008

I've Added My Theme Songs!!

Thank you so much to my dear, sweet husband, who helped me to figure out how to add my playlist onto this blog. Now, you can all hear my theme songs! When I find other songs that fit me, I will add them to the list!

16 August 2008

Am I Technologically Impaired?

I recently found a song that, I've decided, is my new theme song. I was going to put it on this blog as the background music with one of those cool playlists that all of my friends seem to have on their blogs, but I couldn't actually figure out how to put it on here! How do you do a playlist for background music on your blog? I don't know! Sometimes, technology is not my friend. Kind of ironic, because I seem to have a reputation as someone who really knows her way around a computer or something. (Must be because of my cool computer-geek parents, I think!) Friends often ask me to come fix their computer problems for them - and usually, I manage to figure it out (sometimes with a quick phone consultation to my sweet daddy!), so I guess I'll continue with this, probably undeserved, reputation as a person who is not technologically impaired! Anyway, that was a really long way of explaining that I'll just have to tell you about the really cool song that is my newest theme song.......

Of course, as you know, I can't just say something. You have to have the whole backstory to everything, or I just don't feel like I really got my message across. Emily loves to point out how often I go off on tangents when writing on this blog.... Still, I'm going to go off on a "quick side note" (which Emily always tells me is "so not quick") here.....

If you're reading this blog, that means that you probably know who I am, and if you know me (or for that matter, if you've read the previous posts on this blog), you probably know that I had brain surgery a couple of years ago (February of 2006, actually). What you may not know was that the surgery was the easy part. I had a lot of friends walk out of my life during this difficult time, simply because they didn't know what to say or do. I understand that, it was a scary time, and many of my close friends (especially when they heard the phrase "brain surgery") were afraid that I wouldn't make it through or something. Since they didn't know how to fix it or make it better, and they were afraid that they would say or do the wrong thing, many of these friends cut off communications for a while. I'm sure you understand that feeling. How often does tragedy (in one degree or another) hit someone that we love, and we spend so much time trying to figure out the right thing to say or do that we don't say anything at all?

Anyway, I'm not bringing this up to complain. Actually, now that I'm through that really scary part, most of these friends have come back into my life - and I don't think that many (if any) of them even realize that the silence was the scariest part of the whole ordeal. So, back to my story...

When I make the hour-long (one way) drive to my myriad of doctor's appointments for follow-ups and tests and everything else, I like to listen to Radio Disney. I know, kind of silly, since I am a grown woman, but I guess I'm just a kid at heart. (Makes it kind of easy for road trips, because my kids and I have the exact same taste in music!) Well, back in 2006, as I was going to the doctor sometimes twice a week, one of the most popular songs on Radio Disney was "Unwell" (by Matchbox 20, I believe). It really struck a chord with me, and it became my anthem. I downloaded the song and burned it to a cd so that I could play it whenever I was feeling particularly alone.

All day, staring at the ceiling,
making friends with shadows on my wall.
All night, hearing voices telling me
that I should get some sleep,
because tomorrow might be good for something.
Hold on, I'm feeling like I'm headed for a breakdown,
and I don't know why.
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell.
I know, right now you can't tell,
but stay awhile and maybe then you'll see
a different side of me.
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little impaired.
I know, right now you don't care,
but soon enough you're gonna think of me
and how I used to be.
Me, talking to myself in public,
dodging glances on the train.
I know, I know they've all been talking 'bout me.
I can hear them whisper,
and it makes me think there must be something wrong with me.
Out of all the hours,
thinking somehow I've lost my mind....

You get the picture, right? I don't need to type out all of the lyrics to this song, do I? Actually, that is still sort of my anthem. Because, gosh darn it, I'm not crazy, and this little brain tumor isn't really anything more than a nuisance that makes everyone treat me like some fragile porcelain doll or something.... And someday, I'll be remembered for who I actually am, not for my silly, dumb ol' brain tumor!!

Anyway, I kind of dated a guy in highschool who used to ask me to pick a song to fit my mood at any given time, so I really got in the habit of finding songs to tell my story for me. I guess I still do that a lot. So my new theme song - the story of my life lately - is called "A Little Bit Longer" by the Jonas Brothers. I love this song, and it really fits my story right now. This time, I think I will post the lyrics for the whole song:

I got the news today
Doctor said I had to stay
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
When I thought it had all been done
When I thought it had all been said
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
But you don't know what you got 'till it's gone
And you don't know what it's like to feel so low
And everytime you smile, you laugh, you glow
You don't even know, no, no
You don't even know
All this time goes bye, still no reason why
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
Waiting on a cure but none of them are sure
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
But you don't know what you got 'till it's gone
And you don't know what it's like to feel so low
And everytime you smile, you laugh, you glow
You don't even know, no, no
You don't even know, no, no
You don't even know (no, no)
But you don't know what you got 'till it's gone
And you don't know what it's like to feel so low, yeah!
And everytime you smile, you laugh, you glow!
You don't even know! Yeah! Oh! Yeah! Ohh! Yeah yeah!
You don't even know, oh!
So I'll wait 'til kingdom come
And all the highs and lows are gone
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
I'll be fine

How appropriate is this song to my life right now??? I just got the news that the doctors said I have to stay (here - instead of joining Phil in Korea) for a little bit longer (until his remote tour is over in January)! I thought it had all been taken care of, I thought that we had enough pull with all of our friends in high places so that I could go over there. And I'm so tired of all of the tests and appointments, trying to find something that they can "cure" to make me better, but none of the doctors seem to be able to find anything that they can really fix - it all just goes back to my tumor, just causing problems again. Still, I have the promise that, when it's all over, I will be fine. I may have to "wait 'til kingdom come," but it will happen. Someday, whether in this life or the next, I will be fine. Just a little bit longer, and I will be fine.

So, anyway, if anyone reading this knows how to put the songs on the background here and can walk me through it, I would still like to put my 2 theme songs on this page. (If not, and if you've never heard these songs, you should look them up. They're definitely worth listening to!)