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!!!!!