They Usually Come on Thursdays

It didn’t happen the way I had constantly played it out in my head. But in some ways, it was much better. After church I called Dad; he said he’d come and pick me up because driving in today’s weather was risky .

By the time Dad got here, half my family on his side (aunts, uncles, cousins) had gathered for dinner as usual on Sundays. When he broke the news, people started hugging, asking questions, getting loud, and guessing.

“Why did he tell them?” I thought. “It is mine to tell. I wish they’d all be quiet.” Their excitement exceeded mine, and my peace I’d had these last few weeks was being tested.

They all expected me to open it that night. To one cousin I said, “I might open it tonight. Or, I might wait ‘til next weekend.” But I knew tonight would be the night because so many people knew and expected it.

On the way home, Dad turned up the volume, saying “I have a surprise for you.”
I smiled as I heard the King’s Singers fill the car. We talked about the group and our favorite songs on their new CD almost the whole way home. My full measure of peace was returning.

No one at home knew. Upon arriving, I rushed to the bathroom, envelope against my stomach but hidden by my zipped-up coat. Locking the door, I pulled it out and set it on the counter. I sat on the toilet lid and rushed my elbows to my knees, head into hands. Thinking I had to open it in front of everyone, I released a bunch of emotions, then took time to compose again. I heard Madison yell, “She got it?! When?!” And staring at my shoes on the tan-grey tile, I wished I could be the one to tell. So I texted some friends, and cooled down.

Returning to the dining room, Dad asked, “Did you open it?” Surprised by my negative response, he proposed I open it in my parent’s room, then come out when ready to share.

After locking the door, I plopped myself on their bed, placing the envelope in front of me. The clock said 6:00. I got up, leaving the envelope and grabbing a tissue for my eyes and nose. Then suddenly I decided I wanted to open it with one of dad’s guitar picks.

So I crossed to Dad’s guitar stand with a coat hanging over two of the three guitars. I moved it aside, the strings ringing out. No pick. I swiped the coat the other way—more sounds, no picks in the strings. I turned to his drawer and rummaged through. Nothing. “What am I doing?” I thought. “Stalling.” But then I leaped up, walking to his guitar cases.

“Katie! We’re eating! Where’s Katie?” I heard the little ones’ voices.

No picks found, I threw myself back on the bed, deciding I wanted to open this envelope with my own fingers. The address says: “Office of the First Presidency.” I tore it from one side to another; it opened perfectly. Drawing papers out, I put the envelope on top, lowering it with every line I read—slowly. I read the location and put the whole packet down. A million thoughts running through my head, I rushed my hands to my cheeks, fingers closing my eyes. I had to pray-“What is this to me? Let it be mine.” I waited ‘til the peace returned. Then whatever followed, I kept reading. When I got to the language I threw it down again and cried happier tears. Smiled. Breathed. Once it was mine, once it was from the Lord, I prepared to share it with my family. I wanted to share it with them right after. Of course we had to call a bunch of people.
I feel uncomfortably drowned with others’ excitement.

The excitement is there for me, but I want to preserve my peace. The excitement came at age 17 when I decided to go. It came when I turned 18, 19, then 20. It came when I could fill out my papers. I’ve had it for three years, and it comes from the fact that I’m going, not that it’s on paper now. I can’t explain it. Other than being selfish, I don’t know how to explain why I feel that way. But anyway, my mission call is here!


For Kevin

I don’t know if it’s something I learned from society, or if it’s an inherent quality of my own, or if it’s the way I was raised, but foreigners and their “American” descendents have given me an uncomfortable feeling my entire life. But it doesn’t stop there; associating with any west-sider regardless of race also causes me discomfort. It’s really just anyone who I view as “below me” in society. The things that would constitute someone as “below me” are poverty, addiction, and immodesty. It isn’t really about race; it’s about lifestyle. But it just so happens that most of the people who live in poverty, addiction, and immodesty are of other races and it’s because of that that I am constantly being mistaken for a racist. In actuality, I am far worse that a racist. I am a supremacist. Whites who live like the Hispanics of the west side don’t qualify as white to me. I am superior to them. I feel that way and I act that way. However, I must hurry and tell you, before you deem me entirely unchristian, that my sense of supremacy has only recently emerged from my subconscious, that I’m doing my best to overcome it, and that it isn’t a constant thing. There have been times when I made an effort to like someone who I would have deemed as “below me” and I have and things have been fine.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had sewing first period and I sat next to Kevin Hudson. Kevin had the faint smell of marijuana woven into his black clothes. He had a skateboard for a constant companion, and looked as if he were a barbershop fugitive—if there is such a thing. Regardless, when I looked at Kevin I could tell that he was a good person. His face was etched with a goodness, a goodness that told me Kevin was a good person who was simply caught up in bad things. That goodness is what made me try talking to Kevin. I would ask him how his weekend was, how his [whatever we were making in Sewing class] was coming, if he liked this class, what he thought of Mrs. Baker, our teacher, but Kevin would never respond to me beyond “alright” and “fine.” He never made eye contact with me. I can assume that Kevin was glad when class ticked down to the last five minutes because, during those last five minutes, announcements would come on over the PA system and we would all have to turn our sewing machines off so we could listen to the student body officers make announcements about whatever sport was in season, what the cafeteria was serving, and things of that riveting category. We all knew that “announcements” was really just a way for S.B.O’s flirt with other S.B.O’s and we all knew that the biggest reason any of them even made the announcements was because they just liked having their voice carry through the entire school—reverberating off of the eardrums of the entire student body. I’d have to say the most painful part of announcements was a new section that had been instituted that year called “cool kid of the day.” Whoever was delivering the announcements that day would say something like “and the cool kid of the day is, [some jock, cheerleader, or other social dominant]” and that would end the announcements. I was getting tired of the “cool kid” always being someone who already felt cool. I thought it would be cool to use “the cool kid of the day” to make someone who didn’t feel cool, or noticed, or liked, feel like they were. So after school I jogged out to the tennis courts where I found Greg Anderson, our student body president, and told him how I wanted to nominate Kevin Hudson for “cool kid” of the following day. Greg, of course, had no idea who Kevin Hudson was but agreed to make him the “cool kid”—writing “cool kid kevin hudson” on the back of his hand to serve as a reminder. The next day in sewing class I tried to talk to Kevin but again with no success, announcements came on over the PA, Mrs. Baker made us turn our sewing machines off and be quiet, and we all listened to the same meaningless crap that flowed into the room. I was getting excited though and when Greg Anderson said, “And the cool kid of the day is…KEVIN HUDSON!” I looked over at Kevin and saw his good face light up. I couldn’t hide my smile and Kevin and I sat there with me beaming at him because I felt like I’d finally broken through and him giving me this half smirk that I understood meant “thanks” while, for the first time, looking me in the eye. “You know, that’s a pretty cool way to leave this place.” Kevin said to me. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Today is my last day—I’m dropping out.” And my smile faded, and my stomach sank, and I was sad. We stood in the hall talking. When a teacher walked by and told us to “get to class” we went over to the stairs and sat down on them to finish our conversation. With Kevin’s skateboard next to my Abercrombie bag, our legs outstretched in front of us, Kevin’s clothes in black denim ripped at the knees and mine enshrined with my designer jeans. I asked him why. He told me that he just didn’t like school. I told him that I didn’t like being in school either. He told me that it was different than that. Most of his friends had already dropped out and his parents didn’t really care whether he did or not so he was going to. We finished talking; I told him how sad I was. He said he’d see me around.
I saw him a few times at different things—once at a football game, once at McDonalds, and once he was just walking around the halls of his old high school. Each time though I would go up and talk to him regardless of whether or not he was surrounded by his scummy friends and I was always genuinely excited to see him. We’d talk, catch up a bit, his friends would either look at me weirdly and back away or they’d say something pervy and Kevin would tell them to shut up. After my sophomore year I didn’t see him again though—until yesterday.
I was shopping downtown. I came out of J.Crew, rounded the corner, and there was Kevin Hudson sitting on a bench underneath a mass of black matted hair that touched his knees because he was hunching over trying to light a cigarette. I recognized him almost immediately though. I kind of looked at him for a second, he looked up at me and when he did I saw that there was only a hint of that same goodness that was once embedded in his face, a face that now looked hard and empty. His evolved face alarmed me. I didn’t know what to do. I quickly broke the eye contact that I had once found as a token of trust and I just kept walking. I just kept walking clinging to my stupid shopping bags at my sides carrying my stupid clothes—my stupid clothes that would keep the lower classes and the different races away. As I walked away I was filled with shame and remorse and asked myself why I didn’t stop and talk. It’s because of the way he looked, the light was gone from his eyes and it gave me that same uncomfortable feeling that I always get. The only difference was that this time I felt sorry because of it. I felt sorry for treating Kevin, my hard-earned friend, like just another bum on the street. That was the difference. I wish now that I would have thrown my shopping bags as far away from me as possible and then walked back to Kevin Hudson, sat down next to him, and asked him how he was doing. That’s what I wish I would have done.
You see, I haven’t always been this way. I’ve had other Kevin Hudson experiences where I got to know someone who was different and a little bit criminal but mostly just different and I liked them and they taught me things about how to love humanity.
When I was in the car the other day with Matt, he told me that I need to love all races and classes and try to understand them. I told him no, I don’t because when we die we will all be white and we’ll all be upper class. He asked me, “How many different races does God understand and love?” “All of them” I said. “In order to be like God, how many races and social classes of people do you need to understand and love?” “All of them” I answered.
I want to go find Kevin Hudson. And if I can’t find him then I’ll go to Liberty Park and lay my blanket down next to a nice looking bum and just look up at the sky with him, I want to talk to him about his life and tell him about mine. I think I’ve realize that even though these people are responsible for most of the crime in this country and they don’t contribute to society in a way that is recognized as valuable, they are people and loving them makes me feel good and happy so that’s what I’ll do. And even though they smell like my old track bag, or dumpster water, or beer, or Kevin Hudson, those are their sins and if pride were odorous then I would reek too. We all smell in one way or another, we all have our problems, some of them are easy to see from the outside and some of them aren’t. Kevin’s are. Mine aren’t. I want to love all the Kevin’s of the world. I realize it’ll be hard. I know that the next time I have the opportunity to mingle with those that I previously categorized and “below me” my supremacist-self is going to come boiling to the surface screaming, “they’re different and dangerous and you’d do well to just stay away!” But if I will let the love that I’ve found for people like Kevin, people that I once despised and rejected, if I will let that love kill the supremacy within me then I think I’ll start to understand my Savior better and I will be more like Him and isn’t that what my life should be all about?


Forgot a title.

Mom once told me, “You date your friends.” I don’t remember when, but I think this was after I’d been home from my mission for three months and was probably talking about going to lunch with that red-haired friend who eventually stood me up twice. I thought that dates were simply a way to get to know someone better—it seemed convenient, made sense, and safe; there wasn’t any pressure.

That’s become an excuse.

Talking to Britt a few nights ago, she said, “Matt, you need to stop dating your friends. It’s like cheating.” I thought about the only “dates” I’ve had this semester—all of them were with my friends, and none of them were “dateable.” Just friends—no risk involved.

Here’s my M.O.: “I don’t want to just ask her out without any foundation, so I’ll build a friendship,” I say. Then, after waiting around for a month or so, she’ll begin to date someone else and I’ll say instead, “Well, I’ll build the friendship for several more months and establish myself as a friend, then when she breaks up in six months and then has a rebound period for another two months, then I’ll ask her out.”

Of course, it never happens. Not once. By the time she’s available again, I’m not interested or she’s not interested or I’m just frustrated with dating and don’t want to mess with it.

Sometimes I think, “It’d be cool if God would just assign someone to me. One day we could be introduced and it’d be like, ‘Here Matt, this is your wife,’ and I’d be like, ‘Thanks God! This is pretty great.’”

That’d be silly if I expected that to happen. But then, I kind of do.

I tell myself, “If it’s going to happen, then there will be an instant, natural connection and I won’t have to force anything and it will just all into my lap.” Then I cite examples of previous situations to myself, like how I just kind of started dating makeout girl when she offered me a ride or how that soccer coach was introduced to me by a friend. I didn’t have to really do anything and those situations just kind of happened. “I must be doing something right and qualifying for the blessing of having someone to date,” I said. “Why do I need to try if it just kind of happens?”

And now, because I’m just sitting around and waiting and not expanding my circle of friends, I’m in a dry patch. Last semester, I think I went out three or four times. None of those people went anywhere, all for different reasons, and I had this whole identity-crisis thing that really kept me selfish and unwilling to set up any options for this semester.

So I started the semester with no one to date, and because I’m so set on being friends for a protective amount of time before I even ask someone out, I have yet to take someone out this term. Britt suggested that I’m afraid of rejection or failure. I think I laughed it off at the time, but then couldn’t stop thinking about it at Church yesterday.

During my last year of high school, I told a teacher, “If you never try, you don’t fail.” He asked, “What’s wrong with failing and why are you so afraid of it?”

I laughed. I still don’t know the answer.


A Nice Talk

I had a nice talk with Sister Morgan this weekend--one of those talks where you can't remember too much of what you talked about afterwards, but you feel refreshed. We talked of Kristen and Kirsten and Julie and Danny--it's like we all started out in this circle at the Writing Center then set our faces away from school and moved the circle outward going our own ways; soon we won't be able to see each other any more because we'll be too far apart. But I talked to Meagan and Chandler too--he looks too skinny, so donate more to the pizza fund, all you current assistants, and give that man some food!
Anyway, speaking of giving, here is what I learned at the conference I went to at BYU-I, or at least the one line I will remember when I've forgotten everything else. Marion Romney said, "How can we give if there is nothing there?" Sitting here now in Writing Center mode, I think of Leanna and Dan and well, mostly myself, stuck with too many emotions that I can't find essays for but finding that this line covers many of them.


FREE-WRITE on Breastfeeding (Don't read if the thought makes you squeamish.)

I dream of milk flowing from my breasts. I wake to find that in reality, the rivers have run dry. I’ve been writing this essay in my head in the middle of the night when I am feeding my baby for the past six months. Ever since the day my pump broke, and I knew I would fail at breastfeeding and possibly as a mother.

I never knew how emotionally involved, challenging, and draining motherhood could be. I knew that I would love my baby more than anything else in the world, but I didn’t really know what that would feel like or what that might entail. I didn’t know how devoted I would be to giving my baby the very best of everything because of this deep love. I didn’t understand how deeply those desires and how powerful that drive would be until she came.

I knew from multiple classes and just common sense that mother’s milk is the best for a baby. It gives them everything they need plus some. It’s made specifically for them. The mother’s body is an amazing thing. It produces exactly the amount they need, and it contains just the right amount of nutrients, vitamins, fats, everything even down to the exact amount and kind of antibodies. All so the baby can thrive, be healthy, and grow up to be big, strong, and even smart. I knew all of this, yet when it came down to it, I flunked. We flunked.

I knew I was losing it. I knew that she wasn’t getting enough; I wasn’t making enough; it wasn’t healthy enough. I didn’t know what was wrong exactly, but I was losing my supply. I knew that eventually it would be gone. I couldn’t stand the thought. I tried everything. Did I? Did I really try everything? Did I really try hard enough? If I didn’t, does that mean I don’t love my baby as much as I should? Because I couldn’t give her what she needs? Or did I, in fact, give her what she needed by losing my pride and finally filling her tummy. Finally making her happy. Finally making US happy.

People tell me this all the time. “Well at least formula is a lot better than it used to be.” And “It comes down to doing what’s best for the baby.” But why, then, can I not let it go? Why can’t I let it go like my husband told me to after multiple nights, maybe even a week or more of crying myself to sleep at night? “Just let it go, Leanna.” Why can’t I? Why does it still hurt every time someone sees me or hears about me feeding my baby formula and they ask “You don’t nurse?” It’s like a statement yet a question at the same time. Wondering why I don’t do like I should. Why don’t I do what’s best for my baby? And all I can give them are lame excuses. Actually it’s just what happened, and I did try, but when I explain it to someone else I feel like it wasn’t enough. Like there was more I could have and should have done. Like I just gave up. I know I used to judge people harshly, and I hate that it’s coming back at me. I remember watching girls in church mixing up a bottle for their baby and thinking that they thought they were too good to breastfeed or thinking that they probably just didn’t try. I remember wondering when I saw a mom pull out a bottle if it was pumped breast milk or formula. And I remember thinking that it should be breast milk or else they just don’t care.

I wish I knew what had happened. I wish I knew how I could have fixed it. I am afraid of it hurting my baby because I didn’t go longer. That I didn’t try harder. I’m afraid that she won’t grow up to be smart. That she won’t grow up to be strong, and it’ll be all my fault. I don’t want that guilt. I don’t want that guilt over all my babies, and if I get it right on the next try, I don’t want my first one to be the mistake child. I don’t want her siblings to pass her up academically, or even health wise because I just didn’t try hard enough. Because I just didn’t love her enough to keep trying. Or did I love her enough? Did I love her enough because I finally did what I thought was best. I filled her tummy.

It’s not so much that I fear for future, while I certainly do that, but it’s that I am her mother, yet I could not give her what she needed. I had never felt like such a failure as I did when we took her to her doctor’s appointment. She had lost too much weight, and I could see the “I told you so” look in my husband’s eyes. And he had told me so, on multiple occasions. He was always bringing her back to me just minutes after I had finished feeding her, saying “I think she’s still hungry.” And I would say “She can’t possibly be hungry. She just ate for an hour!” Then at night before we’d fall asleep, he’d quietly say “I don’t think you’re making enough milk.” He knew I would get angry. He had said it several times before, but I always dismissed him saying that my body knew what it was doing. My body would not let my child starve. Yet, in fact, it was. I was.


If Matt Were European and Old This is What He Would Look Like

So Matt has always kind of reminded me of someone but I could never think of who it was and then today I saw the cover of "Taberly" and I realized that that was it. Matt looks like a young, American version of Eric Taberly. Please say you see it.


Spring is coming. I woke up this morning and I just barely realized that.
The funny thing is that I have been teaching about the season of "spring" for the past two weeks. I've explained that birds will return to the trees and build nests, that flowers will push up from the ground and bloom all around us, that my students will get to go outside for recess again. I've taught these concepts with confidence and conviction. Spring will come.
But the keyword in this is "will." My consciousness was not aware of "will." I've been telling my students spring will come, but within myself I've asked, Will spring come? I hoped that it would. I think that I was even inwardly praying for it. But I didn't know for sure. It was as if the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia had swooped down and cast her spell of perpetual winter in my head. I didn't know if it would end.

And then it was here. I woke up and there were flowers pushing mulch that covers the small space of ground that I can call my own. Birds infested our feeder outside the window--Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, Black-eyed Junkos, and a Downy Woodpecker. I walked outside and my lungs didn't constrict. They expanded.

I asked David if he saw the birds at the feeder. He looked at me confused; the birds had been at the feeder for two weeks.

Even the squirrel who eats our birdseed has emerged. Last spring, David and I tried to throw water on him to chase him away because he scares away our birds. I hid by the sliding door and David waited outside at the bottom of the balcony. On the signal, I opened the door and threw water at him from a cup. He dove to the safety of the ground, only to be assaulted by another cup of water. But he came back the next day anyway. Now we just let him stay and hope that the birds will take care of themselves.

Spring is here, and I missed its coming. A finch hops around the ground as I sit here and type this. I pause to watch it. I don't want to miss anything else.


Mad World - Gary Jules

Hey. Great idea. We should dance outside the Library and have it filmed. What 'ya think? I love this.


What a wonderful World - Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua

It's a good day. Snow banks are crumbling into the river, and the Golden Eye ducks ride the waves. A stray cat climbs onto the porch, and the wind is blowing the air clean, clean , clean.


A Realization

A few weeks ago, Matt dropped by my apartment and after chatting for a bit, our conversation turned to discussing various personality traits. He asked me whether I was more energized by spending time alone or spending time with others. Honestly, I can't remember what I answered that night. But last night, the answer to this question slapped me in the face.

In high school, I was fairly extroverted; I had a lot of friends, and I loved being with them. However, I also loved being alone. There's a creek about a quarter of a mile away from my house in Kansas, and I used to go there several times a week all by myself, just to think, or to sing, or to dance, or to sit and let the water play between the cracks in my toes. I was energized in those moments.

My freshman year of college, I was unfortunately deprived of any nearby creek, but I still found times and places to be alone, and despite the fun I had with my roommates, I cherished those quiet times of solitude: in bed looking out the window at the night sky, or running in the early morning before others had emerged from their houses.

Now it's my Sophomore year of college. Which, by the way is weird. But my thoughts on aging should probably be saved for another post. Anyway, this year has been significantly different than any other year of my life. I've been lucky enough to have had friends throughout the years, but this year, I've made more friends in less time than ever before. Naturally, when you become friends with a person, you want to hang out with them, and they (presumably) want to hang out with you. So over the past two semesters, I have honestly had very few nights when I was not doing something with someone else. Whether it be dinner, or watching a movie, or chatting, or playing the piano, or going out for hot chocolate, or going for a walk, or studying in the Writing Center until the library closed...I have spent nearly every evening engaging in some sort of activity with someone--almost never by myself.

Perhaps it's understandable, then, why last night felt so...odd. I returned home after class/work around 6:45 PM. Three of my roommates were home watching TV. I checked my phone: no text messages. No missed calls. I shrugged it off and started heating up some frozen vegetables to eat with my crusty bread and string cheese. When the microwave dinged, I gathered my food in my arms and plopped onto the couch to enjoy American Idol.I had my computer on my lap as well, although I don't really know why. I couldn't do homework and watch TV at the same time (I've tried this before and have failed miserably), and I had deactivated my facebook account the night before, so it's not like I was going to chat with anyone online. So I set my computer aside.

After American Idol finished, I checked my phone again. Still nothing. For some reason, I didn't feel comfortable with that. I began to fidget a little. My roommates started to watch some movie on TBS and with nothing better to do, I just continued to sit on the couch and watch with them.After fifteen minutes or so, I started to feel tired, so I reached for a quilt sitting by the couch, laid it over me, and slept for about an hour. I woke up at 9:30 PM, and realizing I had been asleep, I reached for my phone again and flipped it open. Nada.
This was weird.

Eventually, my roommates went to sleep, but I stayed up. I alternated between studying for my Nutrition test and playing Colbie Caillet songs on the guitar for a couple of hours. But I couldn't get rid of this sinking, self-pitiful feeling I had. I felt sluggish. I felt unfulfilled. Still, I wasn't ready for bed, so I looked on Old Navy's website and then read for a bit before finally deciding to hit the sack around 3:30 AM.

Then, just before I closed my eyes, it hit me: I had had no energy tonight. For once, I had an opportunity to spend time with myself, alone, to catch up on homework, or to think, or to revel in solitude. Instead, I was disgusted by the solitude. I had longed for the companionship I've become so accustomed to. I had been alone, finally, for once, but I had not liked it. And this realization did not make me happy.