Strange things going on in the shower...

I think I'm losing my mind. I have forgotten, lost and just plain messed up so many things in the last three weeks I'm afraid to get out of bed in the morning. It started when I put my cell phone on top of the car and it fell off while Eric was driving to school the next morning. I found the mangled battery half way down our street a few days later. Kind of a problem when you don't have a land line (so if you need to call me, call Eric's phone- 919 638 6216 for now). Then I lost my sunglasses and the garage door opener. Then yesterday I paid a bill from the wrong bank account and racked up hundreds of dollars in NSF fees. This morning I was supposed to pick up a handicapped lady in our ward for church and completely forgot. For the second time. To top it all off, the boys stood up during "good news" time at primary today, and proudly proclaimed what was first interpreted as "We peed on our Mom in the shower," but was then clarified, "We beat our Mom in the shower." Either way, you can imagine the reaction in a room full of three- to eight-year olds. Apparently, no one really knew what they were talking about or what to say, so the teacher just nodded and said, "how nice" and sent them back to their seats. You see, last night, in an attempt to get them into bed quickly, I told them I'd race them... if they could finish showering before me, they would win a prize. They won, and they were so proud, they wanted to share it during primary. I guess when we start getting turned down for play dates with kids in our ward, I'll know why:).

On a good note, I can now swim half a mile in the pool without stopping, which is a huge accomplishment, since I started out a few weeks ago being able to do one length. My training buddies, Lindsay and Cami are too nice to laugh at me in my bathing cap, ear plugs and nose clip (I look like ridiculousness personified-I hate water up my nose!). But I just have to vent about something...I hope they'll forgive me. Actually, I've noticed this about most of my LDS friends...they wear SHORTS over their bathing suits! Why? Why do Mormon women wear shorts in the pool!? I asked my friends and they both said they didn't like their thighs. I can certainly relate to that. My thighs and I have had a tumultuous relationship, but after much angst, we've made our peace. I just don't care anymore that my body doesn't fit the shape that society, the beauty industry and my own insecurities want it to fit. My thighs have done a lot for me over the course of my life. And when I look back on the women and girls I've admired the most, you know what? A lot of them had big thighs. So, Mormon women of the world, this challenge goes out to you: throw out your swimming shorts. Let your thighs see the light of day. Give them the respect and love they deserve.

In other news, this weekend Eric camped out with some friends for Duke bball tickets. With an RV, tons of free food, a big screen TV and a personal visit from Coach K, they didn't exactly rough it. As undergrads we had to camp in tents for weeks just to get into one game. We were merciless in our ridicule of the grad students, who "camped" for two days for season tickets, but I have to say, I liked this way much better. The wives and kids came for a BBQ on Saturday night, which was lots of fun.

If you're wondering what that white thing that Eric's holding is, it's a "machine gun" that he and the boys constructed from PVC pipe...someone please rescue me from boy-land:).

Here are some pictures from my birthday...

And some more from a Durham Bulls game we went to...


Fish Jesus and the baby Weevils...

The other day the boys were sitting at the counter eating their lunch, while I rustled around in the kitchen. Eric told me that his class fish had died, and he seemed pretty sad about it. I tried to cheer him up by telling him that the fish is in fish-heaven now. Brigham thought about this for a moment and said, "Is there a fish-Jesus there?" The mental picture of a little fish with sandals and a beard had me in fits for a good 10 minutes. The teachers bought two new fish for the class, and Eric thought up the name "Milkshake" for one, because it had a white tummy. He was really proud that the class chose his name when they voted. They're studying whales, and one of their projects was to make a fluke (which, if you didn't know, is a whale tale) out of paper and decorate it by squeezing paint on it and then folding it in half. Eric decided to name his "Creamy", because that's what the paint reminded him of. He thinks up the cutest names:).

Another funny story- I was driving the boys home from school and a song we didn't know came on the radio. I turned it way up when I saw Eric nodding his head in the back seat (because, I am a blaster of the radio), but when I heard the second bleeped out word, I had to change the station. Eric said he liked that song and asked why I changed it, so I told him that it had some bad words in it. He said, "Oh, which ones?" I said, "Words I don't want to say out loud so I'm not going to tell you." Eric accepted this, but after about 30 seconds Brigham said, "Oh come ON.....just tell us one!"

One last story...yesterday after church, the boys were in their room having quiet time, and Eric and I were in the kitchen just hanging out. I opened up a can of Irish oats and started making some to keep in the fridge for breakfasts this week. Eric started eating handfuls, leaving the opened can on the counter. I heard him say, through a mouthful of oats, "OH Katie", in a way that made me think he was about to throw up. I walked over and saw what he was looking at: a little larva-type thing was dangling from the inside edge of the can. We searched the rest of the oats and found 4 or 5 of them....yuck! Eric did some research online and thinks they're weevil larvae. He wants me to drive to the store where I bought them (which is 45 minutes away) and demand that they refund my money, plus some, or else I call the health inspector. I love his ability to be righteously indignant over oatmeal:).


"I don't look any bigger!"

That's what my little brother, Adam, said while standing in front of the mirror on the morning of his fourth birthday. Thankfully, I can say the same thing today, on my twenty-seventh ;). I have high hopes for today. Eric's planning on having some friends over and grilling tonight. We both know that this is a re-do of my disastrous first birthday of our marriage. I was already sad about turning twenty, because I wouldn't be a teenager anymore. Then Eric decided to plan a suprise party for me, and to enhance my joy and surprise by pretending to forget my birthday altogether. It ended with me having a big crying fit and him laughing hysterically and telling me about the party. I had to fake being surprised and I think my eyes were still puffy. So today, no surprises and no pretending to forget my birthday- a healing experience all around:). And I got a toy! It's a Garmin GPS watch to wear while I'm running and biking- so I won't get lost and I'll know how far I've gone and how fast. It's fun:). I'm determined to be really careful with it- I have a bad track record with small, expensive electonics that includes the unfortunate disappearance of a palm pilot and the inexplicable deaths of two ipods. Not this time!

The best part is how I found out about it. I came home from running errands on Saturday and Eric and little Eric left right away to go to a birthday party. When I walked into the kitchen and said hello to Brigham the first words out of his mouth were, "Mama, there's a watch and it's a surprise for you!" Then, a few minutes later, while we were reading a story, he looked up at me and said, "Do you want to see where we hid it?" Of couse I said yes (I may be 27, but I'm still a kid at heart), so he showed it to me. When Eric gave it to me I told him the whole story and he said that Brigham had sworn up and down that he wouldn't tell me about my present! He's a cute little liar though.

All in all, this last year of my life has been a big one for growth and change...maybe one of the biggest. So I'm adding an item to my list of things I'll never do (which includes things like, I'll never by anti-aging cream and, I'll never cry over a haircut): I'll never lament my birthday, no matter how old I get.


"If you listen without fear..."

"...you find that when he stands close to you, your life becomes a song, a praise. When he touches you, your smallest talents become gold; the most ordinary loves break your heart with their beauty."

That's from a book I just finished called Keturah and Lord Death, by Martine Leavitt. I haven't been able to get this notion of death out of my head. When you hear someone, at a funeral, or in a newspaper article, talk about someone who's just died, doesn't the person who was lost always sound so amazing? I've always been a little cynical about eulogies...of course you're not going to badmouth a dead person in front of all their friends and family. But after reading this book I started to think that maybe only when death is near are we really able to see each other clearly. The only person I've ever lost or been afraid of losing was my grandfather, so I can't say that I have much experience with death. And I wonder if it's possible, without death looking over your shoulder, to see the amazing good in those around you and understand the bad for what it is- fear and ignorance, mostly. And what if we could see ourselves that way?

In other, lighter news, Eric and I are having so much fun training for our triathlon in October. The only thing that has me worried is the swim, which is a 1/2 mile in the ocean. I can run until the sun goes down, and I think I can handle myself on a bike, but I'm just not a swimmer. To be frank, my butt sinks. I have to expend so much energy just to stay on top of the water that moving forward is kind of a bonus at this point. But, that's what it's all about right? If I was already good at everything, then life would be boring. That's what I tell myself in the pool as the eighty-year-old woman in the next lane does flip turns while I cough and sputter at the end of every lap:). I did get a new speedo and goggles for my birthday (thanks K-team!), so maybe that will help. At least I'll look fast. Luckily, elementary backstroke is allowed...


Invisible Woman?

I started to read this story that came to me in an email this morning and I thought, "Wah, wah, wah...another whiny stay-at-home mom rant." I hate those....I think my job is hard enough as it is, without someone else pointing out all the low points. But then I kept reading, and was really uplifted. My all-time favorite class in college was Gothic cathedrals, and I think it's a great analogy, even if a little romanticized (I remember learning that cathedral construction was a pretty sordid process, with a lot of forced labor involved). I don't want my children to grow up and think about all the hundreds of times I folded their clothes or drove them to school or cleaned pee off the wall behind their toilet (when will they learn to aim!!??). I just want them to know that they are special and that their parents love them. That said, the day I walk into a room and am ignored because the television is on is the day I unplug the television and throw it out the window!

Also, I'm posting a "before" picture of the chair that I'm re-upholstering with my friend Lindsay. Hopefully we'll have an "after" to post soon. Happy Labor Day!

Perspective: The Invisible Woman
By Nicole Johnson

It started to happen gradually. One day, I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand, and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, "Who is that with you, young fella?"

"Nobody," he shrugged.

"Nobody?" said the crossing guard, and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, "Oh, my goodness, nobody?"

I would walk into a room, and no one would notice. I would say something to my family like, "Turn the TV down, please," - and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, "Would someone
turn the TV down?"


Just the other night, my husband and I were out at a party. We'd been there for about three hours, and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, "I'm ready to go when you are."

He just kept right on talking.

That's when I started to put all the pieces together. I don't think he can see me. I don't think anyone can see me. I'm invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"

Obviously not! No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible.

Some days, I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order,
"Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude -but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She's going-- she's going-- she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip, and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

* No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.
* These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
* They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
* The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam! He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one
will ever see it."

And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table."

That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices
of invisible women.