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Archive for May, 2006

This week’s assignment was to write about someone who stole something she didn’t need. I wandered off into the melodramatic here. Bear in mind that writing short stories is not my forte, and be merciful!

Jana looked furtively around her, checking to be sure no one was watching as she slipped the can of formula into the Winnie-the-Pooh diaper bag she was carrying. She meandered slowly down the aisle of the grocery store, ostentatiously checking the prices of the various baby bottles and binkies or reading the list of ingredients in the jarred baby food. Every now and then her hand would surreptitiously slide another item into the capacious diaper bag while Jana checked her grocery list.

After leaving the baby aisle, Jana briskly completed the rest of her grocery shopping, crossing the dog food, ground round, eggplant, and Swiss cheese off her list. She stood in line, tapped her foot in time with the music, and blushed whenever anyone smiled at her when she was caught singing along to the song.

The cashier wore a bright red name tag that proclaimed her to be Maria. She chatted cheerfully with Jana about the brand of detergent she preferred (All) and the outrageous cost of bottled water ($6.98 for a 12-pack). She hit the button to get the total, and asked if Jana had her frequent shopper card with her.

Jana shook her head, and forked over $78.64 cash for her groceries. Casting one last bright smile at Maria, she thanked the bagger and then headed out the front door. Just as she was about to go down the curbside ramp that led to the parking lot, she was stopped.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but I’m afraid I have to ask you to come with me.”

Jana looked quizzically at the speaker. “I don’t understand.”

“I will explain inside. Please come with me.”

“But I have to get home.” Jana appeared to be calm, but her voice rose slightly.

“Ma’am, you don’t want to do this on the curb. Please. Come inside.”

She yielded, and allowed the burly man to usher her back into the store past dozens of curious faces with a few knowing glances interspersed among them.

The man opened a door, and showed Jana to a chair.

She sank into the chair, and looked up at him. “Now will you please tell me what this is all about?”

“May I see that diaper bag, please, ma’am?”

She handed it to him. “There’s nothing in it but my baby’s things.”

He nodded. “Now may I see your receipt, please?”

She handed him the receipt.

He carefully compared the receipt with the items in her grocery bags. “You didn’t pay for the items in the diaper bag.”

“Well, of course not, silly!” Her brittle laugh tinkled and then smashed on the floor. “Those things were already in my diaper bag. Why would I pay for them again?”

“Where is your baby?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Where is your baby? Why did you bring the diaper bag to the store with you when you don’t have the baby with you.”

Jana stared at him. “I brought the diaper bag because my wallet is in it. Now may I please leave?”

“No, ma’am. A store employee saw you put these things into your bag, and they do not appear on your receipt. I’m afraid we have no choice but to call the police.”

“There must be some mistake,” Jana said. “I already told you, I always carry a spare can of formula, a package of diapers, some bottles, and some baby food with me. I don’t understand what the problem is.”

He picked up the phone. “Send Ted in, please. Thank you.”

A moment later a knock sounded on the door. “Come in.”

A gawky teenage boy opened the door. His acne-scarred face was hot with embarrassment, and he carefully avoided looking at Jana.

“This is Ted. Ted, tell this woman what you saw.”

Ted snuck a look at Jana. “She put some formula, some diapers, bottles, and baby food in that diaper bag.”

“Are you sure it was this woman?”

Ted looked at Jana again and then nodded awkwardly.

“Thank you. You may go back to work.” Ted exited the room, and the man leaned back in his chair and looked appraisingly at Jana. “Ma’am, I hate to call the police. You seem like a nice lady and all, but unless you open up with me and tell me what’s going on, you leave me with no choice.”

“How many times do I have to tell you? I didn’t steal anything, and there’s nothing going on. Call the police. And call my husband, too. He’ll straighten things out. His number is—aren’t you going to write it down?—817-555-5283. Tell him what you told me. He’ll explain everything. You’ll see. It’s okay.”

The man sighed heavily. “Fine. I’ll call your husband. And then I’m calling the police. You stay here.” He got up and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Jana put the items back into her diaper bag, and loaded her groceries back into the cart. Humming a lullaby, she opened the door and began walking toward the front door.

“Lady, where the hell do you think you’re going!”

“I have to go home and feed my baby!” she insisted, twisting away from him. “Let me go!”

“Your baby’s home, alone?”

“It was only going to be for a minute. Please! I have to go!”

“I’m calling the cops,” he warned.

“Fine. Just let me go now, okay?”

“Let me see your driver’s license first.”

She took her wallet out of the diaper bag, and slipped her license out of its protective plastic sleeve and handed it to him.

He scribbled down her name and address, and then handed her license back. “Let me tell you, lady, if it weren’t for your kid being home by itself, you would be sitting back in that office in handcuffs! And don’t think you’re out of this thing!”

“I know, I know, but I have to go now.” She shoved her license into the bag and turned to go.

“One last thing, lady. What’s your baby’s name?”

She stared at him mutely.

“Your baby? The one that’s home by itself? What’s its name?”

“Her name—” she faltered.

“What is her name?” he asked again.

“Her name was Stella,” she said as she began sobbing hysterically. “Her name was Stella.”

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If you’ve found this, probably the first thing you’ll want to know is why I resorted to sending a message in this fashion. The people around me don’t see me, don’t hear me, don’t notice me. I get a passing hello from people I see every day. I get lectures on finances over the phone from my husband. I check my e-mail 30 times a day to see if there is anything real there; usually there are only e-mails from people I’ve never met before asking for tips on housebreaking a dog or spam from people like Delicious Activation, who want to sell me V!@gra or V@l!um. So in a sense, it makes just as much sense to write this note, stuff it into a bottle that I will then seal and toss into the river. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. Just like Delicious Activation and the friendish person who’s trying to housebreak her new dachshund.

And maybe the next thing you want to know about me is who I am. That’s a good question. I’m not really sure how to answer it. I can tell you what I am—a wife, a sister, a daughter, a pianist, a writer, a reader, an observer. I can tell you how I feel—sleepy, headachy, depressed, lonely, empty, hungry, despairing. I think, though, that the only way you can know who I am is to study me. Watch me, observe me, hear me, listen to me, ask me, capture me.

James Barrie, in Peter Pan, wrote of the secret kiss that lay in one corner of Mrs. Darling’s mouth, the kiss that no one could claim, the kiss that maddeningly remained aloof. That kiss was there for only one person, and if he did not claim it, it would remain unclaimed. Mr. Darling kissed his wife. Wendy, Michael, and John kissed their mother. There were kisses aplenty, and she gave them liberally to those she loved. But there was always that one kiss that remained untouched. There is something deep within me, like unto that kiss, that no one has touched yet. No one has discovered it. I cannot name it—only when it is filled can I understand and define it. And it’s that thing within me that impels me to write this letter, to make this desperate attempt to touch one other person. Perhaps you have such a place deep within your soul that is calling out for contact. Maybe you are the one person who can fill my emptiness; maybe I am the one person who can fill your emptiness; maybe somehow the randomness of our meeting will actually help make us whole.

But how will you know me? I can describe myself—round, pale-skinned, heavy dark hair, round green eyes and a too-small full-lipped mouth. Has that told you anything? I could tell you where I live, and how to find me, but that still tells you nothing. Unless you know me, you cannot know me.

I suppose I am, then, sending this message into the world with as much vain hope as a shipwrecked man. Hope is everything, because it is hope that keeps me alive, keeps me moving, keeps the blood running through my longing body, keeps the dreams filling my nights and haunting my days, keeps the guilt from destroying me, keeps the emptiness from consuming me. When the hope is gone then I am gone and there is nothing left. All there is is hope.

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My sweet husband bought me an iPod shuffle last night. I’ve been wanting one for when I go work out–my old CD player is so clunky. So today after work, I got it all hooked up, and put some music on it. I’ve been totally jamming out ever since!

I love those commercials of the shadow dancing zanily down the street while the person is tamely walking along. I’ve been dancing up and down the halls of my house, and singing at the top of my lungs, probably freaking my dog out. It’s a pretty painless way to get active.

I hope Joe doesn’t end up regretting this. He won’t regret it from the standpoint that more activity is good, and helps me lose weight. He will regret it from the standpoint of having to listen to me sing when he can’t hear the music. Let’s just say that I make William Hung sound good!

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I agreed to be interviewed by Chicory. Here you go:

1) How long did it take you to write your first book?

My sister and I wrote it together. We actually came up with the idea of a book about two sisters who had gotten married about the same time shortly after we were both married. We talked a little about it, but didn’t do much on it. About a year before my sister and her husband divorced, our characters told us that they wanted us to start their story before they got married. So we tried moving it to their college years. But they said, “No, you need to go back further.” We finally ended up setting it in their high school years. Once we figured out which story they wanted us to tell, the actual writing went reasonably quickly. I’d say it took us about 2 or 3 years (not actively working on it) to get to where we knew what story to tell and make an outline. Then it only took about 3 months to do the rest of the writing.

2) “Wonder is what sets us apart from other life forms. No other species wonders about the meaning of existence or the complexity of the universe or themselves.”–Herbert W. Boyer. What do you find yourself wondering about on a consistent basis? Do you ever wonder if, when animals seemingly stare into nothing, they are really wondering about these things, too, but just can’t tell us?

I wonder what my dog would say if she could talk to me. I mean, she does talk to me, but I mean the kind of talking where we would sit down and have a conversation. I wonder what the people in portraits would tell me about things they’ve seen since their portrait was captured. I wonder about all kinds of things.

3) You mentioned once that Faith is your chosen name. How did you choose it, when and why?

My husband and I got married in 1991. Much to my shock, I didn’t immediately get pregnant. Well, I did once, but miscarried early on. Months, and then years went by, without children coming. I had severe pain with my periods for years and years and years, and heard all kinds of stupid crap when I went to the doctors about it. Finally I got Joe to agree to go to an infertility specialist in late ’99. I had laparoscopy done in March of ’99 to clean out the adhesions the other doctors swore were all in my head. Much to my horror and dismay, the endometriosis had gotten to such a severe stage that they couldn’t clean out the adhesions without doing a hysterectomy. So we did IVF with ICSI. I never had any doubt that the IVF would work. I had perfect faith. But it didn’t work.

A few months after that, I was sitting in church one Sunday, idly not paying attention to the speaker. I had spent much of the morning looking enviously at the mothers with their hordes of children, and wondering if it would ever happen for me. Then I had this surge of inspiration that I should quit worrying about something that was out of my control. I remember frantically pulling a pen and paper out of my purse and writing down a list of the things that I had always wanted to do, but had put off “because I’m going to get pregnant and won’t be able to finish.” The list included such things as go back to school, go to Egypt, travel, etc. When I got home from church that morning, I looked at my whole house with a different perspective. I started realizing that for years I had been trying to mold myself into the perfect Mormon woman, and in so doing had crushed what made me the unique person I am.

Over the next several months, I got rid of all kinds of stuff. All the crafty cutesy things I had spent hours laboring over or money I didn’t really have to buy went out the door. I sold my scroll saw (that I never even used) and all the paints and brushes and glue and everything. It dawned on me as I was making some Christmas gifts that if I really enjoyed tole painting, I wouldn’t put it off until the last minute and then complain the whole time I was doing it. I bought a Picasso print and hung it in my bathroom. I changed my wardrobe. I changed every artificial thing about myself, and tried to strip down to the essence of myself.

My mother came to visit that year just after Christmas. While she was here, she and I had the usual conversation about my name. I have always hated my birth name. Virginia. Yes, objectively I know that it is a beautiful name. But when I got to the teen years, I heard all the bad jokes you can imagine. And I tried every nickname that could possibly logically be extracted fVirginiagina. For a long time I went by Ginny. No one ever spelled it correctly, even if I were standing there spelling it out loud. And there were some people from church that I had once longingly wanted to be like who said my name with what I can only describe as a painfully condescending tone of voice. So I just had all kinds of negative associations with my name. My mother airily told me to just change it.

Wow! I was floored. It had honestly never occurred to me to just change my name. I tried out a name I had liked since girlhood, but it didn’t fit me. So while Joe and I were driving home from visiting some friends, I asked him what he would name me if the choice were his. He said, “Faith.” And I tried it out, and it fit, and I like it. His family still don’t know, and they all call me Ginny. I haven’t told them because they already think I’m a freak, and I don’t want to give them more ammunition. Half of my family faithfully call me by my chosen name, and the others still call me Ginny. I don’t get offended by that; I realize that changing one’s name at the age of 37 can be hard for people to get used to. But I like it, and that’s what I go by. I haven’t changed it legally, and probably won’t. I don’t have to. I know who I am.

4) Have you ever thought of something you wanted to change in your life, something that could be changed, and then did so?

All the time. All the time. I was painfully shy as I was growing up, and learned when I was in my early 20’s that people mistook my shyness for snobbery. So I forced myself to be less shy. I’ve already mentioned a major change I did in the question above. And right now I am learning to cope with my fear of large crowds. I have missed events that I desperately wanted to see because I am afraid of crowds. I won free tickets to see one of my favorite bands (Barenaked Ladies), and at the last minute chickened out. I sent my husband with his best friend. So now when my husband wants me to go to a concert with him, I go. It’s uncomfortable, but I hope that eventually I’ll get used to it.

5) If you had a grody wound on your wrist, one that you had given yourself in an act of supreme stupidity, would you show it to everyone and tell them how stupid you are, or would you keep it discretely hidden and/or make up a story that showed your intelligence and valor to explain how you got it?

I’d probably show it to everyone and tell them how stupid I am. I went through a brief episode of cutting myself when I was living in Minneapolis (long ugly painful story). I didn’t go out of my way to hide it, but didn’t go out of my way to show anyone either. But now I’m a lot more comfortable with myself, and also more judgmental of myself, at the same time. So I’d be comfortable enough to show it around, and pissed enough to tell everyone what an idiot I am.

It’s been hard. Part of the depression involves frequent suicidal thoughts. There are times when I feel so completely worthless that I think I should not exist. But I think of what it would do to the people I would leave behind. In the times when I don’t love myself enough, thank heavens that I love them enough to refrain from doing it. The antidepressants I’m taking now have really reduced those feelings, and I’m glad. I hate feeling that way and knowing there’s nothing I can do about it.

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My Favorite Flowers

(In case you’re wondering why the bombardment of favorites lists–I’m cleaning out my e-mail, and want to delete some things from e-mail, but want to keep them for myself!)

I love roses, and I noticed yesterday that I have two roses on the bush by my front door. The flowers are a lovely yellow, with a pinkish tinge along the fringes of the petals.

And I love iris–they remind me of my Grannie, who had a huge garden full of iris.

I love daffodils, because they’re so yellow and cheerful.

I love tulips, because they’re so graceful and lovely.

I love lilies, because they are so graceful and beautiful. They remind me of the Savior.

I like to see lilacs blooming, with their drooping heads laden with purple flowers. And they smell so sweet.

I love lavender, for the color and the aroma.

We have a catalpa tree in our front yard, and it has huge leaves as big as dinner plates. In the spring, it blooms with these beautiful delicate flowers that look a little like orchids. They smell so sweet, and our front yard smells divine while the tree is in bloom.

I love to see magnolia blooms on the trees. The huge waxy flowers against the dark green leaves is exquisite to behold.

I love the trees that bloom with the pinky flowers. I know what they are, but I am having total brain cramps this morning, and can’t remember their names. But I love to see them!

And here in Texas, I especially enjoy the wildflowers that grow along the roadways. Bluebonnets (the state flower), Indian paintbrush, and buttercups–they are so beautiful!!!

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I love the smell of cinnamon, pine, holly–those wonderful Christmas scents–probably because I love Christmas so.

I like the smell of onions and garlic sizzling in hot olive oil. So many of the main dishes I cook start out that way, and it’s such a savory odor.

I like the smell of clean laundry. It’s like the reward for my labors, after I’ve spent the time to wash, dry, and put the laundry away.

I love the smell of bread baking. And it’s not as good when I use a bread machine instead of making it myself, so I know part of it is the reward for my labors.

I love the smell of rain. It’s so tantalizing, particularly when it’s the first rain in a long while.

I love the way my husband smells. When we were first dating, he used to wear Stetson cologne, and it smelled so good on him. He went out of town for a week, and I bought a small bottle of Stetson so I could keep smelling him. Now he uses more expensive colognes, but they just smell wonderful on him.

I love the way a new book smells, one that has never before been opened or read. And I love the way an old book smells.

I like the way herbs smell–particularly sage and mint.

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Back spasms

Did I mention nearly slipping in the bathtub a few weeks ago? I was taking a shower and suddenly felt my feet sliding backwards. The way I was headed, I would have cracked my skull wide open on the tile. I was terrified, although I didn’t quite see my life flashing before me, and somehow managed to save myself from falling. In the process, I twisted my back pretty badly. It hurt for a few days, and then let up.

Well, it started hurting again Friday or Saturday. Today it was bad enough that I took off work a few hours early and went to the doctor. He said that I pulled some muscles back there, and gave me some anti inflammatories and some muscle relaxers. I’m about to drowse off now, as they’re kicking in.

And may I just say, I won! I don’t have to take Molly to the vet after all! I’ve got to reschedule it for Saturday morning, and Joe gets to take her!!!

Okay, I’d rather NOT have the back spasms and have to take her to the vet, but still, one looks for the silver lining, right?

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