It’s like living with Karen Carpenter.

My husband is on another weight loss kick.  Do any of you know my husband?  He is tall, thin, and devastatingly handsome.  In fact, when we’re out in public together, I often hear middle-aged women whisper, “Who is that tall, thin, devastatingly handsome man with the frumpy blonde?”  I then have to throw my voice loudly in their direction and say, “Beat it, sister.  Find a devastatingly handsome man of your own.”  But I digress.

So if you know my devastatingly handsome husband, you also know that “slow and steady wins the race” means nothing to him.  Everything Derrick does is a) All or b) Nothing.  Either one is fine, as long as he doesn’t land somewhere in The Middle.  (I, myself, love The Middle.)  Despite my pleas for him to stop tormenting himself with unnecessary diets, he constantly insists that he needs to lose a few pounds–usually for an upcoming climb or to zap his cholesterol–and he has gotten quite creative with the ways he’s going to lose them.  He came home the other night and made an announcement over my lovingly prepared potato soup and homemade bread:

“I’m giving up flour.”

(Sigh) “What do you mean.” (Period intentional.  Really not that curious.)

“I’m not going to eat anything that has flour in it.”

Nothing with flour in it?  No bread, pasta, even tortillas?”

“Nope.  No flour at all.”

“You’ve already given up rice and potatoes.  What am I supposed to make for dinner?”


At this point, the kids began yelling at their father that giving up flour was the stupidest thing they’ve ever heard.  (Our next home evening will be on Honoring Thy Mother and Father.)  I tried to laugh the whole thing off, but was inwardly troubled by what this would do to both my grocery budget and my tri-weekly cookie baking sessions, of which Derrick has always been so supportive.  We’ve been married and making cookies for fifteen years.  What would we have to talk about now?

Derrick quickly reminded me that he has spent the last fifteen years listening to me rant about calories, fat, and the dreaded “points” in food, so couldn’t I at least support him in this?  Yes, I told him apologetically.  Of course I’ll help you subtract the staple of the western world’s diet from your own. So like the dutiful wife I am, I sat down and made a dinner menu for our family based on various red, white, and other-white meats.  I went to the store and shopped accordingly.  That was on Saturday.

Today is Sunday.  I gently asked Derrick if he would mind my making some chocolate-chip cookies for the kids, as I usually freeze them and then pull them out for their lunches throughout the week.  I was surprised when he smiled and said, “That’s fine.  Don’t adjust the family’s diet around mine.” (Right.) So I made a double batch of my trusty oatmeal chocolate chippers.  I left them on the counter to cool.

As of this post, seven of the cookies are absent from said countertop.  Gone.  The kids and I have not had a single one.

The predictable wailfest occurred later this evening as we sat on the couch together while Derrick wallowed in the aftermath of his gluttony.

Why do you do this to meee??”

“You are a grown man.  You are responsible for your own flour intake.”

“But your cookies make it so haaard!  When everyone else is eating them…”

“No one else was eating them.  Just you.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Listen, if your friends jumped off a cliff, and then ate some flour, does that mean you would do it?


“Where is your conviction?”

“In the cookie jar.”

“That is not a good place for it.”

“I know.”

“Where are you going?”

“To get more cookies.”

And thus begins the Nothing phase of Derrick’s All-or-Nothing.  I can’t pretend I’m sorry.  It’s a heckuva lot more fun than his All.

Stop picking on Kim. Can you blame her?

I wasn’t going to write about the Kardashian divorce.  It just seemed too easy a target.  But then I reconsidered.  After all, when have I ever been above taking a cheap shot on this blog?  So I will now pose the question that has America all abuzz to my three faithful readers:  What could possibly have happened, in just 72 days, to send this couple straight from the altar to the courtroom?

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess here that I know next to nothing about the Kardashians or this wedding.  I have never seen the reality show (some paint was drying on the house across the street that I thought looked more interesting), have never read the tabloids about them, and had no idea who Kris Humphries was until a few days ago (that one is kind of embarrassing.  Really, do I live under a rock?  No, just in Eastern Washington.)  So I’m hoping some of my more television-savvy faithfuls might be able to answer what will surely become one of the Questions of the Ages:  what happened to Kris and Kim?  Such potential for eternal bliss shone from the glow of their slightly touched-up faces to the sparkle of Kim’s 20-carat wedding ring.  And two bridal gowns?  (Or was it three?  I get confused.)  Obviously, she meant to stick around.  Why else the bazillion dollar wedding?  Everyone knows that the more you spend, the more you love.  How could a relationship with so much promise–not to mention, emotional maturity–take such a hasty downturn?

Since I know so little about the Kardashians themselves, I can only guess what might have went wrong based on the surprises my own first 72 days of marriage held.  It was a long time ago, but if I reach far back enough into my memory and dig around a little, I can recall the things that gave me pause just two and a half months into wedded bliss.  And after each statement, I invite you to wonder with me:  is this what happened to Kim?

What Happened in the First 72 Days of my Marriage

1.  The wedding and honeymoon and party-planning were over.  I was no longer the Center of the Universe.  People stopped showering me with attention and got on with their own lives.  Bummer.

2.  We were back to school, work, and being flat-broke.  Bummer.

3.  My husband began consuming Jiffy Blueberry Muffins en force.  I had introduced the decadent pastries to him the first week of our marriage, and he started going through at least one mix (half a dozen muffins) per day.  It was weird.

4.  Like most young wives, I decided it would be a smart move to chop my long hair off–and I mean off— immediately following the wedding ceremony.  As I walked through the front door, my kind young husband smiled way too big and said way too loudly, “Yeah!  I like it!”  Of course he hated it (though he never said, bless him.)  Less diplomatic was a woman I barely knew.  We met some old friends for dinner one night, at the friends’ parents home, and when I walked through the front door, our friends’ mother shot me–no exaggeration–the dirtiest look anyone has ever given me.  I was about to ask her what I’d done to offend her when she shook her head, still glaring at me, and spat out, “That’s the first thing new brides always do–cut off their hair!”  She rolled her eyes and grimaced.  I saw this woman about twice a decade and had had maybe three real conversations with her in my life, but boy, was she angry.  Oh, how I wish I could reply to her now, as a 38-year old, instead of how I did then, as a 22-year old (which was, of course, much too politely.)

5.  For reasons long-nested within– and understood only by–the Universe (the same one that had just expelled me from its Center), I felt the need to make a nice dinner for my husband every night, even though he did not expect, or even really want, me to.  No matter.  I was a wife!  I had to cook!  Immediately after the wedding, I began cooking every night instead of going to the gym, like I used to.  You can guess how great I looked, and felt, just 72 days later.  Sluggish and grumpy are understatements.

6.  Things I’d always considered cute personality quirks, like leaving water glasses all over the house or writing a check for a dollar seventy-five, were not as adorable as I’d always thought them to be.  It puzzled me how, when I was single, I posessed no annoying personal habits whatsoever, but then developed dozens of them the day I moved in with someone else.  And the same mysterious change had come over my husband.  When had we both become such hard people to live with?

7.  Friday night dinner-and-movie dates were promptly replaced by marathon library sessions and midnight grilled cheeses at Dennys.  (No regrets here.  Dennys practically invented the grilled cheese sandwich.  Geeood.)

8.  My new short hair and non-gym-attending physique stopped many a handsome young man from flirting with me.  I kept telling myself it was the wedding ring that made me invisible, but I had to remind myself that I wasn’t exactly sporting a Kardashian rock; I doubt the glare off my little white diamond was blinding would-be admirers to my beauty.  Don’t get me wrong:  I didn’t want to flirt with other guys–I loved my own guy!  But I wanted other guys to want to flirt with me.  How else would I know I still “had it?”  (Although I’ve never understood just what “it” entailed for a poor, out of style, virtuous BYU coed.  But whatever “it” was, I was sure I’d once had it, and I planned on keeping it.)

9.  Upon marrying, other people (i.e., my parents) suddenly expected me to know how to do things I had no way of knowing how to do, such as:  balance a checkbook, buy health insurance, and fill out my own financial-aid forms.  Geez, people, I was only twenty-two!  Wasn’t it enough that I’d finally started returning my library books on time?  (The expectations of some parents.)

10.  Shaving my legs between October and April, which I had always considered purely optional, now felt like a necessary part of personal grooming.  Bummer.

Forget Kim and Kris; I read this list and wonder how any couple can survive what the first seventy-two days throw at them.  It’s a wonder that Derrick and I made it ourselves and, against all reasonable speculation, are still together.  And still making Jiffy Blueberry muffins.  And still not going out on Friday nights.  And still trying to figure out our health insurance.  Oh, and did I tell you?  I’m still shaving my legs in the wintertime. (They say it takes work to keep the passion alive.  I’m no frump.)

And as I finish up this post, I feel compelled to wish a happy, long, tedious, flawed, Jiffy-muffin-marriage to you all.  May you and your spouse grow wrinkled, chubby, mortgaged and non-Kardashian-like together.  I couldn’t wish better for any of us.



I never worry about action, only inaction.

I love this quote from Winston Churchill.  I’ve decided to adopt it as the new tag line for my life.  (What, you’re telling me that you don’t have a tag line for your life? Get one, my friend, and share it with us all.)  I’ve chosen this particular phrase as my Guiding Light in an effort conquer the giant stumbling block I’ve never conquered in all my blue-personalitied days:  making decisions.

Are you decisive and confident, like my husband, or indecisive and neurotic, like me?  Do you make up your mind and then move forward unbridled, or do you survey everyone you know (including and especially your three faithfuls), think about it, pray about it, think about it some more, then make a hesitant, halfway decision, only to regret the path you’ve taken before you’ve even began taking it?  Have mercy, I’ve just described my own decision-making process.

I am a flounderer.  I stink at making decisions, large and small.  Derrick dreads pulling into a drive-thru with me because he knows that nothing terrifies his wife more than a screen with eighty different menu options staring her down.  The brightly-lit board sits expectant and menacing, with a powerful but hidden stranger who is waiting–along with five carloads of people behind us– for me to decide on just one thing to eat.  Don’t they understand that this is the only food I will have for the next two to three hours?  I mean really.  Where’s the fire?

Imagine my angst in grocery stores, clothing stores, and furniture stores, not to mention farmers markets, flea markets, and stock markets.  (I threw that last one in to impress.  As if.)  Imagine the terror I experienced at the tender age of twenty-five when someone put a Choosing Your Baby’s Name book in my hands for the first time.  Already reeling with loop-de-loop hormones, I’m pretty sure I closed my eyes, opened the book, and stuck my finger on a name.  I wrote it down on a little piece of paper and put it in my coat pocket so I wouldn’t forget to bring it to the hospital.  Hopefully the baby’s gender would match up with the name that I’d picked out, but if not, c’est la vie, because I wasn’t about to go through that hellish choosing process again.

Are you a Churchill or a wuss?  Now in fairness to us wusses out there: along with this wussiness comes a flexibility that allows us to work well with others and manage the unexpected pretty easily.  This is a nice trait to be sure, but it doesn’t help me choose between a chicken sandwich or a salad, a brown or black picture frame, if twelve is too young for makeup, or whether or not we should have another baby.  (My husband will be so happy I brought up that last one.)

One day, after a particularly grueling decision needed to be made regarding whether or not my children should ride the school bus, my decisive husband let me in on a little secret.  He said, “Jen, I just make a decision and figure that even if it’s the wrong decision, I can always go back and fix it later.”  Judge if you will, but I’m telling you, this was something of a revelation to me.  I had always seen decisions as so right-or-wrong, so permanent, such an unforgiving mark of my character and judgment.  But here was my Best Faithful telling me I could mess it all up, and everything would be okay.

I could order the chicken sandwich and if it was terrible, lunchtime would happen again tomorrow.  I could always swap out the black frame for the brown and tell my daughter that I’d changed my mind about eyeshadow (too bad.)   And I can enjoy the children I have and stop worrying about the ones I don’t.  It will all, somehow, work out.

So I’ve decided that from this post forward and with my three faithfuls as my witness, I will honor Mr. Churchill by choosing action over inaction, lumpy and awkward as that action may be.  When I am not sure what to do–which is about ninety-percent of the time–I will close my eyes and just do, and have faith that it will all, somehow, work out.

I will keep deciding and re-deciding how to parent my children, because what really matters is that I care enough to decide.  I will keep writing dorky things on my blog that might make me sound dumb, because sounding dumb once in a while is better than not writing anything ever.  And, like I did this morning, I will keep semi-dancing while I run down tenth avenue, especially when Shawn Mullins needs me to bust out air-drums while jamming with him on my iPod.  Because an out-of-shape mom who dances while she runs is better than an out-of-shape mom who doesn’t run at all.  At least that’s what I’ve decided.