Pals are Good

Connecting with others by asking, “How do you spend most of your time?” #yearofbeautiful

I thrive off of connecting with people so a big part of my #yearofbeautiful initiative is doing this better. It’s my third item (of 3) on my list: “I will strengthen my connection with others.”

I find, often (especially since joining the SAHM world), that I don’t know how to ask if a new person works, stays home with kids, or what. Do you tend to fall back on the question… “What do you do?”

And have you always had good responses to that question?

Here’s how my conversation sometimes goes down (and down and down, depending):

“Hey, new person,” I say. “So, what do you do?”

New woman stares at me. She stares at her feet.

I am awkward. It’s not a feeling. It’s a state. I am in the state of awkward.

It’s like that time I asked a coworker if he was feeling okay and he was and then he wanted to know why I thought he was sick.

New person finally answers. “Well,” she says, “I’m just…”

And there it is.

The “JUST”.

She’s just doing something that she doesn’t think will impress me. She’s just at home. She’s just working a lot. She’s just putting her kids in daycare. She’s just home cleaning up toys. She’s just in school. She’s just trying to find a job. She’s just not in school without a job. She’s just homeschooling. She’s just on the school board, running her own business, and driving her high-achieving kids to all of their activities.

Back in the day–before I had kiddos, before I met my husband, before I had a titanium toe–I listened to an audio book. I would go on audio-book kicks, see. I’d check them out from the library and then, while driving to and from work, it was me and the audio book. I always picked nonfiction. It was a great way to learn tidbits about new things. I learned about Yellowstone, Buddhism, Outliers, and being “normal” in social situations, from the book, How to Talk to Anyone.

I wonder how well I learned that last one. (Me and my awkward states of being.)

In that book, there was a section that talked about saying something different, something better, than “So what do you do?”


I blame children.

Memory… post babies… what’s that?

I kept thinking that I would need to revisit that audio book to recall what I should say to people. But then… this week, guess what I found?


I know. I’m shouting.

But guess what? Some kind soul summarized the points from this book and made it visually appealing. Three cheers for that YouTube great. Woot woot woot.

After all of these years, I finally have the “better” question to ask.

Ready for it?

Here it is. (In case you didn’t already realize that IT’S IN THE POST TITLE.)

“How do you spend most of your time?”

Want to know how I would answer?

I spend most of my time doing so many things, from potty training my daughter, to pushing my son on the big ol’ backyard tree swing, to filming them both perform their bedtime ballet tonight, to throwing dinner in the crockpot in the morning so it was waiting when we came home from piano followed by a gym class, to helping put kids to bed, to ending the night with writing work and watching some random TV show.

What about you?

How do you spend most of your time?

The front porch in York

memoirThis is one of my stories: a story about the scriptures and a story about me, surviving. My Facebook feed has been littered today with people posting scriptures (because #LIGHTtheWORLD). I’ll be honest: I skip over them. They’re all such long scriptures. I dunno. I guess I’m not spiritual today. But guess what? I have my OWN scripture to share. Only mine comes in the form of a story. So, it’s actually WAY WAY longer than my friends’ scripture-social-media posts. If you know me, that’s how I do. I have a story for everything. And I’m not good at telling short stories. I go on random roads down many a tangent and throw excessive amounts of detail at you. Turns out, that’s my modus operandi. This story comes from my memoir I’ve been writing for some time. I spent a summer, when I was 19, selling books door-to-door. This is right in the middle of my story so you’ve missed out on introductions and background, but I think you’ll still get the gist of it. If not, post a comment about how silly I am to throw these random stories at you! By all means: NOBODY WANTS TO READ A SILLY BLOG. I mean. Come on. Go and read something amazing from a blogger who has incredibly pinnable content. Then, PIN ALL THE THINGS! Have fun. Now, on to my story.

“We might move you to a new sales area,” Kit had told me Saturday night. I replayed that statement over and over since then. It kept me up much of last night. It rattled through my brain as I sat in church. And now, sitting on a couch at a home in York, Pennsylvania, my mind repeats her voice over and over.

Deb sits next to me, talking with Eric. Byr is in the kitchen with others. Somebody is sleeping on another couch in the room. They’re laughing and cuddling and telling stories about selling. They’re acting like college kids. But it’s all muffled by my own mind.

“We might move you to a new sales area.”

Did Kit somehow know? Did she find out about that time that I hid in Byr’s trunk? Deb didn’t find out about that. Did she? Deb wouldn’t tell. Would Byr? She might for the sake of telling a good story. She wouldn’t tell Kit. But if she told Brice, would he tell Kit? Is that why Kit wants to move me? Because I hid in a trunk? That wasn’t in the rules.

The rules.

“We might move you to a new sales area.”

That was mentioned in the rules.

You may have to move some time during the summer. (New sales area, a more competitive roommate, better living environment, or a roommate that left the field early.)

Byr and Deb need a more competitive roommate. That’s probably it. “We might move you to a new sales area.”

Deb was laughing at Eric who was looking over at me. Is he waiting for a response? I have no clue. I nod slightly. “We might move you to a new sales area.”


I thought about the rules again. There was another rule about working with another first year. Deb, Byr and I were all first years. We were the only headquarters without a student manager or experienced book seller roommate. We were the only all-first-years HQ.

So I hid in a trunk, so what.

Never work with another First year dealer, unless recommended by a student manager. Never meet another First Year dealer for lunch. When you need to you can work with another Student Manager.

I thought back to when Kit read this rule to me, sitting in Sales School in Tennessee. She had modified the rule and crossed off a section that was an absolute no-no. She crossed off: “unless recommended by a student manager.”

“We won’t do that,” she said. “We’ll only have you work with another manager. It’ll be great!”

And then just last night, she’d told me, “We might move you to a new sales area.” She must have found out that I was with Byr during the day. We didn’t meet for lunch, though. And really, we didn’t really work. There was that one time where we went to the birthday party at the Shoemaker’s. Mama Shoemaker turned to Byr, when she came in and didn’t shut the door behind her, and stated, hands on her hips: “Do you live in a barn?”

So if I had to move, I’d have to start over in a new area. I’d have new roommates. I thought about the other girls HQ. The group in Middlesex used to have Kate. I liked Kate. But she went home. A student manager that went home. Even the managers quit this job. “We might have to move you to a new sales area.”

Byr was laughing in the kitchen. Something was funny. Capital F Funny. Her laugh snapped me out of my thoughts for a moment. Eric and Deb were talking about a friend of hers back home that wrote to her about her job as a life guard at the pool.

“She probably doesn’t have a book girl tan line,” Deb said, as she laughed and pulled up her sleeve to show her white shoulder, stark in contrast to her tanning arms.

“I know, right?” Eric pulled up his shorts to show a sock tan line.

I got up from the couch and stood there. I was going to go somewhere. Where? The kitchen? Outside? Home?

Oh, the kitchen. My laundry was probably done and the washing machine was just off of the kitchen. As I wandered through, Byr was standing around laughing with several of the guys. I snuck past, ducked into the closet used for laundry, left the lights off, and switched my clothes from the washer to the dryer in the dark.

After shutting the dryer and turning it on, I put my hands on top and drooped my head.

“We might have to move you to a new sales area.”

Why was I so anxious about this? I didn’t eat breakfast this morning. I hadn’t had any lunch yet. I wasn’t hungry. I was anxious.

Because I can depend on Byr to let me find her when I can’t stand this job.

I couldn’t do this alone.

Maybe I need help from someplace else, I thought. Kit had talked to me at church this morning. She mentioned the possible move again and seemed to pick up on my dread. “You should read Mosiah 24,” she said. “We talked about it in Sunday School. I think it would really help.”

“Mosiah 24?” I asked.

“Yeah. Mosiah 24.” She smiled. “Good chapter.”

I left the dark laundry room, walked through the kitchen without stopping for lunch, into the living room and grabbed my scriptures off of the coffee table. I kept walking out the front door.

We were at a two-story, white, wooden house, on a busy road in York. It had a long, wooden front porch that was sagging with age. It hadn’t been painted or stained in perhaps a decade. It might give you splinters if you looked at it for too long. I walked along the planks in my sandals so that I could sit down to the left of the door.

I stared at the traffic. Cars driving back and forth. Back and forth. Left. Right. I turned my head with them. Left. Right. Back and forth.

“Okay, Mosiah 24,” I mumbled.

I leaned my back against the house and slid down into a seated crouch, my scriptures perched on my knees. I thumbed through the pages, flipping past the Bible until I was in the Book of Mormon, following the tabs on the side until I got to the book of Mosiah where I opened and flicked the pages to the 24th chapter.

I rested the book down on my lap and looked down to begin reading:

“And it came to pass that Amulon…” I couldn’t read the words past that. I was crying. Ugly crying. Tears pouring down my face, blurring my sight. My shoulders shuddering with muffled sobs. A headache rapidly starting. I’d been holding it in, all of the anxiety, and I needed to sit down. I needed to stop.

The tears kept spilling down my cheeks, but they started to change from tears of anxiety, to tears of relief. I looked around, through my tears, at the cars speeding past. I wondered if they could tell something was happening on this sagging porch as they drove by. I looked back down at my scriptures. Why hadn’t I read these for so long?

I did need to read Mosiah 24. Kit knew. My shoulders stopped shaking, although the tears kept coming. I gulped big breaths of humid air and it felt good. I lifted my eyebrows in surprise. I was even smiling.

As the tears slowed, I smudged them off of my cheeks and eyelashes and continued reading. It was a story of a group of people in bondage. Their captors demanded that they not pray. So they prayed in their hearts instead. And there was the verse that I needed most:

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as a witness for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

In the age of loneliness, I am not lonely

lonelinessI read the saddest thing today. Apparently, we live in the Age of Loneliness.

It’s not the digital age, we’re far past the stone age, and it ain’t anything lingering from the space age.

Today, we are lonely.

The average American has only one real friend.


You guys, I depend on people.


I don’t DO loneliness. It was the darkest feeling in the midst of postpartum depression after Dom was born. Loneliness haunted me, even while I was with a tiny person 24/7.

But today, people exist apart. Or so the research states.

Even though we may go about living and breathing surrounded by people, we don’t have moments of genuine connection with them.

I remember looking for connection on the tube in London. Here I was, an American visiting this foreign country where everyone rode public transit, and I was no longer sitting alone in my car, getting places. I was sitting next to another living, breathing person, no steel walls of my vehicle to separate us, and nobody made eye contact.

We don’t speak to strangers on public transit.

And yet, they all have a story. People are INTERESTING!

As I prepared for becoming a mother of two, I KNEW that I would need a game plan to manage emotions. I wanted to be as ready as I could be for postpartum depression.

I want you to know that I feel like it’s working so far. Life isn’t easy, but it’s GOOD. And one of the big reasons for that is because I don’t often feel lonely. I have my days, but to be honest, that is only my fault now, because I have friends and family who have told me they’re only a text away, or just around the corner.

Did you know that I’ve had neighbors stop by simply to take me out for a walk? Or to drop off groceries? Or to take Dom for a little play date so I could nap with Gabbi? Or to deliver cookies their daughter made especially for me? Friends have dropped off dinner. People have stopped by to visit. They’ve given of their time. I can’t keep track of them all to send thank you cards. I feel like I am surrounded by MANY real friends.

How could I be a happy mom if I only had ONE? Seems like a big burden to ask for love and support from only one person. That poor, one friend of the average American must feel inadequate.

So, this is my shout out to my friends to say thank you. Thank you for scaring away the loneliness.

Mike! Knock, knock, knock. Mike!

Dom really likes our neighbor. Mike lives next door and most of his kids are grown and married, but Dom doesn’t notice the age difference. Mike is his buddy.
Dom likes to bang on the window and call for Mike, whether or not he is outside.
We have a small wall between our yards so Dom likes to pull himself up so he can spit over the wall into Mike’s yard.
If that’s not love…

What I couldn’t do myself: Christmas is back on


Emily helped.

Pogi helped.

Nathan helped.

Mom helped.

Christmas is on at the Elkinseseseses. Dom is very happy about it. He loves Christmas lights and he loves the school bus and motorcycle ornaments.
December was off to a rough start with strep throat making the rounds, no snow but the world outside has gone dormant and grey, the expenses of home ownership, and just feeling lumpy. That’s right: lumpy. I don’t know what that means so feel free to interpret.

The helpers above stepped in and my lumpy mood went away. Christmas music is on, I don’t mind the blah weather, and it looks like the holidays at our place. I needed the help.

Asking for help is not a talent of mine.

Blog Awards, a.k.a Chain Letters

I was nominated for the Liebster Award. Pretty exciting, right? It’s a little bit like getting a chain letter of old. Thankfully, this one didn’t come with death threats about what will happen to you if you don’t comply with the rules.  At least, not a death threat that I am aware of. When I searched around the world of Google for an image of the award, I found there were several to choose from and perhaps, not any considered “official.” I did the only logical thing and drew my own:

liebsterI know, right? This thing could hang on the wall at the Louvre. It’s an unspeakable piece of beauty. I amaze myself even.

It is an honor, though, to be nominated. My friend, Kristina, gave me the nod. We’re buddies from back in the singles ward days and both married handsome, brown guys. Our kids might be able to get tans. She has a fun time writing over on her blog, A mom in need of advice.

It took me forever to write a response post to Tina’s nomination. But, today, I knew I ought to do it when I was catching up on past XKCD cartoons and ran across this mention of

Do you remember livejournal? I logged in just the other day and I remembered my credentials. This was, once upon a time, one of the places that I posted a blog. I’ve been a bit of a blog player, bouncing from site to site, setting up camp, and not staying for too long or really committing. In the end, though, I did settle down on wordpress. Lucky you, wordpress.

Anyway, I digress.

So I’m going to cheat a little bit because I’m not going to follow all of the rules. I’m just going to do the part about answering the 11 questions that Tina posted for me. Here goes. Enjoy (in case you haven’t already this far into this mighty blog post):

Why did you start blogging?

I have no clue. Because I write.

I have been blogging for almost a decade. I started up when livejournal was “happening.” I also used MSN Spaces until it was changed over to Windows Live Spaces and also blogged there. One day, for some random reason, I relocated to wordpress. When I got married, I considered moving to a new account with my married name, but it was such a hassle. Hassle, I tell you. And changing your name already has enough hoop jumping. I STILL blog today because I’m happy to have the record of my past and it gives my friend ambient awareness of my life.

When was the last time you cried?

A few minutes ago. It’s been a hard day. Dominic was up for a couple of hours last night, which he doesn’t do anymore. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, either. So the day just started off wrong and by this afternoon, I was worn out. I felt one, little tear slide down my cheek as I was reading an email from my husband. It was a poor, exhausted tear so it slid down extra slowly. Nobody saw and I went back to the efforts of working.

What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?

This one may be a tie between Thundercats and Brave Star. If anyone else possibly remembers Brave Star, you deserve an award, and not the chain-letter kind. Something awesome like a drawing from me of a sad panda. In order to prove that you remember it, what was his horse’s name?

If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would buy?

A house with a yard big enough for a vegetable garden, a kitchen that is up to Chef Guapo’s standards, a master bath, decent closet space, and something like 4 bedrooms.

What is your favorite song on your iPod at the moment?


What scares you?

Having another baby.

What is your favorite post on your blog? Why?

I have no clue. I used to have the most fun with Therapy Thursdays. I used to write an imaginary dialogue between a therapist and myself. We discussed such deep things as getting enough sleep at night and doodling. Isn’t doodle such a fun word to say?

What is the last book you read?

Gone Girl. It was a twisted story with an interesting twist. I should get back in the habit of doing book reviews on my blog. They help me to remember to think critically about my reading, too.

If you could give the world once piece of advice what would it be?

Love God and keep the commandments. (It’s two, but they’re said in one sentence.)

Do you collect anything?

I used to have a sugar collection. Yeah, that’s right: sugar collection. I collected two packets of sugar from a restaurant. I don’t think restaurants really get their logos on their sugar packets anymore, though, so it wouldn’t be fun to collect a bunch of SYSCO packets. One day, I used all of those sugar packets (from all over the U.S.) to ask a boy to a high school dance. I dumped them all in a big, empty sugar bag and wrote my name on the packets, one letter per packet. The boy (I don’t remember who) had to dig through them all to find the 14 packets among hundreds and then unscramble the letters to spell lauren campbell. Oh the joys of asking to dances in Utah.

Are you a morning or night person?

I don’t know that there is another person IN THE WORLD who is less of a morning person than I am. Do you?

Thanks again for the blog nod, Tina. Much appreciated.

And what about you, internet? How would you answer these questions above?

Laboring for Labor Day

We’ve been doing some work on the condo, but I’m saving that for a later post. Due to this, we spent a lot of time working on that over Labor Day weekend. I even have pictures… for later.

So despite my title, which I could change, but I just don’t feel like it, I’m going to show you pictures of the times we took breaks from our labors, or rested, if you will. (That sentence needed a few more commas, eh?)

porchDom loves playing with his daddy. Nathan can get him to giggle. A lot. Saturday morning, we spent a little time relaxing on the porch, enjoying the slightly cooler weather. It was much better than the 100 degree days we’ve finished the summer with. The weekend was overcast and even a smattering of thunderstorms tumbled in.

That afternoon, Nathan was away at a baptism while I was home and Dom was napping. I was finally getting cleaned up and was in the bathroom cutting bangs because I decided that I wanted them again when Nathan came home and had a concerned look on his face. I, of course, whispered (Dom’s sleeping, remember): “What?!”

“Aaron and Ada are getting married!”

I was a little confused because, I had already replied to the Facebook invitation for the “After Party” so I figured they were getting married FIRST in order to party afterwards. What I didn’t know, though, was that their marriage was taking place in Salt Lake (they currently live in Seattle). Aaron and Nathan had been roommates for several years before he became my roommate. Ada had then become a roommate as well when she started dating Aaron. So once I learned the wedding was here, I understood why he was so concerned about missing it.

Turns out, our invitation to the wedding part was lost in the mail. Boo postal service.

Nathan rushed back out the door to at least show up for the pictures/food afterward and congratulate them. I waited for Dominic to finish his nap then we joined them at Jordan Park. They had a pavilion there and had put down white construction-paper tablecloths. I found their bucket of crayons and grabbed a handful. Nathan sat with Dom and tried to teach him to doodle. (What a funny word: doodle.) Mostly, Dom just attempted to eat the crayons, but he scratched out a few colors.


On Monday, we were able to meet up with the now married Aaron and Ada for lunch at Gourmandie’s. It was nice to get them to ourselves and just sit down and talk. That’s not really doable with everyone around celebrating their wedding and all. Dom enjoyed himself a breadstick.


Did you labor or play for Labor Day weekend?