I'm the type of person who can't use things up when they're almost spent. The cupboard under my sink is full of various hair products that are 98 percent used up; I can never bring myself to use the last little bit because something in me makes me need to save it for when I'll really need it. My bedroom is littered with mint containers with one mint left in each. I can't use the last mint, but I can't throw away the container until all the mints are used.

This same phenomenon has prevented me from either using or throwing away my special Italian umbrella for a year and a half.

In Italy, it rains quite a bit. Because I am One Who Prepares, I would pack my umbrella every day. For the first year of my mission, it was a light-weight umbrella that had been given to me as a mission gift---until it was stolen by a church member. After that was stolen, I simply would grab one of the many umbrellas that inevitably collected in each mission apartment---not that it really mattered anyway; as long as you are in a big city, the moment a drop falls from the sky, mobs of foreign street vendors surround any umbrella-less person, offering an umbrella for five euros. No? Four euros. No? For you, bella, two euros. Sold.

And so, with a rain coat and an umbrella, you would think that I was set anytime it rained. But I wasn't. See, because I was One Who Prepares, but my companions never were. Or at least they saw that I had an umbrella and thought that they were covered, literally. But let's review the sorry lot of One Who Prepares:

Rain or not, One Who Prepares must carry the umbrella all day long.

When it begins to rain, One Who Prepares gets the job of holding the umbrella over the companionship for hours.

Because there are puddles, even when a companionship tries to walk closely together, inevitably they must sometimes diverge to avoid stepping in puddles and on those occasions, One Who Prepares still tries to be kind to the umbrella-less companion and stretches out her arm to make sure that the companion is covered as she steps around the puddle.

One Who Prepares, despite her preparation, gets wet.

Basically, One Who Prepares is screwed over completely. Get it?

It took me MONTHS before I finally clued into the fact that the situation was wholly unfair. Three months before the end of my mission, after we had about two weeks of straight rain, I told my companion that I was no longer sharing my umbrella with her. The torrential rains had claimed the lives of all but one of the umbrellas in the apartment. I told her that she could have the remaining umbrella and I would go out and buy my own.

I bought the most fantastic umbrella I've ever seen. First of all, it was name-brand. Second of all, it didn't cost two euros. And it didn't cost five euros. Third of all, it was beautiful and sturdy. I bought it and spelled things out clearly to my companion: I will never share this umbrella with you. You are welcome to use the other umbrella every day, but if you don't pack it and bring it with you, I'm not going to get myself wet because you failed to prepare.

Really it was an empty threat. As much as I would have loved to leave her out in the rain and stay dry under my beautiful umbrella, I was too conscious of the Church's public image to allow the Italians to see a companionship where the one sister wouldn't even share her umbrella with the other. But it worked. I never had to share my umbrella again.

The umbrella served me well for the last three months. And I loved it so dearly that I hand-carried it back to the United States. It was too long to fit into my luggage. I used it during the summer I was home before returning to BYU and the day I was flying out to BYU, I had it at the door, ready to hand-carry it to Utah. But I got distracted and left it there, at the door. When I got to Utah, I called home and asked my mother to please put it in the closet until I came home for Christmas.

I don't recall telling her that she could use it in the interim. But when I got home for Christmas, I opened up the umbrella and noticed that one of the spokes was slightly---ever-so-slightly---bent.

I hand-carried the umbrella back to Utah but as I used it, I noticed that the slight bend in the spoke was causing a slight rust spot and a slight tear in the fabric. And in that moment, the umbrella became like a can of almost-used hair spray or almost-consumed tin of mints. It was too precious to use and too precious to throw away. It went into the back of the closet for safe-keeping and I brought out an old, trusty umbrella that I didn't really care about.

I've been using old trusty for the past year, but forgot it in my car earlier this week, so yesterday morning, when it was raining and I needed to get to my car, I grabbed my beautiful umbrella, and popped her open.

Or at least I tried.

Sometime during a year and a half of disuse and two moves, the shaft of the umbrella was bent out of place, now preventing the umbrella from opening completely.

I can't bring her back into the house---I know that now, she's officially garbage. But she'll probably sit in my car for another year and a half before I can bring myself to trash her.


Tonight, after David Sedaris shared three pieces I'd never heard before, he filled some time by reading entries from his diary. These entries were short, to-the-point, and hilarious. One mentioned that in a conversation in French about his experience observing work in a morgue(?) for a week, he tried to sum it up by saying, "On the whole it was---" only to realize that he'd forgotten the French word for unforgettable.

Sedaris's performance tonight was certainly inoubliable---unforgettable. But I hope that, in a way, his experience with me might have also been just a little inoubliable. It certainly made an impression.

Let me start at the beginning. Rachel came and picked me up a little early. She opened my car door, and there was a bouquet of flowers waiting for me in the passenger seat (my mom was worried that people might think that I'm gay because I ended up choosing Rachel for the date, and I must admit that in that moment, I felt just a little bit gay). In just those two gestures, she outdid any other first date I've ever had. We went to Red Rock Brewery for a delicious meal (paid for by Rachel) and then we made our way over to Capitol Theater.

We immediately saw my ex-boyfriend, Big-D. It's hard not to see him---at 6'5, his head always pokes above the crowd. Big-D and I are certainly not uncivil towards one another. In fact, I'd venture to say we're on pretty good terms these days. So we stopped to talk and he told me about his horrible book-signing experience with David Sedaris. He'd given his book to Sedaris to sign, and Sedaris started asking Big-D about his ex-girlfriend as he drew a picture.

"Do you have one particular ex-girlfriend who you really hate?" he asked.

"Uh... actually..."

I don't remember their conversation verbatim, but after David Sedaris drew a picture of Big-D's ex-girlfriend (that's me) throwing up on the title page of Big-D's book, it came out that Big-D was gay, and that he did not, actually dislike his ex-girlfriend, and in fact, she'd be there at the performance as well.

I guess for some reason, having David Sedaris draw a picture of me vomiting in Big-D's book was not what Big-D was expecting, and Big-D was upset. I still don't understand this, but it's true. Big-D was upset.

After the (spectacular!) performance, I got in line to have David Sedaris sign my book. I was a little nervous at the thought of actually meeting him and actually having to say something to him. Instead of having him sign my title page, I asked if he would sign my favorite essay, "The End of the Affair." He wrote, "To [Cicada], my---" here he stopped to think.

"Do you go to the movies all the time?" he asked.

"Well, not all the time," I answered.

He thought a little more and explained that he just couldn't figure out what to write. I said, "Well, earlier this evening, you drew a picture of me vomiting in my ex-boyfriend's book."

He certainly remembered the experience, and told it from his perspective: "I just got this great new idea, that I would just draw a picture of some guy's ex-girlfriend vomiting in his book. So I did it, but this guy was not happy about it at all, and it turns out that he and his ex-girlfriend are actually still on good terms. He really was not pleased that I drew that picture in his book."

"Yeah," I said. "That was me."

"Well then." He started to finish his autograph in my book. "That's it, then. To [Cicada], my mistake."

So maybe, in a small way, Big-D and I were inoubliable. Or maybe tonight, Sedaris will go to sleep and completely forget about that time that he drew a picture of a gay man's ex-girlfriend vomiting and upset his fan. For my part, I will always remember that I am David Sedaris's mistake.

Free iPod

I appreciate the concern of those who thought that I should be getting a free iPod. To be honest, I thought that I didn't qualify for one because I thought that maybe I got all the paperwork done a little too late. But on Thursday after work, I went to my bank to get some rent money for El Senor. While I was there, I decided to at least ask about the iPod, since all my friends were reporting receiving theirs recently. To my surprise, I was informed that I did qualify in time for the free iPod and I should be getting it any day.

Then I went home and it was sitting at my doorstep. O Happy Day! It made me very glad that I returned the one I bought last week. Now I only have to buy the pedometer and shoes and I'll be all set. I'll be doing that next weekend.

And the winner is...

(Crappy formatting of this post brought to you by Safari, the wanna-be-browser.)

Because I try to be a courteous dater, I have determined the Go on a Date with Cicada winner one week in advance. You may note that October 24th is less than a week away now, but rest assured, I informed the winner yesterday by email.

The winner was determined by a completely unbiased mathematical calculation of suitability for this date. Feel free to review your application to see why you did or did not win and how you can improve future applications to go on a date with me.

Saule Cogneur____5

+2_____being the first to apply
+3_____being male
+3_____offer to make me bread and subsequent private endorsement by Ambrosia
+3_____offer to take me out for Thai food at a future date (I love me some Tom Ka Gai)
-2_____trying to be funny by using bad English in his essay---I didn't know if this was a play off from Sedaris's "Me Talk Pretty One Day" or just pointless bad English. The uncertainty caused a loss of points.
+2_____sucking up
-5_____insincerity/uncertainty---I didn't know if he was just filling out the application to be funny or because he really wanted to go out and see David Sedaris.
-1_____the missed opportunity of sneaking in some French to woo me


-3_____being female
+3_____sincere offer of dinner
+3_____previous knowledge that David Sedaris was in town and attempt to find someone to go with her
+3_____ownership of several David Sedaris books
+3_____love of David Sedaris strong enough to make her take a picture of his door
-4_____creepiness factor of having taken a picture of David Sedaris's door
+1_____offer to speak Canadian French
+1_____funniness of extreme yahtzee comment


-3_____being female
+2_____turning her application into her own blog post
-1_____use of bilabial plosives in her application
+1_____disclosure of her non-sexual crush on me
+3_____links to possible outfits
+3_____knowing David Sedaris from NPR
+1_____writing a poem (only one point because poetry comes so naturally to her)
-6_____having to buy a plane ticket for her to attend the event with me


+3_____being male
-3_____admitting defeat before ever actually applying


+3_____being male
+3_____being funny
+3_____futuristic date promise
+6_____promise to sing French songs
-3_____obvious unfamiliarity with David Sedaris
+2_____sucking up
-15____the fact that he was cringing so violently during _The Producers_ that I thought he was going to implode (proves unsuitability for a David Sedaris performance)

The math doesn't lie---Rachel is the best-suited date for this event! Congratulations!

Thank you all for applying. Remember, any of you are eligible for a future (or futuristic) date with Cicada. Please note where you lost points and try to improve those areas in the future. Possible dates include:
* a trip to the Tracy Aviary followed by hot beverages and chili or soup
* dinner and a movie
* I'm already out of ideas, but seriously, cash in on that trip to the Tracy Aviary while there's still time!

Self-Control, No. Repentance, Yes.

[I bring you a break in telling you my friends' stories to tell you about my repentance today.]

Today was like any other Saturday except that I as soon as I woke up, I remembered that today I wanted to go and buy a sweater. Not just any sweater, but the same sweater a friend of mine had been wearing last night because it was so cute. I didn't shower because I have no clean underwear. I also want to do laundry today, but that priority came after buying the cute sweater.

So I took the Trax to Nordstrom and I bought the sweater. And it is so cute.

And when I was in Nordstrom, I saw these shoes that my boss was telling me about yesterday. They are Nike shoes that have a space for a pedometer that hooks onto your iPod nano. It tracks your running and your speed and distance and everything. You upload your info onto your computer and then the Nike site tracks all of your running stats in really beautiful bar graphs and stuff. The shoes were $159. I looked at them, looked at the iPod pedometer thingy (really, it only costs $30!) and thought, "Yeah, that would be cool," as I walked away.

But then I was already downtown Salt Lake and I was already enjoying the fact that I live in a big city, so I decided that I should walk over to the Gateway and go to Barnes&Noble and pick up a book to read while I do laundry. Only then I picked up three books because I am a working woman now and I am single and I can spend all my money on myself.

But then I was sortof sucked into the Mac Store because, you know, it's right there.

And again, I was drawn to the little pedometer that conveniently hooks into your iPod. Only, you know, I don't have an iPod (I never got that free one...). But I exercised restraint.

But then I walked down to see the other stores at Gateway because, you know, I was there and everything. And then I just happened to walk into Dick's sporting goods. And I just happened to walk over to where they sell the Nike shoes. And they just happened to have a gorgeous pair for only $109. And then they just happened to fall onto the cash register and before I knew it, I already swiped my credit card. I mean, really---only $109! It's a steal!

So then I had to go back to the Mac Store and then the guy in the Mac Store showed me the colorful graphs that track your running progress and it was beyond cool, people. And I just happen to be training for a half marathon, and so I knew that I really needed this, and it wasn't a want, after all.

So then I bought an iPod nano and a pedometer and an arm band for my iPod nano.

And then I took Trax home as I read one of my books, trying not to think about the fact that I'd just spent $500 on impulse buys.

And then I convinced myself that if El Senor would tell me that I made good purchases that I could keep them.

But El Senor wasn't home.

And I'm sorry, but nothing, and especially not my bank account, can justify $500 of impulse purchases.

So I'm going back to the Gateway. And I'm going to return all the cool stuff that I need to train for my half marathon. Because Switchback has run half marathons and marathons and she never had this stuff.

But my birthday is coming up, people.

Ruth and the Big Bag of Condoms

This story is a little longer than the last one and I'll probably get a few of the details wrong, but as I remember it, here's Switchback's contribution to my all-time favorite stories ever. (Not that there's only three---but that I'm currently telling three of my favorite all-time stories.)

Switchback grew up in California and when she was about 19, a friend of hers went to a health clinic and was given a huge bag full of condoms. The friend asked Switchback if she wanted them and Switchback said that she didn't have any use for them, but the friend accidentally left them in the trunk of Switchback's car.

Months later, Switchback had completely forgotten about the huge bag of condoms when her mother, Ruth, asked her to borrow her car. Ruth borrowed the car to go out of town. She found the bag of condoms before her trip and had several days away from home to think it over and think about how to talk to her daughter about her lifestyle.

Ruth returned on a Sunday, and Switchback and Ruth would often go for Sunday walks. So when Ruth invited Switchback to go for a walk with her, Switchback didn't think that it was anything out of the ordinary. As they walked, Ruth finally brought up what was on her mind.

"[Switchback]," she said, "I found what was in the trunk of your car."

Switchback, still forgetting about the condoms, assumed that her mother found her skanky spaghetti-strap tank tops that she would wear when she was away from her parents. She said, "Oh, Mom, I can totally explain about the clothes---"

Ruth said, "No. No, [Switchback], I'm not talking about the clothes. I'm talking about the large bag of condoms." She bravely continued. "You know, [Switchback], I was married at your age, and I know what kinds of urges and desires you can have, and I know that it can be really hard not to act on those. Now, I would have hoped that you had chosen otherwise, but I just want to make sure that if this is the decision you're going to make, you're being safe about it."

Finally Switchback spoke. She said, "Mom. Those aren't my condoms."

"They're not?"

"No. They were my friend's and she left them in my car."

"So I can take them away and you won't care."

"No! Of course I wouldn't care! I don't need them! But Mom, I have to say, you score major points on being a good, supportive, and understanding mother."


A while later, Switchback decided to go on a mission. After her bishop's interview, Ruth called to see how things went. Switchback said, "Well... you know that whole raising the bar thing? The bishop and I discussed it and we've agreed that it's probably better that I wait a year and work some things out."

Ruth replied, "Okay! That's okay, [Switchback]! We can do this. You can come home and work here for a year, or you can finish up your schooling. That's good. You can get a lot done in a year!"

Switchback said, "Mom. I'm joking. The bishop says I'm good to go. But seriously, Mom, good job on mothering skills. I give you a ten!"

Ruth said, "I hate you."


And I'm sure you can understand how I developed a healthy respect for Ruth while I was on my mission.

First of Three

Last weekend I had a very special opportunity to spend the evening with three close mission friends. As we were all together, I realized that these three friends had three of my All-Time Favorite Stories. They were stories that they told me on the mission that I have since repeated to others. Because we were all together, and because El Senor was with us, I asked them to please each tell their story to El Senor so that he could hear them straight from the source and so that I could enjoy the wonderful experience of hearing them told first-hand again. Over the next three days, I bring you three excellent stories.

Today's story is from Clat. When she was in junior high, she decided to start running on the treadmill after school. One day, as she was running, her older brother walked past and said, "Run, Tubby! Run!" Clat got off the treadmill and ran to the bathroom to cry. The older brother immediately went to the bathroom door, and said in a very concerned voice, "Whatsamatter, Chrissy? Did someone say something mean to you at school?"

Thanksgiving in a Hurry

I should have clued in to the fact that today was the Canadian thanksgiving when DP emailed me on Friday asking if my job gave me the Canadian thanksgiving off as a paid holiday. I didn't. But I did when he called me Sunday night to ask where in the Vally he'd be able to find a thawed turkey. The answer, of course, was nowhere; give up immediately. I did suggest that he go to the grocery store at 12:01 Monday morning, buy a bird, and thaw it in the bath tub (oh, how many times I've thawed my bird in the bath tub!) and I also suggested that he buy a chicken instead of a turkey. He invited me down to Provo to celebrate and what was really sweet was that when I fairly firmly stated that I would not, in fact, drive down to Provo for his thanksgiving feast, he nevertheless repeated the invitation just as firmly as he had the first time, with almost the same expectation that I would say, "Sure. See you there."

What was really going through my head was whether or not I could really afford to forgo tradition and let the Canadian thanksgiving slip by uncelebrated this year. I grew up in Canada and we were always diligent in celebrating both thanksgivings every year. It's a tradition that the brothers and I carried on here in Utah. But it snuck up this year, just like General Conference did (I mean, the Saturday sessions were in September for heaven's sake!).

As soon as I got off the phone with DP, I went to the living room where El Senor was still diligently working on the floor. I told him that Monday was thanksgiving.

"What should we do?" I asked. "Should we just go ahead and celebrate it? We could always get a little chicken. And some Stovetop dressing..."

And so it was resolved that we would celebrate thanksgiving the cheater's way. I called up the rest of the siblings to let them know that they could come to our house for thanksgiving.

Today I got off work at 4:30. I went to Walmart where I bought three rotisserie chickens, two boxes of Stovetop, beverages, paper cups and plates, potatoes, and pumpkin pie ingredients. I got home by about 5:45 and a whole thanksgiving feast was done by 6:45. I cooked while El Senor did the last touches on his floor. The Boy came before anyone else, and he was juggled between El Senor and me---fishing cables through walls and base boards one moment and mixing together pumpkin pie filling the next. But really, it has to be said again: We threw together a thanksgiving feast in one hour.

At the end of the night, when everyone was gone, El Senor thanked me for my work in putting together the meal today. I told him that it was certainly the fastest thanksgiving meal we've ever done and he said, "You know, it's a 500% improvement in time and only a 20% decrease in food quality..." No, we won't skimp on tradition in the future. But we'll always remember that in a pinch, thanksgiving can be done in an hour.

[Bath tub thaw in Rome, 2003]

Fat and Lazy

El Senor thinks that I'm a fat, lazy slob. He objects to how much I eat and he objects to how much time I spend watching the television and he also objects to the amount of time I spend on the computer. And what bugs me the most is that he chooses to communicate this to me passive-aggressively.

When we moved into this place, he told me that it was my responsibility to provide TiVo for the condo. Well, I found out that TiVo wasn't an option because we don't have a telephone line in the condo, but I did some research and found out all about Comcast's DVR. So I made the phone calls and yesterday the Comcast technician came over and set us all up. Digital cable. DVR. Comcast on Demand. It's all pretty sweet. So last night, I sat on our brand new couch (so long, futon!) and programmed in all the programs that I want the DVR to record repeatedly. Most notably was Cast Away, which I've been wanting to watch again for years, but always seem to forget when picking out a movie. It was airing tonight with limited commercial breaks (which means fewer times that I would have to fast forward the commercials) and I had everything set up to record it.

So what happens? Well, I drive home from work today, all excited about watching Cast Away and I walk into the house and notice a couple of odd things. First of all, there's no more TV and DVR in the living room. El Senor disconnected them and put them on the floor of my bedroom. You may not know this, but a disconnected DVR will not actually record Cast Away. It won't record Without a Trace. And I doubt that it will keep the recordings of Design on a Dime and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report that were already recorded on it.

My computer was not in the living room where I usually leave it. It was in El Senor's room. It's not like he was using it, either. He was just keeping it away from me. He has his own freaking computer.

If you think that's bad, though, just wait to find out what comes next. He put the couch (which he knows is too heavy for me to move by myself) in the kitchen. It takes up all the room of the kitchen, so I have no access to the refrigerator, cupboards, dishes, pantry---anything. He's cut off all access to food.

He also put the dining room table and chairs in my bedroom, like just to rub salt in an open wound: "Ha. You can't eat food, and you can't even sit at the dining room table and think about eating food."

My room is now crowded with furniture and a useless television and DVR. Of course I stole my computer back when he wasn't paying attention, but seriously! I am starting to think that maybe living with him wasn't such a good idea.

Oh, so you want his side of the story?? Like that's important? Well, according to him, it's necessary to move everything out of the living room and dining room in order to install his hardwood floor this weekend. Of all the lame, transparent excuses. I suggest that a cheaper solution next time will just be to confront me about my television, computer, and eating habits instead of inventing reasons to block my access to my vices.

This is a picture of the floor that he's "installing."

This is a picture of my bedroom that he's shoved things into.

This is a picture of the impossible kitchen. What I wouldn't give for a nice warm cup of hot chocolate right now... Did I mention that to further deprive me of comfort, he left the doors open all day long today? Hmph.

What's Been Keeping Me Busy

  • Discovering new television shows.
  • Getting a DVR so that I can discover even more television shows and I can record them all to watch at my convenience.
  • Watching television shows on ABC.com to catch the episodes that aired before I got my DVR set up.
  • Going out to dinner with The Boy to celebrate his helping me understand how my new DVR and digital cable work.

As you can see, I've been very busy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to watch Ugly Betty.