Wednesday, July 26, 2017

all this from deodorant

I turned 34 in January, and Stephen bought me a six-pack of deodorant.

I'd been out of deodorant for over a week and was using his Old Spice. I didn't mind, but apparently, he did.

Gifts aren't my thing. I'm crummy at giving them, and a spoilsport when receiving them. I like practical gifts that equate to a crossed off item from my to-do list; in this case, buy deodorant. It is tempting to blame this lame attitude on the busyness of motherhood, but sadly, I've been like this for years.

Soon after Stephen and I were married, his mom gave me a jumbo pack of paper towels and toilet paper as a Christmas gift. She did this as a joke, but I was overjoyed. Last year she gave me cleaning supplies, and this past Christmas she wrapped up diapers for our two-year-old son. Best. Gift. Ever.

A year-long supply of Secret deodorant was speaking my love language. I thanked Stephen, and then opened the card tucked away in the bottom of the bag. As much as I adored my deodorant, this card contained unexpected life-giving words. I froze. I reread. 

"I'm taking the kids to Columbus this weekend. You will have approximately 30 hours at home by yourself. Pour some wine, turn on Netflix, and eat any food you want without having to share with the kids!"

Come Saturday morning, I shooed the three of them out by 9. I waved good-bye from the front porch, both giddy with excitement and overwhelmed by freedom. I walked back inside ready to fulfill my first fantasy: a clean floor. I swept the kitchen and gleefully anticipated the beauty of thirty crumb-free hours.

I showered - with no interruptions - and then opened my new deodorant. I hadn't used Secret since I started buying my own deodorant. The past fourteen years have seen more Suave or whatever's-on-sale deodorant. Stephen had sprung for the deluxe; it was my birthday after all.

I lifted the lid and popped off the plastic protective shield. The smell rushed me back to my childhood bathroom. I could see my 3-inch curling iron forcing the tips of my hair outward. I could see my hot pink Caboodle bursting with Lip Smackers and an extensive Bath and Body Works collection lining the counter. I could see myself buckling the strap of my overalls, choosing from an array of chokers, and slipping into Doc Martins to complete the ensemble.

I love remembering that girl, and it is much easier to do when I am alone. I closed up the deodorant and went down to our basement. I moved a stack of heavy boxes until I found the one I wanted, tucked in the back and near the bottom. At least a dozen journals dating back to second grade were lined up like soldiers in that box. I pulled a few out. No plans? No interruptions? It seemed like the perfect time to curl up, do some reading, and hang out with that girl.


Over the past few months, I have been thinking about childhood and adulthood, and the pages of those journals brought clarity to my fragmented thoughts. Sometimes I think that girl is lost, but as I read about her day to day drama, I remembered life when I spent time doing what I enjoyed. Brilliant. There was work time and play time, and I was good at both.

But I'm not sure how those pieces of who I used to be can still fit into who I am and who I am becoming.

I used to think adulthood was about moving on and leaving behind silly pastimes of childhood. I felt foolish, even embarrassed, when I wondered what happened to all the fun. Fun? Pastimes? Grow up. I was convinced I needed to created a new mature self. It was all rather thrilling at first, embarking on independent territory, finally doing whatever it was adults did that seemed so mysterious. But after a solid decade of trying, rethinking, examining, and transforming into adulthood, I am beginning to think I've got it all wrong.

Maybe adulthood isn't about leaving behind and moving ahead.

Maybe I don't need to create a new grown-up Joy.

Maybe I need to rediscover a former self, sort through to find the best, and settle in for the long haul. That's what I'm doing right now - sorting through and settling in.

I am participating in Coffee + Crumbs' Year of Creativity, and one of our first assignments was to reflect on this question: "What were some of your favorite creative activities as a child?"

When I was younger, I loved to write. I found hours to lay on the floor and write through life. I wrote dozens of notes to all my friends to be delivered the next day at school. I filled journals and notebooks with real stuff and trivial stuff. I wrote about what it meant to love Jesus and about when each of my girlfriends got their first period. I wrote about how I wanted to be skinny and about how much I loved this boy named Dan. It all mattered.

When I was younger, I loved to dance. The dance studio and stage were my happy places, but I was equally content to pump up Janet Jackson on the 6-disc stereo system in the basement and choreograph fourteen different music videos to Rhythm Nation. I could choreograph an entire dance in my head as I lay in bed, sometimes slipping out of the covers to mark a few steps in my dark bedroom. I leapt through parking lots, tap danced while brushing my teeth, and can still bust out a rather impressive full body roll in the passenger seat of a car. My dad and brother made a rule that I couldn't dance at the dinner table, so when the rhythm hit me, I would stand up and dance next to the table. My shimmy and shake just couldn't be stopped.

When I was younger, I loved being around kids. I planned summer camps for the kids in our neighborhood. I volunteered in children's church and worked as a camp counselor. I was the babysitter who came with a bag full of fun, and if there were no real kids to entertain, I'd enlist a handful of make believe children to participate in crafts and science experiments. I dreamed of being a teacher and had the greatest classroom on the block set up in my basement, complete with a lesson plan book, math textbooks, and an overhead projector. Kids were my jam.

When I was younger, I thought a lot about food. I figured this meant I was destined to be overweight my entire life because none of my size-two friends ever seemed to think about food. I didn't know about cooking or menu planning or entertaining, but I flipped through cookbooks and magazine to dogear recipes. I rarely made any of these dishes but still loved to look.

What if these were more than just hobbies or memories from my childhood? What if God intended for me to write and dance and create and love children and, all my life?

I look around at 34, and there are surprising similarities to 16.

Yesterday, I got up early and spent an hour writing. A few hours later I taught a Zumba class that included a new salsa dance I choreographed last weekend. I took my kids to the park, and we did some crafting and Popsicle making when we got home. During their nap time, I planned lessons for a kindergarten and first grade jumpstart camp I'm teaching next week. And later in the day, I made a new recipe for dinner - citrus marinated pork tenderloin with a mint pesto.

I couldn't see how each of these passions had a place in my life during my twenties. I thought I had to let them go, particularly if they didn't lend themselves to an income. But I was wrong.

One by one, they have each found their way back to me at just the right time. I love the thought that my childhood passions are still there, woven into my soul, eager to resurface and forgive me for the years they were neglected.

All this from deodorant.

I wonder what would happened if I opened a bottle of CK1.


  1. I'm just in tears reading your reflections on your passions and gifts. I love that your eyes are open to the things you love and enjoy as good for you and honoring to who you are made to be. I am going to pray I can have some clarity for myself in this too. Please tell us if you open that CK1!

  2. You are incredible. This was so beautiful to read and filled to the rim of nostalgia. You make me believe there's hope!

  3. I loved this post. I'm still thinking about my childhood passions - and realizing with amazement how many of them are still with me. My roommates in college and I wrote lists of all the things we wanted out of a future husband - and reading them again about a year ago, I realized that most of those wishes at 21 had been realized 30 years later. I'm glad you brought all this back for me! Here's to staying happy!

  4. WOW. I really enjoyed reading up on this and it was just incredible. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and i will look forward to hearing more from you :)