I'm reading the new biography on Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. It is not an 'official' biography, meaning Kate herself was not involved in the writing process. I am sure this also means a lot of exciting details have not been included. But as it stands, I'm almost bored reading it. Yes - ME - the biggest Kate fan. Her life before the Prince just seems...staid. I'm pretty sure my life would make a much more interesting (and funny) read. Whilst showering Sunday morning, I started thinking how I would break up chapters in the book of my life, and what I would title them. I had so much fun thinking about this, I thought it worth a blog post.

Chapter 1: Uncle Earl
I was born in Washington DC. I had a wealthy, if curmudgeonly, great-uncle Earl. Apparently he was not impressed with any family member enough to leave them his fortune. But he left me, only two-years-old at the time, a gold cloisonné, top-heavy vase worth $875. I know he paid $875 for it because the price tag is still stuck on the inside. I am the only person to whom he left anything. I have always wondered why. I still have the vase.
Chapter 2: San Antonio
My brother had cancer when he was four, and I was six-years-old. I have a lot of memories of this. Playing Ninja Turtles on the hospital bed with him. I have always hated the smell of hospitals, and I'm pretty sure this is why.
Chapter 3: Aloha O'e
The majority of my childhood years were spent in the balmy breezes of Hawaii. I would write about the beaches I still dream about, my best friend Sarah, living in a house built on stilts over a pre-Cook burial ground. I would write about my years as a Mormon girl attending a Catholic school.
I had the world's worst case of chicken pox on May Day, but refused to abandon my post as Princess Kaho'olawe, and made it on the front of the Hawaiian Star the next morning - pox and all. Beyond the gates of the school ground was Pearl Harbor, where large military vessels passed all day long. Submarines sailed in my backyard.
My fourth grade teacher had one, and only one, goal of the entire academic school year: that we would understand how humanity is destroying the earth. She thought it was worth skipping math lessons every Wednesday so we could have Hawaiiana classes. A 350-lbs. Hawaiian would shimmy sideways through our doorway with his ukelele, and teach us the Hawaiian pantheon and the names of the native plants. I still miss living near the ocean every day.
Chapter 4: A Cold Move
We moved from our house on the beach in Hawaii, to the foot of Pike's Peak in Colorado Springs. My nostrils would freeze shut waiting for the bus. It was a drastic change, moving from sea level to the Rockies, and grade school to middle school. This is when I took my first French class. I watched half an hour of an Audrey Hepburn movie every single night for at least a year, trying to somehow absorb her glamorous, elegant essence into my awkward 6th grade pre-adolesence.
Chapter 5: The Arts
Utah was to become our permanent home. Here is where I gained my passion for art history. I was involved in the Junior Art Guild, volunteering at the Springville Museum of Art, the Children's Art Festival, and eventually Art Royalty. I wore a slim black and white dress, and when they announced I was queen they gave me a sparkly tiara and a bouquet of white lilies. Vern Swanson still says I was the best art queen they ever had, and I'm pretty sure he only says that because one night he asked if I knew what the River Styx was, and I did.
My father drove our gold Sebring convertible in the town parade, me in my enormous princess-pink dress accompanied by my attendees, waving gloved hands. I was an over-achiever in high school and graduated early. I traveled through Europe for the first time, with my best friend Sarah. We bought peach roses at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
Chapter 6: Trevor
I met Trevor a week after I had turned 18. I would write about how we met. How I fell in love with him and wrote to him for two years while he served a mission in Mexico. Dancing with that boy on January 5th, 2003, changed the trajectory of my life.
Chapter 7: Semester at Sea
I moved out with my best friend Holly. We painted our room a deep red and 'cashew.' We drove topless in my convertible around Utah Lake. We danced in the kitchen at 1 AM. We had fun.
I would write about how I sailed around the world, met hundreds of people from hundreds of countries, visited countless museums and fabulous sites across Asia, Africa and South America. I would write about being sea sick, about AIDs children in orphanages, about building a house in a day with Habitat for Humanity, working with hunger organizations, visiting centuries-old ruins in the Cambodian jungle. About the boy with elephantitis. How I incurred a lifetime of survivor's guilt. How I had a crisis of faith.
Chapter 8: Hitting the Books
I would write about my years of working at bookstores, The Read Leaf and The King's English, and the wonderful people I met there who influenced the way I think. I would write about jetting around in my tiny scooter in Salt Lake City, about the Harry Potter parties, about the mural in our local chapel.
Chapter 9: Graduate School
Years of French classes and art history courses lead me to the pinnacle of my education: researching in Paris. Writing my thesis. Tapestries. The friends I made who have become my life-long compatriots in a passion for the arts.
Chapter 10: Twins
Having two babies at a time is not recommended. When the twins came it changed everything. I would write about how becoming a mother filled my heart, and I found my true purpose in this world. But I don't remember much about those first two years of their life. Its a sleep-deprived, emotional, exhausting period of my life.
Chapter 11: Making a Home
Buying our own house was huge. I became a true home-maker, and love having my very own space to do with as I pleased. This was a period of content quiet. Hazel came to us then, and she is still the most delightful, sweet child.
Chapter 12: Battle Maiden
I knew there was another baby waiting to come to earth. She was practically tapping my shoulder. But nothing about this pregnancy went as planned. It didn't happen when I wanted it to. It did not go smoothly. I never knew what it meant to be in pain all day, every day. I thought everything would resolve itself as soon as the baby came, and wow! Was I wrong! Our little girl came without an esophagus. With three children under the age of 5 at home, and a newborn in the intensive care unit, and plop on top of that a retained placenta involving a second surgery, weeks of recovery and a hard case of post-partum depression, and this is easily the hardest, saddest part of my life up to this point. I would write about why we named her Eloise, the Battle Maiden. I would write about the unforgettable people I met in the NICU. I would write about the drug babies. I would write about Dr. Erick Gerday. I would write about esophageal atresia.
I wonder what I will say about this period of my life, once I have some distance from it.

I'm hoping the next chapter involves a lot of adjectives like 'restful,' 'calm' and 'peaceful.' Chapters following tragic plots almost always have a resolution, right? Unless its a French novel. Like Madame Bovary. But lets hope for something a little more like the epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Minus the creepy incestuous feeling.
I am truly searching for some resolution. I have lost some hope in myself. I feel like I've tapped into a deep well of universal sadness. I guess that's why all I'm hoping for the next chapter are restful, quiet moments. Maybe not necessarily full-on happy or joyful ones.

I am sure if I wrote an autobiography, many, many more people would read Kate's uber boring story over mine. But I think many, many more people would relate to my story.


  1. Well I'd read it. I say write it. At least the past-tense chapters. The rest will come.

  2. Shelley you're amazing and each of those chapters sounds like it's full of great stories. I hope your hard times ease up soon. I think you're great! :)

  3. Such a life. Wow. Glad we met up in the Salt Lake chapter.

  4. I am glad I've been there for so many chapters. The big Hawaiian teacher is seriously the thing I remember the most about Hickam Elementary!

  5. This was such a great post, Shelley. I look forward to seeing what the next chapter will hold for you. I hope it is restful and peaceful. You have gone through so much lately!

    On another note, I was speaking to J's aunt this past weekend. Her daughter (who is now 27) was born with a detached esophagus and required surgery when she was a few weeks old. This aunt lives in Maple Valley, and she said she'd be happy to chat with you about her experience if you think that would be helpful. You can email me if you'd like her number. Her daughter, who has Downs Syndrome, experienced a lot more problems than Eloise, but I'd be happy to pass along her information if you'd like.

    - Monica