Awkward, like Steve Carrell, only not as funny

We went to the zoo today. My dad’s work was having their yearly ‘company picnic,’ complete with catered lunch and crafts for the kids. Dad dotes on his six grandkids. I know this is what grandparents are supposed to do, but he certainly didn’t dote on me (at least, not that I remember from my teen years). My sister was there too, quieter, sadder, and I don’t know when she’ll again enjoy a simple outing without thinking of how things were supposed to be.

At the lunch, we remarked on the nifty plastic tablecloths. They were fitted and had a tiny edging of elastic to kept them from shifting. My dad was so struck by them that I volunteered to go ask the friendly, middle-aged zoo host guy where they got them. He and his helper were very chatty. I said the tablecloths would be great for church activities, and then later in the conversation he asked what I thought of the whole event. I said that the only thing not perfect was that I wasn’t sure that the paints being used for the birdhouse craft would come out of my childrens’ clothes. And he said, “Well, that would be a great topic for a Relief Society night.”

This caught me off guard and I didn’t respond right away. He said, “You know, getting paint out of clothes.” Still a confused look on my face, so he rushed to apologize: “Oh, when you said that about church activities, but, I’m sorry . . . ,” and of course I said, “Oh no, that’s fine, you’re right, it would be a great topic for Relief Society.” (Although it wouldn’t. Who wants to learn about laundry techniques on the rare night out with the church-girls?)

The weird thing is that I’m sure at some point in my life I wouldn’t have been at all surprised by his casual reference to the church I belong to. And at some other point in my life I would have been offended on behalf of every non-Mormon that someone would assume from a simple “church activities” that I was Mormon and not Baptist or Catholic. I’m pretty sure they have activities too. Not to mention his assuming that everyone knows that “Relief Society,” in Mormon terms, refers to the entire women’s group, and not some committee to send aid to lepers in the leper colony (although Relief Society women have been known to knit those funny bandages).

Now I’m at a point in my life where it was just awkward, and I felt bad for him putting me on the spot and for me putting him on the spot. Of course, it was even more awkward when, after he had taken pains to speak to the craft women and to assure me that the birdhouse paint was water-soluble, I spilled an entire coke all over the nifty plastic tablecloth and then had to stand around apologizing and feeling stupid while he cleaned up after me.

Not my finest moment.

Also at the lunch, a woman came over to Dick and me. I did not recognize her at first, though she looks much more similar to her pre-children college self than I do. In other words, she looks great. Turns out that the three of us were in Writing Fellows together, which was the class/club/ finally-I-know-who-I-am-group where Dick and I met at BYU. She is married to my dad’s, well, not boss exactly, but very-respected colleague of some sort. We asked some personal (awkward) questions in an attempt to catch up. Yes, those four kids are hers. No, the older two (including a 14 year-old) are from her husband’s first marriage. Etc.

Dick and I talked too much, in our excitement at seeing her and through her, re-connecting with our idealistic, impressionable selves. I often feel later that I have monopolized a conversation, talking too much about myself, my interests and I never know if it’s because I am a really insufferable person (probably) or if the people I tend to be friends with are just really good at asking questions and seeming to be interested in me.

We asked her if she was writing. And it was as if we had asked if she were curing cancer yet. She was bashful, a bit apologetic, wistful. (I guess if you felt you should be curing cancer you’d be REALLY apologetic). I stumbled to say, “Of course, I know with kids and all, it’s almost impossible to do anything else.”

So, no writing, except for some family history things, stories about her ancestors, that sort of thing. Which, of course, is “writing,” though it was obvious that she didn’t consider it to be the kind of thing that we were talking about. Even after we told her we mostly blog, and everyone knows that isn’t a very respectable form of writing. And Dick is a technical writer, which everyone knows is selling out.

I wondered how I would have felt two years ago or a week ago when I felt like never writing another post, if someone had asked me, “Are you writing?”

Quite likely I would have screamed, “Are you KIDDING me? When should I be writing? Between the mopping of the syrup and the listening to the tantrums? Or the policing of the snack cupboard and the feeling guilty for pulling hair? Or the listening to the whining and the smelling stinky panties? I haven’t even had my Mountain Dew yet, and you think I SHOULD BE WRITING?”

I wanted to apologize, and yet, how could I? I’d apologize for the fact that her kids are taking up so much of her time, only she looks like she’s enjoying it, and her kids look really happy too.

The worst part is that Dick and I actually had cards to give her. I felt like a realtor, or a Mary Kay consultant. At least my cards were free at Vista Print and I only got them for that blogging conference I went to a few weeks ago. And they don’t have my picture on them.

Still, it was awkward, especially since she probably saw the thing later with the spilled coke all over the nifty plastic tablecloths.

The good thing is that, even though I have now stayed up another hour and a half to write this, and I’ll be paying for it tomorrow, I feel so much lighter, so much freer. Like I’ve apologized for real now, in writing, for all the awkward things that happened today. And that, Dear Reader, is why I write.


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Frump of Mind

woman sticking head in fireplace ovenThe first time I heard someone express a desire to “stick my head in the oven,” I thought, what a sad, defeatist attitude. What good could possibly come of that, unless you had a gas oven?

But now I get it: I’ve been depressed the past couple weeks. It’s a situational depression that will go away soon, rather than clinical depression requiring medication or therapy, but, if I felt like this all the time, I would be checking myself into the nearest psych ward.

And when I’ve thought about sticking my head in the oven this past week, it wasn’t in a “the kids are driving me crazy” sort of way, but rather, for the first time, a “maybe the kids would be okay without me” sort of way. I don’t mean to be melodramatic; as I said, I know this will pass, it just hasn’t, quite, yet.

A lot of exciting or friendly things have happened recently, and each one cheered me up for about ten minutes. Each time I thought about them was good for another ten minutes of cheering up, so I thought I’d share them here. If you have any good advice on fighting post-surgical or otherwise-situational depression, somewhere between eating chocolate (not drastic enough) and hospitalization (too drastic), please let me know.

Here’s how I’m fighting the frump of mind:

A Mom to take advantage of:

My mom came yesterday to take Spot (18 mo) and Susan (3 1/2) for a few five days. I felt guilty when she offered. Of course I would love to have a break from them; although I can take care of them, it is really hard right now. But how hard does it have to be before it becomes right that someone else should have to take care of my children? I still don’t know, but when I found myself sitting on the floor, Spot in my lap still unsure why nursing is no longer on the program and Susan decorating her face with marker “freckles” AND when those two normally normal things suddenly seemed unbearable, I guess that was hard enough.

Mom told me to “take advantage of this time.” Did she mean by blogging? Well, at my doctor’s appointment yesterday I was told to take off the sling only for “desk work.” Sounds like blogging to me!

Presents

Speaking of blogging, a good friend of mine from high school had this sign made for me after she read my Love you when you’re clean and sweet-smelling post. I recently visited Andrea and saw her new baby Easton. I’m happy to report that he was both clean and sweet-smelling. She should keep him.

I’d hang it in the girls’ room, but I’m afraid they’d jump on the bed and knock it off the wall. Because they’re ladies like that. Maybe the dining room.

Speaking of blogging again, I just got some cute hairbows in the mail from Gourmet Mom-on-the-Go. You can think bloggy giveaways are silly and shameless self-promotion, until you actually win something yourself, and then, just as Toni says, even if you haven’t actually won the lottery, it’s a great pick-me-up!

My girls found the bows and have been wearing them ever since, which is why I could only find one of each pair for this picture.

I also got this book in the mail from my good friend Tara as part of a get-well-soon package. Funny, practical, and so nice to know that someone is wanting to save us from all-McDonalds-all-the-time.

It included floam for the kids and even a check to pay me back money I had forgotten she owed me. That’s true friendship right there (both my forgetting and her remembering).

Finding a Dream Place to Live

We’ve been drooling over Utah’s version of Pleasantville for months now, even though we really can’t afford a cardboard box on an outlying street under a bridge. A couple nights ago we found a tiny townhome in the BEST location ever. Made an offer today.

Our dream cardboard box looks nothing like this, but we could walk by here every day, if we wanted.

Forgive us our trespasses

I got really upset last week. My sister Mary had posted some of my recipes under her name on a new family recipe site she’s created to make sharing our favorite, modified recipes with each other easier. I got on my high “copyright,” “plagiarism,” “hard-work-taking-those-pictures and revising-and-writing-up-those-recipes” horse and made her feel bad. And THEN, yesterday? I wrote a post in which I showed some blog buttons that I have made. And my friend Tara said, Wait, I made that button. I heard (unspoken) words like “hypocrite” and “scraper” and “not-good-blogger-etiquette-r.”

Who hates that feeling (however deserved) of knowing that they have done something wrong? Do you get that awful, headachy, sick feeling? In Mary’s case, she did what she did because she thought she was helping me (remember, ole’ one arm over here) and that I wouldn’t care. I did. In my case, I thought there was a clear distinction between graphic and button — and had meant that I’d taken a graphic and created the html code to turn it into a hyperlink. I wasn’t clear enough.

My sister made amends, I made amends. One of the great things about blogging is that posts can be edited, or even taken down, if necessary. But even after Mary groveled sufficiently for the hardest of hearts, I still felt just a bit of nice self-righteous superiority. Hello! I would never do something like that. And then I did, and even though I fixed the problem and said I was sorry, I couldn’t blame Tara if she’s still just a bit miffed. Although I would never hold a grudge.

Luckily, Tara is superior to me in every way, so I’m sure it won’t take a mistake (which we’d be a long time waiting for) on her part for her to realize how easy they are to make.

Amen.

Tara Thinks at Chic-Critique

chic-critique.gifI have to say (and can’t tell you how mad I am that someone else thought of using that as a great blog name) that I don’t usually have much use for beauty and fashion products.

Right, like you couldn’t tell that from looking at me.

Anyway, my dear friend Tara is guest posting at Chic-Critique today. Her review of the Schick Intuition razor is witty, and interesting, and helpful. And I don’t just say that because I got a sneak peak at it a couple weeks ago. Tara absolutely impresses me with her proficient use of power tools one minute and an eyelash curler the next. She also just had her third baby boy.

So head on over there and join the great razor debate. Who’s for not shaving at all, at least during the winter?