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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If you haven’t entered the Luvs/Anita Renfroe giveaway yet, the deadline is today at 10 pm. (Well, the deadline is that whether you have or haven’t). Tell me your Things That Must Go! Besides awkwardness.

Top 10 Reasons to Live in Utah

I recently moved back to Utah after nine years in some of the world’s great cities (NYC, Cairo, Tokyo, St. Petersburg — Florida). I miss public transportation, good bagels, and the beach. In a lot of ways, though, Utah more than holds it own, even when it’s colder than a witch’s mammary all winter. Spring is finally here, a weird, wet spring where one day is 90 degrees and the next there’s fog and new snow on the mountains.


Yesterday we joined my family’s yearly Memorial Day camping pilgrimage. We used to go every year to the cemetery where Aunt Jodi and Uncle Kurt are buried. I’m sure my grandparents and Mom went today. We had insane temper-tantrum kids this morning; sometimes all you can do is strap them in their carseats and turn the radio up really loud. And think to yourself, as you pass the turnoff to the cemetery, that Aunt Jodi would understand, and we’ll try to make it next year.

Washington State

As we drove up the canyon, I kept nagging imploring Dick to look out the window. I pointed out the green fields, and those mountains that are brown ninety percent of the year. I love it when you can see seven different shades of green, from sage to myrtle. Dick said (smug, impatient voice) “I grew up in Washington State. This is nothing. This is crappy.” (I might be exaggerating a tiny bit). So, we are not in Ireland, or even Washington State, but right now, this is as beautiful as Utah ever gets. Enjoy it.


Top 10 Reasons to Live in Utah

10. Fry Sauce. I heard someone ask a new transplant if they’d gotten “used to” fry sauce yet. What? “Used to”? Fry sauce is to French Fries as hot fudge sauce is to vanilla ice cream. Start with ketchup or barbecue sauce, then throw in some mayo and maybe go wild with a drop or two of liquid smoke (only on the ketchup-based one, I’d think). Or I could send you Some Dude’s Fry Sauce.

9. Caffeine-free Mountain Dew (C-F MD). I was extolling the virtues of C-F MD to a new transplant (see above) and other Utahns chimed in to say, “What’s the point of that?” Which is a valid concern. Mountain Dew is glorious for its efficient caffeine-delivery system. Yet there are times (late at night, say), when a caffeine-free version is preferable. Oh, said my new friends, That’s what beer is for. But since A) beer is not an option for me and B) I don’t believe you get a sugar high from beer, I just don’t think it would be the same.

8. Dooce. Everyday trips to the grocery store for edamame are exponentially enlivened by the possibility of running into a mom who, though she acts as though having one kid is as hard as having a million, or, say, three, gets that letting your daughter watch Cinderella seven times in a row is completely healthy. (I have no idea what Edamame is).

7. Grandparental babysitters. So Dick and I can go enjoy nature.

Taken just last week 10 years ago.

6. Young-skewing population growth. I could probably have a playdate every single day for my girls, if I were so masochistically-inclined.

5. Utah Geek Bloggers group. There were probably geeks and/or bloggers in the other places we lived, but I didn’t meet them, and I doubt any of them could be any nicer than those we’ve met here. Laura Moncur is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, but that’s another story. I love talking with blogger people, even if they are “getting used” to fry sauce and think that beer could ever substitute for Mountain Dew.

4. Speaking of beer, Rootbeer on tap almost everywhere. If I ever won the lottery, I’d have a soda fountain installed in my family room with Coke — Mountain Dew — Cranberry Ginger Ale — Mug Rootbeer — Sprite (for the kids) — Caffeine-Free Mountain Dew — Apple Slice — Code Red Mountain Dew — Squirt. Not that I like carbonated beverages or anything. Do you know what a can of Coke can do to a rusty nail in four seconds?

3. Grandparents who like to babysit.

2. National Parks and Monuments. Sure, the Great Salt Lake may be pretty shallow, and salty, but Utah is gorgeous. I went on a week-long survival trip to Southern Utah as a senior in high school. I don’t know that it changed my life, but I’d spend time in Escalante National Monument any day.

Calf Creek

1. It’s where some of our dead are buried, even if our living childrens sometime prevent us from visiting them or otherwise living normal lives.

It’s fortunate that we have found something even better than seatbelts for containment.

I’ve linked this to We are THAT Family’s ‘Fro me to you. Thought my Snow White/Superman photo was humiliating enough to qualify!

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