I don’t have much to say today so I’m just going to leave you a picture of this pretty pink house. It’s near my friend Lisa’s ranch. Every time I drive by it I think how much I love Second Empire-style houses. And then I think I might like to have a pink house one day. It’s kind of Barbie-ish, though. So probably not. But it is awfully cute.
I started out kind of shy. I always felt incredibly nervous in a situation with people I didn’t know. The thought of introducing myself was enough to make me run away in petrified fright. I am super outgoing once I meet someone but the idea of breaking the ice has always scared me silly.
At some point I realized that this was stupid. I guess I talked to enough people to realize that we all feel intimidated by meeting others for the first time. I also was “the new person” enough times to know that there are very few things as wonderful as being in a new place or sitting by a stranger and having someone reach out a hand of friendship*. At some point I decided I just need to put the scaredness behind me and say hello to strangers.
Everyone feels shy sometimes. Nearly all of us feel slightly bashful about initiating a conversation or meeting somebody new. I was surprised to find out that even my mother–the most outgoing person ever born on Planet Earth–feels shy sometimes. Here’s what I have to say about shyness: get over it. All shyness will ever do is hold you back in life.
I’m sure some of you will swear that this isn’t the case, but I really feel like being shy is just another facet of being scared. Whether it’s being scared of rejection, or being scared of making a fool of yourself or being scared of simply trying something new, it all boils down to getting over yourself. You aren’t the prettiest or the funniest or the smartest. So what? You’re still an interesting person and your views on things are just as good as the views as the person sitting next to you. So stop being a quiet little mouse.
I know, I know. It’s easier to just tell yourself that people won’t like you or you don’t know what to say. Here’s the secret: people don’t really rememeber what you say, especially if you’re in a crowd or busy place. Think about the last time you met someone. Do you remember the exact conversation you had with them? No? I can’t remember either. I pretty much just remember that the last person I met was interesting to talk to and that she had just moved here from out of state. That’s it. So don’t overanalyze what you say when you meet someone, just say something. Don’t try to hard to be funny or interesting. Trying too hard is a recipe for disaster. Being a good listener is the ticket.
So what do you say? How do you start? It’s just like jumping into a swimming pool. It’s best just to do it; the more you think about it, the more freaked out you’ll get. Here’s a scenario that works pretty much anywhere that you might be sitting next to a stranger. This could be at a concert, at church, at a meeting, at a college lecture. This is what you do: turn to the person and say, “Hi, I’m [insert your name]” Hold your hand out to shake if it’s appropriate (not so much in High School English). Then pay them a compliment of some sort (this is for women, I don’t know that this works the same way for men. Probably men might be a little weirded out if you tell them they have nice hair). Here are some examples:
I love your sweater.
That purse is so adorable.
Your eyes are the prettiest shade of gold.
That necklace is really cool.
Don’t go overboard and don’t start talking about yourself and how you hate your purse but your sister bought it for you so you have to use it anyway. Or how you have blue eyes just like your grandmother. It’s our natural nervous reaction to talk about ourselves. Fight it. Please, please fight it.
Next, ask them something about themselves and how it relates to the place where you are.
Have you been to a concert here before?
How do you think this class is going so far?
Do you come to blog conferences a lot?
WARNING: if you are meeting someone new at a place you’ve been going to forever, it can be a little tricky asking them if they’re new. It can seem really terrible if they’ve been going to the same church/yoga class/book club for three months and you just barely noticed them . It can really sting when someone asks you if you’re new and you aren’t. So try not to ask, “are you new here?” They may be, but if they aren’t it’s going to seem really awkward. If you honestly haven’t noticed, try a phrase like, “I don’t think we’ve officially met” This is especially good when you’ve seen the person around but you’ve both been too shy to make introductions.
After the person has answered this question, I find that admitting how nervous you were about the situation creates instant camaraderie and let’s them know that you are honest and they can relax around you. When people feel like they can be themselves around you then you will both feel a lot less shy.
“I was so nervous walking in here. Everyone seems like they know what they’re doing”
“I’ve never been to this club and I was so nervous about where to park”
“I always feel so awkward sitting next to a total stranger”
“I was so nervous that I might not be smart enough to come to this book club.”
The awesome thing is that when you admit something that you were nervous or scared about, the other person will agree or show some sort of empathy. Always. This is just the American way to communicate. If you don’t live in America, you can try this but I have no idea if it works. If you are shy in the U.S., though, give this a try. Admitting you were scared is a fantastic ice-breaker.
After this you should be able to come up with some things to say. Remember, though, to ask questions of the other person. Don’t just talk about yourself. It’s tacky and boring to the other person. If you suddenly find a lull in conversation, ask them about themselves: where they grew up, if they have kids/siblings, what they studied in college. I’m sure you can come up with something.
I still get butterflies when I have to introduce myself to a complete stranger. Due to my job at church, though, I pretty much have to. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a funk or if they don’t look like someone who might not be my type. I’ve come to realize that we all want to feel like we belong. It’s your job as a decent human to put that shyness away and try to be friendly. Seriously, being shy is lame. I’m speaking as a sometimes-shy person. Really, the title of this post shouldn’t be “how to not feel shy”. Because I don’t really know how to to just not feel shy. I still feel shy all the time. Really I want you to learn how to get over it and be friendly even when it’s scary and you’re not in the mood. So what if you don’t want to? You’re a grown-up, do it anyway!
If it helps you can repeat this saying that I made up for my chronically bashful children:
Be the first one to say “hi”,
Even if you’re feeling shy.
*To this day I will always remember and be grateful to Suzie Cavolloro who stood next to me in the lunch line at my new school in 11th grade. She introduced herself, asked if I wanted to sit next to her in the lunchroom (YES!!! There is no event as horribly intimidating as the first time you walk into the lunchroom at a new school), and even invited me to a party she was planning that weekend. Your kindness has stayed with me all these years, Suzie!
This is what I’m looking at right now. It’s a hard core, prescription laxative that’s getting my intestines sparkling clean for my colonoscopy tomorrow. Don’t let the name of the stuff fool you; it is not prepping you to watch a movie. I wish. There are movements involved; I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. (I can actually feel your jealous vibes coming through my computer right now.)
I also am on a clear liquid diet all of today and tomorrow until my procedure around noon. I am thoroughly starving and peevish and the only reason I haven’t killed someone is because I can drink pop. It’s considered a clear liquid, thank goodness. Since it’s a special occasion I’ve broken out a six pack of Mt. Dew.
The only thing getting me excited is that I plan to have a ginormous pile of BBQ brisket after my colonoscopy. I’m not expecting the doctor to find anything while he’s all up in my business. I’m merely going because my family history puts me at a higher risk. And, hey, sometimes moms have to resort to complete anesthesia in order to get an uninterrupted nap.
It’s been so sad to hear about all the tornados in Oklahoma and Texas. Growing up in Michigan, which is part of the Midwest, we had tornadoes pretty often. We were thoroughly familiar with tornado drills and hiding in the basement. I remember tornado warnings to be more of a pain than actually being scary; you know how kids are, never believing that bad things will ever happen to them. My nightmares, though, often featured tornadoes. They still do occasionally.
We have tornadoes from time to time here in Central Texas. Nothing like northeastern Texas, though, which is flatter and wetter. We have some tornadoes brewing today, though. Golfball-sized hail too. Naturally there’s hail forecasted; we just had a bunch of our roof fixed due to a windstorm. Still, there’s not nearly the risk of something happening like happened in Oklahoma.
Not to sound petty, but I was planning to buy a new harp from a lady that lives about seven hours away. We were supposed to meet up halfway on Thursday. I just realized that she lives in Moore, Oklahoma. I hope the lady (and her harp!) are ok.
Every time I hear the word “Oklahoma” I can’t help but think of one of the most awesome scenes in movie history. Gather your children around to watch one of our family’s most beloved movie clips (Steve Martin has never been funnier than in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).
Back in the early 80′s when I was an awkward pre-teen I fell in love with some animals. They weren’t real animals, they were much better than that; they were Critter Sitters. These were soft, adorable illustrations of animals dressed up all cutesy doing things that animals clearly aren’t meant to do: why would a koala rake leaves or talk on the phone? I never asked myself that question once. (Who decided there was anything cute about raking leaves anyway?) None of that mattered. I was madly in love with Critter Sitters.
I managed to get a few critter sitter folders since they were cheap and easy to find.
I also got a nightshirt that I wore to all slumber parties and sleepovers. I felt so attractive in it; like I was actually as adorable as the animals printed on the front. The holy grail of Critter Sitter items was, in my mind, panties. I saw a pack of panties with Critter Sitter characters on them and my heart nearly stopped. Now this was back in the day when everything came plain and you had to pay extra for cartoon characters. Nowadays it’s the opposite and I have to search high and low for plain, non-character clothing. Most of the underwear my mom bought for me was waist-high briefs printed with tiny rose buds. There was a pair with pink roses, a pair with blue roses and the most disdained: the pair with yellow roses. I don’t know why I didn’t just spend my allowance and buy some critter sitter underwear, but that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility in my feeble 10-year-old brain. So I decided the next best option would be to paint Critter Sitters onto my own underwear. I was born uttering the phrase, “I’m sure I could do that. How hard can it be?” Now that I’m an adult, that viewpoint has really come in handy. But preteens are not so good at doing stuff.
I got out a pair of silky white granny panties and the only paints I owned–watercolors–and set to work. Within a couple of minutes it became clear that, as brilliant an artist as I was, I would not be able to recreate the Critter Sitter artwork in any way. Instead of shrugging my shoulders and tossing the panties in the sink to rinse them out, I had that furtive sense of guilt that kids always seem to have. My only option seemed to be to throw the underwear into the woods behind my house.
It was a wet, muddy morning but I slipped out the siding door in my socks and flung the underpants into the trees as far as I could. (Knowing me, that was about three feet.) I thought I was home free until I noticed my little brother Ben watching me. He was old enough to know something odd was going on but young enough to not be able to speak intelligently. That kid sat next to the sliding door pointing and making babbly toddler noises until finally my dad decided to go check out what was out there in the woods that Ben was so fascinated with.
My father came back inside a few minutes later holding a dripping pair of panties. “I don’t know what Ben was so interested in, but here’s some underwear I found outside,” he said, tossing them to me. I froze and looked down. Instead of wondering why my underwear had painted stick figures all over them, my dad had only seen a pair of panties that had been rinsed out in the rain. I nearly fainted with relief. The idea that someone might find out that I had tried to paint my own underwear seemed beyond foolish and absurd; buying them at the store suddenly made perfect sense.
Now to come up with a plan to ride my bike on the freeway to the mall . . . . (oh yeah. It happened.)
Arabella loves to read my cookbooks and pick out things for me to make. My kids are all sugar addicts like their mother so her recipes are usually in the dessert category. A couple of weeks ago she picked out this beauty from my Cooks Country magazine that she wanted me to make as her birthday cake; it’s a S’mores Ice Cream Pie:
I seriously love s’mores. Not the biggest fan of ice cream, but it was a hot day yesterday, so I was OK with it. Birthdays are always a huge deal around our house and require a massive amount of work: make the requested breakfast, take the child lunch at school, make a birthday cake, make the requested dinner (or hope they want dinner out) and usually buy/wrap a bunch of presents.
I figured an ice cream cake means no baking or icing so it would be a lot less work. Uuuuggggh. This dessert was so much trouble! The graham cracker crust needs to be baked, so the oven does have to be turned on. Then there is a layer where chocolate is melted and combined with heavy cream and corn syrup. But because I was making this when the babies were walking in the door from school I forgot everything but the chocolate which, when frozen, became hard as a sheet of metal. Then a layer of marshamallow fluff was spread over that. Do you know what a pain it is to spread marshamllow fluff? A horrendous pain, not to mention incredible messy and sticky. It tasted super yum, though, so everyone ate their ice cream off the top and then held the crust like a sloppy chcolatey cookie to eat at the end.
Also, when the pie is ready to serve, the ice cream is covered with marshmallows and broiled quickly to brown them. It was a delicious step and one that really made the dessert taste like s’mores. Unfortunately it also made the pie start to melt and by the time the graham crackers were affixed to the outside and candles were lit, the whole thing was melting like crazy. I ended up throwing the dripping pie onto the table and screaming at everyone to hurry up and sing, for Pete’s sake the stupid dessert is getting chocolate everywhere.
So if you have all day with nothing going on and really feel like undertaking an arduous task (and you like s’mores a lot), this might be a good dessert to try. Also, make sure that there are a lot of people who will eat this instantly because an ice cream dessert in a springform pan with the sides removed is probably not the best idea. It was super delicious, though. I mean, it tasted really good and was very smore-y.
Arabella was extremely happy with this, even though I put the leftover pie in the freezer, slammed the door and yelled, “I hate everything!” (good thing Arabella had scurried off to look at her presents). Not my finest cooking moment but the birthday girl felt loved and that’s the whole point.
Today child #4 (otherwise known as Arabella Claire) turns twelve. She is such a delight. She, of course, has those lovely teenage years ahead of her but today she is just a pleasure to have around. Well, 98% of the time. The other 2% she is fighting with Ada. So far I am mystified why all these cultures in the world value sons. My girls give me hardly any trouble, they get straight A’s, and they’re way funner to go shopping with. Someone please explain.
Arabella used to like to be called Bella until there were a million Isabellas who decided to use that nickname too. Now she Arabella all the time. She is distinct in the family as having the darkest eyes, the biggest dimple in her chin (all the kids have them courtesy of Mister), and the longest leg-torso ratio (Despite being 12 and only 5’4 I have to buy her pants with a 32″ inseam). Her Love Language is touch and she is always trying to be as close to me as possible. She would probably climb back into my uterus if I let her. She is quiet, deliberate and gentle. And, lucky for us, it looks like she’ll be a stellar baker one day.
Today we will celebrate Arabella by making copious amounts of goodies. showering her with presents and treating like the princess she is (plus I have to go eat lunch with her at the Middle School, joy of joys). She has been a sweetheart since she was born and we love her for it. Happy birthday to our little Ara-boo-boo.
Picking strawberries in an annual tradition in our family. It’s one of my favorite things to do not only because it makes me feel like a farmer, but I just flat out love strawberries. There’s a u-pick farm near Austin that we go to every Spring. Well, “near” meaning an hour away in a lackluster town called Marble Falls. We travel to Sweet Berry Farm to pick strawberries first thing in the morning, then head over afterwards to Peete Mesquite, a really excellent hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint (Texas has a jillion of those).
Yes, the boys picked strawberries too. But they don’t like to stick near their mom. Especially when there are pet goats nearby.
The kids are put to good use. Ada’s especially good at hulling strawberries.
It takes me about a million years to chop everything up and make the jam, but eventually I get these jewels all ready to be put up in the pantry. I don’t do freezer jam for a few reasons: it’s kind of watery and I don’t care for the texture; freezer space is at a premium in my house. I can’t waste the square footage on jam!; the preparedness person in me insists on something self-stable.
These jars are made by a German company called Weck. They’re a little spendier than the ho-hum jars available at the grocery store but look how crazy cute they are! I’ve had these for about eight years and I’ve totally gotten my money’s worth out of them. I do a few Mason jars too, for giving away to friends/teachers. I’m not about to part with my Weck jars! You can get Weck jars from the company website here –which is the cheapest option. (I use the 1/5 litre Deco jars. If you buy Weck jars, they work a little differently than regular canning jars. You’ll need rubber gaskets instead of flat lids and and metal clips instead of screw-on rings.I happen to think Weck jars are superior to Ball or Kerr brands. And not just because they’re European!)
Here are ten things that make me really happy (In no particular order):
Looking out the window. I could sit for hours and just look out the window. Any window, really. I just like to let my mind wander and think about whatever. Sometimes I’ll walk by a window and can’t resist stopping and staring. And staring. and thinking. I don’t know why this is. But it also explains why I like road trips, since that’s nothing more than sitting and looking out the window for hours on end.
Presents. These are my love language and I just love them. I cannot resist a present. But it can’t just be any old present; it has to actually be selected thoughtfully. I don’t care if it’s expensive (actually, I prefer it not to be), as long as it’s thoughtful. My husband is the king of thoughtful presents. That’s really what won me over when we were dating. He can give a better gift with $20 than most people could with $200. My mom, on the other hand is not a good gift giver (sorry, Mom!) Mostly because she either leaves the tags from Goodwill on the item or she does something like this: I found a prettily-wrapped present on my pillow earlier this year and unwrapped it to find a pair of cute earrings. When I thanked my mom she replied, “they came with a necklace I just bought. Since I don’t have pierced ears I threw them away. But then I decided to give them to you instead.” Great! My present is your garbage! Way to make me feel special.
My family. No duh, right? But there is nothing that fills me with happiness and joy quite like my immediate family. My kids and my husband are the best. My extended family, though? That’s a little iffier.
Flowers. I love flowers. Love, love, love them. Especially if they are from a florist or growing in some place other than my yard. I mean, I love having flowers grow in my yard but I hate gardening. It really takes the magic away. If I could have a gardener I would be a very happy woman.
Cookies. Let me clarify: good cookies. I will not eat most store-bought cookies. But a great homemade cookie is a beautiful (and rare!) thing. They’re not as messy and overly sweet as a piece of cake, not as sloppy as pie, and more interesting than a piece of candy. Cookies are perfect. I think my cookies are the best but my favorite cookie not made by me is the Cadillac cookie at the Rolling in Thyme and Dough Bakery in Dripping Springs, Texas. It an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie with caramel and maybe some toffee. If you call ahead of time, they’ll make a fresh batch for you.
Going to the Movies. And I mean going to the movie theatre. Not just watching a movie on Netflix. The movie is often a let-down but there is nothing more magical than escaping to a dark theatre. I adore movie popcorn with lots of butter and I never, ever miss the previews. Actually, I like the previews more than the movie most of the time. (Funny how I can always make it to the movies on time, but church is quite another story.) The best thing is going to see a movie that I know nothing about and have zero expectations. And then having it be good. (Just saw Mud with a scuzzy looking Matthew McConaughey and that’s exactly how it was.)
Friends that Are Easy to Be Around. We all have friends that are fun but high-maintenence. They are not who I am talking about. I’m talking about friends that you start talking to and an hour slips by without even noticing. Friends that you can actually count on, that you know will help you however they can. People that leave you energized and excited, not bummed out and disappointed. Sometimes these friends are people you’ve known forever, sometimes they are people you’ve just met. But a true, easy friend is a joy. I would pretty much do anything for my friends and once we have a relationship I am stalwart to the end. It’s been a sad realization that many people aren’t this same way.
Making stuff. I’m actually quite crafty although I never put my projects on my blog. Usually because they’re total rip-offs of something I saw elsewhere on the internet. There is such a thrill when I buy stuff to get ready for a project. And then when it’s done and it looks good? Heaven. Seriously, is there anything more satisfying than finishing a crafty project that looks good? (And is there anything more maddening than finishing a crafty project that looks bad?)
Church. Please don’t roll your eyes. I love being at church (although I love it more when we start at 11 and not 9 am). I love the sense of community. But I especially love going someplace where I am encouraged to know God, to ask questions, and to search for personal meaning in everything. It makes me happy going to a church where my questions are answered.
Downloading a new album. This is so exciting I can’t even listen to the whole album straight through. I listen to about 30 seconds of each song before I impatiently fast-forwarding to the next. Then I can go through and listen to the whole thing. Speaking of which, Vampire Weekend has a new album. I’d better click over to itunes and buy it right now!
I worked until my second child was a few months old but I made sure that I only worked hours that Mister was home so we didn’t need to put the kids in daycare. One day when India was a baby I forgot to restock the formula before I went to work but I figured it wasn’t a big deal; Mister was perfectly capable of going to the store. Capable, yes; did he want to? That was another story. I got home from work that night to find baby India drinking a bottle of chocolate Slim-Fast. Pretty much the same thing as formula, right? But it could have been worse. Happy Mother’s Day!