Relief Society Pres.

You guys! Last weekend was one of those times when everything stacks up and crushes me near to death. It’s all I could do to keep breathing til last night.

First of all, it was my anniversary. Nice, pretty mellow. But still it’s a whole evening when I had lots of other things to do. What other things, you might ask? Well, at church the men are given a little gift on father’s day. A lot of times the teenage girls are in charge of it (actually, the leaders are in charge. The girls just hand them out). But this year the women were in charge. I was thinking of something store-bought but I realized how much I hate to receive store-bought stuff so I decided to make some monster cookies. In case you have lived a sheltered, pitiful life and don’t know what they are: kind of a half-peanut butter, half-oatmeal cookie with M&Ms and chocolate chips. Only I don’t have a good recipe. So I had to search the interwebs to find something worthy. Which required me making a whole ton of Monster Cookies to try out. The grand winner was this recipe by Sally’s Baking Addiction. It’s a keeper because it’s not too heavy on the oatmeal; too much oatmeal makes a cookie taste blah. So my anniversary cut into my baking time.

On my way home from working out on Friday I stopped to buy all the M&Ms and chocolate chips. Nothing like being absolutely soaked with sweat holding 15 bags of candy. I’m sure people suspected bulimia. And the stores here don’t provide grocery bags (of course I had forgotten mine in the car, as always) so I was dropping bags of M&Ms left and right. Those suckers are slippery! But I made it home with all my chocolate and began to bake.

I spent some of Friday and most of Saturday making 90 giant Monster Cookies. I have a gigantic mixer that does three or four batches at a time, so it really wasn’t as much trouble as it sounds. My counselors did all the wrapping and labelling and i think the cookies were a big hit.

But you know that wasn’t all I had to do, right? Mister dragged me to a movie on Friday night. I can’t remember what it was called but it was Danish and I liked it very much. It put me behind schedule. As did the wedding we had to go to in San Antonio on Saturday morning. Two hours each way for a 40-minute ceremony. Oy. But we discovered a new (and delicious!) BBQ place halfway between San Antonio and Austin and that made everything all better (the brisket melted in my mouth. Divine!)

Also this weekend: Arabella had to give a talk in church. Mormons don’t have a clergyman that speaks in church every week. Instead, members of the congregation are asked to speak about a given topic. Everybody gets a turn, aren’t we so lucky? Once kids turn twelve they’re fair game for speaking, too. This was Arabella’s first talk and it was about fathers so that meant that I had to help her with it instead of pawning it off on Mister. Much encouragement and proofreading ensued.

This wasn’t our only “first” at church either. India got asked to play the prelude music in church for the first time (piano not organ). Meaning I had to nag her to practice several times (“Mom, nobody even listens to the prelude music!”). She did a really good job and I’m guessing she’ll get asked again. Our house was filled with hymns all weekend, which seems nice in theory but really just put me on edge.

Then there were the teenagers nagging me to sign up for summer church camps right this second, requiring me to decide exactly what our itinerary is going to be as camp is four states away and will require travel of 10-12 days total. There is nothing that I despise as much as planning things in advance and I’ve been avoiding the details of our big summer trip. But there I was trying to get the kids all signed up for camps, knowing that there were only four slots left at the session they wanted to go to (“what do you mean you can’t remember your camp password from last year? Well, then they can email it to you. You forgot your email password too???” ) It took over an hour but we finally got it squared away.

There were Father’s Day presents to wrap, cards to nag the kids to make, and the Father’s Day meals to prepare. And a whole bunch of church busywork that takes a million years and is no fun at all but had to be done for Sunday.

It’s really a wonder that I only burned one tray of cookies. As much multi-tasking as I was doing, there should have been a few dozen burned.

And then there was Jasper. Poor, poor Jasper. It was his birthday on Sunday too. But I felt sorry for him having to share his day with Mister, and that it was on a Sunday (no eating out or having much fun being the Sabbath Day and all), so we lied and told him that we hadn’t looked at the calendar properly and that his birthday was actually Monday. Thank goodness he bought it! Having his birthday yesterday instead of Sunday was so much better. We went swimming with friends and he didn’t have to share his special day with his dad. It ended up being a great idea. I’ll have to remember to lie to my kids a lot more often.

OK, this is officially the most boring blog post I’ve ever written. But I just wanted you to know what I’ve been up to. I’ve had good reasons to slack on blogging and I’ve got the dark circles under my eyes to to prove it.

 

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!



 

I’ve been the Relief Society President for over four months now. Which has been about when my blogging began to fall off. You might think it’s because I don’t have enough time; that’s only partly the case. My responsibilities come and go. Sometimes I’m incredibly busy and sometimes I’m not. Here’s the real cause for the blogging slow-down: I now have to be discreet. I can’t just blab about all the things I’ve been doing because a lot of times they require helping other people who are in rather delicate situations. You thought I would continue to be a big fat blabber-mouth, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint.

For example, over the last weekend I spent probably 20 hours doing service for other people. Some of which included painting someone’s entire house (interior). A non-air conditioned house that hovered around 100°. I have never sweat so much in my life; crazy sweat that was dripping off every surface of my body. The good news is that I probably just painted my way into heaven AND I lost four pounds.  But that’s all I can really tell you. I certainly don’t want to get in trouble for announcing someone else’s problems to the world. That would be very uncool.

I also gave some rides to some people who can’t afford gas for their car. And then I went over and made some people breakfast on Sunday morning because they’re having a really hard time emotionally and physically. But that’s all I can really say about those situations. Because I know for sure all these people don’t want their issues blabbed on a blog. So I have these smidgens of stories and a smidgen of a story is worse than no story at all. It’s like announcing you’re a spy and not being able to give any details. Why even bother?

My material is drying up, is what I’m saying. It’s a lot harder to come up with subjects to write about when you’re trying to be compassionate.

Also, I still am missing a computer. Which means no Photoshop. My photographs need photoshop. They’re not atrocious–not quite–but they need a lot more editing than can be done on any of those freebie websites. I’ve done four or five tutorials and they’re either languishing on a broken hard drive or waiting for some proper attention. I apologize if you were dying to know how Jasper and Arabella’s birthday parties went. Or how to make great pizza crust from scratch. You will have to wait some more. Or maybe I’ll just swallow my pride and publish them anyway.

Waah, waah, waah, listen to me be a big baby. I’m not trying to make excuses; just letting you know what’s going on. The good news is that I’ve been working on a couple of other blog posts so you have something to look forward to.

And then the kids will be in school next week so I’ll have several kid-free hours with which to fritter away my time. I promise to make it up to you, OK? Just stick with me. And if you need a ride somewhere because you can’t afford gas, call me! I’m becoming quite an expert!