The perfect thought at the perfectly wrong time

24 January 2018


Well, this happened yesterday. 

I was heating up some oil to fry something--actually I was going to make churros and hot chocolate for a book club activity that I planned for some ladies in the ward and it was gonna be delicious. (I did end up doing book club anyway. Only three people came. Maybe the universe told them the churro part wasn't gonna work out. But it was fun anyway and we had some good conversation. Also it was a nice distraction. I was a little traumatized by the events of the afternoon.)

The oil got too hot and started smoking. You can see the pan I was using sitting on the stove. It's a heavy cast iron dutch oven with a lid. I turned down the heat on the burner. (Mistake. I should have just turned it off completely.) Several seconds later, the smoke was getting much much worse. I decided to take off the lid. (Mistake. I should have left it covered.)

When the smoke got oxygen, the thing lit up in flames. I've seen oil do this before--in fact this happened in the very same pot on the same burner last week when the city was shut down for a snow day. (Mistake: I didn't think to avoid repeating the same conditions when I went to make the churros for the book club.) I was making a practice round of churros because I had never made them before. There wasn't as much oil in the pan last week, and it was small enough to be easily carried outside and chucked in the deepest snow this part of NC has seen for a few years. 

I don't usually deep fry, though. (Mistake: I didn't renew my knowledge of fire safety before engaging in this cooking activity that I'm inexperienced in.) So la dee dah, I didn't think much of it.

The next few minutes were scary. Cue adrenaline and all that. I tried to put the lid back on the pot, but the flame was too big and it slid right off. I couldn't use a hot pad and carry the pan outside as we had done before--the flame was too big. I think maybe a fire extinguisher crossed my mind briefly. (We have one and I knew where it was--just down the hall from the kitchen.) But I have never used one before, and I think I dismissed the thought because it didn't seem like a quick solution to me. (Mistake: I should have used the fire extinguisher.) So I thought water. (Mistake. Do not try water.) I filled up a container with water and tried to splash it on the flame. It just sputtered and grew, and some flames dropped onto the floor even. I even got a little scorched on my arm and forehead (just a slight skin irritation; it's gone now), so I was like,

"Wow, I just set my entire house on fire."

At that point, I decided it was beyond my ability to control. I ran upstairs and got the kids away from the computer. "WE GOTTA GET OUTSIDE!!" (They were watching a show, but I'm glad they understood the urgency in my voice. It takes a lot to pull S away from the TV) I grabbed my phone and called 911 on my way out

That was my first time calling 911. I was kind of upset and the dispatcher asked me all these lame questions like what kind of structure my house was and how many floors it had and all that, and I said something like, "Can you just give me advice on how to put this out?" He said no. "Don't do anything to put it out. The fire department is on the way." I thought that was dumb because, hello open flame. I wish he would've walked me through how to use the fire extinguisher or even asked if we had one (we have one, I just need some help to use it apparently), because I probably could've avoided some damage.

Who knows, though. While I was on the phone, I peeked back in and was relieved to see that the flame looked smaller, or like it may have even died completely. As I was on the phone, Tim pulled up. He told me later that he thought we came outside to greet him as he was getting home from work. I was on the phone with 911, though, and I told him there was a fire inside, and S. was holding his ears and smoke alarms were going off everywhere. (Oh, I guess they do work. Good to know. Last week they didn't seem affected by the failed deep-frying experiment.)

Tim looked at the flame, went upstairs to get a towel to smother it (Why did he grab one of our nicest towels? Men.), but by the time he came back downstairs, it had self-extinguished. Shortly after that the firefighters arrived. 

I tried hard to be invisible to the firefighters because I felt super dumb and I berated myself afterward for a good while for being retarded because I tend to be like that, but I've since seen that my stove is dumb and I'm grateful things weren't worse, and you know silver lining and stuff.

20 January 2018

consciousness of self

The whole premise of this post may seem odd because the audience could be the same category as the subject, but I don't think anyone reads blogs anymore (much less mine), so I'm just gonna try to discard any considerations of audience here.

Moving to NC has made me self-conscious about friendship a little more than usual. I feel like I need to do a lot affirmations to get over this and just tell myself  on repeat "You are worthy of love and friendship," "You are likable," and such, despite my current social landscape being maybe a little lacking. It's been an odd two years in some ways on the social front, and I was already maybe kind of overly sensitive in that area?

I have not always successfully avoided conflict in the context of friendships. This territory is very precarious. I think there's a lot of people who believe that conflict has no place in friendship, and if there is any disagreement or discomfort, then avoiding the other person and waiting for time to heal the disconnect, or possibly even ending the friendship, is the best solution. Conversations about ending the relationship are also a faux pas, it seems. (I've sometimes struggled with the proper etiquette here.) I often feel compelled to put everything on the table. When I'm feeling emotionally invested in something, even if those feelings are undesirable, my inclination is to confront them and communicate about them. Having been burned after exposing myself emotionally and feeling vulnerable many a time, though, I've become hesitant about sharing. I don't think that's a bad thing. There's something to the maxim "don't cast your pearls before swine." There must be a happy medium, where you've established a level of trust before you begin to become vulnerable. It just seems tricky to manage the balance. 

There's an individual in my current locale who I've had some feelings of resentment and hurt feelings toward, and I've been trying to figure out how to move on from those feelings. I feel ashamed and humiliated for even having the feelings in the first place. This individual and I never actually built a consistent connection, or developed a close relationship. But it a weird amalgam of things. I was in a vulnerable spot having just moved here and knowing literally no one and being a SAHM without a lot of community access points (which can be a very isolating role). I met this gal from church, and she reached out to me initially in a friendly way. She has a very gracious way about her socially, so when we hung out, which we did on several occasions, I felt like it was easy to talk to her about things that I felt went deeper the surface level. I felt like we were friends enough that I was comfortable to reach out to her. It got to a point where that was painful and scary for me, though, because she would often fail to acknowledge or even respond. I decided to try to step back and not reach out as much to protect myself, but it's been a difficult thing for me to manage because we go to church together and I actually signed my child up to be in her child's same preschool class, as well. I would have preferred to just avoid her entirely. I think my feelings of hurt about the whole thing maybe have gone a little beyond the scope of the circumstances, but it was so wrapped up in my hope and disappointment socially on a larger scale. I'm afraid this poor girl has become a bit of a scapegoat for a lot of my failed social experiments in this place, which she doesn't deserve. She's still a lovely person, I just need to accept that she can't give me the friendship I thought she was offering.

During the same period of time, I initiated an email communication with a valued friend from college. I had been feeling like her level of responsiveness was falling short, too. This wasn't uncharacteristic for this particular friend, but the long distance instituted by my cross-country move compounded with a period of increased unavailability on her part conflated to the point where I felt our friendship was already lost. In an effort to communicate a boundary, I tried to tell her that I would be stepping back and no longer making an effort to initiate unless her responsiveness improved. That whole exchange didn't go very well, and I think I can say we buried our friendship with it. It's sad to me.

My "intensity" is not always an appreciated trait. I feel like my life story has been in some ways defined by this pattern of weirding people out this way. Or maybe it's not that so much as a pattern of intimate friendship that isn't sustained as long as I hope. Maybe it's a combination of those things, but I have a hard time with losing highly intimate and/or highly valued relationships. They are really important to me. I've tried to rein in my emotional vomit and ensure that I'm not placing unreasonable expectations on people, but I haven't succeeded in placing NO expectations on people. I think I DO have something to offer as a friend: I don't mind reaching out and initiating contact even when it requires a little more effort than just talking to someone if you happen to run into them, I'm pretty thoughtful, I am empathetic, I am available, I think I'm a good listener most of the time, and I believe I'm fairly loyal once I've established a connection with someone. I've internalized the message I've been given that I shouldn't have expectations from friends. People tell me that friends come and go, and that I should just be grateful and accept whatever may be offered, whatever amount of friendship might be extended. While I think that is partially true, I think it may be reasonable to acknowledge that I have needs and expectations and I deserve something in return. I am still finessing what exactly these expectations are, but at a basic level, I want to be acknowledged. I want to be heard. I want to feel like I can offer something positive. I want to be reassured that I'm normal.

Since moving here, I've often felt invisible socially. I worry so much about not being enough. It's easy to see my life sometimes as a string of failed relationships, to remember all the experiences and harbor the painful memories where someone actively shut me out because I was acting too intense, or my demands were overwhelming and burdensome to them. I worry that I have a scarcity mentality  and that I will never be satisfied. I think I've struggled with these feelings even when my circumstances have given me a lot more opportunities for social connection, so it's easy to conclude the problem is with me. But I'm also trying to recognize and be grateful for what I do receive. To remind myself that not every relationship ends painfully. Connection is never guaranteed, and I'm trying to be thankful every moment I get it.

03 December 2017

the mom thing, and other things

We had our ward's Christmas party last night. Normally I would just show up and babysit my kids, like I do, but last night was different. I performed.

That's right, I performed. There was a variety show, and I participated in two musical numbers for it. The first was a piano duet, and the second was as one of three back-up vocalists in a band covering Guster's rendition of "Donde Esta Santa Claus?"

The lead-up to these performances was ridiculously stressful for me. On Friday morning, I initiated negotiations to call off the whole thing with my duet partner and friend, Stephanie, because from a combination of other factors (not least of which was the fact that I had extra childcare duties in the evenings a couple times so that Tim could do band practice), we had never actually gotten the chance to get together and practice the song! And being a back-up vocalist wasn't exactly my cup of tea, because I am not a great singer and I feel uncomfortable with the idea of being aware that people are looking at me and expecting me to be entertaining. Agh!!

Also driving to the church I turned the wrong way on a one-way road and then also missed a turn and was probably the worst driver ever.

But I played and I sang in the angelic back-up trio of female vocalists, and strangely, I was pretty zen during the actual party and not too nervous. I guess I got all of my emotional energy out beforehand, so it ended up being a lot of fun and made me feel a little more human than I normally feel in my all-consuming role as mother. I usually end up deciding that trying to do anything else outside what I can fit into the purpose I see for myself as a mother (which varies slightly from mother to mother, but for me personally includes pretty comprehensive childcare and household management responsibilities) is just too stressful and too hard and it doesn't usually feel very fulfilling or rewarding in the end, and so I quit.

I did that at my job three years ago, most significantly, and various other things that I've made feeble attempts to get involved in over the years.

I wish I could just be completely and fully satisfied by my role as mother, because it is important work. In some ways, I feel more fulfilled by it than anything else I've ever undertaken because of its importance. But in other ways, it's a little incomplete for me. It has resulted in a narrowing of my world and my brain in a lot of ways! As a result, I feel like I'm always searching for a little something extra, and a lot of times, I try things that I later end up feeling like "Why am I doing this?!" And usually, it's attempts to make money, because I guess I feel weird about pursuing stuff for the sake of my own enjoyment, but I respond well to the pressures I feel to make money and contribute to society that way.

In fact right now I am doing a freelance editing project, and I haven't done one of those for quite some time, and it's really feeling like it's not a good fit for me, but I'm doing it anyway and actually I should be working on it right at this very moment but I'm feeling unable to focus my brain sufficiently on it and blah.

I blame society. Why don't we value the "woman's" work of motherhood in our society? I mean it kind of makes sense that we wouldn't because of how invisible it is, but still . . . I am constantly dealing with the message that I'm not doing enough, as are most women I guess, because I am, at a very basic level most of the time, JUST trying to ensure my kids survive.

16 March 2017

ebb and flow

I wasn't quite prepared for being as alone in the world as I felt I was after moving to NC. I thought that the proximity I had to people I knew in Utah was great enough that it didn't really affect my day-to-day life. I didn't see friends on a reliable basis, and I still felt lonely, bored, and socially bankrupt a lot of the time. But I think I still had some level of confidence and engagement in pre-established relationships to a degree that I cannot sustain from this distance. I do think I've started to learn to appreciate that relationships ebb and flow and have their own seasons. It's not like Person A needs to be texting or calling me all the time for me to consider them a friend. We are past that curious stage of life where people are careless and almost universally interested in social investment in some form or another. It is disappointing sometimes when I realize I've been making an effort to reach out and don't feel like it's being reciprocated, and it's hard to know when it's a good idea to let that go and move on or hold out for when things might be a little easier. There are times where we have more to give in the context of friendship, and there are times when we just don't.

I thought lots of people moved to places where they knew absolutely nobody so it was no big deal. Moving here has meant I abide with an extreme, almost physical level of self-consciousness. I miss that confidence of knowing there is someone who cares about me and I can fall back on our relationship history for connection. I occupy a space where there may be potential friends, but no one I can be confident is reliably interested in having a conversation with me if we happen to occupy the same space at the same time. After eighteen months, my level of extreme self-consciousness is easing a little bit, but perhaps only because the novelty's edge has worn off. Acclimating is a weird process.

08 September 2016

one year ago

One year ago, I arrived on a plane in Raleigh, North Carolina, with my family. After leaving Utah the week before, we spent some time in Austin, Texas, for my brother's wedding with my parents.

After taking too long to get tacos from a food truck in Austin, we nearly missed our departing flight, but we made it, and after a short layover in Atlanta, we got to RDU around 11:30 p.m.

I remember noticing that it seemed to smell nice when I arrived in NC. The humidity wasn't quite as intense as it was in Atlanta but still noticeably present. Tim went to get the car which he had parked at the airport while I waited with our luggage, almost all of what we would live with until my brother drove our moving truck from Utah.

We drove home but part of our bumper was falling off, so we stuck to Hwy 70 and went quite slow. We slept on two twin mattresses on the floor strapped together. We had a couple of camp chairs, some house plants, our clothes, a few toys, one pot and one wooden spoon and a knife. Not much else.

The apartment smelled like smoke.

I walked with the kids to the tiny town library the next day in a country town with no sidewalks. We went back regularly--it's the only time I've been consistent about going to story time.

Maya was learning to crawl and kept falling and hitting her head because we had hard floors, so we finally bought a rug. That helped.

Tim installed our diaper sprayer but something was messed up on the toilet valve in the apartment and it became a veritable fire hydrant and flooded everything.

I bought a damaged but functional slow cooker from Goodwill and it served me well, and we bought a lot of take and bake pizzas from Aldi. We never eat those anymore.

A few months later we bought a house and moved to Greensboro and started the process of acclimating to North Carolina all over again. When people asked where we moved from, we weren't sure what to say because we had only been in Gibsonville for a few months. It was a weird interim.

I think those fields are tobacco fields? I still don't understand the placement of fire hydrants. Sidewalks are never reliably offered and neither are road shoulders. People put bags in abandoned cars on the side of the road for some reason sometimes. Occasionally you see cars with cardboard signs in place of license plates that say "Lost Tags" with the plate number, or "Stolen Tags . . . " That's weird. People park on grass here sometimes, especially in the country, because I suppose it's not quite so weird to have grass in a place that's not actually a desert. It's lovely not to ever see sprinkler systems, though. I always felt like sprinklers were an annoying waste of water. The country is not a vast no-man's land, but rather a place where a lot of people live. Streets are not straight and sometimes they go in circles. I still can't navigate driving around.

I'll be returning to Utah visit in a couple weeks. I think I've forgiven Utah for the things I didn't like about it and look forward to seeing the rocky mountains that rise above tree lines again.

27 April 2016

time to one's self

I read a post recently titled "This Stage of Life? It's Hard." It resonated with me, as I'm sure it could with arguably most parents of young children. But the discussion about what you "need" when you're the parent of young children (especially the stay-at-home parent, it seems) has sort of stuck with me in a nettling sort of way. I find myself constantly thinking in some way or another about what my needs are or are not as a stay-at-home mom. I go through phases where clearly I'm not thriving, and I think maybe it's because I'm not caring for myself as I should. With a little more attention to myself, would I be able to avoid burn-out? Would I take more pleasure and joy in the day to day?

And then there's this part about adult discretionary time. It seems a huge difference between me and pretty much every other parent I know is that I have zero built-in adult discretionary time. We have our kids in bed with us and they depend on us helping them to fall asleep. Our bedtime structure basically involves everyone lying down in bed at essentially the same time. And during the night, we're always there. Nighttime parenting is not a break, a chance to be alone or with one's spouse, or a period to have uninterrupted rest. Parenting happens around the clock. I think we've adapted, but there are some serious limitations to this structure. Obvious restrictions. And I question it constantly! Do I need to teach my kids to sleep by themselves? Do I need time every night, or at least regularly, where I definitely don't have to worry about wearing the "parent hat"? Do we need to go on dates? (Can't remember the last time we got a babysitter and went on a date.) Do we need to go on vacations that don't involve the kids or leave them overnight? (Never done that!) Do I need to sleep for eight hours straight in order to be healthy? (I've not had a night of uninterrupted sleep for over 4 years!)

The author of the blog post writes that you need to "put your kids down for bed early . . .  you need your mom, . . . you need to not feel bad about using your kids [sic] nap time every now and again to just do whatever the heck you want, . . . you need to be ok leaving your kids overnight, and going away somewhere, . . . you need to do something you enjoy, every day, even if it’s for no more than 15 minutes."

So . . . what if you don't have those things? I don't think I'm trying to be a martyr here, although it might seem like that is my motivation. I hear a lot about the importance of self-care for moms, especially in the form of time away from your kids. It seems like we (moms? parents? media? culture?) are constantly talking about that in the conversation of parenting and childcare. "It's very demanding! You need time for you!"I totally agree and support that concept of ensuring that parents have the care and support they need to do right by their children (not to mention themselves)! I'm constantly getting messages about the necessity of structural space away from being "mom." Have I gone about this mom thing all wrong?  I haven't created this kind of structure in the (albeit relatively short) time I've been a mom. In some ways, I don't want to. In some ways I really do want to. Am I setting myself up for disaster? Am I dooming my marriage? Are these sorts of sacrifices inevitable? Are my compromises unforgivable? Is this component of my life simply another choice among many in the world of acceptable family lifestyles and ways to raise young children? Is it more essential and fundamental than that? Is it going to be the death of me and somehow permanently handicap my children's development too?

These sort of questions linger and hover over me a lot of the time. I've probably even written about it before, so sorrynotsorry if this post is redundant.

14 April 2016

neigborhood crime

There was a shooting in our neighborhood last week. Where we live seems to be in a bit of a pocket. A few blocks away in certain directions have more issues with crime, but our development seems to have pushed it out a little. This shooting, though, was within the development. After church on Sunday, we walked around the perimeter of the taped off area a little to see if we could discover any information about what had happened. There were a group of police/investigators taking pictures of some street-parked cars. We saw a woman come out of her house to ask them why they were taking pictures of her car. They told her that there was blood on it. "Sorry," said one of the police officers. "I didn't realize that was your car! Otherwise I would have told you." I keep remembering that little exchange. Like it was no big deal that someone else got blood on your car or something? S. has been very interested in toy guns and was playing with his gun he built from blocks even while we were walking around this crime scene. The timing seemed poor. I've tried to explain that guns hurt people, but the association seems lost on him. The shooting was a bit unsettling, as it occurred at a town home within our development, and there was actually a similar incident about two weeks ago not much farther away. The previous shooting three weeks ago was murky. Apparently they found a man who had been shot in a parking lot and it was unclear where the shooting had taken place. This one over the weekend involved multiple victims and possibly multiple shooters who were at a large party where an argument had taken place. I don't know if either of the shootings ended up involving fatalities, as the news reports don't really seem to include follow-ups after the initial footage.

Where we live has some interesting demographics and I am trying to wrap my head around it. We bought a house through the Good Neighbor Next Door program, so we didn't really choose the location ourselves. We knew it was deemed a "revitalization area" by the government, but we were pretty unaware of what the area was actually like. It's probably not that much different as far as crime goes than where we lived in Salt Lake, but I felt like I understood the neighborhood in Salt Lake and despite sometimes being affected by crime while living there, it didn't seem that threatening. But I have never lived in the South before, so it feels like a new ball game in some ways. My kid is also approaching school-age, so my involvement in the community is going to change, probably. I'm thinking about education with a new urgency than I did before, and I'm just not sure what choices to make. I don't know what to think. Neighborhood schools do not seem to be well respected.

I feel like an outsider where we live. It seems like our neighbors are all black. It sounds stupid to say this, but I kind of used to think that race didn't mean much and people were making a big deal out of nothing. But coming here has broadened my concept of racial identity in some ways. I realize there's a lot more culture associated with this racial group than I had conceived of before, and in some ways that's made me feel alienated and like there is even less common ground between me and people in the black community here. But it's also made me appreciate a bit more the complexity of race relations, so maybe that's a good thing? My world is still pretty small, as I spend my time at home with the young children and mainly only know people from going to church. I'm not necessarily proud of that, but it is what it is. People at church don't live in our neighborhood, so the people I might think of as peers normally also seem demographically different. Does that kind of thing matter or does it not? Color me confused.

01 March 2016

lost in the move

Strange things get lost in the moves. I get stressed out about lost stuff and can't forgive them for being missing. Not good at letting things go. I must obsess and categorize and record. But sometimes the randomness of such lists seems humorous:

  • a suit jacket, but not the matching suit pants
  • a gift card that once found a home in a wallet
  • straws to Camelbak-type water bottles
Where do the lost things go?

21 January 2016

self-conscious in NC

One thing I didn't necessarily anticipate about being in a new place was this uncomfortable self-consciousness and hyperawareness that I carry with me all the time. Sometimes I feel like I'm just bulging at the seams and not holding things together very well while my children yell and throw tantrums in the tiny library story time while everyone else sits there quietly with their kids who've probably brushed their teeth more regularly in the recent past and eaten something without added preservatives.

when kindness hurts

I read the article "A Daughter Too Kind for Her Own Good" and felt I could relate all too well. Gordon writes, "I’m not just her mother, but another girl who grew up being told not to ruffle feathers or rock the boat."

Kindness runs deeper than just being a people-pleaser, so I believe as a virtue it still deserves a priority place. But I know my tendency to want other people to like me, to be self-sacrificing at least under the guise of serving others' interests, and to avoid arguments on issues ranging from personal to political doesn't do me any favors sometimes, and I worry about what I'm inadvertently teaching my children.

And although I hate to admit that I judge other women with the same unfair measuring stick, I notice that I do. I think it's so culturally ingrained in our ideas about femininity. Just yesterday, I was listening to Hillary Clinton speak on public radio about her presidential campaign, and I found myself feeling uncomfortable because, completely aside from her politics, she didn't sound very matronly.

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