Saturday, February 23, 2008

Carter Medina is Here!

Being an aunt is one of my favorite roles to play. When Trisha and Mark adopted Gavin last year, my siblings and I were submerged into the wonderful world of auntdom and uncledom. And last night we were blessed with a second nephew: Carter Lee Schelden Medina.

Carter was born by c-section at 11:19 PM on February 22nd and weighed in at 8 lbs 6 oz.
Carter and his mommy are both doing very well, although they looked like they could use some good rest.
His skin was very red (except his feet which were purple), so I'm thinking of calling him "Edom" just for kicks. :-) Look at those toes!

When Gavin got his first glimpse of his baby brother, he was asked "How many fingers do you think your brother has?" "Ummm....I think four," he replied matter-of-factly, "Because I have five and I'm big!" Later on, we were commenting on how Carter's face looked a little like his mom's. Mark said, "Oh yeah, I guess I can see Trisha in his chin." Gavin looked up and said reassuredly, "I think his chin will get cute."

* If you'd like to see more pictures of Baby Carter, check out my photo site at

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentines Day

My routine is pretty much the same every morning: wake up, go to the bathroom. Apparently, they know my pattern. The bathroom I use at the Smart's house is also their laundry room--so imagine my delight when I wandered in there yesterday morning to discover a bag on the washing machine.

Aww, it was a bag of valentines from the each person in the family. They are so kind to me!
Well, this year I actually had the will and the time to get stuff for people, so I spent the day buying balloons and little gifts and writing cards for my family and the Smarts. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea for Bethany and Chris.

See, tomorrow is their first anniversary and Bethy had mentioned how sad Chris was that he didn't get any cake at their wedding (besides the feed-eachother-bite), and how much he wishes that they had a frozen part to bring out for their anniversary (I know, yuck). Anyway, sometimes I suffer from over-confidence in my abilities and so yesterday I decided, "Oh, I'll just make them a little wedding cake for Valentines Day and their anniversary." No problem, right? So I went to the store and I got some white cake mix and some eggs and a white deco-tube of frosting. I bought some frozen strawberries that I was going to use to make a filling. The only problem was that I don't know how to make filling. I opened up the strawberries and added some powdered sugar--but that barely thickened them at all. I added some vanilla pudding mix, but barely noticed a difference. I vaguely recall my friend's mom making candy and so I decided that since there was sugar in it, I could just cook it and it would thicken as it boiled. Well, needless to say, nothing worked so in the end I made some frosting, flavored it with the strawberries and just used that for filling. It tasted good (we were all eating the scraps). But it kind of looked....pyramid-ish. In my head, the three tiers of cake were very straight and symmetrical and weddingesque. Instead the top layer of the bottom tier cracked and kept splitting when I put more frosting on it. The second and third tiers were then sitting on very VERY thick frosting, and they soon began to slide toward the side. The end result was a not-very-beautiful, not-very-symmetrical cake that looks reminiscent of the ruins of an ancient civilization.
I wish I could put a picture up of what I was imagining in my head so that you could compare it with the actual result. It was really a very beautiful concept. :-)

At least my whole family and I had a good laugh at it.
But Bethany was very gracious...let's hope for her and Chris' sake it tastes better than it looks!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Small Talk Should Be Banned

Small talk makes me feel uncomfortable. First you greet (and perhaps introduce yourselves to) one another. Then after a couple perfunctory questions comes the big pause, where my mind races in circles around what has just been said trying to grasp any comment, connection or follow-up question I should ask. If I can't think of any way to continue to draw the person out, I fall back on a comfortable time-filler for me: I tell them stories about my life. Or at least, I used to. See, when you work with youth there are always lots of fresh stories. Right now, though, my life is pretty boring. These days my story would be something like, "Yeah, so I built a lincoln log cabin with my nephew yesterday and then he knocked it down." Or maybe, "Hey I just made $64.00 selling useless stuff on ebay!" I can feel my social stock plummeting with the mention of ebay.

Small talk is especially awkward while unemployed. The first question that we ask one another in our culture is "What do you do?" I used to think that was a sign of our culture's obsession with material success and so I tried to find something else to ask, but "How old are you anyway?" is kinda' frowned upon and "Tell me, how are you feeling about life these days?" is a bit personal for someone I just met. So I'm back to asking "What do you do," but I dread the moment when they finish their response and return the question: "How about you, what do you do?" Then I get to pick whether I think it's worse say "I don't do anything; I'm unemployed," which will cause them to ask questions and I will have to explain the whole story, or if it's worse to actually tell them what I do: "I live in my friends' basement and look for a job inbetween babysitting gigs." Either way I know that my answer will make them feel uncomfortable.

People don't like negative information in small talk. That's why when someone asks you "How are you?" you automatically say "fine" even if your life is in shambles and you pillow is still drying from last night's tears. And that's what the other person wants you to say--that you're fine or great or even fantastic. I know this because I went through a phase when I decided that being a person of integrity required a whole-hearted honest response to the question, "How's it going?" What I discovered is that 99% of the time people don't actually want to know how you're doing. Why they ask, then, I'll never know. But I do know that if you're not doing very well and you honestly reveal your struggles to the inquirer, they will get very uncomfortable and begin glancing around the room seeking an exit from the conversation. My new take is that I only answer the question honestly if I think a person is asking honestly.

Another popular topic in small talk is relationships. "How is your family?" works if you actually know about their family. Or if you know they're seeing someone you can ask about the significant other. When people ask me it's usually "So, are you seeing anyone?" At the point in the conversation where I have revealed to someone that I not only have no job but I also do not have a family or any hopeful prospect of having a family in the future I notice their attitude change toward me. They're afraid to ask anymore questions lest I burst into tears and reveal yet another level of patheticness in my life.*

It's a challenge for me to keep conversation light and peppy. My two biggest blunders in small talk are either monopolizing the conversation to fill the empty pauses or revealing too much of myself too quickly. No joke, a couple months ago I somehow revealed in a short conversation that my mother had miscarried prior to my birth. Kristi, what in the world were you thinking!? Appropriately enough, death is conversation killer. How that conversation picked itself up and limped forward, I still don't understand. But even short of bringing up my mother's personal loss, I still have a hard time not sharing on a level that makes people feel awkward. I can't help it; I run out of "light" things to say--and the things that I really think and feel deep down, those are the things that I want to share and discuss. The weather and the superbowl can only penetrate so far into a person's soul. And I guess unless I connect with someone's soul, I don't feel as if I've really connected with them at all.

Well, seeing as how I haven't heard any of the presidential hopefuls promise to propose a small talk ban, I guess I will have to get better at it. Here's what I'm thinking: instead of asking someone "What do you do?" or "How's your family?" I'm simply going to say, "So, tell me about yourself." This will give them the opportunity to share with me whatever they think is valuable about themselves whether that be their job or their family or their collection of teenage mutant ninja turtles. It will save them the discomfort of sharing something they are embarrased about and it will save me the discomfort of wondering if I brought up a sore subject since they get to pick their own subject. Hopefully, it will also help to minimize the awkward pauses that usually precipitate my anecdotal rambling, since it is a much more open-ended inquiry and can be followed up with all sorts of questions about whatever information they choose to reveal about themselves (i.e., "Cool! So which turtle is your favorite?, etc.).

I've also decided to strike a happy medium when it comes to personal revelation. If people ask me a question that ties into something real that I'm dealing with in my life (whether it's good or bad or inbetween), I'm not going to drop an E-bomb (E is for emotional, not electronic!) on them, but I'm also not going to pretend that my experiences are divorced from my emotions or that my faith is easily contained instead of permeating the various aspects of my life. I should be able to find a healthy balance between stoicism and overrevelation, right? The hard part for me will be discovering that balance in real conversation.

At least I'll get lots of practice. That's the worst part of looking for a church to become a part of. There's often this part in the service where someone instructs us to "stand on up and introduce yourselves to the people around you." For years I thought this was a nice, friendly practice. Now, as a visitor, I dread it. But next Sunday I'm going to take it as an opportunity to try out my new guidelines for small talk.

*Although I wish there were universally accepted fonts for sarcasm, facetiousness, etc., in their absence let me assure the reader that this blog is written in a playful, humorous spirit not a bitter, self-loathing one. In fact, despite my states of unemployment and singleness, I find I like myself more days than not. But thanks for your concern. ;-)