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We went to an Iron Chef-style party tonight at our friends’ house. We’ve been invited many times, but this was the first time we’ve actually made it. The secret ingredient was beef, and Chris’ pot roast, cooked for four hours and served over noodles, won. He also took home the People’s Choice vote. Our first time there, and Chris had a sweep. Not bad.

Chris loves to cook, and he’s really good at it. He made the gravy after we arrived at their house, and the smell filled the kitchen and made everyone drool. I think scent was his accidental secret weapon. By the time the judging happened, all of the judges had been basking in the scent of the gravy for quite awhile. I think their noses had already made the decision for them.

Everyone had a really good time. Avery loved playing with their little girl’s toys, and following all of the little girls around. It was really very cute. She seemed to especially enjoy the tea set. She kept mock pouring and offering tea to everyone she came across. It was adorable. She had plenty of energy, as usual. It was a tough job just keeping up with her. “Where’s Avery” was pretty much my refrain throughout the party. Every time I turned my head she’d have disappeared again. She’s very quick; I am not. I’d better learn to speed up in short order.

It was really nice to hang out with our friends… we do it far too rarely. Life gets away from you, sometimes. Speaking only for myself, I think it’s worse when you have a toddler. Taking her places feels (and often is) involved. Making sure she has everything she might need takes planning. We end up dragging so much stuff you’d think we were going camping instead of spending the evening out. Also, since other people’s houses haven’t been Avery-proofed, you can never entirely relax. Okay, if I’m honest, I’m never entirely relaxed anyway. It’s not that I didn’t have fun, I did. But whenever I’m in a group of more than five or six people I struggle a little, internally. Chris can talk to pretty much anyone. I do okay if it’s one on one, or even a smallish group, but the minute I am put into a larger group I feel awkward. It just intensifies the feelings of “otherness” I always carry. My insecurity kicks into high gear and I start comparing myself to everyone around me, and mostly coming up short. I understand it’s not reality, it’s just my highly skewed perception of it. Knowing that doesn’t always stop the voices, unfortunately. They are loud, persistent and have a bit of a vicious streak. Basically, I am smart enough to recognize what’s happening and why, but that recognition isn’t enough. There’s no rubber band I can snap against my wrist that shuts the voices up. I find myself mostly sitting quietly and smiling a lot, because it’s easier.

Tonight wasn’t too tough, thankfully. I knew enough people there to enjoy a lot of the evening. I was excited to be out, and beyond excited (and proud) that Chris won. I am lucky enough to experience his culinary talents every night, but it’s fun to watch him show them off. He doesn’t care if he wins; he just loves to cook. I care, though. And I think it’s good for him to be reminded that he’s great at things. He’s very good at his job as well, but I doubt he’s had much opportunity to feel that, lately.

Somehow it grew late while I wrote this. Time wobbles when I write. I hope it wasn’t too much. I think sometimes I’m too honest when I write. The line between the personal and the public blurs. I’m a weird mix. In person I seem to be hard to get to know, or connect with. I don’t know why that is. I’d certainly change it if I could. In writing, on the other hand, I am a literal open book. I don’t know when to stop. I overwhelm people. My emails are tomes, and even my texts are too long. Editing is not my strong suit. Perhaps I will improve here? Turn into someone who never uses two words when one will do? Probably not.