My most embarrassing moment

When I was in my early teens, I accompanied my father as he ran some errands in town. We stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch, and as we headed back to Dad’s red Toyota pickup truck, I started feeling sick to my stomach. On the way home, I felt worse and worse. About a mile down the road, Dad stopped at a Dairy Dell and said, “Go in and get a Coke. It’ll settle your stomach. And while you’re in there, get me a large cone.” He remained in the truck.

So, I went into the restaurant and stepped to the back of the line. As I inched forward, I continued to feel sicker. Finally, when it was my turn to order, I stepped forward and threw up all over the counter.

A kind woman took me in back and cleaned me up. When I finally returned to the truck, all Dad said was, “Where’s my cone?”

More than 30 years later, that restaurant is still called “The Pukery” in my family, and I trot that story out when the subject of most embarrassing moments comes up. It was funny until I had a child of my own, which shed new light on the parenting I had received. My experience at the Dairy Dell was definitely eye-opening from the perspective of motherhood. If my son was ill, it wouldn’t occur to me to “medicate” him with Coca Cola, send him into a restaurant alone to purchase this “medication,” and ask him to get something for me in the process. But that is how my father parented, and it makes me a little sad for the embarrassed girl standing at the counter of the Dairy Dell.

Sad Embarrassed

Kris Wiltse’s illustrations for the “Sad” and “Embarrassed” cards from the Mixed Emotions card deck.

The extremely high price of not following my feelings

Not being an artist, I knew I’d have to hire one to illustrate each card in the Mixed Emotions deck (there are 60). At the time, a friend of my former husband’s was just beginning to represent an artist who appeared to be quite talented. Though I had misgivings about working with him, I convinced myself that what was best for Mixed Emotions wasn’t necessarily what was best for me.

The contract with the artist was set up in a way that enabled him to receive a monthly income while dedicating himself fully to my project for a year. Over time, it became more and more evident that he wasn’t going to deliver. By the time I finally pulled the plug, I’d paid him more than $50,000, which, of course, I never got back.

I learned a couple things:

  1. When I have misgivings about something, I don’t talk myself out of them anymore.
  2. I needed to be the one to determine how each card was illustrated, not the artist. Which means that I needed to tell the artist what grief looks like. I needed to tell the artist what exhaustion looks like, and so on.
  3. To do that, I’d need to brainstorm with a very creative group of friends. More on that later.

I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about losing that much money. Imagine how I must feel writing about it.


Embarrassed. Really, really, really embarrassed.

May this cautionary tale, and the very existence of Mixed Emotions, prevent you from making the same mistake.

*Kris Wilste’s illustration for the “Embarrassed” card from the Mixed Emotions deck.