Monday, December 26, 2011

Through Christmas Failure Comes Inner Peace...kinda

It seemed like a great idea.  My brother's girlfriend suggested we have a gingerbread house making contest.  Then we decided to have my aunt judge it when the extended family got together.  We'd make them Christmas Day while we were all together.  P and I decided a lighthouse would be a great idea.  We had thoughts about the decoration and everything.  Sounds like fun, huh?  I thought so until the logistics started coming together in my mind. 

Side Note: I really hope this in no way offends my brother's girlfriend.  I really wish I had her baking acumen.  She is one of those amazing people that can wake up at 4am and then bake amazing stuff after work and graduate school classes.  Love her!

I was already stressed beyond belief for a hundred reasons other than the Christmas season but that is for another post.  Even though I quit Lottery Yarn and was looking forward to my first holiday in six years without a retail schedule in addition to a regular day job to worry about, it seemed like there was still no time to finish everything (being away for Thanksgiving and then being diagnosed with walking pneumonia probably didn't help).  My wrapping sucked, my gift ideas were not as creative as usual and my cooking was suffering.  So with Christmas day fast approaching, I was feeling the additional stress of making a gingerbread house.  I ended up making gingerbread dough at 11pm on Christmas Eve - two batches.  I woke up bleary eyed and exhausted at 8am to begin our day.

When I checked in with my Mom's house, my brother informed me that they were going to do theirs on the 26th since technically it was not due until the 27th.  I felt a wave of relief wash over me.  I had another day!  The dough could chill in the fridge for another day, no problem.  We could do it on my day off and I could enjoy Christmas with my family and relax a little bit - never an easy task for me.

The gingerbread dough mocked me from inside the fridge the next morning as I grabbed the cream for my coffee.  It sat there, two mean lumps of flour, sugar and molasses.  I finally pulled it out to soften before rolling it out.  I gave it a good 20 minutes and began trying to roll it into the requisite quarter inch round.  I have never worked with such and unfriendly mound of dough.  It was hard, it cracked, it tore at the parchment paper, taking me another 20 minuets to roll it out so that I would have an area large enough to cut out one of the 4 sides of the lighthouse.  P even tried to help and declared it a nightmare.  I continued rolling and cutting most of the afternoon.  When I finally had the 4 pieces rolled, cut and baked, I checked them to see if they were true enough to stand together.  They were awful.  There wasn't enough royal icing in the world to help us.  I finally had the meltdown that I could see coming from before Christmas Day.

In between retching sobs I asked, "Why can't I do this?! Other people can bake and shop and wrap and get everything done.  Why is it impossible for me to do this?  Every year it just seems like I am falling on my face."  I felt like such a failure.  I think I had less to do this year but felt like it was double because of everything else that had been going on in my life this month.  I sobbed and rubbed my eyes  till I saw stars.  I finally made the call to my Mom's house and told them that the blobs of dough had beaten me.  I could not make a gingerbread house in time.  No one was upset (except me) no one judged me (except me) and no one thought I was a complete slacker failure (except me).

As soon as I got off the phone I cried a little more and then stopped.  After a few minutes I sighed with relief.  P and I put away all the candy we bought to decorate the gingerbread house (on a high shelf so I would be less tempted to eat it).  I sighed a couple more times to let it sink in that there was  something off my plate.  Finally my shoulders came down from around my ears and I stopped wringing my fingers.  I stopped wondering how strange it would look for me to be the only one without a gingerbread house to present (ok, I am still worried about that).  I  still worried that I was just being a lazy, slacker but then it hit me -  I am not a gingerbread house person and that is OK.

The realization was life affirming.  I am not a gingerbread house person!  I am a tie things with pretty bows and wrap presents Lottery Yarn style and make food that can be eaten person!  Damn the gingerbread house dough and bring on the decadent cheese plate, artfully presented by yours truly.  Bring on the recipes for apps and main courses and sides for me to do and then reinvent.  That is ME and right now it is about all I can handle.

I hope you all are cool with that because I am trying REALLY hard to be. 
New candy shelf.

Friday, April 8, 2011

You Never Knew Me but You Saved Me

I used to participate in Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop...when I was blogging regularly.  I still read the emails that let me know about the prompts ahead of time and one caught my eye this week.

"Write about someone who made your childhood bearable."

Now I had a good childhood, a very good childhood.  I had parents who loved me, I went to good schools and had 2 acres of woods to play in.  I was lucky.  To read those lines and if you met me,  you'd think that I didn't need anyone to make my childhood 'bearable'...but I did.

I was never comfortable in my own skin.  I always fell awkward, not the awkward that comes with regular adolescence.  It was more than that, I never felt like I belonged where I was.  I still don't a lot of  the time.  In school I felt like my joining things was always forced and uncomfortable.  Outside of school I didn't feel shy just, always out of place.  There was only once place in the world where I didn't feel out of place, East Dennis on Cape Cod.

Now if you have read my blog before you may know that I have always described the place that my family goes on the Cape as the place where my soul dwells.  I may have also spoken about the home we've stayed for those glorious days.  We've rented the home from the same family for 30 years.  It has become a part of me and my time at the Cape.  The home and the Cape are woven together, I can't tell where one begins and the other ends.  It is truly a home, not a rental house. 

When I was younger, my Mom would have the kids write thank you notes to the woman who owned the home and we'd leave them for her.  I think it was the only thank you note I ever enjoyed writing.  As much as I think she knew how important the Cape was to me from those notes, I know she probably never realized that she really saved me in a lot of ways.

The awkwardness and out of place feelings really got bigger as I got bigger, though you would not have known it if you'd seen the 10 year old running along the jetty rocks, seemingly without fear.  When I was in sixth grade, I broke a picture with glass.  I thought about using that glass to cut myself.  I was at a point where I felt I could not win, school was unbearable, my sister constantly taunted me, not only did I have the usual 'out of place' feeling but on top of that I was getting all the normal adolescent fears.  I remember I was in my school uniform, it was probably February or March.  The thought that stopped me was, "I'll miss the Cape if I do that.  If I'm not here."  It was a turning point for me and although I would always struggle with depression, when things got to their worst in my mind, I would always think about that time I would have at the Cape if I just stuck it out.  I'd count days and hours and tick them off in my head.  I knew at 11 years old that if I could just make it to July or August I would be able to go and refuel myself in a way.  I still, to this day, think that way.

As I got older, I started to form an idea about why I always feel so out of place.  I think it is because  piece of me dwells in that home in East Dennis.  There was a woman who made it possible for me to find the place where my soul fully lives, if only for a week a year.  She saved me many, many times and she never even knew it.  She helped me understand what it was like to live completely and fully, if only for a little bit at a time.  I am 'in place' there.

I found out yesterday as I was contemplating the prompt I mentioned in the first paragraph that the woman who owned the home died about two weeks ago, she was 96 years old.  I hope she knew the joy she brought to that little girl who wrote her those thank you notes.  Maybe that's all she should know.  The dark side of it isn't as important.

Rest in Peace - HBS.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Like Grammar or I Was Called a Snob on Facebook Today

Let's let the fact that I have not posted in...many moons go at the moment or maybe forever and concentrate on the reason for my post.

I was called a snob on Facebook today.

I was also told that 'flaming' people for grammar and or spelling was passe.  Sacré bleu!  Actually, I thought the word or any way of saying 'flame' went out with "The Knot" chat rooms when speaking to someone's 'dollar dance' choice or selection of navy bridesmaid dresses with a flower other than a Gerber daisy.

But I digress.

I was called a snob because I thought that it was important that when you are stomping for a cause, whether it be on Facebook or the White House steps, that you clearly express yourself.  I was on a comment thread about disaster in Japan and all the radioactive waste pouring into the ocean.  It became very clear to me that those responding were passionate about the fact that they were scared and angry but they had no actual facts to back up their fear or anger because all they were doing was complaining bordering on whining.  You know the type I am talking about, complaining about problems but only offering solutions that would NEVER work (getting rid of all nuclear energy) for our current state of affairs. 

Sidebar: This post is neither pro nor anti nuclear energy.

Back to the program.  When I say 'never work' I don't mean that they are beyond the realm of possibility, I mean they would never work because of the people suggesting the 'solutions'. 

Here's an example: "Humans are really stupid animals ,selfish and dirty,not one other spezies will handle the nature like humans do ." 

Here is another: "don't eat seafood. i'm not touching it. between the gulf, this radioactive stuff and the huge island of garbage, all of the water is connected. i'm not eating seafood."

Now tell me, how many of you (ok, no one is reading this because I have not posted in ages and lost all my followers but maybe someone will) took those comments seriously?  Did they cause you to re-think your humanity or daily food choice? If it did...stop reading now and go try to get your money back for the land in Florida you bought and a return on those magic beans.

Now how about this comment (on a different thread becuase I could not find an intelligent on the one mentioned above): "There have been many scientific studies undertaken demonstrating the positive effects of meditation on the body. The mind/body connection has been proven many times over the past several decades. As a mediator and someone who experienced a occipital stroke, I personally know the recovery of my sight is directly linked to my meditation practice."

Which of the three comments intrigued you and made you want to learn more? 

Seriously if you pick the wrong one I will slap you in the brain.  

It's pretty obvious, right?  The first two only offer opinions not backed up with personal or other experience.  The last states that there are specific reasons for why the person believes in the cause or idea being presented.  

Now I understand Facebook is not Nature or Scientific American or even InTouch all I am am saying is that if you are going to express yourself or take the time to actually impart your opinion on a point or cause important to you, wouldn't you want it to be as clear as possible to get your point across?   I'd seriously rather listen (and poke fun of) Glenn Beck (and you know how I HATE him) rather than listen to the rantings of an food activist (and I am into my clean, non-GMO, organic, humanely raised, food) who swears and screams and cries but doesn't tell me how he got to his beliefs.  Passion is great and all but it can burn out.  Knowledge is forever in your brain whether you change your opinions or not.

I don't think that it makes me a snob to want people with opinions to have facts and concise thinking to back them up.  I am perfectly willing to listen to just about anyone's argument, even if I think it's wrong, as long as you think you can back it up.  If you can't, keep your mouth shut (and fingers still).