Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crockpot Insecurities

Sam is attending a cub scout party this evening. The invite asked for families to "bring a dish or snack" to share. What to make? Tiny pigs in a blanket--of course!

"This will be perfect", I reasoned. "I'll just bake them and pop them into the crockpot to keep warm." Then I looked at my crockpot-- I mean really looked at it. I noticed the long brown, splotchy drip on one side that refused to scrub off and lots of brownish flecks. As I scraped my thumbnail on the brown spots and then attempted to remove them with the magic eraser, I realized that was where the painted enamel surface had chipped off. One of the small plastic legs had broken off and been reglued on. Did I mention it was a wedding gift from 14 years ago? If I ever finish with it, it won't be nice enough to donate to someone in need. The poor won't want it-- only a lower middle class family like ours would be crazy enough to keep using it.

If this was a gathering with my friends, I would throw those pigs into that crockpot and not give it a second thought. But this isn't a gathering of people I am familiar with. And the host has a really nice house-- probably one without a reject crockpot in sight.

Long story short? Part of me wants the snack to go into a sparkling white Corningware dish with foil and send it on with my husband to scouts with Sam. The Corningware could let me "hide": I could appear to use only dishes that look brand new, instead of weary from 14 years of my learning how to cook. I could avoid new people, evade having to figure out whether or not the group is one I can begin to fit into, whether or not they use the "R" word or have exotic food allergies. It's easy to be me with my friends, even with some aquaintances. But it's scary to just let it all hang out there when it's someone I don't know well who looks like they have it all together.

But I am not using Corningware tonight. I am sending my crockpot. The pigs in a blanket look perfect and my choice to forgo vanity may save them from eating pork kept at too low of a temperature-- thus saving them from food poisioning.

I am good enough. And doggone it-- so is my crockpot.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Letting Go

Friendships are a tricky thing. One begins with great promise, can even sustain and last a few years and then go a completely different direction. Holidays and birthdays can make me think-- and let my mind wander places I wouldn't normally pause and travel to.

I hate change. It is uncomfortable, scary and unfamiliar. Change tends to have hazy nooks and crannies that aren't clearly marked and can only be experienced. There is something about Facebook that makes it too easy to see these changes. Who did I spend time with in 2010? Chances are I still spend time with the majority of those people, but a few have stepped aside and now spend time elsewhere.

Friendships change because people change-- and that can be difficult for me to accept. Lately I have been thinking about a friendship and realizing that this person does not call or contact me anymore-- I just contact them. I don't want to turn it into the downward spiralled drama of "Well.... I'll just see how long it takes her to notice and call me" but as I have stopped making regular efforts, she hasn't noticed. She hasn't called. To quote a wiser person, "She's just not that into you".

Part of that makes my stomach hurt. But the realist in me looks at the birthday cards lined up on the counter and feels reassurance.

Can I just accept this relationship for what it is? If she calls, great, and if not, that's okay? I'm trying. I really am. But I want the clearly defined lines. I want to know WHY. And yet I don't want to know why, because what if it really is me?

I suspect the "why" could be the busyness of life. We are busy in different directions, with different people in completely different ways. So for tonight I want to accept that it is different, but not necessarily over. But that is still hard for me because it is so different from what it was.

This whole soupy mess of emotions makes me feel grateful for the ones in my life who are a constant: the ones who show up, the ones who call, the ones who write. The friend who is ever forgiving and will meet for muffins on a weekday. The one who delivers balloons and chocolates on my birthday. The one who sits by me at church and shares her heart and lets me hold her baby. The one who stood beside me in a church 14 years ago and promised to stay my best friend no matter what. Give me three good friends and I am set. Long story short, I think I might be down one, but I am still up three :o)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Rainbow Card

While cleaning out the junk pencil drawer, a small piece of cardstock was wedged against the back of the drawer. I tugged it loose, turned it over and saw a crayon rainbow was drawn on one side. It was the elusive rainbow card.

Holding that card in my hand jettisoned me back to the pre-school days: my little people at home all day and lots of time to play board games. Sam loved playing Candyland, but without fail it would turn into some sort of playland purgatory as one of us would near the end of the colored snake. "This is it!" I would think in triumph. "Now I can finally get up and start the load of laundry", only to pull a card for Plumpy or Mr. Mint, hurtling me near the starting point yet again. I never felt the release to quit-- what if I raised a son who is a quitter? So on we would go. And on and on and on.

I began to dread that game. Who wants 45 minutes of Candyland action? No one. (If anyone claims they would like to play that game with their child for longer than 20 minutes, they are lieing). Finally I decided to give myself an out and designed a rainbow card. Oh the joy! Whoever pulled the rainbow card would win, instantly. No more issues of Mommy having to stack the deck-- we could finally play an honest game of Candyland without dread.

The kids were fine with the new rainbow card rule of play and I had given myself breathing room. It was something so small, but it made a difference in my day. That rainbow card bought me more time than I had ever realized was for sale. On cleaning day, I held the little card in my palm and wondered how often do we as parents give ourselves permission to make a rainbow card?

What do you need to simplify or allow as a margin for yourself? Sometimes we get stuck in how we think the ideal should be and the reality becomes difficult in the process. Speaking as a mom, it is hard to do less or trim edges. I tend to grab at the thorny edged "All or nothing" shelf and refuse to see the rest of the options.

Grab a box of crayons and draw yourself a rainbow card and get prepared to use it. I promise you'll start to enjoy the game if you do.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bread anyone?

I am happy today. How can I say that with such confidence? Because I have used an entire bag of flour this week --- that's how.

Once I began working full-time, my baking fell to the wayside. It was more than a matter of not having time for it. I lost all desire for it. It felt very separate from my busy, capable self and far removed from dress slacks and heels. Arriving home from work, my dinner plan usually involved something boxed or frozen. Can I be completely honest? It felt important to be so busy and I felt a sense of connection and normalcy bonding to other women preparing the same dinner fare.

I felt pride in working for a Vice President, walking through the doors to "the castle" each morning and sitting behind a big desk. While parts of that job were far from glamorous, other parts made me feel pretty darned special, irreplacable and downright important.

Baking is not glamorous. It is messy and involves long waits (an hour and twenty minutes for bread to rise the first time-- another twenty again after being formed into loaves.) You don't even have the benefit of the aroma of bread until nearly the end of the lengthy process. And then there are no preservatives in it, so you had better plan to either eat toast like a maniac for 2 days, or share it.

It is the sharing part that I love. Everyone loves the cinnamon roll lady. No one refuses Avanti bread from the bread machine. I know, I know, if I was a purist, there would be no true appliance involved in my bread making. But when someone has gone through something difficult, I often feel I need an excuse to see them, as though I am intruding upon their grief. Holding out the small mishapen loaf of bread, which never fails to be lopsided, is always my method.

The loaves I craft never look the same. I haven't formed two identical loaves of bread in 15 years of baking. It's ridiculous. There never fails to be small, sharp peaks, too brown at the ends. I never brush the loaf with butter or beaten egg.... I just bake it as is. As Greg would say, "It's Joy-made".

At thirty-five, I am beginning to accept who I am and embrace that person. I have a broken filter and fixate on small things, but that is okay. It's okay that I have left behind dress slacks for jeans-- "important people" will forget my name as time lapses and the rust spot on the van won't be getting smaller anytime soon. As I turn the dough over in my hand, I feel a connection to who I really am and won't apologize for the pleasure I take in small tasks, viewed as meaningless by so many. Why make bread? Go buy it at Wal-Mart for $1.50 a loaf.

But this is me. And it is enough.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


The rain was supposed to go north of us, so Greg and Sam loaded up the car to do a quick camping trip. I love how laid back Greg is-- but sometimes it reveals just how uptight I really am. The girls and I headed out to Pagliai's for dinner. As I sat in the booth, I glanced out the window and saw lightening zipping through the dark clouds. Oh dear.

Sam is a "glass-half-empty" kind of kid and I braced myself for the stream of bummer talk I would hear when he returned from this trip.

We continued our girls night for another hour, painting nails and watching a Lalaloopsie movie with no plot or point. Towards the end, Sam walked into the house with a huge grin, followed by Greg.
"We're camping in my room tonight!" he shouted. Wow. Could this be? Could my pessimist have flexibility and be okay with the change of plans?

He was more than okay with it, he was excited for the evening in his room. I fell in love just a little bit more with my husband as I watched him cram the tent into Sam's tiny room, using every spare inch of floor space available. Then flashlights and marshmallows broke out as they prepared to watch Star Wars.

I learned long ago that as a parent you have to sell change. Pump up the kids, make it sound like a honey of a deal and then cross your fingers and hope for the best. I can't help but think of all of the times that I haven't been able to adjust to change, and therefore missed out on truly being in the moment and finding enjoyment in it. Change is hard for me and Sam comes by his bent naturally, but I was so glad he was able to flex a bit and enjoy camping in.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day and Fish

We are spending the weekend with my family, doing the same thing that they kids and I do every Labor Day weekend. This means we will eat fried fish on Sunday evening and will watch Grandpa Tom march with the Legion members in the parade on Monday morning. Immediately following the parade will mean lunch with mom's side of the family, but it feels odd to drive back into the country to mom and dad's and not walk the street behind the bank to Grandma's house.

I associate Labor Day with traditions. If Bradford ever ceased to have the car show, parade, frog jumping contest and fried fish at the Legion house, I think my world would list a few degrees in another direction. Some people despise small towns, but I love mine. Perhaps it is the cliche "absence makes the heart grow fonder" that is at play with this, but there is a steadfast continuity to the whole weekend that gives me security.

Greg is in Colorado, finishing up his mancation, and his absence changes my visit. Sleeping alone in your childhood room can take you back, way back. Watching Dad crush the pop cans with the heel of his shoe after dinner, or scraping the remnants of dinner onto a dish to be tossed into the cornfield instead of running a disposal, helping Emily drag out the lite brite, still in the box with a few unused sheets of black construction paper shows me how little some things have changed.

If I stayed here past Monday, I would notice the changes. I would see how Lisa Chasteen's old house has been razed to the ground and a garage built in its place. The crazy sign outside of the dilapidated Baptist Church would catch my eye, advertising "Refuge Community Church: where all are welcome". I would see the newly worked ground in the cemetery for a young person who should not be there.

And for those reasons and others, I will leave on Monday afternoon and remind myself of all of the ways that it is still the same and how good it is to be back at home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just take care of it

Our garbage disposal unnerves me. It is one of those appliances that really freaks me out. Typically, I don't have to give it much thought-- it's handy for kitchen cleanup and is one of those conveniences that doesn't come to mind until it isn't working properly.

But about two weeks ago, it made a strange clinking and banging noise when I ran it. "Hmm... note to self, don't hit the switch on that again until Greg looks at it." But life marches on, work and life with three kids gets busy and garbage disposals tend to be forgotten. It's probably ridiculous to automatically throw this little gem of an issue onto Greg-- he works long hours at times and I am at home. Yet, the thought of placing my hand inside of the disposal is too much for me. I just can't do it.

There's nothing like a little bathroom renovation and lack of a shower to make a gal wash her hair at the kitchen sink. It wasn't until I leaned down and wet my hair that the odor truly hit its mark. For two weeks, I had been using the disposal intermittently, listening to the clanking and then reminding myself to scrape dishes over the trash. The bits of food hadn't truly gone down the drain, but were waiting to visit me at 6am on a Monday. The reality I was facing, quite literally, couldn't be ignored.

"This is ridiculous" I thought to myself. "Grab a flashlight, put on your big girl panties and just see what the problem is". The problem was a plastic toothbrush cover in the disposal, easily fished out with grilling tongs.(Don't even ask how it got there. It probably landed there the same way our digital camera landed in the birdbath a few years ago.)  The remedy to the issue didn't even require me to face my dreaded phobia of the hand in the disposal. So why had I waited for so long to take care of this?

I can struggle to put my fears in perspective and can let them dictate small and large portions of my life, causing disruptions that are avoidable. Whether it is a friend that I need to apologize to, but am avoiding for fear of rejection or if it's simply a messy disposal, when I let the fear win, I miss out. The irony? The reality of the outcome is rarely as bad as I have imagined it will be.

I feel braver today. And my kitchen smells a whole lot nicer, too. :o)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


For two years, I have been a part of an office team that I loved. And now, I am home again. Can I just say it? It feels odd. The house is quiet and there is a sudden luxury of time. I have time to shop and plan meals. I have time to get a haircut. But the house is silent, and the difficulty with that is that it makes me think and question my parenting tactics from the day before.

My time is so brief with my three.... and while Brenna may always be with us, there is the chance that maybe she will choose to live apart from us someday. What will they remember about their time at home? The stories we read snuggled up on the couch in the evening, or mom yelling "Just go to bed! You already had a drink!". Maybe it will be a mix of both. I am hoping their childhood memories will be like that of a beach house vacation, over time you forget the fleas in the carpet and just remember how vast and beautiful the ocean was. You laugh that the bedroom window fell out during the storm and recall how the live starfish felt in your palm.

Here's to hoping they remember the good and praying God helps me to relax and lighten up.