Why do I bake at Christmas Time?

It is no secret that I love to work in the kitchen, except for the monster pile of pots and pans that require hand washing, it is where I thrive.  It involves hunting down the PERFECT recipe, shopping for all the ingredients for that PERFECT CONCOCTION, and then building it into something AMAZING like a Project Foreman.  Not to mention the Warrior feeling I encounter when I try something new.  There is also this innate desire in me to SHARE what I have created.  Almost like a 2nd grader who wants her hand painted snowman to be displayed for all to SEE. Because if no one ELSE tastes it and experiences it then it didn’t happen right?

The Overachiever escaped into the Kitchen

9 Types of Christmas Cookies

This enjoyment of cooking mixed with my desire to CONQUER new things becomes MONUMENTAL during the holidays.  It varies from cooking the PERFECT Thanksgiving MEAL (not just the turkey but the WHOLE THING), to mastering the perfect rib roast on my own, and then there was my NEED to create the PERFECT Pecan pie.  However, my GRANDEST feat, was one year I made more than 9 varieties of cookie creations.  Some new, some old favorites including the all to important hand frosted sugar cookies.  It was fun, but it was also weeks of work and an exhausting process.

Since then I have tried to reduce my investment both in time and in ingredients. Each year it begins with JUST sugar cookies, ok but I really like the Toffee Crunch.  And then I am at the store and I see these bright GREEN Granny smith apples and I am confronted with the MOST important decision of the season: “Are you going to make THEM this year?”  It’s usually near Thanksgiving time and I have plenty of weekends to consider and I evaluate my Vacation Days and think.  SURE, you have yeast and all the other ingredients already, just pick up a few apples and if you have time you have time.

And after all the Christmas cookies are mixed, cut, baked, and frosted there is a level of exhaustion that sets in just below the JOY of frosting that VERY LAST COOKIE!!! I have also made my own apple cider these last couple years, so I have pounds and POUNDS of Fuji apples hiding out in my peripheral vision.  So the Weekend arrives with PLENTY Of time and energy, so I set to the task and mission.  Chop the apples, make the dough, set up the creation station.  The smell in my home is swirling with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves as the apples cook down into their lovely liquor.

The first half of this project seems simple, melt the butter, grow the yeast, mix with flour put in the fridge.  Easy.  The apple preparation is a little tedious, peel, core, chop the apples (I have tried short cuts and the size of the apple pieces is just NOT quite right).  The next steps do not seem to be that significant, HOWEVER it is about the gentle assembly, careful construction, and the PERFECTLY heated kitchen.  While gently rolling out the dough, adding the sugar, cinnamon, & apple mixture; there is this fight between my perfectionist nature and the baker in me that says IF YOU TOUCH IT TOO MUCH IT WILL RISE LOPSIDED, so STOP TOUCHING it…it’s FINE…IT WON’T LOOK PERFECT IT’S ABOUT THE TASTE!!! (My internal conversations often mirror those of the Movie Inside Out.)

Apple Tea Ring

The last few tries at this recipe I have discovered that the hotter my kitchen is the better the rings rise.  So I boil water, open the preheated oven, close doors and windows, try to close off the kitchen from the rest of the world, just for those 2-3 precious hours (and I wonder WHY my electric bill for December is higher than usual).  YES hours!!! For these little gems must rise for 1.5hrs and it usually takes me about 20-30min to assemble each one.  Then they bake. All by themselves. But we are not done yet, there is drizzle to make and candied cherries to add (I forgot them this year), then wait for them to dry; and wrap in plastic wrap to deliver for Christmas. WHEW!!! I am exhausted just writing the steps.

So this year as I bought the apples, started the dough, but made it to the middle of the assembly process began to ask myself a VERY VERY serious question.  WHY DO YOU DO THIS?  I always give them away and sometimes I struggle to find people who would really enjoy them (gluten free, no sugar and carb avoiding peoples I am sorry). So realizing each year that time is the most precious commodity in life, why would I dedicate so much time to creating this particular goodie, I am SURE there are other baking items that take less time and effort and are just as delicious.

Virginia Wedding CakeAbout a month ago, I found a picture my brother gave me of our Mom.  It is her in the kitchen cutting their 1 year anniversary Wedding cake topper with a smile on her face and dreams in her eyes.  I moved this picture out of my purse and into my kitchen.  Because this is where I remember her most (A close second is her behind her sewing machine in her crafting room). Whether it was coming home from school and sitting at the counter to share my day with her, while she made dinner or learning how to cook by her side when she made cakes and cookies; I see her and feel her in my kitchen.

The Apple Tea Rings as they became known in my house was one of my Mom’s crowning jewels.  She made clever bunny birthday cakes and amazing cookies; but SOME HOW, some way she began making these one year and Someone MUST have said you can sell these; because the next year, I remember the assembly line in our kitchen of what felt like DOZENS of these covering EVERY surface area.   She took them to a Christmas bazaar to sell I can only assume to bring in a little more money for Christmas presents.  I was SOMEHOW a part of this because I remember the various stages and I remember how much care we took to prepare each one to make it BEAUTIFUL and wrap it carefully on cardboard to that is would be sturdy and easily transportable.  ONLY one TEENY TINY hiccup… there was a storm. A blizzard you might say in as much as people in Portland, Oregon think a couple of inches of snow is a blizzard. So even though we were able to get to the bazaar and the rings made it there FULLY intact; there were just NO people to buy them.  In my childhood mind, I remember thinking ALL THIS Work and NO ONE wants them.  Business is a rough gig, man. So we brought almost all of them home, still too many for me to remember the count.

But despite this fiasco, the apple tea rings have always represented the ELABORATE baking my Mom was so good at.  And on the years I do CREATE them, I feel a sense of closeness to her and the memory of us baking together to create something AMAZING.  I feel like I am getting closer to being just like her and in my childlike mind that is the BEST thing I COULD BE – just like her. Even though I know she had her flaws and short-comings; I still aspire to be like her.  The strength she showed while balancing so much: taking care of the family, baking, sewing, AND working it really seems so amazing to me now. So this year I am realizing that in taking the time to make these AMAZING creations it is more than just baking, more than just a TO DO, more than a compulsion to impress people.  The undercurrent really is to be closer to her and improve the talent she gave me all those years ago.

So each time I see those granny smith apples and the thought races across my mind, “Are you going to make THEM this year?” I can now smile a sneaky grin and ask myself if I am up for the challenge. It’s just time after all, time well spent.

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You did this to me…

… and other things you didn’t realize your parents did to you.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand they did the best they could and I do not believe my parents were EVIL or anything.  But let’s just say I can hear the voice of Yoda as I type, “The dysfunction is strong with this one…”  Especially my family.

But this post has a very specific INCIDENT to which I want to address.  I FINALLY get those PINK Shoes out of the box and onto my feet to try them out for a few hours.  I am visiting my Dad and feel the need to IMPRESS him with the Newness and BRIGHTNESS of my PINK SHOES; because there is still a part of the little girl in me who wants his validation and the REACTION that a good story USUALLY generates.  So I raise my FEET and announce the presence of my NEW SHOES.  Aren’t They BRIGHT??? Aren’t they cool?? Here are all the reasons I needed them… I DID not mentioned a SINGLE word about RUNNING or the 5K idea that had begun to marinate in my head.  The purpose of the Shoes were JUST to be comfortable for WALKING more. After ALL I needed to do better with my Fitbit Steps.

Somewhere before I had EVEN gotten to the punch line of my story, my dad interrupts with his commentary on RUNNING: “I don’t get runners.  Have you EVER met a happy runner?  I mean look at them they ALWAYS look MISERABLE, Unhappy.  I’ve never met a happy runner.”

AND THERE IT IS SPORTS FANS… the seed to the root of my dislike of running.  HOW is it that ONE parents perception, belief, or joke about an activity can root itself so far down deep into their child’s psyche as to generate a subconscious belief they cling to with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY.  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like running the mile in Jr High (who did) and by the time I hit High School I couldn’t do the sports I wanted, why would I entertain the thought of running something that was supposed to make me feel miserable.

As soon as he made that joke about the unhappy runner, I heard my inner WOMAN scream, “YOU DID THIS TO ME!!!!” Just like Bill Cosby’s wife says in his comedy routine about her giving birth to their first child.  So I sit there through the rest of my visit and most of my ride home with a new-found sense of identity.  Mostly entertaining a lot of questions, “Who said you can’t run?  Why not do the Couch to 5K?  What could it hurt?  Why not try something else NEW again?  What have you got to lose?  Hasn’t your Dad been wrong about MOST things in life?”  Pretty Much.

So with this new-found realization about my avoidance of running, I begin anew a rebellion against the beliefs of my father. Deconstructing the belief systems I have always had, replacing them with New things.  Taking the bucket list to a whole new dimension, instead of doing things I have always wanted to but haven’t yet; doing things I have always thought I could NEVER do.  Sometimes I don’t know the reason behind the belief I couldn’t do something, but doing them none-the-less.

So November 2nd began my Couch to 5K training.  I got out on the track, in the PINK shoes and completed my first workout.  Having an app and a plan and a GPS and music and a track near by has made this EMOTIONAL first step easier than feared.  But don’t get me wrong, THERE WAS FEAR.  I have been OVERWHELMED by the internal warnings of my fearful lymbic system, “What if it’s locked?  What if you’re not suppose to use it? What if you look stupid?  What if there are people there that laugh and point?  What if your too cold, too hot? What if it starts raining?  What if it’s too hard?  What if it hurts?” and on and ON. I hear it, and push past it, like a determined healthy shopper pushes past all those COSTCO vendors begging you to try a sample of their fried food.  And I made it to the parking lot, I made it to the track, I made it around once, I jogged each interval my app said to do, and I made it through the cool down to complete 35min.

SO THERE DAD!!!! I may not have looked happy while I was doing it; I may have been SCARED out of my mind to TRY IT; I maybe have even looked COMPLETELY out-of-place by the 2 guys doing their own track workout; BUT I DID it.  I ran and finished.  There is nothing and NO ONE saying I can’t do it but me…  And I’m not saying that EVER EVER AGAIN!!!

There it is!!! The Voice inside my Head is…

Is it amazing how one conversation with a Parent can change your ENTIRE perspective on the voices in your head?  I am currently in the never-ending debate between RENT or BUY.  I am not completely out of debt, but I am tired of moving, I am tired of sharing, and I am tired of getting 30-60 notices because someone wants to sell their HOUSE (that I am living in).  So I am kicking around the idea.  There are pros… there are cons… There is going to be money spent EITHER way.  But I started to get excited about the prospect of actually buying something… for ME.  NOW MIND YOU… I did say JUST getting excited about the prospect.  I haven’t looked at anything in person, I haven’t applied for loan approval, I am simply toying around the idea in my head like a young girl shopping for a new dress before the first day of school.  Does it fit? Do I REALLY like this color? Do I have the right shoes to go with it? Does it make my butt look too big?  But I digress….

When I shared just a fraction of a comment with my father about looking at buying a home; and without warning, without fail, without so much as a consideration I get THAT LOOK and those CAUTIONARY words that should seem so harmless, “…a house can be a burden, you have to take care of the yard, you don’t want to have to mow a yard do you? If something breaks your responsible…”   There must have been something on my face or maybe it was the way I started defending the fact that I LIKE MOWING THE LAWN (thanks to Dan’s gift of a faithful lawnmower) and working in the garden (and I Know how to hire a gardener).  When the all too late, but ever so vigilant retraction, “It’s not that I want to be negative….” BUT that’s EXACTLY what he was doing.  Raining on the parade, I wasn’t even HAVING YET!!!

And in the time it took me to drive home, I started to piece together years and years of conversations.  Phrase after Phrase of precautions, warnings, potential pitfalls that swarmed around my brain like pollen in the spring time.  Each and every phrase generating worry, doubt, fear, which then snowball into DISASTER!!! Yes I am a smidge dramatic, but then again so is my brain.  So these little comments that on paper could seem harmless and inconsequential start to completely derail me from a mere idea of something.

This is when I REALIZE… This is where they came from… This is the source of their existence… It is his comments throughout my life that have shaped a certain amount of how I do things almost out of habit.  Here I thought it was just my High – C, practical, fearful personality that was the creator of my cautiousness.  Here in living color and familial discussions, did I discover a significant piece of my WORRY.  I didn’t use to think I worried, I didn’t think I was fearful, I didn’t think I was holding myself back.  But in the last couple years, I have been seeing my life in a new light and there is Fear there I think… Worry… & trust issues.  I thought I was applying practical caution as someone who needs to take into consideration all the options before making a decision-that is going to be wrought with negative out comes anyway-but responsible well thought out decisions none-the-less.

But here it was, for the first time LOUD and CLEAR a part of what is holding me back.  The voice in my head giving me all the things to worry about before I even try.  I have seen the failure before I attempted, I FELT the rejection before I opened my mouth, I experienced the AGONY of defeat without the rewards of beginning the challenge.

So it is in this revelation that I propose a new perspective, a new voice per say: I am stronger than that, I am better than that, I am done lying low, I don’t need to play it safe, I am finished waiting to see, I am ready for a challenge, I can endure anything.  Well, almost anything, after all I don’t want to get my new dress dirty. 😉

It’s Everything and Nothing ALL in one Post

So what does one write about when there is too much and not enough to write about all at the same time?  I have over 2 dozen half posts started, but not certain I have the energy or time to sort through the emotions and deep thought it takes to masterfully craft a creative post.  Then I was reminded of a friend of mine who says that a blog is supposed to be an account of what is happening now.  What are the things I am thinking now in the moment, kicking around the corners of the mind at this particular time.  And THEN I start to get overwhelmed with all the different things that are kicking around my mind.  So maybe in an attempt to find clarity and cohesive thought a list might be in order (yes I am a list maker, it has served me well over the years, so I do it often):

I am in Sacramento on a work trip, so there are all the TO DO’s wrapped around work, plus the stress of my boss arriving on Tuesday, Go-Live (where we change software systems), Political hub-bub that comes with Regional People on-site.  Being put on the spot for all challenges and issues and questions and hoping upon hoping I did a good enough job with the training that it KINDA sticks enough for the people to do their jobs… YEAH NO PRESSURE.

I am visiting friends and their 2 kids, which is fun but at times I feel I’m in the way, not knowing if I’m contributing enough or spending enough time with them since there are parts of my vacation that I like nothing more than truly being lazy and brain dead.  It has almost become a thanksgiving tradition to do nothing and accomplish nothing; but I don’t know if that is a throw back from my student days where I would half believe I would catch up on school work during these four days… all the while being pressured to just HAVE FUN or veg.

Financially, I made a serious boo boo and paid my bills, sounds harmless, but lets just say my reimbursement check may have been “processed” but my bank hasn’t seen it yet so it might as well not exist.  OOOPS Silly Dave Ramsey, getting me ALL excited about paying my bills.

Food is always a fun topic, but for some reason I just can’t quite get my emotions to tell me the truth.  One minute I’m in complete control and the next moment all I want is 5 kinds of fast food RIGHT NOW!!! I thought I survived Thanksgiving fine, because I didn’t do sweets and I thought I kept my portions relatively in check; but the scale corrected me and it was a heart wrenching, depressing blow to my ego.  As a result Friday sucked and Saturday isn’t looking much better.  Dang it why does food have to taste so good… all the wrong kinds.

Positive health note: I went for a 1.5 mile walk today and it was easy.  I used my rain coat because it decided to be a GLORIOUSLY rainy Oregon Day in Elk Grove.  But it made walking easy and I had lovely time and it wasn’t hard and I really TRULY enjoyed the time with the iPod and my “driving” mix.  Thank you Lisa for the INCREDIBLE idea of finding songs that make the body MOOOOOOVE!!! So for the record that would be 3 times I have exercised on this trip, which is more than I have done in over 5 months.  SO THERE TURKEY DAY!!! 😛

I have been doing my bible reading just about every day and even though it is not quite the emotional high I want it to be, I am doing it.  I have been reading my Divine Mentor book and keeping on track with the meetings and discussions.  I have been praying and taking quiet time with God and not letting the television run all my quiet time.  Although I have had to fight my chatty Kathy tendencies to make that quiet time exist also.

I am away from my new community and they are having all these fantastic events that I get to hear about through email, yet I am a whole state away.  I miss the interactions and laughter that spending time with them generates.  I am hoping that I will not be forgotten (insert fake sniffle here) and that when I return it will all be the same but different.

Finally, I have been conversing with my X (yes that would be an ex-boyfriend from over a ZILLION years ago).  It’s been a roller coaster of sorts, but for some reason I’m still engaged in conversations.  Some how some way were are bringing out the best and worst of each other during our conversations.  But the more we talk the better it gets, and just when I think this is it.  This is one more chance around the merry-go-round and I AM DONE, something cool happens and it changes.  Hmmm interesting.  Yet I think we have finally reached a more grounded friendship conversation style more focused around life and God and less about US and relationships.  THANK GOODNESS.

So there it is a post about everything and nothing all at the same time.  Enjoy!

Trust – Parental Authority

I had lunch with my father the other day.  It had been almost 2 years since we had spoken, and even though I was still angry about the “incident” that was between us… I figured it was time to have a conversation at least. 

As we were wrapping up a 5 hour conversation, yes it was peppered with sports team discussions, the latest television offerings, and how much the area has changed here and there… but it was in that last hour that I decided to dive in head first into the topic and bit the bullet.  It really is tough to have a conversation with some one that has played out like a criminal court case in my head.  When I came to realize WHY it is that in a court of law they make both sides present the evidence first to the point that they almost have to agree on it.  Because it became increasingly clear through this conversation we were having that we did not have the same facts.  He was remembering all sorts of things and events that I did  not; and he remembers all sorts of things I said and did that I DO NOT REMEMBER.  At that point there was an in-pass, which I just resigned to accept as an agree to disagree type of arrangement. 

But it was actually in the parking lot that I was confronted with something, that really REALLY had me questioning things the whole 45 min drive home. 

Why don’t I trust my father’s judgement? 

It has been a well-known fact to most of my friends that my father is more of a 3rd base coach in my life; some times I go to him for advice, but most of the time if I want to run home plate I am going for it no matter what he says.  I have commonly been heard saying, “Eh, As long as we don’t talk about my life (major life decisions) and money then we get along fine”  in response to the question, “Are you and your father close?”

So in a life filled with friends who seem to go to their parents for advice on anything and everything, why have I never felt that pull in my life?  When I have to make a significant decision, I kick it around with my friends, I make pro and con lists, I attempt to find similar people in similar situations to ask their experiences… but rarely IF EVER to I ask my Dad for advice.  As I began to replay in my head how my childhood unfolded, there wasn’t a major significant trauma that paved the way for this massive amounts of distrust.  I can not point to any specific incident that set this idea in motion. 

But as I was attempting to pick apart these feelings and emotions I realized… it’s the little things.  For me it is ALWAYS about the little things.  He was a good talker to almost ANYONE at anytime, but the down side to that is when all a person does is talk, that is all it is… talk.  And I have definitely bought into the belief that talk is cheap, saying your opinion is easy but doing something with it is hard.  Telling someone how to do something is completely hollow in the midst of helping them do it or learn it.  So with my Dad it all boils down to inactivity.  Not physically, but emotionally, socially, intelligently, spiritually, and financially. 

So when we were standing in the parking lot talking, I shared some of my newest life accomplishments: getting my finances in order, managing my food, getting my career broadened, and going to a new church for friends and life.  In the midst of my sharing these new things, there developed a them from my Dad’s side: I told you how to do that years ago.  I knew that was what you needed to do to get over that.  I have been saying that for years.  And to his credit some of his statements are TRUE.  He has told me to get my finances in order and lectured me on a detail by detail method that I NEEDED to follow.  He told me that I should major in business and get into a corporation to make better money.  And at least a dozen more, but at the time I was in full rebellion to his opinion, his ideas, or his wisdom. 

But that is just the rub… at the time I did not believe it to be wisdom.  I did not believe it to be truth.  I was searching far and wide for a role model to follow and be mentored by; but I would not, could not look to my father.  I did not trust him.  I did not believe him. 

And last but not least I did not want to turn out like him-in so many different areas, that I believe somewhere in my subconscious conscious that if I don’t take his advice I can’t turn out like him.  So the battle continues… How much do I share? How much do I ask?  How much do I trust in my father? 

How much does a person need to do to prove their word can be trusted?  That their judgement is sound?  That they are truly communicating wisdom and not folly?  Or will I always have a defense mechanism in place against certain people in my life both family and friend?