Hi, there. I’m setting up house over at http://www.pigpiepint.com. Hope to see you there!
Sometimes I don’t make the smartest decisions. A few months ago, after one too many mishaps, I started applying the “Don’t be stupid, Kate” rule. When I’m puttering about and I catch myself about to do something stupid, say putting a plate on, but not entirely on, an overflowing countertop, just for a minute while I do something, it will inevitably flop right to the floor. The times where I catch myself thinking “this isn’t going to work like I expect” require the DBSK rule to stop and make me think about the lazy thing I’m about to do.
Anyway, what does this have to do with anything? I’ve joined up with a group of bakers who are working their way through the cookbook Baking with Julia written by Dorie Greenspan. Over the course of (How many? Let’s just say, a lot.) of weeks, we’ll make every single recipe in the book. Yes, all of them. It’s no slim little, wispy book. It’s 465 pages containing more recipes than I’m going to count right now. So I hope you get my drift. It’s kind of a commitment. Part of me wants to invoke the DBSK rule because when was the last time I finished a project of any sort? Why would I set myself up for the stress of expectations and self-guilt of not being perfect on something this big? I can’t really say, but it seems like a good idea right now cause I need a project. Something with deadlines (though I missed the first one because I hadn’t fully committed yet, oops!) and a little bit of accountability.
So, let’s get on with it, right? The first recipe was pretty basic: white loaves. I’ve made bread before so I was fairly confident I could pull this off stress and guilt-free. I halved it to make only one loaf because I love bread and would have eaten both loaves with several sticks of butter. Bad news. Halving it worked just fine for one perfectly shaped loaf of bread. For the full recipe you can visit this (i.e. last) week’s hosts: Laurie at slush and Jules at Someone’s in the Kitchen.
P.S. This made some really tasty garlic-cheese Texas toast.
The other day I picked up a copy of “O” (or is it Oprah? I have no idea…). I try not to buy magazines unless I’m going to subscribe. They practically give subscriptions away if you’ll commit to a year or two, so spending $5.00 on one issue always seems silly, but extravagant, which is exactly why it happens sometimes. My point is: I just happened to pick up the poetry issue. Did you know that I wrote poetry? Wrote in the very past tense. I stopped writing poems my senior year of college. I spent that year in an utter funk and absolutely panicking about graduation. I certainly did not have my shit together that year.
I don’t believe in Fate. Capital ‘F’ Fate, is just too much for me to believe in. It seems to deny the power of choice. I chose to stop writing. I chose to drink too much. I chose to ignore my looming graduation date. I chose to wallow in my fear. I chose not to ask for help when I knew I was drowning. Fate didn’t guide me to that place. It wasn’t “meant” to be. I chose and I still choose. I chose to spend that $5.00 because I wanted a little something fun. So when I got home and saw that it was the poetry issue I thought “huh, isn’t that interesting?”. I picked up that particular issue as I am working, struggling a bit, back into a writing habit. Fate? Fate?! Are you sure?
Perhaps I can believe in lowercase fate. The little things that guide you. That provide itty, bitty uplifting moments. That nudge you towards the right path.
I choose to believe in that.
Here’s one of the last poems I wrote and had published in my college literary journal. It’s a sestina, so you will see that the last word of each stanza repeats in a specific pattern. That limitation actually made it a lot of fun to write and see where it would all go. So, here it is:
In third grade we made rolls in class,
not just yeasty bread, but warm gush cinnamon
ones withour children hands.
The same year we made plaster prints
of those hands and velvet snakes
as gifts for Father’s Day.
We stopped going to church every Sunday
and sang “America the Beautiful” inc lass.
At the school fair we bough wriggling ten-cent plastic snakes.
Before we thought to bring cinnamon
for applesauce Deluxe, we learned orange hand prints
in windows meant Helping Hands.
Curious that a stranger would give us a hand
if a stranger ever offered us a ride on a rainy day.
That year they took our fingerprints
in case we were ever “lost”. In class
we read about voyagers returning with cinnamon
and did story problems in math. If Adam bought six snakes
and gave one to Tom how many snakes
would Adam have? Before our hands
could write cursive we had cinnamon
Jolly Ranchers from the gas station every day
after we learned about coins in class.
Before I learned my handprint
could make a baby’s footprint
with a little steam snaked
on the windows, my class
was taught by a woman with witch hands
(if you saw her on Halloween, not just any day
you would know). We sculpted cinnamon
rolls that left our hair full of cinnamon
scent, each a distinct child’s fingerprint.
My teacher thought I was ill and sent me home that day,
she sent my brother to snake
his way home with more than one in his hands
after he finished class.
That day we made rolls in class,
using our children hands to print
cinnamon memories woven through like snakes.
I’ve always thought it was simpler to ease back into work after a long weekend than a week-long vacation. You’ve had just enough time away to ease out of the to-do list and must-haves and the pick-up-the-damn-phone-already call that’s been hanging on the other line, but not too much time away where you get that crazy idea: I don’t have to go back!
I approached work Tuesday morning with calmness and a bit of eagerness to begin the day. My desk had been well maintained the few days I was off. A few things carried over, but nothing that would be put me over the edge. I was in the Zen Zone. Relaxed and ready to implement my new “I can take on the world; nothing is bigger than me” approach.
Within a few hours it was like I had been kicked in the head. Tasks, phone calls and now-that-your-back-I-need-a-favor requests trickled in until the avalanche overcame me. I was the stunned antelope watching as the pack of lions nipped, bit and eventually tore into my flesh. I was angry. I was frustrated. I was amazed at how quickly the glow had washed away.
It hadn’t even lasted a full day back at work.
It wasn’t until I came home tonight that I realized why I had stopped writing in the first place: I was sick of hearing myself complain. I would come home after a frustrating day and vent onto paper. I can flip through journals now and I can always tell when I was “writing angry”. Large, loopy, wild cursive. All over the place. If handwriting could rage, that’s what it would do. It rages incoherently; striking through any logical thought. I couldn’t resolve all that anger. It just kept swirling around. So I muzzled it. For six years.
So tonight, mindful that I had made a commitment to myself, I escaped a bit. I scrolled down the blog list. Picked those things that interested me. That had the potential to lift me out of my morose mood. And suddenly here I am, admitting that I had a crappy couple of days. I survived them. They aren’t any tragedy. So far from it.
Tomorrow’s another day. Let’s see what happens.
As a high-school drama geek I learned the key to effectively faking conversation in the background of a scene was to say “watermelon baby” over and over and over and over. It’s a phrase that means nothing but looks like something.
Six months ago I thought I was ready to just get up and go. Get back to the page, but, as you can see, I wasn’t. I feared my prose wouldn’t be as eloquent as some of the writers that I read. Afraid that I would be unable to flesh out my ideas into a cohesive statement. I thought everything I wrote had to be significant. If it didn’t carry weight or wit or knowledge or joy that I would be just another aimless blogger.
I don’t have a singular focus. I can turn to any number of subjects that will hold my attention for hours and, frankly, I like that. It’s more interesting that way.
This weekend I had the most amazing opportunity to meet with a group of women who are all there with me. Pushing, pulling, stretching and contracting to find their place, their self and their purpose. It was a reminder that I am not alone in this struggle and if they are willing to put it out there who am I to sit on the sidelines and contemplate my toes? It’s time to take that watermelon-baby and grow it into something incredible. Time to feed it, water it and let the sun shine down on it. I’m going to tromp my way through the flower-beds, plop myself down on a patch of land and see what happens. No more watermelon, baby.