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5 Scary Things That Happened to Me Today and Why I May Be Having a Mid-Life Crisis

25 Jan

5. While writing something, I could not figure out how to spell silhouette. I was misspelling it so badly that spell-check couldn’t even get a grasp of what I was trying to say. Finally, urged by desperation and impatience, I just looked it up.
s-i-l-h-o-u-t-t-e. Huh. Okay.
So I continued with my work until I got flummoxed again. Jiminy Cricket is a …conscious? No, wait…consiounce?  Oh God, no. Five minutes later, I had confirmed that the word conscience has “science” in it (since when??) and established a growing fear that I had lost all my smarts. Plus, I kept thinking of this 
great (if wince-worthy) comic by For Lack of a Better Comic that depicts an English major getting his English Major Badge taken away for bad spelling. 

4. I decided to treat myself to a mug of hot chocolate, what with my spelling nerves being so frazzled. I got a mug out of the cupboard, got the milk out of the refrigerator. I poured the milk into the mug, put the mug in the microwave. I put the milk back in the cupboard….
wait a minute…

3. Tomorrow, I will be chauffeuring a friend of my grandma’s to a doctor’s appointment. (I have a feeling that this experience will require its own post. The possibilities for hilarity and insanity are endless.) Today, this lady called to confirm what time I would pick her up, then said seven terrifying words: “I have you for the day, right?” The last time this particular woman asked this, I ended up spending 4 more hours with her than I had intended, pushing a grocery cart through Starbucks like a crazy person, reading the nutritional content of every single frozen dinner in Trader Joe’s, cleaning out her fridge, and doing her laundry. 

2. I applied for yet another job that I could potentially be excited about. ‘Nuff said. 

1. During an afternoon phone call, Grandma expressed her concern about me not meeting new people, living with my parents, not finding a job–the list goes on because, apparently, my life is very concerning. Grandma concluded with: “You really need to meet more people your own age. Your life is half over.”

I’m 23. I’d just like to put that out there. I’m 23, and Grandma has me in the middle-aged category already. Gee,  I thought I’d have accomplished so much more by this point.

“You’re 93!” I shouted. “If I live to be your age, then I’m definitely not at the halfway mark!”
“What, so I rounded up.” Grandma said.  And then: “Still, I think something’s half over. Your child-bearing years. Your brunette years. Your freedom years.”
“GAH! STOP TALKING! JUST STOP TALKING!” 

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A Story About the Kindness of Strangers and Musical Miracles, Told in Song Titles

27 Sep

The picture above is an approximate representation of how I feel. I’m happy. Like, spin-around-in-a-mountaintop-meadow-while-singing happy. Actually, since I’m supposed to be taking vocabulary steroids in preparation for the GRE, maybe I should be using a better word than happy. Gleeful? Ecstatic? Joyful? Thrilled? Jubilant? Elated? Tickled pink? Man, if this turns out to be one of the questions on that dratted test, I am set. 

I know what you’re thinking: Oh my words! Why are you so very happy, Abigail? Well, first of all, I like you’re enthusiasm. You’re all right. Secondly…I’ll TELL you why I’m happy! Because the universe is awesome and I have been rewarded with a stupendous gift! 

You may recall that I have been searching for a special Birthday Song that is part of my family’s birthday tradition. Well, a wondrous, serendipitous event happened. Someone who visited this little ol’ blog (Kasi, if you read this, you’re my new favorite person in the whole wide world) appreciated my desperation and my story, and left a comment that included a link to the MP3 for the song. Isn’t the universe amazing? Isn’t the internet incredible? Is the sky bluer than usual today? Are my dogs cuter? Don’t you just feel like smiling and laughing all the livelong day?

Really, though, I am so happy that a perfect stranger helped me out and am grateful that I now have this song in my itunes possession. I was taking a blogging break to focus on studying and working and other unpleasant -ings, and when I finally allowed myself to return to my blog baby, it was such a thrill to find this long-lost song. See? You can rely on the kindness of strangers. Ask and ye shall receive. Music does make the people come together!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What’s this about a story told in song titles? Oh my word, Abigail, was this post’s title false advertising?

First of all, woah Nelly! You’re a tough audience, aren’t ya? It’s okay though, I forgive you because a song title poem-story is quite exciting.

Below is my epic hero’s journey–the significance of the Happy Birthday Song, its absence, its recovery–told through song titles, to honor this miraculous musical moment. I’ve linked a few of them to their youtube selves and encourage you to listen and enjoy.

(Note: You may need to read the original Birthday Song post for some helpful context….or you can just muddle through and listen to the music….woah-oh-oh, listen to the music… )

~

Music. Foundations. We Are Family. Songs We Sing. Memories Are Made of This. All the Small Things. Precious Love. Part of My Life. Hooked on a Feeling. Groove is in the Heart. Hidden Away.

I Got Trouble. Something’s Missing. Those Sweet Words. Can’t Find the Words. I Have Nothing. Lost. Harder to Breathe. It’s the End of the World as We Know It. I Hate Myself for Losing You. What Did You Do. Don’t Blame Me.

Heartbreak Hotel. Today I Sing the Blues. Irreplaceable. Incomplete. Inaudible Melodies. Here Without You. Crying Shame. When You’re Gone. I Want You Back.

Help! Rescue Me! Not the Only One. We All Want the Same Thing. Searchin’. Luck Be a Lady. Simple As It Should Be. Needle in a Haystack. Creep. The Things We Do For Love. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.When You Were Mine. Wasn’t It Good.

Worrisome Heart. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. Trouble Sleeping. On My Mind.  I’ll Do Anything. Nothing but a Miracle. Makes Me Wanna Pray. When You Wish Upon a Star. I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.

Takin’ Care of Business. It Ain’t Over Till the Fat Lady Sings. You Can Get it if You Really Want. Never Going to Give You Up. I’ll Find a Way.

People Get Ready. Something Good This Way Comes. Teardrops Will Fall. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Fairytale. Love is All Around.

You Don’t Know Me. Beautiful Stranger. You Give Me Something. The Gift of Song.

Listen.

Oh!   You’re the One.

Back Together Again. Celebrate. I Feel Home. Breathe Again. Oh What a Day. Because of You. You Rock My World. Hallelujah. Wonderful. Bubbly. Overjoyed. Zip a dee do da. This Magic Moment.

From My Heart to Yours. Thanks and Praise. Danke Schoen. Thank You For the Music. Thanks For the Memories. All Because of You. Earth Angel. You’ve Got a Friend in Me.  

What a Wonderful World.


It’s My Birthday and I’ll Stalk If I Want to!

23 Aug

It’s my birthday today! Yipee! Wahoo! Commence applause, joyful cheering, and prayerful thanks for my existence! It’s the 23rd, I’m turning 23, and it’s a Tuesday, which is the same day of the week I was born on 23 years ago. Clearly, this will be a magical, epic year.

A lot of people have certain birthday traditions that help make their special day memorable–whether it’s a favorite meal, a standing date with friends, or birthday margaritas. My grandma used to take a picture of me sitting in her rocking chair every year on my birthday. When you flip through, you can watch me go from a baby that needed propping up to a 5’10 gal who blocks the chair. I’ve always been grateful for my grandma’s creative idea, and I know it’s something that I will do when I have kids of my own. 

My family has a special Happy Birthday song that we’ve always sung to each other on birthdays. The lyrics go like this:

Today, you’re one year older
and you’re growing up the way we want you to
So we planned a big surprise
walk with me, and close your eyes
Oh look, your friends are waiting here for you! 

[traditional Happy Birthday song: Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you etc.]

Make a wish and blow out the candles
wishes for good boys and girls come true
Now hurry and cut the cake, we can hardly wait
As you open your gifts we’ll sing once more to youuuuu

[repeat traditional Happy Birthday song]

Now, since several people in my family are slightly tone-deaf (okay, very tone-deaf–sorry Grandma), we always played the actual recorded version of this song, too. My grandma had the record for a long time and somewhere a long the line, somebody transferred the song to a cassette tape. My little branch of the family has since lost this precious tape.

Nobody remembered who sang the song, or what the album was called. Nobody knew the title of the song, but everyone guessed it was some variant of “the Happy Birthday Song.” I didn’t despair, however, because I knew most of the lyrics and I imagined I could just type them into Google and the song would pop out. I’m a child of the internet age and I trust the mysterious Web to answer all my questions.

I picked a portion of the lyrics and plugged them into the search engine. I got three–count ’em three–results. One led to someone who was also searching for this song, for the same sentimental reasons. (I feel ya brother!) The other two were completely unrelated. Over the course of several more days, I logged hours and hours of internet searching. I tried different variations of the lyrics. I searched each individual line of lyrics. I tried quotations marks around the words, the words by themselves. I thought maybe I’d strike gold with Youtube. There is a lot of birthday music on Youtube. I found the Beatles’ Birthday Song, a tribute by Elvis, and then this odd version. Then there was a great musical birthday moment from Boy Meets World, a diddy by The Three Stooges, and Burt and Ernie’s celebration for the letter U. And of course, who can forget Marilyn Monroe’s breathy performance?

This all made for some good entertainment and hours of distraction, but where-oh-where was MY birthday song? I found dozens of other people who were also searching for this song, but it appeared that no one had been successful. The very fact that this song didn’t seem to exist according to the internet–an impossibility, since everything can be found online–turned this whim of a hunt into an obsession.

Then, by some magical combination of search terms and with some lucky clicking, I found it. Sort of. I found a woman’s ancestral blog, a blog dedicated to her genealogical research and family tree. This woman devoted a blog post to a relative’s birthday and included a lovely slideshow of mostly black and white photographs that highlighted his early years. The slideshow’s background music was–you guessed it–the song I’d been searching for.

Although this woman’s blog was public, I assume that it is intended for her and her family. I felt a little, well, stalker-y as I watched her relative’s childhood flash on my computer screen. I was so excited to hear this music that I actually played it several times and even held the phone to my computer so my grandma could listen.

Now, of course, I could just play this slideshow full of strangers whenever I want to celebrate a birthday with this song. However, I haven’t given up hope of finding my own personal copy.

That’s why I clicked around until I found this woman’s contact information and emailed her with a plea for song information–artist, name of song, album title, anything. I tried to phrase my email as un-creepily as possible. I tried to downplay my musical desperation. Hopefully, since this woman’s blog is devoted to family, she’ll understand how much this music means to me. I don’t know if she’ll read my email or not, but I figured it was worth a try.

So that’s my little birthday stalking story. Okay, so it definitely doesn’t rival Kim “The G is Silent” Pugliano’s Passat Saga. (Check it out if you haven’t already–you gotta love an addicting neighborhood mystery told with wit and humor). But I think I’m at least in the stalker-with-good-intentions minor leagues.

I hope you all will have a bubbly drink or a slice/scoop of a snazzy dessert (my birthday cake is a homemade Baked Alaska, in case you were wondering) to celebrate my birthday. You deserve it.

Oh, and P.S
If  the universe decides to mess with me and one of you reads this and knows exactly what song I’m talking about, I swear I’ll have a freaking heart attack.

Cheers!

Interpreting Dog Thoughts….Or, Why I’m One Bark Away from Being a Crazy Dog Lady

1 Aug

I had to take my dog Mona Lisa to the vet the other day and because I am a mystical, empathetic, imaginative person, I could hear every little thought that ran through her head.

Leaving the house:

Oh boy! We’re going somewhere without the other dogs! I’m special! I always knew it! Hurry! Hurry! FASTER.

In the car:

Are you sure I can’t drive? I want to drive. Here, I’ll just…..hey! I don’t want to be in the backseat! Hey! Hey! I don’t want to be back here! Hey–oh! You put the window down! You know, there’s nothing better than sticking your head out and….ahhhhhhhhhh. 

Driving up my grandma’s street:

Oh boy, we’re going to Grandma’s house! I love Grandma’s house! How many cookies do you think she’ll give me? Oh, I can’t wait! First I’m going to lick her feet, and then I’m going to lick her face, and then I’m going to sit on her lap, and then…..hey! Wait! You didn’t turn! Grandma’s house is back there! Oh no. Where are we going? Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no. Oh Dog. Where are you taking me? WHERE??

Almost at the vet’s:

Oh Dog. I know where we’re going. Oh no. Oh please. Hey. Let me out! Let me out! I’m not going back to that place! Don’t ignore me! I’m back here! Turn around! 

In the waiting room:

Oh Dog oh Dog oh Dog oh Dog. Hey, listen, I know I don’t always come when you call me. I’ll do better. Just take me home. I’ll be good, I swear. Please! 

When someone else walked in the room:

Hey! Hey you! Do you want  a dog? I’m a really good dog! I’ll go home with you, no problem. Oh, her? No, I’ve never seen her before in my life. Just take me home, handsome. 

When the vet came out to take her to a back room:

Ahhhhh! Stay away from me! Devil! Monster! Cat! Get back! You–Girl! I will never forgive you for this! Never! Never!  Are you LEAVING? Are you just going to LEAVE me here? Come back here! Come back here this minute!

Funny, Frog, Fig, Flower, Fire, Family, Fabulous, Foil, Freckle, Five, Friend

27 Jun

My grandma’s neighbor Helen had to take a memory test the other day. The test is supposed to determine if a patient has dementia or other type of memory problem. In Helen’s case, it was also meant to help her doctor determine whether she should still be allowed to have a driver’s license.   

This is a woman who spends hours every day meticulously matching her outfits–which all have a bedazzled or zebra-print component–and applying colorful makeup. She manages to return opened boxes of cereal and kleenex by playing the Old Lady Card and batting her (fake) eyelashes. She shamelessly cheats the system–applying for food stamps and divvying her money up among relatives (who give it back to her in regular installments) so that she can qualify to live in the low-income senior housing my grandma calls home. When we found out the doctor suspected Helen had dementia, I couldn’t decide what to think. Is she suffering from some form of mental problem? I think it’s just as likely that she’s eccentric and sly like a bejeweled fox–but who knows? The latest Helen Story certainly doesn’t lead to any clear conclusions.

One of the questions on Helen’s memory test was to name a word that starts with “F”.

“I just blanked,” Helen told my grandma when she recounted the experience. “The only words I could think of were ‘fart’ and ‘fuck’.”

“So what did she put?” I asked, fascinated in spite of myself.

“She told me she debated for awhile about which would make her seem nuttier, then finally wrote ‘fart’ very deliberately.” Grandma said. 

A few days later, Helen got her results back. Lit by an indignant passion, she cornered Grandma and started venting. “Can you believe it?” She demanded. “I didn’t pass! Now they think I’ve got memory problems!”

Grandma must have been feeling brave that day, because she carefully suggested that maybe the F-word question cost her. “Oh please,” Helen said. “Nobody can think of words that start with F on demand. Besides, why wouldn’t those words naturally come to mind? Everybody does them, after all.”


Dogs Who Heal and English Majors Who Wield Needles

20 Jun

My family suffered a major loss last December when my aunt passed away from cancer related to Fanconi Anemia. She was my mom’s younger sister and, in all the ways that matter, my big sister. She was one of those people who make friends instantly and she had an enthusiasm for every aspect of life. She fancied herself a matchmaker and was the one who arranged my first date—an unremarkable occasion with a boy who didn’t have much of a sense of humor but helped me out of my jacket and opened doors. (Gentlemanly acts = 10 points.) She cooked legendary spaghetti dinners and had a kitchen policy of “the more, the merrier.” She was thoughtful, vibrant, beautiful, charming, and funny. When other family members call me “Little Lynn,” I consider it the grandest of compliments.

Before she passed away, my aunt made my mom promise to take care of her two dogs, Lucy and Molly. Of course my mom wouldn’t have dreamed of saying no to her request, but we were a little concerned because we already had two dogs, Mona Lisa and Max. Besides the sheer idea of the numbers (four dogs!?), I was sure there would be some doggy politics when we merged the two households. I was predicting canine power plays and a very un-Brady atmosphere. The miracle? They all love each other! Sure, they occasionally get a little jealous or want their own space, but when they first met? Oh the tails, they were a-wagging. And if happiness is a warm puppy (and it is, according to Charlie Brown), then we’ve got four times the happy.

Lucy and Molly have made a really sad time in our lives a little easier–it’s a riot to see all four dogs together, and they are so loving and so loveable. Lucy is a clown with a big personality (you might recall that she doesn’t like chickens) and it’s easy to be drawn in by her big eyes and long tongue. Molly, however, has a special spot in all our hearts. She was Lynn’s constant companion, both before and during her illness. Towards the end, when my aunt was forced to stay in bed, Molly never left her side. She wasn’t interested in food, especially if it meant leaving her person. She wasn’t interested in going outside, and had to be forcibly carried out of the room for trips to the backyard. And when Lynn finally died, Molly wouldn’t leave her bed. The priest who came to give last rights did so while Molly looked on, strong and regal. At one point during the blessings, to our horror, she started licking Lynn’s face. We were embarrassed that Father Brady witnessed what we felt was an undignified (and a little bit yucky) scene, but he just stroked Molly. “She’s just saying goodbye.”

When times of great crisis arise, humans often fall short of being true compassionate forces of good. Neighbors may tut-tut at your misfortune, but go about their lives. Family members might fail to rally, and instead be consumed by denial or selfishness. Sometimes friends, though well-meaning, don’t know how to help and issue vague promises. “Anything I can do…” they say, leaving you to spin their helplessness into gold. “That’s so sweet of you” and “I’ll be sure to call”—this is the dance you’re forced to perform, and it requires certain expected words and strained smiles.

Dogs can’t run errands. They can’t drive to doctor appointments or call the deceased’s friends and relatives to deliver bad news and pass along funeral details. Their power is quiet and steady. Their inaction is, in fact, a monumental action. It’s amazing what a cold nose on the hand or the presence of a warm doggy body can do. When they’re needed, dogs are there—and that is everything.

Molly was sick recently. The vet performed a series of tests while she trembled and looked to me for assurances that he wasn’t evil. (The jury’s still out.) Kidney disease was the tentative verdict, and major dehydration was a side-effect and major problem. We were given bags of nutrient-rich water, needles, and instructions on how to inject Molly in the neck twice a day. That was a few weeks ago, and until now, it’s been my mom who did the actual dirty work. While I prepped our makeshift medical station and held Molly, my mom played doctor to my nurse. (Although, perhaps that should be reversed—whenever I’m in a hospital, it always seems to me that nurses are doing more than doctors…) This suited me well, since it’s a role I’m comfortable playing. In 7th grade, when it was time to dissect earthworms and frogs, I was more than happy to sit back and let my partner do the actual cutting. I took notes like a trooper and drew detailed, vivid drawings of the internal workings of Kermit and pals—but I’m fairly certain that the only time I touched the tray holding the unfortunate creature was to move it away from my notebook. (Ewww, slime.) Like a privileged noblewoman with unworked, callous-free hands, I did not deign to get involved in the dissection. My fingers were made to hold pencils, not scalpels.

My mom’s out of town right now, so it falls to me to give Molly her injections. The vet has cut it down to every other day, which is a small blessing because I’m enough of a panic-stricken mess. I’ve never minded getting shots. That’s not to say that I enjoy injections or that I like to watch the actual process, but I don’t cry or freak out or anything. Imagine my surprise to discover that the idea of giving a shot gives me the heebie-jeebies on steroids. Yesterday, I sat staring at the needle that I was supposed to stick Molly with. It’s as big as a darning needle, with a nasty point that makes me woozy. “But I’m an English Major!” I wailed. “I can’t do this!”

My grandma, who had agreed to assist me by holding Molly, rolled her eyes. “So now you’re an English Major who gives dogs shots. Hurry up.” I pinched a hunk of skin on Molly’s neck, trying to find a fleshy place to stick her. But the idea of poking that darn darning needle into her body made me let go. “I don’t even sew!” I protested, as if that’s a prerequisite for this sort of thing. “I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t.”

“Do it do it do it do it!” Grandma said.

I have to tell you, I instinctively shut my eyes as I moved the needle closer to Molly. “Are your eyes closed?” Grandma asked, appalled. “Open your eyes! For God’s sake—would you want a doctor to operate on you with his eyes closed?” So, I forced myself to watch the needle disappear into Molly’s fur and feel the icky popping resistance as it pierced her body.

We can do amazing things when it comes down to the wire. A mother can find the strength to lift a car off her trapped baby. A pilot can land a plane in emergency conditions. An English major can wield a needle and move out of her comfort zone with eyes wide open. A niece can make a small effort to pay back the miracle dog who brought peace to her dying aunt.

Molly seems to be doing much better. She’s very perky and vocal. She even played with a squeaky toy for a while last night. Still, tomorrow it will be time for another shot to the neck and the trauma will begin again. I should probably start doing deep-breathing exercises now.


Everyday Counts

2 Jun

Today, I got frustrated about work and life and left 1 almost-incoherent message for a friend of mine. Luckily, true friendship means never having to say “what the hell did you say in your message? You make no sense” and she called back quickly, and with a lot of sympathy. 

I had 2 cups of coffee. 

I tripped 3 times. Once, over my computer cord. Once, over a dog. And again, apparently, over my own feet.

I received 4 phone calls from telemarketers. You can congratulate me, because I won a fabulous trip, became eligible for lower car insurance  and mortgage payments, and was selected to participate in a brief survey. I know, some people have all the luck.

I ate 5 yogurt-covered pretzels. I know it was exactly 5 because that’s how many I took out of the package before putting it away. (Then, to reward myself for having such good pretzel control, I had a cookie.)

I checked my email mid-morning and had 6 new messages. My Amazon order had been shipped. My saved job search didn’t have any good news. Four emails were from work–I needed to make changes to things I had written because the clients thought there should be a lot more information included. I spent the next few hours cramming more details into a 200-ish word limit. Torture.

I went to get something out of my car and found the street lined with vehicles. There were two hybrids, three Old Person cars (clunky tanks and tanky clunkers), one convertible and one mo-ped. That’s right, 7 vehicles. I stood there pondering them for awhile. Was someone having a party? Our only neighbors are elderly retired folks or young, professional parents with young, well-behaved kids. Besides, it was the middle of a Thursday afternoon, there was no professional sports game on television, and it wasn’t a major or minor holiday. I’m thinking that the older couple who live across the street from us were having a get-together–but just think about the range of personalities that must have been there, judging from the car types.

I hid all of the squeaky dog toys in the house. Yes, there are 8 of them–two for each dog. I know it was kind of cruel to take away their toys, but the sound of multiple squeakers being squeaked out of sync got to me. I was like a twitchy, paranoid, crazy person. The squeaky noises came from under beds, in closets, under my chair. I would look down, and there was a toy on my foot. (Lucy often puts her toy there as if to say “Look, I am making it really easy for you to play with me. I’m just going to leave this riiiiiiight here.) I went around gathering toys like the Grinch and I’m not sorry. (I gave them back eventually–how can you resist puppy dog eyes?)

I found 9 socks without mates in a pile in our spare room. This bothers me a lot, because I have no idea where the rest could be. I put these poor lost souls in a drawer but I’m pretty positive that I’ll forget they’re there, and then the cycle will begin again. It’s enough to make you believe in sock-stealing trolls. 

Our dog Molly has been sick and had to stay at the vet’s overnight last night. (More details on that later.) My mom and I were 10 minutes late picking her up, but then they were about 10 minutes late letting us in to see her. Poor thing was trembling like a leaf. For the car ride home, I wrapped her in a blanket like a little hairy baby and she stared at me the whole time. You were twenty minutes late, her eyes said. Dogs can count, you know.

Molly, post vet

Oh, For Pete’s Sake

26 May

Well, I got some bad news about that thing that happened a few weeks ago. Now that the universe doesn’t depend on my silence, I think it’s safe to say that the thing was a job interview and the bad news was a polite no. Though I was not exactly surprised, the news that they had “opted to pursue another candidate” was still a downer. It was the first job I’d been excited about in a long time and oh, how I wanted to be pursued.

My reaction to the rejection included an unusually emotional response to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the consumption of a (mostly) Gin and (very little) Tonic, and then the obligatory oh-God-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life panic. And I baked. I baked a lot.

I like baking when I’m upset. I can get frustration out through the aggressive whisking of ingredients, or during a forceful round with a rolling pin and some dough. Or, I can be calmed by the careful cracking of eggs, the familiar comfort of recipe cards written by my aunt, my grandma, my mom’s cousins. There’s something satisfying about gently measuring sugar, but I also like to pretend I’m as good a cook as my mom and grandma and eyeball things as they’re poured into our big red bowl. That looks like a cup, I think. Or , That was about a tablespoon. Breezy. Confident. And then at the end of it all, you’re rewarded with something good to eat. I can think of no better therapy.

So, the day after the job letdown, I baked. I made candied nuts, and mercilessly picked apart my interview as the walnuts bubbled and became glittery, crusted vanilla and sugar fossils. I had been nervous, my voice a little higher than usual. I had rambled while answering one question, hadn’t responded long enough during another. My outfit was boring. My shoes were too big. Maybe I should have bragged a little more? I stirred up Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip muffins (more like cupcakes without the frosting) and, spooning the batter into cupcake wrappers, thought about fate and signs and doors that open and close. The recipe should make a dozen muffins—I got eighteen and had to fetch another pan for my runovers.

I zested lemon for my version of Lemon Sugar Cookies (similar to the recipe found on the wonderful blog Let’s Talk Cookies) and the kitchen immediately radiated a crisp citrus smell. I considered making a Lemon Pudding Cake, a favorite of my family’s. Stirring vigorously, I accidentally sloshed some of the liquid onto the counter. I scooped dough onto sheets and growled to the dogs, always hopeful kitchen helpers, to get out of the way.

Then, I dropped an egg. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal—but it threw me off my game, disrupted my rhythm. I grabbed paper towels violently, and swore louder than necessary. For the first time in hours, I sat and broke into a muffin. I crunched a few nuts and waited for the cookies to turn golden.

In the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, the main character can taste the emotions in everything she eats. They are the emotions of the person who made the food, and upon the first bite she immediately knows all the intimate feelings that swirled during the stirring, measuring, heating, kneading. My candied walnuts and Raspberry White Chocolate muffins didn’t taste like any emotion, but imagine if they did. No amount of sugar would cover those insecure nuts. And I definitely wouldn’t want to sample the feelings in those muffins.

I gave half of my baking results away, some to my grandma and some to her neighbor Pete. I feel a little protective of Pete. His wife died recently, and you can see how it weighs on him. Last week, Pete gave me a ride to pick up my car at the garage where it was being serviced. I felt badly, taking him away on an errand (and a little embarrassed that my grandma had roped him into it), so when I thanked him for the lift, I really meant it. “No, thank you,” he said. “Thank you for saving me from a lonely afternoon.” There was silence for a few seconds, then he said quietly, “I’m lonely most of the time, these days.”

So when I was done with my cathartic cooking, I made sure to give Pete a pretty little jar of nuts and an assorted plate of muffins and cookies. Out of a job disappointment, I got tasty gifts for a sweet, lonely senior who, luckily, won’t taste any turbulent emotions in them. I’m not sure if that’s a silver (cupcake) lining, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment.

Looking for some similar kitchen therapy? Scroll this way……

Stop Acting So Candied Nuts
a.k.a Bavarian Sugar Almonds/Candied Nuts from My Baking Addiction.

Ingredients
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (1 tsp. of vanilla extract if you are using regular granulated sugar instead of vanilla sugar)
1 tablespoon water
1 pound nuts (normally like to use almonds or pecans, but this time all I had was walnuts–still good!)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar, or regular granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons of fine grain salt (or vanilla fleur de sel, if you’re the type that would have it)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
2. In a large bowl, combine egg white, vanilla extract, and water. Beat mixture until frothy. Stir in nuts and mix to coat.
3. Gently combine sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt and stir into nut mixture, thoroughly coating all nuts.
4. Evenly spread nuts onto prepared baking sheet and place in oven.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring/shifting nuts every 15 minutes. (The stirring part is very important, otherwise the nuts will stick together into one brittle mess.)
6. When cool, pack in an airtight jar. They will keep at room temperature for about 2 weeks.

Shared Joy is Doubled Joy, Shared Sorrow is Half a Sorrow Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip Muffins
a.k.a  Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins from one of my favorite cookbooks, Peace Meals

Ingredients
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pint raspberries

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray, or line with wrappers.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the yogurt, then the white chocolate chips.
4. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt (the batter will be stiff). Overmixing the batter makes muffins tough, so use only 10-15 strokes to incorporate the dry ingredients.
5. Gently fold in the raspberries. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin cups.
6. Bake for 22-24 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Sugar Cookies
a.k.a the cousin of The “Can’t Eat Just One” Lemon Sugar Cookie
Here, I adapted the recipe from Let’s Talk Cookies.  Once I figure out how I merged the LTC recipe with another one I had, I’ll type it out and share. The problem with merging/experimenting is trying to get the same result a second time!

Huge Sale! Nothing Must Go! Prices Starting at $1,000,000!

13 May

My mom, my grandma, and I are going to participate in a church rummage sale tomorrow. In the process of gathering things to sell, I have been forced to confront my what-if-I-need-it-someday disability. Grandma and I butted heads all day, playing tug of war with different items and calling each other names. (“You’re completely unrealistic!” “Oh yeah, well you’re unsentimental!”) She’s a tear it up, toss it out, chuck it, sort of person and I am a save it, reuse it, pack it away personality. It’s a little like we’re acting out an episode from The Odd Couple–except our versions of Oscar and Felix are slightly warped, so it’s not entirely clear who’s who. Am I Felix, gasping dramatically when Grandma tears up papers she thinks she doesn’t need and explaining the value of things in a lofty voice? Or am I Oscar, insisting that my “junk” is priceless and fighting Grandma’s merciless clean sweep? Can two people go through a house, picking out what to sell, without driving each other crazy? Probably not.

Among our arguments over what to sell:

Grandma’s sewing basket
“You don’t sew! Why would you want this?”
“What if I want to learn to sew? What if I want to learn to sew with my grandmother’s sewing basket?”
“Oh, please! You can’t even sew a button! You’re going to sew from patterns? You’re going to use a pin cushion? HA!”
“I’ll learn! I learn things! And when I learn, I should use my grandma’s sewing stuff!”
“Fine. Give me $10. That’s how much I’m selling it for.”
“I’m not paying for your sewing basket! You’re supposed to pass it down to me with love and memories.”
“My love and memories cost $10.”

A decorative birdcage
“You’re not selling this are you? You bugged me for a month to get you a fake bird to put in this!”
“Eh, it’s too big. What do I need a dumb old birdcage for?”
“I looked all over for a bird…”
“Well, I’m keeping the bird. I’m just selling the cage.”
“But then the bird will be homeless. Why would you take away his home?”
“You want me to keep the cage just so the fake bird doesn’t lose his home?”
“Well…”

A white coffee urn
“This is nice. You don’t want this?”
“Well, it was my great aunt’s, but it’s not even that pretty and I haven’t used it in years and years…”
“It was your great aunt’s? That means it’s old! It’s, like, a family heirloom! I don’t think we should sell it. She must have given it to you for a reason. Maybe someone else in the family gave it to her and it’s actually your great great great great somebody’s coffee urn.”
“Oh wait, hand that over. Actually, this isn’t my great aunt’s coffee urn. I got this at Goodwill a few years ago. See, no sentimental family connection.”
“Well, you still can’t sell it.”
“Why in the world not??”
“Now I like it!”

Grandma says I’m counterproductive and unhelpful, and that I don’t really want us to make any money. I think she also called me insane, but it was while I was in another room, hiding a hand-embroidered pillow that she wanted to sell for $2, so it was a little hard to hear.

I'm crazy like a squirrel....nuts like a squirrel? Can squirrels be nuts? Hmm...


Musical Momisms for Mother’s Day

8 May

Happy Mother’s Day!

I heard this song last year on my favorite Los Angeles radio station  (101.1 FM, in case you’re interested), and thought it was so funny and cute. Maybe you and your mom (or you and your kids) could watch it together and have a few laughs. Or better yet–reenact it! Wouldn’t that be a cute (and cheap) Mother’s Day present? You’re welcome.

Have a happy day!