The Recipe Analogy

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I’m a person who has always appreciated steps and methods. I learn incredibly quickly if I can dig into something, play around with it, see what happens and adjust. I have almost an insatiable drive to learn when I can see clearly what is expected from me and what the results of my efforts are. I’ll play around with this process indefinitely, dare I admit – obsessively, when I’m seeing results, but I have a short string of patience when something is awry. This analogy, I think, is a good explanation of how this moves in my life.

When I was young, I was raised in a family that had very specific tastes. I was fed every day from a rotating menu that didn’t vary much, and I didn’t really mind. The consistency was nice and even though it wasn’t all my favorite, I knew what to expect. As I got older, I was given the opportunity to choose a recipe of my own. My parents made sure I knew that there were other recipes but that our family recipe was the truly right one for us, and I would be making them proud to select it as my own. I trusted my family, and I did.

Soon, I had a kitchen of my own. I was excited to take out my gilded recipe card and prepare it for my own family. I carefully read, painstakingly measured and put everything in the oven to cook. When I pulled my dish out after the allotted time, my heart sunk – something was wrong. It looked soupy, mushy, not properly cooked. I tasted it; it wasn’t delicious. What had I done wrong?? Still, this initial failure didn’t set me back too much. I was inexperienced. I would try again.

And, I did. I believed in my recipe – it was a family heirloom, spanning generations in my family. So, I spent months, years, decades trying to determine why I couldn’t recreate it properly. I became frustrated with my self, frustrated with my family for not wanting to eat what I made and frustrated with cooking in general. Maybe I just wasn’t a good cook. Had the gene skipped me?

Then, I stepped back. Maybe? Maybe the recipe was off? Maybe it hadn’t been transcribed very well? Maybe the ingredients I was provided were rancid. Maybe the kitchen assistants I’d been assured were the best money could buy were actually spiking my sauce with something gross. Maybe it just wasn’t to my taste. Maybe I had been given a wonderful marinara sauce when the truth was that I actually really, really prefer Mexican cuisine. Maybe it wasn’t me at all. Could I look at other recipes? Was it okay to even ask these questions? I felt like I had to because if I didn’t serve something, we were all going to starve. Either way, that recipe was getting tucked firmly on the back of a shelf because I wasn’t going to keep wasting ingredients when I didn’t even know how to fix it. Anyone who I couldn’t solidly identify as a kitchen helper was getting fired, at least temporarily until I sussed out what or who the issue was.

It’s not that spaghetti is bad. It’s that there comes a point when it’s okay to choose to not engage in processes that clearly don’t work for you. I don’t mind when people eat spaghetti. I celebrate people who have an aromatic marinara sauce and have mastered it. I don’t need to order the same thing from a menu to love, respect and sit down to dine with my Italian-loving friends. Choosing to put away a recipe that has failed me doesn’t mean that it can’t work for you. It doesn’t mean I gave up or didn’t try hard enough. (I would venture that recipe failure makes you even more precise in following instructions to the letter.) And, the fact that spaghetti is your favorite food in all the world doesn’t mean that it will be mine. The truth is, I’m a Mexican gal, through and through. When I have the space and the freedom and the ability to play in the kitchen without the pressure to be an Italian goddess, I make very, very good food. I’ve chosen to direct my energy in the kitchen to recipes that I’m able to work with more successfully. I AM a good cook, but I’m making different dishes than what I thought I would when I was a child.

Personally, I think variety is the spice of life in and out of the kitchen to bring the analogy full circle. It’s beautiful to embrace your personal food history, but it’s also really, really nice sometimes to visit other people and try new things. And, when you’ve tried for so long to make something fit, it can be downright refreshing.

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How to Make Friends With a Conservative

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I had an interesting experience the other day. It surprised me, and then I was surprised that I was surprised by it.

I was raised in a deeply conservative religious community that translated into a pretty isolated culture. There was no internet when I was a kid, so I saw only what was directly surrounding me. (I sound so old! Hey, I could still have babies if I wanted to/was nutty enough.) I got my first computer as a young, married, isolated mama starving for connection in the late 90s, and I’ve never looked back. I still have friends that I met in some of my first mom groups when my 19-year-old daughter was tiny. To say that having my world open like that was revolutionary would be an understatement. I still remember the first time I realized that someone I interacted with was a Wiccan and how that shocked me. I’m embarrassed to admit that I spent a good day actually wondering if it was morally okay to buy, sell and trade with someone who was pagan. I was that naive. (I did finally realize that it was dumb to care. It didn’t impact anyone’s honesty and certainly didn’t hurt me in any way to know someone so different than me. I know. Duh.)

I have come a long way since the me that was a 20-year-old mom. However, I am still quite conservative, despite how transformative this year has been for me. I have family and friends across all stripes of people. I’m looking at issues in new ways and trying to understand where people are coming from. Still, I find that my conservative opinions and Christian-leaning worldview are not always welcome in public commentary, despite how careful I try to be. This makes me sad. Not because I feel like I’m a super important person that everyone should listen to, but because I’ve lived in isolation myself, and I find so much value in seeing the spectrum of humanity as, well, human. I learn the most from those who are different than myself. I don’t always agree, but it challenges me to look deeper.

My quite liberal friend posed a somewhat controversial question on her Facebook feed the other day. First, I was genuinely surprised that our opinions were on the same page. (That may truly be a first. Ha ha!) What really struck me, though, was how respectful and productive the conversation was. The dialogue was kind. Open-minded. People really wanted to learn and understand. Even people who were directly affected by the issue conceded that it was difficult and that clear answers were hard to determine. Someone I don’t even know had a different perspective than what I (tentatively) expressed, and they pointed me to where I could study a bit more about the topic.  And, then they left me to do what I might with that information and stepped back. I thanked them for sharing an alternative perspective in such a kind way. I meant it.

So much of the political dialogue that I see anymore is harsh, shrill and antagonistic. I can have strong opinions, and I have been punished for expressing them. I posted a arguably controversial opinion a few years ago about how I felt that a particular political/public figure maybe wasn’t promoting the best things. I was attacked, called a bigot and had more than a handful of liberal acquaintances unfriend me. I think I was most bothered by how much space I had made for their more left-leaning opinions over the years, and that so many of them couldn’t offer me the same courtesy. But, it is what it is.

My opinion and perspective on this particular issue has actually evolved a lot more over time, and I see it as much less black and white than I have in the past. However, not a single one of those people that virtually yelled at me had anything to do with me finding more balance. In fact, I think they probably hurt this process that has come about over time. I don’t think I’m a whole lot different than other people. I observe. I think. I really do care about other people. But, I also have a history. A background. A worldview. And, those things shift with painstaking slowness. Having people disregard your right to an opinion while they claim it for themselves does nothing but create divisions and draw lines in the sand. There is no growth in that. You go back to whatever vacuum allows that idea to live safely.

They cynic is me believes that splitting people in this way is the point – that powers-that-be like to see people in neat little rows where they can be moved and used easier. But, the truth is that we don’t have to participate in this. We don’t have to be shrill or harsh or antagonistic. Like my unknown internet companion the other day, we can offer a different perspective with kindness and gentleness, and then allow the other person the space to mull it over and decide whether they want to shift their opinion or whether they will stay put.  I will probably always be conservative-leaning. However, I feel like my mind is a little more open after my exchange with my friend’s friend, and that maybe there is one more liberal-leaning person in the world that I consider my friend, regardless of our differences. I don’t care where your belief spectrum lies, that feels like a win-win to me.

Life Lessons From the Sewing Table

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I’ve been sewing for 21 years, and it’s something that I can almost do in my sleep it comes so naturally to me. Still, we all have days, and not everything works out every time. I had a little hair-pulling moment today when I was “whipping up” a hoodie for myself, and it made me a little introspective.

First, I was watching my friend’s kiddos today because she took a much-deserved day out with her husband for her birthday. (If I’ll watch your kids, you know that’s true love. Mwah!) For some dumb reason, “babysitting” is different in my head than having the exact same kids just “playing over” for the exact amount of time. I have no idea why that is. Maybe because I know that I can’t send them home at any moment if they all start to bounce off walls. Which they inevitably do. My kids still had to do school, and it’s never a good time trying to convince them that schoolwork is a valid use of their time when friends are around. We got through it with minimal whining, though, and I sent them all downstairs to watch TV while I finished sewing. Because, OBVIOUSLY, the perfect time to NEED to get a project done is when you’re juggling 3 children’s school books along with 3 spares. Go big or go home! (My craftiness seriously takes on a life of its own. I either haven’t sewn for months or YEARS, or I’m eating/sleeping/dreaming/breathing it compulsively. It’s just how I roll. I do this with my other crafts as well. My husband is incredibly tolerant of and used to that side of me after 22 years. Heh.)

After I got the kids settled down doing something other than vegetating in front of a movie like I’d planned because they couldn’t find the remote, I started putting my hoodie together. This is a pretty quick process, generally. There was a little more detail work because there’s both a hood and a front pocket, but I was plugging along. After pinning the hood on, I basted everything together (because unpicking is the devil. Ahem.) and checked. to. make. sure. it. was. right. before proceeding. And, OF COURSE, it was FINE. So, I jumped over to my serger and went on to firmly attach the hood on BACKWARDS. Yes, indeed. Upon turning my hoodie right side out and moving onto ironing the hem, what would my wondering eyes behold but the back of the hood nodding at the front pocket. Wah, wah, wah! (Did I mention unpicking is the devil?) But, I did unpick it. Because this was nice fabric that I had a vision for. So, I painstakingly spent about as long as it took me to actually sew it picking out stitches so I could turn around that stupid hood.

I have no idea why our brain does things like this. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring cognitive dissonance in the last while, and it’s amazing how we see things exactly how we want or expect to. It’s nuts, really, but we get used to things and start filtering out everything that doesn’t match that vision – like hoods that are looking backward despite the fact that there was A POCKET to mark the front. I rarely make mistakes like this period and almost never when I’m working with something new or different because all the possibilities are open. I’m not going to wax eloquent about the deep meaning there – I’ll leave those conclusions to you. But, it did make me stop and think, and maybe you’ll find some aha-moment in it yourself. I find those in the oddest and most assorted places when I just notice.

P.S. After all that trouble, I don’t love the hoodie. Waaaahhhhhhhh! I think I should have broken up the floral, it seems slightly short and because I hemmed instead of doing a bottom band, the kangaroo pocket is sitting too low. Jerk. Maybe I’ll throw it in the corner of the closet and reassess next month when I’m less mad at it in general. You know, with fresh eyes, it might seem okay after all.

 

 

Adult Acne Should Be Illegal

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Do y’all do Influenster? You basically fill out some quizzes and answer some questions, and you get matched with free products to review. I’ve gotten a lot of cosmetic items as well as several general “mommy” type boxes that include things as varied as hair ties, pens and coupons for free sour cream. The trick to getting matched is ticking any box that might fit you, so if you have thin, oily and color-treated hair, tell them all that in the event that the one product they’re targeting fits one of those demographics. Make sense? Well, I think I need to tone down that approach with anything that’s potentially a skincare item.

When I was in high school, I had an AP English class where the teacher had everyone write positive things about their classmates. I’m pretty sure I still have these papers in a file somewhere. I, uh, didn’t fit in during high school. I was “smart” and got good grades, but my family were outcasts in the dominant religious culture, and I happened to grow up in a town with a lot of bitterness about the religious history that made that happen, but I digress. I had a small handful of friends that I ate lunch with, none of whom ever came home to my house or hung out with me after school. (I stopped inviting school friends over in middle school after we had CPS called on us for having too much unfolded laundry in our house. My mom was in college trying to earn her teaching degree so that we could escape poverty and was terrified for months that her efforts would cause her to lose all her kids. True story. Seriously, people, offer to help.) So, having people say nice things about me, even if they technically *had* to for a grade was fun. From what I remember, a good half of these kind words were about how I had great skin.

Had being the operative word. Heh. Because, as soon as I started having kids, adult acne introduced herself, plopped down on the bench and made herself SUPER comfy. She’s pretty much been there ever since. Which sucks. Because, once you hit your 20s, you think you’ve dodged that, right? That’s a teenager thing. Wouldn’t that be nice? (I legitimately once had a BIL ask me if I had chicken pox when I wasn’t wearing makeup. Nice. Nope. Just freaking, stupid, *$&%^ acne!! It’s worse when I was pregnant, so I felt fat and sloppy and like I was walking around with chicken pox face. Good times.) At 41, my skin is stupidly picky about what it likes, and changing that up can cause outbreaks of cystic acne. Yay. However, being that I am, uh, 41, it would also be nice to, you know, work on firming and combat wrinkles.

Thanks to Influenster, I know that is a hard no. Every single time I get something that is targeted to aging, I regret it. Number one, they all smell like a grandma, and not a hip one, I might add. And, they cause break outs every. single. time. Grrr. A few weeks ago I received a Perricone firming face serum. I’m sure this thing is ridiculously expensive and it probably even works amazing, but it’s a hard no for me. My skin has been clearer in the past few months than it has in years. (Like, I’ve only had about one blemish at any given time, and they were healing at a decent rate.) I tried this thing ONE TIME, and, I kid you not, I had FOUR new blemishes within 24 hours of applying it. No. Just no.

So, it looks like I need to stop applying for skincare products, or at least only tick the boxes about having acne prone skin. In case anyone is curious, my go-to skin products are either Origins Foaming Face Wash or Harry’s exfoliating Peppermint Face Cream as well as the Origins Gin-zing Moisturizer. All my peeps with acne go shop for those amazing products (if they were on Amazon, I’d link you up, but, alas, bad skin has expensive taste. Try Sephora. You can get Harry’s at Walmart.) while I alternate between rocking in the corner and reading all the notes from my high school classmates about “what nice skin I had.” I guess the good news is that I naturally have okay aging genes, so I don’t have out of control wrinkling or sagging for my age. I’ll take the consolation however it comes.

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