Thursday, February 25, 2010

Faith journeys

On Wednesday, Olivia was ordained as a junior deacon at our church.   Now stay with me….this train won’t be making any unscheduled stops.  I grew up Quaker so even praying out loud makes me nervous.  Furthermore, I have no idea what being a junior deacon means other than serving coffee between services because as usual, anything organizational makes my eyes roll back into my head and I tune out.  What I do know is that we might never have become members of our church except for Liv’s involvement in the youth group.  Now Chip and I both sit on church committees and somewhat regularly attend church.  I would not have predicted that even 10 years ago.  As for Ally, she continues to firmly rail against all organized religion, on her path to hell. But I digress.

I grew up a drop-in Methodist youth grouper on and off during my childhood and teens for the usual reason girls attend youth groups….to see boys.  In retrospect, I imagine the youth ministers weren’t dummies and knew they were working with a hormonally charged type of Christian Fellowship.  They helped us toward our faith journeys through ping pong and snacks interspliced with bible verse and Christian teachings.  Youth group is that missing element of church for teenagers not appropriate for Sunday mornings…and that is cruising.   
Buddy Jesus.  The Junior Deacon told me to post it

I don’t really know Liv’s motivation for attending youth group at first but she has become a serious minded and active member of our congregation and has worked hard on her own faith journey including baptism, confirmation and mission trips including one this summer to a South Dakota Indian reservation.  I admire and am inspired by her confidence in her own faith as such a young person.  She’s the Alex P. Keaton to my hesitant hippie parenting in regard to faith and religion.  It’s a purposeful rebellion and stake in individualism from the family that I can live with even when there’s disagreement over the politics that often follow doctrine.   She still thinks Sarah Palin’s an idiot so for now, we’re all good.

So does anyone have a good youth group story to share?  I was going to say keep it clean but that wouldn’t be any fun.  Other than scamming boys, my experiences were actually just fun and tame.  Surely somebody’s got something better.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A gold medal head cold

It’s been Olympics 24/7 around here.  And not forced family fun either.  We’re all just sitting around night after night enjoying the same television show at the same time --unusual and a bit Happy Days.

Contributing to my Olympic ability to lie around watching TV, I can simply state that David has brought down Goliath—the school nurse has been felled.  Well played my petite madames et monsieurs.   My head feels like it’s stuffed with wet wool.
I haven’t had a cold for a few years and while I feel bad, I’m also enjoying a bit of the novelty and culture surrounding the common cold.  It’s fun to be the sick one for a change.  Shuffling around the house, tissue box under my arm, foggy minded and somewhat pathetic … good times.  Finally a legitimacy to my 7pm pajamas-wearing self.

I heard a funny thing the other day between two kids on the sledding hill.
“Hey, wanna try to epically fail?”

A proposition from one friend to another involving a cunning plan to crash the sled at the bottom of the hill.   The phrase epic fail keeps popping up in my personal zeitgeist.   I drop a pan in the kitchen, someone distantly buried in the house somewhere makes time to yell epic fail.  There’s a story every other night involving somebody’s epic fail at school.  And I wonder as I watch the Olympics if this is how some of the winter athletes got started, attempting epic fails at the top of sledding hills in towns all around the globe.  Epic fail being a way to describe a very special kind of failure that is admirable in its resulting from something that shouldn't maybe have been attempted?  I can't quite work it out yet.  Urban Dictionary is helping.

Epic fails, the Olympics and head colds.  Not related, can’t find a way to make them related.  Where’s my tissue box?  Time to lie down again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My somewhat complicated relationship with the red velvet cake

Sometimes I just look out my kitchen window around sunset and it's miraculous for a minute...

The first time I ate red velvet cake was at my own wedding.   My cake palate could be considered pedestrian by true foodies but in my vast experience, the cheaper the cake the better it is...cafeteria chocolate cake (any cafeteria) being my favorite cake of all.  So had it not been for my mom and her refined sensibilities, I probably would have pre-ordered a large sheet cake with Cool Whip frosting from the Winn Dixie for my big day.  Mom and the nice bakery lady instead talked me off that bad taste ledge and suggested a traditional tiered red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and silver charm ribbon pulls.  And then a chocolate grooms cake with a raspberry filling.  Say what now?  Two cakes?  Who knew getting married would be so fun!

At our reception, long before there was a song about them, all the single ladies gathered around the cake and pulled a ribbon from the bottom of the cake in which a little silver charm was folded.  There were twelve pulls but I only remember two.  The thimble to the woman who would be destined an old maid and the little ring to the woman who would be destined to marry first. 
The thimble.  So.....much..... bitterness to this day about the thimble.  We're friends still but she's not married and we both wonder.  Oh the things we wish we could go back into our past and do differently, this rates right up there for me.  I would go back to that very day with my mom and the nice bakery lady and say, “No thimble."

I’ve made numerous attempts over the years trying to bake a great red velvet cake—make it my thing, you know.  Never mind the cancer and adult ADHD clusters I’ve created in my wake pumping all that red dye into friends and family.  

I was just refilling the vanilla, I swear.  Not that I wasn't tempted....

In the end it will never happen because for all of my good intentions, I'm a non-intuitive baker.  I’ve been lost in Chemistry since 10th grade.  A few years ago, I tried a new recipe for the frosting, following very wrongly as I do the spirit of the law of baking rather than the letter of the law…and with a curious result even for me.  I made frosting soup.  I couldn’t save it in the end as my guests were arriving so served it by candlelight so no one could quite see what they were eating.  It was frightening looking quite literally with the lights on.

Today’s cake.  Frosting still a little wrong, but I do believe this one can be served in the light of day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It started with a trip north to Minocqua...

Cathy and I...the top and the bottom of the cross country food chain

...and it ended with a near sucking chest wound as I fell hard on the tip of my ski.  But I made it out of the woods with all my last bits of strength and up that last hill toward the lodge to find my friend Natalie welcoming me with open arms.  She said, “Are you ok?  Cathy went looking for you. Ellen thinks she sent you the wrong way.”  I replied, “I’m fiiiiine.  I think that Into the Wild kid was a wussy. “  Only I didn’t say wussy.

My chance to finally learn cross-country skiing with trusted friends who wouldn’t judge if I threw a tantrum in the woods.  Cross-country skiing is all work and no play when you're first learning.  And it was indeed the big adjustment I thought it would be compared to downhill skiing, mentally and physically.  Periodically I found myself on a trail puzzled why everyone was pulling away from me, only to look down and see I had forgotten to keep skiing.  Gravity is never your friend in cross-country skiing…it simply keeps you stuck to the Earth but does nothing for your forward movement except downhill where it then tries to kill you. 

Ellen sends me with the map, a kiss and a prayer....

I didn’t need to fall back on too much whining except from an inseam standpoint where I really lacked The Right Stuff compared to my very fit friends.  Eventually I got tired of looking at their asses and wandered off on a set of easier trails toward the lodge….or so I thought.  Here's a sign...  Solid blue….lots of triangles….hmmm...the map says DIFFICULT.  Well, sheeeeeeeeeeit.

I went up this hill mind you...

On my way down....

And it was a beautiful trail worth the trouble I found.   My two days of skiing concluded with two Olympic falls, the first where I landed so hard on my bottom that my hat popped off my head as if pumped and shot from an airgun.  The second, a chest goring by the tip of my ski as I folded like a pretzel at the bottom of a steep downhill, thankfully cushioned by my neck gator that I had shoved inside my coat at the breastbone when I got hot. Since xc skis have no edges, don’t release and the heels swing free, there is all manner of twisted and mangled wreckage one can become at the bottom of even a gentle downhill.  And yet I rose from that last yard sale determined to get to Natalie to tell her my joke.  

Our last day snowshoeing on the lake.  Flat.  Fun.  No pain.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fabulous 40s

Happy Birthday Marsha

These fabulous women, I am lucky to say, are my friends. The one in the middle just had a birthday and we celebrated with her this weekend about a lot of things besides turning 40.  We’re a close knit group of friends at this point in our lives as most women are and it’s not an obvious mix of similars.  How we all became friends is a maze of connections that would require a geneologist's hand to unravel.  But only a few of us hail from here so it's a "love the one you're with" arrangement that took wing.

Is a woman of a certain age at the height of her connectedness with the world?  I have a thread of affiliation with most everyone I see as I move about my days in Madison.  Given one can't gossip in a restaurant here without fear of someone overhearing,  I consider the obvious explanation of a small town but it doesn't fully satisfy as the only reason.  I think it has more to do with the tentacles that grow from a critical mass of relationships at this stage of life. Children, work, community, spouse… and in that order I suppose.  

The old biddy table, where I was sitting before I took the photo

I don’t think about age differences too much in my relationships with other women except when we discuss music or current events of the late 80s.  Some friends remember high school while I remember being married and then it sort of hits me that I might have easily been their babysitter at one time in my life. It feels like half of my friends are turning 40 while the rest, like myself, are staring down the slaughterhouse chute at the big 5-0.

There are obvious big differences in our lives day to day based on our children’s ages and the state of our careers but as women we’ve found the common ground on which to build deep abiding friendships…and that fertile loam is saturated with wine.  I'm akin to a daffy great aunt who can’t absorb or retain details about birthday parties or favorite Pokemon guys anymore and pays kids a dollar to leave the room.  The current working theory is of course, flagging estrogen levels.  Where I used to know everything Toys R Us, I now peruse toy aisles with wonder and a thirst for knowledge.  I shiver at the notion of attending elementary school anything.  I curse like a sailor no matter who's in the room.  I'm almost dangerous to small children in my inattentiveness.  I enjoy the chaos and clatter of families half a generation behind me and when I’ve had enough I can turn on a dime as quickly as I can whip around the minivan to visit a friend on my side of forty whose kids are nowhere to be found and where we can sit and drink a quiet glass of wine, discuss civilly and thoughtfully the events of the world around us and most importantly, speculate fully as to why her college-aged son has un-friended me on Facebook.  

When I was a kid, my mom had an older friend who affectionately called all us kids “dolly”.  I’m starting to think it was because she never really knew our names.  I'm almost there.