Chocolate Cake

A friend and I discussed chocolate cake today, and I immediately thought about my dad’s drool-inducing chocolate cake that he made so many times over the years. Dad spread cream cheese over the top of a finished chocolate cake and then poured fudge over the cream cheese. This wasn’t just any fudge. Dad perfected a fudge recipe over nearly five decades, and I could taste the love with every bite of this cake.

It’s funny how a conversation about chocolate cake could bring up so many memories of my dad.

The weekend before Dad took a bad turn that resulted in hospice care, the occupational therapist at the nursing home asked Dad what he liked to do, and he said, “Cook.” Mom picked up the ingredients for his award-winning (and also drool-worthy) fudge pie, and Dad got to spend an afternoon doing what he loved the most.

I’m so glad Dad had one last chance to cook, and I’m also glad Mom saved a few pieces of pie for me.

 

 

 

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Three Years (But who’s counting?)

John and I have been in Little Rock now for three years as of June 15. It’s hard to believe John had just finished sixth grade when we moved here; now he has finished his freshman year of high school. Catherine was 18 when we left Texas; now she’s 21. I was still in my mid forties; now I’m not.

Paul and I have moved to different cities or states eight times in almost 30 years of marriage (the kids came along for the ride beginning in 1994). Our average stay per move used to be around two and a half years, but that is closer to four years now. Living in Belton for six years and Little Rock (the first time) for five years bumped up our average.

Mentally adjusting to a new location has usually taken me anywhere from six months to two years. This time, however, I’ve been in denial for nearly the entire three years. I would tell anyone who asked (or who didn’t ask) that I planned for us to move back to Texas as soon as the ink on John’s high school diploma was dry. I had big plans to move to the great city of Waco and buy a condo downtown. Seriously, Waco has everything I need: taquerias, Belk, paddleboards to rent downtown, quirky shops, and proximity to family and friends.

A week or so before our third anniversary here, however, I had an epiphany. It dawned on me that Paul might want to retire at Blue Cross, which would keep us in Little Rock another ten to fifteen years. If my life were a comic strip, a light bulb would have appeared over my head. I finally got up the nerve to ask The Actuary if working at Arkansas Blue Cross until retirement was his plan, and he confirmed my suspicion.

I wasn’t surprised or angry, and I realized that I have moved from denial to acceptance. Not resignation but genuine (for the most part) acceptance. I’ve had some bouts of anger, bargaining, and depression, but denial has been my main coping strategy this time around.

To quote (and take slightly out of context) Philipians 4:11, “…for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Chuy’s down the street didn’t hurt (thanks, God).

Happy third anniversary, Little Rock. I think I’ll stay here awhile.

Countdown to 50

I will be 49 tomorrow. Because I overthink and overplan, I have been trying for at least six months to figure out what to do this year as a countdown to my 50th birthday. At first I thought of making an Arkansas bucket list. I ruled that out quickly because I don’t like the term “bucket list.” I also thought about going back to NYC, but the timing is bad with grad school and finances. Someone gave me an idea about doing random acts of kindness, but turning that into a project seemed to defeat the purpose of being random.

I finally decided that I don’t need to make this year a production about turning 50. I have enough to do without putting pressure on myself to come up with something creative and unique that could possibly go viral.

Instead of getting sucked into the “make every milestone spectacular” movement that social media seems to propagate, I will enjoy my 49th birthday and the last year of my fourth decade. All I need is cake.CatBirthday

Pinterest – Where Self-Esteem Goes to Die

I discovered the joys of Pinterest a few months ago and went a bit crazy creating boards and pinning things to them. I’ve used recipe pins the most, but that doesn’t keep me from pinning craft ideas to a board I named “I Can Make This!” I’ve had some success with the recipes but haven’t had time to make any of the crafts I’ve pinned.

One of my friends recently pinned a great craft idea.  So, like a true Pinterest phanatic, I repinned it along with a similar craft because it included a tutorial. Making crafts does not come naturally to me, so the more instructions I have, the better, especially if the instructions have photos.

I opened the tutorial pin, and the very first sentence started out something like this:

While my baby was napping, I thought I would create a tutorial for those of you who have been asking how I make my craft masterpieces.

I may have slightly exaggerated the end of the sentence, but she clearly stated that she was using her baby’s nap time to work on crafts or to prepare tutorials for those of us who suffer from craft-impairment.

Maybe I’m jealous, but I spent my babies’ nap times either taking my own nap, taking a shower, figuring out what to cook for dinner, doing laundry, or crashing in front of Oprah to decompress from puke, poop, or crying jags (mine or the babies’). Not only did she post instructions, but she included photos of each step. WHILE HER BABY WAS NAPPING!!

I initially thought I was somehow letting womankind down because of my inability to make cute crafts or do other noteworthy tasks while my babies napped. Even though my children are now mostly self-sufficient, I still can’t manage to get all my duck (butts) in a row and have the time or inclination to create wall art or the t-shirt quilt I’ve repinned.

Chatty instructional blogs drive me crazy. The technical editor in me would keep the directions and photos and leave out the fluff. I feel the same way about food blogs. As the great philosopher Joe Friday from Dragnet used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

In the meantime, I’ll stick to making Pinterest recipes and repinning cute dogs, cats, and owls. By the way, I named my owl board “Call Me Owl.” Cute, huh?

Iced in – Day 3

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We have been “iced in” since Friday morning, December 6. We knew this weather event was approaching, thanks to our outstanding meteorologists, so we made appropriate food purchases and located our trusty lantern in case of a power outage. Thankfully, we never lost power. One former co-worker said that sometimes Little Rock loses power if we just have a heavy dew.

I pondered catching up on housework and doing other productive activities since I wouldn’t have errands to interrupt me. The first thing I did before the storm, and before going to the grocery store, was go to the library to stock up on books and movies. Productive didn’t last long.

Here is a brief summary of the non-productive things I’ve done over the weekend:

1. Reading Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich in two days – Her books are hilarious, and though I did not necessarily expand my mind, I laughed my head off. Grandma Mazur and Lula are my favorite characters. 

2. Adding three more boards (Wine and Other Spirits, Swim Parents Rock, and My Hometown) to Pinterest along with at least 10 pins per board –  In other words, my followers got their pages blasted with about 30 pins ranging from funny swim quotes, photos of wine bottles, and photos of my favorite places in Austin. I also repinned a few items from people I follow, and I found a Zen garden to make and pinned that on to my “I Can Make That” board. Without all this extra time on my hands, I wouldn’t have realized I needed to create more boards.

3. Adding apps to my Kindle Fire – I added Pinterest (I usually use it on my phone) and Candy Crush. I have resisted playing that game because fast-paced games trigger migraines. Today, though, it was either add Candy Crush or clean the bathroom. The good thing about Candy Crush is, once you lose a certain amount of lives, you have to wait awhile before you get more (unless you want to buy lives; I’ve been married to an actuary too long to pay anything for a game.). I am currently stuck on Level 15. I keep losing lives because of the short number of moves allowed.

4. Applying to grad school – I’ve thought about applying to the UALR Professional and Technical Writing graduate program for about a year. I got an email from the graduate coordinator a month or so ago asking if I was still interested. I just haven’t sat down to complete the application until today. All I have left to do is get transcripts, an immunization record, a portfolio, and my firstborn child sent to UALR by sometime this spring. I’m off to a good start though, especially since I paid the $40 application fee. Now I have to follow through. I guess technically, applying to grad school is productive, but I always found myself busy with other things like running errands, doing dishes, and cleaning bathrooms.

The weekend isn’t over. I still have movies to watch – Doubt, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, and The Truman Show. I should be able to watch at least one. I’m more of a book person, but I think I’ll make sure I watch Doubt. Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman should be worth a couple of hours.

Breaking news – School is cancelled for tomorrow. IMG_1550

Regardless of the weather status, I do need to start the laundry and plan the menu for the week. In other words, it’s time to start being productive. But that can wait until tomorrow. I’ve got movies to watch.

 

Yard work

I enjoy the outdoors, but I have never been crazy about yard work. Paul, John, and Catherine take care of all our landscaping needs. John mows the front yard during the summer, Catherine mows the back, and Paul takes over the front when school starts. Today, however, I mowed the lawn (front only) for the first time since the early 90’s. While mowing, I came up with the following observations about lawnmowers and yard work:

1. I look cute in a baseball cap (a mandatory accessory for outdoor manual labor).
2. Mowing downhill is fun until you have to go back up.
3. Pushing a lawnmower while it is still running is much easier than pushing it with the engine turned off.
4. Vacuuming does not seem so bad after all.
5. Getting the weed eater to start goes more smoothly with the battery attached.
6. Edging is hard.
7. Taking the battery off the weed eater is also hard.
8. I don’t hate mowing.

I didn’t come up with an earth-shattering epiphany while mowing, but while I looked at my slightly uneven edging job and ever so slightly crooked lines in the grass, I realized that maybe I could be less of a control freak and let people help me in their own special way.

Tomorrow, I’m going to trim the shrubs!!

Scrambled Eggs

My parents recently downsized and moved from Austin, Texas to an apartment in Temple. I have teased my mom over the years for being a pack rat, but on a recent visit, I discovered that I’m glad she saved every letter and card I’ve ever sent her.

I found a letter that I wrote to mom in March 1988, shortly after Paul and I moved from Austin to San Antonio. I read the letter and laughed so hard, I could hardly talk. I  had forgotten about my ongoing quest to learn to make scrambled eggs. Here is part of my letter:

“Hi Mom,

This is just a little note to say get well soon, and I hope you have a speedy recovery….Since they say laughter is the best medicine, I thought I’d tell you about my latest endeavor with scrambling eggs. Since today is Paul’s first day at work, I figured I’d make him eggs and biscuits. I found a recipe for scrambled eggs, and everything went smoothly until it came time to cook them. The recipe said to cook the eggs on medium high, which I thought was weird because I’ve heard they should be cooked on low. Anyway, since I always follow directions, I put the heat on medium high and went about my own business. All of a sudden, I heard a noise, and when I checked my eggs, they were boiling like you wouldn’t believe. Needless to say, they turned out rubbery, but Paul ate them anyway. I wouldn’t have touched them with a ten foot pole. Since practice makes perfect, I’m going to try again tomorrow, this time on low heat.” 

The next letter I wrote to mom contained the following:

Hi Mom,

Are you up and around yet?…Do you think y’all might be able to come visit us this weekend? I’ve enclosed some instructions just in case. Speaking of instructions, thanks for the tip on scrambled eggs. I’ve never tried stirring them before.”

Mom and I laughed like maniacs. I’m never going to tease her again about saving cards and letters. I wrote many letters to my parents after we moved away from Austin, and reading those brought back so many fun memories.

I make pretty good scrambled eggs now – without a recipe.