Month: June 2014

Greening Rain

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I woke up this morning to the steady splashings of rain outside my window. It was one of those continuous, but soft kinds of rain. Not really stormy, just enough force to muffle the extraneous nosies of the day. The greens of the hills look softer in that kind of light sprinkle, and the grey light isn’t oppressive, just calm. When I arrived in town, the raindrops had stopped falling, but the sides of the wooden boardwalks had very splashable puddles and the air was still cool with a slight breeziness. The damp always seems to carry scents better and the lilacs are still in bloom here, so it’s almost impossible to not walk along with your head tilted up to catch the perfumes.

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It’s a day off, and we were finally almost busy at work this past week. Sunday was perhaps the slowest day for the restaurant this season, with only one person coming in to eat during the four hours we were open for dinner. Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, on the other hand, had steady seatings, with a few moments of rushed busyness. Days off are much more rewarding when it feels like you’ve actually been working. It’s also my relaxing day from running, cross-training, core, and other muscle stretching activities. Since I don’t have to wear exercise clothes and my work uniform is mostly the opposite of cute or fun, I’m taking advantage of today’s lack of dress code to wear a skirt, cap, and cute boots to sit in my cafe and write. I did forget to put earrings in – if my piercings ever seal back up, it will be the fault of summers like this. I’m not allowed jewelry at work, I don’t like to wear it when I exercise, and my sisters aren’t here to play dress-up with.

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They are, however, out in force on the internet today, sharing ideas and asking for thoughts and sending pictures of cute nieces to me via the wonderful communications systems available to us. I had to take a brief break from the beginnings of this blog to rewrite a song in honor of the youngest niece and her ineffective diapers. The Juggernaut brother and I are exchanging texts about the current World Cup games, while I stream soothing music over Pandora and evaluate the scientific validity of Pinterest quote boards (it’s pretty low). It’s a good day, a productive day, a relaxing day, and a blessing counting day.

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I often feel like growth, as prescribed by the world, is frustrating, painful, and confusing. “Growth is Painful,” “Growth is a long, hard process,” “Growth cuts like a scythe through safety,” and “Your largest fear carries your greatest growth,” proclaim those nominally evaluated Pinterest quotes. And sometimes it does come in those spurts that stretch you out and leave you feeling like you don’t have enough skin to cover all the ground you’re hanging over. But these slow, quiet, gentle days, when you can feel leaves stretching out and almost see the grass happily inching upward, when you can feel the refreshed and renewed life hanging in the wet air, this is also growth. It’s the kind of growing where you shake and settle into that stretched out skin and feel so entirely like yourself again. It’s the relaxed growth of balance, that leaves you ready to deal with the next sudden spurt. And it’s lovely to realize that even though those sayings may be half right and growth happens in the thunder, you can also feel its tingling excitement in the gentle greening rains.

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Goals and Fractions as Clear as Mud

Goals – I’ve been meeting them. A quarter of the way through this Wyoming and I’ve blogged and hiked at least once a week, run at least three times a week, and even pulled my bike out of the car trunk for a couple of rides. I’ve stayed within my grocery budget, avoided injuring myself, and enjoyed myself two or three times. I’ve worked on my fiction writing projects, poetry, and recipe thoughts. I’m gradually fulfilling the paperwork and research requirements of my employment program. And that’s about all that’s going on in my life at any point as I traipse about the Cowboy State on my own.

I interact with occasional casual acquaintance or random stranger and find the interactions equal parts stressful and interesting. Other person waiting at the bus stop, I’m texting as an indicator that I’m not available for a chat. But your conversation is basically just friendly, non-in-depth comments, so I’m not bothered overmuch by your ignoring that cue. Co-worker who tries to get me to agree with your comments without actually hearing them for myself, that’s not going to happen. I’d have to get along with you a lot better for a lot longer before there’s even a chance that I’ll trust you that far.

There was snow, for about twenty minutes yesterday morning. Then the sun showed up and it disappeared like it hadn’t actually started coating the ground in June. Nobody came to swim in the pool at the club, though. Overall, I’ve appreciated the cooler weather of the mountains as I extend my training runs, although it does make it more of a mental challenge to climb out of bed in the mornings.

This is the type of writing project I find frustrating. Nothing has happened since I last blogged that’s inspiring me to tell a story. Just the days, getting marked off on the calendar and I don’t even active mark them off, just observe the marker on the iCalendar as it edges forward through the month. This week holds the days that indicate I’ve completed 1/4 and 3/11s of my summer here. At the bottom edge of the iPad, I can see four weeks into the future, when I’ll reach the exciting 13/28s marker.

I’m tired and I’m energized with no clear correlation to when I last drank coffee, although it does seem to be related to when my runs feel most succsessful. I get up on time and I laze in bed for longer than I really should, because I have to remind myself that not going to work until 2 p.m. does not mean I ought to stay under the covers until 1:30. I feel strong and I feel sluggish depending on when I last ran or last ate. I feel productive and I feel pointless based on checkbook updating and room cleaning versus iPad games and random internet browsing. I go to bed and tell myself I should sleep and then wonder if I can just stay awake until the end of September. The panic about forgetting how to drive to work (something I haven’t had to do for over a year) and the kaleidoscopic interactions I’ve had with the odd characters around here in my recent dreams are making me more reluctant to see what my mind will come up with for entertainment while I’m unconscious.

So here’s a blog about exploring self and becoming more independent. Breaking free of the nest and spending my free time drinking coffee out of glasses in shops with WiFi. Not being myself because I’m with the wrong others and not being with others because they stop me from being myself. Life is happening this summer, slowly but surely. And I’m not giving up on the goals, even when the blog spews forth in disorder and opacity. Because I wasn’t silly enough to say I would blog sensibly. I simply promised to try for regularlity.

Older Sister Younger

twins? no, but we were a pair
in sparkling tutus with straight brown hair
seven together, but just us two
out of all the mix had eyes of blue

you called me ‘pink’ and I kicked the bed
to disturb your rest where you lay over my head
you were never perfect and I loved to find a fight
but you told me fairy stories laying in our bunks at night

just a little older, and I followed closely in your wake
together we raised baby dolls and jumped into the lake
whenever your name was called to ring up in the rafters
I would jump to go as well, knowing mine would come right after

sometimes they would mix us up, though you were always taller
we were friends, the best of friends, big sister and one smaller

when I travel far from home, I take walks all alone
and my mind will skip and say “call her on the phone,
it’s been a while since you talked, and she would like this thought.”
because it’s listening to my heart and forgetting that you’re not

not doing things before me, so I can see the way
not off there with the others, as they work through the day
I cannot call you up upon the phone you never had
cannot share my mad with you, my sadness or my glad

big sister, I can’t quite comprehend how I got older than you are
or why when I look back to see you, I have to strain so far
you took a shortcut up to heaven before I quite understood
and now I’m taking a longer way and missing your sisterhood

The Path of the Peanut Butter Pancake Philosopher

This is where it begins. The path to zen, world peace, and shangri-la. Or at least, the journey of the peanut butter pancake. As far as life philosophies go, it may seem a bit unformed, but rest assured that it will develop detail over time.

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I didn’t take much convincing

My first attempt to fulfill this spur-of-the-moment commitment (I have several of these in my life at the moment – the most time consuming being the running of a half-marathon in October) focused on using on-hand ingredients and short preparation time. I started with Smitten Kitchen’s version of the Pioneer Woman’s sour cream pancakes, because it’s my preferred recipe for making my own individual breakfast pancakes. I considered starting with an actual peanut butter pancake recipe, but the first few I browsed through said they had a faint or light peanut butter flavor, which was not my end goal.

Have we reached semantic satiation for the word pancake yet? No? How about peanut butter? Still no? Let’s carry on then. Short preparation time didn’t become important for prototype pancake batch A until I nudged my iPad into snooze repeats for about an hour on the morning I planned to griddle up. This was not entirely due to laziness on my part – I had a traumatic encounter with the device earlier this week when attempting to shut off the alarm and since I have never injured myself when simply asking it to check back with me in nine minutes, snooze now seems like the safer option when I’m half-asleep.

according to my mother, I should try to avoid shedding my own blood.

according to my mother, I should try to avoid shedding my own blood.

However it came about, I found myself with a self-imposed pancaking deadline and so I stuck to the basics with my prototype recipe.

First, I retrieved my mixing bowl from the back seat of the car, where it has been living in peaceful harmony with a larger mixing bowl, a cooling rack, and my bicycle since my arrival in Wyoming a month ago. Then, in my private philosophy chamber, I whisked together:

1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk, soured with 1/2 t of cider vinegar
3/8 cup peanut butter, crunchy

Here we arrive at the first tenet of the Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophy – all peanut butter that enters a Peanut Butter Pancake Mixing Bowl must be CRUNCHY. I cannot explain this, I simply know it to be so. Deviate at your own peril.

Chunky peanut butter was Super Chunk, to be precise

Chunky peanut butter was Super Chunk, to be precise

Over the top of this mixture, I sprinkled:

3 TBSP unbleached white flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

And stirred the whole of it together with a wooden spoon. Use of wooden spoons in mixing is not a tenet of the Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophy, but all elite Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophers use them. You may make of this what you will.

After the batter had come together nicely, I was forced to leave the philosophy chamber to heat a non-stick frying pan with a little oil over a medium-high heat. The non-stickiness of the pan and the electric stovetop were counter to my preferences, but I made do with what was actually available to me. I dropped the batter in approximately 1/8 cup portions and spread it out slightly with a spoon, as it was too thick to settle on its own. Hopefully, I will be able to address this issue in prototype pancake batch B.

pancake results

pancake results

The final yield of the one-egg recipe was six palm-sized pancakes, with a soft crumb and pronounced peanut butter taste. I had a moment of concern when I first applied my pancake batter to the frying pan, as it occurred to me that I might simply be frying peanut butter cookie dough, but the texture of the end result was decidedly more pancakey than cookie-ish.

soft and fluffy pancake

soft and fluffy pancake

Retreating to the privacy of my philosophy chamber; I ate the entire batch, to prove that it was indeed a single-person sized recipe, and waited an hour before heading out on my half-marathon training run. I feel that even with the wait time, the execution of my Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophy commitment did weigh me down somewhat as I executed my half-marathon training commitment, but with some closer attention to scheduling details I should be able to avoid future conflicts of this nature.

handy running path that goes on forever - I use it for most of my long training runs

handy running path that goes on forever – I use it for most of my long training runs

Keep checking back to see more of my impromptu commitments and learn the second tenet of Peanut Butter Pancake Philosophy. Until then, experiment on your own to find your personal point of semantic satiation for the key words pancake, peanut, and butter. I will be reflecting on the fleeting nature of pancakes in the philosophy chamber.

The Plague of the Volunteer Mentor

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Is it only stubborn cynics, or does everyone bristle when a new acquaintance decrees that they are going to change your behavior? I’ve encountered a few people who seem to approach new co-workers as reform projects and it never fails to rub me the wrong way.

Whether it be basic personality, general upbringing, or some explanation beyond the nature vs. nurture arguement, I tend to embrace new colleagues slowly. After interacting with them in a reserved manner for a while, I begin to feel comfortable showing other facets of my personality – such as my appreciation for the fine art of the sarcastic comment. Often they are taken aback by this new approach, but in the end, it all settles down into a pleasant working relationship.

Proof that my methods work - me being not shy and reserved with friends from last summer in Wyoming.

Proof that my methods work – me being not shy and reserved with friends from last summer in Wyoming.

I can even deal with those people who decide that I am ‘shy’ or ‘need to come out of my shell,’ although their constant prodding can slow down the entire process. But I have met one or two people during this past year who manage to take it to a whole new level. These are the ones who, a few minutes after introductions volunteer themselves to be mentors/confidants/guides despite any signs I can project that I’m happy with my current mentors/confidants/guides.

It can be a doubly frustrating process when I know they have some knowledge that would be of use to me, but they hide it behind a condescending attitude, constant barrage of speech, and demands that I begin to follow their plan for my life immediately. I dislike feeling forced into less than gracious behavior, but when a person completely ignores polite comments and continues to press for a response, sometimes all I can find to say that will make any impression is some variation of “you’re not the boss of me.”

Friends met and made in Vail over the past winter.

Friends met and made in Vail over the past winter.

So far, in about four hours of working together, and with nearly no input from me, this new colleague has told me I need to move to New York, given me a list of celebrity chefs I need to start following, told me to watch certain documentaries, decided to give me impromptu quizzes, tried to correct my vocabularly/pronunciation, attempted to assign me food research ‘homework’, and decreed that he was ‘going to get me excited about something‘ (this last in almost despairing condescension).

Now, two days into our acquaintance, I’m stubbornly determined to never be excited around him. In many cases, my defense against people I don’t really want to talk to is monosyllabic replies and abstraction – but the volunteer mentor seems to view this simply as another facet of me that needs reform. They also seem to view a quiet person as an available audience for lectures, rather than someone avoiding converstaion. I’m still trying to determine the antidote for the plague of the volunteer, since engaging with them encourages, not engaging with them challenges them, and avoiding them can only succeed for short periods of time.

Unfortunately, the last one I ran across never seemed to catch onto to the fact that I wasn’t all that appreciative of his efforts, so my hope that there is an actual cure is slim. Fortunately, all my other co-workers and supervisors are pleasant and it’s easy working with them. If this new self-assigned mentor can manage not to argue word definitions with me again, I can probably manage to put up with his insistent interference in my life plan. But he’ll have to avoid trying to give me English vocabulary lessons, ’cause that’s just plain insulting.