Oh My God I’m An 18 Year Old Boy!

Me and Everett June 2104

In my ongoing search for my “thing” in life I have come to a startling realization. I am way more like my eighteen year old son than I ever thought. Last June he graduated from high school and has spent the past nine months working. He has three jobs right now, all in different fields. He got all three jobs on his own and has been incredibly responsible in keeping track of his schedule and being on time. Mostly. He is not sure, however, of his next steps. He has looked at some university programs but isn’t 100% committed. I left my job a year ago and have spent the last twelve months keeping track of my traveling husband and my active seven-year old. Oh, and writing this blog. Where are the next few years going to take me? I don’t really know, but I do feel a need to find something to set my sights on.

So, how are we alike?

1. We both feel, deep down, that we have some unique, creative thing to offer the world but we just don’t know what it is or how to get it out there. While writing this blog has been great and I continue to enjoy the process and the opportunity it has given me to reconnect with old friends, I can’t help but feel unsure of where I am heading with it. My son had thought that he might pursue a career in video game design and animation. He took a number of courses in high school and looked at continuing that into college. As its turns out, it is really more of an interest than something he felt he wanted do as a career. I think that this was largely because he is not a strong drawer. Being creative means being judged subjectively and we are both wary of that.

2.  We both gravitate towards things that offer us instant (or close to it) gratification. Probably why I never went back to school. I have, for many years, berated my poor son on his ability to sit at the computer for hours playing video games. Not the shoot ’em up kind but the multi player on-line battles like Defense of the Ancients. (go look it up) When I asked him why he loves them so much he said it was because they gave him instant gratification. Honestly, I rolled my eyes and sighed but I am now slightly embarrassed to say that I get it. I think that I too look for things in my life that give me regular reinforcement and encouraging pats on the back. I think it’s why I enjoy running so much. I can do it and instantly know exactly how far and fast I have gone. If we can’t see the goal we lose sight of the meaning.

3.  We are social but not social butterflies. I love a good party and feel that friends are an immensely important part of anybody’s life. I am also quite comfortable being alone and have been known to pass on social invitations in favor of my jammies. While my jammies are comfortable and all, I have been burnt and some times I use them as an excuse to close myself off a bit. My son has never had a large circle of friends and I often felt that he needed to be more assertive in going out and creating relationships. Now I see that he is also okay being on his own. In the past few months, through his new jobs, he has developed some friendships which is great. But I also see him holding back a bit. Not wanting to dive in too deep. Just in case.

4.  We are more than willing to work hard so long as what we need to do is clearly mapped out in front of us. Or organized. Love a well-organized project. You tell me what to do and I will work my ass off until it is done. Conversely, If I don’t have a set plan I tend to wander off and end up being unproductive. The past year has shown me that in spades. If I am being 100% honest with this I need to say that for my part,this is probably due to a of lack of confidence. In high school if my son had a project assigned to him he tended to leave it until the last-minute and then panic. Not because he didn’t want to do the work but because he often didn’t know how to get started. He is, however, happily holding down three jobs with not one complaint. In fact he has never been happier to be told what to do and get paid for it.

As I read this back to myself some things become clearer while other are still unresolved. Have I managed to make it to fifty without ever really growing up? How can I expect him to know where he is going when I don’t? Have I done enough to foster a feeling of confidence in my son?

How can I move past what is holding me back and in turn show him the way?

The Best Thing in Life is that learning never ends.

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It’s Just Pastry

lady baking

Yesterday my friend Jane and I made soba noodles. We had been complaining about the price of 100% buckwheat noodles so Jane had the brilliant idea that we could make them. We both had bags of buckwheat flour going unused in our cupboards so why not give it a try. As we mixed our dough and started to knead it into cones (why it needed to be a cone we are still not sure) Jane mentioned that I looked like I knew what I was doing and that I must be a good pasty maker. I laughed because pastry is the one item that I have never been able to master. I’ve had people offer up “no fail” recipes and yet still, I’ve failed. Maybe, June surmised, it’s because you are such a perfectionist. Wow, you know what, she couldn’t be right. Later in the day I was thinking about it and thought. Really? I can’t make pasty? Okay, tomorrow I am not going to be a perfectionist and I am going to make pastry.

So I pull out my somewhat ratty copy of Martha Stewart’s cook book that my dear friends Karen and Geoff gave to me twenty years ago. ( yes, she’s been around that long). Holy cow there are a LOT of different types of pastry. Once I figured out which one to use, I gathered the ingredients. Flour, salt, butter, lard and ice water. Five ingredients. How hard could this be? The instructions mentioned that for best results everything should be cold. Bowl in freezer, ice cubes in water, butter and lard, well chilled. Okay, ready to go. Am I really this nervous about making pastry? Given my past record of doing it, I think I’m just afraid or failing again. Come on. It’s just pastry right?

cookbook

Everything goes as planned. Sift flour and salt together. Cut in lard and butter and crumble together until it resembles a course meal. The next step is typically where things don’t work out for me. My expectation is that I will add the water and the dough will magically come together in my hands and form a lovely smooth ball. As I tip in the ice water I try to remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect and once it forms a ball I should just wrap it up and put it in the fridge. As Martha points out, you shouldn’t overhandle the dough. And then it happened. I felt like Tom Hanks in Castaway except instead of fire, I Had Made Pastry! Okay, so it was still just a ball of dough, but I had never felt this confident before that it actually might make it into the oven as a pie.

crumbleball of dough

I moved on to making the inside of the pie. This, for me, is the easy part. A bit of this and a bit of that. Sauté the onion and garlic, make a rue and pour in the chicken stock. Taste the gravy and throw in the chicken and the veggies. If it isn’t quite right, adjust and taste again. There is room for personalization. The insides can have lots of sage or just a little. Be spicy or slightly sweet. Be chunky or more refined. You get to pick the ingredients and season it to your taste. Lots of room for interpretation. Pastry seems so…..exact. Either it is or it isn’t. Not a lot of wiggle room.

And now the true test. Rolling the dough out and actually making a pie crust. Flour the board and turn the chilled dough out. It starts out a bit wobbly as I think it should be a bit less cracky and I start to knead it smooth. No wait, Martha said not to overhandle it. Let it go, let it be cracky. Let it be imperfect. And as I rolled and turned and flipped and rolled I realized, after all these years, that it really is “just pastry” and that the end product doesn’t need to be perfect ( see right side of top crust) it just needs to be pastry. I made pastry. Imperfect, buttery pastry. Watch out Martha Stewart, I’m on a roll here.  Yummy chicken pot pie for dinner. Not only have I made pastry, but I have made my family dinner.

pie

So, yes I am a perfectionist and over the years it has probably held me back from doing things and driven more than a couple of people (mostly my family) a bit crazy. The Best Thing in Life is that it is just another piece of who I am. A perfectly imperfect person who can now make pastry.