Things Grown-Up Me Does That 10-Year-Old Me Would Never Do

Pass on buying Girl Scout cookies. I sold Girl Scout cookies a very long time ago (point of reference: they cost 50 cents a box), so I know what it’s like to spend Saturdays schlepping around your neighborhood trying to meet “each girl’s quota” so that “each girl may experience the wonder of Camp Stickittoya this summer.” It was a learning experience, though, because I learned I never want to go into sales. Today, 10-year-old me would buy a box just to be nice. But the grown-up me dials my cell phone just before leaving the store so that when I’m accosted approached by Girl Scouts hawking $4.50-a-box cookies from a card table, I can smile apologetically, shake my head, and point to my phone.

They've looked worse. Really.

They’ve looked worse. Really.

Go barefoot. Ten-year-old me went without shoes three consecutive months of the year, but 10-year-old me had decent toenails. Not pedicure toenails maybe, but toenails of normal color, length, and thickness. Had hers looked like mine do today, she would have said, “Ewwww! Gross! I’m never going barefoot again!” (Cue the slamming door.) Running may do a body good, but it wreaks havoc on the feet. Especially on the toenails. But you know what? I don’t care. If it’s above 75 degrees, flip-flops it is. Do I garner stares? Sometimes. Do I care? Not really—at least not as much as 10-year-old me would care.

Wear sunscreen. Growing up it was called suntan lotion, and it was for the beach. Never mind we lived 20 miles from the beach and playing outside sunup to sundown equated to more exposure than a few hours at the beach. I use sunscreen now, but since data suggests most sun damage occurs during childhood maybe I shouldn’t bother.

Skip dyeing Easter eggs. Seeing that Paas display in the grocery store as a kid always held such promise, didn’t it? The fact that the end result never resembled the pictures on the box was of no concern. Those displays held the same luster for our girls, and every year they’d open the box, ooh and aah over the stickers and the “magic crayon,” and we’d dye eggs. And by we, I mean me. Because I don’t count basting a few eggs then ditching the project when it got boring as dying Easter eggs, which is pretty much how I remember it. After the tablets dissolved, it was downhill excitement-wise and I was on my own—just me, the cleanup, and a vinegar aroma that lingered for days.

Ten-year-old me didn't have these, either.

Ten-year-old me didn’t have these, either.

Pay to run. At age 10, running wasn’t exercise; it was transportation. The only competition involved was outrunning cars as you crossed the street. Ten-year-old me would have scoffed at (1.) adults running, and (2.) paying for it. That’s because 10-year-old me wasn’t (1.) trying to outrun old age, or (2.) willing to fork over a nonrefundable $100 race entry fee for the privilege. Ten-year-old me was only trying to get to Karen Miller’s house before Mom noticed I left without cleaning up the Easter egg mess.

 

Thanks to Peg-O-Leg’s Ramblings for the inspiration!

Falling Flat

Did you watch Cake Boss? Or the Holiday Baking Championship at Christmas?

Me neither.

I tried Cake Boss but couldn’t do it, and not just because of Buddy’s New Jersey accent—because of the caliber of cakes these “amateurs” put out. It’s nothing I relate to. Same with the holiday baking show: I knew when the contestants threw together a cranberry meringue pie or a white chocolate, pear, and fig morning bread at a moment’s notice, it was over. Amateurs, indeed. But back to Cake Boss.

I’d love to learn cake decorating, and if my second attempt (see? I’m not totally unrealistic.) looked anything like the cakes on TV, I’d do it. And the beauty of being a glass-half-full person is that in my mind, my cakes would look like that, with fondant smooth as glass and roses so realistic your allergies would flare.

How I imagine it looking.

But here’s what would happen:

First, there’d be stacks of unfrosted cakes reminiscent of the Leaning Tower of Pisa that were too lopsided/stuck-to-the-pan-to-come-out-cleanly/homely-to-be-resurrected-with-frosting—your pick—to bother with. The cakes that were salvageable would be lopsided/homely when I was finished with them.

My fondant would look like a patchwork quilt and my roses would be mistaken for globs of frosting that dropped when the decorating tip fell off the bag. Oh, they’d taste fine, as long as you ate with your eyes closed.

How it would look. As you can see, I’d give up on the roses altogether.

But that’s not what keeps me from trying—what keeps me from trying is my family. They’re polite. To a fault.

I’m not sure if they’d encourage me because life’s just easier that way or if they’d genuinely desire being force-fed cake for the rest of their lives, but here’s how it’d go down:

My cake would sit magnificently on an elevated plate in the middle of the table—no dessert in front of the TV tonight!—like the turkey in that Norman Rockwell painting. Once it had been duly admired, I would cut it, serve it, and pretend not to see the sideways glances when they eyed Mom’s creation, their looks of pity and disbelief. I’d ignore their praise spit out in short bursts, belly laughs threatening to escape. But still, I’d know. A mother always knows.

So I’ll keep my cakes in my head, where they’ll always be perfect, and stick to knitting. Because I do a mean garter stitch.

 

(Images: CC:Flickr)

Funkytown

153I checked my email early this morning and read the Daily Post. It asked if you’re good at what you do, and what you’d like to do better.

Perfect timing.

The last two or three days I’ve written exactly one six-line paragraph for a synopsis I’ve been working on. And the paragraph stinks. It sounds stilted. Insincere. Forced.

I’ve hit a wall. Not a what’s-a-better-word? wall. A mile-22-in-a-marathon wall. And the harder I try, the more elusive the perfect words become.

Answering the question, “Are you good at what you do?” is easier if your skillset yields concrete results: if your risotto is perpetually undercooked, you’re probably not going to be the next Master Chef.

But how do you gauge subjective results? Do you rely on others’ input? Or is self-satisfaction enough?

I wish I knew.

Today we’re attending an outdoor wedding on a brilliant 85-degree afternoon, and tomorrow we’re having lunch with friends we haven’t seen in over a year, along with their daughter, son-in-law, and new baby girl. I’m counting on changes in scenery and smiling faces (not that my husband hasn’t been smiling—he’s been great through my blah-ness) to wrestle me from this writing funk.

Wish me luck.

Fantasyland

Courtesy: Disneyland

We’ve been married a long time—long enough that it requires less calculation to say how long we haven’t been married than how long we have, when anyone asks. And we’ve been married long enough to drift apart, a casualty of shifting interests and temperaments, patience and desires. It’s common, I suppose; it’s just not widely advertised.

Oftentimes couples wives try to pinpoint what happened, if there was a single incident that pulled the loose thread that unraveled the sweater. Did I change, or did he? she’ll wonder. (Translation: is it my fault, or his?)

In our case, he changed. In our case, it’s his fault.

Because what kind of animal doesn’t enjoy going to Disneyland?

Oh, he liked it just fine, early on—at least he said he did. But now I can’t help wondering, was it all an act? The smiles, the offers of a Dole Whip, the sitting statue-still while a lady clipped our silhouettes, her hands flying like a Benihana chef’s? Or did he like it just fine for a date, because he knew I liked it, his teeth gritted behind that smile? No, that can’t be. I can spot insincerity from a Space-Mountain-on-a-school-holiday-line away. Besides, he’s not very good at acting.

I don’t understand how he’s blind to the memories, why Disneyland doesn’t hold the slightest sentimentality for him. It was, after all, where we took our firstborn on her second birthday. Is that when it happened, when he became a man I no longer knew? Kids under three were free, so he couldn’t argue with the price. Was it because that free admission ballooned into half a paycheck by the time we left? Or that he had to carry our daughter for hours when she was too tired to walk? Still, it was nighttime by then and the scorching July sun had set. To this day I don’t know what he was complaining about.

Over the years our family’s size and Disneyland’s ticket prices increased concomitantly, and we visited less often—or maybe it was my husband’s grumbling that kept us from going. Anyway, while we were gone they became crafty, those Disney folk. For instance, rides no longer exit into brilliant California sunshine; now they dump you directly into themed gift shops so that when your Pirates of the Caribbean adventure is over you find yourself wading through tricorne hats, eye patches, and flasks. But where I see crafty, my husband sees money-grubbing, children-stalking henchmen. Potato, potahto.

We will probably never go back—not because our girls are grown, but because Disneyland recently raised their adult ticket prices to $99. Without parking. Without food. Without Advil.

So I’m left with my memories and my silhouette cutouts. Come to think of it, maybe there weren’t any flasks in that gift shop after all—maybe I’m just fantasizing about what would have made a day at Disneyland with three small children bearable: a flask filled with something stronger than a Dole Whip.

Me, Only Better

It’s been said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. For the sake of argument, I’ll pretend that’s true (though really I don’t, because I spend an awful lot of time with the Target cashier and know nothing about her). Now, if it was true, and we could choose those five people…well, now we’re talking.

Who would your five be? Here are mine, in no particular order:

Carrie Heffernan from “King of Queens.” Is she a little brash? Maybe. Sarcastic? Perhaps. But you’ve got to hand it to her—the girl speaks her mind; in that regard, she’s my alter ego. And I know for a fact she uses MAC lipstick.

 

Mother Teresa. To counteract the Carrie Heffernan qualities.

Erma Bombeck. A healthy mix of the two.

Betty Crocker. I love watching “Top Chef,” but “lemon vanilla crème with mint puree and hazelnut sable” for dessert? C’mon–give me brownies any day.

Bill Gates. Not for his philanthropic nature or even his business sense. For his technological know-how. Recently my husband told me to stop using data on my iPhone because we’d almost reached our limit. He texted this to me, which I found ironic—I thought texting was data. I rest my case. Actually maybe I don’t need to channel Bill Gates. Maybe an average fourth-grader would do.

Linda, Row Your Boat Ashore

Okay, so there was no boat and no shore. But I still rowed this morning.

It’s supposed to rain this weekend in Southern California, which makes us natives want to cocoon and get all cozy—unlike our East Coast brethren who, at the prediction of more precipitation, are probably ready to book a flight out. Going anywhere.

Rainy mornings make me want to knit, bake, and drink hot tea. Too bad I don’t have a rocking chair—and hair long enough to stick in a bun, like that old lady in the Tweety Bird cartoons. I even set out butter to soften for a new recipe* from Pinterest.*

There were just two flaws in my plan.

One, it wasn’t raining this morning.

Two, I’d signed up for a 7 a.m. rowing class. A rowing class with a $15 cancellation fee.

So I pushed aside my fantasy of remembering where I’d put my circular knitting needles and drinking hot tea—I actually don’t like tea and would much rather have a Diet Coke anyway. The butter, however, was still softening.

The morning wasn’t entirely a bust, because I rowed my little heart out—and I mean exactly that. During a 500-meter sprint, I felt like I might have a heart attack (it’s not like I’ve ever had one for comparison—I just knew). On the bright side, it gave me something to think about as I rowed. Usually I spend the entire sprint with my eyes glued on the meter timer, simultaneously swearing at it for being broken and at the studio’s owner for shoddy equipment maintenance. And this morning what I thought about was how far away the fire station was, and how fast could they get there.

Ta-da! Over 7000 meters rowed!

Ta-da! Over 7000 meters rowed!

That’s the problem with being the oldest in a class of four—I will not be beat. Not by some 35-year-old punks, and not by my own traitor of a heart. So I sprinted those 500 meters and beat my last time by eight seconds. Eight seconds may not sound like a lot, but try this: grab hold of two objects equaling a thousand times your body weight then push them and pull them as fast as you can for two minutes. Puts mere seconds into prospective, doesn’t it? And maybe rowing isn’t equal to a thousand times your body weight, but still…

The rain is supposed to come later this afternoon. I still haven’t found those circular needles, and I still don’t like tea, and I put the butter back in the ‘frige because, well… Just because. But if we need to row out of a deluge, I’m ready.

*See “About Yours Truly” page. Sometimes new recipes from Pinterest just don’t work anyway. Why waste the butter?

And For Dessert, Maalox With A Pepto Chaser

How far would you go to prove a point? My knee-jerk response—and maybe yours, too—is, “As far as I need to.” After all, right is right. Right? And if you have to prove it educate along the way, so be it.

But let’s think about this. Rationally.

Suppose you believe fat people are fat because they eat too much and move too little. Sounds logical, right? Simple math.

Is it so logical and so simple you’d be willing to gain 43 pounds over the course of three months then attempt lose that weight over the next three months to prove your point?

Me neither.

But that’s what British TV personality Katie Hopkins did. Katie believes fat people are bankrupting the British healthcare system, and that any talk of genetics or endocrine issues is rubbish; they just need to eat less and move more. Period. And to prove it, she would intentionally gain weight and then lose it.

Hmm. Intriguing premise. Not the politics, or the losing-weight part—the idea of eating whatever I want. I began salivating at the thought, images of cartoon gumdrops and giant carnival suckers and drippy ice cream sandwiches floating through my head like a Candyland game.

Well, it was intriguing. Until I tallied the numbers. Quicker than you can say, “No thanks, I’m full,” the premise went from intriguing to plain nauseating.

Katie began her journey consuming 5000 calories a day. Poor baby—she couldn’t gain weight so she began “circuit eating” with a trainer, who bumped her calories up to 6500 a day.

6500 calories. A day. She averaged 400 calories an hour, 16 hours a day.

It wasn’t just hearing the daily calorie requirement that got me—it was the calorie count in context. I went on Fatsecret.com and put together a daily menu totalling close to 6500 calories. I can’t even say, “Here’s how the meals look” because there are no meals—just nonstop eating. So here’s how the day looks:

Breakfast: IHOP Belgian waffle with syrup

Eggs Benedict

Midmorning: 2 cups of Cap’n Crunch Cinnamon Roll Crunch

Lunch: 2 Big Macs

Medium fries

Coke

Afternoon: 2 slices sausage pizza

Dinner: Large Panera macaroni and cheese

Caeser salad

Chocolate chip cookie

Dessert: Slice of German chocolate cake

Midnight Snack: 1 cup of Baskin-Robbins Pralines n’ Cream ice cream

Now, eat that every day for three months. I’m salivating again, but this time it’s that weird behind-the-ears salivating, like just before you’re sick.

But Katie did it. And she proved her point about calories in/calories out by turning around and losing the weight in three months—except for 11 pounds because her family thought she’d been too thin.

This certainly wasn’t a controlled experiment; just one person’s way of proving her point, of putting her—ahem—money where her mouth was. And for that, I admire Katie’s moxie.

Maybe not her cholesterol reading, but her moxie.