Thursday, September 04, 2014

Aggravation---and Learning To Drop It

Maybe it's just me, but I am finding myself irked frequently yesterday & today. I am thinking I need to resume my 3 Cs wristband challenge, in which I have to switch my wristband to the other wrist every time I criticize, condemn, or complain.

Last night, when I was making my first recipe in the La Luna Cooks Mrs. Yoder project, wheat oatmeal bread, and forgot to halve the water amount, resulting in unworkably sticky dough & the need to add the rest of the originally-called-for-amounts of everything, I was terribly annoyed with myself for forgetting. However, the bread turned out nicely and I had enough to eat at home, send to work with Jeannene, and give to the neighbors. So, it was silly to be irked. It also taught me a good trick, suggested by my clever wife---write in the half amounts next to the whole amounts before beginning the actual cooking! Aha!

Today, when I was driving to the gym, and again driving home, I was horribly impatient with the other drivers around me. "Go! Go! Go! What are you DOING??? The light's greeeeeeeeeeen!!!" This morning, it was completely my fault I didn't start as early as I liked, completely my fault I lay in bed too long talking myself into going, completely my fault I stayed up reading until 1:30 this morning and thus had to talk myself into getting up & going to the gym. Not their fault & they were only driving normally, not going super slowly just to hinder my progress. At least I seem to have learned, for the most part, not to call other drivers idiots or worse. Maybe if I slip my wristband back on, I can learn to be chill when I am moving slowly. Pity the gym's not in the opposite direction as the traffic, but it isn't, I know it, and I might as well just relax & listen to the world news. Wait, that's not relaxing! How about if I use the trick of the Greyhound driver my mom encountered on the Charleston, WV, to Nashville route all those years ago? When someone cut him off or otherwise performed a jerk traffic move (either out of inconsiderateness or, more likely, just not paying as much attention as they could), he would say something like, "Careful, sweetie" or "Ease back a little, honey." Perhaps another "My religion is lovingkindness" bumper sticker would be a good practice aid, as well. I miss that sticker.

In the pool, I felt terribly snarky about a woman who entered the pool after me, chose a spot right next to me (cramming me close to the wall), & proceeded to tell me that she had to be somewhere afterward & didn't want to get her hair wet. She asked that I refrain from splashing her, saying, "You know, like Sea World. This can be the no-splash zone." Well, I didn't deliberately splash her, but I sure was tempted & I definitely would have enjoyed seeing her soaked & resembling a drowned rat. Isn't that mean? I told her I could sure try, then proceeded to do my workout as I normally would. It's a water workout. You can't expect not to get wet. However, my irritation with her arrogant request took me into some pretty mean thoughts and I try really hard not to be mean, even in my thinking. I am probably too compliant, but when a friend said she'd pray for the woman, I thought, "What a better response." Although, it was pretty funny to write about the ridiculousness of it on Facebook & composing my post while I bristled in the pool allowed me to relax into my workout instead of allowing her demand to ruin my morning. I also think a lot of times, the best we flawed humans can demand of ourselves is outward kindness. Even then, it can take an extra measure of grace to act that way.

Then, dealing with our property management company set me back into growly mode, as it usually does. Their communication is terrible, both with us and within the company. I can speak to two different people and get two completely different answers on just about any matter. Further, they seldom seem to want to go to any effort to fix a problem. However, today, I was given permission for something I've been asking about since January, so that's a great thing.

And that's the trick. It's looking for the great things, instead of focusing on the annoying things. It's recognizing that I am capable of fixing a baking mistake & producing yummy bread. It's grinning as I remember the old man who let me into the flow of traffic as I waited and waited. It's appreciating the woman in my water workout class who helped me figure out one of the moves when I couldn't understand what the instructor was saying. It's delighting in the wee, tiny boy in the gym's café who was sharing with me his enthusiasm for the construction equipment outside. It's the thrill of sneaking across the street to leave a surprise loaf of bread on Beth's door. It's anticipating with great joy the tea date I have with my mom for this afternoon. This, friends, is why I strongly advocate the practice of gratitude journaling. At the end of the night, I remember the bright, shining spots of the day and give thanks, instead of allowing the (pretty dang insignificant) clouds to blot out the light. It's a much better way to live.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

From Alpacas To Zanesville (Or, Rather, To Zanesville For Alpacas)

When Pie and his girlfriend, Bubbles, decided to move closer to us, it necessarily involved helping them move. In order to make it more fun for the grown folks, my sweet wife booked us into a bed & breakfast in the country outside Zanesville, where the kids' old apartment was. They were to spend the weekend packing, cleaning, & loading the truck while we had a weekend of relaxation, her first days off in over a month. We figured we were handling the finances, they could handle the physicals (although, when it came down to Monday morning & there were still things to be loaded, Jeannene pitched in, as well).

The B&B, Spring Acres, is way out in the country and the idiosyncrasies of my GPS meant we had an interesting drive from the Detroit Metro Friday night. We made it about as far as Sandusky on main roads, but then Jack (my GPS) diverted us to wee backroads, including one twisty gravel road in the dark of night, with a large truck following us. My wife watches too much crime television and was busy planning what to do if the truck driver tried to run us off the road so he could kill us---she was going to tell me to drive right into a house. Me, I was hoping we didn't either run into a place where the road ended or break down. Well, scenes from "Criminal Minds" did occasionally play across my mind's screen, too, to be honest, especially with the truck so close behind on such funky little roads. I was also a little worried whether the innkeeper would have an issue with wives instead of a wife & husband, given the general conservative bent of much of that region. However, Jack delivered us, shortly after midnight, into the welcoming arms of Spring Acres, where Sherry greeted us with a smile and a (fairly petite) bed. I was instantly charmed by the alpacas, rendered in metal, on the main gate. You see, the B&B is part of a compound that also includes an alpaca farm.  

We fell into a dead sleep and, in the morning, were treated to a delicious omelet made with fresh eggs from the Spring Acres hens, peppers from the garden, & cheddar. There were also beautiful sliced tomatoes picked that morning, home fries, fresh fruit (the blueberries, which I've only recently started to like, were heaven!), fresh-baked banana bread, and from-scratch biscuits. It's no wonder I gained weight over the weekend! After breakfast, we ran into town to fetch the U-Haul & check on the kids' progress. Both were fraught with anxiety, but especially the U-Haul. The guy warned Jeannene sternly not to get stuck under a particular overpass and gave her directions verbally to avoid such a horror. The key words in the story are, "gave her directions verbally" because she is utterly directionally impaired. She promptly turned the wrong direction and drove around hopelessly for a bit. I, following in the Bug, had no idea she didn't know where she was going until I got a frantic phone call from her saying she couldn't get to their apartment. Luckily, I was able to lead us back to the U-Haul, where I went in and wrote down the directions. Poor Jeannene. She's good at so much, but directions are not one of those things.

After the moving truck was safely delivered, we popped in at a wee Amish grocery on the way back to the B&B. It was a treasure trove of cool bulk items, flavorings I don't often find on my usual rounds (including butter flavor, which I've seen recommended in recipes but have never seen on shelves before), scrumptious deli items, and lovely produce. We also got to see 5 adorable, tow-headed Amish children with cornflower blue eyes, shopping with their red-headed papa. They stood barefoot in the aisles, reminding me of my childhood summers running around barefoot in Yellow Springs. I think they were as fascinated by us as we were by them.

In the afternoon, we meandered down to the lake, by way of the alpaca barns, where we stood and gawked at the cuteness. A couple of the babies looked quite curious about us and almost allowed themselves to come over and check us out. On the way back, we stopped in the little alpaca shop, where I found a lovely brown scarf with hot pink decorations and no price tag and a grey plaid blanket I'd have loved to pick up for my winter couch. We decided to return again before the end of our stay. Once back at the B&B, we hung out and looked at the Amish cookbook we'd picked up. I said, casually, that it would be fun to work our way through the cookbook recipe by recipe, á la Julie & Julia. Jeannene was quite taken with the idea (I think she was really taken with the idea that I would make all this homey food for her) & so we are going forth. You can follow that on my other blog, at I knew the Amish were known for their fabulous pies. What I hadn't realized was that something like 80% of the recipes in the book would delight the sweet of tooth. Candy, cake, sweet rolls, cookies, pies. I also didn't realize how much processed food the recipes would include. Velveeta reigns supreme. There is very little butter called for, with oleo being in just about every recipe. Jell-o and instant pudding are fixtures and Nestle Quik is featured in many recipes in lieu of cocoa powder. I've never seen anything like it, even in church cookbooks from the 1960s. I expect to be sharing the bounty quite a bit, as we cannot possibly eat even a quarter of the foods on offer.

In the evening, we drove into town to check on the kids again and deliver dinner. Pie had tried to weasel Jeannene into taking them to lunch, with very little work actually finished. She had promised them an alpaca viewing and dinner on Sunday if they got lots of work done Saturday. But we're not utterly heartless, so we took them hot dogs & BBQ from Whitt's, along with a quart of raspberry frozen custard. It being our 12 year and 8 month monthiversary of our first (illegal) wedding, we went out for something a little fancier at Muddy Miser's on the river. Luckily, they had patio seating available and we enjoyed a splendid appetizer of warm summer tomato bruschetta with gorgonzola, followed by filet mignon. Dessert came when we returned to the B&B and were served some of the best carrot cake I've ever had the pleasure to eat. Zucchini was the secret star ingredient. We visited with the other guests, a couple celebrating their 41st anniversary, then excused ourselves to bed, relieved that we didn't have to stay up all night with the woman. He seemed quite lovely, but she was the sort of person who can top any story, and always does, whether the other person is finished talking or not. I do try not to be mean, but she was simply exhausting.

Sunday morning, we were given scrambled eggs with homemade sausage and more beautiful fruit. There were biscuits and banana bread aplenty, as well, although I chose one this time, instead of a little of each! We'd planned a picnic, but the rain came down in a steady drizzle, with occasional livelier outbursts, all day, so instead we stayed in with a deck of Uno cards. It had been a long time since we'd had such a lazy day and it was sheer delight. When lunchtime rolled around, Sherry brought our picnic to us in the living room while we played---how spoiled are we? She'd made fabulous Dagwood sandwiches, accompanied by baked Ruffles & honeydew melon. Once Jeannene had beaten me soundly at Uno (much to her satisfaction---and she could not believe I wasn't perturbed in the least), we took up a book of trivia and created our own hybrid trivia/truth or dare game. What fun that was! We also popped down to the shop to purchase our chosen alpaca items. However, the shopkeeper was so utterly consumed by the loquacious lady that we, after waiting around for 15 minutes or so, gave up and returned to our cards. We'd overheard the conversation, with the woman repeatedly interrupting the shopkeeper's explanation of how they make the products with her knowledge of weaving and her stories about watching someone finger-weaving & picking it up in 3 days without formal instruction. We are not nearly as nice as we should be & returned to the inn snickering about all the things she is surely better at than other people. "Oh, you had hernia surgery? Well, I took out my own hernia and hand-crocheted the binder I wore during recovery." Pure meanness, but funny, nonetheless.

As the afternoon began to wind down into evening, we picked up the kids and took them to see the alpacas. Because it was raining and it seemed unlikely that the alpacas would come any closer than they had the day before, I stayed in the car. Had I known what they got up to while I was immersed in my book (a very good one called What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman), I would certainly have gotten out & joined them, as they got to pet a wee baby alpaca. Ah, well, my own fault for not wanting to get wet. After, we headed into town for dinner at Adornetto's, an Italian place none of us had been before. Jeannene and I, not yet fully hungry after our picnic, shared a plate of spaghetti with red sauce and meatballs. The pasta was tremendous, clearly made on the premises and cooked perfectly al dente. I hope we can find such a place near us. After dinner, we dropped them back to their work and figured out a route which would get us out of town without going anywhere near the Dread Underpass.

Monday, we got the kids' belongings completely loaded and hit the road for their new home, 6 hours away. I led the caravan, concerned that I would somehow lead us onto a road too narrow for the truck or a bridge too low or that I would lose someone along the way. Bubbles & Jeannene both kept up admirably, nobody got lost, and if Pie had a panic attack driving through the pouring rain, I never heard about it. Usually, he makes Bubbles pull over if the rain gets hard, but they stuck right with us. I was a smidge nervous, as the pelting rain struck right when we were at the spot which had been completely flooded last month, stranding motorists and destroying basements. We managed to get through without hydroplaning or getting bogged down in water and the sun came out in time for the unloading of the truck. With the truck unloaded, the kids happily ensconced in their new home, and the U-Haul dropped off, we went for pizza and beer, that most traditional of moving meals, a fitting end to Labor Day.