2019-12-13 Island of Misfit Divinity

When I was a wee lass my grandmother (my mother’s mother) always spent quite a bit of effort at Christmas time making cookies. It was part of her tradition and there was always a healthy spread of festive plates piled high with treats on card tables in the back room of the basement on Christmas Eve. The basement was the only room big enough to fit our family for dinner and year after year, the sequence of events didn’t really change much.

We would arrive close to dinner time. All the men would take seats in the living room where some sports ball event would be on the big cabinet that was a tube TV. All the women would congregate in the kitchen and dining room finishing preparations for dinner, my aunt Barb faithfully at the stove as it was her job to make the gravy which was the very last thing to get done. All the cousins would gather in the back bedroom. It was a 2 bedroom house with 1 bathroom on the main and that tiny back bedroom had two twin beds. That’s the room my mom and aunt shared growing up. It was a small space but somehow it was big enough for them and subsequently big enough for the 8 cousins. I don’t remember specifics of activities except one year someone brought a ouija board. Even way back then I was highly skeptical and didn’t believe in the validity of the messages that came through. I always wondered which one of my cousins was the faker. I’ll probably never know.

Once the turkey was done my grandpa would get in the kitchen to carve the bird. Apparently that’s was a man’s job. And after.. we would form a line around the dining room table where all the dishes people brought were set out and then the group would head down to the main room of the basement. The adults would eat at the tables set up in the main room in front of a fake fireplace (it was electric) and the kids would eat at other card tables set up in the unfinished utility room next to the ones with the desserts. There was limited space so even the washer and dryer were used for the overflow of cookie trays.

Grandma made batches of ginger snaps, fudge, sugar cookies, those disgusting coconut birds nests, peanut brittle, rice crispy marshmallow balls, chocolate dipped pretzels, peanut butter melt-aways, and my very favorite.. divinity!! It was my favorite because of course it’s basically pure sugar. She would always press a giant ugly walnut into the top while they were still soft and I had to pluck that out and sneak it into the trash but other than that, they were perfection.

I was in high school when the traditions started to fade and my aging grandparents could no longer host the event. It was really the last time that side of my family would ever be together as no-one took on the task of playing host. The cousins grew up and some moved away and of course some started families and created new traditions.

I have a few faded memories that linger.. my uncle Chuck putting on country music after dinner when we all moved the tables and chairs and he tried to teach us how to two-step. We also sometimes played games after dinner like twister and of course the part where we exchanged gifts.

Someone once told me my grandpa wore a cologne called Jade East and the fancy stuff could only be found at Walgreens. I got him some every year. I’m sure it was terrible and thinking on it now it’s possible he had a cabinet full of unopened bottles, though when he opened it he would always smile and thank me.

As it is with the past, there are always some not so great memories too. I remember being in high school and still sitting at that kids card table in the back room when my cousin, who was the same age as me, got to sit with the adults. It was always clear who my grandmother’s favorites were and I was not among them. They spent way more time with grandma than we did. And they had money and nice clothes and I was the shy, smaller girl who lived on her cousins hand-me-downs. I never voiced my feelings.

Anyway, at some point it was decided that all those cookie recipes would be collected and put into books and distributed to the family. Women only of course as that’s still just how things were. Finally I had the secret of divinity in my grasp and could carry on the tradition. Or so I thought.

What I found on my first attempt was that there were secret ingredients which I did not have the key to… temperature and timing. I knew the sugar had to boil for a certain amount of time but I didn’t have the first clue what that was. At that time, I could still ask.

I made a special visit to my grandmother’s house where she showed me the secret. She was able to tell the sugar was ready by running a spoon of it into a stream of cold water from the faucet. If the ribbon dripping off the spoon turned to “glass” and was easily cracked into hard pieces, it was ready to mix into to fluffed egg whites.

“It’s as easy as that” she said and told how when she was 10, her and her siblings would wait until their parents would be distracted with business on the farm or other errands and they would sneak into the kitchen at the farmhouse and whip up a batch. I remember thinking that if a 10 year old girl could make this treat that I certainly could too.

I was proved wrong time and time again. Most of my attempts turned into gooey messes and flat sticky pancakes of taffy that never “set up” or hardened into the fluffy yet dense texture they were supposed to be. I pretty much gave up trying. My grandmother is long gone now and I’ll never to be able to ask her about that I any other stories from growing up on a farm. It’s sad to think about what has been lost from that generation. Unless we tell stories, the history of it just fades away.

With my current plan to try and be a different cookie every day from now until Christmas, it was only natural that Divinity would find its way into the mix. So today it is!!! And to put an exclamation point on it, I decided last night to try once again to make them.

This time, instead of using the recipe from my grandmothers cookie book, I consulted the internet. I found a recipe that had 5 stars and got out the ingredients and supplies and got to work.

Now I mentioned before that some of the magic had to do with timing and temperature but what I was still missing was a better measure of patience. Instead of constantly testing the boiling sugar for the right done-ness, I used a candy thermometer and waited and waited with my high-speed mixer and bowl of whipped egg-whites ready for the exact moment the temp was 260 degrees Fahrenheit or “hard-ball stage”. Miraculously, that the trick!!

I slowly poured the hot liquid into the egg whites while mixing at a high speed. Then, working quickly because the mixture starts to harden as soon as the mixer is off, I dropped heaping teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. I was truly amazed that they actually looked close to what I remembered having as a child. Of course, I left off that last step with the walnut (and did not put any nuts in actually as most store bought divinity has).

I even had enough “batter” left to try and mix in some cherry pieces which was something the internet recipe suggested. However I made the mistake of adding too much cherry juice and that made the mixture turn back into that gooey substance that never hardens. Even now, the morning after, they are still sticky to the touch.

Anyway.. so that’s the very long, winding tale that led to me finally meeting with divine success. Now I have about 2 dozen cookies to share. They aren’t pretty.. as my dropping technique still needs some work, but they have the right taste and consistency. I’m going to surprise my mom with some when I meet her for lunch today. Hopefully it will lead to some good conversation about her childhood. I want to hear more about that while there’s still time.

In the Mood to Reminisce,

~Miss Divinity

2019-11-21 Turn Left at Uncertainty

Let me start by saying this has not been a happy day and this will not be a happy post, if you have (like I have) had enough of just feeling shitty today, then best just skip this one. My feelings will not be hurt, because my feelings are already hurt. I’m sure the sun will come back out again tomorrow or whatever.

In about 73 days I’ll be celebrating getting married with a few of my closest friends and relatives and also my new family. I’m sure it will be a happy time, but with some unfolding events in this past week I can’t help but be reminded of where I was at in 1993, preparing for my first rodeo, as it were.

But hold up – this isn’t about then, this is about now. It’s about friendship and holding on and letting go. It’s about giving the benefit of doubt and trying hard to stay connected in a world where the over-connected nature of things make all interactions feel a little shallow. How well do we really know people and even when we know them do we really know them?

The detail behind these questions comes from a place of such doubt. I’ve got a friend who I have known for about 15 years and she’s recently disappeared from contact. We don’t see each other often, but I consider her one of my people. We go to lunch about once every couple of months – that’s our thing. I should call her, but I am afraid that her non-responsiveness over text is supposed to be a sign that she no longer wants to have anything to do with me. This makes me very sad and I am scared to call her because I don’t know what will happen. I hate feeling rejected. I’m sure (or hoping) it has nothing to do with me but what then?

The second instance is my other friend who I have known for 9 or 10 years. We have recently been trying to make plans to get together and it just never seems to work out. Too busy I suppose and I’m half of the problem but now she’s not responding to text either. Again, I feel like I should call but can’t seem to dial the phone. Maybe I hate the phone. Maybe I’m scared of more rejection.

The third whammy came last night when a very dear friend of mine, who previously agreed to marry me (as in officiate my wedding), let me know it was too overwhelming and she was going to have to back out. I was disappointed as an immediate reaction and let her know right away it was totally fine and that I understood and that I still love her. I mean, it is a big deal and all and I don’t want anyone feeling too much pressure. But still, after having about 24 hours now to think on it (and also start googling for other options), I realize I’m just sad about it. I really don’t want to have some stranger marrying us. I knew it would feel more special if those I love were involved. As it is, we don’t have a bridal party so I’m feeling kind of alone on this bridal island.

It’s just been a rotten few days since the invites went out and I’m wondering now about anyone showing up. Perhaps I will get no RSVPs or people will just politely decline.

25 years ago when I got married, I sent invites to a bunch of my classmates I had been going to school with for 2 years who I thought I had formed lasting relationships with and not a single one of those people showed up to my wedding. After the excitement of the day settled into the rear-view, that really bothered me. I guess it still kind of does actually as I am still thinking about it now. Of course, about a week after I got married, I drove off to Vegas to live with my husband just outside of Nellis Air Force Base and never saw any of those people again. Like “poof” two years of bonding over assignments and late nights in the computer lab and ping-pong in the cafeteria, and hitting bars around town to play pool and darts and not drink because I was only 19. All gone.

I’m going to see a famous slam poet tonight, Buddy Wakefield, and Jim can’t go so I had to hunt around for another date. Thankfully my sister is able to go and that made me feel a little better. I’m just not sure what to do about these other friends. I dunno. Wait until tomorrow I guess and maybe then the sun will come out. Probably.

Flame Off,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-08 All Backstory and No Conclusion

This week I have disparate assignments. Comments from my mentor on my 3rd big packet of work came back and along with a ton of great feedback was a statement something like, “you’ve earned the right to have a blast with packet 4. Write what you want.” However, I’m still in class and getting those very specific prompts and instructions to write in a very specific way about the subject at hand. What’s a girl to do?

My answer is of course to split the difference. Half of what I write will be the freeform fluff that comes to my brain and the other half will be attempts at completing those pesky, yet quite reliably fruitful assignments.

One of the prompts was basically a repeat of the one earlier this semester where we were to return to the most painful moment of our life and write about it with a new lens. No thanks. Been there and done that and I’m not going back again. Not this time. Which leaves me with only one other prompt which was entirely new.

It’s a long one, but summing up, We’re supposed to put ourselves in a situation that is completely out of character, that We would normally never do, and then record all the results of the experiment. All the sensory input and reaction, other people as well as our own. Obvi it’s supposed to be something that makes us uncomfortable. After that, we take our notes and write some bad-ass poem. Yup. That about sums it up.

When I think about where I am this weekend, alone and left to my own devices, it’s like the universe is pushing me very strongly in a particular direction. I mean, I’ve got from now til Sunday afternoon free and clear for whatever I want to do. It’s ripe with possibilities. AND (and this is a big and deserving the all-caps) it’s also Barcamp weekend. Hold-up.. what??!

Rewind. Barcamp is a conference where a sizable group of people come together to listen to other people give mini-speeches and presentations about their passions— cool tech info, new entrepreneurial endeavors, interesting hobbies, ideas, just whatever. There is a focus track for tech and also those movers and shakers and makers, but there’s also a kitchen sink track which is open for any topic. That’s where I’m going to try and fit in.

Yes.. my plan is to speak at barcamp this year. The sign ups are day-of and you only need a ticket to get in, so very little planning in advance is required. That’s part of the appeal and also, for me, the sheer terror. Thinking too much in advance about it has caused me to chicken out in the past. But now.. I’ve got a prime directive and it’s perfect for my assignment.

Did I mention Public speaking terrifies me? It’s pretty common I guess. I heard once that most people are more afraid of public speaking than dying. Yeah.. that. To make matters worse, I’m not going in super prepared. I mean, I have a topic but it’s just going to be me up there talking. No PowerPoint presentation for distraction, no guaranteed plants in the audience to laugh at my jokes or ask pre-planned questions (The universe better save me if I run out of things to say and it falls into a Q and A!).

Good Gravy I’m starting to sweat just thinking about it. The thing I’m 100% certain of is that I can do it and I will not die. The best I can hope for is to not make a complete fool of myself and come away with some good starter material. The worst? That it will qualify more for that first prompt, the one about the most difficult moment of my life, than the second. 🤪

That’s it for today kids. The title said it.. all backstory and no conclusion. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that (as long as I don’t actually die).

Peace and Love,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-02 Counting Down with Mario

About a month ago I had a migraine. That happens. Later I was lying on the couch or in bed and Jim was sitting next to me or laying next to me or just next to me. I was holding my head and thinking of something from my childhood. Childhood being anytime before the age of 25. Back then I had headaches too and sometimes they were bad ones. Sometimes they were worse than that. I remember I used to hold my hand up to my left temple, as that is where the pain always seemed to congregate, and for some reason the placement of my hand, the palm to my fingers pressed across my forehead seemed to make the pain a bit more tolerable.

Likely, this was a figment of my imagination or some placebo affect I created in my head in order to make myself feel like it was feeling better for my sanity if nothing else. I remember this fine detail about my childhood because I made up a little story to go along with my little headache distraction trick. Whenever I placed my hand to my head and held it very still, another layer of bricks were laid there. The pounding in my head was our dear Mario with his mallet just doing the thing that all good Italian plumbers do, hammer away and make big messes (and sometimes crush boss fights).

Our fateful hero Mario would be hammering away at the inside of my skull in his classic red shirt and hat with blue overalls. Every smash through a layer of Brick made the pain worse and every layer of brick that I could lay with my hand holding my head made it better. I can’t tell you how many times before I discovered the miracle of modern medicine that I laid there for endless minutes watching this scene play over and over in my head. The bricks were mostly red bricks but sometimes they assumed the shape and color of blocks in Super-Breakout which we also had on our Atari 2600.

In those instances, Mario transformed into a small white bar inside of my head returning a tiny pixilized white ball to where the rainbow of bricks were stacked end to end vertically from the top of my forehead down the inside of the left side of my face. Always the left side which is really curios. If I trusted the internet I would google if there is significance to that, but you just can’t trust any search engine these days. Criminals with they proliferation of keywords has taken over. The anonymity of anyone posting almost anything has created a chaos in which there is no longer trust that any verified truth is actually true. It’s a damn shame.

Anyway, so I told Jim this story about Mario and my head and how I kept on doing it long into the years when I took meds for my migraine. How I lay there with my hand on my head waiting for the mix of Excedrin and promethazine to knock me unconscious enough that the pain was rendered powerless. Jim said “wow, that’s a great story, thank you for sharing that with me. Probably shortly after that I fell asleep because that’s the only real experience that cures the pain.

A few weeks after that, I woke up one day and decided my left brain needed a name and it’s no surprise I thought of Mario right away. That persistent little scoundrel had earned it! Of course being of a whole sound mind and body this meant my right brain needed a name too. Again, I’m transparent and predictable and enjoy puzzle pieces that fit perfectly as much as anyone so it had to be Luigi. Yup, that lovable sidekick whose green and blue are the perfect comic relief, the perfect partner in crime, the most appropriate taller Italian to compliment my left-brain Hero.

Now whenever I think about my left brain thinking in a certain way— logically or methodically or organizationally or in a sleuthy sort of way inside I say “That crazy Mario is at it again”. And then if I’m trying to apply my right brain, in an artistic or observational or sensual sort of way, of course I say “That’s Luigi hard at work writing all the poetry again”.

So today when I thought about the date, November 2nd in the year 2019 (11022019) and thought about it in a significant way, I realized that it was exactly three months until my wedding day (02022020). Earlier this week it was exactly 100 days. What’s next? Tomorrow will be exactly 13 weeks away, which seems sort of unlucky. That’s Mario though.. always working the numbers.

I wonder what Luigi thinks about how much time we have left before that very numerical day?

Game On!

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-08-31 Autumn Declarations 🍂🍅🌼 and Life Proclamations

I woke at 7:22am after sleeping for a solid 8 hours and 55 minutes. That’s the most I’ve slept in months, my average hovering at about 6.5. I feel great. Not just good, but great. Well, well now.

Despite a few bumps, August was a success. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, tip-toes, tipping over into September. A few days ago I said “I hate mums”, which is harsh. I dislike mums but I can’t hold it against them that they are the signature fall flower that pairs best with pumpkins and nights getting longer and first frosts. Its a terrible job, but some flowers got to do it.

I can’t remember if I’ve always disliked fall or if this is a relatively new development. Have orange and moon white and deep purple and maroon been stained by the September’s and October’s that have scarred my past lives? And why do I remember falling apart in Fall instead of falling in love?

I did that. A whole section of one of those lives titled “August and Everything After”, because I really believed at the time that it was finally my very own happy ever after that would last for the rest of my life. I was so head-over-heels in Love. That was 2011. It’s true, I’m not over it, I haven’t “let go”, not completely. Why must we?

I’m here today, standing in the glow of in the best possible light to make a declaration. I still regret mistakes that I’ve made but must also acknowledge that without them, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be somewhere else living a different life and only the Universe knows what that alternate reality looks like. Let us not “let go” ever. Let’s instead hold on to all of it and look back once and a while and just resist staring.

Do we need to reject nostalgia? Is it harmful or very useful? If we dismiss the past how can we learn from those mistakes?

A few days ago I was writing a poem and had a “need” to incorporate something I wrote in about 1989. I went on a hunting expedition and found myself knee deep in memories. Back then everything was hand written so it’s a lot of paper to go through. It makes me very, very grateful for my left brain organizational tendencies. I loved organizing my writing as much as I loved writing it. It’s all sorted and dated and labeled with clever, appropriate titles. I love coming up with titles for things. A few days ago I wrote a whole page that was just potential titles for unwritten poems. I digress.

I found what I was looking for but also found several hand written journals I didn’t know I had. #truth. I flipped through briefly and was like “yup, that was my life”.. back when I was married, not the “August and Everything After” guy, but years before that with my ex-husband. I just looked and didn’t dwell. I put all the collections back in the boxes and back up on the top shelf in my closet.

So that was a life, and that was a different life, and this is a different one too. They are all my lives and that’s life.

The real declaration is that Fall doesn’t have to be the enemy. I don’t have to dread it. I can build a life where fall means we look forward to sweater weather and Wearing boots and sitting by the fire-pit and enjoying looking out across the lawn and seeing the mums bloom, their deep reds and sunset oranges coming to life as the leaves begin to fall. It can be whatever you want, you just have to know what that is.

See you in September..

Peace and Love,

~Miss SugarCookie

PS.. Here’s the poem I was looking for from one of my former lives (don’t hate, I was like 15 when I wrote it)…

Stacey’s Proclamation

I thought that life was blue
And that mosquito bites were red
But life is green I guess
Because that’s what Stacey said.

2019-09-11 Hung Over Sunday Status

We had a shindig at the house last night and I’m feeling it this morning. Jim has a lot of relatives and so when we have a family gathering, it’s a pretty good size crew. No representation from my side. My one brother and one of my sisters live in Colorado and my other sister is on vacation this week in Yellowstone. My mom couldn’t come cuz she’s watching my sisters animals and my dad wasn’t invited. Such is life.

I’m on the treadmill trying to walk off the crummy side-effects from too much vodka-cran and so far, it’s not really working. I’m not really in a writing mood either and that makes it the perfect time for a Sunday Status Cheat Day. I haven’t done one of these in a while. That’s something noteworthy I think.

With that, I’m going to just take a quick look at the entire month of July and compare to August so far since we’re already a third of the way through that. Eeeeeek!

For steps in July I got an average of 13k per day, which is over my goal of 12k so that’s pretty good. August, so far, has been only about 8k a day and that’s pretty rotten. Hard to balance out to 12 with that much of a deficit.

In contrast, my sleep was poor in July and I only had about 6 hours average per night. I blame residency and NYC. So far this month I’m back up to about 7.25. Seven and a half would be better (I just need two more bits). I think I can shoot for that. I think I’ll start right now.

***

That’s enough of that. I needed a do-over so I took a half a Xanax and had a fat nap. I needed the sleep more than the steps. And I needed to find my way to some sort of normal Sunday. Not sure I’m there yet

I put on my kitty cat earrings and left my engagement ring on the shelf after my nap.

My tennis elbow pain, which woke again from its cortisone sleep somewhere in New York City is just really angry now. I went to lift a water bottle off the counter and pain surged up my arm. I’m gonna have to get back to the ortho again. /deep sigh

The kids who also missed the family party because they were at the wedding of one of their first cousins (on their dads side of course) which was somewhere in Kansas. I miss them, and perhaps that was one thing that contributed to my being a little loosy-goosie with the vodka last night. They have seven 1st cousins on their dads side and I haven’t seen most that crew for 10 years. I saw pictures posted on Facebook last night. That made me a little sad too. They are all grown up. Life happens.

When I was at res I met a guy named Jackson. After the lodge switched me to the second floor because of the wasp problem my room was right next to his. I hung out on the patio real late a couple of nights and he’d follow me down to my room to chat after. He helped me eat the hummus and crackers and cheese I brought with me and I was grateful since I couldn’t eat it. I hate when food goes to waste. Sharing a wall, we devised a “knock code”. Two knocks for good night and three for good morning and the classic “shave and a hair cut, two bits” knock for “hi, is anybody there”. It was sweet.

We’ve been to lunch twice now and I sat with him and another newbie of our little UNOMFA program at a poetry reading Friday night. Jim was spending the evening with his son who is headed back to college this week and I was grateful to know a few faces at Kaneko and not sit all alone.

Not sure if I mentioned this after residency but my kids went on vacation with their dad to Yellowstone and glacier national park while I was gone. Lots of driving and camping and their dad proposed to his girlfriend somewhere out there on some beautiful scenic overlook. It’s been a long time coming and there’s a little part of me that wonders if my getting engaged has a little to do with the fact that he’s finally pulling the trigger too. Ten years really is a long time for two divorced people to both remain unmarried. When I got divorced I vowed to never get married again. Guess I was wrong about that.

He told me a couple of years ago he would never marry that girl. Guess he was wrong about that too. That’s life. February 2nd is going to sneak up fast and I have flashes of inspiration about the ceremony and the reception, but mostly it’s all still pretty fuzzy. I think I need to think about it some more, but today is certainly not the day for that.

I’n a little bit the kids will be coming home and I’m going to have leftovers from the party for dinner. I don’t think I’ll be quite back to normal until tomorrow. It sucks to get old. I remember when I could drink like that and have a grand time (like I did last night) and wake up the next day feeling great by 10AM. Now hangovers seem to last about 24 hours. It’s rotten.

What I should have done this weekend is a lot of reading and writing but just never got down to it. The weekend hours are waning now and I may do a little light reading and see if I can get myself into it. Maybe.. no promises of course.

I guess this qualifies as a status. Status minus most of the stats. Ha.

Two bits and I’m gone,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-07-04 Great Day for a Ride! 🚲☀️🇺🇸

Seriously though.. I have no idea if it’s going to be a good day for a ride today or not. Our internet took a dive this week and I don’t have a data plan that supports apps and browsing and all that good stuff so I’m sort of stalled out on multiple fronts. It’s my excuse for not being able to check the weather and also why I’m not making progress on our “save the date” cards. 😜

I’d love to be able to map out a new 4th of July bike ride, which is my tradition for that day. I historically rode from my house to the Keystone and then hit the Bellevue loop to try and ride to the Missouri River. However, with the move this year, I’m now about 20 extra miles northwest of my original starting point and so that plan is no bueno.

The other part of that tradidition was that my ride was always solo, even when I was dating Matt. The holiday had always been a big deal for my perfect little family (pre-divorce) .. we hosted a sizable event with friends and family and had food and drinks and games all day and then a healthy firework display at dusk. Yeah, we were that block family that drove to Missouri to get the good stuff and when the show started, all our neighbors came out and sat around our cul-de-sac to watch.

All of that magic went bye-bye with the separation and I lost custody of the holiday in the divorce. It was always a bigger deal to my ex and the kids love it, so I let them have it. In return, I got Halloween, which the kids also love. From that year forward I would pack snacks and a beverage and get on my bike and just ride. It was great to be free and feel the wind in my hair and listen to my music. It became my time to reflect on the past and was good despite often getting emotional thinking about our family and friends and my kids gathered and having a great time without me.

I did that year after year and each year was a little better. I made peace with the past and myself and my failed marriage and all the loss that cane with it. This year is the 10 year anniversary of my first solo holiday and for the first time in 10 years, I won’t be riding alone. Jim will be riding right along side of me and it feels great to be starting a new tradition. It’s a good time to map a new route!

I’ve got about 4 apps on my phone that show the area trails and not a single one will load right now. Perhaps that means we should just wing it??! 🤷‍♀️

In any case, I’m excited about celebrating with Jim today and have so much to be grateful for!

I hope everyone has a safe and healthy 4th of July!

Cheers to Traditions!

~Miss SugarCookie