Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm perpetually cold. All the time.
My primary doctor claims it's caused by my deteriorating thyroid, but I don't have any of the other symptoms. So I blew off my doctor, told her to stick her stethoscope where the sun don't shine and put on an extra pair of socks. I know it started a couple of years ago when I lost a lot of weight. I've read that a lot of people -women in particular- suffer from cold after weight loss because... well, to be honest, we're losing blubberesque insulation. We transform from crooning whales to chirping dolphins. Since then I've become more active. Probably more active than when I was younger.
I run, walk or do some form of cardio every day. It's not so much a workout routine as something to keep boredom away. Despite all my activity and my awesome metabolism and my drive to go outside and DO something rather than watch television all day, I'm insanely cold. Nights in the fall are pretty bad, but only because winters are worse.
I tend to sleep with socks on, flannel pants and as many comforters as I can pile on. Even then, I vividly remember nights where I lay shivering for an hour under a mountain of blankets and countless layers of socks and long-sleeved shirts under short-sleeved shirts under sweatshirts. I just can't get warm and at that point I get scared. How would I survive if I were to be displaced somewhere further north?! I would most certainly die from hypothermia and be as blue as a Smurf until a group of adventurous aliens abduct my corpse and attempt to explain to their elders just why the human race suddenly diversified to include primary colored skin pigmentation.
I've come across a few things that help remedy this problem. They certainly will not help everyone, because they do not always work for me; some nights are worse than others.

1) Jumping rope/Jumping jacks right before bed
    The point is to raise your body temperature to a point that is normal and healthy for you. You don't want to get sweaty, but be vigorous enough to spike your metabolism. Take deep breaths to bring oxygen to all your muscles and you will feel your arms, legs and chest begin to warm- Why? Because turning oxygen into energy makes friction which causes heat. Everyone knows heat rises, so the heat from the expired oxygen moves from the muscles up to your skin. Yay, science!
   When I do this, I start out wearing as little as possible (e.g., t-shirt and shorts) and run through a minute of jumping rope/jacks. Then I throw on my heavier layers and dive into bed, always making sure to tuck the ends of the blankets under me so the cold air from the outside sneaks in when I shift position.
2) Bed Buddy
    This part can be as PG13 or NC17 as you want. I usually call in my dogs and, being Golden Retrievers,  they snuggle in as close as they can on either side- another reason why it's good to have more than one dog: you're the hotdog and they're the bun! However, since they are dogs and not people, they might switch rooms in the middle of the night. For me, this isn't a problem. I have trouble falling asleep in the cold, not staying asleep in the cold. I'm sure that if you have dogs and want them to stay by your side throughout the night you can train them, shut your door or strap them to the bed against their will. After all, if you freeze and die in the middle of the night because they decide to wander off, who will give them bacon for breakfast? Of course a healthy alternative would be your partner but if you're easily distracted and one of you is feeling frisky, sleep will be the last thing on your agenda.
3) Easy Layers
    If you have trouble getting warm, but stay warm once you hit a certain level of temperature, it's best to wear layers that are easy to take off in your sleep. Otherwise, you'll wake up to a puddle of sweat. Socks are easy to push off if you're either half-awake or completely asleep (I once found four pairs of socks I thought had been thrown away tucked into the foot of my bed and have no recollection of putting them there myself). T-shirts are easy to pop off or lift up to get ventilation. Don't forget about layering comforters and blankets so if you push the top layer off, you'll still be able to stay warm without suffocating. And never forget about popping your arms out from under the covers to get some air.
4) Hats
    Hopefully your mother has told you before I have, but you should really wear hats when you go outside to play in cold weather. Fall sporting events usually feature entire stadiums of vibrant-themed hats, skiers wear hats and so should you. The more skin that is exposed is more surface area prone to heat conduction- when two surfaces touch and transfer heat. Heat automatically moves toward colder areas (just look at weather patterns) and cold slips right in once heat is gone. So if you're outside and it's fall and the leaves are falling and the air is crisp with that smell that reminds you of snow... you are capable of losing up to 40% of your body heat through the exposed surface area of you head. The face, scalp, neck and ears are all vulnerable. So if you wear a hat outside and stay warm, what's to stop you from wearing a hat to bed?
    OK, so it might not be terribly sexy, but it could be fun! Also, pick a style of hat that isn't stifling. No faux fur hats that might irritate your skin, no stylish hats with loose string or fabric that might get caught around your neck, in your mouth, on any jagged or sharp edges near your bed or caught in any piercings-ouch! A knit cap might be plain, but it will probably do the trick.
5) Liquor (21+, please)
    Not a fan of snuggling/hat hair/fussy layers/aerobics? Liquor has been known to bump up your internal temperature since before the colonial days. My own Gran has admitted to spiking her children's hot toddies with rum after a day in the snow! Not only that, but as a depressant, liquor will also increase the "sleepy" feeling because it slows down the nervous system and help suppress any early-night cold spasms you might have.
    Listen to me, though: a shot per night will do! I'm not saying it's OK to down a fifth of Wild turkey just so you can feel your toes.
    Pour a thimble of whiskey into your evening coffee or tea-preferably decaffeinated- or whip up a spiked milkshake. Pies, cakes, bread puddings or snacking cookies infused with bourbon, scotch, rum or brandy will do, too. They may be fattening, but the warm factor will carry on through the your pre-bedtime activities such as brushing your teeth and right when your head hits the pillow, the liquor will hit you.

This isn't scientifically proven in any way, nor is it endorsed by any health-guru such as Dr. Oz or whatever quack they have on TV now. But these remedies are cheap, easy-to do, and they usually work.
I still get cold spells, but I'm working on it: During the day I drink hot-hot-hot green tea, hot chocolate or cider. The afternoons are spent doing cardio or aerobic or light-weightlifting and when I spend evenings outside I always make sure I have multiple layers ready. I keep a blanket in my car for star-gazing, sweatshirts and hoodies by my bedside and I always keep my warmer socks on hand throughout the year, regardless of the summer weather. Do what you can do, that's all I can say right now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

English 102

I remember back in college when my professors would write up loud comments about how irritating my use of passive voice was. I never understood; it's how I used to write. In my short stories, or almost-stories, my characters were thrown about in unknown worlds with unforeseen circumstances and consequences: they never knew who or what or why things happened. It just did. 

I have since learned that passive voice has its place. While effective in certain scenarios, it does not hold up to a long-term style of writing or speaking. In fact, passive voice should be just that: a passive, neutral tone that does not assume nor take part. It's a method of delivery that's most useful in accidents (that BP oil spill years back) and scientific texts where direct human interaction with the topic is frowned upon. In both cases, the person writing the document means to refrain from being personally involved with the words on the paper. There is no direct correlation between the human element and the facts of the topic.

Now, seeing how passive voice is used to manipulate the tone of the matter for the purpose of eliminating the error-prone mistakes humans make every day, I realize that passive voice isn't a gimmick one should use so lightly. When used incorrectly the results can be rather infuriating.

Well, for me they are.

I have a co-worker... let's name him Ben. Ben is a college drop-out who refused to let the system get the best of him. While I admire the fact that he managed to squeak into a business such as the one we work in without having a Bachelor's degree let alone an Associate's, he is a tad uneducated in the finite details of writing/speaking in a professional atmosphere.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Ben found a job and I'm glad he managed to work everything out to his level of satisfaction. I'm just terribly annoyed at his use of passive voice. I'm not sure if it's be accident because, like me, he was unaware or if he's doing it be design. Either way, I cringe every time I hear it happen or read one of his e-mails.

Well, what could happen to make the office darken and tremble like Mordor's ashen sky with violent spurts of molten lava arcing out and over the land? Just you listen to when he tries to explain something.

"The document wasn't making any sense."

I'd like to verify that this could be a valid statement. Our job is to interpret the engineer's
applications, take their notes on how to properly work it, and turn those notes into a readable, fully-functioning document that average people can understand. It's called tech writing, and while the engineers at my workplace are very good at what they do tech-wise, they are not writers. If they were, I'd be out of a job. It's entirely possible that the document was filled with equations or diagrams from CAD, or that the foreign terminology perplexed him.

However, I'd like to paint the rest of the picture for you: Ben's got a nervous tick and his right hand will start tapping whenever he's particularly distressed. Ben also has a grainy, weak voice that tends to break when he's frustrated. He's a whipcord thin child of a man with nervous eyes and he rarely looks the person in the eyes when he speaks to them. Also, I looked at the document after the fact and I can verify that none of my possible explanations mentioned above were present. American-English was used and, while it was riddled with fragments, it was comprehensible. Now combine all this together and repeat after me:

"The document wasn't making any sense."
            Just what about the document didn't make sense?
"Well, the python command was wrong."
            Did you know the command was wrong?
"I kinda knew it, but I used it anyway."
            So you purposefully entered an incorrect command?
"Yeah. The document was wrong."

And here it is. "The document was wrong".
Not, "The engineer gave me the wrong command" or "I used the wrong command". Oh no, it's the document's fault. An inanimate object made Ben enter the wrong python code into the terminal window for the application and crashed the GUI. And because the document was wrong, it's automatically the document's fault for not making any sense. In the transit between the originating engineer and Ben's laptop, the document decided to not make sense.

Really? In an environment such as this, where the engineer is next door and can probably hear this conversation and the bossman is looking down his nose in astonishment, Ben had the gall to drum up this crap.

When a public announcement is made, passive voice can be used to protect the identity of a person or corporation. But when you're in a room with your boss and he's looking for a valid explanation as to why the laptop is suddenly unusable, he's not going to appreciate the subtle cleverness of passive voice. He wants to know who to talk to and who needs to get their act together and start pumping out finished products so the money can start rolling in to pay all the monkeys in this office.
Ben is definitely one of the poo-throwing monkeys. Also, you can't reprimand a document. 

I'm making a big deal out of this, aren't I? Except in reality, I'm not. This happens every single day and Ben comes up with lame excuses by utilizing the no-blame concept of passive voice. I understand that he made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. I made a big one just last week and ran about trying to cover my bum. Ben refuses to take any blame whatsoever. Why were the outside lights left on over the weekend? Because they were on after he left. Why weren't the blinds closed for the night? Because they were open when he arrived.
And to top it all off, when things get too heavy for him- and it doesn't take much- he throws his hands up and squeaks out "I don't understand! Please, tell me what to do!"

Is it that hard? Please, I'm dying for someone to tell me that's it's actually very hard to walk next door and say "Help".

Monday, August 6, 2012

I have a secret. I enjoy listening to Carly Rae Jepson's "Call Me Maybe".

I doubt anyone would call me a teeny-bopper; I have enough classic rock on my computer to keep me busy for a few days and I even have a good day's worth of not-so-mainstream hard rock/metal. I enjoy Ska on a regular basis mixed in with true oldies such as Roy Orbison and Hank Williams Jr. So why would I stoop to listen to some Canadian songwriter whose akin to the Beiber-epidemic?

I don't know why. But I know I've done it before (Hanson's "Mmm-Bop", anyone?)
To be honest, I don't listen to the radio. I don't care to keep in touch with today's Top 20 because I don't respect any of the artists out there. I look back at music the way I look at books. My interest is mostly retrospective and I find joy in going through my mom's records from when she was in college rather than watching MTV. When I first heard about Carly Rae Jepsen, I was severely dehydrated, hot, and covered in an insane amount of purple.

Wait, what?!

I ran the Color Run (the happiest 5K on the planet) whilst I visited a friend who lives in Philadelphia, PA. There was a dance party in the streets afterwards and pounds of colors were thrown into the crowd, thus covering every single person in orange, green, yellow, pink and purple. It was during this dance/street/rave-in-the-streets where me and my friends were gulping down bottles of warm water and sweating rainbows that I heard Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe". I remember the girls screaming the words and the guys groaning at having to hear the damn song one more time. I was a virgin to it, however, and the upbeat  tune caught my attention. I went home, downloaded it and it's now on my Ipod. I've probably listened to it 5 times this past week, mixed with my Psychostix, Disney, Gershwin and Metallica. I enjoy it, but on my terms. If that song pops up on Random and I'm not in a happy-go-lucky-my-life-is-awesome-because-it's-Canadian mood, I skip it. The reason for Ipods, personal CDs and MP3 players is so that people aren't subjected to the monotonous playlists of current radio stations where the top 15 songs are on constant repeat and sandwiched between commercials and bouts of talking radio-hosts. If my Ipod tries to impersonate the radio, I turn it off. Try and tell me what to listen to? I don't think so!
And so as much as I like the song, and as often as I listen to it, I do limit myself. Just because I'm infatuated with its naive cuteness doesn't mean everybody else is. But the song isn't restricted to just the radio and my Ipod. Oh no. Have you seen the memes? My personal favorite...

 Anyway, the point of this is to say that I have quirky tastes and I'm not really ashamed to admit that I like something that's already over the hill. Yes, I still listen to Hanson from when they were cool in the 90's. I still listen to the Spice Girls, too.

 Spice up your life!

 Ahem. Do yo have any guilty pleasures?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bake Me Something

Here at work - I won't bore you with details about what I do and where I work and such - we recently underwent an audit. The stock and administrative assistants raced to Hell and back trying to get this place in order for the occasion. They did a fantastic job and we passed with flying colors. So to thank them, I baked a cake.

And it was good.

Dark cocoa-flavored with a hint of coffee to deepen that aroma and taste of the chocolate. There was no butter, so this wasn't a dense cake, and it was slightly spongy in texture without being chewy. I paired it with a strawberry-infused SMB (Swiss meringue butter cream) and everyone raved over how delicious and silky the frosting was. I got compliments, like always, and the cake practically disappeared in under 20 min, like usual. I walked into work today and I *still got comments on how good the cake was, which has happened before. I received an e-mail from a co-worker who was out yesterday, heard he missed out on cake, and practically begged me to make one again as soon as possible. This, too, has happened before. And as I sat down at my desk, someone walked by my office and called out, "You should open up a bakery."

I have heard this too many times to count. Nearly every single time I bring in a baked good- gluten free, egg less, vegan, cookies, cake- I hear this. And it doesn't happen just at work. Oh, no, it happens everywhere. My friends have said as much, my family agrees that I have a collection of yummy recipes, and even my picky grandmother enjoyed the lemon pound cake I made for her. So I'm sitting here, thinking back to all the compliments and reviews, and I can't help but think... Yeah. I should.

But the harsh truth is, I'm not that good of a baker. I've gotten lucky with most of the recipes I find. They were already wonderful and moist and delicious without me. I pluck them out of cookbooks and food blogs and change the ingredient list before I'm halfway done the trial run. I'm incredibly picky, as well. If I make brownies, I can imagine just how gooey and chocolatey they should be. If they don't reach that level then I never make that recipe again. If I don't love it, I don't share it. Which means I eat a lot of the failures myself with copious amounts of sobbing. It's hard being so picky. I have no head for money or numbers or any kind of figuring such as how much equipment, supplies, ingredients, space, building, a lease, electricity, convection ovens and employees would cost. Hell, I wouldn't even know how much flour to buy. I purchase ingredients as sporadically as I bake, and sometimes I do a lot of specialty buying/baking such as almond flour for my friends with Celiac disease, or dehydrated blueberries for my killer blueberry cheesecake, or mango for yogurt-pops.

Then again, there aren't any local bakeries that I'm fond of frequenting because their products just aren't at the level that I crave. There's a French-Asian bakery about 20 min away but it's pricey and considerably... well, French. I like macroons as much as the next person, but I tend to shy away from the red-bean paste and pistachio flavored shells. There's a traditional bakery/cafe not even 5 minutes further down the road but they serve Hershey's Ice Cream instead of home-made soft serve. Their coffee is from a Folgers can. Their donuts look like Krispe Kreme rejects. I'll pass.
I know there's potential, and it's been my dream for a few years now to be able to have a baking business of some kind. I've tempted the idea of operating from my own kitchen, but I'm completely clueless as to how to make it work. As I said before, I have no head for money, so I would undoubtedly go bankrupt in the first few months. Also, there's the difference of baking for a party of 10 and baking for a crowd of 50. The quality degrades with the increased number of sales and customers, plus the time limits allowed per baked good.

I'm ranting, I know, and I'm probably nonsensical about the whole thing, too, which is another reason why the idea wouldn't work. Did I mention I kind of crazy? No? Oh, well, guess I wanted to surprise you. So for now, I'll bake for friends and friends' boyfriends and holidays and co-workers. I suppose that's enough for me. Maybe one day I'll make a food blog and actually take pictures of my creations, post said pictures on the internet and get gratification that way. I'm not original in my idea or discovery of such a release, but I'm OK with that.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hard-pressed for Inspiration

I've been staring at the screen for at least an hour. Maybe longer.
I lose any sense of time when I get into the mood to write. Even if I'm at work, going through piles of old software instructions. The repetitive motions of scratching out, underlining, circling, writing notes, questions and comments...

What page am I on? Only page thirteen? Should get a couple more pages done.

It's easy to forget how long I've stared at the words. I try to keep at least 12 hours between revisions. Otherwise the revisions blur together and I lose track of what engineer said what about which component and what was wrong with it and why it's where it is.

But I don't really want to talk about my job. I want to talk about the numbness of a blank mind staring at a blank page.

It's empty. A vast galaxy of white space. A canvas to which an artist such as myself can paint beautiful pictures and carve out wonderful stories. While I have some ideas for stories, the first thing I always want to do with a fresh page is create a fantastical setting. Like the first scene of a film that opens on a blue sky sparse with clouds and then pans down to a quaint home or cottage, or even a bustling apartment in a city. It's that first image and all of its quiet descriptions that set the tone for the first five minutes: how saturated the colors are, the shape of the clouds, the harshness of the light, whether there is wind or not and if there is, then whether the wind is coy and gentle or strong and unyielding.

"The soft glow of the dawning sun whispered through the space between the buildings and shyly crept into bedrooms."

But that's the only thought that I can think of right now. I usually get stuck when I write, and it's usually because I spend too much time thinking of appropriate and descriptive adjectives and interesting nouns than the topic of my though.

See? I just did it again.
I could have easily said "...too much time thinking of adjectives and nouns..."
But I didn't. It's not necessarily a problem, but it's not the answer. Tolkien was a big describer and I hated the long, drawn-out scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring with Old Man Willow. Does it really take two pages to describe a tree's roots? Apparantly.
Now, I'm not hating on Tolkien. I appreciate his intelligence and diligence in creating a coherent world with its own language, its own hierarchy of living creatures and the impending doom that resides in something so unassuming as a ring.

But I don't really want to talk about Tolkien's infamous LoTR trilogy.

Actually, I'm not quite sure what I want to talk about.
How about the fact that I have four notebooks at home, each containing segments of stories that will never be put together because I don't have the patience to write out such boring tidbits like Tolkien did with Old Man Willow? I'll admit it, I'm a little lazy. My hand takes too long writing out the words while my brain is already shooting off into the distance and by the time I realize there's a gap between the engine and the baggage car, the tracks are cracked and split and I cannot keep the connection. The thread holding my fragile story together is frayed, broken, unraveling at such speed and with such ferocity that the only way to live with myself at all is to abandon ship.
The parts of a story that I know need to be written -the aside to the stepmother about an assumed assassination on the king, a snippy quarrel between friends that result in the ultimate backstabbing, a monologue about the bitterness that sits in the protagonist's heart- I have little faith that these scenes will play out on paper the way they do in my head. I do what any self-medicating human does: I skip it.
Like a question on a test that I'm not completely sure about, I skip it and continue on my merry way. I know that when I come back to it, I still won't know the answer. Even if I guess, there's a chance that I'll be wrong. And the test -a.k.a. my story, for those who can't follow analogies- is incomplete. Forever haphazard in its existence and I am the one at fault.

Oh, I realize that I could curb my rebellious intention of deliberately leaving a certain chapter alone until it "solves itself " and say the lines aloud, base the pending actions and phrases on past experiences and curious glimpses into the possibility of the future that takes place with what-ifs... And yet it makes me queasy with blasphemy in making my characters act in such a desperate way that only echoes my own feelings: a desperate need to finish the scene. But such desperation often brings out the worst in me and when that happens, my characters reflect my uneasiness. They appear out-of-character when they really shouldn't and they start to say things that make me that much more frustrated.
I usually end up ripping the pages out of the notebook, because honestly, is it worth using up all of my good eraser trying to remove it all?

I used to write in pen. Then I realized that half of my pages were colored in like a spastic three-year old found a cross-word puzzle and assumed it was their coloring book.
An eraser is a writer's good friend.
The paper shredder is a writer's best friend.
And empty paper is the enemy.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


This is a topic that I have very strong feelings about. They run deep, as deep as they can go, and they're pretty bold. That might be because of my not-so-perfect childhood. Since I was younger I've noticed that others have shared my experience. Some turned out perfectly fine, some turned out OK and others are like me: permanently messed up in the head. Now, I'm not saying I was beaten -although from stories I'm hearing from my older siblings, it got close to that on several occasions- and I'm not saying that my parents were negligent, although that's not entirely true... Alright, let me start from the beginning.

My parents got divorced when I was in middle school.
Yeah, not quite the shocker when it comes to childhood disturbances. I realized a long time ago that it could have been a lot worse: personally, I was never beaten. I was never deprived of food or locked in the basement as punishment. I was never whipped, belted, smacked around, sexually abused, kicked into a foster care system, turned out onto the street or over medicated so the 'rents could have "quiet time".

My father figure disappeared in a silent manner, which was probably the best thing he's ever done since my parents married. As children, we were happy and blissfully ignorant. My mom made sure that we never saw my father when he was dunk, we were always taken care of at another house when he turned violent, that he never laid a hand on us in any way, that we generally stayed occupied the whole time with her side of the family, and participated in sports and activities such as music lessons. The thing is, mom did such a good job protecting us from him that he ended up not being there. During the week he was at work from early morning to late night and we often ate dinner without him. Saturday and Sunday mornings I remember him sitting at the table drinking coffee and Diet Coke and then he was off with his buddies. When I was a 7th grader in middle schooler, there was a whole week that went by where I didn't see him at all. I'm still awe-struck by the fact that none of us kids said anything because he was never around to begin with. One morning my mom kept me home from school and told me that he had moved out, he would never be coming back, and the paperwork for divorce was in transit.

I cried because I was a statistic. It upset me more that my family had fallen into the trap and could be grouped with all the other single-parents on the East coast who had their parent member walk out. I couldn't make myself cry over him, or be upset because he left, or that I would never see daddy dearest again. I had no bond or emotional attachment to him.

Since then I have been wary of relationships. The one's I've had I tried to keep light and playful but as soon as it turned into something serious, I was out. I made myself out to be a bitch just so there was an excuse to end it. I'm truly selfish, but I look at it now as self-preservation. I am terribly bitter about my position in society and I still get unruly when people ask "What does your dad do?"
Another string that ties into this is that I'm a slight feminist. Certainly not an extremist, but I think it's unfair that men get most of the credit for having healthy children and healthy families and the best jobs int he market- from my own experience, father figures suck. Mine never proved he was worth spit and I still carry that with me. My mom worked herself to exhaustion to keep us kids together, happy and unknowing. It's thanks to her that I got the encouragement and funding for college, it's thanks to her that I stayed in college even after I realized my GPA was below par. She even started her own IT Networking company several years agao and is still running the company herself. So when people ask about my dad... Well, I get snarky.
 Now don't get me wrong, I can appreciate successfully marriages and happy families -Hell, many of my friends have happy parents who are still married, or got divorced but remain friends. It can happen, I realize that.
I also realize that it is a rare gift to be able to grow up with that. I stopped checking out the statistic, but the last time I looked the divorce rate in the US was something like 62%. That's a scary amount of divorce. Not everyone has a good experience from it. That is what makes me balk at having a relationship.

Let's consider a scenario. Let's say that I get over myself, find a young man -or woman (it's 2012, anything can happen)- have a healthy and happy and long relationship. We get married. Two or three years into the marriage, once we're comfortable with each other, we plan kids.

Hell. No.

This is where I will forever keep my opinion, and where the title of this particular post comes into play.
I was a kid once. The early years were hella fun. I had a huge blast playing and running around and playing soccer and making friends.
I also lost almost every friend I ever made within a year because they decided I was fun, but not cool. I also got majorly disappointed and depressed when my childhood soccer team fell victim to prejudice. Teachers and coaches and my musical Boards became overwhelmed with picky people who had their favorites and doted on them while ignoring everyone else. I got shy, nervous, smarmy, sarcastic, biting and very defensive. My teen years were hell for everyone involved.

Even if I get the balls to force myself to find some sort of love with another human being and try to procreate, even if I talk myself into thinking that childbirth isn't that painful (another "Hell No" right there. I have cable, I see what happens and that shit is no walk in the park) there's still the fact that I will be in charge of a helpless and defenseless living creature that will one day turn out to be exactly like me.

Again, please: Hell. No.

I was there for my childhood. I saw how my mother tried to tame me and it didn't work half the time. I remember losing friends, hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting pushed around and being made fun of. I do not want to be responsible for that.
I said it before and I'll say it again: I'm selfish. I really am.
Also, I consider myself damaged goods, like a Pontiac Trans Am. I look nice and I can sure talk nice, but ask me to have the stamina to cover a road trip and I'll bottom out at end of the driveway. I don't think I'm meant to have kids because of the way I am. I'm crude, rude, selfish, quick to point out faults... I've seen parents like that. My brother has told me that's how our father was. Mom's made comments about it to, how "that must come from your father".
I don't want to be like him. If I already am, then I should be smart enough to stop before I completely follow his example. I do not want to be the reason for increasing the nation's divorce rate. I refuse to be the cause of a broken family because that hurt runs deep and it never goes away. Besides, I have the attention-span of a goldfish and I wouldn't parent the brat properly. If I were to have a child, I would want them to be polite and well-behaved and confident. I'm not any of those things, so therefore I cannot provide by example. My child would be the screaming one in the candy aisle while I light up a joint in the back because "I can't deal with it". There are better parents out there. I'll leave the child-rearing to them.

I wish I could leave this on a happy note, but seeing as how I'm incredibly bitter right now I don't think that's possible. Except, maybe to thank my mom once again, who managed to not break down under the pressure of raising three kids, keeping a house and land in one of the most expensive counties on the East coast, always having family pets, affording vacations and camps and trips... I love my mom. For as much as I gripe about family, I'm glad she's my mom and I probably would not have turned out at all if it wasn't for her.
Thank you for being so strong, mom.

From left to right: Amy, mom holding me, Matt

Monday, July 16, 2012

The buzzz..

It's been in my head for well over 4 hours now and I can't get rid of it. It's haunting me, driving me mad to the point where I just want to break down and sob and rush home and...
...make cake.

I know I've said it before, but I'm a baking junkie. And I got it bad this time. Originally I was going to post this elaborate debate over the age-old question: Cake or pie? I know that there are people out there -poor, deprived and uncivilized people- who don't like cake.

I should sneer when I say that, because I'm one to talk. I don't really like pie.

In any case, I started writing out the complications of cake vs pie and I started searching my top favorite food websites, trying to find an image and recipe to capture my passion about cake. Glorious cake. Fluffy cake with a delicate yet moist crumb paired with a gorgeous and silky frosting- and that's when it hit me. My hankering to bake. I've kept it at bay as of late, due to the heat outside and my self-conscious attempt to train for another running event (do you know how hard it is to run 5K when your insides are stuffed with brownies and cheesecake?) but I can't deny it's there. I've dealt with my craving in short bursts of fruity sherberts and low-sugar jams or compotes. I crave for both the action and the result of this obsessive habit of mine.
The act of baking relaxes me. The stirring of the batter, measuring out the ingredients, making buttermilk and even putting all of the ingredients back in their place afterwards. It's my zen.
Of course, eating the cake is also good. I enjoy almost everything I make with a few exceptions (garbanzo pound cake, for anyone who's interest) and lately, it's been the eating aspect that I crave.

I want to stuff my face with a chocolate cake laced with caramel. I want to lick my spoon after diving into a delicious butterscotch pots de creme. I need to swim in a pool of warm dulce de leche cheesecake. I can envision these items before me as I type and I am so close to eating my keyboard in an attempt to ease this pain. I'm aching for these sugary delights and while my stomach grumbles, my brain is cackling. Because I know I've done this to myself. I've revealed my inner light, my sanctuary, and it just so happens to be full of brownies, cupcakes, cookies and cake.

Damn, we're back to cake.

I've always hated this draw toward cake because a whole cake is a lot for one person to eat, but I hate to give something away when I've carefully crafted it to my personal tastebuds! A couple of months ago I found a delicious recipe for a coffee-mug cake. It's cake, but it's single-sized portions and it's mixed and baked right in a coffee mug. The danger to this is that I'll want one every night. I did that once and I don't think my jeans have still forgiven me. So if I give in this one time and cave in and make a cake for myself tonight... what's going to stop me tomorrow? And the day after that? It will only fuel my craving and demand more. More chocolate, more white chocolate chips, more cinnamon, more Nutella, mix in that cookie butter spread, stuff it with candy bars and Oero cookies!

Oh dear lord, I've become a monster. I'll have no friends if this keeps up. Well, no human friends. I guess I can always mold a face out of the enormous pile of butter I always have in the fridge. Is that too weird? I hope someone else has an obsession as sick as mine, because I honestly don't know if I'll ever stop dreaming and drooling over sugar encrusted muffins and samples of peanut butter cookie balls.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Not Quite Grown Up

Great news!

We completed high school, got accepted in a four-year college and graduated! Some of you have gone on to graduate school to obtain a higher level of education, and hopefully a fatter paycheck, while others have settled into the monotonous habit of working in the real world. Steady pay, troublesome commuting and rationed meal plans to afford anything that you don't find off the side of the road.

As young human beings, we aren't exactly thrust into this situation. I know for a fact that my high school teachers and college professors all spouted the horrors of corporate jobs, financial blunders and familial squabbles. The real world may not be a jungle anymore, but it is still a dangerous place. The young are blissfully unaware of its habitual secrets, the middle-aged are mentally riddled with paranoia, the elderly are near comatose as a result from everyday interaction. So as we cheerfully step out from the carefully crafted umbrella of safety our teachers and parents have woven for us and into the dismal fray of modern society and technology we are deemed Grown Up.

Personally, I think it is wrong to assume anyone is ever "Grown Up". Truly, what is it that makes a person mature? Is it the ability to man up and face the facts that yes, you are actually going to have to get up every morning, Mon-Fri, 9-5, every day until your grandchildren are out of school? I hope not. But right now, sitting at a desk in a building where that is the case, I don't feel Grown Up or mature or responsible. I feel like...

Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.

I know I'm not the only one out there who feels this way. If everyone loved working and drowning in paper and test results and procedures and legal copyrights and in-house editing manuals and conferences and remote desktopping from another state, then the world would be a nicer place. Sure, there would still be power outages and famines and droughts, but people would go to and from work with a smile.

Creeped out yet?

I've decided, and I'm sure people have noticed, that I don't want to grow up. Growing Up is for old people. I'm not old! I am in my early 20s and if I want another cookie I will take that cookie and eat it with so much enthusiasm that everyone will be jealous. I will get the blue-raspberry snow cone just for the fact that it WILL turn my mouth blue and whenever I smile people will think I devoured an entire village Smurfs. I will ask for ice cream after dinner on a Tuesday evening. It's a miracle I'm not diabetic.

And yes, I understand that the real world needs to be serious and there are some serious issues that require a delicate hand. But it is physically impossible for me to accept the idea of completely losing all the joy from my childhood that made me the person I am today. If corporate life makes people trade in fun for a paycheck, then count me out. The day that happens will be the day I start selling baked goods out of my car. Do you know how many cookies you can fit in a Honda Civic? We will find out!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I've got a problem

If you have ever known me at all, you know that I love food. Ask my friends, my roommate, my family: I am obsessed with food and baking, in particular, is my bane. Allow me to elucidate.

Tell me you need a birthday cake, and I'll whip up an easy chocolate cake that is fluffy and moist and sweet. Tell me you need something dark and seductive and I'll manage to pull out a dark chocolate Sachertorte with pomegranate curd instead of apricot preserves. Say you need something for an anniversary and I have the perfect recipe for a white chocolate cake with a Swiss buttercream that will make your mouth cry and your arteries explode. I've researched and successfully created several gluten free baked goods, egg less items and completely vegan options with garbanzo beans. I don't necessarily like life challenges, but if you say "cake" then I will overcome it.
In my most frustrating moment, this past spring I made Chinese New Year pineapple tarts (I know, I know, I was a little late making these. But B+ for trying, right?) and I went through four batches of tart dough before I got a successfully buttered crumb for the base. FOUR batches. That's three sticks of butter and 3 eggs per batch. I used up over 2.5 lbs of butter in my pursuit of perfect tart dough-ness. I often do this to myself: I psych myself up for an interesting and delicious treat, lying to myself and saying that sure, I can make pineapple jam and tart dough and roll the dough out and cut it up and pile the jam on and chill the tarts and bake them with a low and slow method in one afternoon. And then the worst part happens.
I didn't plan for failure.
It was too hot for the butter so it kept melting and the key to any kind of tart/pie dough is COLD BUTTER. When cold butter gets folded in with flour and such, it spreads without melting and is folded over on itself to create multiple layers of butter, flour, butter, flour, butter, flour and end up succulent, crisp, flaky and so delicious (croissant, anyone?). But that didn't happen. My butter downright melted. My dough was the equivalent of the sloppy gruel they serve in orphanages. I went through three batches like that, throwing each one out and raving about the kitchen like a Sasquatch with an itch I couldn't reach. Three batches. The kitchen smelled of butter, I had butter on my clothes, on my feet, on the floor, in my hair. I was buttered out. And that's when I think "Maybe baking isn't fun after all".
Don't lie; I know you've been there, too. Maybe not with butter, but that level of frustration and despair is relatable.
Honestly, I'm don't quite remember what made me try to make the tart dough that fourth time. I know I cut up butter and threw it into the freezer and I made the all purpose flour/corn flour combination that the recipe called for and I prepped a bowl of pineapple jam. And... I don't know, I just kept my mouth shut and I blindly went through the steps as calmly as I could.
And it worked.
Seriously, don't ask me to explain. Maybe it was the freezer, which actually made the butter rock hard and almost unworkable. Maybe it was that the sun was setting in a glorious blaze of colors and the temperature dropped. Maybe the Baking God took pity on me and granted me this one favor. I can't tell you what happened, except that I was determined.
It's that determination that has condemned me so many times in the kitchen. I get depressed when I can't nail a recipe. I get upset when the flavors don't live up to my expectation. I mourn when my presentation is lacking. I have, in fact, cried over brownies. I have a standard that I set for myself and anything below that is inexcusable.

I guess that last sentence is the main reason I started writing this today. We have expectations for ourselves. Sometimes we set them too high and when we don't meet that... Well, I know that I turn miserable and mopey when I fail myself. There's that saying that you are your toughest critic. I always thought that was some poetic bullcrap to make people feel better about themselves. But it's true. I can't help but want to live up to a standard that I crave. I want to be accomplished in the art of baking. I want to know everything and be able to do anything and be able to say that "Yes, I did it" with a smug smile on my face because I know that I worked my ass off to make someone else impressed. Maybe that's the wrong way to look at it, but I never said I was perfect. As a human, I'm flawed. And I guess that comes into play as well. Just because I'm not perfect doesn't mean that my baked goods aren't. If anything, I feel like I put a part of myself in everything that I make, and in turn, those cakes and tarts and pies and brownies reflect who and what I am and what I'm capable of. They represent the best of me.
And the best of me is damn delicious, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In the beginning

Once upon a time there was a kingdom ruled with the gentle hand of a loving King. He was just, fair, patient and loved his subjects dearly. He placated the common troubles of his people with the wisdom of his years and his experience was not lacking, for the King had spent many months trekking across the continent seeking out diversity and knowledge. Not all the knowledge can be found in a library, the King was fond of saying to his kin with an aged smile. Simply reading will not educate one on the world's difficulties and pleasures. So when his own children became of age to begin learning the skills of ruling a country...
... the King kicked them all out with a bag of Doritos, a jar of pickles and a 1980s edition of Oxford's English-to-Spanish Dictionary and slammed the kingdom gates in their faces. 

This first blog, for anyone who cares to read anything I manage to churn out, is a teaser trailer for my personality: sweet, giving, considerate... as well as undermining, snarky and blunt. I'll try to keep my insanity in check but I cannot promise anything. At least I have the chance to edit before I post it. Else I might be in real trouble. REeeeeeal Trouble. Trouble that starts with a "T" that rhymes with "P" that stands for POOL! Or polio. Really, the choice is yours.

So I suppose I should have a point with this project. There are already so many blogs on the internet, some that are neat, some that are pretty, some that are helpful, and a whole lot that aren't any of the productive adjectives I just listed. In fact, some are downright rude, crude, disgusting, pathetic, incoherent and blasphemous! But I digress. 
I suppose, if I must, that my personal goal for this is to express the multiple ways one can use words to write. 

Well, it doesn't sound that impressive when I type it with a bunch of white space in the background. And it certainly doesn't sound impressive when I say it in my head. And I certainly sound crazy as I try to say it aloud. But this is a general goal that I feel like I can handle.I'm good at making micro-managing lists, I'm terrific at coming up with ideas for projects and intros and essays but when it comes down the act of delivering on said theories... I often balk. I fall back, retreat, retract my previous statement on the grounds of unstable brainwaves. And really, even I haven't experienced the many ways of writing. 
Sure, I've tried my hand at fiction and poetry and sci-fi -who hasn't- but there's a reason why there are only a handful of celebrated authors: the rest of us suck. And sure, I went to college and obtained a Professional Writing degree. I feel that, although I was educated to the best of my abilities at the extent of my teacher's resources, my learning was stunted by the fact that "to write" covers a plethora of possibilities that no one person can cover. And even as I nod and agree with myself that this is a EXCELLENT idea... I can already tell I'll manage to find reasons to escape it. Frankly, I don't enjoy scientific research or fashion reporting and I get no joy out of reading/writing a script for a play or film. So, in short, I will reset my goal to something simple.

I promise, with or without my sardonic humor, to put forth samples of my style of writing and show how the topic, mood, intensity and location can affect my own ability to write. This might actually be a good exercise for anyone who has an interest in writing. I hate it when teachers hand out those "How to write" books that are full of pg. 4.2.12 exercise B scenarios. Those are so stale and stagnant you might as well be swimming through a southern bayou in the heat of August. So... 

Shall we do this again tomorrow?