This is the letter I just wrote to my congressman and senators.  Please feel free to copy, paste, and use it to write to yours.  You can find your representative’s website and contact form here.  You can find your senators’ websites and contact forms here.

Dear Mr. _______,

I am not unique. And that is exactly why I am important.

I am one of millions of American parents who want stricter gun laws. I want for my children to go to movies, and shop for Christmas presents, and attend school without the risk of being mowed down by semi-automatic gunfire. I want to kiss them goodbye in the morning without fearing it will be for the last time. I want to raise them in a society that protects their rights more fiercely than the rights of those who might harm them.

There is no excuse for this kind of carnage. No amendment is worth this price. I am heartbroken, but I am also ashamed. And until our government can fix this hideous and inexcusable crisis, we should all carry our shame with our grief.

I beg of you to work with your fellow Congressmen and Congresswomen to take up the mantle of gun control, and not rest until it is resolved.

Very sincerely,
Gale P.

Best and Worst
December 13th, 2012

My parents have spent every New Year’s Eve with the same three other couples for the past 30 years or so.  They all met through church, back when their families were very young, and they’ve shared many seasons of life together.  They celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, children’s weddings, and all other manner of significant life events.  It’s a collective friendship that I really admire.

One of the group’s traditions is that on New Year’s Eve each person lists his or her “best” and “worst” for the year.  They’ve taken care to gently police each other’s responses, making sure that no one claimed a child’s SAT scores or MVP trophy as their own “best.”  As they’ve seen careers shift, grandchildren born, parents die, and so on they’ve had the chance to offer up a lot of different bests and worsts over the years.

This time of year is ripe for reflection.  We think back on the year that is winding down.  We start to ponder resolutions for the year standing in front of us.  Amidst all of this thoughtfulness I really like the idea of thinking back through the year and identifying what the highest and lowest points were, and thinking about how they might influence me in the future.  I also really like the idea of sharing these identified moments with a group of close friends.  Not only does that degree of transparency (when the answers are candid and honest, of course) help us to understand one another better at the current moment, but the accumulation of answers over years helps us to see with more clarity the paths that have been traveled by our friends.

I don’t know who I might share my best and worst with this year.  (GAP already knows, obviously.)  I realize that traditions like these typically aren’t born on purpose.  Further, I suspect that they carry more significance when they evolve organically.  Mostly, though, I like the idea that 30 years from now I might have a group of friends who have been keeping track of each other’s highs and lows for a handful of decades.

Frankie Say Relax
December 11th, 2012

My laziness was an end in itself: to relax.

I’ve had stress on the brain a lot lately.*  (See posts here and here.)  Work has been crazy for the past few weeks.  The holidays are wonderful, but they don’t exactly create an abundance of spare time.  And various other aspects of daily life don’t suddenly evaporate just because work and holidays have made grand entrances.  I’ve been feeling the stress of it all pretty acutely these days, and not always doing a bang up job of managing it.  I could feel it in my upper back.  I could sense it in the hateful thoughts that silently passed through my mind when someone “stole” the elliptical machine I’d been planning to use at the gym.  I could hear it in my tone of voice when the dogs got underfoot.  Something needed to change.

In the past I believed that genuine, productive relaxation could only be mine once the final item on the day’s To-Do list was crossed off; that any attempts to unwind while chores and errands awaited me would always be undermined by the stress of things left undone.  And up until this past weekend that belief had proven true.  But something in me reached a breaking point.  That list, at least for now, is not getting any shorter.  For every item that I check off I add another one or two.  I could sense that this likely isn’t going to change until at least mid-January, and I wasn’t willing to go through the next four weeks feeling tense and acerbic.

On Saturday morning GAP did what he always does on the weekends – he told me to relax, and for the first time maybe ever, I did it.  He took IEP with him to the gym just as SSP went down for his morning nap.  And I, still jammie-clad, curled up under a blanket on the sofa and watched two Tivo’d episodes of Parenthood. Our fondue pot sat in the kitchen sink with cheese still scorched to the bottom of it from the prior night’s holiday party with my girlfriends.  Dog hair billowed around my baseboards.  The beds were left unmade.  And I successfully ignored all of it!  It was the best decision I’ve made in weeks.

By the end of two episodes of my show SSP was starting to wake up.  After the credits rolled I walked upstairs to collect him, feeling as refreshed as if I’d gone for a two-hour massage.  I felt relaxed.  I felt on top of things.  I felt HAPPY!  Starting the day with my batteries charged made it infinitely easier to face the items on my list.  SSP pitter-pattered around while I got dressed, made the bed, and tackled the fondue pot.  My other guys returned home as I was cheerily sweeping the baseboards.  I almost didn’t recognize myself.

I don’ t want to go back to the level of unreleased stress I felt prior to Saturday.  At some level, though, I’m glad that I found myself there once.  It triggered a change in me that I’m not sure I could have made otherwise.  It forced me to experience for myself that sometimes relaxation best preceeds productivity.  It smooths down our splintered edges.  It buoys us against choppy waters.  It fuels our tanks for the work that lies ahead.

As of Monday morning the sheets hadn’t been changed and the laundry hadn’t been done.  I had, however, gone out for pizza with my boys, taken a nap on the couch,  walked the dogs and gazed at Christmas lights, and  gone out to dinner with good friends and seen a movie with GAP.  In some way, it was absolutely the most valuable use of my time.

*Yes, I realize that thinking repeatedly about stress likely does nothing to lower my feelings of it.  I like to be ironic.

Learning to Wait
December 6th, 2012

“Learn to wait.”

They are words my grandfather is famous for, though I most often heard them from my mother.  “You remember what Granddaddy always says, ‘Learn to wait,’” she would remind us.  In these instances waiting was almost certainly some brand of drudgery.  It was what we had to do on long car trips, in long amusement park ride lines, or in the lead-ups to birthdays or Christmas or the last day of school.  Waiting felt like paying dues – something we had to endure before we could make our way to whatever prize lay in the distance.

I thought about all of this as I listened to the sermon in church this past Sunday.  As many priests do this time of year she reminded us that Advent is a time of waiting.  She commented that for many of us the most commonplace forms of waiting – for tables at restaurants, for meetings to start, for a coffee date to arrive, etc., have recently been supplanted by the most commonplace form of mindless occupation – the smartphone.  I am not here to curse the evils of the iPhone, the digital camera, or the internet.  I believe that by and large they are all significant boons to modern life and that we are better off with them than we were without them.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that simple, undistracted waiting is becoming increasingly unfamiliar to many of us; so much so that I would guess most of us view it with the same intolerance that a five-year-old views the 30-ish days that clutter the path from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I’m here to turn that thinking on its head.  I say that waiting is a blessing.  I say that waiting is a gift.*

Esperar is the Spanish word for “to wait.”  It is also the Spanish word for “to hope.”  I’m sure I’m not the first person to wax philosphical about this coincidence.  That, however, makes it no less relevant here.  When we hope for something it is because we are facing an unknown.  We must then wait to discover whether or not our hope will come to be.  Does this mean then, that a life without waiting is a life without hope?  I don’t think so.  But I think that for the most part hope is implicit in waiting.  Waiting means expectation.  It means we are looking ahead to something.  It means we have something worth our excitement and anticipation.

This is true in my own life beyond the Christmas season.  We are in the middle of a very long wait in our adoption process.  Referral wait times for Korean placements are currently running ten months.  Every time someone asks me how the adoption process is going I shrug my shoulders and sigh.  “We’re still waiting.”  And yes, the waiting is hard.  But we have a child to wait for.  We are so lucky to be waiting; so lucky to know that at the end of these many months we will have another wonderful little boy in our family.

For adults, December is an easy time of year to view waiting with relief, since many of us have a hard enough time as it is getting everything done before footed pajamas scamper out of bed on Christmas morning.  But muttering to yourself, “Thank goodness I still have a week left before Christmas,” is not the same thing as embracing the wait.

Embracing the wait means that we reflect on what is coming.  We prepare ourselves for it.  Whether we are waiting for the Christ child or a Korean child, when we do it right we are better off for it.

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*I understand that there are exceptions to this.  Waiting for a loved one to come home from a military deployment.  Waiting for the results of a medical test.  This is not the kind of waiting I’m talking about.

Christmas Tree Karma
December 4th, 2012

They gave us the wrong tree.

We picked out a tree that was about eight feet tall, very full, and needed a bit of pruning at the top.  When we got home the tree that we saw when we put it up was also about eight feet tall, but was very slim in silhouette, and not especially burdened by a profusion of branches.  (Read: a little on the scrawny side.)  GAP and I looked at each other and jointly decided to make our peace with this tree, mostly because loading it back atop ye olde SUV, carting it back to the tree lot, and having to pick out another tree all over again was really more than we could muster.  “It will look better when it’s trimmed,” we told ourselves.  And for the most part we were right.

This was not our first misadventure with this particular tree lot.  And, truth be told, we’ve had some bad tree karma coming our way for a while.  Frankly, I’m surprised it took nine years for it to make its way back to us.

In 2003 GAP and I were engaged.  He was living with a good friend (we’ll call him Matt) who was also in graduate school.  I was living alone a few miles away in an apartment that I would soon share with Matt’s fiance (we’ll call her Carrie).  The boys’ apartment was huge (and drafty…) with ten-foot ceilings that practically begged for a large tree.  We wanted something that would scrape the ceiling, but in the interest of pinching pennies (I was “underemployed” at the time, and the other three were all living off of student loans) we settled for an eight foot tree.

At the conclusion of our joint trip to the tree lot (run by the local Optimist Club, I should note) Carrie went into the little tent where the cashier’s desk resided.  She told the very cheerful and very old man that we had picked an eight foot tree.  He gave her the price and she wrote him a check.  It wasn’t until we were back at the apartment decorating said tree that we realized we’d ripped the sweet old man off.

“You know, I was really surprised at how cheap our tree was,” Carrie told us.

“Really?” we asked.  “How much was it?”

“Eight dollars and 64 cents,” she said.

“WHAT???”

“Yeah.  I was shocked too, but he asked how tall it was and when I told him eight feet he said, ‘eight-sixty-four.’”

At that point we all did the math and realized what the man meant was, “An eight-foot tree is sixty-four dollars.”  The Optimists, like most other lots charge by the foot.  At eight dollars a foot we had shorted him roughly $56 dollars.  We thought about going back and paying the difference.  Then we looked at our figuratively turned-out pockets and thought again.

In return for our inadvertent stunt we swore loyalty to the Optimists for all future tree purchases.  And we’ve never bought a tree from anyone else.  I think about this story every year.  (It is better if you know Carrie, who is truly one of the kindest and most honorable people I’ve ever known.)  And I thought about it again this year when I told the sweet, old man that we’d selected an eight-foot tree and he said, “Eight-seventy-six.”

I don’t really have a moral to this story.  It’s just a story that I like to tell.  It makes me feel some connection to an otherwise pretty generic tree lot.  And it makes me think of a wonderful time in our lives that we were fortunate to share with some very dear friends who have since moved out of state, and whom we miss very much.  When you get right down to it, I think that’s a lot of what Christmas is supposed to be.  Not so much the ripping off of charitable organizations headed up by senior citizens.  But acknowledgment of all the good in our lives, and fond memories of Christmases past.

Christmas is a happy time for us.  And we are very lucky that it is.

What Really Matters
November 27th, 2012

This is a tricky time of year when it comes to the word “meaningful.”  For many of us, Thanksgiving serves as the gateway holiday into a six-week period of major ambivalence.  We think Rockwellian thoughts of hearth, home, and family.  And yet we run down our metaphorical batteries with errands and obligations that make us anything but happy.  We have idealized visions of what this time of year should be, but somehow our very attempts to realize those visions dismantle them, one ironic piece at a time.

What is it about the pursuit of “what really matters” that causes us to sacrifice everything that really matters?  Why, in the name of family and togetherness, do we spend most of December fighting traffic in mall parking lots?  Why, in the name of homemade baked goods, do I sacrifice multiple leisurely evenings with my husband?  Why are we so prone to let the holiday season – which is marketed with rosy cheeks and roaring fires – turn into stress and drudgery?

As we sit down to make our list of New Year’s resolutions at some point during the upcoming month we inevitably take stock of ourselves – strengths and weaknesses alike – and earmark for improvement those things we wish were different.  And while I am a believer in this exercise, I think the timing is a bit inopportune.  On the one hand it allows us to indulge in the holiday season’s guilty pleasures with reckless abandon.  But on the other hand it also enables us to adopt the mindset of “just getting through” the holidays and thereby let them devolve into an empty shell of their actual purpose and potential.

This year I’ve found myself with a rare and unexpected gift – some extra time.  Every December since we were married, GAP and I have thrown a Christmas party.  It has traditionally been the Saturday after GAP’s company party, and usually ends up being the week before Christmas.  But this year everything is shifted up a week, leaving me two full weeks before Christmas but after our party circuit winds down.  When I realized that this was the case I was initially flustered at the short turnaround time, but ultimately embraced it when I realized that two full weeks of decidedly lower-key holiday merriment would follow.

And so, in an effort not to destroy those two weeks of quietude with the side effects of procrastination, I am making some Holiday Resolutions for myself:

  1. I know what I need to get most of my recipients, and will take advantage of that fact by shopping now.
  2. I will shop online as much as possible to prevent unnecessary trips into jungle-caliber malls and shopping centers.  I will consider shipping fees a reasonable price for sanity.
  3. I will wrap presents as I buy them, not in one marathon session on December 23rd.   I will not wrap late at night.  And I will not wrap without a mug of hot chocolate or glass of red wine nearby.  (I love wrapping, but it’s easy for it to become a chore if I procrastinate and don’t take any care in setting a pleasant ambiance.)
  4. I will not worry about mailing holiday cards until after our party has been thrown.
  5. I will not obligate myself to cook 85 different varieties of cookies for coworkers.

As with any goal, I don’t know how successful I will be.  But experience has shown me that I’ll come much closer to my ideal by the mere act of identifying goals.  I want this Christmas season to leave me room for what really matters.

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This post was originally published in November of 2010.  With Thanksgiving falling early this year I have the same extra week between our annual holiday party and actual Christmas.  So this post is ringing as true to me today as it did two years ago and I thought it worth reposting.

A Legitimate Question
November 15th, 2012

Only recently have I begun to lie about my age.  I’m perfectly willing to concede that I’m 35.  But when I reach the end of a Boden product review entry and am asked to categorize my age I just can’t bring myself to check the 35-44 box.  I always check the 25-34 box.  Thirty-five is one thing.  But I’m not yet ready to reconcile myself to the fact that I’m part of an age category that includes 44-year-olds.  I’m pretty sure that it’s okay for me to avoid unpleasantries about my age, though, because I am not the House Minority Leader.

Yesterday, as she announced that she intends to keep her current post as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi grew offended when NBC reporter Luke Russert asked her about whether that decision damaged the Democratic party by preventing younger leadership from taking the reins.  As soon as the question was out of his mouth the congregation of women standing behind Pelosi cried foul.  ”Age discrimination!” they shouted.  Russert (bully for him) held his ground, though, repeating the question and pressing for an answer.  Pelosi then remarked. “Let’s for a moment honor it as a legitimate question, although it’s quite offensive. You don’t realize that, I guess.”

Now I know the old saying goes that a lady never reveals her age,* but I’m here to say that I think that women (at least women in public service) shouldn’t get a pass on this issue any more.  Once upon a time there was a much thicker glass ceiling than there is today.  Women didn’t serve in houses of Congress, on boards of directors, or on the United States Supreme Court.  Slowly, though, we’ve chipped away at that glass and today women fill all sorts of leadership roles.  This progress is both wonderful and warranted.  But just as women’s merits should be held in as much esteem as men’s, so should our accountability be challenged as persistently.

By asserting that Russert’s question was offensive Pelosi tried to give herself a pass, to move on without answering it.  It sort of pains me to say it, but no man would have done that.  The ages of Reagan and McCain were widely discussed during their presidential administrations and campaigns.  I wasn’t following politics very closely in the early ’80s, but I followed the 2008 presidential race energetically and never once did I see McCain avoid a question about his age.  He consistently responded that he was in excellent physical and mental health, and that his age had provided him a full set of life experiences that would guide his leadership of the country.  These are fair questions in the political arena, and if women want to go toe-to-toe with men in elected office we can’t ask for special treatment on certain topics.  Part of shedding the sexist limitations of our nation’s past is also shedding some of the chivalrous protections that went along with it.  Russert’s question was a legitimate one, even if women of Pelosi’s generation don’t like to think so.

In retrospect what surprised me most about Pelosi’s initial “How dare you!” response was that once she got past it and gave a real answer, it was a good one.  She talked about not having entered Congress until much later in life than her male counterparts and her resulting awareness of the need to elect young women to the House.  She talked about her efforts to shepherd younger representatives into positions of leadership.  She made it clear that her maintenance of her current role is in no way detrimental to the grooming of younger leadership.  (Whether or not you agree with that is a different question altogether.  My point here is that she had an eloquent answer.)

In a way I think Mrs. Pelosi weakened herself with her knee-jerk rejection of Russert’s question.  She should have embraced it.  In doing so she would have conveyed confidence in her tenure and her experience.  Her eventual answer about working to facilitate younger leadership would have rung true.  And the headlines following the press conference would have focused more on her leadership and less on her age.

No elder statesman has ever apologized for his age.  No elder stateswoman should either.

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*To this day the age of cosmetics legend Mary Kay Ash is only an estimate.

A Springboard to Accomplishment
November 13th, 2012

When we are being honest we will admit that our culture isn’t perfect.  This is true of every culture on the planet.  We all have our strengths, but we also have our weaknesses.  And unless we are willing to cop to those weaknesses, they will continue to plague us.  I started thinking about this yesterday after listening to this piece on Morning Edition about Eastern vs. Western perspectives on struggle.

The piece begins with a poignant description of a fourth grade classroom in Japan.  As the children are being taught to draw three-dimensional cubes on two-dimensional paper it is the child who is having the most trouble with the lesson who is selected to do his work on the board.  Reporter Alix Spiegel aptly notes that in the U.S. this would be considered cruel and unusual.  We would never want to publicly humiliate a child by announcing his failure to grasp the material.

In the Japanese classroom, though, the reaction is vastly different.  As the child fails to get it right and repeatedly keeps trying, the other students patiently wait (apparently without any kind of teasing or mockery – that alone impressed me a great deal) until he finally mastered the cube, at which point his fellow students broke out into applause.  In Eastern cultures this kind of struggle is part and parcel of the learning process; something to be embraced and conquered rather than a source of shame or inadequacy.

My children are growing up smack dab in the middle of America.  We’re doing our best to expose our kids to a variety of cultures, and to help them understand at a core level that there are lots of different approaches to life.  The fact remains, though, that in this part of the country long-standing cultural norms are strong and not often diluted by influences from other cultures.  We will have to work hard to infiltrate those norms with awareness of different paths.  This may be easy enough when another culture’s way of doing something is more fun or interesting.  But getting kids to sign up for more struggle is going to be a tough sell.

Already IEP is reluctant to keep after something that he finds tricky.  When a sweater sleeve gets turned wrong-side out he comes to me to right it.  When he gets to the final few bites of oatmeal in the bottom of the bowl he asks for help in scooping them out.  And far too often (work- and school-day mornings do not lend themselves to embracing struggle…) I oblige him.  There are times, though, when I decline.  When he can’t find a puzzle piece and wants me to help him look.  When he turns a backwards shirt around on his own because I’m in the shower.  When he cuts his food with the side of his fork because I’m busy feeding his brother.  And in these situations, when he figures it out for himself, his pride and satisfaction are palpable.

I try in these moments to point out to him how capable he is, and how good it feels to do something successfully even though it was hard.  I think I need to step back even further, though.  Explaining to a four-year-old in abstract terms that “Isn’t it nice to have a genuine sense of accomplishment?” won’t get us to a place where he fully embraces struggle as a part of learning.  We are all steeped in the belief that it is superior to find things easy in the first place, rather than to conquer things that are hard.  Overcoming that belief will require us all to experience firsthand the value of the struggle.

Struggle is uncomfortable for most of us.  We don’t see it as the springboard to accomplishment.  But perhaps with time - and some struggle itself – we can.

Mandate Schmandate?
November 8th, 2012

Everyone’s talking about the mandate* and it makes me cringe a little bit.

While I’m not afraid of expressing a controversial opinion on this blog, I typically try to avoid Red vs. Blue politics here.  I will say today, though, (not that it will surprise many of you) that I’m pleased with the election results and optimistic about what the next four years will hold for our country.  Nevertheless, I really don’t like all this talk of a mandate.

The premise, of course, is that when a candidate wins by some margin wider than a hairline fracture he or she is entitled to make sweeping changes rather than ”tinkering around at the edges,” as GAP put it to me last night.  My initial response to that was that anyone who is elected President of the United States had better be doing more than tinkering around at the edges.  Yet I still struggle with the mandate.

My objection is that it’s arrogant – that it implies some sort of carte blanche permission to ignore the other side and use your victory to push and shove whatever legislation you want into reality.  And I don’t believe that’s any way to lead a nation where very nearly half of the voting public cast their ballot for the other guy.  For the record, I don’t think President Obama operates this way.  Rather, it is within the media punditry that it keeps popping up.  This is still relevant, though, because we hear from media personalities far more than we hear from the president (he’s a bit on the busy side), so their nonstop yammering has a significant influence on how he is perceived.

My bristling at the mandate was briefly quelled by this post at The New Republic which eloquently addresses the broader impact of President Obama’s re-election and the message it sends about what kind of America we want to be in the future.  Reading it I nodded at the discussion of the “referendum on liberalism” and agree that if the nation voted against that referendum then those votes should mean something.  So it isn’t so much the behavior underneath a supposed mandate that bothers me as it is the rhetoric piled on top of it.

As it turns out, I’m apparently in good company.  Yesterday Ezra Klein tweeted “There’s no such thing as mandate. There’s only what you can get done with the Congress the Voters have [given] you.”  And this morning on Morning Joe David Axelrod said of the mandate, “That’s a foolish word and it’s generally untrue.” **  Thanks for having my back, guys!

So why-oh-why, then, must people parade about speaking as though Democrats have been given a permission slip to bully the right into submission?  The Republican party dug its heels in with far-right candidates in a number of races (Akin, Mourdock, etc.) and lost.  I don’t see how rubbing their faces in it with talk of a mandate is going to make anything better.  These are polarizing times and if we’re going to get anything worthwhile done in the next four years it’s going to be because both sides were willing to cede some ground for the common good.  Given the losses the Republicans suffered in this election they may have to cede more ground than their Democratic counterparts, but it’s still a two-way street.

I’m glad the president won himself a second term.  I’m excited to see what he does with it.  I think he is an accomplished and diplomatic negotiator.  I just wish the media would quit obfuscating that fact with all of this hubbub about a mandate.

*Mandate mentions can be found here, here, here, and many other places.

**See the 3:35 mark for the beginning of this discussion.

The Crucible of Too Much
November 6th, 2012

The first dinner party I ever threw wasn’t exactly a disaster.  That’s pretty much the only good thing I can say about it.

GAP and I were newly married and we decided to have people over for dinner on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.  Ten of them.  We had just moved into our first apartment together.  We were excited.  We kept inviting people.  When it was all said and done I had somehow managed to sign myself up for preparing a seated dinner for 12.  (Did I mention that this was my first dinner party?)  I won’t drag you through the details of it (thankfully most of them are hazy), but my primary memories include: gaspacho dip spilling all over my counter just before people started arriving, the enchiladas not being properly sauced and therefor ending up as tough as roof shingles, and barely seeing any of our guests because I was stuck in the kitchen up to my eyeballs in the realization that I’d bitten off way more than I could chew.

I suppose that if, after surviving that evening, I’d run for the hills with no intention of ever hosting anything again it would have been a justifiable moratorium.  Nevertheless, I’m glad I didn’t.  Because now, eight years later, I’m here to say that I think I’ve more or less cracked the code on entertaining.  That code?  It’s such a cliché I’m loathe to type it: Less is more.

At the time I’d watched enough episodes of Barefoot Contessa to understand the merits of making things in advance, choosing simple but tasty dishes, and not planning an event so demanding that you have no chance of actually enjoying it.  And yet it took me years of failed attempts at breezy, effortless entertaining before I finally got it through my thick skull.  I think somehow I felt I had to prove myself through the crucible of overdoing it before I gained the confidence to dial it down a knotch.  But now that I’ve hosted eight holiday cocktail parties, three Christmas dinners, three Easter dinners, one bridal shower, one baby shower, and countless smaller gatherings I have a better understanding of what constitutes a success.  This past weekend was the culmination of all that I’ve learned: Think about what your guests will find enjoyable, not what they will find impressive.  A stressed-out hostess makes for a stressful party.  And simple food is usually better than fancy food.  That’s it.

SSP’s first birthday party was Saturday, and family members started rolling into town Thursday evening.  Over the course of four days I served four different meals – two suppers, a lunch, and a breakfast – each without too much stress or incident.*  I spent none of them in the kitchen in a crazed dash throwing together last-minute dishes.  I sat down and enjoyed the company of my guests.  And we all gobbled up the food.

When I turned 35 earlier this fall I had many mixed emotions about it.  There is much about the excitement and anticipation of striking out into the world of adulthood for the first time that I miss.  But for every experience that was once exciting and is now ordinary there is another one that was once stressful and is now comfortable.  I enjoy the parties we throw so much more now than I did in the beginning.  I wish I could go back in time and take Ina’s advice to heart at a younger age.  But some things we must learn for ourselves.

*My sister did bail me out on Saturday morning by getting the salad prepared while I dealt with an almost-four-year-old who had decided that the excitement of company was as good a reason as any to completely ignore me.

***********

In the event that you’re interested, my menus this past weekend were:

Thursday Supper
Turkey burgers and tossed green salad

Friday Supper
Butternut Squash Soup (minus the ginger, half the cumin, plus about 2 tsp of brown sugar)
Two loaves of crusty bread
Three kinds each of cheese and charcuterie plus apple wedges scattered on a big carving board
Caramelized Vanilla Ice Cream (minus the salt, plus 1 Tbs vanilla extract)
Pepperidge Farm cookies

Saturday Lunch (Birthday Party)
Pulled Pork Sliders
Potato Torte (minus the summer squash)
Ricotta and Red Onion Pizza (dough ball purchased from neighborhood pizza joint)
Tossed Green Salad
Birthday Cake

Sunday Breakfast
Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
Scrambled Eggs

PS – In the event that you didn’t notice from the links above, I am a huge fan of SmittenKitchen.com.  Her readership is literally 8,000 times greater than mine.  (Seriously.  I did the math.)  So I don’t expect that my little plug here will carry much weight.  But her first cookbook was just released last week I’ve spent every spare moment since last Friday pouring over my copy.  If you’ve never read her, check out the blog.  And if you like the blog, do yourself a favor and buy the book!


Gale