Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Butter and Sugar.

Here's the recipe for...

 Grampy Jim's Candied Sweets:

4 large Sweet potatoes (enough to fill a electric frying pan in one layer, flat)
water (enough to barely cover potatoes)
butter (😊 )
sugar (😉 )

Cut large sized sweet potatoes into quarters.  Place in electric frying pan in a single layer.  Add enough water to just cover the potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then turn it on low.  Cook on low for a lot of hours  :).  Yes, just a lot.  You'll get the hang of it. Begin by adding a stick of butter and about a half cup of sugar.

Flip the potatoes gently, because as they cook, they will get soft, and you want to them to stay somewhat solid, and not get all mashed up.

Let them cook on low... for a long time.
And then you just add butter and sugar, (as Stella has learned), whenever you feel like it.  (Grampy Jim told my aunt that the recipe was "about a stick of butter and a cup of sugar," but my mom watched him make them for many years and said any time he walked past them he added a little bit more sugar, and a little pat of butter." (You end up using about a cup of butter, and 2 cups of sugar). 

They should be "candied" through, stick to your teeth and delicious.  They cook all day (Just keep watching them, making sure they are cooking, and not just sitting in warm water, butter and sugar.  The water should cook off within an hour. But make sure they are not burning!  Put the pan in the fridge and then keep them on warm, to keep getting even more sticky all morning the next day until you are ready to eat.   

Stella makes the Candied Sweets, now.  She started helping me make them when she was 4.  I cut the potatoes up, of course, but I let her add the sugar and butter, (which I would put on a low, little bench so she could reach it all), as much as she liked, and she flipped/mixed them by herself.

My mom taught me how to make them.  Grampy Jim taught my mom.  It's a tradition to make them every Thanksgiving every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We make them every year.
And I make all the pies.  I know how to make Grampy Jim's flaky crust:  Stella does too.

***
It's funny how the repetition of an action or event or occurrence over years, and through generations becomes expected, and most often something that family or friends cherish and look forward to.  It becomes tradition.  And we adopt and cling to these traditions at a young age.  Change is difficult for everyone.  We want some things to always be the same.  We need some things to never go away.  We need some things we can pass along to our children, knowing they will continue with them, because we've instilled in them the love and family history that holds our lives together.  Tradition.

It took me too long to fully grasp that I can't recreate entire experiences for my children, (which were filled with bountiful and beautiful traditions when I was a child), but instead pull out the ones I know I can teach my children and pass along without any help from anyone else.

Because.

Even as a very grown up (old) person, now, I still have a difficult time letting go of what I knew and wanted my children to know.  I had to accept that traditions fade as generations move along, if we let them.  No, I guess we don't always have a choice.  My children have different grandparents then I did.  They have different extended family.  They have different parents:  That would be me, and that would be Sam.  We aren't my parents.  I am glad we aren't my parents.  I want to be who we are and have been for them, because I know they are them, because of who Sam and I are as parents...

No matter all the craziness I know has existed in myself, and in our adult lives, (And damn it.  My kids are so smart, they know more than we want to think they know), the twins are little people who love deeply. My children want things to "be the same."  My children understand tradition, and the depth of family love, whether they have it tangible and live-and-in-color as often as they should.  They have listened to every story about every loved one I could ever remember to tell them, and every memory of all the people they may never have had the chance to meet, or who left when they were too young to remember fully.  They know. They already know.

This Thanksgiving was quite different than any they had experienced in the past.  It was just the four of us.  We didn't have a lot of warning that it would not be the way they expected... tradition... but things had been slowly changing for years... People in our family have changed, and moved apart from us, even if they weren't moving away.  They still lived 2-20 minutes from our home.  We had never had a Thanksgiving with just the four of us.  We'd never known a holiday without extended family.  The kids were happy, just the same.

***

When I child, we had to sit on the stairs on Christmas morning and sometimes sing holiday songs until my parents would let us go into the kitchen and look into our stockings.  We'd dump them out on the kitchen table.  We had hooks on a kitchen fireplace.  We always had to go to the kitchen first and look in our stockings and eat some breakfast first.  Usually my mom made us Candy Cane Coffee Cakes, and I think it was their chance to make sure everything was still in order, (and that the cats hadn't knocked over the tree, or the "Santa" presents were in order [which were never wrapped, always put out in front of the tree], and they could drink some coffee and prepare themselves for the crazy day).  And it just stretched out all the fun, the anticipation...  I never, ever peeked into the living room even though we could see the tree from the kitchen table if we had looked.

My children never peek, they really don't! They are just like me, or how I was as a child.
They love the magic and the anticipation of the holidays, (however it is conjured), and they don't want to ruin it.

They have even woken up hours before Sam and I even felt capable of functioning properly after a long night of putting together some dollhouses or other toys that seemed to have a million pieces and directions in foreign languages.  And they would lay on our bed, or wait on the steps, or climb back into their beds if we told them it was too early and would giddily chat and giggle and keep calling down, "Is it time, yet?"

(My best childhood friend, Heather, used to unwrap her Christmas presents carefully and rewrap them weeks before the holiday arrived.  I couldn't imagine not wanting to be surprised.  I wondered how she could be surprised or excited on Christmas morning, let alone act like she was anything at all).

Anyway.  It only takes one parent and one child to keep a tradition alive, I've realized.  And I also know I can't try to make anyone else do what I hope and think they should do, and to understand the powerful importance of family traditions.  I know I have to think about my kids.  I must keep them moving along, through time, collecting memories.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Scissors and Fire.

The other night I pulled my ponytail to one side and cut a chunk of hair off with a pair of scissors. The scissors happened to be in arm's reach.  I just did it.  Children do things like that... they see scissors and can't help but cut the couch cushion, or the tablecloth, or their siblings hair...  A sense of rebellion, or freedom?  My older sister cut my hair, secretly of course, when I was about three or four and I have had bangs ever since.  My mom said, "I was so upset, but then I realized you looked a lot cuter with bangs!"
At least she didn't stab me with them.  She tended to want to hurt me for various reasons, quite often, when we were kids.

Just how they like it.
I didn't care. I mean, I didn't care about cutting the end of my ponytail off with kitchen scissors. It seemed like something I felt like doing.  I just became the kind of girl... woman(?) who does that shit.  Fuck it. Maybe I was making a statement, or maybe I just really saw the scissors and did it without even thinking.  I know Sam walked into the room and I filled his hand with hair and he ripped the scissors away from me telling me I was acting crazy.  I didn't seem very crazy.

I used to like to look nice, and I cared a bit more about my hair.  I know I don't have a perfect face, and I'm not beautiful, (certainly which would be revealed if I was bald).  I know my hair can easily affect my appearance.  I cut a chunk off without really caring about anything like that.

Maybe I am sick of being blonde.
I'm sick of having to damage my hair to try and make it just right, and compliment my skin tone, or spend a crap-ton of money at a salon to have it highlighted and "look natural."

I'm not blonde.

Some people have to keep everything together, or they look like a mess.  I never worried about that  to begin with, so I guess that's part of my problem...  Messy bun, and just a swipe of mascara, before I rush out the door to teach? Oh well.  I showered.  I'm dressed.

Hey, I even cut my bangs in the faculty bathroom with kid-safety scissors between classes because they were getting in my freaking eyes and irritating me.  I am quite sure I didn't give a shit.

So.

 I have recently... Let's see...

I also "high-lift-blonded" the shit out of my hair, until it was just about platinum.  (I don't think anyone reads this who knows anything about hair coloring or gives a shit about it.  I could have said I bleached the shit out of it until it was blonde, but I didn't do that.  I didn't want all my hair to just break off.  I actually cared.  Haha.  High-lift color is more gentle... so there you go.  (Hair color 101).

I also want to make Sam happy, and I don't want to pay $120 to go to a salon (I really like that salon, and I have very good friends who work there), to get highlights anymore.  We can't afford that.  We haven't been able to for awhile now, and when I did go, it was because my mom gave me money to go get it done.  She would see me and be aghast...  because my hair... it looked... so...  brown?

I look prettier very, very blonde, don't you know?
That's what I'm told.
Often.
No, that's not true.
It's just whenever my mother sees me, or my husband feels like commenting about it.

"You are just a blonde."  That's the way it is.

11 or 12 years old with my little sis.
I was born with brown hair.  My hair is brown.  It's not growing from my scalp with the lovely pale, buttery highlights.  Nope.  Just plain brown.  I actually don't remember caring what color my hair was.  I remember not liking having big feet and a big nose, and no one wants pimples, but I don't remember ever thinking much about my hair.  It was a whatever type of thing.  Don't care if I have brown hair, or long or short fingernails, or that I had freckles across my nose and cheeks.  I didn't really think about that stuff.  I wasn't sexualized, which honestly has to be when girls start worrying about stupid shit, until older boys started paying a lot of attention to me.  And even then, my mom had to tell me they were paying attention to me.  And she explained to me what I had to do...  to be... blonde.

I know it was time to not have the brown, straight hair that just happened to me genetically, after I was 13 or 14. Maybe it was not the people around me who made it impossible for me to just be "natural."  I mean, it was the early '90s, ans it was all about perms and "frosting."  (Oh my.  Luckily I made it through the last part of that before I graduated from high school).

Oh, goodness, and I my mom bought me Coppertone QT self-tanning lotion, which is so ridiculously funny to think about now that they have made advancements in that area.  Being tan was better.  I had pale, Irish/Russian skin, and I slathered on the QT.  I remember the first time I went to 8th grade all tan, after lathering that stuff all over my body.  I felt awesome, and I totally looked hot for an early 90s 8th grader.  However, after school, during track practice, the sweat made orange streaks run down my arms and legs.  I remember just spraying my water bottle on my face and rubbing it all around, because having a runny orange face could be a disaster, yeah?  Then I just let all my friends pay tick tack toe on my legs, because you could just lightly use a fingernail and reveal my pale skin under the orange.  I let my team write funny things on my skin with their fingernails.  Hey, that's grace, I would say, for a middle school age girl.  I thought it was funny. The female track coach saw my body on the busride back to school and said, "Oh, that's disturbing," when I explained why I had words and patterns all over my visible body parts.  Nah.  I just realized that stuff sucked and I wasn't going to use it anymore.

Tanning beds.  Those were great when I was in high school.  No one got to use them, but my mom let me.  I remember after the school's spring break I was sitting on a bench where all the "cool" kids hung out as school got out, in the lobby area, and a girl, (let's be honest here, I was her biggest threat.  She got best dressed in middle school in Springfield, I got best dressed in Bellows Falls Middle School...  I was killing it. She was no competition...  Anyway...), asked me if I had gone somewhere spring vacation.  I remember saying, "Florida...  The Bahamas... No, just kidding a tanning bed."  And she was more jealous that I got to use a tanning bed, than if I had actually traveled to a tropical location.

 I was prettier with a tan.  My mom brought me to the salon to tan, even after I fainted after using it one time.  Ah, what we do for beauty... or for our kids...

I wonder what I would have been like if I was just myself.  I mean, I loved fashion, and nobody could tell me how to dress, but I didn't really know that my brown hair was "mousy" until my mom told me it was.

I think I would have done okay with brown hair.
Brown hair.








Sunday, November 13, 2016

Not yet.

I tried to stop drinking alcohol completely.

I mean, I just don't' want to drink anymore, so I stopped for awhile.  I knew I was numbing myself, or trying to make myself feel something (anything!), or hiding from things I didn't want to think about, all at the expense of my liver.  It worked well.  I thought it worked.

Let's admit it:  It really made things worse, when it came down to it.  Yet, every time I was actually drinking, it felt like it was helping.  I was not myself.  I hated myself.  I wasn't in reality.  I didn't like reality.  I drink now, but occasionally and try not to do so excessively.  I at least know why.  And I think about that with every swallow.
****
It was a few months ago that I started blacking out completely when I drank a certain amount.  I would have no memory of anything that happened after I crossed that certain limit.

Blank.

Completely darkness.

I remember nothing of those nights.  I remember absolutely nothing, and I can't bring any of it forth in my mind.  It's just not there.  Apparently I can be very hilarious when I'm not even aware that I'm...  awake?  I am doing lots of things, and walking and talking and apparently thinking, yet I am in a black out.  I don't remember any of it.  I don't know any of it.  It is as if I wasn't even there.  I mean, I wasn't there, was I?  I wasn't there.  I was absent.

I could also be really scary.  I would spend hours telling Sam about every single thing he had to make sure the kids knew if I died.  I wanted to tell him every family story, and memory, and make sure he knew what each thing was in my jewelry box, or in our cupboards that were family heirlooms.  I would know I was going to die, I guess.  I don't remember.  I did know every single thing that I needed to tell him and it was a lot.

That scares me, to black out.  It scares me to have Sam recall hours we spent together "awake," when that time is completely gone for me.  I don't want that.  The kids are never awake when I drink, and I don't like it... I don't want it... and I try not to do it at all...

Having a little champagne or wine on a romantic date, or a beer on a hot summer day... I want to do those kinds of things... but I want them to be memorable and infrequent... special.  I'll admit it.  It became a daily thing... drinking at least a few glasses of wine every single day.  And some nights we would drink so much that I stopped remembering those nights.  Drinking became more than unhealthy and self-destructive. It was terrifying.

I was scared I couldn't remember.
But I was scared that I couldn't stop.
It wasn't so scary, and I could... I did it.
And I feel better.

God.

It feels better to wake up, and actually remember the falling asleep part