Launch-pad Dreams

Maybe it’s a brain problem.

Years ago, Susan Skulsky, a college English professor who worked with me to improve to a B from a dismal D in my first year General Literature survey course, told me that my ideas were good, but my grammar was terrible.

I’m sure I confessed to her of having dropped out of school after 8th grade.

I did drop back in for my senior year at the urging of a friend who asked me if I had no better ambitions than to be a store clerk, or a server, all my life. I thankfully decided more education was better. However, I missed a lot of critical grammar work that made my English Language and Literature major hard won.

I should have chosen music or theater, but both subjects intimidated me too much, and my college advisor did not see that I was in the wrong major.

I took an introductory theater class, philosophy, and delved into geology, and oceanography, all of which were fascinating and gratifying, but I still longed to be a writer, and perhaps teacher, so I stayed with English.

I remember another English major describe herself as ‘highly trainable’ several years after we graduated and she was working as an insurance underwriter.

But I was going to write something worth reading, perhaps something worth remembering me for…

I never found ‘my thing’ back then, and I’m not sure I ever have.

Did all of my education go to waste? The experiences certainly didn’t.

I learned more about social strata than I likely would have otherwise, which may have been more valuable in some ways than the academics.

The woman whose daddy was giving her a ‘Jag’ upon graduating. The several women who had never done their own laundry. The ones only there to find a good husband, or because that was their social track.

My dirt poor existence could not have prepared me for the realities of the moneyed world.

The day I got my paper back with that big red D, and its accompanying “make an appointment to see me,” scribbled next to it, I sat in silent shock, while a girl sitting with some classmates at a table behind me was in tears over an A- she received.

What would she have thought had she known there someone who got a D sitting so near her?

Life moved on, as it does. I survived, and am still standing, even if my dreams did not become reality. I try not to justify my failures as ‘all for the best’. I simply failed.

Maybe it was a brain problem.

My dear friend told me about her daughter’s boss who said something like “Oh, you’re a scholar,” when my friend spoke of her interests and her life. She said it was a freeing statement to hear. She is a scholar.

Perhaps, I am a scholar too.

*

*

*

© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Disaster Cake

It’s not the kind of cake you make for a disaster (although that might be nice when totally stressed out from a disaster?).

I have never made pineapple upside down cake before, but have always wanted to. My mother made one when I was a kid, and it was delectable (her chocolate fudge was amazing too).

I had some frozen pineapple from several months ago that I kept meaning to thaw and try this cake recipe with. (Frozen pineapple is also fantastic in smoothies, if you didn’t know.)

I bought a yellow cake mix because the recipe said that was fine if you didn’t want to do it all by scratch, which, in hindsight, would have been better.

I made up the mix, and carefully laid out the pineapple and brown sugar/butter mixture on the bottom of the pan, and then poured the mix on top – following the instructions to a T.

What I failed to notice was the *.

I mean, I noticed it, I just thought it didn’t pertain to my situation.

The asterisk cautioned that it was best to not use self-rising flour.

Cake mix is self-rising.

After a half an hour or so, I smell burning.

Burning?! It wasn’t even half-way done, and I had the temperature correct.

Oh bloody hell!

I looked into the oven to see cake batter rising up and bubbling over like an oversudsed washing machine, dripping down through the rack tines into a batter puddle on the oven bottom.

I shut off the oven, told my partner to open the front door and prepare for the smoke alarm while I took the still-uncooked cake batter in the pan out of the smoking oven, and set it on top of the stove.

I took out the oven racks, dropped the second one when it burned the side of my exposed hand, and screamed to my partner to back off as the rack clattered to floor. Fortunately, my barefooted partner was quick enough to jump out of the way.

He grabbed an oven mitt and picked up the rack, holding it gingerly over the sink because he was afraid that it would hurt the metal sink to put something so hot onto the cool sink bottom. I don’t think that’s a thing, but maybe it is, so whatever. It made him feel better.

Then we scraped off what we could of the burned mess, and I was lucky enough to get the burned batter pile on the oven bottom with a frying pan spatula as it had enough butter or oil in it to not be stuck too badly.

I decided to turn the oven back on and try to cook the cake the rest of the way, even though I figured it was ruined.

I had no idea how much longer to cook it, so I put it on for 20 more minutes at the 325°f setting from the instructions.

I wish I had taken a picture, but am also glad I didn’t. It looked as pathetic as you imagine.

It smelled amazing though.

20 minutes later out of the oven it came, and the toothpick I pierced the cake center with came out clean, amazingly enough.

I set the pineapple-blob disaster cake on the cooling rack for a few minutes, and then tipped it upside down onto a plate.

I had to get a knife to cut away all the baked-on batter that had congealed down the cake pan sides, but it, too, came away without too much effort.

Then came the big reveal lifting off the cake pan…

– it was a girl!

No, it was beautiful, and I still don’t have a picture (what kind of blogger is she?, you’re thinking). Not an astute one. I’ll work on that.

But it came out imperfectly perfect, and DELICIOUS! I wish I could share it with you!

It was light and fluffy and the pineapple looked almost like Martha freaking Stewart had made it. (Easy to say without a picture, but you’ll just have to trust me this one time).

So, here’s the metaphor the universe gave me:

Don’t give up.

Clean up my mess, and have a little faith that, sometimes, even my screw ups can work out better than my dreariest expectations.

*

*

*

© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

After The Storm

Our summer has been hot and humid – and I’ve already heard “Hot enough for ya?” greetings where a nod and a commiserating look suffices in answer.

We have been edging into drought since late May again for the third year in a row. There was no rain for over a month, but then a string of storms descended, like a fire hose on a match, and the town crews got busy removing felled branches and trees in the aftermath, while the electric company restores power, and residents clean up their yards and assess damage to their gardens or land.

We were lucky. Our garden sits to the side of the house, looking like it has no idea what the bother was.

Our neighbor’s weren’t so lucky.

A large tree crashed down, gouging into a long swath of the neighbor’s prized asparagus patch, the tree branches swiping through most of the row of blackberry bushes he planted last fall – sending not-quite-ripe berries scattered through their yard. Their asparagus which had grown tall and spindly with seeds, is no more. The roots are deep though, and next spring will likely see a new crop – and if the neighbors are brave, they’ll plant blackberry bushes again.

We pick ourselves back up and move on, if we haven’t been flattened. Maybe pieces were scattered over our soul’s yard – crumpled, raw, and overwhelming to look at, but we start somewhere. Maybe picking up bigger pieces and try to salvage whatever we can.

The job is too big for a day, and time fills in with other necessary tasks, and days turn to weeks turn to months – but we see it out there. It’s not going anywhere until we do something about it.

After inspecting our oblivious growing garden, I pull on my work gloves and start picking up branches and twigs in the neighbor’s yard and put them on the burn pile for next spring.

My neighbor is pushing bigger limbs with his tractor back into the tangle of vines and poplar trees that line the back of his property. I wave and smile and after he’s through we look at the damage together.

“Could have been worse,” he says with a grimace.

“Could have been better too,” I think, but just give a sympathetic smile and return to picking up some of the debris before heading back into the coolness of my house.

*

*

*

© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current