The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

It just keeps getting better...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sacred Acts of Culinary Variety

Today, it begins.  Well, truthfully, we have been prepping, gathering, cleaning, sorting and making lists for over a week but today, the Thanksgiving holiday preparations begin with diligent focus. I find I approach them with such anticipation. Teri likes to say that Thanksgiving is "my day" but it doesn't feel that way at all to me.  I actually feel like a tiny piece in something bigger and it has absolutely nothing to do with mythological pilgrims or imagined Jamestown multicultural picnics.  It feels intensely emotional and sweetly sacred.  It is about storytelling, multigenerational connection, community and this flawed human stumbling we call life...
Teri and I share stories of childhood Thanksgivings--they are wrapped more in the emotions of how we felt--hers were pleasant affairs of predictability and order; she remembers them as easy, stress-free celebrations of good food, football and good behavior.  My memories are steeped in a bit more anxiety.  I imagine my childhood Thanksgivings fall more on the post-modern therapy couch scale of things and because of this, my adult Thanksgivings have become a ritual of healing.  Every year is a little different and the older I get, the more holidays become participatory benchmarks of aging, connection and forgiveness.
Our kitchen is sacred space.  It is the blood-pumping organ of our home and life together, and it is where Teri and I have both best combined our two separate selves and where we continue to tussle over differences and preferences.  We have our own individual favorites--favorite pots and pans, measuring cups and bowls.  We each have our own separate rolling pins. But, Thanksgiving is more than just the two of us.
My cooking influences are complicated. I am largely self-taught, although I do pay homage to Mrs. Bonebrake's 7th and 8th grade Home Economics classes (I only took the cooking half of the year and not the sewing!) The other day, when Teri and I were doing our last big grocery shop for Turkey day, I was patiently waiting in front of the spice shelves for a hunched older woman to move herself and her cart aside and when she turned around, it was none other than Mrs. Bonebrake--30 years older and with the same terse look on her face--and it seemed a sacred nod to my historical culinary continuum.  Before you ask, no, I didn't introduce myself--I can't imagine she remembers me; she's surely 80 now and I wasn't particularly a stand-out student at omelet making and I hated the way she made us do all that math at the end of a project.  Honestly, I never figure the cost per-serving in my middle-age life!
I learned from cookbooks, cooking shows and by being a guest in other people's kitchens.  I learned how warmly beyond tepid to heat the liquid for bread dough and fail-proof pie crust from my former mother-in-law; I learned how to boldly cook copious quantities and complicated recipes fearlessly from my friend (and Best Gal at our wedding), Wendy; and I have gathered recipes, tips and tools from a wide variety of sources and like a chameleon, they have become my own.  Once I got out into the big, wide world as a young adult, I realized that there were a zillion people who wanted to share and who saw the kitchen as a playground of possibility. This had not been my childhood understanding of what a kitchen was. Now, I experiment.  I make stuff up. I make substitutions.  And, I've learned over the years to be unapologetic--so what if the sausages get a little crisp or I don't know the perfect way to carve a turkey? There is no one right way to make a salad, or a pie, or to glaze a ham--there are endless possibilities!
Cooking is alchemy, love, an offering; it is a prayer of hope and sustenance--it is meant to be shared.  As we spend the next couple days in our kitchen, we'll be joined by our kids, our friends, and family and we'll be committing sacred acts of gratitude and merry mess-making.  These are the new, evolving memories and what a gift they truly are.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Age of Precariousness

I was recently chatting with a friend who sighed a yearning sigh for what he called "security and stability"-- it wasn't until an hour or so later that I realized I could no longer really wrap my head around what that actually means.  It seemed mythological, an almost unreasonable Utopian pining. Who has the luxury of security and stability these days?

I've stopped really paying attention to those who appear to have it all--and by have it all, I don't mean mansions and yachts, I mean stable full time work, a reasonable benefits package, and enough to tend to the basics in life. I just don't move in those sorts of circles.  I know you are out there and, well, good for you, but I know many more individuals who are striving, scraping, and bowing under the weight and stress of precariousness.

It is not lack of education--in my little work world, for example: six people have a combined minimum of 10 degrees--this includes three master's degrees.  We are super well-educated, super-competent and work long, lumpy hours.  This is not enough to guarantee dental care or even a steady paycheck. We struggle to pay off student loans with low-paying social service sector jobs and probably donate as much time and talent as we'll ever be compensated for.

We never know if the computers will be working, the funding will come through or whether we'll even have a job to claim tomorrow.  That is an exhausting form of precariousness. And, still, we piece it together--multiple jobs, contract work, and by sharing whatever we have with friends, family and community. When Teri and I aren't feeding kids or making sure they have shoes, toilet paper and toothpaste, we scrape together what we can to donate to various charities and causes that are hanging off those precipices of precariousness too. Don't ask me why, it just never dawns on us that this is not the way to go about things.

Is this the way things are going to be for the near and distant future?  Is this simply the "age" in which we live? I know this is not the way things are for everyone, but it is the way things are for many. I also know it depends on where you live, what you do, and various uncontrollable factors like skin color, gender and age. But  knowing all this does not really justify the age of precariousness. The other day, Teri said that maybe the path to peace was to simply accept that this is the reality, plain and simple.  I couldn't figure out, however, how that would make things feel any less tenuous and temporary?  I imagine she was imagining it would be less exhausting without the struggle for something else, but that doesn't account for the effort to simply maintain...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What it All Means (to Us)

As Teri would say, I'm not going to lie--this is often her prelude to true confessions of the blunt variety.  So, this morning, I'm not going to lie, this election season has been nerve-wracking to say the least and downright frightening on some days.  As we sat, paced, and baked our way through the dispensing of the results last night, there were some moments where we felt cautious, tight-lipped surges of hope...

As we watched first Maine, then Maryland and, hopefully, finally Washington state all approve marriage equality (or as the news reporters like to say "Gay Marriage" because it is somehow completely different and separate from any other sort of marriage--I think it is lumped in with "plural marriage" and other italicized arrangements) popular the ballot...we got a little teary.  Teri summed it up in a simple sentence when she said "There are some good people out there who stand by us."  It is hard not to take it personally--both for those who are finally voting to approve marriage equality and for those who surely now know plenty of good and awesome gay people, but who are still clinging to discrimination.

It feels monumental, historical, and, honestly, exhausting.  I am so grateful for all the people who organized, phone-banked and literally went door-to-door talking to folks in these states.  These are amazing victories--the first ever achieved by vote.  What we hope this means is that we will eventually be able to overturn some of the discrimination that has been built into state constitutions (like ours in Oregon) but there is also something bittersweet about stitching together rights state by state--rights still for some but not for all.

We are solidly the first generation encouraged, cajoled and pressured to be "out"--there was a sense that if we all came out of the closet, our visibility would inspire change and this has been true. What has also been true is the painful, soul-searing backlash.  Teri and I realized last night that these victories would not be met without plenty of push-back from those who are convinced that all this equality is just the sort of shameful horror that will bring about the end times. So, out of habit, in the midst of all the Yay! we were bracing ourselves for the Yuck.

Meanwhile, there were/are other things that matter to us too: Maryland also approved a measure that would allow immigrants who have attended high school to pay in-state tuition for college; many of our local bond measures to pay for schools, road repairs and parks were passed; and progressive ballot measures legalizing recreational marijuana use (and thus decriminalizing while paving the way for taxes to support the public coffers) passed in Washington and Colorado--but, alas, not here in Oregon.  Tammy Baldwin was elected as state senator in Wisconsin--first woman and first out lesbian to hold that office. The state of New Hampshire now has an all-female delegation--including a female governor. The presidential race mattered as well, but it was one piece of a whole lotta big and heavy stuff!

I know full well that just as we are feeling cautiously optimistic and breathing a little easier this morning, there are those who are praying fervently or brooding about the disgusting trajectory of America. I've already read the remarks about how "we Christians need to stick together" and a variety of racial and homophobic slurs.  In other words, it's not a clean win.  It feels like hard-won progress but not really a victory.  We know the battles are important but we have to fortify ourselves for the rest of the journey.