Life finds a Way

Sourdough has always been part of my life. As a person born and raised in Alaska, I have the credentials to call myself a Sourdough. Sourdough was part of the Alaskan gold rush, and people who came over at that time all had sourdough to get them through the winter. It was a nourishing and forgiving food. The starter would be revived with a little warmth water and flour, and make the flour rise into biscuits, bread and pancakes to keep the gold miner alive. An old Sourdough is the word for an experienced Alaskan.

I had made sourdough pancakes, and diverse baked products.

It always confused me to find “Sourdough Bread” in the California bakery section. Except for a slight tangy taste, this bread was indistinguishable from the French loaves beside it, which was the opposite of the tough sourdough I knew from my childhood.

But something made me decide to try making this fancy sourdough bread this weekend.

Have you noticed a new interest in DIY home crafts? The hippies used to do this. I looked up on the Internet how to make ARTISAN sourdough bread.

I wanted my daughter to learn to appreciate the glory of wild yeast sourdough.

So I brought her into the process, having her take a deep sniff of the starter, inhaling the yeasty scent. She saw the first mix, when I took the starter out of the fridge and added it to the flour, water and sugar the night before. Maybe six tiny bubbles decorated the surface of the started.

But in the morning, the whole mess was a foamy mass! Here Veronica got a second noseful, along with a sincere WOW. This was really science. This was alive, and THIS was how the ancient romans made bread.

Just like we were going to!

But oh my lord, this recipe was complicated! It was a three-day project! I had started it the night before but we still had hours and hours of small tasks to complete this artisan frenchy sourdough bread.

First we mix it, and then there were complicated restings, and single kneadings that had to be spaced out by a half hour each time over the course of 3 hours.

I confess, I had better stuff to do. I lost the vision when we stopped to have dinner with Veronica’s Grandma.

After I got her to bed, I looked at this half-tended mass of dough. What had I gotten myself into? Had I ruined this sourdough bread I had talked up so much to my daughter?

Four ingredients:

Sourdough starter

Flour

Water

Salt

But this frou frou Frenchy bread wanted so much touching and tending! No way a real Sourdough would have put up with this nonsense.

I started at the shaggy risen mass.

No way was I throwing this away! My daughter was going to find out what happened with this project, no matter if it failed.

Besides, THIS was sourdough. Sourdough is tough and it’s alive. It’s forgiving. I narrowed my eyes at it, and gave it a little sprinkle of flour (NOT in the recipe) and began the slow half-hour-at-a-time kneading process the recipe called for.

I cleaned up the kitchen, and tending this dough. Per the fussy recipe, I set it in specially prepared dishes to rest in the fridge overnight and we all got some rest.

In the morning, there was even more fussiness to back the dough blobs. Preheat the pan, then cook it for 20 minutes. Then turn down the heat for ten minutes. THEN take the lid off and cook it for 25 more minutes. Then turn out the loaf and DON’T CUT IT YET!

We must wait again for 2 hours for it to fully be ready.

I only have one pot with a lid that can do this bread baking duty. Veronica woke up at the PERFECT time to see the first loaf be tipped out to cool, and then sit with me through all these dance steps to get the second loaf.

We sat on the kitchen floor and talked about family things. And I looked up at the first loaf that was cooling.

It looked right. I couldn’t know for sure until I cut it open.

“Veronica, knock on the crust. It’s supposed to sound hollow.”

She rapped her knuckles on the hard top, and pulled her hand away with a shocked face.

It HAD made a satisfying hollow thump, but “what’s wrong? Is it too hot still?”

“No, it’s really HARD.”

Yeah, that crust could slow a battering ram.

We cut it open after church, and it was not disappointing. Chris said, “This is not as sour as sourdough from the store”

“That’s because the stuff from the store has nothing to do with sourdough, except maybe some flavoring! THIS is real living sourdough.”

The bread itself was elastic and felt nourishing, just like sourdough does. There is a little something extra happening when life itself, in the form of the wild yeast of sourdough, cooperates with me.

I was so glad that I trusted this living organism sourdough to forgive me for not following the correct procedure from the recipe.

I did what I could, and I didn’t give up. We had a family adventure along the way.

Once again, sourdough is giving me lessons about life and survival. Show up. Keep trying. Do the simple little action, even if it’s not exactly the right time.

It will work out.

A place in History

Two things dominated this weekend:
The Royal Wedding

Cleaning my boudoir

I’d been working so hard on cleaning my boudoir, which is the third bedroom in my little home. I have boxes and boxes of notebooks, and papers and photographs that I had to move in order to paint the walls. The walls had been patched because of having the electrical redone.

So, I had to move them all to paint behind them. And when it came time to put them back, I realized that quite a lot of it could be tossed.

On Friday night, Chris asked me if I was going to watch the royal wedding. I said I didn’t know anything about it. He caught me up on who was marrying whom, and I suddenly realized I knew Rachel, because I had watched Suits for a while.

How cool is that!

So Saturday, as I was staring in dismay at my boxes of everything, I turned on the royal wedding. I was thinking it was good background TV while I sorted through all these things.

I am a notebook person. I had saved all these notes, with anything from grocery lists, to year plans (a LOT of year plans) and the occasional gorgeous poem and short story.

It was for those poems and stories that I never threw the notebooks away.

But there were other papers.

That one time that I was considering suing an employer and had gathered evidence.

Or the notes from a relationship gone bad.

But this WEDDING! The pomp and circumstance that had to be part of a historied monarchy.

Except.

To me, it felt incredibly homey. The young bridesmaids and pages, holding the train and following the American soon-to-be Princess through the church.

IT DOESN’T GET MORE FAMILY THAN THAT.
With the brothers sitting next to each other, waiting for the bride to show up. YES, they are princes. But they were also two brothers who love each other and support each other.

There were all the elements of exactly every ordinary wedding I’ve ever seen. The dress, the little bit of drama. The nervousness, and the absolutely love and support from all the people attending.

I couldn’t tear myself away. Or stop googling all the details.

And, that’s kinda what happens at a family wedding, too. When and aunt or a cousin catches me up on the details of everything that I didn’t know.

What does this have to do with my notebooks?

Well.

As I look through all my notebooks, I have to wonder. Do these things matter to anyone else but me?

In that light, it was easy to toss the history of things that had caused pain. The bad job reviews, the old painful relationships.

And as I thought about the rest of these historical artifacts, I wondered who would actually care about all of them.

I flipped through. I remembered and the feelings rushed over me.

Boy, I’m glad I am living the life I am living.

I’m pretty happy with my choices.

Maybe the point of saving all these STUFF was for me to get the value out of reviewing it this time.

It’s easy to toss some of it out. Others are harder.

Like, I wanted to keep some of these things to prove something. That I was RIGHT, or that I DESERVED BETTER.

Except…

Watching all those people in the wedding, and feeling what I felt about it (as a stranger, whose only¬† connection to these people is a shared humanity), I came to the realization that I didn’t need to prove any of that to the people who might read this stuff.

They were family and they already loved me.

I didn’t need to prove I was worthy.

There’s a place for me at this table. So the history that gets in the way of that can be dropped.

Yes Boss

 

I’m looking for work again, so I’m at home sending applications. It’s lonely work, and this thought is large in my head:

Wouldn’t it be nice to be my own boss?

I’m finding audiobooks from my local library to keep me company while I am alone, working on working. I found one called¬†The Top 10 Distinctions between Bosses and Employees

One of the big distinctions this author points out is that bosses find solutions and employees solve problems.

See, employees have a set of tasks they need to complete. Usually these tasks are well defined. The employee is supposed to figure out how to do those things, and solve any problems in getting them done.

Now, in my last job, I had to supervise big crews of workers. The tasks would be defined and my part was to make sure they were communicated to the crew.

The crew knew how to do each of the things, even though I didn’t.

I couldn’t do their job, but one of the aspects of my job was to make sure that they kept working. With 10 people at a job site, with a week’s worth of work, I’d have to make sure that all 10 people were working on something all the time.

The WORST THING would be to have a person sitting and waiting for something to do.

I’d make sure to walk around and check on what everyone was doing. Not only did I make sure they were doing something right this minute, I’d make sure they knew what to do NEXT. That way they wouldn’t hesitate to move on to the next thing.

If I want to be my own boss, I basically have to do that for myself:

Have a set of things to do, and make sure I keep moving forward on each of the tasks in the most efficient order.

That’s a lot harder.

Having an employee mindset and solving problems means there was someone else who nicely packaged up the problems and gave them to you.

I wish that I had nicely packaged problems for my life, really. This book (which is a lightweight little book) wants to tell me how BOSSES handle that differently.

Yeah.

Basically, the bosses are the ones who create the packaged problems

But, if I am to be my own boss?

I have to be the one deciding the work I need to do and then the one doing it.

It takes a special set of skills to do that.

That little book didn’t talk about that.

Sometimes both

I’m in a book club that just chose Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s been out for a while, I know. I hadn’t read it.

Here’s the thing: good books should still be good even after the hype passes. There is often a lot of hype about books and movies. Makes me suspicious.

So, I let it pass. And, if I still remember that I kinda wanted to read that book or see that movie, I’ll go seek it out. And I’ll appreciate it on it’s own merits.

I read Eat, Pray, Love by Gilbert when my daughter was newborn. I wanted a book that was good and unchallenging so I could fall asleep quickly while reading.

I can say it was definitely unchallenging.

9 years ago, when I was reading it, I had not yet made a meaningful connection with the New Age (aka woo-woo) concepts that are part of her journey, and what made her think that this journey was such a good idea.

I still haven’t taken a yoga class, although it’s on my list of things to do.

I have become a fan of meditation and spiritual practices like self-acceptance and more.

When I read Eat Pray Love I didn’t really like Gilbert. She was not like me or anyone I knew. In later interviews and TED talks, I started to get to know her and appreciate what she had to say.

I still remembered that she thought going to an Ashram in India was a great idea.

I don’t consider that a good time.

Her novel The Signature of All Things was well written. But not until this book club required it did I set out to read Big Magic.

I was so resistant that I wasn’t willing to pay for it, and found a copy at the local library. I found it right next to Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell is problematic too. I enjoyed Outliers a lot, but then again, he was caught plagiarizing. That’s bad.

Now I am in the midst of both books.

Big Magic and Blink both kinda say to trust your gut and listen to your intuition.

Gladwell does it with science, and had a lot of proof in the form of scientific studies.

Gilbert has a lot of feelings and anecdotes.

Maybe it takes people different roads to get to the same destination.

Both of these authors are flawed.

One thing I learned in my literature classes is that the writing does not only exist in the product of the author. Something is created between the author and the reader consuming what has been created.

That third thing, the alchemy between the author’s experiences that led to the creative product, and the reader’s experience that informs what is understood when the book is read is what it’s about.

So, sometimes I want magic: full moon, eye of newt and spells.

Sometimes I want a scientific study, thank you very much.

And maybe sometimes I need a little of both.

Older me

“I have never seen you with your hair down before. It looks amazing!”

I had known this friend for years. I’d had this hair for years. But something had been changing.

There’s a story in Alaskan Road Rules about my travails with my hair. When I wrote it, I thought I was the only one. That my special problems as a female with naturally curly hair were something no one else would understand.

When that story/essay was released into the world, I discovered that I was not alone. Almost every woman had a story about her hair.

I loved hearing how my story moved these other women.

Yes!

But that was not real life. I tied my hair up every day. I had work to do. I had to be taken seriously.

I tied my hair back. Everyday. I had a rather hostile work environment, and I didn’t want any part of me that wasn’t part of the generic silhouette of what a person with that job should be.

Until that job let me go.

At that point, I was even MORE nervous about being different. But the next job I got had a different prototype for their employees. There were a lot of visible tattoos, and people were encouraged to be themselves.

A lovely African American woman started encouraging me to let my hair down. Hmm…

I wasn’t at that job long, but it was the first place that really made me think.

A few months ago, I went to an open mic night locally. I had my hair down and I read my Curly Top story from Alaskan Road Rules.

It ran a bit long, but the MC, a gorgeous young African American woman, told me she identified with the story.

Thing is, I wasn’t that person anymore. I had learned to be okay with the burden of my hair. Reading out loud the shame and insecurities of that girl and woman that I used to be felt surreal.

Like looking at a high school yearbook.

I know better know.

Am I really old enough to be over it?

Maybe I’m over this one thing. But insecurity and shame are still big players in my life.

My hair gets to be what it wants to be. I try to direct it, but for the most part, it’s going where it wants to go.

For me, as I carry my insecurities still, am I ready to be as free as my hair now is?

I had to learn to trust my hair. And I also had to learn to trust the people around me to accept me and all that I am, which includes me hair.

Not everyone loves it. Even *I* don’t love it all the time.

But me and my hair have a right to be here.