Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unfiltered Valerie

Have you ever found yourself with someone who was spouting off or misbehaving, and you just sat back and thought, wow. Yeah, that’s what I used to do. When I was younger, I kept my head down, didn’t make too many waves, performed my role as middle child fixer of all relationships, even let my husband be the boss of me for awhile. (Right now John is getting all misty-eyed, remembering those bygone days.)

These days I’m more likely to laugh, comment, or even respond in kind. I don’t know if it’s maturity, hormones (or a lack of them), wisdom, a sense of justice for the oppressed, an inability to suffer fools gladly—but let’s call it maturity. I was in the grocery store one day as a scowling middle-aged man pushing a grocery cart was followed by his obviously browbeaten wife. As soon as he saw me blocking the aisle on the far end, talking to another woman, he made an even worse face and hunched forward as if to mow us down. We had plenty of time to pull to one side before he got near, but he still looked murderous as he pushed past, mumbling about us blocking the aisle. I laughed and said, “If that’s the worst thing that’s happened to you today, you’re having a blessed day.” His wife’s eyes widened and she scuttled past like I was contagious. I hope I was.

Just this past Sunday I was in a meeting with a church group and the subject of a Mission Statement came up. “You’re a writer, Valerie! You would be good at helping us come up with a Mission Statement.”

I made one of those rude, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me huffing noises. “Just shoot me now.”

“You don’t believe in Mission Statements?”

I said, “Oh, I believe in them. I’ll get behind whatever Mission Statement you make. Just don’t make me sit through another meeting with a group of people trying to come up with one. I hate those meetings.” A respectful silence followed my words. Or else most of the members of the group were saying a little prayer for my soul.

The filter seems to be gone, doesn’t it? Instead of my edges being rubbed smooth with age, I sometimes wonder if some of them are being honed even sharper.

What about you? Are you more open about your opinions? Do you react out loud, or have you learned to keep it to yourself? How is aging—I mean maturing—affecting your “filter”?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Trashing the Kitchen

Had a fabulous time talking cooking when my brother and sister-in-law visited. Pam mentioned gadgets and pans (“I have this jalapeno pepper holder for pepper poppers from the grill! Oh, have you ever cooked on wooden planks?”) and we tried to find an open kitchen supply store in Greenville this past Sunday, January 2. No luck—one was closed for inventory, the other just to tick me off.

Pam has the amazing talent of making meals look effortless. You imagine that behind her orderly, streamlined kitchen there’s a real working kitchen, where minions toil silently and ceaselessly, sliding finished dishes through a hidden cupboard. When I cook for a crowd it’s like a cartoon—I knock over pans, stack baking sheets in precarious piles, and dirty more utensils and pots than most people own.

I’m not sure when my love of cooking developed. Early on in the marriage I made stuffed green peppers from The Joy of Cooking, and found no joy in it. “After all that work,” I lamented, “it’s just—stuffed green peppers!” My husband said, “You don’t need The Joy of Cooking. You need the I Hate to Cook Book.” But at some point I began reading and collecting cookbooks, learning more about the science of cooking, and trying more recipes than the few my mother taught me. My collection of cookbooks began to overtake my pioneer history books, my books about writing.

What about you? Love cooking? Hate cooking? Are you messy like me, or so tidy your relatives surreptitiously check your trash for takeout packages?