The Golden Circlet

All the good things in life

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From Entitlement to Patience

I’ve been home from work on vacation for the past two weeks. For the first time in many years, we neither went anywhere for vacation nor had major obligations at home to discharge. My folks came for Christmas, but stayed for only a few days, leaving lots of uninterrupted, unstructured family time for us at home. That was just what I wanted, and it came with some surprising lessons.

Being home for a long stretch of ordinary time gave me a chance to see my husband, who makes our home, at work. It gave me a chance to participate in that work in a meaningful way, which I don’t ordinarily get. I spent time planning and making meals, cleaning, and helping him prepare for a home improvement project. None of these are things I ever get to do, although for a while many years ago they were my main job in our marriage, and (except the home improvement), they are things I am good at doing and mostly enjoy.

Doing that work together put me in touch with the fact that I apparently have a curious sense of entitlement. Now, I’ve never been the type of person to try to talk a professor out of a poor grade, or a cop out of a ticket, or to assume that I was owed rewards of any kind, from anyone. I’m not talking about that kind of entitlement. But I realized that I tend to assume — on some level anyway — that I’m a good, intelligent, person who ought to be able to achieve things easily. I make the same tacit assumption about the people I love.

I don’t take into account just how difficult most of life is, and how time-consuming even simple tasks can be done well. Then, when things are difficult, tedious, boring, I have a low frustration tolerance. When I’m bad at a task either from lack of training and experience, or lack of physical strength — removing a wall, let’s say, as we worked on this week — I tend to give up before I even have a chance to learn or grow strong. I sometimes rush through tedious tasks and end up doing them badly, when going slowly was all that was needed to make them go well.

I sometimes find myself surfing, shopping, reading, daydreaming — instant gratification activities, that require neither effort nor skill — when I meant to be making or creating. Then I find that I’ve run out of what little time I have for the things that really matter to me, because they were more difficult than I felt they were entitled to be for me.

Worse yet, I’m just as impatient with my family. I underestimate how long it “should” take my husband to do his work, and get angry when it takes “too long.” I’m even impatient with my son, when he has difficulty with things I remember finding just as difficult when I was his age!

Some people like to choose a word in January to guide the year ahead. I’m not sure whether that is an idea for me or not, but if it were, I think PATIENCE had better be my watchword for 2013. Patience with myself and the vagaries of life, patience with my family and son, patience with the timeline for every good thing.

Making Pine and Balsam Garland

What about you? Do you have a problem with entitlement? Do you have a watchword for 2013?


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Silver and Gold Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving this year reminded me of this old camp song. We had two families over — the family of one of my very oldest friends, a woman I went to summer camp with when I was a kid, and some friends of theirs — an amazing art-music-geekery-thoughtfulness-activism-dancing family whom I hope will end up being our newest friends. It couldn’t have been more wonderful to spend the evening with all of them.

One problem that occurs when you invite generous people to dinner is food. Plenty of it. It’s a good problem to have on Thanksgiving!

We contributed:

  • A bread cornucopia (except we used homemade No-knead Challah dough rather than commercial breadsticks)
  • White bean and rosemary dip (based loosely off of this recipe) and salsa with chips
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Vegetarian and turkey gravy (we never even served the veggie gravy, because our friends brought their own)
  • Salad (which we then completely forgot even to serve)
  • No-knead challah drizzled with honey
  • Pumpkin packed with bread and cheese
  • Cauliflower cake
  • My husband’s famous and much coveted veggie pot pie
  • Homemade cranberry sauce (Our son made this, using the recipe off of the back of the cranberry bag, to which I suggested he add a chopped, unpeeled orange and a handful of chopped candied ginger, which makes a nice sauce).
  • Black olives, the ordinary kind, from a can, which is how I like them. I could eat the entire can, in fact.
  • Mini tartlets filled with coconut cream (Robin’s favorite) or lemon curd. (For the crusts, I just make Betty Crocker’s standard pie crust recipe, with butter substituted for lard. Do they even still publish this recipe with measurements for lard? They don’t online, but an old version of the cookbook will have it. I bake them at 350 for 20-25 minutes or so, in an assortment of sandbakkels tins from my grandma and some strange-shaped tartlet pans that my aunt handed me down to be playthings for my son when he was small. I don’t do anything fancy like use pie weights or prechill the dough. My tarts turn out misshapen, but who cares?)
  • A couple bottles of Clos du Bois Riesling (2007 and 2009, for those who care, which does not include me. I do like this Riesling OK, though)
  • Some “kid wine,” like so:

Then my old friends came, carting an amazing heater-cooler which plugs into the wall and does whatever you need it to do and would be awesome for a pop-up dinner party like this one. And they added:

  • Bumps on a log, cran-cream cheese and PB&raisin versions.
  • A “meat” pie made of seitan and mushrooms, which I haven’t even tried yet.
  • Green bean casserole
  • Veggie gravy
  • Homebrew IPA
  • A bottle of Bella Sera Pinot Grigio
  • A bottle of Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel

Then our new friends came, and at this point I just rolled over and died laughing, because they brought:

  • A huge, beautiful local roast Vermont turkey
  • Another container of homemade cranberry sauce, which we didn’t even touch
  • Another container of gravy (at this point, with two different meat gravies and two different veggie gravies, I’m thinking we should bring out the shot glasses and have a gravy tasting)
  • Homemade rolls
  • Stuffing
  • A gorgeous, cranberry-topped cheesecake
  • 2 lovely pomegranates
  • And a whole bunch more wine and beer

The kids ate 6 tartlets a piece and screamed and jumped on the beds. We grownups sat around the table and yakked and yakked and ate and ate. It was ridiculous. It was epic. It was bountiful. A good time had by all.  I hope I know these people forever.

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Happiness Blogging Challenge

I’ve noticed that some of my favorite blogs are making me unhappy.

I read the inspiring posts, and see the gorgeous photographs, and feel like crap. When am I going to get the chance to visit Morocco, explore the neighborhood with my kid, make amazing meals, handmake all my presents with exquisite meaning, and fill up my own wonderful, creative blog?

Never, that’s when. (Especially if I keep wasting time reading these pretty blogs!)

So I’m setting myself a challenge. If I have time to undergo death-by-counterfactual every morning, I can make time for a piece of the alternate reality I’m mourning. So each day, before I check facebook, before I read my favorite blogs, I have to complete a blog post. If I don’t have time for creation, I don’t have time for consumption.

Want to join me? (Feel free to link up to your own blog challenge in comments, if you like.)