A Cupcake Savage

I am sitting here watching I Love Lucy, drinking champagne and cleaning chocolate off of my chin. After reading my little manifesto my mom insisted that I didn’t need to own my own house, or even a brick and mortar to have my own bakery. She told me to march my caboose to the grocery store and buy ingredients for something to bake. I told her I didn’t have money for that. She argued with me that I did, because I had told her I made $52 delivering pizza.

I’d confided in my mom that I’d had some hefty tippers the other day. Before I left to deliver to one guy, my boss had said, “now listen, if Davis doesn’t tip you at least $10, you let me know.”

I nodded, but immediately began to fret. So this Davis was a good tipper? What if I was the one pizza delivery gal he didn’t tip well, because I did something stupid like coughed near his pizza or something?

Then my other boss said, “And know that he will hit on you.”

Now I was exceptionally nervous. What if Davis didn’t hit on me? What if he thought I was a troll and therefore tipped me $3? I scooped up my pizza bag and receipt with address and went to deliver to Davis, desperate for him to tip me $10 and hit on me. When I arrived and held up my bag and announced the total, Davis—a young bearded gentleman—smiled and ambled over. I immediately began to fumble with sliding the pizza out of the bag. I struggled and couldn’t get it out, until he jokingly said, “Come on now, you can do it.”

I could feel my face starting to flame and said, “Give a girl a break.”

I can’t be certain this is what he said next as my pure horror over not being able to sufficiently pull a pizza order out of a bag was making me dizzy. “I can’t do that, because that’d mean I was dumping you.”

I looked up as I pulled the pizza out and slid it to him, waiting for the cash. His total was $25.46. He handed me $40 and told me to keep the change. I still hadn’t registered anything: the large tip, the smiling, his easygoing banter. As I had been worried the whole time about appearing idiotic while I was indeed appearing idiotic.

At any rate, I got back, to my boss asking if I had gotten the $10 tip as promised. I nodded, re glowing red again. “You got more than $10 didn’t you,” he said, already knowing the answer. I smiled, believing myself to be a non-troll after all. The night progressed somewhat along those lines and I was pleased.

So yes. I did have $52 in tips but I had earmarked that for fancy groceries like quinoa and avocados.

But as I got to thinking about it, I supposed my mom was right. Maybe I should just take a chance and bake and attempt to sell my baked goods? What was the harm in trying? I fancied myself decently competent at it and it was in the vicinity of my goals. I could have a pop-up bake shop. The more I thought about it, the more it thrilled me while at the same time terrified me if it meant I couldn’t have my quinoa and avocados.

As I was driving to the grocery store (45 minutes away) I decided I was in. I was going to do it. I decided this week would be cupcakes. I would make my mama’s famous chocolate buttercream fudge cake and turn it into cupcakes, which I’d done numerous times before. At the grocery store, I piled the ingredients in my cart, doing a mental tally of the expense. With each item of cupcake important in, I had to mentally scratch off a fancy food item. The quinoa was out. So was squash. And asparagus. And tuna—not fancy but still—until I had everything I needed for cupcakes and little I needed in the way of actual groceries.

I went and grabbed bread and did opt for the fancy nine grain though it was $4 more than the sugary white crap. I went to the produce section and was eyeing up the avocados. Sadly I walked away.

I went home and began baking feeling appropriately charmed and hopeful. My mom called while I was baking and we began to talk about the houses in town that I would be interested in owning one day. I told her about one that used to be a hotel and what I could glean was inside from squinting outside the gate: some really nice antiques, a wrought-iron bed post and some old furniture with real potential to be refurbished.

My mom squealed in delight and told me I should see about buying some of it. “Mom, I had to cut a $.99 avocado off my grocery list, what about my financial state right now leads you to believe I could go all antiques roadshow on the abandoned hotel in town?”

She laughed heartily and said, “but still…” My mom is as much the dreamer as I am. “I didn’t realize you wouldn’t have been able to buy avocados if you bought baking supplies… I didn’t want that…” she confessed apologetically.

“It’s alright. I work this weekend, so I can buy avocados then.”

At this point the buzzer went off for the cupcakes and chocolatey goodness was wafting into my nostrils. I opened the oven door and saw utter catastrophe.

“Oh no, mom!” I exclaimed, setting the phone down on the counter, “I overfilled the cupcake wrappers and they overflowed. They look awful!”

She insisted it was alright and that they could be my practice batch. Until I realized I forgot two key ingredients for the buttercream frosting and had to switch over to just fudge frosting. Then I overfilled the next batch too, though I tried heartily not to. As I looked at the oozing chocolate cupcake mess, I began to wonder if indeed I had made the wrong decision in not buying quinoa and avocados and instead thinking I could have a baking empire. I told my mom as much as I wedged the exploded cupcakes out of the pan.

“Mom, this is the universe laughing at me for spending my grocery money on cupcakes and thinking I could be a baker. They look terrible! Though, honest to God they are delicious… but they look like shit…”

My mom immediately nixed that train of thought, and said it wasn’t the universe, it was me overfilling the cupcake wrappers and that this was merely the test batch. I decided to agree with her as I wolfed down three mangled cupcakes and got frosting all over my face like a cupcake savage.

Well, I suppose any artistic foray, whether it be writing or baking is bound to have some blunders. At least I still have half the batter left to make new—hopefully more promising —attempts. Would anyone like a mangled cupcake though in the meantime?

My Manifesto

I want champagne and fancy breakfasts. You know the kind I mean, the kind that Eloise at the Plaza would eat. Steaming sausage and biscuits, chocolate croissants, and fresh fruit bowls, all of which I prepared myself, lovingly and languorously. And I know Eloise can’t have champagne. But I can.

I want to be able to don an apron and experimentally bake all day just because it brings me joy. Then I want to share that bakery with all sorts of people who love having sugary goodness in their mouths.

I want to adopt a dog and know that I can take care of it. I want to be able to take care of myself without anyone else’s help. And then one day I want someone to help take care of me, not because I am incompetent but because that person loves me and knows things like: when I am sick I am a colossal baby brat and want extra attention.

I want to be able to fill up my gas tank and drive to far off places and not worry about bouncing my checking account. I want to stop and visit with old men in barbershops and men who are fishing in streams and waitresses in diners. I want all of their wisdom. I want to bathe in it like I want to bathe in a clawfoot tub. I also want a clawfoot tub.

I want to own my own home with my name on the mortgage, no one else’s because I did it all by my independent self. I want to own goats and chickens and horses and perhaps a cow or two. I want to know in turn how to take care of those animals. I want those animals to roam about my yard and lean into me when I visit with them, like they would lean into the sunshine. Because I will love them so much.

I want to perhaps turn my home into a B&B, or at the very least a cozy and open space where friends, family and even polite acquaintances are always welcome. I want that place to be in Wyoming. I also want that place to have a big porch, or at the very least big trees where swings and tree forts can be happily built.

I want land where I can roam. Where my animals can roam. Where I can ride horses. Where I can have fences to mend. Where one day, God willing, my children can roam and pretend to be the Boxcar children, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or the Swiss Family Robinsons like I did as a child. My children will know who all of these people are. They will also know about Lewis and Clark and the importance of explorers. They will know about Annie Oakley and fierce-minded, strong willed ambitious women, they will know about God and that highest and purest of unconditional love, and a whole bunch more.

I want to have a writer’s room or a writer’s barn or a writer’s workshop or even a writer’s nook where I can write novels and have my babies snug tight to me in little papooses while they sleep. And when they are not sleeping and creating a racket, they can go play with the goats or their siblings or their dad.

I want to learn how to garden like my mom does. Meaning, pretty much like Martha Stewart does, because my mom’s gardens are exquisite. I also want to maybe one day like gardening. And if it turns out I don’t, I want my mom to live right next door and I will pay her to make my gardens look as nice as hers.

I want to do nice things for my community like help organize events, or throw old-fashioned soirees, because I love an old-fashioned soiree, or be someone that my neighbors know they could rely on, because I love to help people. I also happen to think this is the best reflection of Christ’s love and if anyone I meet ever thinks more lovingly of God because of me, I will consider my time here a massive success.

And if I can somehow do all of this, I think I will have made it. And if I can do only some of this, but I have tried really hard, I’ll still think I’ve made it. I only say all this, because I do want it all deeply and therefore I never tire of saying it. Of dreaming it. And perhaps, with saying it enough, dreaming it enough, I can inch my way into manifesting this reality. It’s possible of course. We are living in a world where Donald Trump may become president—though I shudder to think—so the possibilities truly are there.

So here’s to champagne this weekend. I can’t afford all the things I want: champagne, and impromptu road trips, and ingredients to bake a lemon blueberry cake, and a horse, but I have opted to purchase for myself a cheap bottle of champagne to accompany my I Love Lucy marathon and cucumber face mask I forgot I owned. And then perhaps I’ll go star gazing in my backyard and feel unnaturally lucky anyway.

 

 

Shoot the Crocodiles

I put all sorts of conditions on myself in order not to noget writing done. Here is a completely true compilation of things I have said or done in order to avoid my craft:

  1. I need a record player to set the mood.
    I lost the cord to mine and listening to music on Pandora isn’t scratchy or otherworldly enough, even when I put on Billie Holiday Radio. And trust me Billie Holiday has the right kind of croony old-timey scratch. I have her as my ringtone and once while taking a bath at my ex’s old farmhouse, I heard this eerie female singing in the other room, and having already determined that his house was indeed haunted, I presumed it was by the ghost of a Billie Holiday sound-alike. Until I remembered my ringtone, and calmly went back to enjoying my bath in relative relaxing peace and un-haunted quiet.
    I will then spend the bulk of my day not writing as I don’t have a working record player, so instead I pine for one while daydreaming about sashaying to Moon River in my mind on my imaginary record player.
  2. I need a seaside vista.
    Or a mountain view. Or a big wooden writer’s desk—I do actually own one but it is ever so inconveniently buried under an actual mountain of junk in my parents basement. Or better aesthetics. Or less distracting aesthetics. I have given every one of these excuses as to why I cannot write. I then have to pack up my things to find the better writer’s locale and then I am certain I can do it. Except I have had seaside vistas and proper writer’s desks and mountain views and lovely aesthetics and uninterrupted aesthetics and still I will avoid my craft and revert back to excuse number one. Or try out one of my most agonizing habits.
  3. I am simply too blasé or bluesy to do my work.
    This is my worst offense. I get all angsty tortured artist and simply feel being creative is too much pressure. I do things like cry, curl into bed in the fetal position, lay a blanket on the living room floor and lie there for hours feeling hopeless while staring at the ceiling, generally wear myself out with histrionics until I can force sleep on myself and not think about the pull to write. I have resorted to this one more times than I even care to admit. In fact I did this all weekend. My mom called in the middle of one of my meltdowns and I was already planning my fourth avoidance tactic:
  4. Run away. 
    I do this one probably the most. I decide to combine all the other steps, of this one place not being mountainous enough, or having a record player on hand or how I didn’t account for my blues, and I decide I need to pack up and find the new place that will make it all easier and better.
  5. I need to watch a sitcom I’ve seen 1,000 times to unwind.
    I re-watch about four sitcoms over and over and over again. I Love Lucy. Friends. The Office. King of Queens. These are my standbys and I have seen every episode of every season of these hundreds of times. They still make me chuckle and they give me ample amounts of comfort as I delight in their hilarity. But mostly they distract me from my work. I convince myself that I need to see if Ross and Rachel really were on a break. Or how Jim and Pam’s love story plays out. Or what sort of antics Lucy gets into to try and make it on Ricky’s show. How badly Doug will screw up and tick off Carrie this time. I already know. Ross and Rachel were on a break. Jim and Pam fall in love and it makes me happy and sick with jealousy over their fictitious love every time. Doug always ticks off Carrie. And Lucy never fails to get herself into wild blunders that make me smile. Funnily enough, however, I am loathe to start watching new television shows because I don’t want to commit and I don’t altogether like TV that much.

Now for the record the perfect place does not exist. The perfect place with mountains and the sea and record players and big wooden writer’s desks and no access to King of Queens. Okay, that place actually might exist, but the place isn’t the problem. The problem is me and my incessant fear over making it. That’s what stops me. That’s what makes me put grandiose declarations on everything I do, so I don’t feel so screwed up.

Lucky for me, I have a pretty tough mama and she encourages me when I need encouragement, but she also puts the kibosh on my hysterics when that is needed too. Which is exactly what she did yesterday when she said she wasn’t going to coddle me anymore, but was going to get all kinds of tough love on me. When I tried planning my escape route and said as much to her she said simply, no.

“You are going to stay put and do your work.”

I feebly tried reasoning with her that I could do my work better in Sheridan, three hours away with coffee shops and libraries. It was two in the afternoon at this point and I had spent most of my morning toying with a round-up of my five avoidance tactics for writing.

“No,” my mom insisted. “You’ll get to Sheridan at dark, half that stuff will be closing and then what? You can’t stay long because you have nowhere to sleep. Do your work where you are, right now. Anything, start with something,” she insisted.

I sniveled a little more and begrudgingly agreed with her, wondering indeed why I was such a baby brat? What about my writing, the thing I have wanted to do for the longest period of my life had me in such a state of upheaval upon facing it. I had all the time in the world right now to face it. For the first time in a long, long while I didn’t have my sisters nearby to distract me, or a gaggle of friends, or a boyfriend.

I have a new and small town, where I know next to no one, uninterrupted quiet, and mountainous landscapes. Sure no big writer’s desk, but I have a big wooden table in the kitchen. And no record player either, but really that’s not vital. My writing with music playing is actually a new-ish occurrence.

So what is my problem?

Me.

I am my problem.

I went and put on I Love Lucy anyway, but selected a disc I had just watched and turned down the volume low enough that I had a faint sound in the the background, mixed with the comfort of Ms. Ball’s genius, while I pulled my laptop into my lap and began to work.

Later that night, I journaled asking myself what in fact I was so afraid of? Having truly no distractions? Having to face the music? Turning 30? Making it? Not making it? I didn’t know, but I knew I couldn’t run away this time and I couldn’t watch endless sitcoms or lay on the living room floor and mope. I had to grow up and get it done, because no one else would do it for me, nor would I want them to. In fact that was what was sickening me the most. That I had all these ideas and that I may sit on them long enough for someone else to decide to manifest something wonderful while I merely thought about writing instead of actually writing.

Then I read this:

This is how it comes to pass that one morning you open up the newspaper and discover that somebody else has written your book, or directed your play, or released your record, or produced your movie, or founded your business, or launched your restaurant, or patented your invention—or in any way whatsoever manifested some spark of inspiration that you’d had years ago, but had never entirely cultivated, or had never gotten around to finishing. This may vex you, but it really shouldn’t, because you didn’t deliver! You didn’t show up ready enough, or fast enough, or openly enough for the idea to take hold within you and complete itself. Therefore, the idea went hunting for a new partner, and somebody else got to make the thing.
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Which is so true. I totally thought of FaceTime before Apple! But um… I was a kid and I also thought the Jetson’s were really onto something with their flying scooters. That is actually one of those ideas that I would’ve never been able to manifest though, because I don’t have a science brain. But I do want it on the record that I did think of a telephone in which you could see who you were talking to.

At any rate I digress. My point is I am laying it to you straight, readers, that I am going to write. And I aim to finish my book by my thirtieth birthday. Even if it sucks or bombs or no one cares, the darn thing needs to stop having a moat with crocodiles swirling around it, because if someone else does indeed write the thing I have been yearning to write, well I will have far worse problems on my hands than whether or not I have scratchy enough music on record and a big fat writer’s desk. Also I’ll probably shoot those crocodiles. I should probably shoot them now actually.

Guys, they are fictitious mind crocodiles, don’t worry I could never shoot a real animal. In fact my friend and I passed a meat processing plant the other day where I saw a man on a fence and another wrangling with a cow, and my friend said, “that’s the cow’s last day.” I stared on in horror wanting to go and set him free. But alas, that probably wouldn’t make me any friends in my new ranching community and I must remember this is all part of it. Death is a part of it. Hence why I’ve got a messy date in a moat and a book to wrangle out.