When life knocks you flat…

It’s been a week. Short weeks always work out to be long in the end. I don’t know why or how, I only know it’s true. And this one has been no exception.

I knew it was a long shot. Usually I’m built to be positive. But this house offer…just didn’t feel right from the beginning. On Wednesday the buyers decided to walk away. It was disappointing. And it was a relief, oddly enough. I didn’t feel good about the offer, and the whole thing felt too rushed. Well, I may have time to regret that one if I sit with a house on Water Street for a long time to come. But when it’s right, it will be right…no forcing it. That’s never a good feeling.

So, in the spirit of cheering myself up and putting myself back on track I thought about the steps forward. What do I need to do to right myself? That’s the image I always see in my mind…my body upside down, somehow needing to find the way back up, back to hope, back to future.

It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t sitting surrounded by empty shelves and dreading unpacking a house I just rushed to pack.

When has my efficiency ever backfired so spectacularly?!

But there are silver linings. I got a free inspection and a free appraisal out of the process, thanks to the would-be buyers. And though the appraisal cost me the sale in the end, at least it helps to price more in line with the current market value. I tell myself things work out in the end. Isn’t that what you tell yourself when you’re disappointed?

I am disappointed, but there’s nowhere to go with that. The best cure for disappointment is action. And since I love the word “grace,” for all it’s meanings to my life, I created a little acronym to help me get going:

Grace

Happy weekend! I’ll be unpacking a bit, staging the house for future showings, and finding grace. And if you’re feeling in need of that gift, I hope you’ll find it too.

~ Sheila

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Ketchup and syrup

Did you ever think that you have given your all to a situation, and it isn’t enough? I realized the other day that sometimes, what I have to give is like pouring ketchup on pancakes. I give what I have to give. But even if I give with all my heart, I can’t make ketchup taste like syrup. It isn’t necessarily about giving “enough.” Sometimes it is about the reality of ketchup vs syrup. Both are good, and both have a place. But few people would choose ketchup over syrup for pancakes. Made me think for a long time. I think I’ve poured a lot of ketchup in my life. 

It is the nature of grace always to fill spaces that have been empty.   ~  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Rob’s philosophy

From a discussion last weekend…my philosopher at large, aka my husband, Rob…

The goal of life is hope.

The pathway to the goal is love.

The gate that obstructs the path is pride.

The key to the gate is forgiveness.

Monday morning Cinnamon Rolls

So tomorrow I’m bringing cinnamon rolls to work. These are not from a bakery or out of a refrigerated roll tube. These are homemade, gooey, delicious and oversized. These are the real deal. The recipe follows below.

But first, let me tell you that this isn’t just a bit of holiday festivity for co-workers. No, this is part of my work philosophy. I believe in doing a good job of fulfilling my responsibilities. But there are things that go along with doing a good job. This is what I do try to do:

~ Try to say “yes” more than “no.” Be positive. I call this my “yes policy.” This is not about being a “yes man,” or about letting others dump on me. It is about being willing to try, and being gracious.

~ Be transparent; apologize when necessary; take responsibility!

~ Smile; have an attitude of gratitude. But be sincere; you can’t fake this.

~ Commit to what you’re trying to accomplish; coach it; be it.

~ And last, bring food. I’ve never worked in any setting where good food isn’t appreciated. This isn’t about getting anything in return. This is about now and then sharing a treat, whether homemade or a pickup from the local doughnut shop. I used to buy ice cream fudge bars or ice cream sandwiches in the summer to take in at a past job. It really doesn’t matter what the treat is. Just do it, and do it regularly.

Cinnamon Rolls
(thank you, Ann!)

I’ve never had a failure with this recipe; it was given to me by a dear friend whose skill in the kitchen is legendary! This isn’t a recipe to make if you’re watching your calories. But for those occasions when you want a wonderful breakfast treat, to pull out all the stops, this is a winner. Although the instructions are long, each step is actually quick and easy…don’t let the lengthy instructions intimidate you!

The dough is easier to make if you have a stand mixer (like a Kitchen Aid) so the mixer does the work for you. You do not have to knead the dough by hand, you only need to mix it with the dough hook. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can mix the dough by hand, that’s easy too).

I break this into three steps and it keeps the whole process from being too lengthy. To have warm rolls for breakfast, (this is our standard Christmas morning treat) mix the dough the afternoon or evening before. I usually try to mix the dough early enough in the afternoon so I can let the dough rise six hours and then roll the dough out and slice before going to bed. When the dough is rolled out, sliced, and the rolls are put into the baking pan, I cover the pan with Saran wrap, slide the pan into the fridge, and leave it overnight. In the morning, I put the cold baking dish into a cold oven. (Very important! Never put a cold dish into a hot oven; if the baking dish is glass it might crack.) I put the oven on the lowest temp, about 170 degrees, let the rolls rise about half an hour, or until the rolls have at least doubled in size, then turn up the oven to 350 degrees and bake the rolls for approximately 35 minutes. While the rolls are baking, mix the icing. This only takes a couple of minutes, so the whole process in the morning is just a matter of putting the rolls in the oven and drizzling the icing over the rolls after baking.

An alternative, if you have time, is to allow the rolls come to room temperature and rise till the dough is at least doubled. If your timing allows (perfect if you are serving these at brunch), just take the rolls out of the fridge in the morning and let them sit for at least a couple of hours prior to baking. If they still need a little more rising, you can always speed the process along a bit by putting them into a low-temp oven as described above.

Dough
1 cup softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup hot water
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
2 packages of active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, or you can use 1 cup of warm milk instead of water
6 cups of all purpose flour

Combine the butter, sugar and hot water in mixer bowl. Stir until butter is melted. Allow this to cool until just warm (if mixture is too hot, it will kill the yeast). Add eggs and salt to butter mixture when cooled. Combine yeast with 1 cup of warm water (or warm milk if substituting milk for water). Give the yeast a few minutes to proof (it will foam up). Add yeast mixture to butter mixture. Add flour 2 cups at a time and combine using mixer dough hook. When all the flour is added, cover the dough in the mixing bowl and refrigerate for six hours or overnight.

Filling
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
brown or white sugar, 1 1/4 cups (more or less, to taste)
cinnamon (use a lot, these are cinnamon rolls!)

After dough has risen in fridge, (dough should be at least doubled in size) remove from mixing bowl and roll out on floured surface. Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness in rectangular shape. Spread surface of dough with softened butter. Sprinkle buttered surface of dough with granulated or brown sugar, then with cinnamon. Cover the dough liberally with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up jelly roll fashion and slice rolls about 1 inch thick. Arrange slices in baking pan and allow to rise. You can let the rolls rise at room temperature for a couple of hours, or turn the oven on the lowest temperature (about 170 degrees) and let the rolls rise in the oven for about half an hour, as described in notes above.

When rolls have risen (at least double in size) bake at 350 degrees for approximately 35 minutes.

Icing
Combine a couple of tablespoons of melted butter, powdered sugar (I use two or three cups of powdered sugar) and milk (drizzle a little milk in until the icing is the consistency you want. It can be spreadable or pourable). Add a teaspoon of vanilla to icing and spread over warm rolls. If you make too much icing, this will keep in the fridge for several days. You can also use this icing on almost any dessert…handy to keep around for pound cakes, etc. For those who love cream cheese, add 3 or 4 oz of softened cream cheese to the icing and blend to remove any lumps.

Orange Rolls

I stumbled on this option (I was out of cinnamon and discovered my predicament at the last minute when I was making these recently) and it makes a nice citrusy treat.

All the steps for making the dough are the same, through rolling the dough out and spreading with butter and sprinkling the dough with granulated or brown sugar. I use less sugar in this variation, and I don’t measure these amounts, but I cover the dough a little more lightly with sugar than when I am making the cinnamon version. This can be adjusted to personal taste. After spreading the rolled-out dough with butter and sugar, using a jar of orange marmalade, (I use Smuckers marmalade) spread this over the sugar, roll up, and slice rolls to place in baking pan. (The marmalade can be a bit tart, and I use the sugar in the filling to cut the tartness of the orange peel in the marmalade.) Allow rolls to rise and bake as described above.

For the glaze, instead of adding vanilla extract and milk to thin the glaze, I use orange juice and a few drops of orange flavoring, or you could grate a little orange zest in the glaze if you have a fresh orange. Don’t add cream cheese…you just want to punch up the orange flavor.

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Life lists

When I was young, in my 20s, I thought I had my whole life before me. I did, of course. I find that is still true, even at the age of 50. (I must seem endlessly fixated on this number. I’m really not; it just makes a nice reference point for life evaluation.) I hope to have a healthy number of years left. And I recognize that I have immense flexibility now that I didn’t have in the past.

Some of this freedom comes from the stage I’ve reached. Kids are grown and self-supporting (Yay!); there is enough money for discretionary choices; I am able to pursue freedom without concern that a move will impact career. Work, although a good and rewarding part of my life, is just that: a part.

I’m busy, as I fill my days with relationships, employed work, de-cluttering, blogging, daily to-do list, etc., etc., etc., constructing a path for “next.” As in, “what’s next?” One of the epiphanies I had a few years ago (been working on some of this for a while!) is that it seems great to open up the map, to think you can choose to live anywhere you want. But without job or family informing the choice, it is actually overwhelming and intimidating. So with this next step, as we prepare to move from Ketchikan, there is a different strategy. Rather than look for a next place to anchor right away, I hope to explore a variety of settings, to try on some dreams before making a long-term choice.

We attempted to do this once before. We looked at some small towns in the northwest that were charming and had location appeal. But we were sidetracked with a decision before we made a selection…we allowed ourselves to be chosen, without making an intentional choice ourselves.

So, learn from past mistakes. This time, I think the filter should be less about place, more about experience. I want us to define what we are looking for now, and hope we can put location, opportunity, and resources together to explore dreams. There are a lot of beautiful places in the world, but beauty isn’t the only thing to consider. I’m looking for a package deal: possibilities for fulfillment, adventure, serendipity. And if the view is amazing, that will be a bonus. A phrase sometimes used to describe this type of search is “bucket list:” a list of things to do or see before you die. That’s the wrong motivation for me. Here’s the thing: I don’t have a bucket list. I have a life list. This isn’t about checking off things to do, it is about finding life, as it is ever-changing and evolving.

A line from one of my favorite movies of all time, The Sound of Music, expresses this thought. There’s a scene in the movie when the Reverend Mother tells Maria, “You have to live the life you were born to live.” You have to look for your life. And first, you have to know what you are looking for. Sounds easy, but unless you are one of the rare people who knew at a single-digit age what you wanted to do with your life, not as simple as it sounds. And I find that what I look for has changed over the years. I don’t need a great school system these days. I don’t need a big house. I still need love. I still want joy. But the sources are less the concrete things in my life, more the intangibles. If I seem slow to realize this, I’m not. I’ve known this for a long time. But I am reaching a point of re-creating, with intention, with purpose, with direction. I wasn’t able to do it at once, but I am able to at last.

New skills; or, 50 and fearless!

So, after a bit of agonizing over my inevitable 50th birthday… inevitable since I’ve continued to live…I have come to terms with my new decade. I turned 50 in September, and although I don’t want to seem totally self-absorbed, it gave me a little heartburn to realize that I’m now officially old enough for an AARP membership.

I’ve heard some women speak of being “50 and fabulous,” and while that’s a line I’d love to claim for myself, I can’t honestly say that I’m fabulous on a daily basis. My fabulous moments are somewhat hit and miss. Most of the time I have to categorize myself more in the “doing the best I can” mode.

My new phrase that celebrates turning 50 and showcases the spirit I’m striving for is “50 and fearless.” This is not to say that there are not plenty of things in life worthy of fear. Serious illness, loss, concerns about family, relationship issues, money troubles, the leak in my bathroom…all bring some level of fear to my mind. Some fears are easily calmed, and anything that can be resolved with money, in my opinion, is not too big a problem in the first place. It’s only money, right? But some fears are too real, too big, to gloss over with a pep talk. Some things can’t be bought with money. Some things have to be accepted, acknowledged, lived with.

But the attitude…that’s what I want. The spirit of fearlessness is my goal. The spirit that says “bring it on, I’ll find a way to meet this challenge with grace and dignity.” And if I can nurture that attitude in myself, if I can face life with boldness, then maybe turning 50 will be ok after all. It feels a bit like arriving, although I don’t claim to have everything figured out. But by this point in my life, I’ve lived long enough to know that whatever comes, most likely the process of finding a solution to a problem, or finding the grace to accept, will stretch me in new ways, will broaden my horizons, will bring new insight. And after all, isn’t that valuable in itself? I know more, and less, now than I did at 20. I am more confident and more tolerant, less sure that I have the answers to everything. But I believe I am kinder, gentler, softer, and yet have more ability to endure. And as I take stock of myself at the beginning of this new decade, I’d like to believe I’m progressing, not just aging.

So that’s my goal and challenge to myself: to be 50 and fearless. To be courageous and to embrace whatever comes; to seek the opportunity to grow, to stretch, to find new strengths, new skills, new horizons. And who knows? Maybe one day I will be fabulous as well as fearless…with a lot of effort, and a generous supply of grace.