Peeling the Onion

Peeling the onion.  Someone I admired (as in someone cool- they had their act together) used that phrase a long time ago. It was at EST.  Yes; I was an EST-hole.  I grew up in SoCali back in the 60s-70s. EST was big in the 70s. 

EST stood for Erhard Seminar Training.  You weren’t really “training” as much as you were purging.  You and 249 other trainee’s would meet in a hotel conference room set up with row after row of straight backed chairs.  You’d park your ass in the chair from morning to night for two consecutive weekends.  Breaks for food or bathrooms were only allowed at the discretion of the “Trainor”.  Rumors about people being tortured for hours with no food or potty breaks didn’t scare me.  OK- maybe a little. But when I was offered a new set of luggage, or the EST training for my 18th birthday, I jumped at the training.  How could I resist?

The Trainor started each day by talking about life.  Life brings hard, painful things and we don’t always get time to deal with it; we are expected to suck it up and move on.  Every insult from a kid on the playground, the time your friend turned on you.  The cheating boyfriend.  The disappointments, the losses. We just carry it around like a burden, adding layer upon layer until we are choking on the sorrow.   That’s where the onion comes in.  As you reexamine, experience and move past these ghosts from the past, you leave them behind.  Each experience is peeled off like another layer of the onion.  This leaves you lighter, relieved of the burden.  So, the Trainor talked and healed.  He’d talk of love, sorrow, disappointment, guilt, sadness, fears.  It wasn’t always easy.  Every time he got to a hard part, heads would nod.  You see- we all have this bizarre sleep signal that helps us avoid things we really don’t want to hear.Jaws went slack, snorers would snore, droolers would drool.    Then, the Trainor would casually throw out a comment about either sex or food.  In every case the whole room woulld instantly be awake.  Myself included. 

I was 18 years old, and in a room full of strangers.  We listened to the people- the brave ones who stood and shared their stories.  This went on for 15-18 hours each day.  Each story brought old memories to the surface of my mind.  Old wounds became painful again.  Old memories came back, bittersweet.  Through it all, every time someone stood to share, they spoke for me. I recognized the stories as if I’d lived them.  Who doesn’t know the pain of betrayal and loss?  We left each weekend feeling connected; like blood brothers to these other 249 people.  My soul knew theirs. 

At the end of the training I walked out the doors lighter.  I left behind most of the unresolved issues, hurts and angers.  I felt shiny clean with a new start.  

That was many years ago.  The years have been very, very.  Very good, very hard. The same as other people, I suppose.  Years where I’ve tried to relish the joy, and have been denying and absorbing the joyless moments.  The feelings of sadness, worry, pain and disappointment have been pushed to the back burner.  Now, I see that I’ve done it again.  Worse- I see it happening in children.  Not just my own.  I’ve seen kids be unspeakably mean to each other.  Their vile words just take my breath away.  I’ve seen grownups talking with kids in a way that makes my own stomach hurt.  I want to cry for them- but I see them choke back the tears and force a smile.  I can’t do this anymore.  I’ve grown accustomed to the burdens, but I don’t want my kids to carry them.  

There is no EST for them.  I’m not sure what to offer them, except my love and and guidance.  I can’t keep setting this example- I need to let go of the past and set the right example. I can’t do that here-it isn’t fair to expose the other players in this venue.  I need to vent- and scream and cry.  I need to write another blog that allows me to rant about all the bad things I’ve been pushing to the back corners of my mind.  If I can just do that, with one layer at a time, I can be free. 

I need to peel the onion.  One layer at a time.

But most of all…. I miss my FEET!

I never, ever, ever want to be a teenager again.  This is absolute.  It’s painful enough watching my kids going through it now.  Sometimes, however, I do miss certain things.  We were “free-range” back then.  Our mother wouldn’t have bothered with a GPS tracker, “outside” was the only destination.  She didn’t care to know where we really went, as long as we  went out.

I don’t miss the hard wired phones, or the pre-ATM world where your whole weekend could be ruined if you failed to get to the bank before closing.  I really don’t miss the bell bottoms, or looking good in bikinis, or those heinous Earth shoes.

One thing I do miss, however, were my pre-motherhood feet.  Do you know what happens to your feet when you are pregnant?  Your body makes a hormone called “Relaxin” that makes your muscles, joints and ligaments loosen up.   If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t walk barefoot on the beach while pregnant.  It seemed like such a good idea at the time.  Healthy and serene as I strolled mile after mile.  That was on my days off.  At work I was on my feet and walking most of the day.  Sooo…after 4 kids, and countless miles of walking while that chemical was loosening up my pins, I’ve lost the feet of my youth.  I never had Cinderella pins, mind, but still…at least I had decent arches!  I’ve had to move away from those 8-1/2 narrows (that I thought were massive at the time).  So, I’ll just say it….I have huge, flat feet.  They’ve gained a full size, lost there arch and are now well into the “average” width.   Now I’m shopping at that other end of the shoe aisle…the one which is mostly frequented by majestic giantesses, Fiona (Mrs. Shrek) and transvestites.

I miss pretty shoes.  They still sell them, and I still buy them, but it doesn’t feel the same wearing them on ogre feet.  Now Syd, who still fluctuates between tomboy and princess, has been getting into shoes.  She has nice medium sized feet.  The girls at the mani-pedi salon never whisper in their home language when they see her feet in the tub.   She just bought a pair of basic pumps, and pimped them out in comic books.  I’m so jealous.  These are so cute, and cool, and fun.  And my feet are not.  I really miss having my young feet.  Maybe, just maybe, she’ll pimp me some clogs.  Do you hear me, Syd???DSCF2042DSCF2041DSCF2039DSCF2042Do you, Syd???DSCF2037



This is what kept  me up last night:

1) Money worries- I know, everyone has them.

2) Hubby- He doesn’t have insomnia over money worries.  He should be up at night pacing, budgeting and sharpening pencils. Instead he is in bed.  Snoring.

3) Snoring.  See above.

4) Middle daughter.  Avery.  She is 13.  That should say it all.  She wouldn’t speak to me for the last 24 hours because I refused to let her wear a wig at the dinner table.

5) Older (16 year old) daughter.  Syd (technically also a middle child).  She is home, had a wonderful trip to Guatemala.   She has more energy than a freshly caged monkey on caffeine. She thinks she will now see more of the world.  Instead of going straight to college, she wants to take a year off and “bum my way through Europe, working at odd jobs”.

6) A dear friend just told me that this summer she is moving to NC.  Her daughter Bailey, one of Syd’s best friends, does not want to move with her family.  She plans to stay here and finish her senior year.  “Here” as in with us.  I will have 2 girls, both blonde beauties, in their senior year of high school.  This did not keep me up at night.  I love Bailey.  She’s a welcome surprise (I had a few of those already, what’s one more?).  No problem.  What kept me up?  Syd.  She is so excited about having her twin move in that she was up chatting. Until 1am.

7) New job.  Okay- this is probably what is really keeping me up.  I applied for a per diem nursing position at the local hospital.  Just for kicks.  I didn’t really care how it worked out.  Now I care.  It’s a great place.  In the past 20 years I’ve worked primarily (except for “filling in”) at 2 hospitals.  The last time I applied for a job I was 44.  Now I’m 53.  That just seems so much older.  I’m sure all the other nurses will be experienced; but I’ve never been one of the oldest.  They look so young.  They probably don’t know who all the Beatles are.  Or that Led Zeppelin ever had a farewell tour.  Never mind a dozen of them.

So what do you do when you have insomnia? I cook.  As in bake.  What can I bake that will heal the wounded heart of a 13 year old girl?  What will help open the door for friendships at the new job? My favorite strawberry-buttercream filled cupcakes.  What else?

You can make them with any kind of cupcake. They were something I first did for a picnic, I needed something that would travel well.  I started with yellow cupcakes.

Then, I make my favorite buttercream frosting.  It’s not like any other.  In order to make this you need potato starch.  It’s like corn starch, but potato.  I found it in the kosher food aisle.  This recipe is from an old baking book by Jim Fobel.  It’s my favorite go-to book on baking.  It’s the one thing Syd wants “when you die”.  She doesn’t want a copy.  She wants the same old, broken spined, cover-missing, stained one that I use.  Sweet.  Anyway, per Jim F, you put 3 Tblsp potato starch in a saucepan.  Then, you whisk in 1 cup milk, followed by 2 egg yolks and 1 cup of confectioners (also called powdered) sugar.  When it  is all mixed you cook it over a medium heat until it’s thick.  At this point you should cover with plastic wrap (Jim says to transfer to a bowl and cover. I don’t bother- who needs one more dirty bowl?).  Now, while this cools down, in a large bowl with electric mixer (preferably upright) beat 2.5 sticks of softened butter.  That’s right.  It’s called buttercream for a reason. Trust me- it’s worth it.  Now add another cup of confectioner’s sugar.  The original recipe is for 1/2 cup, but you need the extra because of the moisture in the strawberries. Again, trust me.  After 2 minutes of beating, start adding and beating in the cooling custardy stuff.  It’s okay if it’s a little warm. but it shouldn’t be hot.  Beat in just a little at a time. By the time you are done it should be really light and fluffy.  Next you beat in 1 tsp of vanilla.  Now for the best part: the strawberries!  You should wash them thoroughly first.  Then separate 12 or 13 berries of similar size and color.  The rest you chop into a very fine dice.  Ideally the bits should be all less than 1/4 inch in size.  The reason for the size issue is that they need to fit through the end of your pastry tip.  If you don’t have a pastry tip- no worries. I’ll tell you how to fudge it in a minute.  So stir the berries into the frosting.  An ideal mix is close to 50:50.  Now, prepare a pastry bag and tip as if frosting a cake. Use the biggest tip you can find.  I have a special tip made just for filling cupcakes- forget it.  The opening is too small.  If you don’t have a pastry bag/tip, put all the frosting into a good, sturdy freezer type storage bag.  Close the top after pressing out the air. Squeeze the frosting down to one corner, twist the top to make it look like a pastry bag.  Snip off just a bit of the lower corner to squeeze frosting through.  If you are using this you’ll need to make a hole in the top of each cupcake (a chopstick works well). Now squeeze the frosting into the cupcake, as much as you can fit in without making it explode.  The exploded ones still taste good, they just aren’t pretty.  Make sure that a little extra frosting sits at the top.  Use a little confectioners sugar in a small strainer to sprinkle over the top.  Now carefully remove each cupcake and transfer to serving plate/carrier, etc.  Slice the reserved strawberries in half and press each half onto the blob of frosting at the top of cupcake.  Now doesn’t that look pretty?  You can safely cover with plastic wrap and there is no mess.  I dropped off a dozen to the new job.  They went over well.  The other dozen was for the family.  After 2 cupcakes the 13 year old is now speaking to me.