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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chasing the blue ribbon cake ...

Okay, this is how it happened.
Last summer, my husband learned how to can applesauce. He quickly became enamored with canning, and began boiling jars and mixing syrup and experimenting by combining fruits and spices. He created concoctions he called, “Rhubarb Jungle” “Ruby Slippers,” and “Ginger Spice for Hot Monkeys.” This summer the masterpiece was “Rhubarb Figgy Pudding,” a mixture of figs, rhubarb and apples from our backyard cooked to a sweet, tangy, tasty mess called a conserve by cooks in the know. He decided to enter “Rhubarb Figgy Pudding” in the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Washington.

Let me back up a bit.
During most of these canning blitzes, I remained chained to my computer, writing yet another draft of my dissertation proposal. About the time that steam was pouring out of our kitchen and the aroma of rhubarb, figs and apples filled the air, still at my computer, I turned on the TV. There was Aunt Bee preserving pickles for the Mayberry Fair. Do you remember that episode of the Andy Griffith Show? When Aunt Bee was trying to outdo Clara and win the blue ribbon for pickles? Well, just as Aunt Bee peered into her pickle jar, my husband entered the room holding up a jar of “Rhubarb Figgy Pudding” and announcing this was The One. Suddenly I felt this odd peer pressure to join in with the crowd (well, with Aunt Bee and my husband) and enter something—anything—in the Fair. “I will bake a cake,” I blurted. “I will enter a cake in the Fair.”

Reflecting on this decision, I suppose part of it was a drive to avoid writing the current draft of my dissertation proposal, but also I just wanted to try something new.
Although I have baked a cake before (perhaps 15 years ago?), I had never before entered anything in a Fair. Oh, the pleasure of deciding to do something new! To wander out into a new path not knowing how it will turn out … okay, okay, it wasn’t that big a deal, but I really did NOT know how this cake that I proposed to bake would turn out, so there was a bit of mystery to enjoy!

I do think that starting something new is a rush because of this mystery component of starting down an unfamiliar road ... you feel brave and slightly heroic for deciding to do it. The planning to begin the new thing is totally fun. Especially when you get to buy new stuff. (I got a new cake pan and a flour sifter.)

When you actually start the new thing, though, the reality can be scary and frustrating or so alien that you wonder why you ever wanted to do it.
And the stuff you need to buy can be scary in itself … like the price of nursing textbooks or the sheer size and heft of them. At this point, the reality of your decision to go to nursing school can hit like a ton of bricks. It can feel scary, stressful and so alien that you wonder why you ever, ever, wanted it. I think that I can safely say to any and all nursing students that if you don’t feel this right now, there will be some moment along the way in the next four years that you will. When that moment hits, take a deep breath (or six or seven), go for a walk or a run, hug a puppy, look at the stars or the wonderful liquid star shine we are blessed with 10 months of the year, and thank God for the ability to feel and grow and wonder and to reflect on your journey.
And go bake that cake!

By the way, to my utter astonishment, my cake got a blue ribbon.

No kidding!

(apologies to Julia Child for pasting my face on her picture)

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