A Year of Living Dangerously

Two years ago, my older sister gave us all the same gift at Christmas.  It was a white binder filled with a collection of interesting recipes she had discovered over the past year.  It was titled “The Year of Cooking Dangerously” – culled from what she called a year of  “free time, fresh produce, Top Chef marathons and most important, a reconnection to my family, friends and the art of simple living.” The pages detailed roasted winter vegetables, soups, cookies, and even a brine for turkey.  But along with the recipes were the stories of the meals.  A weekend with friends, a potluck Thanksgiving, a woman who made the best sugar cookies.

My sister’s life that year was one big transition.  She was downsized out of her job as a magazine editor, so she sold her swanky city townhouse and moved up to a mountain town in Colorado with her husband and baby.    She had to navigate a new life of “what now?” and “there’s a moose in my backyard” and “why doesn’t this town have a Target?” (can you imagine? Life without Target?!)

No, I didn't climb Mt. Everest.

So, the “Year of Cooking Dangerously” binder really translated to a “Year of Living Dangerously”.  Being pushed out of your comfort zone and making it up as you go along.  Since then, I’ve equated new situations to “living dangerously”.  And 2011 was really my year of living dangerously.  I didn’t sky dive, climb Everest, find a new religion or shave my head.  (Those things actually may have been easier.  Except the hair thing.  I would look terrible bald)  I left my old job, wanting still to be a TV journalist, but on a schedule that made me and my family happy.

Those first months of not knowing what came next were strange.    Slightly scary, even.  I felt like I was hopping around on one foot. But the freedom fired off parts of my brain that had cobwebs and made me think in different ways.

I met interesting people, connected with old friends and worked on new TV projects I never would have if I didn’t take the leap.  I started writing this blog.  I took up piano again – what used to be a chore as a child, the practice, the “do I have to play the piano?” is now such a treat.  Music really does something for the soul.  I started horseback riding again.  Fell off horse.  Broke pinky.  Stopped horseback riding.  (there’s a reason why it’s called living dangerously)  Celebrated my 10th anniversary, saw my daughter ride a two-wheeler for the first time, taught my son to read, potty trained the toddler and danced at my sister’s wedding. Wow.  What a great year!  Especially the potty training part.

But “Living Dangerously” is not easy.  It’s not always fun.  It can be confusing, frustrating and make you question yourself.  But I’m closer to my gut – I listen to it and trust it.  And I know happiness is just as important as a job title.

My sister is now the editor of another magazine and works on projects from her home where she’s free to corral two children, find new recipes and chase the occasional bear out of her garage.  (like a bad episode of Northern Exposure).  I’m still trying to enjoy the now, instead of the “where am I going to be in 10 years?”  So as I look back at 2011, thank you for walking along with me in my Year of Living Dangerously.  Maybe you’ve had a few moments of living dangerously yourself – congratulations!

And may 2012 be the best yet!

No One Remembers A Perfect Christmas

It’s that time of year when I have visions of delicious Christmas cookies, wrapped presents, harmonious children and fluffy snow dancing through my head.  This year, I think, we’ll look like a Christmas card.  Yes! I can see it now.  We’re jolly!  Organized!  Healthy!   I’ll make my own peppermint ice cream while roasting a turkey!  Oh, did I mention crafty homemade gifts for the teachers?    We’ll sing carols around the karaoke machine  piano!

As I plotted my holiday perfection, my mind drifted to memorable holidays past.  And realized the only stories our family brings up from the years, are disasters.  Yep, the stuff you never plan on, ends up making the Christmas memory.

Like the year my 6-year-old niece knocked over an already unstable Christmas tree.  There were screams (ok, just me) as it crashed forward.  We lost a few ornaments, but have priceless video of the aftermath and pictures of my dad’s legs sticking out from under the tree like he’s an auto mechanic.

Don't knock over the tree. Please.

The year my sister got the stomach flu and vomited out in the snow while we were sledding.  We taunt her mercilessly about it to this day.  And the story always seems to be brought up at dinner. (eeewwww)

The year my oldest sister created a coffee-ish eggnog concoction which could (should) have been categorized as hazardous material.  (No, not the same year my sister vomited)

The year my mother left a knife on a cookie sheet and BAKED the knife.  The handle melted.  Interestingly enough, she pried it off the sheet and the knife is still used today.  You can’t really grip it, but it still works.

The year I ordered a sign for my dad’s wine collection (ok, his wine shelf) that arrived just in time for Christmas.  Instead of saying “Tom’s Wine Bar”, it said “Tom Wine Bar”.  I was furious because it was too late to get him a new one.  Everyone still refers to the wine closet as “Tom Wine Bar.”

I was still smirking from memories of Tom Wine Bar, when Martha Stewart came on the “Today” show.  I perked up.  She was teaching the cast (yes, they’re a cast.  Like a dysfunctional TV news reality show) how to make three of her signature Christmas cookies.  One of the anchors made a mistake with the icing and actually looked scared as Martha pointed out she put too much on.  There were no silly stories about how Martha made cookies with her children, or how gingerbread reminds her of home.

It was all perfect.

And really boring.

Let’s be honest.  Perfect is no fun. And no matter how perfect I try to make my Christmas this year, for me or for my family, something is going to go wrong.  And it’s going to make a hilarious story next year.  That’s what my kids will remember, not that I made candy, or that bows were stuck on every present, or everyone had matching Christmas outfits.  Or maybe they will remember the matching outfit thing (and probably tell a therapist about it).  For the first time in a long time, I feel good about letting go of the quest for perfection and just letting it be good enough.  Besides, if my Christmas Eve dinner for 15 is a bust, the ‘ol “I’ve given up perfection for Christmas” thing is sure to work.

My sister just asked if she should make her nog this year.

I may not be perfect.  And I’m also not crazy. Still no on the nog.

ESPN Classic Like Watching “Legally Blonde”

Staring at the tenth hour of college football on a holiday weekend with my husband Jamie, I looked up from my magazine and noticed something odd about the score on the screen.

The graphics were from the 1980’s.

“Wait,” I turn to him. “This isn’t a new game,” I say.

He gives me an innocent look. “What? It’s a game. It’s Michigan vs. Ohio State.”

I have never been the queen of sports, but after being married to a sports guy for ten years, I am not that dumb.

“This isn’t today, though,”

“Not exactly.”

“What do you mean, not exactly. You’ve seen this game. Like 10 YEARS AGO.” I point out.

He grins. I’ve been scammed again by an ESPN Classic game that adds to an already packed college/NFL/high school game weekend. There are plenty of new games to watch. Do we really need to pile on with the classic Cal vs. Standford vs. the marching band game? We already know what happens. (the band gets run over)  I mean, there’s no suspense!  There’s nothing on the line!  It’s been PLAYED BEFORE.

So I commandeer the remote.

“Since you’ve already seen this, how about I flip around?” I say nonchalantly.

And what do I find? On holiday weekends, cable is littered with ultimate must stop and watch movies.

A Few Good MenI always hang in for Jack on the stand. Demi Moore is useless, but solid cameos by Keifer and K. Bacon.

Forrest Gump : “Run, Forr- ok, too easy.  How about “Lt. Dan’s got magic legs”.

The Cutting Edge – Ice Skating, the 80’s, a dreamy D.B. Sweeny. Toe pick.

The Fugitive – Never fails that I tune in when Richard escapes Tommy Lee Jones and gets lost in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Shawshank Redemption – I’ve always wanted to visit Zihuatanejo.

One more click and suddenly I land on the ultimate must stop and watch.

Legally Blonde. I don’t know why, but this movie has a tractor beam that pulls me in. Not sure if it’s the pink outfits, cartoonish characters or Luke Wilson when he was hot-ish (and thin-ish). Or the bend and snap.  Plus it has a suspenseful courtroom scene.  I object!

I feel eyes staring at me.

“So,” Jamie says. “You’ve never seen that movie before.”

I have.

“You already know how it ends,” he says.

Well…

“Elle wins the case” he says.

“And Michigan wins the game,” I add.

Silence.

Oh. So, perhaps ESPN Classic isn’t so stupid after all.  But thank  goodness for two televisions in the house.

Bonus question:  So… what are the movies you have to watch when you find them on cable?