Saturday, December 29, 2012

In the Aftermath of Newtown

This school shooting, just as those before it, was horrific — but this one especially horrific because it involved innocent, joyous first-graders who had not yet lived long enough to become sassy tweens, back-talking teens, or know-it-all college students.  It is particularly painful to think of all the already wrapped presents still hidden in closets; painful that what was once a happy holiday will forever be marred.  A bleak anniversary of unimaginable horribly real loss — in a family, at a school, on a playground, and everywhere in their community.

It's startling to realize this is the fourth such tragedy during the President's tenure — what is it in our society that sparks such rage and ignites such devastation?  Since Columbine there is always talk of safer schools or greater gun control or, in the most superficial way, the need for character education.

There is no one solution.  If someone is compelled or chooses to manifest their emotional outrage as an assault on others, this cannot be stopped.  Despite the current rhetoric, we cannot arm our teachers nor surround our schools with a bullet-proof web.  But we can try more consistently and uniformly to create a culture of character in the places where our children spend most of their days (if we are lucky).

Character and citizenship were the purview of families, schools, and faith-based communities.  But this triumvirate of support systems which taught, practiced and reinforced the moral upbringing of children has been under siege from all fronts — most especially from the bombardment of violence and violence-themed messages permeating television, movies, music, and video games.  We no longer have a society that filters and protects its young — what was always deemed inappropriate, now is the norm.

Though there will always be families, faith-based organizations, and classrooms committed to developing kind and caring young people, often these forces are fighting an uphill (at best) or losing battle (at worst).

We have allowed violence to become a staple of everyday living.  We celebrate cell-phone-throwing-DWI divas and promote "reality" TV that glorifies back-stabbing, road rage, and vengeance.  

WHY do we watch this?  What is so appealing about this side of our humanity? I don't understand it, but I know we as a society implicitly condone it and consumerize it.

I know that to address these acts of horror — that seem to occur with uncomfortable regularity — means to look at all facets of the issue.  This includes rethinking access to weapons and the kind of weapons we allow — and more focus on identifying and treating mental health without stigmatization.  But I also know that we need to commit to character development — not just the trait of the month in elementary school or the occasional week-long  middle school activity to get involved in local elections or high-school admonitions not to cheat.  With some school exceptions, most of our present efforts are all too fragmented, too little, too late.

Here are a few findings I want to share from a 2002 study the Secret Service conducted on school shootings after Columbine:

  • There is no accurate or useful "profile" of students who engaged in targeted school violence — they varied considerably in age, demographic, background and other characteristics.
  • All were male; three-quarters of the attackers were white 
  • Almost two-thirds of the attackers came from two-parent families 
  • Very few of the attackers were known to be failing in school; most were doing well in school at the time of the attack, generally receiving As and Bs in their courses
  • Over half of the attackers demonstrated some interest in violence, through movies, video games, books, and other media 
  • Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack
  • Almost three-quarters of the attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others prior to the incident
  • In several cases, individual attackers had experienced bullying and harassment that was long-standing and severe.  In some of these cases the experience of being bullied seemed to have a significant impact on the attacker and appeared to have been a factor in his decision to mount an attack at the school.
The shooters came from intact families and broken ones; they belonged to religious communities and they didn't; they had good grades for the most part.  Two factors were prevalent: access to weapons and being bullied.

We need to face up to the fact that placing paramount emphasis on grades and test scores is falling far short of what the best educational system in the world should have as its outcome — educating honest and compassionate students who value civic engagement and service.  If we build a curriculum that has at its core a regular and routine focus on building character, than we stand a chance of creating a culture of caring for students and perhaps having more children make it to the second grade and beyond.

Don't we owe our kids that much?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

That Inner Voice

Life as I knew it is changing rapidly.  Nine to five, I'm backing out of one day-to-day reality and six to one, I'm plunging into another. It's just been over a week since I went public and already I am immersed in what starting a business involves — tax ID#s and LLC or LLP? and a name and letterhead and following up on networking leads and (oh no) possibly yet another email address and creating an invoice and...see what I mean?

Tonight was the big neighborhood holiday potluck which is always great fun with a huge array of food and people laughing and catching up with one another and feeling festive.  Really the perfect place to reconnect, share my news and NETWORK.  And while I had every intention of going, Chris wasn't feeling well and I was so tired that at 7pm when I thought I'd be headed to the party, I was still in my pajamas. I simply couldn't face the barrage of humanity and the questions my news was bound to provoke.  So while I was sorry to miss seeing everyone I was glad I'd stayed in my pajamas and kept chipping away at my list, but still, I felt guilty passing up the opportunity to network.

My friend Susan (the artist, see her magnificent painting in this post) and I were talking about the negative voice that keeps whispering doubt or criticism in our heads.  Do you have one?  Well, she said something really helpful to me — 


"You don't have to attach to a thought."

Hmmm.  While you can't get rid of that voice, you can hear it, but not allow it to dominate and dictate your mood. You don't have to attach yourself to that which doesn't uplift you. 

So while I still missed going, I didn't make myself crazy and I stayed in my pjs.  

What a relief.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Leap and the net will appear

Leap...and the net will appear 

As I get ready to plunge into the work-unknown, I am encouraged by the cheers and good wishes of those I reach out to. 

We don't always get what we want or need from those around us — those we love, those we wish knew us from the inside out.  Still, I am learning to accept that though I might not always get what I (desperately) want for — at this moment in time I am gratefully accepting what is being given.  And I am being given a lot.

Michelle has known me for over twenty years.  For much of that time she has lived far away in Central and South America, we see each other at best, once a year, Sometimes she comes with her family, some times alone. Once I went to Caracas to visit and work.  Our lives go on, our children grow, we grow. When I came home the other day there was this sweet Edible Arrangement waiting for me with the chocolate-covered strawberries and these white chocolate-covered doves cut from slabs of juicy and sweet pineapple — with a card cheering me on.

My husband and kids have been great.  My bosses at work have been understanding. The decision to leave has lifted me — and kept me up til 3 am and wakened me again at 6.  I am going to be on a roller coaster but I have to say, it feels good.

The title of this post came from Teri who has been faithfully sending waves of good karma my way; she said she'd heard or read this phrase and that it might be helpful hear.  It struck me as so positive, so comforting, so reassuring that I said, "WAIT. Say that again so I can write it down. What was that?"    Most of my life — since second grade on — I've been waiting for the roof to cave in, the walls to crumble, and the proverbial shoe to drop.  It is not in my nature to have such faith.  

I Googled it to see the attribution and found this on another blog:

"Although "Leap and the net will appear" is sometimes attributed to an unknown Zen source, it is, in fact, a quote by American naturalist John Burroughs. "

I also found a refrigerator magnet, mouse pad, and coffee mug.

I have my first client.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Fiscal Cliff

You know that phrase "S%*t or get off the pot" ? Well, this week I did.  I took that leap of faith and decided it was time for me to bet on myself instead of everyone else I've ever worked for.  Time for me to take a chance and see if everything I've learned, everything I've accomplished, and everything I really, really love doing and want to do is possible to do — as an independent contractor.

Beginning in February, I am walking away from the safety net of a job with benefits, direct deposit, the guarantee of a paycheck — and a whole lot else.  It's a scary thing. Terrifying.  But at this point in my life, it's a necessity.  And along with the urgency — having just turned 60 — in another way, it's a birthday present to me.

I know that it seems risky and impractical. 

                 Especially at my age, 
                                especially in this economy, 
                                               especially because when someone asks me what I want to do, I answer: 
                 strategic planning, 
                               organizational development, facilitation, 
                                                                writing and communications, 
                                                                                    program creation and problem-solving, and 
they look worried.   

They shouldn't worry.  I love doing each of those things. I have a wealth of experience doing them — for lots of different people and places.  I want variety.  I crave creativity.

For my tagline I thought of something I thought was really clever:


Have Brain, Will Travel


And what did I find?  Three other consulting entities with that name AND that it was on the business card of Wile E. Coyote — a show I virtually never watched.  Hmmm.  

Remember that key ring "carpe diem"  I got as a birthday present from my friend Thelma?  Before I even announced my move — that gift, that key ring was for a key — to a door, in a building, with a conference room that I can use — as a place to begin this new career.  The universe is speaking.  I'm listening — and I'm receiving — tremendous support.  To all you out there?  melanie mitchell thanks you and hopes you'll hang in there for this ride.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Time To Stop Running

Clipartheaven.com.
Running running running — seems I've always been running.  From the yelling and the hollering of my childhood.  From the embarrassment and shame during high school.  From the uncertainty and inappropriate relationships of my twenties.  From the transitions in my thirties.  From the demands of my forties and my fifties.  Running running running.  Not apparent on the outside but racing on the inside. Always trying to make myself valuable, make an impression, impress even the complete stranger.  Provide for everyone.   Running running running.  Always running.  

Certainly good came out of it.  For my jobs, for my family, for my friends, for others.  But it wan't always what was best (for everyone I was trying to ingratiate myself with) and it came at a great cost to me.  Took me decades to figure that out (and lots of therapy) but finally, I'm facing what I've been and deciding to do things differently, to be different.   

But change is hard.

My children are always admonishing me that I CAN change — they're always saying it's never too late to change — this in response to my reminding them that I am who I am. And they need to stop trying to reform me and reshape my thinking. But they have a point. Not the point they think they do, but a point nonetheless.

SO I am changing and one of those changes is "opening myself to the universe" as my friend Babs says.  It started this weekend at the beach.  I was hoping, hoping, hoping to find a piece of beach glass because it  makes me feel that my sister is near.  There are times I walk searching the sands for hours and nothing — but the first time out there it was — a piece of brown glass that this photo doesn't do justice.

And then, after that piece was at my feet, the pieces just kept appearing and everyone gave me all the beach glass they found and I felt as if it were a trove...all from Donna.

Next, I started to get presents — a beautiful upcycled computer-parts copper necklace from Nancy.  I don't have or wear a lot of copper but my boss gave me an early-Christmas present a pair of earrings — copper. and then a former boss and friend Thelma surprised me with a key ring — copper. The key ring said...







Carpe diem...seize the day.

The universe is speaking.  



I think I will.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Import of Ai Weiwei







If you can get to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC before February 24, you owe it to yourself to see the exhibit Ai Weiwei: According To What?  I don't know much about conceptual art but I know what I like and I am in awe of his creative genius.  For those of you who don't know about Ai, you can Google to find out about his life, his work, his experiences in the US, and his troubles in China.  But this exhibit (I believe his first in North America), and the accompanying installations at the Hirshorn and the Sackler, will give you a firsthand look at what this one artist is attempting to do with both his work and his words.  


His massive Zodiac Heads installation makes you ponder the meaning of the twelve animals symbolizing the Chinese astrological signs and makes those animals more than human due to their intricacy, expression, and sheer size (and that eleven are actual animals and one — mine — is the mythical and mighty dragon).  Walking around this Circle of Heads made me wonder what if, what if these animals towered over us and we didn't have what my friend and animal-advocate Kris calls "the right of capture"? Our human sense of entitlement that just because we can, we kill?

There is a majestic magnificence to these bronzes and they present these creatures in a way that heralds their the superiority over we humans.  I wish I could fully explain the significance of the images I've taken or bring you there and walk you through the thoughtful philosophical approach that Ai Weiwei brings to his art — but I can't.  I can only share bits and pieces of what spoke to me.  And he must've spoken to Elton John as well because this past week he told his Beijing audience that he was dedicating his concert to the spirit of Ai Weiwei, which must have upset the concert's organizers as Ai has been under house arrest and is banned from leaving China.

The images should give you something to ponder, but Ai's words can do a far better job explaining his perspective than can I.







This may have been my favorite piece and may best portray the simplicity and sharpness of his work...so if you can, make your way to the Hirshorn Museum and soak in the importance of his point of view — before  some government somewhere decides you shouldn't.

The field and the houses are all made of tea. The scent was glorious.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Finch Finale

I know it's been quite a while since I wrote about life at Finch College. Though I haven't fully exploited all my adventures there, perhaps it's time to move on and share the closing chapter because  when one door closes, another opens.
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Three years had gone by at Finch and graduation had come. I’d been invited to a classmate’s party at her parent’s apartment in Manhattan. I knew her father was a diplomat. She was smart, she sounded very British and had a royal European-sounding last name.  Though I didn't know her well, I liked her very much.  I was excited to be invited and worried about what to wear. The engraved invitation with its embossed gold seal should have been the tip-off. 

The elevator doors opened INTO the apartment and we were greeted by what had to be, butlers, real butlers in black waistcoats. I remember a dark beautifully wood-paneled room set-up with small round tables covered in pink linen cloths, with pink linen napkins, cut glass crystal stemware, and heavy silver place settings with multiple forks, knives, and spoons and beautiful centerpieces gracing the rooms. It was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.

The butler-waiters were carrying massive silver platters engraved with the seal of South Africa. Stephanie’s father was the ambassador
  this was before anyone really thought anything about South Africa except that it was an exotic place at the bottom of the world. 

Those platters were sailing by piled high with lobster tails
  from South Africa. I sat at a table for four with Stephanie’s brother (Julian?) and his best friend. Perhaps they sensed my nervousness because they couldn't have been more gracious. I kept watching what they were doing  which fork or glass were they using?   I was in past my depth. It turned out that the four glasses were for white wine, red wine, water and champagne. Choosing the red wine was a mistake. 


Crowded by all that finery I reached for my water and promptly, clumsily knocked over my glass  and all that red wine spilled over that pristine pink linen cloth. A puddle of red. All over. Horrified, I righted my now empty glass and before I could utter a complete sentence of apology, Julian knocked over his glass of red wine. On purpose! 

“WHY did you do that? Oh my God!” I screeched. “Why would you DO that?” 

“To put you at ease,” Julian answered with calm coolness.

“And I should knock over mine as well,” said the best friend.

“NO!” I implored putting my hand over the top of his glass, “That’s CRAZY!”

“It’s the polite thing to do. If someone makes a mistake, you do the same. You don’t want your guest to feel uncomfortable.”

Now there was a twist on empathy.

At midnight the butler-waiters came out with those silver trays laden with champagne glasses filled to the brim
  with fresh orange juice. 

“Orange juice?” I asked. “At night?”

“It’s what we do In South Africa. It’s very refreshing.” And it was.

The clink of that glass signaled the end of an era for me and the beginning of a new time in my life.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Running Running Running

I did it again. Unbelievably, for probably the fifth time in my life, I locked my keys in the car  with the engine running.  This time it wasn't so terrible.  It was early in the day (unlike another time when I didn't discover until five o'clock that I'd locked the keys in the car with the engine running since one) Chris was able to leave work and drive over with his key.  Embarrassing but nothing compared to the first time  the very first time I locked the keys in the car with the engine running.

I'd just landed my dream job  starting off in a new program with endless possibilities and a boss who'd never been a boss before.    We were embarking on a wonderful adventure of building a program from the ground up, literally.  We started with nothing and needed to create it all.  I'd decided that before I could start anything I had to have a sense of my boss' taste and so I wanted to take her shopping to see what she gravitated toward.  We didn't have much time because she had to be at a meeting at 5 but I was happy to have any time together to get a sense of who she was.  We were liking the same things, pretty much the same colors, I had a clear sense of what she'd like and it was what I'd like too so that made me happy and hopeful about the road ahead.  Soon we needed to start leaving so I could get her to her appointment.  I gathered my things, opened my bag and started looking for the car key when I couldn't find it.  It wasn't there.  Not in my pockets either. 

It wasn't my car.  For some reason I was driving a rented 11-passenger aqua van, I guess because we had family coming to visit and our one car wasn't enough?  I went outside horrified I might have locked the keys in the car.  The car was on.

I sprang into action. I needed a phone (no cell phones), I needed a phone book (no internet). I leapt over the small gate to get behind the store counter where the wall phone was situated by the cash register and the boxes.  The small local car rental place (due to close at 5:30) was slow in responding.  Undeterred, I demanded that someone bring me an extra set of keys IMMEDIATELY.  Reluctantly, the manager agreed.  I paced until they pulled up and then I unlocked the door, checked the gas level, got my new boss into the car. and drove to her appointment. I was mortified.

For months, all I could think was that she was sorry she'd hired me.  That she'd made a mistake in choosing me. (She picked me against all advice about the qualifications necessary to fill her needs.I didn't have the experience others wanted but she held to what SHE wanted in a "partner.")  Before I even began the job I'd screwed up. Now she was stuck with me.

Years later, when the discussion somehow centered on that early meeting, I had the courage to mention it.  That I was sure she regretted hiring me after locking the keys in the car with the engine running.   

"I never knew that bothered you " she said, "In fact, I felt just the opposite.  You jumped in and resolved the problem so quickly that I was in awe; if anything it completely confirmed that I'd made the right choice."

GEEZ. I'd spent three years beating myself up for that mistake. Wish I'd known.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Full of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is always tough for me. It's the holiday my sister and I spent together — long distance. Me on the east coast and she on the west. Back and forth all day we'd call each other. After my turkey was in for a few hours she'd be up and putting in hers. When my turkey was done and we were getting ready to eat, her company would just be having appetizers. By the time my company went home — stuffed to the gills with all those carbohydrates — she'd be putting out the desserts and by the time her guests had left, I'd be finished cleaning up and ready to rehash the day.  Though 3000 miles separated us, I always felt she was with me. and now I don't.

Here is this year's menu — which is pretty much last year's menu, and the year before:

Turkey & gravy 
stuffing 
sausage stuffing (not me)
corn pudding  
peas (not me)
Picture-perfect, Not mine. 
green beans (not me)
mashed potatoes (not me)
creamed onions w/almonds 
cranberry-orange relish 

Pecan pie (not me)
Sweet potato pie (not me)
Caramel pumpkin ring 
   & Whipped cream for all


You had to hand it to my sister.  Her Thanksgivings (and Christmases) were shared with her ex, his two boys from a subsequent failed marriage and, at times, the girlfriend of the year.  My sister opened her doors, her table, and her arms to anyone she considered "family," and her family-network was wide.  She got along with her three sets of in-laws — she loved old people.  She loved our parents.  She was talented and funny, smart and generous-hearted.  Far more generous and forgiving than me — than I am, or will ever be.

I can't think of a time when I reached out to my sister that she didn't come through for me and oh-so-many times she came through when I never even asked.   Just when I was about to start 8th grade, we moved.  I was headed into a school where everyone knew everyone, for ever.   Sensing my anxiousness about it all, my sister spent her own money and bought me two Villager outfits to help me fit in.  An A-line skirt (lined, with a side-zipper) with matching cardigan (buttons on a strip of grosgrain ribbon). One set in heather mauve and the other in heather blue. (From Wikipedia: In clothing, heather refers to interwoven yarns of mixed colors producing muted greyish shades with flecks of color (e.g., heather green.), a white man-tailored button-down collared blouse, and to make the look total, a pair of cordovan penny loafers, complete with brand-new pennies.  Those clothes made all the difference in the world to me. 

Seven and a-half years is a big difference between siblings, at least when you're young. The difference between six and thirteen or thirteen and twenty is huge but then. slowly it starts to collapse.  Regardless of the gap, Donna was always looking out for me.   Me and about a hundred other people at any given time. 

I haven't got her here to call and talk to, to go back and forth  with— about recipes, guests, and what went wrong with the day (critics that we are).  

I've got a lot to be thankful for — great husband, two great kids, friends to share it all with — but I finally realize how full of thanks I am — for having had the sister I did.

Wishing you each enjoy the people who are family to you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pegatorie

Today is my friend Peggy's birthday and I wanted her to know what a gift she is to me.
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Peggy was the first southern person I ever met.  She was from DAHL-lus, TEX-US and she was friendly and funny and fun.  Art was of great interest to her and she always wanted to go to a museum, especially the Whitney or the Guggenheim just within walking distance of Finch.  I remember my joy the first time I saw Calder's Circus and spiraled my way up the ramps of the Guggenheim.  These were new areas of exploration for me and opened my eyes to contemporary and modern art.


After graduating from Finch I took my first trip ever to Texas and what an introduction I got!  My first bluegrass festival in Kerrville on what I eerily remember as the KKK Ranch (honest) and under the blazing hot sun in the wide open was an 8-ft table set-up where they were selling the cassettes of the bands that were playing over the three-day festival. I stood in line waiting patiently for my turn and when I got to the front, one of the two guys asked me, "What can we get fur you lit-tle LAY-dee?"

"i'd like to buy your tablecloth."

The guy turned to his partner and then back to me, "S'cuse me?"

"I'd like to buy this cloth that's covering your table."  It was a worn and unbound patchwork of small squares arranged in a diamond pattern.

This guy pushed back in his folding chair, took his cowboy hat off, wiped his sweating brow with his red bandana and said, "You wanna buy WHAT?" 

"I'd like to buy what you're using as a tablecloth — what will it cost?"

They looked at each other, leaned close to whisper back-and-forth, and then leaned back in his chair with a big wide grin and said, "TEN dollars" and without a moment's hesitation I reached into my bag, gave him a ten-dollar-bill and started clearing the table so I could claim my cloth.  The people in line behind me were looking and whispering but I had my prize.  Back in New York City, my friend Dan built a wooden frame, stretched and stapled my find to this large rectangular frame and then suspended it over my bed so when ever I was lying down I could stare up at the beauty of the pattern and see one after another of those stitched squares.

On that same trip Peggy introduced me to fried okra and Emma Randolph.   

I'd gotten interested in quilts and when I was living in Ohio had bought two patchwork tops that I wanted made into quilts.  

" I know someone who can do that." she told me with a smile, "Miz Randolph, she used to sew for our family."  And we went to visit Emma Randolph in her home with a garage that had been refitted as a sewing studio with some kind of loom or stretcher in the middle and open wooden floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with fabrics and quilts in various stages.  It was amazing.

Ms Randolph told me what supplies I'd need to buy and send her with the tops.  The two I'd bought in Ohio (for $6. each) were Log Cabin and Bear Claw and the patchwork I'd bought at the bluegrass festival was known as Trip Around the World or Sunshine and Shadow.  I asked if there was one I could buy of hers.

"Well, most of these are being made for my customers but I do have one you might like." and slowly she moved to one of the shelves, leafed through the stack and pulled out a patchwork of yellow and white.  "It's Wedding Ring and it was the first quilt top I ever made when I was eleven but I never finished it off and made it into a quilt."  

It was a quilt she'd lovingly stitched together piece by piece to make this intricate design with scraps of fabric from her clothes and her mother's sewing basket.  




Months later when she finished the quilt and sent it to me there on one corner she'd embroidered her name — there it was ... 

1975
EMMA RANOLPH
BORN 1893

I always wondered if she missed a letter in her name or if I had it wrong.  

I'm a hugger and a kisser. Peggy didn't like to be touched. When exuberance would overtake me I'd throw my arms around her and she'd stiffen up, giggle, and through her clenched smile say, "I don't do well with hugs."  and from then on I tried to remember to restrain myself whenever I felt the urge to embrace her. 

When Peggy and Dave got married it was a five-day extravaganza like I'd never seen.  There were brunches, lunches, cocktails and dinners.  A whirlwind of social activity that didn't seem to fit with the Peggy I knew — but it was Texas.



Just two years ago I went to visit Peggy in Texas for the first time in decades.  Her home was filled with art, art, and more art — wonderful art. There in my room was this little stack of boxes of Texas-style animal crackers — I thought it was an a small art installation until Peggy told me, "NO, those are for you to snack on!"








This is a gift Peggy gave me and this is what is typed in red on the back.

Woodcut print on rice paper


December, 1971

"The Gingerbread House"
by Peggy Flaxman, and a friend, whose name I have forgotten.
One other copy exists.

Its value is determined by all the effort and love which
went in to making the picture.  And there can be no value
placed on the love which it holds, as I share it with you.

I called her Pegatorie and today — especially on this birthday — I'm sending her good karma, best wishes, and a GREAT BIG hug filled with loads of love.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Baking. Or Not

I think baking is over-rated.  While I enjoy the results, it's just not in my skillset to bake.  Take banana bread.   I had the overripe bananas. I couldn't throw them out (my father would be watching). I thought, "Why not?"  I dug out a recipe I've had for 30 years.  Seemed simple enough. 


Right away there was a problem for me.  "Cream the sugar and butter."  Cream it?  CREAM it when there's no cream?  

Then it said "1/2 tsp soda" and I knew this wasn't real soda but baking soda and that brought me back to something I've always wanted to know  what IS the difference between baking soda and baking powder?  Baking soda is everywhere  down the drain mixed with white vinegar, in the frig to absorb odors, added to the laundry, mixed with lemon to scrub copper pots  but baking powder?  What is that ever used for?

Next the recipe said "beat well" but not HOW. Does it mean beat with an electric mixer or beat well by hand?  Cause when you hear people who are bakers talk about baking, they (I have a lot of friends who ARE bakers) always mention over-beating OR under-beating making it too leaden or not light enough. I mean which is it?  It never said.  It just said "beat well." So I did.

Two cups of flour.  Should be a piece of cake except that there are so many kinds of flour!  TOO many kinds of flour.  
Self-rising, pure, stone-ground, better-for-bread, cake, and more and more.  It's overwhelming.  It's almost ridiculous.  But still  I wasn't prepared for the royalty of all flours  King Arthur.
SELF-RISING
UNBLEACHED BREAD


ALL-PURPOSE
WHITE WHOLE WHEAT

   
And these flours are not to be confused with...
EUROPEAN STYLE

DURUM
   
   PERFECT PASTRY
FIRST CLEAR  ?
I mean really  why would a person need all these flours?
QUEEN GUINEVERE

    

Because according to King Arthur   flour matters ... and clearly to many people it DOES.  

Well, with or without durum, first clear, King OR Queen (and truthfully, I didn't even sift), my banana bread couldn't have been all that bad because after two days  this is what's left.

Still, I think my baking days are behind me.