Monday, February 02, 2009

Empowerment and Lullabyes

I know, some of you are looking at that title and wondering, where in blazes is she going with a title like that today? Well take that proverbial leap of faith and follow me through this -to, yes, the bitter end, and hopefully you will see my correlations throughout. Maybe it will work easily for you, maybe not so much that way for others, but follow me now, and we shall see.

First off, and this wasn't intended to be part of this post but it sort of happened between when I decided on my topic and started writing and it's hampering me a smidgen right at this moment too, so I'm gonna talk about this first.

I decided before I would sit down and write that I was going to mix up a cake -from scratch, no less. Something I do now and again, but usually I take the lazy route and rely on cake mixes. The cake I am baking I know by two different names. In my hand-written recipe notebook is the recipe for a cake called "Chop Suey Cake" and that is the one I have memorized -don't need to look at that recipe at all because I have it committed now to memory. The other name for this cake -same recipe, just a different name -I saw online, realized it was the same ingredients as the Chop Suey cake but I like this name much better -"Swedish Nut Cake!' Yeah, that does sound a bit more enticing now doesn't it?

Well anyway, this cake calls for 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 eggs and 1 can of crushed pineapple -the larger size can that is, not the little 8 ounce one. Oh, and it also requires 1 cup of chopped nuts.

All you have to do is dump all your ingredients into a bowl, mix till blended, pour into a greased and floured 9x13 inch cake pan, bake it for 45 minutes (or till testing with a toothpick shows no unbaked cake batter) in an oven, preheated to 350 degrees. When cooled, frost it with cream cheese icing and it gives you a very moist, very dense cake that tastes very much like carrot cake! Yummy!

So, I headed to the kitchen, telling Maya we were going to bake a cake -in hopes that move might take her mind off the fact she's had one meltdown today -a pretty bad one, lots of sobbing -because her Mommy went someplace today and didn't take her along. That explanation to come a bit further down in this post.

Got the flour, sugar, baking soda, eggs all in my bowl and went to open the can of pineapple and that's where things got slightly skewed here.

Now, we have three can openers in this house -all three in my big drawer with other utensils -chopping knives, bread knife, trimmer knives, spatulas, big cooking spoons and forks and the like. One of these is the old-fashioned type can opener that you place on the can, press down and twist this little thing on it and it opens the can but leaves the lid sitting there, often down in the juices of whatever you are trying to get at to use. Then we have another can opener -sort of the same as the first one, except that it has a round thingy with teeth on it -but it operates on the same principle as the first one -punch down, hold the thing firmly against the can, twist, lid goes into the juice but the can is opened.

The third can opener is by far and away the supreme item in terms of a hand-operated can opener! Well, price wise it is anyway. I didn't purchase this can opener -my older daughter purchased it through one of those home parties for all kinds of kitchen gadgets, cake pans, cookie sheets -all that kind of stuff for people who like to cook and be pampered in the process. If you've ever been to one of these home parties for this particular company, you've probably recognized by some key words in this paragraph as to the name of the company, haven't you? I'm trying to be nice, not mention the name of the company specifically because I don't want, sure as h ell don't need either a law suit for libel or slander -whatever it would be for what my opinion is of their very over-priced stuff!

Of those three can openers that should have been available for me to use to open this can of pineapple, well only two could be found in the drawer. The really pricy one and the second one I mentioned. The second one I mentioned, I don't know why we even bother keeping it because it no longer works at all. The expensive, pampered one, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The first can opener I told you about -which probably cost a buck, maybe $2.00 max is the only one of the three that is totally reliable these days!

Oh -the key element too for the can opener to pamper the cook is that when it opens the can, the lid does not fall down into the contents because that can opener goes around some how and opens the can by piercing along the side of the top edge -not by piercing down on the lid. Therefore, you have no sharp edges to hurt your poor little, very pampered cook's hands, don't 'cha know?

Well! I think I will lodge a lawsuit of my own with this company about their only semi-functional can opener because today, when I went to lift -actually to try to pry the lid off the can, it had made itty-bitty little shards of the edge of the can and I happened to get a teeny, tiny one of those shard that sort of found my right index finger and poked an itsy-bitsy little hole in there, it did!

Hurts like a bugger, it does! Even made my poor little finger bleed too! And Maya, watching this whole process knew immediately something was wrong when I jerked my hand away and began cursing -turning the air in the kitchen quite blue -about the freaking can opener! She has insisted now on having several viewing of "Grammy's boo-boo" and wants to know if I am going to put a bandaid on it too. No, I don't think I am in danger of bleeding to death or anything quite that dire, but it does still hurt a bit when I type.

So, since the expensive can opener not only caused a boo-boo on my index finger, it also did not -would not, in successive tries -open the damned can. So into the drawer I went, rooting around, digging for the other reliable can opener , only to come up with just the middle can opener, the one that does not work at all!

I checked the other kitchen drawers too because some residents who share this old house with me have a tendency to NOT put things back in drawers and on cupboard shelves where I, in my infinite wisdom and capacity for organization store things. (That's something else that totally pisses me off and maybe some day when I'm good and ticked off I will do a post on the absurdity of some people who can not understand the "Nesting" principle in the storage of dishes, bowls, and the like in the cupboards.) Not finding the one and only working can opener, I was left with only one choice what to do next.

I had to phone Mandy on her lovely, handy-dandy cell phone to ask her where in bloody blue blazes the blankety-blank-blank good (but very inexpensive) can opener might be found?

Her answer -"It's in the dishpan." Wonderful. Now, before I can mix the damned cake and get it in the oven and get back to doing my post, I have to stop and wash dishes first! Oh, the pent-up anger I had here when I learned that! And then, she added, "Well, I think that's where it is."

Ok -dishes done and yes, the cheapo can opener found, pineapple added to my other ingredients, all mixed up and poured into the greased and floured cake pan and now is baking away in the oven.

And now, back to where I was heading when I first thought of this topic for my post.

Which really is "Empowerment."

Over the weekend, because of circumstances well beyond my control, I was in a bit of a major blue funk. This was due mostly to the fact that on Saturday I attended the funeral of the family friend who had passed away a week ago this past Thursday. It was something very unsettling to me, bringing back memories, painful memories of when his brother died 20 years ago and when his uncle passed away just five years ago. The good part -and yes sometimes there are good parts to a funeral -was that I did get to see, to visit a bit with his two surviving brothers, the wife and daughter of the one brother and with some cousins too of the deceased. As I said, sometimes there are good things that do come out of a funeral.

This morning, Mandy got a call though from her friend -the young woman whose little son Mandy has been watching 2-3 days a week while her friend works. The same one I mentioned about 2 weeks or so back and asked for opinions about issues with that young lady and her husband and about which, virtually every one of you, my readers, responded that the husband is quite controlling. And yes, some of you also felt she had crossed a line when she had e-mailed a former boyfriend from way, way back in time, after seeing him on Facebook. Right there, in that other post, I think lay some issues along the "empowerment" lines, don't you?

Well today, she called and told Mandy that last night things had turned even uglier as he broke a few items in the house, pushed and shoved her, even so hard that she hit her head on something too. She had called an attorney and he had advised her initially to go get a 10-day PFA order against her husband. Fine. I agree with that. But when she called the attorney back just a short time later, he then informed her he couldn't talk to her because her husband had come in, handed over some cash and put him on retainer so for him to give her any advice then would be a conflict of interest. Lovely, huh?

Mandy told her to bring the little guy, come down here right away and they would discuss things and she would help her any way she could to find the help she needs. THis all ended up then with Mandy going with her to the courthouse to fill out the papers for the PFA. That was also why Maya couldn't go with Mandy and which set her off on the road to the nasty little meltdown too!

Empowerment. That issue also surfaced here on Saturday too as Mandy and older daughter had talked on the phone and older daughter had mentioned about them meeting half-way between here and where older daughter lives and for Mandy to bring Maya and older daughter would take her to her house to spend the night.

Now, one thing that one can not ever take forgranted when dealing with a child with autism is change! Sometimes, you can spring something on Maya suddenly and things all work out fine but that is also risky business to operate that way. So, with this sort of plan, Mandy mentioned to Maya about maybe going to spend the night with her aunt, at her house, with her older cousin and all that and would Maya like to do that. This time, things with Maya were going along smoothly in that she was happy and excited over the idea of going there for the night. However, it all hinged on older daughter hearing from her fiance (who she lives with) and if it was all OK with him, you see. And any time that older daughter has to deal with some kind of approvals, thinking about things, setting up a firm commitment, there are often problems and the whole idea goes down the drain.

And, that's pretty much what happened Saturday as Mandy waited and waited and waited some more -several hours -to hear back from her sister if they were going to go through with the whole idea till finally Mandy called and told her sister that this was all just wrong. She needed to know what time -and needed things to happen in a reasonable time span too and not have her sister call her back at 7 or 8 p.m. and say, "No, can't do this tonight after all."

Mandy stewed about this for a while after that phone call and then called her sister back, asking her what happened to her sister who used to be able to make a decision on her own once in a while. Mandy also added that she (Mandy) is married and SHE doesn't walk on eggshells like the older sister does, doesn't have to ask for approval or permission to do anything at all with her family either.

So now, I'm actually very proud of Mandy for taking that stand -shows a good bit of empowerment in her actions if you ask me. Of course, the older daughter is miffed now and probably will be for a while too because she doesn't like it at all when she gets called out on the carpet over things from time to time.

So those things were on my mind before I actually decided on this topic but what cemented the idea in my mind was that in doing my regular blog readings this morning, one of the bloggers on my favorites list -Stephanie at Greek Tragedy -was talking about empowerment and the need for some in her life. In her post, she mentioned how some times music, certain groups, singers, songs -had helped her maintain a sense of empowerment at times and she wanted to know what, if any songs any of us, her readers might know that are current, which give us a sense of empowerment.

And my mind went to the song I have had often over the years as my song of empowerment. Considering how many years I've been around -around the block several times as ya'll know -this song is far from being current but to me, it is the quintessential empowerment song for women the world over.

"I AM WOMAN!" by Helen Reddy!

It always helps to reinforce me when I am really in need of a good dose of that stuff -empowerment.

And, when my son was a baby, a toddler too, you know small enough that he still liked to be rocked and sung to, I used to sing that song to him as his own personal lullaby.

Singing a song like that -one that is really a woman's song (obviously) for sure and an empowerment one too, how could I, why would I have chosen that song to sing to him?

Simple! My theory was just because I was married to a thoroughly male chauvinist (and just a good-bit of a male chauvinistic pig to boot) didn't mean I had to raise one now, did I?

My motive made darned good sense to me 30 some years ago and for that matter, still does too! And if you were to meet my son, you'd see he is most certainly NOT his father's son, in that he is not the least bit of a chauvinistic individual! Something I'm very, very proud of having achieved that in his upbringing.

And I'm thinking too that maybe it's actually a darned good empowerment tune too.

How about you?


Sweetie said...

Jeni, What a great post. I must admit that I almost laughed about your cheap can opener. My favorite can opener is so old that it's probably an antique. Also, I make the same cake that you make. It's easy, delicious, and oh so moist. Your empowerment segment was interesting. As the IU where I worked before I retired had an extensive autism program, I was fortunate to sit in on presentations regarding children with autism. I think that autism is very misunderstood among the general public.

Gretchen said...

No real man would ever hurt a woman like that. That lawyer never should have taken money after talking to the wife. He sounds like one of those you see on TV and just shudder about.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and your comments. :)

Mayra Calvani said...

Hi Jennifer,

I just discovered your nice blog from the PumpUpYourBlog group.

I love your 'Frankly, Scarlet' button, by the way. :-)


theauthormike said...

Hey there Darlin, (hope that doesn't sound like a MCP but you know I'm gay, LOL). First off what are you doing cutting into my recipes? Actually Stella stays away from baking because it tends to melt her eyelashes. As for can openers, I have one electric one and if the power goes out so do I and let the restaurant open their cans. I'm thinking that after a year or so I can turn Auntie Stella's Kitchen into a book, I mean how many drag queens will admit to doing their own cooking much less writing a book about it. Also added a new entry in the "Memos to self blog"
Love ya, Mikey

Keith said...

Wow! Things are getting ugly with Mandy's friends situation. When it turns physical like that, I would 100% agree that she needs to be away from him and get that protection order too. I hope it all works out for her and she is lucky to have a friend like Mandy.


terri said...

My mom has made a cake like the one you describe. I think her recipe calls it a "Dump Cake." I like your name better.

This sounds like a bad situation for Mandy's friend and she needs to get out asap. She is lucky to have someone like Mandy on her side.