Eat your epic fails

For the longest time, people kept telling me that I needed a hobby and I figured, what better pastime could there be than reading and writing? Unlike skiing or photography, reading and writing are essentially free. Unlike running, reading is easy on your joints. It doesn’t burn as many calories, but that’s OK, I figured, because you don’t have to change into running pants and a sports bra to read or write. You can just do it in your street clothes. You can do it anywhere and you don’t usually get sweaty.

There is a certain amount of risk in writing. People get upset if you are too honest. They will warn your family members that you might need medicine. You can try to be funny, but not everyone will get your dark sense of humor. Because sometimes there’s a fine line between sad and funny. Sometimes you can laugh or cry. Or you can pretend to laugh, but people read the cry between the lines.

But the biggest risk, by far, is exposing yourself as less than brilliant. As the famous quote goes, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.” Kind of like the time I wrote “gorilla warfare” and it ran in the newspaper. Why am I bringing that up?

But I started thinking, if your hobby is inextricably tied to your work, can it really provide the escape that a hobby should? Probably not, because you can’t always accept failure. Sometimes you’ve got to really produce something palatable just to get paid. So you can’t just be creative and laugh it off when you create something that sucks. No, when you write something that truly sucks or is so scandalous or hurtful that it would destroy your life if anyone read it, you’ve got to tear it up and throw it away.

So I decided that my hobby is actually baking. I am terrible at it and that is OK. I always eat my epic fails and they are almost all epic fails.

Much like I don’t write poetry in iambic pentameter, I rarely follow a recipe when I am baking. Instead I substitute coconut oil for butter, peanut butter for an egg. I don’t know why I don’t follow recipes. I think it has less to do with being creative and more to do with being lazy. I don’t have A so I use B. Also, my kids are allergic to a lot of the ingredients in recipes, so I experiment with others. And it usually doesn’t turn out as well.

But I am just one hell of a dedicated cookie lover. I almost never meet a cookie I don’t like. I like burned cookies and I will eat them. It used to be that my favorite food was cake, but I think I am switching it to cookies.

Last week I made chocolate chip cookies and substituted coconut oil for butter. It said on the jar that you could do that. Well, what I got were oily cookie crisps and I ate most of them. I don’t care how healthy they say coconut oil is; I ate so much I almost made myself sick last week.

Today I made crockpot brownies for the first time. Why would anyone want to make brownies in a crockpot? And why would you substitute applesauce and maple syrup for the egg? And if you did this, would you expect to eat your brownies with a fork or a spoon? The answer, my friends, is a spoon.

I have considered doing a project in which I attempt recipes off the sides of boxes and then write about it. Like I’d try to make cake pops using the recipe on the side of a cake mix and then I could describe my epic failure in writing. Because you’re going to fail when you are an amateur like me. But even committing to such an experiment is too much commitment.

No, this is not work. This is a hobby. I will do it when I want to and to whatever extent I want. There are no deadlines, only half-baked rewards. Pun intended. I eat my epic fails and, in doing so, I destroy the evidence.

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The Christmas hubcaps

Sometime in the fall, when the weather started to turn cold, my husband informed me that my car needed new tires. This would cost us around $350. Now, I have no idea what kind of car I drive, other than that it is small, white and very gas-efficient. Dan picked it out after a brief consultation with me and he reminds me when it needs routine maintenance or a new part.

Myself, I really hate to spend big money for tires. There is just no part of me that can get excited about tires. It’s like buying a new washing machine or even a computer. These are things I use as tools to accomplish tasks, but unlike other people I know, I will never see automobile parts as a fun or interesting purchase.

So when we loaded up the kids and drove two cars to Walmart in order to drop mine off so it could receive new tires, the whole thing felt like an expensive chore to me.

Hours later, when we pulled into the parking lot to retrieve the little white car, I noticed that the hubcaps on two of the tires were missing.

“Where are my hubcaps?” I wondered aloud.

“I’ll find out,” Dan said.

Minutes later, he returned and told me that when they were putting the new tires on, the hubcaps had cracked and were thrown away.

“So I’ve got to drive around like that?” I asked.

That was all I said, I swear, but for some reason it caused Dan to go on a tirade about how nothing is ever good enough for me. For my life I could not figure out why he was siding with the guys who threw my hubcaps away and then expected me to pay them $350.

“They were just cheap plastic hubcaps. You can get new ones!” he said scornfully.

Many times my husband has asked me how someone who was born in a cabin in the woods ever developed the ridiculous expectations that I have about life. Once we got into a huge public fight about my reluctance to “vacation” at his family’s hunting camp, which has no indoor plumbing. (FYI, that means you have to poop and pee in an outhouse.)

He wrote a newspaper column telling 20,000 people how I threw my pink purse in a fit of rage over having to stay at this cabin, which I swear is so far back in the middle of nowhere I don’t know how anyone ever found the property on which to build it. I then wrote a rebuttal column about my experience at the hunting camp, comparing camping to banging one’s head against a wall because the only good part is that you’re glad when it is over.

After reading about our camping feud in the newspaper, people asked me questions.

“Where are you from,” they’d inquire.

“Frederick County, Virginia,” I replied.

“Oh,” they’d say. “I thought you must be from down in the D.C. area or something.”

All because I’ve grown accustomed to indoor plumbing, my husband had people believing I was some kind of high-maintenance Beltway type, which could not be further from the truth. I don’t get manicures. I don’t even usually wear nail polish.

So here we were again, 10 years later, in the parking lot of Walmart with two kids and me being my old annoying entitled yuppie self, wanting hubcaps on all my tires.

The next day, I told the students in my creative writing class about the hubcap dilemma. One young man raised his hand to speak.

“I did notice your hubcaps were gone when I saw you in the parking lot this morning,” he said apologetically.

So when Dan asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told him all I wanted was hubcaps. I just wanted to get back to Square One.

For me, Christmas would be a lot better if we all just gathered together and had some hot mulled cider or buttered rum or wine or hot chocolate and listened to Christmas carols and everyone got maybe one gift. But Noooo. Every year I am overruled and forces beyond my control (meaning the other adults) determine that I must spend a ridiculous amount of time and money to buy my kids a whole bunch of toys so that they are not disappointed on Christmas morning. So I did it again, to the extent I could afford it.

Dan and I don’t get each other much anymore in the way of tangible gifts. I got him a pair of shoes and a CD that I wanted. He got me an all-weather jacket to replace the one he bought me several years ago that I have been wearing in spite of the fact that every zipper on the thing is broken.

This morning, I went to exchange the jacket for one in a bigger size. I drove Dan’s vehicle to exchange the jacket, and when I returned home, what to my wondering eyes did appear but four shiny new silver hubcaps on the little white car. I was ecstatic. Best Christmas ever!

“Did you see the hubcaps?” Dan asked.

“Yes,” I said, getting out of the car. “Thank you so much.”

“I bet you’re wondering when I’m going to clean up these luminaries,” he said, referring to the white bags filled with sand and extinguished candles that we had burned last night in keeping with a neighborhood tradition.

“No,” I said. “I know I’ll be cleaning them out from under three feet of snow in a week or so.”

Then we got into another fight.

I went inside and, seeing that there were leftover nondairy chocolate chip pancakes from when he made breakfast for the children, helped myself to two.