The Pie Baker

Fresh from the Oven

The Average Person

Most of the people I know would consider themselves average. A generally accepted definition of “average” is something not out of the ordinary. Is that really so bad? I am a student of words and believe that a word can carry many responsibilities and inferences based on how it used, the tone of voice used when spoken and the context. In our current society, we expect everyone to excel beyond our wildest dreams – our favorite teams to pound their opponents into the turf, our favorite shows to win every award for which they are nominated, our children to talk at 9 months, read at 16 months, solve algebraic equations at age 3 and win the Nobel prize by the age of 5.

There’s too much pressure to be excellent. I used to harbor a deep-seated fear of my own mediocrity, but over the years, I have embraced the fact that I am not a stunningly beautiful woman, nor am I a wart-laden, socially inept ogre with a unibrow. I’m average looking. And I can live with that. In fact, there are times I long to be average – just another one of the teeming masses. I am what they call a “plus-size gal” and would give a kidney to be an “average” size. I’d like to be part of the average American family – with two parents, a house, 2 car garage, adorable children and a purebred dog. But instead I am a single mother of a toddler who works full time to barely make ends meet. And if the truth were to be told, I would venture to guess that there are more like me that would like to admit! I think there can be found a certain joy in being average.

If I push myself to achieve excellence all the time, I will push myself right into an early grave! Sure, there are times that I must be above average – parenting, my work, my writing – but sometimes, it’s OK to be just average. Do I want to spend an extra 15 minutes hand washing the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher because I want them to look excellent as they sit in my kitchen cabinet? Nope. Do I want to lose valuable play time with the Pie because I desire outstandingly shiny floors? Um…uh-uh. Do I agree to lose important sleep time in exchange for a spectacularly ironed shirt? Hell, no!

These days, every institution – from schools, corporations, lemonade stands – touts their goals of excellence. If all those entities are so excellent, where’s the balance? Where’s the enterprise? I remember when Avis started advertising that they try harder…there was no need to lie and say they were number one or the best. They knew they had things to work on and admitted it. I respect that. Ito me, it takes great courage to embrace ordinariness. I don’t mean to withdraw into oblivion, but to tread surely in a forward motion. You know what they say: The tall nail is the first to get hammered.

Being a perfectionist can practically paralyze you into believing that nothing is ever good enough. But when it really matters, some things just have to remain average. What a burden it must be to feel you have to be perfect all the time – perfectly groomed, perfectly articulate and perfectly charming. But that’s a little intimidating to average people who are just trying to make it through the day without shiny floors and ironed shirts!

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Could Have Been

I’m a person with a very vivid imagination; when presented with a situation, I am the first to imagine how it will play out. From start to finish, my mind plays a little mini-movie of the dialogue, the setting, hairstyles, fashion, etc. I wish I could somehow stop it from happening, but then again, I’m not 100% sure I would want to lose that. I use it almost as a form of training to be prepared in handling whatever turn each set of circumstances might take. I can envision all the things that might be said, actions that might be taken and all the possible results.

That is why on Labor Day, I found myself in a panic. I had planned to spend the day hanging out with the Pie and just generally being lazy, but my aunt called me mid-morning to inquire about the status of my Dad. See, since my mom died, my father’s sisters have appointed themselves the watchdogs of my dad; too bad they live so far away. So when any issue arises regarding my dad’s health or general welfare, they’re on the horn to me faster than a duck on a junebug!

“Aunt Dee” : “Do you know why Jack isn’t answering the telephone?
I wanted to respond: “No, but if you hum a few bars….”

Anyway – since Dad is very hard of hearing and equally hard headed, there could be at least 4 or 5 actual reasons he wasn’t answering the phone, so I called. And I called and I called and I called. In fact, for about 2 hours, I called every 5 minutes. In that time, the aforementioned active imagination went into overdrive. I kept trying to calm myself with an internal dialogue that went a lot like this: “He’s outside and doesn’t hear the phone, that’s all. No need to get all bent out of shape.” And faster than a new Porsche on the Autobahn, I thought “Oh, God – bent out of shape” – like my father could be bent out of shape in the backyard as a result of tripping over one of the 627 various pieces of junk furniture, PVC pipe or other ridiculousness!!!

Finally, in a brief moment of clarity, I decided to just get in the car and go on a look-see. I packed the Pie’s backpack with necessary items such as pull-ups, water bottle, drink mix sticks, a book and a toy and snacks. I didn’t know how long we’d be gone. Then we got in the car and headed north. And don’t think I didn’t try calling on the cell phone either! The drive takes about 20 minutes and I think I rang the thing about 58 times! Unfortunately, the Pie knew something was up….she was unusually quiet in the back seat and didn’t chatter away like she does. She watched out the window as the landscaped passed and I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking.

In my mind, I was trying to process all the possibilities of what I might find when I reached my dad’s house. Would he be conscious? Would he be in bed or on the floor? What if he fell in the tub? How would I get him out? What if he was bleeding or had an appendage trapped under another one of the 627 various pieces of junk furniture, PVC pipe or other ridiculousness? And what if, God forbid, he had passed peacefully while he napped in his recliner? I imagined the TV blaring away while the phone rang incessantly next to him and his body cold and stiff in the La-Z-Boy. What would I do with the Pie? Who would I call first? Where were the important papers? What is his favorite hymn?

All of this irrationality was further inflamed when I pulled into the driveway…I was immediately transported in my mind to the day my mother died. I sensed an eerie quiet about the house that I remembered feeling when I got out of the car on that January day. I took a deep breath, shook my head to clear out all the negativity and took the Pie’s hand. We approached the front door, not sure what we would find. Of course, the screen door was locked and just as I was about to begin hacking the screen out with my key to reach the lock, my dad opened the front door. We both jumped back a bit at the unexpected sight of each other and then I started scolding him proper!

We eventually learned, after about a 45 minute investigation, that the phone cord was not fully plugged in to the phone/answering machine base. So let this be a lesson …don’t let your imagination run away with your good sense. And make sure your elderly parents know how to operate their electronic devices!

September 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment