Sunday, August 14, 2011

Birthday

T turned two yesterday, and it was awesome. A friend who I absolutely idolize spent the night on Friday and she brought her sweet dog, who T fell deeply in love with. We had a small BBQ for T Saturday evening, just the folks we are very close to here in town. I've never been the type to have a million friends. I enjoy developing more intimate relationships with a few folks I really enjoy. Z and I call 'em "our people". And it is amazing that we have kind of found a group of our people in just two years here in Syracuse. Last night I was feeling particularly happy and grateful for our imperfect perfect life.

The imperfect stuff is always going to be there. When I was younger I didn't understand that. I wanted Z to never mess up. While it's unacceptable to be dicks to each other without trying to correct that behavior, I would ride him for every single mistake, from the big stuff to how he ordered cold cuts at the deli counter. I still have a long way to go, but I've loosened up quite a bit with him. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to be less exacting with my expectations of myself. High expectations along with an anxiety disorder is a stupid, destructive combination that guarantees I'm perpetually furious with myself. And I almost let my failure ruin T's day.

Z made an amazing chainsaw out of wood for T's birthday.
Notice the serious emphasis on safety!

Z has a wide ranging skill set that enables him to make fantastic stuff for T all the time. As I type this he is at the shop at work making a bookcase that is going to go in T's new big boy room. I can do some stuff with my hands, but I have a difficult time motivating because my expectations are too high to meet. I'm convinced nothing I do is good enough, so I don't start. Watching NCIS reruns and surfing the web is much safer than messing up on a crocheted hat or enameled piece for his wall. It's one of the things I despise most about myself.

I have to convince myself not to make "making" a competition between Z and me. Just because he does something for T it does not mean I need to do something as well. And as Z often tells me, spending all day with him is its own kind of gift. But I decided it was really important to me to contribute something to his second birthday. So I made him a Star Wars themed cake. And I wasn't really happy with any of it. The devils food cake recipe I used is off the hook delicious, but it isn't very firm and is therefore difficult to ice. The buttercream is literally the best I've ever tasted, but when it comes to baking I feel the true creativity is in recipe development and any fool that can read and execute a set of instructions, so the fact it tasted good didn't score any points with me. Decorating does requie skill and practice, but I didn't hot knife the cake, so the icing job was full of pock marks. I've forgotten how to properly use piping tips for boarders, so I did a lame star thing around the edge. I had decorated Star Wars fondant cut outs to use (don't get me started on the imperfections in those), but never came up with a firm plan on how to use them. I used a completely arbitrary color for the royal icing to write on the cake. Lettering on cakes is not my strong suit. But I looked up a Star Wars font and tried to use it. So the cake was done, which was great. All I could see when I looked at it were my mistakes, which wasn't great, but was completely normal. 

Notice anything wrong? 

Yup, I left out the "H" in birthday. When I realized it I totally fell apart. I was so disgusted with myself I wanted to punch it and just throw the mess away. I had spent hours on this cake. I was unhappy with it, but before discovering the mistake I was willing to try and bite my tongue rather than tell every guest who came over exactly what was wrong and explain that it was a really lame effort for someone who was actually given money in exchange for baking in the past. I tried to articulate to Z how worthless this mistake made me feel. How it made me never want to try again. Because every time I do try I only prove to myself that I can't do things properly. 

Z listened. He pointed out I could fix the lettering after the royal icing dried. Can I have a "Duh?" I was so focused on my failure that it's like I stopped operating within reality. And that, that my friends, is my anxiety disorder in a nutshell. As usual Z got me through it. I fixed the cake, still wasn't crazy about it, but I didn't obsess about it. I was able to move forward and enjoy the day with my son (thankfully he was napping during my freak out). As crazy as I know I was being, it is amazing to realize how far I've come. Back in 2005 I would have wanted to cancel the party or humiliate myself by explaining to every person who came over exactly what was wrong with the cake. I was the queen of making people uncomfortable. And I still have that charming ability, but it has gotten so much better. As much as this is a self absorbed post about me, the great thing is in real life I didn't hijack the day and make it about my shortcomings. Instead it was all about T. 
 He didn't give a crap that it wasn't perfect.

T lovin' on his favorite (and most amazingly patient) pal Jack.

 Tuning up his awesome personalized new guitar with a handmade strap from our wonderful friends. He is one lucky duck who was loved hard by so many people yesterday.


5 comments:

  1. Honey, he's two. I'll bet he loved his day, loved the cake, loved the attention--and never noticed the imperfections. And that's how it will be--the fact you made the cake trumps all......and I'll bet it was delicious...

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  2. Please make me an imperfect birthday cake!

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  3. J-You give me a theme and I'll send you decorated fondant cut outs to put on a cake from one of the millions of lovely bakeries in Brooklyn.

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  4. I've been away from all computer-related pursuits and it suddenly occurred to me that you are getting near your due date, no? I am now checking your website relentlessly. And thank you, as always, for your kind comment on mine....

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  5. The official due date is August 28th, and sadly the New Guy seems happy to stay put for the time being. I'll try to update here soon after his birth, but FB will be where all the info is at first. Weren't you going to do a FB page for your site? Am I making that up?

    And thanks so much for reading. It absolutely blows my mind when I find out real writers I admire look at my amateur, mostly-friends-being-nice-by-reading blog.

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