Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bitter loss, sourdough, hard lessons

"Don't torture yourself, Gomez. That's my job."

That's the beautiful waffle iron that Mama gave me and that I neutered recently. It's out on the counter tonight as I write this in preparation for the sourdough waffles that I'll make tomorrow morning.

Making sourdough waffles--or anything with sourdough, for that matter--requires some planning, which is why the waffle iron is already out. More important than the waffle iron is the sourdough starter that's warming up in the oven overnight. Without that, all that we would have in the morning is a cold lump of sourdough starter that wouldn't make any kind of batter or dough, no matter what we added to it. Tomorrow, however, we should have light, crispy waffles while Barky frolics at doggy daycare.

Before I neutered the waffle iron, sending Barky to daycare or somewhere else outside the house was the only way that we could enjoy waffles. That's because this beautiful waffle iron that Mama searched for high and low in stores and across the internet came with indicator lights and a handy buzzer to indicate that the waffle iron was either hot enough to start cooking or that the waffle was done.

Handy, right?

Unfortunately, that buzzer was at a frequency that caused a total Barky meltdown. He would start by slinking into the most distant room he could find, then he would try to get out of the house, either going over by the front door, or out onto the balcony if we had the glass door open. After that, the shaking would start. First, there would be an occasional tremble, like a shiver. Eventually, he wouldn't be able to stop shivering and his anxiety would grow until his whole body was rattling and he would be lifting his front paws alternately, as if the ground was burning them.

Even if I was cranking out the waffles as fast as I could, we could never get enough for a full breakfast before Barky had a total meltdown. So, before we had our friends over a few weekends ago for a sourdough waffle brunch, something had to be done. I hunted down all the screws on the waffle iron and started taking likely sections apart. Eventually I found the controller chip and the buzzer on a tiny PCB under the hinge. To my great relief, disconnecting the chip and buzzer didn't disable the waffle iron. Now, all we have to do is set the timer to make sure we don't burn the waffles, and we can make them even when Barky's here.

So, why did I go to the trouble of getting out the sourdough starter and getting it going tonight to do that extra work tomorrow morning, when I could do it any morning of the week now? I could say that it's because, with Barky in daycare, we generally have extra time in the morning, but that's not why.

It's because I just got home from our final volleyball game (work organizes a team that plays in the city league), which we lost. By the hair of our chinny chin chins. We lost the first game by two points, won the second one comfortably, but then choked in the final game and got whupped. It was not pretty or pleasant. I rode home to "The Way You Move," with the bass as low and loud as it would go, but I was still pretty wound when I got home. I changed, kissed Mama, patted Barky on the head, then came out to the living room, looking for something to do to calm myself down. I love to cook, and that would take my mind off volleyball, so I got the sourdough going and started the dishwasher. It did calm me down quite a bit, but I knew that I'd still toss and turn if I went to bed, so I sat down here to write this.

The tossing and turning would have come in part from rehashing the game--all the mistakes that I made. While I try to be the first to get others back in the game after bad hit by telling them to shake it off and focus on the next point, I don't take my own advice and leave my mistakes behind after the game. Usually, I'm so caught up that they don't bother me during the game, but after the game they keep replaying, with a voiceover by me: "If I had only..." It plays on, tormenting me, until I get so tired that I collapse.

Now that Baby Boy Bradstein is on the way, however, I've been rethinking some of these reactions that I have, and that I've always told myself that I can't control--that they're reflexes. Thing is, though, I want BBB to actually be able to shake these things off, to not be as tightly wound as his old man. There's no benefit to it, no profit in it for anyone. It's just not worth it, but I know that there will be a lot of monkey see-monkey do behavior from BBB, including more subtle behaviors, like mood changes, and this is one of many reflexes I have that I certainly don't want to pass along. Although a coworker implored me to "Man him up. Don't let him become a whiny boy." I think that men find enough aggression and anger problems throughout their lives, they don't need anyone to hand them any others. I'm a perfect example; I didn't get this reaction to competition from my Papa--I either came out with it fuly formed, or developed it as I grew up.

Now, however, I want to get rid of it, or at least modulate it, so I don't pass it on to BBB. Unfortunately, although we have books on bearing baby, naming baby, and buying baby things, there are no books that I've found on fixing myself--not the John Wayne Bobbitt/waffle iron/puppy to the vet kind of fixing, now. I'm talking about the bigger fixes--not getting so agitated by a loss, or bad customer service, or anything else.

If we want BBB to learn that, we'll hook up the buzzer on the waffle iron again and let him watch Barky. If only I could find someone to train me to not get so wound up, to stay laid back.

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