Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Weirdest Way to Cook Pizza

My sister and I were weird children. We did totally random things, like attempting to build zip lines in the back yard, catching chipmunks, and dressing up our cats and putting them in strollers.

One of the things we did was cook mini pizzas. On light bulbs.

Wow. Where did we come up with this, you might be wondering. Well, I'm not sure. I think it resulted from the simple realization that our mom cooked things in the oven. But the oven was Mom's, and we weren't allowed to use it without help. However, the lamps in our room—well, those were our lamps, and we didn't have to ask for permission to use them.

My Mom makes some excellent pizza, let me just say. But it always took quite a while for her to prepare it. Patience has never been my strong point, especially when I was a little kid. Therefore, the only logical solution was to make our own pizza.

For a while (maybe the first three or four times), we kept our creations a secret. Usually, I would distract my mom by asking her questions or sampling the various ingredients she had left lying about. Katie would clandestinely snatch a few precious clumps of pizza dough from the bowl. Perhaps she didn't allow me to do the dough-stealing because she knew I'd get carried away and steal enough to cook on fifteen lamps.

Next, we always ran to our room, and I complained every time that she hadn't gotten enough pizza dough. Usually there were two amounts about the size of a quarter, and I usually got the smaller amount because Katie said so. Anyway, we would press the dough onto the lightbulb, careful not to burn our fingers.

We watched it with fascination, not wanting to burn our mini pizzas. My sister and I always debated about how long to leave it there, but every time, without fail, we were able to recognize the distinct golden brown color they turned when they were done.

Next, we turned off the lamps and peeled off the mini pizzas. To finish, we added a little bit of sauce and cheese. They were delicious. It was just a shallow harbinger of the bigger pizza to come, but it tasted better because we had made it ourselves.

Who needs an Easy Bake Oven? We used light bulbs.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Watching Out for Elevator Monsters"

I heard a saying once that went something like this:

"Learning through studying and pondering is the most honorable; learning through watching others' experiences is the easiest; learning through our own mistakes is the most painful."

In my opinion, at least parts of that statement are true. My mom taught me the concept of "watching out for red flags." This idea is basically just a picture to represent the ability to perceive twinges in our consciences or recognize problems in the horizon.

For example.

One day I was walking back to the dorm with my friend Lisa. We went our separate ways soon after we went inside, since she takes the stairs, and I take the elevator. She lives on the second floor, and I live on the third floor. I like to use the excuse that I don't like carrying the scooter up the stairs, but honestly I'm just a lazy bum.

Anyway, sometimes I'm just really oblivious and unaware of my surroundings, especially when I'm performing a task that I do on a regular basis, such as punching the number "three" in the elevator, exiting the elevator, and walking down the hall to my room. This time my inattentiveness was mostly due to the excessive numbers of text messages I was receiving at that moment.

Therefore, when the elevator doors opened, I didn't notice that it was still on the second floor. I simply walked through, still texting. Suddenly, a speedy blur sprung from around the corner, grabbing me faster than I could even react. Needless to say, I tore away in a panic and let out an ear-piercing shriek.

It was Lisa. She had run up the stairs and pushed the button on the elevator, causing it to halt on the second floor, instead of the third floor, where I had been intending to go. She laughed hysterically, and I tried to smile in spite of the fact that my heart was beating fast enough to keep time for "The Flight of the Bumblebee."

I told her it was a good trick and went on my merry way, shaking my head at my own blatant inattentiveness. At least I've learned to look both ways before crossing the street.

Anyway, about a week later, I was walking back to the dorm with Lisa again. It was close to curfew, and I was pretty tired. Once again, she took the stairs, and I took the elevator. As before, I got a few text messages. Yawning, I tried to respond to some of them while I was on the elevator. When I heard the "ding," I obediently headed out the opening doors toward what I once again mistakenly thought was my floor.

A speeding blur leaped from around the corner, grabbing me and letting out a roar. I calmly looked up from my texting. "Hi, Lisa. You can't get me twice with the same trick," I said. "Good try, though." She just laughed. We both recognized that I had still gotten off at the wrong floor, but I had certainly not been startled to the point of screaming bloody murder the second time around.

I'd venture to say that next time I'm walking back to the dorm with Lisa, I'll think to check the number on the elevator before I exit. I don't claim to be the fastest learner in the world, but in general, I like to avoid making the same mistake twice. When it comes to real life situations, I'm really hard on myself. Usually I can forgive myself and get over it if I do something stupid once, but I get really annoyed if I do it again.

I learned in my biology class my sophomore year of high school about "pathways" that we establish in our brains. We have pathways for tying our shoes, reading, talking to people, playing sports, and anything else we know how to do. The more we do something, the more defined the particular pathway in our brain for that task becomes. It works the same way with warnings in our lives.

When something goes wrong, we learn to recognize the signs and signals, so when they show up again, we'll know how to respond to prevent the worst from happening. What I'm saying is, sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes we make mistakes. And that's okay—just as long as we learn from them.

There's always a red flag; you've just got to learn how to see it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"'Ello, Beastie"

Have you ever looked at your life and said either out loud or in your mind: "Wow. This is awful. Looks like it's all...


...from here!"

I know I have. Sometimes bad things happen, or life presents a totally unexpected and seemingly insurmountable obstacle. We think, "Ugh! I don't want to deal with this! It's all downhill from here!"

Have you ever seen "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest?" Watch this.

When the giant, hideous Kraken rises out of the water, Captain Jack Sparrow looks death in the face and says, "'Ello, beastie!" I'm not saying that if you see a giant monster you should grab the nearest kitchen knife and dare the Kraken to eat you.

I am suggesting, however, that we all adopt an attitude more similar to Jack Sparrow's when it comes to problems in our lives.

Next time something bad happens, you have a mountain to climb, or an unwanted "Kraken" jumps out of the water and tries to eat your ship, look it in the eye and say, "'Ello, beastie!" Then show it who's boss.