I feel like a poorly made Gluten Free waffle.

My gluten free waffle
My gluten free waffle, Salt Lake City, Utah

Yes. I have photographic evidence of said waffle. I made it this morning. Each Sunday morning, for our family breakfast, I follow the exact same recipe, which is located on the back of the gluten free Bisquick baking mix. I measure. I stir. I blend. I pour the batter in and then I wait. Gently I nudge open the waffle iron. If I feel any sort of tension, I wait some more. Today I was able to open the iron. As I urged my waffle out, I noticed it was sticking.

When I see my waffle fall apart, silence escapes me. I am loud.  No. I do not need anyone to fix it. I just need to vent.

Like the boys say,

“Mom speaks out because she does not want to feel so alone. She wants you to know she is having a hard time…That is all.” (Pro Tip: raise your children to speak and translate Mom.)

They continue to reassure,

“Dad, mom is really ok.”    

The boys, Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, April 2017
The boys, Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, April 2017


The boys, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017
The boys, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017

By the way, I always vent. My vent is often packed with colorful feelings. I vent for the waffle crumbles. I vent because extricating a gluten free waffle from any pan is a pain in the ass. I vent for my jealous heart, because come on, we all know that eggs and white flour make everything easier. Mostly, I vent because I feel like a character in  the Sesame Street skit, “One of These Things is not Like the Other.”  

Dave is standing over the waffle iron now. He insists:

“Stop using a fork to get it out.” [insert short pause here], “You are ruining the waffle iron!” [now insert a long pause] Dave continues, “You just need a new waffle iron.”

This is our routine: I perfect my waffles as Dave successfully makes fancy European pancakes (with eggs and whole wheat flour, of course). I often tell him that it is not the waffle iron, but the “stupid” waffles. It is not lost on any of us that my waffles are without gluten, which means they will not have the stick-togetherness of Dave’s beautiful pancakes. Nevertheless, I am a fighter. When presented with failure, I will always make another batch. It the next batch fails, I will persist.  At times I feel like a failure as I watch them as they eat their high-achiever-styled pancakes. Then I remember it really is apples and oranges, or better, glue vs. acetone. Then I cover my my waffle crumbs with perfectly sliced strawberries (that is another story) and whipped cream.

Some might suggest I pack it in or give up. Nope. Please know that my complicated gluten free waffles are always worth it. They allow me to feel like one of the others. Even when they are a disembodied mess, they taste really good. Mostly I know that once in a while I am able to produce a gluten free waffle masterpiece. In those moments, I gently open the waffle iron. As I marvel, I swear I hear a choir of angels sing. Then I easily remove my beautiful creation.

Today I said nothing when my waffle fell apart. Then I extracted it with a fork.

The remains of my gluten free waffle, Salt Lake City, Utah
The remains of my gluten free waffle, Salt Lake City, Utah

I am sure I remained quiet because even though a crumbly waffle has nothing to do with my birthday, my birthday is tomorrow, and crumbly is definitely how I feel. I dread my birthday. Like I told Dave,

“I do not want to be remembered, yet I do not want to be forgotten.”

“I get it.” he responded.

As my birthday rounds the bend, I ponder, I loop. I always loop.  My failures amplify and wasted moments shout,

“Beth, live in the now!”

See, for as long as I can remember, I have become consumed with reflection the closer the calendar nears. When the week hits (because yes, it is a week), I always hope things will be different. Unfortunately, this year is no different. It is April 23. I am at the beginning of a tailspin. I am still in the place where every single resentful, shameful and angry I-thought-I-had-resolved-this-already feeling is screaming its way to the surface. My self doubt is obliterating every cognitive behavioral therapy technique I have been taught. Doubt is crushing my empathy, and fear is suffocating my voice. Finally I scream,  

“CINNAMON!” (which is our family safe word, by the way).

No one hears me.

Me, Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, April, 2017
Me, Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland, April, 2017

Feeling both worked up and defeated, my despair paints the air I breathe. I always see the times I stepped aside, stepped back and was afraid. Usually, and for no real reason, I get frustrated with my mom for placing so much value on birthdays while simultaneously becoming irritated that my mother-in-law is not naturally considerate. I wonder if these two amazing women realize they are part of my birthday psychosis. (Shh. Maybe it is better if we left them out of this.) And speaking of Dave, he is never off the hook. Pre-any-holiday, he always gets on my nerves. We always fight. We most often misunderstand. Nevertheless, he does not throttle me. Instead he stands by my side.  

Alas, I am no a victim. I own my pre-holiday moodiness and I am lucky that I can indulge and work through it. In fairness, I also give Dave a clear heads-up and say things like,

“Seriously dude, if you do not order me a gluten free birthday cake, I will lose my mind.” (ha ha, irony. I am already losing my mind.)

Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017
Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017

I would argue that together Dave and I are our best hope for surviving these dark moments. Instead, my despair crushes him too. I have an idea for both of us.  I am starting to think that to survive these moments Dave and I should go all “Freaky Friday” on each other.  In fact, I think we would be better off if flip flopped our strengths. He could “Beth” me all up while I “Dave’d” him.

In truth, with my hopes high, our weekend began well.  Dave and I ran errands Friday night. Then we binge-watched season 6 of “Homeland.”   Before we started our binge watch and errands, Dave had a plan. He sweetly wanted suggested we do something for my “birthday weekend,”  and that is when he said,

“Hey, let’s leave town tomorrow morning…Just grab a change of clothes and go.”

Kyle is currently out of town and off the grid with his environmental science class. I thought it would be too much to get us ready and be back before Kyle returned so I said,

“Let’s just spend Saturday together doing fun stuff.”

I happily assumed we would. I also happily assumed Dave would cheerlead us out the door. Meaning he would not wait for me to make the plans. We ran our errands and that is when it happened. As we walked in the door Dave said something like,

“I was talking to the bike guys. Tomorrow afternoon we are talking about a ride.”

There was no asking. With jaw agape, I said,

“I think I am going to be upset.”

“Really?” he responded — indignant.

I walked away.

Big Daddy at Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017
Big Daddy at Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017

Aside from asking Eli and Dave to have lunch with me, (when they already were full), the weekend took a nosedive. And really, since Dave told me about the bike ride, I have waffled. And by waffled, I mean, waffle like my poorly made, finesse-less, gluten free waffle.

Anyway, the weekend moves forward. I have completely bailed on my self-worth and my parenting. When Dave and I do engage, I vomit my feelings, which are of course, riddled with barf-y explanations. I know. Feelings talks are hard on anyone. At one point I used the following, yet “gentle” (not gentle) metaphorical experience:

“Dave, you know how when I make a really good dessert and I can’t stop eating it, so I just put it down the garbage disposal?  That is how I feel about this weekend.”

At this point Dave is somewhere working on house projects. I am sure he is looping, or I secretly hope he is. To me that would imply he also wants things to be better. Do not worry.  I am a long processor. Usually by the end of said holiday, I get over myself. I stop being mad at my mom and mother-in-law. They have done nothing wrong. My mom is the most thoughtful human I know. I am forever grateful she taught me to compassionately think of others. My mother-in-law is a bit harder. As she often tells me, “we are nothing alike.”  Regardless, she is the reason for Dave, and well, Dave is my world. Eventually  I forgive Dave for being Dave. (I did last night.) He forgives me. And ultimately it is Dave who swims by my side and helps me come up for air. Please know that after this weekend Dave totally earns extra good-husband points. (And yes, there is a great big jar where all those good-husband points go. When Dave fills the jar, he can use his accumulated points pick from several prizes)

Me and Big Daddy, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April 2017
Me and Big Daddy, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April 2017

[insert robust and thoughtful conclusion here]

Here it is. Dave thinks my ending is too abrupt.  I am not sure. When I ask, he suggests I sum it all up more completely. I honestly thought I did, but can see his point. I guess if I were to add anything, I would conclude this conclusion by saying that things like birthdays, or better, expectations, are not a waffle fail. And if we can move beyond the said birthday anxiety or waffle fail, we might see the is beauty. See, crumbly or not, each Sunday morning our family makes and then sits down for breakfast together. Dave and the boys always wait until my waffle is ready. And when we are done, we do the dishes — together. Sure, Eli may all of a sudden need to use the bathroom and yes, I may remind them to push their chairs in. In the end, we are team, and being a team is pretty awesome.  I am lucky

Us, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017
Us, Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland, April, 2017