Simply Jenn

Last night, I tried my hand at homemade cheese ravioli. I took the easy way; rather than making the dough from scratch as a true chef would, I used leftover wonton skins from my refrigerator, figuring I could kill two birds with one stone. Not only would I prevent those skins from going to waste, but I also thought I’d have a much higher chance of having a presentable meal at the end of it all.

They looked so pretty, folded and stacked in neat rows on my cutting board, and I had a vision in my head of Jonathan coming home to work to find dinner on the table. Beautiful homemade ravioli in a fresh tomato and basil sauce with steamed green beans on the side (oh, how I love the bounty available at the farmers’ markets this time of year!). A glass of wine, maybe, and a candle.

Instead, between attending to the needs of a crying baby and keeping a close eye on an-almost-but-not-quite-housebroken puppy, I found myself behind schedule and he found me sweating over a hot stove, raviolis not yet in the boiling water. As he tended the green beans, I put the pasta squares into the pot one by one, careful to give them space so they wouldn’t stick together. I had spent some time beforehand researching technique and the photos online made this look so very easy. “Drop them into the pot one at a time,” the recipes said, “and boil two to four minutes until they float to the top.”

Easy, right? Right.

Except that mine did not just “float to the top”. Mine stuck to the bottom, to the sides, to each other, despite my best efforts to place them carefully, to keep them apart. Mine disintegrated (not all, but some), even though I had oh-so-carefully moistened the edges, pressed them together firmly to seal the cheese inside. Within moments, my beautiful, delicious raviolis had turned into a gooey, cheesy, amorphous mess. To top it all off, once I transferred the handful of intact pastas to my saucepan to brown, they immediately stuck to the bottom. (Really? How much butter is required to prevent that kind of thing?)

We ended up being able to salvage something edible (and still rather delicious) from the mess, but I certainly wasn’t winning any points for presentation. And despite my husband’s reassurances, despite his pleasure that I had tried to do something special for him, despite the fact that we enjoyed a tasty and filling meal, what was on my plate in no way matched what I had envisioned. I was frustrated and annoyed and on the edge of tears.

* * * * *

Later, after settling Katie to sleep, I came into the kitchen to find dog poop – a large, lovely pile, except that our sweet puppy inches forward as he does his thing, so it was more of a continuous line than a pile – on the floor. (Dear Animal Rescue Lady: you told me he was house-trained. WHAT. THE. HECK?) Jonathan and Euclid were out on the deck.

“So … I’m assuming you’re out here because Euclid was a bad dog?”

“Huh? Oh, nope. I just thought maybe he needed to go out.”

“Um. Really? Because there’s a lot of dog poop on the floor in here.”

“Seriously? I didn’t notice it!”

“…”

This chain of events didn’t exactly do great things to my mood.

* * * * *

Later, after the poop was cleaned up, we sat down together to play a game. We’ve discovered a new one recently, one we both enjoy, with the perfect blend of strategy and luck and ways of deviously sabotaging your opponent’s plans. Despite anything Jonathan might tell you, I lose more than I win. Still, I enjoy the challenge and the interaction and the time spent with my husband enough that I am often the one to suggest we break out the game board.

Luck was not on my side last night, and it was patently obvious that I would lose – and lose spectacularly – well before the final points were tallied. My irritation continued to grow, and grow, and grow, and I blamed Jonathan for being particularly mean even though he hadn’t made a single play that really harmed me, even though, had the tables been turned, I would have been much more ruthless than he was.

So I lost, and I did not do so gracefully.

(Still, I suggested another game. Glutton for punishment, perhaps? My husband, wise man that he is, declined.)

* * * * *

The more time I spend around people, the more convinced I am that very few of us have the gift of accurate self-assessment. Still, while I have a tendency to be harder on myself than I need to be, while I sometimes let small things get under my skin, while I am often competitive and can be a poor loser, I’d like to think that my reactions last night were stronger than they usually are in such situations. On my walk this morning, I thought about why this might be the case, and could only really come up with one thing.
There’s an area of my life (one that has nothing to do with cooking, or dog poop, or card games) that’s less than stellar at the moment. I thought it was successfully compartmentalized, shunted off to one corner of my brain, held apart from my daily activities and only allowed to see the light of day when absolutely necessary. I thought I had worked through it, that it need not have an effect on my attitude, my reactions, my relationships. I thought that this one part of my life could be crummy but everything else could be fine.
I was wrong. This not-so-great part of my life has lowered my defenses, depleted my reserves, put me more on edge in ways that I did not even notice until I was faced with the minor domestic disturbances I experienced yesterday.
(This does not excuse my behavior, of course; I am still fully responsible for my actions. Still, it can help me to understand and, perhaps, to do better in the future.)
As much as I try to divide my life and my relationships into neat little slots, as much as I want to keep things separate, to pretend like the decisions I make in one area don’t affect another, the human mind and heart just don’t work that way. Oh, perhaps I can pull it off for awhile, fool myself into thinking its possible to “just not think about it”, but sooner or later things from one part of my life – the good or the bad, the triumphs or the failures – will spill over somehow. Something that touches one part of my heart touches all parts, a decision I make in one area affects all the rest, the quality of one relationship has the potential to trickle over into all of the others in my life.
At the end of the day, I am not “church Jenn” and “work Jenn” and “mom Jenn” and “wife Jenn” and “friend Jenn” and all of these separate Jenns, each with her own concerns and problems. No. I am simply Jenn. One person, one heart, one life.
Oh. And if anybody has tips for foolproof ravioli, I’m all ears.
Loving Others, This Thing Called Life

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3 Responses to Simply Jenn

  1. jywatkins says:

    I wish I had foolproof tips for you! We do make our own dough and still the raviolis never quite come out in the way we hope. I have totally been there with the vision for when your husband comes home and everything is perfect– and then the reality of, wow it’s so not perfect. Luckily I have a husband who truly practices “it was the thought that counts.” Thanks for the post, and I hope next time works out a little better!

  2. I’m sorry that a difficult part of your life is spilling over. I tend to compartmentalize my problems as well. Gabe doesn’t think it is healthy; I think it is an excellent coping mechanism. For awhile, at least. Not sure if I’m right or if he is! But you’re right, in the end you’re only one person and you can’t separate yourself into neat little packages that never bleed over into each other.

  3. I have totally been in that place, too, where I realize that 1,000 other times my husband/daughter/baby/friend did such-and-such a thing and it didn’t bother me at all but suddenly I am beside myself with frustration… and it’s actually because of quite a different thing and not the thing itself. It does seem that compartmentalizing doesn’t work too well after all!