Makes you wanna cuss. And, I don’t mean “curse” in that polite and grammatically correct way. I mean cuss. In the vernacular.
The other night (seriously) I made “cheesy dogs,” the quintessential kid-friendly dinner composed of hot dogs stuffed with cheddar cheese and wrapped in crescent rolls. The parts are out of their respective packages and on the table with presto combined deliciousness in under 20 minutes flat. The pervasive opinion of the preschoolers in my house is that they are best accompanied by tator tots. No, preparing them probably doesn’t actually constitute cooking, and they don’t have much true nutritional value. But, they’re popular, and they can be a Mommy’s salvation after a long day of work.
So, last Friday I took full advantage of my own need for a quick fix at the end of a busy week. I made cheesy dogs. Eight of them. They were fresh out of the oven, and I was prying them from the pan with a spatula in my usual “grip with the pot-holder and scrape with all you’ve got” method. They always stick for some reason. The first one is the hardest to remove from the cookie sheet because of the close quarters produced by eight wrapped hot dogs arranged on about 180 square inches. Plus, the melting cheese always eliminates any space left between them.
I was holding with the pot-holder. I was scraping with the spatula in the upside-down position that almost always works. Almost. Before I could say “beefy jumbos,” cheesy dog #1 flew off the pan and onto the tile floor.
I told you. Makes you wanna cuss.
Don’t you just love the best laid plans? The table was set. Little Drummer Boy and Bug were in the living room announcing “I’m hungry!” I don’t remember, but I’m sure Baby Girl was on top of the coffee table. The week of a thousand heart-filled preschool parties was finally over. Tator Tots were on the table and ice in the glasses.
Just to recap: Cheesy dog #1 was ON THE FLOOR. And no one else was in the kitchen. So, what did I do? NATURALLY, I picked up #1 from the tile, blew it off and gave it a prominent location on the yellow serving plate. I popped those other seven suckers off the cookie sheet in short order, and “Dinner is served.” (Please send Martha Stewart Living subscriptions. Quick. And, Mama, just forget you read this.)
The bad news: Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned. The good news: No one has ever keeled over from a little grit on their cheesy dog. Honest.
Life isn’t perfect. In fact, perfection is an overrated and hopelessly flawed pursuit. And although I hate to play the role of the realist, realistically, a life lived in whatever moment of perfection I might enjoy is perhaps a life spent waiting for the other shoe to drop (or the other cheesy dog, as the case may be.) Perfection just can’t be maintained. And, TRYING to maintain it can be a nerve-racking, tension-filled, white-knuckle attempt. It’s simply not sustainable.
Sustainable perfection implies that the people achieving it are perfect. It assumes that those folks will always make wise choices, that they will always take into account and avoid the pitfalls (and clumsy spatulas) of life. It means they will never make mistakes, or at the least, they will always learn from their all-too-brief mistakes immediately and completely. Funny, I don’t see that person when I look in the mirror. I don’t know ANY people like that. In fact, the reality of those traits is pretty much universally disproved by the popularity of Wiley Coyote, don’t you think? Yeah, or at least by flying cheesy dogs.
Now, if you’ve never experienced your own cheesy dog epiphany, let me assure you that it’s coming. It’s a fact, and there is no fruit in denying it. The lesson learned from my own cheesy dog experience was that I can really shift my body a little to the left to block that whole flying off the pan thing, and this: Real life happens in the grit.
Thank God for the grit. It’s the stuff that lets us know we’re human just like everybody else, bound in a commonality of error. It’s the dust that reminds us of our own inherent needs, our own blessed short-comings. It’s the crunch that protects us from the trap of arrogant assumptions and exclusive palates. It’s the road-worthy flavor that ensures we are flexible and patient and willing to change and aware of the unexpected and able to embrace a surprising life.
Sure, plans are better made. They’re better laid with the best of intentions and wisdom and effort. They’re worth thinking about and following. But, from the poster child of plan Bs, let me just say that into every life a little cheesy dog must fall.
Blow it off and bon appetit!