February is a challenging month in the Kolbeck household. It is bittersweet, being the month in which I had my first date with my husband in 1999 and also the month that he died in a car crash, 14 years to the exact day later on February 16th, 2013.
The universe is fucking crazy like that. Either it has a twisted sense of humor, or it is just ironic and strange with no real logic.
But the other part of the universe that is beautiful and brilliant and decidedly untwisted or ironic is that these strange and horrible coincidences give others a chance to show up for you.
I have had to become a fairly crusty soul; although I have been the beneficiary of the occasional helping hand, for the most part I have relied on myself and my own bootstraps – emotionally, psychically, physically, and financially.
I am not great at asking for help, and I am extra double-plus ungreat at showing anyone my gooey center.
But when Dane died my eyes opened. And I had no idea they were closed. So there’s that.
Then all of these lovely people showed up for The Teenager and I.
They showed up with tools and expertise to literally help us raise the roof of the tiny house.
They showed up with loving support online as I posted raw and gut-wrenching blogs about grief, blogs that I myself cannot read today.
They showed up with cash at times, which, I’m not gonna lie, was helpful because I have no idea where all of the money went in that first year because everything was blurred and numb and decidedly not budget-oriented.
They showed up when they prayed for us but did not tell us Dane was in a better place or that god has a plan. #StowThatShit
As we approach the third anniversary of Dane’s death and truly settle in to a new life, it has become clearly apparent to me what is happy-making and good and valuable.
This guy, a fancy researcher who is the 4th lead of a 75-year study on what makes people happy, totally agrees with me. #ScienceCatchesUpWithSuzannah
In this TEDTalk on what really makes people happy, Robert Waldinger uncovers what the secret to happiness is:
“So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
While these findings make the introvert in me a little nervous and long for a quiet space to read and maybe have a drink, the deepest part of me recognizes that it’s true. It’s the quality of the connection that I have with the people in my life, the ones I choose as well as the ones I was born to/with.
As I move through this life, it seems like the connections I choose to have, as opposed to the ones I was born with, have become even more important to me. Part of working in the shadows is realizing which connections we are supposed to nurture and which should be let go. Which connections are toxic and harmful.
It’s about leaving behind the person I never wanted to be in the first place and learning to embrace the person I actually am.
Side note: As celebratory as this post should be, I had to go back through it and change everything I have written thus far into an “I” statement. I get philosophical when I get too close to the bone, which for me means I avoid actually talking about The Thing That Should Be Talked About. And in this case, that Thing is about choosing to stay connected with the people who fill me up. And that is hard to talk about because it also means truth-telling to those who are draining and should be left behind.
But on to the important things.
February 13th is Galentine’s Day, a made-up holiday if there ever was one. Amy Poehler’s character (Leslie Knope) from Parks & Rec made it up to celebrate female friendships.
Bresties before testes.
Uteruses before duderuses.
“It’s like Lilith Fair without the angst, plus frittatas.”
Crab and asparagus frittata, to be precise, plus this cream cheese apple coffee cake (among other things; I want the menu to be a surprise). The Teenager and I are inviting local female friends for brunch on February 13th, the first annual Galentine’s Day celebration at the Kolbeck house. We will be boozing it up with some of the best women we know, and raising a glass to the other best women we know who live far away or cannot attend. #NextYear
Even if you’re not a gal, there is no reason whatsoever why you cannot have this cake. Luscious and cinnamon-y and filled with apples and everything else good in the world (except chocolate, but that base will be covered elsewhere in brunch #NeverFear).
I won’t lie: this recipe a bit of a pain in the ass with lots of steps and dirty dishes, which is why it’s perfect for brunch when you have had some coffee to start with. Drink mimosas while you make it and you won’t care anyway.
Cream Cheese Apple Coffee Cake
This recipe is not mine; it’s from a site called Yammie’s Noshery that is chockablock full of ridiculous ads that make the site slow and unresponsive. I don’t want to send you there, so I have recreated it here. Some of the directions are different, and I, of course, made it gluten-free. Feel free to use regular AP flour in this one.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped apples (I didn’t peel mine. #TooLazy)
Cream Cheese Layer Ingredients
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease an 9″ x 13″ pan.
2. Combine the butter and sugars for the cake and mix until fluffy. Add the egg, oil, and vanilla and mix until combined.
3. Stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and add to the butter mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chopped apples. Spread into the prepared pan.
4. Mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla for the cream cheese layer and spread over the cake batter in the pan.
5. Combine all the streusel ingredients using your hands or a pastry blender until well combined. Sprinkle over the cream cheese mixture.
6. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the topping is browned.
Let cool until you cannot take it anymore, then eat with a fork because it is gooey and still warm and so delicious you can hardly stand it. Definitely cut a piece and move away from the pan because if you stand over it with a fork you will eat it all and have none left for your loved ones. #GetYourOwnDamnCoffeeCake