Let Them Eat Cake

By Suzanne Wiggins

My birthday is a few weeks away and normally I would be trying to decide what type of cakes I’d be baking to share with my Mug Club friends. It all began a few years ago while having an after work beer with my friend and fellow Mug Club member, Dan. During our conversation he mentioned that as a kid, his mom always made a butter brickle cake for his birthday. If you’re unfamiliar with butter brickle, it’s actually English toffee chopped into small pieces. His mother had passed away several years earlier, but it was obvious that the thought of this special treat every year on his birthday brought back fond memories of both his mom and childhood. Right then and there I promised Dan that for his next birthday I was going to make a butter brickle cake just like his mom use to do.

And that is how I became the unofficial “Official Birthday Cake Baker for Mug Club Members” at the Rochester Mills. In actuality, I don’t bake for the entire Mug Club which has over 500 members, but just the small inner circle of regulars of which I belong. There have been carrot cakes (with and without raisins), cheesecakes, German chocolate, Italian cream, red velvet, chocolate stout, lemon, chocolate chip angel food, and antique caramel just to name a few. Each one is made from scratch with lots of care and attention. That’s not to say they’re without fault. Although they’ve all been described as delicious, not every one has fared so well on the journey from oven to plate.

The circle of Mug Club members I bake for continues to grow usually by way of, “how do I get on the list?” There are those, however, who will never have to ask because it makes me happy to create special cakes just for them.  My question is always the same; what kind of cake did your mom make for your birthday as a kid? With most, the response is immediate. For some, there is no memory or sentimental attachment to childhood birthdays so the question simply becomes, what’s your favorite?  And for the sad few that have no preference, I bake whatever interests me at the time.

If my dad were alive, he would love this idea and probably be disappointed that he lived too far away to participate. He loved cooking, baking, and generally doing kind things for his friends. As kids, my dad would always ask us what we wanted for dinner on our birthday. This tradition continued into my first few years of college. My request was always the same without deviation and every birthday meal was as delicious as the year before.

With three weeks left until my birthday there is no need for cake planning or baking. My amazing friends have decided they want to bake for ME this year. I’ve gratefully accepted because their thoughtfulness truly makes my heart swell. Following protocol they have asked what kind of birthday cake my mom made me as a kid? The question was easy to answer, but the truth is harder to tell. I would gladly forego cake any day in exchange for the special fried liver and onion and lima bean birthday dinners my dad use to make.

Let Go of the Banana

By Suzanne Wiggins

I believe the Universe has been sending me important messages out of context. Don’t get me wrong; the messages are always very helpful as provided. It’s just that when I’m struggling with a particular quandary and it hits me that the answer or lesson was already revealed in an earlier, unrelated context, it’s a pretty momentous feeling. It’s like Dorothy finding out that she could have gone home at anytime with the help of her ruby slippers. Perhaps this is how we learn to pay attention.

About a year ago while glancing through the archives of a blog, I found a post that described how poachers in some parts of Africa use a simple kind of trap to capture monkeys. They attach a jar to a heavy stone and bury the stone so only the jar is in view.  Inside the jar they place a banana then they stand back at a distance to make the monkey comfortable enough to climb down from the tree to retrieve the fruit. As the monkey closes its fist around the banana, the hunters charge forward. The monkey attempts a quick getaway, but its closed fist is unable to be pulled from the jar. Only an open hand can fit through the narrow opening.  Refusing to let go of its prize, the monkey meets his untimely demise.

‘Why doesn’t the monkey just let go of the banana?’  Hmmmm. Seems so easy, right? Well, I’ve been wondering…why don’t WE let go of the things that make us unhappy, deplete our peace of mind, limit our quality time with children, or cause us worry, stress and poor health? Why do we hold so tightly to the things that are familiar, but cause us unhappiness and pain?

What would happen if we let go of that oh, so secure job we hate, the relationship that is eroding our self-esteem, that deep concern about what others think of us, the constant urge to buy things we don’t really need, the tendency to avoid heartbreak by expecting the worst, the feeling that we have to be the one to keep the ship afloat, the idea that we have to work full-time, make a certain salary, have a specific title, or accomplish certain life goals by the time we’re 30, 40 or 50?

I get that taking risks is scary and it’s normal to avoid facing uncertainty and feelings of discomfort. BUT, what if we finally understood, that like the monkey, there is absolutely no downside to letting go of the banana?

What message might the Universe be sending YOU today?