When I Grow Up

imgresA couple of years ago, I entered a contest offered by Real Simple Magazine in which contestants wrote – in 500 words or fewer – about a memorable cooking experience they shared with a  friend. I have no idea how many people entered the contest. It could have been thousands; it could have been five. All I know is that I was selected to be one of the five finalists.

I didn’t win. The winner was selected by readers’ online votes. I launched an ambitious Facebook campaign, but seeings as I only have 62 Facebook “friends,” the campaign didn’t really pass muster. But hey, being one of the finalists was impressive, no? Well, unless only five people entered….. .

I love to write, and I think that it is something that I don’t particularly suck at. (Except that I just ended that sentence with a preposition.) Here’s the thing. From the time I was a little girl, that’s what I wanted to do for a living – write. I vividly remember my BFF and I writing stories in elementary school – not for a homework assignment, but just because we wanted to write stories. We turned them into our third grade teacher, who likely had a good laugh over them, but accepted them graciously. I would LOVE to see those stories now. I wonder if Miss Gaspers saved them? She could be a millionaire when I become a famous writer. See? I still want to be a writer when I grow up.

The funny thing is that when I was 18 and entering college, what I decided to major in was Human Development – specifically, teaching preschool. No writing. By that time, either I had forgotten that I liked to write or I simply didn’t have the slightest idea what sort of careers involved writing.

Between the time I quit the University of Nebraska (intending never to return to college) and began attending the University of Colorado (after realizing I didn’t want to be a Safeway checker my whole life), Watergate happened. Suddenly it was cool to be a journalist. I earned my degree in journalism and my advanced degree in communications. Boom. My third grade dream was finally being fulfilled. I actually did spend my entire professional life writing at least some of the time.

I bet there aren’t many people who actually have a career as an adult doing what they dreamed to do as a child. After all, there just aren’t that many openings for NBA players or princesses. I only know two: our son David always wanted to be a lawyer, and is; and my niece Maggie always wanted to be an elementary school teacher, and was a great one until she quit to be a great mom. In fact, I can picture Dave in his kindergarten class wearing a little tiny suit with a little tiny bow tie explaining torts to the rest of the class as they played with finger paints.

I began wondering what my grandchildren want to be when they grow up. So I asked. Here is the rundown:

Addie (11): Math Teacher or Business Owner

Alastair (9): Architect

Dagny (8): Entomologist

Maggie Faith (6): Teacher or “a normal mom” (as opposed to an abnormal mom?)

Kaiya (5): Teacher

Mylee (3) Doctor

Joseph (5) Fireman and superhero (not mutually exclusive I’m happy to say)

The two little boys can’t talk yet, so their dreams remain a mystery for the time being.

Impressive. They are our future, my friends.

Back to the Real Simple contest. As I said, I did not win (which would have gotten me an assignment as a guest writer for their magazine). My consolation prize? A cookbook entitled dinner tonight: done! (really with the annoying lack of capital letters and the exclamation point). I felt a little like Charlie Brown when he opened his mailbox and found only a rock. Oh well.

dinner tonight: done! was one of my cookbooks that I had never used. So annoyed wassearch I, in fact, that I had never even cracked it open until this week. Lo, and behold, it actually has some good recipes. Guess I will retrieve my ball and bat and go back to the playground. Even if it has that exclamation point in its name and the author thinks (s)he is e.e. cummings.

Out of all of the recipes, I chose ham. Random, I know. But the ham I had for Easter brunch tasted so good to me and I thought the recipe sounded good. It was. In deference to my husband who isn’t a fan of asparagus, I used green beans.

By the way, the recipe titles also don’t have capital letters. Sigh.

ham dinnerapricot-glazed ham with potatoes and asparagus, courtesy Real Simple’s dinner tonight: done!


1 3-lb. boneless ham

¼ c. apricot preserves

1 pound fingerling or some other small potatoes (about 12)

Kosher salt and pepper

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 T. olive oil

1 T. white wine vinegar

1 T. prepared horseradish

¼ c. fresh dill sprigs


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the ham on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and cook until heated through, 50-60 minutes, spreading the ham with the preserves after 20 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and add 1 t. salt. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 15-18 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a colander. Run under cold water to cool, then cut into quarters.

Return the water in the saucepan to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, horseradish, ½ t. salt, and ¼ t. pepper. Add the potatoes and asparagus and toss to combine; fold in the dill. Thinly slice the ham and serve with the vegetables.

Buy dinner tonight: done! from Amazon here.

Buy dinner tonight: done! from Barnes and Noble here.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

8 thoughts on “When I Grow Up

  1. I had a short lived desire (grade school) to be a famous singer, like Petulia Clark, who I sang along with. I always knew I wanted to be a Mom and that is still my favorite job and life calling. I sure didn’t know until recently that I wanted to be a Registered Client Associate. Try that job title on, McLain kids!

    • Poor Mark and Maggie. I feel sorry for them when the teachers are asking Austin in school what Mom and Dad do for a living. “Mom doesn’t do anything and Dad reads email.”

  2. Doris Day. Yes, I wanted to be Doris Day when I grew up. I would wear a cute little house dress with a frilly apron and sing my way through housework. (I’m dead in the water right about here). Something went terribly wrong. I couldn’t sing. I’d rather wear blue genes. Aprons were ok but that indicated housework, which was only a necessary evil to my way of thinking. So….as Doris would sing, I’d say, “whatever will be, will be”. However now after 78 years of life, I am allowed to sing in the church choir. And, I call that progress.

  3. I wanted to get my PhD because my Dad got his in 1969, and my Mom made such a HUGE deal out of it that I decided I needed one. And I wanted to teach – 3rd grade. I also wanted to be a Mom.

    I did get my PhD, but I taught high school for 1 year, then college. And I got to be a Mom. Now I don’t teach, but I love what I do.

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