"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, April 28, 2016

All You Need Is Love

Last night I had a dream.
I was in "The Walking Dead". Not in the actual show, but rather living it in real life. It was a post-apocalyptic world and my family was on the run from both Walkers and Survivors. It was terrible and thrilling all at once. I remember having bloody clothes and the washing machines were being used and I was really bugged by it. My bra was soaked red with blood (who's blood, I'm not sure and that's scary) and I was holding my laundry and really upset because I couldn't walk around braless...or could I? Last night in real life, I had to make a late run to the grocery store and I walked into the garage wearing my sweat pants, tee shirt, and no bra. I was holding my purse and ready to get into the car when I realized how inappropriate it would be to go in public braless. But then I thought how amazing it would be if it WAS appropriate. I hope that in the post-apocalyptic world, all women will be braless. After all, there have to be some perks to living like a homeless person. AmIright??
Somehow that dream morphed into something far more poignant and it's had me thinking all morning about what it meant and if it's in line with my true feelings. You see, when you lose a child, one of your biggest fears is how it will all be made right in the Hereafter and how your family will be whole again. I want and need Garrett back as a three year old. I need him to snuggle in my lap while I read to him and I want to make him mac 'n cheese, the gross kind from the blue box. I need to teach him to ride a bike and kiss his boo boos and push him on the swings at the park while he tells me to push him higher. I need all of the things that I've been cheated of, as do my children and as does my husband. All of us have been robbed of a life; not just Garrett's life, but the lives we should each be living with him here.
In the next life, will we pick up where we left off? Will we be transported back to July 11, 2014 and get a re-do? Will all of my children be young again and will Cody and I be young parents? I can't imagine it working that way and it breaks my heart as I try to come up with a solution. In what scenario will I be satisfied? Is it even possible to EVER be satisfied, given what I've lost and been cheated of?
So in my dream we went from running from zombies and worrying about bloody bras, to being in California in an earthquake. I was with my parents, my children, my older sister and my oldest brother. We were sitting around a table in some sort of apartment building and the world was shaking around us. And then I started talking about this cosmic pull that connects us to each other; the energy that flows between people when they love one another. What is it that makes me love my children? Just because they came out of me does not mean I have to love them. But I do, and why? Why do I love anyone? Why do I love my brothers and sisters and parents so fiercely? What is it that would make me lay down my life for any one of them? What makes me love my husband like I do? I was saying all of this as we sat around this rickety table as the world was crumbling around us, and it was as if the words were coming through me but were not my own.
And then suddenly, I knew. I knew that this force between us is so strong, so connective, that nothing in the universe and the infinite space that is time can ever break it. This energy is called LOVE and it is the greatest power ever created. It is so strong and when our mortal bodies give out and die, this power lives on and it is strong enough to create worlds upon worlds. Nothing else will matter when I see my son again; his age, the age of my other children, whether or not they have families of their own...all of it will be of no consequence because the power that connects us, the love between us, will be strong enough to make anything possible. My greatest desires and wishes and all that is owed to me will be manifest.
And maybe that's what the Atonement of Christ is really about. I spend a lot of time thinking that it's too good to be true and that it's more of a bedtime story that has been passed down for thousands of years. Is it myth and magic or is it fact? Does Christ's sacrifice hold the power to really secure my future with my family and give me every desire of my heart? Is it strong enough to really make this hurt go away someday? How does it work?
Love. Such a simple word, such a simple notion, yet powerful enough to mend every broken thing. Christ exuded love from every poor and every faculty as he suffered for us. I don't understand even the tip of the iceberg, but today I woke up believing that in His suffering lies the key to my eternal happiness and that just maybe, love is all that will matter in the next life. And right now, it's enough to get me through another twenty-four hours.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Graduation Fair and Baind-Aids

One year ago I was up on campus for an exam and afterward I headed to the bookstore to get something for another exam.  Graduation Fair was taking place and the bookstore was filled with chaos as people were trying on gowns and ordering class rings and vendors were hawking their graduation memorabilia.  It was March 2015 and my heart ached as I realized I was supposed to graduate the following May.  It had been my plan for a while, ever since I went back to school to study something new.  I would graduate May 2016, take a year off while I interned and applied to graduate school, then I would start grad school in 2017.  Things were choreographed quite nicely and I could look to the future, my future and my family's future, with certainty.  At the age of thirty-four I finally knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and my career goals were set into play.  

And then on July 12, 2014......

You know the rest.  

Garrett died three weeks before the summer termed ended.  Up to that point I had a 4.0 GPA, something I was proud of and had worked very hard to attain.  I did not finish the term, and I did not go back that fall.  I didn't know if I would ever go back, really.

But I did go back and it was so much harder than I anticipated.  On bad days, I had thoughts of ending my life.  On better days, I had thoughts of just checking out of life, but not ending it.  I cried and screamed each day while the kids were in school, then I picked myself up off the floor and forced myself to study.  It was during this time that I happened upon that Graduation Fair and felt hopelessly bereft.  Then summer term began and triggers came at me from every corner of the world, but I got through it.  I had to almost double up on my class load to make up for lost time, all while finishing the incomplete classes from THAT summer, but I got through it.

And now, I graduate in thirty-six days, just as I planned in the beginning.  Perhaps I should have been kinder to myself and allowed more time to pass before I jumped back into school.  But honestly, I think it is school that has kept me alive this last year.  It has given me purpose and something to work toward and without it, I don't know what would have happened to me.

A year later, today, I took my children up to the University of Utah to participate in this year's Graduation Fair.  As we walked into the bookstore and were met with banners and the hustle and bustle of fellow graduates, a lump formed in my throat and I thought back to this time last year.  I don't know what carried me through to now, but I am grateful.  And as I stood there hand in hand with Devin, I knew I would never take it for granted.

Yesterday I texted a dear friend and asked him if he would like to meet us for lunch on campus somewhere after Grad Fair.  Mike is one of my favorite people in the universe, and he also delivered (well, almost delivered) four of my five children.  It may seem odd to have such a close relationship with your OB, but Mike is different and I've always thought of him as a big brother.  I hadn't seen him since a month after Garrett's death, and it was time to make good on the "Hey, we need to meet up for lunch one of these days" sentiments we always share, but ever follow through on.  The kids are huge fans of Dr. Mike and we lucked out that he happened to be available this afternoon.

After getting my graduation supplies, we headed over to the med center to meet at the cafeteria.  All of our children but Ethan were born there, and I hadn't been back since the day we brought Garrett home when he was a newborn.  In fact, in all the times I've been on campus since going back to school post-death, I have deliberately avoided everything associated with the hospital.  Although my memories of it are only good ones, I ache at those memories.  I literally spent years at that place, pregnant with at least two other babies in tow.  I would maneuver through the parking garage and usually park in the same stall each time, load the kids into the double stroller, and waddle my way to the fourth floor.  It was so routine that I could do it in my sleep.  

But I decided today that it was another band-aid in need of removal.  I needed...no...I WANTED to see the place.  I wanted to remember the good times of stopping at the coffee shop to get a turkey and pesto sandwich while listening to the volunteer pianist playing the baby grand in the lobby.  I wanted to remember walking through the corridors and going up the elevator with my toddlers, dreaming of the day when we would welcome a new baby into our family within those very hospital walls.  

I knew the parking garage would be too painful.  Of all things, I knew that would make me very sad so I opted to use the free valet service.  When we walked into the lobby, memories and emotions flooded me and I smiled and fought tears at the same time.  The kids remembered the place, all of them but Devin because he was only a baby himself when he was there last.  Seeing Mike was like taking a drink of cold water on a hot day.  His very presence calms me and I can always count on laughing when we talk.  When I met him eleven years ago under very uncertain circumstances surrounding my complicated pregnancy with Hailey, I never could have imagined that all these years later, he would still be so important to our family.  So important to me and such a good friend.

After lunch he had to get to a meeting, so we said goodbye.  The kids wanted to go play on the escalators for a while, but I was ready to get out of there because it was becoming too painful.  But I obliged, and then they asked to go explore and see where they were born.  My heart sank. I looked ahead and saw the very elevator that would lead to the fourth floor, to the maternal fetal medicine clinic, and to the maternity wing.  I don't know what made me agree to it, but the next thing I knew we were on the elevator.

When we stepped off, I was immediately hit with the smell.  It wasn't a bad smell, but a very medical smell and one I used to know very well.  I was overcome with feelings of dejavu and it was hard keeping my emotions in check.  I could recall with clarity the last time I'd been in that clinic.  I knew what I was wearing, I knew Ethan was in school, I knew I was pushing Devin in the little blue umbrella stroller, and I knew Hailey and Lauren were wearing the matching striped sweaters Granana had given them for Christmas.  I also knew it would be my last OB appointment ever, and that Garrett would be born the next week.  

After walking through that corridor, I was impulsive and decided to head in the other direction and go through the big metal security doors into the maternity wing.  What was I doing, and why was I doing it?  And then we were there, standing at the check in desk, and I was telling the nurse we were just going down memory lane and wanted to walk through the halls.  She gave each of us masks to wear, but the boys decided they didn;t want to wear masks so they sat in the waiting area near the big doors.  The girls and I walked hand in hand down the hall and when we got there, I knew exactly what room had been mine when Garrett was born.  I stayed there for five days and I knew it.  I saw the door, and I was taken back to the first time I saw Garrett's face.  I knew him and loved him so intensely that my heart felt like it would burst.  It was as if I'd been waiting for him my whole life and when I saw him, I knew him.

I couldn't control the emotion and I stood there and shook all over.  I buried my face in my hands and wept as I remembered.  I remembered the first time he laid on my bare chest and how he nursed like a pro from the start.  I remembered those first few hours in the room together when it was just the two of us.  It was snowing outside and I laid there in the dark room and watched the snowfall out my window.  I was so in love with this new person and I laid there and cried.  I knew it would be my last time to ever experience this kind of thing, and I breathed every bit of it in.  

I starred at the closed door, knowing another mother was on the other side, likely loving on her new baby as well.  I wanted to be her.  I wanted to have those feelings all over again.  I wanted to change everything about the events that lead to Garrett's death.  I wanted to fix everything.  I wanted to go back to a time when I could fully protect my little boy....but instead, I stood there, powerless to change anything.  So together with my daughters, we cried.  

I don't know if it was at all healing to have done what I did today.  All I know is that it has rendered me useless since we got home, and that I've spent the afternoon and evening in bed crying myself dry.  I know I wanted to remember my precious time with my precious baby, and that I've been tempted to do all that I did today for a long time.  Although it hurt tremendously, I think it was good to go back and live all of the goodness one more time.  Sometimes I worry that I will forget the pain, but I want to hold on to the pain.  Sometimes I need it to hurt like it did today, because it reminds me that nothing has been forgotten and that Garrett is as real to me now as he was the last time I saw him.

It was a terrible band-aid to rip off.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Forgive Me

One of the last pictures I ever took of all five kids together.  We stopped in New Mexico, right outside of Albuquerque for gas and snacks before checking into our hotel.  Garrett would be on life support less than 48 hours later.
Agent Scully just found out she has cancer.

As I've watched countless hours of The X Files while binding blankets, I heard her say these words and in my head, I could almost hear Garrett saying them to me.  Forgive me for not making the rest of this journey with you.  It has so, so, so many meanings.  I forgive you, Friend.  I just wish I knew why.

"For the first time, I feel time like a heartbeat.  The seconds, pumping in my chest like a reckoning. The numinous mysteries that once seemed so distant and unreal, threatening clarity in the presence of a truth entertained not in youth, but only in its passage. I feel these words as if their meaning were weight being lifted from me, knowing that you will read them and share my burden as I have come to trust no other.  That you should know my heart and look into it, finding there the memory and experience that belong to you, that are you, is a comfort to me now as I feel the tethers loose and the prospects darken for the continuance of a journey that began not so long ago, and began again with a faith shaken and strengthened by your convictions. If not for which, I might never have been so strong now, as I cross to face you and look at you, incomplete, hoping that you will forgive me for not making the rest of the journey with you." 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Busy Weekend

So much is going through my head right now and I feel the need to spit it out.

We just finished a long but way too short but kind of long weekend with Granana, Gov, Grandma, and Grandpa in town.  We celebrated Ethan's 12th birthday on Friday night at the giant trampoline complex in town, then had a cousin sleepover at our house that night, then the girls had dance rehearsals all morning and afternoon on Saturday, then Granana and Gov flew in that morning, then we had everyone over for dinner that night, then we got to bed WAY too late (after Lauren and I had to make a last minute late-night run to Wal Mart because all of her church shoes were missing, and let's face it, Wal Mart has a bad selection so it was pointless anyway) then Ethan was ordained with the Aaronic Priesthood at church on Sunday.....

And I'm too tired to write anymore about it.  I stayed up way too late working on school work, washing, ironing, cutting, and pinning fabric for quilts, watched a lot of X Files on Netflix while working on quilts (I have such a crush on Fox Mulder), and rather than sleep, I researched more and more and more about the three possible graduate programs I will be applying for this fall.  I'm so stressed about it because I have a lot riding on it, I have one shot to get in, my chances are slim (in one of the PhD programs that I really want to get into, I have about a 5/78 chance of being admitted).  Gosh I'm tired and my brain hurts.

And this weekend my parents and I did much sitting around talking (which I love) and crying about life (which I hate) and namely the children that we have collectively lost.  It's crazy to think that I've lost a child, just like my parents lost a child.  You NEVER want to have that in common with your parents, ever.

Yesterday Hailey woke up in a panic attack from a dream she had, and couldn't get it under control.  Huge fat crocodile tears and lots of hyperventilating.  I couldn't send her to school that way, so she stayed home.  Normally she protests missing school (she is such a scholastic over-achiever and I have NO clue where she gets it from...ha ha ha) but yesterday she quickly agreed that staying home would be best.  Then after Lauren and Ethan left for school, Devin said he always has a stomach ache when it's cold outside so he needed to miss kindergarten and hang out with me, Hailey, Granana, and Gov.  He did not have to twist my arm very hard for me to agree.

Today I checked the kids out of school for lunch and we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant as one last hurrah with Granana and Gov before they had to catch their flight home tonight.  Before they left this evening and then after, my heart ached as I said goodbye again.  They are both getting older and I never know what will happen to them between now and when I see them again.  I hate it.

Angus went with us to the airport and was in hysterics when Granana and Gov got out of the car and walked into the terminal.  He sure loves his grandparents, but he has been super depressed since they left!  Me too, Buddy.  Me too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Prayer Quilt- A New Project

This quilt is a stock photo, not Garrett's real quilt.  His is sacred and I did not want to post it publicly. 
Our family has had a pretty rough time lately. Lots of tears and confusion and upset which manifests as anger. I guess anger is a disguise we wear for sadness, right? Last night while Cody was at Ethan's basketball game, the three other kids and I found ourselves on the big bed watching Garrett videos on my computer. It wasn't a planned activity, but somehow it happened and we cried hard. We cried ugly. We cried loud. We went through half a box of Kleenex. And then on an impulse, I pulled a box out of our closet that I haven't dared open since the day Garrett died in the hospital. I told the kids that something very sacred lie inside the box and they were all very interested to see what it was.

Moments before they wheeled Garrett into the OR to remove him from life support, they made a cast impression of his precious little right hand. I've never seen the cast or anything else in the box that was put together by the amazing staff at the hospital. The locks of his hair in six individual baggies; one for each of us to keep forever. Gently folded underneath everything, was the prayer blanket that was laid over him as soon as he arrived at the hospital. The blanket was made by a local ministry there in Fort Worth and with the blanket, came a note from the ladies who made it, saying they cried and prayed as they put it together, knowing it would go to a child just before he went to Heaven.

I laid with Garrett under that blanket for several hours as his body fought to stay alive, and ultimately lost. I don't know if I felt the prayers then; I felt nothing but numb. But last night as I held the blanket and tried desperately to breathe in any remaining scent of Garrett, I felt the softness and could somehow feel the energy it carried with it. Maybe it was the energy from the sweet women who made it, or maybe it was Garrett's energy. I don't know. But I believe that energy can not be destroyed; it only changes form and it was still there.

I slept little last night and woke up this morning with a crying hangover. Right now I'm in the waiting room of the girls' therapist's office and I should be writing a paper for school, but all I can think about is that blanket and how I need to make one for another child, another family, who will inevitably suffer our same fate.  And in this moment, I am filled with peace as I think of cutting little pieces of fabric and stitching them together, and offering up prayer to The Heavens that the recipient of the blanket will feel the love and energy of our family.  I will cry over it as I tenderly piece it and tie it together.  And maybe my tears will fall on the fabric and those tears will somehow become strength for the Mama and Papa who will one day cling to it as a last remnant of their child. 

And maybe that Mama will snuggle her baby one last time beneath it, just like Cody and I did.

And maybe I won't stop at just one; maybe I will make a dozen, or three dozen, or enough to comfort every family in the entire world who will lose a child. One can dream, right?

I am thinking about starting a little non-profit foundation called "Garrett's Gift", or something like that.  Fabric and supplies are not cheap, and I want a way for people to donate money or items to the project.  This foundation is only an embryo as I only thought of it an hour ago, but I want it to happen.  I NEED it to happen.  I've been searching high and low for a purpose, to turn our grief into gladness, and perhaps sewing little pieces of choo choo train fabric together can help our hearts mend, if even a tiny bit.  

Right now, there is the tiniest bit of resolve in my soul as I contemplate doing this. And for that, I am grateful. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How To Make Cinnamon Rolls

Well, here I am again.  It's mid-afternoon and the kids are at school and the house is quiet.  I should be at the gym right now, but the house is so warm and cozy and I'm comfortable here.  Maybe I'll go work out tonight, but who am I kidding.  I say it all the time, but I hate the house when it's quiet.  When will I stop thinking about who should be here with me?  Maybe when Garrett SHOULD be in first grade, I'll stop looking at the clock and thinking that he should be here, right now, at this very moment, telling me how bored he is and that he can't wait to be in school full time and eat in the big kid cafeteria. 

So for now, I bake.  This is my third batch of cinnamon rolls in four days and I've had a few people ask me how to make them.  So while I sit here and watch old episodes of "The Walking Dead", I'm thinking about the end of the world and making cinnamon rolls and I'll tell you exactly how I make them.  This is (what I believe to be) a Cinnabon copycat and they are darn good.  You'll need:

2 1/4 tsp yeast, or one package
1 C warm milk (remember from my last post, the temperature you'd bathe a baby in)
1/2 C white sugar
6 Tbsp softened butter
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 C white flour

1 C brown sugar
6 Tbsp melted butter
3 Tbsp cinnamon

6 Tbsp softened butter
2 oz softened cream cheese
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt

*I don't want to repeat myself on my bread making technique from my last post on making basic white bread.  I suggest you go back and read it about softening yeast, getting the oven the perfect temp, etc. 

First, let the yeast soften in the cup of warm milk for about three minutes.  In a separate mixing bowl, combine the white sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and one cup of the flour.  When the yeast milk is ready, pour it into the butter mixture and get it really well combined.  Then one cup at a time, add in the additional flour.  Remember what I said about not overdoing it on the flour?  It's crucial with these rolls.  This dough will be a little sticky and soft but trust me, do not add additional flour.  Use no more than one extra tablespoon on the counter surface when you do the final kneading by hand.  Again, this will be a little softer and stickier than normal bread dough!  It will harden up a little when it rises.

Lightly grease a different bowl and put the dough in it to rise.  Put it in a warm oven (see previous post) and let it rise about an hour, or until doubled in size.  This dough will NOT get as big as bread dough, or even other roll dough, so don't get discouraged. 

After it's risen, punch it down and let it rest for about five minutes.  In the meantime, lightly flour the counter surface in preparation to roll the dough out.  Roll the dough out to approximately 10x20 inches.  In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the filling until well mixed.  Slather it on the rolled dough and use your hands to evenly spread it, almost to the edges.  Don't be afraid to get your hands really messy! 

Very gently, start rolling the dough up along the longer side.  Don't be in a hurry- you want it to me nice and even.  Grease a 9x13 pan.  With a butcher knife, cut off about half an inch on both ends of the roll to make it more even (discard those pieces).  Then cut it evenly into 12 segments.  Chances are the four segments in the middle will be slightly thicker than those on the ends, so those are the pieces you want on the OUTSIDE of the pan because they will need to get more heat.  Evenly space the 12 segments flat side down in the pan.  Whatever pieces feel smaller or lighter to you, put those in the middle of the pan.  Got it?  Heavier pieces on the outside?

Put the pan back in the warmish oven to rise for a second time.  In about 45 minutes, they are ready to bake!  Take them out of the oven while you preheat it to 350.  Then bake them uncovered for 22-25 minutes.  While they are baking, mix up the icing and be ready to slather it on the top as soon as they come out of the oven.  There, you just made cinnamon rolls!!!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Daily Bread

 Right now it's about 11:00 at night and the house is quiet.  Painfully quiet.  The kids were all in bed before 8:30, and Cody has been asleep since an hour after that.  So for ninety minutes, it's just been me alone with my thoughts.  That's usually a scary thing because when things are quiet and my mind of loud, it makes me crazy and anxious.  Tonight I am fighting the urge to sit down and scour every picture and video I ever took of Garrett.  I'm so afraid lately that I'm forgetting the little things about him, like his cowlick around his forehead or the way he said "firsty" when he wanted a drink.  Dear God, this lump in my throat really hurts.

I don't want to wake up with a crying hangover tomorrow, so I'm fighting the urge to intoxicate myself with pain.  Instead, I make bread.  Lots and lots of bread lately.  A few months ago it was cupcakes, but now it's bread.  Or soup.  Or bread AND soup.  In an effort to keep my sad idle mind on something other than hurt, I decided to write down my fool proof method for making basic white bread.  Straight out of the oven smeared with butter and jam, it's my absolute favorite comfort food.  And to me, there is something cathartic about the act of making bread.  From kneading the dough, to uncovering a perfectly risen bowl of dough.  Oh, I love all of it, and I've done a lot of it this week. 

I've made this exact bread at least 100 times in my life, and I guess there's a few tricks I've learned over the years, but over all it's your basic and simple bread recipe.  You'll need:

1 package dry active yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp from a jar
1/4 C warm water
2 C milk
2 Tbsp white granulated sugar
1 Tbsp shortening
2 tsp salt
5 3/4 to 6 1/4 C white all-purpose flour
softened butter for brushing
garlic salt

First, the water has to be the perfect temperature.  A lot of people make the mistake of getting their water too hot, which can actually kill the yeast and make flat bread.  The water needs to be about the temperature that you'd bathe a newborn baby in.  Somewhere around 100 degrees F.  Put the warm water in a bowl and pour the yeast directly into it.  You'll want to very gently stir the yeast into the water to make sure every granule is saturated.  It will stick to the sides of the bowl, so gently push it into the water.  Let the yeast water sit while you do the next few steps.  Yeast softening is CRUCIAL because it activates the yeast.

Next, in a saucepan you'll measure the milk, sugar, shortening, and salt.  You'll want this mixture to be about the temp of water YOU would bathe in.  Kind of hot, but not boiling.  Somewhere around 110 degrees.  You need to constantly stir it otherwise the milk will scorch.  As soon as the shortening is almost melted, take it off the burner. 

In your mixing bowl, measure out 2 cups of the flour.  Pour in the hot milk mixture and mix until fairly smooth.  Now you'll pour in the yeast water.  Use a rubber spatula to make sure you get every bit of the yeast that might be stuck to the bowl.  Mix all of it together and it should start smelling like bread!

I am lucky enough to have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a dough hook.  If you don't have one of those, you might be doing it the old fashioned way- by hand.  Mix in as much of the remaining flour as you can by hand, then dump the gooey bread into a flour surface (like the kitchen counter) and begin to knead it.  Remember you are not making a bagel; you are making fluffy bread.  The trick is to add in only as much flour as absolutely necessary to reach an elastic consistency.  If it is still SLIGHTLY sticky, that's perfect.  I usually end up using 6 cups of flour total, including what I've used on the kitchen counter.  Too much flour and your bread will be dense (like a bagel).

This is my favorite part.  Knead it until it is beautifully smooth, squishy, and elastic.  It should still slightly stick to your hand when you pick your hand up.  You don't want it wet per-say, but a little sticky.  When it's like this, it's perfect and read to start rising! 

Right now, turn your oven on to the lowest temp it will go.  The setting should be around 190 degrees or so.  Keep the oven open, and as soon as it feels warm but not hot, close the door and turn the oven off.  This make the perfect incubator for rising dough, but you have to monitor the rising temp as long as the oven is on.  You only want it warm, like the perfect early summer day outdoors.  Shorts and tee-shirt weather.  That's what you want the oven to feel like inside.  If you could climb in the oven and not burn, that's how to want it for the rising dough.

Lightly grease the inside of a different mixing bowl with cooking spray and lay your perfectly formed bread dough ball inside.  Lightly spray the surface of the dough with the same cooking spray to keep it from drying out while rising, or you can brush with oil.  Loosely cover the bowl with a dish towel and place inside the warmed oven.  Close the door and walk away for the next 60-90 minutes.  When you return to open the oven, wallah!  This is what your dough should look like.  It should have at least doubled in size from where you started. 


Your counter top doesn't need to be floured for this part.  Turn the bowl upside down and let the dough plop out.  You may have to slightly jiggle the bowl to make the stubborn and sleepy bottom part give up it's bed.  That bread has spent the last 90 minutes in a womb, and it's very comfy and warm.  It should now be soft and bubbly and maybe a little oily on the surface from the cooking spray.  Perfect!

Knead the dough a few times on the counter.  Tuck the sides under until you have a nice even mound, then cut it in half with a butcher knife.  Now you have two perfectly even twin mounds of dough.  Grease 2 eight inch bread pans, shape each mound into something that looks like a baby loaf, and put each one in a pan.  Again, lightly spray or brush the tops with oil, cover with the dish towel, and stick back in the oven.  It won't be as warm as when you started, but it should still be above room temp which is okay.

After they have doubled in size (again, it will take at least an hour) you are ready to remove the pans and turn the oven on FOR REAL.  After the pans are removed from the oven, turn it on to 375 degrees.  This is likely the step where your beautifully risen dough will fall, if it's going to happen at all.  This happens because of too much movement inside the delicate air bubbles within the dough.  Move the pans as gently as you can when transporting them from the oven and then back in when the oven is preheated. 

Let the bread bake for 20 minutes, then rotate them for even cooking.  Bake for another 12-15 minutes and then remove them.  Wallah, you just made yeast bread!!  Your house should smell divine by now.  As soon as you take it out of the oven, brush the tops (generously) with melted butter.  Run a knife along the inside of the pan to loosen any stubborn bread from the pan walls (if you did a good job greasing, this should not be a problem).  Remove the bread from the pans and into a wire cooling rack.

Brush the sides with MORE butter, and then lightly sprinkle the top with garlic salt.  You can also use a cinnamon/sugar mixture, garlic bread seasoning, or any ground herbs that you like.  Or, sprinkle nothing at all!  You now have two beautiful loaves of white bread that will last less than an hour in your kitchen.  Enjoy gaining a few pounds after devouring them, but know that every calorie is worth it!!  Let me know how yours turn out!