NFL: Together When Apart

COVID-19 has presented us with an incredible challenge – how to stay connected while apart. It’s a challenge my family and I conquered long ago.

The one thing that unites us from afar – NFL.

The National Football League has a way of pulling my family together, despite the distance or rivalries – and this has happened for DECADES.

Each member on my daddy’s side has a different team they love to root for on Thursday night, Sunday or Monday. Here’s the team breakdown:

·         My grandmother and Uncle in North Carolina follow the Carolina Panthers & Denver Broncos

·         My mom in Salem, Oregon adores the Denver Broncos, Philly Eagles

·         My husband and I on the Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada are into the Seattle Seahawks (and I am partial to Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders)

So, you can see where the division happens when one of our fav teams is paired with the team of another member (particularly Panthers and Seattle or Broncos and Raiders).  In fact, the Bronco fans in the family have not forgiven me for Seattle’s win in Super Bowl XLVIII.

When COVID-19 lockdown started in March, there was a moment of panic for my family. Would the NFL play this year? The televised sport helps us connect at least one day (if not three) a week to trash talk, check in and rally. It is the common ground between us – even though we are separated by time zones and an international border.

I am thrilled that the NFL is back on. Yes, its weird not seeing the crazy shenanigans of the fans (especially the Black Hole of the Raiders or the Hawks Nest of Seattle). Yes, its weird to have previous games cheers piped in to fill the audio gap. Its weird to watch the elbow bumps at the end of the game between the masked sides.

However, this socially distanced version of America’s favourite pastime is what brings my family together.

And I’m glad it is back.

Making My Own Birthday Cake

This morning, I baked my own birthday cake. 

There would have been a time when I may have thought of one making their own cake as . . . Sad. Perhaps the pre-COVID me. Perhaps the younger version of me. Today, I found it empowering. 

There’s something special about baking a cake for a loved one to show how much they mean to you or how much you appreciate them. A homemade token to say, “well done” or “awesome.”

How often do we just bake for ourselves to celebrate ourselves? Perhaps learning to appreciate the smaller gestures, and ourselves, is  one of those hidden benefits of COVID.  The toned down celebration, the focusing on what matters.

This morning, I made an orange walnut cake with an orange spice glaze. I believe it might have been something that Hyacinth “Bucket” would have served at one of her tea functions in “Keeping Up Appearances.”

But this wasn’t made for appearances or the Jones’ next door. It was a simple cake created for someone I love and appreciate. Myself.

All I can say is that I look forward to slicing into this bit of created heaven.

Stuck in the Moment (for how long?)

8:36.

Tick.

8:36.

Tick.

8:36.

Tick.

I’m not sure how long I sat in my office, journaling and reading, while the wall clock in my office marked the steady passing of time. Or so I thought.

It wasn’t until I looked up to gauge if I had time for a short meditation that I realized there was something not quite right with the clock I bought a few years ago at the thrift store. It was awfully dark out at 8:36 in the morning.

Tick.

8:36.

That’s when I realized it was stuck on the minute. The minute hand was moving, jumping in one second intervals, but never really changing. It was reliving the second over and over again. Forever stuck at 8:36.

Realizing the power to change the moment was within my hands, I pulled the clock off the wall and removed the battery. I figured it needed a recharge or at least some tender loving care to help move it past the 8:36 minute mark.

While the AA was on the wall charger, I couldn’t help but wonder how often was I stuck on one moment. One instant. One incident. One sliver of life without the ability to move forward, despite the never-ending passage of time. How often do I get marred into old emotions, narratives, that no longer have a purpose? How often do I rehash past conversations, events or even regrets.

When do we let go and move forward? How does one get unstuck? Removed from the wall and recharged?

Obviously being stuck has offered my mind some sort of safety, comfort zone. However, upon reflection while staring at the dismantled clock in my office, I realized it only keeps me from doing the hard stuff in life.

I believe the answer lies in the moment. When the “sticky” moments occur, it is necessary to confront the hard emotions and step into the difficult conversation. Otherwise, I spend many moments after the moment rehashing, building resentment and securing my boundaries that push others away.

Taking a moment to notice the hard moments and deal with them in that moment will seize to consume me in that moment for moments to come.

Or something like that.

Looks like being stuck on 8:36 was a bit of a recharge for both the clock and myself.

The Perfection in Imperfect Cooking

Today, I made six awesome cinnamon rolls.

It was a recipe I had made multiple times before as part of our Friday Treats morning tradition. But this batch was different. The texture. The feel.

They were perfectly imperfect.

The biggest change I made in this batch was how I rolled out the dough. In fact, I didn’t roll out the dough at all. I used my hands to stretch, pull and flatten out the cinnamon dough instead of the rolling pin. It was lumpy and more of a quad-rangle than a rectangle.

I have learned that there is a magic in the less than perfect execution in the kitchen. In fact, it is the imperfections that offer the biggest punch of flavour.

About a year ago, I purchased a cookbook for Indian cuisine. The ingredients for many of the recipes include whole seeds or pods. They aren’t chopped or ground, but added whole into the pan. When you eat the dishes, each bite is a bit different than the initial one. Different seeds and pods combine to offer a different flavour experience with every bite.

Awesome. It’s like every bite says, “Here, try this. You are going to love this.” And I do. We all do. We want to be surprised, curious.

In order to get to awesome, I have to let go of easy. Of consistency. Of perfection.

Letting go of perfection allows for a unique culinary experience. We watch shows that center around creating the perfect dish with random ingredients. We scroll through drool-worthy images on our devices. We are obsessed with perfection when the magic is often in the less than perfect dishes.

In fact, the true magic of a great meal is in the company.

It is because of this experience that I stopped using a press and begun roughly chopping garlic for marinara or soups. I use a knife and not the microplane for adding a dash of ginger. I roll out the dough for cinnamon rolls with my hands.

It’s not perfect. And that is what makes it so.

Conversations with My Eight-Year-Old Self

There are days when things don’t go my way. There are days that I am off and would be better if I started my morning all over again. There are days where I can’t pinpoint exactly what is wrong but it feels that way.

My younger sister Heidi and I.

These are the days that I have a conversation with my eight-year-old self.

For some reason, imagining a conversation with a younger me has always been a great way to put a different spin on the situation. To see my current routine through the eyes of a child.

For instance, here is the latest one I had after a day of roasting coffee, grocery shopping and cleaning our vacation suite:

Me at 43: Today I went to the store to buy groceries for dinner.

Me at 8: With the magic card?

43: My debit, yes.

8: Did you buy Reece’s Pieces for dinner with the magic card?

43: Um, no. Tofu and broccoli.

8: . . . Tofu . . . Is that another word for Reece’s Pieces?

43: No. It’s a form of protein.

8: Like peanut butter . . .

43: Yes.

8: In Reece’s Pieces.

43: . . . Annnnnnd, then I cleaned the vacation suite.

8: To earn money for Reece’s Pieces.

43: Sure. Why not?

It became obvious that I have let down my 8-year-old self that dinners didn’t consist of any form of Reece’s Pieces. I guess I didn’t realize how obsessed I was with the candy as a child. Or perhaps the lesson learned here is that maybe my daily routine needs to incorporate a bit more impulsive behavior.

Either way, my eight-year-old self has decided not to become an adult at all. Especially since Reece’s Pieces becomes tofu.