“Mom, can we make brownies?”
It was a simple request from my oldest child, now home from college, wanting something to do together.
I peeked in my pantry, but didn’t see any boxed brownie mix, so I told her we would have to make the brownies from scratch. I grabbed my phone, tapped on my Snapguide app, and scrolled through my recipes where I document all our family-favorite meals, but didn’t see a recipe for homemade brownies.
I faintly remembered a recipe in one of my old cookbooks, so I opened the bottom cabinet in our dining room china cabinet to see if I could find the book. It only took a few moments to find it, the edges now starting to brown from age. It was the very first cookbook I received as a wedding gift from my dear friend, Andrea, a mom who took me under her wing when I was a teenager and college student. The title of the cookbook summarized it all: “The Absolute Beginner’s Cookbook or How Long Do I Cook a 3-Minute Egg?”
When I told Andrea that I was engaged to get married, one of the first things she said to me was, “Girlfriend, you have GOT to learn how to cook a meal!” I was finishing my junior year in college and the depth of my cooking skills hovered between making Ramen noodles in the one pot I owned to making Hamburger Helper in a frying pan (and that was thanks to a Home Economics class I took in middle school!)
I was twenty years old. I knew how to use a microwave and I could follow directions on the side of a frozen pizza box. But real cooking? I didn’t even know how to crack an egg!
I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know how to cook. I viewed it as failure before I even began. I didn’t know the difference between simmer or sauté and struggled to remember metric measurements long forgotten from fourth grade.
Andrea searched for the easiest beginner’s cookbook she could find and joyfully presented it to me at my bridal shower. We shared a great laugh at the ridiculousness that I was going to be a modern bride who didn’t have a clue how to cook. She wished me the best of luck.
That was almost twenty-six years ago. Andrea passed away in 2008, four years before I would create my own digital recipe guides to share with the world. Would I consider myself a master chef now? Oh my goodness, no! Nowhere close! But I have learned how to crack an egg and make a few favorite meals, so I think I’ve done OK over the years.
Would I describe myself as a disaster when I first started cooking?
As I carried the cookbook to my daughter, and shared the story of Andrea’s kindness to me so long ago, I realized that I had the opportunity to reframe the perspective of my cooking journey. Would I emphasize what a horrible cook I was at the start of my marriage? Would I share how many meals I made that were undercooked, overcooked, or burned? Would I berate my lack of knowledge and skill as an excuse for never becoming the master chef some moms became?
Or would I chose another view of my story, one that gave my daughter hope that she, too, could learn how to feed her family one day?
What a simple word that changes everything.
I handed the book to my daughter with a smile. “This was my first cookbook. We will start with brownies today, then next week we can try another recipe. I bet by the end of summer you will an amazing cook!”
How many times have we focused on one aspect our journey instead of the incredible growth process that followed? How often do we reflect negatively on our experiences instead of embracing the positive? These questions continue to swirl in my mind this week because I realized that it’s not just about cooking.
It’s about our careers.
It’s about our families.
It’s about our well-being.
It’s about us.
I can’t control what others think, but I can help the narrative a bit when I choose what I want to focus on. Is my cup half-full, half-empty, or am I simply thankful to have a cup at all?
Lately, I have seen people getting all riled up on social media, in text messaging groups, even in public protests regarding our current lockdown situation. Each day seems to add more fuel to the fire and the debates are endlessly exhausting. It seems like everyone has an opinion and is determined to convince others that their opinion is the winning answer of a Final Jeopardy question.
Today, I am choosing to reframe my perspective. I can choose to feel out-of-control about everything or I can choose to focus on those things within my grasp:
- Instead of bemoaning the fact that I should wear a mask at the grocery store, I will focus on the ways I can speak to the workers with a smile in my voice and a sparkle in my eyes.
- Instead of feeling heartbroken about the students I can’t visit in the classroom, I will join other teachers at my school sharing photos and videos of Spirit Days.
- Instead of frantically trying to work a full-time job while also helping my children finish their required schoolwork each day, I will take a breath and do what I can, knowing this is more like a marathon than a sprint.
I will give myself grace when I’m not perfect. I will extend grace to my family when they’re not perfect either.
And when my college-aged daughter asks to make brownies with her mom, I will recognize the request as a priority. After all, if it we weren’t stuck at home in a lockdown, she wouldn’t be here to ask me to cook with her in the first place.