A few days ago, I survived the Orange Cake Catastrophe (see previous post). As you may recall, the mixture spiraled out of the bowl and splattered all over the kitchen. The poor dog, who usually hovers around while I’m cooking, even ended up with a Rorschach-like splat painting on the back of her head. A seeming miracle, I somehow patched it all up and the results were perfect. The cake even had an even texture which any show cook would be proud of and the squeeze of orange juice in the chocolate icing was inspired. I was very proud of my Choc-Orange Cupcakes and my ability to recover from yet another catastrophe in the kitchen.
It was confirmation that “all’s well that ends well” and not to get too upset about the bumps along the road even though they might feel like the end of the world at the time.
Since becoming a parent and slipping out of the full-time workforce, I have become more and more aware of the intelligence, the life lessons that we pick up on the road. That life can’t simply be learned through a book. As a well-educated and avid reader who has devoured a smorgasbord of philosophy and instructional books,this change has been a cosmic shift. After all, Kahlil Gibran’s: The Prophet is my favourite book and Malcolm Gladwell’s: Outliers has been a serious life changer as well. The thing is that no matter how inspiring and life-changing these books might be, we still need to experience the practical and everyday so we don’t trip over both feet and not know how to get up.
There is also a risk that by worshiping the big name intellectuals and speakers, we can miss those small but equally essential life lessons which are learned in the school of hard knocks.”A man gazing at the stars is proverbially at the mercy of the puddles in the road” (Alexander Smith) and the image of the astronomer walking at night stumbling into an open well while looking at the stars, goes back to the ancient Greeks.
Yet, do we adjust our focus as we walk along the road with all of its obstacles and bumps while gazing at the sky at our visions and dreams? Do we manage to observe and process all aspects of the picture…both the big and small? Or, are we too focused on the bright lights to look where we’re actually walking..at our feet?
I must admit that I’ve had more than my share of scraped knees and sprained ankles caused by too many cracks in the footpaths…or perhaps the problem has really been chasing too many clouds in the sky!
Eight years ago, I read a wonderful book called: Letters to Sam by Daniel Gottlieb. Gottlieb, a psychologist, became a quadriplegic through a car accident. Due to his health, Gottlieb doesn’t know if he will be around to see his grandson grow up and decides to write him a book of life lessons. He naturally wants to share the benefits of his experience. As the book unfolds, Sam is diagnosed with a form of autism and Gottlieb addresses what it means to live with a disability. What I also like, is Gottlieb’s Jewish cultural references which add a lot of depth and character to the story.
Inspired by Letters to Sam, I started writing my own book of life lessons for my kids and wrote about 50,000 words which I’ve never revisited (must get back to that. I can be my own worst critic.)
Anyway, when I found out I was having chemo to treat my auto-immune disease just before Christmas last year, all my memoir activities notched up several levels. I only had three days before chemo began and what if instead of saving my life the chemo took me out instead? In that case, I potentially didn’t have time to record anything…just tie up a few loose ends and it would simply be: “Game Over”.
What was something really, really important that my kids needed to know which I could teach them quickly in less than ideal circumstances? My kids were spending weekdays with my parents at the time so I wasn’t even going to be seeing a lot of them either.
In this is pressure cooker environment, I decided to teach my kids how to cook. This wasn’t intended to be some lofty, philosophical project. It was practical. My family needed to eat and I might not be there to do it. Their Dad can cook and reminds me that he wasn’t starving during the 10 plus years he lived out of home before we got married but I figured the kids could be useful. That they could extend themselves beyond cyber-reality on Minecraft and do some real chores.Nothing more annoying than seeing them feeding the dog on Minecraft and forgetting to feed the dog in real life.
What I didn’t consider when I launched into this project. was that you actually learn a lot of valuable life skills through cooking. Moreover, after surviving the ravages of chemo and chemo brain, these were important skills for me to develop as well. After all, while the chemo had “fixed” my auto-immune disease, it had destroyed all sense of time and I really struggled to multi-task. Even just by cooking your basic roast, you are learning to juggle tasks and manage your time. After all, you want the meat and veggies to be ready at the same time and this is not as easy as it looks.
I also enrolled the kids in Sea Scouts for some outdoor activities but that’s another story.
Coming back to my cupcake fiasco, I’ve learned that baking a cake while making dinner may not be the best idea, especially when I’m using a new and unfamiliar recipe.
Do one thing at a time. Seriously, who really can multitask well anyway?!!
I’ve also learned that as much as we would like to get it right the first time, that there are often mistakes along the road and we need to learn how to address and overcome these hurdles to achieve success…not just fall in a screaming heap when the going gets tough. I turned the beaters back on, finished the cake and kept going.Oh yes, I also cleaned up the mess!
Also, that when we look at the achievements of others, we often put them up on a pedestal thinking they’re perfect, their lives are perfect and being only too aware of our own faults, feel like we’ve failed. We’re losers, inept. But we don’t know what they’ve been through to get where they are now. You would bite into my sweet little orange cupcake with the scrumptious chocolate icing with that expert squeeze of orange juice and tell me they’re perfect. You’d be overflowing with praise. “Have you considered selling these? You could certainly sell them to a cafe!” Nobody eating the cupcake would have any idea of the catastrophe along the way. That these cupcakes really were what you’d classify as a disaster.
Never look at other people and think their lives are perfect and they get everything right the first time. Once you scratch the surface, you usually find they also have feet of clay. Everybody makes mistakes!!
I was also encouraged by my fellow bloggers to believe in myself. While I hadn’t made something fancy like Duck a L’orange I’d intended with my stash of oranges and had almost botched up a simple quick mix cake, they still praised my efforts. I could have just cut the oranges up or even left them in the fridge until they were bin fodder. We all know that we can be our own worst critics but the challenge comes in how to be more accepting of ourselves.
Even when we do some crazy, weird and zany stuff and cake mixture splats in our face, we are still valued, precious human beings and these so called catastrophes really are insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Or, they live on as funny stories. That’s what I like to do with my disasters.
I would love to hear any stories you’ve had about overcoming similar “disasters”.
Have a Great Day!