Cooking

Grief Cookies – A Story of Resilience

I just turned it over onto the cutting board. The banana bread, that is, as my pinky fingers flexed to hold the hot glass bread pan over the corner. It bounced out of the pan. Success. No oozing. No repeat experience like this one. I am learning to follow the instructions and actually leave the gooey batter in the oven for the full time that the recipe calls for. It usually works, if you follow the directions.

I think that’s why I like baking. You take flour – yum – sugar – double yum – and butter -yes please – and can blend them into all kinds of beautiful things. Add the essence of cocoa, a bit of fruit, chunks of chocolate and the results get even better. I can follow a recipe and mix and blend and whisk and the outcome is usually pretty tasty. Sure, sometimes an extra bit of baking soda gets in, but that just adds fluff to the cookie. Fluff, cushion, softness, chew. A beautiful thing.

I wish there was a recipe for grief.

Er no, ha, not a recipe. All that requires is loss of something big or small.

I wish there was something like a baking manual for grief. A set of instructions that tell me to do this or that and put your emotions and anger, newly complicated family relationships, and friends who don’t “get you” anymore in an oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes and ding, you’re done. You’re free from this drastic change and ready to be enjoyed.

No such thing.

This week Dylan has been sick so I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied in the evenings as he rests on the couch. On Tuesday, after watching The Crown (we have to pace ourselves people. There’s only eight more episodes in Season Two!) I wanted to bake. I went searching in my pile of Cooking Light magazines. I had a specific one in mind.  I started with the March 2016 edition. No, that couldn’t be right. The April edition would have arrived by then.

Cooking Light April 2016.

I inhaled sharply.

That magazine sat on my counter top as I cooked the last meal my dad would ever eat. Its open pages got speckled with oil as we prepared the main meal. I had tagged the corner, folding the fragile paper over as I was waiting to make the cookies after they went home for the evening. On March 17, 2016 I made these cookies and they turned out perfectly. And then, the morning of March 18, 2016, my dad died.

I ate these cookies the morning of his funeral for breakfast. I chewed absent-mindedly on the chocolate chunks and sea salt as I stared out the window from our kitchen, moving my foot against my calves as my black tights bothered my legs. Then someone told me it was time to go.

Later, in the evening, I offered the cookies to my cousins who were visiting from out of town. They reached into the jar, fingering the morsels, looking at me cautiously as they took a bite.

Weeks later I put that magazine back in the pile and ignored it. For almost two years. It took that long for me to be able to flip through the pages and find the recipe. Tuesday night I texted my mom for support, got out my white mixing bowl and I baked.

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I mixed flour and sugar and honey and butter and chocolate. I rolled the dough into tiny little balls. Smooshed salt into them with my fingers. I waited while chemistry worked its magic in the oven. And after the cookies cooled, I sat on the kitchen floor and ate one. Or two. Ok, yes, two. Then I packed up a tupperware full of them and sent them to work with Dylan.

Grief cookies.

Bummer there is no set of instructions for getting over grief. Maybe I never will. But I will continue to get back my strength, choose resilience, and bake. The gift of beautiful baked goods lightens others hearts. Extra baking soda effervesces and softens mine.

 

 

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Giving Light – Tegan P.

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Hey, I’m Tegan! Caffeine addict, dark chocolate lover, and outdoor adventurer. I’m a Colorado native who left and immediately regretted it, but still took six years to explore other wonderful places before I came back home. You can find me on Instagram @teganmarisa for photos of my Senegalese mutt, Helen, and as many mountains as I can reach in my spare time. And, without further ado, a few things that bring a smile to my face these days:

 

1. My people 
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I’m lucky to have friends on almost every continent, and two families (one adopted) in two different countries. The relationships that I have with these people keep me slogging through the day-to-day, and I’m so grateful to have so many people to play, work, cry, and laugh with.
2. My cooking 
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A messy kitchen begs to be cleaned, and a clean kitchen begs to be cooked in – it’s a vicious cycle. But when everything else is overwhelming, chopping veggies, kneading dough, or mixing brownie batter is one of my favorite ways to give myself space to think and breathe. It’s a quick respite from the rest of the world.
3. My dog 
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Who wouldn’t love that face? And she snuggles like a champ. ‘Nuff said.
4. My morning commute 
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I know – what?? But seriously. This time of year, I’m driving west right as the sun rises above the horizon and lights up the mountains. And it’s amazing – first light on Long’s Peak is a reason to wake up in the morning. Which leads me to…
5. My job 
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All jobs have their frustrations, but I get to spend 40 hours every week helping people connect with their National Parks. What could be more rewarding than engaging the next generation of public land stewards and helping people find a sense of place and connection to our natural, cultural, and historic landmarks? With everything else going on in the world, it’s more important than ever that people have safe places to confront the uncomfortable, have the difficult discussions, explore things they’ve never experienced, and find healing. And I get to be part of that. #unironicallyblessed

If you are interested in giving your own light, click here to learn more about how you can enter the Give Light Giveaway.