Baking my dear old bread was one of the last items on the running list I’ve kept of things I wanted to do again after losing my hands. I always say that obstacles are opportunities to overcome and that conquering one obstacle gives us the drive, the confidence, and the skills we need to tackle others. So, inspired by this new confidence, I decided to at least approach another item on that list of things that (before my disabilities) made me, well, me -
Cooking for other families who might need my help (imagine that!). Of course, my very favorite example of that is a family with a new baby.
Now, in truth, I have brought meals to people since my recovery, but I've mostly used things prepared at the grocery store or one of my dear mother-in-law's famous chicken pies that usually grace my freezer. (I think she knows I've done this once or twice, or I at least know she wouldn't mind, right Megie???)
But this time, this time, I vowed to do the whole meal myself!!! We have some new friends at church who have quickly won my heart. Plus, they'd just had a set of TWINS!
Remembering how hard it was when I had newborn twins (at least the parts I haven't blocked out) I truly wanted to do something to help them.
Check out this picture of us when Lauren and Maizie had just come home:
Now look more closely. See the enormous dark bags under my eyes?
Yes, I wanted to do something to help the dear Carter Family. Plus, let's be clear: making them dinner was my admission ticket to their home so I could see their little bundles! My motives weren't all altruistic...
So, here we go. I wanted to make a dish that was something
a) I used to make all the time to bring to others,
b) I'd not made since becoming an amputee,
c) not pasta/lasagna,
d) easy (I'm ambitious but not an idiot).
I got out my trusty old recipe binder and chose Turkey Enchilada Grande, and it fit the bill. It was an old favorite that we haven't had in five years, it has no noodles, it freezes well, and I remember being able to throw it together in less than thirty minutes!
I convinced one of my twins (only appropriate), Maizie, to do the can-opening so as to avoid cutting my "hands" with the can opener again (yes, that happened) and to be my photographer; but I was otherwise solo in this endeavor...
I started out by browning the ground turkey and managed to add the beans, tomato sauce, spices, and enchilada sauce without incident; but it was also without speed!!! We were going on 45 minutes, and it hadn't even simmered yet!!! Ugh.
But, a slow runner is still a runner. So I kept going.
While I waited for the sauce to cook, I wiped all of it off my "hands," which would prove to be useless because they just got dirty again, and I knew the tomato sauce would stain anyway.
Then I lined the dishes with tortilla shells and opened up the packages of cheese.
Once the sauce had simmered, I tried to spoon the sauce on top of those tortillas; but I just couldn't lift the pan with one hand and scrape the sauce into the dish with the other! My photographer (Maizie) offered to help, but my stubborn self was determined to make this a solo run - I tried several different positions; I even tried to lift the pan with both hands and pour the sauce out. But then I *almost* dropped the entire pan on the floor!
Poor Maizie tried to help again, but I almost bit her head off in a true toddler-style "No, I do it myself!"
"Fine," she said, "but I can't bear to watch."
And, with that, Maizie left the room to go practice the piano.
"Hmphh," I thought. Thanks for your vote of confidence, Maizie. And I went back to work. After a few false starts, I finally decided to spoon the sauce one little spoonful at a time. It took a whole lot longer, but it did work. Still, I knew Maizie was right; I should've just accepted her help...
After sprinkling the cheese and then repeating the process for layer two, I had clocked in at 2 hours 40 minutes for my "less than thirty minutes," easy meal. Still, I'd proven to myself (and Maizie) that I could "do it myself!" Triumph!
So a bag of salad and a store-bought dessert would have to do. (I'm not super amputee girl, who're we kidding?)
Now for the really fun part: cashing in my meal for a visit with the Carters! I couldn't wait to see their sweet little babies and give them the adorable, tiny, coordinating outfits I'd picked out as gifts!
Maizie and I arrived at the Carter's house, expecting to find a set of tired, frazzled parents in a mess of milk, diapers, and dirty clothes. What we found was quite the opposite!
We walked into their gorgeous, sparkling clean, and surprisingly quiet home to find that Lauren and Chris are the calmest, most well-adjusted new parents I've met. They are pros at this, I swear!
And those babies! They are absolutely delicious!
And it's so cute that Benjamin looks like daddy (Chris) and Madeleine looks like mommy (Lauren). In other words, they are beautiful.
When Lauren offered that I could even hold one, I didn't miss a beat— I quickly sat down, took off my "hands," (those same ones that my toddler-aged Jeannie once deemed "not so snuggly") and reached for that bundle of joy.
And for the next few minutes, the world stopped. Oh, I do love babies. The warmth they emit, the softness of their skin, the smell of, well, baby!
Lauren so easily shared her little miracles with me. She never blinked when I threw my prosthetics to the side, and she even normalized it by offering to snap a quick photo of us.
I loved being able to help out a friend in need, something I took for granted those years ago.
With each passing day, I understand more fully that I took my everyday life for granted. Now I see that even obligations quickly turn to gifts when seen from my new perspective. Cooking dinner, holding babies, driving carpool, signing permission slips, chaperoning field trips… the list goes on. These are all things that, from my hospital bed, I feared I'd never get to do (or complain about!) again.
But slowly, slowly, I'm taking these things back. Just in this past month, I've been able to cook, bake, make a meal for a friend, and savor the ultimate reward of time with a baby!
My heart is full.