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One evening when my oldest was a toddler and I was pregnant with my second, my oldest got very sick. Scott was working late. Again and again, I changed his sheets. Or did the best I could, anyway, with my pregnant belly leaning like a bowling ball into the crib rail. “Sick, sick,” my toddler announced, using the sad new word he’d learned that evening. Near the end of the evening, I too was sick to my stomach. It was an awful time. And yet, I’d never been more clear about what I needed to do: Clean my baby. Comfort my baby. Keep doing it as long as it takes. Doubts and second-guessing were nowhere to be seen.
What I had that night was the clarity of crisis, the sudden narrowing of my world into a mission. Normally, I tend to get overwhelmed by all the things I need to do, feel obligated to do, and want to do. I don’t always know the difference between these three things, and I often (unwisely) just do the thing in front of me instead.
So my intention for 2020 was this: to move towards clarity. I didn’t ask for this crisis, I promise, but we obviously got one. I’m curious: Has it given you any clarity? About what you really value? About where you want to be after this crisis is over? About what to do right now?
I haven’t figured it all out exactly for myself just yet, but I think the answer is yes. There are some meetings, some emails, some obligations I just won’t return to. On the other hand, it’s helped me see more clearly the people and pastimes I value most. I won’t dare talk about “silver linings” (too soon!) but it’s food for thought heading into 2021, that’s for sure. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The Latest: Comforts
Blah, blah, blah, I’m so sick of hearing about self-care. Sometimes, especially when we tell parents to engage in self-care, it feels like a poor substitute for providing actual societal support for families. But that’s a conversation for another day. Right now, let’s consider this: Don’t you sometimes just want to feel cared for, to not always be the grown-up?
That’s where self-comfort comes in. It’s the cozy blanket, the TV, the warm drink (sometimes, the alcoholic drink), the comfort food, the little bit of extra time in bed in the morning. At this time of year especially, it’s just yummy to get all comfy.
But – sigh – we actually really do need self-care, too. What’s the difference? Well, I recently heard it described very simply like this: Self-comfort is babying yourself. Self-care is parenting yourself. Self-care is that important, fundamental stuff like getting enough sleep and exercise, eating well, getting physical and mental health care, and so on.
My recipe for Winter 2020-21 = self-comfort + self-care. I’m going to leave the details of the self-care aside (because it’s kinda boring and predictable, isn’t it?), but here are my latest self-comforts:
- “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV. How can a show be both so crass and yet so goodhearted and uplifting? Ten episodes was not enough.
- Advent music. I love Christmas music, but I don’t want to get sick of it, so right now I’m apt to queue up a nice instrumental Advent playlist on Pandora. So soothing.
- Working on the bed. Right now I’m propped up on pillows with a fleece blanket over my lap. Sometimes a cat joins me. Perfect. The desk will still be there when I (or my back) get tired of this.
- Reading. I’m currently reading Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. A brilliant and evocative imagination of the life of Shakespeare’s family and his son’s death from the plague. (This is comforting?! But it is, as reading and visiting other times and stories usually are for me.)
- Walks around the local lake. I am always refreshed, body and soul, when I come back from a brisk nature walk. This one is kind of cheating, because it’s BOTH self-comfort and self-care. Take that, boring self-care!
The Latest: Peppermint Patties
Speaking of comforts. Decadent, once-a-year copycat of York peppermint patties, except better. Consider this my Christmas and Hanukkah gift to you. (And thanks to my friend Adrienne, who shared this recipe years and years ago in our pre-kids cooking club.)
2 (16 oz) boxes confectioner’s sugar
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temp
1 T. pure peppermint extract
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips (Note: You will need more than 1 bag. Get several. I know this one-package business must be wrong but haven’t made them yet this year, and I don’t remember exactly how many!)
A little vegetable oil
- With a mixer, blend sugar, milk, and butter well.
- Shape into 75-100 small balls or disks and chill. (I place on wax paper and put in freezer or outside on my screened porch if it’s cold outside.)
- Melt some chocolate chips and a small amount of canola oil (maybe a teaspoon). I use the microwave, heating for 30 seconds at a time and stirring after each heating.
- Using a toothpick or two forks (or some better idea I haven’t thought of yet!), dip each ball in chocolate and rest on wax paper to cool.
- I store in the freezer for best results.
p.s. Look what someone did to this cute lil wild pine tree on my favorite walk…