You might, but probably don’t, recall that in the summer, at the urging of my occupational therapist at the neuro-rehab program that I was attending—and to which I’ll return for a second block of treatment in January—I was making an effort to get “back” to the kitchen. In short, my OT was super excited about the idea of me cooking “again” and doing things like getting my knife skills “back” to their pre–brain-injury levels. Since I a) didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was almost never “in the kitchen” (except to use the microwave), even when my brain was at its prime, and b) wasn’t eager to reveal that I only had a vague notion of what she meant by “knife skills,” I decided that it was best to just (very gradually) “return” to cooking. And I did, kind of: I still mostly microwave and make pita sandwiches, but I also now cook from scratch at least once a week. That, my friends, is more progress than it should be.
With the holidays approaching, I figured that I’d expand my kitchen horizons and try my hand at baking. My husband and I are likely staying here for Christmas this year since my VNS will be turned on this coming Tuesday and then gradually amped up, and I’m pretty sad that we won’t be with either set of parents over the holiday season. I’m thus determined to create an atmosphere in our apartment that’s even more obnoxiously Christmasy than it usually is from mid-November to mid-January. Baking an abundance of homemade Christmas cookies is, I’m now convinced, an integral part of achieving this goal.•
Rather than hoping to magically wake up one morning and bake, a strategy that didn’t work for me when I tried it with cooking, I instead turned to the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) system for goal setting and made a list of four baked goods to prepare before December 15. I decided to start with molasses cookies because I’m half Acadian, and Acadians put molasses on or in an impressive percentage of their cuisine. Some quick Googling led me to a recipe with good reviews that seemed like it would be easy enough for me to manage.
It took me two days, and two visits to the grocery store, to gather all of the necessary ingredients and supplies, but on Friday afternoon, I was finally prepared. I meticulously followed the instructions, weighing and measuring precisely, blending, dividing the dough into twenty-four near-identical balls, etc. Twelve minutes after the cookies went in the oven, I pulled them out.
They looked great. They’re delicious. I’m so proud.
I realize that baking is something that many adults do frequently, and without much stress. It’s never come naturally to me, though, and ever since my brain injury, I’m often worried about making stupid little mistakes (because I sometimes do—I’m simply more scattered than I used to be). But it’s a process, and every time I challenge myself to move outside of my comfort zone, I’m rewarded in ways big and small, tangible and less so.
This time, I get to eat cookies. Can’t argue with that.
* Important update! As of yesterday, we have plans to visit close friends/chosen family from December 23–26. I’m really, really excited.
I’m still turning our apartment into an over-the-top Christmas wonderland.