Sometimes, it’s the smallest people that help us bigger folks grow up.
My little nephew, only 10 months old, has spent more time in the hospital than I’ve ever had to my entire life. He was born with a rare vocal cord condition that has resulted in multiple invasive surgeries, long hospital stays and the saddest, pleading eyes that grab your heart and make you want to smuggle him home under your coat.
We went to see him in hospital this past weekend after another, and hopefully last, surgery. The tall glass-plated building housed gigantic wooden animals wearing bright scarves and Beatrix Potter-esque murals. The halls were quiet, even though people milled around the sunny waiting areas. After signing in, we raided the small gift shop and shared our fluffy bounty – a round, blue bear for the little one and an equally round Pooh for his older brother. The couple of times I stayed in hospital when I was little had always resulted in gifts – it was something that made being ill just a bit easier to handle. Seeing his tiny hands clasp his blue bear, even for the brief second before he jilted it for the glitzier purple poodle, made me very glad that I had made the 3 ½ hour drive to see him.
His room was rather large for such a little guy, but it was clean, bright and cute – insofar as a hospital room can be. We burst into the small space with all the noise and enthusiasm that our family could muster. When we do noise, we do it well.
His big, round eyes brightened when he saw us and a huge grin followed as we crowded around his metal crib. We cooed and waggled his arms as he kept his foot propped up in his baby way to hold the humidifier tube in place.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit dissatisfied and wallowing in my self-imposed stagnation. My job was making me feel unfulfilled and frustrated, days were filled with chores and to-dos, and I seemed to have a complaint list a mile long. Just a few wrongs would make me feel like my life was spinning out of control.
But as I tucked my nephew’s IV under his pillow, I was faced with my own selfishness and was reminded of a quote from a book I was reading by Howard Behar, the past President of Starbucks, titled It’s Not About the Coffee. Behar’s book about leadership and lessons learned had more to it than that simple description implies. It’s filled with a lot of really good points about relationships, not only with your company, family and co-workers, but with yourself. In it, he discusses the idea of not hiding who we are. By keeping “different hats” for different situations, we aren’t true to ourselves and just wear out (amongst other more negative results). He asks:
“If someone came into your home and listened to the walls talk, what would they say?”
And that, folks, brought a stain to my cheeks that even my hardest run could not rival. While I wasn’t saying most of my frustrations out loud, they were seeping into my dreams and into my approach to everyday tasks. I let my emotions feed on themselves and it wasn’t the green, leafy variety of food, either. The only way my nephew could eat was through this tiny, clear IV tube. Here I was, totally vocal, healthy, happily married, munching on decadent desserts (like the one below), but moaning about my “bad” life. My little guy couldn’t even moan if he wanted to, and by the look in his eyes (we ranked him a 4 out of 10 on his “how am I feeling” chart), he really needed a good moan.
I could, at any moment, “feed” my life with those nutrients that I thought were missing – the art classes I was going to take at the new year? I’m going to look into our options this week. The frustrations at work? I need to address them with my manager. There were actual steps I could take to alleviate this sense of whirlpool, but I was letting myself drown.
For my brave little nephew, his path seems clear – to get out of that hospital room, to get home and, for the first time in his life, to howl up a storm.
Here’s to more howling in all our lives. 🙂
And here’s a recipe for Rolo Cheesecake Bars from Bakers Royale that will make everyone sing your praises. I made them for work this week and they are filled with mini-rolos, cream cheese, caramel and chocolate – what’s not to love? The entire batch was gone before some even knew I had brought any dessert. Oh, yes, and they’re a cinch to make. It’s a wonderful addition to my rolo repertoire, and a new one for many of my co-workers after I fulfill all of the recipe requests that came pouring in.
Rolo Cheesecake Bars
(Note: The original recipe is by Naomi from Bakers Royale and I didn’t tweak it too much. The next time I make it, I might tweak the sugar quantities – it’s delicious, but I feel like a drop in sugar wouldn’t harm it, especially in the crust. I did up some of the quantities slightly to make a 9×13 pan’s worth rather than the original 8×8. I also decreased the chocolate layer since I didn’t want quite as thick a layer as the original’s. It was a good decision since the chocolate balanced well with the cheesecake layer rather than dominating it. All of my tweaks are in red.)
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used 2 whole sleeves of Trader Joe’s Graham Crackers)
- 10 tbsp melted, unsalted butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 8 oz + 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese (or 1 ½ blocks), softened
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup sugar
- A heaping 1/3 cup of caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Caramel Sauce instead of making my own)
- One 8 oz bag of mini rolos
- 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp light corn syrup
4-5 tbsp caramel sauce for drizzling
Line a 9×13 pan with foil so that it overhangs the sides and heat oven to 350.
Mix crumbs, melted butter and sugar until well mixed and press into the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350 for 7 min. Remove and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, place cream cheese, egg, vanilla, caramel sauce and sugar. Mix on medium until smooth. Stir in rolos and spread the mixture evenly on top of the crust. (I tried to line up the rolos on top of the crust, but ended up mixing them in anyways. Save yourself the effort of even spacing and just mix the rolos into the cream cheese before you pour.)
Bake at 350 for 35 -40 minutes. Begin checking for doneness using a toothpick at the 30 min mark, depending on your oven. Mine took a bit longer than 35 minutes before my toothpick came out clean.
Remove, allow to cool, and make your chocolate topping.
Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup into a pan and heat on low until melted stir frequently (you can also do this in the microwave, but be sure to use small time intervals so as to not scorch the chocolate). Spread evenly over bars and allow to cool completely. You can fridge the bars now or cut them.
Cut bars using a clean, warm knife (clean the blade between each cut). Heat caramel sauce in microwave until warm (about 20 sec depending on your microwave). Using a spoon, drizzle sauce over cut bars. Place back into fridge until ready to serve.
They’re good cold, but we preferred them when they were allowed to sit at room temperature for a few minutes. The chocolate softens and the caramel becomes less solid.