One of my sister-in-law’s hosts Easter each year. She is a competent cook. She is also able to have people in her kitchen while she cooks. I could say that one reason for this is that she has a large kitchen with places for people to sit at a table, out of the way. I could also note that most of the things she makes are not hot and can be made ahead of time and taken out of the refrigerator. I could also point to the fact that she does not make something that requires the making of gravy. But the fact of the matter is that she is able to concentrate on entertaining people and making food all at the same time.

I am not like this. I can talk to people up until about the last 30 min before Thanksgiving dinner is done. Thanksgiving is the holiday that I host. I have done it for all years except one for the past 10 years. Before the last 30 minutes, I feel relaxed and confident. My apron is typically still clean. I am able to avoid burning myself on the oven’s heating element.

And then half of the food is ready and the other half of the food needs to be finished. The turkey is cooked and needs to be lifted out of the pan to rest on a carving plate. Meanwhile, I place the roasting pan on two burners, pour in alcohol to deglaze it, scraping the fond from the bottom of the pan. I add flour (now a gluten-free blend) and turkey fat and stir constantly. It always gums up immediately and the first worry is that the gravy will turn out clumpy. And it will if I don’t keep my head in the game. I add poultry stock, bit by bit, until I start to see a beautiful brown glistening sauce develop. Then I keep adding stock while I am plating vegetables, side dishes, and heating things up at the last minute. I have to work quickly so that the turkey does not rest too long and become cold. When the time comes, I call my husband to the kitchen to carve the turkey while I finish the last 500 details.

If you are a guest and you ask me what you can do to help, I will ask you to please sit down and enjoy yourself. If you ask me during the last 30 minutes, I insist that you sit down and enjoy yourself. My husband and my mom have both gotten into the habit of running interference for me and helping shoo people out of the kitchen. Even if I am not in the last push of frenzy, my kitchen is small and not a good place for people to hang out to visit with one another. My mother knows this because people congregate in her kitchen when she is cooking, standing in front of the stove or the sink, not realizing that they are setting off her rhythm. My husband shoos people out because he has empathy for me and knows how my brain works.

I love to cook but I am a person who cooks in deep thought. I have a hard time socializing and cooking at the same time. Both socializing and cooking are high interest for me and I have a hard time focusing on anything else when I am deeply engaged in one of these activities. So doing both of them is really really hard. As for those that want to come in to help, unless they know exactly what to do and how to do it, delegating is a chore for me. A chef is a boss of a kitchen and has training to do this. I don’t. I am a home cook with a small kitchen. I have a schedule and a list in my head. I am working at full capacity and the wheels are already in motion. This is also why, if you come to my house with a dish that needs tending to or oven space, I will use my powers of reasoning to tell myself that you have probably not considered that all of the burners and all of the oven space have already been accounted for. I will smile tightly and problem-solve. I may think of the time that friends had a potluck and a mutual friend showed up with a grocery bag full of unwashed vegetables and raw tofu and exclaimed, “Look, I brought stir fry!” That story always makes me smile.

I live my life at a certain pace. I try to live a lifestyle that is not only manageable, but healthy. Sometimes I even think I know what I am doing. I feel relaxed and can coordinate the different spheres of my life. And then there are the times when everything happens at once. I need to be in multiple places to do multiple things, all at once. And the consequences for failure are far worse than lumpy gravy.

I am working my best to be the kind of parent my child needs. So is my husband and so is my child. It seems that we get to the frenzy frequently and often without notice. This is the way our lives have been for the past 4 years. Cancer happened in those years, too. The normal real life bumps and reorganizations have occurred, as well. Last week, I learned that my colleagues and I need to find new professional office space. We’ve been in the same place for 10 years. I don’t like moving. It’s a lot of work. We are working to find the least disruptive and expensive solution to the problem.

During these times when I am racing in my life, I find it harder to talk about the details of my life. Not so much because it is emotionally hard but because my brain is working at capacity. I am finding myself in that mode lately. It is easier for me to organize my thoughts in writing than in conversation but even writing has been hard to organize in the past couple of weeks.

I recently wrote that I was looking forward to this week because I would be able to concentrate on cooking an spending time with my family. And I have done just that. Although I awoke this morning fairly pooped out from entertaining, I think it says something that I am finding writing to be easy again.

Simply live.

I am trying.