Last night we sobbed our way through the movie “Wonder”. The movie was perfect. The story was heart wrenching but at the same time hilarious. It felt perfectly sentimental but also very realistic and the characters never felt trite.

The story centered on a boy named Auggie as he navigated his first year of middle school with facial deformities. The plot took place in middle school but the complexity of its message transcended the typical middle school saga. The kids were never reduced to one-dimensional facades of human beings in order to drive home a message but remained very multidimensional. At certain points my heart broke for the girl that I had wanted to hate and later I was totally disappointed by the middle school boy that I had grown to love.

In middle school, I am sure that I missed many opportunities to love and support people on the outside because of my own insecurities. Middle school is definitely harder than adult life but really not that much has changed. People are still placed in categories and are either “in” or “out.” Instead of being forced to go on a play date with those on the outside, our “adultness” allow us to pretty comfortably avoid all outsiders.

My parents always required us to invite one person to our birthday party that never got invited to the other kids birthday parties. During the adult Christmas party season, I feel more convicted than ever to try this practice out in my own adult life. Have I invited one person that does normally get invited out to a Christmas party over? Can I step outside of myself for one minute and remember that middle school does not really end at middle school and that there are still many lonely kid adults out there. Is there a single friend I have forgotten to include in the midst of my married-ness?

The hard part about this is that it is actually hard. I only possess a limited amount of social energy and already have barely enough time to spend with those in my inner friendship circle. But the beauty of movies like Wonder is that they remind you that if you do not make time for those on the outside- you are the one missing out.

During the craziness of this holiday season, make room in your schedule to go see this movie. Bring your kids, your parents and every teacher you have ever had. It is so worth every dollar of the ticket. (Pay for your former teacher’s ticket, because “Wonder” will remind you that teachers are truly real life saints.) Don’t just see this movie but also let’s make room in our schedules for those people that are alienated and alone. School and work are important but the relationship building that takes place during and outside of those hours is even more important. You just never know how much people are going through. It is now officially freezing outside so screw all outdoor activities and let’s find someone to get to know over coffee or a glass of wine.

One of the most surprising twists and turns in my life was the discovery that I love to cook. This discovery shocked me to the very core of my being. It was surprising for a number of different reasons- the biggest reason being simply that I did not start even start compiling food on a plate for myself until I was at least 24 years old, probably really 25.

Before I moved into my little single girls apartment, no part of my heart leaped out of my chest at the thought of cooking. I felt pretty content about the whole being fed thing and generally my thoughts stopped there. Also I moved into a building that lay directly above a Whole Foods- so the Whole Foods salad bar and prepared food section- need I say more?!

I never watched the food channel and did not browse through Pinterest searching for recipes. At one point I think I posted the infamous Sarah Jessica Parker quote from Sex and the City as my Facebook status, “When I first moved to New York, I bought Vogue instead of dinner. I just felt like it fed me more.” Just think about that one for a second…. COMPLETE HORROR.

I WANT TO CRAWL UNDER MY COUCH FROM EMBARRASSMENT.

It is just too horrific for words. I have become increasingly convinced that the only purpose of my Facebook history and the “On this Day” feed is to keep me very embarrassed for myself and #humble.

(#neverforgetyourtwentysomethingridiculousness)

In college, I never cooked. I think I maybe boiled pasta and put store bought spaghetti sauce on said pasta for a boyfriend for some random VERY SPECIAL OCCASION. Because nothing screams “special occasion” like store bought spaghetti sauce! But that was the extent of my engagement in all cooking related activities.

I lived in my sorority house and was fed by our kitchen mother, Bonnie, for basically the entirety of my college career. Bonnie was essentially the only reason I survived those years and consumed something other than Second Story Pizza at two o’clock in the morning on my way home from Joe’s.

In law school, I lived alone and treated Whole Foods as my kitchen. Becausssse- cooking for one person is exactly zero fun. Who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I can not wait to spend the only 2 hours of free time I have after work cutting and dicing foods and then cleaning up the giant mess I made making said food, that I could have bought for basically $100 dollars less than what I spent to buy all the ingredients to MAKE THIS MESS?!”.

That thought gave me no joy.

However, seasons of my life changed and now I actually truly love cooking. But I do believe that there is a pretty strict formula that must exist for you to love cooking and ALL of the items must be present for this love to flourish:

  • You need someone to cook for. Friend, boyfriend, roommate, husband, wife- whatever. You just need a living, breathing, hungry human being to feed so that you do not feel like an insane person cooking a giant pot of soup for yourself.

 

  • You need some free time. There is literally no way Martha Stewart cooks for herself when she is the middle of book promotion season and her schedule is totes cray. I mean you can love cooking until the cows come home but if you do not have some wiggle room in your schedule to settle in to cook then you get just get too hungry and end up ordering take out.

Plus there are a million other things in the world that need to be done before you can even wrap your mind around dicing an onion.

During my single girl years, every single one of the following important questions had to be addressed before I could’ve even considered even tossing a salad: Did I shower today? Do I have any clean underwear to wear tomorrow? Have I made contact with a family member today so that someone knows that I am indeed alive?

Did I schedule my girl’s night out this weekend so I can maybe meet that boy and actually have someone to cook for? (Full disclosure- single girls nights out are solely for the purpose of meeting boys. If you are single and out on the town on a Saturday night with your girlfriends, it is every woman for herself the minute a semi attractive boy walks out. Expect to be ditched if you are married and with your single girlfriends.)

If you are in a season of life where you have very little free time, rid yourself of all the guilt you are carrying about your carry out habits. You only have time for the Whole Foods salad bar right now. Seasons will change and you will try this whole cooking thing again soon enough.

  • You need to buy an Ina Garten cookbook. Don’t you dare buy some crazy Café Boulard cookbook and fool yourself into thinking that you are going to be able to cook any of those recipes, ever. Each of those recipes requires like 17 ingredients and one of them you will never be able to find in your local grocery store and so you will need to order it off Amazon. That is pure delusional craziness. You are not a masochist. Do not put yourself through this horror. You must buy an Ina Garten cookbook.

There are basically 4 thousand Barefoot Contessa Cook Books. Any one of them will do. Ina is the queen of my kitchen. Every recipe in her books tastes good and more importantly makes you look good. Plus she does not demand that you buy like a million and two insane ingredients. Plus every one of her books starts off with an adorable benediction to her husband, a very sweet smiley Jewish man, Jeffrey. I would buy her books for her benedictions to Jeffrey alone! They will renew your faith in love and make you feel all warm inside. Invite Ina into your life and you will not be disappointed.

Once I had time, an audience, and Ina in my corner, cooking became enjoyable and even very rewarding. I love cooking for the people that I love. Presenting my husband or girlfriends with healthy, homemade foods satisfies me in the deepest core of my being. I love the process of actually making something that will serve you today. So much of life involves delayed gratification. But when you cook a meal for someone, the gratification is very immediate. I can sit down and enjoy this meal that I made with my own two hands with you and I can watch you (hopefully) enjoy it too. I am also one of those weird people that completely delights in watching my husband eat salmon, tomatoes and tons of garlic because I love him and would like him to live forever, thank you very much.

After cooking a meal, I always fall asleep at night satisfied by the thought I did at least one thing that day that served another person. It is not rocket science and it is not even hard. Basically anyone in the world can do it. You just need all elements of the magic formula: friends, time and, my secret ingredient, Ina Garten.