Skip to main content
This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Pretty sure today’s word turned into a curse.

There’s this thing I learned when I was a summer camp counselor, called the Summer Camp Rule. The owner used to say it to us all the time. I don’t know if it was original or if he got it from somewhere else, but it went something like this.

You could have a terrible summer. Your kids could get stung by bees. They might almost drown. They’ll probably get sunburn and definitely be bored and hate you. But none of that matters, as long as the last day of camp is amazing. Because that’s what they’ll remember. And they’ll go home and tell their parents how amazing summer camp was and want to come back next year.

So on the last day of camp we pulled out all the stops. The carnival, the ice cream, the balloons, the “free swim” (coveted among campers all summer). The arts and crafts, the hot dogs, the celebrations and awards.

And it was true. Whatever horrid or mildly irritating things that happened for eight weeks were erased in light of this utopia.

I know it worked, because I camp-counseled the same group of girls for four years in a row. Year one, they were six years old, and utterly adorbs. Year two they were seven, and a little less adorbs. Year three, at eight, they had morphed into catty little bitches. But Summer Camp Rule, the last day was all hugs and rainbows, so I agreed to be their counselor again the following summer, because I loved them. By the time they were nine, I was pretty sure that was the problem with the human race: we were allowed to live past eight.

It’s been a long time since summer camp, but I abide by this rule. A lot can be forgiven and forgotten in the story of our lives, as long as there is a happily-ever-after.

Unfortunately, this also works in reverse. A thing can be wonderful and beautiful and perfect… but if it ends on a bad note, that’s the thing you will remember.

This is not what I planned to write today.

What I planned to write was about all the positive and productive things that happened today.

I woke up this morning, bone-marrow-tired because I went to bed so late after a long day, and slept erratically last night. But I woke up, and it was Saturday, and I was on my way to the Farmers Market where even in January I can get the most delightful greens, and, in a pinch, freeze dried strawberries and goat cheese.

And the word on my mind was the one I focused on today: do.

Nike was spot on with that Just Do It trademark.

I hate them for taking it from me.

I woke up tired from all the musing and reflecting and thinking and planning, and chose, rather than expend any more brainpower, to simply do.

Have to do my yoga but should I do it now or later or which program should I do, the easy one or hard one or…

Full stop.

Just do.

No thinking, no wondering, just get on the mat and plank it.

What about dinner I need to take something out of the freezer should it be beef or pork or maybe I should…

Nope. Open freezer. Take thing out. Cook it.

Treadmill needs to be cleaned and oiled, do I want to…

Shut up. Do it. Right now.

If I walk for an hour I can squeeze in some vacuuming then…

Brain off. Walk. Do what’s next when it’s next.

Today was a day of doing.

Not of thinking about doing, not of planning, not of figuring out what I had time to do or wanted to do.

Whichever moment I found myself in, I did whatever had to be done, or whatever I wanted to do. It was Saturday, after all.

I can make chocolate chip cookies tonight, but that will take some time and the potatoes have to go in the pan and then there will be dishes to wash and…

For heaven’s sake. Make the cookies. You’ve been talking about cookies all week. I’m tired of hearing about it. Do it.

This is where the Summer Camp Rule comes in.

I had quite a lovely day. I did a good yoga program, I sweated through a 60 minute power zone ride on the Peloton which, on a Monday, I would have debated doing for longer than it would have taken me to do it. I felt great. I cleaned and oiled the treadmill, didn’t vacuum, because what fun is that when I could be reading?

And I made the cookies.

That’s right, after a week of not ordering cookie delivery and debating it every time, I stopped debating, and made my own. I even went grocery shopping for extra ingredients to make them. We’re supposed to get the snowstorm of the century tomorrow (which is every inch of snow in Tennessee) so I was prepared.

I went into whirlwind mode tonight, cooking potatoes, sautéing peppers, baking bread, mixing cookie dough. The cookie recipe told me to use four half-pans with six cookies each. Who has a half of a pan? I have a lovely double one that fits 24 cookies. The cookie recipe told me to put a 1 1/2 ounce ball of dough spaced one inch apart on parchment paper on the pan. I measured out precise 1 1/2 ounce balls of dough on my my kitchen scale.

I put them in the oven. It was a beautiful thing.

I managed to wipe down the flour that covered two counters and the floor, washed and put away the bowls, even found the potato that had rolled under the stove.

The cookie recipe told me to turn the pan halfway through baking.

I’ve never understood this but never cared enough to learn why it’s a thing. Sometimes I do it, and sometimes I don’t.

Today, in my “doing” mode, I did what I was told.

Halfway through the baking time, I opened the oven to flip the pan.

There is a smoke detector in my apartment, maybe ten feet from the oven. It is very good at knowing when the temperature rises above 70 degrees, because smoke notwithstanding, it will go off loudly and shrilly almost every time I open the oven. I’m usually ready with a dish towel to fan it until it calms down. But it’s a pain. The thing about this smoke detector is that it never goes off when there is smoke. I’ve pan-seared filet mignons, burnt eggs, and executed all manner of cooking mayhem that has sent me scurrying to open all the doors and windows and put every fan on before we’ve choked to death on the pea soup smoke in the apartment. The smoke detector remains silent on the matter. But when I open the oven, it gets mad.

So it has trained me to be cautious about opening the oven.

When I had to flip the cookie pan today, I opened the oven door a crack. No alarm. I opened it a few more inches. No alarm. I opened it nearly halfway and, not wanting to tempt fate, pulled out the pan to flip it.

I just want you to visualize for a moment, an oven door halfway open, and a bunch of half-raw cookie dough sitting on parchment paper on a large, wide pan with no edges, and that pan being slid off the oven rack at a slightly backwards angle by a hand clad in a giant oven mitt.

If you can’t see the flaw in this plan, allow me to enlighten you.

The parchment paper began to slide off the back of the pan. Cookie dough slid over the edge onto the oven rack. In an effort to right it, I tilted the pan forward, but that just pulled everything to the side. More cookie dough slid over the edge onto the oven rack. With the oven door keeping me from leveling the pan, and the weight and momentum of the paper dragging everything to an ashy death, I grabbed the parchment with my giant oven mitt hand before every last bit of dough ended up on the oven floor.

I was only marginally successful.

Half the dough slithered through the grates of the oven rack, down the front of the oven door, out the front of the oven onto the floor. Some of it got stuck to the oven mitt where I’d splatted it when I grabbed the paper. The rest, whatever I could pull back, ended up in a singular glob in the middle of the pan.

With nothing else to do, I waited out the cooking time and then took the glob out of the oven.

One thing happened and one thing didn’t.

The thing that happened, is that the cookies, on the pan or not, burned.

The thing that didn’t happen, was that in spite of billows of smoke coming out of the oven, the smoke detector did not go off.

It was at this point that I invoked the Summer Camp Rule and called my word today a fail.

With one oven mitt, two pot holders, and four towels covered in cookie dough from my attempt at saving and/or cleaning up after them, I decided to run a load of laundry. I looked for the washing instructions to see if the water should be hot or cold. They said to hand wash.

Hand. Wash.

Who hand washes pot holders?

Ralph was helpful. He said, “They’re not that burned.” Which is exactly what you want to hear about cookies. He also ate them, which is either love, or low standards.

I did not eat them.

I had a meltdown of toddler-like proportions and then opened a bottle of wine.

I won’t go into the stories I told myself about how much the universe hates me or how things will go any way but right. All I can tell you is that I refuse to eat a single one of those devil cookies, even if they’re not that burnt.

The other thing I can tell you is that this was my day to do. And I did. And now I’m done.

Photo: burnt cookies at the bottom of my oven.