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OCTOBER 2004
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Too Many Cooks
By Lynne Gaunt

I opened the oven door and the moist hot air immediately steamed up my glasses so I couldn't see. I peered over the top to get a fuzzy image of the lasagna bubbling in the pan. It smelled delicious.

An hour earlier, my daughter, Bethany, and I were discussing her writing assignment for English while I assembled the lasagna ingredients. Her task was to write a "meditation" using metaphor to ponder the "deep things of life."

She is fifteen, mind you, so she and I often have very different perspectives on what constitutes "deepness." Still, I'm the mom, and it's my job to help with homework while preparing dinner, isn't it?

"What should I write about? I have no idea!" Bethany said with exasperation. I didn't realize until it was too late that her question was rhetorical.

I poured some spaghetti sauce into the pan and spread it evenly over the bottom. "Here's a great example for you!" I said enthusiastically. I had forgotten that a parent's enthusiasm over something is a sure-fire way to evoke a dull response from their teen.

"What?" My daughter responded out of duty rather than from any desire to actually learn what I had to say.

"Our lasagna!"

"Whatever, Mom." Bethany rolled her eyes.

Those of you who have teenaged daughters will know exactly the expression she gave me – the one that says, "A monkey would be offering more useful advice at this point!"

"No, hear me out." I bravely continued. "We start out layering the lasagna with the sauce on the bottom."

She scrunched her eyebrows and gave a little shake of her head.

"So the noodles won't stick." I felt I was stating the obvious.

Bethany picked at the salad on the counter and popped a crouton into her mouth. I was losing her fast.

"It's like a foundation. If we skip it, then the rest of the lasagna won't turn out right. Life is like that too – if our foundation hasn't been carefully laid, our life can turn into a sticky mess!"

Realizing that my metaphor was weak and that I needed to salvage my illustration, I decided to change tacks.

As I layered the meat and cheeses in the pan I said, "All right, what about all the different layers in the lasagna?"

Bethany looked up … that was something. But she had a glazed look I'd seen plenty of times before. I knew this had to be good or her ears would close up for the evening.

I charged ahead, "You know how your life is made up of different experiences and relationships?"

I sprinkled on more Parmesan. "Without all that, your life would be dull – kind of like lasagna made up of nothing but noodles," I finished lamely.

Bethany heaved a huge sigh. She looked at me as if I'd suggested she wear a clown suit to the prom.

"And then you know how you hate tomato chunks in your sauce?" I kept talking – what was wrong with me? Nothing I could say at this point would regain even a hint of enthusiasm on my daughter's part, but did that stop me? Not for a second.

"Well, the tomatoes are like those people in your life that cause you so much grief." This was a pretty big stretch even for me. "You know. They just come with the sauce."

That must have been the last straw. Bethany picked up her notebook and walked off shaking her head.

My overactive imagination was still conjuring up corny metaphors for lasagna as the perfect illustration of life when the bubbly, crusty casserole was cooling on the counter –stuff like how the crusty top represents the scars and bruises we survive, which give us depth and richness. The tap in my mind had been opened and I couldn't seem to shut it off – no matter how progressively more stupid my ideas became.

Luckily, by the time we sat down to dinner, I had run out of clever food-based life lessons, so we were safe. Our conversation turned to more mundane topics – topics with no chance for me to offer "useful" advice.

I often forget that as much as I'd like to help my kids with every issue they face, it's not always helpful for me to do so and they aren't always receptive.

I guess I'll have to let my daughter build her own lasagna, and trust that she'll follow the recipe that I'm handing down, at least for the most part. I know God is with her, so it will turn out fine – you know what they say about too many cooks...
Lynne Gaunt lives in the beautiful San Luis Valley of southern Colorado with her busy physician husband, two delightful teenaged daughters, and their faithful dog Willow. You can read more of Lynne's work at http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=6672.
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