As a child, one thing on television always drove me a little crazy when I saw it.
It was the cartoon commercial for Tootsie Pops. You know the one where the naked little boy wanders around asking animals the question: "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"
Finally, the wise old owl licks it three times before biting into the sucker and answers, "Three."
It ends with the announcer saying, "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know."
Not only did I always wonder why on earth was that kid naked (and still do wonder about that one), but I also fretted over the answer. I tried to solve the dilemma numerous times, but always ended up becoming frustratingly bored with the quest and bit into the candy just to be done with it.
Apparently, many people have shown the restraint necessary to make it to the center and come up with several answers, all of which range between 250-500 licks. I guess the difference in the numbers is the fact that different people have different sized tongues!
That was a long time ago, but the idea of the quest has never left my mind.
In some odd way, at least to me, the quest became a sort of simile for life.
Just how many "tough licks" could I (or anyone) take in this life before coming to the "good part?"
Many times in my life I thought I made it to a good part, but usually realized I hadn't really gotten there yet. There is always room for more life, more joy.
When seeing that figurative glass of mystic water that others believe determines your personality, I'm not a half-full or half-empty kind of person. I look at that glass, whether full, empty or somewhere in between, and see it as a potential to fill it to the brim and/or dump it out so I can try to fill it with new things.
At 46, I've come to realize that it doesn't really matter how many licks it takes to get to the good part: What matters most is the journey to get there.
Recently, my husband's brother Joshua came to visit "the zoo," otherwise known as our home, for two weeks. He's a unique and wonderful individual to say the least. Within days, my car was fixed, Jason's truck was worked on and Josh was organizing things in the house faster than I could keep up with.
Curious about cooking, I found myself working with an apprentice each night at dinnertime and Josh was always ready to play chauffer as a way to discover his new surroundings.
Suddenly, I also found myself in the odd position of living with two mischievous brothers who have no problem in playing tricks on each other, the kids and me. I'm not sure which one is Beavis or Butthead, because they switch places as the instigator of the high jinks!
The house was filled with laughter, a smile was always on my husband's face and it was getting hard to imagine Josh going back to Texas.
Then, all of a sudden, Josh was offered several job opportunities. It was a tough decision for him. It's hard to figure out if you're doing the right thing at the right time.
But, it's like I told Josh, "This is your life. It's the only one you get. So you have to live it for yourself."
Within days, the brothers were off to Texas to collect Josh's stuff because he was moving here. While they were gone, as a way to battle my nerves, I became Mary Poppins, cleaning and moving the furniture in 10 out of 12 rooms of our house.
They came home to an entirely different house!
Josh is experiencing new opportunities and experiences, including food.
Cheesy Pepper Chicken
8 chicken breasts
4 cups of cooked rice
1 each, thinly sliced green, red and orange/yellow bell pepper
1 large red onion thinly sliced
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups shredded cheese
1 can each cream of mushroom soup and cream of celery soup
2 cups of chicken broth
Lightly grease a 11x13 baking dish before pouring rice on bottom, layering the peppers, onions, mushrooms and half of the shredded cheese into dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.
Combine soup with chicken broth and set aside.
In a skillet, lightly brown the chicken breasts (which have been seasoned with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper if you like a little spice) in a dash or two of olive oil and a teaspoon of melted butter.
Remove the rice mixture from the oven.
Place chicken breasts on top of rice, pour the soup over the top (along with any pan drippings for extra flavor) and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top before returning to the oven to bake for another 30 minutes. If the rice appears to be drying out, add a little water to the pan before covering with the foil.
Check chicken after baking time for doneness. Return chicken to the oven if it needs to cook more, approximately 10 minutes.
For dessert, and a life lesson, I think I owe Josh a Tootsie Pop!