Lemon Squares On a Zoom Call


“So, Barbara Brown Taylor asks this question, and also Jen Hatmaker closes every podcast episode with it. Here’s what I want to know: What is saving your life right now?”

There’s a pause while he thinks, which isn’t surprising since I sprung this question on him while we are live on the air. That’s how all our topics go for Let’s Talk Soon: we each prep on our separate ends, and then we bring what we have and we fly with it.

Hence the improv exercises my brother had me do at the top of the hour, live on the air. I was not having it. But he brought it to the table, and anything is up for discussion in this space we’ve created together.

So I offered to go first. What’s saving my life? Naps. Naps are saving my life right now.

I’m a big believer in what I recently learned is called a “biphasic sleep cycle.” I get most of my sleep at night, but there is a 30-minute phase during my day that I have set aside for afternoon rest, and it’s part of my creative process.   I set the timer, I rest for a little while, and I always wake up rejuvenated.

I am especially fond of Daniel Pink’s idea of the Nappuccino, where you down a small cup of coffee right before you rest, and in the twenty minutes it takes for the caffeine to enter your system, you take a power nap. You’ll wake up completely restored.

“So, naps are something that’s saving my life. Your turn,” I volleyed.

“Well,” he said, “Most people are spending lots of time on Zoom calls for their work, but we had to press pause on my work. There aren’t meetings to go to and things to maintain.  But, I am getting together with my friends on Zoom calls in the evenings, and most specifically, the cast of the Hoop Dee Doo Revue. We get together one evening a week, and we bake something together.”

Wait. Did he just say they bake together?
My brother and his actor friends are baking together on Zoom?
Tell me more about this. I need so much more information.

“So, somebody will volunteer to lead the baking, and they will send out a recipe and all the ingredients, and we all have a week to acquire those ingredients in whatever way we choose, whether we have it shipped to our homes or we put on our masks and go to the store. We have a week to get ready, and then we’ll get a text about thirty minutes before the call: ‘Hey, here’s a reminder to preheat your oven!’ We all have a little drink to sip, and we bake together. Last night was lemon squares, and the week before that was a Coca-Cola Cake, and the week before that we made homemade mac and cheese, led by our friend who makes homemade pasta. We prepare it together, then we sit together and sip our drinks while the dish is in the oven, and then everybody’s alarm goes off at the same time. We each go to our ovens, we pull out the dish, we serve ourselves a helping of whatever we made, and then we eat it together.”

I was not expecting him to say anything like this, and I loved every single thing about it. It’s like a supper club and a cooking club and quality time at social distance… it’s basically brilliant.

And then our conversation took another turn I wasn’t expecting. My brother said, “I’m getting a little emotional thinking about it and talking about it.”

He continued, “I talk a lot about my personality on this podcast, about what energizes me and what excites me. There is a very addictive element to stepping on stage, hearing applause, hearing laughter, and knowing you were responsible for it. Getting a group of people to respond in the way you hoped they would respond, with applause or laughter, any kind of audience interaction… It’s all very addictive. And that was all taken away.”

And then his voice broke. I could hear the tears.

“That was taken away. And it’s really hard.”

He took a deep breath. He forged into the next sentence, his voice quivering.

“It’s really hard to have this thing that you go to on a nightly basis, and you step on this stage and you get to have that burst of energy, that buzz that comes from the audience and the interaction with the people on the stage. There’s a connection with those people that I share the stage with. Those people… are so important to me… to have all of that taken away, so quickly… so abruptly…”

He took another quivery breath. “All of us have signed on at some point and said, ‘Guys, you have no idea how much I needed this call this week. I just needed to make it to this video chat, to be able to see you guys and to talk with you.’ …So, all of that to say, it’s saving my life right now.”

“Well… wow,” I said. That took a turn. I was not expecting that transparency, that kind of vulnerability, that much power in his answer. But then, neither was he.

In mentioning it, I had thought we might go back and forth, volleying a list of things that are saving our lives.

But my next items were Gummy Worms and then Ann Taylor’s sales, so.  We’ll just let his be the takeaway.

Here’s to all of you out there, getting creative with your social distancing and your Zoom calls.  You’re saving each other’s lives.


~ ~ ~

For this dialogue and so much other goodness, listen to:

Episode 13: “We Have Listeners in Sweden!”

Tricia Lott Williford

Comments are closed

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am an actor, too, and *can confirm* this whole thing is devastatingly difficult for the theatre community. We live and breathe for that kinetic, in-person vibe – the hugs, the physical touch, the way someone’s energy cascades across a room as they deliver a speech or simply give you a well-timed look, the audience giving you energy as they hate/love/cringe/laugh/cry. Actors work in close contact with one another, in each other’s space, breathing together, laughing together, fighting together, crying together… We spend countless hours creating stories, and then we spend more hours after the aforementioned hours talking about the stories we are creating. Being away, staying away, with no promise of when we’ll be together – really together – again… Not knowing how theatre will continue safely, or how it will feel…. OOOF. It’s hard.

  2. Good stuff. Thank you, Tricia and Rob.

    I like the baking idea – I made an applesauce cake from a recipe so old that I don’t remember ever making it (having copied it out from my mother’s recipe box, her recipe having been scavenged 60 or 70 years ago from a column called Confidential Chat. Made some applesauce, made the cake, poured loads of blueberries into it instead of the raisins and nuts it calls for, and an hour later: Bliss!

    Keep on cooking!

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