off – adverb | \ˈȯf\

: away from a place
: away from a main road, path, etc.
: at a distance in time or space

I got up early on Sunday morning, and instead of grabbing a book and a cup of coffee and heading to the couch like I had planned, I decided to work on the pumpkin pie I had promised the boys. Nicholas would be leaving for work in the afternoon, and I knew if the pie wasn’t done before lunch, then getting it done afterwards would feel rushed. Especially once the Sunday afternoon drowsies set in.

The boys were still asleep, and Steve was at his Sunday morning men’s group when I started. Later, when Steve got home, I was elbow deep in flour, just about to roll out the crust. As I was pinching the edges around the top of the pan, he noticed something. “Everything okay?” he asked. “Yeah, I’m just not very good at making pies,” I told him. “I just have to concentrate.”

“I think your pies are good,” Steve said. “Better than any store-bought pies.”

“Thank you,” I said, not sure whether to believe it. Making pies is something I should be able to do based solely on genetics. I come from a long line of good pie makers. But thinking my pies aren’t really that good might also be hereditary. My mom just said the same thing about her own pies recently.

But even though we moved on quickly to talking about pie-making, Steve had caught onto something before I even had. Something was wrong, something I couldn’t put my finger on. Something was wrong inside me … and inside the pie for that matter.

Both looked fine, especially the pie. When I placed it in the oven with a halo of foil around the crust so it wouldn’t burn too fast, I proudly announced, “This might be the best pie I’ve ever made,” though admittedly that wouldn’t be saying much. This was not canned pumpkin pulp. I had baked two small pumpkins the day before and scraped out the orangish flesh myself. I made a couple of substitutions so that I’d be able to eat pie, too: vegan butter in the crust, a vegan egg substitute, almond milk in place of dairy, and half a cup of maple syrup instead of the brown sugar. When I poured the concoction into the crust, it looked runny, but I had mainly substituted liquid for liquid, except the brown sugar which couldn’t have made that much difference.

As the boys got up and ready for church, the pie continued to bake in the oven. We ate toast, and the pie still wasn’t done. I finished my coffee and blowdried my hair, sure that when I came back down, the pie—now 25 minutes past the printed baking time—would be done.

At least the custardy filling had started to set, but I was still getting a little goo on the knife when I pulled it out each time. And suddenly, it was time to go with the pie still baking at 350 degrees. If I didn’t get the pie out of the oven, the turkey in the oven, and the whole family out the door, we’d miss Sunday School, church, and lunch.


The pie sure did look good when I finally pulled it out and placed the Pyrex pan on the cooling rack. The crust around the edges had turned a golden brown, and the pumpkiny inside looked firm enough, I thought.

But the knife inserted into the middle one last time revealed something was still a little off, and walking out to the van, that’s how I felt, too.

In fact, after Sunday School, a friend asked how I was doing, “Is something wrong? You don’t seem like yourself.” I realized then that I had the same look as the pie: mostly fine but …

“I’m okay; I’m just a little off,” I told her. “You can pray for me, though. Pray that my heart would be encouraged.”

I cried during the singing time at church. By the time the sermon came, I was fine again. I was fine during lunch, too, even though I thought the gravy tasted kind of bland and the pie, as expected, was runnier than it should be. The boys ate it right up, ate two pieces in fact. They commented on its texture—it was too obvious not too—but they said it tasted good, likely realizing that more pies come from happy piemakers.

Everything felt fine again for most of the afternoon; I even took advantage of the nice temperatures to read a couple of chapters of a new book while sitting on the screened-in front porch. But later, I cried again, an overreaction on my part to family teasing all in good fun. I still feel off, I said to Steve later on a walk. I just feel exhausted.

As usual, sleep changes things. And though I wouldn’t exactly say I’m back on, I’m happy to report that my emotions have firmed up a little, even if I am still a little gooey in the middle.

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Photo by sea turtle, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.