Strawberry Honey Oatmeal Bars

Sometimes life saddles us with responsibilities we didn't ask for, never wanted, and couldn't anticipate. Big or small, these responsibilities become our own. Maybe they were never meant to be ours, but we can't help but make them into our own albatrosses to bear.

This morning while settling down on the couch to get some work done, I heard a chirp. At first, I wasn't sure exactly what I heard. It happened again. Chirp chirp. I looked towards the window to spot the bird, but the frame was empty.

Chirp Cheep.

The sound was coming from the fireplace. More specifically, it was echoing inside the flume. With my ear pressed up against the glass pane of the gas fireplace, I confirmed the worst. The little bird was trapped.

And I found myself with a sudden responsibility—to free her.

I quickly shut off the gas to the fireplace to prevent the heat from the pilot light burning her little feet. Then, I climbed out onto the roof to see how she found her way there in the first place. For whatever reason, the slats on the flume had opened and perched on top was another little bird—her mate—guarding her fiercely. As it turns out, the poor love birds had unfortunately discovered the flume was a terrible place to build a nest and home.

Listening to the desperate chirping of the little birds to one another, I too felt helpless. I wondered whether the bird had fallen and broken a wing; I pictured her singing sad melodies out from the echoing metal of the flume until she reached the end of her time.

The world can be so cruel sometimes.

I called my mother with the little bird's plight and she helped try to dismantle the gas fireplace so we could reach her. We didn't succeed. As we wondered what would become of her, I sat near the fireplace, as if my empathy could somehow reassure her. Instead, it was the sound of her irregular chirping that reassured me.

The proper people were called in to help rescue the bird. When the flume was finally opened, the living room scattered with pieces from a torn-apart fireplace, there was nothing to be found inside. It was empty. The little bird had managed to fly out from the flume, freeing herself on her own accord.

If I hadn't sat down on the couch, I never would have heard the sound of her small chirp. Her problems would never have become my own. If I hadn't sat down on the couch, her predicament would have remained undiscovered. Yet, the result would have been the same—freedom. The little bird's plight was never meant to be my albatross to bear but, because I turned it into my own, we were both able to revel in her victory.

May I never have to hear another chirp where it doesn't belong again.

Strawberry Honey Oatmeal Bars are sweet and chewy. The bars bake up soft from the strawberry jam, yet hold together well making them extremely portable. I loved them hot from the oven, where the strawberry jam was thick and warm. However, they are just as good the second day, tasting better than the boxed cereal bars of a similar nature. I used this strawberry balsamic jam and they were fantastic.

One Year Ago: Devil's Food Cake

Strawberry Honey Oatmeal Bars

Yields 1 8x8-inch pan

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8x8-inch pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add the egg and honey, mixing until blended. Stir in the oats, flours, baking soda, and salt. Batter will be slightly sticky. Using floured hands, press 3/4 of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread strawberry jam evenly over the top. Crumble the remaining 1/4 of the batter on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly in pan before serving.