Vulnerability and Grape Jelly

Serena Ward
August 28, 2020 | 3 min read

Let’s be real for a moment

Life is messy and complicated and we’re all just doing our best. Especially right now.

Everyday life has fundamentally changed and no one holds the answer to when things might be back to “normal”.

Despite being in the throes of history, my social media feed looks about the same. Smiling, happy families, well-behaved children, clean homes, groomed pets, manicured yards and beautiful meals.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to show off the best of ourselves, but I worry about the constant striving for perfection. Perhaps it’s unattainable and a rather high bar to reach for in the midst of a global pandemic.

Now, I’m not saying that we all need to air our dirty laundry. There must be a space between the perfect Facebook family and soiled underwear. A sweet spot of vulnerability, if you will.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I take great pride in my garden and always have high hopes for the seeds that I tuck into the earth each spring. Sometimes these seeds produce beautiful fruits and vegetables that are quickly consumed by my family while other years have produced very little.

About 6 years ago we decided to try planting grapes to climb our front porch. They limped along and grew a bit, but never produced anything. This year, for the very first time, one of the grape vines decided it was time to produce grapes. I was so excited!

I nurtured the budding grapes and checked on them almost every day. Beetles came to eat the leaves and I picked them off one-by-one while perhaps also muttering at them a bit angrily. The leaves were now riddled with holes, but the grapes still grew. I carefully removed the grapes that were bad and tested the remaining grapes for ripeness regularly.

Finally the day came and it was time to pick. With a bowl full of grapes there was only one thing that these grapes were destined for…grape jelly.

Now, you should know that I also take a great deal of pride in my baking abilities. As long as I have a recipe, I can create something delicious 99% of the time. Having never made grape jelly before didn’t concern me at all. How hard could it be? I found a recipe that looked good, got to work preparing the grapes and looked forward to making my kids favorite jelly.

After following the directions step by step, I left the jelly to cool on the stove. I returned so excited to get the jelly into a jar and…




Is not.

Grape jelly.

It seemed to be some sort of stretchy goo while also possessing properties similar to super glue. The stuff was everywhere except in the actual container I was trying to put it in. I don’t think I need to share with you how very disappointed I was at this point. Also, I know you’re dying to see it, so here you go:


So, why am I sharing this with you? I hope that by letting my guard down a bit, that others will join me in sharing just a bit of the real. Maybe your life is as perfect as it looks or maybe there’s another story. The messy, complicated (sticky!) story. If you need some help getting started, I’d be more than happy to share my recipe for grape jelly with you.