I often burn the first batch of pancakes I make. I am not known for my patience, so it is a pretty safe assumption that it is due to a failure to wait for the griddle to heat up.  I have accepted my pancake cooking destiny and simply toss the first few into the trash and focus on the golden perfection of pancakes number three and four.  Blueberries bursting at the seams, butter oozing down the stack, and a signature “dipping pool” of syrup accessorizes my Instagram-worthy breakfast.  Posting a photo helps me to savor my creation and inspires others to build their own pancake pile, or head to their nearest diner for breakfast.

My first thoughts after Alexa wakes me, are often of my day ahead and the tasks that will follow. It takes an effort not to get dragged down by the burnt side of my day.  When I arrive in the kitchen and see last night’s dinner dishes that “needed to soak,” my mood too gets soggy.  Owlivia, our pet rescue owlet, helped me each morning to “flip my pancake,” or shift to the positive side of the situation.  

During the two months when I was greeted in the kitchen with video footage of Owlivia, I could change my mindset and start my day with joy.  My husband and I drank our coffee hunched over his phone as proud parents watching her midnight feedings.  I would post to social media and immediately see the ripple of friends, relatives, co-workers, nurses, teachers, doctors, and children enjoying her growth. 

“We are listening to their hoots as we fall asleep each night. “

“I played the video for my kindergarten class and they were mesmerized.”

“We gathered at the nurse’s station and replayed the video so many times!”

We made new friends, connected with old ones and watched relationships grow alongside her.  When my motherly instincts kicked in,, I relied on my social feed to share positive thoughts, prayers and insights into her worry-some behavior.  It was during a time when many of us were concerned for our own nests.  Would our own children survive this time, would they fall, would they learn to fly after a year of lockdown, would they leave the nest?  Owlivia gave us hope and a beautiful distraction from the crazy world around her tree.  She gave us a positive connection that expanded across generations.  

I will never forget what Owlivia looked like the day we met her.  That little fluffball with the giant eyes looked like they were sewn on.  The first time she smacked her beak into our camera when she gobbled down a mouse in one bite, the way she watched her mama fly from the nest.  The memories we have made make this part a little easier to swallow. Having to let her go was difficult, but I am grateful we had the time to appreciate this little miracle.  She taught us to thoughtfully observe animals in nature around us and reminded us that the gift is fleeting.  

After this year, you may have read about how a pet can improve your mental health, but that term can be used loosely.  A pet rock, a snail, a pet project, a stuffed animal, or even a wild animal can immediately improve your day.  At a time when many of us feel burnt, it is important is latch onto something to flip your mindset.  Don’t get discouraged if you have to toss out the first batch, once you flip your pancake, you will be looking ahead at a full-stack.