On the cusp of a new season amidst COVID, I look to fall with fresh perspective. Always my favorite season of the year, I revel in the changing leaves, football (Go Bears!) and the chance to bust out the crock pot from a summer slumber. Fortunately, these hallmarks of the season remain. But there’s space for something new this season and that’s a growing comfort with constant change and flexibility.

How far we’ve come from March and the start of spring when we thought “What’s a few weeks of lockdown?” Fast forward to fall and well, here we are with renewed resilience and resourcefulness. As in-person meetings and events morph into virtual happenings, we sometimes stumble through more than one episode of Zoom Doom, but also gain a host of new skills. To be certain, these online events are no match for communal gatherings, but they do teach us to become more effective and creative communicators.

New ideas flourish and take flight from necessity. A client’s recent virtual wine tasting brought a beautiful evening of escape to the vineyards of France; enlightening the mind and palate. Somewhat surprisingly, this event broke through the digital divide for me and stays with me long after the host and moderator regaled us with sensory delights from French family vineyards. 

On the home front, quarantining with a 13-year old is not high on anyone’s bucket list, but I’ve found the bright side of being together nearly 24/7. One word responses and eye rolls are less frequent, replaced by more in-depth conversations and opportunities to connect. My proudest pandemic parenting moment is introducing my son to seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my favorite show of all time. Re-living the show through his eyes and realizing how the content remains relevant is refreshing. Behind the binge watching and back in the reality of 2020, seeing today’s event through a different generation’s perspective is fascinating. Less fascinating is online school, but even being a fly on the wall in my child’s ‘classroom’ gives me greater insight into his personality and learning behaviors that I’d never see in his in-person classes.

Finally, we know the biggest winners in 2020 are the pets. Our dog Archer never tires of our presence, is always overjoyed to spend every waking minute with us and gets more frequent and longer walks. All of us look forward to those walks. Even with masks on you can still savor the fresh air and appreciate the change of seasons. 

All considered; I remain energized by the possibilities and excited about how we move ahead when things return to a new normal. I’m optimistic it may be better than the one we left.

For fall’s sake, try this chicken tortilla soup recipe. I may start a Crock Pot for Pandemic recipe book. With all that 2020 is, the Crock Pot makes meals easier and we can all appreciate that.  

Jen’s Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • 1 lb. shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 15-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 3 chipotle peppers in sauce, chopped
  • 1 10-oz. can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 4-oz. can chopped green chile peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 14.5-oz. can chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 10-oz. package frozen corn
  • 1 tsp. chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • Mexican cheese
  • 7 corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil


Step 1

Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, chipotle peppers and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high setting for 3 to 4 hours.

Step 2

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 3

Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut tortillas into strips, then spread on a baking sheet.

Step 4

Bake in preheated oven until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, sprinkle tortilla strips over soup.

Garnish with Mexican cheese and avocado to taste. And enjoy!