Ballard: Taking deep breaths to get through the day

April 27, 2014 

Sometimes, I feel like I’m on a ride at the fair, spinning freely and totally out of control. To be honest, that seems to be the case with me most of the time. I know we all have days and weeks when there is so much going on around us that it feels like our breath is literally being taken away.

It is at these times, I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and refocus on what’s most important. Otherwise, I become overwhelmed.

When I was growing up, my mother loved the song, “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus.” It was written by Patsy Cline, who died prior to recording it, and performed on Mother’s album by Kris Kristofferson.

Many days as I walked through our house I heard it blaring from the stereo. I stopped one day to listen to the words. They are so true. Maybe listening to that song was Mother’s way of meditating. Way back then, we didn’t have a clue about meditation -- but whatever would help us take a deep breath was certainly welcomed.

The past two months have been filled with what I refer to as roller coaster weeks for me. I’ve had so many irons in the fire, as my daddy used to say, I didn’t know which one to deal with first. The next thing I realize, I’m one step from hyperventilating and attempting to get more things accomplished by hurrying through the process. That’s never a good idea.

Tomorrow, my wife Debra has a big birthday. It just happens to fall in April. I have no choice as to when to celebrate it. It’s not like I could say, “let’s just celebrate it sometime in July when we haven’t just gone through the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Vidalia Onion Festival with Easter sandwiched in between.”

No, it has to be celebrated on or near the actual date, in my opinion. After all, my birthday falls less than a week before Christmas and we know how hectic that time of year is.

I have decided to bake a couple of from-scratch cakes and several dozen cupcakes. Remember, I said it was a big birthday. As I was trying to convince myself I wasn’t tired while creaming the butter and sugar in the mixer, my mind flew back to another roller coaster month several years ago that also involved cupcakes. Watching the mixer turn round and round fluffing up the butter and sugar mixture, I remembered all the details.

Our good friends were getting married at an out-of-town venue. I was asked to do all the fresh flowers for the wedding and all the reception flowers and decorations. It was a huge undertaking, but I felt like I could do it. I also volunteered to make several dozen chocolate-iced cupcakes in place of the groom’s cake. One minute turned into 30 minutes and before I knew it my time was running out. Just thinking about it now takes my breath away. I learned a long time ago that time speeds up when a deadline is involved.

I had the cupcakes baked so I just had to ice them. The wedding was taking place in a very nice country club in the north Georgia mountains, so I had arranged to use the large kitchen there to mix up the icing and pipe it onto the cupcakes. It sounded like a great idea from the start because I wouldn’t have to transport them already iced. I’ve done that before and that’s a whole other nightmare.

Running out of time and standing in front of an industrial sized mixer that came up to my waist, I decided to toss all the ingredients to make the chocolate icing into the mixing bowl at one time to speed up the process. Tons of butter, cocoa and confectioner’s sugar ended up in the bowl. Then it happened. I turned on the mixer. It made a powerful roar as it slung fragments of butter and clouds of powdered sugar high into the air covering me and everything around me. Like a sweet, chocolate bomb had exploded, it took not only my breath but also a minute for me to collect myself.

When everything stopped and the dust finally settled, I looked around to see what was left. Just like a crime scene from a television show, when I moved, you could see exactly where I’d been standing. The powdered sugar had left the exact shape of my shoes on the floor. I have to chuckle as I remember this. All’s well that ends well, I suppose. The wedding went off without a hitch and beautiful chocolate iced cupcakes were served. But, I’m quite sure I shortened my life a little from having gone through that experience.

Now, here I stand again in front of a regular mixer making cupcakes and up against yet another deadline. I’m trying to take deep and frequent breaths. When exercising, our teachers alway tell us to never let our breath get away from us because, if we do, it’s hard to get it back. We have to learn how to keep it under control. That’s what I’m trying to do with my life.

Take one day at a time is exactly what we all need to do. Sometimes looking at the big picture of what we have scheduled is breathtaking or, many times, even frightening. We have to chisel away at the mountain one piece at a time to move it. Complaining or fretting over it does nothing but cause us to lose control. That’s right. It’s about controlling our mind and our breath.

OK, I’m taking deep breaths. Where’s Mother’s album? I think I need to hear “One Day at a Time” about now.

More with Mark

• Mark’s cooking at the Vidalia Onion Festival at 6 p.m. April 24 at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia. The Vidalia Onion Cooking Show features the cooking show, tastings, vendors, door prizes and great fun. Call Jan for tickets and information, 912-293-2407.

• Check out Mark’s web site at for current projects, recipes, Mark’s T-shirts, prints and collectible porcelain plates.

• Mark is on 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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