made new.

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Cooking has changed me.

It first changed me when I was falling in love. Spending all of your time with a person, so exhausted from the things new love brings and the hunger that comes with it.
It was there for me to take care of another person and myself.

I loved it.
Curing bacon in my vegetable drawer.
Learning how to use salt. Blanching vegetables.
Tying up roasts and braising meats into things that made me fall head over heels for the thing.

It changed me again when it became my job. I stressed over every single piece of lettuce green I dressed, hoping it wasn’t too heavy or two salty or too much vinegar.

I watched as my first plate of food went to a customer, sitting on their laptop, and ate it without a single thought.

It felt like sparks
(and I was on fire.)

That fire led me to work some of the hardest hours of my life. Leaving the one I loved at home, so that I could learn and learn and learn.

I learned so much that I broke down. It happens to everyone sooner or later. The fire heats you from the bottom, but they never told me about the pressure that comes from the top. The lid that holds things in — the things that broke me down.

Now, after years of moving through various bouts of love lost and putting my things inside different sets of walls every couple of years, I’ve found myself in a space where I live daily.

But today, I’m writing about what hurts.

And I’m writing about it because it hurts me more often than it ever has.
I dive into the toxic world of reviews.

F*ck! I say to myself. We’ve gone down a whole star because someone passing through was having a weird day and they weren’t happy with us. Or today, when a person requested a new bowl of grits two times because she didn’t like them. (I could explain to her that this was the last bin of older harvested corn from our grits provider, and that they taste a little different than usual, but it wouldn’t have mattered.)

Beneath every little thing, is a mountain of pressure I put upon myself. I move in and out of it during any given day. My success and failures all here, weighing upon my shoulders. I come home in grief for the way I may have acted in front of my co-workers. Most of the time they don’t notice it in me, but I feel it.

I come home and collapse on my bed.

The words recently came out of my friend’s mouth, “Disappointed” — that maybe I wasn’t doing more here. That I used to make exciting food that made people feel a certain way. That I had more TIME and less pain in my back. But I will admit that many days, my heart is so worn. My brain is tired. Tired of trying to figure all of this shit out. Day after day.

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I will show you my heart — any time you need me to.

I come home to things that make me feel alone, sometimes. Half of a dry sandwich. Cold cup of coffee I couldn’t finish. Silence can be one of my best friends, and also my worst. Any slow day we might have, I assume the worst of myself, as untrue as it may be.

I am not looking for solace from others.

But I know I’ve changed. That is what we want. When I’m hungry for a better life, I work and hustle. I made crazy things and worked for people to see me.

Now, I have more space. Less roaches to worry about. A soft, big bed. A few nice things. I’ve let my guard down in ways I haven’t for years.

Thank God I’ve changed, and thank whoever is in charge of this messy thing that I’ve stumbled into.

Cooking is still changing me.
No, I’m not inviting you over for late night, last minute ramen. (at least not right now.)
I’m fighting against burn out.

I’ve had to catch myself on fire for so long, I struggle to maintain it, at best.
I’m saying these things, because it all hurts me. The reviews. The words. From people who know less about food than I do. But that doesn’t matter. You matter. And I want this to be for you.

But I also want it to be for me.

We can’t have it all. And these days, we all can’t complain at once. There’s too much happening. Too many bad things we see and not enough good.

I can live without a lot of things, but I cannot live without human connection. Love. Nourishment. The warmth of a good word and a breath of something fresh.

Ursula K. Le Guin says,

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”

every day.

made new.

made different.

(but will always be you.)

put together

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I am a builder of pieces.

They all come in heavy boxes with my name on it.

It is all familiar and part of the process.

I cringe.

I don’t really have time for this, I think. I whine. I get over it. I build the damn thing.

I pull all of the pieces out and lay them on my floor. I get my tools. I do have a few to my name. Then there are the pictures and steps and I begin the process of putting it all together.

It’s just a big puzzle, yeah?
I have become a student of deconstructed furniture. I know all the weird bits. I know that eventually it will become something whole. Something useful. Something that is mine, that will move where I move.

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I take a glance at a year that sits at my feet. It has my name written all over it. I see the pain. The pressure. The weird looking pieces that are all familiar now. The success, the failure. I think of all the lumps in my throat and the heaviness in my belly.

I’m putting it all together now.
Opening a restaurant.
Losing a friend.
Losing my mind (maybe not as much as I think)

Gaining a few pounds.
Gaining a few friends.
Gaining some peace.

Moving my small world. Transitioning from survival. To living. To thriving.

The phrase “zero sum” isn’t quite it. I don’t really believe in zero sums. Putting a number with human loss and gain is unfair. The truth is, you gain a little bit from any small thing that happens to get pushed into your orbit. You are an attractor of objects.

You and your many, many moons.

I’ve felt giant, and I’ve felt so incredibly small.

I fumble in the dark. I keep my eyes on a horizon. A sun and a moon. A guide to the great unknown and that which makes me hopeful about a new day. A new person. A new feeling. Or maybe something you used to feel, but buried it to survive.

I assemble it all in my mind. Thousands and thousands of pieces. Once scattered at my feet, I build into something bigger, something that stands on its own.

all put together.

standing on its own.

 

welcome to the freak show

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I really don’t know why I wrote that title.

I think maybe kitchen life has shown me more about myself than almost anything. Not that I am a freak (okay maybe a little), but that it is all a show and this show is the most wild thing I’ve been a part of in a really long time.

I woke up this morning feeling bone tired. Nervous. Weary. Wanting nothing more than to just sink back into my bed and not think about the day I was about to have.

I even prayed. I asked God to help me, even though it’s been a while because I am stubborn and burnt and mostly lost in all of those things. Lost in them is not a bad place to be, if I’m being honest. I just need to be into something, and the chaos of my day to day is becoming something of a norm.

Embrace it, I say. It makes things easier. Like exploring the vast cosmos trying to make sense of all the galactic chaos. Explosions and gravity and how time is such a big weirdo.

I believe that the chaos will settle and we will begin to take strong steps towards something sustainable. After all, that is at the top of my list. Right underneath “Learn how to make fried chicken taste like Popeyes.”

anger

I have been an angry chef. Pissy and short tempered. Apologetically exhausted. Not only dealing with the complexities of time and fire and plating, but the ooey gooey’ness of the people around me and their ability, unknowingly, to sink deep into my skin when I’m spiraling.

They see me tired. Stressed. Overly-apologetic because I know this isn’t the me I want to see, but it has been the me that survives. Maybe flailing around online and after a few beers isn’t the best idea, but life is too short not get a little ridiculous from time to time.

Overall, I am in awe of everything, and everyone — of seeing people eat and absorb the things I’ve had in my head since forever ago, it seems. I know I will be able to absorb it some day soon, and it will probably be in the midst of some mundane thing. But all I can see is people, and I see in them the good and the bad.

It hurts to hear the bad things, and praise feels like good water pressure.

Still, you move forward into the great and wild unknown.

A freak show in its own time.

An island of misfit toys,

a hard and heavy day,

a broken hallelujah.

you will.

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I think I often straddle the line of what I see as heartbreaking and what is beautiful.

Maybe I can dip my toes into both lakes because I know they always meet somewhere down the line. We are always in that meeting place. Of heaviness and both light that swirls infinitely between all of us.

We are the beautiful and heartbroken things. I see it more so, all of the time. The truth is I’ve been raw to it my whole life. Inflamed and swollen and exposed like a nerve. It’s taken me a lot of time to wrap myself in them good things. I keep them tight against my chest so I can feel them when I breathe; up and down.

Being single, officially, longer than I was in a relationship weighs heavy. Why I often weigh things in time is something I’ve developed over the years. All in all, I am so thankful for what I’ve learned in the chaos and in the calm.

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I think I wanted to write this to one person. It might actually be more than one. But they say to write to one person. So here it goes.

I have this card on my fridge from a friend that says ‘Your heart is the size of an ocean” — which seems like something that you’d get stitched on a pillow from the Hallmark store, but actually is a quote from Rumi. He’s probably one of your favorites, too.

But it is. And it is what I often want to grab you by the face and scream so that it finds its way into your heart so you know and so that you’ll know forever. The world is not always angry and misunderstanding. And that so much is birthed from pain. The world was created by melting rocks and hell and only became something beautiful because of time and pressure.

It’s geology. That’s really how we tell things are ground down with different pressures like winds and rains and the inevitable meeting of two souls who have moved and changed.

Your life is in fact valuable and grows more valuable by the day!

Your wounds won’t heal all the way. Most don’t. But don’t let it stop you from moving forward and living your days with intention and love and the power that rumbles in your belly.

It is the hardest thing you will do.

But like the earth you will moan and heat and cool. You will expand and host a world of thoughts and adventure:

5Ks and stiff drinks. Cheese fries and kids falling asleep sweaty on your lap.

You will wake up and breathe again.

And the knot in your stomach will dissolve.

I know it will.

And I know you will.

You will wake up and breathe again.

 

lost and found

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A lot of things hurt around me.

I see them all in their own little spaces — moving around somewhere between heaven and hell. I can’t quite put my finger on anything these days. I think getting older, in my experience, is showing me that everything is fluid.

Rights and wrongs used to be so much clearer and now I see more and more why we always go to war with one another.

Why is it that I always start off with this stuff? Ah, yeah.

“Write hard and clear about what hurts” — Hemingway said that, though I’ve never read anything by him or his famous friends. Whatever. What’s important to me is that I’ve settled down in the marrow. I feel what’s in my bones and for better or worse, learn a new way to move.

This life is harder in ways I could never imagine. You witness your parents getting older and softer among other things. You squeeze them and they almost disappear. You’ve had this same hug a million times before and each time it is the collision of lifetimes — of regrets and also victories.

What a thing it is to settle into yourself and feel the very cosmos itself pressing into every cell in your body.

In other ways it is hard. Learning to be kind to people. Learning how to discipline and be in charge. Imprinting on someone who is smaller and more innocent than you will ever be again. Or how does one spill your words into a friend when they’ve made you feel all sorts of ways. I think it’s okay, ya know?

I love hard questions. I want the truth and I want what you have to offer. I want to know if you think of the same things or if you’re also shitty at math and wish sex wasn’t always so damn personal.

But it is.

Everything is personal.
I know I am not alone, but this is why we feel it. Because it is all so new, regardless of what we are told to feel.

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Every life is a new force moving into something they’ve never known before. I think we deserve goodness and ice cream because that shit is hard. Maybe there are people that clock out at the end of a day and fall into their rhythm, but I am not one of those people.

What I am is a person who is selfish and stubborn and live in a lot of worlds. Not only do I live, I thrive! My only complaint is that I can’t see it all. I can’t know every feeling and that I am missing something or someone.

Most of the time, I want you. And I crave you.
That selfish part of me is the part that can’t have it.

I give thanks to the Great Mystery. For all it is that I know, I am thankful and glad.

I mourn for the things I’ve lost and I move ever forward,
heavy step after heavy step,

forever in the middle of what is lost and what is found.

 

 

scattered

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Loving other people means you will often feel as if bits of you are scattered in too many places. But you are not broken, just in pieces.

This was the thought from my friend C, who lives in Oregon.

It stuck with me, like the best things do.
I think often about the struggle to hold such a community in your heart that is so spread out and wild and different. You would think I would have no North to look onto. More so as I get older, these people who helped shape me, still hold me.

When I sit alone at night, processing another life I hold them snug-as-heirlooms. They are, after all, my story. Anytime a person is curious of my spirituality or my story, they make their way through and I share how they cared for me and showed me different heavens in the midst of some hells.

There’s another part of me that wonders what it would be like to only know that a little bit of the world actually exists. Maybe if I didn’t meet people who took me to far away places for the sake of love and beauty, or God and truth (or maybe all-in-one.)

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My heart is big and it is always in pieces!

The truth of the matter is that it will always be this way. Like the presence of a family member or close friend that leaves you into a Great Mystery — they are always deep in there. You will laugh and feel sad about your memories of them and that is the realest thing.

I’ve always said that heaven is maybe all those people together, around a table. We’re not talking politics, but we are digging deep into one another. It is my favorite thing to do around a table. Perhaps that’s why there are so many pieces scattered about — left under rugs of old friends who have kids and better jobs and forget about how their words were so heavy.

You also surround yourself with big hearts. It is inevitable that you are going to smash up against someone who is just as achey as you and that is also super real.

I guess, what I’m trying to say, is that you’re supposed to be this way. You are supposed to wake up and help with the pieces that people have left with you.

That is being loved, and loving in return.

So many pieces,

scattered. (not broken)

pick them up!

they are all made in love.

a year’s end.

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This past weekend marked the end of our holiday catering season at the Depot. My hands are all cut up from pulling hundreds of pans out of the oven, chopping case upon case of potatoes and carrots and rubbing salt and herbs into Lord knows how many pounds of chicken and beef.

With all that being said and thankfully done, the one thing, among many things that I love about cooking happens: reflection.

I suppose the purpose of contemplating a year in a life is to recognize the things we were able to accomplish and how the year chiseled us into the shape we are now. It’s safe to say 2016 was a chisel. More so for different people who wanted different things. But, here we are regardless. Some, more hopeful. Some, still a little frazzled with how the world seems to work.

My days start off with so many hopeful intentions. Today, I want to be present. Today, I want to build something good and be good and maybe take a jog around my neighborhood.

And then the sink breaks in the kitchen at work. Sequentially, this throws me off into a state of chaos and quiet rage, and all I want to do is go home and lay in the quietness of a space that I can usually control. I suppose if I’m honest with myself, my world is not about control, and never will be.

I learn more and more what I have to hold loosely. I keep my distance from things until they feel safe – sort of like I did when I was a kid, hiding behind my mother’s legs because I was unsure of strange things. Things like that may never change, though I am now a whole foot and a half taller than my mom. I don’t have the luxury of hiding anymore.

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This year has been about power, and learning how to use it. Power is scary and I walk through each day knowing that I have, in some capacity, the means to use it for tearing down rather than building up. I don’t mean some sort of high executive power. More so a power to decide what people will eat or how my co-workers need to chop onions.

Then there is the other power – the power to use your gifts for good. Maybe that’s being a leader or a teacher or a listener. The world will always need what you have to offer. This power that you have is uniquely and profoundly yours. We may all be more alike than we are different, but what you have is special and you are responsible for it.

I have learned over this year that I am still going to hurt people unknowingly and understand that it’s not my place to say when a person should and should not feel something. I am learning to own the person I’ve become, even when I wish so badly I had all the right things to say and do.

Regardless, 2016 has been one helluva year. We have pushed ourselves hard. Harder than the year before, and as always, I am so stinkin’ proud of my co-workers and friends for believing in something bigger than ourselves.

Maybe it is just food. Maybe it’s just taking someone’s order and hoping from that point on, they enjoy their experience.

But in between all of that, are people who all want the same thing. Safety. Balance. Belonging. Community. Love. (And something super delicious.)

Wherever this wild road is taking me, I feel safe with the people around me. That in itself is a gift I will never be able to ask for, but one that I found I had all along.

Cheers, and thank you for an amazing year.

a place for yourself.

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Maybe right now you are preparing a place for your future self. I suppose that is the romantic way to look at it.

It’s impossible to know when you’ll arrive at that place, or if it will look anything like you imagined. Probably not, but that’s okay.
Dating and in general relationship-making has never been easy for me. Hell, the last time I fell in love with someone it ended up being in India among the masses crammed into the metros and markets, with a constant sheen of sweat and dirt.

I’m also not a stranger to hearing, “It’s just hard to put a finger on you.”

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that some part of me likes it that way. But, I can honestly say I just don’t think I can be any other thing. Especially the exact thing you need or want me to be. (Maybe this is my death sentence in the world of romance.) I also know you aren’t going to be that for me, either.

Most of me just feels like I’m really broken in places (and not the theological sense that Christian readers eat up so much). Mainly, I feel not quite glued together just right. A lot of duct tape, and whole lot of feeling like I don’t fit back into where I belong.

This leads me down to some deep and dark places. Like maybe that was why my marriage dissolved into a mess of youngins having no idea what they were doing. Each year from that time, I come more to peace with where I am. I still process, like we all process our hard bits. What could we have handled better — and more importantly, how do we handle this in the future?

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Becoming more adult is scary. Awesome, but scary. Already at 30 years I am thinking of all the weighty ghosts that wander around and I see them all every day. It’s damn hard to move on from how people made you feel. A smell or a picture or a piece of paper in a small box discovered and BOOM. You are right back in it.

I think it’s amazing that we can feel that way. I think we’re better for it. We at least begin to understand what we can survive and for that, we can feel strong. On the other hand, I witness all sorts of innocence on a daily basis and want it again so badly.

I am frustrated. I feel I am not boyfriend material. Partner material. Maybe never again husband material. Some parts deep in my belly wonder if fatherhood will ever be in the hand I’m given, but I certainly do not count any of those things out.

I am lucky that I have something to go to every day that I pour so much of myself into. It is my church, and it is my love that is so full of rage and passion and fire. My adult kinda love.

Who do I think I am?

God knows I’m changing every day. Like maybe my system updates when I go to sleep and when I wake up, I take it for a test run. Some things get left, but more often then not I gain some perspective — some memory — and inevitably something stronger to keep moving on and on.

You are right. I can’t put a finger on myself. For all I have known until now, this is the busiest my brain has been. It is exciting and terrifying and it’s all smushed together like English peas.

But I can tell you that I believe my heart is being made into something new all the time. Maybe that is for a place, some day. It is something I can love and protect and grow all at the same time.

I am always on the look out. Eyes steady on the horizon. Moving toward the Greater Mystery.

navigating the universe.

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It is completely obvious that I’ve been in a different state of mind as of late.

I at least know my co-workers see it. My pacing back and forth in the kitchen. Staring off at the rack of spices, hopefully fooling them into thinking I’m working something out for a recipe.

In reality, I am moving through some tricky waters.

I feel excited and scared and scattered because I am entering new territory, even with all of my experience as an almost 30 year-old human being, I am starting to notice that maybe I’m just scratching the surface of a new horizon.
These things make me feel flustered. Is that right to say?

It’s hard to focus on the thing in front of me and I feel like I can’t perform as usual. When people try to ask me questions about my process in working through it, I have to just sort of shake my head. What a luxury it is to have options and ideas.

How terrifying is it to realize you are going to submerge yourself into a project that will direct the trajectory of the rest of your life? Sure, we can change whenever we want to. We can move. We can learn how to make a canoe out of a single piece of wood. Most likely, we will settle with what we know how to do best and let that guide the rest of our lives.

My generation is bad at this. I’m bad at this. We just have too many options and too many things we’d rather be doing.

My generation is also in this position where we’re creating a lot of our own jobs. Maybe it is a ‘rejecting what our parents did’ sort of thing, but also an economy thing. I drank the kool-aid. I am that statistic and I am navigating these new, open waters.

Granted, some days feel like I’m treading those open waters. I am taking on more water on certain days, while others I am sailing free and fast and straight.

Then maybe the sails die down. The water stills and I am left to think of what to do next. I am no stranger to this season. We are all aware that life is fast and slow, and right now it feels kind of fast. I love it and I am terrified of it but deep down in my belly I know this is where I’m supposed to be navigating.

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I realize I am being vague with you all as well.

But for those of you who, by the grace of something bigger, have kept up with me know that I have been through a lot the past year and a half.

I’ve had to slow down. I’ve had to pick up and leave. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cook anymore.

I’m here to tell you that I feel very alive and light. Though I am at times weighted a bit with these thoughts of mine, I am moving forward with the hope that my ceiling won’t collapse again or that I will not break another bone anytime soon.

I can’t make any promises of knowing where I’ll end up, but I’m looking forward to bringing y’all into this season of life and I feel so lucky to have this.

We are as infinite as we want to be.
I learn more and more each day this truth, that we are capable of wonderful tiny things that make up an entire universe.

And that everything,

everything,

is important.

life, all over again.

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Writing is a lot like unpacking a suitcase after vacation.

A few wrinkled bits here. Maybe a half used bottle of this or that.

Smells of some place you ate stained into your clothing and maybe a souvenir or two.

Then begins the process of putting things back where they belong, and tossing what you don’t need anymore.
I don’t know why this part is so hard for me. Perhaps there’s some rebellion involved.

As with cooking, writing has the ability to create and clear chaos in my brain.
Before service, you want all your pieces in order. The fancy term is mise en place.

I’ve used that phrase here several times.

Gathering and preparing your ‘meez’ — that is cooking for the most part. Preparing yourself mentally and physically for what the night might throw at you. To be honest, you can never be prepared for everything, but you can sure as hell get close.

Preparation. I start to get that itch. That something is coming.

I have this idea in my head and I suppose most people call them writing prompts. They lead to one thought after another.

In the same way I prepare a dish, I am thinking of the next prompt. To be honest, cooking is mostly about prompts. There is a process, where one tiny thing is added to create one bigger thing. The parallel could go on for days, but I will choose to stop there.

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When I get to write, I get to prepare myself for something. I get to lay something down, examine it, put it away or give it away. When you write for the public, you are giving. I would say most people write for themselves. I think when you write for yourself, you’re being honest and people will know. Giving this away is hard sometimes. When I publish, there’s a big part of me that hopes it will go under the radar.

All of this has become such second nature to me, that I often forget people read. And when confronted, I am surprised and get shy and shrug a bit.

I could say the same for my other love.

I am so humbled when I get a response. Any response, I am usually bracing myself for impact. But as always, I love the good ones, and take seriously the bad. Or, “constructive”.

That’s the best thing about voice.

It’s so powerful and it’s so yours!

It is your wonderful and unique story and it’s how you tell it. Some people won’t respond, but the ones who do, you will know there is some soul sharing involved.

Sort of like when I read Anne Lamott, I have an odd fantasy of being around her the last days of my life. Making me laugh and cry and cuss in the same ten minutes. I like those people. Not that I know her, but I love that she makes me feel that way– connected deeply to her story. If anyone has brought me screaming and kicking back to God and my own spirituality, I would most likely thank her for doing the dragging. She’s a writer who helps me connect deeply to my own story.

It’s all just a process.

Creating. Failing. Celebrating.

Dish doing.

Floor mopping.

All over again. 

Unpacking.

Washing.

Remembering.

indulging in this sweet sorrowful beautiful magical resilient thing,

we call life.