lifted.

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I came across a picture of you today.

Well, from time to time I like to check in on you. Even though I know what I’ll see may send me to a place I haven’t been in a while. But that’s okay. I find some familiarity in that place. It’s where I mourn for some things, and also where I find a lot of grace and goodness.

I saw your face, and his face. And you were both smiling. A while ago, I would have been so angry. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still felt some heaviness there.

This person is your place, now. I see that.

For reasons I’m still not very clear on, I knew you had to move. That was like hell to me. I wanted your heart forever. I know that sounds selfish, especially today. A lot of me is jealous for the people that get your light upon them — and I’m also better for having it on me for a while.

That picture, made me think. It made me think of relationships that are strained. The people I miss because I couldn’t walk in that city for one more day. I hate that I couldn’t make it up there by myself anymore. But I just couldn’t. I miss that place so much.

And then I started to smile myself. Except I wasn’t looking at your picture anymore.

I was doing dishes and listening to music. I was thinking about my work and my friends and my family.

I remembered my broken foot. My roof that caved in. The financial debt of being a freaking wreck for two years.

But I had this grin on my face because I was, at the moment, alive and stronger and braver. I have all these new people in my world and I also still have older friends, too. I felt some richness in that. So many meals eaten with these people and listening to them talk about their kids and Donald Trump and how bittersweet the South can be at times.

It was some other kind of heaven, I tell ya.

Lifted — an effervescent moment — something a little holy.

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It is just, the hardest thing to lose someone. Especially someone who loved you so well, and hoped they felt loved in return. Who taught you about meaningful conversations and listening and being active with people.

I miss setting a plate of food in front you and hearing, “Oh my goodness!” while we watched Harry Potter or Parks and Rec. Those damn simple things, give me the most belly feels. Your friendship, I miss the most.

It is not my job to make anyone feel a certain way, really. But I really loved taking care of you in the way that I did. Perhaps it was enough for that time. And then, you move an inch to the left and things look different. Love is not always made of the things we thought.

To me it looks like a shelf full of cookbooks and the idea that I can move in and out of moments like of soft tide — washing away and leaving things behind for others to see.

I saw your smile.

And I missed you deeply. Just for a second, I wanted to send some light and love, in hopes that you still feel free — and free to love the world in the ways you always have.

fixin’ and floatin’

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Quite often I remember the words of my friend Jen in Portland who would always tell me that time would heal.

And I also remember how much I hated that.
I didn’t want it to take time. I was in the fixin’ business.

Hurt? Broken?
Fixed.
Done.

Next!?

Love, unfortunately, has this awful way of slowing time down.
Heartbreak, too.

My sister showed me a picture recently of myself from two years ago. I was visiting them on the Alabama coast from Oregon, just having told them that I was getting a divorce. I was in the back seat with my nephew Cooper, cheesing it up for the camera phone.

My heart sank.

I was so very broken. Holding a smile so I wouldn’t completely bum out my entire family on their vacation. Well. My vacation too, I suppose.

The flight down had an empty seat next to me the whole way down. The place where she would have been. And I held it back and concentrated on being strong for everyone. Everyone but myself.

I remember thinking that if the plane crashed, I wouldn’t mind all that much.
I did not want to remember the pain anymore, or how alone I’d felt and how I knew I’d be alone for a while.

Being alone is difficult for an introvert. I need it. But I also don’t need it. Because human beings, regardless of their agenda, are worth struggling with. They’re worth getting beat up and torn apart for. Regardless of how much you’d like to guard your heart from this world, people will find their way in. They will set up camp and explore all sorts of depths with you.

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Today I feel really lucky. I’m not sure I believe in luck or being blessed or any of those terms that deem me worthy of such goodness. I believe in people being people. I believe that in our depths we are bound to one another, to be good, for the most part.

To want what’s best for our children.
To find meaning in our work, and to do a good job.
To make a decent living so that our needs are met, plus some.

To eat dinner every now and then at a table and explore a few souls.
(often times when the babies go to sleep and you can get too warm and giggly.)

Because our stories are all so complicated and jumbled. The people that have reached their arms into the pit and pulled me out — I feel eternally indebted to.

Only now, I am part wounded person and healer. This happens when you walk through the world. You are, too. It is never safe, okay? I know you’re scared of a lot of stuff, but there will be helpers. Healers. They may bring over cupcakes or a six pack of High Life. Or both.

I suppose that is what I’m feeling today. When the currents seem to be working with me — pushing me to another horizon. I soak it in when it’s good. That’s what I always tell people. To get it in you when it’s good, because it’s not always good. In fact, it’s bad. A lot. So celebrate when you can, the friendly currents. The people who help pick up the pieces and dust you off.

My Beloved.

Healers.

Friends.

Family.

Thank you.

heaven and ivy

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I think about ruin.

Some form of hell, my frame leaning against the walls.

A depth of hell, I imagined.
In church they told me it was separation from God.

Though hell feels more like separation from Love.
Maybe there’s truth in that.

I think about ruin.

War. Metal piercing through flesh.
Swords are bullets now.

Echoing in the halls of ruin.

Then there grows ivy,
almost as though it had no idea of that wall’s previous
function.

That wall, hiding from an enemy.
The next day’s light,
Or the way my face looks now.

The ivy is climbing. More so, every day.
Sometimes I remember my frame,
sitting in that depth of hell
gnashing my own teeth.

How can heaven and hell exist in the same place?

I suppose it always has.
That is being human, after all.

I think about ruin.

Instead I see life.
Imagination.
Birth.
Big ocean.

I see ivy.
Slowly climbing. Twisting around knots and
threading itself through holes like wounds.

Tighter, it grabs.
Reclaiming.
Without a single care,
only that it is in its nature to climb and grow.

Like us.

I think about ruin.

And my hell has turned into my salvation.
I run my hands down the walls.
I feel the cracks.
The pain.
Remnants of hell on earth.

And then I see green.
Green ivy, pulsing. Thriving.

Because it is in its nature to climb and grow.

Like us.

Ruins.
Filled with dark and light.

Pulsing, thriving.

Onward
and upward.

wrapping ourselves through our wounds,
as though we had no idea of our wall’s previous function.

I think about ruin.

And all I can see is heaven,
and ivy.

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saved.

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When I was a kid, my dad was Jesus.

Not in the way you might think.

He was actually Jesus.
For the Easter Cantata at church.

He could sing pretty well. I think that’s why, and he generally had a knack for theatrics.
In fact, the church used my Indiana Jones whip to push him down our red carpeted aisles. Fake blood and wounds lined his back.

I saw him there, hanging on the cross, too.
He was hanging between a hippie computer technician and another man.
I’m not sure what he did.

I saw him hang his head.
He was put into a tomb and he came back alive.
(Two’ish days compiled into two’ish minutes.)

I don’t remember feeling very sad. Because I knew my dad was really alive.
Other things made me sad.

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I always say it is unusual to process your childhood as an adult.
Adults seemed more like adults back then and you realize now that your parents were actually trying to do the best they could with what they had.

Mostly, because I watch my friends and family with kids and see how books and articles will never actually describe or explain to them what it will be like to be a parent.

I am a person who recognizes how difficult things will be. That’s not to say that I find the path of least resistance. But knowing things will be hard, at least in my own head, lessens the blow.

A lot of people in my world are going through some really icky shit.

There is no other way to describe it only that it is like accidentally sticking your hands in pine tar.
You’re in it for the long haul.

And this is what it is like, after all. To be human. To feed yourself. To conflict with other peoples’ well beings. To maybe leave them and this place better than when you found it.

Sometimes, you see your actual father hanging on a cross and it makes you think.

Maybe not when you were nine years old.

But maybe 20 years later when you’re frying eggs on the line,

and you pause and remember,

all of the things,

that have saved you.

apple cobbler

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Anne Lamott always talks about life not having a manual.

I have a hard time knowing that regardless of what I read, what movies I watch, or which people I connect with, there will always be a curve and incline.

We are all feeling it, thinking it.

The Earth keeps moaning and we are feeling its wrath.
I think people are getting tired and weary, and all the weight that gravity lays on our shoulders is wearing us thin.

Two police officers were killed in my city this weekend. A senseless act of violence, among so many, fed with fear.
My community is heartbroken. Not just because they were cops, but because they were people in our community.

Southerners are emotional people.

They probably won’t admit it, but that’s just being Southern.

I feel their weight, not because I’m also a Southerner but because they are my people. We all mourn together. I take an active part in feeding this community, so in a sense, I worry for them and take their burdens as I hope they take mine.

It is a tough season for so many. My family. My friends. Moving. Change. Fear of the inevitable unknown.

Time is so uncertain and it is so precious of a thing.

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So I settle into myself, for at least a moment. I let sadness in and I let it out. I do the same with all of those things. I become vulnerable with the people I work with, and it’s hard. It’s hard to lead and to also be vulnerable, though I think the best leaders are. We confuse vulnerability with weakness, when it is the opposite. It is strength. And it is your immeasurable power as a human being.

I grew up keeping so much in. A fist clenched tight with worry and anger and doubt.

I’ve certainly had my growing seasons, and also months where I wilt a bit.
But I have also learned that exposing your wounds to air helps to heal.

Sure, there are others things that heal. Time and a bit of care.

Okay. A lot of care. Self-care. Other-people-care.
Ice cream-and-warm apple cobbler-care.

These words are the sound of settling, of embracing my humanness and I want to crumble and dissolve into something bigger. Something, somewhere that knows me and places its palm on my arm to say, “Broken world, son.”

I hear those three words more often than not, floating around in my subconscious, reminding me that we are beyond fixing.

But we are not beyond healing.
And we are not beyond changing and growing and shifting. We are all okay to do that.
We are okay to open.
We are okay to bloom when the sun shines brightly and we have just enough water in our veins to be a gift to others.

We are…okay.

In these seasons, we are not asking anything but to be loved and heard.
To be set free and to live as wounded healers.

To be fierce sons and daughters of the Beloved.

I am okay today.
And though I wish I had that manual for tomorrow, or the day after that, but I do not. Neither do you.

That’s okay.
If you need me, I will be in my summer-warm kitchen, shoo’ing off a few fruit flies and washing dishes.
I will offer you a place at my table.
We will both dissolve into that something bigger and embrace our humanness.
And maybe, just maybe,

there will be apple cobbler.

hands lifting

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I like being imperfect around other imperfect people.
Or at least the ones who submit to the fact that this world is hard and unruly and unpredictable.

I like hearing parents tell me how hard it is to be a parent. How their kids cry because sometimes kids just cry and that they are exhausted beyond any thing they’ve ever imagined.
I want the world to know that I love those little hamburgers from Wendy’s and that’s the stuff I won’t put on Instagram with a fancy filter.

We like real. At least I do. I think we are meant to struggle with each other. Sometimes we get to celebrate with each other too. Like anniversaries and new jobs.

I like that with each hard thing, I learn a tiny lesson. A gift in the form of a small train wreck.

I move forward with more confidence. I absorb it and I let it run through my system — the one that has felt this way before and can somehow manage to feel it though again and again.

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In and out, I think about the people in Nepal. I remember walking through their streets and I remember their people and their food. I remember playing guitar and singing with their kids. My heart is breaking all over because I know they are not built for such a thing. Who is, really?

I see rubble and pain. I also see hands lifting them both.

The Earth keeps spinning and moaning. Friction and heat and release.

I am saturated in it.
I mourn, with the rest of the world.
I pray and I remember how beautiful the stars were.

Somehow though, I am spared, and I am allowed to keep moving, each day.
Lucky is a word I use a lot. I’m not sure why. I wouldn’t consider myself a person of great luck, but I have become accustomed to feeling the good when it is good, because I know how bad things can get.

I’ve seen how deep and dark depression can be.
It feels a little like being at the bottom of a well, hoping you become the water that someone will just scoop up and save you from being in the dark.

Some days you feel a little bit like dying and it becomes less so. You just have to keep waking up and keep opening your heart to other people. I know that sounds cheesy and redundant, especially on this blog.

But I could never hear it enough.
I have written on my left arm, “These things take time”, and it’s surrounding a big pot, inspired by my friend Callie. Another friend of mine actually gave me the tattoo. I think I knew then that time was a gift. I wanted to remember that. I wanted to remember them. My people, the ones actually placing their hands on wounds.

They were my own wounded healers.

It carries over into cooking. I find myself cutting corners and knowing deep down, that is not who I am and it is not who I want to be. Time is nitty gritty. It is tiring and always pushing you forward, like your friends helping you to jump off the high dive.

You will plunge deep into the water, and it will sting your eyes and burn your nose, but you will rise up to the top and take in a deep breath.

That breath is a small victory.

So celebrate and throw up your hands,
eat a piece of cheesecake,
buy some new curtains,
hold tightly to your love,

and celebrate our healers as we are the hands,

lifting.

moaning.

mourning.

singing.

cooking.

cleaning.

tickling.

feeding.

rebuilding what is broken.

gargantua

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I couldn’t fall asleep last night.

Maybe it was a mixture of my day’s lump sum.
Drinking. And crawfish. Eating. Taking a nap.
Drinking a little again. Eating a bit more.

These are days that I try to smooth over a bit.
Sort of like trying to fix the frosting on a cake,
and getting it all over my fingers in the process.

I felt it all too.
And I missed her deeply, especially on this day.

Somehow I was given the space to deal with it all. I’m not always that lucky.
I began watching “Interstellar” and tried to make it through the whole movie, but it was late.

My heart had been beating so fast. I think because of Saturn again. And its beauty. And its symbol to me, at this point in my life. People may think I’m crazy, but it stirs something deep inside my own swirling galaxy.

My head wouldn’t stop spinning. Not because of alcohol or blood sugar, but because of outcomes. Because of time.

I couldn’t let it go. At least not last night.
The subtle shift of life’s forward motion. A small bump into a new trajectory.

It became so bright and sparkly. Maybe some pieces were engulfed in flames, like rock or metal skipping off the atmosphere.

I told myself to take deep breaths.

In between my steady stream of thoughts and worries. I squirmed and tossed and turned.
I punched my pillow a few times to get it positioned just so.

It was one of those nights where I think I got some sleep. Enough to wake up, at least.

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I woke up yesterday with a burn in my belly. Restless from the get-go. Those are the days I walk through carefully.

I think about every single thing. What would happen if I would have stepped left instead of right. Embracing my world like an old friend I haven’t seen in quite some time. I think that’s maybe what feeling small does to me. My tiny world, hanging so delicately on some sort of tilted bias, occasionally in darkness, but always coming to light.

I heard a young poet yesterday say that ‘wonder is the inevitable conclusion to fear.’ And that ‘someone, somewhere has already cracked open its beauty’.

This is truth.
These pains and these joys have already been felt and explored. But we are all so new to everything. We are allowed the opportunity to explore these frontiers for ourselves, as scary as they are. And we get to see each new day, when we open our hearts to it.

Like I open my heart to the universe and its pull.
Or when I want to hide in my own darkness, gravity and time still find their ways to fill me with wonder.

Cracking open what is infinitely human,

again and again.

dots

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Big changes.

Big lessons.

Big moves.

These are the themes in my little swirling galaxy.
Currently, in my head, are a million different ways of doing a million different things.

I see faces and I hear their words.
pressure.

I think that’s what I feel most.
Not necessarily from these people, but what I put upon myself.

The pressure to be the best and make the best choices. Or at least to keep getting better. I know this in itself sounds troublesome to you. But in my line of work, if I wish to succeed and be better, I have to keep practicing.

This is a reason as to why I cook so often for my friends and why I push myself. I don’t have the luxury of a professional institute training me how to do things. I don’t know anything about business. I’ve taught myself everything.

So that pressure. It’s not always bad. It continues to push me beyond my own boundaries, where I know if I wanted to stay in my room all day, I could.

But I can’t. And I won’t.

This galaxy, that is swirling constantly, is pulling in and slinging out all sorts of jetsam and flotsam.
Daily, I am digesting new information and recycling ideas with each new day that I find myself staring into some oblivion, hoping to connect the dots at some point.

Like stars they are, floating in a great mystery. So many tiny dots — like bulbs lighting up the darkest of spaces.

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I am aware there’s a common theme to what I’ve been writing lately. A lot of “I don’t know what I’m doing and where I’m going”, and bits and pieces about food and how it relates to all of this.

I suppose that is what this time in my life is about. I know better than to act on a day thought. Sleeping on ideas and words are often better than me making a quick life decision. I realize that life is about failing too, and people keep saying that it’s okay to fail, but that also seems really stressful. Many of us are in this boat.

It’s a very large boat.

I will do as I always do. I’ll try my best to hold loosely to my loves. My friends. My family. Their lives will change. I will maybe fall in love. I might move away again. I can guarantee you food will still be very important. Nothing seems to be very permanent, except cheeseburgers.

But alas, I put my hope in much higher things than cheeseburgers.

I put it in today and tomorrow. In people. In feeding their bellies and watching them raise their kids.
I say thanks to it all, for the tiny galaxy that consumes and moves and transforms,

and the mystery we’re all floating towards.

sunday biscuits

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Sunday is for being soft.

Well, it is a new luxury for me.
If you’re not a brunch cook on the line, or a waiter at Cracker Barrel on a Sunday afternoon.

But for me, Sunday has become a way to reconcile with my week.
It softens the edges of my trials and toils.
I reflect on my week and I gain courage to take on another one.

Today, like most days, is a day I allow myself to live in a lot of grace for my mistakes,
and for my bad attitude,
my hectic mind racing back and forth, seemingly between to entirely different states.

Yes, this is a luxury.

I picked up a jar of homemade fig and strawberry jam from the farmer’s market.

So, I made Sunday biscuits.

As I pulled them out, I observed how much they had risen and inhaled deeply the browning butter sizzling under the crispy, brown bottom.

It’s the small things, really.

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I set out a couple of eggs on my board and thought they looked beautiful.

Today, is the day I feed myself.

After spending my weeks cooking for the general public, I also cook for the people I hold a little closer, and I try to treat them like jewels. Because our weeks and months grow long, and they are also fast. I like to give myself to these treasures. I like them to slow down for a minute and listen to them speak from their hearts.

Maybe something wine induced, and maybe the smell of tomatoes and fresh bread helps, too.

Someone recently called me a healer.
No, I do not claim to have magical powers, nor can I own up to that term every day.

Only the idea is that all of our words and actions carry their own weight.
The weight I choose to put on my words and actions are heavy.
We are all capable of being healers.

I try, anyways, to not tear down people’s worlds. I will maybe try to pry a board loose, but I also know that it’s a delicate action, to restructure. To bend and not break.

Sunday is for healing.
It is for dusting off tools.
The ones that I use to breathe deeply from my belly when I feel as though I’m carrying a cannonball.

They are the tools that allow me to keep going, to keep recognizing my own strength and maybe, allow me to show you your own.

I know you are afraid of what you don’t know or understand. It makes you feel weak and defenseless. But that’s not you.
Recognizing your strength.
Pushing forward.
Embracing the gravity that works against your body.

Letting ideas and motions flow through you. Permeable. Osmosis-like.

That is all we can do, some days.

Sit down.

Cut some butter into flour.

Watch them rise and sizzle and brown.

Soft butter. Warm jam.

Pour a cup of coffee.

And feed yourself.

thick skin

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I jokingly tell people these days that I can’t wait to be in my forties.

I tell them that I think I’m getting better with age, and that I wasn’t very good at being young. At least the parts of me that crave adventure come in different forms.
As a kid, I was not the bravest or loudest or most outgoing.

Knowing what I know now, as an adult, I was so nervous and apprehensive about the outside world. I craved affirmation and I wanted to feel good about the kind of person I was. It always felt right to be kind, and I believe that to this day. I treat people like I want to be treated, as archaic as that rule sounds, it works well for me.

And then came kitchen work.

Intense. Hot and fast with a million moving pieces.
I learn about myself in these moments. I learn about working hard and smart and humbly doing things for people they’ll never be able to repay you for.

Somehow, this works for me.

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I take a break from my keyboard to squeeze my hands open and close. Yesterday was a 14-hour day involving a wedding where I spent most of the night emptying garbage cans full of beer bottles and half eaten pieces of food. The other part of the night was spent scrubbing hotel pans and jamming leftover bits of wedding food in my face so I wouldn’t have to partake in that Whopper Jr that so taunts me on my drive home.

It is always humbling to do this work.

I guess in the states, I struggle with the mentality that this work is for people riddled in confusion and transition and poverty. Granted, we do make up a big part of that work force. But some of us want to do this with our lives because we think it’s important. To me, I see a bride and groom who appreciate empty garbage cans so they can enjoy this moment with their friends and family. (I exclude the drunk bro-crowd who laughingly threw their trash in said garbage cans as I was straining to lift them through winding crowds of beautifully dressed Southerners.)

And so, with the steam rising from the tray of dishes I just pulled through the sanitizer, I think about the shootings in France. The massacres in Nigeria. I think about my friends who have recently lost loved ones. I think about my own heart being pulled in so many directions. I feel a knot in my stomach for some reason, and I also hum along with the sound of my muffled phone playing through its “closing down the kitchen” playlist.

It makes sense that our skin gets thicker with time, and that getting older helps us fit more into that skin.

We somehow make this world work for us even with the knowledge that there will be sadness supped with joy.

Hard times, come again no more, so the song says.

We sing, but we know they will. We still find moments to say we are good and happy and content. In those moments, it is all worth it to be human. To accept the give and take.

The ebb and flow.

The changing of times,

and perhaps a good word or two.