No Man’s Land

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I feel parts in me breaking every day.

For as long as I can remember that’s what I do. I break completely into pieces so that I can fit into a thing. I lose a thing here or there in the process.

Being an introverted single person, living alone in this pandemic has been met with a lot of doubt. At least when things are “normal” I had the option of giving more of myself. Now, I don’t know where to be in all of this. I hesitate to say we are in the same boat, because as I’ve said before, we are all in own lifeboats during this thing.

Some days I feel like I can rise above it all and be the person I’ve worked so hard to be. More often then not, I find myself being the person full of doubt and criticism. For example everything I cook now I deem is absolute dog shit. It piles on my shoulders. I’m missing the connections. Like neutrons and electrons firing into some black hole forever and ever.

This is a time of year that I love. (Though, with everything in its current place, I’m slightly dreading the next few months for reasons those of us living in the U.S. know to be true.) But damnit if I’m not an optimist by nature. I am also incredibly hard on myself.

I think about the billion ways I can go but when I feel like I’m only doing things one way, I get stuck. I get stuck on myself and whatever it is I’m doing and dreaming about a different time. For something that doesn’t exist, I surely think about it a lot.

Physically I feel tired more often. We are lucky to have a lot of business during this time. I am grateful, but I am also very aware of the weight it puts upon me and my friends. When you are successful, you tend to tie yourself up with your business. I don’t think we agree on what success looks like, and when we’re talking about the city I live in, I always feel like the underdog.

I wonder if the hustle will slow even after the pandemic clears. I wonder if I’ll fall in love again. It’s in my biology to have kids, but I’m really not sure if that’ll ever happen. (Yeah, ya know, I do have the urge quite often to have a kid, even if it doesn’t fit the kind of person I am.) What kind of person am I anyways?

Maybe that’s the question I’ve been asking myself the most.

I don’t know anymore. Certainly a pandemic causes me to shift inward — to question every single decision I’ve made — every person I’ve kissed — every person I’ve hurt. As much as I preach that life is all forward, I find myself the most being stuck in traps that I continue to set for myself.

As far as I can tell, none of this is final. There’s a lot of things moving right now and we’re all really uncomfortable. There’s a sense of unease we aren’t accustomed to. Maybe sometimes I feel the moans of my own ancestors in my bones.

I guess what I try to look for in all of this, is that things never really settle and truly, you won’t feel this way forever. Look for the people helping and ask them for some relief. Then, help someone yourself. We are all borrowing each other’s grace and more often in my life, tupperware.

There is still plenty of beauty here to discover. There are still ways to move beyond the toxic — the great lies and the great thieves of your own joy.

Remember you are here, now. Living in a time you might never see again. This is your season to move through No Man’s Land,

where I will move
(and move with you.)

hold fast

Story

It’s hard to be inspired right now.

A friend of mine said it best: “I’m not a fan of anyone who it too pessimistic right now. Then again I’m not a fan of anyone who is too optimistic, either.”

Most of the conversations I have with the people I love weigh heavy on me. Some of them, I hear tears being swallowed down as they (like all of us) march through the fog of uncertainty.

A few of my people are really hurting right now. They are quite literally falling around their own heart of darkness and when you love people, you can’t help but to fall with them.

It is too easy to be hard on yourself right now. That dense fog that looms over the next few months is so heavy and I feel it in my lungs, just like you. I fall asleep reading the same gut-wrenching stories and wake up with the hope that my morning coffee feels perfectly hot against the back of my throat.

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I spent an evening this past week visiting my sister recovering from surgery. My dad was in town helping so I decided to make some pizza with my niece and nephews, while also catching up with my parents and hoping to get a few laughs in the process.

I’ll start out by saying I’m not great with kids, especially the smaller they are. I just don’t use that part of my brain very much. (Though being silly is so needed right now)

I don’t consider myself a good uncle, but I’ve always felt that as my sister’s kids get older, I’ll be better at it.
As I was getting things ready to make pizza, my niece Anna came and sat at the bar. I know so much about her but rarely do I get to see her face and hold a conversation for more than a few minutes because generally adults are boring and I don’t blame her for wanting to do other things.

But I asked her about cross-country and school and show choir. All things she’s really good at. I listened to her sound so bummed out that she wouldn’t physically be going back to school for another month at least and it equally bummed me out.

I looked at her and saw someone who is so much older than I had realized.

She is a person that is beginning to understand the weight of things and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only is she entering the weirdest time of becoming an older human being, but in the middle of a pandemic — not being able to be with her friends as much as she wants and the uncertainty she also faces in her own future.

I felt some of my own anxiety die down a bit.

I’ve always seen this pandemic as a “row your own boat” sort of thing. The sea is whatever tumultuous thing we are facing. Between a depression, pandemic and civil rights movement, we are all clinging white knuckled to the sides of our vessels screaming:

HOLD FAST.

I was thankful to hug my mom. My sister. My dad. Very rarely do we get those opportunities, as I am just as nervous as you to travel around and possibly expose either my anxiety or germs to other people that do not deserve them. But it’s good to air out your grievances. And it’s good to be respectful of others’, as well.

If you see another boat taking on more water than your own, help them. (But don’t sink yourself in the process.)

To my niece, I would tell her this:

It won’t always be this hard. Things will lighten. You will come out of the fog on the other side, thankful and cautious and ferociously hungry to experience more.
The things you’re learning about yourself now will stay with you forever. This year will be the year where everything changed — and it will be a pillar built on your foundation.
You will still have to move around those large rocks sticking out of the fog — some, you won’t see til’ it’s too late, but there are others that will help you — and I will help you when I can.

Hold fast, love.

The light will inevitably cut through,

and I will meet you there.

 

rage.

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I get so tired of falling asleep with rage in my belly.

I envy those who let things pass so easily and with grace. Sometimes I can, but my patience these days is wearing so thin. I used to be so good at holding things in and during a younger season in my life, learned about the wild things I could no longer contain.

I learned about the airing of memory filled with grief and sorrow, but also a lot of goodness.

The kitchen brought me some rage, as with any high stress job where your margin of error seems almost unforgivable. There is no shortage of things that fill me (and most likely you) with some deep glowing fire.

That kind of rage stays with me. It lingers, mostly into the dark. Sometimes, my only option is to drown it with sleep. I know it’s not good, but sometimes it’s also inescapable.

The last thing I want to do is drag someone else into the things that I feel.

I’ve been learning to navigate some anger — in general I direct it at myself for allowing something to get to me so quickly, but also most of the time, it has something to do with a thing that is not within anyone’s control.

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Being alone can be hard. Self-control is even harder. We’re allowed to let off steam — but never at the cost of hurting another thing. I think this will be a life learned lesson, one that comes at the cost of being hurt by another.

We have a lot to be angry about. Maybe some of that is accepting things were never as they seemed. This feels a lot like being betrayed by someone you love who is never willing to apologize, a toxicity that is being bled out. At some point though, you have to put pressure on the wound.

Maybe that’s what this time is about.

There isn’t much space to hide anymore. In fact, it is maybe one of the best times to dig in deep and work on the next shift of your life. Maybe you’re already doing that and this quarantine has shown you how much you’ve grown into yourself and how you move alongside with the other people in your life.

For me, being alone does not equate to loneliness. Some days are harder, but I’ve been growing in ways I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have this space.

I’ve never been one to stray too far away from a challenge, especially at the cost of my own peace. Surely the older I get, the more comfort I crave but I still recognize the wild things.

The sense to grow and move and challenge my humanity (and maybe yours.)

The rage never lasts. It dies because it has to. (and I continue to lay down weapons I shouldn’t use anymore.)

It will always be in my belly — it is how I’ve come to recognize the most important things in my life and that maybe I need to drop the things I’ve been clinging on to for so long. The heaviness of expectation, the need to please and the wondering if I’ll ever be enough for you.

There are always newer, lighter things to pick up along your way.
I hope you give yourself the time and space to find them.
You’re a gift to the people that love you.
Be sure to love yourself in return.

 

 

 

 

the great unsettling

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What stirs in my heart?

Maybe it’s everything. How does anyone not live a day without wandering in and out of the things they used to believe in and the people they used to be?

I often mourn parts of my life where I had less responsibility. More uncertainty, no doubt, but does getting older ever give you any certainty that you’ll become a better person? Or that the things in this world will ever be enough for you?

This quarantine has given me some perspective on my small space here. I found myself dumping loads of things from my past. A few pictures. Some books. Even the things I have found sacred in the past, I’ve dug up again to be both inspired and challenged.

It is a great unsettling of things.

It’s weird when pieces of your old self reappear and almost with a sense of urgency ask that you remember this piece of you that shifted the way you see everything.

I keep a small shelf with things from my life — things that were given to me by people I love, people who broke my heart and others who give me the most inspiration to push forward regardless of the gravity that pulls me elsewhere.

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I found myself rearranging these heirlooms. These precious bits of a life 34 thus far.

A matchbox with the face of Che Guevera.
A metal cup from my time in India.
A feather from a friend I used to kiss and fall asleep on the grass with long ago.

Some toys from when I was young.
My old pair of glasses, broken.
Fountain pen and some ink.

I keep these things because they help me remember that every good thing shifts in you endlessly.

The bad too, but those things tend to dull over time.

I’m always amazed about how the things that broke our hearts into a million pieces still allow us to feel good about the time we had with them that were beautiful, and that they gave to us what we would have never found without them.

Sometimes you need the person you once were to step up and meet the person you are now. I know I look older by the day, and I often cringe at what I used to call a beard. Now, I still don’t grow the best looking beard, but I see the grey hair that comes with life and its weight.

I have little regret, but deep down in the still waters I know this whole thing is a gift. I embrace the challenge of wandering through this life with the knowledge that it’s not ever easy, and things that matter won’t ever happen quickly.

Sometimes being unsettled is the only way to move forward,

and I will always set my eyes there,
toward both the dying and birth of the new light.

 

(I’ll meet you there.)

Food, Hospitality Industry

It’s hard to put food in a styrofoam box.

It’s hard to watch it die a slow death in the hopes that it makes it to a person in the right amount of time.

I guess we’ll all have to lower our standards. (for now.)
You have to know that this is hard on many levels for many different kinds of people.

I dwell on aesthetic. I think it’s part of my shtick.

I like to touch real things.

Plates. Glasses. Hot water and metal brushes.

I like color. Contrast. Texture. These are things lost in the gravity of my mind.
I know there are ways around this, things I can do really well. But I am rebelling in my mind and it is hard for me to lay down my weapons.

Food, first and foremost, is nourishment. On top of that, are several layers of what makes a dish great. For those passionate cooks out there, putting a $50 dollar piece of meat into a box and into the hands of a person who may not care too much about it is the most nerve wracking — yet here we are. Learning to trust companies that probably don’t give too much of a shit about the quality of a piece of meat, or whether or not a vegetable needs to be eaten immediately.

This is the stuff I stay up late thinking about.

Me, standing on my tip-toes looking over the pass — seeing if you’re enjoying your plate of food.

I feel it in my gut. Things will never be the same. That’s okay. Some things need to change. In fact, I am often hopeful about the future of my kind of work. A different appreciation — a deeper understanding of the world of hospitality and how it is so often the hand that holds our wounds. It is our deepest comfort and gives us some of our best memories.

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Those good things will never die.

But, I think they will change. I will change. (you will have to change, too.)

A lot of us just want to collapse on the kitchen floor and slam our palms to the ground like a four year old that’s tired and hungry and doesn’t want anything you have to offer.

Food, to me, has always offered hope. Dignity. Memory. Those are massive columns that hold up my own code of morality. In return, it offers me the same things.

What I am able to give to you comes from my deeper sense of self, and maybe I don’t always show that. Maybe I show it ways of rage and stubbornness — but it all comes out of the place that wants to give you every piece of my soul.

You wonder why speaking in front of guests at one of our wine dinners makes me so nervous — because it is literally three hours of giving you things I dwell deeply on. I cannot separate myself from the craft, the labor and the people that place dishes in front of you and keep your glasses full.

So yeah, this is what I think about in a day.

Everything is shifting. If you’re not, it’s going to be a hard road for you.

I’m going to end this with an excerpt from one of my favorite poems by Rumi. I don’t know if it has anything to do with what I just said, but it hits different now.

Now, more than ever, we need to meet in the same place and build a better world.

I hope you’ll meet me there.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”

dans le merde

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I told myself I was going to write today.

I was going to sit down (because it’s raining and I have coffee to my left) and talk about myself in a way I hope would be helpful to my world. I’ve been struggling with it because of the added vulnerability, which in my case is something I haven’t usually had a problem with.

I don’t know, things change. I’ve certainly changed. Truths are shifting in my heart, as they always have. This makes things hard to reconcile — hard to stay consistent to the way things have always been.

I realize things get more difficult with time. Wisdom is great but really that only counts if you’re giving it away. Taking it in for yourself takes mistakes, time (ugh), stubbornness (see: time) and your ability to trust something that hasn’t happened yet.

Is there ever a moment that you trust something fully? Maybe in your religion or faith or the thing you call the Beloved. Even that shifts for me. In a way, there isn’t much of anything that doesn’t get sucked into my gravity. To call myself a black hole is kind of funny and very dramatic, but as described in Interstellar, “When orbiting a black hole, not enough things can happen…”

Adding on to that, “whatever can happen, will happen.”

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I am hopeful, by trade.

The thing I say over and over to myself when I am in the deepest of weeds (or dans le merde) is this: It’s going to be okay, because it has to be.

I don’t often walk around assuming there is a grey cloud following me. I feel very lucky to have a positive outlook on many things, and when it comes to the people I love I hope I can give that to them. Maybe sometimes I don’t have much of it for myself, but if I can give that away then I am doing what I can to help the Earth move. That, for me, is more than I could ask of myself.

Leading is vulnerability. It goes without saying, the best leaders are the ones who make decisions. For better or worse, having someone make a choice and moving to that is vulnerable. Choosing any direction is being vulnerable. Accepting the weight of your decisions, especially when it’s something that doesn’t work, is part of it. Unfortunately, there’s no way around showing people what moves in you unless you take on that responsibility.

Somehow I ended up talking about leadership, but that’s not really what I wanted to say.

You are here to experience a life.
And that life is funny, painful (okay really painful sometimes) and very surprising.

You are not going to escape the pain that will find you, and for many of you, that you find daily.
It is not much for me to say that I see you — but I do and whatever energy I am given to send to you I will because your pain is important. Pay attention to it.

Don’t let it take you,
give it some air.

Give it some light.
Bury it when it becomes too great, but not for long.

We all still need you.

Whatever can happen, will happen.

You are here because of it,
(and it means the world to me that you are here)

 

 

 

hold.

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This time of year is tough for me.

Maybe it’s tough for you, too.

It’s strange because it represents a lot of things for me.
December marks my birthday which always makes me sit in some feelings that range from pure bliss to absolute heartbreak. Not that I’m so sad about it, but I do miss the years spent with people I don’t see anymore.

Things are forever moving forward — and while that’s something I usually praise, I also mourn for the times and people that I have lost.

My mind is stretched thin,
and I’m ultra aware of the heart beating in my chest.

I am aware of the clock that is ticking — that’s telling me that one day, I will have to do something different with my life. I wish cooking wasn’t so stressful. I wish running a business didn’t hold such a heavy weight. I wish we were all nicer to one another.

But again, I come back to the heart beating in my chest.

Give me a moment to be vulnerable with you and I crave telling you what you mean to me. For some reason, I think it’s very important for things to be raw, mostly unfiltered. I know sitting on feelings is smart, too. But damnit if I’m not always thinking about how short our time is on this world and how I already know that I wish I could’ve told people how much they’ve meant to me.

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This time of the year is terribly wild.

You can sense the stress and anxiety — in the merging of car lanes and ideas and patience.
(all of which I get cut off.)

There are so many people I want to tell that they’re beautiful.
I want them to know that their pain wears heavy on my shoulders and I am okay with it.

My friends, who have lost their friends and kids and their parents, I want to grab on to them and pull them in like some kind of strong gravity. And I want them to know that pain fades but it doesn’t disappear — that those moments when you stare into the distance and remember are the closest you are to that person again. I want to tell you how much my heart aches for you.

It makes want to make you laugh.

It makes me want to make you a grilled cheese with expensive champagne.

All of these things I want to do for you.
And sometimes I can.

This season is kind of selfish. And I am selfish with myself. I wish I could give more of myself but at the end of the day, I am all that I have under my roof. I take great care of making sure I can be enough for you, even though I’m not sure if that’s possible.

I am so used to being alone, I am often frightened at how easy it is to be okay with it. Of course there are things I miss. The intimacy. The memory. The orchestrated chaos. Among other things.

You have this heart, you see?
and it’s there beating in your chest for one thing or another. Remember it beats for you first. Take care of that thought, please.

And take care of the things your heart needs.

Remember to breath from your belly and to loosen your shoulders from time to time. Stretch your jaw muscles and learn to love on your rolls. You know which rolls I’m talking about. Most people really aren’t looking at you like that anyways.

But mostly,

breathe (and close your eyes.)

you are absolutely worth every good thing,
because you’re still here,

and you’re still moving forward into the Great Mystery.

(hold on to it.)

 

see you.

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Life is the combination of heavy and light. I do think they tend to carry more weight the older you get — the more time you use up, here. You’ve ventured through dangerous and murky territory to get where you are now. You are banged up a bit. (some of you, more than you’ve ever deserved.)

But, you’re still here.

And I see you.

It is surprising and heartbreaking and I find myself cutting through it. Kind of like using scissors to slice cleanly through wrapping paper, or having to open and close them to make it work. (My mom is great at the first one, I am not. But maybe I’ve just always had shitty scissors.)

I’m at a loss a lot these days. Which I’m sure says something about my mental health. I’m not afraid of it. I’ve just got a lot going on in my head. My heart is everywhere and I see a lot of broken things. I see a lot of you. (I’m not afraid of you, either.)

My friends are dealing with the sickness of their own humans. They watch, as the people that took care of and even live along them, slowly lose things.

I find myself thinking about it a lot. All the broken stuff. My own tired heart feels so thirsty for goodness, for beauty.

I am attached to you (even from far away),

and I see you.

I see you waiting in line for food sometimes. I see you shopping for tomatoes with your sweet babies and partners and tossing toys with your puppies. I love that something and someone has your heart. (You have theirs, too.)

I see myself, as well. And I know I’ve let a lot of things go to get to this place.

I feel them at the top of my stomach, like knots! — ready to unravel and come out in the form of something I hope carries into the light that will surprise you. Or maybe just make you smile.

Oh, your smile is heaven, too. And hugs. You know, the things that make us feel loved and love in return.

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In the quiet and the dark of my mind, I mourn for innocence lost. I wish there was more I could have saved. Not for me but for someone else. There is still plenty to gain, but Lord, have you given me some kind of heart to manage.

I write all of this with the knowledge that life is ultimately good. There is hope and things can change pretty quickly. It also goes faster than I thought. Scary fast. I also know there are people that are born into war and famine and injustice. I carry them, too.

So, I work to keep myself upright and with breath that carries a good word that you should know,

(you are worth the good stuff,
keep going,
and I’ll keep going too.)

 

 

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.)

heaven and hysteria

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Jupiter.

That’s my planet.

(I told my dad, because maybe in a past life I believed that I could have a ruling planet. Some giant ball of gas and toxicity thousands and thousands of miles away that had some affect on me as a fellow thing made out of star stuff.)

Maybe it does.

Walking along this beach was the usual quiet hum of waves approaching. Dad was using his phone to tell me about which planets were what, because on this stretch of Florida land it was the darkest night I’d seen in years.

I could even make out the Milky Way.

Saturn was there.

Of course the Moon, peaking over the peninsula. (Oh! and some shooting stars, if you’re the romantic.)

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Spending time with family is parts heaven and hysteria. Love and love’s fun way of being with the ones that see you gain weight and grow up and live through life’s light and dark.

It is sometimes overwhelming to imagine the time of things — sitting in the midst of three generations thinking, “So many things happened just right.” And now I’m here, sitting with the people that brought me to this place.

I realize I read too much into a thing, but I also don’t want to pass up a good thing. Especially if it helps me.

Especially if a day is good.
Catching crabs off the beach,

drinking cold beer and wrapping up the hot sun.

it soaked deeply into my skin, the heat I can still feel.

I suppose it’s always new, whatever the tide brings me.

some peace to calm the worry,

with my heels sinking into the sand.