scrambled.

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I have sausage gravy all over my shoes.

At this point they’re a black canvas for egg yolk and mayonnaise and probably two different vinaigrettes.
Cooking is gross.

I say that all the time. I mean, yes. It’s beautiful and romantic and sexy. All these things.
It’s also gross.
Cooking, for the most part, is learning how to deal with all the fat and water a thing has in it.
Bones and blood, too.

There is a huge sigh of relief for all restaurant workers post Mother’s Day — maybe even a worse cooking day than Valentine’s — Or the day after (or before) a major holiday. I don’t quite understand it. Then again, I don’t get out much these days. Knowing the burden of feeding and taking care of generally unpleasant and hungry people makes me hesitant to put my needs on anyone during this time. (Or at all, really.)

My brain is fried, and fried hard.
Or maybe it’s scrambled.

Sorry, have eggs on the brain. (And my shoes but you know that already.)

At the end of our service yesterday, we all just kind of stood around for a while. Diners still sitting together, staring at their phones in silence, church clothes in tact. There was just too much to do. Dishes piled high in all three sinks. But we are relieved, and thankful that we worked hard for each other.

A lot of me wishes restaurant culture wasn’t this way, but I just can’t see any way around it. It is one of the only (and truly) humbling ways to make a living. That ticket that hangs in front of you and the person waiting at their table for it to be delivered with some small amount of kindness and skill — it’s a kind of pressure that brings out the worst in a human.

We have the best crew we’ve ever had. They are funny and smart and we all hate ourselves just enough to keep pushing forward. (Just kidding kind of) Oh, and just hard bodies, yo. We all moan when we sit down together — those are the best times. Decompressing with your coworkers about “the bullshit” — the lady who asked for her eggs to be “not too runny, not too dry” or the man who has a dairy allergy but is okay with heavy cream in grits.

It’s a ridiculous pressure, to be honest. Most times I fantasize about cooking big pans of food and just throwing it into the dining room and letting people fend for themselves Golden Corral-like — but alas, there is still dignity to be won.

This won’t be the last hard day. But this was a record breaking weekend for our restaurant. I feel proud about that. I feel tired in the ways that I should, but I am proud that we are still here making a wonderful mess of things.

I gave my shoes a good scrubbin’ today. Stubborn and crusty and dirty with all sorts of bits from a day’s work, but I feel the most content as a tired cook.

My job is done for a day,
my feet and back are tired.
I splash some cold water on my face and look in the mirror,
the weight you carry for the things you love.

It is enough for me.

ratatouille (and other things)

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We’re all tired, I think.

Some, more than others. That’s not unusual when things are “normal” and especially not right now. It’s true that some of us are more sensitive to the needs and energies of others, and that makes things louder and wildly more complicated.

Right now I’m not a big fan of the hustle culture. “What are you doing to get yours!?” kind of thing. The ‘push yourself til you throw up or blow out a knee’ kind of thing. But if that IS your thing, okay. (Just don’t try to normalize needing to push yourself to a breaking point — that’s kinda how we ended up in this mess in the first place.)

When it comes to cooking food for a living, we are very aware of the state of things. People eat for lots of reasons, I know. Beyond sustenance for now, I think we are feeding people who need comfort — who need to not cook for themselves out of being tired and at its very basic level, to just feed someone who needs something good.

That’s kind of the way cooking feels for me right now. I go home every day and collapse on my bed after jamming something probably full of carbs in my face and try my best to get a nap in. Maybe my anxiety will ramp up a bit or I will jerk awake by accidentally biting my tongue (because I tend to grind my teeth when I’m stressed and asleep.)

I wish, like so many others, it wasn’t so hard right now. I wish this work didn’t take as much as I did. I love cooking, and I love cooking for you — but it is exhausting and we are kind of on the burnt side of toast.

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Maybe I’ve recently bumped into another person that appreciates my food (as well as my company and to be honest my goober sense of humor somehow…)

Maybe I decided to make this person ratatouille while watching a film set in Paris, while drinking some big french wines. Maybe I’m a sucker for themes.
Either way, I’m glad I get to cook for a person from time to time that’s not expecting me to be anything other than myself. Or within a time limit where they have to eat or else I get a bad yelp review. I don’t know, it feels good and comfortable and most like myself when I cook for people I love to be around and take care of.

I thought maybe I’d post a recipe here because ratatouille is great way to eat some vegetables that are in season (or very close to it.) It’s my favorite Disney movie and also just really wholesome and delicious.

Ratatouille
(feeds 4)

One large yellow onion
One large yellow bell pepper
One large red bell pepper
Three cloves garlic
One medium eggplant
Two yellow squash
Two zucchini squash
Four roma tomatoes
Fresh thyme
18oz. can diced tomato
Olive oil
Red Chili Flake
Salt & Pepper & Sugar

Get your shit together:
Dice up onion, peppers and mince your garlic.
Slice 1/8 to a 1/4in thin your tomatoes, eggplant, and squash. Lightly salt the sliced veggies and let their water drain for at least an hour with paper towels. This will help your veggies not be so damn mushy in the end.

In a deep saute pan, heat up a few tablespoons olive oil. Drop in your onions, peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Let cook down for 15-20 minutes til onions become translucent. Add your garlic, tsp. fresh thyme and cook another 10 minutes. Add your canned tomatoes and cook down til half of the water cooks out (about 15-20min.) Stir every few minutes to make sure nothing is sticky icky. Add a pinch of red chili flake and sugar (taste for salt and heat and sweetness to your liking.)

Meanwhile, heat your oven up to 375F. When your onions and peppers have finished cooking, scoop a layer of the mixture on the bottom of a somehow shallow baking dish or pan. (At least 3-in deep.) Layer your veggies one on top of another into little stacks. Add a tiny bit of salt, pepper and fresh thyme between every third veggie slice til you’ve run out of veggies or are sick of making them. (For example: on top of the onion/bell pepper/tomato mix, place a layer of yellow squash. On top of that, a layer of eggplant, then zucchini, and lastly tomato. Add your seasoning and repeat.)

Bake for 40-45 minutes til tender and smelling good and sexy.
I like to serve it with some crunchy bread that I’ve toasted lightly in the oven with olive oil — and after baking rubbed down with a raw garlic clove. The best part of this dish is how cool it looks when you serve it. Everyone gets a stack or two veggies on top of the tomato mixture. It smells so, so good and really does make you feel good eating a pile of vegetables honestly.

So there. Eat you some vegetables.

And take it easy on yourself.
It won’t always be this hard.
There are plenty of people that love and think about you with a lot of light.
Send it back their way, too.

-josh

confessions of a pandemic chef

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I never wanted to be a cook.

I had moved to a new city to get married and graduated into an economy that didn’t have anything for me.

As it turns out, when you live in Portland, there’s always a coffeeshop looking for help. Granted, a friend of mine helped me get in, but I had no industry experience. I started out mainly washing dishes. Taking orders. Getting yelled out by customers because I made a mistake taking their order. All of the bits you have to learn to make a hard shell over your soft skin.

I started to cook because it was a way to show who I was to people I didn’t grow up with.

I wasn’t very good at it.
I knew how to fry chicken, and make rice a roni. I could pop open a can of green beans and douse it with Tony Chachere’s. It was the only thing I really wanted to be good at. My friends were better at other things that I knew I didn’t want to do.

I really wanted to be that daunting figure in the kitchen sweating and cooking.

It was something that seemed so wildly complicated, that being able to control it felt kind of God-like. Listening to an egg cook or smelling when onions cook too long was becoming something that I could thread in and out of my daily life like a coat made just for me. Hell, now I can hear the moments water goes from simmer to boil with pretty good accuracy.

Cooking helped me open up.
It became the thing that gave me some authority on anything, really. I knew that I could poach an egg with confidence or crank out a delicate vinaigrette on the fly. It gave me the confidence I’d been missing my whole life.

I was obsessed with something I knew I could get better at every day.

Even the hell of falling out of love with a person, the kitchen became my way to block out pain and still maintain some sense of purpose.
“Well, at least I have this” I would say. (And still say that at times.)

Kitchens can and will break you down. Every cook knows that there is a point in any given day where it breaks you. Most days, it doesn’t. You have a hope in the back of your mind that your day can be somewhat normal. You will maybe, go home and actually cook dinner for yourself and partner.

But, something usually happens.

The drain in the dish pit over flows with grease and food bits and God knows what other hell.
Or your anxiety decides to overwhelm you in the middle of service and you blank out. You turn into a robot of yourself to get through the day. It’s all happened, and it will happen again.

There is something incredibly addicting about a restaurant that works, day after day. All the deliveries came at the best time. No one was out of the cheese we needed and our Coke delivery guy wasn’t an asshole for once. (And did I mention Sysco didn’t dump all of our boxes in front of our oven in the middle of the lunch rush!?)

And then the pandemic came.

Once the reality of having to shut down entered my bones, I’ll admit, I felt a bit relieved. Something felt so toxic about being open and encouraging people to cram into a small space when all the health professionals are telling you not to do it. (But if we don’t do it, we’ll drown as a business…?)

I couldn’t adapt fast enough. I felt like an immense failure. (Still do sometimes.)

I was completely exhausted.

Our business would adapt a bit and I would drink a lot. And order DoorDash. There was something so amazing about a brown bag full of hot food with my name on it sitting outside my door WITHOUT having that awkward interaction of someone catering to my lazy ass. It was incredible.

I got to turn off my phone alarms. Well, the ones that wake me up and the other four that remind me to order things for the restaurant — then there’s all my reminders about other things I need to do for the restaurant so that I can finally relax. Well, after the panic and anxiety died down after our first week of quarantine, I got to relax.

After a month and a half of doing take home dinners once a week, we got back into the restaurant on a daily basis. My work shirts almost didn’t fit because I had gained so much weight from well, *gestures broadly at everything*.

Kitchen work is hard, and if you don’t stay in practice, you get lazy, fast. You forget the motions and turns, the heat and the pressure. But by now, we are almost back to whatever it is I can call normal.

Wearing a mask while standing over a grill has taken some time to get used to, but everything is harder. Not just the labor, but people are harder. Things got way more political over our little break, but in order for us to stay open and busy, I never really got a chance (nor did I want the chance) to be political about masks. To me, it was just tiring having to defend it either way — I just needed to be busy again.

But it’s still really hard right now. For everyone. Those of us in the hospitality business are kept alive through people gathering together. The restaurant experience is about food and drink but most importantly, it’s about people connecting. Not just having people cook your food and serving you, but the people around your table.

The depression I feel most deeply, is that cooking and being a chef is shifting for me. It shows me how incredibly delicate all of this is — and when it’s stripped away, I wondered how necessary it all is. (I wondered how necessary I was.)

I love being a chef. It’s all I ever wanted, to be honest. It has been one of my proudest accomplishments. To have that name and that respect — but damn, it is hard to be inspired in times like these. Not only inspired, but to also inspire. To be strong, to be a leader and to make a million decisions in my head every day.

A while ago I was told I was emotional, which is fine and funny. It was by a friend that doesn’t know me very well, but it also goes to show me that being vulnerable makes leadership necessary. I don’t always feel strong enough to lead people, especially now. Most days feel hopeless for the future of anyone ever agreeing on anything (ever again). My own patience is worn so very thin, as is yours. I hate the aggravation I hold so close to the parts of me I love the most.

Maybe I won’t be a great chef, like the ones I read about.

And that’s okay.

But I’m still here, and I’m doing it.

I cook your grits and wash your plates.
I lay awake at night hoping that whatever we bring to your table gives you some sense of normalcy.

I have always loved having you at my table — and I’m still dreaming of a future where we are all better people for doing the hard work of being good to one another.

In the meantime, I’ll be here, working in my hot kitchen,
adding more cheese to that pot of grits
(because I know you really need it today.)

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.

fog

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.

 

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.”

seasons.

Story

Every week  feels like a season.

If you want to get truly romantic (read: nerdy), some of the best chefs say there are 52 seasons in a year. (Which is technically true.)

One week you have figs, the next, they’re gone. That makes them so much better though. Only being able to have this one thing, for one week. I still think about Oregon strawberries and how I would eat so many they would make me sick. But I also have this memory in my brain that tells me what a strawberry is supposed to taste like and I will forever know it on my tongue.

Maybe that’s how I feel these days. The weeks fly. Some days feel longer than others. Meanwhile I sit around, scratching my head wondering when I’m going to dive in again. Maybe do something radical (in my own world) again. I’m not so good at seeing things that are in front of me. The day in, day out grind of working for a better world. Leaving this thing better than how I found it.

So far, I feel like I’m doing my part in my tiny corner of the world. I’ve yet to have to buy diapers for a child (okay sorry) or fly all over the country selling things I’m not very passionate about. I think about my carbon footprint all of the time. I live two miles from work. I stay kind of close.

I do forget to bring my reusable grocery bags, though. (This maybe carries the biggest conviction for me.)

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I feel these things with a sense of urgency most days. That’s probably anxiety, in fact I know some of it is. I realize there are lots of things on fire. Some days I’m tossing lighter fluid, some days water.

I’m also excited and eager. I wish my body could keep up! Connecting my brain to what my body can handle is one of my newer  seasons. It’s also called getting older (which blah blah blah, I know, boring but for real it’s a sign that says, “Slow Down, Curves Ahead”)

Oh, the curves.

This season I’m thinking a lot about my dad. I am hoping he finds some more peace and clarity. It isn’t easy hitting the brakes. It’s scary jumping into something, somewhere without a map, but he’s good at that, so I’m gonna keep sending him good vibes on that journey.

I think about my mom, too.  My mom, aside from the fact that she is 100% a mom which maybe doesn’t make sense to you, but  my sister will agree, is the vessel I process much of this world through. Not only that, when I’m thinking about what to feed this city I live in,  I imagine how much she  would enjoy. That’s my secret. Would my mom crush this sandwich? Absolutely.

I realize I’m not sharing anything new. That’s not why I write anyways, I write for that one human being I picture in my head.

I want to tell that one person that every week is a season.

When you start seeing the world this way,  I feel excited to learn. Maybe to do more, within the limits of my fast-beating heart and the things that pay my bills. There is always more to do, so be careful with that.

I hope your season is going well. If not, just give it a few days. Things always change. You’re not stuck. The sun rises, the moon will continue to make people act like fools.

There is still time to fall in love. To move to a new city. To try that really weird Japanese dish you’ve been dodging for the last 20 years.

There are so many seasons – –

eat them up.

 

 

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.”

FoolishHatefulDuckling-poster

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.

Uncategorized

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.)

 

creation.

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I love watching the painful process of people creating things.

The “making of” on TV shows and movies. I love watching artists, directors and producers thinking their work is garbage and having to question everything about where they are.

Mostly because it doesn’t make me feel so alone.

I do not consider myself an artist. I do think that I am someone who creates. Not sculptures or things made of glass. Honestly most of the things I make turn into shit, eventually.

However, I do think humans are persistent animals. A lot of us are stubborn. A lot of us have always been our own worst enemies.

Self-love goes out the window when I begin to work on something. I often think it’s the worst thing I’ll ever do.

“Why do I keep doing this to myself?”

No matter how good a thing is and no matter how many people tell me how good that thing is, I go home and I doubt myself into a corner where I really don’t want to turn around and face it. I wish I was being dramatic, but there’s not a dinner that goes by where I imagine I did everything I could to make it my best.

And then the pendulum swings back the other way. I take a step back and look at the things I’ve helped create. I look at the sweat and blood and bones of a thing. Hard work doesn’t often pay off for people, but it so many ways it has for me.

I’ve had some luck.

There have been more than a few times in my world where I have left a thing when I’ve needed to leave, and maybe times that I’ve should’ve stayed longer.

You don’t always get the opportunity to know these things in a lifetime.

a-theology-of-creation-in-12-points-leqnfraz

Most recently, I received an award for being ‘Best Local Chef’ in my city, and other surrounding smaller cities. It was an award I had been nominated for a few times in the past years, but lost to folks who had bigger followings.

I got kind of lucky this year. Granted, most chefs believe they deserve it and they do. We all work hard. We all sacrifice for the things we want to create. I wish people knew the creative process that has to unfold for us to make things happen.

There isn’t a lot of self-love in the industry. I think maybe that’s why we do it sometimes. It feels good to love others and sometimes it’s harder to love yourself. After all, we don’t know the minds of others.

It’s easier to take care of others than it is myself. That has always been true.

That’s why burnout happens so much in my world.

Lately I am thinking about other ways to be creative with the things I am made of. Perhaps this ooey-gooey heart of mine won’t always be able to stand up to the stresses of a kitchen or the weight you have to carry.

I would love the words, “I’m tired” to not always be the first thing out of my mouth when catching up with a friend.

Being tired is like a coat.

It is just a thing that I wear. (more often for other people to see.)

When I won that award, it was fun and terrifying to speak in front of all those people. But it always feels good to win, right? It feels even better to shake hands and receive hugs from people who told me “You deserve this.”

My sister was with me that night, and as we drove home I put the windows down and put on the Cranberries, “Dreams” – because it felt a little like heaven. My sister has seen me at my darkest and I was so happy to share with her in my light.

Perfect things rarely occur, but for a moment, it felt good to have my mind rest on the things that were good and that I was good.

It all takes time.

In fact, life is harder as it goes by. But there are plenty of surprising moments where a pure joy exists and things feel elevated. Lighter.

There is breath and forgiveness,

and in between,

the creation of all things.