prologue to now

Love is everything.

Sharing my thoughts in The Art of Baking: Oxheart added an element of voice I didn’t know how to exercise during the Oxheart years. There was a deeper connection that expanded past the nourishment on the reclaimed pine tables and the four walls that sheltered us. As I revisited the first drafts—created under streams of salty droplets of memory—that didn’t stamp the book with legible pigment, I knew I was ready to continue story-telling.

Freedom remained aloof. I hadn’t learned how to recognize my own consciousness.

Oxheart’s notoriety confused the timid voices inside me. I didn’t know how to breathe deeply, how to find my center, how to embody success, or how to speak from my heart. Much of the time, I existed, pressed against the ceiling of my mental and physical capacities. In the belly years of Oxheart, the daunting task of entertaining a full dining room could not distract me from very hidden internal struggles. All exit plans would change me, leave marks in my heart and on my body.

Justin would become the primary face and name to a place that we co-created. Our equally responsible endeavor did not match the frequently published image of a singular set of eyes. I didn’t know at the time how this would impact me. I would angrily vent to Justin that he didn’t consider correcting those publishings. He would remind me that I said many times I didn’t want to be in the media’s eye, that he could handle the limelight better than I, that he was protecting me. He was half right. I was half right. Together, we weren’t fully right.

I only successfully avoided having my photo taken half of the time. I felt like most images would not capture the truth within me, because, I too, could not see my own truth. These photos would live on the internet forever, portraying me separate from my spirit. I rarely gave interviews because I had not yet embodied the vocabulary and syntax of my voice to accurately portray the answers to questions. I made the mistake of letting others fill in the blanks.

The thoughts of divorce plagued me during and after. I kept many aspects of my life private for a few years after. Justin is one of the most important relationships in my lifetime. I would not be any part of this known version of myself if it wasn’t for us. Justin introduced me to cooking when he was applying to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. I knew my parents would say no. Justin encouraged me to quit my corporate job when I hated it 22 months in. Justin got me my first baking jobs in Houston. Justin left his job here in Houston when I got into pastry school in Chicago and again when I got an externship at The French Laundry.  Perhaps Justin knew me best. He knew I needed to be released to fly.

We helped each other achieve our conscious and unconscious desires. Justin always spoke of being a restauranteur of multiple concepts. I always wanted to redefine the familial label of ‘stubborn’ and to be labeled as someone that powered and followed her own soul. When the pages of this chapter came to an end, I wanted to remove the titles others used to describe me: pastry chef, baker, wife, ex-lover.

Only my closest friends and sister really knew how I struggled. My burnout was physical, emotional, and social. Mornings greeted me with intense pain in my back, feet, and wrists. I hobbled to my toothbrush and sometimes sat on the floor to brush my teeth because standing before my body had a chance to warm up was too painful. I started going to yoga because I couldn’t run or swim anymore. I found slight comfort in moving slowly, having found teachers who would nurse me back to health. I traveled as escape. The more I lived in the future, the less the past mattered. Eventually, I would learn that I needed to find the present.

I staged a lot again, returning to Denmark and Belgium where much of Oxheart began. I took ceramic classes at Glassell because I missed working with my hands and because we once had this sweet idea for me to make all the plates for Oxheart. I took a graphic design class to build on the skills that I You Tube’d to create the first book I published. I put my things in storage, summer after summer.

Many of you ask when I will open a place of my own. You also offer help and I believe that you will. The truth is that for a long time, I was scared at the thought of repeating lessons of the past. I kept telling myself next year, which meant I told you next year. Who will I have to lose in my life? What expression of love will I have to suppress? Will I fear for my life while driving because I cannot stay awake? Every time the talks fell through, I would sigh with relief. The truth is that this year always found a reason to become next. I needed to devote time to friendships, to learning my expression of love, to self-care, to know my physical limits, to exploring other creative disciplines, to studenting again. The universe granted me space.

Next year tallies at three years. I tired of saying, “Next.” Living for next (year) obviously didn’t work for me. 2020. That equals 4. Beyoncé rocks 4. I’m in for that ride, with lemonade.

In releasing control of 2019, I gave myself a year to do any of the things I’ve always wanted to do: learn Spanish, study plants, travel without an itinerary, re-acquaint myself with romantic love. I’m not afraid of loving you, that your spirit is tied up, that you can’t love me back. This year “off” is so I can look inside my soul, feel two planets away, and let myself be in things I don’t understand. Locate me in Peru. In less than a month, I will join the team at El Pan de la Chola, take Spanish lessons, navigate my way through Peruvians plants, and read through a small, highly-personalized library of books.

I need this year to learn how to be fully in love with myself. I have never felt so sure about anything else.

Everything is love, so love endlessly.

going downhill and getting downhill

My path, uniquely mine, predetermined to include curves, with varying elevations and odd sized obstacles. It has left me with physical scars—internal scars that surfaced for weeks and sometimes years. Growing up, people told me that scars were not pretty. As a lover of the outdoors and a true participant of gravitational forces, I felt confused, until one day I realized they were just projecting their fear on me.

fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone/something
is dangerous/scary, likely to cause pain/discomfort, or a threat.

I decided that fear would keep me from being curious, from exploration, and, therefore, would alter my potent for new aspects of happiness and level of obtainable joy. If I could break the patterns of things that used to provoke fear, then my thought was I could be detached from fear. This emotional response is highly individualized, so what I did next may not be the stimulus you need.

I wouldn’t have said yes to downhill mountain biking. I have no reason to downhill mountain bike. I have never mountain biked, or skied, or even like going downhill on a straight, perfectly paved road on a bike with good brakes, but people do this all the time, with enjoyment, and I would be sharing my experience with Tigermom (aka Lisa Lov).

How I came to say yes, in the days prior:

One weeks prior, after a chat about hair with the Creative Director of a hair salon in Toronto, it dawned on me that hair holds the DNA of our past; so, over a bathroom sink, moments after waking up, with inexperienced hair cutting fingers, I cut the past into a trashcan, giving it no choice but to leave my being. With each movement of my fingers, a wave of empowerment rushed through my veins. The blockage of fear began to leave my body.

Two nights prior, Tigermom, the other craziest gals, and I practiced our meditative breathing exercises before we jumped into 8 Celsius lake water. The sun was out. We were in Sweden. Why wouldn’t we jump in the lake? What’s the worst that could happen? We already knew we would be cold, so jumping into the lake would just confirm this fact.

One hour prior, Tigermom asked if I was scared. My response: I’m not thinking about being scared until we get on the mountain. I couldn’t be bothered to replace the awe of Sweden’s beauty with the fear of something I committed myself do.

Protected in full gear, I watched with laser focus the art of getting on a ski lift with an awkwardly heavy bike, and I thought to myself, what’s the worse that can happen? I fall a lot and eventually get to the bottom? I was certain all those things would happen. To not let fear take over me after I fell the first and uncountable last time, I found that focusing on my breath caused my heart rate and blood pressure to stay stable.

There’s a memory that Lisa and I will share, when I went over the handlebars and landed spread eagle with the bike landing on me, perfectly sandwiching my head under the frame’s triangular core. As the weight of the bike holds me down long enough for me to collect my thoughts, I thought to myself, I should ask her to photograph me. Ironically, Tigermom was thinking the same thing. Unfortunately, neither of us said what we were thinking, so there is no proof it happened. All I could do was laugh at how ridiculous I probably looked. I made a trailer of memories if you need a minute of thrill.

I got up.

The uncanny, calm-as-fuck innerself thought: Fuck it. Let’s keep going. What other choice do we have?

(Note to downhill newbies, it’s not a good idea to hit the brakes fully when in the process of going downhill.)

i feel free.

i am free.

tomorrow i am also free.

being truly me (30-31)

As someone that was wifed for almost the entirety of her 20s, I started a new decade totally disoriented as to how to live as a single, making decisions for only me, responsible for only me, and being a part of the non-active dating pool. I was finally ready to have kids, and I knew the decision to be single again would push this and other “grown-up” things back.

Even if someone did, and I’m sure I promptly dismissed it, no one could have told me how much I would grow in the first year of my 30s. I tried to do everything differently from the last. I take different routes to the same places. I moved. I live with roommates. I bought a scooter. I started making art again. I started drinking green juice and DNA repairing capsules. I stopped eating out as much. I cut back my drinking, which wasn’t much to begin with. I began to eat rice more often. I loved, even if I knew I wasn’t going to be loved back. I wanted to remap how my brain responds to everything, to make certain thoughts were my own. I didn’t want to do the things the world said I was supposed to do or be or think at my age. I explored a lot of things I had never done before. All of these new senses revolutionized how I live. Despite my own doubts and countless days of trying to relive past memories, I can say that my life is truly mine.

This summer I traveled a lot on my own. I have, surprisingly, not done this often. I’ve flown alone many times before, but it’s usually to meet someone on the other end. It will complete my first year of 30, which has been nothing short of amazing.

I have never felt so free to be me.

 

restructuring work, work, work.

I had an epiphany today which happens more often these days.

A little over a year ago, I made the really hard decision to leave Oxheart full-time and to take care of whatever it was that I needed to take care of. I had been pushing through multiple massive burnouts, somehow lying to myself along the way that the things I had sacrificed weren’t that important to me, until I had nothing left to give. I remember asking Justin to not let me leave, that we were already short-staffed and that it would be too hard on the staff. I knew myself well. I knew I would back out, so when I put in my “notice,” months prior, it came with an agreement that Justin would hold firm to my promise to take care of myself.

I was beyond terrified of having a new way to live. I didn’t know what I needed to take care of. I just knew I needed to change directions fast. I had no idea how people filled their lives when they had free time, but I knew I had to figure it out. It was something that was missing from my life, something that I had never tried before. It no longer impressed me to work, work, work. Jill offered the greatest advice in how to choose the “last” day. She said to pick a day where the following days you would be distracted from your change with activities you want to do. So I watched my sister finish her 3rd ironman, had Sunday brunch, took a class and got a motorcycle license, and just kept going.

Instead of having one super full-time commitment, I took on a few smaller commitments, allowing me a more flexible schedule. This allowed me to: visit my friends I hadn’t seen in years, work from wherever I could find Internet, have brunch with my non-industry friends, attend Saturday crawfish boils, go on long bike rides with my sister on weekends, start and finish art projects, and more importantly, give me time to think.

I’m terrified of falling back into the same pattern. It’s the biggest reason why I’m taking my time when it comes to starting another project. I cannot sacrifice what I sacrificed in my 20s again. In the past year, I have been trying to think about how to create a business that will still allow me to have the lifestyle I want. Sustainability is the tone I want to set. I am practicing how to set boundaries so I can be fair to myself, my partner, my family, my friends. I know I need my long weekend rides or training sessions with Angie. I know I need to sleep as close to 8 hours a day on average. I know I miss my friends dearly after a week. What I do next professionally will be a huge labor of love. It will fit seamlessly into my life, as it will be a part of me I cannot give up. Life’s a marathon, slow it down just a bit.

 

Aside 05/06/16

I don’t want you to be on the same path as me. I want us to be on a parallel path: where I can see you or sense you, where sometimes I will have some catching up to do, where sometimes you will catch up to me, where sometimes we will walk side-by-side, perhaps I’ll even twirl by your side.

What you’ve taught me or will teach me will never leave me. If you’ve found my core, warm your hands on it, for I may need that warmth along the way.

Breaking out of my chrysalis at 30

I’d been planning my 30th birthday for over a year now, and since the birthday shenanigans have come and gone, I’m ready for the adventures that are waiting for me to uncover. I have new grey hairs, smile wrinkles, creaky ankles, and a number of imperfections on my skin.

Looking back on my past 29 years, I see a woman who has gone through a remarkable transformation. I was never the one to wait around for the caterpillar to turn into a beautiful butterfly; but, as I got closer to 30, I slowed down a bit, I became more aware with my surroundings, I poured more effort into my friendships, and I spent a lot of time being still. This evolution could fill a book of unflattering, messy, and painful memories. Sometimes I closed myself away from this world, cocooned in my own chrysalis for what seemed like the last years of my youth.

I am not the same person that started this race. There were the days that I doubted I was able to get to the starting line. Even as I moved forward, as the past fell below the horizon, I held on too tightly to the memories that evoked sadness and anger. I was surrounded by a sticky, humid mess of little forward progress: slowing me down, pulling me back, weighing me down. There was no poetic justice. Heaviness dragged like an oversized necklace on my head already held down low. The thin walls in my head that held onto memories were waiting for an additional thought to offset the already overstretched, sensitive seams that fictitiously appeared to hold me together.

Many days I would apologize for being a huge wreck. The once full reservoir would empty with a deluge of tears, just enough for me to lift my head. But, I have found the freedom of vulnerability; it is here where compassion flows freely and swiftly. A small pity party of tears and a very long nap gives me a temporary relief from the freshly minted stains in my life. The rainbows that ensued remind me of hope. There will be many more lifting of the floodgates in the months to follow, which means more rainbows.

The once heavy steps are light enough for me to jog. My hair is a bit shorter to add an extra bounce in my step. The road to recovery is like a multi-day hike; it is not a sprint, though at times I would convince myself it could be, only to realize I was no where near the finish line. So I commit to training instead, to prepare myself for the next uphill battle. Fueling my body properly and rolling out the small buildups of tension becomes routine. I am a more self-aware form of me, a more compassionate form of me, and a more patient form of me. I am strong, but only because I have stronger friends. I can stand at the starting line knowing I am ready for this race, knowing that I am built for this, knowing that I have supporters on the sideline ready to encourage my every step. Even in the last leg I will be smiling for the journey is a sweet one, filled with many memories, many adventures, much laughter, much hope, and many bowls of ice cream.

I am unfinished, a beautiful work in progress.

In no particular order, things I have learned and will take with me into my 30s:

  • It is in possibility that significance is born.
  • Take every opportunity that warrants a bit of love making. From David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary “encroach, v. The first three nights we spent together, I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t used to your breathing, your feet on my legs, your weight in the bed. In truth, I still sleep better when I’m alone. But now I allow that sleep isn’t always the most important thing.”
  • I used to be impatient until I realized what the rush wasn’t about. I find that my most peaceful times are on planes, airports, and sitting in traffic.
  • Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.
  • I’m still not as good as I’d like to be at any of this. Stress can bring back old habits, but believing deeply that I am responsible for how I make others and myself feel puts things into perspective.
  • “Shit that only can be created if you go through it.”―Drake
  • I bounce when I walk, like on a trampoline.
  • “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”―Anthony Bourdain
  • Even if I love you, if you are gonna keep me from growing, I have to grow.
  • Sometimes feel like a small child, exploring this world in a state of wonder.
  • You can afford to build the wrong things. However, you cannot afford to build the right things too slowly.
  • Sometimes the things you get made fun of in the past become something worshiped in the future, like Birkenstocks and plaid. Be yourself.
  • To be unemployed by choice meant I’d have no baggage and be free to learn a new way to be―Scott Berkun in The Year Without Pants.
  • Consider the evidence from the past, but go bravely where others have not been.
  • Share your stories. Support the next leaders in their brave pursuits.
  • Truly astonishing impact the little things done exactly right can have on this world.
  • Eat with friends. Watch people eat with friends. I am inspired by the many immeasurable expressions that come from the necessity of nurturing our bodies and soul.
  • “And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”―Haruki Murakami
  • Find freedom in third choices, a compromise between two choices.
  • The difference between good intentions and great leadership is the courage and commitment to stay the course, no matter how difficult the path.
  • Hang out with your best friend, especially if that person is your sister.

The last memories of my 20 somethings

At least this time you didn’t find me huddled in the doorway of another failed business, where a homeless man has slept a few nights in a row, crying. I didn’t need tissues this time.

You wiped my tears away with that mason jar of wickedly strong cold-brewed coffee; its caffeine numbed the lingering pain. The warm shower broke down any tension in my body and flushed the dull, dead cells of the past down the drain. This moment was going to be the start of something special. You approved my hair that is held in place with bobby pins and modeling paste. You pinned up my dress and chose my flash tats to accesorize my newly exfoliated, radiant skin. As we mixed the winning concoction of trash can punch and decorated the sidewalk with chalk, I felt so fortunate to call you my friend. Very rarely do we have time as adults to devote to a birthday shenanigan filled with a unicorn pinata, trashcan punch, glow sticks, sabering of champagne, college football, bouncy water slides, a 25 pound cake, and the most loving people in the city.

I would describe my 20s as a rollercoaster of adventures that sometimes left me barely hanging onto life at times, only to be momentarily revived by phases of euphoria that uninvited spectators would be jealous of. Sometimes I would look back to relive the ups and downs and twists and turns, but only after waiting in line again. The friends that held my hand and cradled my heart through countless cycles remain because they love every part of me. You are one of those friends.