Much love, Oxheart

You have offered words of advice: to enjoy, to savor, to live every last minute of those 5 years. With about 21 hours left of these 5 years, I focus on breath. The air I share with you, we shared 5 years ago. It has matured. It has lightened. It has evolved. It moves more energetically through my somewhat tired body. I am older now. My skin is less tight on my face. My forehead (finally) moves. My hands more wrinkled and dry. My eyes can hardly handle contacts anymore.

I look into the mirror, peering past the eyes—gratitude—she takes over. Sharing my last dinners with new friends, old friends, and a dining room of humans who supported us before we knew the name of this 31-seat restaurant brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t realize 5 years ago that places could touch people the way that they do. (Cathi, I found the last message you sent me, which was in 2013, asking me if you could bring me cake for my birthday. You may have been the first person to ever bake me a birthday cake from a home oven. I should return the kisses you gave me the other night.) Our city welcomed us into its community, watched us grow up (have you seen that they-can’t-seriously-be-over-16 pre-opening photo of Justin, Justin and I?), helped us tell and share our story, watched with compassion even when we showed our age, and celebrate our youth. If you feel any of the sentiment I do, think about how you support other establishments in our world. Make a conscious choice in whom you support: where you spend your resources, how you spend your extra gifts. Teach us, challenge us, help us, nurture us. We need you.

Writing my first book helped me time stamp more than the past days. The past few months have been incredibly moving. I cannot wait to reread the journal entries of this year.

I’ve learned to be less sad about things of the past. The universe gifted me with the memories of Oxheart. It taught me I am a good baker. It taught me how to love the people I live with. It taught me that breathing moves me forward. It taught me that my anger wasn’t something I (and probably others) liked to experience. It taught me that I will always be imperfect. It taught me to lean hard into my imperfect. It taught me that tears don’t show weakness. It taught me that being a woman is quite special. It taught me that if I push my body too far, it will give out. It taught me that I live to love. It taught me that sustainability wasn’t a definition meant for just the environment, eco-products, grass-fed, or sourcing locally.

From the beginning, we struggled to find and create a work-life balance. We, on closing day, still work on finding that balance. Better is better. Everyone has asked me what I will do next. I am doing what I am doing next now—and that is being joyful.

I don’t know where I’ll land, how much space I will take up, or what my joyful balance of life looks like. I know to take each day as they come, to live in gratitude for the moments I get with you (with me), and to practice often so that it becomes more innate. I choose to walk with courage, conscious fervor, and softness. I’m searching and working on stillness.

I re-wrote my creed. I wish to share it with you:

I will learn something new every day. I give myself the freedom to love. I strive to be vulnerable and compassionate. I will build up my friends and community to help us see our full potential and expression of joy. I will show myself love and compassion. I will pour energy into outlets that give me strength, creativity, and freedom. I will insist on experiencing more everyday awe. I will not be motivated by material wealth, for it doesn’t equate with my measure of joy. I am participating in this ironman, not a sprint. No matter where the finish line waits, I will breathe in inspiration from the past, present, and future, breathe out with gratitude, sun salutate my way through stuck time, keep moving when the fibers tire, and love endlessly. I will flow like a river, carving my experiences in the canyon walls that echo my gratitudes. I will create memories. I will leave a legacy.

Thank you for being a part of my life. I am truly blessed.

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 10.43.45 PM

Early 2012 (not sure to whom I should credit)

Us now (still nerds):


Come celebrate and karaoke with us, starting at 8pm tonight at Public Services.

The Art of Baking: Oxheart

Some of you know that I’ve been working on a project that’s near and dear to me for quite some time now. Well, I’m excited to finally share it. Here’s a first look at The Art of Baking: Oxheart—my book!

As my time at Oxheart comes to an end, I wanted to put my thoughts and memories on paper. I turned them into paintings, drawings, and collages. There is color. There are stories. There are recipes. There is more color. My good friend Sarah Belfort helped me capture the things that float inside my head. Marcella Arreaga, Ceci Norman, Siobhan Battye, and Melissa Kwan added a few splashes of their creativity. There’s a whole lot of love and reflection. The experience of opening Oxheart started me down a path of creativity. It’s helped me flourish as a person and as an artist.

I hope you grab a copy (for I’m only printing 300) and relive some of the memories of Oxheart we’ve made together. I want this book to inspire you, to spark your own creative path. Pre-order a copy at https://bread.blog.

If you’re wanting to follow other projects I’m working on, check in on karenman.org from time to time.

With much love and gratitude,
Karen

breaking out of a routine

I’m thankful for being able to be intentional about change. I am grateful for all the memories that life has afforded me and look forward to being inspired by my surroundings, whatever they may be. I wasn’t always able to live intentionally; it took a good deal of growing up to get here.

Moves are hard. Changes are hard. When I finally moved back to Houston four years ago to open Oxheart, I wanted to make this city my home. For the past ten years, I’ve had more addresses than I need in a lifetime and was unknowingly desperate in need of feeling settled. There is something special about moving and collecting memories and new thoughts; but, like anything else, even that can be too much of the same thing. I didn’t have time to process all the new ideas that presented themselves. I wasn’t aware enough to record it in a journal or blog so I could look back and relive them through a different lens. As awesome as it seems from the outside, I missed out on a lot of experiencing because I was too serious about planning than living in the moment.

Our bodies prefer routine. Habits were once conscious decisions until the decisions became less of a thought and more like muscle memory. It’s scary to think of leaving most things that give us regularity in life whether they be good or bad. An athlete doesn’t miss a workout in fear of falling behind. We stay in bad relationships because a warm body is sometimes better than being alone. We hold onto jobs that create unhappiness or boredom because we fear how to fill the hours in a day. I wondered if I should keep the same photo collage in my new home or if a new home was enough to spark inspiration. (I opted for changing out most of the photos.)

Should is like the journey that everyone else in this world wants me to take. It’s the “safer” route, with smaller risks. Must is who I am, what I believe, and what I do when I think no one is looking. To break out of a routine meant changing up everything I knew in the past and to start some things new. I needed to live every experience like it was my last. Must is redefining how I want to live my life and it must be filled with much purpose.

2015 has been a year of breaking out of routine. It started by leaving the two things that meant the most to me for as long as I know. I mourned and fought the separation long before it became official, but those who love me would hold my hand and encourage me as I ventured into new spaces. They gave me the confidence I needed to walk on my own.

My good friend Jill told me to pick a random day to start fresh and then fill the next few days with things you love doing so you won’t miss the past. So, I watched my sister’s third ironman, watched “Pitch Perfect 2,” hosted a dinner party on my roof, and completed a motorcycle certification course. Then, I planned to be out of town every other weekend for the entire summer. I would work furiously to get ready for my weekends away. At times, I felt like a wanderer with no idea of where I’ll end up—sometimes lucky enough to cross a few things off my bucket list. I learned how to be impulsive.

Over the summer, spanning into the fall, I have: practiced loving with my whole heart; practiced the art of vulnerability; learned how to let go of shame; learned how to get back up when I fall hard; held my tongue with much discipline; let my sister see me cry and be a wuss when she’s scrubbing my road rash; master the art of working furiously on a plane; watched my not-yet-winning Longhorns beat the heck out of OU; participated in my first collaborative bakesale at Fluff Bake Bar filled with all things rainbows and unicorns; celebrated a birthday filled with sidewalk chalk, kareoke, Killens BBQ, bouncy water slide, handmade unicorn pinata, moments captured on a polaroid, and amazing friends; participated in first kisses; woken up not in my own bed; wrote poetry; read poetry; started a blog; tell my sister over and over I love her without it feeling awkward.

To the past year:

You have been so incredibly epic on both ends of the spectrum. Thank you for not being boring. Thank you for the newest and oldest friends. Thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to mourn. Thank you for teaching me that I love to write and paint. Thank you for teaching me how to ask for something. Thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to fluctuate in weight and love every part of me. Thank you for teaching me how to love. Thank you for teaching me be okay with the unknown.  Thank you for teaching me how to love my family. Thank you for teaching me how to be impulsive. Thank you for the scars that I will wear proudly. Thank you for letting me not take life so seriously.

I live to experience the experience. Sometimes it’s great; sometimes it’s shitty. I would rather love hard for one day than to never have loved that person at all. Do things that evoke passion. Find new things to be passionate about. Find friends to be passionate with.

Here’s to a new year of active thanks and giving!