Sweet & Simple

I need a shelf. I build it and organize it for my needs. My needs change. I reorganize the shelf. This new organization has helped me reach new goals, which creates more needs. The shelf is no longer adequate. I build a cabinet. I now have plenty of room so I move more stuff in. I feel confident. I feel prepared. I take on more responsibilities. I put more stuff in my cabinet. The cabinet is now a mess. Life is getting too complicated. I tear apart the cabinet and build a shelf. I organize the shelf for basic needs. I’m bored now. I need new needs. I don’t have enough room for new needs. I better build a cabinet…

I once heard that people get addicted to drugs because they stay trapped in search of a high that feels better than the one before, an elusive goal to feel as good as it did the first time. Progress is my drug of choice. At some point as a kid I succeeded at something and I’ve been on the hunt for that repeat satisfaction since. Sounds like a good thing, I know. But I’m exhausted. I’ve lived in a constant hamster wheel of trying to make things better for as long as I can remember. The better things get, the even better I want to make them. With limited resources, however, I can only do so much. So I’m the person that moves all the furniture in my living room once a month to see if I’m missing a better arrangement. It’s the exact same furniture, so ultimately it works exactly the same. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. I’m always in search of perfection. I dream of the peace that I know must exist if I can just make everything around me perfect. And until I can find it, I have no place that I can truly rest. Pictures are never straight enough. Drawers are never neat enough. Ultimately, the disorganization drives me so crazy that I throw everything away. As you can imagine, that’s not a perfect solution either. All I can say is my husband is very patient with me!

People throw “perfectionist” out in interviews like it’s a unique skill or exceptional talent that apparently makes them a more desirable candidate. Half the time it’s a lie, but for the people, like me, that truly cannot accept less than perfect, it’s a blessing and a curse. Of course I want to hire perfectionists, and being unable to peacefully accept less than perfect myself has certainly helped move me forward in my career. But needing perfection is a disease that makes me unable to fully appreciate or accept anything less than perfection. Now let me really blow your mind. What is perfection?

Perfect is subjective. Is perfection a reachable goal? How can a person strive for an idea that varies from person to person in moment to moment? If I’m working towards a goal that never stays the same, then I’m never going to succeed. What a depressing realization. And yet, I find extreme comfort in this hamster wheel. How can that be? It’s not the glory or the attention I desire, although I do have to acknowledge that public recognition, while it does make me uncomfortable, is good for my business, but that’s a different topic for a different day. This is totally a personal experience. This is about my own feelings. This is what makes me feel necessary and alive?  What is this magical motivation, this energetic elixir that keeps me moving forward, hungry and driven?

I am addicted to… anxiety.

I fear stillness. My mind is constantly racing. I’m always dreading the next disaster before I’m done preparing for the possible one before it. I don’t handle stress well, so I do everything in my power to prevent stress.  I live in a constant state of preparation. I never stop considering the possibilities. While this has certainly proved to be an exhausting lifestyle, it’s also been a great source of motivation for me throughout my life. This drives me. This encourages me to get up in the morning, to tackle each day and to climb hills enthusiastically. This makes me who I am. This is my identity, and this is my value. I know my anxiety isn’t good for me, but I can’t let it go. I am in an unhealthy relationship. I spend half my time hating anxiety, but as soon as it disappears I miss it. I know it’s wrong, but I welcome it back. I create situations that force it back into my life. I defend it. I celebrate our reunion, and I settle into a false reality where anxiety and I can live happily ever after together. While most people dream of peaceful stillness, I’ve always done everything in my power to stay busy. The noise is safe for me. Quiet makes room for fear and self doubt. I don’t have time for that.

Until now…

I always knew pregnancy would slow me down. Perhaps that’s why I kept the whole idea on the back burner for so long. But I seriously had no idea just how much my life would change and how abruptly it would all happen. My husband and I did not get pregnant on purpose, although we weren’t trying not to get pregnant either. After 13 years of marriage, 8 of which we managed a business together, we figured life was out of curve balls for us. We let our guard down, we went on a real vacation, and for once, we allowed life happen to us. Needless to say, we brought back the ultimate souvenir.

Almost immediately my life started to change. A world fueled by caffeine and adrenaline abruptly converted to prenatal vitamins and midday naps. My energy left the building, seriously. I struggled to drag my feet from the bed to the bathroom so trying to get through an entire day was torture. Speaking of the bathroom, I had to pee A Lot. I’m sorry, there is an hour wait for food because the chef will have to pee three times before your meal is ready. Hell, while we’re on this new honest kick, let’s just talk about pregnancy. It sucks. I mean really, don’t worry, no judgment here. Speak the truth. Here’s the pamphlet they should give you on your first doctor’s visit. Buy new underwear because your vagina has a cold! Pregnancy is NOT magical, or beautiful. You’re not glowing, you’re sweating because you’re hauling around 20 extra pounds and your hormones have gone wild on spring break. I got zits… How is that even fair? You feel fat and now your face looks like your school pictures from the ugly years. As if the outer appearance isn’t enough, your insides explode into a volcanic eruption of acid and gas. You’re a walking pin cushion. Doctors poke and prod at you, because let’s face it, you are a science experiment. What your body is doing is remarkable and unbelievable. And painful. And yucky! That’s just the physical part. The mental trauma is just as shocking. How are you supposed to feel? I mean in the emotional sense of the word. We’ve already established the physical horror. But emotionally, you go from a life you know to a life you’ve never lived and no amount of planning can truly prepare you for. I didn’t feel the instant elation that apparently some women experience. In fact, it pissed me off.  Every time a mother came to me with a HUGE Smile and energetically and enthusiastically said “How do you feel, Isn’t it Amaaazzzing?!”  I wanted to punch them in the face. I wanted to scream NO! Why are you doing this to me. You KNOW this SUCKS. Why are you making me feel ashamed for not loving every second of this nightmare? Mothers should be consoling each other. The friends that truly made a difference for me were the ones that gave my shoulder a squeeze and a consoling smile that said, don’t worry, it will get better, I understand, and I’m sorry for you. I have to question if the over the top joy is real or just a good disguise for fear of the unknown, or ever greater, fear of not fitting in. I’m sure the plastic smiles of prenatal euphoria are a mask. We’re women, we’re supposed to reproduce. Our bodies start preparing us for this almost immediately. This is our Job, and God forbid we aren’t happy to do our job. We’re supposed to LOVE this, and we’re supposed to Love it for each other. Well I say why can’t we be realistic about this. And then, just maybe, if we are able to truthfully talk about pregnancy and motherhood we can all find a little real joy in our acceptance of each other. How refreshing it would be to say out loud “I’m tired and I’m scared” and then hear another woman reassure us that that’s completely normal and to be expected. How much less would the guilt and shame be if we knew how hard the first few weeks at home with our new baby would really be. How much more prepared and stronger would we feel if we didn’t have to discover breast feeding is insanely frustrating after the baby is already here and crying from hunger. What a difference it could make to be honestly prepared and ready to face the toughest challenge of our life. Greeting each other with pageant smiles and jumping jacks certainly does not foreshadow what’s to come, but it does ensure that when shit hits the fan, and your hands, and your arms, and your clothes, and the furniture, and the dog, and pretty much anything else in shooting range, you will feel like a complete and total failure not worthy of the beautiful, smelly, screaming, scary, incredible miracle that has now taken over your life.

I had not waited my whole life for this moment. I was busy, all the time. I set professional goals and went after those goals wholeheartedly and sometimes ignorantly. I didn’t have time or energy to wait for any moment. But here I was, waiting for 9 months. And now here I am waiting for the next nap time to write or steal a quick shower, the next feeding time, the next need, the next want, few of which belong to me. I live in a constant state of waiting for what my daughter needs me to do next. Life has changed.

We brought home a stranger, and she immediately took over. My favorite things conveniently located within arm’s reach have been replaced with her favorite things. I used to be in charge, but suddenly I’ve been demoted to baby servant. I cook for her, clean for her, entertain her, teach her, and any efforts to better myself are ultimately to be better for her. It’s a role that I was not prepared for or that I expected. I went through a serious identity crisis. I did not recognize this life, but it was extremely difficult. Working hard for something that I did not feel passionate about was exhausting and confusing. I honestly just tried to stay afloat. I did whatever was needed from one moment to the next. I didn’t think about the moment before and I didn’t have the energy or experience to think about what would happen next. For two months I just survived, and I did everything in my power to keep this tiny person alive and well, because the alternative was too scary to consider. Two months passed, three, four and now into five. Tiny roommate has started to show personality. She’s funny. She’s smart. She’s sweet. She’s careful and thoughtful. She loves me, and I love her. But this isn’t like any love I’ve ever felt before. Sure, maybe strengthened by a feeling of responsibility and accountability, but either way this is a pure and total love. Unconditional Love. I get it now. As much as we’d like it to work both ways it doesn’t, and only until we become a parent can we understand it. Children turn their backs on parents all of the time, but it’s so rare that a parent will let go of their child. You see it in the unwavering support of parents of troubled teens and adult criminals. They may not agree with or love what their child does, but they love their child. Few things are strong enough to break this love. It is an all consuming and intoxicating love. It is hope, joy, fear, peace and pride.

Oh yes, it has changed me. Most definitely this life is new. But this life is beginning to feel right. Little did I know that all of the hard work, dedication and sacrifice that I poured into building my business was all for the ability to one day sit still, to breathe, and to love.

So from entrepreneur to mother, I must admit that my life is changing and my needs are changing. What worked for me before just isn’t going to work anymore. One shelf is more than enough, and it’s time I learn to appreciate and accept it just the way it is. I don’t need more, so I don’t need to be pushed towards more. It’s time to break up with anxiety. It’s not anxiety, it’s me. We were good together for a long time, but I’m going in a different direction now. I wish anxiety well. I leave with no hard feelings. In fact I will always think of anxiety with fondness. Anxiety was always honest with me, even if I wasn’t with it. Anxiety never pretended to be anything other than what it was, and we accomplished so much together in such a short amount of time. We made it through obstacles and over mountains. We laughed, we cried, we drank lots of tequila! When I pass anxiety again, snuggled up on someone else’s arm, I’ll smile and wave with maybe just a tinge of jealousy but lots of great memories and gratitude. I hope that person treats anxiety right, because anxiety deserves a person that knows just how to treat it. I know I will have weak moments, and I will have to practice an enormous amount of will power to not invite anxiety back into my life. I accept that challenge. I know it’s time. I look forward to new, healthier relationships. My daughter deserves this of me. I deserve this. I’m ready. I am really ready to let anxiety go.

Farewell old friend.

I must go now.

Peace is calling.

Bitter Beans

This is totally out of left field, but it’s fresh on my mind so let’s talk about it.

I’m going to say a lot of things as we meander down this “truth” river that everyone in my position thinks but should never say out loud. I can only cross my fingers and hope that my readers hear my message with an open mind and a let’s fix it attitude. Let’s face it though, words ruffle feathers, and in this case perhaps a few feathers need to be ruffled.

Is your attitude hurting your mission?

I’m always surprised to confront a negative attitude in a group of positive people, but sure enough they are there and they demand to be noticed. I’ve catered for nearly every service organization in my town as well as many others in every other town I’ve lived in. For the most part these organizations are a delight to work with, and their goals are always commendable. I see it as an honor to be able to participate in any way that helps them further their agenda, even if it’s just providing a good meal to chew on while they chat. Many good ideas have been cooked up over a good plate off bbq! But every pot has at least one bad bean. I always wonder if the other members notice the bad seed, or is their patience and politeness so much stronger than mine that they truly only see the good will of that person. If that’s the case, perhaps I’m the one perpetuating the problem. Don’t worry, this is probably only harmful in my own mind. Aside from this blog I submit my complaints to the walk in gods, a little whine and cheese if you please. Let me disclose an industry secret here, every bite of produce you’ve ever enjoyed in a restaurant at some point has taken a verbal beating by one or more of the kitchen employees. When shit hits the fan we unload therapeutic profanity at an impressive level inside the safety of our cool rehabilitation shelter. So be kind to your carrots, they’ve suffered enough.

Now where I do get my revenge is in the ballot box, and I take this stand of rebellion and revenge proudly. I am absolutely baffled as to why people running for office treat service industry workers poorly. Candidates are so focused on trying to earn the vote of the person sitting across from them that they forget the person refilling their drink gets to vote too. I can assure you that many people have lost their elections due to the negativity they leave in their wake in restaurants and office lobbies. A good server manages your table with little disturbance, but don’t forget they’re there. Because while you’re paying zero attention to them, they are giving you 100% of theirs.

And stop fighting with your spouse at the table. It’s not the server’s fault that your husband doesn’t pay attention to you or your wife won’t stop nagging. Quit acting like the restaurant sucks just because it’s easier to throw dirt at us than it is to fix your bad relationship. Oh that’s a whole other blog for another rainy day!

Focus Mo… I’m only on coffee cup one after a night of sleep roulette with a 12 week old. It’s going to take at least 8 more cups before I’ll be able to force this brain train to stop at one station at a time. Be gentle with me friends, this ride is bumpy.

Anyway, back to the bad bean in the do good pot.

So my question is, if you’re bringing negativity into a room filled with positive potential, why show up?

That leads to my next question. If someone only brings No to your table, why save them a seat?

Now I totally concede that it’s easy for me to point fingers from the cool comfort of my throne of celery. Clearly we do not get to pick and choose who we work with, especially when they are volunteering. But I have to admit that I, myself, have declined invitations to participate in missions that I totally agree with. I declined not because I lacked motivation for the effort, but because I lack the patience to bite my tongue around the nay sayers nor the energy required to organize some people onto one page. I am lucky that I have my own venue to host fundraisers in and to serve as my own platform to raise awareness for the causes that are near and dear to me. It’s a control freak’s public service dream! While I do appreciate suggestions and ideas from my employees, ultimately, I am the committee. I get to do things the way I want to do them, and I haven’t come across any person or organization that hasn’t happily accepted the charity. But I do wonder, how many more people like me choose not to volunteer for the same reasons I have declined in the past. And how many people are suffering because others like me don’t have their own avenue to spread good will.

So here’s the million dollar question…

Is reserving a seat for the negative costing you the possibility for more positive?

I suppose this question could be asked for any aspect of life. Is your significant other position currently filled with a bad candidate? If so, you might lose the best person for the job to another job opening. Is your work fulfilling? If not, what will it take to get the job you want? Education? Confidence? And is it really a whole other job you need? Is something about you making your daily life difficult? Attitude? Choices? Lifestyle? If so, I can assure you that you will experience the same dissatisfaction no matter where you go. You can leave a view, but the obstacles you make for yourself will hinder the next horizon too.

Keep in mind friends that no person can move a mountain alone. I pay employees to help me pay it forward, although it must be said that my employees are more than willing to help. I’m lucky though, I get to do it my way. But if your charitable acts rely on the productivity of many, you must protect the reputation of the group as a whole. And even though every one of your member’s intentions may be good, if they are treating those that serve them poorly, I can assure you they are hindering your ability to move forward. Not only is this going to have a negative effect on recruiting new members, it may also have an effect on how high of a hill your group will have to climb. Who then really suffers?

I think we all have to ask ourselves sometimes, are we part of the solution, or are we part of the problem? Your road may be paved with good intentions, but if you’re creating havoc for fellow travelers you may find your future to be a lonely place. May I also urge you to consider the company you keep. You can learn a lot about a person by the way they treat a server. So look at your neighbor the next time you eat out, and ask yourself,

Are you’re in good company?

If not, perhaps it’s time to make new friends.

How to Boil Water

Hello again! It’s been a while.

I think about writing often, but when I find a few free moments to sit at the computer I get lost as to what to write. Well, not so much what to write, but who to write as.

Who am I today?
Growing Partner?
Determined Entrepreneur?
Overwhelmed Manager?
Inspired Chef?

Well I’m happy to report that on this day I write to you as New Mother…

That’s right, I took the plunge. I guess technically my daughter Grace made the jump, I just provided her with the ledge to leap from. This has been quite an adventure which I’m sure we’ll talk more about in the future, but I’m still processing it all myself, so words do not yet come easily.

Nor does sleep apparently!

My current focus, aside from the condition of my boobs and my daughter’s diapers, is trying to define my life. With this challenge comes a new writer’s block that I’ve never experienced before. It’s odd because anyone that knows me would have a hard time believing that I could be so short for words, but right now it’s true. After an exhausting brain battle, one that I forced myself to fight today while my daughter napped, I realized that I can’t decide what to write because I can’t decide whose voice to use. When I first started this blog my brother, a gifted writer and popular blogger, asked me what my purpose was going to be. I got a little irritated with him because I didn’t think I needed a “purpose.” I just wanted to write, and if I captured someone’s attention and offered a word to relate to along the way then that was good enough. As time went on, however, I found the reward of writing to not equal the trouble. Without a goal my words didn’t matter. If not to me then it certainly wouldn’t to anyone else. So I just couldn’t justify spending the time on this verbal meander when there were already so many other aspects of my life suffering from neglect. But 9 months of pregnancy provides many still moments to rest everything but your brain. That particular muscle stays very active, and with the limited mobility of your body and fewer opportunities for distraction, thoughts combined with raging hormones produce a mental chaos of usually hidden fears and anxieties colliding with idle hopes and dreams. Your attention span is reduced to getting where you’re going, but not remembering why you went there. There you stand confused and disoriented, an easy target for your hormones to beat you up some more for being a hopeless mess. Overall it’s a tiresome war that only time can resolve, but the highlights that kept me moving through that madness were surprise moments of clarity. My energy and motivation changed focus from being on the go with a to do list in hand to staying still and present in those moments of private reflection and to harness those thoughts for future examination. Soon I concluded that all of these thoughts shared a common theme. And then it hit me, a pregnant epiphany. Dare I tell the truth about what I was experiencing? Could I possibly speak of pregnancy in a negative way and still be respected? What if I pointed out that not every second of this was fun, that in fact most of the time I was miserable? Would people still accept me? If I said it out loud would I be able to forgive and accept myself? Should I, could I, be honest?

And there it was.

The purpose of my blog:

The unfiltered, full octane, emotional reality that society makes us ashamed to speak of and that we ourselves judge each other for… The Truth of Being A Woman… Partner, Leader, Mentor, Cook, Mom… and all of our other endless job titles.

While we, women, are so concerned with impressing each other, the loneliness of truth is suffocating us. The sad irony of it is that while we rarely share unconditional acceptance, we all share fear. Why can’t we tell the truth and then support each other for being brave enough to admit what we all truly feel? Why can’t the norm be celebrating honesty and our judgment result from lies? Don’t get me wrong here, I’m just as guilty as the next person. I see a struggling woman inconveniencing everyone else with her chaos, I roll my eyes and think pull it together lady. Why? Does it make me feel better to separate myself from her? Perhaps. Am I afraid that identifying with her struggle will somehow shine light on my own? Definitely. So now that I recognize this, can I change it? Motherhood has certainly set me on a new path. I’ve had more meltdowns in the last 2 months than in all of the rest of my 35 years of life. I’ve asked for more help and appreciated more support and advice than ever before. And for the first time in my life, I’ve cherished my friend’s vulnerability and honesty because they’ve welcomed mine. This is new ground for me, but I’m hopeful that soon enough it will feel like home.

If not for me, than I hope for the newest woman in my life, my daughter.

Bread and Butter

Today at the end of my yoga class our instructor led us into a few moments of meditation. This yoga thing is new for me. The restaurant world is a stressful place, and between constant pressure, my unpredictable schedule, an unhealthy diet and the physical toll my body was screaming for exercise and relaxation. Being the over achiever I am, I found a way to kill two birds with one mat.

Within seconds of my first lesson I discovered that my body does not stretch like it did in 8th grade basketball practice. It’s not even a bend, more of a rounded lean. Thank goodness there are no mirrors in the studio though because in my mind when I do yoga I look like Laura Croft. So that’s pretty therapeutic and worth every penny!

Today, while I was supposed to be resting my mind, I was instead taking advantage of a  few quiet moments for some premium planning. Hey, I’m a control freak, and I’m busy! I’m sure Laura Croft didn’t waste time meditating. She’d have been eaten by a mummy.

Anyway, in my peripheral hearing I catch something about a happy place. Before I can reroute my mind back to work I find myself searching through Mo’s greatest hits for my number one happiest memory. I didn’t have to think longer then a second. With total certainty I allowed myself to slip back to a morning in the summer of 2002. Tom and I were on a study abroad trip. It was our first morning in Basel, Switzerland after an exhausting whirlwind of airports and trains. My husband is 6’6” so any hope of extra leg room while traveling is squashed by his size 16 feet! Needless to say, I had little appreciation for the first few late hours we experienced in Europe while hunting for our hotel. After a much needed night of sleep I found myself stirring awake at an outrageously early hour for a college student without the assistance of an alarm clock. Even stranger, Tom was waking up too! Awake in bed yes, but there is something about fluffy white duvet covers that make getting out of a bed before you have to nearly impossible. So we snuggled and let the sun, sounds and smells drift in through our open second story window. Our hotel was a tall and narrow inn located on a small cobblestone alley perpendicular to the Rhine River. Along the alley hid a few restaurant and pub back doors. The busy bustle of clanging dishes mixed with the scent of baking bread was intoxicating. I was nearing the end of my college days. I had struggled through math and science classes, late night study sessions and was already working on pieces for my Senior art show. Graduation was less than a year away, but at that very moment all I could think about was how could I hear and smell this everyday for the rest of my life.

We got out of bed and made our way down to breakfast. We had bread, butter and jam. That was it, and it was the best breakfast of my life. So simple and so perfect.

Fast forward past graduation, wedding and a few spells at jobs that never really mattered to me and my life is now loud noises, extreme temperatures, grease, grime, paperwork and a constant struggle to maintain a healthy balance between my personal and professional relationship with my husband/business partner. I stay lost in a to do list. Every day is similar to the last. I forget the compliments and choke on the complaints.

I forget to breathe.

Today I took a breath.

Apparently, without our being aware, occasionally lessons slip in for safe keeping and only after a particular event, situation or deep breath does our brain allow that lesson to surface.

In my breath I realized I do what I love. I make simple food. Not because I lack the ability to make more, but I make food that matters to me. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complex or expensive. Today I realized I make someone’s bread and butter.

Lying on that mat, eyes closed, I heard the clangs of dishes and the yells of cooks, and I smelled the delicious hints of today’s flavors floating in the air.

Then… I opened my eyes…

and I was home.

Pretentious French Fry

A quiet moment to myself before the guests arrive.

I am not a trained chef. My time at school was spent studying art. My culinary experience came the old fashioned way, in mom’s kitchen. I grew up on a farm, far from the conveniences of a grocery store and a pizza delivery service. Our produce section was called the garden, and our butcher was a freezer filled with paper wrapped packages of venison or beef that we either butchered ourselves or bought from a friend who did the same. I never attended a class to learn the proper terms or techniques. Mom said cut this onion, so I did. Technique was and still is of little concern, and our tools are still very basic. You could call my style “rustic.”

Luckily for me, I think I’ve come into this game at just the right time. Following in the footsteps of some real rebels, I enter the kitchen with a little more confidence….
a little… and growing.

But if we’re being truthful here, I’m afraid a lot, often.

The 80’s were filled with shoulder pads, loafers and classically trained chefs preparing technically perfect food. Paper doily’s, parsley and mint leaves were garnish enough because the real show was flawless execution.  Enter the grunge rockers of the 90’s, and suddenly the kitchen was filled with tattooed rule breakers. Tradition was out, deconstruction was in. Today I see a nice compromise of admiration for perfect execution with a respect for mold breaking creativity. I’m happy to begin my career now because while I’d like to say I think it’s an interesting and exciting time for culinary change, truthfully I’m happy to be allowed to break the rules because frankly I don’t always know I’m breaking them! Eeek. How’s that for truth.
Fake it ‘till you make it?
Tried that, hated it. My new path is 100% honesty and humility. I’m trying to learn from my own mistakes… even when people are watching.

You can see now where my ever present fear comes from. I don’t know what I’m doing, but in order to learn the right way to do everything, I have to be willing to do anything wrong in front of people that know better. Oh the horror. Act like a total fool in front of people you respect in order to learn how to do things that these same people will respect! All the while trying to convince my staff that I’m worthy of following….

This really is the way my brain works. It’s a miracle that I have enough brain power left now to swallow my own tongue!

My colleagues have been extremely supportive though and constantly challenge me to push past my Southern comfort zone. So I did. Recently I hosted a benefit dinner at my restaurant for about 35 people. My menu was nothing like what I serve on a daily basis. I’ve sat on an idea for a new restaurant theme for a while, but time, energy, money and fear have restricted it to the back burner. While a new full blown restaurant venture does seem impractical right now, inspired by my husband I agreed one night of this theme was not only possible but necessary for this dream to ever become reality. So under the safety net of a fundraiser- look, if the meal sucked it was for charity, so money raised is still a win- I rolled the dice and planned 5 courses unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I reached out to local farms and created dishes based around what was fresh and readily available. Most chefs are like, ya, I do this every day. But I don’t. My restaurant menu is based on family staples and Southern traditions. This meal was inspired by my surroundings here and now. I wanted to showcase the very best of my neighborhood. No shortcuts. No substitutions. No safety nets.

The day went perfectly. Of course I made some mistakes, but luckily for me, nobody really noticed. And I learned some valuable lessons for next time.
Yep, the next dinner.
One more meal on the way to my next restaurant.

Now if only I had some time to make some art.

Scrambled Eggs

When did I move into a bachelor pad?

I’m hungry, standing in my kitchen staring into a frat house fridge. There’s beer, a random piece of fruit, half a head of mushy cabbage, an unidentifiable science project trapped in a covered dish and an odd and unhelpful assortment of condiments from experimental dinners past. No ketchup. I spend so much energy on keeping everything organized and clean at work, I guess somewhere along the way I just pushed home to the back burner. But I am home, and I am hungry.

Now my house is by no means dirty. I’m a germ freak. I almost didn’t move into this house because there is carpet in the living room. A perfect house nearly ruined by 200 sq feet of brand new carpet. I’m sitting here now staring at it, all those little fibers clinging to dirt, skin, bugs… I wear slippers just so I don’t have to touch it. I vacuum a lot, but it doesn’t make a difference. I know what’s hiding in there. I can feel it.  Shudder.

I keep a tidy house but mostly operate now with the out of sight, out of mind system. Open a drawer, and what was once organized, everything in its proper place and a proper place for everything, is now a jumbled, dig around, if it’s not there check the other three drawers, kind of mess. I spend a lot of time beating myself up for this. About twice a year I give in to the guilt and devote a whole precious weekend to reorganize everything, top to bottom, bleach inside and out, but the disorganization always returns. I am starting to cut myself a break. I’m trying. That Suzy Homemaker brat voice is still in here though singing her warning… a drawer today, a room tomorrow, next year your own episode of Hoarders.

Man, I hate her.

But My Plate Is Full, so I’ve let the dream of a Martha Stewart home go. Luckily for me, my husband doesn’t seem to mind. Now would be a good time to mention that I haven’t bought tampons in 3 months. Oh, I’ve needed them of course, but the last time I can remember doing a for real grocery/supplies list in hand shopping trip was sometime in spring of 2012. There is a small grocery store conveniently located  between my house and work, so when we need something… let me clarify, after we’ve completely run out of something for at least a day or two,  we just stop and buy that thing. In the case of tampons, Tom has picked them up for me on his way home from work the last three times I needed them. Score 3 points husband.

On a side note, I don’t know how tampon companies know so much about my girly parts, but I swear they put the exact number of tampons in the box that I need. One box lasts one month, hence, the need for two new boxes two months later.

…shut up clutter head, I’m trying to write here…

So while my professional life runs smoothly thanks to a devoted staff, in addition to my poorly attended home, my eating habits remain equally neglected. People assume that since I’m a chef, I eat delicious creations all of the time. Truth is, at home I rarely have the ingredients or at work the time to eat a hot meal. When I do roll the dice to cook myself something, I almost always get interrupted with an unexpected visitor or ticket. So I choose the easiest and quickest meals possible. I eat like a child. Grilled cheese sandwiches, eggs, and fryer mistakes are my quick staples. Most of my meals, though, resemble cardboard by the time I’m able to finish them, so I cover up the assault on my taste buds with dessert. Welcome sugar into my life, and ergo a daily battle with my waist line. I live on chocolate. No matter how busy I am, no matter how long it takes, from start to finish a peanut butter cup is Always Delicious!

But I am home. I am hungry, and I have no chocolate.

I’m staring at these condiments and considering just how culinarily creative I can get. Every meal at home is like an episode of Chopped. Poorly prepared people, you may open your fridge. Stale dinner rolls, a can of whipped topping, a gifted jar of funnel cake mix and bottle of bourbon once made delicious French Toast.

I was mostly sober so there’s a pretty good chance that it really did taste as good as I remember.

Just in case I better drink one of these beers.

That’s better. Okay, ya, I got this. Stand back Rachel Ray, Mo is about to make 30 minute magic.

Slippery Peels

No matter how much good stuff I pile on my plate, every now and then I come across a lima bean. I hate lima beans.

At some point we all need to put the dessert spoon down though, and work on balancing our plate, I guess. Otherwise the shit piles up, and you find yourself with no room left for anything good.

So let’s eat some beans…

I lost an employee this week. It wasn’t a good break up. Frankly, this person was really bad at their job, and in the end this separation will most likely be for the best. But either way, this person left with hard feelings. Now every employer has had these kinds of days. But in my case, the things about me that make me good at my job also make this part of my job even harder for me to swallow. I’ve been stewing here in a big pot of self doubt and shame. Did I handle the situation okay? What could I have done differently? And why does it matter to me so much what this person thinks of me anyway? I hate that I do this to myself. I want to affect people. I want to create change. I want to leave my mark. I want to be a force in this world. But I can’t figure out how to share any part of me without feeling peeled and dangerously exposed.

I think there is a vulnerability that naturally comes with owning a small business. Only those that have done it can truly understand it. My personal life is on public display, and for every way that personal touch and accessibility strengthens my business, it equally exposes me as an easy target. My life is one long to do list saturated with the feeling that I’m not doing enough fast enough. Now I realize this is a self inflicted side effect of my own personality. I want More, and I want it yesterday! I can tell you that there is no better motivation than working under the public microscope for someone like me, though that motivation comes in the form of fear of failure. It drives me nonetheless. My brother once told me that our strengths are often our weaknesses. Such is the case with the overwhelming need that I feel to earn people’s approval. While it does push me to be better at my job, it comes with a heavy cost. At work I must be strong, employees need to believe in me, respect me and rest assured that following my lead is the best way. I owe it to my employees to protect their quality of living at work too. If any one person is disrupting the system, it’s my job to stop them. Not always a fun job but necessary. When others fall short, a leader always serves as a convenient source for their trouble. In order to serve my business to the best of my ability, I often have to accept their blame, regardless of whether it is unfair or undeserved. For someone like me who gives too much power to what others think, this is extremely difficult, but again, necessary to the success of our business as a whole. I don’t really know how to do this job without making it personal. I’m creating from personal taste and experience. My name is on the door, and my future is completely dependent on whether or not people like this experience that I am creating for them.
It’s personal!

Oh, and did I mention, I’m a woman Whoa! A woman is supposed to be a submissive nurturer. Society is tripping all over itself in front of a room now filled with female leaders! Do we treat woman in charge just like men? I’m guilty of it myself, despite my own leadership role. While I do believe there is an inherent trust in the female form, I can also admit it may be hard to follow the crazy lady irrationally screaming at produce in the walk in! Let’s face it, once a month we’re bat shit crazy! But we are smart, passionate, creative and resilient beings. It is our need to teach, maybe born into us as a future tool for parenting.  It’s not fair that a woman has to bark twice as loud to be heard and even more unfair that she is then labeled with the now all too tolerated word BITCH. I embrace it, the good and the bad. In order to serve my business I have to accept my role, labels and all. And I do believe that the female leader is a fair and compassionate leader. Where followers may fear to fail a man, I see productivity from a desire not to disappoint a woman. The mom guilt trip has found its way into the work place, and it works!

People forget that my professional life, however, is not all that I am, and it’s unfair that some people only choose to judge me based on that. Ok, so I need to remember that too. I’m good at my job. But I’m also a good person. Ick. I just gave myself a sugar rush on self help syrup!

I’m making headway on the search for that elusive balance between professional and personal success. One cannot exist without the other.

Dessert is good. But the guilt is way less if it follows a well balanced meal.