Morning Rituals

Heat the water.

Grind the beans.

Wait.

Plunge.

Listen to the hushed whisper of breath meeting the top of the cup, moving the dark liquid into sweet circles away from you.

Sip.

It’s time for another day.  Time for the gears in your mind to start working again, pushing forward through clouds of thick foggy sleep into the bright relentless daylight.  It’s time to move through the day, make your decisions, important and benign.  Time to chat with coworkers about your weekend plans, sit at your desk, do your work.  Go home, see your loved ones, maybe eat some dinner, do some work from home before your head hits the pillow and you groggily pull yourself out of your warm and beautiful bed tomorrow morning.

Wake up and know that this is it.  We have arrived.  This is life and it’s here every morning for the taking.  Grind those beans with purpose.  Know that it’s all for something, even if we can’t completely define that something.

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Ideals Break Away

The world fell apart in layers for me. The facade was peeled away like an onion with it’s outer layers appearing like something out of a technicolor Disney movie gradually darkening and solidifying into a potent center that resembles a Kafka novel. It’s partially due to my American upbringing and the generation I’m a part of. Everything is possible when you’re born into the white middle class of the United States.

I’m seeing it second hand in my middle sister. She’s sixteen. The first few layers of sugar coated bliss are peeling away. She’s becoming cynical and it’s breaking my heart. I hear so much of myself in her voice. The raw hurt, the disconnect as she tries to retreat into herself and protect her heart. Defensive and skeptical, she moves through the world squinting her eyes, trying to decipher between good and bad, hurtful and helpful.

I almost feel lucky that my view of the world started morphing from a very early age. It gave me time to adjust, step by step, and it helped me come into the world knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy. I would have to fight for everything I love. My parents divorced when I was two. My mom married an asshole when I was four. My grandfather, who was the most father like figure in my life committed suicide when I was 13. I went to Japan and saw the world when I was 16. I moved to Seattle and lived on my own, paying my own bills, making my own decisions at 18.

Imagine you start training a dog to fetch a ball from the time he’s a few weeks old. You have him fetch it a few times a week, every week, all his life. You throw him curve balls, throw them long, throw them short, keep it varied. That dog is going to be really good at fetching balls. I’m thankful the world taught me to fetch from an early age. Each heart break left me picking up the pieces, putting it all back together and learning to do that at a time when I was young, agile, flexible and fluid made me strong and quick. I’m not scared of much because I know I can make it through most things thrown my way. I have so far.

But what about my sweet, sweet sister? Will she learn to fetch?

I hold her in extra high regard because I have another sister who is far less mature, far less adjusted and I can’t relate to her at all. But my sweet sister, she’s a replica of me. Granted, she’s smarter than I am and in my opinion much kinder (although she argues she’s not a nice person at all.) She’s my half sister, born to my dad and stepmom. She doesn’t care for boys or make up. She’s in honors classes and plays the violin. She’s always been an avid reader, revealing her intelligence at an extremely early age. She grew up with both of her parents, a sweet dad that takes her to and from school every day, talks to teachers about her performance and is at every soccer game and a mom who probably cares too much and is overprotective in the right ways. She grew up with two brothers who love and adore her and me, her big sister from afar. They didn’t have a lot of money, but she never went without. Her first heart break has been with her friends and realizing how much hard work goes into school. She’s planning for the SAT and college and it’s all really stressful. Her heart is broken because life isn’t what she expected it to be.

It seems benign or obvious. Of course life isn’t what we imagine it will be when we are four years old and of course we toughen up and learn to confront life with a certain gruffness to get us through, but those first few years of realizing we don’t live in Utopia are difficult to cope with. I often think that it would be easier to live in a constant state of denial and false hope. Maybe if I still believed in God and the idea that Jesus would save us all I would be happier. That used to be such a comfort to me. Unfortunately once you shed the light of logic on it all, it becomes far less magical like learning the logistics of the magician’s trickery.

Perhaps the world shatters in the same way for everyone. Maybe we all have our struggles and they are all equal between us. The moment our perception of the world fails us, we plummet from our carefree lives with our heads in the clouds, down to the cold hard concrete and we see what life is really about: the struggle to maintain some semblance of happiness in spite of the rules of the world, the push and pull, the friction. It’s easy to spot the people that avoid it- the ones that live in their happy bubbles of candy coated denial- they’re the ones standing to the side, staring at the wall with their backs to the world, pink bubblegum smiles plastered to plastic faces, eyes glazed over.

It comes down to whether or not you’re willing to look life in the eye and accept it for all of its glory and sunrises as well as its dark cavernous pitfalls. There’s only as much room for joy as you’ve carved out with sorrow. The spectrum of life, the magnificent variation and never ending opportunities for bliss and mourning create the friction and the conflict necessary to keep our world spinning. This is where we find true joy and purpose. As much as it pains me to see my sister go through these troubling times, I’m proud of her for saying yes to the journey. It will get easier. She will see the benefits of walking through dark times, the lessons and the perspective it will bring her.

To my sweet one, keep going. Don’t get discouraged. I know it’s a harsh wake up call, but I promise it’s worth it. I promise that feeling it all is better than walking through the world numb and glossy eyed. You are alive. You have the privilege and honor of fighting alongside those of us that have chosen the same fight. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

A Letter To Myself In This Moment

A Letter to Myself In This Moment-

So you’re coming out on the other end of a quarter life crisis. How’s it going? How are you? Is it as bad as you thought it would be?

Let me take a moment to remind you, it’s all going to work out. Remember that time when you were fifteen and you were absolutely certain that you were going to die before you turned eighteen? And now look at you! You’ve made it to twenty three! You’re here! Take a moment and be thankful.

I’d like to also take a moment to congratulate you on becoming who you are today. You’re doing pretty good. You’ve realized some important boundaries. I know you struggle with thinking you can still fix things with your parents, but as much as your heart aches and you try to rationalize that you can fix it, you have to remember that 1. You’ve tried that for roughly twenty years and 2. It takes two to tango and they would have to be willing to have a conversation with you, hear your words, have some sense of self awareness and introspection, and then be willing to change or explain themselves in a mature way. You’re not at fault for ceasing to hold your breath. You can only do so much as one person.

Maybe start trying to wrap your head around the fact that you’ve found the love of your life. I know you’ve got a lot going on trying to figure out career stuff and money stuff, and living day to day, but you recently met the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Don’t let these other circumstances distract you from the joys you’ve found in the amazing woman you’re planning your future with. Also, can you believe how lucky you are?

How exciting is it that kids are finally on the horizon???!!! We’re talking three years?! That’s so soon! That’s literally been your only hope and dream for so long, and it’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. You’re going to have babies SO SOON. You’re going to be a mom, SO SOON. I’m proud of you, and that’s really fucking exciting. You’re going to be an amazing mom. You’re going to finally feel the joy you’ve imagined in holding a little one in your own arms and never having to return them to their parents.

Keep going. Don’t stress too much. It’s all going to fall into place if you keep working hard, digging deep and giving it everything you’ve got. You will find your place in the world. Don’t get frustrated that it’s not all in place yet. It’s okay that you’re not Lena Dunham or even that kid from high school that went to UCLA and started his own business and now just travels for shits and giggles. You’re okay. You’re normal. Normal is not bad.

Take care of yourself. Remember how important you are and your place in the world is. Make a difference some way some how, be open and receptive to what the world places in front of you.

Be Well.

Sisters

My sister used to be a decent human. But then she turned into a teenager, sending me emails that claim that she “knows everything that has happened between our parents” and me. She even ended that email with a quote saying something about how at the end of your life you the only thing you know is that your family will surround you. Her naivete is almost adorable and I’m sure if there were even just five degrees more separation between us I could see that she is just a teenager who thinks she has a grasp on the world.

She’s fifteen with long flowing red hair that has natural blond highlights throughout. Her braces came off a few years ago and her smile is perfect. Her blue eyes glisten and sparkle when she talks to you excitedly about the boys she likes and how they’re seniors and they’re asking her out.

Our mother was a beauty queen. Miss Glendora 1989. Gorgeous, tall, dark flowing permed hair and big round brushed bangs. She wore a dark lipstick all the time that brought out her creamy complexion and the blueness of her eyes. She’s always been thin and always cared deeply about what the world saw when they saw her.

My sister wasn’t always beautiful. She used to be a pudgy little ten year old and that’s when I loved her the most. She had this adorable round face and awkward buck teeth. Her eyelashes and her eyebrows were too blond for her face and a too-thick-for-a-ten-year-old layer of blond hair coated her arms and legs. She was bright eyed and wanted to know about everything and everyone. She was excited about softball and making friends at school. So it’s no surprise that our mother encouraged her to be conscious about her weight and her appearance.

When Jenna expressed interest in a beauty pageant, my mom took her to the store where they sell gowns for weddings and for prom and Jenna tried on everything. She looked stunning and she knew it. She posted pictures on her Instagram of her in a body hugging white gown and instantly had hundreds of “likes”. People love her. People bow down at her beauty and her charisma.

I am eight years older than my sister. I left home when she was 10 years old. I often wonder if I did a disservice to her by leaving before her teenage years. I remember her crying because our dad made some snide comment about her weight. She whisper-sobbed and let me hold her in my arms. I told her she was beautiful and she didn’t need to listen to him.

Maybe if I had been around to hold her down to the Earth and remind her that looks are not everything, maybe she would care about something other than her hair or the number on the scale. Perhaps if I had stayed, she would still have something in common with her average looking sister. Then when I called her to ask how she’s doing, maybe she would give me a real answer instead of the high tinny voice telling me in her valley girl drawl, “Yeaaaaah!!! Everything is great! School is good, volleyball is great…. we’re just hangin’ out!”

What about the friction of it all? What about the beauty in the grime and dirt, the struggle between the pure and the corrupted? What about literature and art and the struggle with science and God? What about your soul, my love? What do you have to say about that? Let’s stop the petty nonsense. I just want to know how you’re doing.

Fork in the Road

Something in the way she asked “So you’re giving up baking?” has me questioning everything now. Karen is a woman that has known me since I was eighteen. She’s seen me through my first love, calling off my wedding, going to a private Christian university, a year of family crises, a string of short lived dating relationships, pastry school, moving to Spain, moving to Austin… she’s been there through it all. So has Maria. I’ve been a nanny for both of their families for over five years and now they are making me question everything. Maria is more like an actual mom to me where I sometimes discredit what she’s actually saying to me. But to hear Karen’s disappointment and to see her confusion over the last few days and the way she’s totally avoided talking about it… it’s really making me wonder what the fuck I’m doing!

“Yeah, I’m thinking about going back to school for Communications or Journalism.”
“Oh. Okay.”

Owning a bakery, however small it was, and watching it fall apart really broke my heart. It was what I’d always dreamt it would be. I was in charge of my schedule and my menu and I was so happy to finally have this thing that I could pour all of myself into! It held so much promise and was so much bigger than I am. The long days were brutal. I was totally alone, baking bread in my one oven, in my 400 square foot studio where I also lived. It was miserable towards the middle of summer. But when I think about the day I threw a bake sale in my apartment and posted signs all over my neighborhood, and people ACTUALLY CAME, that’s what really breaks my heart. I let go of it all so quickly. I was exhausted and overworked. I was totally not making enough money, but I was somehow breaking even. And when I worked as a pastry cook before at restaurants, I was making shit money, but I wasn’t totally worn down. I had days off and it was okay even enjoyable!

What if I don’t give up on a career in pastry? What if I stay in this field that I’ve poured my last few years into and what if I succeed? I miss being in the kitchen. I miss getting there early in the morning, pouring a cup of coffee, checking over my production list and my mise en place and knowing where to go from there. I miss having work friends and kitchen brothers. I miss the actual work of making ice cream bases and family meals. I miss striving to always get better.

I have some talent. I have a good palette. I’ve been beating myself up because my bakery didn’t and couldn’t grow. I would need so much more than my own hard work and whatever talent I bring to the table. But maybe I got ahead of myself and I just need to backtrack instead of doing a total re-write. I love baking. I loved working my restaurant jobs. What if there is a place for me in this industry? My doubts are that I don’t have enough talent, I won’t make enough money and I will get stuck in an entry level position.

What if in 10 years I look back on these few months and realize I was in crisis mode and needed to break away from it all to see how much I loved it? What if I go back to school, acquire a bunch of debt and a degree and realize I just want to be in a kitchen? Why do I keep getting the same reaction from everyone that I love? It’s the “Wow, I can’t believe you’re giving up so easily” reaction. I don’t want to give up.

Then again, knowing me, this is just another panicky moment where I’m questioning everything and wondering if I’m doing anything right at all. It could pass by the morning. I could still want to get a real people job. But I need to remember that going back to the kitchen is totally an option. I have options. All the doors are open. Sometimes you just have to pick something and stick to it. Other times you have to admit you made a mistake, re-evaluate and go a different direction. Crap. Adulthood is so hard.

To My Future Little Ones on Their Eighteenth Birthdays,

To My Future Little Ones on Their Eighteenth Birthdays,

I have yet to birth or even conceive you so I feel like this is the right time for me to write an unbiased letter and let you know what to expect. I am almost 24 years old. I’m working through what I think is my quarter life crisis and I’m learning some seriously huge lessons. I would like to give you, my treasured little one, some perspective and advice that I wish someone had given me on my eighteenth birthday. Let us begin.

You’re about to enter toddlerhood all over again. Soon you will be birthed into this thing “adults” like to call the “real world”. It’s horrifying. You’re leaving this safe little cocoon and you’re ready to breathe on your own. You will have to explore the world with all of your senses. Give yourself the freedom to touch and push everything that you’re not supposed to and learn some hard lessons several times over until it sinks in.

Life feels like an uphill battle. I’m hoping that in five years I can write you another letter and let you know that it gets better and easier, but I’m not holding my breath. I think maybe you just get used to the constant state of flux.

You’re going to do some hard work in order to find your boundaries. You will try on lots of different hats. You will befriend lots of different people. You might change your life path and career path 20 times in one month. You might sleep with lots of people. My genuine hope for you is that you find your voice. Listen to your gut, listen to your instincts. This is your voice. Let it grow strong and practice speaking up for yourself and your boundaries.

Work hard to understand your visceral reactions to the things around you. Find what you love about yourself and what you want to work on.

Don’t be afraid to grow and change. I have been a multitude of people. Embrace the changes. Challenge yourself to find the core root of who you are and what you believe in, but don’t be afraid to evolve. Strive to remain on a path of continual learning and education. You will outgrow friendships and lovers. Do not take this as a sign that you are doing something wrong. When you are perpetually moving forward, you tend to leave the stagnant behind, it’s natural.

This “life” thing is a total mess and especially in these first few years of quasi-adulthood, don’t be discouraged when things don’t go as planned. Nobody knows what they’re doing and I’m 85% sure that the word “adult” is a completely made up term. The sooner you learn to let go and let the waves take you where they may, the happier you will be. There is a difference between banging your head against the wall and working through something. Your gut will know the answer. Know when to give up and move on, take what you can from each lesson and keep on that path of natural progression.

Pick your battles wisely. Don’t let anyone tell you that all they want is the easiest path for you. (Not even me.) The path of least resistance leads nowhere. Allow yourself to be refined through the fires that life gives you. How did the beautiful mountain ranges come to exist? Or the seaside cliffs of the Pacific? Through immense pressure and earthly pain, over time and throughout the years of nature taking its course. Work hard, be persistent, and know that something beautiful will come of it in the end.

Don’t focus on soul mates. It’s an unlikely possibility, statistically speaking.

If you ever find yourself asking “am I in love?” You’re not. You will know so immediately and it will hit you with such force, that there will be no room for doubt or error. If you find yourself questioning “is this person in love with me?” first seek out your own projections and insecurities, work through them, and if the question still remains, they probably don’t. Move on. And when you do find the person that is as equally enthralled by you as you are by them, have all of the hard conversations right up front. Ask all of the scary questions. If you can handle the answers or come to some kind of agreement, hang on tight. That person is worth it.

Most of all, frequently remind yourself that you are human. This time on Earth is limited. At the end of our lives, you will not remember the fact that you have thirty five cents to your name, but the creative ways in which you survived your early twenties. Give yourself room to breathe. Accept your high standards and your challenges and know that just the fact that you are thinking of where you want to go and who you want to be, are surefire signs that you, my sweet unfathomable angel, will be okay.

Best,
PW