Human Handkerchief 

After I got home from work yesterday, I went outside to plant a few herb plants.  While I was bent over a bunch of basil, my 5 year-old son came over to me and blew his nose on my pants.  When I asked him why, he said: 

"I didn't feel good, and I needed a tissue." 

That's what I am these days.  A walking tissue. 

Reader, I'll keep it brief because this human handkerchief has had a long week.  If you're a kindred spirit that's always there in someone's time of need, let me tell you something: your devotion to that person makes you the recipient of something great. 

(And no, it's not a pocket full of snot). 

The connection that comes from being there for someone when they're vulnerable is so powerful.  I think as adults, we tend to forget how natural it is to be weak, to need support from someone else.  Developing trust in friendships comes not only from times we're strong together, but also from times we choose to prop each other up when we're low. 

Even if all we have to offer is pants. 

I leave you with this goof-ball picture of my son later on in the night.  Because when the tense feelings pass, all that remains is the memory of who your friends are.  See you next Monday. -Em

Comfort Her 

Mother's Day is this Sunday. I'm one of the few mothers on staff at my restaurant.  Last week, the kitchen crew was brainstorming what sort of food specials they should make for Mother's Day.  At the top of their list? 

Salad.  Lots of ideas about salad. 

I laughed in their faces. 

As a mother who hasn't had a day off in weeks, let me tell you something: on a list of things I want to eat on a day dedicated to moms, salad comes in dead last.  What I want is a stiff drink, french fries, something cheesy, and a bowl full of chocolate.  Why? 

Because I spend every day of my life ensuring others feel comforted, usually at the expense of my own happiness and comfort.  So for just one day out of the year, I'd like to make time to have people (myself included) give me that same level of care. 

Reader, whether you're celebrating Mother's Day as a mom, or if you're celebrating a special person in your life, remember that motherhood is about care.  The second we mothers become caretakers, we begin putting ourselves second.  If you want to give back to a mom this year, the best way to do that is to acknowledge her efforts, ask her about her creature comforts, then give them to her.  If you follow those guidelines, I guarantee you: she'll be thrilled. 

(And if you're a mom that doesn't have someone to give these things to you, please take the day to care for yourself.  The truth is, we shouldn't need just a day to honor mothers and their ongoing sacrifice, but as long as there is such a day, it's a nice excuse to indulge). 

I leave you this picture of my mom and dad when they first started dating.  I marvel at how effortlessly joyful my mom looked before I came along.  Children may make our life worthwhile, but it's good to keep in mind that we were always worthy of self love and appreciation, long before we took on the job of caring for another. 

See you next Monday. -Em

Punishers 

No blog tonight.  I'm teaching my kids a lesson.  They've been real punks this week, and I took away all their toys and screens. Then they asked "Well what are we going to do now?!" So I'm marching them out to the corn field to watch the sunset.  

May the force be with all of you who have dealt with the parenting of children.  What a trip.  See you next Monday. -Em 

How To Be Good 

In my perfect world, there would be instructions on "how to be good."  The instructions would be wrapped up in an easy-to-understand e-book. The book would give definitive ways to act that would ensure the most good was being done at all times, and no harm would befall others in the making of those choices.

An impossible book, I know. But a girl can dream.

I had an emotional breakdown in a Valli supermarket on Thursday.  I actually had to put down my shopping basket and walk outside to catch my breath.  The cause of this emotional breakdown?

Feta cheese.

That's right.  Cheese.  Cheese reduced me to tears (more rightly, an exhausting week at work reduced me to tears, but the cheese was the last straw apparently).  You see, my restaurant needed feta mid-week, so I ran out quickly in the middle of service. The supermarket offered a variety of feta; I narrowed down my choices to three.  

There was the cheapest one, which would surely be the best for my business and my staff. I know saving money is so important for the future of the restaurant.

There was the local one, which would surely be the best for reducing my carbon footprint.  I know it's so important not to waste unnecessary fuel on products.

And there was the organic one from Europe, which would surely be the best for the soils of our planet.  I know it's so important to support companies committed to protecting our earth.

In the end, I went with organic.  I don't know if it was a good choice.  Hell, it might have done the most harm in the long run. But on Friday, my love of soil won out, and I've had to make peace with my decision.

Reader, achieving inner peace is getting harder and harder the more we learn.  I'm a white woman, likely the descendant of Europeans who displaced Native Americans to be here. I built my restaurant with materials from places where I'm not certain how they treat their employees.  I opened a restaurant in a largely black community, and I don't know how to be an ally here without looking like a white savior.  I clean dishes with chemicals that will harm waterways, wrap foods in plastic that will never break down, and make mountains of trash every week, despite paying for recycling services.

So how can I be good?

I've come to the decision that I can't.  I cannot exist causing zero harm.  The only thing I can do is continue to try to make informed and responsible decisions.  That's all I can control: whether or not I will ceaselessly try to make good decisions.

After my supermarket meltdown, I walked back into my restaurant and took this picture. Staff was happy.  Diners were happy.  And the place felt peaceful.  I took a few deep breaths, put my cheese in the cooler, and got back to work.  Sometimes, I think that's all we can do.  Get back to work.

I'll see you next Monday. -Em

Inconvenient Inspiration 

Last week was full of frenzy and chaos.  We reopened my restaurant.  I couldn’t have been more proud of our crew.  It was a long, hard, hot week in the kitchen, and the team put out incredible food to hundreds of people. 

I was moving a mile a minute and felt like I didn’t have time to breathe. From the grocery store to our kitchen and back to the grocery store again, I was in a dead sprint most days.  

And of course, that’s when the muses struck.   

Reader, I have no idea why I get the urge to create when I don’t have a moment to spare; it seems to be a theme in my life.  One thing I do know as an artist: when the muses call, you stop what you’re doing and start creating (lest they stop inspiring you). And so, with a million things to do last week, I wrote a song, started a poem, and painted a 7’ by 7’ mural for the side of my building.   

I’m not even certain how I’m awake writing a blog.  

Whatever you’re up to this week, if inspiration strikes, I hope you follow it, no matter how inconvenient the timing. As I sit here and type with heavy eyes, I feel truly lucky to be alive and able to work and make things.  I wish you this same exhilarating gratitude.  See you next Monday. -Em

Thirsty Souls 

What a gorgeous day.  

I spent the bulk of it working to get my restaurant ready to reopen next week, but I managed to squeeze in an hour or two with my kids.  We hunted for Easter eggs and played hide and seek, and for a moment, the world felt really perfect. I was on a high all afternoon.

Reflecting on it tonight, I can see that the perfect feeling came from how damned hard this past week has been.  I've been exhausted and spiritually run down. In the same way that a cold glass of water tastes better the thirstier I am, this day sated me in a way I can't really put into words.  

But my soul sure must have been really, really thirsty.

Reader, just a reminder: we are hungry beings, and not just for food and water.  Nourishment takes so many forms, and today--weird as it sounds--my soul got its fix from an Easter egg hunt.  If you notice yourself feeling depleted this week, ask yourself what you need, and then go after it.  It's important to work up a mental thirst, but then it's important to replenish.  I'll see you next Monday. -Em

We're All Gonna Die! 

Last week, my kids were on spring break from school, and I decided to take them to the Field Museum in Chicago.  I figured it would be good for them to get a little more education in their lives.

(Also, the Avengers exhibit at The Museum of Science and Industry was sold out).

My kids are fascinated by dinosaurs, so we spent the bulk of our time in the dinosaur exhibit.  If you've never been, I can't recommend it enough.  The museum does a great job of making you feel like you've gone back in time billions of years.  They walk you through ancient oceans and volcanoes and forests, teaching you about how various organisms came to be, and also how they died.  The museum explains the 5 known "mass extinctions," and also explains that there will undoubtedly be another one.

Needless to say: the questions from the kids on the car ride home were intense.  

As dark as it sounds, the idea of death and the passage of time really calmed me down this week.  It's not the first time this has happened; the staff at my restaurant knows that I bring it up a lot, because it eases my stress about day-to-day frustrations. Reader, during times when we're inclined to magnify our worries--it often helps to zoom out, step back, and keep in mind how short our lives are. 

(Cue Kansas singing "Dust In The Wind.")

I leave you with this picture of Sue the T-rex, just as a reminder: we're all gonna die!  So enjoy every moment this week, and please don't sweat it all so much. See you next Monday. -Em

Open Mindedness 

One of my resolutions for 2021 was to be more open minded.  Since the beginning of the year, I've been trying to expose myself to fresh ideas in all realms of my life. 

(Did you know pirate metal is an actual genre of music?  Who knew).

Anyway, this week, I decided to expand my food horizons. My restaurant crew and I took a class on lacto-fermentation.  It was so inspiring. I'm currently waiting for the results of home-made sauerkraut, mushroom kimchi, and brazil nut cheese.  

Let's hope my stomach can handle the bravery of my newly open mind.

I'll tell you one thing for sure, Reader: experimentation and open-mindedness are a great cure for the doldrums. It's been a mentally taxing week for me, and learning new things has a great way of shaking things up and keeping up my energy.  If you're looking for a boost this week, try doing something you've never done before.  Plant new plants, listen to fresh music, hike a new trail.  We're only stuck in a rut if we choose to be.  

With that, my energized self is off to clock a little time at the piano. See you next Monday. -Em

 

Improvisation 

My team and I hit a lot of roadblocks this week at my restaurant.  We didn’t have the right tools for projects or the best food for recipes or enough money for equipment.   

And when I focus on what I don’t have, it’s enough to make me want to quit. 

But instead of giving up because of our lack of the “right” or the “best” or “enough” of things, we rolled with it.  We worked with what we had.  We made do with old tools, sub-par ingredients, and make-shift equipment. (Who knew paper straws could come in handy when installing tile flooring?) 

Reader, this week was a big reminder for me not to give up on anything just because my resources and circumstances aren’t ideal.  Sometimes the best innovations come from not having much in your favor. 

I hope your week is filled with this kind of resourcefulness.  I’m so grateful for the people in my life, reminding me how to improvise.  See you next Monday. -Em

Bumper Sticker Wisdom 

I was a rigid kid.  I laid out my world in self-made black and white guidelines. I remember the day I decided I’d never put bumper stickers on a car or get any tattoos.  I didn’t want to commit to being a walking advertisement for any one thing.  Because what if I didn’t endorse it later on? 

Today, I’m a tattooed woman with a bunch of bumper stickers on my car.  So much for rigidity. 

Anyway, I’ve got bumper stickers on the brain because they led to an epiphany for me this week. Have you seen the COEXIST bumper sticker?  It’s fairly iconic, comprised of the symbols of a lot of major religions.  To me, the meaning is: exist at the same time with those who believe differently than you, maybe even those you dislike.  

On Wednesday, I saw the COEXIST bumper sticker just as I was leaving my restaurant.  It’s been a trying time at work, and my anxiety has been on the upswing.  The more I try to calm it down or pretend it’s not there, the more anxious I become.  I was at the beginning of a panic attack when I saw that bumper sticker.   

And I felt like the sticker was telling me something different: coexist within YOURSELF. 

Now maybe the revelation felt bigger in my head, and maybe I won’t be able to describe it perfectly in a blog, but I’ll try. 

We don’t need to wipe out all anxiety to enjoy ourselves.  We can be tense and also have happiness.  We can be grieving and still have belly laughs.  We can be angry and still care for others. There is no need to have just one singular emotion or feeling at one time.  They can all exist within us.  Just acknowledge them all and make room for the more useful ones. 

Reader, rigidity is for the birds.  There’s nothing bad or good about emotions…they’re a part of our lives. Attempting to eradicate my anxiety has only made it worse.  I’m going to attempt to follow my personal interpretation of the bumper sticker this week, and hope it’s a little less stressful.  I leave you with this picture of the deer in the field by my house…just because it calms me down. I’ll see you next Monday. -Em