Perfecting Imbalance 

For Thanksgiving, our little family headed up North to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a few days.  We enjoyed a lot of snow, family time, and polar plunging into Lake Superior.  It was nice to be off-grid, and I couldn't have been happier.

Except I spent most of the time missing my restaurant back home.

When our small vacation was over, we began driving home. In the car, I started getting back to work.  It felt great to be plugged in again, answering emails and coordinating events.  

Except I was instantly missing quality time with my kids.

When I got back to work on Saturday night, I was so euphoric.  Being in the restaurant and catching up with my co-workers felt invigorating.  I loved being brought up to speed, and the buzz of the place energized me.

Except I couldn't help but miss the tranquility of the Northwoods.

Reader, the longer I live, the more I realize: balance is not something we attain.  It's just something we work towards. We will not be able to have it all the way we want it.  I'll never have enough time for my kids, my songwriting, my restaurant, or my desire to be outside. But once we make a choice to spend energy in one facet of our lives, it's a waste of the present to wonder what would have happened if we had spent it elsewhere.  

With that, this imbalanced songwriter is off to bed.  I'm on a mission this week to perfect the art of living a life that isn't balanced, one where I may not be devoting as much time as I like to the things I love, but I sure as hell will love those things while I'm with them.  See you next Monday. -Em

 

Power of A Tribe 

Well, I gave my first public speech last week.  I was asked to give a talk to a large group on "The Power Of A Tribe."  I was conflicted about agreeing to give a speech. 

First, because I don't like using the word "tribe" the way it's used today.  Second, because I have absolutely no experience giving speeches.

But I actually do have quite a lot to say about how I went from working as a lone wolf to belonging to some wonderful groups of people. And so I took the time to write out my story and tell it.

Now, I've worked  hard in my life to not to care whether people know my side of any story.  I have nothing to prove. But I have to admit: it was nice to get to wax extemporaneously about my trials.  Reader, I don't expect you to read any of this.  But if you wonder what I've been writing these past few weeks, it's below.  I'll see you for a normal blog next Monday.

-Em

 

 

 

Good afternoon.  Thank you very much for inviting me to talk with you today.  

My name is Emily Hurd. Most of you don’t know me. By trade, I am a singer/songwriter, which means I’ve spent the majority of my life writing music alone with a piano, a pen, and a notepad. If you had asked me six years ago to speak about the power of working in and leading a group, I wouldn’t have had much to say, beyond how much I don’t enjoy working with others. 

Today, I’m in a unique position to discuss it. Before I do, I need to explain how I went from suffering in isolation to belonging to some incredible groups of people that changed the way I think.  The first part of this talk will revolve around my background, but I’ll get to the point, I promise. 

In 2013, my father passed away very suddenly of a heart attack.  At that time, I was living alone in Chicago, writing and teaching music in my 300-square foot apartment in Andersonville.  My family has always been very important to me, and when dad died, it put me on my heels.  I decided shortly after his passing to move back to the west side of Rockford, where I’m from, to be closer to my mother. When I moved back, my old high school boyfriend and I got back together, I got married, and then pregnant. 

As strange as it is to say, I’ve never lived better than I did in the days following dad’s death.  Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make us realize just how short our time here really is. Armed with that bittersweet clarity, I could see what I should be doing with my life.  And it wasn’t just sitting alone with a piano, a pen, and a notepad. 

So I began my search for a building to open a “place.”  I’ve always wanted to bring people together in a physical space, and I’ve always loved making food and music. One day I was driving home through the North End, and I saw the building I knew I wanted. On February 5, 2015, while I was 4 months pregnant with my first child, I bought 1402 N Main Street in Rockford. It had been largely abandoned. The roof had collapsed.  Walls were crumbling.  Pipes had rotted.  And yet my heart went out to it.  The day I got the keys, I got to work.  I decided to turn the first floor into a restaurant and music venue called The Norwegian, and the second floor into rentable spaces for fellow creative types to make and teach art. 

I started my renovations upstairs, filling four 40-yard dumpsters with the remains the squatters had hoarded up there over the years.  I did the work alone, because I didn’t want anybody else to have to face the gruesome job. It took a few weeks of clearing out dead birds, rooms of trash, and thousands of mouse carcasses before I could even start the project.  I don’t know if it was all the hormones from being pregnant, but I got through it. 

Once I got the space clear, I started a one-woman mission of tearing up 4,000 square feet of carpet.  It was at that point, I hit asbestos tile.  I was told by an asbestos abatement company that I would need to tear out the entire floor, and it would cost $93,000.  I tried to get a loan with several banks and lending institutions. I felt alone and scared. No one was willing to help.  So I did a crowd-funding campaign through Kickstarter that became infamous around these parts. 

I told locals that for various levels of financial support, I would give them rewards at my new restaurant.  Everything from free coffee, to playing a house concert in their home, from cooking a 5-course meal for 25 people, to building them their own bar stools with their name on it.  For $50,000, I would even let someone name my unborn baby.  Thank god nobody took me up on that one. 

55 days after I started that campaign, I went into labor. 27 hours later, I had my first child.  A boy, who I named John, after my father.  5 days after he was born, the Kickstarter campaign came to a close. I raised more than $100,000 to keep the project going.   

Two weeks after that, I got back to work on the second floor of the building.  For the next six months, I spent most every weekday upstairs alone, scraping tar, plastering, and painting walls.   

 On the weekends, I devoted my entire time to fulfilling Kickstarter rewards.  I had to play 45 house concerts in the continental United States, most of which also came with dinner.  I remember staying up late cooking food on Friday nights, then on Saturday mornings, loading up my keyboard, my prepared food, and my son, and driving to whoever I had promised a concert.  I had a breast pump that was connected to the inverter of my car so that I could pump while I drove, then transfer the milk to a bottle and feed my son in his car seat. 

When I would show up to people’s houses to play, I would hide how exhausted I was; I kept a lot of under eye concealer in my glovebox. I’d cook and play and entertain as best I could.  Then I would pack up my keyboard and my son, and I would drive back home. I drove as far away as Cape Cod and Texas for these concerts.  I would wake up Monday mornings completely drained, suffering in isolation. 

When I was done with most of the ugly jobs upstairs at the building and had played the majority of the Kickstarter shows, I began getting down to the nitty gritty. At that point, I was feeling more nauseated than usual, vomiting on-site quite a bit.  I discovered that I was 2 months pregnant with my second child. So I scrambled to get the upstairs finished.  Almost entirely by myself, I stained, varnished, put in new plumbing, painted radiators, replaced ceiling tiles, added trim, and calked the trim. # One week after I finished renovating upstairs, I went into labor. 72 hours later, I had my second child.  A girl. I named her Johanna Ruth, after her two great grandmothers. 

Johanna was born with a very rare defect.  We didn’t catch it in utero.  The nurses at Swedish American noticed right away that she wasn’t breathing, and they kept her stable in the NICU with oxygen and feeding tubes.  # It wasn’t until six weeks later when she was taken to the Children’s Hospital in Madison that we discovered that she had a rare syndrome called SMMCI. She would need several surgeries to give her nasal passageways.  I felt alone and scared for her, but suppressed those feelings as most mothers do, suffering in isolation. 

I spent weeks at the Ronald McDonald house in Madison while she had her procedures. The project at 1402 N Main Street was necessarily put on hold.  After a few months, Johanna was stable.  Her team of doctors told us she was safe to stay at home and only needed to come up to Madison for check-ups.  For the first time, I was able to put both of my children in daycare, and I was ready to pour myself back into construction of The Norwegian. 

Except now it was October of 2017. And some of the people who had once believed in me were sending me what can only be described as hate mail.  They were frustrated with how long the project was taking.  They called me a fraud because they weren’t seeing work crews in the parking lot.  Even strangers were writing to tell me they were glad they didn’t support my crowd-funding campaign, or I would have wasted their money like I wasted everybody else’s. 

I felt shrunken. I felt embarrassed and afraid. Whatever steam I was running on was gone.  I had just spent years privately running myself into the ground.  Despite the sheer exhaustion, I decided to get a building permit with the City of Rockford, and I began renovating the first floor of the building.  I had made a promise to a lot of people, and as shriveled and alone as I felt, I was going to finish the project. 

I remember Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018, like it was yesterday.  I was tearing down walls, trying to salvage as much of the wood as I could so I wouldn’t have to buy new lumber.  And my Uncle Dave walked into the building.  He was wearing work gloves and had a crow bar in his hand.  He said, “I thought you might need a hand.”   

My initial thought was to refuse.  I knew how gruesome the work was going to be.  I knew I couldn’t pay him. But I was so tired. And I was genuinely happy not to be working alone, and so I said, “That would be great, thank you.” 

Uncle Dave came by to help me every day.  He let me pay him in Beef-a-Roo.  We tackled some truly terrible jobs together, tearing out old HVAC systems, and unearthing a century’s worth of grime. 

A month later, one of the neighbors popped his head in.  His name was Bob.  He was retired, and wondered if I needed help.  He brought his toolbox with him.  He said, “Just point me where you need me.”  My first thought was to refuse.  I wasn’t even related to this person.  Why would they embark on such a miserable journey with me?  Still, I pointed him toward the table saw, and gave him a job. From that day on, Bob was on-site almost every day until the project was over. 

Another month later, one of my dad’s old friends showed up at the door.  He took one look at how much work I had to do and said, “Oh Emily. What can I do?” I gave him a small job, not wanting to push my luck.  He completed it in a few hours and said, “I’ll be back tomorrow.”  

The next day, he showed up with most of my Dad’s retired friends.  They were in awe at what I had gotten myself into. I gave them jobs, and they started in. All for the low price of Beef-A-Roo. 

Everyday, I showed up to work nervous, not knowing what to expect.  And every time a volunteer walked in to help me, I felt myself become energized and more confident.  I noticed that they, too were becoming more energized.  We were all falling into patterns, into rhythms, into inside jokes, and friendships. I could physically feel our steps becoming more confident. I grew into the role of general contractor slowly, without even knowing it. I was inadvertently belonging to and leading a group that today I cannot imagine living without. 

A few days before we finished up our renovations, an inspector came in and loudly asked, “Who’s the guy in charge?” I can’t tell you how wonderful and comical it was to have 10 strong, male engineers point to me and say in unison, “She is.” 

Nine months later, the project was complete.  And all because I was surrounded by a group of people, working together for a common goal.  The feelings of pride and relief that we collectively felt cannot be adequately described with words. 

Now, I’m not an expert on what effects we all have on each other.  I only have my own experience to share with you.  And now that you’ve heard my story, I feel like I can tell you what a value it has been for me to belong to a group. 

First let me say, as a mammal: being in a group reduces fear.  Locking eyes with another human while you’re tearing down a wall or moving something heavy or facing any challenge takes away from the primal feeling that you can’t do it, or that you need to run away.  Not only because there are people who have your back, but also because there are people who depend on you to keep going. 

Second, let me say as a perfectionist: being in a group reduces stress. As an over-achieving only child, I get in my head and worry about most things, which generally leads to a downward spiral. But working with others allows you to be vulnerable, to be encouraged, and then to be brought back to reality by those who are thinking more clearly than you. There is a power to making light of things with friends. 

Third, let me say as a woman: being in a group reduces the feeling that you’re being a bitch. The older I get, the more I realize what a tightrope a woman walks because of the real and perceived expectations we have about encompassing the entire spectrum of humanity at once.  We must be firm, but still loving. Sweet, but sensual. Knowledgeable, but not know-it-alls. Motherly, but not overbearing. Feisty, but chill. Hard-working, but still beautiful. It’s not sustainable.  But working as part of a team takes the focus away from how well I’m behaving and how I appear, and puts more emphasis on how well I’m getting the job done. 

Fourth, let me say as a human: working in a group increases joy.  Being elated alone is great.  Being elated with a lot of other excited individuals is just tremendous.  What’s more, if you work in a group and achieve the group’s goal, you don’t want to celebrate alone anyway.  Cheering each other on and celebrating combined success is far more euphoric than rejoicing solo.  Case in point, last week Rockford voted us its best new restaurant, of course as soon as I found out, I celebrated with my 25 wonderful employees that make up the group I currently love to belong to.

Fifth, let me say as a mother: working in a group turns the gruesome into comedic fodder. In the past 4 years, I’ve seen more more filth than most of my fellow Americans.  I can tell you with certainty: when I was in that building facing the filth alone, things felt pretty bleak.  I was hiding my fear and frustration, as so many of us do. But for whatever reason, facing terrifying scenarios with others is almost easy because you’re too busy commiserating and making jokes to place stock in just how vial the job really is. 

Finally, let me say as a business owner, once you open yourself to being a part of a team, that mindset begins to spread. Since I bought the building, 3 more business owners bought derelict buildings on our block and began renovating them. We have become incredibly fast friends, helping each other with our projects, lifting each other up when we’re feeling discouraged, encouraging our customers to patronize each other’s businesses. Case in point, this Friday night, my restaurant is hosting a dinner with a theme that matches our neighboring theatre’s play.  And on December 14thand 15th, our entire strip of businesses is celebrating our one year anniversary w/ a giant winter snømarket in our shared parking lot. 

So now to recap.  I’ve learned that working in a group reduces fear, stress, and guilt. It also increases joy and laughter. Which is to say: belonging to groups progresses us along.  I would wager that working in close proximity with a team is how our species evolved to the place we’re at today.  Sadly, as we became more fearless, more civilized, that comradery and dependence on each other went away. 

I think a lot about how much of our lives is spent in physical isolation. It was bad enough when I was a kid, living in a house, leaving it in a car, exiting the car to be in another building, then inevitably ending up back in the car to drive home.  Now a-days, people have phones to distract them in public and to keep them from having to look, speak, or connect with each other at all. 

It’s funny to me now that I’ve been asked to give a talk about the power of a tribe (which is a word I don’t personally use in the way that it’s used today), and yet, our species has evolved beyond tribalism. We’ve evolved into a civilized life whereby our isolation has provided us with beautiful homes and cars and food, and yet we lack all the obvious benefits provided to us by being a part of small group dependent on each other.  The sense of belonging, the confidence, and most of all, the support.    

So how do we bring it back? 

If I’ve learned anything in this process of building and operating a restaurant, it’s that nobody really thinks that much anymore about where each of us have come from. We all know what’s “real” to us, and we operate in that reality.  I still have men coming into my bar and asking me to talk to the “guy” who installed my ceiling. Because to those men, women aren’t general contractors who are capable of installing a ceiling, much less leading a crew of grown men. 

I’ve tried many approaches to change the way those kinds of people think. I’ve called them out on their stereotypes. I’ve explained rationally why they’re incorrect in their assumptions. I’ve even gone so far as to insult them. The problem is, I’m fighting them in their reality.  And frankly, there’s no changing a person’s reality. 

To me, the only real way to make change of any kind, is to create the reality we want to live in, and to encourage others to meet us there.   

I know the reality I’m living in now, and I know what I need to do to encourage others to share in it. I need to create a safe restaurant space for my customers, one where they see clearly that there is a woman at the helm of a functioning business, one where they feel welcome to connect with others.  I need to be vulnerable and compassionate with my incredible team of employees so that they will trust our little work community and feel their own sense of belonging to it.  The more we all belong, the more energized each member of my team becomes. Finally, I need to pour myself fully and presently into my husband and kids when I come home, so that our little family will reap the benefits of belonging to our small group as well. 

What I hope comes out of this talk foremost is that I’ve accurately relayed how I’ve grown into the revelation that working in a team is much more beneficial than proving that I can do it all on my own.  My other goal is simply to connect with more of you who are also working to reshape reality, and to cheerlead you on so you’ll keep at it. The more of us who are confidently living a life that encourages women to belong to a team, to lean on a team, to also lead a team, the greater that reality will become and it will render the life of suffering in isolation obsolete.  Thank you.

My first speech 

No blog for me for two weeks.  I've got to give a big speech to a large group of women at the end of November, and I'm using all of my writing time to make it the best it can be.  I'll post it up here just as soon as I'm finished.

I hope you all had a good Halloween.  This Lorax spent the day taking her kids out in the snow around the neighborhood. You never get too old or too cool to wear spandex in the name of fun.  See you in a few weeks. -Em

Burnt Out IOS 

I wish it were as easy to perform updates on ourselves as it is on our phones.  

If I were my phone, I'd just plug myself in at night, wake up in the morning to a new operating system, take a self-guided tour of how cool I'm about to be, and start being a better version of myself.

But being simple flesh and blood, it's hard to make updates.

This week, it dawned on me that I've got a lot of unhealthy, antiquated habits that aren't serving me anymore.  I respond to anger with anger.  I am quick to judge. I work too hard on too little sleep. I don't eat enough vegetables or drink enough water, and I stretch myself too thin.

Upgrading to more useful systems sounds wonderful.  But nothing is an overnight fix.  I would need to start incorporating better practices into my day-to-day life.  I would need to exercise daily compassion.  I would need to buck my hardwiring and try to start forming new habits of self-awareness and self-care.  And all of these things would take weeks, if not months.  Who's got time and energy for that?

Me, from now on.

Reader, what we allow is what will continue.  If we want to change for the better, we have to work for it, daily. There's no sense in holding on to bad habits, just because they'd take too long to fix. I know I for one don't want to be running on this same old burnt-out operating system next year.

This week, I'm going to start making small updates to my life.  It won't be a quick solution to problems, but it's going to be a start.  I leave you with this picture of me waving to the folks redoing my parking lot at work.  Seems like everything around me is upgrading; it's time that I do, too.  See you next Monday. -Em, 2.0

Til Death 

Morbid as it sounds, I think about death everyday.  

Not for long, and not to be macabre. It just helps me keep everything in perspective.  As contrary as it sounds, nothing snaps me out of a funk faster than remembering we're all going to die.

(Bless my poor parents for dealing with a creepy kid like me.)

Anyway. Three friends of mine died this week.  They weren't related.  It just happened to be their time.  And as much as I think about death, their untimely passings still put me on my heels.

I walked around most of this week in a bit of a daze, contemplating what my friends left behind.  Kids, wives, friends, fans, band members, pets. It felt like a punch to the gut to think of everybody who would miss them.

I thought about all that they had made: art, recordings, movies, music.  I felt the wind go out of my sails, hypothesizing what they would have continued creating if they hadn't gone so soon.

Then last night, I was lying in bed with my kids, taking turns telling spooky stories. (Not surprisingly, my children are naturals at being creeps).  We literally laughed ourselves to sleep.  It was a great night. This morning, I took my son to school.  Hanging in the classroom, there was a sheet of paper with each kids' answer to what they would do under an apple tree (picture below).  My son's answer broke my heart.  And it hit me.

Bodies die. Love does not.

Reader, we will be forgotten. Our words will be forgotten. Our money will be forgotten. Our possessions will be forgotten. But the energy we pass on will continue to be passed.  If we pass along hate, anger, and fear, then that is our legacy.  If we pass along love, encouragement, and compassion, then that is our legacy.  Let's remember this week that--for the people who want to sit with you under an apple tree--your energy matters.  It will be passed from them onto another person.  Let's keep that love going around.

With that, this creep is off to spend some time with her kids. See you next Monday. -Em

Shaken, Not Stirred 

Short blog tonight; the kids need their mama. But I wanted to let you know that I'm going to be a bartender this week.

This Wednesday, I'm guest-bartending from 5 pm to 7 pm at Abreo restaurant in Rockford, and 10% of all the money we earn will go to Gigi's Playhouse, an organization dedicated to changing the way we view people w/ Down syndrome and encouraging general acceptance of all humans. As many of you know, this mission is dear to my heart.  

I spent some time w/ my mixologist buddy Greg Callahan at work yesterday, learning as many bar tricks as I could. Granted, I can't do bar slides. Or twirl bottles. But if you'd like to drink for a cause while chatting about woodworking & single malt scotches, then I'm your lady. Likely there will be spontaneous outbursts of singing. 

I hope you'll let me serve you a mediocre Manhattan for a top-shelf cause this Wednesday at happy hour. (Non-alcoholic drinks are also available.) I'll see you back here next Monday night. -Em

Unapologetic Corn Angels 

All my life, I've spent way too much energy and time caring what people thought about me. 

And feeling sorry. 

As a musician, I figured if people didn't like me (and-by extension-my music), they wouldn't buy my records.  I've apologized to more fans than I care to admit for failing to deliver the sound they wanted.

As a restaurateur, I figured that if people didn't like me (and-by extension-my restaurant), they wouldn't support my business.  I've apologized to more customers than I care to admit for failing to deliver the food they wanted.

The theme is unfortunately clear.

Reader, I'm tired of being sorry all the time. This week, I spent a great afternoon with my kids, doing corn angels in a silo and giving zero rips about what anybody thought of us.  It was liberating.  My mind actually felt lighter.  I felt myself exhale for what seemed like the first time in weeks. 

What a simple concept: stop caring if people like you.  

As an overachieving adult, I know I've looked for ways to control most situations.  But the simple fact is, you really can't control if people like you or not.  And if people do happen to like you, they certainly don't want you to spend your time apologizing to them.  They want you to be yourself, unapologetically.  They want you to create from a place that makes you happy.  And they want you to care about them in this same way.

Everybody else?  Well, you can't please everyone. I'm looking forward to a very un-sorry week ahead.  See you next Monday. -Em

Recollection 

This week, a lot of things turned up, seemingly out of nowhere.  

On the restaurant front, we came into loads of hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, watercress, & juniper berries.  I could hardly believe my good luck.  All of these treasures were just beyond the tree-line, waiting for me to collect them.

The next day, I got to play a concert with my old friend Ernie Hendrickson.  I played songs I haven't played in years.  The lyrics and chords still came pouring out, as if they were waiting for me to recall them.

Today, my son was sent home sick from school with a fever.  I curled up with him on the couch.  I started rocking him the way my mom did to me, using instincts that have been latent but still inherently there, waiting for me to use them.

And here I didn't know I was missing anything, until it all turned up.

Reader, it was a beautiful week, and I've got nothing but gratitude. Days like these remind me that there is so much waiting for us, just down the road, just behind our thoughts, just beneath our skin.  How relieving to think that---even in dark times--there's something waiting for us.

This sappy post has been brought to you by a feeling of epic abundance (and a dram of scotch before bed).  I'm off to rock a sick babe. See you next Monday. -Em

Lagom  

A few weeks ago, one of the writers from Umgås--a Scandi magazine I reference all the time at my restaurant--contacted me out of the blue. I was dumb-founded and honored; he wanted to write a story about my journey through music and food. This week, the story was published. (If you feel like checking it out, it's here).

Anyway, I liked the questions that the writer (Sean) asked me.  He was disarming, even over the phone, and I found myself able to talk to him candidly.  I was surprised how naturally I could remember my Grandma Ruth, how readily I could discuss my own life philosophies, and how easily I could express my gratitude.  Reading my own words in the article this week, it hit me:

The path I'm on is the one that suits me.

There are so many paths that used to call me, but they're not for me, and they never were.  That path my parents walked? I'm too hot-headed, too stubborn for it. That full-time singer path I always wanted?  I'm too rooted, too raw to walk it.  That full-time chef path? I'm too much of a writer, too quiet to walk it.  That full-time stay-at-home mom path?  I'm too bold, too dreamy to walk it.  

But the little path I've carved, the one where I wake up in the morning, write at my piano, play with my kids, spend the day running a brunch pub, and come home to my family and our home in the woods?  Well I'm not too much of anything for it.  It's made for me.

Reader, there's a Swedish adjective called "lagom," which translated, means: neither too little or too much...just right."  Sometimes, it's easy to wish we were on somebody else's path, but it's really not for us.  I hope your life path right now is as lagom for you as mine feels to me.  (Truth be told, I'm sure I'll feel out of balance again by next week.  But at least this week, everything feels just right.)

With that, I'm off to bed. I spent the afternoon gathering the last of the elderberries from our woods.  I'll be cooking with them this Thursday night at my restaurant, if you feel like tasting my food.  Then on Friday night, I'll be playing a show with my friend Ernie Hendrickson at Memorial Hall, if you feel like hearing some music.  I'm all over the place, and yet right where I want to be.  See you next week. -Em

Forgetting Fault 

We live in a world that loves to find fault.  

At least I do.  

When I was in undergrad, I took a personality test. The number one adjective that chocked me up? Fault-finding. No joke. I felt embarrassed; I remember hiding my results from my classmates. But on the walk home that day, I decided that the test was unfortunately correct.  I was fault-finding.  I took perverse pleasure in finding errors in my teacher's lesson plans, in typos in newspapers and books.  I reveled in calling out my friends and family members if they were ever hypocritical. And to this day, I can't help myself from sifting through the internet and finding flaws in the logic of writers.

This is probably why I don't have many friends.

Anyway, as much as I've tried to improve since my college days, I'm not much better today.  For the past few weeks, it's dawned on me:

Finding fault is my biggest fault.

Case in point: I've been hosting several events at my restaurant lately.  The event tonight was a fall kick-off party for a club of professional women in my hometown.  As they started arriving in their nice clothes, I felt my old hyper-critical self kick into gear.  I tensed up.  Then the familiar internal dialogue started.  Who do these women think they are?  Oh my God they're all so proper. Are they doing enough to include everybody?  Where are all the women of color?  Wait, is this a racist club?  I can't believe I'm hosting racists!

Irrationality at its finest.

As I sit here reflecting, the truth is staring me in the face.  I'm finding fault because it's easier than finding something in common.  Because I can get a quick jolt of energy from being right.  Because I like to put distance between myself and people that I assume aren't like me.  

But mostly...because I'm constantly finding fault with myself, and I'm jealous that other people aren't doing the same.

Damnit.

Reader, it's easy to find fault.  In fact, it's downright primitive.  I'm on a mission to evolve a bit, loosen up, extend some grace to myself and others, and maybe even find commonalities.  The women tonight could not have been greater kindred spirits, and I'm glad I was able to forget my tendency to look for character flaws so that I could find all of our shared interests.  In the end, it's nicer to be in a group of mutually flawed friends than righteous and alone.

I leave you with this picture of an 18-tiered Scandinavian cake I made this week.  The picture on the left is what my first two cakes looked like.  The picture on the right is the third cake I made.  Hard as we may try, nobody is perfect.  We're all flawed.  And we could all stand to let go of the need to look for how much we're messing up so we can focus more on how to improve.  With that, this flawed restaurant-running songwriter is off to bed.  See you next Monday. -Em