Ruby Chocolate Cloud Cake

An Open Letter to the Woman I Was, Leaving Nashville:

You will find yourself omitting coffee early this morning to beat traffic. You will think it is a smart idea to wait until you are outside the city. It is not.

Five hours later, you will finally pass a Starbucks. You will go in, and you will order Blonde Roast, and they will give you Pike. You will never forget the guilty look on the barista’s face when you say before paying that you want your employee discount. You will also never forget that first taste of…fucking Pike.

You will eat yogurt covered raisins when you are hungry. You will be forced to listen to the same few songs, over and over, because your phone is acting funny. You will miss the mountains, years later, and you will always wonder how everyone there learned they needed to put up signs indicating random, tumbling rocks. You will feel the change when the weather becomes just a little bit chillier.

You will keep waiting on the drive for the tears you wanted to cry but did not have time for because you were tired and you just needed to keep going. They do not come. Instead, over the next few years, they will squeak out just a little every day before there comes a time that you realize they have not visited lately. Spoiler alert: this is the moment that they return, because grief is not linear, but rather, it is a button whose pressing changes and becomes perhaps less trigger-able, though nonetheless responsive, over time.

The tears will make their first appearance when you meet the only person who knows in Chicago on the way. You will be standing in front of a Monet, and the soft pink-kissed-yellow makes you long for the time that has now passed. When you headed in this direction, you were not quite certain that you would ever find that space again. The one where you are loved like the softest place on earth. You are right to wonder.

It will hit you the second you sit down in the passenger seat of your own car. The depression. It is not the first time you have felt it, but it is the first time you have recognized it. Old friend.

For this leg of the trip, you will have company to finish the drive home again. It helps, I guess, in some ways. But the depression never goes. It will not leave you for the next few years, as you haul ass to rebuild your life again in Minneapolis without telling anyone what you experienced, what you have carried.

It will be hard. And nobody is guaranteed a damn thing. But there will come a time when you realize that you need to see that you deserve it, even-and, perhaps, especially-if there is nobody else to tell you so.

You do not need to be perfect to receive it. Just decide. Decide right now. Like you did back then, driving away. Because even though there was a tough road ahead you knew that you had to count on there being something better. And I appreciate that. I am looking back and feeling for you, because I know how that was and how hard it has been.

I want to be more like you, back then. Back then, you knew what it should be like, and that you deserved it, and you did all that you could to make it happen, even if it meant braving the void. And back then, you never would have listened to anyone who made that voice a little quieter. You would have breathed through it, because you did, because you knew there had to be something greater. Greater than anything that wanted to silence your voice.

And maybe it doesn’t look the way everybody says love should. It’s just that some things don’t match up with what we have come to know = pink chocolate, cake like a brownie, and where is the fucking frosting, but

I want you to take a second and enjoy the weird and unlike-any-other and pretty wonderful thing you made out of what you had.


Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes, when you least expect it, it occurs to you that you have believed a thing or two just a little too long.

I don’t know when I started swallowing this pill, but it dawned on me this morning that I have been telling myself for a long while that I can settle for less than I deserve.

Seasons have passed. Furniture assembled. Love lost and found. Friends made. A home made. Kisses given, stolen, missed, and forgotten. Chances taken. Rearranging. Hellos, and then, goodbyes.

Slowly, surely, I have melted the ice. And, you know

[Nothing blooms, if not for mud.]

Until I get there, I will simply be trying. To know myself, and to embrace it.

Even-and, perhaps, especially-if there are secret strawberries in the mix.

The Spring Playlist 2019

At the start of the New Year,

I showed up for my first-ever 108 Sun Salutations.

Before we began, we were given little cards to write down one word that could be our intention.

I wrote the word “blooming.”

I don’t know that I realized it then, but I see it now: the process, the mayneverquitegetthere, but the getting there.

And there’s the risk, always, ever looming, that you might just fuck it up (without intending).

So now, I am learning. Learning to like it and to take note when those around me do not feel comfortable at the thought that you do not have to be attached to the end, but the process

of trying and maybe failing [or not producing what you thought you would].

And I am telling you it doesn’t matter because all of it is little buds and suggestions of greenery in the ground on the way to what is next.

Everything Sweet Potato Gratin

There are some Minnesotans who say that winter isn’t always like this. There are others who say it used to be a million times worse. Then, there are the ones who pick out a more northern city and state how much worse they have it there. I wonder if, like a lot of things in life, these are merely methods of shifting perspective (read: ways of getting by).

Within days of getting my immune system suppressed in January, I came down with the flu. It hit me suddenly, and just when my body’s ability to fight things off was arguably most impaired. I had a 102 degree fever for days, and it cleared up just in time for a giant mound of snow to bury my car. Then, a polar vortex made it -46 degrees. I was expected to show up to work at 4am those mornings (and I did).

Now, to be clear–I live alone, and I don’t have any family nearby. I don’t have a garage. This means that I dig myself out of this stuff by myself. Even when I am barely recovering from illness. One of those mornings, my neighbor saw me at 3:30am struggling to get my car out of its parking space, and he bundled up and helped me. This is the only time that that has ever happened to me. That man is an angel.

I don’t think I give myself enough credit for the things that I do, all the while dealing with all the ups and downs of a severe autoimmune disease. I work five days and I take grad school classes and I run this website and I take all my vitamins and I meditate and I do yoga and I maintain friendships. Sometimes, I just think I keep going on empty.

It has now been two months since the flu took over, and when I went back for my immunosuppressive treatment this past week, the doctor told me that I had not recovered enough yet to receive my medication yet. I’m worn out. And like,

In the past, I have had a sinus infection turn to walking pneumonia. I have had strep for so long, it has damaged my vocal chords. I have had a mouth infection so bad that, over the course of a year, I had 15 rounds of antibiotics and five oral surgeries. I still lost the tooth. The list goes on, but my point is, beyond (and, let’s be real: because of) my Crohn’s:

When I get sick, I get really sick.

Several weeks after the initial onset of my plague this winter, I was in bed watching You and wishing someone would make me something for dinner. In a majestic perspective shift I find quite similar to the aforementioned Minnesotan-Winter Phenomenon, I somehow moved away from how exhausted I was. My thoughts directed themselves to how easy it would be: slice potatoes, cover with cream, brown with grated cheese and everything bagel seasoning on top.

I cleaned whatever dishes I could in between steps, and I got back in bed whenever there were breaks in cooking. It turns out, once the potatoes have been peeled and sliced, the rest is pretty easy.

Also, I just want to point out that I have figured out a way in my small studio apartment to turn my television so that I can watch from bed.

This has been a total game changer, and I am never getting out of my pjs ever again, even when I feel well.

Anyway, here I am, feeling much better than I did, but still not completely mended, and I actually miss that day when I didn’t feel tip top, but I made this gratin, anyway. I miss not having seen You, because it would mean that I can watch You again for the first time.

And, I don’t know–there’s something about crawling into bed with your grandmother’s crystal housing a giant potato-y mound of onion-infused cream, gruyere funk, and everything bagel nostalgia that just shouts, “Comfort!” Even when there just isn’t a whole lot else to feel that great about.

Cheers to making it through the last few months, friends. We’re almost there. ❤

Ginger-Turmeric Tonic

Ten years ago today, I lay on a hospital bed before what was supposed to be an appendectomy. I had eaten half of an egg roll the night before, and my body had revolted. The surgeon told me that he would not be removing my appendix, after all. It was a close call, and most of my intestinal tract would have needed to be removed if he hadn’t paused for a moment. Had they cut me open as planned, the infection would have spread.

It turned out, appendicitis was one more (brief) misdiagnosis to add to my five previous years of feeling awful. I had started to get sick when I was fourteen. I wish I never learned to comply with the world telling me how it is, when it isn’t.

Except, the surgeon used words like autoimmune and incurable at me this time. It was almost comical, after five years of being told I was fine when I wasn’t. Because, hearing those words, I really just didn’t want it to be true. When you grow in a world that gaslights you, you don’t want the answer you finally receive to mean forever. You want to receive one pill and be fine and have the pleasure of having been right and then go on living your life as a healthy, untethered human. But, forever–it turned out, it felt worse for a moment not to hear that I was fine.

I joked to everyone who knew me that my distended abdomen (that had led to my hospitalization) was merely a very odd pregnancy. Like some parents announce the gender of their child, I announced a…Crohn’s baby?

[I suppose I just wanted to change the conversation.] It can be hard to learn you have something you can never get rid of. And everyone wants to “help.” But, just like everything else in life, I have learned that the only thing I have the power to do is to accept it, within my realm of capability.

I use that language because it isn’t totally surrender. I am not resigned to my circumstances, even if some of it involves enduring things that are less than enjoyable. And, the truth is, there are a lot of aspects you aren’t thinking of beyond the disease that I do not enjoy. The treatment itself, for example. The testing I’ve had. The social component of having a body that functions differently. The exhaustion. Having one more difficult-to-understand layer upon layer upon layer.

Because incurable isn’t solved when I make you a list of foods I can’t eat. That isn’t how it works. It’s the time of day. It’s how much. It’s whether I’ve exercised yet. It’s how I woke up feeling. It’s how much sleep I got. It’s what else I’ve eaten that day. It’s what time I have to be up tomorrow.

The only way for me to deal is to know that I function differently, and to know that there is a language I have to learn to speak, and that it is the kind my body is trying to help me crack. I have to trust my own wisdom before anybody else’s.

Ten years ago, when I was told I had severe fistulizing Crohn’s, I was socialized to think my answer should be, No I don’t. And maybe, someplace and sometime, it is true. [That I don’t.]

Truthfully: if I waved a magic wand, I would probably want that, among other things. But I would never want the last ten years to go away. The lessons. The pain. The recovery. The self-efficacy. The discovery.

If my ability to enjoy deliciousness had never left and come back to me…I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Until I know the other side of things, all I can do is listen to and abide by my own rules as they make themselves known to me.

the process can be just as important as the getting there

[To read the only other post I have written about this, click here.]

Coffee Coffee Cake

When I saw his name, I thought to myself, What if he’s my next person.

My next thought was, Don’t be silly. Then, Don’t not be silly. Setting his order down before his arrival, I recognized he could be any number of unfitting things, really. It was my first day at my new store since I’d moved back to Minneapolis. My soft heart was hurting, and all of it was pretty irrelevant, really.

He came in to pick up his mobile order after about ten minutes, or so. I know now that he likes his coffee lukewarm, anyway.

At first, I noticed how stylishly he dressed. I liked his shoes. It occurred to me that he seemed like he didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I respected that.

For a year and a half, we never spoke. Every day, he placed that same order, and I would be making drinks by the handoff plane when he would arrive to pick up his coffee and walk away.

I had a dream once that he was my boyfriend, and we all laughed very heartily at my retelling of it, during which, he arrived, grabbed his drink, and left. When I got promoted to open my own location, I left without ever having talked to him. And to be clear, I didn’t really think about it.

But then, he walked into my new store. My store. And I hadn’t seen his name print out for pickup. In fact, no orders had printed out. For a very long time. Four letters crossed through my mind as I saw him walk past the handoff area to get in line: Fuck, I thought. My mobile order is broken.

The longer he waited, the more I panicked. I told everyone I was stepping off the floor, and I went around the counter and said, “Were you not able to place your order ahead this morning?”

I introduced myself, and he recognized me, and he informed me that my mobile order system was fine; he had simply decided to start switching things up.

We became friendly after that. He would come in every morning and order at the register and we would talk. When he remembered a concert I had told him about, I turned to one of my employees and asked, “Does he like me?”

I just want to point out that I genuinely did not mean to ask him out. Like, at all. When the time came, months later, the words flew out of my mouth sooner than I could even think about them. And I still have the piece of paper he used to write down his phone number. When, later that evening, he sent me an essay on the poetic genius of 80s movies, I thought to myself, What if he’s perfect.

Newsflash: he isn’t. Nobody is. But I’m happy. And I have been afraid to be honest about all of this, because my heart has been fucking crushed before.

We have played over 800 games of Yahtzee. On the weekend, he buys a loaf of brioche and he toasts thick slices of it for me with jam. He makes me belly laugh. We have Mission Impossible marathons. He loves me even more for being grumpy. I once caught him bragging about how smart he thinks I am. I wake up once a week happier than all the other days because I know we are having taco night. Even the way he grabs paper towels is hilarious to me. And best of all, we go get our cups of coffee together now. Except, I drink mine right away.

I really hope my flavor choice for this tender, aromatic coffee cake, ripe with espresso-cardamom crumbs, is making sense to you now. Sending love (and the courage to share it) to all of you soft hearts out there.

Happy Valentine’s.

❤ kc

Hummingbird Sheet Cake with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

There are a lot of reasons WHY that I can give you here.

First: after my grandmother developed dementia, I would go get slices of her favorite cake, this kind, whenever I wished I could reach her. I grew to like it quite a lot in that time.

Second: it is attributed to the American South, but. *shocker*

It actually hails from Jamaica, where it once was served without any frosting at all.

Mashed bananas, crushed pineapple, chopped pecans, and cinnamon, all mixed together in a butter-less batter.

Supposedly, the cake draws us in like nectar does to hummingbirds.

Sweet, tangy, warm, and soothing – and on to the next thing.