Giving Permission

As a self-identified list maker, I find lists incredibly helpful.  For many of us, weekday obligations suck the living daylights out of us and render us relatively useless until Saturday mornings, when we awaken the superhero for her two-day, death defying feat of household chores.   

Saturday mornings the pen hits the paper: wash the dishes, do the laundry, vacuum, pay bills, garden or shovel (season dependent), dust, sweep, recycle, garbage out, scrub the toilets, change the furnace filter, wash a window, pick up dog poop from the yard, grocery shop, go to the hardware store for that one thing you forgot last weekend, et cetera, et cetera, and ending with what you really want to do such as go for a hike, ride bike, be social, paint, and write.

Items get crossed off the list just as quickly as new items are added on. The fun stuff gets moved to the bottom of page three.

Work starts after the second cup of coffee and ends when my back screams for a salt bath and some pain relievers.  Sometimes it ends when the couch calls and the last bit of news has wrapped up and it’s time for the late show which I never watch because at that point, going horizontal means going to sleep whether I want to or not.

Put Sunday on repeat.  Notice what hasn’t been done on Saturday and work to finish off the list, again, putting the best stuff last like it’s a reward for the punishment endured by what is now day two of hard physical labor. 

Lists have helped me to focus. They helped me to break down the steps for remodeling the kitchen, landscaping a yard, and have kept me in clean clothes.  Without the list, I’d free-fall into the chaos of the untethered mind, and wonder what to do first so I could get to the part of what to do last. 

The unfortunate reality is that the stuff that is last on the list, the good stuff—the fun stuff—the stuff we actually enjoy doing—never gets crossed off rather relocated to the next week’s list with a promise that NEXT weekend I’m going to have some fun.

The glaring err in this habit was that the fun stuff, the creative stuff, never got to happen. Writing the book took a lot longer than I had planned because getting the dog poo off the lawn took precedence over what felt like an indulgence in creativity. Eradicating the dust bunny population was more important on Saturdays than working on my book.

 In an effort to shift the defeating paradigm of what had become an uncreative life, I decided to go list-free for a day.  The goal was to engage in writing and art making first and then see what happened.  Here’s what happened:

Got up. Fed the pets. Made coffee. Drank coffee. Journaled while drinking said coffee about not having a list. Put the dog outside on a yard lead. Threw in a load of laundry.  Forget about the load of laundry and the dog. Pulled out the vacuum. Remembered to not do chores first. Decided to walk the dog instead. Short walk because noticed weeds in cracks of driveway and sidewalk as we left the yard.  Upon return from walking the dog, noticed (again) the weeds. Decided to pull weeds. Put dog in the house. Swept the back patio instead of pull weeds. Pet the cat. Consulted with said cat as to what I should be doing. Cat said meow. Went to studio to dismantle current project. Left it quasi-dismantled. Remember the coffee pot was still on. Walked to kitchen to turn off coffee pot and remembered that I wanted to build a shelf for the kitchen to put my cookbooks on.  Pulled out cookbooks.  Found a recipe that looked good. Pulled out ingredients for recipe and put them on the counter.  Felt heat of coffee pot.  Remembered that I forget to turn it off and finally turned it off. Decided I was hungry.  Put ingredients away for recipe. Made a bowl of oatmeal. Ventured outside to the shed. Pulled out power tools and set them outside to build shelf.  Pet the cat. Walked around the yard. Made mental notes (not a list) of places where weeds had sprouted. Walked in the house and made an internal lap.  Decided to clean the toilets. Washed mirrors. Remembered oatmeal was still in the microwave. Ate oatmeal. Gathered wood for shelf. Came in house for tape measure, forgot tape measure and made the bed. Brushed my teeth. Finally remembered the laundry and switched loads. Cleaned sinks. Visited studio. Rearranged mess in the studio. Consulted cat once again. Visited writing desk. Saw a list of agents to contact and walked away from list. Walked outside, pulled a weed and wondered if I’ve turned off the coffee pot.  Walked inside and noticed dishes in the sink. Did dishes. Noticed power tools outside. Measured wood and made a few cuts. Brought wood inside. Dog wanted to go out. Put dog on back patio.

At that point, it was only 10am and I was confused, disoriented, and a bit tired.  Not making a list was not helping me to re-join my body, mind and soul with the fun stuff I had promised myself I’d do.  I continued.

Another lap around the inside of the house. Another lap outside. Pet the cat, pulled some weeds, decided a tree needed to be trimmed, pulled out extended saw and leaned it against tree and came to the conclusion that I needed a nap. Napped.  Woke to a crack of thunder and heard rain.  Remembered that power tools were not only outside but plugged in, ran outside to amend this err. Got the wet power tools into shed and used my wet hands to unplug them in haste.  Thanked God I lived to tell about it and then watched lightening and heard the incredible silence as the power went out in the neighborhood.  

I stood in the rain, eyes closed, and tried to rationalize that there was no way this was my fault. 


In the silence of the powerless and diminishing day, a thought occurred to me that not having a list was not the solution to solving the problem around not having enough creativity.  The issue was prioritizing and the solution, it seemed, was permission.

I let that soak in like the rain on everything I left outside, including myself and the dog. 

Once inside and dried off, I sat at the computer and created a permission slip. I printed it off, filled it out and stuck it on the fridge.  I gave myself permission to have fun. I gave myself permission to make writing and art my priorities.  Vacuuming could wait. 

Every weekend since, I re-read the note. I am reminded that engaging in what I love to do is just as important as meeting my basic needs.  It IS a basic need. Doing what I have to feels like just getting by.   Doing what I love to do feels like purpose.  

It has taken a year to complete the fifth version of the manuscript and it wouldn’t have happened at all had I not given myself permission to work on it first.  I gave myself permission to be sassy in my writing style.  I gave myself permission to be honest with how I felt. I gave myself permission to find success in my own happiness. 

I am happy and I am currently reaching out to agents whom I hope will vie for the book, get it to a publisher and up my happiness quotient exponentially.

Then, maybe, I’ll vacuum.

Taking a risk

Love is a risk. The result of taking this risk and failing as many times as I have is now a book. The book explores my attempts at finding a lasting love, missing the mark, then taking that heartbreak and disappointment to the kitchen where I have found comfort, healing, and kinship with food.

Writing a book is a risk and the end result of that is a bragging right, and if all goes well, a legacy.

While writing the book, I fought writer’s block with a sledgehammer.

working through writer's block
This is what writer’s block looks like.


I demoed and remodeled my healing place—the kitchen. It’s hard to take your heartbreak to a place that doesn’t exist. I took the cabinets out, took the plumbing out, took the floor out and even removed a wall. I was doing the same with my self: removing the walls and trying to build a new and better me.

Getting rid of stuff was easy.

Wall removed in process of being removed
floor is coming out as is the wall. 3 layers of flooring. rotten cabinets…and writer’s block.

Putting it back in was challenging.  Putting it back in so it didn’t look like a DIY fail was even harder.

The kitchen re-do was necessity which was both preceded and followed by an idea.  The necessity was an old leak that had rotted the wall and cabinetry unsuspectedly, in my new-to-me home.  The idea was to tear it all out, tear out an additional wall and build an island where the wall used to be. An accompanying idea was to do it all by myself, which was also a necessity.  In reality, I needed a plumber, an electrician, a contractor to put in a beam where I tore out the wall, and a friend or two to help lift the heavy stuff. The rest I did myself. It wasn’t rocket science or brain surgery.  It was a steep learning curve, occasional cussing, and some damned determination.

The Final Product
New Kitchen. This was a course in determination, for certain! But I did it. There it is. 

I mention the kitchen remodel not to boast about self-empowerment and the tenacity of some women, but rather to be open about taking risks, making mistakes and trying again.  It took me three times to install the flooring and there are still noticeable flaws. I cover them with throw rugs. It took me weeks to get the cabinets plumb and level.  They are neither, really.  There was a compromise and I sealed that imperfect deal with some imperfectly cut countertops. The kitchen looks beautiful despite its flaws and I get to say that I did it. As for the flaws, only I know where they are and when guests come over, I distract them with food.

Food is imperfect as well.  I take a lot of risks in the kitchen, not just by taking down a wall, but also via the practice that I call, “I wonder what this will do” cooking and baking. I throw a lot of food away and consequently have one very happy and very fat racoon. My daughter named him Jeremy.  Jeremy loves my cooking….all of it.

With the kitchen back and in full swing, I’m back to baking and am on a mission to make Jeremy a little thinner.

I’m also on a mission to finish the book and get it published. The book explores love and heartbreak through food. Cheesecake, to be specific and all the recipes in the book are of my own design and are my personal flavor preferences. Some of the flavors are risky.

Recently, I’ve been playing with coconut for flavor.  As a meat, it’s a newly acquired taste and I’m still working on accepting the texture.  As a milk, cream, or oil, I’m on the steep learning curve, still taking chances and still failing often.

Holy F*ck…Epic Coconut cheesecake fail! This recipe is NOT in the book.

Coconut cream, both a bane of my culinary skillset and a favorite flavor, has challenged me more than trying to plumb the cabinets and more than trying to sand the drywall seams to look seamless.


Coconut cream is not pretty. It’s the color of used chalk and can taste like used chalk when you use starch as a stabilizing agent. Not only did the starch not stabilize the cream, but it made it grainy.

Several things went wrong.  To make coconut whipped cream, everything has to be chilled. EVERYTHING:  the can of coconut cream, the bowl, and the beaters. I chilled nothing rather set the bowl over an ice bowl much like I do with cow’s whipping cream. That won’t do the trick. The second thing I did wrong was to add the sugar prior to whipping the coconut cream.  I messed with the fat-to-air ratios by adding sugar too soon.  Save the sweetness until after things have stiffened up. Too sweet too soon and things just stay soft.

I’ve been there before. It’s called the Friend Zone.

Finally, I may have landed on a dud can of cream. I’m not sure how this happens but apparently, according to a quick internet search, it’s a regular occurrence. A dud can is indistinguishable from a non-dud can.  The dud-factor shows up only when trying to get it to peak and it can’t.

There it is again. There’s a reference to my dating life that I probably shouldn’t be sharing details about….but we’ve all been there. We take the risk to love and be loved and we get to that next level of loving when…dud-can.  You can let things chill. You can try to add stabilizers.  You place blame, internalize it or you can begin again. Each effort is a new risk; a foray into the unknown, into vulnerability and also into the possibility of success.

Risks are scary, but in the end, they help to move us into the direction of our dreams, whether a new kitchen, a book that will finally see print, or a love that is lasting and fulfilling.  Without the risk, none of these things will be anything. If risks aren’t your jam, start small.  Open up that can of coconut cream and start whipping. There’s only one way to know what will happen after that.