Vulnerability Equals Connection: On Joy, Pastries, Passion, and Not Being a Spirit Crusher

Hi! I want to share something with you.

Pie week! Apple Crumb. Mmm!
I wish I could share our Apple Crumb Pies with you, too. They turned out well!

When I was growing up, there was someone for whom my efforts were never good enough. The super-high standards in my family made me try harder, but they also made me languish in the perpetual failure of never enjoying accomplishment.

Yes, I know I’m nearly 44, but I’m not over it.

While I was writing under deadline, I didn’t enjoy the book releases because there was always another deadline, another disappointing number I could find somewhere to kill my joy. Being critical of myself is familiar. Dare I say it’s my comfort zone? Damn right old habits are hard to break.

I teach pastry arts at a local community college. Usually I teach Intermediate, but this semester, I’m also teaching Intro. Intro is the students’ first taste of the program and sometimes their first experience in a professional kitchen. For a few, this class is the first time they have baked ANYTHING from scratch. Since I am as driven in the kitchen as I am in writing, I wrote a marvelous production schedule. And we got behind (always happens). I was frustrated, mostly with myself. A very familiar feeling when I teach any class because I inherited high standards. High expectations. Many of my students grow to appreciate that and come back to thank me…but it’s frequently rough for all of us DURING the class.

When it's really rough, I eat linzer tart. Hazelnuts, raspberries and cinnamon. A classic delight!
When it’s really rough, linzer tart helps. Hazelnuts, raspberries and cinnamon. A classic delight!

One night, I dismissed class on a frustrated low note, but I came in the next night armed with a game plan for that night and a better game plan for the night before, explaining how I made the wrong choice early in class by assigning them the wrong recipe to do first. I laid out what would have been a better way to approach the night’s work. See, I do love teaching. And I really love baking. And most of all I love eating pastries. The biggest thing I share with my students is my passion, but somehow that gets lost in my gotta-get-the-work-done-so-we-can-talk-about-how-we-could-have-done-it-better attitude. It’s never good enough. Never a triumph. Even I can’t fail to see the pattern.

While I was sharing my ideas for how we could do it better, two things happened;

  1. I exposed my vulnerability, the fact that I KNOW I don’t know everything, and that I don’t always get it right the first time, either. (Brené Brown, the vulnerability badass, would be so proud!)
  2. Someone asked about chocolate cheesecake.

And we connected.

I put my website on the projector screen so I could share my chocolate cheesecake recipe with them. I’m passionate about the recipes I put in my books. They are usually recipes I’ve been using for years and years. In fact, I’ve been making that particular cheesecake (featured in SCRUMPTIOUS) since I discovered it in 1996!  I ended up showing them several of the dessert recipes on my website. They also got a good look at Russ Donovan’s bare chest on the cover of IMPULSE CONTROL, and, boy, we really connected over that, lol! In those moments, I stopped being the PITA driving them through recipe after recipe and pointing out faults in the name of learning and became a passionate person. We had a great night in the kitchen that night, and I realized I could teach them more by taking things a little slower. If we all enjoyed the process, then I would be doing my job well. Because, yes, I’m supposed to teach them how to bake, but I also want to inspire them to love what we do. If you aren’t enjoying the process, the actual time you spend doing what you do, then what’s the point? Some people have good answers for that question. Like: I make a shit ton of money. Or: I’m saving the world. But I don’t have a good answer for why I make myself miserable. I have a choice. Neighborhood BFF Melissa shared a meme on FB the other day: Happiness is an inside job. I LOVE THAT!

I bring home cookies to my kids when I'm teaching, but they don't get a whole one! Product evaluation is important, so I HAVE to take a bite of each one...
I bring home cookies to my kids when I’m teaching, but they don’t get a whole one! Product evaluation is important, so I HAVE to take a bite of each one…

So I’m taking things slower on the writing front. I don’t have much time to devote to writing when I’m teaching. I always have the thought, “If I’m teaching at night, I have all day to write,” and it never works out. Because if I’m teaching every night, I have a lot of other things to get done during the day, too! It’s OK. I’m writing a book. That’s good enough. I’m also taking things slower in the kitchen, and everyone seems to be enjoying the process a bit more. I’m telling that insistent little voice that drives me to assign another recipe the second someone’s hand are idle…to fuck off. They are becoming better bakers. Good! Enough!

I’m good enough. You are good enough. We get to decide that for ourselves. We get to define our happiness and success. We are “good enough” simply because we ARE. It’s that easy. And really difficult at the same time. But in those moments when I feel the most weighted down by my own expectations, and I shrug them off and recognize the work I have done is GOOD and ENOUGH?


Multiple times a day because that shit takes practice. 🙂

Happy March, everyone! XOXO ❤




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