Once upon a time

There's something strange about doing something nearly every day for four years and then just stopping. I was a writer. I loved it. I miss it. I identified with it to the very core of my being. Not only was I a writer, I was an advertising writer. I mean, as far as I was concerned, they are the jocks of the writing world, too cool for anyone else. Yes?
And then one day, I stopped. And by stopped, I mean, I was told to quit. (and by 'quit,' I mean fired) But I still had my hobby writing. There was a book. And a blog. And a tumblr. And Twitter.
Well, I still tweet. I guess there's that. 140 characters of randomness typically spewed about cake and all thing cake related- from frosting to crazy wedding coordinators. If you ever liked my words, it's best to seek me out there, as it's my last remaining front. It makes me a little misty eyed that the only place I still get to do something I once loved is in a place where the half-life of my work is about 4 seconds. Talk about impact.
I get to do something I love now, but it's very, very different. It's surrounded in stress, rolled in a giant stress burrito. I spend the majority of my days worrying. I worry about whether or not the lady who very vaguely ordered her cake was going to be ok with the shade of blue we used. I worry that we won't make enough money this week to pay my staff. I worry that I will forget something important. I worry that someone will bump the table where a wedding cake precariously sits and I will get THE CALL. (It happens, I've watched the video) I worry that someone will put a cake in the backseat of their car, destroy said cake then lie and tell me that I must have done something wrong and have to fix said cake disaster. (this happens more than you would think). I worry that I'm going to run out of the right size of boxes. I worry that somewhere someone will use social media to say bad things about me and my business. I worry that someone will think my cake is dry. I worry that the sink might explode. I worry that I'm freaking out too much and taking it out on others. I worry that I've made the wrong decision. But somewhere among all the worry and the stress, there's the joy of creating something beautiful- a delicious ephemeral work of art. And then I sleep. And I wake up and do it all again, hoping that I've made the right decision. That I've course corrected enough to prevent the problems. But all that does is introduce new worry. Worry and doubt that lives in my chest and gnaws at my stomach. Once a week I find myself burdened with a migraine. The stress becomes too much for my body to bear and it breaks. My doctor says that once a week is 'within the normal realm of having a migraine.' Obviously he's never debated using an ice-cream scoop to remove a portion of his brain. But that's neither here nor there.
And then I feel the ultimate guilt- I'm an educated white woman who owns her own business and has a husband who makes enough money to let her go play every day with no recourse for providing to the family income. I literally get to do whatever the fuck I want. And I've chosen cake and icing and celebrations and can't be happy. The irony of which is, I never get to actually attend these kinds of functions. I missed my nephews birthday because I was stuck at the bakery creating desserts so that others could celebrate. It wasn't the first time, it wasn't really the most important time, it was just the time that I realized the utter amusement of it all. And I don't know how to bring on a state of normal that I can handle and I don't know how to walk away from it all. But I must do one of the two. I can't afford to pay enough people to do all of the work and pay myself. But if I have fewer people, then there's too much to do in one week and I live here, an exhausted zombie of a person who perpetually smells like sugar.
And then I worry that I'm being too honest. That I'm too frank. That people don't want to hear what goes on behind the curtain. That Willy Wonka was a sugar-fueled mad man who was driven to perfection by his own sadness and loneliness.


Backstory on LA.

So remember that trip to LA back in February? Well, it finally happened and the campaign is live! And? The client?
I've been a fan of Square for a long time. I actually remember being introduced to Square at one of the Lunch and Learns hosted by Custom XM, at this particular luncheon, Hot Dog Mike was talking about how he got his start, how he used social media to push his business and how he used Square to take charges while being mobile. While listening to him talk, I went to squareup.com and signed up for a scanner to plug into my phone. 
I used that for the first year of my business, then switched to using my iPad. Last July, I saw that Square was giving away five of their new Square Stands to business owners who entered the contest using the hashtag #WeStandFor. I uploaded a photo of Lauren playing with some of our sugar cookies and then forgot. 

Until I got a phone call from Square saying that we had won! During our talk, it was posed that Square often uses actual businesses/business owners in their advertisements and would I be interested in potentially being featured in the future. I said sure, thinking that they would share my Facebook page on their Facebook page or something like that. Maybe retweet me on Twitter.
I never dreamed that I would get an email saying that they wanted to fly me to LA and have my photo taken by Jill Greenberg along with 11 other business owners from all over the country.

Here is my photo.

They asked me for a quote to put with my photo and (as I was previously a writer, ha) I gave them multiple options to choose from. This photo is currently on their homepage, squareup.com just scroll down to see myself and two other business owners. (Seriously, the jewelry chick was so cool.)

The shoot itself was a pretty amazing experience. They told us it was a closed set so we weren't allowed to leak any photos on twitter, FB or anything like that, hence this post comes four months after the fact.
I've been on set before, but I was always behind the camera, not in front of it. And everything I was involved in was a bit smaller scale. Seriously, this place was huge. We were at Milk studio in LA, we were shooting stills for Square, Sean Penn was across the hallway (not sure what he was up to, I just know that as soon as I went all paparazzi on him he went back into his studio. Ahem.) and they were also shooting Bulgari in another. Someone told us that for every million dollars in product they had on set, they had to have an armed guard. While I was there, I saw three. Whether or not that's true, I don't know, but holy crap. I kind of wanted to just sit in that lobby and watch everything.

Where we were shooting was huge. No, HUGE. This was the view from the green room upstairs. The space continued to the right where hair/make up was set up, as well as wardrobe. To the left was out to the lobby. 

 Here's a closer shot of of the set up, one of the other business owners was getting her photo taken. There were so many cool people from all over the country. I honestly can't believe they picked me for something like this. Seriously, everyone was SO cool. They all had unique looks, awesome personalities and very cool businesses. I was all 'I sell cupcakes.' (OK FINE, I KNOW I DO MORE, BUT STILL!)

Here I am in makeup. It was still early in the day so I was still in the OMG, I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M IN LA BEING PAMPERED phase. Hair was clipped up with a tissue to keep it from falling.

Then it was finally my turn in front of the camera. They messed with my hair. A lot.
I think the funniest part for me was when the photographer got upset that my eyelashes were too full. YES. I have never been accused of having lush eyelashes. 
Jill (photograher): What's up with her eyelashes? 
Make up girl: Um, what do you mean?
Jill: Why are they so dark? It's distracting.
Make up: Um, I don't know. That's just how they are?
Me: I'm not naturally a red head, so that might have something to do with it.
Jill: Go take off the mascara.
*go back to make up and remove it*
Jill: They're still really dark. 
Make up girl: *helpless* I don't know!!! We took it all off.
Jill: Even the bottom lashes?
Her: She just has a lot of lashes!

Which, of course is funny to me because once at Clinique I asked if there was anything else I should get and the lady said my lashes were thin so I should get some lash building primer. 


I'm not usually good in front of a camera. I'm like Chandler, I don't know what to do with my face. I did not really think about all of this when I agreed to do the shoot. Thankfully it worked out. But don't get me started on how I'm smiling funny so only half of my teeth are showing. 

Overall it was an amazing experience and one that I'm truly thankful that I got to do. I love that it's for a really cool company. One that not only helps me in my day to day, but also one that I was already so passionate about. Seriously, I can talk your ear off about Square. The fees are low, there's no commitment and they just keep adding extra perks that make it easier to run my business. Did you know that in addition to the swiping, they offer a free register app that is highly customizable (including personal photos for items) as well as a built in loyalty app so I can reward my customers when/how I see fit? They've also rolled out a new Square capital program where small businesses can borrow money and then pay it back as you take charges. That's amazing. The newest thing I've seen is that they have a way to talk to customers about their experience privately and prevent negative reviews from making their way online. One of the newest features has been a lifesaver. We currently use Comcast which has very spotty service and it will frequently go out and we have to swipe and reswipe until it comes back online, the customer has to wait for us to reboot the system. Now Square works Offline an will finish the charge once service is restored so the customer doesn't have to wait. Thank you!

**Outside of the quote that is attached to my photo, all of this is just stuff that I wanted to share. Square doesn't know about this post (but I'm sure they will find it).


Listen to your mother.

A while back, a friend approached me and said I should try out for Listen To Your Mother. I am not a mother, so I was hesitant. She said that I didn't have to be. She thought my relationship with my mom and the path I've walked caring for a special needs sibling qualified me. So I wrote what I knew. Ultimately, my piece wasn't picked, and that's OK. (honestly, I'm not surprised my rage-filled anti-mom piece wasn't chosen to be read on Mother's Day. I mean, COME ON.) Either way, I wrote it and wanted to share it and since this is my available platform, here goes. And, if you find yourself wanting more mom stories, I urge you to buy a ticket for Listen To Your Mother Little Rock; based on the cast list, I know that it will be some amazingly uplifting and powerful stories from local ladies. 

They say there’s a bond between mother and child that can never be broken.

My mother was born with a defect that left her without a belly button, so she was never fully connected to her mother.

I guess that somehow, I inherited that.

Can you inherit a broken bond? Is that even possible? If you can inherit something that is there, it stands to reason that you can inherit something that isn’t there.

Some are called to be mothers. From a young age, tenderly cradling baby dolls, shhhhing and feeding them. Every moment spent attentively caring for another. While others are reluctantly dragged, kicking and screaming into motherhood.
My mother was the latter, uninterested in the process, content to let her children grow haphazardly like the wildflowers that lined our driveway.

And I fear I might be the same.

I have foggy memories- of when I felt like my family was a family. When I knew that my mom would jump in front of a bus for me. But those memories have long-turned brown around the edges. So hazy that I wonder if maybe it was just a movie or a TV show that I watched, and not an actual event that belonged to me.

I was the oldest of three. All girls. All as different as if we’d been plucked from vast corners of the world. The only similarities we have binding us is our shared delivery of sarcasm and the scars we carry from childhood.

As the oldest, I immediately became the caregiver to my sister. Younger by four years, she was the proverbial middle child, wild and beautiful, challenging and stubborn. The youngest came just a short eighteen months later, the “million dollar baby” they called her. Our little family was already overwhelmed, and Kacie’s challenges were simply something we weren’t equipped for. From heart problems to learning disabilities, we would not know the full extent of her troubles for years to come.

I had just turned five when I became a mother. Not like that mind you, but being a person who is responsible for another being. I remember the first time I was asked to put her needs before mine. It was my birthday. And my youngest sister had been born a mere six days prior. Both she and my mother were still in the hospital. My mom recovering from the emergency C-section, while Kacie, was on a respirator. She had already undergone one heart surgery and faced another just a few days away. I remember being upset that this was supposed to be my special day but that it would be spent focused on my sister.

 I had no idea that this was simply the beginning.

My father had wanted a boy with all his heart and this final blow- a third girl and a girl who was saddled with physical and mental disabilities was not what he had bargained for. He became disenchanted quickly.

Eventually, my parents would get a divorce. And it wasn’t one of those amicable ones where they simply agreed that they didn’t love each other any more. No, this was muddy and ugly and scarred. My mom looked to me as a confidante rather than her child. She began unloading the terrible details of her crumbling marriage on my twelve year-old shoulders. I did not know what to do. When she picked up the phone and heard my dad drunkenly tell someone that he was going to ‘blow that bitch’s head off.’ She didn’t move us out of the house, or call the cops. No, instead she hid all the guns they owned into my bedroom. I had a 12 gauge under the bed and a 22 hidden under the dress of one of my dolls.

 Innocence was lost on so many levels.

And on one particular night when she was feeling fearful of what he might do, she had me sleep in the bed between them. My mother’s best instincts were to use me as a human shield. I don’t care how many lifetimes you live, that’s simply not something you get over quickly.

The final nail in the coffin of my childhood relationship with my mom was when she abandoned my sisters and I and left us to fend for ourselves.

Each morning, she woke us on her way out, leaving us to shower, grab breakfast and make lunches then walk the half-mile to the bus stop. She would return around 12 hours later, far after I had made dinner for us, where she would lock herself in her room and we wouldn’t see her again until the next morning started all over.

Of course, she wasn’t out doing nothing, she was attending college and then working a full time job. At least, at first. Then by the time my senior year rolled around, she began dating. We would go a full week without seeing her.

At every step, my mother failed me at the most basic level. I did not feel safe. I did not feel loved. I did not feel cared for.

People often inquire if I want children. As if they have a right to delve into such a personal piece of my life. No. I don’t want kids. My husband and I are fine with our dogs. Typically I get a response, ‘Well, its good that you two agree on that.’ Or brazenly they will say, ‘You’ll change your mind.’ As if this complete stranger has summed me up and knows me better than I know myself.

The truth is, I’ve already been a mother. I’ve already given portions of my life to raising another, and I fear that I did a terrible job at it. And I hate the idea of doing it again. There is a fear in my heart that the broken bond I inherited would be passed down and that years from now I would have a daughter that I don’t know in the same way that my mother doesn’t know me. Would I resent her for changing the course of my life, the way I feel my mother resents me? Would I make selfish decisions at her expense? Would I simply walk away and leave her to fend for herself when all I should be doing is protecting her?

I don’t know, and maybe I’ll never know. Because sometimes the questions we are too afraid to ask are the ones that we already know the answers to.


I'm tired

I'm tired of fifty hour work weeks being considered "light."
I'm tired of showing up to events late because I was working and leaving early because I'm exhausted.
I'm tired of not being able to go out at all.
I'm tired of only wearing T-shirts and jeans with icing on them.
I'm tired of Friday nights being completely off limits for anything not pertaining to cake.
And I'm tired of Saturday being dominated by wedding deliveries.
I'm tired of being off on Monday only to have my phone ring from people mad that they didn't know I was closed.
I'm tired of standing in line at SAMs.
I'm tired of spending every penny we make.
And I'm tired of not knowing what my future holds. Employees? No employees?
I hate that I fought so hard to build something that didn't center around me in a marketing aspect that I've confused the general public into believing that there's more behind the curtain than just me.
I hate that I've worked so hard to build something that my husband completely loathes.
I hate that I'm beginning to hate it.

At one point I wondered if I would eventually hate decorating.  I don't, but I don't exactly enjoy it either.
I don't see the finished cake, I just see the flaws. And the potential for someone to be dissatisfied.
I spend my Sundays enduring stress-induced migraines from wedding deliveries.
I hate guessing what the tastes of customers will be any given weeks. I have die hard fans of my cupcakes, cookies and French macarons, but not all at the same time. We have 'cookie weeks' where the cupcakes go untouched and we bake hundreds of cookies. I can have a dish of caramel sit there for a week before I throw it out and the next week I'll have several angry old ladies mad that I didn't make any caramel this week. More often than not, I can't win for losing.

I hate that I'm the worst boss I've ever had, and I've worked for some mysoginistic assholes.
I hate that I already feel like a failure. But I know that I can't go on like this for much longer. So I guess this is my official notice that as of January 2015, things will be different. Very different. At this moment, I don't know what that will look like. Me baking at home? Me baking at a local restaurant that will take me? Me running a commissary-type facility for other small food businesses that don't have a place to call home? Who knows. I guess I have the next 9 or so months to figure that out.

I guess it's just going to be another chapter in my book.

Didi I ever tell you about the time I was the Vice President of a company that was featured on HGTV? Maybe I will, one day. And maybe this, this chapter of owning a bakery will just become one of those funny stories I reference at parties.


Going back to Cali. (Or more appropriately, I went back to Cali)

Shortly after graduating high school, I managed to spend about 3 months living in California. I road tripped out there with a friend and her family, stayed with her cousins for a week where we had bonfires on the beach and stayed up all night playing pool. Then I stayed with my aunt and worked at Subway, making some cash for college. I visited pretty much every amusement park while there and upon returning, vowed to never use the word "y'all" again. And I don't (other than to reference that I don't use it. Like I don't even like to say the word, I call it 'that Y word.' As far as I'm concerned it's worse than cursing.)
I went completely dorky and ran out to take photos of
Sean Penn. He was filming in the same studio as us.

Regardless, it was great, I loved it and I've been dying to go back ever since. And last week, I did! Unfortunately, it was not the sunny California I remember from my high school days. As winter reared it's ugly head here in Arkansas in the form of a snow and ice storm, California experienced rain. The residents were all ecstatic, something about a two year drought and how desperately they needed the rain. All I knew was that I was walking around downtown LA in a light jacket and a scarf I grabbed more for fashion than warmth and I was a bit irritated.
Here's the funny thing. People get all bent out of shape when we have terrible ice weather here in Arkansas- "People don't know how to drive!" they cry. And "OMG, can't you just get a salt truck out there?" But we're simply not equipped to deal with ice and snow. It just doesn't happen that frequently. In LA? They are soooooo not equipped for water. There's practically an entire city underground. So there's no place for the water to go. All their surfaces are stone. Beautiful stone. That is IMPOSSIBLE to walk on in the rain!
Anyway, that was a random sidebar. I just had to put that out there.
But, the question is, why was I in LA? I can't tell you. Not exactly. Not now, at least. But I will say that  there is a company that I do business with and they flew me out for a photo shoot to potentially be a part of their next marketing campaign. I was expressly told not to tweet/IG/Facebook any photos since it was a closed set. We are not allowed to reveal anything about the campaign until the client launches it. And having been in advertising, I mean, well, duh. I get it. So, there were twelve of us total, and we were told that 8-10 will be used initially and the remaining people will possibly be rolled out in a later wave. So there's a descent chance that you will never see the images that were taken. And again, that's ok. It was an amazing experience. And Brad and I extended our stay past the shoot and hung out in LA for a bit.
We stayed at The Standard hotel. Which was really cool. Probably too cool. Like, I think the place is run by hipsters.
See? Who has this in their lobby? Hipsters, that's who.
We also made the trek out to Long Beach and visited Sweet and Saucy Shop- a cake shop that I obsessively follow on twitter, instagram, Facebook, you know, anywhere I can find them. I'm a borderline stalker. 
I just plain love her style!
Overall, it was a successful trip, minus the rain and cold. Of course, we came back to ice and snow and had to retrieve two vehicles and our dogs, while being dressed for warmer LA weather. That was not fun.
I just wanted to throw all of this out there. And as soon as the campaign is live and I am able to share the story, I will update you on the client I was working with and the behind the scenes photos that I took. I met several other very cool people and it was simply amazing. 


An exercise in gratitude.

What will follow could easily feel like bragging. Like those obnoxious Christmas letters boasting little Timmy's superb soccer abilities, new vehicles and bling. Except there is no little Timmy here and, frankly while I think my dogs are totes adorb, I refuse to bother more that a few friends with my video of Presley dragging around a dancing Santa.
But I recently read an article around this video that said that true happiness comes from gratitude. And happiness is something that I have and continue to struggle with. And it's not that I don't appreciate what I have and what I've accomplished, it's just that I find myself so afraid of being arrogant that I have run screaming into the other direction toward modesty and writing off any successes or good fortune and pure luck.
When in fact, that's not true. I have worked my ass off [literally at times] for everything around me. So I'm taking a moment to document the successes of 2013. Because I have cursed it so much, I feel the need to point out that really, it wasn't that bad of a year.

January 13, 2013. My bakery turned 1. And I threw a party. And not just any party, a black tie, wear a fancy dress, drinking champagne, hanging out, supporting a non-profit kind of party. (and you thought your 1-year old's party was excessive.)
I made a lot of wedding cakes. I found out that 4 weddings in one day was simply too much for me. In total, I was part of 64 different weddings this year. 

I hired a lot of people. I lost a lot of people. It was sad to see some of them go. But they all want to chase their own dreams, so I surely can't fault them for it. 

In July, we went on vacation to Mexico. It was a disaster. Which might be one of the most entitled things I have ever said- I can't believe that going and sitting on a beach in another country with an endless supply of booze was difficult for me, but it was. And while I hated about 50% of the trip, the other half wasn't that bad. I would like to do it again this year. But maybe with more activities and other people. I just can't go from working 60 hours a week to LITERALLY DOING NOTHING BUT EATING, DRINKING AND SITTING. I couldn't handle it. I know, I know, I have problems. 
But I'm thankful that we can afford to go and do these things.

August was particularly exciting, in that I got both my first national print mention as well as my first international mention. There was a line in Southern Living about the bakery on a page focusing on Heights/Hillcrest neighborhoods of Little Rock and then my rainbow polo cake got a 2-page spread in a German food magazine. August also  marked my 33rd birthday. Wowsa. Where does the time go? I still feel in my 20s in my head. And luckily, I look that young on my face. Which I have a love/hate relationship with. 

September and October were a blur of weddings and then rolled right into the holidays. Halloween to Thanksgiving into Christmas and New Years. Somewhere in there, I secured a deal with the Arkansas Travelers to be their exclusive cake supplier for the 2014 season. 

December was particularly busy. I successfully defended my title as Sweet Potato Pie Professional Champion. 


I landed the cover of a weekly newspaper/magazine type publication with my sugar cookies.


I then subsequently went on to make about 700 of those bad boys the week leading up to Christmas. I was surprised by the popularity of our French Macarons- being featured in Arkansas Life, then those photos were used in Sync again for A 'Favorite Things' issue, and the 'Best Bites' in December and again in a wrap up of the year issue the following week! What can I say, they love my macarons!

Overall, it was a hard earned year, but it was earned, none the less. And I'm thankful for all that has happened to me and for me.
Here's hoping that 2014 is just as successful, but maybe a little bit easier!


Redefining normal

It's funny what passes for normal these days.
A few days ago, I was talking to a friend and he was describing someone he met. "You know, I think for her, finding 'Mr. Right' would be someone who didn't hit her. I think to her, that would be a keeper." And I was sad hearing that. I have a wonderful husband. A husband who does the dishes, the laundry and has a job that supports us both while I chase down some wild dream to become the next famous crazy baker. For me, I hate that my husband isn't more traditionally romantic. Like flowers and chocolates. But honestly, I don't need it. And he knows that. I know he loves me when he lets me nap while he mows the yard.
But then, at the same time, I saw a tweet that made me stop. The girl was talking about how she wished her dad would still warm up her car for her like he did when she was in high school. And I stared. I just stared. Not because I think this woman is delusional, but because it was like reading Spanish. I learned it, I know I know what those words mean, but I can't really stir the exact meaning. I never had a car in high school. And my dad moved out when I was twelve. I eventually got a car, and my mom taught me how to change the oil in it.
If there ever was a time that I was the primary focus of my parent's lives, it was so long ago that I can't stir it in my memories. So I'm going to assume that it probably never happened.
I tend to hate this time of year. Every TV show we watch has some kind of Christmas-focused episode and it usually centers around family. And while most of the shows are already about family, this is about the family coming together and really appreciating each other. And I just can't understand it.
I watch fathers read to their children and tuck them in at night.
And I don't understand.
I see families give their children cars.
And I don't understand.
I watch moms braid their daughters hair.
And I don't understand.

These are obviously things that I should be passed. I shouldn't care that my mom never braided my hair and that my sister and I taught ourselves. I shouldn't care that nobody read to me, and that I just read to myself. I shouldn't care that 25 years ago I got sick and remember that nobody took care of me. Instead I sat in front of the TV watching the Secret of Nimh.

These things haunt me because they shaped the me that I have become. Someone who does not know how to rely on others because for so long the others were not there. And this time of year, all I can do is feel sorry for myself because the built-in safety net that so many people take for granted- family, I just don't have. Our immediate family is so dysfunctional that my grandmother halted all family gatherings several years ago. So our not-so-tight knit family is now shards. My grandmother and grandfather celebrate with my aunt. My mother and uncle celebrate together. And sometimes my other uncle comes over with us. I usually take my sister Kacie with me and my other sister usually celebrates with whatever guy she's currently with.

I hate this time of year. And while I want to wallow in my own misery, instead, I must go and bake things for people who have families to celebrate with.