Saturday, March 23, 2013

The night I didn't die

A few months ago, I dreamt I died…  It was an incredibly powerful dream, completely realistic, yet so similar to a movie plot, I should have realized it was a dream.  It was so powerful that it has taken me this long to even write about it, or even to really speak about it much as it brings tears to my eyes…  I still don’t feel comfortable describing all of it and everything that happened within, but I think it’s time I shared it, in hopes that my struggle might help someone else. (Or at the least get it off my chest!)

The dream was just like the plot of many movies, one of my favorites being “Always”…  I’m not sure how it even started, but I met a new friend named Mabel, and she tried for some time to convince me that I was really dead.  We went to my son’s school, where he was sitting in class drawing trucks and cars.  I watched as he drew, unaware of my presence.  Finally his teacher asked him what he was drawing and he told him with a smile, it was “Hotrods my Daddy made”.  The paper held several crayon pictures of cars done in his own abstract style with a short stick figure standing with them; it was me... 

As the dream progressed Mabel took me to visit many others, each was carrying on in their own life without me.  It was hard to see but still never really soaked in until I sat down on a bench to further dispute Mabel’s claims.  Taped to a street lamp next to the bench was a flyer for KC Cakefest.  It looked great and told of all the talented people who were a part of the event, of the great charity, fun events and finally at the very bottom in small black font, “in memory of Mike Elder”…   I honestly can say that at that point it was 100% real for me, it didn’t seem like a dream.  So much goes through your head when you think of that moment.  I don’t think about death much, as I prefer to focus on life and on today, but having her sit with me as we discussed life without me, changed me.

  The dream ended when I visited Carey, who had spent the day working on Cakefest with my oldest daughter Tabby.  She was sitting alone in bed watching “Top Gear”, one of my favorite shows.  She had her laptop out and glasses on as she worked on whatever need be done.    Occasionally she’d look up over her glasses as one of the Top Gear guys would say something ridiculous, smile, let out a gentle giggle and go back to work.    The unifying theme throughout, as I visited all of the people I loved was that they all smiled.  They all laughed and they all found at least a degree of peace and happiness, and having seen it first-hand I realized that is all I could ever hope for.  It’s all I ever wanted and if I were to go today, I could feel fulfilled knowing that they had a lifetime of happiness in store for them and knew how much I loved them. 

In the time that has passed since that night seldom has a moment passed that I haven’t had that dream at least on one of the small screens in my head …  I have lived a very interesting life filled with all sorts of trials and also great triumphs.  In the recent days I’ve come to realize that the dream served a greater purpose then just to strengthen my need to show my love to those around me, it also served as a message that I need to let go of the pain and the regret associated with so much of my life and past. 

I’m not a religious man, and I’m sure right now some are reading this and thinking that “God” had a part in this.  Maybe so, but whatever the reason I feel I’ve learned much from it and that’s why I share it today.  I can only speak for myself but it seems to me that so much of life is spent focused on things that don’t really matter.  I’ve done things and believed in things that if I had ever stopped to question why, I would never have done.  The thing I have become best (or worst) at is accepting the blame and guilt others seem so happy to heap upon me, as well as blaming myself for things I really shouldn’t.   This dream was a wake-up call, a coming to terms of sorts.  The message being that I needed to leave my old life behind, begin to shed the guilt and blame and even the vanity of my past and look towards a better tomorrow and happier days. 

So much time and effort has been expended in my life doing what I thought was the right thing.  Many times it wasn’t right at all and I knew it was so.  But because it’s often easier to go along with whatever comes along, I went with the flow, convinced I was doing the things that were best, even though deep down I knew better.  I believed at the time that I had no choice, that I had to make do with what came along and with a lifestyle I know now that I chose, not a life that had been forced upon me.  There is always a choice, and I chose badly in many cases.

 For many days I believed I dreamt about my death and a future for those I love void of my presence. I realize that it wasn’t about my physical death at all…  It was about a life I have come to expect, a future that holds great happiness and love, if only I have the strength to move on, let go of my past which includes not just past feelings, but also past relationships and even people and embrace the changes that must come with it.   The dream was about my life. about moving on.

I know that once again I have failed to produce a cake related blog, but some things are worth the side note if you will!  It’s a fact even that cake is one of those things I took way to seriously, and my participation in it became more a competition for me as a business.  I looked to each cake as a way to prove myself to the world and to prove my own personal value that had all my life been called into question.  I once wrote a blog about “Faking it til you make it” and it seems I was doing the very thing I was protesting, just in a different aspect of my life.  All of this seems so petty now, and my only wish is to use cake as a way to spend time with great friends, good people and the ones I love.  I know many people who seem to have this firmly in their grasp, yet far more, seem far more interested in their appearance, then their reality… Maybe my friend Mabel can do something about that? LOL.

So…  I always try to end on a humorous note, and this blog is a bit more challenging.  I really do intend to write about cake someday, I can’t say I’m horribly interested in a “how-to” blog about techniques or new products, but I am very interested in the people and the emotions that go along with it.  Just as that night and that simple dream helped me see life in a different light, I see my role in the cake community differently now too.   We’ve launched a new project to share the stories of triumph and good people around the nation and world.  I’m excited to share what we come up with and very happy to be focused even more so on such a positive movement. 

It’s getting late now, I sit here typing with a little boy asleep on my shoulder and two girls snoozing on the floor at my feet.  Sweet dreams.  I’m off to bed myself, to sleep, to dream.  Wishing you

Peace N Love


Monday, January 21, 2013

A world gone mad....All we need is love

I've been studying some of my grandparents old photos and memorabilia I found recently.  Among them are a stack of letters sent to my Grandfather (my facebook profile pic).  The letters go into detail about my Grandmothers everyday life at which time my father was a little younger than the age of my own son.  The content of the letters are pretty general, as my grandmother mostly tries to share her day to day occurrences with her distant husband, whom she very clearly loved very deeply.  I smile and struggle to choke back the tears as she describes how; last night a mouse was spotted in the kitchen after putting Larry (my dad) to bed. Investigating the intruder she was startled when upon opening the cupboard door it scurried out.  Reacting instinctively she swatted at it with a nearby mop, finally smacking it and leaving it stunned.  She describes that she didn't have the heart to hit it again, so it ran into my dad's room and under his book case.  The letter describes how she finally woke Larry up to enlist what would become my future fathers help in capturing it, only to finally loose him for good back in the pantry.  Being resourceful (and sounding a bit proud of herself) she explained that she found the mouse's point of entry in the bottom of the pantry. She shared a bowl of soup with her now wide awake son then attached the tin can lid over the hole, thus, solving the problem.  The letter ends with a request by my Grandmother asking that my Grandfather "save up all those hugs and kisses for me, as I'm saving mine for you, I'll expect them upon your return home...  I do love you so." 

The letters sat unknown to my Father in the bottom of a box hidden away until I found them recently.  All neatly dated, in order and tucked away, they make me think of their life, and a time that at first glance seems so different than my own.  I found myself thinking nostalgically about what seemed to be a simpler time, with simpler troubles, but the reality is things were just a tough and routine as they are now and probably ever have been.  I can't imagine my Grandmother sitting at home alone with my young father, trying to plan her week based on food rations and radio news reports of massive invasions and death tolls in the thousands.  Going to the movies where the previews are propaganda news reels urging you to "support our boys" and giving up her stockings so that they can be used aboard some far removed battleship.   ( nylon from pantyhose was often used to make bags of gunpowder used in the big guns)  The world was a very scary place, and I can't imagine raising my own kids in a world that was aflame with war. (more than ours is)  Yet at the time things were surprisingly up beat.  Neighbors knew each other, a family sat down to dinner when ever possible together, and the nation as a whole worked united towards a single goal and they did it without a single text message!

I read these letters and it makes me think about my children and the way they will view the world as it was before they arrived.  It makes me think about the horrible tragedies and senseless violence that seems to be becoming more and more common these days.  The recent events have made us think twice before sending them to school, allowing them to go to the movies, and even to stay home as the computer age has opened yet another door for negativity that never existed before. 
I listen to my children as they get excited by a Tv show that's coming on, and I cringe when they say things like "OH BOY<  Honey Boo Boo"!  I watch the "kid friendly" shows, and most of them scare the hell out of me when you really look at what they say as a whole.  Most of the "kids" on TV have no parents to speak of, or if they do the dad is ALWAYS an idiot, who embarrasses them and the mother is always snarky. I find myself living in a world where my kids have a diminishing respect for much of anything and I have an aversion to punish them when they misbehave out of an extreme fear that they may mention that they got swatted to a teacher, followed by social services knocking on my door calling me an unfit parent! Everyday I worry about the choices I've made and the impact it has on my kids. 

We seem to live in a culture that celebrates stupidity, violence and ignorance, where the evil doers get all the media coverage, victims are forgotten in general, and the "Jersey Shore" mentality is entertaining.  Who made the decision to get us here?  Well, we all did, but it's never to late to do something about it!

Being a part of the cake industry has been great even if at times difficult logistically for me in that it has shown me a more peaceful side of humanity.  This isn't to say that there hasn't been a fair share of people doing all they can to inject negativity into it at times, but in general, despite the trouble with it from a business aspect, the people I've met and the things I've seen and things I've done because of it are without equal!   I cannot imagine my life without the people and the memories that have become a integral part of my life, many of whom I met and know because of cake, or at least because of my association with it.   I am thankful for the clients I've had that on occasion teach me something about life I hadn't before considered, the ones that surprise me, and open their hearts to me, making my soul a bit fuller and warmer.  I've been many places doing "the cake thing"  and I can say that it's been an amazing experience that I am grateful for in many ways.  Someday I may yet find a way to make a go of it financially even! ( that's a joke btw)  The thing I've learned from my exposure to so many people and so many different experiences is that contrary to what I am led to believe from the media and TV shows, there are really great people all over the place!  Somehow we've forgotten that...  I feel as though the past experiences of my life, have led me to a new sort of enlightenment in which I can see and appreciate the good solid people of the world.  The people that do good because it's good.  The people that work because they believe in a days honest labor.  The people that love because loving is the right thing to do.  I've known all sorts of people, at times I found myself not liking the person I was, or felt I was close to becoming, it is the good people and the love I've been shown by them that has given me new meaning and hope that things can and will get better.  I've stood in a room divided by imaginary barriers of language and nationality where one would expect to feel alone, only to find comfort, warmth and friendship.  I learned that a smile is universal, and an open heart is recognizable no matter the language.  In a way, I have cake to thank for that.

I know people follow my blog because its "cake related" and lately my blogs have had little to do with cake at all...  , Maybe it's the romantic in me that wants to see "cake" as something more than something we bake and decorate.  In my heart I want it to symobolize more.  For me "Cake" is the struggle I've lived through, the loss, the heartache and the triumph. "Cake" is the faces of all the people I've met, places I've seen and things I've managed to do.  More so "cake" is the experience and wisdom I've gained from taking part in it, creating something from nothing, creating a smile, a friendship, a celebration, LOVE...  LOVE, it's about love and living a life filled with as much of it as I can muster, and forgiving myself when I fall short of it thanks to my many imperfections.   I know I have so much to learn and so much yet to be understood, but I believe in Love, these days for me, that's enough.
So, at a risk of contradicting the sentiments expressed so beautifully by my Grandmother, "Gather up all those hugs and kisses and spend 'em like there's no tomorrow"
peace N love

oh and :  it's worth the time.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Strength. sometimes it finds you

Just the other morning, I was walking out of the gas station on my way to my second job.   I stepped off the sidewalk into the parking lot, looking down as I bundled my coat tighter around me bracing against the icy winter wind, at my feet lay a scrap of paper, what appeared to be a business card.  There was a word written on the card in blue pin, simply : STRENGTH...  At first I simply hurried by, in a rush to get to my van and speed off to work, but then something stopped me.  Turning around I walked over and stood above the tattered message abandoned on the pavement.  It had been run over many times and had nearly become a piece of the parking lot.  I read it again:  in all caps, STRENGTH...  I thought to pick it up, but again something stopped me and instead I stood there in the morning cold, simply looking at this simple word. I can only imagine what the station attendant must have thought as she watched me as I stood there dumb founded...  I've seen words, billions of them.  I've seen scraps of paper, litter and trash all over the place, but this one little piece of cardstock on this day stopped me in my tracks.  Finally I pulled out my phone, snapped a picture and parted ways, leaving this simple, yet powerful message in it's place for the next person to find.  In the time since, this is what I've been thinking:( so bear with me!)

My brain is a weird sort of place, and often a hard one to reconcile as it's set up like a mega plex theater.  I have at times dozens and up to hundreds of movie screens inside my head.  Some "movies" play randomly, like the memory of a flooded street as a child, while others are far more under my command, and everyday, I relive my past, look to my future and consider the options taken, not taken and still to come, essentially this means I think A LOT and it wasn't long before the reality of my day started to kick in. Traffic, plans for my work day and issues with my personal life, quickly found their way into my thoughts.  It was new years eve, and as I do to often I found myself thinking about the past year ( and more) about my current struggles and all the problems that seem to dog my life.  This past year has been a roller coaster ride to be sure!  I've expreienced some massive highs, and some dark sinking lows, and quickly it seems the dark of the lowest times stains the light of the good.  I try to be a positive guy and even harder try to focus on the good stuff and what I can do to make things better, but of late that's become a tough battle for me.  It pains me to look back at segments of my life.  I don't mean to imply that it's been bad, or even that I would really change any of it, but lately there has been a clarity cast on my past and with clarity sometimes comes the reality of facing up to things, long filed away and while never forgotten, seldom drug out for inspection. 

In light of some of the tragedies that have happened in the past year it seems almost arrogant to even consider ones own issues as problems at all, thinking back to my youth I still can't fairly compare to the loss and pain suffered by far to many people of late, yet inside ones own mind it is easy to get lost in self pity and remorse.   For my own part I seem to blame myself for things even when I know it's not really my fault.  The falling out between my mother and I was a nuclear bomb for my family and as of yet no one seems to be very interested in a truthful resolution or even a feeling of culpability.  Instead judgments seem to be cast, blame placed and never disputed, and divisions set seemingly in stone.  Hurt feelings and perhaps more so shattered images or ideals have caused such a rift that it seems easier to move on in different directions than to even attempt to see the truth.  (and you wonder where black sheep comes from?)  I've come to terms with the lifelong reality that my role within my family is to burden the fault.  Whether it bear truthfulness, matters not, but by blaming me they seem to be better at moving on.  Perhaps it's strength to accept this? I don't know. 

This year I accepted the blame for the final failure of my relationship.  Far to often I sat angry, focused on what I thought was the faults and shortcomings of the other, wondering what did I do to deserve this...  I am angry at myself  for the way I acted and felt.  It scares me to know that I could feel such animosity toward someone who really was doing their best for me.  I'm not sure even what started it or when but I had held on to every negative feeling and every bruise of my ego until there was little left but rage, anger and blame directed at the person I was supposed to be supporting.  I don't mean to pass the buck but it's very easy to mirror the roles we are raised with and in my case both of my parents, seemed to be so enormously unhappy with the other and blind to the fact that the issues and shortcomings go both  ways.  My dad used to run out the back door when my mother came home, while my mother would seem most angry just to have had to come home.  I can remember daily the scene of near panic in the supposed head of the household upon hearing the car door in the driveway, everyday was spent in avoidance and trying to lessen the conflict between people who were supposed to be my relationship role models.  It really brought to mind my impact on my three children because of the actions we had taken under their watchful eyes.   It makes me feel very guilty that because I wasn't strong enough they had to see so much of the same.  It sucks when relationships fail, but I'm confused as to why exactly in so many cases the end has to be so nasty and ugly as it was with my parents.  what's worse is when family members who once loved you learn of the split, the first thing they do is get mad, pick sides and get to hating!  The world would be so much the better if people would agree to the degree that the situation sucks, but help to move on with a positive plan of action and love, not blame, anger and finger pointing.   It's been very hard over the past few years to have gone through such a range of emotions only to realize that although we are not the right fit to truely live together fully, we are good friends, and do love each other.   I've shared a huge part of my life with her and having realized my own faults and shortcomings, it makes it impossible to be mad or to blame her.  Where I had once hated her ( as much as I hate to admit I felt that way) I now only feel regret and a need to support her and to be a better friend then I was a husband.  It sounds very strange I'm sure to some but letting go of the anger and bitterness I had so much of towards her was at first very hard, but one of the best things I have ever done.   Instead of thinking about all the things I was mad about and had often wrongfully blamed her for I can focus instead on building a relationship based on our 3 awesome kids and a friendship that supports her like I never did in the past.  The idea of presenting my children the relationship model we had built or the one I think we are creating now gives me a sense of hope I never had before.  Instead of saying I focus on love and peace, actually living that way. It seems that even when I felt I had none, strength found me here too.

The cake business...  You've all heard me say it if you've ever read a blog from me before: it's a bitch.  I've done some great things this year to be sure!  I've traveled around the world and met some beautiful people.  Carey, I and friends held one of the biggest cake events in the world and proudly shared the positivity and joy we and our awesome cake friends have with thousands of cake fans.  I've taught classes in 3 countries with excited students all sharing a common love of creativity and love expressed in cake form. Set a world record and even managed to make a few cakes I'm pretty proud of.  Add to that this year alone over 20,000 people have read this blog, I've had articles published globally and people still enjoy my DVD's  and one would say I'm doing great.  How could I feel like I'm failing at it so?  Maybe it's all the other drama that's been so strong this year, and the fact that due to the economic downturn many people just don't order cakes like they used to.  Thanks to the "walmartification" ( i made that up) of the industry many people order based on price alone and can't justify paying anything extra for a truely awesome cake.  I've found myself unable to keep the bills paid, struggling each week just to stay afloat.  It's been a busy year no doubt, but a profit still eludes me.  I've been working on all that I must do so much that everything else has suffered.  I work each day as a painter and building maintenance guy, often 7 days a week, and do cakes at night sometimes all night.  After six months of 12 hour days then coming to the shop afterwards to try and put together a cake business, it's very hard to say I enjoy doing a cake.  Often I find myself wishing I could just go hang out with the kids or as I used to do, ride a bike!  My passion is Cakefest and the Tv show we've been trying so hard to pitch, but when exhaustion is the primary force in my life, it's hard to persue that dream.  Cakefest isn't done to make a profit...  It's done to raise money for worthy charities and to have fun.  But in it's self is a full time job. 

The TV pitch I've mentioned many times. As I think I've eluded to before I have been asked several times by several different groups for show ideas.  It seems to go in spurts and each time I get excited and allow myself to get drawn into a weird twisted world where the people in charge consider shows like "honey boo boo" golden.  The concept is simple and in the past I've worried about sharing it as it's so easy to "steal"!  But at this point?  The idea is focused not so much on cake.  It's true that my own background is pretty diverse.  I've done a lot and lived through a ton, from nearly dieing at the hands of a drunk driver, molestation, family troubles and the more positive list of cool jobs I've had ranging from race car driver, CPR instructor, self defense assistant, security, to roofing, to working in a cave at 30 below.  I've traveled a lot especially recently and with each experience I've learned that there are countless good people focused on doing the most good they can EVERYwhere!  The show's intent is to showcase the everyday, unsung heros of the nation/ world who never get the attention they deserve. ( everything these days focuses on the bad and most "out there" people) By celebrating each of them individually, we celebrate the whole.  Until yesterday I had thought the show was simply about what they do and why, but having found this fateful card on the ground it donned on me the truth.  The heart and soul of the show idea is S.T.R.E.N.G.T.H...  We all have it.  Sometimes we don't see it.  As I surely didn't and still have trouble doing so.  We all have it and it is what makes us do what we often must, and sometimes pushes us to want more, want to do more and want to be more!  It's what we see in others that inspires us to follow and even to lead the way.  Strength often will make us say what need be said, do what is right and defend those who may need it. 

Life is about finding the direction and strength is the fuel that gets us there.
At a time when I felt I had none left, and that my tank had run dry.  I found it.  Laying in a parking lot, mashed into the pavement, written in blue pen.


Peace N Love

P.S. since this is a new years post, all my love and Thanks to everyone who has impacted me so much!  Thanks to Carey, Angela, My kids Tabby, Alyssa, Ethan, Dad,Jesse L, Richard F, Heuy H, Duane D, Rachel E, Michelle B,Rosalynne C, Chris H.,Lynette and Dennis, John & Robin, Eric L,Debbie G and Chris H, David G, Jasper M,   Kathy and Dan F, Ed H,  Ruth R, Peggy and Lonnie T, Bob B, Clara G , Eric & Patty W, Teresa H and family, Nelson F, Jay Q, Jaime W, Caroline W, John C (SGC), Collin my camera dude,   Honor Flight Gary L, Erin and Vets, and everyone that saw fit to take a class from me, watch a demo or support me in any way!~  I've been fortunate tho I sometimes forget to have met and love so many great and awesome people.  I know I'm forgetting you, but you know I truely love you all!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Fake it til you make it" Vol II

In case you missed the original version it might be helpful if you read it first.

An old friend once told me that "you got to fake it til you make it"... I wrote the original blog about the subject in response to a flood of facebook post about being "so busy and having so many cake orders" at the time, while everyone I know was struggling to figure out how to make a living off of doing cakes.  Many truly talented and very well known cake artist are right this minute trying to figure out what it is they're doing wrong.  The concept isn't crazy in terms of building an image of a strong and successful brand.  Often as a budding business or artist, it's priority number one to appear successful.  The idea being that looking like you're doing well and creating an image of prosperity, will eventually lead you to actual success.  I guess to an extent the idea is sound and could justify a client being willing to separate themselves from their cash, and is perhaps even necessary to a degree. Why would a client feel justified in paying you a healthy sum, when they know they are the only job you got that week?  We all fake it, it's the degree to which we do it to our peers that bothers me. (it's an interesting note that many fledgling cake decorators act to the exact opposite, believing that doing cake for free or at extremely low cost is a good choice for starting up!  your work has to have value, and that's not how you add value to your work!)

Even though I seem to say it in every blog, and risking sounding like I'm stuck on the idea, making a living solely on cake is TOUGH!  It never really donned on me before but, I got started because of this difficulty!   My mother spent much of my youth doing cakes...  For bakeries, for food brokers and finally for herself, when the work finally began to take it's toll on her body, she started to need help, and that is when I began to come up on weekends, or Friday nights to help out.  At the time I was blissfully unaware of just how tough a career choice it was.  For me as a mechanically minded guy, used to working on customers hot rods, the fun of doing something short term, creative and seemingly lucrative was a blast.  I never considered it as a career, but eventually after being on several TV shows, and after our clients became used to the style of cakes I could do ( my mother and I had very different styles) we got so busy that the hot rod shop began to suffer and ultimately it was the cause of the demise of it.  It's hard to keep a shop going when you're never there to answer the phone, or work on a customer's car.    At first I really enjoyed the work and when busy, the money was good.  But after making the move outside Kansas City, the business really fell off in spite of the fact that I deliver everything!  The strain of the industry took it's toll on my relationship with my mother too.  My success at times overshadowed hers and eventually added to the issues we already  had with each other until finally it became too much. 

I've been asked so many times how I find time for it all and the truth is I don't!  I've even been approached before and asked for advice about survival and keeping your sanity while owning a cake shop, and all the while I've felt like I was the one loosing my mind!  These days my day begins at 6 am...  I climb from bed exhausted and throw on my work clothes, climb in my van and rush to KC where I work a second job painting houses, doing remodeling and general construction.  In the past 2 years this is the first time I've felt like I could reliably earn a stable living.  During lunch, and I hate to admit it, but sometimes on the drive to and from the city, I check my emails, call clients and try to keep from falling too far behind in my cake shop.   Some days I make it home early enough to spend some time with the kids, but more often then I can stand these days, I'm at the bakery in the evenings and nights trying to keep a handle on my cakes.   KC Cakefest is one of the things I care about most, and it turns out that too often I don't have the time or energy to really do it like it deserves to be done.  Additionally there's what I now refer to as "The TV Thing"...  For some time now I've been working on a project that should have been completed a year ago.  All the while I've received and turned down offers to do several other TV shows, from Halloween wars to next great baker.  Every time I get the call or emails I let myself get excited.  It's been over a year since I did any national TV and like anyone would I worry that without it, my business will fail, or people will not want me to do events or teach classes. I worry so much about it that at times I have seriously considered doing the shows.  My opinion of most of them has been pretty harsh, maybe to harsh, but the reality is that the producers of these shows are experts at faking it!  I've watched a little of some of these shows and honestly I'm really let down by the level of quality shown, yet presented on TV  to the general public as "The BEST OF THE BEST"...  After being courted by so many different production companies about one lame knock off of another already existent show after another, I decided to do what felt right and try to produce a show that has some actual heart!  I've been working  to produce a show that shows the real true hard work your every day average American does day in and day out for nothing much more then the satisfaction of a well done job and a paycheck.  Our world is created and run by these people, yet they never get the acknowledgment so deserved. We cake people are among them.  We create something that seems simple; a cake...  The truth is cakes are far more than that, they are the things that memories are made from, celebrations are held around and people share with one another. Every great celebration can be made greater with cake, and seldom do we ever make enough to be worth our while.  We do it because we feel good about it, we do it because making someone smile is worth the effort and time spent, we do it because we love it.  I'm proud of the concept and proud of whats been put together, even though the consensus with networks seems to be that it's not "unreal" enough!  Essentially I have 4 jobs in addition to trying to spend enough time with the people I love and it's not an easy task.  I'm not trying to get rich, just live a life I can be proud of and make some sort of mark, but it's getting harder every day, I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job.

So for once I actually have advice that may have value.  Be careful about judging yourself and your own success based on what you hear on TV or read on Facebook!  It's one thing to admire someone or follow them on facebook because you like their work, or they inspire you in some way, but it's a bad idea to judge yourself by their standard. (they may be faking it!)   Admit your fears...  For myself, I tried for a while to fake it, all the while afraid of failing, not being able to support my family, not being good enough, being forgotten and longing for something more.  I still fear these things but admitting them and facing them is oddly a great source of strength for me.  It's very easy to get caught up in all that I CAN'T do, all the things I struggle with and places I've failed, but I choose to believe that from pain comes strength!  From failure comes knowledge and overcoming doubt is possible.  I focus on doing what I can, work as hard as I can and believe in what I'm doing even when it seems I don't measure up.  It's human nature to look at others and wonder why they seem to have it all while I struggle.  It's even easier to inflict that self imposed punishment upon ourselves these days while a FB friend is posting "gee I have so many cakes this week and they're all awesome orders for celebrities and TV shows, what am I to do?"  all the while trying to sound like they are complaining about having to do so much work! only to follow up later in the week with only one or 2 photos of the work.  Competition is a fact of life.  Many people will do what ever they can including these post to feel superior or gain respect, but in reality it paints a false picture of what is our normal life.  Try a little humility and we may all be closer.  I've said it before: We're all in this together...  There is only one you and the impact you make on the world is yours and yours alone!  Whether you choose to  to make a grander one, or are happy to sit by and watch the world go on, you will still have made your mark. 

thanks for letting me once again vent.

peace n love

Monday, November 12, 2012

crazy biz and crazier clients! How to cope?

Have I ever mentioned just how difficult the cake decorating industry is? (oh wait only all the time..)   I have friends in every aspect of the food biz, and that runs the range from chefs to bloggers to magazine editors and of them have it rough these days, but as cakers we've got all their troubles plus the additional perks we all know and love so much.  this blog is a short comparison between cake design and the regular restaurant chef's world and then we'll move on  to define the different types of clients we seem to get in our industry.

Restaurants are fickle just as cake is, but with different pitfals.  Many chefs cater and frequently do large banquets that closely mirror our experiences, requiring advanced tastings, meetings with the client and stress about supply and cost versus profit.  There is a big difference between how they sell and how we must sell.  For one, they can give the client the finished product months before the actual event.  This means that the client can try the "Tagliatelle with roasted chicken, tossed in a light olive oil with sun dried tomato, or the   Apricot glazed salmon with saffron baby potatoes with soy, garlic and ginger splash"( yeah I'm hungry too) during the actual sampling.  They can eat at a table decorated just as it will be the night of their event with the same wine, same lighting and same service staff they will expect when their guest arrive!  As long as things go more or less to plan, there is little to worry about in terms of surprises.  If the client orders 150 dinners, the chef will plan for that and the odd occurrence of an unplanned vegan guest showing up unannounced.    The everyday operation is more trying, with an unknown number of guest ordering what they will.  Trying to plan for the ups and downs of that sort of business is very tough, especially as today's economy tends to force more and more people to cut back! 

Our business is similar, but also very different. (if that makes sense?)  Our work is much more abstract.  We can still meet clients and plan many things months in advance, offer several different choices of flavor, style, icings and fillings, and as far as our job goes that's the easy part.  The client may die for your lemon cake with raspberry filling, and you can assure them that when they cut their cake that's what they'll get, but after that they're going almost entirely on your word and reputation, and there is no way they can really understand what it is that you're going to do for them. 

I consider myself to be a "well known cake person" in my area...  However I get calls all the time from people who have never heard of me, or have no clue what it is that I can do.  Even the educated ones ( and by that I mean they've researched my work) can barely grasp what it is that I'm presenting to them in terms of a cake.  I can't show up to the consult with their completed cake, I can't show them the exact size that 350 servings represents, though I do know bakers that stack dummies for clients (great idea!).  I can't expect them to understand the value of my talent, nor the amount of work that goes into my craft.  The time creating, and the hassle of delivering and setting up a cake is also outside their comprehension.  So then how can I really truly convince them that the price is fair and that the cake will be beyond their greatest imagination?  I'm not sure I can, and here in lies the problem for us all.  People seem to more and more often expect more while paying less.  They think that because walmart does a cake that honestly presents well ( and looks like the 100 done before it) on the cheap, that we as custom cake designers have to follow suit.  They think that because so many decorators do and well, it's the way of things these days!    I know a lot of bakers in our area that will work cheaper than walmart thinking that they are "competing" with them.  They price their work so low that really there is no profit.  I've heard so many times from budding businesses that "we're trying to build a clientele so we have to work cheap".  The idea being that because they're cheap they'll get more cakes, thus more repeat customers, thus more and more referrals.  This works but the reputation you've built is " she's really cheap"  I don't know how else to put it other than quality cost!  We all know it and when a client perceives your work as "cheap"  that also means "acceptably worse" but since they're not really paying for quality work, they're OK with it...  If that's the business reputation you're looking for, well, then good job.  I've said it before: " there's always someone willing to do it a little cheaper and a little crappier"  (congrats you're cheaper and crappier than walmart)

I've dealt with so many crazy uninformed client inquiries I've decided to start a glossary and even offer advice on how to deal with them.  Maybe next blog I'll tackle the issue of post-delivery and angry clients!

Clueless dreamer:  This person has no idea who you are, but saw way to much reality CAKE TV!  They call you blindly with no clue what they really want and even less though about it actually costing them.  They want a cake just like they saw on TV but for he and his girlfriend only (2 servings).  They expect that you have that cake just sitting on the rack ready for them without thought of advance ordering.  (I have had these people call looking for anything from a chainsaw to Barbi dolls, and for this afternoon... good thing I stock cakes like that?)
solution:  I've never landed a cake from a client like this.  Usually I end up feeling insulted when I give them some sort of guideline about the price and they say something that matches their mentality... so instead I tell them to go to my website, look me up online and call me back when they have some idea what they want and how much they want to spend.  The less time wasted on them the better. they wont call back. 
Cheapskate:    This client calls or emails and gives very vague info. "Can you do a cake for me in August and how much is that?"  They're bargain basement shopping for the lowest price and haven't realized yet that walmart is their place!   The reason the info they've giving you is so vague is because they don't want to spend the time explaining what they want until they like the price.  They're calling or emailing so many places that to save carpal tunnel or loosing their voice, they cut to the chase. 
solution:  again as little time spent on these people the better.  They're looking for a quick answer anyway so they can call the next bakery in the book.  I tell them my minimum price and explain that most cakes don't fall under that category.  I'm up front and honest so that I'm not trying to figure out what corners to cut later so as to fit their budget.  cutting corners for me just means I do the same amount of work but get paid much less.  These people can be a problem post delivery as I've found they can get "buyers remorse"  and regret spending their hard earned money on a "silly cake"  beware!

Fatal attraction ( big fan):    This may be more for those who've had some TV or press exposure, but people will try it on anyone!   This cake shopper contacts you explaining that they love your work, perhaps they've seen you on TV and undoubtedly their cute lil 6 year old niece loves you dearly and is your biggest fan  and they're quite convinced "you should be on one of 'dem TV shows"!  They will schmooze you and massage your ego until you feel obligated to do the cake for them for next to nothing!  It seems ( for me at least) a little flattery goes a long way!  It's a cunning strategy and sometimes it's even true!
Solution:  This is a toughie as you'll already be in a better more peaceful place.  I try to be fair and charge as I should but honestly they're going to get more out of me than they bargained for!  I'll go out of my way even if I do think they're pulling my leg.   I had one lady totally bullshit me once:  She called with the "I'm your biggest fan and my entire universe of friends and family all love you and we've all dreamt of having one of your "masterpieces" ...  she went on to explain how they follow me and love my "recent" cakes.  I asked "which one"  to which I could hear her clicking away at her computer until she described a cake...  Mike McCarey's cake.  (nice one too BTW!  you da man Mike)  she still got a good deal!

Alexander the great ( I want it all!):    This client suffers from Cake Reality TV Syndrome (from this point on referred to as "CRTS"   They've watched the magic of TV and like a "big fan" they may truly love your work and want a cake from you, or they may have been lulled into the misconception that making cakes is as easy as it seems on TV.  Random bakers get random unknown request for huge mechanized cakes and somehow manage to make 'em in 8 hours.  They have never been presented with the actual reality of the industry and will find it hard to understand why you cant repeat what they saw on TV or the cost involved.  They ask for the world not realizing that everything they add to their cake adds tons of time to our work, and thus, more cost!  Frequently this client will even think it's their "job" to make last minute changes or "twist" to their order all with no regard to the cost difference.
solution:  The usual fix is quoting a price that's actually worthy of the work they want done and explaining why they can't get what they're asking for on a budget.  I had one of these after our Christmas tree show aired on TLC.  The lady called for a cake "just like" what they saw us make in a 5 minute segment of a TV show.  I found out they were on a $100.00 budget.  That amount wouldn't have bought the icing required for the piece!  I try very hard to create something they can afford and be happy with but truth is if they want the world but their budget is Ramen Noodles, there's a conflict brewing!  I've had more clients unreasonably angry after a cake like this scenario because it didn't meet the extremely high demand they imagined.  I've rarely done a cake I wasn't willing to stand behind 100% but when they wanted far more, they can become unhappy pretty easily.  I try not to let my clients settle...  better to move on.

Sir Lancelot:  This client is so well connected that you should feel honored that they took the time and had the good nature enough to think about including you in their kids 2nd birthday!  The amount of business and number of people they will magically transform into mindless followers of your bakery is staggering!  You should literally pay this person for the honor of doing a cake for them, as the rewards for you will be endless.  They can be individuals or huge groups (or in my case pro sporting teams)  Either way this customer believes or wants you to believe that they have the ability to single handedly make your business!  You'll never need to advertise again.
solution:  run away!  or at least don't fall victim to the idea that anyone gets something for nothing!  Just as Lancelot vowed to protect and honor King Arthur, he also caused the fall of his kingdom by banging the crown off of Guinevere!  It's easy especially if you're a small bakery to feel like opportunity is knocking, but as a small bakery you should understand that you can't go giving everyone a cake with the hopes of creating a business or free advertising!  I've done cakes for all sorts of people in the past that I believed would have the ability to increase my business volume, but in truth I can't name more than a few cakes that were booked because of all of them combined!  I even did a free cake for The KC Chiefs ( long story) and I didn't receive a single order in return. If a little exposure is what you're looking for, try the next art faire! ( bring samples)

The Crypt (ic) Keeper:  This client is closely related to the "Clueless dreamer" in that they've got no idea what they want.  They may have all the specifics and be well researched, but as far as knowing what they actually want, they've not a clue...  They may call with random and pointless ideas or thoughts but have no concise plan for what the cake should look like.
solution:  These people aren't so bad as long as they're willing to give you control and won't second guess your decision.  I actually like this guy as normally they are just looking for guidance and as an "expert" ( notice the quotation marks!) in my field I'm happy to point them where I think they should go in terms of design.  It's our job as cake designers to know what looks best in cake and how to do it, it's nice to have a client that doesn't try to take on the designers role!  I've heard this is some decorators least favorite type of client because they feel like they need their direction, but think outside the cake box and you'll see this as a blessing!  They're usually more open to any input you got and some of my favorite cake have been done for them!

Last Minute shopper:  We've all been there...  This person needs a last minute cake for a myriad of possible reasons.  They expect that in no time you can create what ever their little procrastinating heart desires...  They will often appeal to your softer side as a "big fan" will, hoping you'll feel sorry for them and squeeze them in. 
solution:  It's a question of quality versus time.  if I can fit someone in I always will, but they need to understand that they're going to pay more and I've got to do it my way!  As they say a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

The baker in the family:    This person is the self proclaimed or "used to be" the  "family cake baker"  and for what ever reason they've decided to go to you instead.  They tend to think they know more than you do, or that they can manipulate you into cutting them a deal because of some sort of inside knowledge they think they have.  " I know how this is done so don't try to pull anything over on me"  or " I worked in a bakery for 20 years" (yeah from 60-80!)  They think you're obliged to owe them because they too did or do cake.  Humm...
solution:  I stay away from these all I can!  I know my product, I'm happy with what I produce, but doing a cake for someone who is letting you know in advance that they'll be critical of your work is a bad idea!  It's no different then taking your car straight from one repair shop down the street to another and letting the guy pick apart the others work.  It's bad practice and damaging for everyone!

I could go on and on with this and I encourage you to add your own in the comments section! 

What ever the perils of this industry be, there are those of us who are looking to understand them, explain them and share with each other our experiences.  We've got an often fun job that can be tricky to make a real living from!  So many of our peers like to post on facebook things like "Oh my how am I to finish all these dozens of cakes...  poor me?"  (earlier blog "fake it til you make it"...  look it up!)   Cake TV , or rather the possibility of being on it in the future is responsible for some of this, as many feel a need to "look" busy as they feel it makes them more appealing to producers.  ( busy apparently equates to great?) It may be true that this week they are that busy, but reality is dealing with our customers, and making a viable business out of cake is tough!  We don't need people to fake it and make the rest of us feel like we're the only ones struggling with it!  We need to unite and figure out a way to make it better for all of us!  THAT'S ALL OF US!!  I've been given a gift and I see it as such.  I have been lucky enough that people tend to look to me for guidance and insight...  Not that I feel like I'm worthy of it, but as it happens I have thought about it a bunch.  I could post pics of every cake I do and brag about being busy ( even though I'm not) I could put on the front that most everyone would believe.  I could swear to be doing more than I could stand and everyone would believe it and my own desires to be respected for being a "success" in this industry would be upheld.  But I choose to support the truth and realize that real understanding of this industry will come when we can all stand up and say, " yeah this is tough...  but working together and sharing the struggle is so much better than hiding from the truth!

There is only ever going to be one of you, and one of me...  the contribution you make to the world is determined by you and by your actions.  We have such a short time to make that impact and the sooner we chose to do something good and stand for something we believe in the better!  Don't waste your time comparing yourself or your work to someone else, be you, do your thing and an impact will have been made as only you could make it.

Peace N Love

Monday, October 29, 2012

Culpability... another life lesson from the cake world

(written in part during my latest travels)
As I sit in a cold hard international terminal chair waiting for a flight home, I can't help but think:  Life is beautiful...  Life is also a challenge and sometimes the things we love and believe in most, want most and dream of, are the things that seem to be hardest to grasp.  Sometimes circumstances stand in the way of all that life can be, to often I've forgotten just how much I have. (I'll get to the cake related part of this blog soon! I promise!)

I've lived a life that often surprises the people I meet.  I've done so many things, seen so much and experienced a wealth of visions, real, unreal,  pleasant and painful.  For so long I wondered around in a frantic attempt to please the people in my life that I held responsible for my happiness...  I believed the purpose of my life was to earn their respect, gratitude and approval.  My "job" was to make them happy.  My purpose was to some day feel worthy of their love, and not feel as though I had it because they had to, or because they needed me so badly that I got it by default.  It's one thing to be loved because you're needed, and a completely different thing to be loved...  through out it all I always felt misunderstood.

I have given up so much and been subjected to some of life's very dark side in my attempt to break this cycle and be happy.  I learned the hard way that I am extremely rugged...  I am able to subject myself to enormous strain and endure all sorts of pain and punishment and I even have the ability to rationalize to myself why it is all going to be worth it some day.  But the truth is life is short.  Waiting for the day when my family would approve of me,  the people I need would step up and carry their own weight, and I'd finally have earned what I thought I was working for, is not a very good use of my time.
Breaking the cycle, and being able to accept both my own bad habits and the short comings of myself and those around me cost me more than I ever expected, but in hind sight, the cost was equal to the degree of just how much of a mess my life had become.  The knowledge I feel I gained combined with the possibilities of a brighter and more loving future, more than justify the cost and in truth, we
are what we are because of what we've been through.  I am a product of the life I lived, and these
days I'm starting to feel like I might actually come to like this guy!

So how the hell does any of this matter to you?  " What's it got to do with cake mike? ". Well...  As I said I'm a product of my own life experiences and past.  We all are.  I've come to find myself in an industry that few people really understand, and one that many people paint a very unreal image of in an attempt to earn the respect of their peers.  (if you've read my fake it til you make it blog, you know what I mean).   I've been guilty of this too, as it's nice to be looked up to  and to have a persona of
success, even if the reality is that we're all struggling!  In general the idea behind what we do is great,
 but after all the emails I get about my blogs and comments from fellow cake people I find that I'm
not ever as alone in my thoughts and plight as I thought I was.  So many of my friends and fellow
artist feel and experience the same things I do, and many who do feel like its some sort of failure to
admit that they too struggle.  It's very liberating for me to share my experiences with others, and in
turn feel like we've shared our struggles together.  For me, the truth has been very rewarding.  

I've heard from many people who are like myself artistic  in nature.  For us things are perceived
differently.  Our industry in general is not at all like most out there. We have a very unique job and it is one in which we put a massive amount of time, energy and even emotion into our work and receive in return much stress, long hours and a great deal of unpredictability.  For many people who come 
from a corporate or other type of background our work is and will remain a mystery.  I've had so 
many people write me and tell me that their family doesn't understand them,  they think they 
should be "more businesslike". Hold regular hours and schedule work so that we can be like the rest 
of the world and have Saturdays off,  our evenings free and more money in our pocket.  
My partner Carey has gone through so much because of her dedication to what the people in her 
family consider a hobby.  The idea is that if it were a real business, she'd have posted hours that are strictly adhered to, and a Clear separation between home life and business.  I've heard the same scenario explained by many and I really believe that there is a distinct lack of ability of some people to see the value in something artistic, especially if the pursuit isn't exactly making a bunch of money. In her case( and many others) the only way I feel that she could prove herself in the eyes of her nay-sayers was if her business was so successful that  she needed to hire employees, the next step would be to open a custom cake making factory with share holders and an international marketing budget.  The lack of any of the obvious signs of success means to the people that criticize her (and many just like her) that she is unsuccessful.  Having your work perceived as a hobby and the long hours and time dedicated to what is hard work seen as a waste of time, or even a lack of good time management really can take its toll on a person.  Many people with regular jobs bring their work home at times.  Does this mean they're wasting time at work?   
Add to the already unpopular and misunderstood job choice the value or apparent lack of said value gained by doing charity work, and quickly  blame and anger directed at "cake" is the result.  

(continued on 10/27)
I've thought about things so much that my brain literally smokes from the friction inside.  The scenario Carey and so many like her experience is so common, yet no one inside our industry seems to talk about it openly ( and this is why I am!)  There are countless types of people, and countless pursuits or jobs (if you got to call it that) but in general for our industry most are pretty creative, some are very much so and it seems that as a creative type, we are easily mis-understood and even looked down upon for being "like we are". 
There seems there's a root to the problem:
For many of "US" in the cake industry, the "business" started out as a hobby.  Most of us decided to make a cake one day and decided we liked it and even found out that we had an aptitude for it...  Many of us did them more and more frequently, maybe for friends, neighbors or co-workers, and at some point in the scenario it happened and we began to charge for our work ( this isn't how I got started, but it's a definite trend, and true in Carey's case)   The problem is for many that family and even friends often continue to see it as a hobby, or something less then the hard work we all know it really is!  Cake is a bitch of a job!  I can't claim it any other way...  I love to create things, and to wow clients, but rarely do I ever get paid an amount that really justifies the time and talent involved.  If I have another customer claim they "would have paid much more had they known it was going to turn out like this" I'm going to go POSTAL!  It's tough ( yeah I said that already) the hours are long and the reality is it takes as long as it takes to do it, and when you very literally pour yourself into the work as most creative people do, it is very commonly not understood by those with a more 9 to 5 sort of personality.   They see it as a hobby or even an obsession in which we spend tons of time and endless heart into for little pay, and tons of stress.  We do what we do because we love the feeling of creation.  It is an art, and as artist, we are willing to suffer for our craft, even if the people we love and those who are sworn to support us fail to understand it.  It's just another added "perk" of the job, to have a spouse or family criticise you because "you're not done yet"  and in some cases point out how this isn't a "real business" because it's not practised like many are.  We can't just quit at 5:00 because it's closing time!    

Steve Jobs, started his empire by working in his garage with money he got from selling his VW with the intent of furthering a fledgling industry.  He worked round the clock, and often lost more than he made, until finally making perhaps the largest impact on the world possible for a single person.  We won't make billions on making cakes, but the drive behind it, the belief in one's self and the love of the creativity our job does include will continue to push us along.  It's a tough thing to do to realize that the people closest to us may never understand it.  I find myself trying to end with a suggestion or a technique good for straightening out the dilema, but again I'm as lost as you are...  The only thing I can say with certainty that I've learned through my lifes struggles and from hearing so many stories from friends and fellow cake artist is BE HAPPY...  Find out what it is (or who) that makes you happy and try like mad to do it.( what ever that is!)  I've been through the toughest times of my life in the past 3-4 years,  I've learned so much about myself, the people close to me and about life and happiness.  I'm still in the thick of it, but I've realized that you have to be honest with yourself, forgive others while accepting your own culpability, and most of all try to find the good in the situation.  I also suggest giving yourself a break!  I've blamed myself for so much and sadly blamed others for far to much as well and finally coming to terms with that is a real spiritual awakening!  Hoping that your family will some day "get" what it is that you do, may be a lost cause, forgiving them for it, talking to them about it and atleast trying to explain yourself is the first step to living with it.  I guess the moral of this story is acceptance....  accept yourself, accept others, even if you can't see eye to eye.    

Monday, September 24, 2012

for something greater than self... ideas, hopes and dreams.

  What a past few years this has been.  well, really I guess I could say "life" as it's taken me this long to have even the smallest grasp of what this is all about and why people (including myself) do what they do...  The past couple weeks have really focused my thoughts and perspectives about so much of what's happened in the past.  It's made me look even deeper inside myself and given me a new stronger sense of purpose than before, and I've been feeling the need to share some of what I've seen and learned from all the ...  I'll call it: "stuff" I've been through.  OK, so this isn't a cake blog once again, but it is one about life, love, anger, understanding and looking into ones' self.

I don't need to go into the exact specifics of what has happened, or tell my life story to get my point across.  I wont share too much about what specifically has been happening in the past few weeks or the time leading up to now, as it isn't all my story to tell.  I will tell you what I've seen and what I've learned (or maybe just think I have ) about human nature...

It seems to me that we all are born with a need to prove ourselves.  From the beginning we seek the approval of our parents.  In my case that crusade really only recently became understood by me, and I've found many others who like me, are grown adults still trying to gain the respect and even just basic approval of their parents.  I've learned that my own need to satisfy or prove my value to someone has dominated a very large percentage of my life.  I'm not sure we ever really stop trying to please our parents, but I never realized how much of my life was modeled on that same subject.   It seems no matter how bad I feel or how unrelenting the fight, I will try sometimes in vain to accomplish the task.   For my own part, I never felt like I even came close to being who I was supposed to be for my parents.  I never seemed to measure up, as to often when I thought I was doing the best ever, I found that she was the least impressed, or even worse, offended by me. This all to familiar course found it's way into many other parts of my life, and soon much of my life seemed to be a hopeless quest for happiness, where the prize seemed so far out of reach that only anger and sorrow could be found. 

I don't mean for it to sound like I'm blaming anyone for making me feel like I did, as I know the need was my own, and the actions I took were made by no-one else but me.  But for a long while, I was angry...  I blamed the people I felt I couldn't please for my own problems and my own feelings of failure and low self esteem.  I hate to admit even just how angry, and at times it really got the best of me.  Only recently have I been able to look deep inside of myself and realize the value of both the good and the dark inside,  the value of the experiences and wisdom gained even from the darkest and most painful times. I've even made friends with my need to satisfy and even to impress the people around me.  I've learned that I can make a difference in my own and the people around mes' life, just by choosing to take on a positive energy instead of a negative.  Does this mean no more worries, no more struggle?  UHH,  no...  but I wish...  I'm new to it though so maybe in time? 

For now I spend my energy in the attempt to reconcile at least some of the past and plan for a brighter future... I've weighed and measured the pain and the anger I've experienced in the past, trying to understand it's root.  I've found that there really is no value to the anger at all,  anger and pain leads to fear and fear is rarely a valuable thing for me...   Fear of dis-approval, of failure and of never measuring up, has cost me far too much. It cost us all to much.  so why do it?  Easy to say, not so easy to live, but I'm trying.  We should all be trying harder to do that!

Much of the recent events have had me feeling rather down about humanity in general.  I've lived through some very trying family issues associated with my mother, and recently with people closer to me, and I've seen and felt so much sorrow and pain, followed up by anger and even hate.   I've been sickened by some of it so much that I can't stand to sit by and stay quiet.  It makes me wonder:
why are people so fast to cover pain with anger?   I'm sure there are biological reasons for some of this, but as I put more faith in a persons power to reason this only works to a degree for me.  Maybe the next step of human evolution isn't telepathy or super smarts...  maybe it's a simple ability to control our anger...  Why can't we recognize that " i love you...  yes we have issues, yes things end, maybe we shouldn't be together, but because I love you let's do the right thing. "  If there was ever love between people, why can't they see through it and realize that causing more pain on top of the existing pain has only the result of even more pain!  I do believe that certain people have traits that don't mesh, and that some people will just by accident cause others to feel lessened, or just that they don't live well together.  When that happens it is best to recognize it and move on, but does it have to be driven by anger and hate?  I don't think so.  but it happens most often.
Why do people have a need to hate in groups?  My own family was deeply divided when things came to a head here...  I watched as well planned divisions were enacted that I sadly doubt will be overcome.  When my mother and I quit working together I received so much anger and even hostility from so many of her "friends" and every time it made me wonder why?   How is it OK for a grown woman, especially those who end their hateful emails with religious signature lines, to write a friends own son and tell him how much you hope bad things happen to him?  I got everything from threats to boycott cakefest, to a nicely written email from a TV cake show host, in which she told me I needed to do some soul searching, and straighten up.  This long time friend of my mother"s who had always greeted me with a hug and a smile, decided her best cause of action was now hate me because of the gossip she had heard, to a point where when she saw me next in a crowd of people, she grimaced, turned her back from me and ignored me when I cam to say hello.  Why??  In all of my soul searching ( and I've been doing it veraciously) I have never found a reason to take that path, but I have sure as hell thought about it!

Talk the talk, walk the walk?  I don't claim to have it figured out, but I do think I'm coming to some sort of an understanding with it.  (I hope)  I've seen way to many people jump to conclusions, point blame and even hate on a moments notice.   For what?  Many claim to be religious, yet act with complete contempt for people that they previously had loved...  Why?  I'm struggling more and more to control my own anger directed at people that don't think to stifle theirs!  Why can't we all, even in the darkness of what ever negative event is occurring, realize that adding more negativity and anger to an already painful and trying task leads to nowhere but more pain.  More negativity and more issues to resolve later?  I think about the friends of my mother who were so quick to write me and to shun me.  Where are you left, if my mother and I settle our differences?  on that day, you're left holding a bag of hatred and regret for a man that you never really should have hated.  You shouldn't have hated him firstly because it was not your place to do so.  Secondly because as your friends son, you should support and love him, even though he has issues with his mother, your friend, and finally because  hating him is just plain wrong! 

This is just a thousandth degree of the things and situations that I've experienced lately.  None of it seems to make sense to me anymore.  It doesn't make sense to me because there is no sense to it!
Divorces end with families placing blame, former spouses locked in battle over nothing really, hating each other with vigor and friends taking sides.  Why?  relationships fail because of what ever reason, and instead of moving on and supporting the people you once loved, you place blame, you point fingers and you say, this is your fault, while the people around them suffer.  I've heard so many people say that their focus is on the good and positive role they can take, yet spend all their energy chasing the tail of hatred and revenge.  I just don't get it...

Like I said I don't really have any answers...  I have ideas, I have hopes and yes even a few dreams...  My idea is that people should stop, look and listen before they jump to conclusions, and open the door to anger and hate.  I struggle with it too, we all do, but I Hope that someday I  and the people around me, and even that you will see that life is so much better when we say no to hatred.  Say no to causing or furthering anger and pain and instead stand beside those we've stood beside before and  to realize that they need you as much as you need them.  My dream is that someday, all this will be behind me.  That I'll get a bit more figured out and maybe the ones I love, my friends and family and myself will find happiness.  I hope you find it too...

peace n love