In the beginning of 2017 I took over the operation of a pay-what-you-can vegan lunch café here in the heart of meat-and-potatoes Midwest America. On December first, I gave myself a daily blogging challenge to write about this café, to tell its story, and maybe figure out a little of my own story in the process. This is Post #21.

Going in this morning to make our last lunch of the year. Then we’ll take a break, and start again in January.

Ten days to let the thoughts come and go. To allow space between them. To breathe.

Breathing is good.

It’s hard for me — maybe for you, too? — to make long-term decisions when I’m hot in the midst of daily ones. Hourly ones. Considering a path takes bandwidth. I think that’s what vacations are good for: not to escape the world, but to delve deeper without the dailiness required on-the-job.

Though escaping has its appeal. I get that. And vacations are a privilege. I get that, too.

Last night we catered a party for 50. Our first of that size. Common fears: there wouldn’t be enough food, or the food would be too unfamiliar and people wouldn’t eat it. The host’s partner brought little star-spangled cupcakes, just in case.

They wondered if the buffet should be set up before or after the talk. “People engage better when they’re not hungry,” I said. Words I stand by.

There were lentil balls with flags of spinach and radish. Tortilla pinwheels. Fruit on skewers, chocolate bark with bits of cranberry, a lovely spice cake cut into squares and drizzled with almond icing.

The pinwheels — some stuffed with hummus and roasted peppers, some with a vegan version of spinach and artichoke spread — could have used a longer chill time so we could cut them properly. They were cute, in an overstuffed and squished kind of way.

Not quite what I’d envisioned, but what is? I ask you.

We held them together with toothpicks.

Oh, the metaphors.