Diary of a Brokenhearted Baker…

Sometimes things happen in life and there are lots of words. Sometimes things happen and there just isn’t anything that anyone can say to make it right. Most days I am full of words, but lately things have happened that I just can’t define. It has taken me a week to even get my head around it enough to put into words, but I’m going to try. It’s so very hard to open up and share a deep hurt with others, especially knowing that the person who caused this pain could in fact, be reading with great satisfaction the hurt they caused, but I am willing to risk it to get this off of my heart.

Cookies weren’t really a a plan for me. Actually they were the furthest thing from it. They were really Divine intervention. In fleeting conversation, if I get asked this question, I don’t even bother trying to explain, because like all my stories, its long, but in the end it’s important because this story is my beginning.
I started making cookies in 2009. I will never forget because that is the year my Nanny passed away. She had been sick a LONG time and I knew it was going to happen so I felt like I was prepared, but when it finally did happen, I fell apart. I spent a month crying. Especially at night. The nights were bad. Then during the day, I spent most of the time at the cemetery. I don’t remember a whole lot from that time except for the day I decided that I was going to have to find another way. The cemetery trips were not good for me or my kids. As I laid in that familiar spot crying for all that I had lost, I suddenly felt a peace that I had not in a very long time.
I didn’t get a specific answer that day, but I knew from the bottom of my heart that I needed to find something to keep my mind off of my pain. Later that week I got my first call. It was from a family friend of ours that was on my Christmas cookie list. She asked for Valentine cookies, and from there on out, my whole life changed.
Cookies became my life, and what a wonderful life it was. Suddenly, I went from a SAHM to a SAHM with something more. I was the “Cookie Lady”. I had something that was mine, and that I was good at. It gave me an identity beyond wife, mother, daughter, sister, maid…I had what seemed to be the best of both worlds, a way to creatively express myself and contribute to my family, with the luxury of not having to leave them or miss any of those moments people hold most dear.
So, for a year and a half, that is how it went. I threw myself into my cookies, never worrying about anything else. I made cookie friends all over the world, and passed many hours learning everything I could about becoming better at my craft.
Then, about two weeks ago, everything changed. Unfortunately, in many states, it is illegal to bake from home. Texas happens to be one of these states. I never spent a lot of time worrying about it because where I live selling food items is so common, I didn’t ever expect to be noticed. It’s a way of life where I am from. There are cake ladies, bake sales, lunch benefits where people sell plates to raise money for medical expenses, the tamale lady who we eagerly await each fall, and wonderful Mennonite pastries and breads, just to name a few. We love and embrace these things as part of our “culture” However in my case, something else happened. Something ugly. Somehow, I attracted the wrong attention and was finally turned in.
I am old enough to understand that people have reasons for all the things that they do, but in this case it didn’t ease the sting. What was probably business to one person, was my whole life. The biggest non-family thing I had disappeared with one little visit from the Department of Health.
Since then, I have been on a roller coaster. Most days I feel hurt. Disbelief and hurt that I was singled out and also that someone felt the need to take away something so very important to me. Some days there is anger. I look at my kids and my shabby tires and I feel anger toward the person who did this, because in the end, its my kids who pay the price. I think of the suddenly shrinking Christmas budget, and I want to ask that someone, “Why? Was I really bothering you THAT much?” It seems so unfair. I feel like something meant for our good and support (The Department of Health) was used as a tool to hurt someone and knock them down rather than keep people safe. I want to scream from the rooftops, “If I am in trouble, why isn’t every bake sale and medical benefit, and tamale lady in town?” But I would never, because in the end, that doesn’t solve anything. It just multiplies the ugliness I experienced. All of the finger pointing would NEVER change the fact that I can no longer make cookies for people, something I loved. After a week of tears, I found myself right back where I started, kneeling at Nanny’s grave, asking what to do, and suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of peace.
Like all sad stories, I am slowly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I can think of a positive outcome of this every day. I like my newfound free time. I like that the cookies I make are creative and fulfilling. There is no question I am terrified and not sure where to go from here, but I have learned enough from this beautiful life to know that some of the best things that I have came from my worst experiences, and I believe deep in my heart that this is one of them.
I also learned what I DO have. I have a family that loves me. I have the most wonderful husband God could give. I have beautiful kids and have been blessed with an abundance of good things. I also learned a lot about people. FOR ONE BAD DEED, I saw a hundred good hearts. I never once cried alone and the outpouring of support in flowers, emails, and phone calls absolutely astonished and humbled me.
So, now you see why this story was so important. This is where I start again. I don’t know where I am going, or where I will end up, but I am taking a journey with friends and family, doing the only things I know how. Loving those who love me, making friends along the way, and every step of the way, making cookies.
*Home bakers everywhere face a dilemma. For many people, our current laws make becoming legal impossible. It takes a LOT of time and money. For others it is not even a desire. I CHOOSE to be small because my children will always be my number one priority. It’s a shame to criminalize and villianize cookie baking and I am ready for it to STOP! Currently there is a bill ready to hit the 2011 legislative session that will allow home bakers to licence their own kitchen. If you would like to help, please see the Texas Cottage Food Law web page and sign our petition. You can also like their FB page which includes many humorous and encouraging articles dedicated to this cause.

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Comments

  1. 81
    Susy Smith says:

    this is so encouraging thanks SSB!

  2. 82
    Kabbie says:

    I am so sorry that you are going through this., While my profession was an accountant, I took a chance and opened a baby shop – lost the lease after 2 years, so went back to accounting but was able to continue my baking in a home kitchen, because Virginia fortunately allows home baking. I hope that will change for Texas and you. BUT in the meantime – Your tutorials are absolutely fantastic. You should market THEM . Your talent is incredible- You can continue to make cookies but sell the HOW TO DO THEM. I would be the first to buy them — really.
    Wishing you the best
    Kathy Dishner
    Kabbie’s Kake Studio
    Williamsburg, VA

  3. 83
    amanda says:

    some people just needs to mind there own business, what goes around comes around.

  4. 84
    Elicia says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us even after this terrible experience. You are a great source of inspiration for me and I LOVE YOU!

  5. 85
    Nikki says:

    I like you, am from Texas and I find this VERY VERY helpful! Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

    As far as this bad experience you had, I totally understand. Same thing happened to me last year except I wasn’t selling the same thing you were. But you should look at its bright side, it wasn’t that you were “bothering them” it was actually that you were BETTER than them at doing what you do. They saw you as a threat and if they couldn’t copy you, screwing you over was the best choice for them. Unfortunately, there IS people like this all over the place and REALLY, they should mind their own business (literally). With all that time they spend trying to get other people in trouble, they could be improving their skills instead.

    You should start your cookie business again and do your best to follow “the law”. I bet they would be really pissed knowing they CAN’T do anything to you anymore =)). You’re GREAT at what you do and such a HUGE inspiration.

  6. 86
    Emily Brown says:

    I had a similar experience in South Carolina (mine was with cakes, not cookies) but it was my WORLD. A place where I was more than a mother and wife…a place where I was a ROCK STAR. A just like that *snap* the bubble was burst. And why?! I felt like I was reading my own story, and thank you so much for sharing. They JUST passed a Cottage Food Law in SC about 2 weeks ago, and I’m in a tizzy! I LOVE your blog, again, thanks for sharing!!!

  7. 87
    MawMaw Jo says:

    I am a baker/decorator with very little talent, but I enjoy creating SOMETHING! Hearing my family and friends praise my efforts makes me happy. I wish I had just a little bit of creativity as you. Since I have found your site I am hooked and amazed! Thank you so so much for sharing part of yourself and your talent! I agree with the other comments, you are amazing and there are some who are just jealous that they do not have your talent,personality and great attitude! Keep up the fight, we love you and your work!!

  8. 88
    The Sassy Bee says:

    I had a pretty successful online (etsy) business selling custom applique shirts. I LOVED doing this! I also live in Texas and right before my busiest time of year (football season!) I found that my right hand was going numb…eventually the numbness went to sharp, stabbing pains affecting my fingers, wrists and elbows. My doctor said I had to stop using my hands to cut my applique pieces. Without a $10,000 laser cutter, my business was suddenly halted. It was a blessing and a curse – when I finally looked up from working 18 hours a day, I saw the weeds in my garden, the closets that needed cleaning out, the kitchen table that needed to be cleared off and so on. Now let me also say, I hate to cook…but I really like baking…so I started baking some desserts. Then I moved on to cookies…and I thought “I could decorate these and make them so pretty!”…and then I found you! It’s amazing to me that I can squeeze an icing bag without pain in my hands, but I can! I won’t ever sell decorated cookies, but just being able to look at your cookies and try to decorate them like yours is so much fun! Thank you for continuing your tutorials and blogs. It has been keeping me sane!!! :-)

  9. 89
    Maria says:

    God bless you! What a beautiful story full of love, passion, and inspiration! I have been trying to find something to do from home, something I love, something I’ve been doing since I was five years old. Now I know I have to try. The information you provided is wonderful! Now I know I can bake and make a business out of it here in Texas. Thank you so much!!!

  10. 90
    Teresa says:

    I have never posted on a blog before, and I realize this is a very old post and your circumstances have changed since then, so more power to you. However it is an issue that really strikes a chord with me as it’s something I deal with daily and my comments are directed at anyone out there in a similar situation. I also live in an area (far from you) that requires any food-based business to be operated out of a licenced commercial kitchen. I took the plunge a few years ago, quit a stable well-paying job of 18 years, and opened a bakery specializing in cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. It was a huge risk and has been extremely challenging – physically, emotionally, and financially. I complied with every law and regulation, jumped through every hoop to make it happen. People who bake from home, put up a facebook page or website, and call themselves a business undermine everything I have worked for. If that’s what you’re doing, don’t be surprised when someone calls you on it.

    When a client comes in to my shop (or e-mails me), I will spend the time with them (often a LOT of time) working out a design & quote for them. When they balk at my prices, then place an order with a home baker, that affects my livelihood, even if the home baker just sees it as having some fun making cakes and a little extra cash. It’s also amazing how rude and disrespectful some people can be – seems like having a business suddenly means they don’t have to treat you like a person. And they’re knowing they can go somewhere else for less just magnifies that. (That being said, I do have many clients who are wonderful and really appreciate the quality of my work). I’m not getting rich doing what I do by any stretch of the imagination. I work long hours and make excellent products. I need to make enough money every day to pay my bills and hopefully have a little left over to take home so I can pay those bills too. Anyone who does the math will quickly realize just how many cakes, cupcakes, and cookies that is. It’s quite overwhelming. My prices can never compare to someone who has taken a shortcut, has no overhead to cover, and can spend more time on each project – similar to comparing a hand-made cookie to a mass produced one. There’s just no comparison. So for every client that orders from a home baker, that’s a lost sale for me, affecting my ability to pay for my facility and make a living for my family. It’s no wonder small businesses struggle to stay in business. And the time I spent with that client could have been spent on another order or with my family. And believe me, time is precious – working til the wee hours is not uncommon just to make ends meet. I also have a small staff of 1 full time person, one part-time, and a weekend student. They are also depending on my business for their income. Not to mention my landlord who depends on my rent cheque each month as part of his income. Please realize that someone’s little hobby can have more impact on more people than you might think.

    The fact that someone reported you does not make them malicious, hurtful, or jealous. Nor was it a “bad deed”. It’s them saying something’s not fair here and you need to play by the rules. Every time I lose an order to a home baker who is undercutting my prices, it devalues my work and I really don’t appreciate that. It’s hard enough already in this industry to justify my prices to clients who don’t understand the time and effort it takes to create my products without having someone else cheating the system and doing it for less. It also sets me up for clients having unrealistic expectations and less appreciation for what it really takes to provide a specialty service like this to our community. Operating a small business is stressful enough without adding that to the equation.

    I have no issue with someone baking for their friends and family. Being a SAHM is definitely a luxury for most families and it’s a choice. If you don’t want the work, commitment, and stress of a business, then keep your baking as a hobby. Bake for friends & family, take pictures, write about it, give cookies away. When you start to advertise and SELL your product, that’s when you’re crossing the line and you need a business licence. Of course it’s easier to skip that step and just collect the money, but anyone with a real business has managed to get a licence. It’s not impossible. There are always choices and options. It has nothing at all to do with how good you are at the job. Your cookies are beautiful, but that doesn’t mean you should be able to make them without following the rules just because you’re good at it. Just like a lawyer needs a degree to practice law, regardless of whether he knows his stuff or not, or the best contractor in the world still needs a permit to build a house, if you’re going to operate a buisiness, you need a business licence. Laws are there to keep things fair. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for someone who breaks those rules and then expects everyone to feel sorry for them. I’m quite offended actually. If you don’t like the laws where you are, take the steps necessary to have them changed or move somewhere with laws you like. Again, there are always options, whether they appeal to you or not. Disregarding the law (and then whining about it) is offensive and disrespectful to all the legitimate business owners out there. I don’t wish anyone any ill will, I’m just saying if you’re going to play, play fair.

    • 90.1
      Daliah says:

      I can understand where you are coming from, but for a lot of us, opening a brick and mortar store front is not an option. I don’t see a reason not to be able to sell from my house. I think that saying the customer has to come to my house is ridiculous, I don’t want people coming here. I’m not sure what the reason for that part of the law is, but it puts more restrictions on the home baker. Moving is not a viable option, not for a home baker, that’s sort of a silly suggestion. If there is a license to allow you to bake in your home, then sure, buy it, no big deal. I have a tax exempt ID, it’s free and easy to get.

      As far as the person she is speaking of as being malicious, you have no idea what the circumstances are, maybe they were being malicious.

    • 90.2
      Pat says:

      Your comment really sounds like you have issues…..maybe your skill need to be improved them people wont go to a home baker as you say. When people love the work, they will pay anything…so, just saying. There are plenty of malicious actions all around us, why feed them??? I hope your business succeeds, if it doesn’t, don’t blame the home baker!

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