5 years ago, almost to the day, I decorated a heart shaped cookie that changed my life. If someone had told me 5 years ago, that today I would be standing in my kitchen, getting professional branding photos taken for a business I built from the ground up, I would have never believed it. This cookie decorating thing was not planned… it was not even on my radar. Getting here sure was a bumpy road, but I like to think that life has a way of taking you to all the places you need to go before you get to the where you’re supposed to be.
In the years leading up to that life changing heart cookie, I was on a constant search for something. I don't know that it was as deep as the meaning of life, but I would feel comfortable saying that I was looking for my "purpose". I was a creative person, I wanted to be creative every day, and I wanted to somehow make a living off of my creativity. I wanted to turn my creativity into a career that could sustain life. In February of 2019, my dreams became reality, and The Millers Wife Custom Cookies was born. This year marks the 5 year anniversary of my little (not so little anymore) cookie business. I never would have imagined that this cookie decorating gig would have turned into what it is today, and in my very first blog post, I am going to tell you a little bit about how I got here.
Lets rewind a few years...
When I was about 8 years old, I was your average, happy, confident kid. I had lots of friends, I loved school, life was good. Around that same time, my mom re-married, we moved out of my happy little bubble, and something inside me changed. In the move, I somehow lost ALL of my previously mentioned confidence. I didn't fit in at my new school, and I struggled to make friends. I skimmed my way through grade school, then the same through highschool. I didn't focus on my studies. I got poor grades in most of my classes, BUT, I excelled in art.
I did so well in art that I was accepted into a school with an amazing art program even though I was well out of jurisdiction. They made exceptions for me to attend, and all of the arrangements were made, I was SO excited. I switched schools, and within three days, I became so terrified of the idea of making new friends and learning how to navigate this massive school in the city, that I dropped out and headed back to the school I knew, where I was comfortable. I still somehow managed to graduate from high school pretty much on time, but I found myself with a big decision to make. What was I going to do with the rest of my life??? How on earth is an aimless 18 year old supposed to make this kind of decision?!?! With minimal thought put into this life changing decision, off I went to hairdressing school. I did very well in my program, and I absolutely loved it. My teachers told me I was a natural, they told me I was going to do great things.... But truth be told... I didn't do great things. I finished the program, and then that whole confidence thing got me again. I couldn't face the idea of getting a job and having to actually TALK to people. The thought of having to be outgoing and social was so scary for me. So instead of doing that, I decided I didn't want to be a hairdresser. It was now fashion I wanted, so off I went to college for fashion. I excelled, I was told again by the teachers I was going to do great things. I finished the program, and found myself in the exact same position. Time to get a job, and I crumbled. I lacked the confidence to do it. Instead of addressing the issue, I changed lanes yet again. This time it was glass blowing... then it was pottery...then after years of practice in a communal studio, and completing schooling and courses for both of these mediums, I realized that the term "starving artist" was no joke.
At that point, I felt it just wasn't in the cards for me to find my dream of doing something creative for a living, so I enrolled in an accounting program at a local college. I got a job doing payroll and accounting that helped me pay off my student loans and I made enough money to live a comfortable life that included travel and home ownership, a wedding, and a dog, I had all the things that make you "happy". I worked in accounting for about 12 years, but I never really stopped searching for that one thing that would allow me to be creative. I dabbled in wedding planning, I started a home decorating side gig. Then in 2016, things got real rocky. I lost my dad to a very short battle with cancer, then about 8 months later, my brother in law drowned in a very tragic accident just outside our back door. Both of those events were incredibly traumatic, and also a real eye opener for me- I found myself wanting a family. In September of 2017, I found out I was pregnant. I was 39, and terrified about becoming a mom, I knew absolutely nothing about raising a child, but I was lucky to have my mom close by. She was someone I was very close with. About 6 months into my pregnancy, out of the blue, my mom passed away. There was no warning, no goodbyes...it broke me. At that point, I was pretty much a shell of a human being. I felt so alone and lost and scared. My mom was my best friend. We were SO close. She had always been my biggest cheerleader, and supported me in every decision I made. I couldn't handle life without her there, so I ended up taking an early mat leave and tried to focus on preparing for the baby and taking the time to let her go. I really struggled with the grieving process and being pregnant and hormonal did not help matters. I was convinced everyone around me was going to die, including myself. It was not a great time in my life. While waiting for the baby to be born, I had the very difficult task of going through all of my mothers belongings and parting with her beloved things far too soon. It was incredibly difficult to let her things go, it seemed so....final. She loved to bake and she was one of the most artistic and creative people I had ever met. She could have done ANYTHING she set her mind too.
|While going through her kitchen, we came across so many baking supplies. Totes jammed full of cookie cutters, piping bags, tips, meringue powder, food colouring, you name it, she had it.
I always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen, but cooking was more my thing, not baking... it had never really appealed to me. So I was quite hesitant to take this stuff. My brother and sister didn't want any of it, and I wasn't sure I would use it, so we almost got rid of all of it.... but something inside me paused. I knew I was having a little girl, and I thought maybe one day it would be nice to bake with her using all of my moms stuff (little did I know baking with kids is not the experience you imagine, all those beautifully staged photos of moms and toddlers baking...well thats another blog post altogether.) Anyways- I kept the stuff. I tucked it away in my basement and didn't really give it much more thought for quite some time.
Fast forward to Valentine's day of 2019. I had spent the last six months with the most beautiful baby girl, she was wonderful. We spent our days at home for the most part, while my husband worked, and although I loved being a mom, I still felt that drive to keep busy, and since I had recently done some serious sleep training with my daughter, I had a champion sleeper on my hands. She slept 12-13 hours at night and had three solid naps through the day. She was asleep more than she was awake, and I found myself feeling lonely again, thinking about my mom. I was still heavily in the many stages of grief, and I think I may have had a bit of postpartum depression to boot. I decided I needed a hobby. I needed something that was just for me...
Valentines day was just around the corner and at my husbands request, I had done a bit of baking over Christmas. Just some simple gingerbread cookies with minimal iced details. I thought this time I would give some sugar cookies a go. I mean why not? I had everything I needed to get started. I did a very small amount of research online, found a couple recipes, and off I went. I baked a batch of heart shaped cookies, made my first batch of royal icing, attempted a few different colours and I was set. Let me tell you, they were not the cookies you see on my page today.... they were VERY amateur. But I really enjoyed making them, and they were kinda cute! I felt satisfied. We ate the cookies, and that was that. I thought about how glad I was I kept all that stuff my mom had, because even if I used it just that one time, it was worth keeping. I packed everything back up and went on with life for a week or two. Then I got to thinking- I could probably make some improvements on those cute cookies. So I dragged it all out again, made some more heart cookies, and they were better! But they still weren’t perfect. I decided to take some pictures this time just for fun. Once again, I packed it all up and went on with life, i didn't think I would ever really do it again, not in the foreseesable future anyways.
About a week later, I was at a party for my 41st bday and a friend asked me how I had been filling my days on mat leave. We chatted about mom stuff and I ended up showing her the pics I’d taken of the cookies. She LOVED them! I saw all the flaws but she seemed really impressed. Later the following week, she messaged me. She wanted me to make some cookies for her kids teachers for Valentine's day, and she wanted to pay me!! At first I refused, I said no, they aren't good enough, but she insisted they were. So with some serious encouragement from my very supportive husband, I agreed to do it. I made the cookies for her... and that was the beginning of what I have today. In the weeks following, instead of sitting around, thinking about death, and feeling down and lonely, and sad, I made cookies. I made SO MANY cookies. I literally have not stopped making cookies since that day. I have had the honour of contributing to so many peoples "special moments". I have grown so much in the last five years. I have found my confidence, and my calling. The things I’ve accomplished in the past 5 years have far exceeded anything I could have ever dreamed, and I’m not even close to finished. I went from at home hobby baker to taking custom cookie orders, to teaching in person classes, to teaching online to people all over the world. I am designing my own cookie cutters and have collaborated with Nicole Albert of The Cookiery in London Ontario, who is a wonderful friend and business associate.
|I mentioned earlier, I decorated a heart cookie that changed my life. I suppose it wasn’t just that one heart cookie that changed my life, it was all the things leading up to it that were laying the groundwork for that cookie.
I truly believe that cookie was brought into my life for a reason, and had I not gone through all the hard stuff first, that life changing cookie may have never been born. Like anyone, I still have my fair share of bad days, but for now, at this point in my life, I feel very lucky that I can say my heart genuinely is full. I am content, and I am happy. I am also very aware of how fast that can change so I am consciously doing my best to enjoy every minute and trying live this life the best way I can.
If I could pass on any advice from my experience it would be this:
If you are currently on your own bumpy road, ride it out. Be messy, embrace the changes life brings, listen to that little voice inside, and to your heart. Life will take you where you are supposed to be. When you get there, you will know. And it will be worth it.
In 2024 I will be publishing a monthly blog post featuring cookie decorating tutorials, troubleshooting, recipe tweaks and more! I am very excited about this and would love to hear from all of you to know what you would like to see included in the blog.