Last week, our to-be-10-year-old declared her desire to share cinnamon rolls with her grandparents in honor of the big birthday.

She reasoned that with ice cream sundaes on birthday night with immediate family and cake with her pals at Saturday’s sleepover, a departure with cinnamon pastry would be a good thing.

I agreed with her, in theory.

Inside, my heart sunk.

I tried not to let it show, but I’m not sure how good a job I did hiding the fear.

At 37, I am just beginning to own my creativity, and in my world the finer cooking arts fall squarely within this category.

I’m surrounded by creative, not just functional, cooks. There’s my husband, who concocts inventive and delicious ideas and combines gourmet recipes on week nights. Week nights, people.

There’s my mom, who creates exemplary beauty in the kitchen and on the table (and is the author of an incredible blog called, by the way).

And there are my sisters, who prepare holiday cookies, party spreads and meals to die for on a regular basis.

Me, I’d rather take the easy road through the kitchen. The old tried and true. One pot wonders, salads, breads with produce as a main ingredient (banana or pumpkin anyone?), chocolate chip cookies. You know, low risk stuff.

When I choose to take the time, I do alright, and sometimes even have fun. To my knowledge, I haven’t scarred any taste buds. But with a choice, I’d rather be writing, decorating or even cleaning than cooking for enjoyment. I’m definitely not trying something new for a group of people (dear extended family included).

Over the last year, I’ve made big strides in relishing the joy of creative expression and embracing this as a central part of who I am. Recognizing her as a wild-haired mess that will not live tidily in a corner separate from my life and orderly grasp.

But free, joyful creativity doesn’t cloud from my wake with so much salt, pepper and flour. Maybe it never will, and that would be OK. The looming fear of failure, though — I want that to go away.

Last week, our schedules made clear that cinnamon roll making was going to fall squarely in my lap.

I saw no way out. I wanted to do this for my girl.

I freaked.

In the morning, I woke early with heart thumping hard in my chest to prepare the dough for rising, hands actually shaking with anticipation. I knew it was ridiculous, but they did.

I completed the first portion of the task and snapped this photo:

I know. Woop-de-doo. It’s dough. But I felt a swell of pride, maybe even a start of exhilaration mixed in with the yeast.

When Lala and I returned early that afternoon, I saw the big risen poof and proceeded to next steps. I punched the center of it (per the directions). Fun. I tried to talk myself up. I can do this.

But underneath it all, I was even more sure I would screw up because I hadn’t yet, sure I’d humiliate myself, completely revealing my ineptitude.

So I kept following the directions. What else could I do?

When it came time to roll out the dough to an even rectangle precisely 12 by 16 inches, things got especially touch and go.

The dough seemed to want to stretch forever in one direction, but seemed to stop short in the other. I brought out the ruler — still inches to go.

My lack of experience coupled with my lack of spacial intelligence were going to betray me for sure.

I kept at it.

I rolled and tucked too-long edges, and rolled and rolled.

About the time I thought there must be a rule regulating the time dough can be rolled before it becomes too tough and inedible, I noticed the marks.

Stretch marks.

Parts of the dough rolled across butcher block counter looked precisely like the marks left behind by skin pushed beyond reasonable limits. Skin marked permanently by the pain of growth.

I continued the steps. The slathering of milk, cinnamon and sugar, the rolling, the forming, the cutting with dental floss (fun!). Soon they looked like this:

Not perfect, as you can plainly see, but they were my little cinnamon rolls, made with just a scattering of a clue by my own two hands. I placed them on the stove to grow into their full cinnamon roll-y goodness.

As the rolls rose, I thought of those marks. I knew they were just cinnamon rolls, but something deeper pulled as I thought about the dough that had stretched wide without tearing apart.

Mother skin stretched to limits by the inside growth struggle. Beauty life springing from strain. Joy pushing through fear with its clenched jaw love.

I didn’t even take a photo of the finished little buns.

I only stored away in my mind the picture of a little victory rising, growing and stretching past its known limits to create something new.

Fear had not won this time.

Just little buns in the oven, but they made me feel like an artist. Like I could do more. Trust more. Stretch more.

It felt good to stretch, to partner in making new.

To cast a trusting artist’s hand to create golden warmth in the not yet.

Tell me: Where do you make art? Where do you see little victories growing, expanding through the fear? What good stretch could you, or are you embracing in your life?

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