Time for 2013, and a Few Harsh Truths

I’m not very good at this whole blogging thing.

While I admire – and am a little jealous of – those who can pump out a post per day or more, I just can’t commit to it. I want to, but when I get to that Add New Post section and it’s staring back at me blankly, almost defiantly, I freeze up and forgot what brought me there in the first place. Once that nasty self-talk kicks in with it’s ‘you know, you’re really not interesting enough to be doing this’, it’s over. It’s all rather discouraging.

I’d like to say it’s because I was way too busy to blog, but that would be lying. In December, it was true: I was on my way to building what might have been a successful bake-on-demand business, offering to do the holiday baking for those who may have neither time nor inclination. I say ‘might have’ because although it was a moderate success for a soft launch, what happened afterward was less so. Pain is what happened. Over Christmas, I could barely lift a spoon let along beat anything with a spatula because my arm was hurting so badly. As it turns out, a nerve damage issue from my former desk job combined with carpal tunnel AND arthritis were all joining forces to tell me that this is not the path I’m supposed to be on. And don’t even get me started with the city zoning and regulations issues. It’s really a miracle that anyone operates a food business at all.

Which begs the question: what the hell do I do now?

In a way, the forced moratorium on daily baking made me have to do some serious thinking about my motivations. And despite all of my self assurances to the contrary, my obsessive baking was not a healthy tribute to my mother. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was more a desperate attempt to connect with her on some level now that she’s gone, and it was keeping me from accepting her death and moving forward. She had spent most of the day before the stroke took her away from us baking, and no amount of me re-creating that day through a variety of baked goods is going to bring her back.

Unfortunately, it took my best friend basically calling me out on it as well as the death of another loved one – my childhood best friend’s mother, who was like a second mother to me – to show me.

So now, I’m faced with the ugly task of rebuilding. For someone who places a large amount of her self worth in what she does for a living, you can imagine what six months of unemployment is doing to me. When I was baking, at least I felt like I was contributing something of value, building toward something bigger than myself. Sadly most of that value has been converted into inches on my waistline and it’s myself that is bigger, but that’s not the point I’m making. The point is, where do I go from here?

One consolation I have is that I’m about fifty pages away from finishing a complete rewrite of The Novel. I took all of the suggestions made to me from a literary agent who had showed some interest in the story, and changed the point of view from first to third person as well as shaved off a good twenty to thirty pages of unnecessary backstory, and am now on the verge of being able to consider re-submitting to other agents – that first one included. So I guess that’s one thing. But that’s not enough to base an entire future on.

I suppose I could start by changing my perspective. Normally, I am very much a glass is half empty kind of person. Perhaps if I could start looking at it from a more positive spin, like this is an opportunity to start a new chapter and try a whole new direction, I would be way better off both emotionally and physically. But as the late payment calls for bills I don’t have the money to pay at the moment, that might be easier said than done.

Anyone else find themselves in a similar situation? I take some comfort in knowing that I must not be alone in this.

One Year Later

It’s been a year now that I’ve tried to live life without my mother. There are times when it feels like forever ago, but most of the time that feeling of pain and loss is still as fresh as the day she was gone. In a way I’m thankful that I’m no longer dreaming about her on a nightly basis, dreaming that she’s  still here and I was talking to her about something random only to wake up and remember that she wasn’t and the grief cycle starts all over again. But there are moments when I will find something so seemingly insignificant, like an old recipe in her handwriting, that will leave me feeling like I’d just been punched in the stomach and I collapse into tears. I’m not sure that’s normal – it is what it is.

For some people, I’m sure this must sound like a broken record, that it’s been a year so it’s time to ‘get on with things’. To those people I can only say, quite simply, I can’t. Everything has changed so utterly and completely, I’m not even sure what it is exactly that I’m supposed to get on with anymore.

While I don’t think it’s very healthy to continue to dwell on her passing, I feel like I’ve moved beyond that dark place now. Right now I’m just trying to determine my next moves. Losing Mom so abruptly had prompted some serious life questions that led to some major changes, ultimately for the better. I think, anyway – at least that’s what I hope.

I think I’ve said all I can at the moment about the subject, so I will leave you with the blog post I wrote last year when I was living a different life. It happened to be the day of her funeral.

Miss you, Mommy.

Weekend Blues on The Farm

Again, I find myself feeling the need to apologize for my lack of blog posts in the past few days. Why, and to whom, I don’t really know but the compulsion is there nonetheless.

This weekend it was my turn to go up and ‘take care’ of my father, who has now been living on his own for the past ten months since the death of my mother last November. I love my father; I dread going there. I suppose it would be worse if it were the house I grew up in, which is the house that features prominently in my dreams when I dream about my mother (which is often), but they moved up to this farm about forty-five minutes south of Georgian Bay to ‘retire’  almost twenty years ago – if you can call a hundred acres and seventy-five cows a form of retirement – so there is some history there as well. History mixed in with a good dose of guilt and remorse. Lots of ‘should’ statements, such as “I should have gone up more often”, “I should have made more of an effort to visit”, “I should not have found so many excuses for not going” or ‘I should not have been such a selfish, ungrateful little brat”… You know, the usual things we beat ourselves up over.

I won’t get into how wonderful my mother was. I will instead redirect you to a post I wrote on a previous blog – in what seems like a previous life – that sums it up rather succinctly. Which is a bit of a shock, considering how drugged up I was during that time.

My sister and I have decided to take turns in going to visit my father, as it is quite a drive to get to as well as exhausting once you factor in the housework and cooking for him. He was married to my mother, who did everything for him short of wiping his nose, for fifty-eight years, so at first he was a bit lost. And since he flatly refuses to let us get housekeeper for him, it falls to us to fill that role. However, on this visit, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he’d been doing rather well on his own. I’m not sure if it was just for show since he knew we would be coming, but it looked reasonably clean. Even the plants showed signs of regular watering. What was not so pleasant, on the other hand, was how thin he looked. Otherwise healthy, but thin, which leads me to wonder if that’s just my mind at work again. Thinking the worst. But he was eating well, and seemed pleased to have me replenish the stockpile of sweets I’d baked for him on my last visit if reluctant to let me do anything else like laundry or bedding. It was a family stealth mission just to get the sweeping, dusting and bathroom cleaning in.

I had been sent a number of heart-healthy recipes to prepare for him and, while I did make two dozen low fat banana muffins, I must admit that I did not use the other ones. I didn’t laden anything with artery-clogging butter and refined flour or sugar, but my reasoning is this: the man is 82. He’s recently lost his partner and best friend of almost sixty years and he continues to work on his farm, although the doctor forbade any more cows since the triple bypass so now it’s soy, wheat and barley. So I figure, if he wants to indulge his sweet tooth every now and then, he should just do it. I know he won’t overdo it – he’s been almost militant since the heart attack. I suspect it has more to do with not wanting to be stuck in hospital again than anything else. I know firsthand how stubborn and bull-headed he can get since it’s like looking in a mirror -I am my father’s daughter, a chip off the ol’ block. Except for on the inside, both physically and emotionally, where I am very much like my mother. And for that reason, I made the oatmeal raisin cookies and date loaf squares using my mother’s recipes. I didn’t tell him that, of course. But it felt like something I needed to do.

The visit went better than they have done in the past, and not only because of his apparent increase in housekeeping skills. I guess it’s true what they say, that time really does heal all. But still, there were moments that caught me offguard which I suppose won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Like last time finding the dress she wore when she left on honeymoon, labelled and packed away in the farthest reaches of one of the closets, a picture of her in her wedding dress that was tucked into the corner of the vanity mirror in the room I slept in hurt my heart a little. It’s not like I knew her then, so it shouldn’t have. But it was more just another piece of her that’s been left behind, further reminding me that she’s no longer here.

I think that’s the part I struggle with the most.

Anyways, I have a backlog of baking posts that need to be seen to this week, as well as a project I’m working on. The same project I’d alluded to in my last apology post. But I still can’t say much on that topic lest I jinx it. But once I am able to, trust me – I will let you know.

Productive, but Not Entirely Successful

Despite an excellent start early on with ticking one major item – The Book – off my goal list that had been held over from the previous week and getting some exercise in the form of walking as well, the fact remains that I still have no meringues for you.

I’m sorry.

In addition to Saturday’s rhubarb crumble, I did make some dairy-free banana ice cream using coconut milk and a pear-strawberry galette over the weekend, all of which were incredibly delicious. My husband even went so far as to say that it was the best strawberry-rhubarb anything he’s ever tasted, no small praise considering he’s a flavour snob of the highest order and that has been one of his favourites since he was a child. It’s not like I wasn’t busy. But again, they are not meringues.

Maybe it’s my miserable macaron-making experience that’s holding me back. Meringues are far less fickle than the macaron but they still depend on a certain lack of humidity in order to rise successfully. And it has certainly been humid. So it would be fair to reason that on a subconscious level I’m protecting myself from inevitable failure of the meringue by not even trying. But therein lies another problem – there has always been that layer of consciousness. And it’s less protective than it is preventative, in that before I even start a task I will have convinced myself that it will fail, and so I simply don’t bother. And that was the point of this whole exercise to begin with: establish weekly goals with a view to breaking my more unhealthy patterns. It doesn’t mean that I can state a specific goal, such as make those damn meringues, and then when I don’t achieve it I try to supplement it by making anything or everything else. That’s not how this works. So, to put it simply, what I need to do now is just shut up and make the meringues already.

And there you have it: while this weekend was productive in that I made a whole bunch of yummy things, it wasn’t successful because I did not make the one thing I had set out to. But in this case I would say that not being successful isn’t the same as failure, because another outcome has emerged: I’ve identified another important pattern of behaviour that needs to be put to an end.

Who knew that some fluffy bits of egg white and sugar could lead to this level of self-discovery?

PS: I have the eggs on the kitchen counter, just waiting to come to room temperature. And the mixer stands by their side at the ready. Fingers crossed

A Slower Start Than I’d Hoped…

Unfortunately, this week hasn’t gotten off to the rollicking start I was anticipating. I was hoping that by today I’d be able to report that I’d accomplished at least one if not two of the goals I’d laid out earlier this week. But sadly, that’s not the case. And as is typical of me, I was quick to blame myself.

“You’re lazy.”

“What makes you think you’d be able to do that?”

“You’ll just try once, fail, and then give up entirely – so why bother?”

And so on, and so on. You get the idea. Last night was the lowest of the low points during which I’d managed to convince myself that I’m destined to fail at anything, and needless to say I woke up feeling pretty shitty. But over the course of the day today, I had a bit of an epiphany. That nasty voice inside my head would probably scoff and say ‘excuses more like’ – in fact I’m almost certain that’s what I just heard again now as I type – but there are actual reasons why I haven’t gotten anything crossed off my to-do list. None of which have anything to do with the ones written above…

1. It’s been hotter than Hades this week – so not really conducive to baking or exercising. However, in of the heat, I did manage to bake and build a birthday tank cake for my little man’s tenth birthday – something that was not on my initial list that perhaps should have been. I will try to remember to post a picture of it later.

2. I’ve been busy with other things – and while that may not be the best reason, it’s a legitimate one. Monday saw me very atypically volunteering for a school field trip with my son, something I’d never been able to do since he started school because I was always working. Considering I’m not fond of children unless they’re my own, it’s not likely something I’ll be doing again anytime soon. And the other days have been spent cleaning up the house, doing laundry, taking extra recycling to the depot and wandering around window shopping with my hubbie; again, all things that we’d never really had the time to do before. So while I haven’t made any headway with my personal list, there are other things that I’ve been doing in lieu of it.

And finally, the third one is harder to admit and the one I’m least proud of.

3. I’m scared – since those other two items don’t inspire much in the way of fear, I’m mostly referring to The Novel on this last one. Because dragging that book out again…that’s a bit of a struggle. I can still feel the sting of all those rejection emails whenever I think about going back to it. But I have to get past that somehow. It’s been long enough and – dammit – it’s a really good story, so it deserves a second chance. Especially since one agent I sent it to really liked the premise and invited me to a workshop he taught to get feedback where I learned quite a bit. And that I’d made some fairly classic rookie writing mistakes, but nothing that couldn’t be undone. And while it’s entirely possible that the agent only invited me because he wanted my money (to take the whole workshop series, which I didn’t) given that it was a small group of five other people, I’m inclined to think that there was something about my writing that he felt was good enough to take to the next level. And yes, he could have had a group like that running each day twice a day with every other naive new writer with stars in their eyes and been raking in a small fortune on the dreams of others, I don’t believe that was what happened. The nasty little voice, on the other hand…

So yes, there are reasons why I’m not where I thought I should be this week. But there are still a few days left, and I just have to keep remembering that we all have our good days and bad days and days where we feel like we should be doing more. The point is to ignore that little voice inside that keeps reminding you that you aren’t good enough to achieve anything and just keep plugging away as best you can. Maybe those bad days will suddenly take a turn for the better.

 

First Bump in the Road

The first day of my foray into self-discovery hasn’t gotten off to the best start. I spent the bulk of it with my father and sister. That wasn’t the bad part – it was nice to see them. It was more the circumstances that brought us together: deciding on the inscription and a headstone for my mother’s grave. Not the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon. But perhaps it’s appropriate seeing as her sudden death last November was the catalyst that set all of this into motion.

I try to avoid anything that reminds me that she is no longer here, which is rather pointless considering that thinking about her every single day is in itself a reminder. I guess it would be more accurate to say that I avoid situations which deal with her death in a vain attempt to spare myself the pain. Again…pointless. And also patently unfair to my older sister because that means that she is left to bear the burden on her own. It’s enough that she has power of attorney so is in charge of any decisions relating to the estate. I need to put my own selfish emotions aside, step up and do my part – however small it may seem.

We’ve decided to split the Dadwatch duties into six week increments: she’s there now for a weekend of cooking freezer meals and light housework and it will be my turn at the end of July. But although I can bake a mean cake and create other heavenly treats from scratch, my more savoury culinary skills leave much to be desired. Meaning they’re pretty much non-existent.

I’ve got six weeks to train up, so I guess I’m going to have to fit casseroles into the cookie and cupcake-making schedule.

I’ll let you know how it pans out.

A Leap of Faith

Today was kind of a big deal. It was my last day at a job I have held for the last five years with a company whose products and people I adore. So what’s the problem, I can almost hear you ask – is she crazy?

The short answer to that would be ‘yes’. As for the problem, in addition to the crazy part and at the risk of sounding dramatic, it was a job that was slowly killing me from the inside. So I did something that is so drastically out of character for me, it barely seems believable – I took the advice (or rather, the insistence) of my doctor and left a perfectly stable income for the sake of my mental and physical wellbeing. That’s obviously simplifying the situation, because there are several more factors involved in such things, but the end result remains the same. And for someone who tends to define themselves based on the work that they do, that’s more than a little intimidating. If I’m not working, then what measure am I to use to judge myself against? What happens now? Who am I exactly?

It’s the answers to those tough questions that has brought about this little blog you’re reading. Writing has always been a great passion of mine, something I turned to when all else had failed; aprons and the baking that goes along with them, however, are a much more recent obsession. I went from having no aprons just before Christmas last year – roughly about when my life started to fall apart – to now having seven of them. Hence the name: Seven Aprons.

Hopefully you will come along for the ride as I try to find those bits and pieces of myself that seem to have gotten lost along the way. I will do my best to keep you entertained. And, of course, well fed. Because when you find yourself with an apron for each day of the week, how can you not bake up some good?