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.

Update: Chocolate Contest

Update to my previous post: sadly, I did not win the recipe competition. However I did place third – of how many, I’m not entirely sure – and will be getting a basket of chocolate in recognition of my efforts. So, not too shabby for a first try.

Now normally I would allow something like this to completely deflate me and never allow me to put myself out like that again. The inside voice, that one that is usually so quick to jump in at these moments with an ‘I told you so’ or a ‘why bother trying when you know you can’t win’, has been strangely quiet this time. Oh, it’s still whispering, but what used to come through as if on loudspeaker has been reduced to little more than a whisper from the corner.

Could it be that the very act of trying something different, of taking a chance, was enough this time to keep that nasty little voice at bay? Is it really that simple, or have I just gotten lucky this time? I suspect it’s more of the latter, although the courage that comes from mere action may have had something to do with it as well. Because this time, rather than give up entirely, it’s made me want to seek out more opportunities to stretch my skills. Preferably not in a video format, but certainly with creating and submitting my own ideas for recipes.

So in that sense, perhaps I did win big after all.

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.

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?