Love Is An Apple Pie

heart apple pie

Love is an apple pie

Today marks eight years since the day my father passed away. As my father was a great cook and baker, I felt that an ideal way to honor his spirit this year was to bake an apple pie. I don’t actually remember my father baking many apple pies, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t. That just means that my memory is getting foggy in my “old age.”

What makes this pie lovingly special is that I made it with apples that my daughters picked just for me. My favorite pie apples are Gala apples because they’re so sweet and juicy. The girls went apple picking with their father last weekend and picked several apples that they thought were Gala. My youngest also picked some smaller “mystery” apples and I used all eight apples of various sizes in the pie. I have a favorite peeler I use when making pie and I’ve gotten quite good and fast at peeling. Once I peeled all the apples, I cut them  into thin, small pieces to ensure that they cooked through completely and were nice and soft. I use the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe for apple pie with a few changes to make it my own.

The house smelled wonderful yesterday while the pie was baking, but as usual a bit of the pie juices leaked out and dripped onto the bottom of my oven. That didn’t smell so good, but it seems to be part of the process when I make pies so I’m used to it. I used a bit of the extra pie crust to make a heart on the top of the pie because everything I cook or bake is always made with love. To make sure the pie was “safe” for human consumption, I tried a piece last night and found it quite yummy. The apples in it were a bit more tart than I usually use so perhaps they aren’t Gala after all, but as they were picked by my daughters and used in a pie to honor my father, they are the best apples in the world!

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October Already?!

October sky

Evening sky during our walk yesterday.

My oldest daughter went through the house last night flipping all the calendars to October because I hadn’t yet. I’m still trying to adjust to the fact that October is here already. September went by very fast and while it started out fall-like, there was a lot of summer heat in the middle and end of the month that made everything seasonally confusing. The poor trees that had started to change colors during the first bout of cool weather didn’t know what to do once summer heat returned. A lot of them just seemed to give up and start dropping leaves without much color change and I fear it won’t be a very colorful autumn this year. Nonetheless, leaves are still changing and falling and autumn is tied for spring with my favorite season.

As I wrote in last year’s blog post at the start of October, I’m finally able to welcome October again. Losing my father in October of 2009 made it difficult for me to truly embrace what had until that point been my favorite month and season. On the 21st of this month it will have been eight years since his passing and that doesn’t even seem possible to me. While I still miss him every single day and there will always be a void inside me without him here, I’ve healed enough to understand that his spirit wants me to be happy. I’m sure there will be the usual random bouts of crying and sadness throughout the month, but I know it won’t be as overwhelming as it’s been in the past. Life is about moving forward and not allowing yourself to be stuck in a moment that can’t be changed.

I don’t know what this October will bring, but I’m looking forward to it. I never really know what each day will bring. I have a plan for the day and most of the time it follows a predictable routine. But honestly, every single day is full of amazing new experiences and gifts and I make sure I take the time to notice them and feel grateful for them. I’m sure October will be full of new adventures and of course my favorite holiday of Halloween. Maybe I’ll make it to a Halloween party of some type this year, one never knows! Whatever comes this October and beyond, I know that I’ll get through it just like I always do, with strength, determination, optimism, and hope.

Flowers From My Father

tuilps

All of the tulips behind my house.

My father had a green thumb. I don’t know if he was born with it, or if he cultivated through during his lifetime, but he was great at making plants grow. He loved planting gardens of flowers and vegetables and whatever he touched thrived. His efforts to create vegetable gardens didn’t always go well due to animals finding their way past garden defenses, but his flower beds always thrived.

While I’ve had some success growing things, I did not inherit my father’s knack for making green things grow. I’ve killed cactuses and other low maintenance plants and my annual flower gardens have been hit and miss. I’ve discovered that pansies and snapdragons seem made to survive my lack of green thumb, but I haven’t had much luck with perennials. Well, lucky for me, my father’s spirit decided to help me with that problem.

A few years’ ago, a tulip plant suddenly appeared growing next to the irises behind my house. Those irises have been here since before I moved in and they always do extremely well, but I’d never planted any tulips. I took that first tulip that produced a single red blossom as a gift from my father’s spirit and I thanked him profusely. That tulip has returned every year and I’m always amazed that the squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, skunks, or deer don’t manage to nibble it away before it can bloom.

Apparently, this year my father decided I needed a few more bulbs in my yard. The first new plants I saw were a couple of yellow daffodils growing over by my smaller shed. I didn’t plant daffodils and I’d never seen them there before, but there they suddenly were one day! When I first saw the splash of yellow next to the shed, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, especially since the weather hadn’t been warm enough for dandelions yet. I was bewildered when I walked over and realized they were healthy daffodil plants dancing in the chilly breeze.

daffodils

The daffodils by my shed.

Once again, I thanked my dad’s spirit for the gift of flowers and figured that was his new flower for this year. I soon learned that I was wrong.

Shortly after the daffodils came up, I went over to investigate my usual tulip and discovered more tulip plants growing a bit further away from the first. Again, I didn’t plant any more tulips so I was surprised to see them. I thought perhaps they were more red tulips and that they were finally growing because I’d cut the rose bush back more. I was happy to see more tulips growing and appreciated my father’s continued efforts to add flowers to my gardens.

As the weeks passed and the tulips continued to grow and create buds, I noticed that the new plant had five buds on it as opposed to the single bud on the red tulip. After a couple more days I realized that the second tulip plant was a different color than the first tulip plant and when it finally started to show its colors, the buds were a lovely combination of yellow and red. I was elated that such beautiful tulips were growing in my yard when they bloomed and revealed their stunning colors, I nearly jumped for joy. My father’s spirit had certainly upped his game this spring!

yellow and red tulips

This year’s tulip plant

tulips

The original red tulip and this year’s new addition.

I’ve been enjoying the colorful displays of tulips behind my house for the past week or so and even though the blossoms are starting to fade and wilt, I’ve taken plenty of pictures to remember them by. Plus, I know they’ll be back again next year. The gift of flowers that my father’s spirit keeps giving me is something I’m truly grateful for and I wish he were still physically around so I could thank him in person and give him a huge hug.

I’m sure there’s a lot my dad could do with my property if he was still alive and I’d welcome his help. I always make grand plans for gardens on my property, but I don’t have the time or resources. Instead, I just make my little backyard container garden around the birdfeeders and admire it from my kitchen window or when I’m outside on the deck or in the yard. The birds also help me out by dropping enough sunflower seeds to sprout at least a couple nice sunflowers every year.

Although I may never have the beautiful gardens my dad used to create, I do the best I can to keep up with my property and incorporate pretty (and resilient) flowers where I can. It’s nice to know that my father’s spirit seems to understand that I’m trying and that he helps me out as best he can. For as long as I live in this house and even after I move, I know I’ll wait anxiously for spring every year to see if my father has planted more gifts of flowers for his little girl.

flower garden

Standing by one of my dad’s flower gardens.

Finding Light in Darkness

candlelight in darkness by JulieAnn Corbin

On this day seven years ago, my father walked on. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that many years, but I know it has. Although the pain and sadness of losing him will never go away, it has faded over the years. His spirt is always with me and I can still hear his voice and his laughter in my mind whenever I think of him.

This October has been the first October since his death when I didn’t feel overwhelmed with emotions of grief. I’ve been focusing on the blessings in my life and creating as much positive energy as possible because I know that’s what my father would want. It’s also what’s best for me and my girls.

I think my father would be proud of the woman I’ve become and how I’m raising my girls. He’d appreciate the fact that I haven’t settled for someone just to avoid being alone. He was a role model for the kind of man I deserve in my life and I’ve yet to meet his match. If I never meet his match, then I’ll remain single, simple as that. I am a tough, strong, independent woman and I’ve learned to enjoy every moment of my life. I cherish the time with my daughters and I make the most of my time when I don’t have them. Life is a blessing and must never be taken for granted.

My father with our cat Sylvester

My father with our cat Sylvester

On this day and every day, I honor my father’s eternal spirit. I recall all the wonderful memories of him and remember how tightly he always hugged me and that we always said, “I love you” when we parted. I will light candles in his memory and smudge my house with sage to cleanse the space and bring healing energy within. Even though the sadness of losing him is eternal, there is always light to be found in darkness and I will do my best to be that light.

Writing to Honor My Father

My father and I in the Adirondack Mountains. He's wearing the bobcat shirt I remember well.

My father and I in the Adirondack Mountains. He was always supportive of my writing.

Occasions like Father’s Day today have been difficult for me since my father walked on in October of 2009. Quite often, I feel sad and cry during the days leading up to the event, but then on the actual day, I’m okay. Surprisingly enough, I haven’t really been sad leading up to or including Father’s Day. I still miss my father immensely and always will, but I think I’m finally in a better place now and able to focus on all the positive aspects in my life that come from having him as my father.

One of the things I remember my father asking almost every time I saw him was “How’s your writing going?” I’d usually reply that it was going okay or some such thing, but I always felt like I was letting him down because I wasn’t published yet. He was one of my biggest supporters when it came to my writing and losing him made it so hard for me to continue writing in any of my books. I think the fact that I now make my living as a freelance writer would please him, but it’s not quite the same.

Yesterday was a wonderful day that started with waking up to my daughters coming into my bedroom and included beautiful sunshine, a conversation that made me smile and laugh, and an afternoon and early evening spent visiting my mom. I felt so elated and inspired that I actually felt like writing in my newest fantasy novel (now over 4 years old and only containing one chapter). When I told my oldest daughter Jordan of my desire to write, she smiled broadly and was genuinely excited for me. She’s blessed with the gift of writing as well and is a far better writer at 13 than I was at her age. In her enthusiasm for me writing again, I saw a bit of my father and I knew I couldn’t let either of them down.

Alas, I was a bit too tired to write last night, so I decided that I would write today. My girls won’t be back until the late evening and it’s too hot and full of deer flies to do much outside so writing in my fantasy book entitled “Unbroken Flames” sounds like the perfect way to spend the day. A lot has changed in my life since I started writing that book and it’s past time that I start incorporating that into the story.

One thing that will never change in any of my writing though is my love for breathing life into strong female characters who are willing to fight for what they believe in, have faced challenges that made them stronger instead of destroying them and who still believe in love and all of the amazing gifts that come with it.

So here’s to you, Dad, your little girl will finally get going again on her writing!

Celebrating Strong Spirits

dad and girls august 2006

(Featured image: My father holding newborn Jaycie with 4 year old Jordan on his legs)

Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 75 years old. The last birthday we celebrated with him on this earth was his 68th because he walked on in October of 2009. He was more than my father; he was my best friend, confidant, supporter and a man who showed me how I deserve to be treated and cared for by a man. I’ve yet to meet his equal and I probably never will. I was blessed to have him for as long as I did and I’ll always be “Daddy’s little girl” no matter what age I am.

Special occasions like today are always hard without my dad and his birthday marks the first of many special events during the spring and summer. Every summer birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Memorial Day feel a bit emptier without him. I miss his hugs, his laughter, his smiles and his voice giving me sage wisdom and advice that I still hear in my head to this day. I feel him in the sunshine, the glow of the moon and the scent of spring flowers. I see him on the wings and in the watchful eyes of hawks as they fill my world. I’ve inherited a lot from him, including his strength and determination and I know his spirit is with me every single day.

My father’s spirit sticks around with more than just me, he’s with everyone he loves. He had a special connection with my youngest daughter, Jaycie. After my father’s strokes, he had physical limitations and his mind wasn’t ever quite the same. Jaycie has had mental and physical developmental delays all of her life, but she’s finally catching up! There always seemed to be a sense of camaraderie between my dad and Jaycie, as if they both understood what it was like to face challenges and rise above them. For a while after my father walked on, Jaycie would occasionally say that she saw him or that she knew what he was doing in heaven. She may not see him anymore (or not tell us if she does) but I know he sticks close to her and the amazing light that she is.

dad and jaycie reading by JulieAnn Corbin

My father and Jaycie reading.

Jaycie is participating in the Special Olympics today and it’s her first time doing so. I’m sure she’ll have fun, do well and that it will be a great experience for her. I think it’s a perfect way to celebrate both her and my father’s eternally strong spirits. I went to the send off for the Special Olympians at the school this morning and Jaycie marched out all by herself looking like a movie star with her sunglasses on. I wished her luck and gave her a kiss and she was all smiles!

Jaycie marching in the send off for the Special Olympians this morning

Jaycie marching in the send off for the Special Olympians this morning

 

jaycie sign

The sign teachers and fellow students made to encourage Jaycie.

My father’s spirit will watch over Jaycie today, urge her on and beam with pride, of that I’m certain. He used to volunteer for a horseback riding program for children with Cerebral Palsy and whenever I would go with him to help, I could see how much joy it brought him so I’m sure Jaycie doing the Special Olympics today is a birthday gift he greatly appreciates. Although he can’t physically be here to help Jaycie shine, I know that today, his spirit shines even brighter as he watches over all of his greatest gifts: his family.

An Emptiness that, at Times Seems to Burn

One of my favorite pictures of my father and I.

One of my favorite pictures of my father and I.

On Wednesday, October 21st, 2009, my father passed away and my life and the lives of my family have never been the same. I think about and miss my father every single day. He wasn’t perfect (nobody is) but he was a great man and he loved me unconditionally. He showed me how a man is supposed to love a woman and I’ve yet to meet his equal. I learned how I deserve to be treated from my father and because of him, I will never settle for less than I deserve.

I have written several blog posts about my father and always post something on the anniversary of his passing. With it falling on a Wednesday again this year, it feels harder to deal with, but I know I’ll be okay because his spirit is always watching over me. For this year’s honoring of my father’s memory, I wanted to quote a favorite excerpt from a movie. The movie is Practical Magic and in it, Sally writes her sister a letter that in essence sums up how I feel since my father left this world.

***

Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside me … an emptiness that, at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear you could hear the ocean.

And the moon tonight, there’s a circle around it, a sign of trouble not far behind.

I have a dream of being whole, Of not going to sleep each night, wanting. But still sometimes when the wind is warm, or the crickets sing, I dream of a love that even time will lay down and be still for.”

sallys letter