The Desire to Share

As I’ve said many times, I love to cook and bake. I used to be a great hostess when I was married and my then husband’s friends and coworkers would come over. I put together food for our annual Halloween party that included delectable treats for kids and adults. I love cooking a lot of food for a house full of people and enjoying it with them. That element of my life evaporated when I got divorced and all of those “friends” chose my ex over me. I haven’t hosted a party in four years, I don’t have enough friends to fill a house anymore.

I still love making lots of food and trying new recipes though. I have great hope that eventually I’ll have a social circle again. I’m pretty sure it will happen when I live in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. I get glimpses of what can be when I visit North Shore Massachusetts. Complete strangers are kind to me, people I’ve never met before treat me like a friend and want to see me again. For a semi-introvert, still inwardly shy girl like me, that means a lot. Someday I won’t be a tourist anymore, someday I’ll be a resident.

cider bread ingredients

The hard cider bread ready to come out of the oven.

The hard cider bread ready to come out of the oven.

I’m looking forward to being that house on the street that emits such amazing sweet and savory smells everyone wonders “What’s Julie mixing up now?” and then comes over to find out. The way I bake and cook, there will be plenty to go around! I’ll enjoy soaking up the feedback on new recipes and revel in any compliments I receive. I’ll have infamous cookouts where people come watch me battle grill flames and come out victorious. I’ll deliver trays of cookies, muffins and breads to nearby businesses just to make them smile. Yes, it will be lovely!

My girls favorite little crescent dogs

My girls favorite little crescent dogs

I miss sharing that part of myself, the part of me that I express by making irresistible food. I put a lot of thought and care into what I bake. I’m always tweaking recipes to make it just a smidge better and trying new flavor combinations.Β I spend my days of solitude now preparing for that life when I have a social circle again. Four years is a long time for a hostess not to have the opportunity to do what she does best.

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Mentors and Memories

Poised and ready to go!

Poised and ready to go!

I suppose not everyone needs a mentor, but I do. That wise and trusted counselor or teacher, as defined by the dictionary app on my phone. My most beloved mentor was my father. He always believed in me and my abilities as a writer. Whenever I’d visit my parents’ house he’d ask “How’s your writing coming? Submit to any publishers yet?” To which I’d usually say no and then feel bad because I was letting him down, though he never told me anything of the sort.

I have made attempts to submit my manuscripts to publishers, I imagine all aspiring authors have. I also imagine all aspiring authors are familiar with those generic rejection letters mailed back in the SASE we happily provide in the hopes of good news. Compared to many authors I’ve made relatively few attempts to get my books published. I admit that I’m easily discouraged which is not a useful attribute for an aspiring author. I’m not afraid to admit that I do require encouragement to keep my forward momentum going. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives.

Along with my father, I had another amazing mentor in my high school English teacher named Derek Hulse. He and I shared a kinship and love of writing and reading. Like my father, Derek was a great storyteller and I never got tired of listening to him. I was brave enough to let him read the first book I ever typed (then it was called Spark of Beginnings but it’s transformed into Dawn of Allies) and he gave me useful advice and insight into my writing style. He told me all about “willing suspension of disbelief” by explaining how silly it was that no one recognized Superman when he was wearing those Clark Kent glasses. I can still remember him demonstrating by removing his own glasses and I recall it making me laugh.

Derek and I kept in touch even after I graduated high school and he came to my house to meet my oldest daughter Jordan when she was only a couple of weeks old. I remember that he always seemed to be smiling and he had such a profound appreciation for life. We fell out of touch eventually which I still regret to this day. When I started writing a new non-fantasy fiction book in winter of 2011, I eagerly emailed him wanting to share. The reply email I got back broke my heart almost as deeply as losing my father. Derek’s wife wrote me back explaining that he’d passed away in May of 2011. I remember crying on my kitchen floor after reading that and it still makes me cry as I write this. I had lost my mentor, friend and the man who had felt like a second father to me.

I am certain that both my father and Derek are still with me in spirit, guiding me, watching over me and sending me signs when I need them. I also have some very close friends that encourage me when I need it, give me counsel when I’m lost and teach me valuable lessons. They’ve all read my writing, either emails or books or both, and they all believe in me even when I might not. When I’m ready to throw in the towel and give up on trying to escape ghost writing anonymity, they throw that towel back in my face or twist it into one of those nasty whip things to get my rear in gear again. Sometimes I need a gentle nudge, sometimes I need a big old shove and they know me well enough by now to act accordingly. I may be an aspiring author but I am an accomplished friend and the love in my life is the best acclaim a rambling girl like me can hope for.

Strength, rocks and cinder blocks

bonfire flames

The flames of my first bonfire, summer 2012

hedgerow cinderblocks

The cinder blocks were stacked behind an old burn barrel

cinderblock toss

Cinder block toss: a new Olympic sport!

cinder block firepit

Cinder block bonfire surround

I’m not afraid of hard work and I don’t mean just hard mental work, I mean hard physical work. I am the sole owner of 1.4 acres of land in Upstate NY and it falls squarely upon my shoulders to improve and maintain my property. I do what needs to be done when it needs to be done and I never back down from a new landscaping challenge.

As stated in my “Not Profound” post every single tree I own is messy and drops branches, pine cones or leaf sticks. The spring cleanup of my yard is an ongoing process as with every strong wind more mess falls from the trees. My first spring in my home was last year and I gathered a decent pile of branches and pine cones. There was no designated bonfire pit in the yard because the previous owners apparently burned everything but the kitchen sink in barrels. So I picked a spot toward the back of my property, dumped the branches there and proclaimed it my bonfire pit. A proper bonfire pit is surrounded with rocks to define it but surprisingly enough, I’ve yet to find any big rocks on my property.

Last year was my first bonfire and it went off quite well with my girls, two close friends, ample s’mores and a couple of Samuel Adams Summer Ales. I’ve already started this year’s pile and while it isn’t as large as last year, judging by the wind again today, it will be soon. I still really wanted a true border around it so I began investigating the hedgerow between my property and the neighbors. Monday morning I discovered that behind one of the old burn barrels was a decent sized stack of cinder blocks. I fought through the vines and prickers for a closer look and concluded that the blocks had never been used for anything. I’d found my bonfire border! I resolved to get the blocks out of there that afternoon following work and went about my day.

Monday afternoon arrived and it was a beautiful, relatively warm day. My daughters were more than happy to play outside on the swing set and in the yard so I went out in work clothes determined to get the job done. I knew I wouldn’t want to carry every single block across the yard one at a time so I moved my wheelbarrow over near them for transport. In order to reach the pile I had to walk over a rather large mound of old ashes and burnt whatever and it was somewhat squishy and less than stable.

Wearing my leather work gloves, I yanked and pulled at the nest of vines until I could get at the pile and then picked up my first cinder block. That was literally the first time I’ve ever moved a cinder block and they were lighter than I expected but still a substantial workout for my arms. I carried that block over the squishy mound and into the wheelbarrow and repeated the process twice more before becoming fed up with that idea. I then began throwing the blocks out toward the wheelbarrow in a sort of backyard Olympics sport and I was impressed with my own strength.

I could put four cinder blocks in the wheelbarrow and still be able to move it so I made as many trips as it took to get the blocks over to the fire pit where I began placing them around in a circle. By the time I finished that job I was pretty beat. I’d pinched my hands between two blocks more than once, banged them into my hips and legs and scraped up my forearms because I’d become too hot in my sweatshirt to keep it on. Even so, I was ridiculously proud of myself and would do it all over again if need be. I’d accomplished what I wanted to and my bonfire pit finally looked substantial and permanent.

Everything I do on my property and in my house fills me with a deep sense of pride and increases my belief in my own abilities. I’m gaining tons of experience and discovering that yes, I can do whatever I put my mind to because I’ve successfully done so numerous times in the past. My long distance friend, who knows a lot about hard work himself, gave me a virtual pat on the back and while I don’t do any of this for acknowledgement or praise, it felt really good! A little “good job, Julie!” sticks with me as I tackle my next challenge and every other challenge along the way.