Life lately

 

 

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It’s hard to believe so many months have gone by without a single post to Pajama Baker.  At first, I had legitimate reasons – but then as time when by I had a hard time trying to find the words to explain myself and actually talk about what’s been happening.

As some of you will know, I went home to the States in the beginning of November for a visit home and to our Chicago office for work.  Shortly (literally only a couple of days) after my return to London, I received a call from my mother with the worst possible news: my grandmother was terminally ill and was approaching her final days.  About 3 days later, I found myself back on a plane across the Atlantic to attend her funeral. After seeing my family and saying our goodbyes, I’d thought I was alright, but really my grieving had just begun. Granny’s death, combined with a lot of stress at work and a few other figures, opened up a whole emotional Pandora’s box.

I tried baking a bit when I got back to London, but I found my heart wasn’t in it. Something felt like it was missing. And the few times I tried, I found myself focusing more on holding back tears rather than what I was actually making. It all boiled down to the fact that I missed my grandmother.

I had seen her about 2 weeks before she passed away and she was telling me how she was planning to visit me in London next year (2014), and how much she wanted me to make her chocolate chip cookies. Despite the fact she wasn’t feeling well, we laughed and joked around and promised to see each other soon.

In a lot of ways, Granny was my inspiration. She was one of my biggest supporters in both baking and my move overseas. I can remember to this day when I mentioned moving to London, she told me to go. She said that home wasn’t big enough for me anymore, that my opportunities would be greater and more exciting if I moved away. The fact that she was one of the biggest Anglophiles I know also probably played a role – all her stories of British kings and queens and traveling throughout Europe.

And when it came to baking, Granny was the only person whose dessert table would rival mine. Brownies, cookies, cakes – you name it, she made it. And she loved that I baked too – sending me random baking gear as a surprise treat or for my birthday. She shared this blog with her friends, and always asked what I was making next whenever we spoke on the phone.

Granny

 

Suddenly, baking hurt; my heart hurt. I was amazed at how a bit of butter, flour, and sugar could raise such an emotional response about someone I loved so dearly. So, in an attempt to make myself feel better, I boxed up my baking along with everything else I was feeling, hoping that everything would just go away.  But (as I should have known) it didn’t.

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Shortly after my return, on Ben’s birthday, we went out for dinner as a birthday tradition. Little did I know, I was about to receive another shock, only this time for the better. After dinner, Ben and I were walking by the Thames, when he dropped to one knee and proposed. Of course I said yes! I was ecstatic. I was excited. But mostly, I was happy to be spending the rest of my life with the man I love.  After the proposal, things were a whirlwind: calling my parents, telling my friends, then Christmas! We went home for Christmas together and the whirlwind only grew greater – planning, visiting venues, meetings, holidays. There was no time for grief, and I was glad. I thought it had all gone away. Something else had come to take its place and fill that empty space in my heart.

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After a few weeks of emotional newly-engaged bliss, Ben and I returned to London (yeah, three trips home and back in 2 months for me…), but the euphoria faded and I still felt like something was missing. Someone was missing.

I couldn’t just box up my emotions and move on. With them, I had boxed up a part of me because I was afraid of how I’d feel. So I didn’t bake. I just tried to get back to normal and move on. Afterall, I had a wedding to plan!

But like I said, instead of grieving, I had boxed things up. And for awhile, I was okay with that. I kept telling myself that I’d bake again next week, only to find myself making excuses and catching up on that one tv show I missed during the week.

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Fast forward a few months and I found myself starting to dabble again. I dusted off my apron and every now and then I found myself starting to bake. While the spark and excitement hasn’t returned, it’s started to hurt a lot less. That bit of me that I boxed up with the grieving of my grandmother soon became my therapy. Instead of hiding from the emotions of it – I let myself think about them, think about her. I used the time in my kitchen as a way to connect with her and the memories of her, and enjoy those memories. I just needed some time to sort myself out.

So now, slowly but surely, I’m getting back into it.  It just takes time. I’m still waiting on my inspiration and drive to come back; but for now I’ve been resulting to the old classics, namely the chocolate chip cookies that Granny loved so much.

Leigh Skaggs Photography

(photo by Leigh Skaggs Photography)

So, nearly 8 months later, things are just starting to feel normal again. While I definitely still miss Granny, things are feeling much better. Thankfully, I’ve had someone as loving and caring as Ben with me to help me through. He and I are in the midst of international wedding planning, and will be tying the knot in Virginia this October. I’m hoping to start baking somewhat regularly again, despite my wedding diet and I’m looking forward to sharing it, as well as Ben’s and my new life together, with everyone who just happens to find my little corner of the internet.

Thanks for sticking with me,
Ashley (AKA, The Pajama Baker)

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