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The Empty Nest

We celebrate with our children their milestones and accomplishments, knowing that each step along the path takes them toward the inevitable time that they will fly the coop.

As a mother, encouraging my children to move toward goals such as high school graduation meant that they would inevitably move away from our home. I knew that what I needed to help me through the transition was an exit strategy. A strategy for my life after their exit. 

The summer before my youngest child’s senior year in high school I asked myself, “What’s your name and what do you really do?” I knew my name (that was a relief) but wasn’t sure about the rest of the answer. To figure that out I then asked, “What do you enjoy doing?”  

I came up with a number of things that I enjoy but the most basic thought that kept coming to mind was that I like to make people laugh. This revelation made me feel both shy and self aware all at the same time. 

Continuing to build on the idea of my love of humor, I considered other things I liked to do and came up with bossing people around (always fun but socially off-putting) and cooking/entertaining. 

My goal then became to combine the things that I love into a job. In the past I had had some positive responses from friends who had received my yearly Christmas letter. That means that two people told me that they weren’t bored to death by it. 

Needing very little encouragement, I took that as a sign that I could combine my interests by writing a cookbook. That way I could boss people around by telling them how to cook and hopefully do it in a humorous way so that they might enjoy their time in the kitchen; or, at least enjoy reading the book. 

As soon as my daughter left for college I got busy on my laptop compiling many years of favorite recipes and writing away. I enjoyed the process, felt productive and was glad to have a distraction from the sadness I felt in my new role as empty nester.  

After well over a year of writing I came to the point that I considered my book finished. I was content in the knowledge that I had completed my goal and was satisfied with the thought that I now had the most labor intensive Christmas gift that I’d ever give to my family. 

Since I’d gone to the trouble of writing the book, I toyed with the idea of trying to get it published. Why not? I had nothing to loose except hours of trying to write the perfect query letter and a few thousand postage stamps. So query I did, and after many months and enough rejection letters to wallpaper my bathroom, I finally got a ‘yes’ from a small cookbook publishing company in Iowa. I was thrilled.

My publisher said that my cookbook was too long for his market so he wanted me to divide it into two books. “Whatever you say.”, was my immediate response and back to the computer I went, dividing, conquering and adding material until I had my two books. One is a general cookbook called “Have You Considered Cooking?” and the other a Southern cookbook titled, “The Grits Shall Rise Again!”

I had lots of fun doing local book signings, food sample sharing and many other activities of shameless self promotion. I’m still enjoying writing and speaking to groups around the Southeast about hospitality and homemaking. 

So if you find yourself facing an empty nest now or in the future I hope you can enjoy your new role and find time to explore the many opportunities that you have available. I bet there’s something new and interesting out there waiting for you.

For more information about my cookbooks or to contact me go to www.carolgfrey.com.

 

Jonathan September 12, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Great piece and lovely writing here. I love the way you evoke this balance of sadness and ambition that drove you to write.
Nancy Minor September 14, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Love it and would love your cook books. I love to laugh and I love to read cook books. Friends will tell you that I love to read them and then I dream of dishes I will make. The phone rings and that is the end but I sure did enjoy reading that cook book. It is almost an obsession, so yours sounds like great fun to read. I love to laugh and read cook books but the being bossed around, not so good at that. Thanks for a fun article and for all the great articles you write, you have found your passion. You really need to share where we can get your cook books.

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