Supper Club

I am the proprietor of a supper club.

No, I have not invested in the restaurant industry. It’s just a private club of friends that get together once a month for dinner at each other’s house. Every month, one person volunteers to host at their house and those of us that can show up do. We are only on the hook for the months we volunteer for and no one is obligated to attend. At least that’s the plan…

People get busy in adult life, especially when marriage and family come but retirement has not. When I first became single ten years ago, I didn’t have much of a social life outside of that relationship. I was in my mid-30’s and went out with who was also available- singles much younger or older than me. I guess people my age were either coupled with kids or reclusive.

I had a blast. I was going out a couple times a week. I had a scheduled night with my closest friend which we designated as ‘Beer Tuesday’ because we would get beers on Tuesdays… creative, I know! Say it like it is people… Eventually as the years rolled on, twice a week became once a month, then once every three months… Time just slipped away.

I made a decision to set up monthly one-on-one dinners with those closest to me to ensure that we remained active in each other’s lives. Last Friday, 2nd Monday- it didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to see them. But by happy circumstance, their partners showed up and now they were coupled. And the dinners stopped. Such is life for the friend who remains single.

For me, dining is king. I can really think of no better times than the ones I spent sharing a meal and engaging conversation with people I love. When all that dried up, I was sad. I’d take myself out to eat alone to mixed reactions from the general public. Mostly, I write so I don’t notice people but for whatever reason, a woman eating alone is upsetting. I have gotten pity. I’ve made people visibly uncomfortable. Geez folks- I didn’t want to cook after a long, hard week!

Also, fuck off!

Now, I am in my mid-40’s and I still want to have monthly dinner with my friends. For years I entertained the idea of a dinner party that would have an established format that allowed enough flexibility for those of us who love to dine and cook and drink wine, to get together and share our lives. And so, the supper club was born.

My signature dish is Malaysian Spiced Chicken (I am not allowed to cook anything else). My first long-term relationship was with an Asian Studies major turned professional chef. I was exposed to the vast and wonderful world of Asian cuisine. My favorites are the curries- and screw curry powder, I make my own. I keep my spices in unlabeled glass jars in my pantry. I know them by sight and smell. Twenty years after our break-up, he might be proud of me if he knew.

My second long-term relationship was with an accomplished home cook who introduced me to the vast and wonderful world of soul food and Latin American cuisine. Neither one of them allowed me to cook. I was the baker and was spoiled rotten. As a single person, I had to learn how to cook for myself or suffer.

When I proposed the supper club idea, my friends were all about it. They are in the same boat, wanting to be in each other’s lives but with life passing too quickly. And while I complain about my isolation, these days I find that I have dinner plans for every week and have to schedule a month in advance. There are other singles like me- lonely, wanting friendship and connection, inviting me to get together. I am very lucky that I know so many people that can stand me enough to share a meal together!

For as independent and driven as I am, I have an amazing full life- full of friends and experiences and joy. I do not know how I ended up here but here I am- laughing, loving, and living.

Bon Appétit!





-Copyright C.M. Mounts, April 2019

P.S. 2018

I love winter. I must since I chose to move north to Minnesota 15 years ago. It’s not the cold, it’s the 3 solid months of writing and reading with very little distraction. Cycling does not lure me out onto the forested trails and social invitations slow down to a crawl. No one wants to leave their home either and that’s fine.  I have plenty of paper and ink to spare.

Last winter, I committed to waking up at 5am and working on my novel before work. I had a smoke damaged, sooty copy of a 2nd draft I wrote 10 years before. It was somewhere to start. So, I scanned the 263-page document using optical character recognition software and imported that into Scrivener. After 1.5 months of work, it was formatted and cut up into sections, chapters, and scenes.

For the next 1.5 months, I wrote roughly 22,000 words of new content; total word count is sitting around 143,000 words. Now, I realize that if you participate in NANOWRIMO that 22K in 1.5 months is a puny amount… but what can I say? Slow but sure… It feels like I am writing a different book. 10 years will do that. Characters and the basic story are roughly the same, but I am not. I’ve had some practice. My writing voice is much more confident and authentic.

But 2018 was a tough year. By April, I was absorbed in implementing software at work and in May my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I did not have the energy or emotional resources to continue work on the book. I did continue to write poetry and post on my blog. I attended many poetry open mics and had my first show as a featured poet in March 2018. And I rode an emotional roller coaster for the rest of the year, often overwhelmed and feeling like a deer in headlights.

In November, I had a revelation: I was still hiding. I wrote for literally decades and shared very little of my work with anyone. I set-up my blog in 2014 and did not start posting on it until 2017 after I sent ‘Popcorn from the Void’ off to my editor. But I was mostly posting poems. I could still fool myself into thinking I was being vulnerable- and I was- but not in a way that people could see a clear picture of me. I could still hide behind the form.

‘Popcorn from the Void’ is a book based off personal essay blog posts that Todd Park used to manage his cancer- both in providing information to family and friends and in processing his experience. Was I not about to walk through my mother’s cancer and death? And could my personal essays about this journey help others?

My 2018 blog stats are very modest but solid: 43 posts, 1,147 visitors, 1,733 views, 107 total followers. That means I averaged 40 views per post and 10 visits per follower. There aren’t a lot of you, but you are loyal! I had two shows in which I was one of the featured readers. And I submitted ‘Popcorn from the Void’ to the 2018 Writers Digest Self-Published Book Awards. And while it did not win, it received a rave review from its judge and scored 30/30 points on its assessment. Not bad for an amateur.

So dear readers, 2019 promises to be an even tougher year personally but it is also the year that I intend to try to be published for real, for the first time. And it will be a year of personal essays where I will feel very, very naked. And it will be the year of my first finished novel.

It has to be… if I want to be sure mom can read it…

Blessed New Year!

Christine

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2019

Christmas Cards

I celebrate Christmas and annually travel to Illinois to spend the holiday with my family. In the weeks leading up to it, I don’t do much besides shop for gifts to take home with me. As a single professional, what is the point of decorating a Christmas tree besides to serve as an extra-large cat toy? I hang a wreath instead.

I don’t go to Christmas shows or events because I do not have anyone to go with. I have attended events alone for years, so that’s not the problem. It just gets old. And lonely. And if you attend family events alone, people look at you with suspicion like you are there to snatch their husband or baby or purse. It’s a terrible world we live in.

Christmas cards are one of the few holiday activities I participate in.

I have collected many friends and acquaintances over the years. As much as social media might want us to believe it has brought us closer together, I mostly see disconnection. I sometimes find myself searching through the newsfeed for help and come back with emptiness. If I have learned one thing living in a highly commercialized society, it is that you will not find real connection in marketing- whether it’s for an actual product or by an ordinary person presenting an image, trying to brand themselves.

I don’t see everyone, every year. Some I haven’t seen in decades. And I may not see some people ever again. My former boss Margaret comes to mind. When I first started out in my career 20 years ago, she taught me what it meant to be a smart, hard-working, professional woman. She set an example for me that I carried through my work to this day. We remained friends after I left the job and I delighted in terrorizing her around Halloween about just how many days were left until Christmas. I sent her a Christmas card every year until now. Cancer took her September 13, 2018. I have to cross her name off my list…

All I ever get in the mail these days are bills, advertisements, or junk. The art of the hand-written letter is all but dead. Do you remember what that was like? How exciting it was to get an envelope addressed to you in a familiar hand. That was replaced with the excitement of getting an email in the mid-90’s. Now email seems to just suck the life out of you. Letters haven’t returned. So, I mail Christmas cards that are funny or beautiful. I hand write messages of good will in each to simply let people know I am thinking about them.

I know some people think cards are stupid and don’t bother. I know others who play a yuletide version of ‘chicken’ in which they watch the mailbox for Christmas cards, then only send out cards in response to those they’ve received. I have also watched people open my card looking for money and when they only found my message, toss it aside in disappointment. Here is the truth folks: Love is spelled T.I.M.E. not M.O.N.E.Y.

I still have Christmas cards sent to me from my grandmothers who have both been dead for over 20 years. As I age, I have come to recognize that the time people spent writing out cards and letters was the love they were sending me. Christmas cards return me to a simpler time. They remind me of the days of anticipation for Christmas day. When I fill out my cards, I walk down memory lane, think about the people and the time we have spent together. I suppose I do it as much for me as for them.

“Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these
To remember you”
– Jim Croce

 

Copyright C.M. Mounts, December 2018

Ginger

Stir fry fresh onions, garlic, ginger,
Lemon peel in a little peanut oil
Die from the fragrance that
Erupts in your kitchen

It is the smell of love to me
Of friends and family
Coming to dinner at my house
They enjoy the food

I enjoy them
I want to know how they are
I want to know their plans
Their dreams, hopes, challenges

I want to feed them spicy food
That wafts out my window
Makes the neighbors jealous
I want to fill my life

Sauces and spices
Explode my head
Grand delight of living
Fasting satisfaction

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, June 2018

Month in review: April 2018

It’s May and this blog post is late. That’s indicative of the sort of month April turned out to be for my writing- either late or never. April was also National Poetry Month. All my writer friends produced massive amounts of poetry to celebrate. Me… not so much.

April 29th was the 5-year anniversary of the apartment fire that consumed all the electronic copies of my writing- but not the paper ones. As an IT professional, computer screens mean databases and software and day-job. It puts me in a particular mindset that stifles my creative voice. So, it is my habit to write everything longhand first. There is something about that organic experience of paper and ink that creates a limitless plane for my mind to wander on. By some miracle, I was able to salvage all of my writing in journals and notebooks though they are smoke and water damaged.

I also have print outs of two different novels that I wrote over ten years ago. I have been working on one of them in the early morning hours before work since January. It has been a struggle for me to figure out what exactly it is that I am writing. There is such a difference in who I was when I first wrote it and who I am today but I have to write what is within me and this is what is coming out. Though the general story is the same, the way it is being written is vastly different.

In April I only worked on it for two days. Instead, I have had trouble sleeping, three separate visits to the doctor (including the ER), helped a friend move, traveled out of town for business, participated in a 4-week cooking class, and attended four different poetry events. *Whew*

Instead of my novel moving forward, I managed five different blog posts: ‘Movement’ (poem), ‘Drifting in at Night’ (poem), ‘Single, White, Professional, Female- in Kansas City, April 2018’ (essay), ‘Home assignment 1’ (food blog), and ‘Home assignment 2’ (food blog). I also was invited to read at ‘Writers Read’ at the Coffee Shop Northeast on April 12.

May should calm down as I return to my regular routine and writing practice though cycling season is just starting. I haven’t yet figure out how to do both at the same time and both take long hours of my life. Still, I can think of no better life then to bike to a lake in the warm sunlight and sit under a willow tree with pen and paper, dreaming…

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, April 2018

Month in review: March 2018

March has been an exciting month for my writing. Back in January, I decided to start waking up at 5am to write from 5:30-6:30, six days a week. Yes, Saturday too. This is of course after the cats are fed and coffee is made, but before I get ready for work. No, it hasn’t always worked out great. Sometimes, I get up late and I only get a half hour in. Sometimes, I am so groggy or overwhelmed with a head full of life and longing that I simply journal to clear the cobwebs.

But slowly, surely, I am filling a notebook with character sketches, scenes, and narrative that fill in the gaps in my book manuscript. In addition to the fiction writing and journaling, I also write poems and post to my blog every Saturday. This month’s selection includes the posts: ‘High Water’, ‘Paris With You’, and ‘Across Water’.

March has been a month of writing events. I currently participate in a poetry writing group at a local library that meets for six sessions, then concludes with a final reading of our work on April 25. More to come on that. I also attended the Rosemont Writers Festival on March 24, an annual all-day event of writing workshops, speakers, and book fair located in- you guessed it- Rosemont, MN.

But most exciting of all, was the Poets & Pints reading at Sisyphus Brewing on March 21 where I was one of four featured poets. In all the years of writers group events, open mics, and public speaking this was the first time ever that I was a featured poet. Nineteen people showed up specifically to hear me read and I was told, “You killed!”. I am very humbled by their response and grateful for the encouragement. Since that night, I have reflected on why it has taken me so long to become willing to share my work publicly with strangers. I only started seriously blogging a little over a year ago and reading at open mics in the last eight months, one of which led to the Poets & Pints reading (open mic: Poetry Happy Hour @ Troubadour Wine Bar). Continue reading “Month in review: March 2018”

P.S. 2017

Dear Friends,

In 2013, I lost most of my belongings to fire that incinerated my loft apartment. Included in that was the electronic versions of most of my writing. Remarkably, all of my hand-written drafts and two 3-ring binders with printed versions of different novels survived. They have some water and smoke damage but are still legible. Fire is funny that way, random in its violence.

That year profoundly changed my life and in 2014, I made the choice to start this blog: cmmounts.com. Although I continued to write, I only got seven blog posts written that year. I just couldn’t keep it up. I had put pressure on myself to only share my new and best writing. I wasn’t writing fast enough or with enough regularity. Cycling long distance is funny that way, consuming all your time.

By 2017, I finally got tired of not sharing my writing in any kind of real way. I started to participate in open mics around the Twin Cities. I finished and published my friend Todd Park’s memoir, my first effort as a book editor. I made the choice to post any of my original work that I thought was decent, whether written recently or not. And I tried out writing a travel log for the first time- which I guess for a nomad like me is better late than never.

I view my blog as a self-published catalog of my different styles of writing, a tool to hold myself accountable to my goals, and a way for my fans (what!) to enjoy my work. And what fans I have! For many blogs, my statistics are modest but in 2017, I posted 42 times and attracted 730 visitors who made 1,178 views. I gained 56 new followers and not all of them were my mom! Actually, I do not know most of you and that blows my mind! Thank you so much for reading my poems, stories, and other ramblings… I am humbled.

In 2018, I will continue to post my work to my blog. I will continue to read at open mics and look for new opportunities to share my work. And maybe most importantly, I am working on a draft for a fiction novel for the first time in ten years. I hope you will continue on this writing journey with me. The best is yet to come!

Happy New Year!

Christine

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018