Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dual Warning: Language alert and incitement of animal deaths

Those mother effing squirrels are at it again in my backyard. I feel like my mum, who always wanted to shoot the deer that ate the buds off her new trees.

Earlier this summer, in the throes of spring and energy and the blissful happiness that people from warm places simply cannot understand, the happiness that rushes through and warms every last in of your body after a long and very cold (and very snowy) winter, when the sun comes out and the air smells fresh, yes, earlier this year I picked up some backyard lights ON REBATE from Costco.

So ON REBATE means that something that was already a good price was now a great price. I've wanted these little lights forever, and now here they were, right in front of me, dirt cheap.

Except that just would be too simple.

They needed to be hung high, up in the trees. Husband said he would do it but let's face it, perhaps he would, in about twenty years. I called up my handyman (a very handy person to have around) and he expressed interest in the project, likely anticipating (as I did not) a lucrative project.

We took the lights out of the box. They were even cuter and more perfect in my hands, heavy duty and solid feeling. This is important in my neck of the woods, where we ain't called land of the living skies for nothing. Our skies bring murderous winds and raging lightening.

Handyman admired them too and said kay, well, I'll start putting these up. Instructions much? I replied, as I skimmed the instructions that said things like, purchase airplane wire for hanging and secure hooks for attachment and check your electricity for load (or something like that, I made that up, but it was a) something complicated and b) something that required my electrician to come. I've written about him before, my electrician, but I feel kind of bad about it so I won't link to it.

I called the electrician and he and his minions came over and three thousand or so dollars later I have four certified safe grounded plug ins that work in my back yard.

Handyman came back and did a lot of measuring and buying things and figuring. I provided coffee and GoodHost iced tea and a listening ear. He's going through some shit in his personal life.

[May I digress?? I love One Republic. Does that make me old?]

Handyman hung up the lights perfectly, in a diagonal that met in the middle above the pool. Yah, I know, it looks all obvious and shit when you read it in a sentence like that but you know, it wasn't obvious to EITHER of us that hanging up some serious lights OVER a pool was maybe a bad idea.

However, Handyman went home and discussed lights with electrical engineer son and immediately texted me that he was not "comfortable" with our decision. I argued, pleaded, resorted to calling my own electrician who gave me a freebee and consulted, returning an adamant nogo.

Lights were then taken down for an extremely sulking homeowner (that would be me) and rehung. I got over myslef and had to admit that they look pretty darn good. Handyman happily billed me five hundred dollars for the trouble.

So now this morning the kids are playing in the backyard and they bring me THIS.

The squirrels have been pissing me off already in the last few years. They burrow into our fireplace in the fall, squeaking and being loud and terrible till I blast them with ABBA and they leave. They chewed on the beautiful boards on our house with their sharp angry teeth. Why? Because they have teeth, and I have a house. Seriously. For a couple days in June I was like, I think I hear chewing? Nah. But yes, I did hear chewing and they chewed away on a very nice board because their teeth are so sharp.

They piss me off because they hide shit in my planters and then later they dig up my planters to find their SHIT. And the items they leave around my yard is perhaps the worst of this all - they leave peanuts.

How could this make me so mad, you wonder? Why would the sight of peanuts laying all over my yard bug me, do you say? Let me enlighten.

We have a super safe backyard. Super safe because we have a pool (it has a secure cover, don't worry), so we have tall fences and locking gates and no one can get in and, more importantly, little people cannot get out. So if my little has a friend over they can play happily in the backyard and I don't have to worry that they have left the premises.

Except that now they can't play in the backyard because seriously stupid people have been feeding the fucking squirrels NUTS and my kids have many friends who have anaphylatic allergies to nuts and now there are nuts laying around in my backyard. But thank god the squirrels are fed.

So I was already pissed and now I find the little fuckers chewing up my lights. I'm going to Peavy Mart to buy an air gun (I discussed this with a police officer and he said that it wasn't exactly legal but it wasn't exactly illegal either, just not to go out of my yard with it) and I am going to shoot them and I purchased some Critter Ridder (I would've bought more had it been labelled Critter DEAD) and I will coat my yard in it and seriously, if I caught one I might hang it up by its tail from the back of the fence, as a deterrent to the other nasty little pests. I won't do that, not because I don't want to, but because I'm too weak. Same as if I had to kill my own food I might become a vegetarian again. I don't even think I could collect eggs.

So many potential mine fields this blog is evoking. Best to stop.

Friday, July 22, 2016

of language and words...

Usually the Ups guy, as the kids call him, technically known as the UPS delivery person, brings cardboard shrouded packages that open easily, divesting all sorts of fun treats. Like China Rich Girlfriend (started slow, ended better), or current summer beach read, The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Plazza. But occasionally it is something so much more than a stack of novels. Occasionally it is something like what arrived this morning. 

LOST IN TRANSLATION: An illustrated compendium of untranslatable words from around the world, by Ella Frances Sanders, one of the sweetest little books with beautiful words, gorgeous definitions, and the prettiest illustrations, was dropped off in a wrinkled wrapper this morning. The damaged packaging thankfully wasn't an indication of damage to the book. And such a book...

Did you realize we have no word for the sunlight falling through the leaves of trees? Or here, this is what I am doing with writing, I am going meraki on it. Meaning I am "pouring myself wholeheartdly into something, such as cooking, and doing it with soul, creativity, and love." Sanders describes the concept of meraki as "emphasizing a thoughtful kind of passion and appreciation for the small things." I like that description a lot. I want a thoughtful kind of passion. I mean, it's all well and good to be passionate, but I do like the sound of thoughtful passion. 

I'm on a banana timer a lot, I've realized. Pisan zapra, a Malay noun meaning "the time needed to eat a banana." Of course it means that. It's perfect. It takes me a pisan zapra to pee, to brush my teeth, to make my shake in the morning. Plus, I quite enjoy saying pisan zapra. I can see the upcoming months with me doing running commentary on my morning routine, as I take just a pisan zapra to finish my coffee or make some toast.

I can't say I have a particular favourite as so many are so good, but kummerspeck just might be one of the top few. A German noun literally meaning "grief bacon," Sanders says "this word refers to the excess weight we can gain from emotional overeating." Of course the Germans would actually define this. I just read a hilarious article about Germans, I think it was in the Economist. Anyways, some German guy moved with his family from English speaking countries to Germany. He and the kids were used to speaking English but when he took them to the zoo in Germany he ordered their tickets in German. Having raised his children to have humour and understand irony, he cracked a joke to the woman at the counter about how if she charged him a bit more he would leave his children at the zoo. She was aghast, he said, and leaned out of the window and looked at his children sternly, telling them that their daddy loved them and would never do such a thing. He used this and a couple other anecdotes to illustrate his theory that Germans have no sense of humour. This article and theory provided an excellent and very stimulating conversation starter which went over like a lead balloon at a recent family gathering, populated by Germans, who also proved his point that Germans like to be right. Of course this proved my point. As James Parsons, an English speaker teaching business in Germany says of Germans, "They cannot produce good humour, but they can consume it." And I say this with all the love in the world to my very serious and ernest German family. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016


This permission slip is inspired by the creativity workshop I've been taking with Elizabeth Gilbert. Seriously, I just love her. So completely down to earth and reasonable. I'm supposed to hashtag this slip, which I am only just coming to understand although my very narrow focus suggests that hashtags (an ugly word, I think?*) apply pretty much to only instagram and tongue in cheek t-shirts and the like.

I am Kristen, and I give myself permission to be more than one thing. I get to be a wife and mother, and I get to do those things well but I also get to have minor and more epic fails. I have permission to have both fleeting and sustained interest in projects. To ask for help when I need it and then accept it when I get it.

I now have permission to relinquish the storybook dream that gives me several uninterrupted hours in the day at the peak of my sense of well being and the height of my happiness for writing. I have permission to take the writing time from wherever it fits best within my other responsibilities. I have permission to enjoy that time and treasure it, instead of begrudging what I don't have.

I have permission to dabble, to flirt, to flit from one medium to the next and if I feel like painting I can paint and if I feel like glueing I can glue. I have permission to immerse myself in linguistics even though it appears to serve no purpose other than to bring me joy.

I have permission to continue on a lifelong journey of curiosity and learning and generally surveying whatever I can. I have permission to no longer be embarrassed by this passion to learn.

I have permission to have cloudy days and downright dark days and permission to stay home and not have a shower. Not for too many days, but days nonetheless and I have permission to remember that we can only recognize happiness when there is occasionally or sometimes an absence of it.

I have permission to surround myself with those who inspire me and remove those who do not, and if not removable due to circumstance, to watch them and learn from them. I have permission to indulge the introvert that occasionally lurks within.

On the flipside, I have permission to sometimes force myself to do something. When the clouds don't clear on their own I have permission to go out and do something kind, go out and help someone, go out and go to the mall, for chrissake, just go out go out go out.

I have permission to learn new tricks, savour my life, and weep with both sadness and gratitude. I have permission to not know the answer (very unGerman but yet) and I have permission to pause and think.

But most of all, and tellingly, and for this purpose, I have permission to tackle the project that is seething and teeming and frothing. The project that I dream of, that I research, that I wonder about. I have permission to begin and I have permission to work and I have permission to complete.


* perhaps that whoever named the # a hashtag never expected it to become a popular word? If they could have predicted the constant verbalization of the symbol name they would have named it something beautiful. Like sance or elah, something more dainty or lovely, instead of a lump of a word that lies heavy in the mouth and on the page. As usual, I digress.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Creativity Notebook: Hobbies, Jobs, Career, & Vocation

On a daily basis I perform, typically, the following tasks. Some days better than others.
  • Cleaning of and caring for self
  • Prompting of cleaning and caring for 3 others under the age of 12
  • Making of breakfasts, lunches, suppers
  • Registering for and then providing transportation to and from events and programming
  • Laundry and laundry related (i.e. steaming of clothes, facilitating dry cleaning)
  • General and more intensive tidying
  • Mediating disputes
  • Disputing quality of chores, disputing screen time limits
  • Seasonal activities (i.e. sweeping of leaves, getting water off the pool cover)
  • Arranging social activities
  • General counselling services, motivational speaking, etiquette training
  • Grocery shopping (NEVER-ENDING)

Weekdays and weekends are much the same. 

I wish I could do more reading, both mindless reading and thoughtful reading. Currently it's mostly mindless. By mindless I mean reading to read, and by thoughtful I mean paying attention to dialogue, pacing, structure, and quality.

I also wish I could do some more writing, working on my class, and planning next stages of writing. I wish I could go to yoga more and meditate more.

Now she [Elizabeth Gilbert of the workshop] wants me to draw a chart but that never went that well for me when I was working so I will instead just make a list. Feel free to opt out now, I never said this was interesting to anyone but me.

  • Write in white notebook
  • Blog
  • Read books, magazines, newspapers, the back of the cereal box
  • Listen to Audible
  • Art
  • Yoga
  • Spin
  • Walk around the lake
  • Caring for family
  • No career
  • Writing
Hobbies are things I love to do. A Job is something I do because I need to do it. In our house, the way it works is my job is to look after the house and family. It's tricky, when this is your job, as it is all-consuming. This means that if I had a bad day I can't leave it at the office. The trade off is that if I'm having a bad day I don't have to change out of my pyjamas. 

I'm not sure I need to worry about moving any of my Hobbies out of their category into the Job category, as I have thought about becoming a yoga teacher but it doesn't call me, I have no interest in teaching spin, my art is personal and unless I become a dog walker no one is going to pay me to walk around the lake. Perhaps at some point the writing will pay, but whether it does or does not matters not at all as it is something that I will continue to do. Hence, Vocation.

This conversation about jobs/hobbies/vocation/career is something I have struggled with all my life. I don't have a career, and I don't necessarily feel badly about that. I admire people who do, people who are dedicated to and get great joy out of their work get my kudos and admiration. Perhaps had I pursued a career and if I were nestled in academia somewhere I, too, would get something out of a career but typically what I have had were "jobs," meaning, things that paid the bills. Or a portion thereof, anyways. Don't get me wrong, I had some really great jobs. It's amazing how much fun a person can have in a job, when you don't have to worry about going further or being the best. 

I need to be sure to keep on keeping on. I need to study and write and keep the vocation a vocation. To be curious and to follow through on curiosity.

Because these are the things that make me luminescent. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Creativity Notebook

I'm doing a tiny little workshop, hosted by Elizabeth Gilbert. She wants us to work online and share the work in one of a few forums, none of which I have other than Facebook. I'm too lazy to set up another online presence and also I find they all sort of get lost for me after an exciting start, other than Facebook (which I want to keep Facebook-y) and this blog, which comes and goes in my life according to, well, my life.

So the first 20 minute rambling soul-searching commences:

The last thing I really wondered about is linguistics. The first time I wondered about linguistics was in a high school English class. I remember the classroom, it was in the portables, which meant it was cold in the winter and the floors were echoey. I loved the idea that I could figure out words based on their parts, that if I knew the clues I could decipher anything. I tried (not too hard, obviously) in university to take a linguistics class as an elective but given the size of our university and the obvious lack of interest, the 100 level was only available in the fall semester and it didn't work with my schedule. Now, I have fallen in love with Audible and I am listening to one of those Great Courses and it is called The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins and I am completely besotted.

The last time I experienced creative flow was when I was blogging. Somehow my stars aligned and the time + ideas + sit down and do it = a great feeling of ahhhh.

Frick, what did I most love to do when I was 8 years old. This is a rabbit hole question if I ever saw one because 7 years old was when my world went crashing down around me. I may have blocked out the 8 through 25 years. So when I was 8 I was in grade 3, I loved my teacher. She was a farmer and had all of us kids fall in love with farm animals. I loved learning about rabbits. "Working" at Agribition and taking care of my rabbits for a day. I felt such a serious and intense feeling of responsibility for those rabbits. This is a little sad for me. I really have no connection to my 8 year old self. I can assume, given that I have an 8 year old, that I loved to play and run and go to the park and fight with my brothers and read. However I can't actually be clear about that and will have to give it some thought. Good times.

The last piece of music that inspired me is lost for the moment. I found a beautiful cello playlist on Apple Music and listened to it like crazy, feeling my heart warm up and well up. In the car, as I cooked; the music was the soundtrack to my life for a while. And then one day it was not on Apple Music anymore or if it is I can't find it and I had naively assumed that what I liked and listened to on Apple Music would stay. Not so. The last piece of art that inspired me was today at 4Cats when I saw my 8 year old's beautiful painting. Her accomplishment and sense of pride were lovely. I might be a bit nerdy here but it was actually Elizabeth Gilbert who last inspired me, her book about living a creative life just makes sense to me.

When I feel beautiful I'm sweating in a yoga class or a spin class. I feel healthy and alive when I'm exerting my body. I used to feel beautiful if I had on high heels. I liked the shape of my legs and I liked them even more with heels on. Now one leg looks funny so I feel 1/2 beautiful with high heels on. This is why I still wear them, even though I walk so gingerly I know I make people uncomfortable.

My superpowers are an ability to read anything and good research skills. Sometimes I have the gift of the gab but I'm careful with that superpower. It is also my kryptonite.

If I wasn't afraid of anything I would be a writer living in an apartment the size of a closet in New York City.

The theme I see in the above is a love of reading and writing and words. This is not news to me, but I must whack myself over the head with it every once in awhile when I get lost in Life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

an audible addiction

Have I mentioned Audible? At the risk of sounding trite, it's been life changing. Truly, madly, deeply: life changing.

So I pretty much could just read all the time. I'm sure if there was a problem with reading, like if people all over the world were doing it too much, if gangs were killing each other on the streets, eking out their turf so they could sell illicit books to unsuspecting people (normal people, you know, just like me and you, someone you never thought would get sucked in by Jodi Picoult or Stephen King), people whose Amazon accounts were being frozen and whose neighbours watched, through the curtains, as Canada Post pulled up yet again, with a brown parcel that you just knew contained books, I'd be the first to go down with an Addiction, capital A.

In grade seven I used to read under my desk. I know, such a nerd. I would put the book on my lap, or in the grey drawer that pulled open to reveal the mess of erasers and pencil cases, and set the book on top. I'd pretend to listen while my eyes skimmed quickly over the addictive pages of a choose your own adventure or, truth be told, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. My teacher caught me and, after checking out whatever junk I was reading, put another book on my desk. Here, he said, peering at me through the gold rimmed glasses he wore, if you're going to read something, make it something good. So I read the book, the one that created a lifelong and intense fear of nuclear war. It was a book that I've forever wished I could recall the title to*, about a group of people living underground, because the entire above ground earth had been annihilated by nuclear war. I'm not sure if his intent was to frighten me out of reading during class or spark a revolution, one grade seven kid at a time, but he managed half of each. I was frightened, for sure, and he did spark a revolution in my mind, but it never got any further than that.

Anyways, I've never been able to shake it, the feeling that I'd pretty much rather read a book than do anything else. I keep them stacked everywhere, just in case. In the car, my bedroom, by the tub, in the kitchen. I've perfected standing up reading, reading while people are talking, reading in cars (which induces motion sickness, but still), reading in the pool, on the step, at the park. But I couldn't get over the fact that these three blessed children and one blessed husband plus activities and grocery shopping and meal planning, let alone preparing and eating, and all the other crap (let's face it, compared to reading it pretty much is crap), I couldn't get over the fact that there was so much time in my day where I'd rather be reading but couldn't.

Until Audible.

I know, I know, it's been available for years and before that even there were books on tape and then books on CD. I thought, yes, that would come in handy. If I become blind, that is. I just couldn't stomach the idea of a) not owning the physical book, like one I can put on my shelf, and b) the idea that someone would be reading to me. I figured I'd drift off, never be able to pay attention, constantly snapping back to the feeling of holy shit, did I just ignore a whole chapter????

But someone I like and respect (deadly combo) suggested Audible and I thought, okay. I'll try. Give it a go. So I downloaded a book, not one I was terribly interested in because I didn't want to waste this book on something good. And crikey if I didn't just fall in love. I mean, let me be real, here, I downloaded The Martian, which I had already seen as the movie, and this also goes against the grain of everything I Believe To Be True About Reading, which is in a nutshell, that if there is a book it is better than the movie (sole exception to this is The Green Mile which is outstanding as movie versus so-so as novella), and if I've read the book I will never watch the movie (proved true by watching of Still Alice, with husband, where every two seconds I was interjecting with, but they just skimmed over this, it was SO much better in the book).

So I listend to The Martian and I was hooked. I propped up my phone in the kitchen while I cooked, and listened and listened. I hooked it to the little cord in my van (old van) and listened and listened while I drove and drove. I put it on the counter in the laundry room and now I can bear folding laundry, an historically unbearable task. And then I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert read to me in her wonderful own voice about being creative, and I listened to seventeen hours of my book club book, The Shoemaker's Wife, and I listened to books I would've never bought and read on paper. Like Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, in his own hilarious voice, and The Biology of Belief, by Bruce Lipton in his stilted voice. And by gosh, there is something, something, to listening to a book versus reading it on paper. I'm not sure I can put my finger on it, but there is something intimate and personal and leisurely all at once, listening.

I'm hooked. Try it. You'll see.

*Please forward any suggestions about what that book could've been called, I'd like to re-read it with an adult's gaze now, perhaps if only to release some of its dreadful power over my imagination.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Neuroplasticty, anyone?

My life is just killing me with its excitement lately. Recently I got to drive really far to my really far away physiotherapist where I got my first assignment. No, it wasn't running on a treadmill, with the sweat of hard work coupled with fear trumped by a can-do attitude. Nor was it lifting heavy weights strapped to my leg, feeling that last press of exertion lifting the weight to the top before the plates slammed down.

No. My super fun time assignment was to find an old magazine a day (this could be tricky, given I succumbed to Texture, hopefully I won't give in and give up on paper in its entirety), and to circle all the right knees in it.

This, my friends, is exciting stuff.

She flipped open a February 2014 copy of InStyle, thumbed through a coupe of pages and pointed to a layout with perhaps seven models sprawled out in their spray tanned glory.

Circle all the right knees, she said, handing me a pen. And I'll be darned, but I fumbled. I had to think. I looked at both my hands and decided which was correct. I then had to flip the images around in my head, figure it out. Nothing was intuitive and nothing was quick.

We flipped through more pages, where I am proud to say I got faster, circling the knees, but it was annoyingly noticeable how the right knee circle didn't just roll of my tongue, so to speak. Wasn't natural. Fast. While yes, I got better, it was an odd and painful drawn out thing.

She says that when something happens the brain rewires itself to accommodate and since my brain has pretended for so long that I simply don't have a right knee, it has trouble even recognizing them in photos. Huh. Whooda thought.

So that I can do, my assignment, followed by watching YouTube videos of people riding bikes. Yawn. I find people riding bikes perhaps more boring than tennis, which I find weird, and golf, which I find soothing in an old man sleeping in a chair way. I mean, I feel like an old man, sleeping in a green velvet chair. That's what I think of when I think of golf. I have an inkling why but the connections aren't making sense. I'll sleep on it and see what I come up with.

All this reminds me of one of my go-to books, The Brain's Way of Healing by Norman Doidge. This simply fantastic, down-to-earth, completely readable book is a surefire help to anyone who has a brain, but especially anyone who has suffered from pain, or is recovering from injury, or who has been diagnosed with things like Parkinson's. Neuroplasticity, all the way. After I hurt my knee, after hurting it over and over for so many years, the pain pathways were crazy embedded in my brain, ready to rip at any given moment. Doidge taught me so many things about my brain - how to use scent, for instance, to calm the pain. This of course led to the purchase of a lovely diffuser and many lovely scents for said diffuser (in particular, for pain, it is lemon and peppermint). I also learned tricks like building a visual of turning the pain down. My personal imagery consisted of these large plug ins, with massive plugs plugged in. When the pain was really bad, the image in my head was of huge plugs plugged in, in an endless seeming row. I would go to each plug, reach around it, and pull hard to unplug it, laying it down on the ground and moving on to the next. With each plug I pulled, the pain receded. As the pain abated, the plugs were smaller, and smaller, and there were less.
I also have a volume switch, for pain, that I've created a visual for, mine is a physical dial whereas when I teach my kids this they tap on volume down buttons, as they would on an iPad. Crazy stuff, I know, and yet.

And yet the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

i knew it

Holy fucking fuck.

There is a video of a brother pranking his drugged up sister (wisdom teeth) that the zombies have come.

I KNEW it.

It's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I'm not a doctor, I just play one on TV

Would it surprise you to know that for the first time there is exactly the character I'd like to be on a television show? Would it surprise you to know that it is NOT Alecia Florrick on The Good Wife (even though her clothing, hair and make up and let's face it, that apartment, are second to none) given that I still fell sometimes as though I missed my calling as a lawyer.* And of course, had I been a lawyer, I would have magically transplanted myself to Chicago to a prestigious and old school firm, of polished wood and shots of pricey spirits poured on a seemingly daily basis and drunk from thick crystal tumblers. Of course this would have happened.

The character I see myself as is Mindy, from the Mindy Project. Interesting, that it is exactly right, in the sense that I don't actually want to be a doctor. No, I would prefer to play one on TV. That way, I get the great wardrobe that comes with the big salary, the quintessential New York apartment furnished in the perfect eclectic style. And I would play a role that simply commands respect without actually having to pass what I assume are killer exams and without having to actually put my hands inside of people or look at their secret rash or find out if placebos are legal.

I would be Mindy in her Tory Burch and endless supply of Chanel handbags, with her perfectly styled thick hair. Interestingly, I'm pleased with myself for not choosing for my second life fantasies a rail thin, six foot tall platinum blond beauty, although I'm less convinced this is due to a high level not wanting of that particular persona and a straight up reality check that my brain performed without letting me know. Good on ya, brain, if that's the case.

Maybe my brain is getting smarter than my self and figuring out ways to work around things. My physio last week showed me an optical illusion that allowed me to trick my brain into thinking that my good leg was actually my not-as-good leg, so that I saw, I really saw, my work in progress leg working smoothly and perfectly and, key item, with great strength. This was instrumental in then using my leg that needs a little coaching as though it worked perfectly. It was amazing. Perhaps my high level brain took this approach and is now running interference before I even know it, deleting or massaging things before they even get to me.

Perhaps, and perhaps not. If I have any power to request, which goes against the whole me not being aware thing, but if I do, perhaps I could run interference on the self sabotage, the voice that runs a
constant commentary of everything I do/wear/eat/think/plan/not plan, if that voice could tone it down a bit. Much appreciated.

*apparently, I really feel hard done by, today when my daughter's teacher said she would make an excellent lawyer I felt pride tinged by slight jealousy....nice....jealous of a 12 year old.

**I ordered that sweater after googling to find out what brand it was. Love it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

not charity

There is never a day I do not write. There are, however, many days when I have nothing of interest to you, or I decide that it's too private or too negative or too positive or that it somehow fails so many other tests that I submit my posts to, all internal, of course, and what I write remains locked in the land of unpublished.

There are also days where I'm like, this is soooooo boring. Where the minutiae of life fails to take on a life of its own, where the sparkle is dim and nothing resembles anything that anyone would find interesting.

And then there are days where, I've said it before, I seriously, seriously can't make this shit up.

On Wednesdays I take the youngest to an activity. We usually go with a friend. Each of us gets a friend, I mean, the mum for me and the kid for her. The mum was busy today so I took them both. When I have no one to hang with I sit in the little cafeteria, near a plug in for my laptop, and write. It's kind of nice, this change of pace, writing out of the house, in public, one hour dedicated to whatever I feel like.

There was another woman at a table adjacent, making notes in a novel. Another woman some distance away, against a wall, reading. At a table next to her was a very done woman, you know, the hair so perfectly blown out, coiffed, I would say. Make up very obvious. Clothing immaculate. I wouldn't have paid so much attention, I would have been WORKING, however, it was impossible, becausefor approximately 30 minutes this woman FaceTimed her sister, who is on vacation right now in Mexico, or some other hot destination where hotels are ranked in stars (4). They FaceTimed, which happens to happen on speaker phone, for all of us to hear. Speaking loudly, about nothing at all, like, is that a swimsuit you're wearing? or a dress? how many stars is the place? WHAT?? you have a bad connection. a bad connection. I SAID YOU HAVE A BAD CONNECTION. And then randomly, sweetie, sweetie, come here and say hi to auntie. say hi. say hi to auntie. yah, I'm just here. yah, nothing going on. you know, what colour is that swimsuit? what? what? you have a bad connection. And so on and on and on.

I tried to be patient, I really did. Didn't execute that well, but I did try. I just find it so completely mind boggling, how stupid people can be with their absolute unwitting (or is it witting?) intrusion into the public space. I remember a girl, at the Y, once placing her phone on the counter, turning on her music, with that super fantastic sound quality rap tends to get when it's beating out of an iPhone 2, and cranking it, so she could listen while she blow dried her hair.

In Toronto I noticed something. It was that every single person, it seemed, on the street or the subway, had a thin white cord snaking from ear into jacket or palm, and every single person seemed to exist respectful of the bubble. I wasn't there long, I could have misread the situation, but it struck me today that perhaps it is our very politeness, as a general population here on the prairies, that just doesn't know what the frick to do with this obnoxious behaviour. Perhaps in Toronto it is immediately struck down, booed and and hissed at, tamping it out at the source.

I made eye contact with the woman near me, who did her own version of eye rolling. I gestured to the headphones I had lying on the table, should I take them over and offer? I said, only half joking. She smiled. Think of it like training, she said. Like, if you ever had to be a sniper. This is good training.

A sniper? That's where you go with this? I laughed out loud as I questioned her. No, she said earnestly. I was thinking, it's like the army, right? You have to have intense focus, concentration. You have to be able to block that out. She waved her arm towards the still loud talking woman.

A sniper. That is what came to mind. See how much this person was pissing people off?

Eventually she stopped and the room seemed to echo now with silence. We all breathed deeply, I think, no longer having to fight the feeling of listening in on something private. And then she came over to our tables, the loud talking woman did. Are you Charity, she asked the sniper lady. She shook her head. She turned her bouncing hair to me, with a big smile. Are you? Are you Charity? I'm looking for someone named Charity.

I shook my head, no, I said, I'm not. Charity. And as she walked away I laughed. I'm the opposite of Charity, right now. The meanie girl, the grouch. Perhaps the most complete opposite of charitable at this very moment than I ever have been.

At this moment, I'm a sniper.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Something to WORRY about!

So I think a lot, far too much actually, about a few certain subjects. Such as zombies, for one, or more generally, apocalypse type scenarios (see blog post re losing glasses), and also the zeitgeist. I feel as though I need to define zeitgeist now, to make sure I am actually using the word correctly. I don't think I've ever used it, more like admired it from afar, so best be assured I understand the meaning.



 the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

Close but not quite where I'm going. Let me start with where I'm going and perhaps back up from there and see if I can find the perfect defining word.

Where I'm going is this. So I'm totally enamoured of the Walking Dead. Like, obsessed. Said obsession however does not allow me to actually watch the show. No, I find it far too upsetting. I am the perfect definition of the warning that comes on prior to the start of each show, the one that says that viewers might find the upcoming scenes too intense. Too intense. It's like they crafted the exact right feeling that I have when watching - it's way to frickin' intense for me.  I've watched quite a few of the shows, I don't skip them all, but near the end of the season I tend to back off. I watch as long as I can stand it then I leave husband to finish, much to his chagrin, and go to bed, closing the door to our far away room so now random sounds drift upwards to nudge me from sleep. I google the show instead, reading the reviews and looking for spoiler alerts so I know what is going on. I grill him the next day, what happened, what will happen next. But I simply can't handle watching the show.

I think about it a great deal. If I'm bored, when I'm going to sleep. I think about how I would survive (I wouldn't) and how the world would look. That's what gets me, the whole how the world would look question. I think about how I think it is better to be from here, this land of cold and snow, so that at least there would be a few months' reprieve, when it freezes and snows and refuses to thaw, where the zombies would be frozen along with the landscape. When the survivors weren't chopping would and foraging for food they could round up the zombies, dig them out of snowbanks, and dispense of them.

We have no curtain or blind on the window in the part of the bathroom where my sink and mirror are. It's annoying, mostly for the reason that the sun shines in my mirror and it makes me put on my make up like a crazy woman because the light is so bad. But mostly it's annoying because I'm forever hiding from people, worried they will see me in this private space. However, it also allows me a high up view of the street. Not that anything happens on our street. But I do have a view, in case.

So I started thinking this: what if some jokester, some hooligans, decided to play at the walking dead? What if there were enough of them, and they were organized enough and tried hard enough, and they did a convincing enough job that I saw them? Is it possible that I could have a heart attack and die? And this has worried me off and on ever since I first thought it and then I realized: 

I have been reading, in between the several novels I'm reading right now (none of them are good enough to read simply on their own), anyways I am reading Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation by Steve Johnson and in that book he says that innovation tends to happen concurrently. Like, if someone has an idea to invent something it is purely because the supporting tools/mechanisms/comprehension exists in the world and so it is likely (or a given?) that this same thing/idea will happen elsewhere because the world is ripe and ready for it. I'm sure that explanation doesn't do his beautiful book justice so you really should buy it and read it. Compelling stuff. 

So I applied this idea to the zombie trick fear and voila. There you have it. It is likely, in fact way too likely, that there are fiendish groups of people right now planning the when and the where of their awful zombie trickster meanness. I don't know if I feel better knowing that these plans are afoot, or worse. It also worries me, because a person can never not have enough things to worry about, that perhaps REAL zombies will come and I will see them out of my window with no window covering and I will think haha, I am onto you, tricksters, and THEY WILL BE REAL.

There really is no end to this problem. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

Election meandering

Provincial elections were today. Gratitude for democracy yada yada followed by frustration with my first world problems. As in, the election voter card which I of course checked carefully for errors but not carefully enough, apparently, misdirected me to a church I had to google map to find. It's okay, it all worked out, but it's also a good thing I went to yoga to breathe right before said incident. As I said, first world, all the way today.

Yoga was perfect in the sense that on Mondays it is yin, which is hard only if you don't like lying down and stretching for an hour. I'm sure I do know people who don't like to lie down in a warm room, with a soothing voice directing you to breathe and find that sweet spot of stretch versus pain, but I really can't imagine it. I think they would be liars or just haven't tried it. Now I'm going to get 10 emails telling me why someone doesn't like yoga or it just isn't for them. Don't bother, it's okay. You want to be crazy and tight feel free. Or not so free, as it happens.

After yoga I assessed the wind and determined that the 0 degrees was about 5 degrees short of how warm my jacket was and I skipped walking around the lake. I had already taken the dry-cleaning in, which somehow annoys me with it's never ending picking up and dropping off requirements, so I felt ahead of the game. The next 45 minutes lay in gorgeous limbo for me. Should I go to the new Save On foods and get a coffee? No, that sounded quite decadent to my ears however even one extra shot of caffeine during the day wreaks havoc with my sleeping 8 hours later. Perhaps I could go home and change the laundry from the washer to the drier and thus put myself ahead by one basket. Nah. I truly have all afternoon for laundry so no real win there. I know, I've been feeling so tired that Husband said, do you think you might be iron deficient? All you ever say is how tired you are. I tend that way, iron deficient, and also deficient in the motivation to continue on iron supplements (let's be honest, it tastes completely revolting), so perhaps he is onto something. I stopped at Old Fashioned foods which unfortunately was having its customer appreciation day and so the parking lot was packed with little old ladies, circling with angry faces, looking for a spot. I double parked and was in and out in five. I've already taken two doses. Seriously, it's still awful.

I went home and ate something, I can't recall what it was which means it was a mash up of leftovers. Ah yes, a taco salad minus all the fun ingredients like corn and salsa and black olives. I threw some black beans on taco flavoured ground beef and now that I'm thinking of it, didn't even put cheese. No wonder lunch was not wonderful. I did change the laundry, however, putting me about 1/2 hour ahead of the game I'm playing where no one keeps track of the score except me. Somehow, though, I'm always losing.

I got back in the van, drove towards where I thought I was to vote, realized the street numbers were running out, pulled over, and google mapped the location. Not too far, but further than what I would have thought. I didn't give it a second thought, however, buoyed by my successes of the morning (yoga, laundry, and iron purchase), and found the church. Thinking thoughts of gratitude for being able to vote, for getting a good parking spot, for seeing easily the signs that said "Vote here." 

The lady working the door could tell I was wrong almost immediately, showing me how the information in the centre of the card, the most highlighted, obvious information, was the advance polling information. The actual voting day info, the important day, the big kahuna, if you will, was in small type, bottom of the card. Seriously. What the eff. 

She was very kind, I was nice, she said she'd had at least fifty people who had come to the wrong polling station. That made me feel better, better to be lost in a crowd of 50 than the lone wolf who can't follow directions. 

It all worked out, of course it did, the polling station was exactly where I thought it should be, about a block and a half from our house. I got it done, hopefully I marked the ballot correctly although that's beyond remedy now. I don't mean correctly in terms of candidates, you sly foxes who were ready to poke me and question my politics. I know I did that part right. But the X, the marking of the X, the folding of the ballot. All far too complicated for a woman just trying to get some laundry done.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

big magic in the van

I've never been that into cars. Maybe because we never had nice cars growing up. I don't mean that to sound mean, but we really didn't. My parents just didn't seem to care about vehicles. You'd think that would have pushed me to want nice cars but oddly it didn't. Don't get me wrong, I certainly wouldn't refuse a gorgeous new car if it dropped on my lap, but I can't see myself going out and actively seeking one.

I drove my favourite car almost into the ground. A little '88 white Honda Civic. After that I had a Toyota something, perhaps the worst ever car, made just that much more terrible after one of the children threw up in it. Even professional cleaning didn't remove the lingering smell.

Now for the past 5 years I have driving a white Honda Odyssey. A minivan. And freak, I love that thing. So comfy, so smooth. I call it my limousine and I'm only partially joking. I guess that makes me the limo driver but no matter, I love it.

I love the comfortable heated seat. I leave the seat warmer on almost all year round, I find it very soothing to have a heated bum. I love the back up camera even though most of the time it's too dirty to provide useful help. I love the doors that open and close by themselves. I love the fact that I can car pool lots of kids to and from things. Life is so much easier with car pools.

I love my van for allowing me the ease with which I can ferry around swim bags and groceries and track spikes and snacks and endless bottles of water. It takes me to yoga and every day there is an endless pile of loonies for the parking meter. It's not so old that it needs too much upkeep and it's not so new that if someone gets it muddy or dings a door it really matters.

I keep the van pretty clean, for how many people under the age of 13 frequent it every day, and for the fact that we live in a true four season province. But I have to admit, I swooned a little when I found a little plug in essential oils contraption that allows me to open the door now to wafts of "Energy" or "Gratitude." I will admit, it can get a little overpowering, and one day when puffs of smoke were coming off the little pad I freaked out a little and thought I was going to blow myself up, but generally I'm appreciative of the somewhat hippy-dippy smell that permeates the van instead of wet boots.

Even though it's older and doesn't Bluetooth anything I love that I can plug in my phone and listen to music or, more frequently, listen to my new thing, Audible. I can sit in the parking lot at the school and hear Elizabeth Gilbert's soothing voice encourage me to be brave with my writing, and tell me that it doesn't matter one iota if no one cares, listens, or likes it. It doesn't matter, as long as I do it. As long as I search out the big magic that comes with living a creative life, it won't matter how and for what I do it. Only that I do it.

And maybe Elizabeth Gilbert makes me love my van the most. Because she reminds me: I can be exactly who I am, and still be creative. I don't have to change, or be someone else, for this all to be true. And for that, I love my van, for giving me a private quiet place to listen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Back in the fall I got to go to Toronto with my oldest; she had been invited to spend time at the Globe and Mail. I know, crazy.

I can get a little bit nervous, going places I am unfamiliar with. And when this happens I get a little weird; like, I want to just stay in my hotel and hunker down. Husband encouraged me: no, you're going to go all this way, you HAVE to go to a basketball game. Me: what? basketball? that will cost a fortune. And how would we get there? And what time would it start? And what if I'm too tired?

As I got completely and totally airsick on the plane ride there and ended up taking a handful of Gravel, by the time we did arrive in wet and rainy Toronto I was groggy and in no mood to go anywhere, let alone a sporting event. Not my thing.

But it is the daughter's thing, and I figured fine, since we're here. I'd be the first person to tell someone to just do it, so we got the map on the phone, borrowed umbrellas from the concierge, and walked on over to the stadium? arena? Not sure what it's called: the location of the basketball court. No matter. We got there.

All along I had intended to buy the cheapest seats possible. In fact, I was hoping to spend approximately 30 bucks a piece. As soon as I got to the window I completely abandoned this plan and somehow spent 300 dollars on tickets. This may have been a mistake as the seats came with wait service, which was really nice. The girl next to me was drinking red wine. In a glass. This was much more fun than going to a Rider game, where it's either freezing or too hot and the lines to get a pink lemonade with vodka are 20 minutes long. The game was fun. Intense. Fast. Perfect ambient temperature, fun distractions when they weren't actually playing basketball. Which happens to be pretty much the only sport I can tolerate.

On the way back to the hotel the drizzle had turned into steady rain. My old iPhone was going on about 10 percent battery and the screen wouldn't work because it was wet. We walked around and around, trying to find the hotel we knew was so close yet so far. We walked past the Ritz Carlton, I pointed it out, glamorous in the dark, chandeliers glowing. Women in floor length dresses were getting into limousines, men in tuxes smoking outside. I wondered; was it the Giller Prize? We asked a cabbie to take us to our hotel. He scoffed at us (yes, scoffed) and said, your hotel, it is around the corner.

The next morning we experienced true luxury. We ate our continental breakfast in a beautiful room, each with enough room to spread out our own Globe and Mail. No fighting over sections. Coffee was Americanos, made to order, served by a delightfully interested employee.

And it was the Giller. So close.

Monday, March 28, 2016

first world problem on the weekend

I went away to visit friends this past weekend. On my return flight I was dropped off at the door, near security. Having checked in prior to arriving at the airport, I felt only a pinch of nerves when I saw how long the security line was. I showed the agent my phone with my ticket, they scanned it with that little machine that beeps. When they do this in Calgary, 9 times out of 10 it means I have to have my hands wiped with a little pad. Not this time. I stood patiently in the line, proud of my patience. I looked at Facebook on my phone. I felt calm. I noticed a family behind me, mother and father and three young children. I neared the front of the line, it had been about 25 minutes. But not to worry, I was early and there was lots of time. Suddenly the family kind of pushed around me. The mother had noticed a new security line open up and she raced her kids by me to get to it. This kind of thing drives me crazy. Same as when at a store a new cashier comes on and opens a till and instead of saying "I'll help the NEXT person in line" they either say nothing at all, or say "can I help you here?" and then people cheat and run over even though they darn well know they aren't next. So this mother, instead of saying to me, the only person in front of her, after you, of course pretends that it's all fine and dandy and teaches her children very bad manners. I made a sort of annoyed face, and the dad saw it and understood immediately and he's all, here, you go next, and I said no, no, that's fine, because really I didn't want to be standing next to them for the next 10 minutes after I made a mad face that he saw.

So I wait, for my little line of 4 or 5 people in front of me, placing their items in the grey bins and figuring out how to line them up so they will fit through the x-ray machine, and taking off their belts and shoes, and I watch and wait and I notice that the family is still going through, it's taking a while, and I think, ha, good thing I didn't go to their line and it's my turn and I realize I didn't drop my bag off at check in, as a matter of fact I didn't check in at all, and my bag is literally the largest suitcase we have in our house because the medium one that I really liked broke and I haven't replaced it and I didn't want to bring the small one because it doesn't fit my hair dryer AND my boots. And holy cripes I have to turn around and do the walk of shame all the way BACKWARDS through the now excruciatingly long line and I have to snake through people who are perhaps not at their best, and not wanting to squeeze over so I can drag my mammoth bag past them.

And I run to the WestJet counter, well, that's a lie, I walked as fast as I could with this stupid knee, and I went to the first little machine where you punch everything in and it was out of service and the next one wouldn't work so I finally got someone to help me and we got the bag dropped and I had to go back and start over.

Luckily now I had missed the insane rush of people, those who were on time for their flights as opposed to me, who was now late-ish, so the line had maybe 15 people in it, nothing really, whew, and the man in front of me, standing there patiently, was the dad from the family who had budded. And he's like, what are you doing here? And I'm also like, what are you doing here? And he says, well, apparently my son packed a five inch knife in his carry on, and we obviously weren't aware of this. And I explain the walk of shame, and the dragging of the bag back to where it should have gone originally. And we end up having a very nice conversation about vacations and families and I forgive him for his wife's poor judgement earlier (I keep this part to myself).

I made my flight but instead of a big juicy burger, which I was dying for, I settled for a particularly terrible ham sandwich and a tin of Pringles. I ate the Pringles on the plane, next to a one year old baby girl seated on her mother's lap who also, oddly enough, had her own can of Pringles. Same flavour, even. I haven't bought Pringles in probably 5 years so that was kind of funny. I don't think her mother thought it was funny, though, that I ate mine as then the baby immediately understood that somehow this can could OPEN and there was FOOD inside. I felt sort of bad until the baby kept jamming her small baby foot into my side and I wondered inside my head, why, if the mom wanted to hold the baby for the whole flight, she didn't sit by the window and the dad sit in the middle, so the baby was only bothering the two of them and not the person who was getting away from her own small people. But I only wondered this a little bit, barely worth mentioning, because this is such a first world problem. And thank god most of my problems are first world problems.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

consider this: (small language warning)

Consider this a big fat fuck you to the terrorists. Consider this a retaliation. A resistance. A refusal to succumb to hate and anger.

(Even though, truth be told, hate and anger toward them and all they do, are easily accessible. Within reach. Without stretching.)

Consider kindness, instead. Consider the $4 flowers at the till. Consider them, for someone else. Consider the smile, it's free. Consider the pay it forward movement or random acts of kindness. Consider the little things that add up and add up and add up, like a paintbrush stroking the world with beautiful colours, so does kindness create beauty. Same somehow.

Consider giving, time or money or effort or even, consider making time, to spend with someone who needs it. Someone you know or don't know.

Consider saying hi to the homeless, even if you don't give money. How is your day? Happy Easter. Consider that looking in their eyes is kindness. Consider a warm pair of socks, extra in your cart, tossed in your car, handed out with that smile.

We are few on our own, but consider the kindness that we can use to infiltrate. To create well organized or loosely organized cells of communication, working behind the scenes, consider the waves of impact as kindness floods airports and schools and streets.

Consider this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

wind (the other day)

I've been writing again. A combination of so many things led me to this place. A burning crazy itch, that lays awake and torments if not appeased. The idea, that comes to me when I try to go to sleep and I can't decide: better to get up, to assuage the muse, to write it down, to be tired tomorrow but at peace, or to try to ride it out and let it go and hope and hope that it will not fade by morning. I know, now. It will fade by morning but sometimes (and sometimes is unfortunately not always), sometimes, it will be fleshed out and the whisp will become a flicker and the flicker a sentence and once a sentence, well, ah, we're on the road again.

The writing is funny in the way it has only ever been funny when it is working and by that I mean something that is almost impossible to describe but perhaps it will become easier and easier to do. I hope, anyway. So the writing is funny in the sense that I think that the ideas float, they are available, and they are looking for a place to root and they come to me as they likely come to so many others and truly it is only my dedication (or lack thereof) that means I get to coax them and gently coddle them and water them and grow them and perhaps they will root and perhaps I will tend and then oh my gosh they are something.

And I can feel, if that's the case, the feeling that they have potential, perhaps the way that a parent feels with that new baby or a scientist feels with that supposition or a teacher feels with that certain student. The feeling of potential or maybe or perhaps.

I was trying to describe that feeling tonight to someone. This is terrible but perhaps it is easier, I had had a couple glasses of wine, perhaps it is easier with lubrication, with wine or with weed*, with too little sleep, with too much food, with a feeling of confidence or a feeling of precariousness, like that of standing on a ledge or in the wind, perhaps anyway it is easier to speak of those things that come and come and come again, those words and feelings and the stories. Those ones that live on the cusp, the edge, dangerously. How to explain, how they come and how I wield some control, but truthfully not much. Not much at all. The story is there and it is offered to me and I do my best but I don't own it nor do I control it. All I can offer is my abilities, by way, my words.

*weed is not my way but perhaps the way of another

Monday, March 21, 2016

on kindess

People say the weirdest things. I feel like I can say that, definitively, as much of what falls out of my mouth is kind of weird. But also because people have said very strange things to me.

I remember when I first started running, which I did because I'd packed on a good twenty pounds. A combination of hurting my knee, quite badly, and living on my own with access to things like delivery!! drive through!! pink wine!! made me rather fat. Clearly not because of the shape I was in, I was offered a job at a gym. I know. I must've been the motivator. So I'm working at the gym and I weigh myself*, in front of a super fit guy who worked with me, and I'm like, that can't be right. Using my memory, I can now look back and see the look of confusion on his face. He was kind though, as I continued to assert that the scale was broken he gently but also very firmly disagreed. It's crazy, though, I honest-to-god thought that the scale was not working. I for realsies had no idea, no CLUE, that I was overweight. Sigh. So it's true, I've proved my own rule. People do say the darnedest things.

I was training for a marathon, this was after I realized that no, the scale wasn't broken, also it wasn't a sexist scheme to make me feel fat that had all the clothing manufacturers making the sizing too small; so I'm training and running and one day a man came into the restaurant where I worked and he said, I saw you running across the Albert Street bridge today and I smiled, it's nice to have the hard things you do acknowledged, and he said, I could walk faster than you were running.

The darnedest things, hey?

And the other day I was discussing my project, the book that I'm writing (I'm trying to not feel pretentious as I write that and I wonder why, why I worry that someone will think I think I'm better than I actually am, and obviously I need to do some thinking about that but not today), and so I was discussing a plot point that I feel as though I need to nail down, and so we were kind of talking about this point and how the rules work and so on and the person said, incredulously, and you think there is anyone who will actually want to read this book?

Stopped me a little in my tracks, it did. It's so funny, I don't talk much about the plot of my book or the characters or the process or the vocab or pretty much anything because at this point I'm actually not interested in having anything come near me that might deflate this idea. And I'd gotten a tiny bit carried away, and mistakenly thought that the person I was talking to was supportive and interested. Whoops, duh.

Not the end of the world, not even a moment's pause because right now I am confident and the project is working and to be honest, I don't really give a flying fuck if this person reads it or doesn't read it. But it made me think, it did, about what exactly is the purpose of the little flick that things like this provide, never so bad that it's a friendship killer or the kind of thing you can point out without looking super insecure. But things that are for sure unnecessary and sometimes plain old mean.

I guess it's back to the fundamental lesson I try every single day to impart to the three girls in this house. Be kind, be kind, be kind. And this isn't something that I'm off the hook on, for certain I dip my toe in the black pool occasionally, I am aware. Hoping that with awareness brings change, and only more kindness.

*who weights themselves in front of anyone, let alone a super fit near stranger??? Looking back I believe I was rather clueless.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

This club

So you know that thing (well maybe you know, maybe you don't), anyways, that thing where once you have a baby you get it? Like, you get why it was crazy when back in your twenties when you and your friends were all shiny happy newly married you said things like, we won't let having kids get in the way of socializing. The kids will come and they can all just watch movies and hang out and fall asleep and we will carry them out and take them home and place them gently in their beds and we will sleep soundly and life will be grand. And then we had the babies and were plunged immediately and deeply into a land of unrelenting need for sleep and nursing and bottles and endless diapers and laundry and just a half minute to myself. And we would explain, when there was time to explain, usually without being asked, how no one ever told us and we wouldn't have believed it if they had and how now we understood. It was a like an unasked for apology, the kind where someone apologizes for something and you never even knew they had done something wrong? It's like that, because it's like new parents are apologizing for all the closet judgement they heaped on those who had children before.

It's kind of similar, that aha moment, that getting it, that I'm talking about today but it was less of an aha than a slow burn of understanding. A gradual and unwanted initiation. A club that, unlike having kids, I wouldn't want new members in and I hope most people don't ever join.

I know the members of this club because as I moved, slowly and painfully and tentatively, through the world over the last months, the members would be the ones who would look and see me. It's weird, I suppose I've done this either out of a desire to not stare or an awkwardness in the face of someone else's pain or maybe even the callousness of just plain old not seeing, but I think for my whole entire life up until this point I kind of blanked on injuries. I'm not a mean person, I cry for people I know and I don't know all the time but I think the things that made me cry were emotional injuries to people; those I could get, I could understand the pain of a broken heart of the sadness of losing a friend or whatever - I have a highly active imagination and ability to sink deep into the idea of someone's sadness. What I didn't have, and now I know and can never not know, is that physical pain and injury is just as awful.

And what takes my breath away sometimes, what brings me back to earth and drops me, rock solid and heavy, is that my pain, my suffering, my injury, wasn't even that bad. In the grand scheme of things pain that wakes you up every night, for hours at a time, burning and stabbing and just plain being mean, but goes away after twelve or sixteen weeks or whatever it's been, that isn't much. Comparatively, I mean. The people who experience horrific injuries - the car accidents and the horrific wounds and the painful diseases that strip away their sense of self, that wasn't me. At all. But still the impact was substantial and lasting and has forever turned me into another version of before and after. Same as I think of myself before and after kids, I am now before and after accident.

There were the people who slowed down, waited, opened a door and patiently stood while I limped my way through, staying even as I tried to shoo them away and then they would tell me no, they had a surgery and it was awful and they understood. The flight attendant from WestJet who told me in detail about his experience with pain. The man in the gym parking lot who lectured me on not being a hero because I left my crutch in my van, and then made me give him my keys once he'd got me safely over the ice and into the gym, and went and got my crutch out of the van so I would have it later. He hadn't been the one to experience the pain, he said, but his wife had and so he had that understanding. Quite often it was the family member of a person who would offer aassistance, explaining that their husband/wife/daughter/mother had gone through this last year/six months ago/sometime and they understood because they had lived it alongside. They had seen the rough moments, the sadness, the struggle.

So while I wouldn't sign up for this club, if the choice came today in the mail, with a little box to tick here for yes, here for no, I have to admit I wouldn't sign up. I would tick NONONO and pop it immediately back in the mail. While pain may have taught me things, I wouldn't choose it. But I guess in a nutshell, that's life, right? We don't get to choose, most of it, anyways. The rock bottom/top of mountain moments often have a heck of a lot more to do with chance than choice. But here I am, so I surrender with gratitude and I guess I can find the jewel in even this.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Old thoughts, from November

[This was written the week after the Paris terrorist attacks)

We happened to be at the airport Friday night. We walked by a group of people, congregated under a television, watching the screen intently. I noticed that seated across from the TV, also watching intently, was a Canadian soldier. Dressed in his fatigues. Watching.

Before I looked at the screen I had that awful, sick feeling that since 9/11 I've had too often. The pit in the bottom of my stomach convulses. The sudden, intense worry.

I could see the ticker rolling across the bottom, I could see shadowy video of police. The screen changed to a shot of a soccer stadium, packed with people and I pushed Stella ahead, don't look, I said fiercely. And even though I had only caught a glimpse I knew something awful had happened, something terrible, again, and tears welled up in my eyes and my face was hot. I choked it back down, no point in crying in an airport, making Stella afraid. More afraid, I guess. She's already afraid. They practice lockdowns in her school. She handed the kindergartens out the bus window. She reads the news. My four year old was playing with a friend and I heard them recently, deciding what to play. Let's play lockdown, one said to the other. Sure, they agreed. Four year old explained later, lockdown means if you are in the bathroom there is a stranger danger in the school and you do not wash your hands. That was shocking to her, the not washing hands. She previously couldn't imagine a world where you wouldn't wash your hands after going to the bathroom.

We were at the airport, where an Air France flight departed later, after spending a few days in Toronto. And before this even happened, I had wondered. Am I crazy, taking my daughter to a big city on Remembrance Day? Is that like, asking for something? We went to a basketball game, and they had a ceremony honouring some World War II soldiers and I thought, here, this is where they would attack, here. Now. But we stayed, and enjoyed, and lived, and I was shivering with a level of gratitude for that. And a sense of unknown that I'm not sure has permeated our world, our safe, war free world, for many many years, was present. And to be honest, I'm not sure that low level vibration of fear has exactly left.*

*I can state now, 4 months later, that it has not.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Domestic NOTgoddess

I know now that when August hits I'm kind of over summer. I'm not talking about the weather, no, don't get me wrong, I could take long hot days for the rest of my days without complaint. Rather, I'm talking the three children bored out of their skulls, with nothing to do and a terrible mother providing all this nothingness. I'm done with that shit.

I have one who when she makes a plan she makes a plan. Like, there is no stopping this child. Lately her plans consist of cooking and baking, which is not something I'm thrilled to participate in, in my cramped and crappy kitchen. However, there is seriously no stopping her so today after she perused her cookbook for awhile she chose the always delicious caramel apple slices. We trucked off to the grocery store, handy as there was nothing in the house for supper as apparently I've gone off grocery shopping too, and picked up the bag of caramel candies, 5 granny smiths, and some pecans.

Peeling the caramels kept two of them busy for all of five minutes (I thought I would get more out of the tiny individually wrapped candies but when those girls set their minds to it they are fast, man) so there we were, nuts in the oven, toasting, while child stirred melting caramels. I was washing dishes and supervising stirring.

I'm like, I can smell something burning. You really have to stir. Her, mad. I am, I am stirring. Me, taking pot and removing from heat, stirring stupid sticky candies; Like this, really hard. Her, I AM, I SAID. This scene repeated itself a few times till I shrieked in fury. The oven! The oven! The nuts are on fire. And they were on fire, totally, a completely raging fire in my oven.

Now I've got all three of them in meltdown mode. Oldest grabs phone, hysterically. I'm calling the fire department, she says, dialling madly. Oh no you aren't, I yell, trying to decide if I could get away with leaving the fire to burn itself out. Instead, my thoughts slide to the fire extinguisher I have ready in my kitchen for times like this. I should've just thrown some water at it, now that I think of it, but no I have to be a hero and I USE THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER. Fire doused, immediately. In thick white chemical that burns our eyes, ears, nose and throats worse than the carcinogenic nuts wafting through the house.

I send them out to ride bikes. I realize they are all a little hysterical and perhaps riding bikes isn't the safest choice. I make them put out Sammy, our friendly little neighbourhood safety guy, hoping that he will force any madly racing drivers to slow down and not hit my wobbly girls.

I spend next hour vacuuming up chemical and burnt nuts. Then I wipe everything down ten times with wet paper towels. And I think, I'm not meant to do this. Domesticity is not my thing. I can play at it, that's for sure. I can cook and clean and care for people, but it isn't my natural resting place.

Case in point. A year and a half ago I tried to get the jump on my day, being one of those days you have to take your luxury mini van in to have it cared for. I put food in the crock pot and also baked banana bread. It was February, which is heavy winter here, and I called a taxi at 4:05 pm to take me and at that point toddler to pick up van. Watch for a car, I commanded her, while I decided AGAIN to get the jump on it and put the banana bread pans in water to soak while we got van. We had an hour to get to Honda, get van and get back as older children were at piano lesson from which they would walk home at 5:00 pm and if I wasn't there they would likely just stand there on the front step and freeze to death so I had to HURRY.

Toddler: car! I panic a little, how long has he been there? omigod, what if he leaves I'll never get another cab...we race out the door...

...and come home through the garage where I find the floor mat floating. Hmmm????? I think. Did the travelling washer pull away from the wall and spill water? Hmmmm????? And I sloush through water into the kitchen where the TAP IS STILL RUNNING and it is pouring not into the empty sink next to the full and overflowing sink, no it is pouring down over the front of the sink onto the floor. There is a veritable lake on the floor but I'm like, this is okay, I can fix this, it's just nice clean water, no big deal. Would help if I had a mop, I think to myself, instead of a stupid swiffer that won't pick up anything, but that's okay I will just use towels to soak it up and what is that weird beeping noise coming from the basement I wonder? And so toddler and I go downstairs and toddler says, the ceiling is melting, and indeed, it is melting, and it is at this point that I realize that somehow basement has been flooded from upstairs* and has come through walls and ceiling.

I grab phone and phone, who else, but my dad. Dad, dad, I left the tap on for like and hour and now there's water everywhere in the basement. The ceiling is melting. Dad thinks for all of ten seconds. Isn't your sink directly over your electrical panel in your basement? Um, yes. Is that wet? Uh, yes, it is. Water dripping on top of it. I'm not sure that's safe, exactly, he says. Maybe you need to call an electrician.

And that was not the first, no not the first, but perhaps the best indicator that I'm better off not being responsible for the lives of three little people. I mean, I'm the one who makes sure they eat and sleep and wash their fricking hands (I do my best on that one but it might be the biggest challenge yet). But the care and keeping of the home stuff, the mandatory maintenance like dishes and wiping and laundry and floors and the nice-if-it-gets-done stuff like changing the sheets and transferring winter/summer clothes and not burning it down/flooding it. That stuff is apparently beyond me.

That's okay though, I think. It takes all kinds.

*water went through heat vents and so marvellously travelled all over basement, emitting itself absolutely everywhere
Don't tell my husband, but last night I ordered a book on Amazon. It was $106. Thankfully, it qualified for free shipping. I'm kind of kidding, you can tell him if you want, but it is a crazy number, isn't it? I was shocked, and I have no trouble at all ordering brand new hardcovers. I actually kind of hate people who refuse to spend money on books. It spells a weird kind of trouble to me, it does, that a person feels they deserve to dip into something that took someone time and effort and perhaps even magic to create, possibly tears and some immense frustration, and people feel that it's ok to borrow the book from someone else. How do artists get paid, I want to ask them, do you feel as though that person should just work for free? Do you like to work for free? Should your company sort of borrow your efforts? I digress; this argument isn't thought out enough to really be here, right now, and this isn't the time or place but obviously I must come back to this, this feeling of entitlement that so many people have, who steal movies and music and generally subvert the creative classes being paid. Yes. This shall be addressed.

Anyways, I have obviously no trouble paying people for their work, even to the tune of that much, although I have to admit I felt much better about the purchase when I realized it was a university textbook. I recall paying much more than that for one textbook, and no, I wasn't in any sort of course that would get me a high paying job, no med school texts for me, mine were feminism tracts and herstorys and I believe the most expensive was the bio text I needed for the Biology 200, reserved for Arts students. It was still quite hard, that class.

So this book that I bought and am super excited about is still on pre-order, so it's going to kill me with anticipation for months now. Critical Thinking, Science, and Pseudoscience: Why we can't trust our brains, by Caleb Lack, Phd. The book sounds like exactly what I need. I'm having trouble with the way everyone is an expert in everything, and how totally crackpot ideas get traction from people who don't know any better and then explode into the mainstream. And lots of these crackpot ideas are embraced by people I love + care about, and I never know how to refute them kindly and I'm hopeful that this book will give me some solid ground and a firm base from which to build my arguments.

And here is where it all becomes about me. I mean, it's my blog, so it's fitting, that every single blog post is a litany of what is going through my head right now, this isn't a style blog or a political blog or whatever else people write about these days. This is what I'm thinking, feeling, and generally working through. I'm more a work in progress, in every sense of the meaning of that, be it emotionally, parentally, physically, spiritually, friendshipily, etc. etc. etc.

What I mean is, I want for me to be able to stand up and name what is wrong when someone tells me their weirdo belief system surrounding whatever it is: that the government is hiding aliens, that the aliens are the government, that vaccines are from aliens, that vaccines are making us aliens. I want to be able to say, no, I have studied, I have learned, I can refute this and this is how.

And I already know that the people who have dived in deep, the people who believe this shit, they won't listen, won't acknowledge, won't budge, but then again maybe, just maybe, a sliver of light will show, and they will listen, and things can change away from this culture of fear and mistrust towards something more inclusive. Where we don't think the government and the man and the science is not on our side. Where we all feel the weight of personal responsibility, where we think that we must become experts in everything because the experts aren't really experts and they don't have our best interests at heart anyways.

Wouldn't that be kind of peaceful?