Monday, August 31, 2009

A Grand Debauch

To celebrate their recent wedding, my brother and brand-new sister-in-law hosted a party at their farm, complete with festively blue-and-white striped tent (yuh-huh, it rained off and on, and somehow that just added to the experience), pig roast, bonfire, sparklers, marshmallows, kegs, music, mud, and a device that shot potatoes into the netherworld. Let's just say it was exactly the wild time that was called for, fun for all ages, complete with a few necessary sparks of danger. Just add fire. A moment that returns to me now: lying in our tent, trying to get CJ back to sleep, listening to the younger/child-less crowd scream out the lyrics to "Sabotage." Apparently (I can actually picture this) my middle brother somehow managed to get his feet well above his head in a display of dancing virtuosity. How late was this? I have no idea. As soon as we arrived, I lost all track of time, and that was sweet, too. A day and night out of time.
And this week Kevin's on holiday, and we are getting organized, hanging out, moving at our own pace for a few more blissful days before we return to routine. Let the good times roll.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Few of My Favourite Things

Kids who make their own lunch. And arrange it on a table they've set up themselves.Children who read. A baby who still nurses from time to time.
Tiny front-yard gardens that produce actual tomatoes to be picked by girls still wearing pajamas.
The smell of a lime being sliced open, which makes me think we should up and move down south to a country where these would be locally grown (along with mangoes and avocadoes).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Is That, Mommy? That's Art.

Here's an article I stumbled across online that offers a tiny window into the wastelands of CanLit obscurity. It rang rather horribly true. I've spent this summer deliberately not writing. Not writing poetry, not writing stories, not writing anything except the occasional blurb-like blog entry. Instead, I've been going, doing, cooking, eating, drinking, biking, talking, dozing, rising, reading. At first, I thought I'd go crazy without an outlet for my imagination; oddly, it's been the opposite, which is frightening me ever so slightly as I prepare to return to a more regular writing life, afforded by children returning to school, and regular babysitting hours funded by dwindling grant monies.

My heart is querying: why? And I'm querying: heart, can you bear to return to that sheaf of rejected poems? Can you bear to begin again another new project? Can you bear to travel to those dark and lonely places?

It's occurred to me that were I to remove the ambition of being a writer from my psyche, mine would be a full and fulfilling life. With that hole of doubt and hope plastered over, life looks simple--not simplistic. A clean wall on which to hang new photographs, less mirrors.

This post isn't a question. It's the hum of an observation.

But here's a question: what if the gifts I've interpreted as belonging to "writer," actually belong to some other vocation?
I know I'm good at: expressing emotions, witnessing moments, sitting quietly, focussing deeply, finding humour, sharing beauty in imagery and language, listening, reflection, taking responsibility, organizing, planning, assessing situations and staying flexible.

I know sometimes I'm: too introspective, overly analytical, reticent, impatient. Sometimes my expectations (for myself and for others) are way too high. I eat cheese almost every night before bed. My favourite dream hasn't change since childhood, and it involves riding a wild horse.

Enough with the sequitors and non-. I will leave this post as ... to be continued. Ain't life interesting?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wedding, July 22, 2009

Apparently, I stopped taking photos at this point. But these few made it onto the camera, and I send them forth into the crowded perpetuity that is Blogland. The first were taken while we were waiting for photographs, just goofing around under the tent. It stopped raining and the sun burst forth just as the ceremony began. Verklempt, I was.
May their lives together be blessed.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tomorrow's the Big Day

Okay, I think I may be more excited about my brother's wedding than my brother and my soon-to-be-sister-in-law are. They've been together seven years already, own some property together, you know, they are already basically married, but still. Kevin and I have six siblings between us, and my brother is the first of our collective siblings to get married (and our wedding was already a decade ago). I have three brothers, and Chach is closest in age to me; we are seventeen months apart, and from six months on he was pretty much as big as me, and even though we were kinda rivals for a few of those years, I love him like anything and always have. So I'm throwing my imaginary hat into the air and whooping it up because I'm sooooo excited!
Here's some footage of our humble wedding prep, which mostly involves Albus (in these pictures). First up: hair cut (the photo was taken halfway through). After watching him struggling to breathe through his sopping mass of curls during swim lessons, my fingers got itchy. Result: shorter hair, actual seeing of the eyes. CJ wanted a hair cut too. But his curls are too cute to sacrifice, so we just pretended to cut it. Today, Grandma Alice arrived with new clothes for the big kids' choir; Albus's will double as his wedding outfit. I couldn't get a straight shot out of the lad, but you know, I like it that way. He is who he is: my fast-talking, sweet/serious, noisy/quiet, silly and dear son. I love how Apple-Apple managed to keep the fine and serious pose requested by the photographer (me).
Okay, kids, onto the wedding! We'll be cheering in our finest.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good Enough

Trying to get up in school-ready time, which is silly because we still have two and a half weeks of summer vacation left; but I want to remind myself that I can do it. And I can. It just makes me want to go to bed earlier. Unfortunately, the children are not going to bed earlier. If anything, they seem incapable of falling asleep before 9:30 at night, no matter when we tuck them in (perhaps we should end the two-week-long sleepover going on in Albus's room; Apple-Apple is in his loft bed, because she kicks, and Fooey and Albus have been sharing a mattress on the floor, which leaves only enough floorspace for masses of dumped Lego. My thorough cleaning of several weekends ago was decimated almost instantly). Naturally, no matter how active our days, the children still wake up at approximately the same time. This morning it wasn't their fault. We were all woken by an apparent earthquake, the entire house shuddering on its foundations. It's still going on. Endless road construction.
:: :: ::
Tomato season seems to be starting only just now; at any rate, my favourite savoury fruit hasn't been offered in bulk yet at either of our local food sources. Tomatoes loom, and part of me is questioning whether I'll find the energy and time to do the work when the bushels start rolling in. (I think I can, I think I can). It feels like I haven't been putting up food at the same pace as last summer, or perhaps not with the same fresh enthusiasm. Because we've already filled one freezer, so obviously we are putting food up: mainly blueberries, apricots, peas, and yesterday evening Kevin grated a ton of zucchini (for baking). There is no doubt if we had to live on what I've put up, we would not survive; but why am I thinking in these all-or-nothing terms? Instead, why not appreciate how second-nature putting up food has become? Not vast quantities, but little bits here and there. It does add up, and will make our winter more flavourful. There is so much summer bounty, and no way to preserve it perfectly. The way of all things perishable.
Cheery, huh.
This post has been written in the midst of serving children breakfasts and trying to meet their variety of demands (poorly, due to focussing on this posting instead). And now it's time to hop on bicycles and head to swim lessons.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's Been a Year

Up early to prepare for another round of daily swim lessons, our last of the summer. This time, CJ and I will be in the water, too, which complicates matters. My planning brain has been working overtime to calculate what combination of changerooms, snacks, and locks will precipitate maximum smoothness of transitions, but the success of the venture really comes down to patience and flexibility--mine. Today's weather is calling for morning thundershowers. And we have no vehicle at our disposal. This is your mission, should you choose to accept.
(I do).
Everyone's still sleeping. Our schedule has gotten later and later on both ends of the day. I find myself looking forward to more routine, less lazing about. It's a fine line.
I like getting up early when it's quiet. Maybe I should rethink my office set-up (currently in CJ's bedroom), so I could use my work computer in the early morning.
Thinking outloud.
Here's what I wanted to get down on paper (virtually): CJ walked down the back porch steps yesterday. I nearly screamed, discovering him mid-stride. No holding onto the railing or anything. If I want to go there, I can make myself feel downright woozy imagining him doing this without me present and able to catch him should he stumble. Because even though he can, it doesn't mean he can with consistency. Yikes. The risks these babies take as they grow and develop, and us with them.
It's been a year since I started this blog, and it's with gratitude that I note this. How thankful I am to have this scrapbook of our daily lives. But here are two unexpected gifts it's given me: better photo-taking skills, and more bravery in talking about my writing life, warts and all.
Thanks to everyone who's read along.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Album

A few images from our week: the ever-classic diaper and rubber boots combo; a Playmobil scene awaiting post-bedtime discovery on the piano keys (and how apropos, as we look forward to the wedding of "Uncle Chach and B" this coming weekend); the girls and their hair (I've never been much of a girlie girl, but it feels like I'm living out a little girl's fantasy of playing with gorgeous dollies when I brush and braid their tresses); Fooey wanting to stand on the tree stump by the porch, then deciding perhaps she prefers firm land; and Albus post-emergency room, with the gash on his forehead tidily closed. He and Kevin were up till midnight waiting and then being treated, but did he sleep in this morning? You know the answer to that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Week in the (Writing) Life

This has been a peculiar week for Obscure CanLit Mama. I refer to myself in the third person because the literary facet of my life usually feels exactly that compartmentalized, like it belongs to another person. I wonder whether this is healthy; perhaps it is even self-defeating. Would I pursue my chosen career more aggressively if "writer" were more integrated into my identity? As I type that previous sentence, a broad smile breaks across my face; the words chosen and career look affected, and pursue and aggressively are downright fraudulent, not within my character, not in that way. If a writer is someone who writes, then I am she. It's the extra elements, the bruising elements of being a working writer that I cannot seem to cope with, that I'm downright allergic to. (Sentences ending with prepositions, gah; there's subtext in that there grammar, ladies and gents.)

Here's what I like about writing and publishing: the relationships that are formed, the shelter of finding mentors who appreciate and care deeply about the words set on the page, who shine a light between the cracks. Here's what I dislike about writing and publishing: seeking out those relationships. The fear of rejection is ever-present. There is such sadness when a relationship fails or is lost. I wish my carapace were tougher or my confidence overwhelming; or, perhaps, I don't wish that at all, because how could I write with passion and vulnerability if either of those things were true?

I've been thinking about the word "gift." It seems true that we are born with--are given--unique gifts; what we do with these is our choice. Translating experience into words on the page comes naturally to me; I'm introspective, and an observer; I love language and a story well-told. But there's another element to the gift: it's given to us, not chosen by us. Ever received a gift that you didn't quite know how to appreciate? Ever received a gift, smiled with strain, and wondered, now what the heck am I supposed to do with this? At the end of all my days--and at the end of every day--I want to know that I've done all that I could possibly do, that I've acted in this world for good, that my life has intersected with the lives of others in positive ways. And I remain unconvinced that writing is the way to do this. (She says, while writing). Because writing requires solititude and interior concentration, because it takes one out of the world rather than into it, and because the end-point of creativity is an artistic product that has no absolute value, and that may indeed remain largely unappreciated, it can seem, as a way to live a life, well, self-indulgent.

Not unlike this post.

Which is, promise, coming around to that window into an Obscure CanLit life.

This week, I had the lovely and surreal experience of having my photograph taken by an artist who will be painting my portrait. He was commissioned for the project by The New Quarterly, which will publish the portrait, along with a reflection on what it means to be a subject, as part of a series that includes other Canadian writers like Russell Smith, Diane Schoemperlen, and Sharon English. I dressed up in a swingy summery dress and posed in our backyard, feeling possessed of an unexpected confidence, and not-unexpected humour; if you can believe it, several large trees were being chopped down on our property and thrown into a viciously loud chipper while this was going on. What a funny life. Children racing about, Kevin home to help, men with spiked boots wielding chainsaws, the aroma of freshly baked banana bread, a shouted conversation in our living-room ... and myself, posing for a portrait as a writer. Come to think of it, it didn't feel that far-fetched, as if I were dressing up in someone else's identity, it felt just exactly like my life.

So perhaps all of this anxiety and doubt is emerging from the other, and disappointing, literary occurrence of the week: a rejection letter on a manuscript of poetry. How heartbreaking to discover the fat package in the mailbox, and to read the kind and thoughtful letter from the editor, saying that this might have been an acceptance letter in a different year, that she believed several of the poems were "truly brilliant," and that the collection was strong. But.

It's such a familiar heartbreak: the hope for a new relationship, not to be. And the hope for those words, too, to find a home.

I stuck the manuscript into the kids' scrap paper pile. It made me feel somewhat better this morning when they noticed the new paper, and wondered if it came from one of my books (yes, I frequently recycle drafts in this way; sorry, imaginary future archivists). The kids didn't see it as failure. They read some of the words with interest, then turned the pages over to colour on the blank backs. I look forward to coming across these scraps in the weeks to come--the transformation of what might have been into something that no longer belongs to me, the odd word or phrase jumping out and grabbing me, a sweet reminder.

Finally, I should add that I still believe in this manuscript of poems, and still have hope of finding it an Obscure CanLit home. Someday. (Maybe writer is more integrated into my identity than I recognize. This post is making me think so--see, I had to write it out in order to discover it.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

I Stand Corrected

Albus informs me that nothing is better than television. They earned this quiet time, occurring right now in our living-room, with another big bike ride to Columbia Lake, which this time involved a detour to the creek where everyone waded and splashed, including CJ (though his was more of an accidental entrance), and excluding me (though I got a bit wet during the CJ rescue). Kev even biked over from work to join us for a protein-heavy picnic lunch (boiled eggs, roast beef, cheese, hummus, crackers, carrots). Apparently, I need to bake another batch of bread. Sheesh, we eat a lot.
Here are some more cellphone specials from today's adventures ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Better Than Television

Here's what's happening in our yard this morning. Add in the sounds of the children yelling over the chipper, and you get the full picture.
Below, our Monday evening activity. Also better than television. Add in a popsicle and a scrounged-up frozen chocolate chip cookie or two, and Kevin's soccer-playing night looks a whole lot more fun for this Mama.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bike Adventure

Roused myself this morning after a too-fun evening out with siblings last night, and organized the children for a bike adventure. The photos are taken by my ancient cellphone (I got it three years ago, which means in tech years it's one hundred and thirty-three); here we are toward the end of our journey, when the children were splashing themselves liberally with melting popsicles. It got ugly. Well, it got sticky, to be more precise. There was some semi-serious discussion of whether hands might get glued onto bike handles, that's how sticky it got. But prior to that, we biked all the way to Columbia Lake and picnicked in the shade on a hill overlooking the water, a field of black-eyed susans waving below us in the cool breeze. The only thing that could have made the event ever so slightly more charmed would have been the addition of Kevin; though I actually find the children are better behaved, and rise to the occasion more earnestly, when they are being supervised by only one parent (why is that?). After lunch, we followed the gravel trail along the stream and found a patch of red raspberries. I almost encouraged the kids to clamber down a steep hill into the swampy creek, but thought better of it. We biked amidst the lunch crowd on the trail going through campus, and the concession stand at the park was our final stop. With the exception of one small meltdown over having to share the much-coveted slushie (our newly four-year-old girlie is still learning to control her impulses for "now, now, now!"), by the time we were home the children were in a blissed-out state. CJ crawled out of the bike stroller and into the sandbox where he spent almost an hour, the big kids read on the couch, and I sipped a cup of cold coffee (let's pretend it was iced) on the back porch while browsing the paper.
And I'm ever so reminded of why I love summer.