Friday, March 30, 2012

Aiming for something ...

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Drifted off to sleep last night meditating on my new character, thinking about what I would write today. Yesterday was a tough day. My baby turned four. I had a sense of aimlessness all day, despite discovering this terrific review from Halifax's The Coast, and, later in the day, this. Nice, right? But the aimless feeling prevailed.

Finally, I left my office and walked uptown to buy my four-year-old a gift. A book, of course! Everywhere I looked it seemed women were out walking their babies. But not me. Just a short while ago, being out and about mid-day unemcumbered by small children would have seemed incredibly novel, and thrilling. Suddenly, it's every day.

My book is gone too, off to see the world. I was having a now-what feeling?

Somehow, I've gotten into the habit of thinking that change is propelled by unhappiness. Certainly, unhappiness can be a powerful motivator to kick us out of negative habits. But it occurred to me this morning that of course there are many other triggers for change. And the instinct to make wholesale changes in a moment of doubt isn't necessarily positive. If I were even five years younger, I would probably be seriously considering adding another child to the family. That is the kind of change that I could so easily understand and embrace. But I know that's not the right change anymore. I know in my heart that it's not even change I really want.

Guess I don't know what changes are calling me. I just know that seeing my babies grow up, buying more time for myself during the day ... well, it's not as straightforward as I thought it would be. It doesn't equal direction or ease. The big questions remain. Am I spending my time wisely? Am I doing what I love? Also, a question that never lets me go: am I adding something good into the world, by my actions, by my choices, with my life?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How does it feel?

A cake.

A candle.

A happy birthday morning.

How does it feel to be four? (An impossible question that somehow begs to be asked.)


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A time to celebrate

party supplies

Shopping for birthday supplies with my enormously chatty almost-four-year-old. He chose these candies and this candle. Last year he really didn't want to turn three, and refused for several weeks to accept the change. This year he can't wait for his birthday. "Is it this month?" he's been asking ... for months.

He makes us laugh. And it is so easy to make him laugh. "How old are you turning again?" I asked yesterday. "You're going to be five, right?" "What?! No!" Big snorts of laughter. "Oh, I know -- you're turning back to two. Right?" More laughs. "What?! You can't go backward, Mommy." "Oh, that's right. Hm, well, then, you must be turning four."

"No!" Suddenly serious. "Do it silly again, Mommy."

I'm glad he's over his existential crisis of a year ago and happy to be growing up. But here's the thing. I'm the one who's experiencing pangs this time around the sun. My littlest is so tall and logical, so learning his letters, so able to dress himself, so trained overnight, so good at playing with his big brother and sisters, so big. And I'm thrilled, and it's wonderful. And I love sleeping through the night and having this freedom during (part of) the day. But those baby years are exactly what everyone tells you -- gone so fast. In a flash.

Could my years already be gone? Yes, by all available evidence they are, for real. But I haven't quite accepted it yet.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

At this moment in time ...

Alright blog, what have you got for me today?

This feels like a day for random bits. Things I want to remember about this very moment in time.

**My two eldest children, at this moment in time, have exactly the same shoe size as me. And apparently I have a lot of shoes, because right now my eldest wears a pair of my old running shoes as his indoor shoes at school, another pair as his outdoor shoes, and his winter boots were also formerly mine; and just this morning AppleApple took my pink lightweight tennis shoes to school to be her new indoor shoes. She's outgrown her old ones. She's also outgrown all soccer shoes. And this morning started with a lengthy search through her drawers for clothes that still fit. Suddenly all pants are rising above the ankle, and all shirts above the wrist. The very definition of a growth spurt.

**I'm plugging away at my multi-sport activities. This morning was spin class. Do I push too hard in this class? I really give it my all, leave everything in the room; and then look up with glazed eyes at the end of hour and realize it is 7:15am and the bulk of the day's responsibilities still lie before me.

**I had my first DNF in a race on Sunday. It was a 30km race, and given my injury I could neither train for it, nor hope to complete the distance. I'd accepted that it wasn't to be a few months ago, but hearing people in spin class this morning talk about their experiences in the same race made me more than a little envious. I feel like I'm holding steady in terms of my fitness. Barely. After such exciting gains last year, it's difficult to stay positive about just hanging in there. But just hanging in takes commitment too. And I haven't quit. Four early mornings a week is four more than I was doing two years ago. It's hard to remember sometimes, but daily commitment and discipline isn't often or even usually about an immediate reward, nor does it happen because we feel like doing it every day. It's about making change over time, the steady accretion of experience. Mostly, it's just about showing up.

**I'm starting to do research on what I hope will be my next book. Kevin and I have marked several writing weeks on the calendar, one per month for the next three months. I'm nervous about diving into a new character and a new world. But I'm curious to see what will come of it. Stay tuned.

**Remember when I used to get a good revelation after most yoga classes? Not necessarily an enormous life-altering revelation, but at least something small, some interesting new way of approaching a problem or idea? And that doesn't seem to happen any more. It's made me wonder whether I've stopped looking for revelations. Am I going to class free from specific unsolved problems? Or have I forgotten to use that time as a meditative space? I'm not sure. In any case, I took a nice long shavasana yesterday evening, and emerged with the notion that I should learn how to write screenplays. Is that nutty? Maybe it was sparked by reading this article in yesterday's Globe and Mail about the slow decline of the novel, and the rise of awesome tv shows. A large part of being a writer (for me) is wanting to express ideas and be read, to provide entertainment but also food-for-thought -- to an audience. I never got around to writing in-depth about Mordecai Richler's biography, but one of the things that impressed me about his career was its breadth across the mediums. He wrote frequently for television and radio, and in his early career worked on many screenplays for which he received no credit, but obviously gained valuable experience. Would my abilities fit into other mediums of expression? ... that was yesterday's take-home yoga "revelation."

**But I'm too tired this morning to follow up. On just about anything. So a quick and dirty blog post it is. And catching up on emails.

**And running birthday party errands for an almost-four-year-old; that will be this afternoon's main task. The bar for today is set pretty low. I was just glad to get laundry in the washer, and soup in the crockpot after waving the kids off to school this morning.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The week in suppers: the "hungry" month

pancakes for supper

**Monday's menu** Red sauce with hamburger. Pasta. Steamed broccoli.
**Convenience** Went for ease over effort tonight. Thawed homemade sauce, boiled water.

**Tuesday's menu** Choose-your-own-adventure-noodle soup. Japanese broth. Unadulterated broth. Egg noodles. Rice noodles. Chopped scallions. Fried cabbage with carrots, tofu and ginger.
**Inspiration** Made a huge fresh pot of turkey stock. Nope, not vegetarian, but I'm a big believer in broth. So I buy bones and make stock and freeze it for soups and such.
**Cabbage** There were complaints over the cabbage/carrot stir-fry again. Thing is, we've got a lot of cabbage and carrots ... and not much else. 'Tis March. The "hungry" month, I've seen it described. I promised to make a coleslaw next time with the next cabbage.
**mini-recipe** Japanese broth: Eight cups of stock, 1/2 cup tamari sauce, 4 tbsp sugar, salt to taste. Heat to boiling. Serve over noodles. At the table, sprinkle individual bowls with scallions, hot pepper flakes, and Chinese five-spice, to taste.

**Wednesday's menu** Lentil curry (crockpot). Baked rice.
**Convenience, again** It took a bit of effort during the breakfast hour, but lentils + crockpots = easy. And then I went out for supper (with my sibs) and didn't even taste the meal I'd made. Albus told me it was pretty good and he'd had two bowls. There seem, however, to be a lot of leftovers.

**Thursday's menu** Leftover noodles fried with leftover cabbage and tofu.
**Thanks Kevin** Over the supper prep hour, I took AppleApple to her goalie training, and did some secondhand shopping. It was nice to return home to a tasty meal; I rarely object to reinvigorated leftovers.

**Friday's menu** Leftover lentil curry. Leftover rice. Fresh baguette.
**Guess what?** That lentil curry did taste pretty good. It definitely hit the spot after a run/soccer practice. This menu was a little light on the veggies, however.


**Weekend kitchen accomplishments** Nil. (See yesterday's post.)


**Cooking with kids** Albus's menu. Crepes with maple syrup, and strawberries and blueberries from the freezer. Bacon. Breakfast sausages. Baguette.
**Mmmmm** Some small debate over what to call breakfast-for-dinner. Brupper was roundly rejected. Albus thought it should simply be called brunch. Whatever it is, it was delicious and there were no leftovers. Not a scrap.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Without supervision

Here's what the kids do when they're not being closely supervised.

Giant mudpools in the sandbox?! I don't recall authorizing the use of the hose. Um, Kevin? You? No?


Here's what the parents do when they're not being closely supervised.

At least, it's how we polished off the remains of a Saturday night without children (who were once again sleeping over at Grandma's ... we could get used to this). Except it occurs to me that we shouldn't get too used to it. I am not my discplined self without the children around. In fact, it got me wondering whether the children have made me who I am. I think they stake some major claim.

Yes, it's fun to play without supervision. But a little oversight may not be an altogether bad thing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best-of-day moment

my boys

Yesterday the phone never stopped ringing, and it wasn't telemarketers calling either; it was just one of those days. Today the phone hasn't rung once and the house is quiet. Yesterday I was abuzz with energy and excitement. Today I feel the need for an afternoon caffeine boost. Thank you, cup of sugary tea.

Yesterday lots of pretty awesome things happened, but my favourite moment was sitting outside in the super-hot sunshine with my eldest, sharing a street dog. He topped his half with pickles, mustard, and ketchup. I topped mine with pickles, hot peppers, and ketchup. He was briefly out of school due to a crazy bug bite that clearly required attention. After the dr's appointment, we went to the pharmacy together, and then I spotted the hot dog stand. He was hesitant and concerned about missing more school. He kept checking his watch. Finally he said, "Whatever you think, Mom." And I thought, YES! More time with my boy! How often does this happen?

I've been doing about one reading/week since the book came out. Today I read and spoke to a grade ten class at a nearby high school. The students were great, and came up with lots of excellent questions, both about the sections I'd chosen to read (largely around the theme of activism and responding to human-made atrocities) and about the writing process. I was nervous, but need not have been. Hard to believe my eldest will be that tall, that thoughtful, that nearly-grown-up-looking in just five years.

Will he still say, "Whatever you think, Mom?"


Interested in bringing The Juliet Stories to your book club? My publisher has provided a thoughtful "Reader Guide," food for further thought. It can be accessed by visiting The Juliet Stories at House of Anansi, and then clicking on "Reader Guide." (It's a PDF file.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fantasies and fears

buds on lilac
buds on lilac, yesterday

This hot weather has revealed a serious gap in my wardrobe. Where did I put all my not-ratty, not-stained, not-holey, not-unflattering t-shirts? I'm good with the jeans (refreshed on my birthday). I'm good with the sandals (footwear should last for years on end). But the t-shirts have up and left town. Actually, no, they're still hanging around the bottom of my over-stuffed shirt drawer, crumpled and neglected and forlorn.

So here's a fantasy or two. Or three.
1. Side fantasy to precede other fantasies: An IKEA-like organizer magically appears in my closet into which I can stuff all of my smelly sports-related clothing. Because I have a lot of technical shirts, sweaters, and tanks that are not appropriate for anything but exercise. And the drawer is too full. So I can't see what's actually in there. This would save on time and irritation.

2. Sticking with the drawer-clearing theme: Someone goes through my drawer and forces me to give away anything that a) I haven't worn in a year or b) I shouldn't be wearing and someone should please inform me. Maybe I'm fantasizing about a What-Not-to-Wear scenario. Without cameras.

3. Now that the drawer has been organized and emptied: Someone, who is my exact size, drops off a bag of cast-off clothes and I dig through and find at least THREE excellent shirts, new to me. (This is how we got all of our clothes as kids -- we had lots of older cousins -- and it is my preferred shopping method even now.)

Okay, back to reality.
1. I could do this. I've been meaning to for months. Why haven't I?
2. Ditto.
3. The realistic and therefore less fantastic version: a super-fast t-shirt shopping session at a secondhand store. I hate shopping. But this version looks likely to come true, possibly as soon as this evening when I'll be taking Soccer Girl to goalie training. Apparently the arena is located near a top-notch secondhand store. Girding loins now.

Thus endeth the fantasy portion of this post. Is it just me, or was that pretty lame?

The fears portion shall begin now, but really it's just one Fear, an underlying anxious hum. This morning, I woke early. The clock said 4:34. The windows were open, and a machine was beeping the back-up beep somewhere down the street. And I couldn't for the life of me get back to sleep, though there were still forty minutes before the alarm was set to sound. Finally gave up, and got up to scour The Weather Network's web site for clues -- because there is something about this sudden onset of spring/summer that is distinctly unsettling. I want to be glad to see buds and tulips and green grass. Usually it's downright thrilling. We've survived winter! And here is our reward!

But this year, we scarcely had winter. And it feels like the reward is coming far too early and too easily. And whenever things come easily, I get suspicious. This must be a trick. Fool's gold. Fool's spring.


AppleApple sat in my office yesterday and with a concerned face told me she had a theory: "You know how some people think the world is going to end in December, 2012? What if it just keeps getting hotter and hotter and hotter until then? And the world ends?"

Sounds like the plot of a movie in which I'd rather we not star.

I reassured her that such a trend was highly improbable. And said that we should enjoy today, because we can't predict the future. Like a character says in The Juliet Stories: You don't control the weather. (Of course, there's so much we don't control. Not just the weather. What to do but take my own advice, enjoy today, walk barefoot in the new green grass, bend down and see the flower unfurling?)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another beautiful bizarre mid-March day

tree branch with buds
tree branch with buds, March 21, 2012

Avoided yesterday's restlessness and instead started the morning with a trek to the back yard. Camera in hand, of course.

Good heavens, what is happening? Buds on the trees? Red lettuce and chives sprung forth in a raised bed? The wading pool full of water? A smog alert in Toronto this morning?


If it were just one day of unseasonal warmth, the buds wouldn't think it safe to come out; but it's been enough consecutive days to heat the second floor of our house to mildly intolerable -- we ran fans last night. (And really, the flannel sheets seem ridiculous).

It can't last; can it? We'll need those flannel sheets again. The windows won't stay open. It seems impossible.

fresh salad for supper tonight?


Given all this warmth, we've discovered a new favourite retreat -- the upper level of our porch, which we didn't get a chance to use last fall when it was first built. Already, AppleApple has tucked away there to read in late-afternoon sunshine. And Kevin and I took tea and snacks and a candle out after dark the other night. It was that warm. Venus and Jupiter shone overhead, and the Big Dipper appeared to be upside-down.

It's not a quiet retreat, let me add. Our street is much too well-travelled for that. Cars are noisy machines. But it's lively viewing, and the porch feels private. Reminds me of when I was four years old, and would climb a small tree in the backyard, high enough to see over the fence. Behind that house was an apartment building, and I would watch the happenings. Even at that age, interested in observing the lives of others. You have been warned.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring fever

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The morning slips away. I get up early, I work out, I have breakfast with the kids and see them off to school intact, and then I nap. I have to nap. If the nap is left out of the equation, a fog descends. Napping is a strange occupation, almost similar to meditation. I slip into liminal consciousness and sense myself mulling over problems or concerns. When my time's up (I set my interior alarm, a surprisingly effective system), I wake and spring upright. And go on with my day.

Today it seems there's much to do in little time. It's a half-day work-day. And I have things to do, scattered bits here and there. But I can't seem to get rolling on anything in particular. I know I'm not using this limited time terribly efficiently. Maybe it would be a better use of my morning to go outside with my camera and take photos of the crocuses blooming in our back yard. Or the tiger lilies already poking their stems through the earth. Or to hang a load of laundry (yes, in March; it's that warm). Or to start supper.

But instead, I sit here in my office ... and wait ...


**Juliet news** I have to share this beautiful response to The Juliet Stories by my literary friend Heather Birrell. I was honoured to be an early reader of the manuscript that would become her second book, Mad Hope, which is just being published RIGHT NOW! Look for it. We'll be reading together at a few events this spring. More info to come.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The week in suppers: March (no) break (downs)

cabbage stir-fry

**Monday's menu** Angel hair noodles in Japanese broth. Stir-fried tofu with carrots and cabbage.
**Reminiscent of** Mr. Noodle, on which I survived during my university years. Reminsicent in a good way. I really really really liked this meal. It used up the leftover miso soup from the night before. And it used up the tofu from the bottom of the soup. And it used up a really aged-looking cabbage.
**Secret** Chinese five-spice sprinkled into individual bowls, as desired, at the table.

**Tuesday's menu** Black beans. Baked rice. Tortillas. Yogurt and feta cheese. Green salad with grated apples and carrots.

**Wednesday's menu** Gallo pinto (beans and rice fried together). Roasted root veggies.
**Kevin-in-charge** I had a reading and left early. The root veggies took far longer than Kevin had anticipated, so we ate them when I got home later that evening (the kids missed out).

**Thursday's menu** Baked potatoes. Butter, sour cream, grated cheese, chopped green onions. Stir-fried napa cabbage and carrots with ginger.
**Secret** Stir-fry the napa for no longer than three minutes. Remove from heat, toss with tamari sauce mixed with red Thai curry paste, and serve immediately. Keeps the crunch.

**Friday's menu** Hamburger curry with tomatoes, peas, and turnips. Steamed rice. Leftover black beans.
**Last-minute** Was working on a story and threw this together as the kids were walking through the door from skating. Luckily we had one package of local, organic burger in the freezer to work with. Sometimes meat just seems to equal convenience.


**Weeekend kitchen accomplishments** Eight loaves of bread (!!). Batch of yogurt (semi-successful; it's been awhile so maybe I've lost my touch). Cupcakes (with Fooey and AppleApple).

**Cooking without kids** Nachos. Antijitos. Leftover black beans. Sour cream, salsa. Avocado and egg salad.
**Because** Kids were too busy jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler rigged up underneath. Yes, it was a hot day for winter. And the last of their holiday. We made it!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend happenings

The girls made cupcakes.

We used my Grandma's mixmaster.

This was the hardest part ...

... filling the cupcake papers as evenly as possible.

Waiting for the buzzer.

No photos of the decorating and sprinkle and icing-sugar frenzy that followed. And actually, I lied. The hardest part was getting the two girls to agree on a baking project they could do together. I did not chronicle the frustration, the multiple cookbooks consulted, the wishing we had special ingredients, the frustration, the accusations, the tears, or the way we'd almost given up on the idea when suddenly I came across a cake mix in the cupboard. Yes, these are cupcakes made from a mix. But who cares. We did it. They did it. And that made my heart glad.

Playing wii at Grandma's.

My heart got even gladder when I dropped the kids off at Grandma's house for an overnight extravaganza. Unexpectedly, plans shifted, and I suddenly had 21 consecutive hours completely to myself with nothing particular to do. Nowhere particular to be. No one else's interests or needs to consider. Can you imagine? What would you do?

Here's what I did.

I went to yoga and laid in shavasana for as long as I wanted. I took food to some sick friends. I ran in the park. I played the piano and sang. I went out for sushi and to a silly movie with a friend. I invited my siblings over for a drink on a whim (an after-midnight whim, no less). I slept in. And then I got up and behaved responsibly and cleaned up the sprinkle/icing-sugar frenzy, vacuumed, washed dishes, and listened to the radio without interruption, enjoying particularly the conversation on The Sunday Edition about the Canadian publishing industry. And then time was up. And that was just fine. Because I felt so much better.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Just have to say

Remember yesterday? When I was feeling drained? Well sometimes things happen out of the blue that can't be seen as anything but a sweet little gift, an answer. Today I was given the gift of replenishment -- time. Time that is emptied of requests and must-dos and any expectations whatsoever. Completely unanticipated. Truly blissful. Not sure what I've done to deserve this, but THANK YOU UNIVERSE.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring springs and Carrie rambles

a bird in the bush

Spring. Spring! The last day of March break. My children occupied elsewhere. A quiet and completely empty house (just now). Not-so-deep thoughts. But persistent ones. I'm tired. My body hasn't made a very successful switch to the time change. I'm listening to classical music, while wearing ear plugs; an odd but necessary combination. Ear plugs signal work-time. Classical music signals calm. This is ramble.

I am feeling, well, drained, rather. The big publicity push seems to be resolving itself, slowing, and I can stand back and breathe. And as I breathe, I think about that phrase "feeling drained." And it seems to express an almost literal sensation. Because I've been pouring myself out, pouring myself into the effort of spreading the word about Juliet. At some point, I will have to stop pouring and start replenishing the well. Which, though not dry, seems to be creaking with complaints.

Patterns. Habits. When something isn't working anymore, it becomes steadily more apparent, harder to ignore. And then the question is: what to change? and how?

One change would be to break myself of the BlackBerry habit. I've become accustomed to receiving new! urgent! exciting! messages throughout the day, and it's changed my brain -- I expect and anticipate the little ping. It's like a hit of affirmation. I'm not alone! Connect, connect! Trouble is I'm starting to crave the ping even when I'm in the midst of seemingly interesting Life. Worst of all, the ping itself has almost become more meaningful and exciting than the message received. I am Pavlov's dog.

A second change. I think it's time to shift gears. To stop writing about Juliet, and start writing on/into/toward a new project. Even if the new project doesn't take shape immediately. Even if I feel uncertain. If this is what I want to do, go on and do it. It's been a real pleasure this week to shape a new poem, to see that I can make something with the kind of accessible tone I'd want to read. More of that! Please.

There is a third change, but I have nothing to pin to it. I want to pursue another goal (not writing-related) like the triathlon challenge. I want a particular reason to be outdoors. To run or bike or swim or yoga even when I don't really feel like it. I am lacking in meditative space right now. I feel almost incapable of sitting quietly and resting my mind. It seems the only time that happens is when I'm working really hard, physically. Some writers turn to alcohol. I understand the impulse. One needs to turn to something. One longs for a mind at rest, at ease. I crave the spiritual rootedness that comes from discipline -- and I find discipline in physical effort. It connects me to some part of myself that knows endurance and ambition and suffering, and is rewarded by it. Which probably sounds weird. And isn't exactly the path of least resistance. I'm only half-heartedly committed to that work at present (partly due to being in rehab for the running injury), and I want to reconnect with whole-hearted commitment again. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On poetry and saying you're sorry

who pulled the hair of whom?

I spent the morning working on a poem. One poem. All morning. Here is what I said when Kevin popped in to bring me lunch (yes, he pops in and brings me lunch! and it's hot! can you see why I love having him in charge of childcare/domesticity for the morning?) -- I said, "Why are poems so hard to edit?" Editing a poem is not like editing a story. Every move must be tiny, every word added or taken away a potentially ruinous disturbance to the whole. And so I lifted words with tweezers and tried to humble my way into a few miniature solutions.

And then my children invaded the office. Kevin had gone to work. And someone had pulled someone's hair (I was apparently to judge this problem and demand a sorry from the proper person; an impossible situation as you no doubt appreciate). My "solution" was to grab a few photos to capture the moment. This is not patented parenting advice by any means, but it passes the time. (Can you spot our resident ham?)

And in the end, weirdly, both kids said Sorry. I'm not sure why.

The holiday continues apace.


And here is today's post on The Afterword (my last; sigh): on the motherhood/perfection illusion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Scenes from a break





We've stayed home for March break. Kevin and I are doing our best to split the days so that we both have time to work; this is a blessed change from past holidays when the bulk of the sudden increase in childcare fell directly on me. (I hope to sustain this change, at least in part, over the summer too, and without relying too heavily on camps.) The kids love being at home and doing next to nothing. Add in a few friends, a few sleepovers, and this beautiful spring weather, and home is a pretty happy place to be. Our big outing for the week is going to a matinee movie, planned for tomorrow. Set the bar low and we're all totally excited about this small adventure.


Reminder: I'm reading tonight at Conrad Grebel College, 7pm!

And: Here's a link to my post today on The Afterword, on judging my book by its cover.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rolling, rolling, rolling

I feel like I'm writing a lot about Juliet lately. I apologize. But this blog is an accurate reflection of my life and interests and the way I spend my hours, and truthfully, Juliet is filling up a lot of hours. And a lot of mental space.

Some cliches pop to mind. This too shall pass. Strike while the iron's hot.

It's not every day that I can tell you to go and buy April's Chatelaine magazine. Look for Juliet! She's in there (the review is not available online). And she's in the latest Quill & Quire too. A thoroughly lovely and thoughtful review. There is also today's post up on The Afterword titled "My time in Nicaragua."

So it's busy. It's tumbling me along.

And I'm grateful for getting up early and working as hard as was physically possible this morning in spin class. I'm pretty sure exercise is the answer to some of my questions, and some of my anxiety. It has the effect of transporting me somewhere quite beyond the scribbling scurrying superficial thoughts. It empties and clarifies my mind. I've hit the stage of the publishing process over which I have no control. Let's just say I have some learning to do, yet, in the roll-with-it department. Look at that sky in the photo up above. Those clouds know how to roll with it.


If you're in Waterloo, I should also let you know that I'll be reading tomorrow evening at Conrad Grebel College's series called "Mennonite/s Writing in Canada." 7pm. I'll read something different from what I read at the launch. Books will be available for sale. Hope to see you there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

News plus nostalgia

fake front page from Dec. 8, 2000
fake front page from December 8, 2000

All this week, I am guest editing the Afterword, which is the National Post newspaper's absolutely terrific book blog. Since my first real job was at the National Post in their books section (oh, more than a decade ago now; pre-children and post-grad school), the current books editor, Mark Medley, suggested I write about my time there. Which got me all nostalgic, I must confess. And that is the subject of today's post on the Afterword. More of my posts, on other subjects, will follow throughout the week.

A word on the photo above. When I left the National Post, colleagues in the section surprised me by putting together a fake front page with stories written by them especially to mark the occasion. It was one of the sweetest gifts I've ever received, and of course I framed it to keep forever. Below, a close-up. This photo was taken at a Post party, and it's what I looked like in the fall of 2000. I was in fact pregnant with my first baby, though you can't tell (and yes that is a non-alcoholic beverage in my hand). I just look at this photo and think: so young. (Also: why the turtleneck, young sexy Carrie? Why?)

I look at this photo and it makes me happy.
once upon a time

The week in suppers: mid-March, sigh

making maki
making maki

**Monday's menu** French onion soup over stale baguette slices, with melted cheese.
**Inspiration** This meal was inspired by a stale baguette. However, we had a soup shortage; underestimated appetites. Apparently it was delicious. (I ate leftovers and didn't get a taste.)

**Tuesday's menu** Sweet potato coconut soup. Bread. Cheese.
**A request** Realized, while the kids were preparing to leave for school, that the day was going to be insanely busy and something needed to be tossed into the crockpot. I thought lentils. The kids requested my sweet potato soup instead. I was surprised because I thought they'd be getting sick of it; but I love requests. Apparently it's not to be called "yam" soup, even casually. Yams don't sound as tasty as sweet potatoes.

**Wednesday's menu** Pulled pork on buns.
**Thanks** to Grandma who babysat (and brought a crockpot of food!) while Kevin and I were in Toronto eating Chinese food before the Harbourfront reading.

**Thursday's menu** Mashed potatoes. Mushroom gravy. Kale chips. Fried tofu.
**Plenty of time** Thursdays are the best because I have time to cook (at least with our the most recent schedule; who knows what the spring schedule will bring). That mushroom gravy is fantastic. The kids would agree with me, except for the mushrooms.

**Friday's menu** Ethiopian lentil bowl. Baked rice.
**Leftover surprise?** Nope; there were not quite enough leftovers to anchor Friday's meal and I didn't want to suffer a repeat of Monday's shortages. So I cooked up lentils with tons of garlic instead. The recipe is from Simply in Season and it's delicious and super-easy.


**Weekend kitchen accomplishments** Four loaves of bread. Used the new bread flour, which made light and fluffy loaves; a big improvement on the rustic lumps of the last batch.

making maki
**Cooking with kids** CJ's menu, Fooey's assistance. Sushi, maki, and miso soup. Green tea.
**Overheard from Dad-in-charge** "You're putting your sleeve into the roll again." "I think you should take off that sweater." "You're covered in rice." "There is rice all over the floor." [muttered]: "This would be so much easier without help."
**Guests** In keeping with our attempt to invite guests to dinner at least once a week, we invited three to share in our sushi meal. Together, we devoured 3.5 pounds of sushi-grade salmon, plus rolls made with mango, avocado, and cucumber.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"A very spirited Juliet"

March12 193
this morning's paper

Kevin and I slept in this morning. Indoor soccer season *at 8am for six-year-olds! is finally over. We must have been tired.

When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed, I picked up my phone to check messages. Here is the first one I saw: "Congratulations on your Globe review, Carrie. You're probably going to want to read this one."

Without saying a word, I beelined for the porch, retrieved today's Globe & Mail, flipped through to the Arts section, and to Books. And found my own self-portrait, which my brother tells me has a Zoolander flavour to it (nooooo!). I also found a really solid review of The Juliet Stories. Exhale.

And then Fooey came to see. "I found your name, Mommy!" She tried to sound out the headline: "sp, sp, sp ..." And then Albus asked if he could have the section. It has the funnies in it.

At dinner the other night one of the other writers with whom I was reading said a good review is like a sugar rush. This feels like a caffeine high. I'm not sure it's quite healthy. Don't get me wrong, I am not arguing in favour of bad reviews, not at all. It's that attention of any kind has an unpredictable effect on the human spirit. It's a dangerous flirtation. This may be my Mennonite roots showing. Guarding against vanity; humility of spirit.

But this is a good and happy and out-of-the-ordinary moment in my life.

So on behalf of all Obscure CanLit Mamas out there, I embrace this unsettling rush, with deep appreciation for a continuing dream. My feet are off the ground -- one flash-frozen stride in a long journey.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A smidge of glamour

On Wednesday I took the train to Toronto. Not this train, mind you. This one just happened to be particularly photogenic.

Riding the train is genuinely more glamourous than riding the bus (not that the bus sets the bar very high). I didn't even get sick (which usually happens to me on the bus). I read through the story I planned to read that evening. Tweaked my intro. Took some photos. Wondered where that road might lead. Napped.

My first destination was lunch with blogging friends, two of whom I'd never met in person (though it seemed like we already knew each other), and one who was a friend from grad school -- we hadn't seen each other in a decade. It amazed me how very much she was the same. And I remembered all the reasons I admired her -- and that she was so much fun to be around. (Click on the photo above to get the full picture on Flickr; my importing system crops part of the right side out. And it's such an awesome capture.)

Parenting tip: always bring a children's illustrator along when you're entertaining a child at a lunch that is mostly for adults. (Admittedly not usually an option. Not unless your group of friends happens to include a children's illustrator.) Oh, and these women also all belong to the same book club, which sounds like it might rival my own poetry club for intense conversation (they're called the Vicious Circle, which makes the writer in me quiver with fear and the reader in me quiver with excitement). I could have stayed at this lunch for many hours more. The fries weren't half-bad either. I'm already plotting to go back to Toronto next month, whether or not any offical events get organized. Can I invite myself back? Please?

After lunch I walked south toward my publisher's office, and met a friend at a park nearby. Also from grad school, whom I hadn't seen in over a decade. Her youngest played in the sand while we caught up. No photos. I was slightly cursing the weight of the camera at this point in the adventure.

But I was glad I'd brought it when I met my sister in a coffee shop nearby. The light was beautiful. And isn't she too? It had been years since we'd spent a leisurely afternoon together like that. See, I've got to come back!

At this point, I let the wind blow me to the Anansi offices where I freshened up, and signed books. I saw Sheila Heti coming in, and should have introduced myself (celebrity sighting number one). Kevin texted to say he was nearly there. I left in a hurry and we drove down to Harbourfront together. I changed in the back of the truck in the parking garage. Told you, nothing but glamour. And I applied makeup in a mall bathroom. And then we went to dinner.

There are no photos for awhile. Which I truly regret, because the setting for dinner was nothing if not a photographic opportunity. We sat around a circular table with a mirrored wall on one side and a window on the other, overlooking the water. The sun set while we dined. The sky changed colour. It had been a weirdly warm and windy day, singing of spring. I wish I'd had the audacity to request a photo, though it would have interrupted dinner. I couldn't quite do it. I'm not a photographer, after all, not really.

After supper, we read. I must say that the view from behind the podium at Harbourfront is soothing and quite beautiful. The room is set up with tables, each with a little candle flickering on it, and that is all the reader can see -- these dots of floating light in the darkness. The audience, on the other hand, is looking at a very well-lit reader. And the podium is see-through. So I was glad I'd worn my red shoes, though I did rather wish I could have waved a wand when the show was over and turned them into my comfy old boots.

After reading, we signed books and chatted. And then it all cleared out and got very quiet, and Kevin and I left with an old friend from university (I met her even before grad school). We went for a drink at a fake British pub. Relaxing, still floating on a few bubbles of glamour, laughing, rolling over the day, talking about babies (she has a four-month-old). It was a grand end to the evening. (Again, click on the photo for the full effect.)

And then a funny thing happened. An entire pipe band set up outside the front door of the pub. In full regalia. With drums and everything. And then another funny thing happened. We were berated by a passing gentleman (was he wearing a kilt? I think so) who told us we should be ashamed of ourselves not to be out there listening to the pipes. Apparently he was none other than Glenn Healey, former goaltender and now sports commentator. Celebrity sighting number two. Mr. Healey didn't realize he'd just had his own celebrity sighting. OMG is that Obscure CanLit Mama? Drinking a pint? In her red shoes? Heh. I'm joking. No seriously, I am joking.

We took in the pipes. And then we went home.