Monday, December 31, 2012

On endings

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I've been re-reading old blog posts. The photos are fun, but it's the changes that are most remarkable to see in fast-forward (or fast-rewind).

Consider the post from Monday, May 18, 2009, titled "On Endings," which seems rather appropriate for this last day of 2012. In this post, I'm writing about trying to finish a story, one that would become, in one way another, part of The Juliet Stories. I am amazed by my own resolve under circumstances that look, from this vantage point, very difficult indeed. My youngest was not-quite-fourteen-months. My eldest was not-quite-eight. I was home with the littlest children full-time, and I was finding it trying.  Kevin was recovering from a broken knee. Friends had been bringing us meals (bless you, friends!). We'd had "the barfing thing" four times in four months. I was sleeping sporadically, still nursing at night. I must have been utterly exhausted. No time for exercise, no time even to imagine exercise -- who could get up early after being woken half the night?

And yet, I was writing.

There was no guarantee that what I was writing would become anything anyone would ever want to read, let alone publish, let alone nominate for a major prize. I was writing because I had to write this particular story, in this particular way. I was doing what I had to do, and if there is a lesson in here, it is simply do what you have to do. Don't look for reasons not to do the things you have to do. Come alive. Do! I think that even if that story I was writing had not turned into The Juliet Stories, it would have been worth writing, because it brought me hope, because it gave me space and allowed me to dream.

In the blog post "On Endings" from May, 2009, I reflected on a documentary I'd just seen on the photographer Sally Mann, an artist who was suffering from doubt and set-back -- and yet her art seemed without question worthy and beautiful. How could she doubt?

Here's what I wrote in response:

"There's no telling whether these years of work will this time add up to something of beauty and merit, but I felt a kinship watching her [Sally Mann] struggle, mourn, reflect, create. It's a blessing and curse to want to translate experience into art -- not just to want to, but to do it. The work involved. Working toward an end you can't see until you find it. Will it be whole, or still-born? All the infinitessimal choices along the way that shape the final artifact, that leave you wondering -- why this and not that? So much room for criticism, self and other. There's the artifact created, and the one intended, and the multiple ones that might have been."

Weirdly, I see that her art show was titled "What Remains." I say weirdly because that very nearly became the last line in the epilogue to my book, but we decided to cut it. I'm still not sure about that cut. It's the only one I question and wonder about. This is the ending that almost was: "Tell me, for I need to know. What remains?"

*

I have a million other things I'd like to blog about, here, as we stand on the threshold of a new year. These are all on my mind: Chief Theresa Spence's ongoing hunger strike; the need to protect and cherish the land we live on, the air we breathe, the water we drink; the nihilism of a sub-group of young men, worldwide, who commit acts of terror, from the random-seeming shootings in the United States, to suicide bombers elsewhere, to the violent rape that is moving protestors in India to rise up against a casually misogynist culture. There is more, I know. I wonder, will this be a year in which protest brings about hope and healing? What is my (small) part in creating a more hopeful world? We all long for peaceful communities, whole relationships, happy families. We are imperfect.

We work toward ends we cannot see.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Being here, now

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She actually managed to lose the second of her two front teeth on Christmas day, prompting me to sing the few lyrics I could recall to that joke song from years past. And then we went and lost the damn tooth during the Christmas cleanup. I offered $2 to whomever could locate it, but despite determined looking it was gone. But she had a solution: she wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy. "I loosed my tooth and can't find it. I think the dog eat it." Funny thing is, she'd written a note to Santa the night before, and left it in a box along with a gift for Santa: a photo of herself, several years old, taken with Santa himself. Oh, my heart.

Both Santa and the Tooth Fairy wrote back.

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Yesterday was my birthday. Somehow these things seem to come around with greater frequency than they used to. I spent some time, the night of December 28th, looking through the journal where I write and reflect every "birthday eve." This is a strange year for me. In years past, this has been a time to search my heart, to look ahead with wishes and hopes and anxiety, too, anxious to find my way, hoping to identify new projects that will pull me somewhere else. This year, I feel as though I'm confidently walking a path of my own choosing, and that my only hope is to continue along this way.

I have big plans for this coming year, yes, but the plans are simple, straightforward, and already in motion. Nothing new or high-concept here.

* I've finished a very rough first draft of a new book and will devote my work time to making it into a book worth reading -- and publishing.

* With my friend Tricia, I plan to apply for Canada's version of The Amazing Race, admittedly a long shot, but hey, what's life without the occasional crazy gamble.

* I will continue to squeeze in regular exercise, in whatever forms make sense (ie. solo runs or classes with friends or team sports). Reflecting on those birthday eves past, I find it quite possible to believe that finding my physical self has been the change of greatest significance to my life, in ways both obvious and subtle. It's been a slow and steady process of change that started with a simple yoga class, attended on my birthday three years ago. I truly believe that a well-spring of confidence, energy, and trust bloomed out of that single moment, as I built (and continue to build on) the discovery of my inner athlete:
1. the bliss I felt when I completed races, at distances that had seemed impossible only months before
2. my amazement at my ability to set tough goals and perservere
3. the steadiness of routine that I now rely on to keep my mind open and emptied of clutter
4. the embrace of my competitive spirit -- seeing it as positive (ie. motivating, creative) rather than shameful (ie. grasping, self-promoting)


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So, yesterday, my birthday, was sweet and lovely and low-key. Instead of going to a yoga class, this year I lingered over breakfast, and stayed home and read Pippi Longstocking to my kids. I walked in the snow. I had lunch with a friend. I shopped for some new clothes (ie. the sweater I'm wearing, above), and managed not to buy anything in black, brown, or grey (almost -- there was a little black dress on sale for $11 that I couldn't resist). I arrived home to discover Kevin baking an angel food cake from scratch -- my favourite! The kids sang me happy birthday, I blew out candles, we ate dessert before supper. I drove my daughter to and from swimming.

And then I got dressed up and went out to dinner with Kevin and we splashed out on margaritas, and savoured the loveliness of being right here, right now.

Hello, new year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

My definition of happiness

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Christmas eve elves

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AppleApple discovers something else she'd like to do: learn how to play the cello!

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Settlers of Catan and butter beer

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cousin love

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Santa, with pillow-enchanced profile 

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er, too much butter beer?

Tomorrow is my birthday. I usually get all philosophical right about now. But today I don't feel philosophical. I feel busy. Tired. Happy. Surprised, though I shouldn't be, by the ongoingness of laundry and dishes. And these people I live with keep needing to eat.

We enjoyed four consecutive days of Christmas celebrations with various parts of our extended family, and some friends, too, although my camera didn't make it to every event.

For the record, that's four consecutive Christmas dinners: ham, ham, paella, and turkey.

I embraced the excess, then wondered why I felt so sluggish on yesterday morning's run. Especially because I took Boxing Day morning and did not get out of bed til noon, reading and finishing Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, in one big gulp.

So many late nights. So many second glasses of wine. So much wheat and butter. Why so sluggish?

Yes, really, Carrie, why.

This morning Kevin rented a full indoor soccer field (huge!) so his U12 boys team could practice. AppleApple and I got kitted out in soccer gear and came along. It was 90 minutes of blissful scrimmaging, the boys' team against everyone else -- adults, friends, siblings. AppleApple was the only girl, and I was the only woman, and I'll admit I felt a little intimidated going in. I'm thankful to have joined that team last spring, because all I can say is: soccer ... so fun! It would totally be bragging to mention that I scored the sweetest replay-worthy goal (yes, against 11-year-old boys), but I can't help myself. If only I could score goals like that for my current team. Sadly, we don't play against 11-year-old boys, which is not to malign the skills of the boys, who are actually very good, and made us play hard.

Now Kevin is trying to snag more field time. And I think it would be fun to play on a co-ed team together -- taking our marriage to new places, whilst our knees and hamstrings are still in working order. See, this isn't a dream that can really wait for retirement.

"I wish we could play every day," Kev said, and I had to agree. So that's what we'll do if we ever strike it rich.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This Christmas morning is brought to you by ...

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early morning sticky buns

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stockings

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new Christmas jams/hams (click on photos to see in full)

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doggies' first Christmas (click on photos to see in full)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A taste of the holidays

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does it ruin the scene to know that this cookie recipe came from the back of a Chipits bag?

My nap-dream this morning: I found a beautiful overnight bag in a child's closet. It had so many zippered pockets, and every pocket that I opened was full of small items we'd lost over the years. I didn't want to wake up. It was so satisfying to keep unzipping pockets, reaching in and finding small lost treasures.

In other news, AppleApple has lost her third pair of swim goggles since September.

In other other news, Kevin brushed her hair out this weekend.
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It hadn't been brushed for ages and was looking a wee bit knotted. Turned out the volume and curls and length had been hiding the severity of the situation. It took Kevin two rounds, adding up to about two hours of careful combing.

*

I feel wrong posting about cheerful everyday things. I just need to confess that.

I am heartened by the news that share prices for gun manufacturers have dropped steeply, and that investors, individual and collective, are investigating what they've been supporting, perhaps without the conscious knowledge that they were. We should all do that, you know.

*

Today is the last day to order The Juliet Stories online and receive it before Christmas. But local bookstores, like Waterloo's own Words Worth, will be open all weekend and on Christmas eve. If you're in the neighbourhood and want me to sign a copy especially for somebody, give me a shout. Happy to.

*

The house is quiet. Yesterday we had the first taste of Christmas holidays, with the teachers' one-day-protest keeping the kids home from school. We took in a few extra kids too. Lots of cookies got baked and decorated and eaten. I put the hammer down: no 'lectronics, period. And look what happened:

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little boys watching big boys play Risk (photo better seen in full on Flickr: just click)

Of course, the house was also rendered a complete disaster zone, the full extent of which was only discovered when I was about to put the kids to bed last night. "I know why you won't have time to read to us," said CJ. "Because there are toys all over my bed!" Note to self: organize group cleanup effort before sending friends home. There were bowls of water of one room. Bowls of water, spilling everywhere! This is where creative children will lead you. And I embrace it, if not quite so whole-heartedly at bedtime.

Kevin worked from home yesterday, to help out, but even so, I only managed an hour and a half in front of the computer. But with Scrivener, that hour and a half got used very productively. Why? Because I could pull out an individual scene and work on it. Then I could cross-reference it with another, with ease. I worked on five scenes and finished one. It helps that I have a complete draft in place--not sure how it would feel to start from nothing with this program. Thus endeth today's Scrivener report.

*

Reflecting on my grouchy mood by day's end yesterday, must find strategies, over the real holidays, to counteract and mitigate. Here are some initial thoughts on the subject: a) find alone time, b) exercise and get outside, and c) can't think of a c right now. Listen to beautiful music? Play the piano? Relax with the doggies and Kevin in front of the TV? Bake sticky buns? Hot yoga? Read books?

I found it hard to put CJ on the bus this morning. I was struck with sudden terror as he walked up those steps, his little backpack on his back. But then I made myself step away from the fear.

Love, keep pouring out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dark days

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I took a holiday from electronics over the weekend. The word "electronics," aka 'lectronics, is heard often in our house, and is often a source of conflict, as I, responsible mother, repeatedly refuse my children time on their 'lectronic devices.

Yesterday, driving home from a soccer game, the whole family in the car, the youngest in tears because we weren't watching a movie or letting him play on his brother's Playbook -- during the relatively short car ride -- I had one of my ranting moments, this with the theme "Addicted to Electronics." It's kind of like a Ted talk, only unedited, and interactive.

"But what about all the time you spend on Facebook, and doing your blog, and writing?" my eldest pointed out. "What about email? And you have your Blackberry that you're always checking."

So we drew some lines. Games and Facebook are kind of the same thing: entertainment. Email/texts are, for me, and for better or for worse, like the telephone; they connect me to friends and family. Writing and blogging can be useful and creative. "If you want to write a story on the computer, I will make sure you have a computer to use," I said. "But an hour of wii-time on Saturday and Sunday seems like enough."

I don't want to ban 'lectronics from our lives. I want us to use them in ways that are positive, that don't cause conflict, and that don't prevent us from exercising our brains and collective selves in non-'lectronic creative ways.

This is what passes for family meetings these days. I actually think it was a fairly effective conversation, by the end. I had my rant, the kids got to counter with their arguments, and we all finally agreed that Facebook and computer games needed to be limited, but that there are occasions when 'lectronics are useful tools.

*

I've spent the weekend in a kind of hibernation. I'm sick, but functioning, up all night coughing, slogging through during the day. "How can I feel so yucky, and still rock a 10 kilometre run?" I asked Kevin on Friday night. I took two extra-strength Tylenol and ran for fifty minutes at soccer yesterday -- our team had no subs. I felt terrific during the game; chilled and feverish afterward. I'm a believer that exercise is curative. But I still feel sick.

I don't think my electronic hibernation this weekend was about feeling sick, though. I think it was about the latest shooting in the United States. I didn't hear about it until late Friday afternoon. I'd spent all day setting up my new book in Scrivener, cut off from the world, marvelling at this brand-new-insanely-useful tool, feeling like I could have happily chained myself to my desk for the next three months and just lived in my imaginary world. Which isn't practical. So at around 4pm, I turned it off to get ready for our complicated Friday evening ritual, which involves a carshare car, a picnic, soccer equipment, and me in running gear.

But first I checked Facebook.

And then I saw the news. And then the news was all I could see or think about or handle, except I couldn't handle it. Fury and rage. That was my gut response. The thought that these weapons are legally obtainable. The thought, maybe, that these weapons even exist. Tell me why we need them. Why does anyone on earth need a gun that can rapid-fire hundreds of rounds of deadly ammunition? And if you think you need something like that, I'm pretty sure that should disqualify you from getting access to it. As I ran, sick and sad and furious, on Friday night, I thought, this could be my hill. This could be where I take my stand. But I drove home, alone, weeping so hard that I had trouble seeing the road ahead.

How to pick one hill? I feel a familiar sinking. The injustices and wrongs and evils are too numerous to list, let alone to comprehend. Child soldiers, dictatorships, unsafe factories where people work like slaves so we can buy our clothes for cheap, repression, rape, self-interest, tar sands, money and the lack of it and the greedy excess of it, drones, refugees in Canada denied health care, hunger even right here in our very own wealthy country. Is evil ordinary or extraordinary? Can it ever be contained? What is the meaning of safety and security? What is the meaning of prosperity? How can I do no harm? Or even just do less harm? How can I help.

This is the darkest time of the year. The holidays at this time of year celebrate the coming of light, and all that that means.

I don't know that I know what it means.

These are the words that come to me: Pour out your love, you won't run out.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The six-minute post that took ten minutes

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terrible phone photo of a beautiful child, on our Saturday morning date

Uh oh. Only six minutes to post today. Must have taken a longer nap after spin & kettlebells.

I have lots of little things to comment on. Don't know why I need to comment on them in public, on the blog, but if there's one rule about blogging it's don't question why you're blogging. Or else you probably wouldn't. So, on the off chance that someone else out there is interested too, here's what's on my mind.

* My friend Tricia and I are plotting how to become contestants on Canada's The Amazing Race. We're dead serious and both of us are FAIRLY COMPETITIVE, to put it mildly. And we both love racing -- we've raced together twice, and once I beat her, and once she beat me, and both times, both of us were convinced the other made us run/bike way faster than we could have gone on our own. I'd give us good odds. If only we can crack the audition challenge.

* Shoot, that puts me at two minutes. Six minutes is not enough time for a quick post.

* Advent calendar activity today: "It's in your writing, Mom, so I can't read it."
"It says 'Eat supper by candlelight.'"
"Oh."
"We could breakfast by candlelight, maybe."
"But I like the lights."
"Hey, I brought home a cake from the book club I visited last night -- how about we'll change it to 'Eat cake by candlelight.'"
"Cake for supper! This is the best!"

And that's my time. I'm sure there were more thoughts, but I'm going to pour them into the house I'm building out of words, which is getting pretty solid. I had hopes of completing the draft before Christmas, and then giving myself Scrivener as a birthday gift, and learning how to use it over the holidays before digging into the second draft. Wait. Why did I put that in the past tense? I still have hopes!

* Kevin is attending CJ's nursery school Christmas concert this morning specifically so that I don't have to and can write the book instead, AND I turned down a freelance gig this week specifically so that I could keep working on the book, and so I am signing off to enjoy the luxury of a writing day. Waste not, want not.

Agh. That's nine minutes. Maybe a ten-minute post is all I can realistically pare myself down to. Good to know.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The ten-minute post

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Haircut, Monday evening, while waiting for the hot chocolate to cool, because, as always, "This hot chocolate is too hot!"

I wasn't going to blog this morning, but I'm operating so efficiently that I genuinely believe I can write and post this in ten minutes (which is the time I'm allotting towards it). I have already been for a run (with a friend, in the dark, and oh it's dark these mornings, which is why you'll see me wearing a headlamp, even though I discovered it left a funny mark on my forehead this morning). I have a soup simmering in the crockpot. I got the kids up, dressed, fed, and off to school by myself, as Kevin headed off early to Toronto (thankfully he walked the dogs before he left, that might have been the straw for my this morning). I've had a nap. I've eaten breakfast! I just made a fresh pot of coffee.

I'm going to spend the day writing.

But I did want to report back re sad neglected advent calendar. Monday ended on a high: I put slips of paper into each empty pocket. I was so excited to tell the kids when they got home from school: check the calendar!

Monday's activity? "Look at photo albums."

"Oh! I just did that!" said Fooey. (Yes, that's what gave me the idea, thought I. The photo albums were still out.)

Yesterday's activity: "Write our family Christmas letter."

Which AppleApple and I accomplished in an hour of manic productiveness after swimming, while the little kids got their own snacks and brushed their own teeth (Kevin and Albus were at soccer). Now comes the hard part: printing and sending. If you think you're not on our list and you'd like to be added to our list (where is our list? note to self: find!), you are welcome to send me your address via email.

Today's activity: "Wear red and green." (Because today is "green" day in CJ's "big school" classroom and I didn't want to forget.)

I can't remember what tomorrow's is. But trust me, all of the activities are extremely low-key, or things I'd already planned to do. For those more ambitious, a friend sent me a link to this Pinterest page with advent activities that are, admittedly, quite do-able, but kind of overwhelm me with their impossible enthusiasm nevertheless.

Time's up. Enjoy your Wednesday, whatever it is you're doing today. (Just noticed that I'm not wearing red or green ...)


Monday, December 10, 2012

Carrie v. Monday

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This is what I feel like doing today.

Instead, I am having one of those exquisitely Mondayish days. And Monday is winning. Damn you, Monday! The hours are cruising past while I blither away at apparently endless and infinitely finicky odds and ends that must be done somehow by someone and soon. I'm telling you, spreadsheets are involved.

"This is the most disappointing advent we've ever had," said one of the children this morning.

And I'll admit, I have not found a good way to fill those little slots with daily seasonal activities, despite having an envelope full of ideas in my office. We had the "candy cane meltdown" last week, wherein a slip of paper promised candy canes we proved not to have. We've had way too much hot chocolate for breakfast. The Christmas decorations never got made. The snowflakes for the front window did, but remain as clutter on the dining-room table. And for the past two mornings, the children have found nothing in their advent calendar. Nothing. Serious seasonal fail.

I should at least write on a slip of paper, "Make toast!" or "Pet the dogs!" I think the kids would prefer that over nothing. They might even prefer to imagine that we're going to do activities that I know in advance we won't have time for, such as "Bake cookies!" or "Go skating!"

All of which is to say that this Monday finds me quite entirely overwhelmed by the details of the season. Who has bought gifts for whom? What's our budget? What's happening when? Can we split childcare over the holidays? Is everyone happy? Will everyone be happy? I know, I do, that it will all come together, and that the time I've spent today will help make it so, but oh, this is tedious.

Meanwhile, the novel waits patiently (or maybe not so patiently; I'm pretty sure the novel has the bit in its 210-pages-of-teeth and is begging me to gallop for the finish line. But listen, novel, we'll just have to go back to the beginning and start the race all over again, so, really, what's your hurry?). I hear, from a novelist much more experienced than I am, that I should look into Scrivener, a program that helps keep track of all the book's bits and pieces. Unlike Word, which makes me feel like I'm composing one insanely long drawn-out thought that may have completely gone off the rails way back when and is missing several dozen terribly important pieces but I can't stop now and must simply forge ahead til I reach the end. Writers out there -- thoughts? (Also, it occurs to me that I could really use a Scrivener-like-program to organize my entire life. Talk about bits and pieces.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pulling teeth

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Creative discomfort. I'm in the throes right now. I am sitting with problems yet unsolved within in a book partially written, and it's agonizing, I'll admit. But it is also part of the process -- no, it's critical to the process -- and the book I want to write cannot be completed without the discomfort, the discordances, the anxiety, the wish to be done with it combined with the knowledge that only patience will bring relief.

It's been an intense writing week, in an intense writing month, as I lay down the bones and structure for this book begun many months ago. I'm desperate to finish building an arc from end to end. I'm close. But I can't guess how close. Am I days, weeks, or still many months from creating a solid first draft? I imagine myself, with a pleasantly whole (if drafty) draft completed, marching back through these rooms to carve all the fancy parts, the elaborations, to paint the walls, and fill the closets, and scatter things on the floor. To make messy and lived-in what is yet quite bare and sparse. This book feels like a house. Which makes perfect sense because it is, in part, inspired by a house I once lived in.

I sometimes say that The Juliet Stories took six years to write, but it would be more accurate to say that The Juliet Stories took six years to get right. The actual writing of the actual stories in the finished book came in bursts and jags. Some required much rewriting. All needed polishing. Some of the best came quickly and suddenly from nowhere I could have imagined before sitting down and discovering them.

The whole of it looked messy and incomplete for a very very very long time.

How to live in a messy and incomplete house? A house that hasn't got a roof yet, but that is already ghosted by characters? They wander too, wondering what I'll build for them, wondering where I'll arrange them, and why.

On Wednesday, the little kids and I finished reading Little House in the Big Woods. So last night we moved on to Little House on the Prairie. The Big Woods have become too crowded and busy for Pa's liking. The little path in front of their log house is almost a road, now, and almost every day Mary and Laura stop their play to watch with surprise as a wagon passes by. One wagon a day is too many for Pa. So he builds his own wagon, and as Ma "does not object," the family says goodbye to the little house in the big woods of Wisconsin and sets off for the less-populated West.

CJ was almost in tears at the loss of the cozy little house. Would Mary and Laura ever see their grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles again? (I think the answer is: no.) He couldn't bear the thought. And I felt the pain, too, as if it were happening to us: the early dark of a March morning, the goodbyes of family, the emptied house which can't see them go because its windows are shuttered.

They never saw that little house again, writes Laura.

What do I hold onto? Why? What do I think I could not bear to let go of? How rooted is our family, here? We feel so very rooted, such a goodbye seems impossible to imagine.

I just finished reading Alison Pick's Far to Go, which I highly recommend. It ends with a reflection on how swiftly the world we think we know can fall to pieces. I don't know whether it is this present state of creative discomfort, or this dark season before the coming of the solstice, but right now I am keenly attuned to the off-kilterness in our larger world with too many sadnesses and wrongs to list here, except to say that so many of them seem caused by greed, and by the hunger of the now.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The wish list edition, with bonus fashion statement

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CJ's big problem: He doesn't want to wear snow pants because they make his pants slide up his leg. And it's snowing! And we're late for the bus!

Mama's quick solution: Tuck pants into socks, and we're good to go.

But Mama wonders, will the kid figure out how to tuck his pants in again at school? After all, he has to dress himself in snow clothes for two recessess, plus coming home after school.

Apparently, Mama needn't have worried. He knew what to do! He just wore them tucked in all day long. Like this. Yep. It's a good look.

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*

Today's post is all about practicalities. Sorry, folks. I'm going to post my kids' Christmas wish lists here. If you're an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, you may find these interesting, even helpful. If you're anyone else, please accept my apologies, and check back tomorrow instead.

Albus's Christmas list (spelling uncorrected)
1. cappachino maker (he saw it advertised in a catalogue, and here is what he told us: "I'll just make decaf cappuchinos ... or espressos." I'm not endorsing his idea, but I had to leave it on the list, because, seriously, what 11-year-old asks for a cappuchino-maker?!)
2. Krave breakfast cereal
3. Crunchie chocolate bar
4. Settelers 'o' cantan (I think he means the board game Settlers of Catan, which even I can't spell)
5. Lego minifigures (stocking stuffers: Santa will take care of this)
6. i-pod nano or i-pod-touch
8. Skylanders Giants figures: Whirlwind, Bash, Prism break, Wrecking ball, chop chop, Hex, fright rider, Stealth elf, Flame, Slinger, Sonic Boom (don't ask me what all this means)
9.
There is no ninth request, but he wrote the number down, just in case.

AppleApple's Christmas List (adapted from her birthday list)
-puzzle books
-doggy costume (ie. for the dogs)
-hat
-jeans
-apricot
-blood orange
-grapes
-kiwi
-pomegranite
-dragon fruit
-grape fruit
-papaya
-snake book
-mango
-mittens
-snow pants (size 10)
-horse books
-Fantasy books
-shakespeare plays (she has Romeo and Juliet already)
-chocolate


Fooey's Christmas List
- Maplelea doll items: bed, wardrobe, hangers, prima ballerina, Katajjaq Giggles
- Lego friends
- i-pod touch
- Books
- Chocolet
- journel
- snow kitten writing set or snuggle puppy writing set (these may be Scholastic order items)
- Doodle journel
- my perfect puppy (?)
- Skylanders fugeirs like: Ninijni

x-mas list for CJ (transcribed by Albus)
1. Lego Star Wars
2. Playmobiel Pyrates (oh, the spelling, Albus, the spelling!) (pretty sure that means "pirates")
3. Lego set with Iron man
4. Batman lego "the butcave" (surely Albus mean to write "batcave")
5. Skylander feguers like: double trouble, trigger happy, bash, hot dog, pop fizz, and zap, thumpback, spyro (again with the Skylander figures! Hats off to those *&%^^ing wii marketers, whoever they may be, for sucking in three out of four of my children.)

I will just add, although not on every list, that books, puzzles, games, crafts, and creative off-the-wall toys are always welcome, and will please the children too. And I'm not just saying that!

*

Should I make a Christmas/birthday wish list? Ah heck, why not.
- books or gift certificate to WordsWorth
- clothes or gift certificate to Andie's (my favourite shop uptown)
- tea
- exercise clothes or gift certificate to Studio Energi
- there must be more, but I'm blanking. No Skylander figures (or figeuers, or figeirs, or even figrers) for me, please.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Attention: Minor profound thought ahead

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This is a perfect writing day.

Rainy, grey, dark, gloomy. No pull to go outside or run errands in the sunshine (not that the pull is very strong for me anyway, when I'm on a writing roll). I woke from my post-spin-class cat-nap to the sound of heavy rain on the roof. That sound makes me feel content, dreamy, and ever so slightly guilty for sending my children off to school without umbrellas or rain jackets. I'm their weather girl. And apparently I'm good at maintaining the long-standing weather-person tradition of totally wrong forecasts. I should get a green screen and a pointer, and do my hair and makeup.

Attention: Minor profound thought of the day coming right up.

Writing fiction is not a responsive job. In a responsive job, you show up with your talents and skills, and respond to the needs presented to you. Your schedule, also, responds to other people's needs. I imagine this could be very satisfying: here is a need being treated by my specific skills. I sometimes fantasize about having the skills to do work like that.

I don't, really. (Although I could, perhaps, find a job as a copy editor or a creative writing teacher, given my current skill set.)

Writing fiction is quite different. I'm going to call it an originating job. In an originating job, you set your talents and skills to projects of your own devising, and hope to heck that others will connect with what you're doing, and see value in it. The work (and the schedule) is self-directed. If I want anything exciting to happen, I must make it happen. I must see what could be, believe in it, and bring it about. I must pursue my goal against inevitable headwinds of creative dissonances and deeply uncomfortable emotions: doubt and uncertainty caused by a lack of exterior motivation. No one needs a book. (If I break my arm, I need a doctor; but a book of fiction answers no such direct need.) Being a fiction writer can feel excruciatingly meaningless. Completely unnecessary. It's quite easy to go from wondering, can I do this, to why am I doing this?

That is why Wild Optimism is a huge part of my every day existence. The belief that I have something to say. The desire to express it. The sheer chugging energy that fires me toward an end. That is also why sometimes I am tired and weary, and I fantasize about people calling me up and begging to pay me pots of money to write books for them! That is why I fantasize, too, about doing other work, where I could walk into a room and respond to a need, immediately. I long for a different skill set, sometimes, or an enhanced and deeper skill set.

But I love the freedom and seemingly endless possibilities that come from doing an originating job.

Attention: No conclusions shall be drawn today.

I'm meeting Kevin for lunch tomorrow, to brainstorm and discuss our future plans, big and small. I'm sure we'll have all the answers by tomorrow afternoon. Well ... at least we'll have a lunch date together.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Random fact: I got hit on the head with a soccer ball

Random facts.

My hair looks good this morning. So far, the only people aside from family to have seen it have been the school bus driver (who wears a knitted toque himself) and a man walking a dog (which sniffed me; dog, not man).

The school bus was late this morning.

I didn't eat breakfast until after doing the dishes I should have done last night.

I was too tired to do dishes last night, or even to function as a responsible parent, and instead fell into a deep sleep on the couch while my children entertained themselves in the new Lego play area. Bits of their play drifted into my dreams. I swear they've got a game going on right now that involves taxation for the benefit of the greater good. CJ wasn't keen to pay his taxes. This caused problems. (Meanwhile, Kevin took the dogs on a car-ride to pick up a child who'd been at a birthday party playing laser tag, much to the envy of her military-minded brothers, who bring me to grief regularly with their battle play. War is not a game! I feel this deeply! And yet my boys -- yes, boys only -- take great pleasure in imagining themselves blasting imaginary opponents with imaginary weaponry. Is this play harmless? Inexcusable? Inevitable? A necessary fantasy? Related to their genitalia? This aside is getting way too long, but I want to add an aside to my aside, and ask: Are humans hard-wired to desire conflict? Is conflict itself a kind of fantasy that helps us escape from the boredom of our adult responsibilities?)

Um. Where was I?

I did get hit on the head with a soccer ball yesterday. I meant to head the ball, which is not my favourite thing to do as I am a bit protective of my brain, and in my fraction-of-a-second hesitation was instead hit upon the head with the ball, which is not the same thing at all.

Also, we lost.

But my teammates have found out that I'm a writer, and one of them had actually heard of The Juliet Stories!!! Because someone at her book club had recommended it!! Which is really quite thrilling because it means the book is making noise enough to get through to new readers! And that is all an obscure CanLit writer can really hope for. (Maybe it helps that The Juliet Stories has been noted on end-of-year-best-of lists in The Globe & Mail, the National Post, and K-W's own The Record? Do people shop off these lists? Do you? Do I?)

Driving home after my soccer game, I wondered, am I more fuzzy-headed than usual? But it was hard to tell whether it was ball-on-head-induced fuzziness or up-before-dawn-driving-all-day fuzziness. My big girl had a swim meet on the east side of Toronto, which required us to be poolside at 8 in the morning. She is not a morning person. She also gets carsick.

It was raining. The trip was by turns exciting (when we picked up coffee and bagels for breakfast from the sweet-smelling City Cafe Bakery on our way out of town), uneventful (safe driving), and tedious (nothing on the radio; aforementioned carsickness).

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She won both of her heats.

I missed seeing the second one because I was chatting with a dad sitting next to me, whose daughter happened to be in the same heat, so we shared the parent-guilt equally. (Random fact: I enjoy chatting with people I will never see again.)

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Anyway, AppleApple and I decided to skip her last race of the morning because it meant we could just make it to her soccer game in nearby Mississaugua. Her team won. I observed several girls heading the ball properly. We were then home in time for me to change and get back into the car to drive to my soccer game.

All of this activity involved way too much driving. I found myself making up the lyrics to a sunny little song: "I'm driving all day in my car / it's really not that hard." Sitting in the driveway, back home again, I felt this strange attachment to the car, as if it had become a cocoon world of slightly stale bagels and cold coffee and radio talk, temperature controlled, seat-adjustable. I didn't want to go anywhere else. But I didn't really want to get out.

Eventually I did. And then, it must be said, I really really didn't want to get back in again.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Today, Saturday

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Wake to a winter wonderland.

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Date with daughter: Starbucks and errands uptown. Such a good start to the day, I'm thinking every Saturday morning should begin with a date with one of my kids. Albus calls the next one.

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Advent begins. "Mom is so freaky organized she's got an envelope in her office with advent activities!" (This is true. I just put them away from last year's calendar, knowing the season would come around before we knew it. And here it is. Looks like we had a lot "hot chocolate for breakfast" last year.)

Today's activity: Get a tree!

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Uh oh. First we have to clean up the gigantic Lego living-room mess.

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Good opportunity to create a new Lego playspace upstairs instead. Buy small area carpet while shopping for the tree, which comes in a box. Yes, we bought a tree in a box.

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Tree-in-box was family decision: it's economical and reusable. And it's not like we've been hiking out to our back forty and chopping down an adorable and unique tree replete with picturesque memories that the children will carry with them forever. No, for the past couple of years, following some truly disastrous never-again hiking-around-tree-farm-experiences, we've purchased our tree in a Dairy Queen parking lot. So, really ...

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Also this afternoon: big kids had their second babysitting gig (he's the other curly head in the foreground).

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And now it's dark, and we still haven't had supper. Kevin and the boys are out picking up a take-out Thai order. I've got a very hungry and grumpy child curled in the rocking chair beside me, and another trying to solve a sudoko puzzle at the dining-room table (and she's stuck on something, from the sounds of it). Also crossed off the list today: fresh sheets for everyone, tons of laundry, library run, creative Shakespeare presentation completed, and -- still in the works -- bread baking.

Hey, food's here! As Fooey says, "Let's eat! Let's eat!"