Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter weekend

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We went for an off-road run / hike this afternoon, just the two of us.
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There was still snow and ice on the trail, and also chilly water, and mud, and slippery leaves. We forgot to bring her puffer, and she had some trouble on the hills. We are still getting used to her having asthma. But we ran for 7 kms, stopping to stare at the whirling water in the rising creek, and to look at Canada geese on this flooded area, and to listen to the cars zooming by on the nearby highway. Urban parkland.
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We saw almost no one. We had so much fun. If it had been up to her, we would have stayed for another hour, at least, exploring along every little off-shoot of trail. "Your companion, unfortunately, is a 38-year-old woman," I said, diverting her from another attempt to run off-off-road. "You should have come with another 10-year-old." "Oh, If I'd come with a 10-year-old, we'd already be wading in the creek!" she said.

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When I saw this photo from yesterday, I thought for a second it was me.
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Nope, it's her. Behind her, wearing her goalie jersey, is her big brother, who was playing in his very first rep game ever yesterday (with Kevin coaching). Nerves, and excitement. I've really got to tone it down on the sidelines, however. I'm just shouting encouragement, but apparently it's embarrassing. "Is this what you sound like at my games?" AppleApple asked (she is not usually on the sidelines). "Um ... yes ..." "Oh." [with feeling]

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We didn't make any plans for today. The rarest of days. I baked paska, which is a Russian-Mennonite Easter bread. My family background is Swiss Mennonite rather than Russian Mennonite, a detail of significance to very few, I'm sure, but the thing is that the Russian Mennonites have really yummy food traditions (sorry, Swiss ancestors!), so I've borrowed. This is my friend's Mom's recipe, which has the instructions: "sticky, not gluey." It's somewhat vague on details. I probably added too much flour this year, but last year the dough was sticky AND gluey, and turned out crumbly. This year's looks good. We'll be taste-testing it for dessert. Apparently it's best sliced and covered with a big slather of icing, so I made extra.

Finally, here is what everyone is doing right now: (not pictured, Kevin doing the dishes, me blogging).
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Doses of happy

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It's Birthday Eve at our house, a holiday Fooey claims to have invented. Birthday Eve means one among us is on the eve of his birthday. And we take photos to mark the occasion, but that's about it.

"We won't have a sweet little four-year-old after tomorrow," I said to Kevin.

"But you'll have a sweet little five-year-old," CJ anxiously reassured me.

Won't we, just?

::

Kevin just texted to tell me he'd seen AppleApple and her class running by from their excursion to the library this morning. Meanwhile, I'd received an emailed check-out notice from the library with the following titles:

You have checked out the following item(s):
TITLE




Prescription for herbal healing / Phyllis A. Balch



TITLE



Homegrown remedies / Anne McIntyre. --




TITLE




Healing with herbs / Penelope Ody ;




TITLE




Healing tonics : 101 herbal concoctions to




TITLE



Home herbal : cook, brew & blend your own



TITLE



Medicinal plants of the world : an illustrated

Fascinating, huh. AppleApple is planning a science project on herbal medicine. Coincidentally, this dovetails with one of the subjects in The Girl Runner, so she might find her mother taking notes.

I love the smallness of the world, sometimes. The magic of connections.

::

Michael Ondaatje's Bookmark
Speaking of connections, did you know there's a registered charity in Canada devoted to marking famous places in Canadian fiction? For real. It's called Project Bookmark, and it's the invention of writer Miranda Hill (side note: I'll be reading with Miranda next Sunday at GritLit in Hamilton).

Project Bookmark is launching a month of fundraising with a creative twist: every day in April there will be a prize draw for that day's donors. Each day is sponsored by a "reading personality," who is offering up a prize of his or her own devising. Personalities include Margaret Atwood and Shelagh Rogers, so a mere $20 could get you something pretty unique and amazing.

Sounds like it's been a helluva lot of work to organize, and I'm hoping Project Bookmark reaps the benefits. I love the idea of marking out our literary landscape, grounding the imaginary in the real, and inviting us to consider how the two interact. I also like imagining where I would place a Bookmark. And thinking about the real places that inhabit my imaginary worlds -- or is it the other way round? Do my imaginary worlds inhabit real places?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A few awesome things

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1. Children washing dishes. This will look like bragging, but trust me, it happens far too rarely for the parents to claim superior parenting skills. Basically, the dish-washing child was inspired by the promise of a "reward" after all the evening chores were done -- watching old family movies together. I had laundry to fold, Kevin was making school lunches, so Fooey decided, all on her own, to speed up the chore process by doing the dishes. Actually, neither Kevin nor I thought she could do them quite so thoroughly, but she did. She washed all the dishes. And her brother was inspired to "towel," as he put it. We should put this knowledge to use, and we may, if the schedule becomes as insanely busy as it promises to be next fall, but for now, I prefer just to enjoy the moment for what it was: kids working together toward a common cause, helpfully.

2. Spring! It's coming. I know it. Evidence surrounded us yesterday evening as the little kids and I took the dogs for a walk to our tiny neighbourhood park. Along the way we met friends, and more friends, and even more friends, everyone feeling the call of the after-supper sunshine, despite the bitter wind and necessity for hats and mitts and coats. We spent an hour out and about, visiting, playing, and remembering what it feels like to emerge from hibernation and be in the beautiful melting world again. Yes, snow is forecast for today, but I can feel the spring. I can feel it!

3. Dogs. Dogs are awesome. Our dogs are especially awesome, because, well, they're ours, I suppose. They've been part of our family for a little over six months, now, and we have watched them settle in to our lives and claim our house and yard as their own (we've got a winter's worth of clean-up work to do out back, but that's another story). Without the dogs to walk, I never would have left supper on the table and spent an hour outside yesterday evening -- instead, I would have been cleaning up and prepping for tomorrow and herding children toward bed. But because the dogs needed walking, I set aside all of my perceived efficiencies and off we went on a discovery of spring and neighbours and fresh air. And you know what? The dishes still got done, the piano got practiced, snacktime was had, chapters were read before bed, and kids fell asleep. So it all worked out, with the added bonus that I was a happier woman for having gotten outside and socialized. So thank you, dogs.

4. Letter writing. An edited version of my letter, which I posted on the blog yesterday, appears in today's Globe and Mail "letters to the editor" section. So it touched a nerve, and got through. I'm pleased. Now, when do I get my own column? After my (embarrassingly brief) retirement from blogging, two blog readers emailed suggesting I pitch myself as a columnist to a magazine or other news outlet. I can think of lots of obstacles in the way, one being that I would need a unique angle. Another obstacle is in my own head: it's one thing to hold an opinion and quite another to state it out loud and take responsibility for the noise it creates. Disagreement, conflict, tension, debate. Would that be something I'd be open to? Am I less open to it because I am a woman? That bothers me, and I wonder. And now I'm off-topic.

5. Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon. It's the little things.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life is bigger

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the view from my keyboard

Life is unsteady. It doesn't hold still.

That's why I get up early and hold to a practice.

I will have to find a way to do this no matter what comes, no matter how busy and disrupted my days. I need to run. Or swing weights. Or cycle. Or push myself physically in some way. My joy and my productivity is directly connected to my body. I can't think myself content, but I sure as hell can feel it.

My thought today as I ran on the indoor track was that I was running myself into submission. But wait, I thought, I'm running myself free, not into submission. Because even on the indoor track, I could feel wind in my hair, and my heart beating, and my breath coming deep and fast and sure. And then I realized that it was my mind that needed to submit to my body, so that my body could experience freedom. The further I run, the faster I run. This is probably backward to most people's experience of running (or maybe it's not!?). I think it's because it takes time for my mind to empty and hush and stop doubting or worrying. And then comes focus and clarity of effort.

::

Do you remember the REM song, "Losing My Religion"? A tiny snippet from that song is stuck in my head.

"Life is bigger ..."

I keep hearing it. I pay attention when a song lyric is stuck in my head, because it often tells me where I'm at. (Except for when it's telling me that in spin class this morning the instructor played "Hangover" by Taio Cruz and, no, I don't have a hangover, and if I did, I wouldn't have been in spin class, Taio!)

Life is bigger. It fits where I'm at. It means, for me, this constant effort to make space for more. More emotion, more spirit, more connections, more newness, while also opening myself and my imagination to the possibilities of what I can learn and make and do. It can feel disorienting to ask others to give you the chance to try the things you want to try, and to step toward the things you want to do, but aren't yet expert in. It's like being asked to play a new position on the soccer field. It's like learning how to swim as an adult. If you believe you can, you will trust your ability to build on everything you've experienced that's brought you to this point, and you will simply and willingly do your best.

You won't be the best goalie. And you won't be the best swimmer. At least not immediately. But you'll be on the field, or in the water, and that is the only way to learn.

Life is bigger.

::

Finally, this. I'm an inveterate writer of letters (not unlike Juliet, who writes to Ronald Reagan in one of my favourite stories in The Juliet Stories). Here is the letter I felt inspired to write and send today, to the editors of The Globe and Mail newspaper, who somehow managed not to highlight on the front page the most inspiring news story I've heard in a long time (note: they did print a story and photo several pages into the front page section.)

To the editors,

The Globe and Mail newspaper's front page editors would like to show me that Tiger Woods, who cheated famously and serially on his former wife, and who is not a Canadian citizen at least to my knowledge, is back on top again. Oh, and that the Prime Minister of Canada met with what looks like a Fed Ex-ed panda yesterday.

Meanwhile, a group of young people from Northern Quebec completed an epic 1,500 km walk during which they hiked and snowshoed and camped through weather more extreme than most Canadians have ever experienced, ending their journey yesterday in Ottawa, at Parliament Hill, in hopes that their efforts might bring attention to the needs of their communities.

But, you know, I can totally see how Tiger Woods and pandas would make a better illustration to sum up yesterday's news. Especially when Canadians are so bombarded with positive images and stories of native youth. And besides, such a photo on the front page of a national newspaper might remind us of our collective agreements and responsibilities toward all the people who live in Canada, including those who were here first, and put us off at breakfast, and make us feel guilty. And that would be sad for Globe and Mail readers.

Or maybe we would have felt inspired, who knows. Maybe you should try a whole lot harder, dig a whole lot deeper, and show us what really matters to Canadians.

Yours, Carrie Snyder
Waterloo, ON

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Messy weekend report

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(click on photos to see in full)

Among our many activities this weekend, AppleApple performed at Beckettfest yesterday afternoon. Her little sister came along for moral support, making this an all-girl outing. Kev stayed home and cleaned. It takes a team. AppleApple also spent yesterday morning swimming 5,000 metres (yup, that's 5 kilometres) in a swim-a-thon to raise money for her swim team. I think she earned her donations. Good grief. I've never swum that far, nor that long--have you? She did most of the swim in back crawl, which is her favourite stroke.

In other news, I spent most of yesterday groaning every time I bent down to pick something up. That just meant kundalini class on Friday night was a success.

Also in other news, we were treated to a tacofest supper with friends yesterday evening, who, I'm grateful to report are quite loud themselves and were therefore not overwhelmed by the noise and energy our family generates in these situations. We don't get a lot of bring-the-whole-family dinner invitations. Just sayin'. So kudos to those brave enough to invite us in. (Come to think of it, Kevin and I used to be more deliberate about inviting friends / family for meals, and that's fallen off in the past while; I should do something about that. Sharing meals with friends is such a good way to spend an evening).

I capped off the night with poetry book club where a peaty Irish whisky was served and we all laughed a lot. The big kids even got a babysitting gig out of the event.

This morning, Kev took AppleApple to her out-of-town soccer game -- the last of the winter season!
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I stayed home and did: dishes, laundry, vacuuming, got yogurt going (that's what's in the towel-covered cooler in the photo above), and started bread (that's what's in the towel-covered bowl on the counter). I did not attempt to clear the breakfast bar, also pictured above. And in the foreground, we see a child holding a dog which has been dressed in a bikini, with several dog-babies stuffed in. So, you know, just the usual morning.

I have a soccer game in an hour. And plots and plans bubbling in my brain. And a book on the history of midwifery in Ontario to read in my spare minutes.

And dust mites to battle. (That's one to your left. Looks out of this world, doesn't it? It has recently been discovered that AppleApple suffers from an allergy to said mites. It has also been discovered that she almost certainly has asthma. We're pretty sad about that. The good news is that she doesn't appear to be allergic to the dogs. The other good news is that vacuuming apparently has no effect on the presence of dust mites, so I don't have to feel guilty about how infrequently we manage the task. Even with a team effort).

Friday, March 22, 2013

Practice

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What is practice?
It is daily. It is intentional. It can change. It needs to meet you where you are.
Practice is work. You do it even when you don't feel like it.
Practice is patient, even if you are not.
Pratice adds up, it builds on its own forceful persistence. It cannot but change you, for doing it, so be sure that you are practicing what you wish to practice.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What our family does with its spare time

If you read all the way to the end of this post, I will show you what our family does with its spare time. (You're skipping down already, aren't you?) Well come back up for some writing-related news.

1. I have an essay in this moving anthology on pregnancy, parenthood and loss. This is just a teasing preview, as it won't be published until the fall, but I wanted to share the news. I will let you know all about launch party plans when the time comes.

This publication will mark my entry into non-fiction and memoir, which is a departure for me, but may be the start of a new direction.

More to come.

2. You may not know that I'll be coming to Hamilton, wearing my writer hat. I'm reading at GritLit, Hamilton's literary festival. My event is on Sunday, April 7, at 1pm, with Cary Fagan and Miranda Hill. "Great Things Come in Short Packages." I'm 99% positive that the organizers aren't referring to height. Details in the link above.

That catches us up, and makes me feel like a nice professional blogger again.

And now for the reveal.

Here's what our family does with its spare time: we spontaneously and collectively brainstorm a parody advertisement, and then we make it into a video. And then I post it here. The original idea bubbled up as we told the kids (one in particular), that if her dream is going to Disney, she will have to tag along with a friend because, well, let's just say it's not Kevin's dream, nor is it mine. Point being: some dreams don't come true. But the idea amused us. As a family, we watch very little television together, and stream what we watch online, and lately there's been a rash of Disney ads, so we found ourselves riffing on the theme. AppleApple wrote the script. I recorded the voiceover. Kevin did all the video editing (he's good!). And now we offer it to you, and hope you find it even a fraction as hiliarious as we do. With humour, it's hard to know. (Note to friends going to Disney: this is not an attempt at subliminal messaging.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ten minutes of blogging bliss

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Can I do it?

All day I've been pouring my energies into an alternative non-fiction project, which I shall have to title sooner or later. I'm currently calling it: The Woman Formerly Known As ...

Having been so very very good, I'm rewarding myself with ten minutes to blog. Because in ten minutes I will have to leave the house to pick up the kid who rides the bus. Can I offer a small weather-related complaint as an aside? Why is it so cold? Why does the air blow so arctically when spring is, surely, just around the corner? Why is there no sunshine? Why must yet another winter storm approach on the horizon? Why won't it stop being grey?

That was more than one complaint.

Mildly interesting unrelated tidbit: We've had a month of breakdowns. First, the truck (remember that?): transmission. I won't quote you the fixin' price, but it hurt. Next, the oven! I had to borrow my dad's oven a couple of Sundays ago in order to bake bread. Thankfully that was fixed within a week, and for a somewhat smaller fee than the transmission. And now, the boiler that heats our entire house and provides all hot water. On Saturday, suddenly everyone was wandering around shivering and wrapping themselves in blankets and draping themselves with dogs, when I thought to check the thermostat. Falling swiftly. I am thankful to say that has also, now, been fixed.

But seriously.

What else? I'm afraid to ask. I'm afraid it's some kind of obvious metaphor that I'd rather not apply to my life right now.

I've nothing more to add. And look: it's only been thirteen minutes! Which is admittedly a couple minutes more than ten. I'm going to pop in a photo and press publish, and presto, it's school bus time.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Experiments in the key of Carrie

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Dear readers,

Shortest break ever, huh.

A few things. If you are a blog subscriber, please don't unsubscribe. I will continue to post updates from time to time. Like now.

I find myself throwing around two vastly different ideas on how to continue blogging, with the intention of keeping it a healthy outlet and connector, rather than a time-consuming distraction or vanity-feeding outreach. My first idea is to become a weekend poster, or "slacker blogger" as suggested by a friend. As an all-in personality, this suggestion sounds tough, but just might work. I've got the notion that I would like to pour my daily blogging energies into the writing of a non-fiction book, so maintaining an irregular, special occasion, weekend blog would fit well with that. My second idea is to form a paid subscriber base that would make blogging a job rather than a hobby. I throw that idea out there, while acknowledging that it's problematic from a number of angles. One is that I have serious inborn qualms about mixing creative endeavours with monetary ones. Two is that I may not have the time to give paying subscribers what they're paying for, and that would be stressful.

So many other things to write about!

* March break: over and done, and after a long week home alone with the children I am inspired to find alternative plans for our summer holidays. My half-baked plan to let the kids look after themselves while I put ear plugs in and worked was a total fail. What was I thinking??

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* Making tea: I read a little article in Geez magazine on making your own infusions/tea by using ingredients like dried orange peel, ginger root, cinnamon stick, cloves, etc. So I'm drying the peel from the orange my son ate this morning.

* Ingratitude is on my mind. How to help my children express and feel gratitude for the many offerings they receive, rather than sulking or complaining about the things they wish they'd received instead? Hm.

* After my last post, I was grateful to hear from readers who hadn't commented before. The one-sided nature of blogging can feel lopsided and strangely weighted, like I'm writing to a mirror-self, and that sometimes bothers me. I appreciate when people comment, or tell me in person that they've related to something I've written. It makes writing feel like less of an isolating, interior occupation -- which writing so often does. I would miss that about blogging. I think I would miss it too much to stop altogether. That is my weekend reflection. What other medium allows me to connect, in a genuine and honest and real and perhaps most importantly immediate way, with so many people all at once?

So, thanks for reading. Til next time. xo, Carrie

P.S. In response to my vague idea about blogging for subscribers (above), a reader emailed to say: "It occurs to me that it might be possible to think about a blog not on a subscriber model (which might pressurize a daily post), but on a supporter model, which could be more fluid." She also sent a link to this TED talk by Amanda Palmer on "The art of asking." Here's the link. Here's a taste: "For most of human history, musicians, artists, they've been part of the community, connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance, but the internet ... is taking us back. It's about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough."

Wow. Thanks.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On impermanence

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Got up for yoga class, early early. Almost skipped. Didn't. And it turned out to be a special class for one my favourite instructors -- her last here in Waterloo. I've been going to this studio long enough to remember being in one of her first classes, and have seen her grow in confidence over the years, and it felt like a lucky break to be there to say goodbye.

She wanted to reflect on impermanence. She asked us to focus on something we needed to change, or some change we were struggling to accept, and as we knelt on our mats these words popped into my head: Goodbye, Obscure CanLit Mama.

Wow. I can hardly bear to type them out. But I think I might be on to something. It might be time to say goodbye. I'm not clear what it is I'm saying goodbye to. Is it blogging, wholesale? Is it to the persona? Am I recognizing that this blog has become, in some ways, a heaviness, an obligation rather than a joyful expression?

As I reflect on what this blog has been for me over the nearly five years it's existed, I am so grateful. It's been a place to test out ideas, to meet other "Obscure CanLit Mamas," to record my children's quickly passing stages and my own attempts to manage and frame my role as their mother. It's been a public journal, in many ways. It's allowed me to claim my writing self. I learned how to take photos because of this blog. I've connected with old friends, and new. I've felt, at times, too opaque, at others, too raw. I've written about books that I've loved. It's also been a forum for publicity for The Juliet Stories.

And I guess I don't really know what this blog is for anymore. I still love the writing of the posts. But I've been having panic attacks when I press "publish." I'm worrying far too much about offending readers, about tone, about perception, about being liked (or worse, not liked). The spirit of the enterprise feels off-kilter somehow. I'm worried, also, that blogging may jeopardize future employment opportunities. (Kevin thinks that's a ridiculous fear, but I wonder: would you trust your midwife if she had a blog?)

I am still an Obscure CanLit Mama. But I'm not quite the same Obscure CanLit Mama who pressed "publish" on that first post all those years ago. I have more confidence in my writing. That may be it, pure and simple. I can think of myself as a writer now without feeling like an imposter.

I am a writer.

It is my instinct to continue to write, to blog, to post, to tell, to record, to celebrate, to reach out with words. But what am I offering, and what am I asking for in return? I'm not at all clear, anymore. I should be. It's time to take a break, for now.

Thank you for sharing my practice with me. I'm quite sure, I am, that this isn't goodbye.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I really really want

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I ran with a friend this morning. Therefore, I started my day feeling happy. Kevin says I should start every morning with exercise, and I agree, although I'm down to one early morning class due to cost and it's a challenge to find free exercise that I feel safe doing, by myself, in the pre-dawn hours. I've been going to the nearby indoor track once a week, and I've got a yoga mat by the bed so I can start the morning with wake-up stretches. But the truth is that it's so much easier to get up for exercise when a) I'm meeting someone or b) I'm signed up for something.

Find the fortitude, woman! (She says to herself.)

I am thinking about yesterday's rant, and asking myself: what are the products/services that I, as a consumer, would have a hard time doing without. Because if I am honest with myself, I am a consumer, and lead a lifestyle that is by world-wide standards wasteful and decadent, even if I think (sometimes) that my family really does need the things we treat ourselves to. It's hard to shake my fist at capitalism when I'm a willing participant.

These items make my list of really really really want 'em wants, for my family and for me:
* books, daily newspaper
* sports: team fees, shoes, clothes (thrifty or secondhand fine), exercise classes, swim lessons, swim suits, goggles, skates, helmets
* bicycles
* nice shampoo and conditioner
* eating out with my husband once a month
* eating out as a family once every two months
* our truck + gas; carshare fees
* vitamins and fish oil (expensive!)
* local food
* internet and cellphone
* our house and the cost of maintenance
* dogs and cost of keeping them
* prescription medication and dentist visits (we are both self-employed and pay out of pocket)
* piano lessons
* nursery school fees (until full-day kindergarten starts this fall, please dear God, if Tim Hudak isn't elected in the meantime)

Do you have a list, too?

::

I woke up this morning remembering how last winter I couldn't run for a whole month due to a hip injury. I remembered that not being able to run inspired me to find alternate ways to stay fit, including swinging kettlebells. I'm still swinging those bells once a week, for which my core is truly thankful. Look how straight I'm sitting at this desk! If I had been able to keep running, I never would have discovered this. Point being: what may look like a lost opportunity might actually be a gentle nudge in a direction yet untested. Point also being: in the past week, I learned that I failed to earn both grants applied for last fall; having earned both in the past, I know they're within reach and I'm questioning why I applied proposing a secondary project that has sat idle since then, but, past results and hindsight aside, the fact remains that grants as a way of supporting my writing/list above are off the table for this fiscal year.

To quote a writer friend on Facebook: "The part of being a writer that requires the most creativity is figuring out how to pay the bills."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Expectations: Meet Reality

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Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time helping two little guys launch a squeaking balloon down the staircase, with the happy effect that it squealed overhead and repeatedly smacked its little balloon head against the wall or ceiling before deflating and twisting earthward.

It would be pleasant to turn this into a metaphor, but I'm struggling.

There, no metaphor needed. I'm struggling. That's it, plain and simple. I hesitate to spit it into word form, especially on a public forum, but there it is. A blog is a troublesome creation: it's very much in the moment, and therefore can magnify the smallest ups and downs in a person's life, and this here is a down. Right now I'm happy when I'm running, and that's about it. But get that right now really is right now.

Suffice it to say that I'm tired after a second night up with a sick child. I'm irritable after another day home with my children, who are on holiday, but who can't leave the house or have play dates due to the aforementioned sickness. It occurred to me today that the only thing a person can really accomplish while home with four children is cooking and housework -- plus the vacuuming covered the noise of the periodic tantrums and steady stream of complaints. So the house is pretty clean. Which is something. But it's not enough.

I would like to reflect on my impatient response to International Women's Day, a day I usually respond to with honour and interest, solemnity, even pride. But this year, on this International Women's day, all that welled in me was intense frustration. And I think my response is the key to unlocking exactly where I'm at right now, and why I'm struggling.

My expectations do not seem to be in line with reality.

I expect that girls and women will be treated as individuals, with the same opportunities as boys and men to pursue lives that are interesting and fulfilling. Every time I read another story about a horror perpetrated on a woman -- because she's a woman -- my response is THIS CANNOT BE! Every time I read another statistic coldly demonstrating women's under-representation in, well, you-name-it, most anything that has to do with power or cultural critique or leadership my response is HOW CAN THIS STILL BE? Every time I read some trumped up story on "The Mommy Wars," or "Stay-at-Home Mothers v. Working Mothers," or even hear myself referred to as "a full-time mother," (what, exactly, is a part-time mother?), I want to shrug it off as mere noise, but instead I feel something akin to disbelief: WHY?

A few more WHYs.

WHY would any family rationally choose to have more than one or two children, understanding that childcare, particularly during the early years, will either cost one parent his or her career, or two working parents the better part of a decent salary? Let's ask the politicians who a) have no interest in funding childcare and b) want Canadian families to produce more children FOR THE ECONOMY. (Surprise! They tend to be the same ones.)

WHY is Canada's major news magazine running a photo, this week, of a woman shaving her face under the headline "Man Up," suggesting that women should be more like men if they want to succeed in the workplace? WHY are we always being told to be someone we're not? Which reminds me: WHY is success in the workplace our main measure of success? Further to that, WHY are good and moral choices so often couched in economic terms, as if that's the only language that matters, the only real currency? I heard a news report, happened to be on International Women's Day, in which an economist (who was a woman) explained that educating girls and women is a sure-fire way to increase the economic well-being of communities and nations. So let's do it, people. Let's do it FOR THE ECONOMY.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The peace of dogs

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paw in hand

First day of March break.

With the sounds of sibling irritability yowling in the background as I write this -- "Where's my hat? Who took my hat? WHERE'S MY HAT?" "Don't push me away so I can't go to the bathroom!" [crying] "Go away! Go away! Get out of the kitchen!" "It's not your kitchen!" "Yes it is!" "Where's my hat?" -- I'll pick out the good things.

Like the doggie-sister love, above.

*

P.S. I'm adding a post-publication, end-of-day extra list of good things this first day of March break has held. It's been a lovely, lovely day, despite the occasional howls and yowls.

* I slept in.
* I cleared away every last stack and pile of paper that has been accumulating on every flat surface for the past couple of months. I kid you not. Huge project, DONE!
* I vacuumed.
* Just when Kevin and I were wondering what we'd feed the kids for lunch, my mom arrived with offerings from the market, and so we had hot dogs on fresh buns; and then we ate market-fresh chicken drumsticks for supper, marinated in yogurt and Indian spices, along with Indian-spiced rice, and green salad. And a glass of wine.
* I ran 15.5 quick km in gorgeous afternoon sunshine, watching the snow melt, with my elder daughter beside me on her bicycle.
* I finished two books, and updated my ongoing 2013 reading list: see here.
* I felt like I was on holiday. So did everyone else. And tomorrow I get to play soccer!

Friday, March 8, 2013

In which I go just a little bit political, people

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It's International Women's Day. As a long-term forever feminist, I appreciate there being a day to shine light on the distressing and mind-boggling inequities suffered by girls and women world-wide. But I noticed a curious tone to some of the posts coming through on my Facebook feed on the subject: irony, impatience, humor mingled with rage. Oh, a whole day for women? How can we thank you enough? (As an aside, I was also intrigued by a post on a cookbook devoted to vulva-shaped cakes.)

I don't know if it's something in the air, but I'm feeling a bit impatient too. 

What's so radical about the idea of men looking after their children with the same intensity and care and aptitude that women do? None of us know what the hell we're doing when we start off parenting and I refuse to believe I'm somehow instinctively better at it than my husband. Just like I refuse to believe that I'm better at housework. Hey, we can all learn how to clean a toilet. Just like I refuse to believe that it might be damaging to claim for myself the words "competitive," "driven," "confident," and "leader" (because it's unwomanly? it wouldn't look good? because I shouldn't naturally feel or be those things?). Just like I refuse to believe that it might be damaging for my husband to claim for himself the words "nurturing," "collaborative," "gentle." Those words aren't in conflict with each other; we could both claim them all, and wouldn't that be fabulous!

Finally, I've observed that neither my husband nor I is necessarily better at being the stay-at-home parent than the go-to-work parent. The stay-at-home parent is inevitably more harried and flustered and irritable by the end of the day when compared to the parent who has been out of the house. So it's nice to mix it up and share. We're all happier.

Our most contented days combine elements of just about everything. Alone time. Parenting time. Play time. Work time. A bit of cooking, but not all of it. A bit of dish washing, but not all of it. You know? 

My greatest goal, in our family's life, is to share everything and get along. 

Maybe that's what is grating on me when I think about the concept of International Women's Day. A day where women are told we're different. We're singled out into a category that is, still, somehow, seen as inferior, or whose inferior status must be overcome. We're a plight. We're a cause. We're not like men.

None of us should carry a heavier burden, in any one area, merely because she is female, or because he is male. Are we different? Sure, we're different. But we're not that damn different, people. We're just not.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Take care, make way, stand still

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Life is about taking care of what you've got.
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And it's about making way for new things, too.

I'm pleased to report that our vehicle has been returned to us, after a week in the repair shop. After doing some serious number crunching, we've decided to keep it for now, although ideally we'd love to be driving a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. Put it on the wish list. (Speaking of which: we've got one of those hanging on the fridge from the fall of 2011, and our wishes now look wildly out of date; most of them didn't come true, and we find ourselves no longer wishing for those things. Curious, huh.)

I'm also pleased to report that my manuscript has left the house. I've put it into the good hands of my agent, whom I trust to tell me yea or nay, or some combination thereof. It will be awhile before she gets a chance to read it, and I'm grateful for the mental break. My writing days were getting obsessional in the extreme toward the end of the editing process, and it's a relief to have space.

I would like to tell you more about where I'm at, right now.

I am standing in the middle of a wide field. I am looking at everything that surrounds me, and it is filled with possibility and potential, and vivid striations of colour and texture and weather. I could turn and walk to the east, to the west, to the south, to the north, or even to explore in a curving, meandering, curious path that does not follow any one direction. I am waiting. I am weighing. I am listening. I am gathering clues. I am open. I am not afraid of stepping the wrong way. I know there are many ways to explore this field. There are many rich and rewarding destinations. Fortune will call me, one way or another, and I will go.

I'll tell you when I start moving. But for now, I'm quite still.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Play-by-play at the Cup final

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(click on photos to see in full)

Last night the whole family watched Kevin and AppleApple's indoor house league team compete in the Cup final. It was the first game I've seen all season, usually being at home putting children to bed. It was past bedtime for a few of the fans, whose enthusiasm shines through in the photo above. I neglected to bring snacks. Thankfully, the sister took the little bro to the water fountain numerous times, for the purposes of distraction. I was too busy standing on the sidelines, shouting with excitement and doing a play-by-play narration of the game. I can't seem to help myself.

"You're saying things kind of loud, Mom."

The final score was 2-1 in favour of the Gold Strikers! AppleApple played her heart out, scoring the opening goal on a beauty of a penalty kick (see, there's the play-by-play narration), and the whole team displayed calm under pressure, whilst overcoming adversity, too.

One of the team's top players, and their star goalie, broke her arm before the game, but came out to cheer. The player who subbed in as goalie in the first half was playing her first season of soccer. (In fact, two team members had never played soccer before this season). Another player had to walk to the field because her mom's car had broken down -- she arrived in time for the second half, and scored the second goal on an assist by AppleApple.

What I liked best was seeing how proud Kevin was of all the players, whose skills advanced greatly over the course of the season. They didn't look like a powerhouse team, but they knew exactly how to manage the kick-ins, the corner kicks, and where to be on the field. All players got equal playing time regardless of skill level and despite the high pressure stakes (trust me, this does not always happen, even on house league teams, and even though it should). It was exciting to see everyone succeed as individuals and as a team.