Category: Driving

A minor breakdown

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So much on my mind today. I couldn’t shut it down, not even in yoga class this morning. The word I used to meditate as I held poses was “strength.” I want to be strong. I think I am strong. But sometimes I wonder, at what point does “strength” become “unwillingness to appear weak”? Is it better to grit through a difficult pose, or to give in to the desire to rest? Maybe sometimes it’s one, sometimes the other. I heavily favour the former, of course.

I do believe, however, that our greatest strengths are also our points of greatest frailty. So I have to be careful.

Let me tell you about yesterday. It was a pretty crappy day, if I may be frank. Writing time vanished as I had to take one daughter to a doctor’s appointment. Vanished some more due to errands and piano lessons. And then the truck slowly but surely started breaking down. Right in the middle of the fairly complicated back-and-forthing between school, piano lessons, school, birthday party. Three kids were directly counting on me to be in specific locations at specific times.

The truck refused to shift into reverse.

I was lucky. I realized what was happening. I’d parked on an incline and was able to roll out of the parking lot. I was able to call Kevin right away. He was able to book a carshare car right away. I was able to park at the next location in such a way that would prevent me from needing to reverse. And the next. And the next. And we were able to make it to the repair shop before the entire transmission shut down.

I never realized how frequently I use reverse, when driving. Maybe this is a life metaphor. We’re not meant to be stuck going forward at all times. We need to be able to back up, too.

The situation was stressful. I was worried the whole time and couldn’t find my “happy place,” shall we say. But I recognized, too, that the day was not nearly so crappy as it could have been. Kevin and I worked together as a team. We were only about ten minutes late for the second piano lesson. The truck did not need to be towed. The children adapted to the changing plans. We belong to a carshare!

Home at last, I felt so tired — not physically, but mentally. Fooey wanted to play an imagination game while I was hanging laundry. It was all I could do to manage the most banal responses.

It also happened that I was due to Skype in to a book club in Toronto at 9pm. Well. I made a pot of peppermint tea, brushed my hair, and sat down in my office. We made contact. But we couldn’t work the video. In the end, we decided just to chat. I looked at my own video smiling back at me (not sure whether they did the same), and we spoke for about forty-five minutes. My tiredness evaporated. Their questions were thoughtful, respectful, insightful. We talked about how daughters view their mothers. We talked about being mothers. We wondered, will mothers ever get cut some slack?

I hung up feeling so much better.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the truck. The two eldest kids wonder: would this be a good time to become a car-free family? “I’ve been thinking about it, Mom, and it would make us be more eco-friendly and more organized….” I’m proud of the values we’ve instilled in them, but, oh, I like having that truck waiting for me on freezing dark mornings when I’m headed for a spin class.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the book. The editing is so slow. One foot in front of the other. One small step and another and another. Many, if not most, of my writing days are shortened by other necessities that take priority.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with my applications for writing grants and midwifery and The Amazing Race (thanks for watching the video: we’ve had tons of excellent feedback already!).

I feel as if so much of my life is up in the air right now. Strength. I’m calling on strength as I hold this pose.

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.

Driving versus dishes

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A funny thing. I’ve started to enjoy the trips in the car to deliver and collect children from their various activities. If I’m alone, I turn on the radio and cruise between CBC Radio One (talk) and CBC Radio Two (music). If I’ve got a kid or two in behind, it’s a chance to talk. We drive through the dark that comes so early at this time of year, watching carefully for pedestrians and cyclists. (Side note: we didn’t spot one cyclist wearing a helmet, let alone reflective clothing or lights, on the university campus yesterday; we even saw a young man skateboarding in the bike lane of a busy street, going the wrong way! Needless to say, he wasn’t wearing a helmet either, because really, if you’re skateboarding in the bike lane going the wrong way after dark, you’re clearly not concerned about head injury. This sparked a conversation about safety and being young and feeling invincible. “Why is it that the things people think are cool are risky or dangerous?” my daughter asked. Well. Why indeed?).

But anyway. The conversations range. It’s always interesting.

And as long as we’re not late, I have a feeling of contentment, of easily-fulfilled purpose. It’s emotionally uncomplicated. It’s relaxing, even. Maybe that’s because it’s so much simpler to drive from swimming to soccer, to tie a shoelace, to greet other parents, to drop off a carpooling extra, than to be at home with the remaining children over the same time, supervising piano practice and homework and doing dishes and laundry. Four out of five weeknights, that’s where I am. Last night, I asked Kevin to trade places, since he happened not to be coaching anyone. When I returned home from my drive, I noticed he had a harrassed impatience about him that is often mine as snacktime gets dragged out and children begin lying on the floor and complaining about tooth brushing.

Situations do that to a person. And I could walk through the door, all fresh and relaxed after completing my pleasant errands, and be the voice of reason. Which is really irritating to the person who’s been stuck at home with the homework and the dishes. Which makes me think that the more we share jobs, the happier we all will be; or at least the more sympathetic.

Life without air conditioning

before the sunburn

It’s too hot to blog. I’m fairly sure it’s too hot to think clearly, though that would be regrettable given that it is my primary source of income. I find my brain drifting off before reaching the end of a sentence, asking, huh? What was that?

This week I’m doing interviews with several local entrepreneurs. It’s been fascinating so far. Best of all, they work in air conditioned environments. I’m being facetious. Which is probably ill-advised. Blame the heat.

I do not work in an air conditioned environment.

Here’s a little story: on Wednesday, I took the kids to a place called Herrles, which sells local veggies and fruits and baked goods, and is slightly out of town, and therefore requires a bit of a drive. It was rush hour and took longer than usual. But was I grumpy about the situation? I was not. Because with the air conditioning blasting, we’d found ourselves a brief and happy reprieve.

Last fall, we learned that our home’s central air conditioner, which we only used in desperate situations anyway, was broken and not worth repairing. We have not replaced it. And even though I only ever used it with a great deal of guilt and angst, I miss knowing it’s there if the kids can’t sleep (or we can’t sleep).

Maybe we’re all becoming acclimatized, and will therefore perform better at events like roasting hot soccer tournaments and long distance runs. Maybe.

Or maybe my brain has officially lost the will to reason.

On readings, writings, and riding the big (metaphorical) waves

at the Starlight on Tuesday, photo credit Zara Rafferty
photo credit Zara Rafferty

 No, I’m not a real surfer. But life feels a bit ocean-like these days, rolling, never steady. I spent yesterday in Toronto. It turned out that parking was easier to find than anticipated, so that bike never left the back of my vehicle. (Although parallel parking on Queen St. West at rush hour was an exciting opportunity to test my driving skills.)

Some fine moments from my day …

:: smiling at people passing on the sidewalk, some of whom seemed shocked to be making eye contact with a stranger

:: meeting another Snyder from Kitchener-Waterloo at Book City, and trying to piece together our geneological connection

:: eating Korean stew with my lovely little sister on Bloor street; and hanging out together, not in a rush at all

:: making an it’s-a-small-world connection with Daniel Griffin (who also read last night at Type)

:: mingling with the awesome crowd at Type Books before the reading, and putting faces to blog-names

:: being introduced by the lovely Kerry Clare

:: reading a story to a group of people who were really listening

:: getting teaching-creative-writing advice from Heather Birrell (who is a high school English teacher, and who also read last night)

:: finding all the dishes done when I got home

Some less-fine moments …

:: worrying about my dress

:: the chilly wind that swept Toronto all of yesterday

:: forgetting someone’s name during the book signing (AUGH! This happens virtually every time, and every time I curse my name-bank-blank-spot. This is how bad it is: I have literally blanked on the name of a family friend, known for twenty-five years, and seen on a regular basis. I don’t know how that’s even possible. And I hope it doesn’t indicate early onset dementia.)

But this is all to say: Life’s good. It’s messy and it’s good. It’s crazy and whirling and I couldn’t quite believe that I was up at 5am this morning for a spin/kettlebell class, and there’s dirt all over the basement, and I have a basket of laundry waiting to be hung, and no, I will never catch up on my emails — or, really, on anything at all, ever — but this is it. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything less. I love the doors open policy that brings five boys into my house on a Wednesday after school (and leaves behind sweaters not belonging to my kids; be sure to check our lost and found pile, parents). I love seeing my kids excited about moving dirt into new garden beds (yesterday’s major project, overseen by Kevin, bless him). I love lifting kettlebells over my head (is that too weird?). I love getting to read my stories out loud.

Keep the waves coming.

On the seventh day of Christmas …

… the kids made decorations for the front window. We didn’t have time to get to it until after 8 o’clock last night, but with everyone working together helpfully, I didn’t want to crush the creativity for bedtime purposes. CJ made a snowman that we hung on the wall rather than the window–he found sticky-tack on the back of a fish he’d made at nursery school and hung it himself. Fooey made a snowflake and a Santa. AppleApple made red and green holly to frame the corners, and Albus made blue snowflakes and a line of people holding hands.

On the eighth day of Christmas (ie. today), I’ve promised to make caramel popcorn balls. Maybe we’ll use the recipe in our Little House on the Prairie Christmas recipes book. It would be appropriate because AppleApple is attending a Victorian classroom today–a field trip for her enrichment program. Here she is all dressed up and braided.

Yesterday was the kind of day that defines relentless. I received the final questions on the proofs for Juliet while sitting in an xray office with Fooey and CJ, having just dropped AppleApple at piano lessons, and while waiting for Albus to call my cell so I would know he was safely home. I was thinking today how strange it is that you can’t always have your kids with you. Hm. That doesn’t sound very profound. I was thinking of how strange it still feels to let them go and be independent, to know that they are capable of being out there in the world, without me. Same for my book–can it fend for itself? Is it ready?

(Oh, and the results of the xray came back positive for pneumonia. Which would explain my poor girl’s endless nighttime coughing.)

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