Category: Friends

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).

Love letter project

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Recently, I wrote and delivered an anonymous love letter to a neighbourhood friend; I also received an anonymous love letter from a neighbourhood friend.

Trust me, this was not a project I would have undertaken on my own. And the truth is that I felt a certain amount of resentment over the assignment. And it was an assignment — given to a group of friends by one amongst us who was inspired to have us each pick a name out of a hat and write a love letter, anonymously, to the chosen friend. (She was inspired by the site “The World Needs More Love Letters.”)

It took me a month or more to work up the nerve to try. I just didn’t know where to begin. I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually written a love letter, and I was feeling the pressure, being a writer and all, to perform. I was finally inspired/shamed into attempting it by a friend with whom I’d shared my trepidation and resentment.

Here’s the funny thing. I started writing with these very mixed emotions, but as I shaped out the letter, I began to feel this deep welling of emotion. Let’s just admit it and call it love. The very act of thinking about the person who would receive this letter, and attempting to honour her in some small way, made me feel very deeply. It was almost as if I was briefly possessed of an all-enveloping spirit that seemed to go beyond the recipient, as if through my words I could reach out and embrace the whole muddled and unknowable and beautiful world.

Sounds cheesy. Is cheesy. I know, I know.

When I received my own letter, it really hit the spot, too.

And so I have to say thank you to the friend who instigated this experiment. If you’re feeling particularly grumpy, this might be something to try. Or maybe you know someone who could use a little lift in his or her life. This may seem like an odd undertaking, but trust me, it will feel amazing — for you, the writer, and for the one who receives your offering.

Side project: Amazing Race Canada audition

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Tricia and I goof around in front of my camera while our children entertain themselves nearby (click on photo to see in full)

We did it! My friend Tricia Orchard and I sent in our application to the Amazing Race Canada. Making the video was a truly fascinating experience, and perhaps a tiny taste of what being filmed for a tv reality program would actually feel like. Tiny taste. Tiny. I’m pinching my fingers together to show you. But nevertheless, it was a real taste, and did not, apparently, scare me off.

Click here to see our audition video.

We had the help of our friend and neighbour, Stephen Edgar, who happens to be a professional videographer/photographer, and my brother Karl provided the addictive background beats (they really stick in your head.)

We spent a couple of hours one afternoon splashing through a muddy swamp, running up a grassy hill over and over again, and dashing around a forest obstacle course; the weather that day was unseasonably warm for January. Which contrasted nicely with a shoot we did more recently, in fact on one of the coldest days of the year so far, when we repeatedly ran down a big hill in a farmer’s field just outside of town — it looks like we’re running the tundra. We also met for a shoot at Tricia’s house, which Steve had transformed into a miniature studio for the afternoon. There, we got a sense of what it would be like to be interviewed at length.

We got some head shots and team shots too.

The most excellent part is that all the way along, I could completely imagine Tricia and me competing together as a team, no matter the scenario. I think we’ll be laughing a lot. We’re both good sports. We both show up and do what needs doing without complaint. And we know our limits too.

I’ve never had a huge desire to be on television, but I’ve loved watching the Amazing Race with my kids, and Kevin and I have had fun over the years imagining ourselves trying to navigate the race as a team — and no, he wasn’t offended that I went with someone else, when the opportunity presented itself. I love to compete, but I’m also, by nature, curious. I want to know: not just where would we go and what strange tasks would we have to perform, but could I still be myself — recognizably myself; my better self — in this situation? Of course I hope so. But the discovery is in the doing.

I can’t decide whether this audition is in character, for me, or a bit of a departure. Is life about being consistent? I remember one of my favourite professors saying to me, “Don’t get predictable, Carrie.” (She probably doesn’t remember that. But it’s really stuck with me over the years.)

In some ways, this is the year of the application form. I fill in the blanks. I do my best. I cross my fingers. It means a lot of hoping, and waiting, to see which possibilities open for me — and in this case, for us, Team Snorchard. Yeah, our names don’t mash up all that well. Thanks for our friend Zoe for this suggestion; I think it just might stick. Yikes. Go Team Snorchard!

Measuring the weight of a day

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celebrating a birthday

Sometimes it’s best to measure a day’s success by values other than productivity. Sometimes, rather than thinking about what I’ve accomplished, I notice: I’ve connected with friends and family today.

I appreciate that on most mornings, when I get up early, I’m meeting a friend. A surprising amount of ground can get covered during this sleepy, short time together.

I appreciate the drives to and from swimming and soccer and piano. I especially love finding myself one-on-one with a child. We don’t have to talk about anything big or exciting. We’re just happy to be together. There’s a sense of purpose as we head toward our destination, but there’s no sense of hurry.

I appreciate saying yes to crazy projects/events with friends. Yesterday morning, I was running through a snow-covered farmer’s field with a friend. Yesterday evening, I was eating smores beside a campfire under a dark and starry sky. In between, I had lunch with a friend, ferried children to piano lessons, ran fast at an indoor track, hung laundry, washed dishes. I also got zero new writing done. How to measure yesterday’s weight and meaning and worth?

On Tuesday night, instead of reading in bed, I stayed up to listen to my eleven-year-old enthuse about a school project (who knew he could be enthusiastic about school?).

Sometimes I text a friend (or my sister) whom I miss, but don’t have time to meet face-to-face. These disjointed abbreviated back-and-forths feel oddly conversational, like we’ve been with each other during that time.

I am often rushing from task to task, moment to moment, place to place. But in between, sometimes even amidst the rushing, I recognize that I feel quiet, stilled, present, at ease. I feel connected, strongly, to the ones I love. I feel solidly, persistently myself.

I’m not necessarily being productive by worldly measures. I’m not making anything. I’m not earning anything. I’m not going anywhere. I have nothing visible to show for my day’s labours. So it might be asked, why bother throwing yourself in deep, whole-heartedly, if there is no apparent goal being forwarded or accomplished?

Ah, but you know exactly why, I’m sure: because. Just because. This is life.

Cleaning out the cupboards

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February, out our window

Update on eating down the cupboards: Made hummus! Used up two mostly empty jars of tahini! Now we only have two jars of tahini left! (This emptying the cupboard project is revealing certain inefficiencies in our shopping/storage system.)

Also, and basically unrelated, I made yogurt on the weekend. It had been awhile. I got discouraged after making a batch that scorched and stopped for a year or so. But it’s easy! And we’re eating lots of yogurt again, due to my renewed breakfast mandate: no cold cereal. Somehow, somewhere along the line this fall, we got into the habit of having boxed cereal around for snacks, and from there we slipped into kids eating boxed cereal for breakfast, too. (In our family, cold cereal has traditionally been considered a junk-food-type treat, bought only on occasion.)

The complaints regarding this change were loud, but brief.

February’s Every Day Breakfast Menu:
* yogurt with pearsauce and bananas (chia seeds optional)
* eggs made to order with toast (homemade bread)
* toast with peanut butter and jam
* porridge (not instant)

::

I met with my word-of-the-year friends last night. We are planning to meet more often throughout this year for reflection. I came away from our conversation with the renewed intention to be in the world without judgement. To quiet my critical inner voice, whether the criticism be negative or positive, and simply to be present.

This is not necessarily the easiest task for a writer. But I do think there are ways to be attentive to the world without setting myself apart from it, or above it, or wishing I could alter it.

On “stretch,” my word of the year, I realized last night that I’d already lost track of my intended usage of the word, which was to take time to stretch — to become more flexible by slowing down. Taken literally, I am indeed doing yoga once a week and stretching after running and spin; it’s the metaphorical stretching that confounds me. Instead of stretching, I find myself stretched, a bit, and wondering: do I say yes more often than I should? I love yes. I love exploring possibilities. I love remaining open to experiences.

Therefore, I stretch myself to be many things all at once. Question asked by friend: Will you stretch until you break?

Answer: I hope I won’t break. And yes.

::

Lost-and-found, the neverending story:

* one red mitten: lost
Child climbs off of school bus. “Where is your mitten?” “Can’t find it!” “When did you lose it? Could it be on the bus?” “No, not on the bus.” “Did you lose it at school?” “Yeah.” “Did you have to go all day without a mitten?” “Yeah.” “Was your hand cold at recess?” [Shrug] “You can wear my mitten.” [Tries mitten, takes it off] “Too big. I can go like this!” [Covers exposed hand with mittened hand, chats cheerfully all the way home]

* one black Celtic hat: found!
In Kevin’s hat bin. Pink mittens still missing.

* one grey hat with ear flaps: found!
Found before we even realized it was missing (well, AppleApple knew, she just didn’t want to mention it, considering how many of her personal belongings go missing; I don’t blame her, really). Hat was left at soccer field, and kind observant parent (not me or Kev) recognized it. Now we just have to pick it up.

Fighting through the January blues

Tricia and I make a flying leap
So far, we can’t think of a team nickname. Suggestions?

(Photos by Stephen Edgar)

*

Driving children to and from activities last night, I realized that I’m in a sweet spot in my book. I know what’s happening and what needs, yet, to happen. Two crucial characters have solidified in my mind. I have some exciting scenes to lay out. I could sit and write non-stop if someone would bring me emergency supplies (and if I didn’t have children to feed, snuggle, tuck in, clean up after, and drive to and from activities). I don’t know how long this sweet spot will hold, but I hope it’s right up until the very last page of the book.
I can’t believe I ever tried to write a novel without Scrivener. It’s the most useful structural tool I’ve ever encountered, for writing. Now to see whether I can write a novel with the help of Scrivener. If I can’t, I might as well stop trying, honestly. (The wonderful thing about Scrivener is that it would be useful for any complex book-length project, so if I fail at novel-writing, I’ll turn my hand to some other literary challenge instead.)
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