Category: Readings

Welcome to the family, DJ and Suzi!

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(click on the photos to see them in full)

Marking a momentous occasion in our family’s life: we have signed the papers and are now officially the owners of our two dogs, who came to us through a rescue agency. We’ll never know their full story. All we know for sure is that about a year and a half ago they were found together, wandering the streets in cold weather wearing matching pink sweaters. And no one came to claim them at the crowded shelter.

We’re pretty sure someone loved them, though. Someone definitely fed them from the table (we don’t do that, but Suzi’s probably never going to give up hoping that we might just, someday.)

While there are difficulties in not knowing their history, and in adopting older dogs, and while I’d be lying if I said the transition has been entirely hiccup-free, we’re truly happy that they came our way. I’m developing the theory that all it takes to become a dog person is to get some dogs (or, hey, even just one — we weren’t actually looking for two dogs, it just happened that these two came together, and needed a home). I wasn’t sure I was really a dog person, and was afraid that it would be hard to get used to the hair and the extra work, but it hasn’t been. I just lowered my domestic standards a teensy bit more to make room for the hair.

Because I really just love these loving furry little creatures.

I’ve even got funny voices for them. Suzi’s goes like this: “What’s happening? What’s happening? What’s going on? Something’s going on! I just know it! Exciting! What’s happening? What’s happening?” all in a very fast high-pitched tone. In a much suaver tone, DJ murmurs, as if talking to herself on a hidden recorder: “Secret agent DJ, on the job. I’ve sent the little one off to scout out the scene while I hang back and eat her treat, which I hid earlier. It’s all good.”

We signed the papers on Saturday, and these are some of the photos taken immediately afterward. Everyone was very excited. Well — and happy. Just plain happy.

As you can see for yourself.

:::

There will be a brief pause in services on this blog, unless I figure out a way to post remotely: I’m bound for Winnipeg tomorrow, not home til Tuesday, very late. Bags are packed, schedules organized (here at home, I mean), Kev will be in charge.

We can do this, right?

What my nap told me to do today

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brothers

Don’t worry. I’m not going to write a blog post on the subject of not making prize lists every time my book doesn’t make a prize list. (Whew, that was a close one, says the good reader.) Nope. Today my nap told me to blog about all the really good things going on in this crammed old life. So here are some of the things I’m glad for right now.

* Killing two birds with one stone: Oldest son is supposed to read out loud for 15 minutes a day. Youngest son adores books featuring Star Wars characters which mother refuses, on principle, and for the sake of her sanity, to read. Ergo, oldest son reads Star Wars books out loud to youngest son.

* Freelance gigs arriving at exactly the right moment. Exciting freelance gigs — even better.

* Surprise messages in my inbox from readers who have loved The Juliet Stories. Still working out the best response to these, since they tend to make me feel a) self-conscious, b) teary-eyed, and c) weirdly unqualified to reply. (Like: did I actually write the book this person is referring to?) Funny thing: when I say thanks for telling me you liked it, people often say, no, thank you for writing it, at which point I get stuck because saying you’re welcome seems weird. Or maybe it doesn’t? Let me try this out: “Thank you for writing a book.” “You’re welcome.” Now I’m not sure. Maybe that’s exactly all I should be saying. Though it’s tempting, also, to add: That’s awesome, now, please tell all your friends to go buy copies too!

* This message in my inbox from a friend: “I have to tell you, half an hour ago I saw a great picture unfolding as I drove by [your daughter’s school] … Up on the level ground, I saw a girl with long red hair dribbling a soccer ball through a large pack of boys.”

* Festival season. Wow! Is it ever festival season! I’m reading at Word on the Street at Kitchener City Hall (inside) at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. And then I’m up and flying to Winnipeg for the Thin Air Writers’ Festival where I’m reading on the Mainstage with a crowd of other writers, starting at 7:30pm on Monday. On Tuesday at 2:30pm I’ll be back, along with Cordelia Strube, for an on-stage chat with Charlene Diehl. Charlene is the director of Thin Air, and she just happens to have been one of my favourite professors way back when. I’m really really looking forward to this.

* Happy, improbable fantasies: such as, why not train to do an Ironman this year? A friend posted on my Facebook wall that she thought I could do it — her husband just completed his second, and managed the feat despite training only over his lunch hour (!!). So now I’m thinking, yeah, I’ll bet I could do it! Except I have no spare time for Ironman-level training just now. Maybe come winter??

* Texting. Seriously, I love the medium. Has anyone else noticed that there is something poetical about the form? Sometimes it’s nothing but pure comic poetry.

* And, finally, a shout out of congratulations to everyone on the Writers’ Trust short list, especially to Tamas Dobozy, whose kid was on my kid’s soccer team a few years back, so we swapped stories on the sidelines about agents, editors, and trying to get published. I love the smallness of the CanLit world.

(Now, in traditional blog call-and-response style: want to tell me what you’re glad for right now?)

Wearing my writer hat/hair: Eden Mills, part two

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So I’ve had my writer hat on for the past two days. Luckily it’s invisible because I don’t look good in hats, having been blessed with a teeny-tiny head. Maybe I should say I’ve had my writer hair on for the past two days.

In any case, on Sunday, I read at Eden Mills; and we brought the kids along. There was much complaining about being forced to spend the day doing something other than lounging in pajamas in front of a screen. I’m obviously parenting badly. I assured them that Writers Festivals were Fun, but they weren’t buying what I was selling. We proceeded to spend approximately 85% of the car ride being tormented by one child who kept repeating, “I’m bored! I’m bored! I’m boooooored!” I wish I were exaggerating. This monotonous soundtrack was occasionally interrupted by a) the same child hollering, “And no one’s even listening to me!”; b) other children screeching at said child; c) parents trying not to lose it. Fun times.

Luckily, the day was sunny, the townlet of Eden Mills was most welcoming (we were directed to our parking spot by no fewer than seven boy scouts/cadets), and we caught a ride up the main street on a golf cart, which the kids thought was pretty nifty.

Three of four children had never been to one of my readings. This seemed like the perfect setting to introduce them to this part of my job. But for the most part, the younger two didn’t really get that I was working. Eventually, I gave up and removed myself from their company for a few minutes of peace before the reading began — the new soundtrack at that point had become, “Why can’t I just have some ice cream!”(Yes, there was ice cream — see, told you, kids. Writers Festivals are Fun.)

I was reading with Dani Couture and Tanis Rideout, and we strolled together to the site — someone’s beautiful backyard overlooking a little river — which was set up almost like a Greek amphitheatre (minus the stones, and on a smaller scale), with stage down below and audience on the hill above. Upon arrival, I observed that my children and husband were arranged handsomely upon our picnic blanket. But perhaps they were a little too close to where the writers were seated. I could hear that the soundtrack was still going on, although sotto voce. “I want ice cream!”

I was reading last.

And so I sat and watched the slow motion hour-long crumbling of my handsome family. They were pretty well-behaved, all things considered. But I was cursing our parental lack of foresight — really, we should have gotten them the damn ice cream. After all, it was lunchtime, and then it was past lunchtime.
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By the time it was my turn to get up and read, Kevin had retreated far away up the hill with CJ, who was quite far gone in ice-cream-starvation-mode. But my other three children stayed to listen.

Afterward, Albus whispered, “That was really good, Mom!” And Fooey wondered whether Ronald Reagan was a real person. And they all said that Writers Festivals really weren’t so bad after all.

So it was worth it.

And then we got ice cream. And hot dogs. And soda pop. “This is full of vitamin C,” one of my brilliant offspring proclaimed. We checked the label. And I regret to report that Orange Crush offers not a jot of vitamin C. It is, in fact, 0% vitamin C.

We were a much jollier bunch driving home, all except for Kevin. The solo-parenting-while-Mom-was-in-work-mode had taken a toll on his ordinarily equable personality. And I, too, had to confess my exhaustion at the end of the day, saying, “I don’t really understand why, because I felt pretty calm all day.” Kevin said, “It takes a lot of energy to look that calm.”

And that’s the truth.
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:::

This is turning into a long long tale, and I haven’t even reached day two of Carrie aka Writer. But I shall go on (whether you go on with me, I leave to your discretion.)

Yesterday, I led writing workshops at a camp near Eden Mills. It felt like a real “working mother” day, which is still a bit novel to me. I left the house before the kids had woken. Kevin kept me posted by texts. Four of us — me, Evan Munday, Tanis Rideout, and Angie Abdou — led small groups of high school students in hour-long writing sessions on different subjects. (I did the short story.) The kids were willing to write and share their work, and I found the sessions very pleasant. I also appreciated being amongst other writers, since I spend most of my working hours alone in this office, wearing crocs at one end, earplugs at the other. When we first met, Angie said, “Oh, you wrote that blog on not being on the Giller list!” which kind of made me cringe (this could be what I’m remembered for?), although she was very nice about it. Sometimes, in order to keep blogging, I forget (or ignore) the fact that blogs get read, and that the CanLit scene is pretty small.

Because here’s the thing. I do feel, when I make appearances in my writer hat/hair, like I’m dressing up to play a part. I know I’m not a writer with a capital W. It’s not that I don’t take my work seriously, because I do. But as much as I hope for worldly success, I appreciate the obscurity of my existence.

By the time I trudged, over-loaded and over-caffeinated, through the front door late yesterday afternoon, all of my children had miraculously gotten themselves home from school (this had been arranged with great forethought, but nevertheless seemed miraculous), and they were playing wii. Frankly, only the dogs were excited to greet me. I whipped up supper, hung laundry, supervised piano practice, checked email, we ate together as a family. And then I took the kids to the library and the grocery store — because it turned out that despite their lacklustre after-school greeting they had been missing me, enough to want to run errands in order to spend time together.

We had so much fun grocery shopping, I can’t even describe it. Everyone was feeling silly.

It was the best part of my day.

So here’s the sappy conclusion at the end of this long long post: Nothing makes me feel more accomplished as a human being than being happy with my kids who are happy being with me. Nothing.

(Although I suspect we appreciated each other all the more because we’d worked hard on our own, and we’d missed each other; do other working parents stumble into these puddles of mundane bliss, too?)

Today and tomorrow: Eden Mills

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Today, I read just downriver from this spot.

Tomorrow, I am headed back to the same townlet of Eden Mills to lead writing workshops for high school students.

Tonight, I am pooched, toast, wiped, zonked, and headed directly for bed. I realize it is only 9:30pm as I type these words. But all I want is to read James Herriot under a nice warm duvet as I drift toward dreamland.

More photos and stories to come. Soonish.

Take your chances when they come

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I’ve put away the canning kettle for the season. And while this wasn’t a banner canning year for me, I was reminded, as every year, that it’s not that hard to do. It’s time-consuming, finicky, hot, and has to be done when the fruit is ripe, that’s all. Listen to the radio. Accept help. Try not to whimper because you’ve got one more canner full of jars to boil and it’s nearly midnight on a weeknight.

For some reason, it’s worth it to me. Maybe it’s the colourful jars in the cupboards. Maybe it’s looking forward to a winter of sauces and chilis and soups in the crockpot.

Speaking of seasonal, I had a little thought in church on Sunday (I take the family occasionally, to touch base with the Mennonite in us — Kevin excepted, though he still has to go). The thought was this: Sometimes I’m open to soaking in experiences, observing, learning, participating, doing. And sometimes I just want to reflect. And these two states of being don’t really overlap, much, for me. Or maybe they do, in ways I just can’t see. Maybe what I’m trying to talk about is that sometimes I feel like I’m skimming along on the surface of things, and other times I’m very still and quiet, and I can sense the sacredness in everything. When I’m skimming along, I don’t even really like the word sacred. It sounds too serious, too self-conscious, too heavy, too inward-looking. I appreciate and respect it, but I don’t like it.

I don’t get to decide what kind of mood or state I’m in. I’m just there. It’s like being in the mood to play the piano, or write a poem. I have to accept where I’m at.

It’s hard to accept where I’m at when it’s somewhere I don’t want to be.

I’m skimming along right now. I’m frustrated by my inability to be still and quiet.

But here’s another tiny thought: sometimes — really, most of the time — it doesn’t matter what I’m in the mood for. I have to take my chances when they come. I have to can the tomatoes while they’re ripe. I have to run during soccer practice, and read stories at bedtime, and cook supper when everyone’s hungry for supper. And right now I have to get revved up for readings and for meeting new people and a bit of travelling — and even a bit of travelling is a lot, for me.

One of the places I’m travelling to is Winnipeg. I’ll be there a week from this coming Monday (!!), reading at the Thin Air Writers Festival. I found this lovely blog post on their site, written by Rosemary Nixon who appeared at the festival last fall. I’ll admit to some gnawing apprehension about leaving the kids and dogs and Kevin, with all the scheduling excitement to manage on their own, but Rosemary’s post reminded me of the potential that is waiting in this new experience — exciting.

A lot of life is about getting it done. And that’s fine, that’s probably even good, and necessary, and right. I’m privileged enough without getting to do what I’m in the mood for all the time. So the tricky part is appreciating what’s going on, floating on random flotsam and jetsom amidst the current that is carrying me along, and, maybe, glimpsing something mysterious in the trees that is there to be seen.

Maybe even while skimming along, I’m catching and keeping the things that will sustain me when I’m ready to be still and quiet again.

Young, Hot, and Local

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totally unrelated photo

Amusingly, I read this article today on CBC Books because the title interested me: “Book blogs we appreciate: the 2012 edition.” Scrolling down, yes, I know that one, and that one, and that one too — hey, what the?? That can’t be right. That’s me!

Weird, huh.

To sustain the self-promotional links theme, let me add that I’ll be reading at the Eden Mills Writers Festival on Sunday, from 12:30-1:30, along with Tanis Rideout and Dani Couture. We’re being billed as “Young, Hot, and Local.” (!!) I can’t comment. Just can’t comment. Resist the urge to comment, Carrie.

Anyway, Eden Mills is family friendly, and I plan to bring mine and spend the afternoon. It’s a beautiful setting too.

And that’s all she wrote. For this afternoon. Off to the cross-town piano lesson scramble.

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