So … it’s been a week of ups and downs.
Our 11-year-old suffered what appears to have been a migraine, sending us to the emergency room rather than to soccer practice on Tuesday evening. She’s already the kid with asthma, and with big athletic ambitions. Thankfully, she seems completely blasé about the whole experience; I’m the one who needs to sort out my anxieties. I tried doing yoga in my office yesterday morning, with this accompanying soundtrack. It helped. At least a bit.
Occasionally I find myself believing in some kind of cosmic scale that insists on balancing things out. Seems superstitious. But when I was writing THE JULIET STORIES, for example, I got this very weird infection on my eyelids that was both ugly and painful, bulbous red bumps that made it difficult to look up or to the side. It lasted for six months. When I was writing GIRL RUNNER, I was covered in a very weird maddeningly itchy rash that doctors thought was an auto-immune disorder, but which turned out to be bedbugs. That lasted for about six months too. I don’t know whether this (i.e. physical payment for creative grace) is a common experience for other writers, but I was fascinated to discover, in Rebecca Mead’s MY LIFE IN MIDDLEMARCH, that George Eliot suffered from debilitating headaches and other health issues while working on her masterpiece, MIDDLEMARCH, which she wrote over a fairly short but intense period of time.
This was not what I sat down to blog about this morning.
Sure there have been some downs this week. But also some terrific ups.
Such as …
* Shopping at the mall with my 13-year-old, who was badly in need of clothing that fit, and it not being a complete embarrassing disaster for him. In fact, we kind of had fun. And we both hate shopping, so that’s saying something.
* A bowling birthday party for the same kid that was super-fun (and that I did not supervise; it’s best to leave the super-fun outings to Kevin, as I can’t help myself from reining in certain kinds of silliness).
* Getting my course curriculum for the fall laid out, and readings chosen. Big item off of my to-do list!
* A reading at a midwifery clinic last night, babies in attendance, funny breastfeeding essay on offer — and all of the timing and planning actually working out.
* Convincing my 8-year-old to play in a piano recital on Sunday. (Though it may be her last, as she’s thinking of retiring.)
* Summer babysitting plans, as detailed last night (the older kids will be babysitting the younger ones, which worked really well last summer): “Mom, I was thinking of having a ‘Shakespeare-themed’ summer. I could tell them the plots of the plays, maybe a few comedies, a few tragedies, skip the histories because they’re boring, and they could choose one they like, and we could perform it. But we might need more kids. And I was also thinking I could teach them some of Shakespeare’s insults….”
* It’s a PD day and we’re practicing for the summer. One babysitter in charge. One kitchen covered in jam and peanut butter. One gigantic Playmobil disaster upstairs. One mother out running errands on her bicycle. File this under “up.”
Not sure how much posting will happen in the next week. Depends on wifi access and available time. So if you don’t hear from me, picture me here, here and here, to select several of my hoped-for destinations. Do not picture me in the giant ferris wheel overlooking the Thames. That will not happen.
The only thing I’d planned to do today that I did not accomplish was getting up early to go for a run. It didn’t bother me very much not to, given everything else that’s going on; or maybe I’m just not operating in hyper-competitive mode these days; also, I ran yesterday. Anyway. I went to a hot yoga class, met Kevin for lunch, and stuffed outfits and shoes into quite a small bag, although I’m still probably bringing too much.
The kids will be home from school shortly, for goodbye kisses. I can’t quite think beyond that. But everything’s in motion. I’ll just go along with the flow, and around 4AM tomorrow morning I’ll be in London (although London will assure me it’s 9AM). And my friend Nath will be there to greet me with a big cup of coffee and an Oyster pass so that I can zoom all over London.
I hope I find what I’m looking for. Even if it turns out not to be what I thought I was looking for.
What were we planning to accomplish together? Do you recall? Because I seem to be lost in a bit of a haze. It could be all the yoga. Or the early morning spin and weights class, at which I felt fantastic, only to crash upon returning home, following a breakfast of poached eggs on toast.
I don’t blame you for the weather; it could happen to the best of days at this time of year. If it wants to be -20 with the windchill, what can anyone say about it? “Whoever is in charge of the weather needs to know that it’s SPRING!” hollered Fooey, but she was cheered by the long-term forecast, which promises a balmy +7 with rain for Friday.
I didn’t take many photos this weekend, and they’re still on my cellphone. Maybe this is a good day to use one’s imagination. Imagine sunshine startling me just now through my office window, clouds moving across a sky that is actually blue.
On Friday night I meant to get a photo of me and Kevin playing uke and guitar (respectively) in front of the fire, with the two oldest children sitting on the couch behind us, side by side, playing Minecraft and making the occasional clever comment on the song choices. It was as close as we’ve come to a family-music evening, and I thought, optimistically, that at least the kids were getting to hear some favourite old tunes and see what fun we were having. Except Kevin got very grumpy because he couldn’t see the music (we were playing off of single printed sheets, some of them crumpled, and all with very small print); not long after that got resolved, I rapped the whole of “Rapture” by Blondie. Awkward pause, no applause. “Is that a song about eating cars?” “Why, yes, children, it’s a very serious song about eating cars, bars, and guitars. Anything that ends in -ars, really.” “Deep.” “At least it’s not about sex, like all songs nowadays.” (Note: do not say things like this to your adolescent children unless you welcome mockery.) (Also note: I say things like this all the time. Because I welcome mockery.)
Then I sang “True Colours” by Cyndi Lauper about a billion times, trying to get the chord changes right. It’s such a beautiful song, Monday. I really wanted my children to love it. Maybe I played it too many times. “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles received similar treatment, but even I started to question the lyrics after a few times through: “This used to be my favourite song!” “Really??” “When I was 13. I thought it was so romantic!” “It sounds kind of, like, creepy. ‘I watch you when you’re sleeping’? Creepy.” So, yeah, kids these days. I’m not sure I converted anyone to my favourite 80s songs, but there you have it: family music night at our house, regretfully not photographed for posterity.
I’ll end it here, Monday. You’re a busy day and I shouldn’t keep you, rambling away here like this. Things to do! Places to go! Etc.
Signing off (or is that singing off?), Carrie
my new book (essay anthology): The M Word!
Newsflash: Inbox no longer empty. I guess inboxes are like kitchens. Cleaning them is a process not an end.
A few newsy bits to record today.
I’ve started a spring yoga challenge: hot yoga every day for the next two weeks. I’m thinking of it as a bridge to get me through to spring. Like, the real spring. Or at least to get me through to London, and maybe when I’m back from London conditions will be favourable once again for running outside. But right now, I’m so tired of running on icy slippery windy snow-flecked streets. I need an exercise practice I can look forward to. (I’ll still be running during the next few weeks, of course; I’ll just be cursing as I go, which is not so good for the soul.)
the dogs say hello
I’ve been working on the children’s book: THE CANDY CONSPIRACY! And I can now announce that the illustrator will be Marion Arbona, whose work you can browse on her website here. I haven’t seen her concepts for the story yet, but I’m really looking forward to that. The illustrated imagination. I find people are often fascinated (horrified?) to learn that as the writer I have nothing to do with the cover design for my books, nor will I have anything to do with the illustrations for this children’s book, but I actually think it’s best that way. I’m not a designer or an illustrator. I write the words. And it’s a privilege to get to see my words interpreted by someone else. The words become shared. Maybe their meaning is altered too, to some small degree, but that’s the case every time someone reads them, because reading is a collaborative experience.
our yard, March 20, 2014: the dirty truth
Today has been a day of pleasant list-crossing-offing.
I went to a mid-morning yoga class, which felt entirely decadent. I got to the university library to gather some research material. I sent off forms for children’s summer camps. I met Kevin for lunch! I renewed library books. I’m an efficient relaxed version of myself. Plus it’s sunny.
Plus I’ve started playing the ukulele. It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s relaxing. I’m currently harbouring a small fantasy that we have ukes enough for the whole family to play, and we all sit around strumming and harmonizing together. Note: this has not even come close to happening. But Kevin and I did spend an evening in front of the fire, last weekend, playing 3-chord songs, him on guitar, me on uke. It was not in the least bit romantic, because I’m an impatient and grumpy teacher, and he is still learning rhythm, but he didn’t give up, which was very nice of him, and I got to sing, which was very nice for me, and now we want everyone to do it.
boy with viola
The thing about making music is that it is both creative and relaxing. The rhythm and repetition take you to a meditative place. You can do it for a long time and not get bored of it. You can do it alone, or with others. You can challenge yourself to learn something new, or you can comfort yourself by playing something familiar. When my kids are feeling down or tired or restless or bored or melancholy, I want them to consider turning to a musical instrument for consolation and for pleasure. I go to the piano like that. I play more often than my family knows.
I often start my day with a song.
I often have no idea what I’m going to play. I just sit down and discover it. It’s a creative process that’s much like free-writing. Our brains are wired to rhythm; it begins with the heartbeat. As much as I love sports and believe in it as a positive body-healthy outlet for all ages, I believe too in music-making as a way of connecting with our deeper selves, and with others. Music for the spirit!
Enjoy your weekend, everyone.
DJ is posing for the camera, which we’re all finding hysterical
Somehow, last week’s brief thaw fooled me, despite knowing better, into thinking that spring-like conditions were in the offing. I keep stepping outside and registering the cold as a shock — as a personal affront — as if it weren’t absolutely to be expected at the end of February. The windchill registered at -21C on my run this morning, for heaven’s sake! AppleApple has told me that on April 1st, she is wearing a sweater to school no matter how cold it is. I was just glad she didn’t set that particular deadline for March 1st.
To further gather my thoughts regarding yesterday’s post on fear and unwinding, I would like to observe that there’s a fine line between acknowledging and reflecting on one’s fears, and becoming mired and stuck in an introspective feedback loop of one’s fears. I feel like I’m atop a small hill that I’ve been climbing for awhile, and this is a good place to pause and acknowledge that it was hard to trust my brain post-concussion. It was hard, and it was scary, but I don’t want it to colour my life. I’ve got other hills to climb.
That’s why I played soccer a few weekends ago. That’s why I write every day. That’s why I meet friends. That’s why I want to go out dancing and do kundalini yoga again and get a decent pair of snow pants and maybe some cross country skiis so I can play outside whatever the weather — take that, February! I’m a huge believer in imagining your way to success. You have to know where you want to go or you’ll never get there.
Writing and meditation and reflection are expressions I’m naturally drawn to as an introspective person. It’s why I’m a writer, I am sure. But life is lived concretely. It’s hands in bread dough. It’s running as the sky grows light. It’s vacuuming the dog hair (or teaching the five-year-old how to vacuum the dog hair).
Here’s what I’m visualizing. And doing.
My big (overarching) goals for the year:
* write the first draft of a new novel
* promote Girl Runner
* create a solid curriculum for my creative writing class
My small (everyday) goals for the year:
* write daily meditations
* run, weight lift, yoga, spin, bike, dance, play soccer
* help and support my family
* give the kids more responsibilities around the house
* offer and accept invitations to spend time with friends
* play the piano and sing
I could go on. But that’s a good start.
two Saturdays ago: this was taken after we all pitched in to clean the house together; I hope to blog more about this new plan, if all goes well
A total side note that spoke to the fitness guru in me: I read in yesterday’s newspaper that sprinting is more beneficial to the aging body than distance running (the caution being that you need to be a strong runner, and probably a distance runner, before attempting sprints, because non-fit sprinting an excellent way to injure yourself.) No wonder I love soccer so much — it’s basically sprinting, except you get to chase a ball.
I also read that going for a walk has an almost medicinal effect on the mind and body. Why don’t we build our cities and communities around that simple concept? Imagine the health benefits. Imagine how we’d all be walking off the edges of our worries. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?
I am not writing well today. Every sentence comes out like I’m mumbling cliches. I don’t know why. I wanted to write about our weekend, which contained two “I finished my book” celebrations, a series of nature art projects installed throughout the yard, a snow fort, sledding, and a living-room yoga session. There, I’ve written about it. (That’s probably my ten minutes up.)
Friday afternoon: I sketched a map and a family tree for my book, and scanned them, and sent them to my US editor. I can’t draw, and apparently I can’t design a family tree or print legibly, but I tried. It was oddly satisfying to map out the location of the story, which has been so clear in my head. This looks just like it! I found myself saying, like I was drawing something from memory, not from imagination.
Friday evening: Kevin and I decided, rather late into the evening, to duck out for a drink. I’ve got greasy hair, I argued, and it’s so late, and this is not a going-out ensemble (yoga pants and comfy shirt; which I’m actually wearing again today, I see). But he thought we should celebrate. So I changed into jeans, ignored the hair, and we walked uptown. Why is it always so cold? It’s always so cold! At the bar, we were seated quickly but ignored entirely. At last, I declared, Two more minutes, and we’re giving up and going home; which is when a waitress turned up with heartfelt apologies. The manager turned up too, to comp our drinks (we hadn’t complained, being ever so Canadian, so this was an especially nice surprise). Thus, my “finished-my-book” celebration was sponsored by the good people of Beertown.
Saturday day: Fooey and Kevin worked on a snow fort, while AppleApple worked on nature art. “This is the best school project ever!” she declared. We ended the afternoon by lighting the “snow volcanoes and snow chimney” (see the photo at the top of the post). It was pretty awesome. Kev also took the little kids sledding for the first time this winter, while the older kids played with friends, and I fell asleep on the couch (likely in payment for Beertown’s sponsorship the night before).
Saturday night: Pizza ordered for the kids. Kevin and I went out for dinner and a movie, as originally planned (the extra night of celebration was a last-minute addition). We’ve seen three movies this year already, which is two more than we saw last year, total. Philomena has been my favourite, far and away. I was underwhelmed by Inside Llewellyn Davis, in which a folksinger drowns in his own self-pity (tell me that isn’t a tedious concept!). And I didn’t much like Her — our Saturday movie — which couldn’t decide if it was ironic or aiming for some deeper, more meaningful message; however, the dialogue, when it aimed for deep and meaningful, was truly terrible; also, it featured another self-pitying main character, on whose face the camera fixated for excruciatingly long spells (I suppose that’s a necessary complication of a movie about a man in love with his operating system). The best thing about the movie were the pants that all the men wore in this slightly futuristic time and place. I’m dead serious. The pants are hilarious.
I like going out to the movies. I’ve realized, though, that I’ve lost my patience for movies a) in which the characters are very sorry for themselves and/or b) the women play entirely token roles and/or c) love is too mysterious to be understood. Please. Love is not too mysterious to be understood. It’s the stuff of living, not the stuff of pondering. Or maybe I’m just grumpy these days.
It is really cold. It just keeps snowing.
I would like to a see a movie in which the girls and women talk to each other, and pursue interests that do not relate to romance or motherhood (we can throw some of that in too, but it doesn’t have to be the full meal deal). Y’know? Am I missing those movies? Are they out there?
Sunday day: morning run to kick out my restlessness, outside even though it was snowing and really cold; soccer game in Mississauga; late-afternoon tasks and organizing, while Kevin made pad thai.
Sunday evening: yoga in our living-room, led by AppleApple.
Actual dialogue, overheard during savasana:
AppleApple [soothing tones]: Try to empty your mind.
CJ: This is so BORING!
AppleApple [soothing tones]: Lie still. Try to empty your mind. [pause] [tones becoming less soothing] Lie still! [pause] I can see what you’re doing! Try to EMPTY YOUR MIND!
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