A miscellany for your reading pleasure: balloon animals, soccer tips, anecdotes, and beyond

June12 247
balloon-dog, by AppleApple*

*Yes, she made her own balloon-dog. She looked up instructions on the internet. When she explained the twisting technique to me, my brain malfunctioned. That is because, when it comes to engineering of any practical sort, I am the opposite of gifted. She’s thinking she could sell balloon animals this summer at street parties; we weren’t convinced the yard sale approach would work for such a specific product. 


Here’s what I’ve learned at soccer, so far. This is purely skills-related. Skip over this section if you’re not remotely interested in playing the game of soccer.

First game: I learned to touch the ball.

Second game: I learned that I was fast. And that this is handy, if you like touching the ball.

Third game: I learned that a pass into the net is as good as a hard shot; likely better. Perhaps not coincidentally, I also learned how to kick the ball without injuring myself.

Fourth game: I learned to run with the ball by kicking it in front of me rather than trying to dribble it at my foot. I also learned how to do a throw-in. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way–during game play, by doing it wrong the first time.

Fifth game: I learned that when heading for the net, I need to turn in toward the middle a lot sooner. Unfortunately, in this lesson I’ve only gotten as far as realizing that I must be doing something wrong. I get the ball, start running up the wing, and then (mostly) lose it because I come up against a defender. Kevin tells me I shouldn’t really be coming up against a defender, but should be making my decision earlier either to turn or to pass.

Maybe in the sixth game I will learn to keep my head up?


While speaking of learning things, here’s an anecdote to make you feel better about yourself.

Yesterday I was at the bank to make a simple deposit, and found myself waiting for ten minutes in a line-up of one (me), while one teller served one client, and several other teller-types walked briskly around in the background avoiding catching my eye, as if to say, I’m much too busy to open up another window here. Is a ten minute wait long enough to start getting truly impatient? Because I was truly getting impatient. In fact, steam was coming out of my ears.

When finally I handed over my cheques for deposit, a transaction that look less than a minute to complete, the teller thanked me for my patience. It felt farcical, like I was part of a reverse psychology experiment. I almost replied, “It would be much more accurate to thank me for my impatience because it’s clear I’ve got none of that other stuff, and you know it as well as I do!”

Oh my goodness, I am not a patient person. It’s the main reason I swear so much while driving. All that time wasted, endless inefficiencies, and being at the mercy of systems not of my own creation.

My goal is to find something good in every situation, to waste nothing, by which I mean to find in any situation something redeeming: educational or funny or comforting or amusingly distracting or morally relevant; but I sure enough wasted those ten minutes at the bank, seething with irritation. What do you think I should have done to salvage the situation?


One more miscellaneous item, relevant today-only, and only if you live in the greater Toronto area. If you pick up today’s Toronto Star, you’ll find a special section on Canada Day, with a bunch of stories and a few photos by me! I’m especially pleased about the photos, though this job has spurred me to make a few minor (and thankfully inexpensive) improvements to my current photo-processing and -storing capacity. I would like to add Photographer to my toolkit of marketable skills, and this is an excellent start.

I see myself as a workmanlike photographer rather than an artistically-skilled one. But I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and that there’s a place for it.

It fits in with my philosophy that there’s a place for all kinds of writing, too; I aspire to be able to work across the genres. I think anyone who writes serious literary fiction should damn well be able to write light-hearted party-planning pieces, and snappy headlines, and generally entertaining well-constructed articles on most any topic imaginable, assuming there’s time to do proper research. These take technical skill, as much as anything else. I also believe that writing across the genres will make me a better literary writer. (My only caution would be: don’t get stuck in a rut, and don’t write the same thing over and over; write widely, if possible.)

And that concludes my On Being a Writer 101 lecture for today.

How to bake really good bread
Last day of school


  1. Kate T.

    My mom’s shtick for long lines in shops was to say to those around her, loudly, “You know, shoplifting is a LOT faster.” But her all-time favourite, good for queues of all kinds, was “Can we hurry it up? My dripping gonorrhea is really flaring up today!”

    I wish I were kidding.

  2. Carrie Snyder

    Okay, Kate. I’m adding that to my list of what not to do! (My mother was famous for embarrassing us in public, too, as she herself would admit, so I do make an effort not to embarrass my children too often…).

  3. Margo

    I do not behave well when I am forced to wait unreasonably. I lived for a time in Russia where the lines were endless and ridiculous – from there I developed my irritation.

    I often carry my knitting or a book in my bag and this allows me to feel productive when I’m forced to wait. Today I suffered a bank-wait with my kids and I used the time to talk with them, something I should do more of. It was nice.

    I like your writing advice. I’m reading Tamar Adler right now and she’s such an excellent writer, something I rarely find in current writers. I stopped reading Pillars of the Earth because it was so badly written.

  4. Kate T.

    After age 12 or so, I stopped being embarrassed – my friends all loved my mother for making their parents blush! I guess the moral is something like, time spent laughing is never wasted. And the reactions of witnesses were always laughable.

  5. Nathalie

    I am here to second Margo’s comment – I always try to have knitting on me (a book would work too). And I avoid lines as much as possible – yay for ATMs!!

  6. Rachel

    Option 1: play Angry Birds (world’s best time killer).

    Option 2: call any friend, real or imaginary, and talk loudly about being in the SLOWEST BANK ON EARTH.

    Option 3: Take a yoga breath. Then give the teller an empathetic smile and let her know you understand how it must really suck to have to take care of all this ALL BY HERSELF. While looking pointedly at the staff lurking in the background.

  7. Carrie Snyder

    Thanks for your excellent suggestions!

    I especially like the one about always having a book handy (sadly, I can’t knit!).

    And, yes, I should have shown empathy to the teller who was stuck all by herself … not her fault, after all …


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