It’s a gorgeous fall day. I’m getting ready to go for a bike ride, followed by some writing time. Yet it feels like my inward landscape, my interior weather is at odds with the beauty of the day. My inward landscape and weather is affected by who knows how many forces, some obvious, some unwanted, some self-imposed, some hormonal, some downright mysterious and I’m thinking that right now I can’t sort out what, exactly, is making me unhappy. Because that is what I am. I am eaten with anxiety, abuzz with nervous energy, my mind whirling, distracted, bewildered, impatient, upset. On my brief run this morning, I attempted to be mindful: pay attention to the sounds around me, pay attention to what I was seeing, pay attention to smells (not good — it was garbage day). Within seconds, my mind was already flitting down dark alleyways of repetitive negative thought. I would bring it back to the streetlight shining on a pile of wet leaves, but a few steps later, my mind was gone again, chasing thoughts that feed on misery.
Why would my mind want to feed on misery? Why wouldn’t it, instead, be drawn to the sound of my feet making a rhythmic beat on the pavement? Why not sink into the sound of breath, patterning with the beat of my feet?
I have upon my back a straw. I either have to figure out how to contain it, how to compartmentalize my responsibilities so as to contain it and carry it, or the straw is going to break me.
That is what I’m thinking about today, as I prepare to climb onto my bike and pedal across town, with the hopes of finding a new scene for my book. My books needs many new scenes. That is the other news of the day, but that does not discourage me. I love these characters — why would I not want to spend more time with them?
Wish me luck, friends. So much depends upon it.
I’ll miss this routine, now that we’re done: riding our bikes to swim lessons every morning for the past two weeks. Fooey is a demanding task-master who had us out the door early every day, with much grumbling and foot-dragging (on my part). This kid! She is so impressively punctual and organized. I started to sympathize with how the kids must feel as I urge them, constantly, to ready themselves and exit the house: I didn’t want to go yet! I still had things to do! I hadn’t even gotten a sip of my coffee! But, no, Fooey insisted: We are leaving and NOW!
I’ll miss the routine and seeing them paddling in the pool, but I won’t miss drinking cold coffee. Or the endless visits to the bathroom (that rec centre has an instant laxative effect on my youngest — seriously, we just have to walk through the door and he’s making his announcement about where we must go immediately, and why.)
The older kids were very independent and biked together, not with us, except for the last day when we all had a snack afterward (hot chocolate, french fries, a bag of chips, and a handful of multi-coloured banana candies from the 25 cent machine). Then we biked to the library together, and home. With five of us on bicycles, I felt like a mama duck leading her family along treacherous roadways, on the look-out for danger.
Here is babysitter AppleApple, post-swim, preparing a picnic to take to the park. Behind her, observe her little brother in the midst of a meltdown because he does not want to go to the park for a picnic. He will not go! He hates both picnics and parks! Etc. Well, somehow she got him there. I’ve been hugely impressed and gratified and proud of my kids as both babysitters and babysats (picnic meltdown notwithstanding). Lunches are being planned and prepared independently, I’m writing alone in my office without being disturbed, and there are no electronic devices involved whatsoever. Sure, I’m doing more laundry due to wet/sandy/muddy clothing, and no one appears to have taken up vacuuming, but these are tiny details.
With responsibility comes power, with power comes freedom? I just keep telling my kids how great they are.
This was our project yesterday.
Problem is, he’s very attached to this bike, the balance bike that was supposed to make the transition to big-boy bike painless and training-wheel-free. (I know it’s worked for many others.) So far, it hasn’t worked for us.
Just getting CJ to try his new big-boy bike (yes, it’s a hand-me-down from his sisters) took a lot of creative effort on the part of the other kids. Here was one attempt by Albus: look, how fast you’ll be able to go!
CJ’s response. But we coaxed him on. He’s now working the pedals, but isn’t keen on us letting go. It’s a slow process.
And he loves this old balance bike … Gotta admit, it looks pretty cool.
photo shoot out-take
I’ve been writing non-stop, for pay, for the past week and a half. This week’s assignments have focused on Canada Day. Several stories involved interviewing new and relatively new Canadians, which was a wonderful experience. Everyone has a story, and everyone’s story has some kernal that is poignant or humbling or moving; and I love listening.
A new and exciting development is that I’ve also been assigned to take some of the photographs to accompany the stories.
Let me tell you about yesterday, which was particularly manic and fun.
I started the morning with spin/weight class. Took a quick nap after seeing kids off to school. Biked to an interview. Raced home in order to prepare and test a variety of recipes — food for an imaginary Canada Day party. “I love my job,” I thought, dashing around my kitchen in the middle of the afternoon, delicious smells wafting. With help from Zoe, party-planning friend extraordinaire, we decorated and styled a small area of the back porch as if for a “party,” arranged the food, and I took photos. We worked at a crazy pace. I was trying to get everything done before children arrived home from school. And food is tricky to photograph, as anyone who follows my blog knows. I was thankful for great natural lighting, borrowed glassware and linens, and for the daughter who arrived home early and agreed to be photographed eating a cupcake while smiling non-stop (as directed!).
“Even fake smiles look real in photos,” I assured her. And, as you can see from the evidence above, they do.
It was a crazy fun afternoon.
I’ve made a discovery: all those shameful wasted years of reading cheesy women’s magazines has finally paid off. “Service-oriented copy,” as it’s known, simply flows from my fingertips.
Meanwhile, pleasurable discoveries and cupcakes aside, yesterday rolled on at its manic pace. For supper, we ate the food I’d photographed (bonus!). I processed and sent photos to my editor. I biked with soccer girl to the park. I ran 12km in just over an hour (I can’t do my long run this weekend — too busy with soccer tournament and dance recital — which is why I added mileage). We biked home. Put children to bed. Folded laundry. Worked on stories some more. Briefly spent time talking to husband on couch. Dropped plan to meet up with sibs to celebrate birthdays (something had to give).
Slept like a rock. I love sleeping like a rock.
On another note, let me share with you a pang. Sometimes I look at my children and wonder whether I’m keeping close enough track of their individual needs. In my busyness, in this great whirl, am I overlooking something important? Will each feel cherished and treasured by their mother? When problems arise, and heartache, as inevitably happens, do I spare enough time and attention to help them?
As my working life expands, as I prioritize earning a greater share of our family’s income, what falls through the cracks? What gets minimized or ignored or even lost?
Sorry, folks. I have not got back into doing my “week in suppers” feature. With soccer almost every night, we’re eating early, and that means a rushed and thrown-together meal. Quick sides, lately, include asparagus oven-roasted with salt and olive oil, and spinach salads with homemade dressings. Seasonal happiness. But nothing very special.
However, Kevin and I had an at-home date on Saturday. He sourced the ingredients, and I was the chef. And it was really good. Seared tuna steaks served atop smashed, roasted potatoes, topped with a reduced red wine sauce with capers and scallions. Plus the stand-by of the asparagus mentioned above, also roasted with portobello mushrooms.
Seriously yummy. Kevin made us a couple of martinis. And we watched a funny/sweet movie, completely chosen at random, called Adventureland. I’d recommend it.
Yesterday I ate a banana for supper. Not recommended. I played a soccer game from 4-5:30, then raced home to shower and wash the blood off my knee (seriously; I was playing against a rough defender), and pretty myself up in order to bike to another reading. The banana was all I had time for until arriving home, nearly 10pm, when I devoured Saturday night’s leftovers. I love leftovers.
I also managed to bake four loaves of bread yesterday, and make and freeze six meal’s worth of turkey stock. Productive! Which is good because Saturday was most unproductive. I felt myself melting into a anxious stasis. General exhaustion. On Friday afternoon, racing to squeeze in one last errand, I found myself fantasizing about just stopping. Standing still, refusing to go on with the tasks before me. Of course, that wasn’t an option. Instead, I kept up the momentum, and biked off to pick up the kids from school for swim lessons.
Worst outing ever. (Maybe I should have just stopped everything …)
It was so hot! Everyone was so grumpy! The complaining! The epic whining! And to top it off, we had one kid bleeding from a pedal injury before we’d even reached our destination. And I hadn’t brought bandages. Let’s just sum up this adventure by stating for the record: Everyone survived!
Parenthood is not the most romantic occupation. If anyone’s trying to tell you otherwise.
On the plate for this week …
:: I’m in Burlington tomorrow morning at Books & Brunch. Readings start at 9:30am.
:: Wednesday evening, I’m looking forward to hearing my former boss, Noah Richler, talk about his new book What We Talk About When We Talk About War. Here’s the invite on Facebook. Join me? Starts at 7pm, at the Laurier Centre for Military and Strategic Disarmament Studies (now that’s a mouthful).
One last thing to note. Another lovely blog review of The Juliet Stories, this time from a fellow red-headed mama. Read on.
My thoughts are all over the place on this Monday morning. I’m wondering: should I blog our week in suppers? Skip over that and write about my weekend of solo parenting? Share news about upcoming events and unexpected Juliet feedback?
Last night, I set my alarm for swimming. I woke at 2am. I’d been dreaming about sleeping (again!). I decided to turn off the alarm and really sleep. I have three early mornings planned this week; given that I also have two evening readings, self-preservation starts to come into play. It was a little easier to turn off the alarm given that yesterday, late afternoon, I ran 12 pain-free kilometres, keeping up a good pace and plotting my return to distance running. That counts as my first real distance run since my injury in January. It’s short, as far as distance runs go, but it was a blast. Next week … 14 km??
Uh. Where was I? Oh yes, self-preserving.
Tonight, I’m ferrying children from dance to soccer practice while Kevin has an early soccer game. Tomorrow, I’m at the Starlight in Waterloo (come, too!), from 7pm onward. Readings start at 7:45. And on Wednesday I’m headed to Toronto for an event at Type Books called the “Short Story Shindig” with Heather Birrell and Daniel Griffin, and hosted by Kerry Clare; 7pm (come, too!). This is all very exciting, but doesn’t go terrifically well with excessive early morning exercise.
As I said to Kevin this morning, “This isn’t the year of the triathlon. This is the year of The Juliet Stories.” (Which may be the first time I’ve admitted that, even to myself. I really really liked the year of the triathlon. I felt so hard-core. Sharing my book feels less focused, less goal-oriented. Maybe I need to start thinking of readings as races. They definitely affect me in similar ways — I’m nervous before, wired and happy during, and it takes me a little while to come down afterward.)
So. Slightly less focus on exercise, slightly more focus on evening events.
Now. Let me tell you all about my weekend with my kids. We had so much fun! Why can’t we have this much fun all the time? Is it because I’m usually trying to get too many other things accomplished? That can’t be entirely it, because we seemed to accomplish quite a lot, even while finding time to relax. Our weekend included …
:: watching Modern Family on Friday night while sharing an entire bag of Cheetos (which were utterly disgusting, may I just add)
:: trampoline ninja jumping (everyone!)
:: a bike trip to the grocery store for picnic and party supplies, followed by a picnic in the park
:: reading outside while two girls rode giggling past me on scooters and bikes too small for them
:: hanging laundry on the line, baking bread
:: playing on electronic devices; taking lots of photos
personal pizzas for party night (the one with the olives, asparagus, and eggplant? yes, that’s mine)
:: “Party Night,” wherein we had homemade personal pizzas and punch with ginger ale while watching a movie, then gorged on episodes of Modern Family while simultaneously gorging on boxed cereal and utterly disgusting candy; the rules for Party Night go like this: everyone gets to choose one treat from the grocery store (under $4), and we stay up as late as we want; oddly, three of four children chose boxed cereal (Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes, and Froot Loops, for the record). We have never felt so collectively gross. I blame the milk. Maybe the sugar too. It was surprisingly easy to herd the children off to bed at a not entirely unreasonable hour (9:30ish) …
:: … though AppleApple and I got distracted searching for my old Grade One piano book in the basement, which we never found, but we did find one of my old and relatively simple classical piano books, and ended up staying up for another hour playing songs. The Wild Horseman. The Happy Farmer. One of Muzio Clemente’s simple Sonatinas (she’s learning it!). Minuets from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook). Bliss!
:: sleeping in
:: making and delivering, on bicycle, invitations for an 11th birthday party (a week from today!)
:: more bike riding and trampolining and laundry hanging; hey, whatever makes us happy
Mother’s day was capped off by the return of Dad, and supper out at all-you-can-eat sushi with my mom, too.
And that is plenty for one blog post. Never got to the unexpected and lovely Juliet feedback. Well. More tomorrow.