So, this has not been a productive couple of days. That photo, above, was taken this morning around 11am. It is dark, it is raining, the rain has frozen on all the branches, the sidewalks are treacherous, and, oh! School’s on! Except not for AppleApple (power outage), or CJ (power outage). Albus and Fooey were feeling very cheesed indeed when I dropped them at their very-much-open school.
We woke to no power and a rapidly cooling house. The kitchen was dark. AppleApple lit candles. I lit the gas stove (thank goodness for gas stoves!). But we couldn’t make coffee because we grind the beans every morning in an electric grinder. Hey, remember those old-fashioned coffee grinders with the handle and the little wooden drawer? We needed one of those.
I also may need to trade in my large non-portable computer for a laptop, I realize, on a day such as this. My programs and files are all locked up in iMac silence. But you know, all I can think about is the interview tomorrow, so my brain is basically distracted and inaccessible anyway. I am typing this at Kevin’s office, on a borrowed computer, with AppleApple by my side. There is power and heat here. AppleApple is whispering the many many many stanzas of Poe’s The Raven, which she’s decided to memorize for poetry month. As far as I can gather, this is only loosely a school assignment, and she could have chosen to memorize, say, a sonnet, but, no, she’s gone for an 18-stanza marathon. She has til the end of the month. She’s on stanza 11. The raven has made several appearances, and, she reports, has already spoken his famous line several times. “Nevermore.”
All I can hear is the whispering. I can’t concentrate. I’ve got nothing more, just now.
Was relieved to get up early for yoga this morning, if only to escape the circular anxiety dreams.
But I was tired in yoga class. As I lay, half-awake, in the final shavasana, I thought to myself, nothing had better get in the way of my morning nap, or I’m not going to make it through today.
Must have been a premonition. I drove home through the rain, thinking, the kids aren’t going to enjoy their walk to school today. And I opened my email to discover: SCHOOL CANCELLED! Apparently a massive ice storm was in the offing, though I can’t say it’s materialized as promised (which is not a bad thing, I realize). Frankly, all I was thinking was: with school cancelled, how am I going to get my nap???
I was desperate. I told the kids they could play electronics while I went back to bed. Worked like a charm, although those dreams were even more bizarre. I was on a train in Syria doing an aerobics class led by a Serbian instructor whose moves were comically complex. I couldn’t follow. I sobbed into my seat cushion (being on a train, remember), a feeling of fear and despair permeating the dream, which I understood was a dream, and I worried in the dream about having a dream that would make me sob.
And then I woke up, and cleaned the house. Electronics time over.
I stopped cleaning at lunchtime, in a really grumpy mood. I made a delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. I went outside and grabbed some ice photos. The photos aren’t terribly impressive, there not being much ice. As far as I can see, the cars keep whipping along our street without any trouble at all. But not to worry, the kids are safe, playing soccer in the living room and creating a Lego bomb in the upstairs hallway. It is now around the time I’d expect them home from school. I’ve hooked them back up to their electronics again, which gives me the luxury of writing this post. I’ll admit no feelings of guilt.
I’m still kind of grumpy, though. Can you tell? I’m not hiding it very well.
Yeah, well. We’re all a little grumpy. We’re all accustomed to activity and go, go, go, and even if it’s not a really bad storm, the weather is still yucky and cold and wet and not conducive to outdoor play, and everything’s closed, and we haven’t gotten up to anything more exciting than electronics and housecleaning.
Total side note before I sign off and unhook the children: Have you seen The Mindy Project yet? It’s a sitcom, so if you hate sitcoms, don’t bother, but we find it hysterically funny at our house. We’ve been letting the older kids stay up to watch (be warned, there is some adult content). I found myself fighting not to giggle out loud while lying on my yoga mat this morning, waiting for class to begin, because I was remembering scenes from the episode we watched last night.
getting ready for school
Awaking out of my comforting morning nap, a number of blog post subjects floated to the surface along with me, and then apparently floated away on a light breeze because I can recall none of them.
Oh, yes, I remember one thought. Back in undergrad, I had a fascination with a 16th-century poet who published a handful of poems in the popular press, and who identified herself as a woman: the first known to do so, though of course, the popular press meant these weren’t poems printed in a bound book, but poems printed in short runs on a few sheets of paper, rather like an advertising flier — “popular” as in cheap and meant to be easily available, light entertainment, easily consumed — so there may have been other women poets before her, lost to the recycling bins of time, or others who published but did not identify themselves as women (as is apparently the case TODAY for many female bloggers who write on “male” topics like science and technology). Anyway. As I’m writing this out, I’m realizing how much more research I would need to do into the physical details to really get this right, but the point being, I had a fascination with a female poet who published in the second half of the sixteenth-century (that’s Elizabeth I’s era) in London, England, and because almost nothing is known about her life, I imagined a life around her, and she’s remained a character of interest to me, in an era of interest to me.
About a century later, the first handbook on midwifery that was written by a female midwife was published. (Male midwives had published other handbooks before her; and yes, there were male midwives in 17th-century England.) I read that handbook for a research paper a few years ago, and was horrified and fascinated by the techniques and remedies recommended therein. I’ll spare you the details, or perhaps save them for a book. Let’s just say, midwifery through the ages was not for the faint of heart. And that was the thought that bubbled to the surface this morning: somehow linking these two women and writing about them. Do they belong in the same book, separated by nearly a century? Could I take liberties with time? I’m a fiction writer! Of course I could!
The key will be discovering the plot that might emerge around two such characters. Or perhaps she is only one character. I won’t do all my thinking out loud, here, promise. But my mind is drawn to starting up a new, big project, and having just completed a manuscript of what I’d have to call historical fiction, I’m thinking, hey, I liked that a lot. I could write more of that. Plus, I’d get to start with one of my favourite past-times: research! Maybe I could even hang out in a rare book archive, like the one I used to frequent as a grad student in Toronto.
Writing in the present is trickier. Habits and moral codes change, trends and brands and music and tastes in colour and fashion and food all change at a rapid pace, important details the inclusion of which may stale-date an offering before it comes close to publication. I’ve never been cool anyway. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. I’m not going to write today’s version of “Generation-X,” like Douglas Coupland. (Although, as an aside, I do enjoy tapping away and adding to and subtracting from a never-finished manuscript set in the present, which I find endlessly amusing, but regrettably plotless; it reads rather like a series of sit-com scenes.)
This is no way to conclude a blog post, and yet, I shall.
(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!
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).
If you read all the way to the end of this post, I will show you what our family does with its spare time. (You’re skipping down already, aren’t you?) Well come back up for some writing-related news.
1. I have an essay in this moving anthology on pregnancy, parenthood and loss. This is just a teasing preview, as it won’t be published until the fall, but I wanted to share the news. I will let you know all about launch party plans when the time comes.
This publication will mark my entry into non-fiction and memoir, which is a departure for me, but may be the start of a new direction.
More to come.
2. You may not know that I’ll be coming to Hamilton, wearing my writer hat. I’m reading at GritLit, Hamilton’s literary festival. My event is on Sunday, April 7, at 1pm, with Cary Fagan and Miranda Hill. “Great Things Come in Short Packages.” I’m 99% positive that the organizers aren’t referring to height. Details in the link above.
That catches us up, and makes me feel like a nice professional blogger again.
And now for the reveal.
Here’s what our family does with its spare time: we spontaneously and collectively brainstorm a parody advertisement, and then we make it into a video. And then I post it here. The original idea bubbled up as we told the kids (one in particular), that if her dream is going to Disney, she will have to tag along with a friend because, well, let’s just say it’s not Kevin’s dream, nor is it mine. Point being: some dreams don’t come true. But the idea amused us. As a family, we watch very little television together, and stream what we watch online, and lately there’s been a rash of Disney ads, so we found ourselves riffing on the theme. AppleApple wrote the script. I recorded the voiceover. Kevin did all the video editing (he’s good!). And now we offer it to you, and hope you find it even a fraction as hiliarious as we do. With humour, it’s hard to know. (Note to friends going to Disney: this is not an attempt at subliminal messaging.)
Shortest break ever, huh.
A few things. If you are a blog subscriber, please don’t unsubscribe. I will continue to post updates from time to time. Like now.
I find myself throwing around two vastly different ideas on how to continue blogging, with the intention of keeping it a healthy outlet and connector, rather than a time-consuming distraction or vanity-feeding outreach. My first idea is to become a weekend poster, or “slacker blogger” as suggested by a friend. As an all-in personality, this suggestion sounds tough, but just might work. I’ve got the notion that I would like to pour my daily blogging energies into the writing of a non-fiction book, so maintaining an irregular, special occasion, weekend blog would fit well with that. My second idea is to form a paid subscriber base that would make blogging a job rather than a hobby. I throw that idea out there, while acknowledging that it’s problematic from a number of angles. One is that I have serious inborn qualms about mixing creative endeavours with monetary ones. Two is that I may not have the time to give paying subscribers what they’re paying for, and that would be stressful.
So many other things to write about!
* March break: over and done, and after a long week home alone with the children I am inspired to find alternative plans for our summer holidays. My half-baked plan to let the kids look after themselves while I put ear plugs in and worked was a total fail. What was I thinking??
* Making tea: I read a little article in Geez magazine on making your own infusions/tea by using ingredients like dried orange peel, ginger root, cinnamon stick, cloves, etc. So I’m drying the peel from the orange my son ate this morning.
* Ingratitude is on my mind. How to help my children express and feel gratitude for the many offerings they receive, rather than sulking or complaining about the things they wish they’d received instead? Hm.
* After my last post, I was grateful to hear from readers who hadn’t commented before. The one-sided nature of blogging can feel lopsided and strangely weighted, like I’m writing to a mirror-self, and that sometimes bothers me. I appreciate when people comment, or tell me in person that they’ve related to something I’ve written. It makes writing feel like less of an isolating, interior occupation — which writing so often does. I would miss that about blogging. I think I would miss it too much to stop altogether. That is my weekend reflection. What other medium allows me to connect, in a genuine and honest and real and perhaps most importantly immediate way, with so many people all at once?
So, thanks for reading. Til next time. xo, Carrie
P.S. In response to my vague idea about blogging for subscribers (above), a reader emailed to say: “It occurs to me that it might be possible to think about a blog not on a subscriber model (which might pressurize a daily post), but on a supporter model, which could be more fluid.” She also sent a link to this TED talk by Amanda Palmer on “The art of asking.” Here’s the link. Here’s a taste: “For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of the community, connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance, but the internet … is taking us back. It’s about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”