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!
Tuesday morning, 9:30AM
Well that was short-lived. I am very definitely, completely, assuredly, hopelessly not alone in the house this morning. The day Albus has been praying for has arrived: Snow Day! School’s cancelled. Although I think it should more accurately be called Really Cold Day, because that seems to be why they cancelled it.
And it is really cold. I can’t deny it.
Behind me comes the persistent wail of the five-year-old: Mom, no one will play with me! Mom, no one will play with me! Mom, no one will play with me!
His sister suggests: If you had an imaginary friend, you’d always have someone to play with.
But imaginary friends can’t win!
Yes, says his sister, it can be arranged that imaginary friends can win. You just have to know how to do it.
Random parenting tip: I find that if you answer in soothingly vague understanding tones, yet don’t follow up with any action, children will go off and find something to do. Case in point: five-year-old has retired to exploding little go-go figures in the living-room. Happily.
Does our living room look really empty? It is. It’s the perfect play area for indoor soccer matches and floor puzzles and exploding go-go guys that you’ve arranged across the barren floor. It’s ugly as all get-out, of course, but that doesn’t diminish its value as a play area.
Kevin and I are currently brainstorming. This is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not. For example, we do have two dogs (unrepentant early morning whiners and poopers on porches in cold weather) due to impulsive brainstorming. But we all know how hard it is to change one’s habits. And Kevin and I maintain a perverse fondness for impulsively brainstormed decisions. Right now what we’re impulsively brainstorming is getting a gas fireplace. Maybe where the sofa is (see above). We can only do this if we don’t get a new stove and range hood. But, we brainstorm impulsively, maybe the stove will prove fixable. (This has not been adequately determined, nor do we know how much it will cost, to keep fixing a stove that has frequently gone on the fritz ever since its costly purchase six years ago. It’s like that car you keep repairing because you own it and you’ve committed so much to it already. “Throwing good money after bad.” That’s the phrase. But then again, there must be a handy counter-phrase, such as “Waste not, want not,” and “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”)
I’ve lost my train of thought. So have you. This is my brain on Snow Day.
I am currently reading Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, an entertaining guide to punctuation, which I fully intend to inflict on future creative writing students, should I ever teach again. Yesterday I haggled over a comma. Today, I’m writing dreadfully long parenthetical asides while my children lie about the house. Tomorrow they will be back in school. Won’t they? Are swim lessons cancelled, too? And soccer practice? Is the entire day a clean slate? If I hide out in my office drinking coffee will they notice? Can I keep them from the siren’s call of ‘lectronics, as my youngest puts it? Should a question mark have been placed at the end of that last sentence?
It’s beautiful out there. And frozen. I’m leaving the office to go for groceries now, actually, because we’re low on everything and this is the kind of weather that screams: STOCK UP OR PERISH!
Although apparently we can expect a light rain by Saturday. (Really, weather?) Sometimes I suspect we’re just lobsters in a pot, happily swimming around without a clue to our fates. Except it’s worse than that. That analogy only works if the lobsters have filled the pot, lit the gas flame, and jumped in voluntarily, while their leaders systematically burn and bury all the scientific evidence that jumping into pots on stoves is certain to cause cooking in lobsters. And strains in analogies. Perhaps I’ve taken this too far.
It’s 2014. I wonder why I thought it would be different from 2013.
1. Family photo out-takes
We didn’t make a Christmas letter this year. Maybe I will get it done over the holidays (think of this statement as speculation rather than a plan). Nevertheless, as a first step toward creating a Christmas letter, yesterday, I attempted to take our annual family-photo-with-Christmas-PJs. CJ wasn’t very happy about leaving his new Christmas present to join the shot (new present = Game Boy, old school, bought used).
when is this going to be over?
help me pick up the dog, Dad!
please, smile, CJ? please?
he’s smiling! Now, what’s in your mouth, Foo? “Nothing.” Um, can you take it out, please?
could we get just one good photo, here? just one?
this is as good as it gets (click on photos to see in full)
lots and lots of candy; thanks, Santa
This wasn’t on my wish list, but it was the perfect gift. A radio that turns on when you turn it on. Radical concept! No need to download or refresh or mess around with speaker connections. I opened the box, plugged it in, turned it on, tuned it to CBC Radio One, and the rest of the day was perfection. Music all day long. The Messiah in the morning, and cheesy seasonal songs the rest of the day. It’s the one day of the year that I can listen to cheesy seasonal songs with appreciation. Even the Queen’s address sounded good.
I’m embarrassed to say we gave in to his relentless campaign for another of-the-moment electronic device
“Coconut” the giant-eyed monkey (she has a weakness of stuffies with giant eyes)
the “new” Game Boy
3. Do nothing all day
how I spent my Christmas day: my job is done here
This third is a new tradition, only conceived of this very year, in fact, only thought of late on Christmas eve when Santa was packing the stockings. Kevin and I were feeling very full indeed after three consecutive days of Christmas meals (ham; turkey; paella + grazing). Our counters were blessed with pans of sticky buns given us by generous neighbours and family, and we looked at each other and said, “Who needs a big Christmas dinner?” So we decided to skip that part.
We skipped everything, really — all obligations, all work, all chores.
The kids let us sleep in till 9. I kid you not. We stayed in our PJs all day. I did no laundry. We did no meal prep. We did no dishes. I sat and drank coffee and tea and worked on a puzzle and listened to my new radio all day long. The house was thrillingly disastrous, so much so that the 12-year-old looked around last night and said, “This place is a mess.” HAHAHA! This is what it would always be like if Daddy and I took every day off! Then we watched a movie together (Parent Trap, the one with Haley Mills, still as funny as I remembered it from childhood). We ate sticky buns, basically. The kids added sugary cereal to the menu. There were the oranges from the stockings. We did not go hungry. It was exactly what we all wanted — to be together, and nothing more. It was the most peaceful, blissful Christmas I can remember.
These are my favourite people. We almost never get to spend unadulterated time together. What could be more special, more celebratory, more holiday-making?
4. Boxing Day turkey dinner?
Today we’re being healthy and eating fruit and doing laundry and yoga and cleaning up the dishes. Our neighbour has loaned us her electric turkey roaster (there it is behind AppleApple), and we’re going to roast up our turkey today, and make the trimmings, too. I’m feeling ready for it again.
Need a back rub? Consider this simple and inexpensive way to ease sore muscles. It’s all in the toes, apparently.
Your siblings will fight for a turn. You might even get some extra help from the dogs, whether you want it or not.
Want the latest in video gaming technology? Try researching it obsessively, reporting in minute detail to your parents (who don’t always appear to be paying attention), conversing for weeks about nothing else, and, if all else fails, purchasing it for yourself with your summer babysitting money.
Enjoy the fruits of your labours. (I know I do: evidence, above.)
* Family; cousins; new cousin: hosting (I love to host!)
* Being fed ham & scalloped potatoes for our first Thanksgiving dinner, and relaxing into the weekend
* Playing soccer in mid-October warmth with Kev, kids, and brother-in-law, and not getting concussion symptoms afterward (just aching muscles)
* Celebrating the UK deal with really good fish & chips
* Long morning dog walks, visiting with sister-in-law
* Listening to Alice Munro being interviewed on Writers and Company, Sunday afternoon, while peeling potatoes and grating beets for our Thanksgiving supper
* Feeding my family a feast: a roasted 20-pound turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, grated sweet-and-sour beets, fresh cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and baked apples
* Inviting the new parents to join us — and the new parents coming over!
this is how our family walks uptown
Yesterday evening, we celebrated my US deal. I took the family out for hamburgers, in part because that seems like quintessential American food, and in part because Albus has been dying to go to this place called The Works uptown, which exclusively serves burgers.
no good photos were taken on this outing
I tried to impress on everyone the hugeness of this celebration, and even attempted a little speech (no one noticed), but the milkshakes, extensive topping options, and general excitement of eating out was far too distracting. So I sat back and enjoyed the whirling conversation. Afterward, we popped into Words Worth Books to browse and splurge. (I picked up Erin Bow’s brand-new, just out YA novel, Sorrow’s Knot, which looks as deliciously darkly scary as her first.) And then we wandered home and everyone was so thoroughly stuffed and wiped out we just went straight to bed.
Everything about this outing was a delight.
Here’s the most delightful part. We’ll get to do it again — only next time, we’re going out for fish and chips and mushy peas. (!!!!) Can you guess? Unbelievably, amazingly, overwhelmingly, I have more news to share.
The rights to Girl Runner have been sold in the UK (and Australia) to another terrific editor: Lisa Highton, who is the publisher of Two Roads, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton. Yup. I’m over the moon, and have been re-reading somewhat compulsively the press release Lisa prepared yesterday to announce the acquisition, which says, in part: “GIRL RUNNER is a brilliantly evocative story of time and place with an unforgettable heroine.”
Kevin and kids are already plotting to hitchhike along on any future tours to the UK.
So here are the pub dates, for those who are wondering:
September, 2014: Canada (and Australia, I think)
Spring 2015 (tentative): US and UK
I don’t know why, but wandering through the bookstore last night I felt enormous excitement to imagine my new book on the shelf, wondering what its cover would look like (a different cover in each country?), wanting to pick it up and feel its weight in my hands. I think my party planners and I are going to have to out-do ourselves for the launch this time around (and that’s saying something). The fun of bringing this book to life is still ahead of me. And a footnote in all of this is that I’m getting to work with these amazing, accomplished women — Janice Zawerbny and Sarah MacLachlan at Anansi, Claire Wachtel at HarperCollins, and Lisa Highton at Two Roads, plus my agent Hilary McMahon who’s been with me now for nearly a decade. It’s pretty darn wonderful.
In other news, undeterred, and inspired by a post I found on the ever-reliable internet called “The Crisper Whisperer: How to Handle Eggplant Overload,” I ordered the half-bushel of eggplant, and half-bushel of tomatoes. Because a) I have masochistic tendencies, b) there’s room in the freezer and c) you’ve got to take your chances when they come.