Alright blog, what have you got for me today?
This feels like a day for random bits. Things I want to remember about this very moment in time.
**My two eldest children, at this moment in time, have exactly the same shoe size as me. And apparently I have a lot of shoes, because right now my eldest wears a pair of my old running shoes as his indoor shoes at school, another pair as his outdoor shoes, and his winter boots were also formerly mine; and just this morning AppleApple took my pink lightweight tennis shoes to school to be her new indoor shoes. She’s outgrown her old ones. She’s also outgrown all soccer shoes. And this morning started with a lengthy search through her drawers for clothes that still fit. Suddenly all pants are rising above the ankle, and all shirts above the wrist. The very definition of a growth spurt.
**I’m plugging away at my multi-sport activities. This morning was spin class. Do I push too hard in this class? I really give it my all, leave everything in the room; and then look up with glazed eyes at the end of hour and realize it is 7:15am and the bulk of the day’s responsibilities still lie before me.
**I had my first DNF in a race on Sunday. It was a 30km race, and given my injury I could neither train for it, nor hope to complete the distance. I’d accepted that it wasn’t to be a few months ago, but hearing people in spin class this morning talk about their experiences in the same race made me more than a little envious. I feel like I’m holding steady in terms of my fitness. Barely. After such exciting gains last year, it’s difficult to stay positive about just hanging in there. But just hanging in takes commitment too. And I haven’t quit. Four early mornings a week is four more than I was doing two years ago. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but daily commitment and discipline isn’t often or even usually about an immediate reward, nor does it happen because we feel like doing it every day. It’s about making change over time, the steady accretion of experience. Mostly, it’s just about showing up.
**I’m starting to do research on what I hope will be my next book. Kevin and I have marked several writing weeks on the calendar, one per month for the next three months. I’m nervous about diving into a new character and a new world. But I’m curious to see what will come of it. Stay tuned.
**Remember when I used to get a good revelation after most yoga classes? Not necessarily an enormous life-altering revelation, but at least something small, some interesting new way of approaching a problem or idea? And that doesn’t seem to happen any more. It’s made me wonder whether I’ve stopped looking for revelations. Am I going to class free from specific unsolved problems? Or have I forgotten to use that time as a meditative space? I’m not sure. In any case, I took a nice long shavasana yesterday evening, and emerged with the notion that I should learn how to write screenplays. Is that nutty? Maybe it was sparked by reading this article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail about the slow decline of the novel, and the rise of awesome tv shows. A large part of being a writer (for me) is wanting to express ideas and be read, to provide entertainment but also food-for-thought — to an audience. I never got around to writing in-depth about Mordecai Richler’s biography, but one of the things that impressed me about his career was its breadth across the mediums. He wrote frequently for television and radio, and in his early career worked on many screenplays for which he received no credit, but obviously gained valuable experience. Would my abilities fit into other mediums of expression? … that was yesterday’s take-home yoga “revelation.”
**But I’m too tired this morning to follow up. On just about anything. So a quick and dirty blog post it is. And catching up on emails.
**And running birthday party errands for an almost-four-year-old; that will be this afternoon’s main task. The bar for today is set pretty low. I was just glad to get laundry in the washer, and soup in the crockpot after waving the kids off to school this morning.
In a long race, pacing is key. And so today I am pacing myself. Because yesterday was full. It was as full as I could make it. And I promise a proper report, with photos, very soon. But meantime, I need to unstuff myself slightly, unpack, regroup, and address a few issues.
Seriously? I know you missed me, but this is a bit of an over-reaction, don’t you think? It was only one day.
Dear Cold Cellar,
Why didn’t you mention the rotting squash? It was only one day!
Dear Compost Bin,
Are we still on speaking terms? You look like you have something to tell me, and it’s making me nervous.
You were awesome this morning. I missed you yesterday, but seeing you all contentedly and safely off to your schools made me so happy.
I quietly declared yesterday a mental health day. And so I did not blog. Not that blogging negatively affects my mental health. It’s just that it’s one of the many things I try to do every day. And yesterday, it felt like there were perhaps already too many things on the must-do list and that I should therefore ease back, breathe, take a long nap.
And then the power went out. For hours and hours.
CJ ran around the house trying every light switch and reporting back. “Not even the cold cellar, Mommy!” “Not even in my room!” Meanwhile, I cooked supper in an eerily quiet kitchen over the blue gas flame. Partially cooked, would be more accurate. I’d started preparing it rather late, and planned to warm ingredients in the crockpot, leave everything simmering on the counter, and race back home to eat in between piano lessons and “Performing Arts Night” at the kids’ school (see: already enough things to do). I was sauteeing onions when everything but the stove stopped. This is one of those situations when it is extremely handy to work from home. Dump still-frozen ingredients from crockpot to stove. Thaw. Beats arriving home to a chilly house and an unfinished supper waiting on the counter.
Mental health day really only lasted an hour. But it was a good hour. I napped peacefully while CJ watched a movie. He had minor surgery yesterday morning (and it was very minor, no worries), so I kept him home from nursery school. Sleep is good. So good. And it is something I’ve found lacking post-launch-party. Something about coming down off the mountain. Too much oxygen down here. The clutter of the every day. The feeble human mind whirling as it tries to absorb all the good stuff and keep it–and exhausting itself in the process.
After a truly restorative nap, it was back to work. More movies for CJ. Plus some playtime on my office floor. I find myself fearing that what my children will remember of this time in our lives is their mother saying in a voice tinged with the frantic: “Just a minute, please, I’m trying to finish some work!” Or: “Wait, wait, wait, I just have to get this work done!” Or: “Mommy’s working, can’t you get a glass of water yourself?”
You know, that’s not the worst thing ever, come to think of it. A little water-fetching independence never hurt anybody.
This morning the girls were wondering when I might start baking again. It’s true. I bake bread on the weekends, but my cookie and treat-baking has fallen right off the map. Fooey was browsing longingly through a kids’ cookbook from which we used to like to bake banana muffins — together. And I looked at the girls, sitting side by side at the breakfast counter, and I said, “Hey, you’re big enough to try baking together!” “Really? Can we?” “Of course!” (If they’re big enough, I should be big enough, too: to let them learn by trial and error; ie. make a mess, and possibly bake something inedible.)
I’m not going to declare today a mental health day. Nap: check. Power: check. Blog: check. Kids safely to school: check. Supper planned: check. Early morning exercise: check. Discovery of a new blog (by me!) up at the amazing Canadian literary hub The 49th Shelf. The house is quiet. It’s not even 10am. And I’ve got messages like this waiting for me in my inbox:
“I finished reading The Juliet Stories this afternoon. That ending!!!—I’ve read it over and over.”
and this: “My 90 year old mom finished your book. She said something to the effect that you “have an absolutely incredible way with words”.”
and this: “Just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying Juliet. In fact, it’s hard to put down! It’s a gorgeous book.”
(If any of you are moved to write such kind words to me, please also consider taking time to let Amazon and Chapters know how you feel too. You don’t have to buy the book from them, but as Tuesday’s post explains, personal reviews and good ratings move the book higher in the rankings.)
Okay, now it is 10am. What am I going to do with my one precious life today? And you, what are you going to do?
This morning started at an earlier hour and less pleasantly than anticipated. A certain small soccer player decided she didn’t feel like playing for her team this morning. Too early, too tired. The Marshmallows would have to struggle on without her. Except her dad coaches said Marshmallows. And there are scarcely enough kids on the team to make a team when everyone shows up. She had to go. Team spirit. Letting her team down. Being a team player. All concepts not best discussed at 7 o’clock in the morning. The unhappy debate woke the house.
At last, small defiant Marshmallow off to play for her team, I returned to my bed, hoping for a wee lie-in. CJ followed.
“Come for a snuggle?”
He climbed in, sat up with blankets over knees, alert and happy. “Should we have a Cookie Monster story?” he asked.
“Do you want a long story or a short story?”
“Whatever you think.” Eyes closed, hoping to drift back to semi-sleep.
“I think a long story.”
“Okay. A long story.”
He thought for a moment, and then launched in. “One day Cookie Monster didn’t know what to do. So he was looking out his window. And his mom was baking something!”
“Maybe it was bread?” I suggested, thinking of the bread I planned to bake this morning.
“No. It was something better than bread.”
“Like strawberry blueberry cookies!”
The story continued, with jumping garbage cans and birthday parties and magic birthday gifts and hiding gifts under the carpet, and lots of mms and ohs from the drifting audience.
I am baking bread right now, but maybe I should consider baking something better, too. The two littlest are playing in the snow (we have snow! it’s cold! just like winter!). They’ll be in before I know it, requesting hot chocolate with marshmallows (and not the soccer-playing kind). Strawberry blueberry cookie recipes, anyone?
my 4:45am companion, with sound effects
I did not take photos at last night’s show. It was late for mamas at mid-week, a decade and a half older than the kids who came out to dance. But we mamas came out to dance too. And we still know how, despite our complaints about the lateness (so late!) and the loudness (first band, so loud!), and the “Oh God, I hope my hip holds out” (so lame!).
The dancing. It was really fun. We danced for the second band, but the really inspired getting down didn’t happen until Kidstreet arrived on stage. I love my siblings! Their sound is infectious, their performance is joyful and welcoming, and my sister is just the most gorgeous and composed creature on stage that you can possibly imagine (whether or not she can see it herself). As the set progressed, my dance moves got more adventurous, less fearful of will-this-hurt-my-hip? By the last song of the night, I’d shed that decade and a half, at least inside my own head. Walking home through the quiet of freshly fallen snow, I had to admit that I was limping ever so slightly. But when I woke up this morning, my hip actually felt years better.
Seriously. I could jog across the living-room without pain. How bizarre is that?
Let me tell you about the few hours between dancing and morning. I was gloriously asleep when the pitter-patter of feet woke me. CJ had gone to the bathroom by himself (yay!), returned to his bed and decided he didn’t like the looks of it (uh oh!), and come into our room lugging his water bottle and a giant sheep stuffie (noooooooo!). “I had a bad dream!” he announced, which is his new code for “I don’t want to go to sleep.” He attempted to climb into bed beside me. The sheep didn’t fit. Seriously, it’s enormous. We could all see this wasn’t working. I dragged myself upright, walked him back to his own room, explained about it being the middle of the night, sleeptime, etc., tucked him in.
Pitter-patter, pitter-patter. No sheep this time. “Is anyone downstairs?” he asks from the side of the bed. It’s pitch black. 4:45am. “Nope. We’re all sleeping. Because it’s the middle of the night!” He climbs in beside me, snuggles up. I’m too tired to object. We “sleep” like this for an hour until I just can’t stand the wriggling anymore. (I know lots of parents share beds with their children, and I just want to know: do those children hold still in their sleep? Because mine are like squirrels, if squirrels were much larger and not furry and had sharp elbows and hot breath and digging heels).
“Listen,” I said at last. “I can’t sleep like this. I’m going to your bed.”
“You can stay here, and I will go sleep in your bed. Or, you can go sleep in your bed and I’ll stay here. One or the other. Because I’m not getting any rest and I have to get up in an hour for a dentist appointment.”
“My blankets are too small.”
“Not the green one. The green one is plenty big. So what you do want: should I go sleep in your bed, or will you?”
Surprisingly, he chose to return to his bed. And then he slept.
And much too soon after that I was sitting in a reclining chair staring at beige ceiling panels, listening to top-forty soft rock while a masked woman scaled tartar off my teeth.
If I were sketching a trajectory of pleasantness upon a graph, say, from midnight until nine this morning, it would look like a ski hill. High to low, baby, high to low. The nighttime bed-sharing was definitely several graph points above the hygienist prodding exposed nerve endings between my teeth. At least with the bed-sharing I got to snuggle up to a hot-breathed, wriggling, pointy-elbowed creature of intense dearness. With the dentist all I got was a return appointment a week from today to fill a cavity — my first in TWENTY YEARS.
See. Straight down. Like a ski hill.
It’s a life.
What to do, what to do?
What do you do when you’re feeling less than inspired?
This morning was my “sleeping-in” morning; naturally Kevin decided he’d get up early and spend about five minutes rustling around in the dark looking for his clothes. I stayed in bed until 7:15 but shouldn’t have bothered. It’s not like it made me happier. Downstairs, AppleApple greeted me with beautifully brushed hair and a packed schoolbag: “You’re always grumpy in the morning, Mom, so I decided to try to have everything ready to go, so you wouldn’t be so grumpy.”
Gee, thanks, kid. A hint: don’t tell your mother she’s grumpy if you’re trying to lift her from her grumpiness.
Truth is, it’s probably more anxiety than grumpiness. Is it the lack of light? General Novemberishness? The sudden onset of Christmas? Whatever it is, this is not my best time of year; never is. As the light recedes, I’m dark with indecision.
**What thoughtful and possibly homemade gifts can I devise to spread cheer and joy this season? Can I find stress-free ways to fulfill our family’s seasonal rituals and traditions and meet everyone’s expectations?
**Should I skip supper and try out that running club tonight? How can I fit a club’s schedule into my own? Maybe that’s why there are no women my age at running club — maybe we’re all at home eating supper with our families and trying to keep a finger on the pulse of each kid’s well-being.
**What the heck book am I writing right now? I keep finding characters and abandoning them: sorry, don’t want to spend the next six years with you.
I’m thinking in massive chunks rather than manageable morsels. I’m thinking an entire book rather than a page or two.
Know what I mean?
As if every tiny individual choice has to fit into a larger whole, has to be a stone in this solid structure I’m building, this thing called Life. And if I go off piling stones in the wrong place, the whole thing is going to be ruined. Hm. Office as metaphor: Remember how the windows were the wrong size? How upset I felt? And how unexpectedly easy they were to change? It took some work, for sure, but it wasn’t impossible or disastrous, and ultimately only cost a day’s labour.
So what to do?
Today, I’ve set myself a small task. I am writing a song for a character in The Juliet Stories. She’d probably write a much better song herself, but that’s okay. My brother Karl has a new recording studio and when the song is ready, I can go and record it, which is pretty cool. It doesn’t add up to anything particular. It doesn’t fit anywhere else. It doesn’t answer a single question. It’s just something I want to do.
It’s just a little pile of stones I’m making in the middle of a field I happen to be passing through.
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