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.
From dancer to soccer player.
Sisterhood. (Click on the last photo to get the full view.)
goat cheese and tomato tart
*Monday’s menu** Sausages, buns, green salad, roasted asparagus. Ice cream cones for dessert.
*Because** Friends visiting from Toronto! It’s a theme! We planned to BBQ, but Kevin discovered, as he was going to turn on the grill, that we were out of gas. Luckily, everything transferred easily to the stove/oven.
*The usual hurry** The girls had dance. Then there was soccer, and more soccer. And rain. But we got to visit, and my friend brought ice cream and cones for the kids, who were thrilled (we don’t often do dessert, as you’ve likely observed).
*On hosting** I love hosting! I love guests. But if you’re invited to our house, you’ll have to take your hospitality with a grain of chaos. There’s just no way around it. So thank you, guests, for being so accomodating and coming anyway. Mi casa es su casa!
*Tuesday’s menu** Leftover sausage drippings fried with onions, garlic, peppers; tomatoes and leftover pasta sauce added; plus macaroni = one-pot of delicious.
*However …** The original menu was supposed to be something made with puff pastry. I’d neglected to read the instructions on the puff pastry. “Thaw for five hours,” I read with some horror, less than an hour before supper was due on the table. Thus, a quick change in plans.
*More rushing** Yup. I cooked in a hurry, and soccer girl and I ate in a real hurry (the others, too), as we all dashed off to various soccer outings. (Soccer girl and I had to drive all the way to Orangeville. On a school night. For a nasty game that nearly got the kid injured.)
*Wednesday’s menu** Community supper at Conrad Grebel (me); Fun Fair pizza (kids and Kev).
*Scheduling with precision** I biked to a reading at my former residence on campus at the University of Waterloo, and was fed a delicious supper of fish, rice, veggies, and napa salad. Kev drove the kids to the school Fun Fair, where they ate pizza, freezies, and candy. After the reading, I biked to the school, so Kev could drive the girls to a rehearsal for their dance recital on Saturday. I would take the boys home when they were done having Fun. Here is where my careful planning ran into a glitch. How to carry home an exhausted and foot-sore CJ, while pushing bike, and carrying heavy backpack?
*Thankfully** Albus helped a great deal. He pushed the bike and carried the backpack (no small feat), while I carried CJ on my back (also no small feat). We made it!
*Thursday’s menu** Quiche with asparagus and goat cheese. Goat cheese and tomato tart. Beer and bacon cupcakes.
*Because** I spent the afternoon testing recipes and photographing food for an assignment. Had to get my work done before suppertime … because it was supper. Which made supper very easy, frankly. And a good thing too, because we had another early evening of soccer practices and games.
*Complaints/Raves** A few disliked the goat cheese. But the beer and bacon cupcakes were a hit.
*Friday’s menu** Bailey’s Local Food supper!!! Hot dogs, buns, bacon-wrapped asparagus, cherry tomatoes, strawberries.
*The best** I love Fridays, and this was a good one — the kids had their last swim lessons of the session (three passed!; apparently CJ still needs to work on putting his head under the water), after which Kev and I did the Bailey’s local food pickup together while the kids stayed home and watched a movie (yes, I left them all home alone, and it was fine). And then we ate fresh local food for supper. Oh, and then the girls had a dress rehearsal for dance; but Kev took them. Phew. Because I was toast.
*Saturday’s menu** Marinated chicken drumsticks. Pasta salad. Eaten at around 4:30pm.
*Thank you,** Grandma, who brought us chicken from the market. For the pasta salad I used leftover macaroni, fresh veggies, feta, basil from our garden, and olives and capers, in a vinegar dressing.
*And then …** We all went to the girls’ Highland dance recital. Soccer girl had spent the morning at a soccer tournament — quite the change from tough little athlete, to sleek-haired dancer. But can I just say: two and a half hours of Highland dance. That is all.
*Sunday’s menu** Eggs and bagels.
*Thank you,** Kevin! Oh, and Happy Father’s Day, by the way! This meal was brought to us by an exciting soccer tournament, which saw Kevin providing live text reports on the games. When I realized her team was likely to make it through to the finals, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to borrow a carshare car, pile the kids + snacks in, and race off to Woodstock to catch the final game. We made it! And they won! And then I raced back to Waterloo to play in my own soccer game — in which I displayed much better team spirit, but less inspired play, and managed to injure myself to boot. Meanwhile, Kevin and kids made their way home, stopping for bagels on the way.
*It was a lovely Father’s Day**
Our weekend includes:
one out-of-town soccer tournament
two girls performing at a dance recital
Soccer tournaments we can do in our sleep. But this recital is a new experience.
These photos were taken while one of the girls was at the soccer tournament. She’s home now, and I’ll be attempting a dancer’s bun shortly — the pressure’s on! The bun in these photos was courtesy of a friend and neighbour who knows what she’s doing and gave me a tutorial this morning. Honestly, I’m hair-impaired. I can cut hair, and braid hair, but I hardly ever brush hair, or blow-dry hair, or attempt to make hair look sleek, tidy, neat, or professional.
As a result, we’re a windblown family. But I think this little dancer loves her sleek new look.
For a long time, I’ve thought of myself as someone who doesn’t like participating in team sports. But it had been so many years since I’d even attempted a team sport that I couldn’t remember why. And I love watching my children play team sports, and have observed the wonderful potential for camaraderie and intensive learning. So … this spring, when the opportunity arose to join a women’s soccer team, I signed up without hesitation.
At first, I thought the difficulty was going to be the fact that I hadn’t played organized soccer since the age of ten. But I’ve been watching a lot of excellent soccer over the past few years, and I’m physically fit, and a quick learner — and our team welcomes beginners. So that hasn’t been an issue.
What I realized after last night’s game is that there is another difficulty, one I’d forgotten, and it’s the reason I don’t like team sports.
Actually, I do like team sports. I love playing on a team. The problem is that I’m not always a fabulous team player. The problem, in other words, is me. Team sports don’t like me.
For years, I suppressed my competitive nature, and only began embracing it again when I took up running and signed up for races. Wow, this is actually fun, thought I; and wondered why on earth I’d suppressed such an essential part of myself. In fact, I embraced my competitive nature so thoroughly that I forgot what I’d disliked about it in the first place — and let’s just say there was good reason for that suppression.
Here’s why: Because competition brings out an adrenalin-fuelled intensity in my personality that can be extremely unpleasant. Nope, it’s worse than that. It can be ugly.
In individual competition, there’s no problem: the only one I’m being hard on is myself, and for reasons probably best discussed with a therapist, being hard on myself brings out my best effort. But on a team, competitive intensity, handled badly, just sucks. Basically, I’m transferring expectations about my own level of intensity to everyone around me. What I seem to demand of myself, and therefore of teammates, is maximum effort — forget being there for fun, apparently I just want to win. Honestly, if this team sports thing is going to work out, I need to figure out how to dial this aspect of my personality down, and fast. Also, I need to shut up. There’s nothing wrong with having high expectations for myself; but in a team setting, positive feedback is the only feedback worth giving.
(And I need to get off the field without complaint when I’m subbed out! Good grief. It was one little moment in Sunday’s game, but honestly, in that moment I behaved like an ass.)
You know, on the surface, it was a good game on Sunday evening — we won for the first time this season, and I scored the only goal of the game, and it was a very nice goal, put together with the help of excellent teamwork. But I came home feeling yucky. Realizing that I’d let my competitive nature take over; realizing that I wanted too badly to win and was willing to fight inappropriately toward that end.
So I guess my question is: Can I change? Can I, ahem, mature? Can I become a good teammate?
In some ways, I hate how the learning never seems to end. In other ways, I’m glad for it. Life has a way of shaving off my hubris, and keeping me humble. Ugh. It’s no fun being kept humble, even if it’s good medicine.
But I’m hopeful. It’s not all bad news. I really like being coached and getting feedback and criticism on my play — probably shaped by years of appreciating the writer/editor relationship, which is based on necessary criticism and mutual trust. And I really want to keep playing on a team, and improving — everything. Skills, fitness, but especially attitude. Especially that. I’ll report back.
Hello, weekend. Hello, rain.
I don’t mind. I feel indoorsy today, sleepy. A long run is planned for late this afternoon, but I prefer running in the cool damp than hot hot heat. I’m baking bread. I’m sipping a cup of coffee and opening the newspaper — and finding a review that I wrote on an essay anthology called In the Flesh (read it here.)
That’s an awfully lovely discovery after a weird writing week. (The dinosaur story got sent yesterday; an interview for another story due next week went well; but I got very little work done on my new novel. It’s always easier to set aside work for prospective payment in favour of work for guaranteed payment.)
Above, a photo of my well-dressed recital children. With the approach of summer holidays, we are coming to the end of lessons. Last piano lessons last week. Last swim lessons next week. Highland dance recital next weekend.
(Soccer, however, will go on. And on. No matter the rain. But it wouldn’t be summer without soccer, at our house …)
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