Category: Winter

Try to empty your mind!

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Sunday evening: yoga in our living-room, led by AppleApple.

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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!

Note to self

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How to use the restless minutes and hours between activities scheduled and unavoidable:
– finish / write new story
– write 15 mins / day on any subject that comes to mind [project title: The Woman Formerly Known As]
– blog but keep it short: limit time spent writing to ten mins, see what you can produce
– read and don’t feel guilty
– research popular print culture and mysticism
– limit FB visits to time when out and about (entertainment)
– start tapping into new characters, era, and place, testing the waters

[the above is an actual note actually sent to self, as typed into phone on Wednesday, January 29th, while sitting in the car in a parking lot with a few minutes to spare between a stop at the library and picking up daughter for piano lessons]

:::

A few notes on where I’m at, today, on this last day of January.

– I’m waiting for comments on final revisions to Girl Runner. Next steps will include copy editing, cover design, and publicity planning. Not there yet.
– My author photo has been taken (by the wonderful Nancy Forde, my friend and neighbour!).
– I’m prepping to drive to Windsor with my swim girl for a weekend meet, hoping to get there ahead of the snow that’s on its way.
– Yes, our swim girl has cut back on swimming, but only marginally; I’m just happy she’s so happy to be swimming again. Yes, we’ve cut back on the number of meets we’re attending. This is a big one, and we both wanted to go. We’ll continue to assess her overall schedule on a weekly or even daily basis, making changes as needed.
– I’ve renewed my access card to the local university libraries, and have been through the stacks to find books on popular print culture (16th century, specifically).
– I went to boot camp this morning, and my body felt perfectly normal. (Hurray!) My mind, I’ll confess, remains foggy, but that could be all the quiet thinking it seems to want to do right now. My mind is stuck in winter-mode: hibernation.
– I’m still on antibiotics.
– Our oven still doesn’t work, but the part has been ordered, and the manufacturer is paying for it, not us.
– I’m reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman, and wondering why it’s taken me so long to discover her.
– I’m sitting down as I write this. Need to work my way back onto the treadmill desk.
– I’m meeting with my word-of-the-year friends on Monday. Until then, the word remains under wraps, as I’m suffering from my usual last-minute change of heart.
– Kevin and I spent most of yesterday together, and checked out wood stoves … and came around to thinking that what we’re really looking for is a gas stove, as originally planned. It’s about half the cost, and a whole lot less fuss once installed. I’ve decided that I may be someone who admires people who have chickens and wood stoves, rather than someone who aspires to have chickens and a wood stove, if you know what I mean. It pains me to type that last sentence out.
– This post has taken me exactly ten eleven fourteen seventeen TWENTY-TWO (uh oh!) minutes.

This is my brain on Snow Day

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

It went and got cold

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It went and got cold.

AppleApple had an outdoor practice in a snowstorm on Saturday morning, at which I could have chosen to go for a run in solidarity. Instead, I stayed in the car letting the sunshine warm me while starting Hell Going, by Lynn Coady, which I’d purchased on my Kobo awhile back. We passed three car accidents on the way to the soccer field, all fender-benders caused by drivers who had forgotten how to drive in winter conditions. As in: slow the heck down, people! It was a white-knuckle trip, and we were most terrified that someone, travelling too fast, would simply slide into us.

Other activities this weekend included a date night out with friends (no children) on Friday evening, three soccer games and two more practices, one gigantic homework project (still unfinished), and a birthday dinner at a sushi restaurant that was appallingly, and ultimately comically, dreadful. “The only logical way this can end is in food poisoning,” observed one of my brothers. He was hungry — we all were, as wait staff appeared to “lose” our orders in a potted plant near the cash register — but was hesitating to eat what looked like leftover stir-fry rice fashioned into a maki roll, battered, and deep-fried.

I squeezed in a run yesterday afternoon, double-layered, and relished the wind and snow flashing into my face. All was well and good.

But then I crashed. I left Kevin with the supper dishes and crawled into bed early. This turned out to be the perfect medicine. Three of the kids (including my very biggest) snuggled with me and I read them several chapters in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which is the book we’ve chosen post-Little-House. They’re loving it. CJ almost couldn’t get to bed he was so caught up in wondering when the Lion would come in to the story, and would it be a real lion?

Then I read for pure pleasure for another hour, and then two, and then, finally, slept. Up early for kettlebell class. Dithered a bit, considered skipping, but couldn’t sleep anyway. I’ve trained my body to wake like clockwork around 5AM. I knew class would be hard, but worth it, and it was, and it was. I so appreciate having a comforting, familiar place to go to in the early morning, and a friend to go with.

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Fooey’s Christmas wish list, my copy; also on desk right now: inspirational “go!” artwork, also by Fooey; and a much-scribbled-in calendar

I can’t believe it’s almost advent.

Will I put up the advent activity calendar that so disappointed my children last year? Can I slow down even the slightest in order to prepare for the season? So many things I would like to do: bake cookies, put up a tree, take a family photo for Christmas cards, buy something special for each of the kids, dream up delicious menus for dinners …

Snow day in Canada

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Yup. It’s a real snow day, school cancelled, library cancelled, extra-curricular activities cancelled, children playing in snow drifts, people walking by in the street because the sidewalks are too messy, snow, snow, snow coming down, down, down.

I’m happy for the kids, who were praying for a snow day, but oh how I really wanted to keep on writing in my new book. Yesterday’s hair-pulling session netted me 1800 new words, bringing the book to 78,000 words, and three new scenes. (Scrivener has handy “project targets” and “project statistics” features to which I am utterly addicted. I do realize that stats mean nothing if those 78,000 words do not work together to move the reader. But it’s comforting to quantify my efforts.) I have about four new scenes to write, plus another six or seven to revise before this draft is complete. I’m not looking for new material, I just need the time/space to write what has already been plotted out in my head. Unfortunately, my current situation is not conducive to scene-writing: two children and two dogs crowded into my office, dogs to sleep, and children to chew gum, sit in dog beds, listen to songs, and generally disrupt the quiet every two seconds with requests, wonderings, and commentary. The smallest is at this very moment stamping his feet for some perceived wrong I’m not entirely clear about. Maybe it’s the typing I’m doing on this here computer.

So … here’s what I plan to do with the rest of our snow day.
* bake cookies
* make yogurt
* make dough for homemade pizza
* shovel the sidewalk since I won’t be running tonight (no soccer skills means that my regularly scheduled Friday run, which I do no matter the weather, is also cancelled)
* pull smallest on sled while we walk second smallest to play date
* put in movie for part of the afternoon and sneak in some writing

For the purposes of reality checking, here’s what I’ve actually accomplished so far.
* chatted with sister-in-law on the phone
* almost finished one cup of coffee (gone cold ages ago)
* fed everyone breakfast, and a few people lunch
* tried to talk husband out of leaving for his boys’ cottage weekend in the middle of this storm (doesn’t seem to be working)
* put in load of laundry
* cleaned up dog poop in upstairs bedroom (c’mon, DJ, if Suzi can go outside, you can go outside!)
* read front section of newspaper
* answered a few work-related emails
* took photographs of snow
* puttered. Really, mostly I’ve puttered.

Mid-winter calm

where the dogs walk
paths made by dogs

How weird is this: my eldest daughter found my water bottle. So check that item off the “lost list.”

She knew where it was all along. In fact, it was in her messy room, as pictured in yesterday’s post! Apparently I brought it to her myself on Friday night, around 3 o’clock in the morning, when she was having a croupy coughing fit. I remember the croupy cough (and the momentary fear that it might progress, like CJ’s did last fall, to emergency room proportions). I remember, vaguely, rushing to her room with concern. I remember nothing about fetching her a water bottle, let alone my water bottle. She’s been drinking out of it ever since.

Guess I was tired.

Early this morning, when the location of my bottle was still a mystery, I took a glass canning jar to hot yoga. It worked quite well, actually.

*

My week days have a very particular shape right now, which I find soothing. Mid-winter calm.

Early morning, dark: exercise, usually with a friend.

Breakfast: with children, prepare for school.

Naptime.

Mid-morning til early afternoon: cup of coffee, office, writing.

Somewhere between 1 and 2: lunch, leftovers. If really lucky, meet husband or friend for lunch.

Mid-afternoon: more writing, somewhat frantic, one eye on clock.

3:45: children home. Save work, leave office.

Late afternoon: snacks, supper prep, laundry, catching up, homework, piano practice, hugs, listening, radio (sometimes), noise, dogs, friends.

Early evening: ferry children to and from activities.

Supper: sometimes early, sometimes late, as together as we can manage.

After supper: dishes, snacks, homework, laundry, piano, teeth, reading, talking, children to bed.

After 9pm: sit on couch with tea and dogs and Kevin (when possible), talk with big kids (sometimes), read in bed (always).

*

At yoga, and when I run, I tend to meditate on staying in the moment. Be here now, I tell myself.

I love my schedule right now, as plotted out above. But I know that it will change, as every schedule I’ve ever enjoyed has changed, and drastically. The point is not to worry about what may come, and how all the pieces will fit together in the future, but to enjoy what is here, right now.

Right now I am watching the wind blow the snow around, and hey, there’s a neighbour I know walking by! (Yes, neighbours, I watch you walk by all day). I am enjoying the feeling of having met a deadline. I am finishing a square of dark chocolate. There are black beans with garlic simmering on the stove, and they smell really good. My office is toasty warm. The dogs are sleeping near me in their beds.

It is so quiet.

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