Category: Writing

Grateful for choices

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Went to hot yoga yesterday, the first time in months. The focus for the class was “gratitude.” Just what I needed! Talking with a friend yesterday afternoon had already got me thinking about the unhappiness that’s caused by comparing oneself to others (see the lovely Soule Mama). Caught up in wishing I had sheep and five homeschooled children and cupboards of freshly preserved home-grown goodness, I completely ignore and minimize all the goodness in my own life, right here and now.

Comparing lives is foolish, and possibly even worse than that — insidious. Now, that isn’t to say that inspiration can’t be found from investigating with interest the choices other people make. I wonder what the distinction is between comparison and inspiration. Is it my own frame of mind?

Here’s a good reminder as I go about my every day activities: I’m doing things that I’ve chosen to do, that I enjoy doing (mostly), and that, by necessity, cancel out my ability to do other things. There is only so much time and energy in one life (or in one family’s life).

Here are a few choices we’ve made:

We live in the city, a very short walk to the uptown core (because I also dislike driving and relying on cars). Therefore, we don’t live in the country on many rolling acres with paddocks and fields and a truck patch and barn. Nevertheless, we enjoy a lively herb garden, and lots of fresh tomatoes from our patches around the yards, front and back.

I write, and I need quiet time on my own to do it. Therefore, we’ve chosen not to homeschool our children, the responsibility for which would fall on me. Nevertheless, the kids have lots of freedom in the summertime, and also pursue extra-curricular activities they enjoy.

I love exercising: swimming, training to run long distance, taking early morning classes with friends. Therefore, most of my free time, which could otherwise be spent baking muffins before breakfast or canning food or tending a garden, is allotted to exercise instead. Nevertheless, I bake bread fairly often and cook locally sourced meals from scratch.

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A few random footnotes.

Here’s a very funny essay by writer Lauren B. Davis: 10 questions never to ask a writer. I especially liked number 1. Sigh.

As I’ve hinted, I’ve been writing. In fact, I’ve been writing pretty steadily. But I think it’s pre-writing, telling the basic story to myself in order to understand my characters more deeply, so that I can distill their lives into something more meaningful. As with The Juliet Stories, I wrote many early layers of politics, of explication, of developing characters and relationships and plot that did not make it into the book itself. This is necessary writing, but it isn’t the most satisfying. Every time you sit down to write, you want to believe you’re landing on the perfect shape and form. Instantly. But that’s rare, if not impossible. A deep rich work requires deep rich work. The book that deserves to be read will come out of the disheartening and ultimately invisible work underpinning it. I write in hope!

One more tiny thing. If you’re so inclined, CBC Books is inviting readers to nominate books they’d like to see on The Giller Prize list. Here’s an entry from someone who nominated The Juliet Stories. Want to join in?

And then there were … eight?!

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Well, what do you think of these girls?

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We think they’re awfully sweet, and can imagine them fitting right in with our crew. They’re not ours yet, as there is still an adoption process to go through, and after that a trial period, but we’re hoping to have them here within the next week (or so).

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AppleApple was particularly crushed that we couldn’t keep them after their visit yesterday, but they need to be vetted, and we really weren’t entirely prepared. In fact, Kevin is working right now to fix our gates, which have fairly wide openings underneath. The girls have an adventuring streak and they’re really quick tiny.

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DJ is a spaniel cross, and Suzi appears to be part Jack Russell terrier and part chihuahua (those ears!). They’re middle-aged, and have been together for a long time, which is why they’re being adopted together. Old friends.

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Our other weekend activity is WATCHING THE OLYMPICS! Anyone else out there insatiable Olympics fans? We are! Also enjoyable is hearing the kids imagine which Olympic events they’d like to compete in. Fooey and CJ are keen on gymnastics (although Fooey wasn’t sure she’d like doing it in front of so many people; “I’ll just cheer you on, Mama!”). AppleApple, of course, is planning to play for Canada’s women’s soccer team. (Albus appears not to harbour Olympic ambitions.)

I especially enjoyed seeing the Canadian women’s soccer team in action yesterday against South Africa. Somehow, I was able to write at the same time (whether or not it’s my best work is, however, debatable.) This evening, I’m playing a soccer game, and I found myself irresistably drawn to the commentating voice. “The Kickers are going in as the underdogs in this match and unfortunately they’ll be missing their strongest player today, but if the team can keep their focus and hold it together, they might just hang on and keep their position in the standings.” (Which is, um, last, so that shouldn’t prove too trying a task).

Kevin coached Albus’s team to a fifth place finish (of twelve teams) in their tournament this weekend. This was unexpected given that the team had only won twice all season. They were a bunch of average-skilled kids, with a few who hadn’t played before, and they were hampered by team members who failed to show up all season too, and often had to play games with no subs. (Sometimes, in house league, I suspect parents sign their kids up, but the kids themselves aren’t that interested.) The good news is that the core group really learned how to work as a team. We were very proud of their effort and finish at the end.

Summer hodgepodge

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summer haircut

I’ve been quiet here. Blame summer. Our days are feeling lazy and hazy and kind of effortless, even though it’s also busy. Swim lessons have occupied our mornings for these past two weeks. Tomorrow’s the last day, which feels bittersweet. The kids will be happy to be done, but I’ll miss the routine, and the feeling that we’re soaking up summer.

In other news, I almost hesitate to say it, in case it falls through, but we may soon have a real family pet (and not just an ant farm–which the children made yesterday with their very creative babysitter). I won’t say more … yet. But excitement is high, and I include the parents in that too.

On yet another note, one small soccer observation. I’ve figured out that there’s one really simple way to be part of a team: show up. I’ve noticed that as the season has gone on, I’ve gained affection for those teammates who arrive every week, ready to try their hardest, regardless of skill level. That said, I’m hoping to continue to improve my skills, even while I recognize more and more what my weaknesses are (that’s a good thing, right? I mean recognizing weaknesses?). I’m considering looking to play indoor this winter. I hate getting beat up on the field, but I actually love the game itself; so the game is winning out, at least so far. I want to play it, I enjoy playing it, I enjoy talking strategy after the game, and I enjoy visualizing how I can get better at it.

Finally, I participated in a project this week called For the Love of It. I’ll let you know when it’s up, with more behind-the-scenes info then. (I’ve gotten used to being on the other side of the camera/questions, so this felt a little strange.)

And now, I’m off to write — fiction. Which you know I’m doing for the love of it. And that’s a pretty awesome reason to do anything (see all of the above).

A quiet little Sunday

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roller blading, before and after

Hot, quiet, humid. That’s our Sunday. Looked like rain. Did not rain. One soccer game still on the menu (mine). Though need bread, have not baked bread; see hot, humid. Can’t bear the thought of turning on the oven.

Today, I’ve spent several hours getting to know my new photo editing software. View experiments above.

Also wrote a new short story this weekend — fiction!!! My first attempt since writing the last of The Juliet Stories (which, a very few of you may be interested in knowing, was “She Will Leave a Mark” from the first section.) It felt like breathing or something. Essential, natural.

Oh, and I have to post a link to this truly amazing review, by a book blogger called Buried in Print. Quite enough to swell the head, methinks, so I’ll only read it once.

A happy work day

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This morning I blogged that one of the awesome things about doing interviews this week is meeting people in their air conditioned office spaces. And, okay, admittedly, that is pretty sweet, as I sit here at my own desk in a room that is pushing 90 degrees F.

But that’s not actually the best part.

The best part is meeting people — and the conversations themselves.

Here is the benefit of being an observer: the world is endlessly fascinating. There is always more to learn. There are different approaches to problems, different enthusiasms, different values, different organizational systems, different social approaches, and I could go on and on. I must say I had no inkling of how absorbingly interesting it would be to conduct interviews — the research part of my job. I was thinking of it as a necessity, I guess, a means to an end, the end being the writing itself. And truth be told, I was ever so slightly intimidated by the thought of asking strangers personal questions.

But the more work I’ve done, the more I appreciate the privilege of getting to ask questions. To focus my energy entirely on someone else’s interest or cause or life’s work or story or niche area of expertise. It’s a real gift to get to listen. And it’s proving to be a bigger piece of the writing-for-money puzzle than I initially bargained on. Yes, communicating the end story is hugely important, but the end story can’t exist without first going through the process of trying to understand a subject in-depth.

I know. This all sounds very obvious.

Perhaps what has me most happy, on this extraordinarily warm Friday afternoon, is the discovery that I’m really enjoying the work I’ve chosen to do — the work for money, I mean. There is such variety in it. I love variety! I’m a serial enthusiast by nature; this is kind of the perfect outlet for those instincts.

One more unexpected and happy discovery: The work itself feels very genuine, even though the situation is by its nature contrived — by which I mean, I’m writing stories that have been assigned to me, about people I wouldn’t ordinarily get to sit down and talk to. But the conversations don’t feel contrived or artificial. (My hope is that the people I’m interviewing feel the same way too.)

It’s been a good first week of the summer holidays. And I capped it off by dropping in at my local Chapters, in my other guise as fiction writer, and signing their stock of Juliet Stories. The girl was so super-friendly, it made my day.

Next up: soccer sidelines, and a picnic supper.

Life without air conditioning

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It’s too hot to blog. I’m fairly sure it’s too hot to think clearly, though that would be regrettable given that it is my primary source of income. I find my brain drifting off before reaching the end of a sentence, asking, huh? What was that?

This week I’m doing interviews with several local entrepreneurs. It’s been fascinating so far. Best of all, they work in air conditioned environments. I’m being facetious. Which is probably ill-advised. Blame the heat.

I do not work in an air conditioned environment.

Here’s a little story: on Wednesday, I took the kids to a place called Herrles, which sells local veggies and fruits and baked goods, and is slightly out of town, and therefore requires a bit of a drive. It was rush hour and took longer than usual. But was I grumpy about the situation? I was not. Because with the air conditioning blasting, we’d found ourselves a brief and happy reprieve.

Last fall, we learned that our home’s central air conditioner, which we only used in desperate situations anyway, was broken and not worth repairing. We have not replaced it. And even though I only ever used it with a great deal of guilt and angst, I miss knowing it’s there if the kids can’t sleep (or we can’t sleep).

Maybe we’re all becoming acclimatized, and will therefore perform better at events like roasting hot soccer tournaments and long distance runs. Maybe.

Or maybe my brain has officially lost the will to reason.

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