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Pickle Me This

April 12, 2017

All Just Fine

I read Jennifer Weiner’s essay collection Hungry Heart in the fall, intrigued by it because while I’ve found some of Weiner’s books really interesting, it’s her authorial persona that continues to fascinate me—and also drive me mad. The way she complicates things, which is also to say that she messes them up. She’s can imperfect candidate. Sometimes she’s so smart and right on—and then pushes it all a little too far. There is a line, and she crosses it, or rather, she tap-dances up and down it. Which, theoretically, I should be delighted by, women who occupy spaces in between, who stir things up, who persist. But with Weiner, it’s not always delightful. With Weiner, sometimes it’s me going, “Jennifer, no.”

But I had a revelation recently, about Jennifer Weiner. And that it’s while I’ve been making allowances for a long while for crotchety, dislikable, annoying, rude and awful women in public life—because it is highly likely I am going to grow up into such a thing precisely, and it’s in my interest to nurture spaces for such women in the world—but I wasn’t offering Weiner the same consideration. Displaying the same prejudices Weiner has been railing at for years—against lightness. For women who’ve forsworn the usual female templates, I’d forgive nearly anything, but I keep demanding conformity of Weiner, and being disappointed when she doesn’t comply with it. And then it occurred to me that it wasn’t necessarily that she was being inconsistent, but maybe the problem is that I was.

Weiner’s essays themselves though were the first revelation, fascinating insight into her character, her background, the struggles in her life that have left her starving—for affection, validation, for sustenance. The fact underlying so many of them being the thinnest skin, a furious yearning for everyone to like her. She is so sensitive, and no amount of success can take care of that. “Jennifer, no” is what I was thinking again. You’ve got to grow a rhinoceros hide.

Which is easier said than done, of course. Jennifer Weiner knows that. Although I didn’t, not really, not until a month ago when my novel was published. And while it’s been a month of incredible highs and the kinds of experience many authors only get to dream of, success brings with it complications. Some friends of mine—Heidi Reimer, Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, Carrie Snyder and Maria Meindl—ran a panel last year called “The Shadow Side of Success” (and if you’re a TNQ subscriber you can read it here and if you’re not, see Heidi’s post) about those complications and I was grateful for it as my pub date arrived, figured it would help in preparing me for the spectrum of experiences. And it did, but it also didn’t. The same way, I suppose, you never know the ways in which you’re going to fall to pieces when you have a baby. I mean, you know there will be dysfunction, but how will it manifest, is the question. And I bet it’s different every time.

I’ve been having a tough time these last few weeks, which is ridiculous because I’ve also been having a glorious time. It’s been a joy to have my novel received by the world, by readers who get it, by great reviews even. But I’ve also had those peak moments of joy followed by moments of the most melodramatic despair imaginable. Highs can be rough, of course, because everything after seems like a come-down. And I’ve found myself feeling profoundly sensitive, vulnerable. The number of perfectly stupid things that have managed to hurt my feelings these last few weeks are too high to count. And suddenly I have a new level of sympathy for Jennifer Weiner. I can’t imagine how terrible it must be to be a writer when you’re as predisposed to being sensitive as she surely is. Publishing a book, as I said to someone recently, is a bit like turning yourself into a walking talking gaping wound. It’s not pretty.

Which was why I was heartened by Shawna Lemay’s Transactions With Beauty post this morning, “A Proper Cup of Tea”. Balance is the thing I’ve been struggling with, not that there isn’t goodness, but how do you put it together with all the rest? Make a whole? Once again, I’ve thinking about in-betweenness, but not necessarily tap dancing. I want to be thinking about grace.

And Lemay writes, “So there you are, walking with your sorrow and your joy, teacup balanced in hand, on the path that has heart, walking impeccably. No one said it would be easy. But the key is the wholeheartedness. The key is that you will constantly need to right yourself.”

She writes, “The key is that this is all just fine.”

January 30, 2017

Together We Stand Tall

I know it’s not a good news day, but I’m feeling positive. Maybe it’s because there was sunshine, or how it felt like something that I wrote letters to my MP and Prime Minister and two other cabinet ministers today imploring them to take a stand against #UnpopularDonald’s Muslim Ban and in general just to do better in order to give Canadians a government we can believe it. It’s because there were marches all over the world today in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and my husband emailed me today with a note that said, “Next protest.” And we’re going. It’s because the government’s response to the shooting at a mosque in Quebec City last night was to call it what it was: a terrorist attack. It’s because of this image, and because of the thousands of Americans who’ve been protesting all weekend. It’s because the people are a force, perhaps in a way I never dared to dream of.

I remember listening the radio in September 2015 and hearing the dreadful news of refugees out of Syria. This was when our government was shrugging about the whole thing because what can you do, and then the body of a child washed up on a beach, and someone was recounting the incredible way Canadians stepped up for refugees from Vietnam in the 1970s, and I remember feeling so hopeless. Because things like this just don’t happen anymore…except they do. And they did. And now, 16 months and a new government later, thousands of Syrian families have settled in Canada, their settlement supported by people who are my friends and neighbours. My mom volunteers at her city’s New Canadians Centre, my dad’s partner tutors Syrian women in English. Syrian families were brought to small towns and big cities across this country. These are Canadians I know, and so many I don’t, and they’ve changed lives and the world, and they give me hope that anything is possible.

What oppressive governments do is try to keep their people from seeing other possibilities outside of the present, try to keep them in the dark about the people’s own power—but my feeling is that #UnpopularDonald and his band of merry fuckwits are not doing a terrific job on this front. I think he’s underestimated Americans, and how closely people around the world are actually connected with each other. It’s not going to be soon and it’s not going to be easy, but he’s not going to win, and America’s going to come out into the light.

November 8, 2016

We have our cake.

img_20161108_200636I am so sad, but I am thinking about a lot of things that are undeniably true. Which are that if it has to be close, I’d prefer the smart, civilized people be the losers actually, because they can do so with dignity and civilly—and perhaps take a step back and have their points be proven by poor politics in practice. If Hillary Clinton wins, there would still be this simmering rage and maybe this is the way it has to burn out. Things are definitely not okay as they are, and no election victory would change that.

I am thinking that I am so proud of the women who were empowered to stand up for their beliefs and ideas and the prospect of a woman being president. I think there are women who learned to call themselves feminists for the first time. I think that some women discovered why feminism is necessary, and why it will always be necessary. No more complacency—feminism is an urgent matter.

I am thinking of how important it is that liberals and progressives never stop checking themselves, examining their ideas and understanding of the world, and asking themselves questions about what is right and what we stand for. If everything was as we wanted it to be, I’m not sure what the point would be in standing for anything. All of it would cease to have meaning, and so it’s a struggle. If I were not averse to war metaphors, I’d say it’s a battle, even, and not just against other people who don’t think the way that we do but against the worst parts of our own selves.

I am thinking about my daughters, who cut the cake tonight and we celebrated the chance of woman being elected president of the USA. When they went to bed, it was likely Hillary Clinton would be elected, but things have turned around since then, and I hate that I may have to deliver the very worst news in the morning. And yet, the lessons in that too—that none of this is easy, that a better world is not instantaneous, that there are setbacks and disappointments, but these are not the same as defeat.

(Yes, I am thinking that I’m glad I live in another country. I am thinking about when Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto on a gutting night like this six years ago, and also about the blog post in which I sought bright sides and one of them was that probably soon he’d die. Totally called it.)

I am thinking that all of this is easy for me to say, as a person who never even has a vote in the matter and only has to live next door to the consequences. For American people who are Black, Muslim, or LGBTQ, I imagine the stakes are terrifying. For people who love their country and are devastated tonight, it all must seem impossible. It does seem impossible. And yet. And yet. We will wake up tomorrow morning, and we will get on with it. Which is not the same as “everything will be okay,” but it’s the same general idea.

There will be cake for breakfast anyway. We’ll see how it goes from there.

June 26, 2016

Heavy Hearts

It’s all very heavy, it is, and then my children keep getting sick, and we keep starting off weekends with a such a bang that we’re destroyed by Sunday, and it’s so hot. I remain stuck inside a reading rut. The UK referendum weights heavily upon me too, because I love England, and it once was my home, and it gave me a husband plus two children who would have been EU citizens, but not anymore. It’s the irrevocability of it all that gets me. And I think about my friends and family in England, people in their 30s and 40s who are in the beginning of the middle of their lives, raising families and making a world for themselves, and they awoke Friday morning to discover that world wasn’t what they thought it was. I think about the anomaly of the EEC and EU eras compared to the bloodbath that has been the rest of European history, and it scares me. Not that I think that everything will be not be okay in the end, but I think it’s unfortunate that the standards of “okay” will have to be lowered. It’s about legitimizing racism and stupid nationalism, and voters who are well intentioned but really should have been more careful about who they were aligned with.

My feelings are well articulated with this meme: “..whilst I appreciate that, just as I did, you chose your vote based on what you thought was for the best, you have precipitated a huge financial collapse, destabilized my country, and threatened the future of my children, and it’s hard for me to forget that, especially within a matter of hours.”

As Margaret MacMillan writes, and she knows more about what all this means than anyone does (and if you think she doesn’t, you are ignorant): “the Britain of the future will be smaller, poorer, possibly meaner, and certainly less relevant in the world.”

June 16, 2016

On Process, and Progress, and Living in the World

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When Princess Diana died in 1997, I was on Weight Watchers and watched the funeral coverage for hours at a time whilst weeping and riding an exercise bike. I know that feeling things is very important, but will forever be grateful that I ended up married to an English person who taught me the value of composure. Remember how Joni Mitchell taught Emma Thompson in Love Actually how to feel? It was my cold hearted English husband who taught me the opposite, how not to spend weeks at a time weeping on an exercise bike over the death of a stranger. That drama comes around in time, and we don’t necessarily have to go out and court it. (While I am only being partly sardonic here, full disclosure necessitates that my husband’s is the warmest heart I know. I also know that learning to feel for many people is a ticket to sanity, but for me, some restraint was certainly in order. For most of us anyway, it ends up being a balance.)

Which doesn’t entirely relate to my next point, but alas. Which is that this has been the most distressing week I’ve encountered in a a long time, a cumulation of world events and my hormones, I’m sure, but I feel the weight of it all in a way I’m usually more adept at shouldering. Orlando, Stanford rapists, UofT’s lockdown, so much hatred and anger. Also, and this sounds shallow but it’s not, Instagram is ruined for me, changed in the last few days, and now full of ads and posts not in order, and I miss its goodness, the immediacy of the engagement. I really have found Instagram good for the soul, and feel like I’ve lost something. I’ve been driven back to Twitter, which is not good for the soul, although I actually had tears spring into my eyes this morning when I saw #OCanada trending and learned that MPs had in fact changed the lyrics to our national anthem, against the fervent efforts of many to uphold the supposed inclusiveness of the word “sons.” (Possibly yes, “sons” was a general term, back when women had no status, and the language reflected that. Further, “all our sons command” was not even the original lyric, so it’s not like historical preservation is order of the day. I taught my daughter to sing “in all of US” when she was very small, because she is a daughter and nobody’s son, and I think that if we continue to insist that things a national anthem matter, then at least we should make its lyrics meaningful.)

Anyway, when I clicked on the trending term, I found one woman declaring that she will never sing the gender inclusive Oh Canada. “Why not?” I asked her, because the resistance is baffling to me. She explained that she is “not one to bend or sway” (why is rigidity a virtue, I ask myself again and again. What kind of a person never entertains the notion of changing her mind?) when someone finds something offensive and also that the “son” in the lyric is actually Jesus, and we can’t “gender neutralize” him. And I just really didn’t know where to go from there. Her argument is founded on not only nonsense (surely we are not commanding “true patriot love” from Jesus; I’m not sure we’re meant to command anything from Jesus at all, never mind, why is Jesus in our national anthem anyway, except he’s not) but a rejected stand against empathy (refusing to try to understand when someone is bothered by something she’s okay with, to see that another point of view might be as worth considering as her own, even if it’s a different one). Anyway, it’s exhausting. She can sing her song and I’ll sing mine, but it’s worth noting that I was curious about understanding her point of view while she was categorizing the people calling for the lyric change as “wimps.” Which is pretty much where we left things.

And then I read that British MP Jo Cox had been critically injured by someone reportedly shouting slogans regarding the British referendum. And when I heard about that, it took me back to my post from Monday about politicians spouting divisive and dangerous rhetoric with so little regard about the license their words gives some unstable people in our society to go out and commit horrifying acts of violence. I also read Jia Tolentino’s interview with a woman who has recently had an abortion at 32 weeks, a really sad, hard read but an essential one, particular for those people who have no idea what the reality is behind “late term abortion.” As I tweeted afterwards, I am so grateful for these women who share their sad and terrible stories, and I am so sorry they have to and are not left alone to grieve their tragedies. That these woman must make themselves so incredibly vulnerable to prove a point to people who are completely ignorant and full of hatred. It is very easy for women like me to share our simple, painless and uncomplicated stories of abortion, and I only continue to do so because life is rarely so simple or complicated, as Tolentio’s piece makes clear. The most tremendous part of the interview is when the woman says: “Like it or not, all of our rights are intertwined. Maybe there’s some woman who has had four abortions and maybe that feels really wrong to you. But my rights are wrapped up with hers, so I have to fight like fuck for her to have as many as she wants—not just for her sake, but for mine, too.”

I hate that there are people making this, people’s pain, into a fight. We’ve all got better things to do than fight. We’ve got lives to live. And now Jo Cox has died, which is so devastating, all that it stands for, especially in terms of women in politics. I can’t stop making everything about gender, because everything is about gender.

There was a story in the news this morning about a Catholic school trustee who has finally around to the province’s new sec-ed curriculum after a revelation that her own son had been abused as a child, that perhaps it is necessary to reframe the way that sex and sexuality are discussed. While it is irritating once again to have somebody celebrated for realizing what seems blatantly obvious to many of us (see Tabatha Southey on Michael Coren), I think it’s good when a public figure is celebrated rather than denigrated for changing her mind (which is not to say that changing one’s mind puts one above scrutiny. I still think it’s rather too convenient when a politician rejects a previously controversial stance, and wonder why we’d want anybody in power who’d ever held those views).

This is, the changing of minds, is of course, the thing called progress, which is not as simple as I once thought it was—an arrow pointing forward, things getting better and better. The last fifteen years have certainly underlined that this is not the case, and that progress is not our inevitable direction. “Progressivism” isn’t even really a thing, as it is peopled by people who seems to understand themselves as its embodiment and are unaware that their own progress too has to be part of the process. It’s a process of self-examination, of being open to changing, to growing, to learning something new. It’s about bending and swaying, and learning from each other, learning how to work together. It’s collaborative, but it’s also not meaningful unless it’s intensely personal. The line that struck me from the Guardian’s Jo Cox editorial: “What nobler vision can there be than that of a society where people can be comfortable in their difference?”

I have learned so much about the world by thinking hard about blogging, and that last point makes me think about what May Friedman writes about the blogosphere(s) as a radical space “because of the implications of all these narratives coexisting, and the endless unspooling dialogue that therefore emerges.” Blogging too has taught me about how to embrace process rather than looking to an endpoint, because the complexity of the world means that progress is never fixed, that it’s not a place to arrive at. Instead it is the way that we figure out how to travel through.

June 13, 2016

On Violence, Power, Politics, and Faith

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I dropped my children at their schools this morning, and then had a meeting at the bank that got cancelled at the last minute, and so I had a half hour to kill at Starbucks while I prepared for a presentation on blogging that I was giving downtown at 11. When I left and started walking down Bloor Street, I noticed that Queen’s Park Crescent was blocked off by police cars and that the museum was surrounded by crowds who should have been inside the building. As I walked towards the Yonge Subway and went into some shops, I overheard people talking and wondering what was happening at the ROM. I was able to use WiFi at the subway station, and found out that the ROM was under lockdown, and so was much of the university campus, and the parliament buildings south of there. I was thinking about these buildings and how I knew people inside many of them, and I was worried and scared. Thinking about what happened in Orlando yesterday, the person on Twitter who’d confessed she felt hurt by the people who’d been able to go about in the world yesterday as though it was an ordinary day. How I’d confessed last night that I just can’t be devastated every time there is a mass shooting anymore, not because it’s not devastating, but because a person can only fall apart at peripheral events so many times before it all becomes rote. Because it’s exhausting. And then now here it is, fear and paranoia knocking at my door. My ignorance at imagining any of can achieve a distance from such things. (Until we’re all safe, none of us are safe.)

Although in actuality, we are pretty safe. From all accounts, police are acting on suspicions and no violence has occurred, and everything will probably be totally all right. It reminds me of September 11, 2001 when the UofT Faculty of Law (where today’s situation seems to centre) was on lockdown because of a bomb threat. It’s true that nothing often happens here, but this doesn’t mean we can’t be melodramatic about the possibility. These lockdowns (which have affected my kids’ schools—which hurts my heart, but also means that their schools remain safe places in a  world that isn’t always so) are procedures that suggest there are systems here that are working, and I am sure that there are so many instances of people all over the place taking care of each other, as we do. People checking in with loved ones as I checked in with people this morning. (My husband’s office is also on lockdown, which means he picked a darn fine day to be working from home.)

I read a tweet shortly before my presentation that said someone had been arrested and I assumed from that that the situation had ended. (It hasn’t, but still…) Which was good, because I meant that I didn’t spend my presentation feeling like I was going to throw up. And then I switched on and talked about blogs and blogging, and the importance of room to wander and get lost in, and how the blogger must dare to be wrong sometimes, to even speak out of turn.

The group I was speaking to was political, and I knew that the stakes were different for them than they were for my own blog. But I think the same guidelines do apply, and that surely there is a possibility that a person can be human and political at once. Although I had an interesting question afterwards, about how blogs can be read out of context and used against someone for political reasons, as so many tweets were in the recent federal election, you know, the one with the guy who peed in a cup. I know I will never run for office, not just because I am short on charm, but also because somewhere in the depths of twitter archives, there lies a joke I made once…or twice..about a list of people I’d like to late-term abort. (Some people don’t think this is funny. What is the world coming to?) I did reply by stating that blogs at least offer the possibility of nuance that a 140 character limit does not. And that this question too is why we have to be really thoughtful in our blogging. There was a question too about the blog’s meta-narrative that gives the big picture, post after post, and how most readers don’t engage with blogs on that level anymore—and is the fault then with the reader who misses with the point or with the blogger who misunderstands how people are engaging her work, who is relying on archaic notions of what a blog reader is.

Interesting questions to which I don’t have answers…which is fine because this was a forum in which we were underlying the importance of asking questions without answers, of making process part of a product. But as I went home afterwards, and starting looking at newsfeed and twitter again and realizing that things were still fraught in my neighbourhood, it had me considering (and not for the first time) the nature of politics. It had me thinking about a man I walked past on an ordinary morning a few months ago, the type of person who is agitated and muttering into the air, and how what I heard him say that morning was, “I’m going to k*ll [our premier], that f*cking l*sbian.” And about how politicians practicing divisiveness and power-mongering via playing on people’s fears and anger don’t really understand the consequences of the game they’re playing. That they don’t exist in a vacuum and stoking those fires of fear and anger and injustice for short-term gain trickles down to influence the behaviour of people who are teetering on the edge of something dangerous. It’s the kind of thing that’s inevitable in a system in which elections have “war rooms” and parliamentary parties are literally regarded as being in opposition when in reality the project should be collaborative. The kind of system in which someone will spend days going through twitter archives in order to find something offensive a person tweeted in 2011 and use it to force them to resign. All the feigned outrage, as though there was really anything offensive about that. (Though it’s true that 2011 was not so long ago. The Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown still thought he could legislate the goings-on of my uterus AND thought it was his business to have an opinion on whether or not gay people should be able to marry.)

I think a lot about Patrick Finn’s book, Creative Condition: Replacing Critical Thinking With Creativity—you can read an excerpt from the chapter that’s applicable to politics here. From that passage:

The repercussions of critical thinking are visible everywhere. The financiers who nearly bankrupted the world economy were trained as critical thinkers. They were expert competitors who knew how to present their ideas in the most persuasive ways possible. They also knew how to fend off competing arguments when their practices were questioned. If community rather than rhetorical rivalry were at the centre of our education, perhaps they would have felt a greater need to respond directly to those who questioned the house of cards they were building.

Governments certainly do not need more critical thinkers. In Canada where I live, every year, big yellow school buses roll up to the parliament buildings in Ottawa. The children on the field trip step down with their backpacks and brown-bag lunches and are given an orientation session. Part of that session involves the teachers and organizers instructing the children to behave themselves while in the viewing area. Another involves a detailed explanation of why the people they see will be fighting, yelling, and insulting one another. The children are told that this is how high-level politics is conducted—that this is what civilized governance looks like.

barbaric_cultural_practices-1024x630The problem is not simply D*n*ld Tr*mp (although he is certainly a problem and a half in particular), and the problem isn’t even just America, but instead it’s a system that allows people to get ahead in politics by the virtues of building absolutely nothing except walls, and these on the backs of peoples’ fear and anger. We saw the very worst of it last fall during the election when the whole country seemed to go totally bonkers, and Conservatives rolled out their Barbaric Practices Hotline, and I still can’t fathom how the members of that government are able to look in the mirror these days let alone think themselves be accorded any moral high ground, that we’d actually feel good that these are people working to keep the current government in check. People so desperate to be in power that they’d lower themselves to ideas that start eroding who we are as a people, that take away the best parts of who we are. People so desperate for power that they’d rather rule a wasteland than rule nothing at all.

I have a lot of faith in the world, in people. I’m becoming better practiced at understanding the troublemakers and the shit-disturbers as the people who keep life “interesting.” And understanding that “interesting” is a good thing, a human thing. In my blog presentations, I talk a lot about imperfectionism and messiness and my understanding of the virtues of these ideas extends beyond the blog and into the world as well. Interesting is the best parts of the world along with the worst, and it’s our job to figure out how to live well in the midst of all that. The understand that we all have a role to play in creating a better us, a better world, and living consciously and thoughtfully—and that those with power have to be even more thoughtful than the rest of us. The stakes are so high.

It’s really easy to make fun of Justin Trudeau, to be exasperated by him. To roll your eyes at the idea of “Sunny Ways.” (I like Justin Trudeau, but I am still confused about why he opened his father’s eulogy with, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” He certainly does have a flair for the dramatic.) But the reason my world shifted on its axis last October 19 was not because all at once we had an effervescent personality leading our nation instead of a man with dead eyes and plastic hair, but because Canadians made a choice that day. Almost a year exactly before election day, a gunman entered our parliament buildings not only with the purpose of committing violence, stoking anger and unleashing his own personal demons, but with the objective of having us all respond within the limits of his harrowing vision of who we all are. Too many people were willing to underline that image for their own purposes, to have the rest of us living in fear and terror so that they could profit in their own ways—with power. Those who urged us to reelect our Conservative government because we live in a dangerous world and could only rely on people who come bearing barbaric practices hotlines to keep us safe. An idea that only makes the world more dangerous. The lunatic with a gun is a scary idea, but the people who are spouting rhetoric inciting these unhinged folks to take action is scarier times a million. A self-perpetuating cycle.

I haven’t been able to sing my national anthem in years and not just because its lyrics aren’t gender inclusive (and seriously people who are holding up legislation on that, I would like to call a hotline on you) but I have been singing it lately when called upon, and it’s because of what happened on October 19. Not simply that one political party was elected over another, but because Canadians made a choice that day between our living in a dangerous world, or our being part of something better than that. Do you know how easy it should have been for Canadians to have been manipulated with continuing with the status quo after what happened on Parliament Hill that day? That act of violence was the best thing that could have happened to those who are determined to convince us that we are constantly under threat because our fear is what they profit by—but it didn’t work. But hugely, and remarkably, and even courageously, one might say, we rejected that vision.

“I’ll pray that you’ll grow up a brave man in a brave country,” writes the father to his son in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. A simple aspiration that also seems impossibly huge, but impossible things can happen, as October 19 demonstrated to me. So that even when fear comes to knock on our door, we need neither open it wide or peer timidly through keyholes. Underlining my faith, in goodness, in people, in what cannot be broken, that one way or another (but still, the right way) everything is going to be okay.

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June 8, 2016

#TodaysTeacup Tragedy

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#TodaysTeacup took a turn for the tragic on Monday when I dumped its contents onto my laptop. It took a few moments to process what had happened, and the computer still appeared to be functioning as I poured tea out of it—perhaps, I pondered, we could pretend this never happened? But then the trackpad stopped working, and the keyboard was messed up. I managed to turn the computer off finally, but I should have done it faster. And for two days now it’s been sitting on a drying rack, a fan blowing underneath it. We managed to boot it up this morning and at first it seemed I might be saved…but alas. The keyboard and mouse appear to be fried, the wireless wasn’t working. The computer seems well on its way to being kaput. Thankfully, I am now a devout user of Dropbox so most important things were saved….except for the few documents I slapped onto my desktop somehow imagining they were more accessible there. My enterprising husband grabbed a USB key and transferred a first draft of a new fiction project (that just hit 20,000 words last week) which I am glad has been saved, though rewriting it might have been a blessing in disguise. I’ll have to do it soon enough anyway. Nothing is lost then, except the money I will need to spend on a new laptop, which is annoying, but my accountant will be grateful actually, because I have so few business expenses it’s ridiculous. (This is what happens when your office is your couch.) And it’s a justified expense, because my computer is so essentially to almost everything I do. Being without it these last few days has felt very strange, and it’s reoriented my week, which was supposed to be very very busy as I got ahead of myself on a few bits before school lets out and I lose my childcare for the summer, and have to begin working in the evenings again. But instead, I’ve spent my evenings reading—last night I read Tell, by Soraya Peerbye, who I heard read at the Griffin Readings last week and whose incredible book I read in one sitting. I’m also reading The Naturalist, by Alissa York, and really enjoying it, plus I finished the third book in Steve Burrows’ Birder Murder series, A Cast of Falcons, the other day and it was fantastic. Coming up is Thirteen Shells, by Nadia Bozak, and We’re All In This Together, by Amy Jones. Must keep on reading these Spring 2016 books like a hurricane, because Fall 2016 (the literary one—it falls earlier than the seasonal one) will be here before we know it. And in the meantime, I’m grateful to Stuart who is letting me use his laptop (even with my track record—I am lucky, for sure) and who has only been kind and sympathetic about something that is entirely down to my own stupidity. Although everyone is stupid sometimes.

February 22, 2016

There will be cake—eventually

IMG_20160219_084100As a blog writer, I tend to think of the future in terms of posts. And this was supposed to be the one in which we celebrated Stuart becoming Canadian. He had new Hudson’s Bay mittens and everything, a citizenship gift from my mom. He passed his citizenship test a few weeks ago, and was called to take his oath this morning. He’d ironed his suit, located a tie (tricky business—most ties he ever had are now located in the children’s dress-up box and are used alternatively as head decorations and leashes for stuffed toys, irrevocably knotted) and we had a car booked to head out to Mississauga this morning for the eight o’clock appointment. We were so excited—I’ve been waiting years for this.

And then at two o’clock this morning, Iris woke up sick, and proceeded to be sick until she fell back asleep after five. It was not long before it was clear that us getting to Mississauga just wasn’t going to happen, and so we turned off the six o’clock alarm and I took Harriet to school this morning as usual (and she wasn’t so gutted about the whole thing—they’re celebrating their 100th day today and she was sorry to be missing that). Stuart has called immigration and has to write a letter requesting a rescheduling of his appointment, and so all should be well in time, but we’re disappointed. This was going to be a big deal. There should have been cake.

Alas. There will be cake—eventually. And in the meantime, Iris is sitting on the couch happily eating popsicles and watching Charlie and Lola, her stomach ailment causing her no trouble except, well, stomach related ones. We are consoling ourselves with the fact that we are leaving (without the children) for a trip to Barbados on Saturday.

December 31, 2015

New year, new books, new teapot, etc.

IMG_20151231_140910We have had a stupidly crummy holiday, mostly for non-monumental reasons. A year ago I wrote this post about our family’s talent for leisure and enjoying ourselves—we were skating, movie-going, relaxing, lunching, going offline for an actual week, etc.—but we were showing none of those tendencies this time around. Things got off to a good start, but Harriet came down with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve that stayed around for a few days. Iris stopped sleeping over Christmas, and was conspiring to kill me. Stuart was diagnosed with strep throat, and while I was pretty well post-pneumonia, I was so tired and crabby. We weren’t terribly ambitious then—some days our big outing was to the grocery store. Though there were a few highlights—before it all went wrong, we had a fun day downtown(er) and got to visit Ben McNally Books, where I picked up Birdie by Tracey Lindberg, which I’m about to begin as soon as I publish this post. We had nice visits with my parents, who braved our company. Lunch at Fanny Chadwicks yesterday, though Stuart is still unable to eat solids, so he didn’t have the greatest time. Tonight we’re going to our friends for a New Years get-together, though we won’t be staying too long (and I am sure nobody else at the party is too upset about that. We’ve become social pariahs).

I did, however, get a lot of reading done, mostly because my evening companion took to going to bed at 8pm, and I took a holiday from work things and read all through nap times (bliss!). My holiday reads were not at all disappointing, mercifully, and I look forward to writing a post about them this week. My final read of the year was a gift from Stuart (who got me so many excellent bookish things), The Magician’s Book, by Laura Miller (and we’re going to be starting Prince Caspian in a few days and I am so excited). My final read of 2015 then, followed by my first read of 2016—Birdie. I really want to keep a focus on reading First Nations women writers.

IMG_20151231_132842Anyway, a disappointing holiday is winding down on the right note. Iris’s weird rash (of course she has a weird rash!) is clearing up, if that’s any indication. Today I did receive the great joy of not only a pair of Hunter wellies in the post, but a brand new teapot. And why did I need a teapot, you might ask, seeing as I came into possession of the greatest teapot on earth just six months ago? Well, on Christmas Day, my teapot got smashed, which led to sulking and petulance on my part, and put a damper on our holiday on top of everything, because I am shallow and materialistic. (But it’s a teapot! Not just any ordinary material.) The bright side of your teapot smashing though is that you get to wait for a new one to come in the post. (I wanted a London Pottery teapot, you see.) There seemed to be no more white polka-dots to be had for love nor money, but I was able to order a plain red one from the shop I’d bought the last one from in Bobcaygeon. And it arrived quickly and intact, alongside my new wellies which replaced a) the wellies I’d got for Christmas that didn’t fit and b) the wellies my mother-in-law bought me for my 26th birthday a decade ago and whose image was for a time my blog header and can still be seen if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, and which finally started leaking after many years of service. So things are certainly on the up-and-up.

I’ve had a good year, even though it’s gone out with pneumonia (but then having pneumonia was terrific, from a reading point of view…). I am pleased that I sold my novel and am excited to turn it into an actually book over the course of this year, though I still can’t quite believe that’s going to happen. I read a lot of good books. I had a splendid trip to England, the land of teapots and wellies. I learned to write profiles, which was a new challenge—I wrote about Julie Morstad in Quill & Quire and have a cover story forthcoming in my alumni magazine. I’m pleased with my review of Marina Endicott’s new novel in The Globe and really, really proud of my essay on Ann-Marie Macdonald’s Adult Onset, which was another challenge and I’m so happy to have met it. I want to keep expanding my writerly horizons. Readerly ones too.

This fall has been exhausting. When I look back, it seems like getting pneumonia was inevitable. It doesn’t help that Iris’s sleep is so patchy, as it’s ever been. My resolution for 2016, if I had one, would probably involve getting more sleep, if that weren’t at the expense of so many things, but I will make an effort. It might also involve baking fewer cakes, but this kind of thing is why I don’t go in for resolutions in the first place.

Happy New Year to you, and thank you for reading!

November 29, 2015

Nothing restful

IMG_20151129_131618A photo like this suggests I’ve spent the day reading, which isn’t true. There was also all the time I spent staring at the ceiling, and when I slept from 1-4. The Long Secret is so good though. Yesterday I read The Westing Game. And things are progressing—yesterday I sat up in a chair for a few hours, but then I had to go and lie down. I’ve also started eating food, though less today than yesterday. Progress seems to be a trickly slow and very unsteady thing. So does my brain power. Basically I’ve had a fever for a week and when I close my eyes to sleep at night, my brain launches me into some bizarre narrative constructed of everything I’ve ever thought or seen, and there is nothing restful about it. It’s like playing a game whose rules are dictated by the whims of Harriet. Which is as close as I can come to putting these fever dreams into words.

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