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Pickle Me This

March 25, 2015

After Birth: Redux

after-birthRedux is the wrong word. I haven’t stopped thinking about After Birth since I finished reading it last week. This morning I had the most interesting conversations with a woman who is a newish friend of mine (and don’t you find that new friends become more and more precious as one gets older?) with whom I’ve had the pleasure of so much company over the past few months while she’s been on maternity leave with her third child. Fortuitously, her house is a stone’s throw from mine, her son and Harriet are passionate friends, she’s so ridiculously smart and funny, and she just read After Birth. (I wish every woman a friend with whom to discuss After Birth.) So this morning we sat around my living room while my baby mauled her baby, and we talked about the book, how it made us both uncomfortable. Because, I think, I said, trying to put my finger on it, it doesn’t tidy up. Nothing is resolved, it moves is a circle. It is an unsatisfying book, which I mean as the highest literary praise. Like another fine book, Harriet the Spy, After Birth is about a female person who doesn’t change, who doesn’t stop ranting, who doesn’t stymy her anger. And we need this anger, I think—to seize on its power—, and we need this insistence on circuity, as opposed to the narratives we’re being sold most of the time about how we should tuck our anger and our lives, our selves, inside tiny tidy boxes. We’re being sold narratives of binary—breast and bottle, wohms and sahms. Just today, there is an online fracas because someone wrote an inane justification for stay-at-home-momming (don’t seek it out or read it. Nothing new under the sun. Argument is best articulated and refuted here). The writer articulating her lifestyle in opposition to somebody else’s, and I just though, how boring. I thought about the writer’s argument in contrast with the vibrant thinking I was a part of this morning, and all I could think of to say to her is, I wish for you the freedom to live your life on your own terms. Not to care anymore. Not to have to purport to have all the answers, or believe there even needs to be an answer. We’re all cobbling together our pieces, and the patterns don’t have to be the same. And yes, I wish for the public conversations about motherhood to be like the ones we’re having in private: the passionate, expansive ones that are challenging, rich and about the whole wide world.

August 30, 2013

Peach Pie in Progress

IMG_20130829_163127The best part of living with me is my insistence upon baking when it is 37 degrees outside. Pictured here is a pie in progress, peach, baked to be taken away on our trip this weekend with my best friend of 20 years and her wonderful family. (When they were just starting to be a family, I wrote about them here. There are three of them now in their family, all excellent.) And I am just checking in right now as we’re waiting to confirm that Iris really is asleep before we watch Mad Men. I had a really wonderful visit to the doctor’s today where it was pretty much confirmed that my career prospects for neck modelling are shot. I am to invest in turtlenecks and pretty scarves, and live with this lump as long as I possibly can. (I can’t help but feel that Nora Ephron had no idea; I also think that if I end up with as few years on earth as Nora Ephron, I am going not to spend none of them feeling bad about my neck no matter how lumpy or eventually scarred it becomes. The great thing about never having been particularly good looking in the first place is that you’re not really losing much when you start to be hideously disfigured.) My biopsy results were inconclusive, as there were so few solids in the sample, but as my lump is cystic, the doctor assures me that the chances of it being cancer are slim. I believe him. This lump will be an ongoing concern, but not so concerning, and anything “ongoing”, of course, means that I am not going to die. It also means that I have to stop getting so excited whenever I have it tested, because it’s going to happen every six months. And so it goes. This is life with a body. I feel very, very lucky.

August 20, 2013

On a bookish coincidence, and long-time friends

IMG_20130820_133354It has been fifteen years since I met my friend Katie, as we walked across Queens Park at the end of Vic’s Frosh Week. From the moment I first encountered her, in the midst of that disorientating, overwhelming time of enormous upheaval, I knew I’d found someone remarkable, someone who would be a real friend, and so she has been ever since. We supported one another through dating woes (or, in my case, woes that came from lack of dates–I used to drink too much and then come over to her house and cry). We both partook in university activities, and each graduated with the Golden V awards. We kept in touch during the years I was abroad, and she was establishing a school at Ronald McDonald House. After I moved back to Canada, we were bridesmaids in each others’ wedding, and have lived within walking distance ever since. And now the fun continues as we find ourselves each the mother of two girls, Katie with her twin daughters who were born in December.

IMG_20130820_133251Last week, we got The Twins’ Blanket out of the library, and I knew immediately that I’d have to buy a copy for Katie, because I’d never read another book about twin Asian girls like hers. So I felt very clever today as we met up at the museum for the afternoon and I had a copy of the book in tow. There was no occasion for gift-giving, which made it all the more strange when Katie presented us with our own copy of The Twins’ Blanket, which she’d bought for Harriet. The strangest and most wonderful coincidence, to go home with the gift we came with. Not to mention the goodness of the rest of our afternoon.

December 3, 2012

Talented Friends

This busy weekend featured a couple of my talented friends, and not for having written books even! On Saturday night, we attended the very exciting Toronto premiere of the short film “How to Keep Your Day Job”, based on the short story of the same name by Rebecca Rosenblum. It was so wonderful to be there in a room full of people, all of us collectively laughing at the humour and gasping at the otherwise. The film was so well done, underlining the goodness of its foundation. The film has already been shown in Calgary, and if you hear of it coming about somewhere near you, definitely go and see it.

And then last night I went to the theatre! I saw Strolling Player at the Red Sandcastle Theatre in Leslieville, written by Heidi Reimer and her husband Richard Willis, and starring Richard, a 90 minute one-man show about his life in theatre that begins with his birth (on purpose) at Stratford-Upon-Avon. A life in 90 minutes that takes up from a summer theatre in Guernsey, to stages in London’s West End, marriages wrought to ruin by tabloid journalism, exhausting tours across America, and a most unlikely true love discovered in the wilds of West Virginia. It was by turns funny, sad, and always excellent. I was so thrilled to be there, and very excited to learn that the show will be staged this summer as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. Do not miss this one…

August 12, 2012

Long Weekend

No post tonight as Pickle Me This is extending the weekend. We had just a little too much fun at the wedding of Rebecca Rosenblum and Mark Sampson, and three cups of tea and a late afternoon nap have done nothing to ease the post-party burden. So we will take to the bath with a copy of Emily Schultz’ The Blondes, which is so wonderful. And in the meantime, check out the wedding cake– with books on top! A most fitting cake for this literary duo, and my goodness, did they ever throw a party. It was a fantastic event, and only the beginning of a really delightful, inspiring, happy tale they’ll make together. So happy to be a supporting character. So happy for them both. xo

April 25, 2012

Mad Hope is launched

My friends-writing-extraordinary-books streak continues with Heather Birrell‘s story collection Mad Hope, which is so rich and wonderful. We’re currently working together on an interview that I’m looking forward to sharing with you soon. But in the meantime, I wanted to share photos from Heather’s launch last night at the Dakota Tavern. Her reading was brilliant, followed by an excellent interview with Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer. The room was packed with Heather fans, and it was really a most enjoyable evening. PS You can still get a copy of her story Frogs for free.

April 22, 2012

The Famous 5

So many things I love are a part of this photo. Also, we had a really wonderful trip to Ottawa this weekend. Lots of reading on the train, hotel fun, good food, friends, and, speaking of friends, we were the beneficiaries of some amazing hospitality. Long live the Mini-Break!

March 22, 2012

A splendid day

“Albert collected good days the way other people collected coins, or sets of postcards.”– Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Oh, we’ve had a good day. Sunshine , popsicles and a brilliant morning in the park with wonderful friends, after which Harriet went straight to nap without lunch (at her own request) and slept for 3 hours. And then we headed down to Queen Street West to Type Books where Kyo Maclear was launching Virginia Wolf and her novel Stray Love, which made it the perfect mother/daughter occasion. The event was great, with snacks (pocky!), music (Waterloo Sunset!), and company (my best friend, Jennie!, who took our picture). It was also nice to meet Kyo Maclear, whose work I’ve admired for a long time. And then Harriet and I took the streetcar home, which was fabulous because transit is Harriet’s favourite part of being alive, and the driver on the Bathurst Streetcar rang his bell for us! Also exciting, I thought, was that the entire Queen St. W. area smelled like farm, which was curious, yes, but mostly importantly, which Harriet recognized before I did, and how wonderful that my streetcar-riding city girl knows what just what a farm smells like.

November 14, 2011

This is where we used to live.

2001/2002 was my final year at university, the year I had a back page column in the school newspaper and therefore had a platform from which to address the question of what it meant to live on a “grimy, yet potentially hip strip of Dundas St. West”, as my block had been described by the Toronto Star in a restaurant review of Musa. To live on such a strip meant kisses in doorways, I wrote, because no boy would ever let you walk home alone, it meant watching from your bedroom window as a dog devoured a skunk, and having to call the police when people started smashing car windows with implements from the community garden. I can’t remember what else I wrote in that piece, and Musa burned down two summers ago, but neither point means that year is lost. I have never gotten over it.

Everything felt monumental that year, not because of anything specific, although it was our final year of school, and 9/11 occurred days into it, serving to make us think a lot about things we’d always before taken for granted. “That was a year,” wrote my friend Kate in a recent email, “we all made enormous leaps into adulthood even if many days it felt like we were just playing.” And of course, everybody has had those years, monumental if only for how they delivered us to here. A threshold to something finally real, but we were aware of it happening all the time, and so amazed to watch the world opening up before our eyes.

And so it felt entirely appropriate when I discovered last week that they’d turned our entire apartment into an art exhibition. (It all feels a bit Tracey Emin.) “They” being the people at Made Toronto, which now lives downstairs from where we used to live, though that storefront was a Chinese herb shop when it was ours. (It was a different time. We’d never heard of hipsters, and Musa was the only place to get brunch for blocks and blocks. David Miller wasn’t even the mayor then, and Spacing Magazine had yet to be invented.) The exhibition took place last year, designer furniture and housewares on display in a “typical Toronto apartment,” which is funny because there was nothing typical about it– for about nine months that I know of, that apartment was the centre of the universe. It’s also funny because it’s the ugliest apartment I have ever, ever seen. Aesthetically speaking (although “aesthetic” was not, in fact, a word I was aware of when I lived there), that apartment’s sole redeeming feature was the patio where I used to go to pretend to smoke cigarettes, and watch the city skyline.

Part of the reason I love my husband is because I brought him home for a visit from England in 2003 when the apartment was still inhabited by friends of mine. And they had a party to welcome me back, and so for two days, he got to know almost exactly what I was talking about when I talked about that place, about that time. I love that he was there, that brief intersection between my new life and my old one. I love that my roommates are still such dear friends, no matter that we live so far apart now. And I love that the hideous pink linoleum floors are just the same, and that we’ve come so far, they’re considered art now.

September 19, 2011

I'll be there when Rebecca Rosenblum launches The Big Dream tomorrow. Will you?

Tomorrow night, Rebecca Rosenblum launches The Big Dream at the Dora Keogh Pub on the Danforth. Rebecca has been my friend since I met her in Goldberry Long’s backyard in September 2005, though at that time I knew her as “the girl who worked at Harlequin” (this was before I discovered that everybody, in fact, has worked at Harlequin). Other important things about Rebecca are that one day I realized that “Becky” was written on her shoe, which is how I discovered that everybody calls her Becky, except for everybody she met after 2005 (perhaps she wasn’t wearing those shoes often enough?), and also that both of us had the same photocopied picture of Bob Geldof on our bedroom walls during high school.

Three years ago, when her first book came out, Rebecca was the subject of one of my first interviews, which makes it all the more poignant that I’ll be interviewing her as part of her launch tomorrow, all up in front of the crowd and everything. I’m honoured to be a part of the event, so excited to celebrate this wonderful book with her, and also, I’ve made cupcakes. We’ve even got a babysitter! This is a big deal.

If you can’t make it, do c heck out the book. Yesterday morning, Margaret Atwood tweeted that she was looking forward to it, and as someone who just finished reading it, I can promise that Margaret Atwood will not be disappointed. Neither will you.

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