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Pickle Me This

September 1, 2009


September is the end of my self-imposed fiction writing maternity leave. Though no doubt the world would not miss my fiction if I never went back, I find that I miss it, and I have a feeling the experience of writing it is going to be different now that I’ve had a baby. So my goal is to write for fifteen minutes every day, which is a small goal but with my current schedule will some days be impossible. Therefore I should ideally do it before breakfast, right? Oh, but I’m not quite ready to sacrifice sleep, which is still far too precious. So we shall see.

September is also two literary events I’m looking forward to– first, the launch of Patricia Storms’ picture book The Pirate and the Penguin on September 12 at the Yorkville Public Library. Harriet and I are very excited, and not just because we’ve been told there will be cake. I can’t wait to get the book, and help to celebrate the work of such a marvelous lady.

And then the following week, we’re off to the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival! Terry Griggs! Miriam Toews! Mary Swan! Lynn Johnston! Zoe Whittall! Etc. etc. I am very looking forward.

(Also exciting is that today I’m wearing a pair of pre-pregnancy pants. I’ll sure miss elastic waists, but it had to happen sooner or later…)

July 2, 2009

Full Disclosure

Baby is happy right now, because I’m rocking her Fisher Price recliner with my left foot. Hence the typing with two hands here, which is enormously liberating. I pray that Harriet does not get bored of rocking soon, and until she does, let me provide you with full disclosure here. Or at least, a modicum of disclosure, as this is not the sort of blog in which I bare my soul. Rather, this is the kind of blog in which I write about my life usually through a bookish/literary perspective, and I’ve been doing a bit of that regarding motherhood. That Laurie Colwin quote remains the truest thing I’ve ever read. I remain amazed that having read thousands of books, watched TV shows and movies throughout my lifetime, I’ve never once seen the actual experience of having a new baby presented (and I’ll be writing more about this later). Which was how I could have come into this so cluelessly, and why the reality was so overwhelming. Overwhelmingly awful. I will say that the first two weeks were the darkest I’ve ever known, and I feel like I’ve crawled out of the deepest crevice in the universe to get to where I am now. It gets better, I knew it would, but that didn’t mean very much at the time. And even now, when “better” on some days is still its very own kind of hell, and nothing is what I thought it would be, and I am working harder than I’ve ever worked in my whole life, and normalcy seems so irretrievably far away– at least I haven’t cried since yesterday. But before that, it had been over a week, and there are moments when I’m so perfectly all right, and proud of how far we’ve come, and delighting in this strange little girl who has come to live with us. I have learned, however, how much I need people, and that I am so lucky to be surrounded by people on all sides. Friends, family, and oh, husbands (and mine has saved me over and over and over again). I remain a very lucky woman, and the good days are being strung together closer and closer all the time. (Baby is done rocking. Good timing.)

June 30, 2009


So, I’m not going to say I’ve mastered nursing, I’ve certainly learned plenty in the past five weeks, and it’s getting better all the time. I will lay claim, however, to having mastered reading while nursing. Which I don’t do all the time for fear of child neglect or that she’ll grow up to think her mother is a hard cover, but I am pleased to say that I’ve got a lot of reading done lately. I read Catherine O’Flynn’s What Was Lost in a hurry, and enjoyed it very much. I’m now absolutely obsessed with Lisa Moore’s February, which I think will win the Giller Prize this year, if anyone’s betting. And this morning I bought The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer, who I’ve never read but have heard great things about (including from Jessica Westhead). So the moral is that reading is possible in this new life, as are banana pancakes, park bench afternoons, Midsomer Murders, laughter and ease. I have avoided daytime television thus far, which I’m quite proud of. New pleasures are late evening walks, respect for quiet, baby bathtime, board books and almost-smiles. And that’s starting to make everything else worthwhile.

May 19, 2009


Now reading Trauma by Patrick McGrath, because Emily Perkins mentioned him in her interview last year. I reread Perkins’ Novel About My Wife yesterday, because Tessa McWatt’s puzzler put me in the mood to go back to it, plus Perkins writes about first pregnancy as a really bewildering, terrifying and tender time in a marriage, and I wanted to revisit that. Having the time and space to read voraciously is something I’ve not experienced in a while, and I’m really enjoying it.

And on the internet too– Jessica Westhead has a story up at, “Todd and Belinda Rivers of 780 Strathcona“. Katia Grubisic in praise of difficult writing at the Descant blog. Seen Reading goes from sea to shining sea (or from Vancouver to Wolfville at least). The wondrous Meli-Mello responds to my post about Mommy blogging. And Marnie Woodrow guest-posting on Sesame Street turning 40 (plus she writes about loving Rita Celli, and who doesn’t love Rita Celli?). From The Walrus, “Water Everywhere, 1982”, which is an excerpt from Lisa Moore’s new novel February (out in June).

And we’re just back from our final midwife’s appointment, which is so strange to consider. And moreover, that in just a week, our Baby will be here. This little person we’ve known so long and haven’t even met yet– I am very excited for that moment to come. (Besides, the reusable baby wipes– I actually sewed them! We’re all ready now.) Link

April 22, 2009


Lately I’ve been short on bloggish thoughts, too busy, I suppose, shining light on and playing music to my lower abdomen, as well as lying face-down with my shoulders on the floor and my bottom in the air. And ever-seeking the next piece of cake, which is usually around the corner anyway. These things all take time. I’ve also been reading good books, finishing up a number of writing projects, sitting tall in straight-backed chairs, and taking far too many baths. With pleasure. There are good things going on though, as you can see by the “forthcoming” projects listed in my sidebar, and fun things will be occurring here in weeks to come (including a new interview, and coverage of a bookish road trip to take place this weekend). Now must go and run another bath. Thank you for your patience.

March 25, 2009

Strange and sordid

I’ve spent the last few evenings so outrageously tired that I was seeing double, and the mornings drinking excessive amounts of orange juice. I’d self-diagnosed with diabetes, but now I think I just happen to be cranky and craving vitamin C. I no longer feel like sitting at a desk to type, but when I lie down on my back, I’m unable to breathe, and I don’t yet know how to type on my side. Baby is currently kicking my computer, having spent the entire day pummeling me from the inside, which makes me happy actually, nothing to worry about. I slept better last night (except for strange sordid dreams involving Tom Selleck and fondue), and feel tonight I might not actually lapse into a coma at 9:00. Also it is raining=spring.

I am now reading Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist. Her books are never actually so enjoyable, and always take me an age to get done, but they’re worthwhile and so various. Last night I finished reading Doubting Yourself to the Bone by Thomas Trofimuk, as recommended by Melanie. It was a beautiful, strange book, a poet’s book, I think, which might not be everybody’s thing, but I liked it, and didn’t even get bothered that it was mostly in second person. I think she’s right that this is one that leaves you thinking for a while. And now I’ve got a zillion other books lined up on my to-be-read shelf, and I really ought to step up because my wee kicky baby’s due date is just two months away.

March 3, 2009


This occurred to me yesterday as I was making my lunch, as an addendum to the Life-Changing Books list. That I must note Beverly Clearly’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Because ever since reading it many years ago, I have been unable to crack a hardboiled egg any other way except slap against my forehead.

January 9, 2009

Pickle Me This jumps on the Canada Reads bandwagon

I don’t usually jump on reading bandwagons, mostly because my tastes are so conventional, I’m more or less riding along already. But for some reason I feel the urge to read all the Canada Reads books this year, and the urge has come with enough time for me to actually get to it. So I’ll be buying the books this weekend, and am looking forward to new discoveries. Stay tuned for my reviews.

December 30, 2008

Christmas update

I received a Slanket for Christmas, after years and years of longing, and so I will never have to suffer the agony of cold arms again while reading. It really is the most remarkable bookish accessory, the only problem being that whenever it’s on me I very soon find myself falling asleep. But it did keep me snug as I make my way through my Christmas books. Already did the trick with Lush Life, and I’m sure there’ll be more of the same as I read Great Expectations: Twenty-Four True Stories About Childbirth. I also received Inside the Slidy Diner by Laurel Snyder and Jaime Zollars for me and my yet-born babe, and I bought the baby Night Cars, which I think it really liked. Our beloved Smiths gave us each a book by Todd ParrThe Mommy Book and The Daddy Book. (We now wonder if it might be safe to be prepared, knowing where this kid comes from, and buy it an early copy of Parr’s It’s Okay to be Different). Oh, and we also got us a copy of Pulpy and Midge in our house via a present for Stuart, which meant I was startled in bed the other night as we were reading by Stuart exclaiming in woebegone tones, “Oh no! Pulpy just fell on his potluck contribution!!”

December 30, 2008

Two Odd Things

1) It is strange but true that I’ve been craving sweet foods much less since I got pregnant. Which is part of the reason I never really got around to Christmas Baking mania this year. I baked apple pie for Christmas dinner, and gingerbread cookies two weeks ago– but only half a batch. And I kept meaning to bake at least half a batch of sugar cookies too, for though I’ve been craving sweet foods less, usually I can rouse myself enough to eat them. I’d even found the perfect sugar cookie recipe, simple and easy, as the one I’d been using the last couple of years has always caused me trouble. I’m not sure if I found it on the internet or in a magazine, but I do remember the recipe was printed against a blue background, and the recipe below was a chocolate variant of the same.

Except that I actually think I dreamt it, because when I got (nearly) down to getting those cookies baked, I couldn’t find my perfect recipe anywhere. Not in any magazines, or on websites I frequent, and I spent quite a bit of timing just searching, searching, all of it coming up naught. So that was disappointing.

2) Less disappointingly, however, is that I’ve located my grade three teacher. You might recall, as I’ve written about this before, that she wrote me a letter well over a year ago, after reading my story in The Toronto Star. And that she had been that teacher, the one who first encouraged me to write, to want to be a writer. All very good news, except that she’d sent the letter to my dad’s house, where the filing system is a bit dubious, and somehow the envelope had gotten lost, and with it her return address. Efforts to locate her via internet searches came to absolutely nothing, and I wasn’t even sure in what part of the province she lived.

However this summer whilst weekending at our friends’ cottage north of Belleville, the power went out in a gusty storm. Staying out for nearly twenty-fours, which halfway into we decided to alert the Hydro company of. Because perhaps they didn’t know, however unlikely? And then flipping through the phone-book by candlelight (and keep in mind this is a small phone book with a very large font), a name jumps out at me, and I swear it’s my former teacher’s husband’s. An address written beside it, and of course I’m not sure, but I decide to take my chances. The address being not quite right postal-wise, however, and so the note I send takes its time, but it arrives eventually. So my teacher and I are back in touch, I was able to thank her for her lovely note about my story, and all this only because of a terrible storm that knocked out the power last July.

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