Onward!

This is an old picture, we still have snow and that bunting has been taken down. And since this picture, we have moved on. I have been stuck, not able to move forward because of wondering if I was going to be able to meet my deadline of returning to work April 1. Things are still hard and we don’t need any extra worries. I’m lucky to be able to be at home keeping the waters as calm as I can. So this week I resigned from my job at the library and honestly, I’m feeling better than I have in weeks.

So onwards! For spring, for new writing opportunities (I have one! I’m really excited!), for this blog, for all the books, for family and friends who love us and for being exactly where I need to be right now which is the very place I want to be with my favourite people.

Advertisements

Nana

This week is going to be less writing and more March Breaking, which isn’t doing much because my kids don’t want to do anything. It’s hard. I miss the days of lugging them around, plopping them in car seats and strollers and doing stuff! Nowadays going to see Captain Marvel no doubt outshines any trips to a sugar bush.

I got away this weekend, on my own which was wonderful! I took the early train to Union Station where I picked up my aunt who was loaded down with bagels and coffee and we took another train to Whitby. We spent the entire day with my Nana who turned 92 this weekend. Nana is amazing. The fact that she is 92 is a mere technicality, she is smarter and funnier and braver than I’ll ever be.

Nana lives in a retirement village in Whitby, alone now after my Boppa passed away three years ago. The end of February marked what would have been their seventieth wedding anniversary. She misses him fiercely, we all do. Although she has has friends and activities to keep busy, at times she’s lonely, of course she is. The thing she does that amazes me the most is how she so clearly knows what she needs and she does it. She says ‘no’ to things when she feels like it, she walks when she needs to, she reads or doesn’t, she rests or doesn’t. She advocates for good among some people who are unable to keep an open mind in a world that is far different than theirs may have once been. She tells people not to be racist or homophobic with gentle and quiet words. She is kind. She and a friend work year round sending packages to schools in Northern Ontario for students in need. She is wildly funny and intelligent. She has never closed herself off to ideas or experiences that challenge her. She is realistic and doesn’t like everyone because shes’ real, and you can’t like everyone. She puts up with constant pain in her legs and the doctors who tell her there’s isn’t anything they can do.

On Friday, when my aunt and I visited, we drank wine and ate chips and talked and laughed for eight hours straight, often cutting each other off with more things to say. It may have started out being Nana’s birthday we were celebrating, but it was also the best Women’s day I’ve ever had.


Something to Chew On

I am here writing for a few reasons, but the foremost one is to distract myself from eating a second croissant because obviously the first one was so good.

But more so I’m here to iron things out. There is a decision I need to make and neither choice is ideal or easy. Hence the croissant.

Last night was the first night in a few days that Rory went to bed fever-free. I let it slip that I was looking forward to sleeping through the night. Rory thought this was silly because despite the fever, he’d slept fine the night before. So I was honest and told him I’d been awake wondering how he was but not wanting to wake him. William overheard this and just said, ‘wow, you’re the best mom.’ He went on to explain that it’s just really nice to hear how much I care. My heart is still slightly skipping a beat when I remember my almost 14 year old saying this to me. Rory, only 11, still thought I was silly.

I jump around, I find it tricky to stick with things. I grew up with a mom who suffered from extreme mental illness and rode her emotions daily. Her good days were mine, etc. It’s kind of the same now, and it is with most parents, however extreme their kids high or lows are, you go up and down with them. What I’m getting at is that I have found it tricky over the years to find a lot of consistency in my own endeavors, especially writing. I got a job teaching grade 6/7 straight out of OISE, I was 24. I wore overalls and braided pigtails the week before school started when I was in my own classroom painting bookshelves. I got yelled at for trespassing by a teacher who I’d yet to meet. There was a money pool that I’d never last the year. I did. I taught that class and special ed for the next 8 years, with one mat leave when William was born.

I did one more year and got pregnant with Rory when Scott got a job at UW, so we moved. Things for teaching had changed quickly and in order to go back after another mat leave I would have had to start at the bottom and work my way back up. I didn’t, I happily stayed home until Rory was in kindergarten. We spent our days in the library down the street and after a year volunteering some nights a week, they hired me to work circulation.

It was a mat leave that I was covering but before it ended I managed to get hired permanently in the same role but another position. I loved those years and some of my best friends today are those women I worked with. I moved to another branch when I got a job as a Children’s Programmer, the hours were doubled. It was a huge change to our family life but I loved it until things got to be hard at about a year’s mark when William got sick. I can tell you the date and the time (I’m not kidding, it hit him that hard and that fast) when life completely turned upside down – that hour of space marking Before and After. He was in grade 5 and my side of the story to tell here is that I quit my job by the end of the week. He was home for a few months. I didn’t do this alone, Scott took off every minute, and day and week he could, it was a two person job. After six months the library (who is wonderful and so supportive) offered me a part time position in the Children’s department and on the Info desk upstairs in the Adult department. I did that happily (albeit more than not I was coming into work pretending the world wasn’t still falling apart, but who doesn’t do that from time to time?) until this past October when things took another turn. Things are good (and so good) and not good everyday. Mostly, they are just still so very unpredictable.

The kids start grade 7 and 9 this fall, I can barely believe it. New schools for both. Obviously, it’s going to be hard. So it doesn’t take a genius to guess what my decision is, with my going back to work date looming for next month.

I started this post wanting to write less about the specifics and more about how reading has been the most consistent thing in my life for as long as I can remember and how grateful I am for that (reading the Ferrante series when I quit my job three years ago was the best reading experience I’d ever had). But then I ate a croissant and my mind decided to go another way.




That’s Better

My last post was awfully mopey and I felt better not long after posting. It reminded me of those terrible days when the kids went to school feeling so poorly and I was left at home worrying only to find out they were fine by gym class or recess or a pizza lunch.

And now on to lovely things.

  1. Driving in horrible snow yesterday to pick everyone up and unable to find traction on the road but able to find the Backstreet Boys on the radio.
  2. Buying treats at the grocery store before 10 am. I used PC points and bought tulips, new conditioner, a Pokemon essential guide for William and a graphic novel Rory has been pining after. Pokemon is a new interest around here, brought on probably by the upcoming movie. I miss the days when the kids were small and would pour over those big guidebooks, so this makes me happy.
  3. Making delicious cornbread to go with homemade chili. I got Julia Turshen’s newest cookbook from Scott for Christmas, there are so many good things. Her podcast is also great.
  4. Finding an old hour and a half long interview between Emma Straub and Ann Patchett that I paid $6 for from Google audiobooks.
  5. Walking my dog with a secret stash of Mini Eggs in my pocket.
  6. Starting the fourth installment of the Lane Winslow mystery series and discovering it’s the best one!
  7. Giving myself permission to read all the books I can before I go back to work.
  8. Remembering that on May 4 I have tickets (nosebleed, but still) to see Michelle Obama in Toronto!
  9. This blog post that made so much better – thanks Kerry Clare for sending it.
  10. Scott. Just everything.

The Falconer

I just finished reading “The Falconer” by Dana Czapnik and it may end up being my favourite book of 2019. It’s about a seventeen year old girl figuring things in New York in the 90s and that’s about it. She has a crummy best friend she’s also in love with, an amazing friend she hasn’t quite figured out yet, and loves basketball more than either. This is isn’t a YA book. The writing is solid and gorgeous and heartbreaking and I related to her. Not from when I was seventeen, but now as she tried to figure out what would make her the best woman she could be. In the end she figures she should be curious, kind (as in making attempts daily to be good and not just ‘not bad’) and without giving a fuck to what most people think.

I go back to work in about a month. Actually April 1st is the date, which obviously is horrible but I think it will work, that we will be able to manage. Things are ok, but still fairly unpredictable. Most days right now I’m on my own, everyone else and work and school. It’s been hard knowing how to fill these days, what their purpose is. When the caregiver role is taken away (most days between 9:15 and 2:30 ) I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt lost. I wonder who I am during this time. No, I wonder who I should be during this time. I’ve tried jumping into it as being for me, to write mostly but that pressure is too much. Some days I write and it’s all that matters and it’s lovely and other days I think nope, I’m 42, it would have happened by now if it was going to. Which is ridiculous and boring, but there it is.

I don’t want to clean the house, take up a new hobby or work out. And so I read, a lot. Of course I clean and do everything I need to in order to keep this ship floating. That’s why I’m home. I listen to podcasts and walk the dog, but things I loved yesterday (a podcast called the Aria Code all about opera for beginners which is glorious or the idea of starting up this blog again) falls away a week later leaving me like a picky toddler with the blueberries I’ve tossed scattered all over the floor.

I want to go back to work (which is only every part time) and I don’t. I miss my friends but I crave the quiet. The most consistent thing right now is the constant worries about how the day went and what the night will hold. And maybe that’s ok. It’s not a holiday or a break, but no longer a crisis. It’ s a funny floating space. I have put so many rules on this time, expectations on myself that result in guilt – you should swim, no write, no blog, no exercise.

But I’m going to read. And be curious and kind – more than ‘not-bad’ – and just be.


Hotels Dreams

That’s what I’m thinking about this week. Everything about them makes me so happy and we’re going to be staying in two this weekend when we go to Toronto. I love everything them. I love choosing a hotel, going through all of the options, hoping the one I book will be perfect for us. I love the days before, buying a new bathing suit for someone (this time for me and the kids!) and deciding what will be the best book to bring (I take this decision very seriously and this time it might be Elizabeth McCracken who comes along). I love buying chocolates for the drive, maybe chips to eat before bed after a swim. The idea of using the tea bags and tiny kettle and taking a steaming cup into bed. I wonder if the free breakfast will have the excellent waffle maker the kids love and hope there will be strawberries and not just melon. Who will eat the most fruit loops? Or instead will we splurge and order poached eggs and pancakes from the menu! I remember the time I turned my back on the kids and they sent pastries through the toaster and started a mini fire.

I might break out my favourite shirt or wear earrings. It’s the promise of something different. The excitement of getting a break after days and weeks of predictability. It’s the moment we park our car and head into the front lobby that I look the most forward to, the tiny space filled with nothing but the hope of making my family happy. Excited for whatever is about to happen next. The possibly everything will go well and everyone will have a wonderful time. Maybe there will be something as wonderful as the first time we hit the rooftop hot tub at the Grand Hotel and had it all to ourselves while it started to snow.

While driving to pick up my kids from school today, I listening to a story one CBC about hotels and movies that take place in them. I’m not sure which program it was but they played a scene from “Lost in Translation” which got my head spinning of other movies with perfect hotel scenes. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” of course sprang to mind, but I think my favourite is from “It Could Happen to You”. Oh, the scene before everything falls apart and Bridget Fonda is falling in love AND discovers there are bathrobes in her hotel room. Perfection! And of course I thought of Amor Towles’ brilliant “A Gentleman in Moscow,” and entire world and life constructed from within the confines of a hotel.

It’s the chance for something different and surprising to take place. The CBC program spoke of how hotels can force people to behave, hide their fights behind closed doors and not necessarily be their true selves. But I think I’m often my best self in hotels, just so happy to be away and I want to do everything! I’m ready to make the perfect dive and swim all those laps, to stay up under the fluffy white duvet and read the best book all night, to eat something exciting and maybe we’ll have milkshakes! And if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll wake up with glamorous, non- frizzy hair for once.

Let’s Talk

This #bellletstalkday is a hard one for me. I was going to post this yesterday but I didn’t, I overthought things, which isn’t the point.

The cynic in me however, rears it’s head when hashtags like the one above appear. Sent from an cooperation which has become such a monopoly and has failed so many people, just read about Jan Wong. Why is it them who tells us to speak of this when and why. And this one day a year thing. Please.

But when Bell started this yearly campaign to ‘end the stigma’ I thought fine, let’s talk, for sure! Words and talking are the way to go, but as we know also, celebrities on twitter telling us ‘it gets better’ sure as shit doesn’t get my son out of bed in the morning when his anxiety is so bad he holds his head and is stuck, for hours.

But it’s like everything these days. The people who get it, really get it and there is goodness and the people who don’t, never really will.

Maybe I should just be happy for what help there is, before Doug Ford gets rid of it all too. And I’d help, I know it’s pointless to sit and yell insults from the sidelines and maybe someday I will, when my kids are better and we’re not all so tired.

When our son first got ill it was unbelievably hard to get help. People expected him to talk it out, tell what was wrong, advocate for what he needed. But instead, he spent weeks in bed, often just screaming in pain. It was hard to carry a fighting ten year old to doctors, to counselors, to clinics. But we did, of course we did. Now, I’m only saying this because we finally (sort of) got help. But we were also turned away so many times – I’m not kidding – with the words, “I can’t help, sorry, nothing I can do” from professionals. As petrified as we were as parents, we knew the path we had to take, and we fought, we still do. We’re smart, educated (already having had experienced mental illness in our families), we didn’t have to worry much about paying ourselves for help, and do I have to say, we’re white? We have jobs that allow us to be at home, take time off. So our biggest takeaway from this was and still is, how the fuck do families who are unable to identify what is wrong with their child, unable to know how to fight/advocate for them, unable to be off work, unable to read/research, unable to pay for help – save their child or loved one?

We’ll get through, we’ll more than get through. But other parents without the resources and luck we have, but with the same huge parenting hearts and love for their kids – they’re the ones who need more than a goddamn hashtag.