30 November 2011

Things That Are True - I am Unique. Also Awesome.

"What makes you unique?" asks Nadine of todaysparent.com.

"I am AWESOME!" I want to roar back into the internet. "I am excellent; I know how to use a semi-colon! I know things. I have thoughts. I am articulate about them!"

Unfortunately, every time I sit down to write a post about my strong voice, my principles, and my dorky love of grammar, I come up empty. It's very much like a job interview I once had.

"What are your best qualities for this position?" asked the interviewer.

"I'm detail-oriented, deadline-driven, and have strong communication skills," I replied confidently. Then he asked me how my communication skills were strong, and I completely blew it. Couldn't think of a single example. I stammered, and blushed, and felt like I might wet my pants. It was awful.

I've always been great when I'm just thrown into a situation – figure it out on the fly and get it done. Ask me to trumpet my own qualifications? I turn into an idiot. Who almost wets her pants.

I don't know why this is. I'm not exactly modest:

My own business cards decry my awesomeness

I'm quick-witted, and funny, and well-read, and I've been all over the world. I can hold my own in any room. I can dance in heels until two in the morning. I speak English, French, and Spanish. Despite having grown up in a tiny town in the Yukon, I'm living in the heart of Vancouver, and I do okay. I know how to play guitar, and will play and sing badly but enthusiastically for anyone who will listen. I was once the chick singer in an R&B/Funk band, and I played the tambourine like nobody's business. I worked for twelve years in Vancouver's film and television industry, and was really good at it. I am an eighteen years sober recovering alcoholic. I've come out the happy side of an abusive relationship. Despite not really knowing how to use my camera, I take pretty good photographs. I am an expert in packing light.

I am a fiercely loyal friend. I eat my own body weight in chocolate on a daily basis, but if I had to choose between chocolate and cheese for the rest of my life, I would choose cheese. I'm not capable of not welling up if I see someone crying. I no longer own a car; I cycle everywhere. I'm a real brunette. I'm a damned fine cook. I turned forty without losing my mind. I hate it that I can always see the other guy's side of the argument. I own my own business designing little boys' clothes. I know all the words to the "Big Bang Theory" theme song. I have a crush on Peter Mansbridge. I will never tell you something looks good on you if it doesn't just because it's on sale. I live in a 900 square foot apartment in the heart of downtown Vancouver and never want to own a house or have a yard.

I suck at parenting sometimes, but I mostly get it right. I suck at being married sometimes, but mostly get that right, too. I write about the times that I get it wrong, and I write about the times that I get it right.

One of the times we all got it right

And here are three of the times I've written about things that matter to me:

My thoughts on Remembrance Day at Vancouver Mom


International Women's Day

This post was written as a job application, of sorts. I'm hoping to be considered for a blogging gig at todaysparent.com. I sure hope they don't ask me about my communication skills.

29 November 2011

Things That Are True - 100 Things That I Am

Earlier today, the lovely Schmutzie said on twitter:

I replied, "Challenge accepted!"

She posted her 100 adjectives here, and mine are below.

I am, among other things:

1) gregarious
2) intelligent
3) compassionate
4) distracted
5) funny
6) organized
7) fair
8) inconsistent
9) open-minded
10) talented
11) perceptive
12) truthful
13) lazy
14) determined
15) fierce
16) grateful
17) scarred
18) discerning
19) curious
20) profane
21) insecure
22) respectful
23) musical
24) imaginative
25) privileged
26) active
27) strong
28) messy
29) analytical
30) trustworthy
31) persuasive
32) demanding
33) supportive
34) idealistic
35) bilingual
36) judgmental
37) frugal
38) crafty
39) realistic
40) fearful
41) tearful
42) faithful
43) generous
44) critical
45) stylish
46) buxom
47) principled
48) dissatisfied
49) sober
50) tardy
51) thoughtful
52) envious
53) discreet
54) considerate
55) hopeful
56) impatient
57) uneducated
58) spontaneous
59) healthy
60) conformist
61) irritable
62) literate
63) earnest
64) nitpicky
65) interested
66) charming
67) cynical
68) mulish
69) well-traveled
70) facetious
71) anxious
72) gloomy
73) enthusiastic
74) empathetic
75) loving
76) contrary
77) engaging
78) hesitant
79) capable
80) restless
81) brainy
82) dismissive
83) accepting
84) aloof
85) feminist
86) fidgety
87) witty
88) creative
89) derivative
90) unapologetic
91) mindful
92) stinky
93) sensitive
94) graceful
95) polite
96) confused
97) contrived
98) loyal
99) energetic
100) complex

A few things came to mind as I quickly wrote out this list:

1) I found it really hard to stick with adjectives. I kept wanting to use [adjective noun] like "great cook" or "good singer".

2) I tried to stay away from physical descriptions, like brunette, short, tall, etc. I wanted to delve into who I am, not what I look like right now. That was more difficult than I expected. (I couldn't resist "buxom" because a) it's true, and b) it seems like such a friendly word. You never hear about buxom but cranky heroines or barmaids.)

3) It was easier to come up with negative words than positive ones, and some of the words I chose could be negative or positive, depending on the context and the reader's connotative associations. I leave it to you to figure out which 33 are the negative words.

4) The positive adjectives are how I believe or want other people see me, and how I see myself on my best days. The negative adjectives, I think, are how I see myself most of the time.

5) Many of these words are directly opposed to each other; that doesn't make any of them untrue. I am at times idealistic and at other times cynical. I am at times aloof, at other times sensitive. I am both lazy and enthusiastic, I am both literate and, formally speaking, uneducated. I believe this is true for every human being I've ever met - we are complex and often contradictory creatures.

So that's my list. Anything you think I left out? What's on your list?

28 November 2011

Things That Are Random - Monday in Hawaii Edition

So, one of the search terms that led someone to my blog today was "duvet toddler urine clean".*

Then, we came across this on a wander around the neighbourhood after dinner:

You guys, it's like they knew we were coming.

*For which I rank a surprising third when I do the search on google.

27 November 2011

Things That Are True - Observations from a Small Island in the Pacific

A few observations from my last 48 hours or so:

You wouldn't think a two hour time change could wreak so much havoc on a family routine - but does it ever. We were woken our first morning in Hawaii by The Imp actually running tight circles in our hotel room, chanting, "I'm not sleepy. I'm not sleepy. I'm not sleepy." Over and over. It was 4:30.


We immersed ourselves in Americana this morning and had a highly salted and oversweetened breakfast at Denny's. The thirteen year old girl at the table next to us was having a Red Bull and nothing else at 9:00. I hope that she had a healthier meal when she too woke at 4:30 am. I'm kind of surprised we didn't see her later, running in tight circles on the sidewalk, chanting, "I'm not sleepy. I'm not sleepy."

Aside: the Denny's on Kuhio is possibly the whitest place on Oahu - except, of course, for the staff. But you know you're about to get value for money when the majority of a business' customers are octogenarians with fanny packs. And I'm talking about the men.


The Imp is much more opinionated about how he wants to spend his time this trip. The difference between not quite three and almost three and a half is remarkable. Not only does he remember every single thing that we saw and did six months ago, he has very distinct notions about how and when he wants to repeat them. It's been an interesting couple of days, managing his demanding behaviour and trying to discipline him in a way that doesn't involve me spending hours sitting with a sullen child in a hotel room. Follow-through sucks, y'all.

But when he is behaving, it's a joy to behold:

Unless you have a heart of stone.

The Imp spent a bunch of time running up and down the beach across the street from our hotel. It's possible he was chanting, "I'm not sleepy. I'm not sleepy," under his breath. What stopped him in his tracks was a dude with a metal detector working his way along the unoccupied bits of sand. Metal Detector Man was, as if straight from central casting, an octogenarian man with a fanny pack. The Imp was riveted.


It's been a long time since I wore, or even much cared, about what was trendy in the fashion world. But here's fair warning for you: mom jean cutoffs seem to be a thing. That's right, waistline-meets-armpit washed denim cut so short that pockets flap around underneath their ragged hems. Cut so short you get to see whatever the bum equivalent of side-boob is. (Side-bum?) Based on the alarming number of young Japanese women I saw today sporting this look (because really, any number higher than one is somewhat alarming, no?) I am officially old and not-stylish. And I'm totally okay with that.


Vancouver and Honolulu are, except for the weather, remarkably similar: both adjacent to ocean and mountains, both ethnically diverse, both highly influenced by a variety of Asian cultures, and both magnets for global investors who drive the price of real estate higher than the jobs provided by the local economy can afford. Of all the American cities I've visited, Honolulu actually feels the most like Vancouver to me - with the glaring exception being, of course, Vancouver's lack of palm trees and trade winds. The Imp keeps asking if we're still in Hawaii.

The Imp: "It doesn't look like Hawaii, Mom. It looks like Vancouver."
Me: "What are you talking about? How can you say that - the weather's beautiful today!"
The Imp: "It looks like Vancouver with all the coffee places."

We were exiting Starbucks at the time, so yeah.


There were a number of times today that I was struck by what a cliche I am. A slightly frumpy, fifteen pounds overweight, middle-aged woman wandering around Waikiki, stopping at beach-side tourist restaurants to sip slushy drinks with a tower of fruit and paper umbrellas poking out the top, going to the beach and training my camera on my much doted-upon child. At one point I even was given an orchid to weave into my hair.

I'll admit, I felt self-conscious for about five minutes. Then I decided it didn't matter. I'm here with my best friend and my child, and we are enjoying the sun, and the ocean, and the family time. I tucked my orchid behind my ear, island-style, looked out at my boy running through the waves, and embraced the cliche.

If this is cliche, I'll take it.

And now, the boys are both snoring, and I am sleepy, so until tomorrow, aloha.

26 November 2011

Things That Are True - No Place Like Home

Today we woke up in Hawaii. This is a good way to start the day.

Self portraits over morning coffee

The morning was cloudy on and off, but warm. Short sleeves and flip-flops warm. We sorted out some hotel stuff (our usual hotel was all booked up for our first night on Oahu so we stayed somewhere else last night) and walked around Waikiki. It was a little surreal - since we were here just six months ago, it kind of felt like we hadn't left; like maybe that time in the rain and cold of Vancouver was just a bad dream from which we'd finally woken.

Then we hopped on public transit, (called, appropriately enough, The Bus) and made our way to my aunt's house, where we wished her a happy birthday and bestowed upon her the ceremonial offering of Hawkins Cheezies, the one piece of home she can't get on this island paradise.

After a quick visit, we made our way back to The Bus stop under cloudy and ominous skies. On the ride from Kaneohe back to Waikiki, The Imp fell asleep in my lap. Also, it started to rain; big fat tropical raindrops coming down in sheets. By the time we reached our destination, it was really pouring down. As we exited the bus, The Imp woke and, confused, asked "Are we still at Hawaii?" as he rubbed his eyes.

"Yes honey, we're still at Hawaii," I laughed in response. It was a fair question. On the plane he'd fallen asleep somewhere over the Pacific and woken up in Honolulu. It made sense, then, that he would fall asleep on the bus and wake in a new place too.

"It's supposed to look like Hawaii, but it just looks like Vancouver!" he shouted in disgust.

Right you are, kiddo. Right you are.

Hoping for sunscreen weather tomorrow. I know. My life is really rough.

25 November 2011

Things I'm Doing - In Transit

In transit today, Vancouver to Honolulu via Bellingham. The Imp has made friends with some other kids who have an iPad and Angry Birds, so I am stealing two minutes to type out this quick update on my iPhone. The TSA agents at Bellingham Airport are some of the friendliest I've ever seen. I introduced HWSNBN to Trader Joe's this afternoon, he's already talking about stopping there to stock up on our way home. We start boarding shortly. I've never blogged from my phone before, so I'm going to hit publish while I still can here and hope for the best. Aloha!

24 November 2011

Things That Are True - Less is More

Once upon a time, I was the girl who took two giant suitcases with me to spend a weekend with friends. Once upon a time, I was unable to decide which pair of shoes I might wear most, so I brought six. Six pairs, not six shoes. Once upon a time, I brought dresses just in case I might get the chance to wear them, and running shoes just in case I went to the gym, and every makeup item I owned because you just never know.


HWSNBN doesn't like to carry things, so he packs light. Whatever he neglects to bring with him, he does without or purchases at the final destination.

At first I really didn't understand this concept of taking the bare minimum, but over time the idea grew on me. For our two weeks in Paris in 2004, we decided to travel with carry-on luggage only. The earth didn't stop spinning on its axis because I only had one pair of black boots to wear. After that it became an unspoken rule: no checked luggage. Hong Kong and New Zealand in 2006, Paris and London in 2007 - we just gathered up our stuff and stepped off the plane and into our adventure. No waiting at the baggage carousel, first to arrive at the customs counter. Excellent!

And here's a secret: no matter how lightly I packed, there was always one item of clothing that never got worn. I began to pride myself on my ability to pack light. My travel mantra became: "Passport and a credit card. The rest is details."

Then we had The Imp. The amount of clobber you haul around for a 30 minute trip to the playground with a baby wouldn't fit in just one carry-on. For a trip to Provence when The Imp was two months old, I took: two suitcases, a large carry-on for myself, a giant diaper bag for The Imp, a baby bjorn, a stroller, and a car seat. Not to mention breast pump and bottles. Yeah.

Now that The Imp is past the diaper years, minimal luggage is possible again. We went to Hawaii in April with two carry-ons, a laptop bag, and a camera bag. We'd planned to do the same again for this trip. Today, HWSNBN wondered aloud, "Do you think we could do it with just one carry-on bag?"

The gauntlet was thrown down. "Challenge accepted!" I shouted, and got to packing.

Laptop bag, camera bag, carry-on, and Curious George
Several hours later, I have unlocked the Less is More achievement.

Three people, nine days, one carry-on, a laptop bag, and a camera bag. Oh, and The Imp's "suitcase", which is actually his daycare lunch bag, with two small books, two small toys of his choosing, and George, his constant companion. (He carries his own bag.)

Granted, it's Hawaii, a casual kind of place, and warm, so heavy clothes are not required. That makes it easier to fit it all in less space.

What are we bringing, you ask?

Bloggable, indeed. Grin.

The carry-on, which is the max size allowed for carry-on, contains:
Imp's clothes:
4 pairs underwear
bathing suit (board shorts & rashie)
4 t-shirts
1 short-sleeved button up collared shirt
3 pairs shorts
2 sets pajamas (granted, they're short sleeves & shorts sets)

HWSNBN's clothes:
3 short sleeved button up collared shirts
2 pairs shorts
swim trunks
4 pairs underwear

My clothes:
1 casual cotton skirt
bathing suit (tankini)
2 lululemon tank tops (with built-in bra)
1 sleeveless shirt
1 t-shirt
2 dresses
4 pairs underwear, 1 bra

1 litre ziploc bag of toiletries:
1 eyeliner, 1 lip gloss, 1 mascara
sample size toothpaste
sample size contact lens solution
2 pairs contact lenses
allergy meds
dental floss
3 toothbrushes
1 comb
3 hair elastics
men's deodorant, women's deodorant
20 Breathe Right strips, lest our marriage end before we return
1 set of invisalign braces, since I need to put in a new appliance on Tuesday

Oh, and a roll up real small tote to take snacks/towels/etc to the beach while we're there

Laptop bag contains:
macbook pro/power cable
car lighter to USB adaptor, wall plug to USB adaptor
wallet, passports, flight/hotel printouts
Kobo, USB cable
iphone, USB cable
glasses case: 1 pair prescription sunglasses, 1 pair non-prescription sunglasses
old school paper notebook/pen
100 page sticker activity book, Brain Quest alphabet write and erase set, fingerpainting art set (must keep The Imp busy while trapped in his seat for six hours)

Camera bag contains:
SLR w/35-70mm lens, additional 70-300mm lens
battery charger/cable, USB cable
315g package of Bassetts licorice all sorts for my uncle
pkg of 14 28g Hawkins Cheezies for my aunt
HWSNBN's pathetic excuse for a pillow - I have known towels that offered more padding
HWSNBN's sandals, The Imp's sandals

Bags are packed. Booyah.

And that's it. We haven't exactly deprived ourselves; it's still a lot of stuff. But it's a lot less than I took to Hawaii, traveling alone, when I was eighteen.

We'll wear our heavy items on the plane: boots/shoes, sweaters, winter jackets. Airplanes are always freezing anyway.

What's missing?
Enough clothes - wash in the sink, hang in the bathtub, or find an actual laundromat
Shampoo/conditioner/soap - hotel provides, or buy on arrival
Towels - hotel provides, both for the pool and the beach
Sunscreen - buy on arrival
Razors - buy disposable ones on arrival
Nail clippers/tweezers - either do without or buy on arrival and leave behind - I have strewn nail clippers and tweezers in my wake everywhere I've travelled for the last several years

So what do you think? Anything we're not bringing that you simply couldn't live without? Could you pack for nine days in one carry-on, a laptop bag, and a camera bag?

23 November 2011

Things That Are True - When Husbands Go Bad

A few weeks ago, HWSNBN, who works freelance, finished a string of projects and immediately got sick, which is what happens when you run around at mach three with your hair on fire for a few months in a row. After he recovered from his bout of the plague, it was well-deserved lie around and watch tv time.

Except we canceled our cable almost a year ago as a cost- and Imp commercial exposure-cutting measure.

Sometimes Netflix just doesn't cut it, so HWSNBN went out and bought himself some DVDs, most notably the first season of the reboot of Hawaii 5-0. This will be relevant in a minute.


A few nights ago, I made malasadas. They're a doughnut type delicacy of Portuguese origin, but are hugely popular in Hawaii.

This too will be relevant in a minute.


I'm not sure if it was the malasadas, or the repeated viewings of Hawaii 5-0 over the last few days, but HWSNBN started to talk about the merits of a trip to Hawaii as he gazed out the window at the angry wind and rain of a Vancouver November.

He even, as a joke, started looking at airfare.

This put me in the unfamiliar and disconcerting position of being the voice of reason in this house. It's not in my natural skill set; I am the one who buys absurdly priced boots when I'm left to my own devices. He's supposed to be the sane one. For me to argue fiscal responsibility is just... odd. And yet, there I was, making my best case that a trip to Hawaii when I'm not earning an income and he's between jobs is maybe not, well, prudent. Also, we were just there a few months ago.

And then HWSNBN done lost his mind.

I fear there may be a lot of photos of this type in the near future.

In the space of an hour, he'd booked flights and hotel.

So, we leave shortly for the balmy shores of Oahu, and I'll be finishing NaBloPoMo from a very different part of the Pacific Ocean than the one I can see from my apartment window here in Vancouver.

I'm not complaining, lest there be any confusion on that point. But wow, I have a metric heapton of stuff to get done in the next couple of days.

22 November 2011

Things That Are True - Recipe for Peace

Earlier this evening I tweeted the following:

In the interest of world peace, I suppose it behooves me to post my recipe for all to see. HWSNBN may have married me for my blueberry pie, but I think the meatloaf is a big part of why he's still here.

Mix all this stuff with a cup of milk - world peace in a stainless steel bowl

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all of the following ingredients in a bowl:

1 1/2 lbs of lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 egg
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
(Your mileage may vary - whenever I see a recipe that's supposed to feed 6 people that calls for 1 clove of garlic, all I can think is, "You're adorable.")
About a tablespoon of dried mustard powder
About a tablespoon of herbes de provence
2 or 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (I just let it glug into the bowl until I think there's enough.)
Three slices of bread, chopped small (or about 1/2 cup of dried breadcrumbs)
1 cup milk - I use soymilk to keep it dairy-free

Mix well, transfer to ungreased loaf pan, and spread about 1/2 cup of ketchup (or bbq sauce, or if you're really fancy, sundried tomato puree) all over the top of it to cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until meat thermometer inserted in the centre reads 160 degrees.

I don't have a photo of the finished product - it came out of the oven and more or less immediately into the gaping maws of HWSNBN and The Imp. I also ate rather a lot of it. But really, it should sit for five to ten minutes to make it easier to slice.

If there are any leftovers, sandwiches are definitely the way to go.

Do you have a recipe that could be responsible for world peace? Can you share the link in a comment? Please?

21 November 2011

Things I'm Learning - The Whole Santa Deal

Christmas always blindsides me.

Here's the thing: I grew up in a home that did not celebrate Christmas, ever. We weren't Christian, we didn't celebrate Christian holidays. So for us it was just another day. No decorating, no gift-giving, no giant meal with family, no nothing.

This is not a pity party. We never had it, so I didn't miss it.

The first time I celebrated Christmas was in my mid-twenties. I was in my first serious relationship, and his family did Christmas. I went into Margaret Meade mode, nodded and smiled, and surreptitiously took notes. Christmas Eve, okay, got it. Christmas morning, oh, okay, I did not know that. Christmas Dinner, what the hell are these cracker things? And done.

Okay, good. I had a Christmas under my belt, and now I had it all figured out. I knew how to "do" Christmas. Wahoo. Check that off on the life list, I've got this shit wired. High fives for all my friends!

Here's what nobody tells you when you're on the outside looking in: Christmas is different for every family. There is no one way to do Christmas, and the traditions can vary pretty widely. The next boyfriend's family did things totally differently. I didn't know what was going on at all!

When HWSNBN and I started dating, I was experienced enough to know that I didn't know anything, so for the first year I sat and watched from the side lines. It's more or less the same every year: Christmas Eve at this cousin's house, Christmas morning with immediate family who aren't out of town with in-laws, Christmas dinner with extended family and close friends. Some visiting of elders between Christmas and New Year's. Okay. Ten years later, I'm pretty dialed in to the whole thing.

HWSNBN and I have never gone crazy at Christmas. In ten years I think we've had two Christmas trees. On alternate Christmases (my Christmases, which my family doesn't celebrate) we go away, usually to Paris, because in my heart of hearts that's where I actually live. Every year we agree not to get anything for each other for Christmas, and every year HWSNBN breaks the deal and I can't quite get mad at him for it, so I bake him a blueberry pie as a gift. Easy, right?

But having a kid? Changes everything.

Suddenly there's letting people know what The Imp would like for Christmas, there are children's Christmas parties, there are events at daycare, and there is Santa. I don't know from Santa. I'm totally baffled by the whole notion of Santa, frankly, and wonder how any of you that grew up with this mythical, magical figure could ever trust your parents again once you found out it was all a big lie. So rather than get it wrong, I have deferred all Santa dealings to HWSNBN. He's had an easy time of it so far, since with the exception of five minutes on the guy's lap every year, The Imp's been blissfully unaware of this whole fat-guy-gives-you-presents deal. But this year he knows there's a Santa - he must've heard about it from the kids at daycare. I have to admit, this makes me a little uneasy.

The Imp's first Christmas. Life was easier before he could talk.

I'm still determined to let HWSNBN handle this, but I feel like I should maybe know some background on this shady character. So please help me? Tell me what you tell your kids about Santa? Because I was the five year old that made all the kindergarten kids cry when I went to school and told them, "My mom says there's no such thing as Santa!" I don't think that's going to be the best way to approach this, somehow.


20 November 2011

Things That Are True - Grace in Small Things

Inspired by Schmutzie, who created Grace in Small Things to "wage a battle against embitterment", I thought I'd take a second to slow down today and think about some of the little things that bring me joy. In no particular order:

1) What started out as a horrible day turned into an inadvertent afternoon attendance at a Theatre Sports performance, which made me laugh my bad mood right out of existence. Also my headache.

2) Asking The Imp what he likes and having him happily reply, "I like EVERYTHING!" Way to be, kid.

3) No bedtime shenanigans today.

4) The Imp's fever is gone.

5) I finally got my little 4x6 photo printer working again. Hurray!

19 November 2011

Things That Are True - Of Friends, and Fondue, and Elections, and Buffy

I spent this evening with girlfriends, gathered around the flickering blue light of the tv screen and the slightly less flickering lights of smart phones as we watched favourite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, checked twitter, gossiped, ate (a truly epic spread of food) and monitored election results.

We rocked the multitasking, yo.

Not pictured: chocolate fondue pot, cheese fondue pot, bread platter

Also, if anyone's at Mayor Gregor's victory party tonight and catering's running low, we have an impressive array of leftovers we could drop off.

Sometimes a quiet night in with good friends is exactly the right thing to do. Thank you Gwen, Tracey, and Sandi. Let's do it again soon.

Maybe with slightly less food. (Urp.)

18 November 2011

Things I'm Learning - Let it Snow

This morning, there was snow.

Allow me to give you some background: I was born and raised in the Yukon. I know all about snow. I have walked in it, I have waded through it when it was hip deep. I have shoveled it, I have skidooed through it, I have played vigorous games wherein one person "washes" another (unsuspecting) person's face with it. As a teenager, I ran with friends through foresty hometown shortcuts when it had been snowing long enough to accumulate on the trees, and used my fist and forearm to whack tree trunks as I ran by, leaving my friends to get caught in the mini-avalanches behind me as snow slid off heavily laden branches.

I know from snow, and I spent twenty years in the territory, enduring it more months of the year than not.

I do not like snow.

When we go to Whistler, I get a pedicure while HWSNBN hits the slopes. I have tried skiing, and I was so bad at it I got pity lessons from an instructor on his day off when I was sixteen. He was French, and even though skiing sounds more charming in French (chasse-neige!), I still can't do it without both physical and emotional scarring. I have tried snowboarding, but I was so bad at that, that by the end of the day I was manipulating my falling body to land on my chest on purpose because it was the only part of me not bruised into agonized submission. I have cross country skied (I was not good at that either), and I have snowshoed (none of your fancy city snowshoes, either, mine were bent wood and animal parts and moose-hide laces).

I especially don't like snow in Vancouver, because almost no one knows how to drive in it, and a few inches of the white stuff can lead to some pretty spectacular clusterfucks on my city's streets.

So when I looked out the window at 7:00 this morning to see snow falling past our 21st floor windows, I was decidedly not amused.

I woke HWSNBN to let him know that I was going to take the car to my early exercise class because it was snowing. At that exact moment, The Imp came blinking into the dim light of our room, and came fully awake justlikethat.

The Imp: "It's snowing?"
Me, disgusted: "Yes, it's snowing outside."
The Imp, excited: "It's snowing?! I want to see!!"
Me, still not impressed: "Well then, go look out a window."

The Imp ran to our dining room window and pressed his nose against the glass. Inches away, big puffy flakes drifted lazily past him. He actually clapped, and started jumping up and down.

The Imp, turning to look at me, beaming: "Yay! This means we can build a snowman! Yay!!"

That gave me pause. To The Imp, a Vancouver-born child of three, snow's not something to be endured; it's a thing of myth and legend. It happens rarely, and it's cause for celebration.

Me, putting on my game face: "Yes, honey. That means we can build a snowman."

I went off to my class, and the boys got up and had breakfast. By the time I returned an hour and a half later, the skies had cleared. And much to The Imp's chagrin, it had warmed up enough outside that any snow on the ground when I left had already melted away.

My snow-hating self was given a reprieve.

Two things:

1) It is way too easy to pass our biases on to our kids without even realizing it - with a smidgen less self-awareness, I would have obliviously squashed all The Imp's joy this morning. That's something to think about.

2) I need to buy The Imp some mittens. Next time it snows, I'm blowing off the exercise class.

The Imp in the snow, November 2010, almost exactly a year ago

17 November 2011

Things That Are True - Plans? What Plans?

What's the saying? "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." According to google, it was John Lennon who said that, although I doubt he said it first, it being one of those universal truthy things that bonks us all upside the head on a fairly regular basis.

Oh, the things I was going to get done today! I was going to be the very model of productivity! No task left undone!

But yeah. A feverish three year old will muck that up. Especially when a fever that seemed to be going away suddenly spiked to 39.4 C and said three year old has a history of febrile seizures.

So instead, this is what most of the day looked like:

A feverish little boy, couch bound, tv on, Curious George as pillow
This is the part where I'm grateful that I have the freedom to put work aside and spend time helping my boy feel better, right?

16 November 2011

Things That Are True - When the Fever Breaks

I am not freaking out.

This is a good thing.

When I picked up The Imp at daycare today, he looked tired, and a little wan. My mom-spider senses got a little twitchy. On the ride home (all four minutes of it) he fell asleep. Since I had just been describing to a friend how The Imp never. stops. moving, to have him fall asleep at 5:30 in the afternoon was a bit of a red flag. We got inside the apartment, and all he wanted to do was sit in my lap.

Me: "Okay, honey, come sit in my lap for one minute and then I'll start making dinner."
The Imp: "No. I want to have a long, long, long, long, very long hug."
Me: "Okay. Come sit with me and let's have a hug."

The Imp crawled into my lap, rested his head against my chest, and put his little arms around me.

Me: "What should we have for dinner tonight? Would you like to have French toast?"
The Imp, holding me tighter: "No. I just want to have a long, long hug."

It should be noted that French toast is one of The Imp's favourite meals of all time. He loves to help me make it, he loves that it can be eaten with syrup or jam and how cool is that? He loves French toast. It is second only to blueberry pancakes in The Imp's little foodie heart.

When he didn't even lift his head off my chest at the mention of French toast, I knew we had a problem.

Me: "Honey, would you like to cuddle with Mommy on the couch?"
The Imp: "Yes."

Three minutes later he was sound asleep. His cheeks were flushed, and a thermometer gently placed in his armpit revealed a slightly elevated temperature.

In months past, I would've gone into crisis management mode. I would've immediately put him to bed, dosed him with ibuprofen, taken his temperature every 15 minutes. I would've set up Seizure Watch HQ in his room (basically a pallet on the floor for me to not sleep on) and I would've stared at him without blinking for as many hours as it took for the sun to come up again.

In other words, I would've freaked out.

Not without cause; he's had a couple of febrile seizures in the past, and they are terrifying to behold. But this time I feel like I've got a handle on it. Don't get me wrong, I still won't sleep much, but at least I'll be not sleeping in my own bed. I'll check on him every few hours, and if he spikes a real fever, I'll administer ibuprofen as required. But I'm not panicking. I don't have knots in my stomach. I'm not picturing him turning blue with foam coming out of his mouth, which is what his first febrile seizure looked like. (Seriously, the most horrible experience of my entire life, thinking I was watching my 16 month old dying in my arms. I have no words.)

He's a sturdy little boy who's had a runny nose for a couple of days, and his body's fighting off whatever seething petri dish vector of disease daycare bug he's picked up this week.

And I am not freaking out. He's fine.


15 November 2011

Things That Are Random - Mid-November Edition

So, today - just now, in fact - I did something I've never done before. I wrote an article submission to a print magazine and pressed send.

Whether it gets read or not, whether it's liked or not, I don't care. I sent it. (Of course I care. I care desperately. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.)

Oh, look! Here's me in an evening gown!

And, uh, scrambling for something to distract myself...

Well, this just happened:

Turns out, ice cream is always the answer.

14 November 2011

Things That Are True - This World Falls On Me

Today was a very blustery day. What leaves remained on the trees after last Friday's windstorm were sent skittering across sidewalks all around us as The Imp and I walked to daycare this morning. Intent on getting where we had to go, I didn't really notice them. My thoughts were on all the things I needed to accomplish today, my neverending to do list scrolling through my mind's eye. Mid-block just a few streets over from our own, The Imp stopped and tugged on my arm.

The Imp: Mom, it's so beautiful.
Me: Huh? What's beautiful, honey?
The Imp, pointing: All the leaves. All the leaves everywhere.

And he was right.

Leaves wind dancing in the tops of hedges

Leaves vivid as flowers bridging hedge and sidewalk

And a scarlet carpet to rival the work of master craftsmen

There are times he seems so wise that I need to remind myself that The Imp is only three. And there are times that I am so grateful that his three year old eyes are not yet jaded enough to walk past this without actually seeing it, as I would have if he hadn't stopped me and made me look.

"This world falls on me, I've got dreams of immortality
Everywhere I turn, all the beauty just keeps shaking me."
-Indigo Girls, World Falls

I need to stop and look more often. Thanks for the reminder, kid.

13 November 2011

Things That Are True - Endless Tiny Goodbyes

Tonight just before bedtime, The Imp came to me and demanded my attention. He put a dimpled little hand on either side of my face and very seriously said, "Mommy, I want to cuddle with you."

Who can say no to that? For one thing, he called me "Mommy".

But I am not a fool. This is a classic Imp bedtime-aversion tactic. Cuddling with me would temporarily delay the need for Picking up of Toys, and forestall the dreaded Brushing of Teeth and Putting on of Jammies.

So we made a deal. After all the toys were put away, and after he brushed his teeth, and once he was in his pajamas, then I would absolutely cuddle with him as he went to sleep - and curl up in bed with him I did.

We sang the "Night Night Song" - a little tune I made up way back in the breastfeeding days and have sung to him nightly since, and his other bedtime favourite, "Bye Bye Blackbird." Trust me when I tell you that you have not really lived until you've heard The Imp sleepily but earnestly trill out "No one here can love or understand me, Oh what hard luck stories they all hand me."

Bedtime hugs and kisses taken care of, lights turned out, blankets pulled up to his chin, he settled himself into the curves of my body as I lay next to him. "Hold hands, Mommy," he said as he reached for my fingers.

As I lay there with him tonight, in the dark, I was reminded of those terrified-new-parent newborn days with him. As he'd fall asleep in my arms or beside me in his co-sleeper, I'd listen so carefully for every breath, and jerk awake at every change in tempo or tenor, as if I could will him to keep living if I just paid enough attention.* Three and a half years later, I know and am comforted by the changes in his breathing; the way each breath slows and grows shallower as he drifts off to sleep. Instead of being alarmed by sudden spasms of a baby's startles, I smile to myself as I feel my big boy's limbs twitch in the first moments of slumber, and know that I can leave him to his dreams as I feel his grip on my fingers loosen.

He's getting so big.

I know it happens. Of course it happens. The only alternative is tragedy. We all know, intellectually, that our job as parents is to prepare our children to leave us. It takes a long time, but that's the end goal. I just don't think I ever really got that the leaving doesn't happen all at once, when they become teenagers, or when they go to university, or when they get married. The leaving happens daily, every minute. As a little mouth is nourished with solid food instead of milk from my own body, as little hands pull away from my grip while we cross the street, and as little legs learn to pump higher and higher without me pushing the playground swing. I love it, I do. I'm thrilled every day with his growing independence, with his confidence in his own body, with his relentless curiosity and enthusiasm for trying new things. But in the midst of celebrating this amazing person my son is becoming, there is also an endless series of tiny goodbyes. I mourn the newborn, and the learning to walk, and the first words.

Nobody tells you that part.

So as much as I'm a stern bedtime taskmaster, make no mistake: there is nothing that will get in my way when my big boy says "Cuddle with me, Mommy." I'll be mourning that too, soon enough.

*For the record, he was always a sturdy little lad and there was never any danger that he would suddenly stop breathing. I was just, like every brand new mom, totally and irrationally paranoid.

12 November 2011

Things That Are True - Ingredients

I am so full.

In keeping with my belief about good food, good friends, and good stories, we had a friend over to share a meal with us tonight. There was roast beef, and yorkshire pudding, and glazed carrots, and mashed potatoes. And gravy. Mustn't forget the gravy, for it was made with roasted onions and bacon drippings and it was a glorious experience in and of itself.

Here's something you didn't know you needed to know: it is perfectly advisable to make yorkshire pudding with soy milk. This was the first time I tried it without regular milk, and it was delicious. If you didn't know, you wouldn't know.

For dessert we had warm chocolate chip cookies and home made ice cream. Well, sort of ice cream. I suppose legally I'd have to call it non-dairy frozen dessert.

But not the kind you can get in the grocery store. Have you seen what goes into that?

Click the photo to embiggen.

I've found frozen fruit purees that have no multisyllabic chemistry major words in the ingredient list, but nothing that actually approximates ice cream. No matter how "health food" the store or brand, I've never been able to find any non-dairy ice cream whose ingredient list didn't give me the heebie jeebies. So I thought, "How hard can it be to make soy ice cream at home?" Convincing HWSNBN that buying an ice cream maker was in his best interest wasn't too difficult.

Here's what goes into our homemade soy ice cream:

Soy milk, vanilla extract, and sugar

The recipe, adapted from the instruction booklet that came with the ice cream maker:

4 1/2 cups of soymilk
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Mix soymilk and sugar together in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, and turn it on. (Follow your ice cream maker's instructions.)

Then make some chocolate chip cookies while you wait for the ice cream to freeze.

Serve warm cookies with cold ice cream and receive the undying gratitude and admiration of your friends and family.

I really am absurdly full. Urp.

11 November 2011

Things That Are True - Lest We Forget

Today, as we do on every November 11th, we took The Imp to Victory Square for the Remembrance Day ceremony. He handled it well, singing O Canada with enthusiasm, being quiet when quiet was called for, listening to the amplified voices and trying to make sense of what he heard.

I don't know how much he understood. I don't think it matters, at this point. We haven't talked a lot about war with The Imp; he is, after all, only three. But he knows that his Granddad was in the air force during World War II, and he knows that a lot of people, including a lot of Granddad's friends, didn't ever come home.

Granddad - almost certainly the source of The Imp's good looks

The Imp did recognize that it was a solemn occasion. When the uniformed men in front of us saluted, The Imp raised his arm and brought his fingertips to his temple in imitation. When the children's choir sang, "In Flanders Fields" The Imp, in my arms, whispered, "They sound sad." And when the guns boomed out their twenty-one salutes from nearby Portside Park, The Imp looked at me with wide eyes and said, "That sounds like thunder."

Yes, yes it does sound like thunder.

May you never hear them in any other context, my beautiful boy.

10 November 2011

Things That Are Random - Thursday in November Edition

File under: Things I do when I am not here

I've been spending some time over at Vancouver Mom:

I hit the West End Farmers Market.
I rounded up Halloween stuff for downtown Vancouver kids.
I wrote about one of our favourite little restaurants on Robson St.
I wrote a couple of articles about basic cycling gear.
And I've been getting some exercise other than cycling.

File under: General update

I've been sending out resumes and looking for full- or part-time work. Going away for a three week chunk at the end of December is making that search a bit more difficult than I'd like, but at this point it would cost a lot of money to cancel. Plus, I really want to go to Paris, so.

I've been getting things organized over at Chill Monkeys.

The carpets stay. Everything else goes.

I've been purging like mad. Another six or seven bags of junk left the house yesterday.

I've been not sleeping much. I've been cooking a lot. I've been thinking about going back to school. Again.

And as soon as I hit "publish" I will have posted something here ten days in a row. I don't know if I've ever done that before.

G'night, all.

09 November 2011

Things That Are True - Echoes

The second he woke up this morning, The Imp came striding out into the living room where I was curled up with a book, looked at me very intensely, and made the following announcement:

The Imp: I am taking away all your treats.

(We use the phrase "take away your treats" to keep his behaviour in line.)

Me: Really. Why are you taking away all my treats?
The Imp: Because you said no tv. So I'm taking away your treats.
Me: Why do you think I said no tv?
The Imp: I don't know.
Me: Because you were shouting and hitting last night at bedtime. Am I shouting? Am I hitting?
The Imp, reluctantly: Noooo.

It's so interesting to hear my own words echoed back to me by my child. I'm fascinated, watching him figure out how much power he has, how much power his words have. He's figuring out his place. He's crafting his worldview. And when I hear my words come out of his mouth, I'm keenly aware of how much influence I have on that.

I was reminded of this again later this morning, after breakfast, as we were getting dressed for daycare. He wasn't cooperating, and I told him if he didn't get dressed rightnow there would be no treats after school. He looked at me, dejectedly looked at his feet, and quietly said, "Fuck."

(Well, yay for using it in the correct context, I guess?)

Me, quietly: What did you say?
The Imp: Fuck.
Me: Honey, we don't say that word.
The Imp: You say it all the time.

(Um, yeah. He had me there.)

Me: You're right, I do say it. But I shouldn't. It's not a nice word. How about if I don't say it anymore, and you don't say it anymore either?
The Imp: Okay.

So we finished getting him dressed and got him off to daycare. There were no horrified stories of dropped f-bombs on pickup this afternoon, so I'm hoping that's the end of it. For now, anyway.

And I really do need to get a handle on the things I say. There's an echo in here.

08 November 2011

Things That Are True - My Kid's a Genius

The other day The Imp was paging through a magazine that was sitting on our coffee table. He paused at a shampoo ad and looked up at HWSNBN.

The Imp: Is this a commercial?
HWSNBN, glancing up from his reading: Yes, it is. It's a commercial for shampoo.
The Imp: There's a girl in the commercial. Do only girls use this shampoo?
HWSNBN, taking more interest now: Well, I think that mostly women would use that shampoo, yes.
The Imp, not satisfied: But how many? How many girls use the shampoo?
HWSNBN: I don't know. I'd guess that this kind of shampoo would be used by women 95% of the time.
The Imp stops; thinks. Then: So only 5% of the time boys would use it?

HWSNBN and I gawk at each other across the room. Um, what?

The Imp is three years old. I fear he may be smarter than both of us.


But also: how awesome is it that my genius three year old can differentiate between editorial and advertising? Do we win at parenting or what?!

07 November 2011

Things That Are True - A Debt of Gratitude

Yesterday we had dinner with HWSNBN's mom, my brother- and sister-in-law and their three kids, The Imp's "big cousins" who he absolutely adores. Without fail, when we visit, he doesn't want to leave. Last night, way past his bedtime, he was chanting, "Never, ever, never go home again!" when it was time to head for the car.

There was no special occasion, just another family dinner. We bring wine and a home-made dessert; last night's blueberry tarts being a particular favourite. My brother-in-law is a brilliant cook, my mother-in-law always loves a family party, and that house with those people in it is The Imp's personal version of heaven on earth. The kids, ranging in age from 7 - 16, are fantastic with him. It's always a chaotic, kids running everywhere, ten conversations going on at once kind of event.

My contribution to last night's feast

Last night as I looked around the joyfully cacophonous dinner table, I was a little sad that The Imp is one of one. There will be no more kids for us; a decision we made consciously before he was born. We love our lives as parents, but another child, no matter how wanted and loved, would introduce a slew of complications. There'd be obvious financial concerns, we'd have to move, we'd have less freedom, we couldn't travel as much... Assuming we could even get pregnant again, I'm not exactly of prime child-bearing age anymore. Keeping up with one three year old stretches me to my snapping point; I'm not sure how well I'd handle a newborn too.

We've had people tell us that our attitude is selfish, that we're doing The Imp a disservice by not giving him a sibling. (They're usually people who don't know what a struggle it was to conceive at all.) We've also had people who grew up as only children tell us it was the best thing ever and that they were glad they never had a brother or sister. There's no one right way to be a family, and this works for us.

But seeing The Imp enjoy his cousins so much tugs at my heart.

Then again, watching him in conversation with his Uncle Ron, laughing at Auntie Jane's funny faces, and running wild in the back yard with the big kids fills me with gladness. They don't just tolerate him, they love him. It's plain to see. If anything were to happen to HWSNBN and I, The Imp would eventually be okay.

There's a safe haven outside our home where he is truly loved.

No amount of home-made blueberry tarts can ever equal that.

06 November 2011

Things That Are True - Rules to Live By

Rule to Live By #1:

When life gives you a beautiful fall day and time to spend with your favourite people, don't be a fool. Take it and run with it.

Rule to Live By #2:

Pastry dough is no trifling matter.

Rule to Live By #3:

Dance every chance you get.

05 November 2011

Things That Are True - Evening Gloves

A kajillion years ago, I bought black satin evening gloves at a second hand shop. I bought them to wear to the cast and crew Christmas party when I first worked on X-Files as a production assistant. After spending all my work days outside in the rain in polar fleece and gore tex and hiking boots, the opportunity to dress up like a girl and go to a party was not to be wasted; I went all out.

Then I tucked the black gloves into a drawer of my dresser, where they sat, basically untouched, for the next fifteen years. One year, back when I was single, I got all dressed up to watch the Oscars by myself in my apartment. Evening gown, hair, makeup: the works. Why not, right? Just because I was single and alone didn't mean I couldn't be eccentric, after all. I pulled out the gloves and put them on, just for fun. And then I took them off almost immediately because they were making it hard to eat potato chips.

In the years since, except for the occasional purge of my wardrobe, they've remained untouched at the back of my top dresser drawer. Every time I go through my clothes I think about getting rid of them. What use are evening gloves when I'm asleep by 9pm more often than not? Where does black satin formal wear fit in my life parenting a three year old? Why bother hanging on to them?

But I never got rid of them, I think because over time they came to represent a side of me I didn't get to play with very often; someone other than maker of lunches, kisser of owies, and reader of bedtime stories. It's so easy to get lost in the mundane and repetitive motions of the every day imperatives. This business of being a grown up is usually more serious than not. Having those gloves tucked away reminded me that I was capable of dress up, of sparkly - of whimsy, even.

Tonight I got all dressed up and went to a party. At the last minute I remembered the gloves, pulled them out, and put them on. And it felt good.

Now that I'm home, makeup removed, tortuous (but gorgeous) shoes put away, and party dress hung back in my closet, I'll tuck the gloves back in to their accustomed spot in the back of my top dresser drawer. It may be fifteen years before I wear them again. I hope not.

But next time? I'm busting out my tiara from the wedding box and putting it on too.

04 November 2011

Things That Are True - Four Questions

Apropos of nothing, the view from our dining room these days

The lovely and supremely talented Catherine Jackson wrote a recap post about Blissdom Canada '11, answering four questions that Catherine Connors asked at the beginning of her opening keynote. I've been meaning to do the same, and here's my stab at it:

What don't people know about you?

In the late nineties I was briefly the chick singer in a funk/r&b cover band made up of Vancouver film crew folk. We played a few industry parties, and fourteen year old me almost died of the squee once when Rob Lowe danced in the crowd as I sang "Chain of Fools".

What are some things about which you are knowledgeable?

Film/scripted television production
Baking pies, especially apple and lemon meringue, but I can't stand and won't make pumpkin.
Formula One auto racing

What are some things about which you are not at all knowledgeable?

Photography - although I take thousands of pictures, I still don't know how to work my very basic SLR
Modern art

What are some things that you believe?

I believe that friends are the family you choose for yourself. I believe that no one can silence me unless I let them. I believe that every person I meet has a story to tell, and experience I can learn from. I believe that it's important to engage with people with whom I don't agree and have my own assumptions challenged regularly. I believe that if you don't vote, you don't get to complain. I believe that dancing with a small child in my arms is the best possible use of five minutes in any given day. I believe that good food and good stories with good friends is the best kind of party. I believe that the act of making something, anything, connects me to basic truths about myself in a way that consumerism never will.

And I believe that connecting with others over shared experience - whether face to face or simply here in my little corner of the internet - keeps me more than five minutes away from being naked in a bell tower with a sniper rifle.

Thank you for being here.

(And it's possible one or two law enforcement agencies would thank you too, if they knew.)

03 November 2011

Things That Are True - Smashing Pumpkins

The Imp wanted an angry face. I did the best I could.

Today our lone remnant of Halloween, The Imp's jack-o'-lantern, sat on the kitchen table, its scorched insides starting to emit fruit fly-attracting odours.

HWSNBN: Maybe I should take this whole thing out into the hallway and just pitch it down the garbage chute.

Me, looking at our balcony: Dude, if we are going to throw a 14 inch pumpkin down 21 stories, I want to see it smash at the bottom.

HWSNBN, beaming: That, right there, is why I married you.

(I wish, oh how I wish, that I could report that we did, in fact, chuck old Jack over the balcony railing. Alas, death of an innocent by pumpkin from above is frowned upon and legal counsel advised against it.)

02 November 2011

Things That Are True - Burning Down the House

I am having that day; the day when I look around and feel like I'd be better off if I just burned it all down and started over. Picking through the embers and the ashes I'd find that which really matters to me, and just leave everything else behind.

Of course, the landlord might not be keen on me committing arson in or near his property.

It's a concrete building, but still.

A decade ago I was all about acquiring things. New furniture, designer clothes, a cool car; I was a good little consumer and diligently practiced acquisitiveness on a regular basis. Now, I would just as happily throw everything I own out the window (Except maybe my laptop. And one or two books. And the Armani suit I swear I'll fit back into some day.) as ever deal with any of it again. I feel like I'm constantly getting rid of things, and yet there's always too much stuff in my physical (and mental) space. It's like being at a rock concert that's just a little bit too loud (and that's how you know I'm getting old, as if a rock concert could be too loud, for the love of Mike) and not being able to leave.

It exhausts me, this stuff.

I am ever vigilant. The three of us live in 950 square feet. There is no room for excess, and yet it always feels like I'm not quite keeping up with the incoming tide. Toys are passed on the moment they're outgrown, books are read and given away, our clothes closets are purged regularly. I have foisted shoes on my friends, and traded a cast iron frying pan for waterproof cycling gloves. I have quietly divested myself of wedding gifts we don't use, appliances that take up more space than they're worth (how are you liking that juicer, Skot?) and been inching towards minimalism on several levels, but I still always feel like a wave of clutter is about to knock me on my ass.

So here's what I've been doing to strip away the things I don't want to deal with anymore:

  • I sold my car. I didn't use it often enough to justify the expense, and when HSWNBN bought a new-to-us car in June, we decided to take the plunge and become a one-car family. I now bicycle everywhere with The Imp towed in a trailer behind me.
  • I remove at least three items from my home daily that are never to return - even if it's just taking out the recycling, something leaves my house every day. I've put up photos on flickr and offered things free to the first taker on twitter. I've left stuff in the back alley behind our building - a guaranteed way to make it disappear in less than ten minutes. No way to change my mind and decide to keep things "just in case". 
  • Anything new that comes in the house is balanced by something leaving the house. New toy in, old one goes out. New book, furniture, clothing, bedding, towels: same deal. 

Digital clutter: look how tidy!
  • I'd been keeping old guitar, cooking, and crochet magazines because I might get to them someday. (Ah, the little lies we tell ourselves!) Instead of giving them valuable apartment real estate, I scanned the articles/projects I liked, and put the magazines down in my building's laundry room where they went on to find new homes. I now have digital clutter instead of physical clutter, but at least it's hidden away in a folder on a hard drive and not taking up space where I can actually see it.
Now I just need to figure out what to do with the detritus that somehow accumulates on flat surfaces. There is not a counter, table top, or cabinet that doesn't at some point fall prey to the migrating piles of paper that infest this house. It's like a plague or something. Or an STD. The piles just get passed from one flat surface to another and never really go away. How can I deal with this stuff? Someboday save me! I'm open to suggestion, people.

My goal, as I get older, is to have less and less physical stuff in my living space. I'd love to reduce what I own every year, so that by the time I die, my house is almost entirely empty except for the stacks of lush Persian carpets to gently break my final fall.

Sigh. A girl can dream.

01 November 2011

Things That Are True - Blissdom Canada and Why I Blog

I went to Blissdom Canada, and it was seventeen kinds of awesome. I sat at a table of people who called themselves writers, and no one told me I was in their seat, or sitting at the wrong table. I called myself a writer out loud in front of other people and no one laughed.

We discussed the narcissism inherent in publishing on a public platform. We asked what makes a person a "real" writer. We talked about audience, and voice, and where our own boundaries are about what we feel comfortable with putting out there.

The conference sessions I attended were fantastic. I drank it all in greedily; this knowledge and practical experience of (dare I say?) my peers, and it left me giddy.

The takeaway, for me:

Blogging, women's blogging in particular, seems to break down into two basic styles: review/product/brand ambassador blogging, where it's a job, or a gateway to a job or some kind of income; and more personal blogging which is less a means to an end and more a need to get things out. I'm not saying one style is better or more engaging than the other, and there are those who do both and those who do neither. Generalization's always a tricky thing, but I did notice the same faces over and over again at the art track sessions I attended.


I just have to write. As Tanis Miller, Bonnie Stewart, and Elan Morgan said in their session on finding your muse: inspiration is bullshit. Over and over again, I heard people talk about the need to just write. To get over the being stuck, to get past the fear of writing badly, to take it seriously enough to do it even when (especially when) it's really difficult. I realized that I actually don't care if I'm not one of the cool kids because I'm still using Blogger. I don't give a damn about ranking on google, or writing posts that are the right length and have the right keywords. But I will admit that writing at all is often a struggle for me, despite the fact that I can't imagine not doing it. I left Blissdom feeling so connected, so ready to come home and blog fearlessly.

And then I didn't.

I think about writing all day, every waking minute. I'm constantly composing posts and articles in my head, knowing just how I'll word what I want to say, and then I sit at my keyboard and excuses start to flood my brain. I get caught up in my own head, I worry about who might be reading, and I get stuck on things I need to write about that aren't entirely my story to tell.

It was liberating to hear that other people - people whose writing leaves me gasping, grinning, and weeping - struggle too. I've been inclined to think of myself as a failure because I can't just sit down and have the words flow magically all the time, even though I know intellectually that no one can.

What I need to do is just write.


Finding your tribe is a powerful, powerful thing.

Catherine Connors, in her opening keynote, talked about intellectual hubris, the echo-chamber of surrounding yourself with people who already agree with you, and the importance of seeking out the other in order to make meaning and build community. It was a tremendous speech, and I don't disagree, but there's also value in finding the people who do think the way you do - if only to reassure yourself that you're not entirely crazy.

Like BlogHer back in August, Blissdom Canada was an amazing experience. The sessions were informative, and hilarious, and inspiring. The parties were fun!

But like BlogHer, the real takeaway for me was in the smallest of moments: staying up all night like college girls talking to my most excellent roommate, Jeanette; sharing a tearful moment in a crowded room; grabbing lunch at a restaurant with real tablecloths just because we could; connecting about the experience of living up north, bonding over a shared crush on Peter Mansbridge. None life-changing in and of themselves, but in the aggregate, a powerful thing.

These moments, these interstitial moments - away from the busy-ness, and business, of the conference itself - these shiny bits of truth are what I take home with me and treasure.


And now I will hit publish, because I finally sat down and just wrote something.