Author Archives: branch

Recommended Dosage

My month of alcohol and caffeine abstinence has ended, with curious fallout.

Sometime mid-week between the 25th & 29th of January, I had a big glass of Kombucha at work. Kombucha, you may or may not know, is a fermented tea beverage. There is a lady at work who’s WILD about Kombucha and its health benefits and she got another lady at work hooked and then they were trying to hook a THIRD lady but that lady went home for the day and I happened to be in the kitchen so the second lady evangelist offered me some and I said, sure. I didn’t actually know what it was. I guess I trust my co-workers. She poured me a HUGE glass of the stuff and I had a sip and it was good, I guess. It was a little fizzy, quite sour. Tasted like wine.

Hm, this tastes like wine, I said. I looked at the ingredients: tea, grape juice, yeast, bacterial culture.

This IS wine, I said.

But alive, and healing your gut! the lady evangelist said.

A few minutes later I was talking to someone, still sipping my beverage, and I felt that flush in the face I feel when I have alcohol. I noticed my voice sounded quite enthusiastic about whatever we were talking about. Was I DRUNK? At work? On Kombucha? Back at my desk, since I was incapable of working for the moment, I googled “can Kombucha make you drunk?” and learned that no, the alcohol level is quite low, at around 1% BUT if you have a histamine intolerance or lack the enzyme needed to neutralize histamines you can FEEL as though you are drunk on very little alcohol indeed. (But really? That article? Lists all the food I eat all the time, to which I have no reaction at all, that I am aware of. My blood is 90% mixed nuts, for example.)

Interesting, I thought. Histamine intolerance? Sounds legit. So that Friday I had a glass of wine, to see if I had a histamine-like reaction like the ones I’d been reading about. It was my dad’s wine, homemade from grape juice and yeast. (JUST LIKE KOMBUCHA ALMOST OMG) The wine tasted fine. I did feel itchy on my chest and chin. I got a few hives. I got tired and went to sleep.

Now, I have a long history with random itchery. I used to get itchy spots a LOT and hadn’t really noticed they’d gone away until they came back. This is a revelation. Are they alcohol related?

The next night I had a beer (having decided my new rule is only have alcohol on non-school nights, so Saturdays only, or Friday too if there is no class on Saturday). The beer did not make me itchy. (whew!)

But overall, I have definitely been itchier in the past few days. Mostly around my chin and chest, my scalp, and my breasts. This morning I went for a short run and as I expected, I developed exercise hives. This only seems to happen when I have a kind of food / substance (if you’re including alcohol, which I might be, now) in my body that my body doesn’t like, and the exercise activates an allergic reaction. If not alcohol, it might also be dairy (I ate a lot of pizza this weekend) but ugh, I am still itchy right now, and the polysporin lotion I bought years ago is expired. Googling itchiness just brought me to a forum on perimenopausal itching, which also fits with my current circumstance but READING about the itchiness of strangers has made me feel itchier.*

Anyway, if you are ever considering giving up coffee OR alcohol, I really recommend you do both. Without the coffee, you are so tired you don’t want the alcohol. Over time, without the alcohol, you wake up in the morning not really needing the coffee. Really. I did have half a cup of coffee this morning, my first in a month, and it tasted really good, but I didn’t dance across the kitchen singing show tunes or anything. I just did laundry like every other Sunday morning.

* If you’re now itchy, I apologize.

The Space I’m In

We were asked to think about our writing practice in class the other day; what materials we use, what space we inhabit, and to think, too, about how to best use the spaces that are our most productive. I am used to obsessing about time but haven’t given much thought to space, until now.

Using this laptop on this table is sometimes productive. I am in our dining area, which rubs up against both our living area and our kitchen area. If no one is in either of those areas shouldered against mine, I can write quite well. The hum and thrash of the dishwasher in the kitchen is a nice, white noise. The clutter around me — the bulletin board covered in layers of KidArt, Kitchen Island and its permanent inhabitants, Pen Caddies One and Two, Catch-All Basket, Fruit Bowl, Giftcard Tin, Tissue Box — doesn’t affect me or stop me writing. I can create in disorder, even chaos, but not if there are other people around who might need something from me. Those people are all upstairs right now, getting ready for bed, so I can be here, doing this.

Plain table

Plain table

My other space for writing is my bedroom, where I excavated a corner a few years ago, and put my desk and chair. This year when I learned I’d be doing the writer’s studio, I cleaned up the desk and sorted out my drawers and got a sweet little lamp with a metal pull-chain to turn it on and off. That space is one of the best spaces for going deep and getting dirty. It’s very quiet upstairs, even though there is no door to our bedroom. The sound stops at the second floor, somehow. Physics, probably.

I have always wanted a light with a chain to pull

I have always wanted a light with a chain to pull


I write upstairs in the mornings, because it’s close to my bed, and because the quiet and privacy suits the stream of semi-consciousness that comes out at 5:30 am. When I get going it’s hard to stop, but the shower and my breakfast and the bus and work wait for me, so I have to stop.

I realized when I stopped to think about it that I rarely take the laptop upstairs to write. I prefer paper up there, maybe because I know there’s no one to look over my shoulder while I scribble. Privacy is not a real concern, as my family respects mine, generally. The kids are more interested in what I’m doing on the screen than what I’m writing on a page. The screen is all.

The problem of the laptop is not its surroundings or even its content and distractions. Those can be turned off. It’s that it’s too easy, on this machine, to type words that are pretty and admire them for that, without them having to do anything. On paper, the words are only as pretty as my handwriting. (My handwriting is not pretty.) They have to add up to something. On the screen, they can be moved around and manipulated, but pen on paper is etched. It’s in there, even when you scribble it out.

Handwritten words work harder. Point.
I have never written a blog post by hand. Counterpoint.

I write by hand on the Skytrain, too, most mornings when I get a spot to lean on so I can use my hands. Some mornings I don’t get that spot and I stand and look out the window. Some (rare) mornings I get to sit down and then I usually close my eyes and sleep/meditate. Sleepitate.

I could try writing on my phone on the Skytrain, or taking the laptop upstairs or spreading out papers and notebooks on this table. Thinking about doing those things makes me uneasy, like watching people drive on the wrong side of the road. Possibly this means I am too comfortable in my spaces and I need to shake things up.

Gonna keep sipping my ginger beer and ponder that one.

Mainly Rainy with a Chance of Showers

Day 15 with no caffeine and nearly* no alcohol
*I had a glass of wine Friday night

EXCITING UPDATE:

The headache went away on day four. I don’t have to pee nearly as much as I used to, and I am much less dehydrated. I know this from the colour of my urine. Did I ever tell you guys that when we first viewed this townhouse that we’ve owned for nearly 10 years, there was a urine colour chart thumbtacked to the wall behind the downstairs toilet? It told you whether or not you were dehydrated based on the colour of your pee. Yes, there was still a bidding war for this townhouse.

COMMENTS FROM MY CO-WORKERS:

First co-worker: Wait until you get to day 15. That’s when the withdrawal really starts.

Another co-worker said: I like you better on coffee. That’s not an insult! But you seem kind of down, like too much Eeyore, not enough Tigger.
(It helps not at all that I’m the one who told her about the Tigger/Eeyore personality types several months ago. She is a Tigger, obvs.)

Another co-worker responded to my self-assessment “more low-key, in a good way” with: I can’t imagine you getting any more low-key.

What the co-workers are actually seeing is me in my natural state, without the desire to pretend to be something I’m not. All raw edges and narrow eyes. I am not pretending to be interested in a story I’ve heard a hundred times from you, co-worker, and you read that as lack of enthusiasm. You are not wrong.

DEPRIVATION IN ONE AREA MEANS GLUTTONY IN OTHERS

I’ve had to re-adjust my diet because at the beginning of the month I allowed myself to eat or drink anything OTHER than alcohol or caffeine, which is not strictly good for a body. Like pizza three days in a row or a bag of gummy bears or several helpings of doughnut. By the second week I was feeling even more tired, and bloated, and irritable as well. I re-declared my intention to not eat as much wheat or dairy, two food groups that bloat and irritate me, and to modulate my sugar intake as well, and presto the last few days have been quite enjoyable.

You really can get high on just half a doughnut, if you’re free of stimulants for a few days.

I am getting sick of herbal tea, though I got a very tasty orange Rooibos from a fancypants tea place in Yaletown. It’s a good time in history to be drinking herbal tea, if you have money.

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS ANYWAY?

The reasoning behind DETOX CLEANSE LIVER REBOOT (SEO!) of 2016 is to make more room in my life for important things. One important thing is right up front in my face right now: writing.

In November, I applied and was accepted to the Writer’s Studio program at SFU Continuing Studies. I am in the narrative non-fiction stream. It is a part-time program in the sense that there is one class every Saturday and a workshop every two weeks on an evening, but a full time program in the sense that in between the structured parts you are meant to be writing as though it will save your life.

To make more room in my life for writing, I considered getting up earlier, but 5:20 really is my limit. I already write most days on my commute. I could probably get away with writing at work but on the other hand I like my job enough to want to actually do it. The only other time in my day is after the kids are in bed. From 7:45 until 9 pm, that’s where my time is. To make that time functional time, rather than relaxation time, though, required me to remove alcohol from the equation. Alcohol makes me sleepy. Sometimes it makes me want more alcohol, which makes me even sleepier. Often the evening ends with TV and Cheezies.

And when the evening ends like that, the morning is not all it could be. Much lolling about in bed, moaning about getting up, moving towards the coffee like a zombie. Sometimes having more than one cup. Getting sleepy again at 2 pm, moving towards home and that evening glass of wine like a zombie.

I wanted my evenings back, and I wanted my mornings to be more efficient. I wanted to not be always chasing the next thing like a donkey following a carrot on a stick. Getting rid of the false things that drive me, in a sense, seemed like a good way to reset and reconnect with what really drives me.

I Fell Asleep Writing This

This is my second day without caffeine in my body except for the negligible amounts found in the single piece of Almond Roca I consumed this afternoon. (For the sake of Science: I always drink one large cup of coffee per day and about twice a week I have a second cup later in the morning. Once or twice a month I have espresso at 4 pm) Anyway! I have this to report:

I AM SO TIRED

Sand in the eyeballs tired. Up since 3 am tired, even though I was fast asleep at 3 am and in fact turned out my light last night … well, I didn’t turn it out, I think Saint Aardvark did, near 9 pm. Last thing I remember I was reading. And then I was awake again at 5:20 am feeling distinctly UNRESTED.

Shouldn’t the whole point of ridding your body of stimulants and depressants be that you magically find the middle spot on the teeter totter and balance there with a half smile on your face forever? I guess not. It feels like my body wants to sleep enough to make up for all the sleep that got put off by coffee since I started drinking it at 18.

OUCH MY HEAD

I went to work yesterday. Everything was fine until lunchtime, and then my head started to hurt. It sort of felt like I had been lightly punched in the nose. A throbbing in my forehead and eyes. Staring at my computer did not help. I made it go away with ibuprofen and then it came back this morning at about 10, so I took more ibuprofen and then it started to sort of sneak in on the right side of my eyeballs at 2 this afternoon so I took MORE ibuprofen and I think we’re cool now.

PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS AND SHOULD BE KEPT FAR AWAY FROM ME

I lost track of how many times I dropped the f-bomb into a small rant delivered to my supervisor. Luckily she is amused by me. Also, luckily, she was in the mood to be obscenely angry with me about the stupid things people do. Alright! Sometimes we use empathy and sometimes we use SWEARING LOUDLY.

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND

The slight fog that I’m inhabiting while I move around in the world seems to make me more approachable; I have had many strangers smile at me in the past two days, I think because I look dazed and confused and people feel sorry/want to take advantage of me. No one has tried, mind you. Just more friendliness and sympathetic looks in my general direction. Or maybe I’m hallucinating.

(The other thing I’m abstaining from is alcohol, which so far has been a snap because who wants to drink alcohol when they already have an eye-jabbing headache? Only a true alcoholic, I suspect, which I am not.)

In a weak moment I googled caffeine withdrawal symptoms just so I could read about the headache I was already enduring. And then I read the comments, which went from comparing caffeine to heroine (sic) to someone picking on the typo to another person arguing anything can harm you if consumed in great enough quantities, just look at water, and then another person having an actual paragraph-laden argument with that person about oh god I don’t even know but it did not make my headache better so it fails as an internet webpage of any use.

In sum: All hail ibuprofen and onward day three.

Scraping off the Frost

We have been cold and frosty and foggy of late; fog so thick you can see it swirling in the light, when the light makes it through. Frost so frosty it piles up in your mitten like snow and then you throw it up in the air and pretend it’s real snow, at least my kids do, deprived of real snow as they are.

I guess it’s called hoar frost, the frost so thick it looks like snow and confuses us every day when we look out the window? Yeah, hoar frost.

The name hoar comes from an Old English adjective that means “showing signs of old age”; in this context it refers to the frost that makes trees and bushes look like white hair.

Henceforth shall refer to my own head as ‘hoary’ without a blink of regret.

This morning I was running in the park and there was a wee, dead mouse on the path. We were running a brief distance this morning, not the full 10 km park loop, because we haven’t run the park look together (there are two of us, I am not speaking of myself in the plural) since early November and we are out of shape, or so we thought until we got going. We ran 24 minutes into the park and then turned around and went back, so I saw the wee, dead mouse twice, and the second time I was expecting him — actually expecting him to be gone, since the park is home to many hungry creatures that might like mouse for breakfast — so I spotted him quickly and then even noticed as I ran over, as in stepped over, him that his whiskers were entirely white with frost. Poor wee mouse in the middle of the path, intact, with frosted whiskers.

Tonight Saint Aardvark is starting an ambitious project to watch all the movies he has acquired over the years (Hint: THEY ARE MANY) and to blog about each of them. Tonight’s film is BLACK RAGE on VHS tape. There is one black man and one ‘albino’ black man and a lot of white men, some dubious music and a lot of running around.

My own ambitious project is to abstain from alcohol and caffeine for the next month, starting tomorrow. I would have started on January 1st but I still had delicious wine left over from New Year’s Eve because on New Year’s Eve I went to sleep at 10 pm after falling asleep on the couch watching Fast Five, one of the Fast and Furious movies. It even had The Rock in it and who doesn’t love The Rock and still I slumbered on the couch until prompted to leave it. Anyway, now all the wine is gone and the coffee is off limits and I got the idea to do booze AND coffee from David at Raptitude who speaks highly of the experience, so I will let you know how it goes. *drains glass*. Possibly even tomorrow.

Love and Affection

Yesterday I was walking to the library after leaving Arlo at his soccer class and I passed two young teenagers, a boy and a girl, lanky and floppy, parting ways for the evening. It was possibly a first or second date, at that age and stage where “date” means “yanno, hanging out” and as the girl veered off towards her house (I presume), a goofy grin on her face, the boy said, “So thanks for, like, walking around with me or whatever…” and the girl said, “yeah, it was fun..” and they both trailed off like that, blushing, and it captured me entirely. Nostalgia and relief mingled in me; relief to not be *that* awkward, at least. But also a bit of sadness that there’s nowhere to go but down. I’ll never feel that first simple flush of boy/girl crush again. There will never be another first time.

Oh that reminds me.

And then this morning, there was a boy at the bus stop with me and when he got on the bus he found friends at the back, and when they got off, he and a girl were holding hands and that made me smile too because of course, teenagers meet up with each other on the bus before band practice. They can’t live with each other. It was comforting, that things are the same as they ever were, while still being very very different.

I have a new co-worker, who is twenty-two but delightfully old for his age; he sings Cher and Journey in the office with me, complains that his iPhone 4 is so old it doesn’t even have wifi. I love him, because he reminds me of me.

I love all the things that remind me of me. Don’t you? Love the things that remind you of you, I mean. Not me. I mean, you can love me if you want. But love yourself more.

I checked back in with the Internet this week and there was Outrage and Scandal and much disgusted staring at people who disgust us, their names start with D, all 19 of them, and I remembered reading once in one of my hippie books something like “Whatever you give your attention to will grow.” Do we want people who are famous for having children to be more famous? Do we want them to grow? No. Stop looking at them. What if we could all look away. Look at something else. Take the spotlight off the undeserving and look at the melting ice caps. And not the Tim Hortons kind, either.

Here are some rabbit-faced jalapenos as a palate-cleanser:

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The other night I was on a coffee shop patio and a woman sat down with her small dog on her lap. She fed the dog some muffin, and tilted some water into its mouth and then she took a series of photos of herself and the dog with her cell phone. At first I was scornful but then thought better of it. Have a date with your dog. You love your dog, your dog loves you. If I had a dog I loved that fit on my lap, I would take selfies with that dog and probably post them on twitter. I take pictures on my cell phone with my children. I take pictures on my phone just of me. Just to see what I look like because sometimes mirrors can’t be trusted.

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In the office we were talking about animals and a co-worker related a story about her neighbour who took home a baby raccoon whose mother was hit by a car. The neighbour’s cat adopted the baby raccoon and the raccoon grew up thinking the tabby was its mother. One day the raccoon moved out and the cat was deeply saddened, lying around mournfully for weeks.

I wonder what would happen if a cat and a raccoon stood next to each other in front of a mirror. To each, the other looks normal and relatable; small-ish and fuzzy. They have no idea they bear only a passing resemblence to each other. They have in common that they want to be friends and co-habitate and snuggle and eat cat food.

lolraccoon

This week I’m practicing wilful acceptance of all the people I encounter. So, if you see someone aggressively accepting you on public transit, even while you quietly fart and scroll through news stories on your phone, it might be me.

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Stay Keen, Jelly Bean

I have just retired to my patio, as it is a warm late spring evening and also Victoria Day. I think I might have woken the neighbour’s toddler, whose bedroom window opens on to the sidewalk, but all I did was open and close my screen door. Get over it, toddler.

I am drinking a beer, a Fat Tug, which is a delightfully bitter and hoppy IPA brewed on Vancouver Island. It is one of my very favourite beers. It is also 7% abv so one is enough. I may get a tattoo that says that because the devilry of alcohol is such that after one, more seems like a good idea and by the time you’ve had two Fat Tugs it’s tomorrow and why is your breath so bad and who brought the donkey?

The children recently came into some gift money from their aunt and uncle, who visited for a couple days last week. The money received nearly doubled Arlo’s stash of money that he was saving for an unspecified something, so yesterday he decided he wanted to buy a Nerf gun. Not just any Nerf gun: the Retaliator, the same gun his friend and neighbour has. He found it this morning at Wal-Mart for $32.92 and when I said, whoa! that’s a lotta money! he said, yes, but it’s worth it.

It’s worth it because he is nearly nine years old and there is no adult logic to be applied to this situation. Money is for spending, and Nerf guns are for having, and it’s not my money is it. Nope. Ever observant, he said, you don’t think I should buy this, do you? And ever mindful I replied, nope but I won’t stop you.

Yesterday, faced with a similar cash influx, as well as a five dollar gift card for a local candy store, Eli bought himself 500g of Jelly Belly Gourmet jellybeans. And two packs of Hi-Chew. Grand total of that expenditure: $17 (only $12 real money, $5 for the gift card) Did I want him to spend $17 on candy? I did not. Is it the most ridiculous thing in the world? Quite possibly.

When I was ten years old we went to Italy to visit my grandmother and on the way back we stopped in Montreal or Toronto or possibly both to visit more of my dad’s family. My aunt gave me $20. This was 30 years ago. I don’t think there were candy stores back then. I certainly didn’t give a shit about Nerf guns. I went directly to the mall (I think we were in Scarborough?) found Music World (or A&A Records and Tapes) and bought my first cassette tape: Olivia Newton John’s Greatest Hits. It cost the entire twenty dollars. It was worth it. I had absolutely no regrets.

Still don’t. Wish I knew where the tape was. Probably in a box. Probably somewhere in my house, knowing me.

A while ago — years? — we started our kids on allowance. We ask that they divide their allowance into savings, sharing (charity), planned spending (things you’re saving up for) and mad money. Being us, we don’t enforce the planned spending as much as we could, (“I totally plannnnnned to buy these Pokemon cards…just a minute ago?”) but the savings and the sharing are untouched. And our kids understand money. They understand the value of a dollar; how much I get paid, how much goes to daycare and car expenses, etc. They don’t get everything they want, not by a long shot. Sometimes they get unexpected treats, like an ice cream cone for the walk home from daycare, but more often I say no to their ever-more outrageous requests.

Sometimes, though, money appears in your hand for no good reason and yes, the smart thing, the adult thing to do, would be to save it, but the human thing to do is to want to turn it into something that gives you pleasure. Maybe that thing will only give you pleasure for an hour. Maybe it will give you pleasure for a lifetime. I don’t feel like it’s something I should lecture about. The only way to learn which things are good investments and which bum is by experience.

This afternoon, Eli ate a lot of jelly beans. I didn’t pour them into a bowl for him the way we did yesterday. He held the bag and he ate them and ate them. He also ate dinner. Then he had a baseball game. Then we came home and he had a bowl of cereal, which gave him a stomachache.

How is my foreshadowing? Is it good?

After brushing his teeth, he started to cry. I feel like I’m going to barf, he wept. Eli can really weep about barf and he’s usually right. Arlo got out of the room. Eli barfed. Three times with increasing violence.

When my kids barf I do a little flowchart in my head. Barf: food poisoning or virus? Oh god I hope it’s not a virus. I’ll have to take tomorrow off work. We’ll all be sick. There goes the rest of May. Wow it’s very violent vomit. What did he eat today? Cereal. Before that. Jelly beans. Before that. Cheese toast. Before that. JELLY BEANS.

As the smell of jelly beans permeated the room — no, they were not even semi-digested — Eli started to wipe off his mouth with his sleeve. I feel way better, he said. Oh good, I said. Way too many jelly beans today, he said. I think so, I said.

And then, feeling a lot like the lowest clown on the clown totem pole, cleaning up the clown car, I mopped up a lot of pink, sweet vomit, and thought fondly of the beer in the fridge downstairs.

Full circle! Happy Victoria Day!

In No Particular Order

I saw a crow eating a dead pigeon while I was walking through downtown this afternoon.

A man walking the other direction on the sidewalk, who saw the crow eating the pigeon at the same time as me, met my eyes and we both affected a wide-eyed horror face, and then we both looked at the tour bus that was stopped for the light, but none of the tourists looked out their windows to see the bird carnage.

I continued eating my most delicious falafel sandwich as though I was a crow and my delicious falafel was my pigeon.

When I got back to the office and told my co-worker, let’s call her Laughing Elder, about the birds, she told me about once seeing an eagle steal the food of a crane and the crane losing its mind with anger.

Last night I started reading “H is for Hawk” and it is exactly as good as all the reviews say it is.

Last night I also bought two Foo Fighters albums and finally indulged my love of All Things Rock and Grohl. Yes, I just said that. You are embarrassed for me. I hate puns. Unless I am making them.

I feel like I should be embarrassed for loving the Foo Fighters as much as I do. Yet, they write the songs that make me pound the table and bang my head while keening to the sound of perfect harmonies, so I guess I will not apologize. Also, Dave Grohl is an excellent writer and drummer, and shouty in all the right places.

That was the first song I heard this morning on my music player on the way to work and yes, I was a little overtired and happy that it’s Friday, but it was more than that. The song in my headphones at 7 am on 8th ave waiting for the bus made me darn near euphoric. I thought I might cry, vomit, become hysterical, and pass out on the sidewalk.

(It is possible I could use a good night’s sleep.)

Things have been at a low ebb for a few weeks; the evening sportsball activities are taking their toll and Eli in particular, being of a slightly dramatic persuasion, has a tendency to complain that he is tired, has only ever been tired, and will continue to be tired until his dying breath. Which will be tired.

Wednesdays are our busiest evenings; baseball starts at 5:45-6, then Arlo does soccer at 7 at a different park, and we don’t get home and into bed (the kids that is) until at least 8:30, sometimes closer to 9. Then up for Thursday at 6:30.

Wednesday I picked up the kids at daycare at 5, as usual.

Eli: Ohhhhh I am so tired.
Me: Gosh you do sound tired.
Eli: I think I should skip baseball practice.
Me: Oh yeah?
Eli: I’m too tired. I just..I just…
Me: We’ll see.

It should be noted that wednesdays are my busiest day at work. On Wednesdays roughly 80% of my day is on my feet, and 60% of my day is talking to clients, and the rest is either going to the bathroom or taking public transit, where I am also standing. Wait, no, I sit down in the bathroom. But stand on public transit. So I was tired too. I did not want to take him to baseball. I wanted to change into sweatpants and drink wine and drool myself to sleep.

Arlo: ..and I don’t have my shin pads.
Me: Hm?
Arlo: Remember I had to have my shin pads or I couldn’t go back to soccer? And I looked for them but I didn’t find them.
Me: Did you look *everywhere*?
Arlo: I think so.
Me: (suspects not)
Arlo: ..anyway I might find them. But if I don’t, we can go shopping.
Me: Pardon?
Arlo: For black pants and a white shirt.
Me: Pardon?
Arlo: Tomorrow is the May Day assembly at school. So we need black pants and a white shirt.
Me: Not for the assembly, surely. For the actual ceremony, next week…
Arlo: My teacher said for tomorrow.
Me: (plots teacher’s demise)
Arlo: So…we can go shopping if we don’t go to soccer.

Yes. Doesn’t that sound fun? Car, mall, kid, evening. No sweat pants. No wine. No drooling. I am DELIGHTED with this counter-proposal, and yet there is SOMETHING missing. What could it be. Could it be..that if I’m not GOING OUT I don’t want to GO OUT.

On we walked, Arlo bouncing along, Eli slouching.

At home, I made them grilled cheese sandwiches and thought about it. It wasn’t a baseball game, just a practice. Was it absolutely necessary that we go? Would it injure anyone’s character? I decided no and texted the team to let them know we wouldn’t be coming. I texted one of the parents from Arlo’s class and asked about the dress clothes for the Thursday assembly. She replied yes, and lol, and ha ha. I looked for Arlo’s shin pads and did not find them. I considered that he might have hidden them, but remembered that he loves soccer. Decided to cancel soccer too. Went to the mall and bought black jeans and a white collared polo shirt and was happy that we have two incomes right now so I could just go to H&M and buy the kid clothes and not worry about it.

Arlo has the right kind of body for H&M, spaghetti-like. The clothes fit him and we moved on quickly. I got to my sweatpants, my wine, and my drool. As Arlo himself is fond of remarking, it was not the end of the world.

Plus he is cute.

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Fairness-ometer:

Eli got a cheese hat from his uncle who drives a truck and was in Wisconsin.

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Something to Lean On, A Book to Read

I’ve taken the train an hour later a few mornings this week and boy howdy do I not like it. Ugh. It feels okay and normal until the stop before downtown and then everyone gets on and then, two stops later, I try to get off and it’s like swimming against a tide of spawning salmon. I legitimately did not think I was going to get off the train today. I was behind a big guy who was also getting off and I’d put my faith in him when I saw him move towards the doors but he was blocked by several people and a cluster of doorflies and I couldn’t help myself, when I finally cleared the door and was on the platform and that much closer to work, I said in a conversational tone, just like here is some information for you people, “there is a lot of room in the middle of the train.” Walked away. Yes, if people move to the middle of the train, THEY will maybe have trouble getting off at the next stop but guess what, you guys are already downtown and everything is a ten minute walk away so suck it. You don’t even NEED to be on the train anymore, jerks. Get some fresh motherfucking air in your lungs.

And deep breath in. And climb the stairs, greet the paper guy, cross on the green light and walk for seven minutes. Breathe the clean, damp air and look at the tall, shiny buildings reflecting the sunrise or glistening with new rain. Move fast past everyone, nod at the bicyclists. Put down my things for a few hours at the office, where people are kind and happy to see me.

The reason I’ve taken the train an hour later is because SA is away so I am taking the children to daycare and rather than dropping them there as soon as the doors open at 7, I am kind and allow them to keep to their routine, instead adjusting my own. I AM A HERO, YES. They have been remarkably sane and good this week, even with all the routine changes (no Dad, more grandparents, no time for a big bowl of ice cream BEFORE dinner tonight so had to wait until AFTER dinner — that last one did lead Arlo to a ten minute sulk up in his room; life is very disappointing sometimes) and other than getting cranky at times for reasons like: I dropped my phone and it broke, and my hair is annoyingly huge, and the people on the train are oblivious to the world around them, and baseball parents are shouty and bossy, I have also been mostly sane and good.

I picked out a few wonderful books last week at the library, having returned a selection of duds. I haven’t had so many duds in a while. Every book had something wrong with it, something that made me make a sneery, bad-smell face; one looked like a fluffy romance but was actually a Christian morality tale featuring estranged sisters, another looked like a readable dysfunctional family joint but was really a deeply depressing account of a fifty-something man and his relationship with his father, who in the story is deteriorating from Parkinson’s. Yikes! Too many boxes on the bingo card! I got to page thirty or so in each of the five books before throwing them back to the library pool and then I picked out several wonderful books; Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham, which I’m reading before bed and is engaging and easy-readable with a few poignant and elegant turns of phrase thrown in, and We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo , a raw account of a girl’s childhood in Zimbabwe and adolescence in Michigan, which I’m reading on transit and has completely consumed me for days. After those are done, there is A Buzz in the Meadow by Dave Goulson, a man who buys a farm in France and creates a bumblebee habitat. And Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. And How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. And Transatlantic by Colum McCann.

If I can find a corner on the train to nestle into, and I can tune out the conversations, the time, and the place, I am given thirty minutes to spend reading a wonderful book. This is what makes commuting by transit great.

Well, and looking at peoples’ shoes.

Shoe-gazing

The tops, or uppers I guess, of the shoes I am looking at on the train are of a woven nature that reminds me of craft kits I used to get as Christmas presents from distant relatives or friends of the family. People erred on the side of craft, as I was a quiet, only girlchild, so I received many craft kits aimed at 9-12 year olds. The one I’m thinking of was a bag of fabric bands that were meant to be woven together to make things; mats, ropes, towels, purses. There came with the kit a book of designs, and a loom.

I remember how the loops would stretch to a point and then no further, the slightly uncomfortable sound when two bands were woven tightly against each other, almost a squeak. After a few years of stretching and weaving and dismantling, the elasticity would give, just like in your underwear. I re-purposed them as hairties for Barbie’s impossible-to-handle blonde curls.

Anyway, the shoes on the lady on the train are woven with all different colours, no apparent colour scheme. Like this potholder.

They are Mary Janes, I notice after a second glance. The woman’s tanned feet are showing through the gaps in the top of the shoe. Mary Janes are my favourite style of casual flat shoe but it’s hard to find a pair that is truly comfortable, because my instep is too high and the top strap of the shoe is often tight across the top of my foot.

This phrase — high instep — insists on galling me because how does a high instep, the bottom of the foot, translate to a taller top of the foot? The bottom and the top of the foot should have no relation to one another, says my stubborn head, refusing to talk sense.

Do you ever have things that you think about sometimes that require you to manually twist your brain around to understanding them, even though they are perfectly obvious and you are fairly quick in other areas of thought? For example, I can do math in my head most of the time and carry on a conversation in French if I have to, but I have to stop every single time I want to spell the word occasional and write it several ways to see which is correct. Occasional? Occassional? Ocaaaaasional? Not that last one. I’m exaggerating. But thinking about my feet as one piece, not two, is one of my mental hurdles.

When I write it down or stop for a minute to really consider it, I can picture the human foot like a flexing chunk of earth; the arch rising and the peak rising with it. Feet undulate, that’s why we don’t just flop around like ducks. And yes I know the earth doesn’t undulate unless it’s quaking.

How did I end up with high insteps anyway? I am sure I didn’t have this problem until I was at least 30. It’s not as if I wore high heels and ruined all my foot bones. Anyway, the shoes she is wearing are the kind of Mary Jane I would choose; a stretchy band over the top of the foot so your flesh doesn’t get painfully bisected or dug into or made to bleed.

But the soles, the soles are what drew my attention in the first place, or rather the way the soles and uppers bear no relation to one another, as though I was a shoe designer for a day and refused to see that the top and the bottom of the shoe / foot should be connected in some way. The soles are those of running shoes, all crevices and soft, absorbant light rubber. But their colour! Tie-dye and acid flashback and technicolour vomit, all of which wouldn’t be so bad if not for the glaring mismatch with the fabric potholder upper part of the shoe.

In grade four? five? I had a pair of shoes I loved dearly, as they were Keds, and in fashion, but then a mean girl said it looked like someone had vomited on my shoes (they were patterned with colours) and I was reminded that I’d never be cool. So I might be overmuch sensitive to shoes that remind me of vomit and thus, of my own failings.

I couldn’t look away from this lady’s feet until it was time to get off the train.

( these are not them but wow.)

( these are closer but imagine the sole with more disco.)

(the longer I look at images of “woven fabric upper mary jane running shoe” the more entranced I am. Get me off this train!)