Tag Archives: writing


Have I written this post before? Probably. If you’ve read it before, go look at the calming manatee. Come back tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll put that disclaimer everywhere.

Things are afoot. Arlo is turning 8. I am stopping working earlier than planned, on July 11th. Saint Aardvark is switching to a new job, around July 11th. School might already be out for summer, or it might not, because of ongoing strife between our government and our teachers.

Arlo hopes it is not; Eli hopes it is. I am hoping it is not because I wouldn’t mind a day off before September.

I signed up to participate in a study that trains women between 18-60 to run half marathons and does a biomechanical analysis of them before and after the training. I bought two pairs of running shoes. First, I bought two pairs of running shoes for $180 and then I went across the road and found a running shoe sale and bought two pairs of running shoes for $80 and took the other ones back across the road for a full refund.

I’ve decided I will not work full time at a government job. I need a career I believe in and want to do. I plan to use my unexpected two months of not-working to figure out what kind of work I ought to do. I still write every day. I plan to keep doing this.

I planted things this year and they are sort of growing. The lavender plant has one flower. My neighbour’s lavender plant has many flowers. The spinach is wee, but the bean plants are hardy. The rosebush had eight flowers. Spinach is supposed to be easy and roses are supposed to be hard and I exert the same amount of effort for everything.

Tomorrow I am getting a root canal.

My digestive system is behaving like a tornado during an apocalypse. (This is unrelated to the root canal. I’ve had one before, it was fine.)

Arlo has recently discovered bicycles and how great they are. He had no interest, only wanted to scooter, then my parents gave him a big bike two weeks ago and now he’s bike-mad. Driving home from their house today he said “I’m going to count all the bikes on the road!” There weren’t any. He was very disappointed.

I read a book of essays called The Empathy Exams and I can’t recommend it enough. The title essay is here and I Loved It So Much I looked the book up at the library, then placed a hold on it (the book had been ordered but was not yet at the library) and then rabidly ran up to get and read it and then renewed it and was a mixture of happy and sad feelings when it turned out I *could* renew it because no one else had requested it. People should request it.

Today was Father’s Day and holidays like this on social media make me tired. So much congratulating, so many people who are sad, so many hurt feelings vibrating through the world like soundwaves. Happy X Day becomes Happy X Day to those who celebrate and to those who don’t, you are loved, and to those who have only XY please know we consider you and to those with Y instead of X we acknowledge you and

Can we just say, whenever we feel like it: dear world full of people, you are doing great things? Yes. We can. Dear world full of people, I appreciate you and your feet that walk every day even when they are tired. I appreciate the brains of people who invent things and those that market those invented things. I love the hearts of the compassionate and the hearts of the bereft. Group hug, world. Goodnight, world.

Ninety — Library Books Are Not Wikis, Actually

I took a book to work today, a library book, that I might read while eating my lunch. Don’t worry, I was going to be meticulous and not get food on the book. I’ve been reading and eating a long time. I only smear chip grease in books I own. Anyway, I grabbed one of the many library books I have in a pile on my shelf right now: The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje. Last year I heard him read at the Writers Festival from this book and I have been meaning to read it for an entire year so here we are, possibly to the day one year later, and I’m opening the book.

One page in, I see some words neatly printed in pencil in the book’s margin. The printed, book text reads (about our hero, who is a little boy on a big ship sailing across the ocean):

He ate several sandwiches, and after that he made his way down to his cabin, undressed, and slipped into the narrow bunk.

and next to it, there is an arrow drawn in pencil and a question:

Without steward guidance?

On the next page, our amateur editor adds a question mark to the phrase “two-stroke” (referring to an engine) and a page later, there is a tiny Boys’ written next to the typewritten phrase ..a small Boy’s Own Adventure.

I was only at page seven and in full bemused/rant mode.

I saw reference today to a study or article that said reading even six minutes a day is relaxing. WELL I’LL TELL YOU WHEN IT’S NOT. WHEN SOMEBODY TAKES IT UPON HIMSELF TO EDIT A LIBRARY BOOK.

Seriously, neat pencil printer, what is your problem? You can’t edit this book. It’s done. Also, who the hell do you think you are, editing Michael Ondaatje? Also, to whom are you addressing the questions? (and to whom am I addressing my questions? And how futile is all of this?) The other readers? Because you know, the library doesn’t send copies of books back to the authors when queries are pencilled in the margins. Those books just go back on the shelves for OTHER PATRONS to read and enjoy. Michael Ondaatje will NEVER HEAR your questions unless you send him an e-mail or a paper letter. THERE’S an idea! Write the man a letter with NOTES for his NOVEL. I bet he doesn’t have a critique group he can really trust to be honest with him. Dear Michael: Re: The Cat’s Table. See attached.

For fuck’s sake. Fucks’ sake? NO I KNOW WHAT I MEAN MOTHERFUCKER.

I think the best part is that on one page, there is a pencilled-in sentence that’s been rubbed out. Maybe another library patron erased it, but I like to think the Mad Editor did it him/herself. “Oh, sorry Michael Ondaatje. That note was off-side. I’ve removed it.”

People. Seriously.

Eighty-Nine — Help Yourself


I took this photo on Sunday in the covered area next to the playground of my own elementary school. We used to play there for recess and lunch when it rained.

The murals weren’t there when I went to school. One wall has a sports-themed mural, one a fantasy-theme with dragons and serpents, and this one had undersea creatures and the tiny, Sharpie’d cry for help.

I would have done such a thing when I was in elementary school. Grade six or seven. Hand to forehead, I will not make it through this year. Help me.

The other day Arlo told me he thought he’d be an author when he grew up. I couldn’t decide whether to be fiercely proud or jealous of his surety. (When I was seven I was going to be a veterinarian when I grew up.) I pictured a long race to publication; the fifty year old woman against her twenty year old son. The sting I’ll feel when he’s on a top thirty under thirty list and I’m still slogging away at a third draft of something old and tired. Maybe I’ll write that story instead of living it.

Eighty-Five — Ten Minutes

I have a spooky relationship with time. For example, in my fledgling meditation practise, I sit with my eyes closed for ten minutes. (This is a workable amount of time for me, so I picked it.) I try to focus, breathe, clear the mind, etc, this part is not interesting. What is interesting is that when I open my eyes, exactly ten minutes has passed. Close eyes at 6:27? Open eyes at 6:37. Recently I started trying to add a few minutes to the practise time and I can totally do this too. If I say to myself that I will open my eyes again at thirteen minutes, thirteen minutes is what passes.

Is this a marketable skill? Not sure.

Lately I find it helpful to do things in ten minute intervals. The thing about having SIX HOURS OF FREE TIME is that it’s like when you walk out of jail into a WalMart. Or some more poetic simile. Like finding a lake of cold, clean water at the edge of a desert. Without the limits of a small person saying pay attention to me or I will riot, I have only my own limits. Resetting those limits has been a job, I tell you. If I check twitter, an hour goes by. If I start washing dishes, before you know it I’ve reorganized the frying pans and an hour has gone by. We’re down to four hours, people. You see how this goes. Things that should take an hour: eating lunch. Going for a run. Yoga practise plus shower. Things that should not: replying to one e-mail. Tweeting. Catching up on peoples’ lives on facebook.

I like to make myself delicious lunches and sometimes that means half an hour of preparation and half an hour to eat. That’s an hour well-spent. Yesterday I had tomato soup — homemade, leftover from the other night — with a red chili chopped up in it and stale tortilla chips sprinkled over top and then cheese on top of the tortilla chips. It was so delicious. It only took ten minutes to make but forty five minutes to eat because it was both hot and spicy. I burned my tongue and wept and blew my nose and felt quite cleansed and like a new person by the time the bowl was empty.

I set the stove timer for ten minutes and washed all the dishes I could find. When the time was up, I set it again and spent ten minutes online ordering hot lunch for the kids for the next four months. When that time was up, I wrote for ten minutes. When that time was up I had tea. Only forty minutes had passed and so much had been accomplished.

Why I can meditate for ten minutes exactly but not wash dishes for ten minutes exactly is a mystery I will try to solve another day.

Sixty-Two — Things You Could Look At

God no, not sixty-two things you could look at. Five, I think.

From Schmutzie: A Love Letter to the Gentle People of the Internet: Please Don’t Go

From Sarah Selecky, about writing and blogging and self-criticism: Is it Good or Bad?

From Vice: The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia (that one is disturbing and horrible, and important)

From Prism Magazine: Writing prompts: How to Beat a Cliche and / or You Named Your Pony What?

And there is this:



I’ve been exploring mindfulness, thanks to the excellent website Raptitude and a particular post of his that explained how to stop worrying what people think of you. He (Raptitude’s David) refers to a book on mindfulness and meditation called “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn which I immediately sought out at the library, despite the title which reminds me of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which in turn reminds me that I used to be a person who cared so much what people thought of me that I sat through that whole movie. (I might have fallen asleep at some point.)

It’s an entrancing book. At first I had trouble jumping in but now I’ve made space for it in my day and I carry it around with me and one of the things Kabat-Zinn says is to resist the urge to talk about and analyze and brag about your mindfulness practise so I will not!

I have come to realize that writing is a manifestation of mindfulness for me, at least the writing I do in the morning, and in the past two months, the writing I do here. I expect nothing of either space other than that I should be able to occupy it until I am finished.

It’s why I keep coming back, I guess.

Eli found this balloon on the street today and brought it home. It's a fundamentally true balloon.

Eli found this balloon on the street today and brought it home. It’s a fundamentally true balloon.

The Big Four-Oh

Hi, this is my fortieth post. I want you to know that I just spent two minutes staring at the letters “for” and wanting to type “tiest” at the end. Fortiest. It’s the FORTIEST!

Today I got the day off because Saint Aardvark is having a vacation, and it’s coming from inside the house! How splendid. After a week of summer vacation and two birthday celebrations for Arlo and a heat wave and some other stuff, it sure was nice to have a day off with no small children grappling at my flesh or talking to me.

First, I slept in until 7. Well, first I woke up at 5 but I managed to suffocate myself back to sleep until 7. By suffocate I mean put a pillow on my head just hard enough to shut out the world but not hard enough to actually suffocate. Obvs.

Then, I had a blueberry banana smoothie and some coffee and wrote in my morning journal out on the porch.

The kids and SA left for a trip uptown to the library and park. I ate some cereal.

Deciding to pack as much stuff into one day as possible, I decided to go for a run. I nearly expired from the heat. It is not that hot and it was only 9:30 and I don’t run that far — roughly 5 km — but I got really overheated anyway. I stood stock still under the cold spray of the shower when I got home, and it was so good I might have cried. The run was also good. I get a bit squirrely if I don’t get my exercise for a week.

I visited a friend for 11 am. We caught up on our lives and our children’s lives and she made us salads from her garden’s lettuce and topped them with hard boiled eggs and Swiss cheese. Then we went out to a nearby coffee shop to have a writing date. This friend and I get together periodically and the math goes: one hour of talking to fifteen minutes of writing, but the fifteen minutes makes us feel incredibly proficient and good about ourselves, so it counts for twice as long. I declare it.

I had an Earl Grey tea and she had an iced tea that was the colour of Hawaiian Punch.

At 2:30 I drove myself home in the car. It was hot like an oven so I drove fast to cool off. When I walked in the house, Eli shouted, “You’re HOME!” and ran over to hug me. “I am going to have some apple juice!” he announced. I believe these two statements are unrelated but you never know.

The rest of the afternoon was lazy and ended with barbecued chicken and corn on the cob (the children still don’t like corn on the cob, in case you’re keeping track. Apparently it’s “too sweet with a weird taste” [that’s Arlo; Eli won’t try it {sigh}]) and leftover birthday party cupcakes for dessert.

Now I hear bagpipes through my living room window — they practise in the Justice Institute across the street — and SA has gone to a mountain with his telescope to look at the night sky. I’m having wine, the cat is next to me on the couch, and now you know: the rest of the story.

Good Days Come to Those Who Wait

It all came together today. You know how it does, when it’s Friday, and sunny and everyone in the house is healthy and going to school and you get two-point-five hours to yourself and even though you have two-point-five days’ worth of things you would like to do, you whittle it down and prioritize (sidenote: whenever I say or write ‘prioritize’ my mind also says ‘priorize’ because I used to work with someone who said that) and everything is just fine. Just fine.

First we took Arlo to school and he was between first and second bell (I think there’s a second bell…I’ve never heard it, but how else do you know if you’re late?) and then I took Eli to preschool and it was pyjama day so all the children were more adorable than usual.

OK, there has been one off-note to the day. I’m wearing this very confusing shirt. I rescued it from the discount bin at Superstore the other day. It’s comfortable and drapes well, is a good colour, 3/4 length sleeves. Big open neck. Just the kind of shirt I need and enjoy. But at the hem, there’s a seam that makes a sort of pocket but just on the right side of the shirt. And I’m wearing it and enjoying it, and then I see the pocket and it’s weird. Did the sewing machine make a mistake? Or am I supposed to look blousy? It kind of looks like a tumour pocket. Forgive me. It does. Here’s a picture:

Here. Another:

I’m not going to stop wearing it–from most angles I think it’s quite attractive–and I can’t take it back because it was final sale and $5, but it’s weird, right? Do any of you fashion-forward types know what I’m supposed to do with the tumour pocket? Did I miss a trend last season?

After preschool drop-off, I got groceries and chatted with the check-out lady about how nice it is here compared to her home country where it’s 33C and very humid. There was much singing along in the grocery aisles as the muzak played the best mix of Debbie Gibson/Lionel Ritchie/Chicago and of course Kokomo. What a terrible song! I haven’t heard it, like really HEARD it, in years, and it’s just awful.

Liquor store next, where the music mix was much more modern. Beer was acquired.

My final stop during preschool time was the library. My intention was to return my three books and then sit in a sunny corner of the study area and revise a short story I’m working on. I can’t revise unless I have a paper copy and pen and I don’t have a functioning printer so I

make a lot of excuses? Yes. And also

had to ask SA to print it for me, bring it home, sit down and read it, etc.

First I walked into the library and was accosted by the New Release shelves. Can anyone resist the New Release shelves? Librarians, how often do you have to restock them, because I almost always take at least one book right as soon as I walk in the door. And I feel bad because it leaves a hole on the shelf, which irritates my sense of symmetry but on the other hand, it’s a library and it’s the books’ jobs to appeal to me and then come home with me, right?

I got a novel called “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt. And “My Leaky Body: Tales from the Gurney” by Julie Devaney. A copy of Best American Short Stories 2009 because those collections are like boxes of delicious chocolates. And a book on running because yesterday I signed up to run a 5K fun run in May and I have no idea how to actually train for a real run with free t-shirts and everything.

Oh, right, I wasn’t going to take out any books today because I still have two from the other library, plus my book club book, plus three I got for Christmas and haven’t started plus two I bought before Christmas. Ha! HA HA!

I am weak in the presence of paper with words on it.

Finally got sat down in a sunny corner of the library, pulled out my short story and them rummaged unsuccessfully through my purse for a pen. A while ago I stocked my purse with pens the way they stock rivers with fish, but I guess I’ve been fishing too much and not restocking because I had NO PENS AT ALL WHAT?

Fine, I read over the story, which is good to a point and then bad at the end. I end stories the way I leave parties: abruptly and by sneaking out the door. Analysis forthcoming.

Picked up Eli and told him I’d bought lemons so he could make lemonade. He squeezed them carefully and mixed the juice with water and sugar and then took the seeds outside to plant in our dirt area* and hope for lemon trees to grow.

*not a garden, much as we all might wish for it to be so.

Birds are chirping and the sky is blue. A happy weekend to all of you.

Part Two: Less Complaining, More Getting On With It

After I wrote yesterday’s post I wanted to punch myself in the teeth. There is nothing more irritating than a person who whines about writing and time management. Unless it’s a person who does that, like clockwork, three times a year. So, this post is both a part two and not. Same sort of topic, but no grand epiphanies about time wastage because guess what: I already knew I waste time every day.

This morning, Trombone (age 6) and I had an argument.

In the morning, after breakfast, the children are allowed to watch some TV before it’s time to go to school. Usually this ends up being about half an hour of TV, sometimes more if they get up earlier. We used to do it this way: we would eat, they would watch TV while I showered & got dressed, then they would get dressed and then we would leave for school. Except it started to be this way: they would watch TV while I showered and got dressed, then they would ignore me and dawdle and not get dressed and we would be late.

Also there would be much sterness of tone and sometimes shouting. All of which would lead to me getting him to the school door, saying goodbye and instantly regretting the entire morning because what if there was an earthquake? What if the school burned down? What if the last thing he remembered of me was my horrible witch face hollering, “GET YOUR BOOOOOTS ON FOR THE LOVE OF SAM.” That would be unfortunate.

I had a brilliant idea. I would ask the children to get dressed after breakfast but before the TV time! This way, they would have an incentive to get dressed more quickly AND when the TV went off we would all be ready to go. How brilliant am I, I asked myself, and myself answered, very brilliant!, and so I explained the plan to Trombone and Fresco. At first they were reluctant, then they did it for a few days, and it worked brilliantly.

One day last week, when Trombone reached for the remote control right after breakfast, and I reminded him that he would need to get dressed first, he turned on me. He started sighing and moaning about how unfair it was and how he liked the old way better and WHY did we have to do it this way, WHY? No really, WHY? WHY? WHY?

I explained why. But he didn’t really want to know. He just wanted to complain. I told him I understood why he was complaining but I thought the new way was working. He said it wasn’t working, that he hated it, that it was the worst way ever.

Meanwhile, Fresco arrived back downstairs, out of breath, completely dressed and ready to watch TV, in the unassuming yet totally calculated way only a younger brother can pull off.

“I like this way,” he said brightly.
Trombone shot him the stink eye and stomped upstairs to get dressed.

This morning Trombone started the argument again but since I knew how it was going to end I didn’t participate. I left the remote on the table and told them they could watch TV when they were dressed and then went upstairs to write in my morning journal. For ten minutes, Trombone ranted and raved at his brother, the walls, God, and everyone about how unfair how mean, how it was the worst idea ever and someday SHE will KNOW how bad an idea it is, really. Really! Ten minutes. And I was sitting upstairs, half listening to this, thinking: if you had put your pants on five minutes ago you’d be well involved in a Power Rangers episode right now. Dude. Why are you wasting your energy fighting when you could be watching TV?

Aha! I thought. Wait!

If I didn’t waste my energy fighting myself (and blogging about it,) I could be writing. And if I spend my time writing, I will have written stuff to show for it.

So I am going to try getting out of my own way. Don’t fight it. Just do it. Because if there’s an earthquake today, do I want my last image of myself to be me going, “Whyyyyyy do I never have any tiiiiiime?” in my horrid whiny voice? No I do not!

(These children can hang upside down from rings because they didn’t give up after the first try.)

The Contents of My Head: Now Chewable and Strawberry Flavoured

When I first considered a return to blogging I talked myself out of it. After all, I stopped blogging in February because I wanted to, in politician’s parlance, “spend more time with my family” ie: I wanted to focus on what kind of writing was more important to me (not actually spend more time with my family at all) and that kind of writing was the kind that was long form, fiction or non, published, paid? maybe? and you know. Serious. Serious writing. About serious things.

Yeah. Well.

One thing I do well, when I am not blogging, is write serious things. Not serious in the “be taken seriously” way but in the “wait, I thought she had a sense of humour?” way. When I take myself seriously I take myself too seriously.

Serious serious serious. Is there a word for where you say a word too much and it loses its shape like it’s butter melting on the sidewalk in the hot sun? Yes, for verbal use anyway, the term is Semantic Satiation which is a pretty wicked term. Also, I got that by google searching for “when you use a word so many times it loses its meaning” and that was the FIRST result. I love living in the Future.

Aside from writing things that didn’t so much zing as plop, I was not getting very much work done. I wanted to dedicate my previous blogging time to fiction writing and editing time and for some reason after the first couple of months, that time just got surplussed and given to other things. Twitter, mostly. Reading articles online. Other stuff.

I realized recently that the reason I don’t want to write my “serious” stuff is because I believe no one will ever see it. And without the potential of an audience I am not much interested in working on it. Does this make me honest, or a hack? Idiot, also an option. Because of course no one will see it if I never work on it, duh. Before I had a blog I had an audience of 0 and I still wrote my stories and poems and waited patiently for them to mature into lovely butterflies so I could share them with the world. Then I had a blog, and my little worms were getting attention and who the hell cares about those butterflies anyway. In sum: I have been spoiled by the instant gratification of writing on the Internet. And when I took away the blog gratification, I went to the twitter gratification because why write if no one is going to see it? RIGHT? Exactly.

What I should be doing is working (the phrase “toiling in obscurity” springs to mind and refuses to be quashed) and getting things ready to show to other, real, live people and their magazines, editorial boards, publishing houses, while there still are any. But all I want to do is dash off 500 words that are half-clever and have people see them and then go to bed happy because I am A WRITER WHO WROTE STUFF.


After much soul searching and talking to myself in the rain, I convinced myself that blogging again would be a good idea because it would get me a little bit of gratification (methadone?) and that little bit would be enough to get me to sit my ass in the chair and work on the serious-but-not-too-serious-you’re-killing-us-here stuff.

Only problem is, I haven’t managed to find the time yet to blog AND write. Within the word choice lies the key: finding the time. That means it’s around here somewhere, I’ve just misplaced it, not that it doesn’t even exist. This is a positive thing. Today I kept a time log so see where my time is hiding and I will tell you tomorrow what I found out. Bwahaha, cliffhanger.