June 29, 2013

Halfway Day: A Quiet Holiday

I had an idea on Thursday: one of the better ones I've come up with recently.

Tomorrow (as of this writing) is June 30th. And at midnight on June 30th, we are officially halfway through the year.

This deserves celebrating. So I'm declaring it a holiday!!
dusk in my hood, earlier this spring


The kind of holiday where you drink slowly in the twilight hours, on your deck, or in the yard, at the beach or around a fire. You talk with your friends about the best and worst of the year this far, and what you hope for the next six months.

No loud fanfare, no countdown to midnight or fireworks (we have the next day for that, here in Canada, or a few day wait for my American friends).

A holiday for the introverts and overthinkers among us, a chance to celebrate and regain perspective and anticipate the goodness in store.


Care to join me?

June 25, 2013

Color Me Rad: Call It Progress

Where to begin?

I am trying to do things that I may (definitely) not be good at instead of waiting until I am magically perfect before attempting any sort of anything where others may see. Example: ultimate frisbee. When I started last summer, I was by far the worst player on the team. Now I'm just mildly the worst player. Improvement! Progress! Growth!

(hurrah for me)

---

One time in Vancouver, I signed up for a 5k run called the "Turkey Trot." I jogged a few times, and planned to do it with my lovely friend Wendy, and then I got a migraine the night before, and had a terrible sleep and felt ill and didn't run. Although this was disappointing, it was also a relief. It is the closest I've come to a "race" of any sort since junior high track and field, where I am fairly certain I never placed better than last.

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People often think I am athletic, because my limbs are gangly and scrawny. This is not the truth. Mostly, I have avoided sports out of insecurity and junior high emotional scarring. Which brings us back to point #1: doing things that I might not be good at.

I am a grown woman, and I want to make decisions that are intentional and thoughtful and rooted in love, rather than compulsive choices based out of old habits and insecurities. This has apparently started with physical fitness and will hopefully spill over into other areas of my life... (

---

The point: Color Me Rad, a 5k run like no other. Not a race, even. No timers. Just race bibs, white shirts, and a whole lot of colour.

Some photos:
L-r: Leaving the house with Karen, Aisling at the starting line, running through a colour bomb station, post race awesome.

As for the running part...it was hot as hades out on Sunday, and there wasn't a spot of shade on the path, and there were thousands of runners/walkers, and I definitely got a stitch in my side (inhaling coloured cornstarch, perhaps?), so I took a walk break or two. But I ran the vast majority of it, and I think our time was around 35 minutes, so next time (see what I did there), I will choose a race that isn't in the summertime or has lots of shade, and maybe less powder being thrown in my face. Also, thanks Karen for slowing down to stay with me. Youthebest. No, seriously.

Look at that, I'm doing things!
More to come. Like bicycles and maybe karaoke.

June 21, 2013

Things I've Done Recently

Once upon a time, a very thorough career/personality test told me many things about myself. Scary accurate, rather helpful, occasionally annoying. One of the suggestions it made, which I have been slow to adopt on account of how it makes me feel "needy," is that I would benefit from keeping a list of "recent successes" to encourage me in "emotionally difficult times." (I am inserting those quotes as remembered phrases, being far too lazy to walk upstairs and find the report and quote it accurately).

This week has been an unexpectedly "emotionally difficult time" for no particular reason, apart from being unemployed and impoverished. So I am sharing some phone photos of "recent successes" (things I did/made) in the hopes that it will remind me that I'm mostly awesome. And so you can also get excited and maybe do some of these things, if you're into doing things.


I bought this satchel for $2 at a garage sale. Dumped out the birdseed inside, gave it a good washing, treated it with leather conditioner, and VOILA, my new fave bag.


I did this. I stripped the varnish, painted, and changed the knobs. (It does have knobs now, I swear.) I am proud of my furniture-update endeavour, and will probably never do it again. But it was worth it. And now it reminds me of Kirsten, who sat and read and chatted in my garage while I made a mess.

Hey look, I weeded! Felt good. I might tackle the backyard next week. I don't think of myself as a gardener, but then again, I've never had a garden before. Oh wait, that's a lie. Vancouver-home had all kinds of garden space. I never once weeded or mowed. Maybe I'm growing up.


I made this art for my room. Because I love this phrase and I love this photo (Sacre Coeur in Paris) and it adds a nice pop that matches the dresser. It makes me happy to wake up and roll over and see this.


I bake. Last weekend it was banana bread and rhubarb hand pies (although I used pre-made puff pastry instead of her recipe) and then I had leftover filling, so I used the crust from this rhubarb bars recipe and made some more deliciousness. Today it will be chocolate chip cookies.

June 14, 2013

Reading in 2013: A Recipe for Bees, The Virgin Cure, I Remember Nothing

Folks, I'm falling behind on my book recaps, and I bet you're all desperately sad. (note: sarcasm) Here are a bunch of recent reads:

I picked up A Recipe for Bees by Gail Anderson-Dargatz because of how much I had enjoyed The Cure for Death by Lightning.

Of the two, I prefer Death by Lightning, but the Recipe for Bees is not without merit. It is, in some ways, Stone Angel-esque. The protagonist, Augusta, reflects back on her life as she ponders the meaning of a vision that seems to indicate her death is approaching. She remembers other moments of "second sight" and walks through the difficult years of her marriage. She is sharp and honest, demanding and insecure - like all of us.

I imagine that I will face my own aging and mortality, failures and insecurities much like Augusta does. What I'm not sure is whether I like her for it, and by extension, whether I will like myself. At the end of the day, it's a decent read, and my heart is soft toward Augusta, and maybe I will read it again in another decade.

---

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay was similarly chosen because I quite liked The Birth House, her earlier novel. And again, I preferred the first.

In The Virgin Cure, we are taken to the slums of New York in the late 1800's, and one 12 year-old girl named Moth. While I don't doubt that her story (sold by her mother to be a servant, abused and escaped to discover her mother gone, taken in by a local brothel) is believable to the historical realities, and I did like her character, I found the plot itself a bit too contrived. The supporting heroine, a female doctor based on the author's great-grandmother was a much more fascinating and unexpected character to me.

It was an easy read, no profound takeaways, but no regrets either.

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I don't think I knew who Nora Ephron was before she died. I mean, I've seen When Harry Met Sally and many of her other hits, but I didn't know she was the writer behind them. When she passed away, I read a piece written by her son, and found I was quite drawn in by her personality and legacy. So when I saw a memoir/collection of essays she'd written in 2010, I picked it up.

I Remember Nothing is humourous and honest and witty and true. There are references to many famous people, some I recognized and some I imagine many others would; it didn't strike me as trying too hard, but more that this is the sphere she inhabits and there is no shame in that. Such an eclectic range of topics, from a trip to the movies to family legends about her mother to Teflon and eggs and things she dislikes about email. I didn't know what to expect with each piece, but I enjoyed the surprise.

The only thing that unsettled me is how strange it feels to read an author's words on aging and approaching death when you know that she will die shortly, but she doesn't know it. If she had known she would die less than 2 years after this book's publication, would she have changed any of her thoughts?

June 11, 2013

Playing Frisbee in the Rain

Last night, I played ultimate frisbee in the rain.

1 hour and 45 minutes of rain.
Pouring rain.
Wind too.
Did I mention the rain?

I am a bit of a rain wimp, and as I stood shivering on the sidelines between shifts, I vacillated between two thoughts:

Thought #1: I am winning. I am amazing. I am in the rain and I am not dying.

Thought #2: Why am I doing this? Why am I shivering in this cold when I have a warm, dry home? What kind of macabre self-torture am I putting myself through?

At the one hour mark, I said to my teammates, "I don't know if I can finish this game." I said the same thing ten minutes later, and ten minutes after that, and then maybe every 30 seconds until the buzzer went. We lost by a wide margin, but I got a ride home and was grateful for the warm shower waiting for me there.

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You all know I'm prone to reflection, and I've been thinking a lot this past week about loved ones who've been sailing rough seas for quite some time. I imagine their thoughts sometimes go along similar lines - at times feeling that in enduring, they are winning; then wondering why they are pushing through instead of jumping ship, feeling certain they'll call it quits around the next corner.

I have great respect for the times we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, face adversity (rain) square in the eyes and say, "I will not be sidelined!" And I have great compassion for the sight of my friends shivering in the rain, clothes plastered to their skin as the opponents are racking up the points.

I cannot stop the metaphorical rain, and sometimes I don't even have an umbrella to offer. Sometimes the other team hits hard and your team fumbles, and even you make a mistake or two.

What I'm trying to say is this: life is not like a box of chocolates; it's like a game of ultimate frisbee in the rain. I'm not in charge of the weather, but if you're on my team, I'll show up and shiver and try to find an umbrella or a towel or a ride home at the end of the night.

Because that's what a team does.

June 3, 2013

Reading in 2013: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Dang.

After my last "book report" about how beautiful I found The Winter Vault, I hesitated to start a new read; how would anything be half as good?

Then I picked up this book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safron Foer.

I opened it knowing only that it was about a boy who lost his father in the Twin Towers, and had been made into a film that was considered not-as-good-as-the-book. And really, that is all one needs to know. 

But it is so much more than that. It is the story of three generations, of love and loss and secrets and space and the way family is intertwined, for better or worse. It is surprising and wrenching, and a little bit magical. The tension was too intense for me at times (in the best way possible), and I found myself needing to take small breaks, setting the book on my lap, reminding myself to breathe, and sipping on iced tea in the sun.

Another highly recommended read, particularly if you like inquisitive children, WWII history, the idea that big cities can still foster community and/or that at the end of the day, family is family.


And Heather, I know you don't think we have the same taste in books, but I'm pretty sure you would enjoy this one :)