March 2015

This month has been a blur. I thought the earliest days would feel similarly blurry, but they were distinct in their newness, their strangeness. Now, just over 12 weeks in, the day-to-day fuses together. The first half of March was different from the second half, though, since I was editing my book. I alternated between either working on it or looking after Clara, and there wasn’t much time for anything else. Luckily Clara was still in her newborn hardcore napping phase because I don’t think I would’ve been able to get it done otherwise. (Thank you, baby! And also thank you Andrew for also making sure I had plenty of time to work.)

Week 8

The thing that I found interesting about editing was how much of the work was shifting sections around to fit the right way – it wasn’t really a matter of adding new sentences, but changing the order of the existing ones, like a puzzle. The answer was there, but I couldn’t see it until I looked at it from a few different angles. I also realized that the best way for me to edit was to read the words out loud, so for better or for worse, the book that Clara has had read to her most has been my own. It put her to sleep more than a few times; I won’t be asking her for a blurb.

There’s still work to do, but I think the heavy lifting is done, and I’m happy with the manuscript. I still can’t believe that after all these years of working on it and fussing and revising, it will be available for others to read. It freaks me out a lot as well, but I have a few more months to psych myself up.

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The other half of the month, the non-book half, was more quotidian. I took Clara for long stroller walks when the weather warmed up. I cooked dinner more often and tidied up a bit. When she napped and I was too tired to do anything useful, I watched many episodes of The Mindy Project, Togetherness or Better Call Saul. We went to mom and baby yoga classes and I met up with my mom group a few times. I spent a lot of time trying to make Clara laugh with my animal impressions, which are much less impressive than Andrew’s. It’s so fun that we can actually make her laugh and smile now! You can’t take for granted the heart eruptions caused by gummy baby smiles – they’re the best.

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I also read Elissa Albert’s After Birth, a messy and passionate book I sometimes related to completely and sometimes… didn’t at all? Either way, they were very strong reactions in both directions. I can’t quite get my thoughts together coherently about it, and I think I should read it again when I’m beyond these first few months. Maybe the subject is too close to me right now, especially if you consider that I read most of it on my phone, scrolling through the text as I was nursing the baby, often in the middle of the night. For a much better rundown, read the always insightful Kerry Clare’s review of it over here.

Despite my flip-flopping feelings, I highlighted many parts of the book as I read it. Unfortunately I must have done it wrong on my phone because I can’t find them now; I blame reading too late at night. There was one highlight that worked, though, from a part where the narrator is pondering the dissertation she’s been working on while she drops her son off with a babysitter:

So the dissertation thing is pretty much a lie. But you need an identity, some interest and occupation outside of having a kid, you just do. Otherwise the kid has to be your sole interest and occupation, and we all know how that works out for everyone.

It’s funny that this is the one excerpt that worked because I often thought of it during the second half of March, the idea that all-encompassing mothering is dangerous. I do know that having a writing project grounded me, helped me feel more like myself, so when I didn’t have anything formal to work on, I felt a little aimless. But sometimes it also felt good to have no other obligations, to just focus solely on being a mother, especially as Clara becomes a fascinating little human (her latest trick is sticking her tongue out; it kills me.) It’s a double-edged sword and I’m not sure if I’ll ever figure out the right balance, but I’ll keep trying.

Week 9

 Writing, elsewhere

  • This month’s Bookslut column about Well Fed, Flat Broke: Recipes for Modest Budgets and Messy Kitchens by Emily Wight and My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz.
  • Not coming out until June, but I’m excited to be a part of Big Truth’s upcoming food anthology!

February 2015

At our prenatal class back in November, we were told not to worry about anything other than simply surviving the first six weeks with the baby. Things would get better after that, the nurse said. We passed six weeks in mid-February, and I guess things are “better” in that we’re now more accustomed to having another little person in the house. It feels more normal than discombobulating, except for those times when it still is more discombobulating than normal.

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At the beginning when it was all new, I was convinced I would remember every single thing because it was so radically different from the days before, but even those first days are slipping between my fingers. I realize now how dazed I was then. My body felt more foreign than it did when I was hugely pregnant. The c-section incision, breastfeeding. Something about labour made my vision temporarily blurry and my ankles, which had stayed their normal size during pregnancy, swelled up for a week or two afterwards. I was also afraid I would walk past the stairs and somehow tumble down them while holding Clara. How was I so sure that I wouldn’t trip and drop her? Those fears seem strange now; she’s sturdier and bigger and I’m sturdier too, I suppose.

This month we started giving her bottles so that Andrew could feed her and I could leave the house alone for longer than two hour stretches. I went out to dinner, I went grocery shopping, I saw Roxane Gay read and speak. Before all of this I wondered what it would be like to go out in the world without the baby. I would miss her, wouldn’t I? The truth is that I wasn’t sad to be away from her. I was happy, actually, almost giddy. Not because I was away from her, although the breaks did feel good, but because I knew she was there, at home and waiting for me to return. How amazing that was, this knowledge that my baby was now a part of the real world, that she was no longer theoretical, something that lived only in my head, but a separate creature who existed even without my presence. My body, though, recognizes the absence differently. If I’m away from her for more than two hours, my breasts start feeling full – my body knows its obligations.


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I spent one of my solo afternoons meeting my editor for my book, and it was such a great meeting. Overwhelming because I have changes to make, but it’s satisfying to talk to someone who has read your writing with such precision and care. Since then I’ve been working on edits. It’s slower because obviously there’s a baby to take care of, but Clara’s daytime napping schedule has been (mostly) working in my favour. The car seat seems to have a narcotic effect on her too, so sometimes I’ll cocoon her in it, snap the seat to the stroller and go to the cafe down the street where I work until the laptop batteries run out or she wakes up.


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We’ve been bringing her out more too, mostly around our neighbourhood, but we also went to Buffalo overnight, a modified version of previous weekends before she was born. She was a good little traveler and when she cried during dinner at Dinosaur BBQ, it was muted by the din of the large restaurant. (I’m pretty sure it was, anyway; we didn’t get any dirty looks, and I looked for them.) She made up for it at a diner the next morning, sleeping nicely while we ate our breakfast.


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The biggest change this month, though, is the sense that she has woken up, that while she still sleeps for long stretches like a newborn, when she’s awake she is with us. She smiles, sometimes big and open mouthed. She likes her mobile, she likes it when we play with her feet or blow air on her face. Her limbs flail madly when she’s excited. Welcome again, baby girl.

Writing, elsewhere

January 2015

My resolution for 2015 is to update this blog once a month. So here is update #1.

The baby had a few almost-birthdays (mid-December, Christmas Eve), but in the end she didn’t come that early. Either way, because of the uncertainty, Andrew and I both left work early and then had unexpected child-free time on our hands. I was third trimester sleepy for large stretches of this pre-baby time and my stomach somehow managed to get bigger and bigger.

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I happily took advantage of the extra days to revise the manuscript of my novel, Escape Plans, before sending it to my editor. I hadn’t looked at the book for a long time – I needed some distance – but cozied up to it again quickly. The novel is going to be published by Invisible Publishing in the fall and I’m so excited about it. I’ll write more about it over the next few months.

Andrew and I rung in the New Year from a delivery room at Mount Sinai Hospital. When we arrived that evening, we naively thought there was a chance that our baby might be the first of 2015. You’ll get a gift basket, the woman admitting us to triage told us. But when my OB came by to check my progression, we realized that we were going to be stuck in the delivery room for a long time, way past midnight anyway. Andrew got us paper cups of ice water and we listened to the nurses and doctors gather down the hall and count down to January 1, 2015. At midnight we clinked our paper cups and then dimmed the lights in the room and tried to sleep, which is difficult when you’re waiting for the birth of your first child and, in my case, also hooked up to an IV and a monitor.

Mount Sinai, New Year's Eve

The labour started off slowly. I was induced, so I was acutely aware of each step of the process and excited whenever there was a minor change in my body.  I’d always been curious about contractions, what they really felt like. When they kicked into high gear I got the confirmation that, yup, they hurt, like someone slowly, cruelly, tightening a vice around my lower abdomen. Because I was still hooked up to the monitors, dealing with contractions flat on my back wasn’t the most pleasant experience.  After the anesthesiologist gave me an epidural, I was giddy with relief.  The absence of pain gave me a burst of energy and I was able to talk on the phone, to joke and laugh again. Andrew left to get coffee and came back with a copy of the New Yorker for me to pass the time. As much as the epidural made me feel wonderful, when you’re recovering from increasing contractions, have been on an IV for over 12 hours and have just been told that you still have another 8-16 hours of labour ahead of you, reading the New Yorker isn’t at the top of your priority list. But it was a cute gesture.

After the epidural things continued to chug along slowly. We called everyone and told them to stay at home — the baby wouldn’t come until the next day. But then during a routine check by a resident, the baby had a heart deceleration that didn’t stabilize quickly enough, and our previously calm, dim room was suddenly swarmed with doctors and nurses and the lights were jacked up and someone was putting an oxygen mask on my face. In that instant, everything was terrifying. The heartbeat stabilized, but then it happened again and the OB decided I was next in line for a c-section. Andrew had to recant the last phone call and say, uh, come here now because Teri’s giving birth in the next hour.

 I managed to see our family and friends before being wheeled into the OR, and just seeing the group of them walk into our delivery room made me burst into happy tears. They all looked so excited, nervous but happy-nervous. And then it was just Andrew and I again, and the doctors. The c-section itself is a bit of a blur. I remember how bright the lights were. I shivered violently on the stretcher and kept apologizing for it until the anesthesiologist leaned in close and told me gently that I didn’t have to apologize; it was a normal reaction to the drugs. Andrew, dressed in scrubs next to me, held my hand. They started the c-section and we didn’t really realize it until we suddenly heard a baby crying. Our baby! I couldn’t believe it, and started crying again. Andrew saw her first since I still had to be stitched up. “What does she look like?” I asked and he said, “She has so much hair.”

By Chris

So our baby, Clara Angelita, was born on January 1, 2015, and I don’t know if we will ever have such perfect start to a new year.

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January has been foggy. Adrenaline, sleep deprivation, adjusting hormones, that weird intense bloom of love, etc.  Time has gone by slowly and quickly. I haven’t slept for more than 3 hour stretches since Clara was born, but our family and friends have done everything they can to ease the transition. Some days are hard, but some days are easy too. I’d expected the hard days, which doesn’t make them any less hard, but I hadn’t really expected or allowed myself to hope for the easy ones. Maybe “easy” isn’t the right word. Peaceful? Content? The cat is adjusting too.

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I love studying Clara’s face. It changes all the time and l have no idea what she’s going to look like when she’s bigger. Her face after she’s fed, all milky and peaceful, is the sweetest. Usually when she’s done her eyes will droop and as she’s dozing off she’ll give a little smile, which I know isn’t supposed to count as a real smile yet, but it still looks real. When she sleeps, she makes noises and grunts and my favourite sound is a little whoop, like a wolf pup, a baby animal. When she cries her face scrunches up hard like an apple doll – it’s the most intense, angry face. I’m still surprised at the volume of her cries since I’d naively assumed that something so tiny would only make tiny noises.

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I can’t imagine her not tiny – she is smaller than a ukelele, than the cat. I can’t imagine her not here. We knew nothing about babies before having her, had never held a newborn or even changed a diaper. But we’re all learning here. Slowly, maybe not always gracefully, but eagerly. Happily.

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Writing, elsewhere:

  • I have an essay in the latest issue of Ricepaper Magazine. It’s called Between Representations: Filipinos in Canadian Literature, and is about exactly that, using Angie Abdou’s latest novel, Between, as a starting point. You can order a print or digital copy of it here: http://ricepapermagazine.ca/19-4-issue/
  • Over at the The Toast, How to Turn a Breech Baby. I wrote this back in the fall when Clara was briefly in the transverse and then breech position in my belly and I researched the ridiculous things you can do to encourage a baby to flip. She flipped on her own, but I ended up having a c-section, so it didn’t really matter. Babies.

Books in 2014

This is only my second post of 2014, but also my last of the year – I guess it hasn’t been a very blog-y year for me. But before 2015 begins, I wanted to briefly record the books I read in 2014. I was under the impression I hadn’t read much, but as I cycled through titles in my head, I realized that there was a tidy little collection.

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I started the year off by discovering Rebecca Solnit and read A Field Guide to Getting Lost and then The Faraway Nearby and have been stockpiling her books since, saving them for the right time. I started The Faraway Nearby the day of a medical procedure and my doctor asked me if I’d been reading anything interesting and I tried explaining the book to her while woozy on drugs. I don’t think I made any sense, but I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to explain it any better under more sober circumstances.

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I read Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill.  I read Bark by Lorrie Moore, and then saw her read in Toronto. Her smoky voice.

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I read Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong when things didn’t feel so great and then I wrote about it over at The Rumpus. That’s a picture of us standing on Richard Serra’s Shift.

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I read Leesa Cross-Smith’s Every Kiss a War, although maybe reread is a better word since I’ve been reading drafts of these stories or seeing them in literary magazines for almost as long as I’ve known Leesa. She has always been such an inspiring writer, the way she writes about the things she loves so perfectly: messy relationships, Kentucky, eyeliner, love love love.

I read The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood edited by Kerry Clare when I suspected I might be pregnant. I wasn’t sure because it was still too early and I could barely admit it to myself anyway. I’d been in that situation before and normally would avoid any book that might make me think directly about motherhood, but the beauty of The M Word is that it’s about all different facets, from choosing to be a mother or choosing not to, having children or not having them, the difficulties and joys of being a mother or not being one. It was a comfort to read during those days. I would be okay no matter what, I realized.

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I read most of The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers on a couch in the AirBnb house we rented in Pittsburgh for a long weekend. I was still in that maybe-I’m-pregnant phase and was starting to allow myself the thought that I wasn’t imagining it. I was tired; my body felt different. Andrew went for walks around the neighbourhood and instead of joining him like I usually would, I stretched out on the couch and read the book. I will always love Pittsburgh, just for that weekend. (That’s Pittsburgh in the photo.)

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And then it turned out I was pregnant and first trimester exhaustion got the best of me, so I didn’t read much for a while. I think this is why I don’t think I read a lot in 2014, because of those weeks where I went to bed early and felt a little foggy and nauseous. In those early weeks I went on a writing retreat on the Toronto Island for a few days with Soraya, and I don’t remember what I read while I was there either. Maybe I didn’t read much of anything? I did write, though, and we had a huge classroom to ourselves. I worked on a story and she worked on an essay, and we walked around a lot, and one night we watched “Flashdance” as research for a piece she was working on. The movie definitely doesn’t count as a book but is the only thing I remember consuming while we were there, and then reading Soraya’s essay on Flashdance was something I did a few times in 2014.

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My energy and reading stamina eventually came back and I read Karl Ove Knausgaard’s A Man in Love after spending most of the year rolling my eyes every time I heard a mention of him and his “struggles”. When I actually started reading the book, I loved it. I read the second volume first and am only now finishing the first and I have the third ready to go for the new year. I wrote about it over at The Millions, along with two other books I read this year: 10:04 by Ben Lerner (mostly read at the beach while on vacation in Charleston) and Friendship by Emily Gould. I saw Knausgaard at the IFOA in the fall and when I got my book signed I told him what I’d written in that Millions essay, that I’d found myself using his book as a pregnancy guide, and he laughed like, oh no.

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While Andrew and I were in Charleston, we took a day trip to Savannah, Georgia. The Spanish moss in Savannah is even more dramatic, and it had been raining that day so even when the rain stopped, drops kept falling off the moss like drizzle. Flannery O’Connor grew up in Savannah and they turned her house into a museum. I popped in just to have a look while Andrew took a walk, and then a tour started and since there were only 3 other people and I was the only person who had actually read her books, I realized I couldn’t duck out. The guide, who lived upstairs, locked the door and then walked us through the small rooms. On the second floor I looked out the window and Andrew was in the square below looking up at the house, slightly confused. He saw me. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I got trapped on a tour!” I said. Neither of us actually said these things, but there was a psychic exchange. The tour, in the end, was interesting. I left with a copy of A Prayer Journal, but I haven’t read it yet.

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I read a bunch of food and cookbooks for my Bookslut column. My favourites were Peter Miller’s Lunch at the Shop, Rawia Bishara’s Olives, Lemons & Za’atar, Ava Chin’s Eating Wildly and Shawn Micallef’s The Trouble with Brunch, which I got to pair together in one column.

I read Gillian Sze’s beautiful collection of poetry, Peeling Rambutan, after reading at her Toronto launch. I hadn’t done a reading in so long and was grateful that she’d invited me along; it felt good. I read stories from How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? by Doretta Lau while waiting for various doctor appointments in the late fall. I read Angie Abdou’s Between, which I enjoyed not just for the book but because it made me think thoughts about Filipino caregivers. I turned those thoughts into an essay which will be published shortly in Ricepaper Magazine. I also can’t forget Lila by Marilynne Robinson, maybe the book I was most looking forward to coming out in 2014, and of course it was the most gorgeous thing, every single word.

2014 was such a funny, memorable, intense year. 2015 will be even more so. I will keep you updated.

xoxo

Winter tally.


(View from Mount Nemo during a snowy winter hike.)

Hey, the winter is almost – not quite, but almost – over. It’s been a long season, and there have been good parts and bad parts, but I’m glad that we’ve survived it.  I’ve been keeping busy. I started a pottery class at the beginning of the year and remembered how satisfying it is to do something creative that isn’t writing.


(Bottoms of bowls that I made.)

Pottery hasn’t come to me easily; I still rely on my teacher to fix my mistakes or give me cues on what to do next, but the other day I was glazing a bunch of bowls and I could tell in which order I’d made them because they’d gotten progressively better over time. Still a little wonky, still a little too thick on the bottom, but incrementally better. That was nice – progress!


(Speaking of omens, here’s Maya pulling a Tarot card.)

But I have been writing too. My monthly Bookslut column (December, January, February, March). Some fiction that still needs lots of work. This essay on The Toast, about odds and omens and Alice Munro and Lou Reed and other things, which I wrote a draft of, sat on for a while and then finally submitted for publication. I’m glad I did; I’m glad those words are out in the world.

I hope you’re well and that you’ve been keeping warm. More soon.

Goodbye, 2013.

Towards the end of November I was plagued by a sinking feeling that 2013 was a useless year, that I didn’t have a neat little list of accomplishments I could present to the world as proof that I did something useful with my days. I know that one shouldn’t measure years like that, but I do want to acknowledge how I felt because I think it’s useful in itself. I spent the last few days in New York City and one afternoon while Andrew was looking at camera equipment at B&H, I went to a diner across the street for a chocolate milkshake. I’d just bought a fresh new notebook from MUJI and wanted to write out my plans for 2014. I was thinking about 2013, about how it had felt at times as though it had been a failure of a year, and I wondered how that had happened. There was a lot of trying in 2013, I realized. Trying and not quite succeeding, which can be construed as failure, but can also be thought of as progress. As lessons. As movement forwards, even if it was slow or painful. There’s nothing wrong with trying and failing and it’s still preferable to not doing anything. So I suppose that’s what 2013 was for me: a year of trying. That’s not so bad. And despite everything, it also had many beautiful, lovely moments, lots of trips out of the city, fun afternoons and nights with loved ones, quality time at home.

I went to the west coast and saw things like this:

And this:

I lived on the Toronto Island for a week and wrote and rode this bike around:

Maya was consistently adorable, including that one week she was miserable in a tiny cone:

One of my best friends got married:

There were weekly family dinners with these people:

And lots of good food:

I was impatient with books this year and cast many aside when they didn’t speak to me in the specific way I needed at the time. But I’ll remember how these ones affected me: The Silent House by Orhan Pamuk, A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik, Fast Machine by Elizabeth Ellen, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, The Interestings by Meg Wollitzer, The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason, Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen, Life is Meals by James and Kay Salter, A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley.

I listened to a lot of songs on repeat. Like this one by Okkervil River, or this by Vampire Weekend (or maybe I listened to this one more?). Also Michael Feuerstack. And “Blurred Lines” and “Royals”, but it’s not like I have to link those. At home we listened to records a lot, and mostly I liked Andrew playing DJ and flipping through the collection and putting the right thing on.

And so, while in my cynical moments I think nothing much happened in 2013, that’s not true. It was a memorable year. I’ll be happy to put it behind me, but I learned a lot living through it, and I’m grateful for that. I’m excited and hopeful about 2014. I have a feeling it will be a memorable one too.

Happy New Year, everyone. xoxo

 

Fall, pt 1: Music and books

Before I forget.

1. On one of the first truly cold evenings of the fall, we went down to Christie Pits where Julie Doiron was playing an outdoor set. It was dark and chilly and we stood high up on the hill, a bit set apart from the small crowd. The guitars were loud. We stayed until we were too cold, walked back to the car as the music slowly receded in the distance. Warmed up again. It feels like a dream when I think of it now.

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2. I found out Okkervil River were playing in Toronto a few hours before they went on stage. They’re the kind of band that inspires fawning devotion, and I fall into that camp, despite not being up to date with their touring schedule. But I was already downtown for dinner and a movie, and then instead of going back home with Andrew, I dropped him off and drove to the concert instead, arrived just as the opening act was winding down. Seeing music I love alone is one of my favourite things. I wedged my way near the front, in the middle, and stood with other fans who sang along enthusiastically, so I sang along too. That feeling of leaving a club, your ears cotton-y, the night air perfectly crisp and silent, was always something I liked best about going to shows and I remembered it when I walked out afterwards holding the new album under my arm.

3. Andrew surprised me with tickets for us to see Rufus Wainwright at Roy Thompson Hall, and it was sweet of him because he barely tolerates his music. But the concert was a special one with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the venue was nice, and we had nice memories of seeing him together in Greece. There was an opera singer, and the entire symphony, and Rufus occasionally flubbed a note or stopped everyone so they could begin again, promising that it would be better the second time around.

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4. I’ve been reading books either in large gulps or not at all. If I don’t swallow the entire thing whole, it languishes in the growing stack by my bed for weeks, and there are only particular things that capture my attention these days, it seems. I read Stacey May Fowles Infidelity late into the night despite having to get up early for work the next day. I read Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home over two consecutive mornings on the long weekend, staying in bed later than I’d like to admit. I read Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey a little greedily, so excited to have it before it was officially out in the world. And then most recently, The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller, a retelling of The Illiad from the perspective of Patroculus, Achilles’ beloved. Finished it on a lazy Sunday afternoon, sniffling in bed when it got to the inevitable ending.

5. I’ve also been playing a lot of Candy Crush. Help.

Summer, part 5: A pause.

Vancouver & around

For a few days towards the beginning of the summer I truly thought I would get a lot of writing done, that I would somehow cobble together a rough-rough-rough draft of the novel I’m working on. But summer’s over and, oops, I am nowhere near that; I didn’t even come close. It’s okay, though.

I’ve had a kind of psychological shift in how I approach/think about my writing recently. When I decided to get “serious” about fiction, I was in my mid-twenties and I wrote almost maniacally to meet internal deadlines I’d set in my head. I wrote and wrote and wrote and I sent out stories before they were ready and I took workshops and classes and sometimes I was lucky to get published, and then, a few years later, I was so incredibly lucky to find an amazing publisher that believed in my stories and helped me form them into something more solid for the public. After it came out I continued to write and write and write and after a few years (ugh, years? really?), I completed a novel that I still dearly love: my first long work, something I’d never put so much thought and time and effort into. Since its completion, it’s been in limbo – my agent is doing behind the scenes work and I’ve gotten some nice rejections, but as any writer knows, a nice rejection is still a rejection. Books are hard to get published. At this point I’m not sure what else to do about it other than wait, patiently, and keep writing and writing and writing like I did before.

Which sounds like a good plan, except for a while I just stopped writing. It was weird. I went from being someone who was annoyingly productive to… not at all. I wondered if I really cared so much about writing? I’d always thought that the thing I wanted to be most in the world was writer and then I realized that maybe it wasn’t what I wanted, and what was it instead? And what if whatever else I wanted to be was also some kind of unattainable goal?  Everyone faces this at some point and I suppose my turn was up. So I stopped writing, but I was busy figuring out other things in my life: I was moving cities, I was changing roles at work, I was seeing doctors, I was spending time with friends, I was being lazy, I was going through things that ate into the psychological space writing used to take up in my life.

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Summer, part 4: Vacation.

Vancouver & around

1.  We flew across the country and rented an apartment on the west side of Vancouver. Its layout was so similar to my first ever apartment in Toronto that in the middle of our first night I woke up blurry-eyed, briefly convinced that I was actually on Spadina Road and that it was still 2005. But there were seagulls shrieking – I’ve never heard them so loud! – and I remembered that years had passed and that I wasn’t home.

In Vancouver we walked along the ocean, drove towards mountains, stopped at beaches that had the biggest trees washed up on shore. Hiked in Lynn Valley Canyon and took off our shoes and socks to wade in cold mountain water. Got sushi and ate it on the roof of the apartment. On Granville island we bought 2 Dungeness crabs to eat later for dinner. They cooked and cracked them and while we waited we had fish tacos.

Mostly I just wanted to look out at the water, the hazy bits of land in the distance. Twice, while staring, we saw seals.

Vancouver & around

Vancouver & around

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2.  We set off for Portland early one morning and somehow stretched the 6 hour drive into 14 hours. We kept telling each other, this is the last time we’ll stop, but then we would see something and stop again. At first it was all green and rivers. We stopped to buy a basket of plums for a dollar, to have a burger and milkshake from a diner at lunch, to climb down a hill and dip our feet into a river. We kept driving and passed a town that was modelled to look like a Bavarian Village. Stopped at another roadside market that promised fresh peach milkshakes, and despite the milkshake at lunch, couldn’t pass one up. Got huckleberry candy, apples. Kept driving and then suddenly the trees dropped away and instead there were large fields. The green dissipated and everything was shades of yellow. Windfarms, handfuls of horses running in the distance, black cows. Stopped to look at all of them. Then there was a replica of Stonehenge and the Columbia river. Eventually it got dark and we got serious about making it to Portland. We got there.

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3.  In Portland, it did feel like Portlandia. Food truck breakfast sandwiches, good coffee, farm-fresh food, pinball at the bar, books from Powell’s. At night we would walk from our place to our next destination and it would be quiet and dark and then suddenly there would be another bar, another coffee shop, just right there on some unassuming corner.

One day we drove down to the Oregon coast and I had naively assumed we could go swimming, but when we arrived the Pacific was freezing and the waves roared up on shore, fierce and beautiful. We ate our lunch and walked along the edges of the water instead,  followed the coast for as long as we could.

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4.  We had just about 24 hours in Seattle. Had oysters at the Walrus and the Carpenter and pizza at Delancey and when we were stuffed, we went to the beach at sunset. It was lined with people having end-of-summer bonfires.  The next morning we were tired from more than a week of travelling and covering ground and almost wanted to skip the downtown core, but persisted: walked from the Sculpture Park to Pike Place Market and decided to go the aquarium to look at the sea otters.

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5. Drove back to Vancouver quickly, this time actually not stopping a million times, and had one last sushi meal before flying back home.

It was a lovely, lovely trip.

Summer, part 3: Trips.

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Realized that it has been a summer of little day trips and weekends. One of the nice things about moving back has been exploring areas around Toronto that I haven’t been to for years or just never got around to visiting, particularly in the U.S. These might not be the most glamorous of locations, but there’s always something to see, something to do, something to give you context. It helps if you enjoy long car drives and the process of getting there rather than just being in your final destination. I mean, radio + gas station snacks + farmstands – it’s easy.

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