Worldbuilding by neglect

I started the fantasy book(s) I’m working on now a long time ago, while on maternity leave with my eldest son…and in a rage over the popularity of the Twilight series. In the Writers and Company interview in my mind, I point out that I started the books holding my baby in the middle of the night, and I’m pushing through the draft in Starbucks each morning after I drop the same baby at high school.

There are so many reasons for the derailment of that train, but it’s amazing how things grow lush out of neglect sometimes. Today I’m working on a minor but important detail of how fairy wings hide. It’s one of the few details so far that hasn’t resolved with just a very brief visit to the 3-d world that’s popped up in my head over the last, well, decade+. I feel like there was a small recorder going over that time that noted details that would come back later…and I’ve been terrible at journalling, a choice I kind of regret.

And yet, and yet.

This is basically how Carl and I do our gardening too. I’m not sure what that says about us, but I do know we had a lot of migrating monarchs this year.

Honey badger

A couple of weeks ago I went down one of those YouTube rabbit holes and ended up delighting in the exploits of Stoffle the Honey Badger (as well as other related honey badger content):

I’m now trying to write a honey badger into a reverse portal story which takes place largely in Toronto…if only honey badgers were native here. Although I am starting to wonder if trash pandas are cribbing their playbook.

Stoffle’s attempts to get out of his cage came to mind this weekend. There’s a house for sale on our street which is about twice the size of our current bungalow. Real estate is a perennial Toronto obsession, but I also come by it via family tree as my mum’s time as a real estate agent took place in my formative years. So I’m the nosy neighbour that goes to most open houses in the neighbourhood.

The house as listed is…a little crazy. It looks like it was beautifully kept, but it also looks renovated room-by-room over the last 40 years, so that each era is represented. There are a whole bunch of different tiles, flooring options, wall coverings, windows, lighting…you get the idea. As a result, it’s a bit of a steal.

To be clear, we are not moving. I cannot handle a move right now, and:

  • We have all the space we need, even if it’s not always the kind of space we want (no walk-in closet is my number one complaint), and it is much kinder to the Earth to keep it where it’s at.
  • Our house is sort of at the nadir of our home maintenance in that we moved in 14 years ago, and have been raising young children since, so in the natural life cycle of homes we will start fixing everything we’ve broken/scratched/scuffed…any day now.
  • I’d rather travel and spend money on education in various forms (from the boys’ upcoming tertiary education to my own interests) than increase our house debt.

But…like the honey badger working his way out of the cement enclosure only to go break into his keeper’s home, I can’t stop planning the possibilities in this other house. In some ways I gave that house more rent in my head this week than my own home.

Dissatisfaction is part of the human experience, and is what keeps us learning and growing and helping other people. And gratitude for what we have is what keeps us grounded. I feel like midlife is so much about living in the space in between.

And being crafty, with sharp claws, and ready to stand up to a pride of lionesses.

 

Deconstruction

Carl and I are at the Georgian Bay Hotel celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary (!!) and departing for the Scandinave Spa in about 45 minutes. I’m lying in a king sized bed in a suite that seems huge, and he’s on the balcony meditating.

Things have changed for me. Last night, we were weighing our dinner options, with a really nice looking restaurant on the premises and no children to consider…and we ordered in pizza. That was just fine with me. I’ve been privileged to eat really good food in my life, most of it professionally when I was at More and Canadian Living, but some of it before my budget included childcare. But lately, I find my tastes are gradually shifting towards what I am starting to think of as my tea and toast future. It’s not exactly boring, it’s more that the ordinary things are increasingly extraordinary to me. Yeast. Gluten. The way some peaches taste like sun should.

Bianca Andreescu won the U.S. Open yesterday, we learned, waiting for that pizza to come to the room. I loved watching the highlights, the power in her and Serena Williams’ bodies, the naked language of victory and defeat. Game, set, match. I watched a few outlets’ responses – the jerseys from other teams, politicians, movers and shakers.

I spent the trip up here enjoying counting Tim Hortons, watching the trees get bigger, seeing the Blue Mountains — Carl, B.C.-born, just laughs — appear on the route from Wasaga Beach to Collingwood.

My own book is breathing well; I wrote 400 words in 40 minutes yesterday, without needing a long entry into finding where I’d been the day before. I find the deeper I go into my own places, the less noise I can tolerate. But here I am posting.

Voice Lessons

I’ve been writing fiction quite a bit lately, thanks in no small part to a small but mighty writer’s group a few of my friends from high school and I formed at the start of the year. We all wanted to be writers when we grew up, and lo, here we are doing it. My goal is to complete the draft of the first book in my Fairy Princess trilogy* by the end of the year and although this goal involves writing/wading through notes at the page of about 5,000 words a week from here to December 31, I think it’s achievable.

I love these women, in my group, and their writing, and I feel accountable to our collective hopes and dreams.

What will suffer is sleep, housework, and my workout schedule. I can handle that.

I keep writing blog posts in my head, but they rarely land on the page. I could blame child-rearing, working, smart phones, or anything else. But mostly it’s habit and practice. It’s strange now to think that I used to blog (pseudonymously) once a day with no concern at all.

A few notes on the last few months:

  • I had a big cancer scare this winter. During that scare, I received a lot of clarity. As a result, I went on a road trip this summer, just me and Noah and Liam as Carl couldn’t take the time off work. It was amazing, although I missed Carl tremendously. I now know why parents take road trips with their kids. It’s because they really do provide that mysterious in-this-together feeling, all day, every day. Our trip was charmed – great weather, more to see and do than we could take in, and a very nice stop with my sister and her family. I’m hungry for me.
  • I’m very glad I made the career move that I did, because getting away from media/marketing/stories for the last two years has given me the breathing room to find my own quirky spin on things. Working at the Academy has pushed me backwards through my career’s full skill set right down to my very first job,  and at the bottom of it all, well, here I am. That said, if anyone thinks smaller business means being less busy, I have an eye opening experience for you!
  • Working mostly with young people makes me much more optimistic than think pieces on the Internet do. That said, I do worry a lot that the voices of ordinary people who want to, for lack of a better phrase, do good…be kind, live a good life without doing harm to others…are gradually becoming faint in comparison to people who would divide us. All the more reason to work on that voice thing.

*Probably not exactly what it sounds like.

Byte sized #10 – author love

“I will never enjoy simplicity again; it will never be good enough for me. I require so many more ingredients; I require so much more technique. I need to be danced for and entertained. I have made the region of my delight a tiny head of a pin. Did anyone tell me that it would be this exhausting to get older?” – an older piece at Saveur.com that I just discovered. Taffy Brodesser-Akner is one of those writers where I always will click on the link and have never yet been disappointed. I love her profiles but I also love when she gets personal.

(I am exhausted being older but something, somewhere underneath, is making me a little younger. I may just be coming out of the U-curve, (The Guardian) or it may be something else.)

I can’t believe it took so long, but thanks to Noah’s grade 8 curriculum I finally read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Amazon.ca link) and it made me cry for its unflinching, writing-so-direct-it-stabs-you content, but also because books have power, books have power.

“But knowing, in that immediate and unmediated way, what people thought about my writing felt . . . the word I keep reaching for, even though it seems melodramatic, is annihilating. “ (The New Yorker) Kristen Roupenian has a book coming out this week, you may have heard.

Okay, I think I’ll have to start using my Goodreads account. 🙂

I actually got quite hot under the collar this week over this Instant Pot article (article on capitalism? On feminism? On home economics?)..not because it’s a bit meandering or because I’m an Instant Pot fanatic, but because Someone on the Internet complained that it didn’t acknowledge that men cook too. In any case, I love my Instant Pot and just made these Gigante beans for dinner today.

 

 

 

So how’s the midlife crisis going?

This week Brené Brown’s The Midlife Unravelling has been hitting my feeds, and it’s well worth a read. I’ve been thinking lately that my crisis isn’t actually over and it was both validating and annoying to read something that made me realize…it never actually will be.

With this understood, I can get on with the job of living. From my front lines:

Physical Goals: I should be able to start running again this month, but I am taking it slowly. I’m using elliptical machines right now and I find I get to a point where the spot in my leg that actually broke hurts, somewhere between 25 and 30 minutes. So I stop.

This new method of respecting pain sits uncomfortably with me, because in the past I’ve had two modes: The “I’m too wounded/fat/stupid/uncoordinated/hurt” to do this mode, and the “to hell with it” mode where I would just push through any, you know, feelings until my body gave out and then rue it the next day. Finding the middle spot has been hard.

However, in doing a lot of upper-body work, I pulled a muscle, and that actually stopped me from doing some martial arts this week. My concern wasn’t so much the injury, but not doing both certain leg and certain arm things. I tell myself it’s because I’m staff and I have to present a higher standard of participation, but it was also just not wanting to look stupid.

I have found a new yoga class and it’s very different from gym yoga. Each class focuses on one sequence of moves, going deeper into them — not like yin yoga, but really working to perfect the understanding of that particular hatha cycle. I like it a lot.

Food-wise I’ve been eating medium-well; lots of veggies and generally whole foods, but also some snacking on Girl Guide cookies at night and a samosa/sweet onion roll addiction are not helping as I discovered Canbe Foods, which I have been driving past for about 10 years. Our farm share starts in two weeks. I keep not blogging so I hesitate to promise but I hope to post how that’s going.

I pretty much have had to give up alcohol, even beer and cider. For years I have pondered the mystery that I don’t get hangovers and tried to be careful not to drink too much because there were no natural consequences. Well, ha, ha, ha, now if I have even one drink my sleep is disrupted and I find that I am actually a Cranky Person the following day. This has led me to trying out Kombucha as something to have on the patio at the end of a hot day.

Family: I continue to enjoy the golden age of parenting when my kids are both old enough to amuse themselves a lot of the time and young enough to still want to be amused by their parents. (Although Noah is aging out of this rapidly.) I got to take a leadership course with Noah over the last 10 weeks and watching him participate and seeing different hints of the man he’s becoming was…amazing. I also hang out with Liam in the schoolyard each morning (no rush for the GO Train) and as one sample, he started talking to me about his take on Arthurian legend, in a fake Scottish accent no less, and it was…pretty glorious.

I can’t say that I’m engaged with work for fewer hours, but the geography changes things so much. I’m more present.

I gave up my gym membership (well I actually still have to do the paperwork, oops) and we got a family membership to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. We’re there a lot all together and that’s…amazing.

Mentally,  one thing about leaping into supporting a martial arts organization as a career that I really hadn’t thought through what it’s like to work with a team that includes many late teens and early 20-somethings. I always joked that my career aged backwards like Merlin (note Arthurian reference): Seniors’ site, magazine for women at midlife, magazine for women, education-focused arts institution. But right now I find that my colleagues have aged backwards as well.

I have very few Gen X-Millennial conflicts to report; martial arts seems to bridge the gap. I do find myself reflecting more on the time in my 20s when it seemed like everyone I knew online was moving to Silicon Valley and sharing apartments and working weird new Internet jobs. I find my 20-something colleagues have the same sense of, well, chosen family that you might find historically documented in Microserfs, but they also seem more connected to their actual families than I remember feeling. But I was mostly getting married, so I was a bit off the usual track there.

I haven’t been writing as much as I would like to, but I have been writing more than I had in the previous oh, 5 years, so that’s a bonus.