Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I guess I asked for it when I bought a minivan

My dad used to drive me and my sister and our friends all over the place. My friends were bad enough, but my sister had some who raised even my sanguine father's eyebrows with what they were willing to discuss with him sitting there, from their crummy marks to boy problems to their "red friend" (he tells about that one repeatedly). This morning I drove over to Angus's school with him at seven to pick up five other volleyball players and drive them to another school for a tournament. At the end of the day, I went back to watch them play the final (they won) and then drove them all home. My experience with driving Angus and teammates has been mostly confined to a couple of baseball players or a basketball guy who gets in, sticks in his earbuds, says nothing for the entire drive and grunts in a faintly grateful manner on his way out. So I wasn't sure what to expect.

Turns out a bunch of thirteen-year-old boys are not appreciably different from my sister and her friends.

"Gabby texted me!" "What did she say?" "Hi. It's Gabby."

"Angus, can you put some music on?" (I reach for the CD button. He jabs the radio button. I jab the CD button. He jabs the radio button again. Wow, he is REALLY afraid I'm going to play Taylor Swift or the Glee soundtrack).

"I am Titayyyyyyyneeeeeummmmm" "Are you actually trying?" "No, I'm really a good singer, I'm in my church choir."

"She asked if we're on a bus back to school and I said no, we're with a parent driver, and she said what's that." "You have to break up with her. She's dumb."

"Shhhh! Angus is calling his parents. Uh, I mean his.....thingy." "Who's Eve?" "Angus's sister. Is Eve his sister?"

Kid who also plays on competitive city team:""I have volleyball practice tonight." "Tonight?!" "I'm going to tell my dad I'm tired and sore and ask if I still have to go." Me to Angus: "If his dad is anything like your dad, he's screwed." Angus: "Yep." (He was).

"She says you can't have her." "Who said I wanted her? Tell her I am a good boy who likes staying home."

"Thank-you for the Timbits! Uhhhhh, my hands are sticky." "Just lick them." "Okay." "Ohhhh, remember how we rubbed the bottoms of our shoes with our hands because the floor was slippery?" "Yep. And I just licked my whole palm. Oh well."

They all thanked me very politely for the ride. Then on the way home I asked Angus a question about the game in a slightly apologetic tone and he told me consolingly that it's very confusing and explained everything carefully.

I am currently feeling bemused but largely optimistic about the state of today's youth.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surly Tuesdays on the Margins or Something

I wrote that post title last night and then stared at it for a while and then went away and whined on Twitter about being brain-dead and spinning my wheels and feeling creatively bereft, and some lovely people commiserated and offered words of wisdom and comfort. So I took a deep breath, did some loin-girding and.... decided screw it, and went out for a beer. But I came back today.

While I was staring at my post title yesterday, and then procrastinating by looking at Facebook and checking if my assignment grade had been posted yet and uploading pictures to print and then emailing Kim when I saw a picture of her at my house last Christmas and remembered I hadn't answered her last email, Eve was across the table with paint, construction paper, toothpicks and pumpkins. She had been home sick with a cold for the day, and after I got groceries I came home and asked if she felt well enough to go get pumpkins. She said yes, so we went to the pumpkin patch and she picked two big ones and three little ones.

 She then spent the rest of the afternoon cuddled up in my big chair making sketches of how she was going to embellish them. So while I was dealing with an utter lack of inspiration, and feeling that sinking, panicky feeling which is kind of dumb and yet kind of understandable, because it's not like this is my JOB, it's not like I get PAID to do it, it's not like anyone calls me on the carpet if I don't do it the day I meant to do it, it's not like it's really discernible that anyone even CARES whether or not I do it more than a pathetic once-a-week or so, but then since I don't HAVE a job I do sort of consider it an important thing that I make myself keep to some sort of structure and accountability, and if I start letting it slide it's usually indicative of larger problems in my life (insert deep breath)..... while all that was going on, THIS is what was coming from across the table:

"The littlest one is going to be the ultra-cute little mouse pumpkin. Well, a were-mouse. I don't care what you say, I think it will still be cute even if it has veiny eyeballs."

"The biggest is going to be non-cute. It's going to be a dragumpkin. A mix between a dragon and a pumpkin."

"What should I do with the middle one? A bat? Good idea. I'll make wings and tape toothpicks to them and stick them in. Oh, and then put dark glasses on it. It'll be a rapper bat. Oops, I stuck the toothpick in the wrong place. Ooh, now it's leaking. It's like....a SHAVING accident! *puts red paint and a small piece of kleenex on it* It's an adolescent rapper bat! Hey, look, the stem looks like a witch's hat! It's an adolescent rapper bat WITCH pumpkin! Ah, I don't feel like putting glasses on it."

"I need another toothpick. Too bad I don't have an assistant. Then I could hold out my hand and say 'toothpick!' and she would hand me one. And then she'd say 'you're so creative! and smart! and pretty! No, I'm sure I don't have a fever."

"I can't believe I painted my costume shirt AND did all of these and I haven't made a mistake and had a big freak-out yet. Can you believe that?"

"Where's my paintbrush?WHERE'S MY PAINTBRUSH? Assistant! *I point to the paintbrush in the cup of water and ask 'that paintbrush'?* "Yes, THAT paintbrush. My assistant would have known where that was."

"I'm so glad I made them little costumes. Lots of people paint them but I'm tired of painting them. I love the little costumes."


Amanda said on Twitter yesterday that maybe she and I were just balancing out our usual awesomeness with a fallow period so somebody else could use the awesome for a while. It's pretty clear who was sucking up the creativity in THIS house last night.

Maybe she'll let me use it when she's done.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shaky Thursday

How do I do this again? Blog without a specific event and pictures to anchor me? It's been a while.

I was feeling a touch surly last night, although mostly still shaky. I'm taking a basic Computers course in my Library Tech Diploma. Until now I've been able to muddle through all the courses even though I'm not terribly comfortable with computers and they keep changing course platforms on me; but NOW, I'm supposed to be learning about computers ON A COMPUTER. It feels somewhat akin to learning how to race cars by building my own car and then racing it - I worry there could be a catastrophic injury.

So I was starting a little late because of all the World Series nuttiness, then school starting, then Matt being in Asia and Eve having the flu, then Blissdom, because I knew the first assignment wasn't due until next week. I was working through the chapter on Windows 7, clicking all the buttons and thinking this was pretty good, useful and simple even - some instructions were just to 'notice' things. I can notice things! I'm a kick-ASS noticer! Then I got hung up on something (displaying windows side-by-side, if you must know, STOP LAUGHING, I'm good at other things!) and had to email the instructor, and then I started reading through the learning plan just to make sure I hadn't missed anything (of course I'd missed anything, I'd missed lots of things, did I mention they keep changing course platforms and I'm really bad at computer stuff?) and there way at the end is this one line: Exam at Mohawk.

Say what?

Since I'm doing the embarrassing confession thing already, let me just be up front about the fact that the first couple of courses I registered for were ONLY offered through Mohawk - it doesn't really matter, it's all through Ontariolearn.com, which is a clearing house for courses offered through a whole bunch of colleges. But some of the later courses are actually offered through Algonquin, which is the college nearest to me. But the Algonquin college registration interface is completely impenetrable, as far as I can tell - I've never been able to find the page where I register. So I went on registering through Mohawk, which has a really user-friendly interface but is in goddamned HAMILTON, five hours away.

Look! I figured out the snipping tool!

So I fired off a panicky email to my instructor, but it was almost midnight because I'd spent the evening helping out a friend who is solo-parenting her baby for the week and then Matt tried to install some viewing program that buggered everything and then spent another forty minutes trying to UN-install it, so I wasn't going to get an answer last night.

Whatever. Fine. I'm cool.

NO,OF COURSE I'M NOT COOL, ARE YOU INSANE? I might have totally screwed up because I was too stupid to figure out how to register at Mohawk, I might have to drop a whole course and be that much further behind in the diploma that I'm ALREADY doing so slowly that disco will probably be cool again by the time I'm done. That or drive five hours to write an exam at Christmastime.

No, no, enough of that. I'm a grown-up. I can accept that I make mistakes, and even if the worst-case happens here, it's not the end of the world. It's not death or dismemberment. It's only community college. I went to bed, played some Words With Friends, read a little and hardly laid awake all night worrying at all.

This morning there was an email from my instructor. She said of course I can write the exam at Algonquin and sent me a link to register for a proctor. Then she congratulated our family on the Little League World Series thing, because yes, I'm not above still using that as an excuse for everything - "I'm distracted in this course halfway through October because baseball".

Shut up.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I freely admit that I attended Blissdom under somewhat fraudulent circumstances. I did the same thing with BlogHer last summer, because Marilyn said it was legit to just go to hang out with your girlfriends in New York AND she offered to room with me, but I thought that would be my first and last blogging conference. I went to Blissdom because when were Nicole and Hannah ever going to scoot their little butts from Calgary and Halifax, respectively, to Toronto at the same time ever again? When you have a chance to catch lightning in a jar - or awesomeness on a hotel room couch - you take it, right?

My preciouses

I had thought that my biggest takeaway from BlogHer (along with the fact that I kind of hate the term 'takeaway' and yet I'm still using it, WHY?) was that I am a personal blogger and that 'branding' or 'monetizing' my blog just wasn't going to happen. I tried one giveaway when I was sent a product that I did really like, and it went over with a resounding thump. What I'm comfortable with is reviewing books and sharing my snark-skewed view of life, the universe and goddamned baseball. 

But here's the thing - I am a slow learner with retrograde amnesia when it comes to lessons in life and blogging. And the thing I learned at BlogHer and then learned again this week-end is that everyone will probably get different things out of something like this, and that's okay. It's also okay if I'm one of those people that only gets one to three things out of it, and not a person that goes home to write a new Manifesto containing Seventy-Six Articles of Faith.

When someone like Eric Alper says something like "you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to", I looked around and saw a bunch of people nodding. Personally, I was thinking "what if I put my mind to jumping off the CN Tower and trying to fly by flapping my arms? Eric, you're cute, but you're tripping." But when Schmutzie says "you are you, and your success won't look like anyone else's", suddenly this wellspring of recognition and gratitude overflowed out of my eyes and I knew if I learned (re-learned) nothing else that week-end that this would still be enough. And who knows? Someone else was probably all over the Eric Alper thing and saying fuck you Schmutzie, I am SO William Faulkner (oh relax, I'm exaggerating for effect, NO ONE SAYS FUCK YOU SCHMUTZIE). And then I hung around her like a stalker trying to think of something really good to say even though I try never to meet my heroes because I know I'll just go all mushy-minded fan-girl stuttering "you're just....so awesome and I just....awesome" and I did, I really did. Whatever, I got hugged by Schmutzie (even if it WAS out of pity), I'm good. 


So I could list all the stuff I liked  - okay fine, I'll list the stuff I liked: the blog to book session with Julie van Rosendaal, who is SO nice and funny and sweet and generous with her knowledge; the power hour which gave me the conference experience I never expect to have, where for one moment I shed my cynical snarkskin and feel completely engaged and transported; floating in the hot tub and solving the world's problems with Nicole and Hannah (I touched their HAIR. I know what their VOICES sound like.) The Bigstorming creative session with Marilyn Barefoot, which I suspected might be cheesy and 'motivational' in a fake way, but turned out to be surprisingly (only because I'm a bit of a douche) practical and helpful, and I LOVED our group (Organic Vomit Party for the win!); Jully Black at the Outdoor party - wow. Just wow; the lentil lunch by Canadian Lentils - I have never shoveled that may lentils into my gob in such a short time. My meal plan for the next two weeks consists of lentil main dishes, lentil side dishes and lentil desserts; and the pajama dance party on the last night - most brilliant idea ever. 

What did I not like? Well, I actually don't want to talk bums, unless we're discussing Nicole's fabulous ass.

I know, sweetie. If I had one like that I wouldn't be able to keep my hands off it either.
(Kidding. She's playing heads or tails trying to win one of Julie's cookbooks)

Also, I regret that I didn't get a picture of Nicole with both her legs behind her head on the hotel room hallway floor.
I DID get Hannah in bed, though. 

What I learned (again) I think, is that it's pretty much impossible to come to this sort of thing and NOT get splattered with a little inspiration, enthusiasm and positive energy, even if you ARE a grumpy, depressive malcontent with relentlessly low self-esteem.