Tuesday, November 27, 2018

For Steph, Who Asked What It Was Like

What's it like to have a kid in college? Far away, not-living-at-home college (that's the only kind I know so far)?

I can only describe my own experience, obviously. First of all, it has not been a constant, daily pining ache, which the comments on a recent Facebook article indicate that it is for many mothers. I'm torn between feeling like I'm a less attached or devoted mother for this reason, or that those other mothers maybe need a hobby. There's also the fact that he had a very busy school and sports schedule the last few years he was at home, so maybe those mothers were used to seeing their kids more on a daily basis.

Mostly it feels like he's just away for a baseball tournament. Often I just forget that he's not actually downstairs in his man-cave. Our usual schedule was that he would come home from school and sit on the arm of the couch while I made him a snack and we would talk about a variety of things, and then he would go off to workout or practice, or down to the basement to do homework. We rarely had dinner as a family because it didn't fit into the schedule - admittedly, when we did I wished we could do it more often because the conversation would often go off on weird and entertaining tangents. What I miss most of all is the random moments in the evening when everyone would end up in the kitchen/family room area for a few minutes, and Lucy was happy to have her pack all together and it was a good feeling. The corollary, though, is that we all go down to visit him now and he and Eve are actually really happy to see each other and talk about all the stuff that's happened while they were apart, and we have a short, intense time together that is basically like twenty family dinners at once, and it's very nice.

Every now and then I'm in the kitchen and doing something innocuous like reaching to turn on the faucet and I suddenly miss him acutely and have to stop and take a breath. It is a strange, bittersweet feeling to think that him living here full-time is over forever. When he was home last week, I went down to say goodnight and we hugged, and for a brief moment I wished fiercely, painfully for him to be little again, that I was about to bury my face in the neck of a two-year-old before picking him up to carry him to bed. But it passed. This is the proper order of things. We know that. Bittersweetness is the very lowest price we can hope to pay for the joy of having children, right?

There's also the considerable trade-off of the happiness and pride of seeing him succeed at something he really wants, apart from us. I really thought he might have more trouble settling in and being on his own, which would undoubtedly have made this harder. We also have texting, which makes it much easier to still feel connected than it was for my parents.

Also, to be perfectly honest, having him not live here makes some things quite a bit easier. I don't have to worry about having my car home on time for him to go to work out three times a week plus practice. I don't have to buy as many groceries. I don't have to cook as much meat - when Matt was in Asia for October Eve and I could survive the week on one batch of curried chicken and a quiche. Again, this is something that has the potential to be sad (and a little guilt-provoking), but sometimes it's just... easier.

Finally, there's the fact that he's been home twice for five days to a week, and he only left three months ago. After Christmas, all his breaks are taken up by baseball travel. We'll go down to visit and watch him play, but he won't be home for a full five months. So, I guess, ask me again at the end of May?

So there you go. Nothing earth-shattering or terribly profound. My son moved away, and I'm sad and happy. Next year when Steph's son Noah goes away I'm hoping it will be somewhere close to Elmira so we can meet and talk about being sad and happy over tea and some kind of vegetarian snack.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Posters Were Five Dollars Each

Second day at the new school went much better than the first day. I have kindergarten classes! Two of them! It's been a while since I had to look over the desk and down to find the beaming little face. They're just as likely to hand you their shoe as their book, but they're so damned cute and enthusiastic that it doesn't really matter. One class has an Addison and an Edison, a Darien and a Darren, and a Jana and a Jenna, so not confusing at all. It's kind of funny how you develop a very close relationship with a very small segment of a school's population when you work one shift a week. When the first class came in, I explained that I was new and told them to correct me if I got any of the library procedures wrong. Then I outlined what I thought should happen, and the teacher at the back said "sounds like you got it down pat", but what I heard was "sounds like a goddamned plan", and I had to stop and process for a minute. As the class was winding down, I whispered to her what I had thought she said and now we're best friends.

Last week was the book fair (HI NICOLE). This is the first year I got paid to do book fair, after many, many, many years of doing book fair. I also went in on my day off to help, though, because even though it's a giant pain in the ass, I really love the book fair. It usually runs on the Thursday evening because parents come in to do parent teacher interviews and you can rake in the dough if you open for parents. The library tech couldn't stay late on Thursday so the principal and vice principal came to help me - this is not a regular occurrence. The principal is a funny, chill guy (former gym teacher). He would try to make the kids do math to figure out how much change he owed them. I feel sorry for anyone who has to do math under pressure so when he told them it was a life skill they would need out in the world, I helpfully told them "just get a phone". He found me delightful.

I feel pretty good, especially for November. I increased my antidepressant dosage back in September when I was having major extended lows, and I'm pretty much feeling the projected full effect right on schedule. I'm having a sort of different manifestation of anxiety, in that I feel like a thousand things are going on when really there are not that many things are going on (partly because my memory and focus are so iffy - thanks perimenopause - that if there are more than two things, I'm likely to lose track of at least one). But I'm happy. The kids are doing well, I'm really happy to have a little bit of work, my sister is coming for Christmas, and hanging out with my hilarious friends is really fun. If civilization wasn't crumbling around us, things would be damned near perfect.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Settling the Heck Down

So I fell off the NaBloPoMo wagon. Hard. In what would have been my tenth straight year. Part of me feels really bad about that, like it's a sign that I've given up on the only type of writing I've ever achieved something approximating success at, like I had a chance to keep something really meaningful going and I blew it. The other part of me thinks, Hmm, what else have I never done in any of those other nine Novembers?: Driven to New York and back regularly to visit my killing-it-at-college son; started a second job; hung out in Cabo for a week reconnecting with my long-suffering husband, drinking really excellent tequila, sexy-dancing with a nurse and a PR VP, riding a camel and being to all reports being a hands-down fabulous show wife; I've run out of things and I feel like there should be at least one more, but you get the gist.

So, as I said one year, sometimes you do it well and sometimes you just do it. As it turns out, sometimes you don't actually do it like you meant to. That's okay. There's still a decent stretch of November left for me to decide if I want to do this or if I'm doing it out of some weird superstitious compulsion that isn't actually healthy.

First day at my new job yesterday. It wasn't awesome. I took a Benadryl the night before which usually ensures that I sleep peacefully until 7:30. Instead I woke up at four, laid awake for a couple hours, then had a few really unpleasant dreams that should have had a violence and sex warning (although for once I looked nice with my hair in a ponytail), and woke up feeling drained and weird. I got to school and there was no login information for the library software system for me (it's entirely possible that this was my mistake, and in the future I'll know to email support before I actually go in). The library was set up for the book fair, and there was some confusion as to whether classes would actually be coming in, which was panic-inducing because, like I said, no login information, and then anti-climactic when no classes came in and I spent my first day just putting "Order Me" stickers on last copies for the book fair. I felt odd and out-of-place and sad.

On my drive home, I gave my head a shake. The few staff members I did meet (resource teachers whose offices are off the library) were lovely and welcoming. The school is a six-minute drive from my house. Because I have this job and not one at the public library, I work a few hours a week for a wage that will allow me to pay for some stuff like Bluesfest tickets and Christmas presents and vacations and tuition. And I have summers off.

I'm off today. I just made my home-from-college son an egg salad sandwich while we talked about Omega-3 acids, fish oils, subsidized housing, the flu shot, climate change, and Tupperware lids. Life is good, and I am settling the fuck down.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Desserts, Just and Less So

So I got the job. Either they liked me more than it seemed they did or I was the only applicant - which is fine, I'm not proud. To answer Steph's question (HI STEPH) it is to supplement my current gig, which is only one day a week at one school. This is on Mondays at a different school which is very close to my house; my ten-minute drive on Wednesdays is now my long commute. It's all kind of funny because years ago when I started my diploma, people were saying there was a projected library tech shortage for right now, and I would roll my eyes and say "yeah, okay, we'll see" and now postings are showing up fairly regularly on the job board. It's not a huge deal and it's not a large amount of money, but I do regularly feel very happy about the fact that I'm actually getting paid to do a job I went to school for because at one point in my life it seemed unlikely that that would ever happen. I suppose it's barely possible that having a classroom of seven-year-olds bellowing thank-you in French at the end of library time might get old some day, but I kind of doubt it.

I feel like I should write more, but I'm tired and my feet hurt and I really need to do laundry because none of my good bras are clean from the trip and my boobs were in full revolt by the end of work today. Oh, but this morning was the awards ceremony at Eve's high school. It was originally supposed to be last week so we were going to miss it, and then they re-scheduled, so we were really happy we could go. Since she was in grade nine last year, her group was first, starting at 9 a.m. We figured this would work out great, since Matt had to get to work to organize Bring Your Kid to Work Day because he's the most senior member in his group, and I would have lots of time to get Lucy to my parents and get to work after the ceremony. So we were going to be those parents, take a picture of our kid walking across the stage and then bolt for the doors. And her last name starts with an A.

Then as I'm sitting there waiting for the thing to start, my phone pings with the chimes of divine retribution and Eve texts: "Take a picture of M. getting her Honour Roll medal, because she didn't tell her mom and she's going to get murdered." Want to guess what her best friend's last name is? IT'S ZOUZOULAS.

I still made it to work on time. Barely. Served me right.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Day 13

I had another job interview this morning. It's another small position close by, but the resemblance to the last interview process sort of ended there. I sent in my application from Mexico from my husband's computer with a small degree of difficulty. The principal called me last night. Instead of just asking me to come in, she grilled me to a pretty high degree about stuff I thought was already in my cover letter and résumé. Then she said "are you applying to other positions?" and I thought oh! She's afraid I don't really want a one-day position or that I won't stay for long. I did my best to reassure her that I lack ambition and am very happy to work very little for the long term.

The last interview was a joyous happy frolic. I immediately loved the principal and v.p., we had a bunch of coincidental things in common, our purposes dovetailed nicely in that they were desperate for a library tech and I was one. The interview today was the usual drill - they give me a list of questions, fifteen minutes to jot down notes and then the principal and vice principal take turns reading me the questions and I answer. I don't love this process at the best of times - it's weirdly formal and stilted and I don't do well with that. Today was even worse because the questions were - how do I put this? - too grand. I'm fine talking about my education and training and how I deal with kids, parents and teachers, but when terms like 'vision' and 'initiative' and 'describe an example where you went to extraordinary measures to save the world' just make me want to roll my eyes and say "can we just cut the bullshit and be real?" Somebody was just talking on one of my Facebook groups about how she's excellent at her job but lacks polish. I feel the same - I'm not good at formal. I don't do well with situations where I feel like I have to be fake, and even though it seems like it shouldn't be a big deal to have to force it for a good reason, it is. It is a big deal. It makes me want to die. Oh well. It's good experience. I have a job already this time. It's fine.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Best-Laid Plans and All That

Wi-fi was spotty and Blogger refused to work any harder than I was in Mexico. I'm a tiny bit sad that my nine-year streak was wrecked. On the other hand, this trip was, despite an epically, comically, historically bad flight home (tiny plane with no leg room to begin with, man in front of me reclined his seat until my tray table was jammed into my boobs, family behind us with four kids, one of whom kicked my seat for four hours like it was his job, another of whom was the literal Screaming Baby, only three bathrooms in the back of the plane, which was blocked off with the service cart for most of the flight) such an incredible gift. I have apologized to my husband extensively for doing everything I could not to have to go (although not for mocking the Circle of Excellence thing, I still think that's hilarious).

Friday, November 9, 2018


Let’s be honest. We all knew blogging from Mexico would be a stretch. I thought at least I’d post a photo a day or something. But I suck at typing on my phone and, well.... tequila. I’ll make it up to you when I get home. 

Here’s some pictures of a cool statue. 


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Not at All Confusing 

Korean Street Tacos. In Denver. En route to Mexico. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Day 5

We're going to Mexico on a reward trip for my husband for being in a "Circle of Excellence" at work (will I mock him for something that nets me a free trip somewhere warm in November? Yes, yes I will. I'm not proud of it, but there it is). There's a website with numerous pictures of the beautiful resort, a detailed itinerary of all the fun things we get to do, and pictures of all the trip winners and their spouses.

So naturally I'm spending all my time obsessively poring over the pictures of the wives, who are all better-looking than me.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

That Feeling When

it's been raining for days and days and everything feels heavy and soggy and life is okay but distinctly Novemberish and then the week-end comes and there are plans but you really just want to hibernate and try to stay dry but you haul your ass onto the treadmill and out to the park and next door to your fabulous neighbour's birthday party because it's always a tremendous risk moving into a house where you plan to live for years and years and not knowing who you're going to be living beside, and finding out that they're amazing people whose kids will become friends with your kids and who will let you crash their new year's eve party when your kid has a stupid hockey game on new year's eve and who will lend you sugar or tomato sauce or a margarita when you need one is purest good luck to be treasured.

And you drink and laugh and stay up way too late and feel happy that your friend has other awesome friends. Then you come home and go to sleep and get up and your other friend has decided to smoke a turkey just for fun and the rain has stopped and you go and laugh and eat and don't drink because, well, limits, and the light is warm and the kitchen is full and you look around and realize that you are blessed beyond measure with everything anyone needs or wants for a full and happy life.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Day 3

I've been lacking exercise lately. I'm not beating myself up because things have been busy and I have been not feeling my best, so that's fine. Last night I had plans to walk on the treadmill but instead I cocooned on the couch and watched a really good British mini-series, so that was also fine.

Today I slept in and decided to get on the treadmill before showering. Usually I do five minutes slow warm-up and then try to go pretty fast for half an hour. Today I just stayed pretty slow and walked longer than usual and felt really good - my shoulder and feet and hips have all been cranky lately, and they all felt fine.

Lucy hates it when I'm on the treadmill - she sits at the closed basement door and whines the whole time. So I usually take her out at least for a short walk when I come up, even though I am sweaty and gross and my hair is tragic. It's been raining for what feels like all of recorded history here, but as I took her out it cleared a bit and the sun shone a bit and we met a sweet Dachshund wearing a sweater and it was all very lovely.

Then we entered the path between two houses that goes from the park into the little subdivision that brings us home and the wind picked up and I got smacked in the head really hard by a leaf. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Newbery Post: Crispin the Cross of Lead and Walk Two Moons

Yes, it's another entry in my slow-and-irregular Newbery Medal series - I hope no one was holding their breath. 

Last year when I was subbing in various libraries around the city, I would scan the shelves for Newbery books and read them at breaks. I found these two at Mutchmor Elementary School.

Crispin, the Cross of Lead by Avi (Newbery Medal Winner 2003): Synopsis from Goodreads:
"Asta's Son" is all he's ever been called. The lack of a name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in 14th century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less - no home, no family, or possessions. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If he wishes to remain alive, he must flee his tiny village. All the boy takes with him is a newly revealed name - Crispin - and his mother's cross of lead.

This was probably one of the best examples of a book targeted at the exact audience meant for the Newbery Medal books - middle-grade readers. There's not a whole lot of nuance, but for younger readers there is pathos, excitement, adventure, a suitably sympathetic and entertaining adult figure, and a big payoff of a plot reveal. There's enough history that you could write a paper on it and pull out a few impressive details about the period, as well as some good "compare your life to Crispin's" type of deal. 

So yeah, I wasn't blown away by this, but I think as a third-or-fourth-grader it would have held my interest. There were five Honor books that year (runners-up, essentially) and the only one I've read is Surviving the Applewhites. It's more contemporary and I probably liked it slightly more, but there's nothing wrong with getting kids to ingest a little historical knowledge with their fiction.

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech (Newbery Medal Winner 1995): Synopsis from Goodreads: "How about a story? Spin us a yarn."
Instantly, Phoebe Winterbottom came to mind. "I could tell you an extensively strange story," I warned.
"Oh, good!" Gram said. "Delicious!"
And that is how I happened to tell them about Phoebe, her disappearing mother, and the lunatic.

As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe's outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold — the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.

In her own award-winning style, Sharon Creech intricately weaves together two tales, one funny, one bittersweet, to create a heartwarming, compelling, and utterly moving story of love, loss, and the complexity of human emotion.

I really liked this one, pretty much from the beginning. It was not at all what I was expecting. As with many of the Newbery books, I'd been aware of the title for years, and I always assumed it was about an indigenous girl quite far in the past. Instead it's contemporary, about a girl named Salamanca tree whose mother has some Indigenous blood, and truthfully the borrowing/mashing up/mutilating of Indigenous themes has not aged well and is quite painful at times. There is something right about the expression "Never judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins", though (I think I read that the author found it in a fortune cookie). Sal's voice is strong and affecting and the dynamic between the two grandparents is really lovely. The author doesn't shy away from themes of loss and deep sadness, which I always think shows respect for young readers, who can often handle more than adults think they can. This was just a really great story - I cried at the end. Oh, but I have to mention that the teacher, Mr. Birkway, who is supposed to be a pivotal adult figure? He assigns journal writing to the class and then reads out embarrassing journal entries that are supposed to be private. It's all supposed to be in the name of revelation and empathy and shit, but if he did that to me, or my daughter? Heads would ROLL, people. Ahem. 

I also read a book called Firegirl by Tony Abbott from this library (the cover called out to me) and it was excellent. A girl disfigured by burn scars joins the middle-school class of Tom, the narrator, and predictably causes a stir. The author pitches the story just right, and I felt viscerally Tom's fear, discomfort, sympathy and torment as he tries to navigate reassessing his relationship with a selfish and opportunistic 'best friend' and being a friend to Jessica, facing customary fears about being accepted. It's not quite Wonder, but while I always appreciate a young readers' book that works on a lot of levels, there's something to be said for a book that addresses ten-to-twelve-year olds exactly where they are. 

Geez, book review posts are exhausting. On the other hand, I'm going to my awesome neighbour's birthday party tomorrow so expect a blurry picture of a margarita glass at best. Happy week-end. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How Much Can No Blo?

I apologize heartily for saying that blogging was dead, particularly because Swistle is still busy KILLING it. I think it's safe to say that NaBloPoMo is kind of dead, at least in its original incarnation, since BlogHer doesn't seem to be running it anymore. This matters not a whit to me, since when I started doing it I was just copying a fellow blogger and didn't even really KNOW what the deal was, I just thought it was a cool (and terrifying and horrible and stupid) idea. I've done it every year since, even when I think I'm not going to, even when I've been a completely slothful waste of space leading up to it, and I am nothing if not a creature of (usually bad) habit. It also brings something hopeful to November, that damp stale dishrag of a month, so here we go.

Please be advised that my habitual disclaimer stands: there will be a post every day. Not a good post. Not a long post. Just a post. I will pontificate on the minutest of minutiae. I will post about things that I should have posted about six months ago and in all fairness should have lost my chance to post about. I will pimp out my children and friends ruthlessly (not really ruthlessly. There will be a modicum of ruth. Damn, it would be really cool if I had a friend named Ruth).

Let's talk about Halloween. Where are you in the Halloween arc? I am mostly out of it regarding my children. Angus is away (we texted him and asked what he was going as and he said "a Canadian"). Eve dressed up for our friends' annual Halloween party and for school, made her costumes and slayed it, but just went over to a friend's house for the evening and handed out candy. Halloween used to really stress me out when I had to figure out who my kids were going trick-or-treating with and if I had to go and feel like a schmuck walking along not-too-close not-too-far, often in the rain or snow. Matt was often away so I had to figure out how to deal with trick-or-treating and handing out candy here. It was just a big logistics nightmare. Last night he was home and did most of the handing out, just calling me to the door if there were particularly cute costumes. It was kind of nice. I felt like maybe I SHOULD miss the kids going out, but didn't really.

She still carves the pumpkins.

Doll from Coraline

Moth and lamp. (I know, I know, properly speaking the expression is "like a moth to a flame" but apparently there's a meme right now and it had to be a lamp. I thought it was a pretty good repurposing of her old purple fairy wings).