Monday, September 1, 2014

The Summer of the Book

"I saw the world I had walked since my birth and understood how fragile it was, that the reality was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger."
--Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I've read alot this summer.
I've worked alot, too.
One thing I haven't done alot of is write. And it's been nagging at me.
All this time at work, all these hours spent. I'm spent. And no Maine holiday this year. That's been hard. Having Mike here in the summer, though, is the good part. He gets to enjoy the warm weather and holidays, long weekends and Toronto patios, how every person in Toronto will sit on a patio even if it is a cool summer day (and there have been many cool summer days this summer, believe me).

There's been some healthy rain storms, I've done a few good runs, I made it to New York for a long weekend and enjoyed a mini vacation, and other than work, commute, eat, sleep, run to boot camp and back, nursing my foot back to health, I've done little else but read. Book after book, hour after hour. Shut up inside while the world whirs on without me.

It's Monday morning, August, the "Sunday of Summer" is gone, I'm another year older, and here I am on this dusty blog thinking 'bout "what to think about", as the Barenaked Ladies song goes.

I've been tagged on FB this weekend to make book lists and read book lists and think about books and boy,  I have been, and this year of reading has been a real bumper crop, I have to say. I have had many book hangovers that have left me stupified with wonder and wrung out with tears, I have had books lodge themselves in parts of my soul, and I'm hard-pressed to pick a favourite, but the one by Neil Gaiman that I just finished, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is right near the top.

Again--mystical fiction, whatever that genre is called. Where the author creates their own alternate reality, but we go along with it, it makes perfect sense, especially as I read in the New York Times about medieval beheadings, and crucifixions in the desert, and war war war in far-off lands, lands that I only see in my imagination, the pictures almost too awful to be real. So the alternate reality is embraced. If the real world can be this brutal and terrifying, then a writer will always be able to re-frame it for me so I can hang a different picture in my head. One where I understand this thin layer of icing, made from powdered sugar, ready to pouf away at any time.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, a most alliterately-pleasing visual name, stands out of the pack, too. Joyful first love. Set against the backdrop of my own youth, the 80s, and a sad family life to go along with it. An amazing read, I promise you.

Along with reading is summer running, a different animal than its cousin, winter running. 
In summer, at least for me, I struggle with the heat, the bright sunshine, and the constant need for water. In winter, I tend to glide along, cold-weather-lover that I am.  A new running outfit and shoes have helped, but the summer cold I picked up after New York did not. I've been a beginner runner these last weeks--struggling mightily, but out there nonetheless, toiling. Digging at the soil, a gardener bringing a loved flower back to life. I'll get there.

So you have it. It's September, the back-to-school-back-to-brass-tacks time. Except there was no let up on the brass tacks for me this summer. I'm hoping for an autumn holiday sometime in the near future ('as soon as...' the promise I make myself endlessly).
Right now I'm on my second cup of coffee, doing some work from home on this Labour Day Monday, and re-organizing.

I hope your summer treated you well.....

Here are a few other titles I got into this summer;
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Don't Lets Go Down to the Dogs Tonight,
both by Alexandra Fuller. Curious books, the less-known Cocktail Hour one being my preference.

Once A Runner John L. Parker. A strange little book about running.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Aimee Bender. I talked about this one in my last post. Loved it. Such an odd premise for a book.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern--more psychological mind-bending fiction. A very visual, sensational book.

The Emperor's Children by Clarie Messud. Another weird read, lots of tangled relationships, a protagonist whom I didn't much like. But the book I liked very much.

I leave you with those. I find it hard to keep track sometimes with all the reading I do but Goodreads helps a bit.

One more small thing--on my birthday last Sunday I missed an international call late in the evening. Is it you, Aunt K, trying to reach me? I had hoped so...I miss you too.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Soul on a Mission

I've had a dreamy day, one where I removed myself from the pressures of everyday life and took time out to "just be".
I don't do it often enough.
I cleaned. I cooked (lunches for the week, dinner, all that good stuff).
I will guiltily admit that I have not, on this beautiful (hot) July day left my loft.
I'm also still wearing pajamas.
I didn't run in the rainy morning air because I actually managed to overdo it this week at bootcamp and my 4 during-the-week runs so my foot was hurting (a fact I was tearfully recounting to my patient acupuncturist yesterday at my appointment).

There.
Now you know everything.

I was reading most of the afternoon, an amazing little book that found me at the library this week.
"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake", by Aimee Bender, about a girl who can taste emotions in food and how it disrupts, then ultimately influences the course of, her life.
I loved it on many levels even if I didn't completely understand it.
I loved the detailed descriptions of the protagonist, Rose's, family of origin. Her quirky mother, her lawyer-dutiful-provider father, her remote, genius brother.
It belongs to a new genre of books called (I read this at the back of the book, fascinated) psychological fiction. Other books I would put in this genre would be The Time Traveller's Wife and The Age of Miracles, both of which I also loved. Novels where the author creates a situation that is impossible or improbable in reality, but forms part of the situation of the book and we suspend our disbelief and follow along.

I was then communicating with a good friend on the phone and we were discussing being conscious and turning 40 (I'm already there) and I admitted that lately, random mantras have been showing up in my head, like the one that arrived this week, about making the second half of my life more joyful than the first, with continued consciousness, of course, and honesty, and acceptance.

So that was Sunday. Me, on the couch, reading, ignoring the summer sunshine, making spaghetti sauce, absorbing a fictional family that I could relate to on every level, despite living a completely different childhood. The complex father-daughter relationship spoke to me throughout the book and I had a wistful feeling, remembering that there is no phone call I can now make to reach my father, that he exists in another place, somewhere far away, and in my memory, forever.

There was a scene in the book where Rose's father is teaching her to drive and telling her, in his awkward, distant way that so many men must have with their teenage daughters, how much she has to offer the world.

I cried then.
I'm crying now.
It's another 13th day.  Three years, one month. A lifetime ago, but just yesterday.

Enjoy Sunday, with all its nuances and its brief removal from the day-in-the-lifeness of life.
Respite, with all the trimmings.

"Don't carry the world upon your shoulders..." 
Hey Jude, The Beatles

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Randoms on Father's Day

My dad was a Beatles fanatic.
He was an extremely gifted piano player and had a collection of sheet music (where is that? I have to ask my mom).
He loved James Bond and Dirty Harry movies. And horror movies.
His ultimate indictment of a man  was to describe him as a "jerk". Truly. He didn't swear, but jerk was the  closest he came to a complete dismissal.
He liked to sleep on a lawn chair  in the backyard on weekend afternoons. He actually did that alot the last summer of his life, 2010, every day, after his radiation if there was time.
He liked to grill food on the bbq (classic Dad thing to like, right?) Hot dogs were his favourite.
He walked every day to stay in shape.

It's been an extremely bizarre day for many reasons, one of which is that  today I  had  to learn a lesson about family and how suddenly things can change in life (it's a lesson I've learned before but apparently need constant refreshers on).
I had to learn about the 'best  laid  plans' (again) today and understand that even perfectly lovely pre-summer June days have surprises in store for us, and people's behaviour will always surprise you.
That there is benevolence all around and  even  amongst the thieves and charlatans of this world, there is a high ratio of  wonderful helpers--doctors, police, ambulance drivers.
That you'll rise to the occasion when called to, you really will.
You think you won't but you will.

I'm home now, I  just picked up a coffee, it's another endlessly long June day, filled with daylight, that makes me wonder  how we as Canadians endure our long dark winters. For me it's not the cold--it's the dark. Especially when contrasted with this overdose of light we experience and the burst of energy that comes along with it.

So that's Sunday. I promised an update and I did it. I also ran this morning,  a slow  amble with a couple of hills thrown in there, just to see if I could do it (I could).

I sweated and  smiled and felt myself inch  toward that recovery a little more with each step.

For now I'm sitting in my light-filled apartment, leafing through photo albums marvelling at how fast time has gone.

A reminder to cherish each moment, even the tough ones.





Saturday, June 14, 2014

Halfway

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it."
~ Bill Cosby

"The medals don't mean anything and the glory doesn't last. It's all about your happiness."
~ Jackie Joyner-Kersee

 
Well I did it. I ran a half-marathon.
It was gruelling, it was emotional (reading Ben Bruce's account of his amazing marathon win at the San Diego Rock-n-Roll--he underlined this--running long distances is emotional. You are IN your head, with no way out), it was enlightening (how does anyone run a full marathon? I have a new respect), and it was an accomplishment.
Spirit reigned, my mantras left me, and all in all, as accomplishments go, this one was up there with my college graduation, like "me? I did this?"
 
Confession: I started this blog post over a week ago, when I was still fresh off the 'high' of it all, and then, of course "real life" interferes, intertwines, dictates.
This blog has been buzzing in my head lately, I've been thinking about my writing (or complete lack thereof) alot.
It goes hand-in-hand with my running, I have to say.
The word I keep thinking about is
recovery.

Writing was (has been, is) here for me at a time in my life when things were hard, life was roller-coasting, and I needed an outlet. So too, running. And now, after the goal being reached, for running, of finishing the half, I find myself needing to recover. And this blog has seen recovery too. It witnessed me witness my father's cancer. It saw me through my grief, not only of his death (three years ago yesterday, more about that in a mintue) but also through losing my aunt. Yesterday also marked three years since I've heard her voice, either, another kind of death, feeling just as permanent.

The last 13-odd days since the half, I've run only in fits and starts. 3 km runs, when I was accustomed to 12. And I can barely get through the 3's. Just like this blog--in 2011 I had one of my most prolific years of writing (and running) and of course that was due to the grief--focussing my thoughts, sharpening my time, razoring my priorities.

Nowadays work owns the joint. The joint being my life. Family takes up the other nothing-percent. My long-distance marriange included in that. Reading, keeping up with friends and getting through a training program during the coldest winter/spring in years dominated the rest.

But still, my neglected writing nags me.

Lately, post-race, as I go for tiny little jogs (one morning this week I was up and out by 6:46am and as I ran a short 2-mile distance in a cloud/sun mix, I completely zoned out I was so tired).
So to replace my long runs, I've been reading about running and all things that surround it, care of Runner's World--my friend H. turned me on to this columnist--Kristin Armstrong, writer of Mile Markers, about all things life-and-running-related. Namely, how running colours your life and helps the hard days get easier and the easy days soar, and also how running (just like writing) likes to kick your ass when you least expect it, likes to keep you guessing, working, practicing--knowing that getting rusty is just one missed run, one unfinished blog-post away.

So here I am.

Back to training. In writing and in running. It takes discipline, something I've poured so much into with my professional life I don't have much left over.  It takes practice. Knowing that if you don't run that track or climb that hill or jot in that journal, you will fall off the wagon very quickly. Your fitness will suffer, your prowess will disappear.

So I'm committing. To writing, to running, to using this summer as a time not to slack off, but to re-commit myself to being disciplined, even if it just means that 2 miles at 6:46 am or a blog post after I get home from work detailing what I had for dinner.

For the present moment, here's a snapshot of life today;
Yesterday was the three-year anniversary of my dad's death, the 13th of June, this year Friday the 13th. Last night it was also a full moon, and I spent the evening at a work event that should have been dull but ended up fun. It was a cancer benefit, and during the speeches I dug my fingers into my palm to keep from crying. Tomorrow is Father's day, and I haven't quite decided how I'm spending it yet.
Somehow, alone might be right.
I ran today. I also went into the office and cleaned my work space. No one will believe what my office now looks like come Monday morning (I can scarcely believe it myself).
I grocery-shopped. I'm planning on making a nice dinner for myself.  I am sitting at my desk in the bright June evening light having a glass of Canadian wine. I'm wearing summer pajamas.
I'm by myself, having had no time alone, to reflect, on a weekend, in a number of months (I was on vacation for two weeks in May and it does not even seem possible I haven't talked about going to New York City for the second time and how it seemed like a different place from the fog I was in in 2010. Truly unbelievable).

So yes. Life goes on. Life is short. Life is long. Life is good. Life is hard. Life is all those things, it is this paradox of watching it race by and at the same time holding on to the moments, that arrive and drift away in the same breath.

I leave you with this scene from my half-marathon, around the 12 km mark (well before 18 km, where a snapshot in time would find me weeping with exhaustion, twin blisters on the insides of my feet making me want to scream). But at 12 km, there was a young musician, playing a classical instrument (my memory of this instrument is dim--I want to say saxophone? Cello?) and as I approached, iPod cranking out the playlist, I could still hear the strains of his playing--I paused my iPod to hear it.
Beatles, of course.
Hi Dad.
I miss you.
So much.

 
 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Happy Mid-New Year

 
 
For many reasons, I love the date of June 1st.
I love leaving winter/spring behind.
 
It's an auspicious date for many reasons, more of which I will talk about in the follow up to
this little post, my first since March (the shame..the shame).
 
Let me say this;
the above photo was taken on my condo rooftop yesterday, on June 1st, just a few short
hours after I finished my first half-marathon, which was a goal I set for myself back in 2012, before
I learned the true definition of the word "migraine".
 
Anyway, the half and its lead-up deserves its own post, its own details, and I'll get into that later.
For now, let me say I'm tired, but I'm happy, and this is my favourite photo ever taken of
Mike and I. Because I look just that.
Tired, and happy.
 
(*taken with a timer setting on Mike's camera).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Been a While

1. It's Sunday morning, I've been lazing for hours, that internal debate raging: do I go into the office and sacrifice Sunday to "the man".  Do I go for a long run now...or later? Can I motivate myself to run today, tired, Sunday-angsted me.
2.  I had a very large coffee, some yogurt, and a piece of buttered bread, standing in my kitchen, and I made lunch for today in case I DO go to the office but then I thought...what to do next? I looked around my (messy, truly) loft and thought about tidying. Sighed. Sat down. Signed in here.
3. I haven't been blogging or even checking in on my blog, or other blogs. I've been reading here and there, as always.  I finished The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud, and I've started on Moonlight Sonata in the Mayo Clinic, a kind of illness memoir interspersed with randoms about medicine.  I'm not sure how I feel about this book yet.  It's by Nora Gallagher if you want to check it out, and for the record, she seems like a bit of a self-obsessed person. I kind of don't like her. Which is affecting my perception of the book.
4.  I have 5 issues of the New Yorker on my kitchen counter, unopened, just sitting there. So ashamed. On an upnote, that means I've picked up my mail in the last three weeks.
5.  I re-read Madness by Marya Hornbacher. What a read, about her battle with bi-polarism and its toll on her life.
6.  I am continuing to train, half-assedly, for this half-marathon on June 1st. Admittedly, I've been good about my kms and recording them. Yesterday was a wind-blown run, very windy, my least favourite condition, uphill, all that.  I ran by the track and noticed, finally, that I could actually see it, the snow had melted enough.  Glimpses of earth, yellowed grass, smells of earth (and of people's dogs' poo, gross, pick up after your damn dog).  After the windy part was over I noticed it wasn't biting cold and the sun felt warmer. I've honestly forgotten that feeling.
7.  On another up note, I went grocery shopping with my mom yesterday so I don't have to do that today. I can meal-prep to my heart's content, and get my whole week of eating planned out.
8.  Am I having more coffee? Because that's what I'm leaning towards right now.
9.  Canada Blooms/Home Show ends today. I went on Wednesday with a co-worker. The Home Show was disappointing, but Canada Blooms was amazing. All those flowers, all those trees, outdoor spaces inside. Orchids, my favourite plant (a relative of the vanilla bean, did you know? Fun fact).
Apparently at the end of the show they give away flowers. That would be today.
10.  Laundry.  Cooking.  Banking.  Washing the floors. Doing my taxes.   Those are also all things that need to get done today.

Happy Sunday. I won't say "Spring" just yet because, well, really, it doesn't feel like it,  I mean, it's minus 8 degrees celsius, and last week on my Sunday run, I couldn't feel my toes for a while, something that rarely happens to me. It was awful.

Happy Sunday anyway. :)


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Short 'n Sweet

1. It's Tuesday. And it's still winter. I know you already know, but it's here, it's dark, I'm living it, and I had that feeling driving to work this morning like it's NEVER GOING TO END.
2. Tooth pain. Tooth problems. Horrible. Awful. Hot. Cold. The dentist. Ouch.
3. Kitchens. And business stuff.  The business stuff is kind of killing my creativity and I kind of need that to design kitchens. I need alot of it, really.
4. Olympics. I'm not watching them, ok? It's my own personal boycott, I'm not going to talk about it (maybe on Facebook and Twitter) and I'm not going to judge the athletes for competing because they've trained and trained and it's not their fault that Russia got chosen. But still. Still. Canada. I'm disappointed.
5. Work. More work. Oh my God.  I can't believe I have not gone south yet this year.
6. I'm drinking wine. It's Tuesday, it's supposed to snow tomorrow, and I have brought about 10 files home to possibly work from home tomorrow. I am not repeating last Monday's drive to work again--ie, me, driving up the Bayview extension, and then..sliding right back down again (watch out cars behind me..)
7. Creativity. I have been looking at decorating magazines. I mean..I got nothin' right now.
8. Winter running. Last weekend: Stomach flu. This weekend: Tooth pain and husband visiting. Two weeks off. Let the self-loathing begin. To defend myself I'm still kickboxing every Wednesday, after giving myself the "you paid for it, YOU'RE GOING" self-pep-talk.
9. Reading. The New Yorker. Loving it. I'm three weeks behind and trying to catch up fast.  Next on the list; Clare Messud. Two of her books, The Emperor's Children and  The Woman Upstairs. I'm excited  about finding a new writer.
10. I'm white pale right now. And I don't like it. I also have a new hair dryer, which I will be testing out tomorrow morning. I don't know Groupon's return policies, but they're getting it back if I don't like it, (like the flatiron I bought--terrible.)

Happy Mid-week....