Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas All

Having remained uncharacteristically silent during Advent, I come to you from a house where, despite chaos and a lack of both order and readiness, Christmas is nearly arrived. I love the inevitability of it...the point at which (24 hours from now, to be exact) nothing more can be done. The messy laundry room will stay as it is until the New Year. At which time, I'm sure, my seasonal deacquisition mania will hit hard: local thrift shops will stagger under the onslaught.

I suspect I might spend half Christmas week in tears. Though I'm not a gloomy person in general, my retrospective on 2013 will inevitably be a little sad.

My friends, may yours be happy.

Good Yule!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Tower of Power

You're talking to the new Associate, Assistant, Local, Regional, District Commissioner Thingy (must look up my actual title) of the newest branch of the Canadian Pony Club! We have been in operation for about 3 weeks, and have 22 members. Lemme tell you, it isn't easy to find that many Manuals. I've found the odd copy in used bookstores locally, running between $15 and $20. (Wha???) They're good and cheap in the UK, but the shipping will get you.

Aside from late nights spent staring at Abe Books and feverishly calculating exchange rates, I've been getting my Christmas shopping out of the way and making difficult decisions like red sparkly tissue or white snowflake tissue. (White snowflake, thanks for asking.) Lots of the shipping is already done but I have a few long-distance packages still to dispatch.

What with the everything, I didn't do much Christmas knitting this year - a little, but I'll show you that in the new year.

What's everybody else up to?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Man Up.

Things that don't take nearly as long to DO, as the amount of time you spend moaning about having to do them:
1-unloading the dishwasher
2-cleaning the guinea pig's cage
3-taking the empties back
4-changing the toner cartridge
6-making the risotto PROPERLY
7-grooming the dog
8-writing a blog post.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

532 1/2

I turned forty on Wednesday. Usually International Day of Shan is heralded by a certain amount of fanfare (by me) so it's impossible to miss. This time, I never got a chance to write a post.

My sister Gwen paid me the enormous compliment, and gave me the beautiful gift, of coming to see me for my birthday week. Between them, she and Mr HalfSoled Boots sorted out child-minding details, budgets, and travel plans, and she was able to whisk me away to Victoria overnight on my birthday, just the two of us. We left on the morning of the 16th, and checked into a downtown hotel. We walked around the city for a few hours, had a pint, then walked back and got dressed up for dinner at 8. (What a civilized hour for dinner! Family life dictates an earlier mealtime, and in the past 12 years I have missed the elegance of evening dining.)

Dinner was revelatory. Brasserie l'Ecole was everything Yelp told us it would be, and more. We spent three eternal hours there, and talked and drank and ate amazing food, and hugged a complete stranger (sitting behind me; Gwen spotted the candle on her dessert and I introduced myself as another birthday girl - she is exactly one year older than I). We unabashedly told the server our wine budget and asked her to give us something amazing, and she did. We had brandy, coffee, and crème brûlée. (The best we've ever had. And that's saying something.)

Victoria was my home for a little over a decade. Between the ages of 17 and 29 I lived in it, loved it, inhabited it in the best sense of the word. I never took it for granted, always let it amaze me. I kept myself close to the centre of it, 15 minutes' walk from the Inner Harbour downtown, so that I could feel its pulse and avoid falling prey to the negativity that comes from commuting and parking struggles. I knew a lot of people in Victoria who never went downtown just because they didn't like driving among the buses, noise, and crowds of pedestrians. But in a city, when you don't drive, you are like a little bee among a herd of elephants. You just rise gently above, and go your way at your own speed, while they jostle and bump up against each other and sit annoyed, waiting.

I used to spend a lot of time downtown on my own. I would set out from my apartment, and walk all over the place, with no destination and no schedule. I had nowhere I had to go, hardly any money, no watch, and (it was the early 1990s) no cell phone. On one particular afternoon, when I was about 19 or 20 years old, I found a wrought iron gate in the middle of a brick building in Chinatown. Wrought iron gates (full-height, as a regular door) are not unusual in historic districts, but they are generally closed and locked. This one was standing open, affording an alluring glimpse of a narrow, dark alley, at most a meter wide, leading into a sunlit courtyard.

There was no signage, no indication of whether or not this alley was open to the public. But an open door, I reasoned, was an open door, and so I walked through it.

The confined, cool dark of the brick alley was like an otherworldly transition from the noisy street. Just a few steps inside it, the damp age of the bricks muted the traffic noise and the airless, car-exhaust smells. It might have been about 50 feet through the little tunnel, and then I found myself blinking into sunlight in the silence of a court. There were corners and lamp posts, and small iron gates behind which bikes were chained up in little green gardens. Doors, and stairs, and more bricks, and yellow walls and black lamps, and sun filtering through leaves of tall bamboo and red maple. There were no offices, no shops, just these beautiful doors and gates and the wrapping quiet that ran over and around and between everything, and made my solitary moment go on and on.

I stood and watched it all, watched the nothing that was happening over and over, listened to the birds and the rush of distant cars - impossibly distant for how close they really were. I turned around and around, and took the whole place as far into my memory as I could, in those days before everyone had a camera with them at any moment. I stayed as long as I felt like I could stay. The faint sound of a radio, and the quiet clink of spoon in cup, told me that these were private homes, and I didn't want to intrude too long on the perfect, beautiful, zen-like paradise owned by someone else.

Returning to the street, I felt the refreshed, peaceful feeling of having been away from the world. I walked onwards up the street, my back to the harbour gulls, against the tide of tourists clutching pamphlets: their walking shoes tightly laced, their cameras full of film, their heads full of notable landmarks and bus timetables.

I don't know why, but I never found it again. Once or twice I thought I had, but the gate was locked, or the street didn't look quite the same. I had the beautiful memory of the place, but never had the sight of it.

On Wednesday, my birthday, Gwen and I walked and walked. We fell into the kind of quiet, pensive state in which things come to you: realizations, memories, epiphanies. Of course, because we were not looking, and I was not even remembering, we came upon a wrought iron door, standing open to a narrow, brick-lined alley.

I didn't even realize, until we emerged in the courtyard, exactly where we were. Firstly, we had come through the north side -- the court has two alleys, one leading north and one leading south. Twenty years ago I had both come and gone through the south alley, as the north gate was locked. And then, over the years I had subconsciously come to believe that this place was a chimera - my own private Narnia. I had walked hundreds of kilometers on Victoria streets since the day I found it, and no matter how far into the city I went, the wardrobe was always just a wardrobe.

The years have changed this place, as everywhere else, and now there are several businesses installed in the ground floors of the courtyard. The internet, in its mania for information and its boorish, insistent removal of mystery, has given us directories, city plans, maps and even street-views. A few seconds after I tell you the name of this place, you could be standing on the sidewalk outside, peering into the brick alleyway, and moving, virtually, meter by meter along the narrow way. You could view some posh photos, and real estate listings, check the property taxes, and order something from the Victoria Seed Bank.

But walking there again, 20 years or so after the last time, I was given a moment of emotional beauty that Google can't provide. It connected me with my former self. Those few brick-lined steps pushed back the veil that has gradually dropped over the long, free, walking days. That veil is made of family, marriage, children, distance, and money - the getting of it and the giving away - and it obscures everything until all I can see is layer on layer of obligation.

On my birthday, I stood there with my sister, my long life-companion, and remembered myself.

People make jokes about turning forty. For me, turning forty is not funny at all. It's not sad, and it's not comic; although it may turn out to be profound. My sister and I shared a tiny little journey in the midst of the longer, more complicated, joyous and painful one we've been on for 38 years together. It was momentous. It was a watershed week - full of realizations about time and love: the nature of love of all kinds.

It made me see that in many respects, I have some growing up to do. And it's been coming for a while. Parts of my life should be past and aren't - I should release them into the past. Some parts of my life that have been past, deserve to be brought forward again and dusted off. Some habits are not worthy of me and they can cease. Some things, which I know full well I should, I do not. And some I know I should not and yet I do.

Last time I turned over a new decade was significant, but it was subsumed in the newness of family...I had a 2 year old and was expecting a baby. It was hardly time to think of myself. This time, I have another ten years of hard-earned and painful experience which, if I allow it, can guide and inform my direction from this point on.

So I'm drawing myself up to my full height, and facing a new decade with a good set of tools. I'm looking forward to my forties, if not with the crazy self-centered happiness I had planned, at least with the confidence that the changes I need to make on myself, I am well able to make.

Whenever I'm in the garden, looking around at the hundreds of things that need attention, I often say to myself, "What needs money will have to wait, but what can be done with work, will be done." It took me a surprising amount of time to see that this philosophy doesn't only apply to the garden.

Gwen, thank you for the amazing gift. You gave me your time, your attention, and your care, and showed me love in tangible ways I'll never forget. Our birthday present visit ended up being a turning point for me, and I can't think of anyone who could have more perfectly shared the day.

I'd rather be half-done with you, than just starting out with anyone else.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Book Book

Well, well. It HAS been a while since I reviewed a book!

I've got two how-to's for you today. Let's tidy The Butler Speaks out of the way first, shall we?

This is a neat little book, comprising everything you need to know to make your life more serene and classy. Charles McPherson, butler to some very posh people in his day, has put a career's worth of tips and tricks into this one volume - you get to find out exactly what you're meant to do with that weird shaped fork, the correct way to clean a fridge (you're probably thinking, as I did, "There's an incorrect way?"), and just what your next party needs in order to be the event of the season. (Some very good ideas here, specifically - mostly along the lines of FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T FUSS.)

At first glance I like it quite a lot, but I'm not sure that this book is a success, overall. It's got loads of useful information, sure, but much of it would only apply to a certain class of folks. (Hint: not our kind of class, at all: unless you're the type who makes seven figures, always sits in the back seat of your car[s], and lives far, far closer to the Atlantic than the Pacific.) He means well, but the tone is a little superior for me. It's meant to be, of course -- I'm sure others would find him perfectly amiable. I'm not the target audience for this book, though he tries to insist that his edicts are universally applicable.

HalfSoled Boots' Book Rating System:
Reread? Parts, maybe: I like his instructions for making a bed.
Give To Others? Not really.
Bookplate? No.

Oddly enough, and I never thought I'd say this: Martha Stewart does a little better in the "fix up your life" game than Charles does. Her Living the Good Long Life is more conversable, more practical and down-to-earth: altogether a more realistic collection of advice, especially for your everyday, average type of person. In this book, she is aiming at bettering the daily lives of the elderly. Of course, in her comprehensive career she has addressed herself to almost every age group: baby, child, young adult, middle-aged power earners. It's only natural that, she herself having reached her 70s, she would turn her laser beam gaze on senior citizens.

Lots of good stuff, though - small practical things like "never put anything on stairs, ever", and "if you see a wrinkle, put cream on it", along with more serious items of advice like "get a colonoscopy" and "your home is not a shrine to your children". I am not 70 (soon, though), but I found a couple of interesting tips and tricks in this book, and I use them now. (For instance I'm putting cream on my wrinkles, though I'm not sure it's helping.)

My only complaint about this book is that there is sometimes a faint whiff of taking care of business - as if this was the only demographic which had, until now, not felt the benefit of Martha's caring, if slightly obsessive, eye. It feels a little like tidying up loose ends.

I'll be hanging on to this one, though, because I like the honest and practical approach to aging. I like the idea that there are specific and concrete things that elders can do, and that we can do for our elders, to make the last decades of life more pleasant and comfortable.

Reread: Yes.
Give to Others: Likely.
Bookplate: Sure.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Remembrance of Things Past

I spoke to my homeopath last month, and ended up rhapsodising on the subject of ice cream. I guess I got a little carried away, because he suddenly leaned across the table and said "This is your next career."

I laughed in his face.

Nothing daunted, he repeated "This is your calling, I'm serious. Look how passionate you are about ice cream!" Which, in itself, was a little depressing.

But really, he might be right: I can't stop thinking about it.

Today I am finishing off an experimental batch of [deep breath] Spiced Brandied Plum and Vanilla Bean. I got two bags of Italian plums from my neighbour last week, and used a pound or two to make a cinnamony, anise-scented compote, which I then pureed and chilled while I made a base custard with 5 egg yolks and 2 cups of cream. Today is churning day: whisk the two together, add a few tablespoons of St Remy VSOP, and freeze for a few hours.

I'm a bit worried - is it spicy enough? Maybe I should have infused the cream with anise, too? Did I use enough clove? It's all very fraught.

I will take a picture of the finished product to show you guys next time.

The reason for all this ice cream nonsense, and my incredible preoccupation with things like exactly how much alcohol can a custard hold without losing its body, and whether my next boozy batch should have 6 or 7 yolks instead of 5? is that Avery has been on an insulin pump for one week and it has been a traumatic transition. As my homeopath asserts, my consuming obsession with ice cream is just a manifestation of my longing for simpler times.

The pump itself is awesome. The sites are so-so. The BG numbers are HORRIBLE and I wish the docs would change things up so she is not running in the high teens all the time. But it's early days yet, and they need to get some baselines established, so.

Both my kids are terribly sick with a viral cold, and that skews the glucose too. Luckily, the kids HATE my special ice cream flavours, so at least I can congratulate myself, in that respect, for not exacerbating the problem. (It's all for me! All!!)

And, this past week was the beginning of fall and the anniversary of Sandy's death. I find myself wishing she were here again, just so she could feel sorry for us, spoil Avery (her goddaughter), and eat ice cream with me.

DARN it all, stupid cancer anyway.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Busy August

This month really flew past us. I haven't really had a moment to breathe since July 24, when a 12 year old houseguest arrived for three weeks here in her hometown - a total of eight nights spent with us. She was travelling on her own, and anyone who has been responsible for someone else's kid for any length of time, knows that it is a very different kind of stress.

After that, we spent a week volunteering the HECK out of the RCMP Musical Ride, which was touring Vancouver Island. It was great fun, and enormously interesting, but I've never worked so hard in all my life. It started a week before the Ride got here, when my two children, two other young teen riders, and myself prepared stalls for the horses, at the local showgrounds. We filled 36 stalls with sawdust: 4 wheelbarrow-fulls per stall. That is a LOT of shovelling.

After that, it was five 8-12 hour days spent running around at the showgrounds with general dogsbody-type duties, and then another day spent mucking out the 36 stalls once the horses had left. But my kids got some great experience working with an equestrian show, and they also made good friends with an officer or two: not all the riders were friendly, but this one was marvellous and has kept in touch with us since she left.

She let the kids clean her tack, too, which was way more than we were expecting.

And I fell in love with a nice horse, Dave, who looks daft in this photo because I am giving him my horse-whisperer move: scratching inside his ear.

Once that was over, we plunged into a barn move -  my daughter's coach has bought a new property and we have been working feverishly to get the new barn habitable (it was not a well-run stable previously). We spent days tearing down fences, digging out paddocks, painting, cleaning, and dealing with wasp infestations.

The move was supposed to take two months, and has ended up being accelerated - we had ONE crazy month to get everything ready, vacate the old property, and settle all the horses. The horse transfer happens later this morning - happily the new barn is only 4 kilometers from the old, so the senior students will ride them to their new location. It's a nice way to relocate them, as opposed to trailering.

That's me, checking whether my red paint job was as awesome as I thought it was.

Then, last weekend, it was the hunter-jumper show, and my daughters were both competing. Now, a horse show - THAT'S a stressful experience. We camped there, because we had to be prepping horses by 5:30 AM and it seemed simpler, not to mention more fun. But, it poured rain on our tent all night, and I spent half the night shuttling children to and from the port-a-potty, so plans might change next year.

Then I had two days to get my daughter's 12th birthday SURPRISE party was a farewell-to-the-old-barn party: the guests were the other students, the coaches, and the boarders. It was a fun time, and I got some good pictures which I haven't put on my computer yet!

It has rained almost all of August, and we are mentally very ready for fall. I can't wait, actually - it's a nice and restful, though busy, time for me.

Bring on September!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes.

Watching a slideshow on Facebook, of a birth replete with oxygen masks, monitors, and hospital gowns, Avery wrinkled her brow and said this:

“Why would you have a baby in a hospital instead of at home? I mean imagine if you were a baby and the first thing you ever saw was this big beeping thing. Or a lady in an oxygen mask. The first thing I ever saw was my mom and a pool in the bedroom. But I was lucky.”

So funny.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Facebook - the new blogger?

I find I post a lot of things on Facebook, now, that in times past I would have put on the blog. I think with being tired and busy, it's easier just to pop a photo onto Facebook straight from my phone, without having to go through the process of adding text into a post window. On the plus side, I've got a lot of photos to save you the trouble of reading! Win-win.

I took the kids to the pool again tonight, and made another stab at the jump shot. Did a little better this time:

This is one of my favourite ways to spend time in the summer - sitting by the pool deck, book in hand, looking up every now and again to count heads, and just steeping in the atmosphere. The kids in the pool are all splashing, calling, yelling, and laughing. The lifeguards, all sun-bronzed skin and sun-bleached hair, take turns plugging their reggae-filled iPods into a huge portable stereo. On the other side of the chain link fence I lean against, swing chains squeak and children run through gravel. Together, there is nothing more soothing: the happy, dreamy, endless noise of summer for me.

Today, I left "I Capture the Castle" at home and instead worked on the gansey vest.

Sometimes I take off my glasses and then everything looks exactly like this photo: the only thing in focus is the wool and the needles.

And here is my Dad, who walked in to my kitchen as I was making him dinner last week, and took me literally when I suggested he grab an apron and make himself useful. He chose my daughter's Frosted Cupcake apron, and made himself useful by being hilarious in a number of kitcheny scenes and poses.

This is a complete fake. The only thing he is looking for in the fridge is a photo-op.

Dad is stirring a big bowl of nothing, so fast that his hand is blurry. AWESOME.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Highest, Hottest

Today I was remembering the brief run of daily posts I put up at the end of last year, and how easy it felt to post every day. There weren't necessarily a lot of comments, but even without the dialogue it was an interesting process.

We've been keeping really busy this summer, with lots of barn time and play dates. The weather has been spectacular, so we're going to try camping soon. We won't go for long - three nights or so - but I think it will do Avery's blood sugar a lot of good to spend a few days running around outside. 

This picture was meant to be a lot more interesting, but the shutter speed on my phone camera let me down again.

I'm working on some projects for Christmas. I've got a gansey going - have just divided for the armholes. It will be a vest rather than a full sweater, because the recipient gets hot easily and doesn't like sleeves too much. I'm knitting it on 2.5 mm needles so it felt a bit slow at first, but really it has progressed quickly. Here is the swatch.

And over the past six months I have been making ice cream. I'm disproportionately obsessed with it. I literally lie awake nights dreaming up new flavours. Like I have a plan for a truly stunning and completely original flavour, which I can't even share with you because I'm hoping to get rich off of it someday. But here is my margarita ice cream - lime, salt, and tequila.

Carolyn, you remarked that Canadians measure blood sugar differently. You're quite right. A U.S. blood glucose number is (randomly) 18 times a UK or Canadian number. So when Avery was running between 17 and 22 (UK or Canadian) for four days, in the US she'd have measured at between 306 and 396.

It's nice to be talking to everyone again!

Friday, July 19, 2013

'chronic': adj, syn 'ongoing'

"It's life, Jim, but not as we know it."

Since Avery was diagnosed, we've had some frightening days. She had a four-day sustained high, for example, when we could barely get her blood sugar below 17.5 no matter what we did. The pediatrician told us to throw out the insulin cartridge and start using a new one. It worked: somehow, the third vial out of a 5-vial blister-strip pack, was ineffective. I had only changed it less than a week before, so it wasn't old...??

Anyway. Who knows?

Then, Avery had a low one night at eleven o'clock. I treated the low (liquid sugar followed by a carb-protein snack) but ten minutes afterwards, she threw up, and went low again. I was out of juice, and out of pop. She drank a few tablespoons of maple syrup, and then threw up. I mixed up some powdered iced tea, and she drank it, and then threw up.

After two hours and seven low treatments, enough of the sugar had absorbed despite the vomiting, to bring her her blood sugar up high enough that I let her go to sleep.

Today Avery's pediatrician began the process of getting her an insulin pump. There is a certain amount of learning that must take place before a family 'qualifies' -- they want to be sure you are not under the impression that the pump will make your life easy. You have to understand the effects of food, exercise, sleep, insulin; all things that affect blood glucose. Once you can manage it 'old school', you can ask for the luxury of a short-cut.

I'm pleased that the BC government is so selective about which patients are 'candidates' for pump therapy. This is a $7000 device, and the disposable infusion sets, changed every 2 to 3 days, are $20 each. I'm a taxpayer too, and I like knowing that, as far as possible, families are assessed as to their ability to use it responsibly.

It's hard to manage this disease. It's all a question of damage control - you are always a few steps behind, playing catch-up. My hope is that the insulin pump frees her up a little bit. It would be great if she could eat without a conspicuous injection, or if she could skip a meal that she really doesn't want.

It looks like she'll get her pump in September. First we have to decide on a model (I think our decision is nearly made), and then the pediatrician will order it and we'll begin training. Normally it wouldn't take that long, but it's summer and, between his holidays and ours, September is not far away.

I want to thank everybody for chiming in, in the comments. I really appreciate your words, and your positive thoughts, good vibrations, and prayers...all have come in useful in the past few months.

Next time I won't be away so long. I'm beginning to see that we're all going to be okay, and that someday there may even be time to do some housework, write a letter, sew a dress, bake a cake, read a novel, and decorate for Christmas. After all, you can't just stop everything, can you? 

You gotta bash on regardless.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

And then you shift your priorities.

This blog has been pretty quiet for the past month. Sometimes I get busy and I post a lot, and then sometimes I get busy and I don't post at all. Most of the time it's because life has gotten hectic with small things - rarely with One Big Thing.

But this time it was One Big Thing. My daughter Avery, whose real name I'm using here for the first time, got very sick on the last weekend of April, with what I thought was a stomach bug. On the third night, when the vomiting started again and she had been hyperventilating for several hours and the bad feeling I had just wouldn't go away, I took her to emergency.

Within about 3 minutes the triage nurse had it figured out. At first he thought she was hyperventilating from anxiety after all the vomiting. You could see, too, that she was badly dehydrated. She breathed into a paper bag for about 45 seconds while he was asking me her date of birth and so on, and suddenly she took the bag off her face and gasped, "I might throw up." He smelled her breath and reached for a glucometer.

Do mothers go into denial sometimes? Absolutely we do. I had noticed the frequent urination over the past couple of weeks, but I had put all my anxiety into the kidney disease fact I had decided to ask her doctor to order a 24-hour urine collection.

But as soon as I saw what he had in his hand, I knew what the bad feeling was. Once or twice over the past month I thought "She's been up to pee twice tonight. Diabetes? No, don't be silly. Don't overreact."

Her blood sugar was 23.5.

It's a surreal feeling to see an entire emergency room unit scramble into action at 3 AM, because your daughter has a stomach bug. It's a surreal feeling to sit next to your 9 year old - whose eyelids are barely visible, her eyes are so sunken - biting your tongue because all you can think to say to the doctor is "You must be mistaken." It's a surreal feeling to watch them, when they can finally get a line in to her shrunken and dehydrated threads of veins, put insulin into her IV.

And then to watch the colour and the life come back into your daughter, and to know it's not just the saline, the phosphorus and the potassium, but because she is getting dextrose and insulin.

Insulin. "But - but -" I think to myself stupidly, "Insulin is only for diabetics."

It can't be. It can't be. She's perfectly well. She has always wasted away when she has a virus - all her life whenever she gets a cold she shrinks down to a wisp, and then within a few days she plumps back up. You must be wrong. There's some other explanation, I know it.

Can't we talk about this?

I want what's behind door number two.

But what we got was Type 1 Diabetes. And what nearly killed Avery that night was diabetic ketoacidosis. She had every one of the symptoms on that linked page, except for coma and, thankfully, some of the symptoms listed under 'cerebral edema'.

We spent five days in hospital while they slowly brought her blood sugar down and her electrolytes up. I only realized how close she had been to fatal complications when the doctors and specialists who visited her every day would mention small things: things like "I haven't seen a child that sick from diabetes for a very long time." (That was from the pediatrician - himself a Type 1 diabetic.) "Avery, today is the sickest you will ever be in your life, I promise. You will never be this sick again."

And "She was very sick," said one nurse to another, then the diabetes nurse educator added to both of them, "She was incredibly sick."

I can't even describe how much better she looks in this photo. 
I wish I had taken one 12 hours earlier - you wouldn't think it was the same child.

We have been home now for 12 days. Our whole life has changed. From a household that would lie reading books in bed until 10.30 in the morning, shuffle into the kitchen and throw a few pieces of bread into the toaster, we have become a family who does sugar checks every four hours at minimum, and schedules (unbelievably balanced) meals for 9:00, 1:00, 6:00 and 9:00. Nothing gets in the way of mealtimes anymore - because I can't manage it all, in my own mind, unless there is some predictability built into the system. I have to know exactly what is going in to her body, and administer insulin within a certain timeframe around her meals.

My crappy little entry-level Samsung Galaxy smart-phone has become my bestest, best buddy. I have alarms set for 2 AM, 5 AM, and 8 AM. I have an app that links to a website where I log every single thing Avery eats, with a carb count for all of it, as well as the result of every finger-stick blood sugar test she does (we're averaging about 8 or 9 a day), and every injection she gets of both kinds of insulin. I had to get a text plan so that I could contact the pediatrician four times a day with her pre-meal blood sugar numbers, and he could text me back with the dosage.

Will we be okay? Yes. We will be okay.

Will this settle down so that I don't need to keep such obsessive records of her food? Yes. I'll get used to it.

Will I eventually know the insulin dosage myself, so that I don't need to text the pediatrician? Yes. In fact they're giving me "the math" tomorrow, and then I'll be doing my own insulin calculations.

Will I ever, ever get used to the fact that my daughter has Type 1 Diabetes?

I'm sure I will. The disease is manageable, if not controllable. The daily grind of it will be exhausting, but we are willing and able for it...after all, we still have Avery with us. The tests, the injections, the careful juggling of food and exercise and meds...all of that is cake compared to my child nearly dying.

The question is, will I ever forgive myself for not seeing the signs of it, and therefore allowing her illness to progress long past the point of danger. Will I ever forgive myself for all the ginger ale and popsicles I fed her, thinking her blood sugar was low after all that vomiting?

I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect?

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots

Volume 12 Number 3

Just finished the most interesting book: Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. She's the author of Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I absolutely loved. Life After Life is just as good.

Life is full of mistakes, missed opportunities, tragedies and endings. But what if we could go back and try again, and keep trying until we get it right? The same life, every time, but with a moment of recognition, an undercurrent of caution at every crucial moment lived before? It's the snake with the tail in its mouth...the continuity and inevitability of life.

Ursula Todd is born on a February morning in 1910. The cord wrapped tightly around her neck ends her before she begins.

Ursula Todd is born on a February morning in 1910. The cord, though wrapped tightly, is cut in time to save her life which, this time, lasts a little longer.

The date of her birth never changes, but the date of her death is different almost every time.

This book is about more than reincarnation, though: it's about the complicated beauty of family. It's about selflessness, and the gradual awakening toward a larger purpose. The author does something very subtle, very clever with the reader's emotions. I was halfway through the book before I realized that my feelings of anxiety, frustration, doom and perplexity were not simply an independent response - were in fact engineered by her. By the end, I could only marvel at how deftly she turned me into Ursula Todd herself: I didn't so much identify with her, as I took on her experience as my own.

I am crazy about this book. I was sorry when it ended (or did it?), and will be recommending it to everyone.

HSB Book Rating:
Reread? Yes.
Give to Others? Yes.
Bookplate? Yes!


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Well, that was a bust.

Hi Susie!
The run, you ask? Going NOWHERE. My friend dropped out, then my daughter dropped out, and then I'm afraid my MOJO dropped out.

I'm going to carry on with the training, but due to all the waiting around for schedules to mesh, I am nowhere near ready to run 10K on pavement, and we're only four weeks from the race. I'll just have to give it my best shot and try again next year.

It's Easter Sunday tomorrow. My parents are coming over for dinner, so I have some cleaning to do. I hate cooking a big feasty meal in a messy house.

Last Wednesday my youngest daughter turned 9 years old. What?!?! Sigh. Tomorrow afternoon sometime I should be about eighty, and wondering what the heck happened.

Here's the cake I made her:

I've never worked with fondant before - it was surprisingly simple, and the finished product is disproportionately impressive. Win!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Everybody knows I love Nigella Lawson. I have her new book, Nigellissima, her tribute to Italian food. It's a great book - lots of flexible options and "inspired by"-type dishes.

I haven't read it quite cover to cover, but nearly. I sat on the sofa the other night with a huge glass of Shiraz, flipping through the recipes, and wishing I could make her macaroni and cheese without having to get up and walk into the kitchen. The book, like all her other ones, makes me feel languid and decadent.

Nigella's books are usually hefty, filled to the brim with delicious recipes and chatty notes. Nigellissima, however, is uncharacteristically slender and understated. Much like Nigella herself, if the internet is to be believed. I'm hoping she doesn't go whittling herself even further - she looks great, of course, but I don't trust thin cooks. The thing I've always loved about her was her sublime unconcern with her weight, and her perfect - neither defiant nor apologetic - acceptance of her luscious figure. "Bosomy and bottomy", to use her words. If her next book is a volume of slenderizing recipes involving things like flax and steamed skinless chicken breasts, she will get a strongly-worded letter from me.

I've made two dinners from this book so far. One was a finger-licking, chin-dribbling feast of "chicken under a brick" - or 'bricken', as I'm calling it. This was unbelievably, smoothly, voluptuously delicious (my fingers just typed "volumptuously" twice, and I liked it both times). It's a whole chicken, spatchchocked (cut through the backbone and laid flat on a baking sheet), marinated in various spices and unguents (I have a small jar of preserved, salted lemons that really came into its own here), and then roasted hot and fast under a foil-wrapped brick. Shockingly good: the only thing I had to complain about is that the damn brick put paid to the Bakelite handle on my saute pan, which I unthinkingly used to lift the whole shebang out of the oven. It was just a few pounds too much, I guess, although my husband pointed out that now, at least, the pan fits into the dishwasher a lot better.

The second meal was a true feast. It was a whole leg of lamb, deboned, butterflied, and dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, slivered garlic, sea salt, bay and rosemary (my addition). It, too, had a hot, fast roast (425 for about a half hour) and a fair bit of resting time. The only problem with THIS meal was that I didn't have enough people around my table to do justice to a whole leg of lamb. Mmm, delicious.

My favourite thing about the book is the way Nigella does NOT use a bunch of chi chi Italian names for the dishes. She uses good old English, which keeps the confusion to a minimum.

The low-down:
- LOTS of meat dishes in this book.
- And a LOT of seafood. Yerch. I am allergic to shellfish and I will end up cruising right on by huge sections
- Delicious-looking desserts
- Nigella's comfy, confidential food-writing turns up in spades and makes the whole thing worthwhile. 

My score - 4 out of 5. And to be fair I'm only deducting a star because a) there is way too much shellfish, which is less Nigella's problem than Italy's problem; and b) Nigella has gone a bit diet-ey.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Disrespectful and Juvenile

Seen the new Playtex ads?

Clever? Yes. Amusing? Sure.

Harmless? No.

The one good thing I can say (besides "nice nature photography") is that they at least deal out the body shame fairly between the genders. But men don't have a long complicated history of their genitals being labelled unclean, disgusting, smelly, and a turn-off. As far as being bombarded by media images designed to make a person feel that they are physically undesirable in their natural state, men are new to the game.

These print ads are in magazines, such as Glamour, that target young women. These young women deserve better than this hurtful propaganda.

If you want to give feedback to Playtex on this subject, the easiest way is to leave a comment on their Facebook promo page. It may be more effective, though, to complain to the magazines carrying the ads (probably many, but I only know of 3 - Glamour, Shape, and Sports Illustrated). If a magazine gets enough negative feedback on an ad, they don't run it anymore, and they don't pay for it. Maybe Playtex pulls the campaign.

Given the state of the culture we live in, I don't expect much; but I am hoping, nonetheless.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Argh! You self-involved BIGOT!

I've just seen "The Help". It was all right - kind of racially simplistic but I like stories about women, so I liked it fine.

BUT: watching the extra features is where the whole thing gets ugly. The author of the book refers to her inspiration, which apparently struck her in the year 2001 - actually on September 11, when in her shock and horror over the World Trade Centre attack, she really wanted to go home to -- get this -- the arms of her maid. [!!!!] She says something like "For 35 years I never saw Demitri [her family's maid] out of her uniform until she was in her casket. Then I started wondering 'what was she thinking all those years?'"


You never thought about what she was thinking all those years? It never occurred to you that she had a life other than serving YOU?? We are talking about RECENT HISTORY here, folks! Recent. Look at how she says those two sentences. "I never saw her out of her uniform" and then "I started wondering what she was thinking." Then -- THEN -- this woman goes on to write a smug, tearjerking glurge novel about what she thinks it might have been like for these black women in Mississippi, totally immersing herself in this greased-lens 1963 South, wherein black people are all 'Lawdy, lawdy, I done made y'all some crispy friiied chicken, Miss Ceee-lya." And when they get sassy to their bitchy Junior League employers we're all meant to nod self-righteously and clap, and admire their quaint accents, and think smugly to ourselves about how times have changed and isn't it so nice, aren't black people so funny and boy, those Southern folks sure used to be racist and ignorant.

The producer, a guy about 40 years old, at the most, has just said "I didn't grow up then [the '60s] but the social structure [when I was growing up] was largely the same." Are you telling me in that in the South white people STILL have black maids which they keep in their service for a lifetime, who are entrusted with raising their employers' children, and whose thoughts nobody even bothers to wonder about? Guess so.

What have the last 40 years been about, anyhow?!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Well, since I'm sure you're all dying to hear my opinion of Robert Louis Stevenson, "Kidnapped" was better than "Treasure Island".

And now, on to cooking!

Guess what I made myself for brunch today? (Not just myself - my Mum came over.) Eggs Benedict! It's one of my go-to, out-for-breakfast meals, but I have always been too intimidated to try the homemade Hollandaise. Turns out, that's ridiculous - it's easy. Just labour-intensive (my right arm was bright red and aching from twenty minutes of whisking), and you have to pay attention to what you're doing.

Anyway, it was completely divine. A tad salty, but that's because I had no unsalted butter (bad, bad). Sourdough English muffins, cornmeal-rolled back bacon, soft-poached eggies, and my delicious buttery, eggy, lemony Hollandaise.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

GREAT read!

I have just finished "Kidnapped", by Robert Louis Stevenson. What a great book! I'm surprised I've never read it, but I guess that just means I get to enjoy it NOW, instead of THEN.

The volume I bought also contains "Treasure Island", which I read, abridged, as a child. I don't even know if I finished it, so I'm pleased that I've got some more pleasant surprises in store!

Cooking from Nigella Lawson's new book 'Nigellissima" tonight. It's Mr HSB's birthday tomorrow and since he has to work tomorrow evening, I'm making him "butterflied leg of lamb with balsamic vinegar" tonight. I made some lovely roasted vegetables, and am just waiting on the last few minutes of scorching oven time for the meat...I can smell the little lamby-kins already! Heaven.

Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law Ames, for whom I would cook all manner of legs of lamb, if only she were here. Mwah! Mwah! Love you.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

My stomach hurts. It HURTS.

You know what I hate? When you've got a friend who is making a huge, colossal, enormous, life-changing mistake. You put it off for two years, but eventually the day comes when you've got to talk to her about it, in love not judgment, but you know she is going to hate every second of it, and you will hate every second of it, and in all likelihood you'll have one less friend by the end of the conversation, but you've STILL GOT TO GO AND SAY IT.

Here is some of my chocolate covered ginger for you to look at while you think about how grateful you are that you are not me right now.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Feel Better Slow

Well, Susie pointed out the other day that if I am feeling better, it is now time to lace up the ol' running shoes again.

I'm a big believer in convalescence. Our culture hasn't really respected it for a long time - in the old days, you'd have been sent to the seaside for six weeks after the flu, and if all you had was a cold you'd at least have been well wrapped up and taken on gentle airings until all danger of relapse was past.

Fast forward to the past fifty or so years. It seems that, for decades, people have been taking just a day or two off, and coughing and sniffling their way through the surrounding weeks of work. They spend those weeks broadcasting their viruses to the rest of the people in the office, or the kids at the school, or whatever. Ads used to focus on drugs you could use to deal with your symptoms so you'd be able to go to work. (Anybody else horrified by that commercial? Imagining yourself on that very same plane, unknowingly breathing in all of her recycled air?)

I think modern medicine is starting to get back on board, though, judging from the number of times in the past few years that I've heard medical professionals talking about the "postviral state". The aforementioned ads, too, have begun to change. Some now suggest that you take the drugs for symptom relief so you can get a better, more healing, sleep. An improvement.

Anyhow, it has been four mornings now that I have woken up without a sore throat or a headache, so I think I'm going to follow Susie's direction and start up the 10K training again. I'm three weeks behind schedule, so I don't know whether I'll be able to finish the entire program - I am in week 4 of 14, but there are only 8 weeks left until the race. My daughter is also recovering from the cold, so she will be out of action for at least a few more days.

Unsurprisingly, I have already gotten out of the habit, and going for a run tonight seems like a total drag.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Cleaning My Woollens

I have been slowly eliminating synthetics from my wardrobe for the past few years, while at the same time developing an even keener appreciation for wool, magical fibre of wondrousness.

A lot of people think of wool clothing as difficult to launder, but this isn't true. Wool, being originally created to cover an animal, is also constructed to naturally shed dirt. So, a lot can be done just with a natural-bristle brush and maybe the odd mist of water from a spray bottle. If you've been sweating in it, a little cool water and an hour or so hung in a breezy spot will take any unpleasantness right out.

My favourite way to clean my woollens is to hang them outside - dry - on a windy day. This time of year is perfect - damp air and constant breeze make every day a laundry day. And if it should come on to rain while your stuff is hanging outside, all the better. Just make sure it's dry before you fold it and put it away, and you'll be golden.

The camera did some weird things on this shot.

Another great thing about this method is that it really discourages moth activity in your house. Moths like to be left alone in a dark, undisturbed corner to sleep in their little flossy cocoons, and then to emerge hungry and munch on your wool. The more you can get your wool outside and moving around - and here I'm referring to yardage, too, if you're a knitter or a sewist - the less appealing it will be to moths.

I left my four sweaters, three skirts, and my husband's suit jacket out for around three hours in a cracking wind. By the time I brought them back in, my arms were full of clean, cold, and almost unbearably fresh-smelling wool. No chemicals, no washing machines, no detergents, no dry-cleaning bill. The next time I see a good windstorm brewing, I'm going to run four wool blankets and two duvets out on the line.


Thanks, sheep!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Okay, thanks, now I'm.......a little scared?

I find this funny in a spooky, unsettling way. I think the embryonic human embedded in a tomato might be scare tactics...don't really want to ask what the connection might be between those two. Anybody know?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Still sick but at least keeping myself entertained.

Google has a cool doodle today - Edward Gorey's 88th birthday! Remember the Gashlycrumb Tinies? Ooooh, I miss Sandy! We used to love that book. It cracked us up, no end.

Edward Gorey's 88th Birthday

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Valid Lifestyle Choice

I don't know if it's my age or if it's my family situation - I have kids so am a little less free in some respects - but in the last couple of years I've noticed a weird trend. I'll be chatting with a friend and she'll say something like "Any plans for the weekend?"

I launch into an excited recitation of all the great stuff I've got lined up, and then there's usually a surprised pause, followed by a polite "Oh!"

These conversations always end up with a weird vibe, so I discreetly asked around, and it seems that any of the following doesn't constitute big plans for the weekend:

- "Making pizza on Friday night, then watching Buffy in my jammies."
- "Doing laundry and making cinnamon buns."
- "...stay at home, maybe rent a movie"
- "Sitting - at home - knitting and listening to podcasts"
- "On Saturday, I'm going to bring a cup of coffee back to bed where I plan to play Freecell on my iPod until the battery is completely drained."
- "Grooming the dog"
- "At home, not getting dressed until Monday. If then."
- "I'm definitely taking a shower at some point."

But these particular people really seem to disrespect my plans. Weird, right?

I guess since their weekends are full of things like winter camping, concerts, half-marathons, mechanical-bull-riding, back-country-ski/camp/summit-climbing, remote fishing lodges, and trips to beautiful beachfront whatnots, maybe their bar is set a little higher than mine.

So, what do you guys think constitutes "plans for the weekend"?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Pingin' and Pongin'

Milos, serving up a paella of punishment.

The trip was amazing. SO great! I went to Fluevog and came away very happy, clutching a large box. Mr HSBoots went to a tennis store and came away mildly happy, clutching a smaller box. We both went to the Davis Cup and came away EXTREMELY happy, having seen one of those satisfying moments in sports, wherein the underdog grabs the overdog, lifts him high over his head, and body-slams him down onto the field (in this case, court).

Have you heard? ("Do you care?" would maybe be a better question.) Canada trounced Spain in the Davis Cup of tennis. TENNIS. To put it in perspective for you, picture Spain trouncing Canada in hockey.

One of the funniest, and saddest, things I've ever seen was the Spanish team, who were hanging over the boards of the court, staring in disbelief as their guy, ranked 34th in the world, got spanked - hard - by our guy, 151st in the world. They looked so sad...I wished they'd perk up and at least TRY to help their teammate with better body language: they were projecting defeat, big time. The guy in the seat next to me remarked, hilariously, "Maybe they're jet-lagged. They need a siesta." Here they are:
"Theeess sucks."

I couldn't even get a picture of our man Frank Dansevic - he wouldn't stop moving. He was so aggressive, his energy was so high - it made you feel full-blooded just watching him play. I wanted to bounce up and down on the soles of my feet, swinging a racquet.

At one point, the Spanish player (Granollers) deflated. I think this was the moment when the truth sank in...that the Canadian was not "getting lucky points". In fact, our Frank was having the game of his life and he, Granollers, was thoroughly outplayed.

He walked over to his coach and this happened:

"I don't wanna play anymore."

which I have to say was a pitiable moment (I did sincerely pity the poor man, who had come to Vancouver certain of victory) but was also a hilarious one. It was the kind of photo that I'd have tweeted, if I was a tweeting type.

Video highlights...I'm smug to see the BIG media didn't work the towel shot in! I should have sent it to them.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Over yonder and away.

I'm off to beautiful Vancouver for a few about that! It's an amazing thing, and even I can't believe it's true, but in 11 years of parenthood we have never been away from the kids overnight, together. He has been to conferences, and I have been to Victoria once, and to Toronto once, and that is it.

It, people.

So now we are going to spend two TWO nights in Vancouver. What's the occasion? Birthday? Anniversary?


The Davis Cup. Pro tennis in all its romantic glory.

Don't be putting any eyebrow-waggling in the comments, either. If you're a parent you'd know that the true beauty of "getaway without kids" is "watch what you want on TV" and then "sleep through the night".

Woo hoo!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Second week begins

No, this is not turning into a running blog. It's a funny scroll-down pic day.

Run one of week two today. Girlie opted out - preferred to stay home baking cookies. I said "You go, sugar. Or, I guess, stay."

Lots of exercisey-type people do things like post a picture of the sky during their run. I thought about doing that, but decided it would be more meaningful and a lot funnier if I posted pics of my hair after my run. That way, you can tell a lot of things about the run, such as what the weather was like, how sweaty I might have ended up, and even what kind of a mood I'm in.

Hair today ('scuse the blurry):
(Hat for warmth. Misshapen head? No, just my hair. What hair? THIS HAIR.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

2 and 3

So, we completed Week One. Both day 2 and day 3 were, in their own way, 2 was a raging, freezing wind- and rain-storm. I thought my daughter might decide to sit it out, but apparently all those hours on horseback in the freezing cold or pouring rain have inured her to climatic inconvenience...she was stoic. I don't like wet feet too much, but within seconds of stepping outside we were both soaked to the skin, all over.

We persevered, and triumphed. It took me 24 hours just to get warmed up after that, though.

And I was so busy cooking dinner immediately afterwards that I didn't have time to shower or even blowdry my hair. So, wringing wet with rainwater, it dried on its own. It's growing out, at an awkward length, and it's naturally curly. This is what I looked like.

But with an oversized NaNoWriMo sweatshirt, damp yoga capris and misty glasses. And alone. So, not as attractive.

Day 3 was yesterday. The challenges for that run were: not enough sleep (for me), not enough water (for both of us) and not enough food (for my daughter). Luckily it was only week 1, so we still only ran a total of 8 minutes. If it had been one of the later weeks, we'd have been exhausted.

She said to me, cautiously, as we rounded the corner of the field about midway through, "I don't feel like I can run 10K."
"Oh, I couldn't run 10K either," I said. "Not right now. Give me two months and we'll see."

So we had a little talk about the whole idea of training - you can't do X at the beginning, but you will be able to by the end - and I assured her again that she is in complete control of whether or not she participates in the race, and whether or not she continues the training schedule with me. She was so relieved - it tells me she has felt considerable anxiety about it. Not about the race, but about how excited I am about training with her. She worries that she can't drop out or she'll hurt my feelings. She is such a nice kid. "Heck," I told her, "on the day of the race you can decide you don't want to run it, and you'd rather go get an ice cream with Dad and cheer for us as we stagger over the finish line."

But, so far, all is in train and chugging along. Next time, we'll pay more attention to food and water in the preceding 24 hours, and it'll be better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

That...that's, that sucks.

**caution - disgusting photo in this post**

***second caution - my language is about to get very Saxon***

I'm making turkey vegetable soup for dinner tonight. It's a proper January day: miserable, with a chilly relentless rain, a dark and leaden sky. It has been 2 degrees above zero all day.

January it may be, but in this coastal climate my garden herbs are still flourishing. I put on my wellies and headed out into the wet, a pair of scissors in hand, to snip a few stalks of dark green, rich-smelling thyme, and some spiky, rain-beaded rosemary.

Pretty, isn't it? Still alive, just sleeping.

Then I saw this.

I'm sorry my friends, but I have to use this word. I know it's a rude one, but this is a rude situation.

It's dog shit.

Dog shit right on my beautiful, majestic, English thyme.

To get this in perspective for you, this dog (not my dog, by the way) has shat, somehow, ten inches off the ground. This dog -- this accursed, ill-bred, malicious, and apparently acrobatic dog -- has managed to cover 30% of a large thyme plant with a squashy, soft, smelly, slippery, creamy grey mound of shit.

This is not a low-lying ground cover, my friends. This is a large, potted, three-year-old English thyme.

Moreover, this is a food plant. I cannot simply scrape it off, give it a good hosing, and let it carry on.

I have taken pruners and excised the thyme that Cerberus befouled, and of course prudence demanded that I take every last little bit of plant which may have been actually shat on, which may have bent to graze the enormous grey slippery shit in the wind storms which have ravaged for the past month, or which the winter rains may have dripped onto, having first been puddled on top of the shit. There was a lot, my people...enough to completely fill a large plastic grocery bag. To fill it with shit and thyme.

There's a poem in there somewhere.

To the person whose dog jumped my fence, wandered my backyard and shat on my English thyme, shame on you. Shame on you and your whelp of Satan.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week 1, Day 1

Just came in from my first training "run"...I'm using the quotations because it was really more of a walk with teeny bits of acceleration.

I have an interesting (well, I say "interesting") thought process going on, consisting of being embarrassed that I can't just RUN 10 KILOMETERS. The embarrassment only applies to YOU people - the blog readers.

I find myself not wanting to tell you that I am starting the Couch to 10K - I'd rather wait until May, and tell you that I HAVE DONE the 10K.

Very strange.

Must be that fear of failing I mentioned the other day.

Overall, it felt good. Here are my impressions.

- I felt like I could have run a lot more, which is a good sign that the program may not be as entirely too much for me as I had feared. I need all 13 weeks, though, just to make sure I don't get shin splints.

- The running segments felt better in the last half than in the first half.

- It was so great to be in the outdoors again...I hadn't realized how house-bound I have been feeling.

- My daughter did well: did I tell you that Charlotte is doing the 10K with me? She is 11 - the one who recently broke her collarbone.

Thanks for all your comments on the "Should I or shouldn't I?" post. I really appreciate your cheering me on!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fear itself?

My friend asked me if I wanted to sign up for the Times Colonist 10K with her, in preparation for another event I'm planning for next year.

Thing is, the other event is a walk - I'm not insane enough to try running 64K. BUT, my friend wants to RUN this 10K, not walk it.

I don't know whether I can do it. And by that I mean, I don't know whether I have the grit and bloodymindedness that it will take to get out there three times a week for the next 13 weeks, to teach myself to run 10K. I'm afraid to try.


I wish I had a partner...a nice, sedentary partner who is starting from nil, just like me, and who will encourage me to get out and move my lazy arse despite the miserable winter weather. (The friend I'm doing the 10K with doesn't live in my town, so she's out.)

Should I try it? Or, should I lie down on the couch with another cinnamon bun until the urge passes?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Twang. Ow.

Guess what I got for Christmas?

That's right - I got a guitar!

It pretty much looks exactly like this one.

I do have a busy life, believe it or not, but I am managing to spend at least an hour a day, most days, noodling around on this thing. I break it up into 20 minute sessions, though, because of the intense pain. I find that the sound lets me know when to stop playing...when the bass strings start to twang and sound messy, it means my fingers are hurting too much to depress the string completely down onto the fret, and that means "Go do something else for a few hours."

When I was in Grade 9 we took guitar as part of Music class. It was a small school, so we all borrowed guitars, and Mr. Falk spent a couple of months teaching us C-A-G-E-D. I'm glad I'm not starting out from scratch. I've never had a guitar of my own, though, so it was a pretty exciting Christmas morning. I immediately downloaded Chord Free! for my phone, so no matter where I am, I can look up any chord  I don't know. Yay!

And, at about 11 AM on the 25th, I printed off a few sheets from my new favourite site. All I had to go was Google "folk guitar tabs" and look at the untold wealth I stumbled upon!

Actually, believe it or not, I got TWO guitars for Christmas -- the new western-style Yamaha from Mr HSBoots, and an ancient, vintage, beat-up classical model from my friend, who has spent the last two years listening to me moan and complain that I wanted a guitar to learn on, and take camping. "Free or cheap," I kept saying. "Keep an eye on the Buy & Sell for me."

The second-hand one is not in working order yet (needs to be restrung) but I am getting along okay on the Yamaha, which has great resonance and I suspect, in the hands of an actual Musician, would sound nice. In the hands of Me, though, it sounds like this:

Cool, huh?!

Only drawback is, with those fingers I can't knit lace anymore...for the time being, anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Close Your Eyes, and Think of Frank Lloyd Wright

The problem with decluttering books is, in one way or another they're (almost) all worth keeping.

I have a slight book problem in my house. I don't know how many volumes I have...maybe 2,000?

I know I should get rid of some of them, but I just can't bring myself to make any real dent in my collection.

I tried to do a bit of purging this afternoon, and after an hour spent fruitlessly turning over volume after volume, I realized the key to getting rid of books: DON'T open them.

Because when you open them, even the ones you are positive you'll never get around to reading, or which will be boring or pointless, it's all to easy to be snared. I fall right in, manage to convince myself I'll get around to reading the entire thing someday, and reshelve it. I'm calling this disorder print-hypnosis. Or hypnoprint.

Look what I found today, in the pile of things I was going to get rid of.

Things to Say to the Hoi Polloi
I do not have any spare change.
Est mihi nullus nummus superfluus.
If Caesar were alive, you'd be chained to an oar.
Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris.
Hidden Insults
podex perfectus es
What You Say It Means:
You did a terrific job.
What It Really Means:
You Are A Total Asshole.

This was from "Latin For All Occasions", by Henry Beard. And in the section entitled "In The Vatican", there was a note from the previous owner of this book, who has apparently elected, out of all the pungent possibilities therein, to learn the phrase "ubi possum potiri petasi similis isti?" -- "Where can I get a hat like that?"

This cool little 1938 volume, unassumingly bound (like all good books), bears a stamp reading "Vancouver Public Library". The title is "The Complete Book of Dreams", by Edward Frank Allen.

Suspicion is indicated by a dream in which a fan dancer performs. Either a man or a woman having this dream should beware of unseemly conduct that may lead to criticism from jealous people.
FAWN (See Deer)
A young married person dreaming of a fawn has every reason to expect that his or her lover will show the utmost in faithfulness.
If a maiden dreams of drinking goat's milk, it is a sign that she will marry for money and that she will be successful in finding at the same time the man she loves.
Nudity in dreams has many beautiful implications, whether it is of a man, woman, or child. For one to dream of admiring his or her own nudity, perdicts the loss of a lover through vain ideas; but if a person is disgusted with the appearance of the body, it foretells scandal and lovers' quarrels. If one dreams of swimming in the nude, it is a prediction of pagan pleasures which will react unfavorably. To dream of seeing men or women swimming in the nude, or as members of a nudist colony, is a sign of a new and exciting love affair.

(By the way, if you have a recurrent or significant dream, leave me a quick note in the comments. I'll look it up in this book, and give you the interpretation thereof. mene mene tekel upharsin.)

"The way I've been thinking about it, riding my bike around here, is, You ride by all these pastures and they've got these big granite boulders in the middle of them. You've got a big boulder sitting there on this rolling hill. You can't just go by this boulder. You've got to try to push it. So you start rocking it, and you get a bunch of friends, and they start rocking it, and finally it starts moving. And then you realize, Maybe this wasn't the best idea. That's what we're doing as a society. This climate, if it starts rolling, we don't really know where it will stop."

From Field Notes from a Catastrophe, by Elizabeth Kolbert

Being married just meant vexatious household responsibilities. As for children, who wanted them? They interfered with the lady's health and amusement for several months before birth and, though she had a foster-mother for them immediately afterwards, it took time to recover from the wretched business of childbirth, and it often happened that her figure was ruined after having more than a couple...And a lady's husband, if she was fond of him, could not be expected to keep off other women throughout the time of her pregnancy, and anyway he paid very little attention to the child when it was born. And then, as if all this were not enough, foster-mothers were shockingly careless nowadays and the child often died. What a blessing it was that those Greek doctors were so clever, if the thing had not gone too far - they could rid any lady of an unwanted child in two or three days, and nobody be any the worse or wiser.

From I, Claudius by Robert Graves. (Though that quotation is spookily apt for current times, as well as ancient Roman.)

A culture which lives through oral tradition will disintegrate when the language dies. But through that which has been preserved of Orkney folklore, we glimpse a time past where beliefs and values coincided with the laws of behaviour and the way of life to form a consistent pattern. The course of life - from the cradle to the grave - was defined through established and accepted rites. The belief in a world where rocks and oceans, plants and animals were endowed with life as man himself, and the belief that people were surrounded by good and evil forces with which they had to learn to co-exist, survived side by side with the teachings of the Church into this century. Man used both steel and the cross to protect himself against evil forces.

From The Orkney Story, by Liv Kjorsvik Schei and Gunnie Moberg


The shades of night were falling as Adam and Grandpa came up the road. Hatless, wearing an old police tunic open and unbuttoned, in place of his lost jacket, Grandpa looked proud but subdued; there was a gleam in his eye - a chink in his armour which betrayed an inward apprehension. As I crouched at the parlour window in anxious solitude, a glimpse was enough to send me scudding upstairs to the refuge of the old man's room.
There, listening tensely, I heard the sound of the front door, followed by a dreadful chaos, filled with loud recriminations from Adam, Mama's tears and lamentations, Papa's whining abuse, but not a word, not a whisper from Grandpa.
At last he came upstairs, moving slowly, and entered his room. He was sadly tarnished; his beard needed trimming; he exhaled strange and uncomfortable odours.
He threw me a quick glance, began to potter about the room, trying unsuccessfully to hum, pretending not to care. Then he picked up his battered and still sodden hat, which, earlier that day, Mama had placed reverently upon the bed. He considered it for a moment, turned artlessly to me.
"It'll stand reblocking. It was always a grand hat." [ubi possum potiri petasi similis isti?]

From The Green Years, by A.J. Cronin, 1945


But why do we rush the other way? Why do we have to hurry to the edge and look over? As tourists we run to the beach, to headlands like this - Land's End, Finisterre, Fin do Mundo - following some atavistic instinct to see where our world finishes and where, beyond the horizon,  possible worlds begin, in the hope of finding the best of them.

From Backwards out of the Big World; A Voyage into Portugal, by Paul Hyland.


What have you got sitting on your shelves, that you are sure you will never read?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Je suis La Misérable.

My husband keeps telling me "Apparently that movie sucks," but I think he's just messing with me.

Anyhow, it just arrived in my town last Friday - "my town" is not renowned for its love of artistic film. Considering this fact, and judging from the position of the words "Les Miserables" on the cineplex marquee, it will be in one of the little, crappy theatres with poor sound. And I may be an optimist by nature, but I know enough not to pay $12 to watch Les Misérables on a second-rate sound system.

Bring on the Blu Ray! Then I can have a big drink, pause it for loo trips, wear my pajamas, and bawl like a baby if bawling is called for.

Apparently I have to wait until March.