Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Death, Birth, Life

So, my friend died. And then my other friend died. One I had only met in person once, and we kept making plans to get together that never quite materialized. One I had never met in person and it was unlikely that I ever would. This doesn't really matter - Nicole summed up nicely how Internet friendships are not in any way inferior copies of real-life friendships here and here. It does mean that I'm very aware of not being anything close to a primary mourner, but I am heartsick and bereft and can't even imagine how devastated their families are. I also got kind of scared to open Facebook, which was where I found out about both (very unexpected) deaths. My husband came home and said "My Facebook was blowing up about Greg from Science School" and I started tearing up before he could spit out that Greg wasn't dead, it was just really cool that now his daughter was going to the same Science School where my husband met him.

Then my dad had a sudden-onset crippling vertigo thing that landed him in the hospital for a couple of days being CT-scanned and examined by a neurologist and unable to move out of a bed without falling. This was terrifying and surreal and also sort of screwily wonderful, because it showed how my family maintains their cock-eyed humour and smartassery even in the face of fear and medical uncertainty. The paramedics said they hadn't had so much fun on a call in weeks. It turns out that it was probably a virus, since the doctors couldn't find any causative factor and we heard anecdotal reports of other people having the same thing. Still, it was exhausting and scary and showed how everything can turn in an instant. Which I knew, of course, but there's knowing and knowing, you know?

In the midst of all this, I finished my placement at my kids' old school library by running a book fair from start to finish. It was a lot of hours of being on my feet, and dealing with volunteers and kids and parents, and moving stuff and fixing stuff and adding stuff and counting stuff, and my head was usually pounding at the end of the day, but it was wildly successful and very rewarding. Kids ran into the library yelling "Looks great, Mrs. McCaskill!" Kids pumped their fists when they were given their book fair time slots. Everybody bought Monsters Love Underpants and kitten posters. Then Katy did my evaluation for the placement and said she had to take out the thesaurus to look up a bunch of synonyms for 'excellent', and it was just really nice to feel so wanted, and competent, and appreciated.

I've been really happy for the past few weeks. Like, really, weirdly, several-days-at-a-time happy. I was working just enough in a really fun position where I saw people I liked every day, I had just enough structured time and just enough down time, and I felt good. So of course when things started to go haywire I wondered if I shouldn't have been so happy. If being happy was taking my hands off the wheel and not paying attention was what made stuff go wrong for other people. Or if I stole someone's happiness right when they really, really needed it. Intelligent, logical stuff like that.

And in the midst of it all,  my sister-in-law went ahead and produced this magical creature.


And Matt and Angus met her when they were in Toronto last week-end for baseball.


And Eve is green with envy, so this week-end Eve and I go to meet the baby, and the goddamned vicious, cursed, perverse, wonderful, beautiful circle of life goes around. And around.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Halting and Catching Fire

It's been a strange, exhausting few weeks. I'm happy about some things, sad about some things, and my computer keeps overheating and shutting off every few minutes. But I'm still here. And I just realized I really want to talk about all of it. So stick around if you feel like it, okay?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Word by Word

So Sunday was Blogging Out Loud Ottawa at the Writers Festival, probably the last one ever. I'm kind of sad that there's no chance Lynn will be emailing me to say "I'm so sorry, but you have to read at BOLO again" next year. I wore my new Docs because I wore my old Docs the very first time I read, and it seemed like a full-circle kind of thing. I had brunch with a group of people so fabulous that I kept pinching myself and everybody else just to confirm that I wasn't dreaming, until everyone said stop pinching me or I will pelt you with Tater Tots.

Photo credit Jennifer Bennett


And here's a really bad photo of my cute dress.


 I got to the venue and saw even more fabulous people and I thought I might actually be in heaven, except a few key people were missing. Also, in the one picture of me reading I look as big as a house (not inaccurate, but sobering). But I kind of like this picture of me laughing at Joe Boughner's hilariousness.


And the pictures of me smiling so hard I can't keep my eyes open because I'm standing next to someone delicious. 



Would it have been a more magical day if my tummy stuck out a little less? I guess I'll never know for sure, but I'm guessing probably not by much. Would it have been better if I was less drunk with joy and remembered to keep my eyes open and smile a little less manically? I don't think so.


I read fifth. I didn't print my post out in a big enough font, and it was a little dark at the podium, so I was kind of straining to read, and people laughed at the right parts but the funny parts seemed really far apart, so the whole thing felt very long. I was too nervous to even notice if everyone clapped after, but they probably did. As usual, the other posts were amazing and being included in that lineup felt like it required more pinching (I looked like someone had used me for a dart board the next day).

I came home exhausted and elated. Angus asked me to help me edit his rant for English. I usually don't do too much to edit him because I want it to be his work, so I just point out the most obvious mistakes. But his previous English teacher who he liked was off on mat leave, and the new teacher seems to be a much harder marker, so he wanted me to really be stringent on grammar. I reworked it with him until it seemed beyond reproach to me and then I said "now if she marks it badly we'll know she just doesn't like jocks". And then I started laughing and he asked me why I was laughing, and I said I had just remembered this guy I knew in University who was extremely smart and well-read and a tiny bit stuffy. He had a huge crush on this black-haired girl named Sophie with a Russian last name - she was tiny and beautiful but not very smart or well-read, and he was furious that she had gotten a bad mark on an English essay, and I asked him why, because Sophie getting a bad mark on an English paper didn't seem like a big shock to me, and he said "because I WROTE the damned thing!" (Actually he probably said 'blasted thing' or 'cursed thing' - he really was kind of pretentious). Which is not a great argument for the professor, as it turns out.

Then I went to work on Monday and spent long delirious moments in the supply room trying to decide between saffron, salmon and goldenrod paper for my Book Fair memo. I lifted the papers warm from the photocopier and giggled as I thought of the phrase "hot off the presses". I hurt my shoulder using the paper cutter to slice them all into thirds. I risked repetitive strain injury stapling three hundred memos to three hundred flyers (and that's only half of them). And I thought again about how happy I am there, and how stupid it is that it took me as long as it did to realize I belong in a library job. And how lucky I am that I spend a good part of my life now surrounded by wonderful people, and words.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

In Which Eve and I Do a Bunch of Things That Scare Us

So we're in Mexico over March Break. We could just laze around by the pool, do a little snorkeling, eat, drink, laugh, and call it done. 

Instead, a small cohort among us, notably including my husband, signs us up for a day-long excursion that will include, in aforesaid husband's words "a bunch of cool stuff". Okay. Sure. Fine. So we drag ourselves out of bed at stupid o'clock on our second full day there and walk up to the lobby to get on a bus where a very personable young man named Javier details our activities for the day, which sound pretty cool, except...

"Okay, his English is really good but he does have a bit of an accent... he didn't say rappelling, did he? Surely you would have told me if there was rappelling involved. Why are you looking at me like that? IS THERE RAPPELLING IN MY NEAR FUTURE?"

There was.


Down, down, down into the deep dark.

It was kind of cool, once I got through "I'm going to kill my husband" and all the way past "I'm going to die".

Also, ziplining! I remember distinctly once saying I would never go ziplining in another country because who knows if their safety standards are as rigorous as ours. 
Well, I sent my kids across and they were okay, so...


Besides this, there was some jungle walking and a tour of some Mayan ruins. It was kind of cool - the tour company we were with partners with Mayan communities, building them infrastructure in return for being able to bring people in a few days a week. They made us an amazing lunch. Of course, in order to get from the last ziplining place to the lunch (which wasn't until about eight hours after breakfast because our schedule got changed halfway through the day_, there was this cool thing we could try called....
canoeing.
"We're Canadian" we said. The other tour group meandered all over the lake, while we formed a line of canoes that backed up, powered across in a straight line and docked perfectly. 

I was proud of Eve (and me) for doing the scary stuff with a minimum of hyperventilating. I was probably proudest, though of when we had the option to climb the very high, many-staired, no-railing Mayan tomb.

I got to the top by not looking down. Then I turned around and looked down and thought "I might have to live here now". We speculated that the whole reincarnation thing might have sprung from a desire to slit your throat at the top and come back to life at the bottom.


Eve, for her part, went up about four steps and then said "nope". She wasn't upset that other people were going, she wasn't conflicted about missing out, she just said that she would wait for us at the bottom. Another couple of people ended up not going too, so she wasn't alone. If that had been me at that age, I would have been beside myself trying to decide what to do - too scared to go up, too upset to stay behind, too overwrought to express any of this clearly. 

She was totally cool.
 
It was a cool, exhausting, terrifying, satisfying day. The rest of the week we lazed by the pool, did some snorkeling (actually that was kind of scary too, but that's another story), ate, drank and laughed. No rappelling involved. Although Dave did almost get us beat up by some Russians one night. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Random Pictures From Vacation

I feel like crap today. I'm tired and everything hurts and I feel like I have no excuse for feeling the way I do. Then I watched a medical show where a depressed man said he had no excuse for feeling sad and Oliver Platt said "you don't need an excuse, you're a human being" and it made me sob. My friends have all said awesome comforting things, and I walked Lucy and cooked stuff and helped Angus with an essay and rounded up some volunteers for the book fair, and I don't feel like blogging but I don't want to not blog for two weeks again, so here, have some random pictures from our March Break vacation in Mexico. 

These were all over our resort. There was some spirited debate about what they were, which would have gone on much longer in the days before Facebook. They're called coatis or coatimundi, and they're member of the raccoon family. The kids all wanted to bring one home. 


Every time someone called security for our little block of rooms, the security guy would park his bicycle at the bottom of these stairs, which were right beside the patio of the room we hung out on for pre-dinner drinks.


Every single time he did that, someone would do this. You might find this hard to believe, but it never got old. Seriously. It was hilarious every single damned time.

Walking back to our room from dinner on our very first night, Matt said we should take a family selfie. We were all exhausted and hot and wanted to get back, but he said no, come on, we'll want one from the trip and if we don't do it now we'll forget. And he was totally right.

There is definitely no alcohol in this peach daiquiri. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Just %@$$* WRITE Something!

So I seem to have slid into a little bout of Blog Paralysis after that one short and tasteless post-holiday... post. It was Christmas. Then I got sick. Then we went away. Then we came back. And here I am. In April.

How about a diverting little anecdote about how dumb my parents are?

The house was getting cleaned today, which makes Lucy lose her mind and act like an asshole, so I took her for a walk over to my parents' place, intending to leave her there while I ran errands until our cleaner was gone. I had said I would be there around eleven, and I was a little late, so I'm pretty sure my mom and dad didn't expressly pose themselves to look like a couple of seventy-somethings who had totally taken leave of their senses, but I can't be sure, since I came in just as they were trying to drag their old barbecue DOWN THE STAIRS of their deck into their back yard BY THEMSELVES.

So after I told them off for being insane and reckless, we had to get a hammer to pound off the metal tray because it was too big to fit down the stairs. That part was actually quite satisfying. Then my dad went back through the house to come around to the back yard while I stood behind the VERY HEAVY barbecue yelling at my mother to GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY as she stood there at the bottom of a staircase in the direct path of the very heavy barbecue. "I don't want you to get hurt" she said. I said "if something goes wrong, I'll let go of it, IT DOESN'T MATTER IF IT GETS BROKEN."

Honestly. How did they even make it to this age?




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Overheard in Mexico

"You're photo-bombing my drink with your junk."

"Is that a problem?"

"I'm just afraid it will make my 'delicious and refreshing' caption a little confusing."


Did you miss me keeping your lives all classy?