Author: melanie

I’m super sad about all of this

I had just finished going through chemotherapy when the country found out that Gord Downie was sick. The summer of 2016, while the Tragically Hip were having their final tour, I was going for early morning walks in my parent’s village on the shores of Lake Ontario where the halfway point (2.5kms) was right outside a house the Hip owned… Read more →

Nobody talks about upsizing

I know they are cute, and tiny, and probably take no time at all to clean but my life goals go in the opposite direction of the tiny house movement.

When I dream of houses I don’t dream about the five of us tripping over each other and worrying about each and every item that comes into our home.

I dream about us each having our own room, with adjoining office/library and a large fireplace.

There is a lot to be said for personal space.

A couple years ago we upsized and it has been wonderful. We moved out of our small one bathroom home into a larger one. We have a kitchen that more than one person can stand in now. We have a finished basement where we can stash all the kids toys (of course, that doesn’t prevent them from being spread all over the house).

The Mister thinks the house is too big and having a bigger house makes us accumulate too much stuff. And this is probably true.

But when in my room and the girls are in the basement I can’t even hear them and that is worth the price of admission.

Plus we are slowly getting rid of the things we really don’t need but I don’t see him getting rid of all his CDs or Magic Cards and so my books are staying and so are Moira’s 41 Shopkins and Oonagh’s army of dinosaurs.

So sure, the houses I dream of are ridiculous by today’s standards. They are probably drafty, impossible to maintain and, hopefully, haunted.

Call me crazy but I would much rather have this:

Photo credit: For the Love of Old Houses Facebook page. c.1888. Randolph Avenue, Peoria, Illinois was listed at $289,900 a couple years ago.

 

Than this: (no matter how cute it is.)

Taken from this article in Country Living Magazine. This house is 296 sq feet of usable space.

That would be cute if I didn’t have to share it with anyone except maybe a dog.

I guess I take the saying Go Big or Go Home a little too literally. Because while many aspects of minimalism appeal to me that doesn’t apply to my living space.

So here is the thing about getting older. You start realizing how many things you are never going to be able to do (maybe this is just me and my terminal issues, but I doubt it). I used to think… someday. But at no point am I ever going to get to move to a small town in Illinois just so I can live in a Victorian mansion for under $300,000 dollars US. Nor am I ever going to own my own bookmobile or bookstore. I guess this is why I am so interested in fiction writing these days whereas I never was until I started having children. It answers the question of What If.

What If I wrote about someone who threw caution into the wind and bought one of those huge houses.

What If I wrote about someone who gave it all up to travel around in a bookmobile. (Two stories I have started but put on hold.) Writing gives me the opportunity to live lives I would otherwise never have the opportunity to live. Imaginary lives in giant homes where everyone leaves me alone and stops wiping their dirty faces on me.

Because I am an enabler here is a link to all the photos of that Victorian mansion. And there goes the rest of your day scrolling through the For the Love of Old Houses Facebook page. You’re welcome.

My children come home for lunch

And I love it.

And I hate it.

This muffin is going to get me through the afternoon.

And I hate it.

And I love it.

Sometimes those feeling oscillate within the very same moment. Most of the morning I fret about what I am going to feed them and so hardly get anything done until I start cooking. And it isn’t enough to just give them a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter and jam sandwich because I am the worst sort of food snob: the vegan-ish food snob. Sometimes they come home and are extremely grateful for whatever I have put on the table. Today it was homemade nut yogurt with fruit and pumpkin millet muffins. Except one of them was then annoyed that there were kiwis in her yogurt, didn’t like the muffins and washed it all down with leftover pizza.

I made myself kale soup and washed that down with leftover pizza.

The girls come home for lunch for various reasons: 1) We live across the street from the school and it makes sense. 2) No one likes making a packed lunch in the morning. 3) Money. Not the biggest reason but at $300 a kid to stay for lunch supervision and with me being at home, it is the wisest choice. 4) My cancer. It’s one of those “I want to spend more time with my kids” things that I feel I should do – even when they come home and do nothing but fight with one another and I wonder why I bother.

I remember when Moira was little and would spend the day at her grandmothers so I could have a break. I would be so happy for her to get away from me for a while – but even when your children are gone they are still right there. As the hour approached for her return my anxiety returned. Did I use my child-free time wisely? Will she have missed me? Will her return instigate a full-blown tantrum. (Answers were usually: no, yes, and every time.)

It’s been 9+ years and I still don’t have the whole balance of being a mother and a writer down. Hell, I don’t have the balance of someone who is a mother and has actual other hobbies that I don’t immediately give up because my children take up my every waking thought. I have given almost every single moment of the last decade to being a mother and wife and it has sucked almost every ounce of creativity out of me. And yet I love my daughters so much that sometimes I wish we had more of them because (I’m crazy) they are all so brilliant and gorgeous and I am in awe daily that half my genetic make-up could create such beings.

I did it all willingly and I’m pretty sure I would do it all again given the same circumstances.

Plus I think they make me a more interesting person and a better writer when I actually manage to put some words on the page.

Anyway, I keep saying “I’m living the dream now” which is sort of tongue-in-cheek but not really because the dream has always been to live long enough to have all three children in school at once. So that is finally where we are. All my worries that Oonagh was too young for school and would be exhausted by days end have been squashed by a little girl whose answer to “How was school today?” is: “fantastically awesome!”

Things are finally getting easier but to borrow Meg Wolitzer’s term, how do you wake up from your 10-year nap? I feel like I have option paralysis now and I need someone to come in and organize both my office and my brain.

Meanwhile, the girls will continue to come home for lunch, and I will continue to both enjoy it and dread it. They will be happy with my food choices some days and hate them other days. They will continue to fight and make me crazy. The earth will continue to rotate around the sun. I will, hopefully, start putting more words on the page.

Go away death

I know, I know. We can never get away from death but some weeks just seem harder than others. Not only have women been dying on the private metastatic cancer Facebook pages lately but:

Maryam Mirzakhani, only woman to win math equivalent of Nobel Prize, dies at 40

She died of breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones. I think there are very few women math geniuses out there (I have theories about this but that isn’t what I want to talk about) and even though I knew very little about Maryam Mirzakhani it was nice to know that she was around and getting acclaim for her work and something she was passionate about. I often think that it is women like her who should be the celebrities and the role models that our children look up to – not the fucking Kardashians who are polluting our minds and contributing nothing to society. But now she is gone and has left behind a young daughter.

Today I also found out that Michael Stone passed away suddenly (and tragically) yesterday. Michael was a meditation teacher/Buddhist/yogi and really freaking funny guy. I had the opportunity to attend one of his workshops a couple years ago and have thoroughly enjoyed his writing. Two years after attending the workshop I am still chewing over – and laughing about – the things he talked about that weekend. He leaves behind a young family as well (I believe he and his partner just announced that they were expecting another baby).

Sometimes it seems like the deaths just keep coming. These aforementioned deaths are the ones that make me really sad – not only because these people were young but because they were touching the lives of other people. I know death is happening everywhere, all the time and I honestly try not to focus on my own death too much (which is much easier when I am feeling well than when I am laid up in bed on pain medication) but sometimes it seems hard to get away from.

I have a quote on my phone lock screen by Rachel Carson. It isn’t so much the quote that is important (although it is a beautiful quote) but it is a daily reminder that Carson worked at something she was passionate about up until the moment she died (of breast cancer). She sat in bed writing Silent Spring while the cancer ate away at her.

All these deaths are reminders of the life is short and you need to do all the things now variety that I still can’t seem to wrap my mind around. I try and focus on what is good around me – like new fern shoots coming up out of the ground or a 4-year old who is really excited about learning something new. But sometimes it is hard and all I want to do is hide away and wish I could feel the urgency that is supposed to come with being told that your time is going to be cut short.

So I guess all I can say is hug your people. And celebrate real people who are doing real things, because they are far worthier of our brain space.

Breaking up is hard to do

You wouldn’t think, after all I have been through in the past couple years, that the thought of turning my phone off for a while would terrify me – but it does. I think this goes to show just how addicted to my phone I am. I’ve known for a while that I have social media burn out, that my attention span is at an all time low, and that I scroll and scroll these days and retain nothing – but it is getting worse. I’m tried of people trying to constantly sell things to me, or coach me into living my most authentic life. I’m tried of all the great outfits I covet on a daily basis or all the beautiful spreads of books that I can’t afford to buy.

I’m tired.

In the spirit of full disclosure I will admit to some things I am not proud of: I can’t read a book without checking my phone every couple of minutes. I use an obscene amount of tags on my Instagram photos just so other people will come along and see what I am doing and maybe even “like” them. But while I spend this time “maintaining my feed” or whatever you want to call it I’m getting nothing done.

I mean that – nothing is getting done.

I had already decided a week ago that I was going to bite the bullet and take a break from my phone but then this article came out today: 6 Reasons to Unplug Your Phone This Summer.

The average adult in the UK spends nearly 9 hours on digital devices each day. That’s more time than we spend sleeping! In the US, 84% of cell phone users claim they couldn’t go a day without their device, with some of them checking their devices every 6.5 minutes.

I believe this to be true for myself. And while I have made some amazing friendships through the world of social media I’ve also lost a big part of myself. There used to be a time when we would wake up in the mornings and turn to the person next to us – now we wake up and turn to our phones.

And I am honestly nervous. Like, what if my children do something really cute and adorable or smart and I don’t photograph it and immediately post it online to show the world? How will I get my validation if I make a fantastic meal and only my family knows about it? Yes, I’m joking – but the sad truth is that I am only half joking. Because that is reality these days, our whole lives are played out on social media and it is EXHAUSTING.

I keep thinking of all the things I can do this summer if I’m not checking my phone every 6.5 minutes but then I immediately think about how I am going to want to post about all those amazing things I am going to be doing. Sad fact: no amazing things, or even non-amazing things get done when I am busy hanging out with my phone.

So for the next month I am going to have my husband physically remove my phone from me. Maybe he will take it to his office? Maybe he will hide it somewhere in the house? I don’t know. I don’t need to know. I’m going to have to revisit this when the girls and I travel to Ontario at the end of July and I – hopefully – take a couple days break from them and head to Toronto to visit some friends.

Also, you would be surprised how much work goes into trying to get rid of your phone for a while. Some people only communicate via texting these days and I have had to let them know that I have a home phone and an email (we are old fashioned like that). I’ve had to write down a ton of phone numbers, but I’ve also asked for addresses so I can send some letters. If I didn’t ask for your address feel free to send it to me – I’ve also been heavily medicated this week due to back pain so I’m sure there are a billion things I’m forgetting. Either way, the phone gets turned off at midnight tonight and I don’t want to see it again for a while.

Running for my life

And by running I mostly mean walking with a bit of running thrown in for… fun? And hiking. And getting up at 5:30 am to do workout videos in front of the computer. And trying to keep my step count between 10,000 and 15,000 every day (because, obsessive). And also not eating too much. And fasting for about 12 –… Read more →

I keep coming back to the moss

As I work my way through editing my Iceland photos I keep coming back to this little fact that was thrown out at us on one of our bus tours: Iceland is home to around 600 species of moss.

 

 

It is oddly fascinating to me. I feel as though I am supposed to do something with this information but I don’t really know what. Maybe nothing. Maybe all I was supposed to do was go around taking photos of moss. Although this little nugget of information keeps percolating around my brain.

 

 

Upon my return, and with a minimal amount of research, I have learned that Iceland is also home to around 700 species of lichen and around 2000 species of fungi. It’s a nerdy amateur plant-photographer’s dream.

 

 

Many homes in Rekyjavik had stone walls around them covered in moss and lichen. Perhaps this isn’t as interesting to someone who lives somewhere wet but coming from dry, arid, desert-like Calgary this fascinates me.

 

 

A stone wall covered with moss has almost fairytale-like qualities to it. The fact that moss and lichen is classified as a “species” also intrigues me. As though it is a living, breathing world of its own – which I suppose it is. Perhaps there are secret stories trapped in the moss waiting to be told.

 

When In Doubt

This morning, during a late breakfast* I was attempting to read Flow Magazine and came across this article, “A Little Doubt Is Good For You.” It made me realize that a little doubt isn’t my problem. I think a whole lot of doubt is my problem. Do you ever feel that way? Like nothing you do is good enough? I… Read more →