Connections

About a month ago or more ago I got an idea for what I want to write, really write. I stop and start so many times, I have great trouble with that, but this is good! It’s a mystery, that’s all I’m going to say, maybe. I’m also going to say that since getting this idea, I may not exactly call them signs, but I do seem to be getting encouraged to start from many different places.

First, there were the Connie Willis books, chalk full of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers references. I need to read these. I am reading the last of Willis’ Time Travelling Historians series and it’s perfection and maybe while reading To Say Nothing of the Dog is when I got my idea.

Second, I was thinking about mysteries and how of course I need to start reading more. There is an English series by Richard Osman about the Thursday Murder Club, a group of octogenarians in a retirement home who solve mysteries. The library had a million holds on the first book and it was during a week when I’d pre-ordered and bought my own million books from Wordsworth so I added myself to the hold list and forgot about it until my jaw was locked shut with pain one night, so badly I was in tears and had to go to the dentist to pick up a temporary night guard. What is outside the dentist? A lending library with Osman’s first book inside. I didn’t take it, I didn’t have another one to swap for it and I think I got a bit spooked. I drove away with a painful jaw and empty hands.

But! I did realize how crazy this was and luckily the lending library is around the corner from my kids’ high school and I went back for it the next day, spontaneously and still without a book to replace it with but I plan to add a bunch next week when we go back to the dentist because William needs braces.

Third, I heard about this book, The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections about a librarian in Toronto who solves a mystery! And not only does it sound beyond wonderful, but Kerry Clare interviewed author Eva Jurczyk and they talked about how to write a mystery and so many wonderful bookish things! I’ve ordered my copy and can’t wait to pick it up next week.

This of course is also connected to my absolute LOVE of Lane Winslow mysteries written by the Iona Whishaw. My Nana adored Lane also and bingeing the entire series was one of her greatest pleasures during lockdown. The newest Lane comes out this April and it’s going to hard to read without Nana. The cover was revealed and I showed it to her the week before she died, and we talked about them again. I’ve pre-ordered it and have decided reading it won’t be sad, it’ll make me feel close to her.

Just like writing my mystery will! Yes, it’s about an adult granddaughter and her Nana solving mysteries in a retirement home! Of course it is, and hopefully so much more.

Please, push me to keep going, check in on me if you can. I’m deciding to be brave by putting this out there. This would mean so much to me and know I’m cheering you all on at all times as well! Depression does get in my way – my own and my childrens’ if I’m honest, as does life which is the same as for everyone. But I was obviously looking for signs of encouragement and I hope they will keep on coming now that I going to get to work.

Routines

One of the trickiest things right now is getting into any sort of routine. Every Monday feels different, like going out once again into our snow covered driveway and wondering how best to tackle it. The shovel is awkward when we first start digging out, the snow feels heavier than last time, there’s no clear path just yet. But by the time you get to the end, you’ve thrown off your hat, chatted with a few neighbours and see most of the ground! That’s Friday, things weren’t so bad and you’ve made it.

Then Sunday comes, you feel rested and your muscles have healed but Monday’s forecast is something completely new.

It was the holiday. Then two weeks of online. For high school kids, like mine, every week has been different. With their four classes split into only two a week (a pointless attempt at cohorts), it means that each week is different. Then next week is totally new again because it’s the end of term so there are two days the same, and then two different days again and then three days off at home for catching up followed by a pd day before second term starts with four new classes the first week of February.

The good news (there has to be some!) is that for next term, the boards have announced they are going back to normal schedules! This means they will have four classes a day and none will be 2.5 hours long which has been insane and ridiculous. But again, it will be once again be totally different.

But we’re rolling with it better than I’d expected, with baked goods and some days not much more than a ‘meh’ attitude. I don’t dwell too much on how much they’ve missed out on. The things that are consistent are working because they are the most important – good friends – which makes the shovelling and the snow storms much more fun.

**add on — none of this is a complaint, by the way, except for the 2.5 hr long classes, they were a disaster. I’m happy my kids are back in class, no matter how crazy the days are. Because the most wonderful thing is hearing them come home and talk about their days – school talk is the best and we’ve all missed it so much.

Holding on

Everything seems to be holding on. Kids are back in school today, first time again in forever. I’m feeling ok about it, maybe shouldn’t be or just this is the way things are and we’re rolling with it.

Yesterday’s shovelling hasn’t seemed to hurt my back and my jaw is feeling better. Out in the snow yesterday, talking to neighbours under that huge sky knowing I had cake and tea and my book to come inside to was perfect.

And now I’m going to go write. I’ve got time before I pick the kids up and hear (unfortunately) all about the other kids who can’t seem to figure out how to wear their masks properly. My kids tend to dwell on these things sometimes, they haven’t yet completely inherited my optimism. Or I’m just swimming in denial.

Tea, check! Time to myself, check! Chocolate, check! Here I go!

Moving

As soon as I made my lists and got off of the couch and into the sunny patches around the house, things didn’t feel immediately better but I felt more in control. I wasn’t seeing time disappear without noticing. I kept moving. I was choosing how to spend my time and being on instagram and my blog more this week have been a big apart of this. That, along with buying good tea and then decorating to always be prepared for a tea party.

Friday

We did it. We made it to Friday. School work is mostly done, the term is almost over. The kids go back on Monday. I made soup and banana bread and stayed in pjs for longer that necessary. I wrote a blog three days in a row. I started each morning making a list and checking things off as the hours went by. I won Wordle almost every day. We are watching a movie all together with takeout tonight. We have presents to deliver to loved one tomorrow and there will be a bakery stop at some point. I stood at the back door waiting for my dog to come in yesterday and ached for my hammock and warm weather. I read blogs of women I admire and listened to podcasts. I watched terrible but wonderful reality tv with my youngest son and listened when my oldest told me about his video games. I enjoyed the present moment and dreamt a little about the future. I am so grateful for a husband who understands and helps when I need him to get me through one moment to the next as well as for the dad jokes I hear him recording for his lectures.

We all pushed through the last five days – you as well, friend – we may have laughed and we probably cried a little. We are one step closer to longer days, as my friend Elizabeth wrote about so beautifully.

And now the sun is out to celebrate us all.

Growth

I’ve been using the Forest app for years to give myself time off my phone to get shit done. Yesterday I was playing with it and noticed a link to another app and followed it and it led me to a tree personality test. They’re fun, meaningless and I did it while sitting on my rug and petting my dog. It took five minutes. The above image was the result and it nearly took my breath away.

I’ve written here about my Nana’s love of the sparrows at the feeder she had suctioned to her window. But just a few feet past that window, were about six baby ginkgo trees that the retirement home planted before Covid. She told me about them when I was reading Rules for Visiting, a novel I love by Jessica Francis Kane. The novel is about a young women who works as a botanist for a university while grieving the death of her mother. Chapters have simple sketches of trees and one is of the ginkgo and I remember having just read that chapter when Nana told me about her new baby trees.

She loved those trees. They were planted in the fall of 2019 I’m guessing and she was so excited to wait until the next spring and see their growth. Only one didn’t make it through the winter and had to be replaced. She talked about those trees so often over the next two years. She missed them when she went to live with family in Orillia in 2020 for a few months. I wish I had a picture of them.

I bought Kane’s book for Nana and I think she read about half of it, never got to the Ginkgo chapter which is near the end because, like so many of us, she went through times when it was just too hard to concentrate. She did love what she read and like so many other books, it gave us so much to talk about. So yesterday, when the Ginkgo tree came up as my personality tree…what can I say? That it’s one of those beautiful, unexpected gifts and connections.

January Keeps Moving

The mornings have been beautiful, icy cold with sun. And it helps but I’ve still not been feeling myself. The days are long, there is so much to worry about, so much uncertainty. I’m grateful for consistency of twinkly lights, gorgeous skies, the perfect cup of coffee every morning and the newspaper we pick up out of the snow when we’re still in pjs.

I get stuck often, I’ll even say depressed because that’s just what it is, just another word and I always have, off and on. Whether right now it’s that Nana’s gone, or there isn’t enough sunlight or just so much to worry about, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s hard to get off the couch and stop scrolling but the pull of the little things and love and hugs (oh, Scott’s hugs) and laughing are always stronger and bring me back.

So this morning I’m trying so hard. Yes, that included ordering more books, Maggie Smith’s Keep Moving and others. New pjs pants because it’s cold going out for that paper and I’m posting more on instagram to move through the day.

I made Julia Turshen’s delicious tomato soup last night from her latest cookbook which I love and served it with grilled cheese. I am drinking the perfect gingerbread flavoured tea right now. I am devouring Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travelling Historian series and am looking forward to reading more books I’ve missed rather than always reaching for the newest one.

I am going to try to write here every morning, with tea and books piled around me like I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I am going to start writing once again because I have an idea for a novel that is so amazing and fun that I’m petrified to start! But I will, wearing cozy new slippers and a blanket I once bought for Nana.

Advent 1

I woke up this morning to a table I’d decorated for December 1st, before going to bed. I love our Christmas dishes and I figured an extra week of using them couldn’t hurt. We also got our tree yesterday, earlier that usual, so this Dec 1 was a little more decorated than normal, why not?

This holiday will be full of ups and downs after losing my Nana, and I’m ready for it as much as I can be. I’ve never experienced grief like this before, anything like this before. One day I’m happy wearing a pair of her earrings, the next day I can’t even see the jewellery box without feeling queasy. I go through bursts of nesting similar to when I was pregnant only to crash later, feeling exhausted mentally and physically – hard to life my arms, hard to go for a walk. It’s a wild ride for sure.

She loved Facebook, keeping up with people and seeing pictures of nature walks and family. But she never understood why people would post about people who had died, post anniversaries of losing loved ones. She never saw how people could post things so personal. I told her once that sometimes people need to post in order to feel love from their community to help with their hurt. Now I know what I was getting at.

There are fun things in this wild mix. I am reading again! I loved Elizabeth Strout’s Oh William! and Amor Towles The Lincoln Highway! But the book that is filling me with joy right now is Lesley Krueger’s Time Squared! So perfect.

My kids have both joined the school swim team and that for our family is huge! I am looking forward to only two and a bit more weeks of school and then time off, although, like I said, I know it will be different this year.

One thing I’ve found with grief is it’s leaving me with cravings – longing for dark and cozy nights with candles and twinkle lights and tea. Blankets and warmth. It’s a journey, this grief, this extreme, incredible love, and it’s mine.

Enough

I am watching the sparrows outside my kitchen window. My Nana, who died on October 10, loved the sparrows that flew to her own. She had a bird feeder made of clear plastic that suctioned to it, long enough to hold four or five of the little guys at once. The squirrels kept them back until Scott and I bought her the same birdfeed we use, some kind with a spicy seed they don’t like. She was so happy with how well it worked, it really does. The sparrows would squeeze in, side by side, and eat the feed. We’d watch them together and that was enough.

She told me she’d be with me always, I know she is and maybe it’s in these sparrows on my deck, at my feeders full of spicy seeds. Right now it’s not enough, not at all, but I’m hoping that one day it will be.

I love Linda Belcher

I love Linda Belcher, the mom on of our favourite shows, Bob’s Burgers. To me, there has never been a more family friendly, loving cast of colourful characters. The jokes and the writing has never failed us, even after watching eleven seasons over the past few years. I’ll admit, sometimes Scott and I look at each other during episodes in disbelief because it’s as though the writers have been watching us for inspiration.

Linda is hilarious, she loves to sing and loves her family fiercely. She and her husband Bob own and run a burger place. She has names and stories for the raccoons in the alley behind their restaurant and the apartment above where they live. She doesn’t care if anyone else likes her, as long as her family is relatively happy and healthy. There is one episode in particular that I have watched with my boys on my birthday for the past few years. And last night, at the end of my 45th birthday, we watched it again.

It starts with Linda waking up alone in bed, it’s her birthday too. She tries to say how old she is but can only say the first part – ‘forty’ – but can’t quite get the second one out. She hates her birthday, unlike me. Her three kids come in with a crummy breakfast of burnt toast and eggs while her husband is in the kitchen mixing mayonnaise and lemon juice in hopes of making her an at-home spa. The kids are sort of helping, Bob can’t quite get things to work. They keep Linda in her room but she’s getting stir crazy. Read already, I always say but sadly, Linda is not a reader. She asks them if she can sneak out to go shopping because no one picked up any milk so they let her go, happy for the extra time.

What follows is a horrible day for Linda. She has to stand in line behind an inconsiderate woman with takes forever at the cash register and then locks her purse, keys and phone in the car. She gets gum in her hair and splits open the back of her pants. She goes back into the store but the clerk won’t let her use their phone. She grabs a plastic bag and makes a diaper to wear over her ripped pants.

She gets on the wrong bus, ends up walking through a field miles from home, gets sprayed by a skunk twice. Meanwhile, her crew at home gets worried when she doesn’t answer her phone and goes off in search of her, realizing that something must be wrong and with every minute she is having and worse and worse birthday. They find her car at the grocery store, worry about the melting chocolate popsicles and also think they are already forgetting what she looks like – it really is hilarious.

While Linda hikes towards home, her children take Bob to the places she goes with them often but he doesn’t know about – a bakery where she’s recently been banned for taking too many free samples, a pet store where the parrots mimic her, and a hotel with a fancy bathroom where everyone who works there loves her and doesn’t mind that she comes in once a week or so to use the facilities because she loves the potpourri. It’s fun seeing Bob’s amazement as he learns new things about his wife, no matter how crazy.

Our heros finally make it home and the spa is a success! The show ends with Linda in the bath they’d planned for her, the only difference is it’s in tomato juice and not the flower petals they’d collected. Her son dips his grilled cheese in the bath while they apologize for the terrible day she had.

But she loved it, she says it was the best birthday ever! She kicked it’s butt and wants to have a challenge like this every year. Bob tells her how amazing it is to keep being surprised by her. It ends with her telling the kids to get Mom the vodka! And that’s the show I watch every year.

I don’t want that challenge, I’m happy to end my birthday just by watching but I love her spirit, her family and I think what I love most is how my love for Linda Belcher is just mine and not something trending online. Something that I love, something my family laughs at when she reminds them of me, and a show we can share and see the love we have for each other reflected back at us.