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.

Early Sunday Morning

I’ve stopped sleeping in. I just don’t like to anymore, sadly that doesn’t mean I’m going to bed any earlier. The upstairs floor of our house is a square I can lie down on and reach all sides – bathroom and three bedrooms. My sons are both taller than me now. It’s hard to find privacy. It’s even harder to find quiet to be able to sleep before midnight. But I kind of love it.

For over two months I’ve been getting up, at 7am or just before, to write. I use a aeropress to make myself a sub-par cup of coffee because I can’t risk waking anyone up with our miracle coffee maker but I look forward to it’s warmth. I read Karma Brown’s The 4% Fix and got up one morning and that was it.

It’s Sunday morning now and I’ve just finished 1000 words of my novel (my novel!!). When I first started this early morning writing time it was cold and dark but now the sun greets me. I stand outside when I let my dog out. I am watching a second robin start a new nest outside out window. I sit on my couch and can see out from my front and back windows. Out back my maple tree shines and and gives a woodpecker a place to rest.

It’s early and everything feels light and possible. I’m excited for the day. It feels like summer.

And I still get to look forward to breakfast.

May

May is a good month around here and this year we’ve got a kid turning 16, which is crazy seeming that he was only 14 when this whole pandemic thing started. The kids are doing alright, but we did figure out through hit and miss experiments that Rory is gluten intolerant, so we’ve been spending a lot of time figuring out what that means. It means he can’t eat many things. But he’s smart and we’re working hard to not only find good things to make but also what will work as excellent treats for this spring and summer such a place that sells gluten free ice cream cones and finding the perfect gluten free hamburger buns for Scott’s excellent burgers.

Other things it the robin’s next we were obsessed with. We could see right down into from our front window and from the eggs being laid to birds hatching, being fed and learning how fecal sacs work (google it!). We missed seeing the birds actually leave the nest which was heartbreaking after watching them for two weeks but there was a new robin checking out the nest this morning so we’re hopeful it could start again.

During my time away from here, I got up to 150 pages of a novel written but then realized a major plot point wasn’t going to work and I didn’t want it to, so I scraped a lot of it and now have just under 40 pages. Also in the time my laptop died, I got a new one, it died and I switched it for another one, a better one!.

We’re finishing up school, not too long to go now. Both boys are signed up for in-person school in September and both at high school which is so hard believe.

Writing this feels ridiculously rough but that’s why I’m doing it – a checklist of what is going on now. I’m so used to writing fiction everyday, up early and writing while they sleep has become something I look forward to, an absolute joy. The warmer weather this week along with time in the hammock has also helped lift spirits, not to mention mine and Rory’s love of watching The Circle on Netflix every evening.

We are at the stage in the lockdown that we are doing what makes us happy and gives us a break – all the good shows, all the ice cream, all the amazing books in the hammock and all the walks. We’ve been vaccinated once and the kids aren’t going to be as far behind us as we thought. Good things to look forward to is the way to go.

Taking Stock

This is just a really good week and when I saw this on Kerry Clare’s site I couldn’t resist, and she found it first here.

So why is this such a good well? It’s because I’m…

Making: this cake from Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings, by Yossy Arefi.
Getting: excited for longer days and so many new books.
Cooking: from Julia Turshen’s new cookbook, Simply Julia
Sipping: new flavoured radlers from Waterloo Brewing
Reading: Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny and so excited to start Half Life by Krista Foss
Waiting: for my first Mama Organics box today!!
Looking: out the window in my new office
Listening: to Sarah Harmer and Evermore by Taylor Swift and I’m trying to fit in an audiobook
Wishing: the new Lane Winslow was already here! Not long to go though.
Enjoying: sun in the morning, long walks in our creek
Appreciating: So much. The amazing way my boys deal with hard things all while making me laugh all the time. Good food. The extra energy I have.
Eating: Indian food we ordered and it took us three days to finish it!
Liking: the new Falcon and Winter Solider show and continuing to have fun Friday tv nights.
Loving: Ted Lasso! Definitely lives up to all the hype.
Buying: Jean overalls.
Managing: all of the upcoming virtual book talks and virtual literary festivals I’ve signed up for and the books I need to read before the start!
Watching: Ted Lasso, Ted Lasso, Ted Lasso (he needs to be mentioned several times)
Hoping: the final episode ever of Superstore this week is perfect!
Wearing: jeans! tshirts! and now my overalls.
Following: the ducks around in my creek
Noticing: how much happier I am when there’s sun
Sorting: through old pictures
Getting: this amazing box of local items from Stratford today in the mail this week!
Bookmarking: all the new Spring books I need to read.
Coveting: nothing, I feel only overjoyed at seeing people getting their vaccines and know ours will come!
Feeling: Happy and not as tired as I was.
Hearing: Birds!

The Story of 3 Pink Fish

I realized this morning that I’ve never written about why this site is called pink fish, the reading part is obvious. Pink fish, and specifically 3 pink fish, has nothing actually to do with my 3 guys. It’s about something that happened back when I was in my first month of university.

I went to St Jerome’s College at the University of Waterloo and back in the day they did a carnival week full of activities and fundraising. All first years had to join a committee to help out and I joined the games committee, although looking back I’m sure I didn’t really want to. The committees were led by upper years, in my case a second year named Scott.

He was quiet and I knew of him but only that he seemed kind of grumpy and hung out with a totally different crowd than mine. Our meetings were short, he didn’t talk much that I remember, and he definitely didn’t seem impressed with me. Especially when I came to our second meeting with a prototype for the game I wanted to make and run.

I’d taken bright pink sheets of construction paper and cut out three fish, each with a comic looking eye and smile. I punched a hole in the fin of each and cut three different lengths of string, tying each to a fish. The other end of the string was tied around the end of a pencil. I barely even remember, it was lame, he had no need to be impressed. I think the goal was the pick the fish that had the longest string attached, who knows. I’m sure I’d half halfheartedly made it while sitting on the floor of the common room watching ER one Thursday night.

I took the fish to the next meeting, he obviously thought I was insane. That was 1995. The carnival came and went, Scott and I never spoke again for years. He thought I was a bit of a flake apparently. I just thought he was a huge grump and was glad to done working with him.

Fast forward to winter of 1998. I was a don at my residence and one of the other dons had gotten ill and needed to leave. Scott had been a summer don before, and at that time he was in L.A on co-op. Everyone loved him and I was in our director’s office when he was called and asked to consider talking position for the next term. He said yes and I was miserable, our team was perfect and I didn’t want him to join. No one understood why I was being so stubborn.

So January 1, 1998 we were all waiting for him to come back to school so we could go away on a don retreat with our director. I was hungover, badly, from a New Year’s party the night before. I have been hungover twice in my life, and that made it even funnier for our team. That’s how Scott met me again.

Long and fun story short, we got along, realized we had completely misjudged each other, became really great friends and three months later – on March 19 – we kissed for the first time. Two year later, after a trip to LA and starting at UofT for his Masters and teacher’s college for me, he proposed.

We still have the original 3 fish. For some reason I stuck them in a book and kept them but I can’t find them this morning. I am covered in dust from looking. But just as good are the three fish Scott made and used to put my engagement in when he proposed.

From that first March 19, 23 years ago, we’ve been grumpy and flaky and everything in between – but mostly so very happy. We’ve got pink fish from Italy that my aunt brought us, earrings, Value Village findings, Christmas decoration, plates, so many pink fish things including this blog. So for tonight’s Love in a Pandemic dinner, Indian takeout for adults only is the plan. And yes, so is retelling this story to the boys who have heard it so, so many times.

Lent Reads #6 and 7 or the Day my Coffee Looked like a Pink Fish

I’m rusty this morning. It’s been a long two weeks with hard days but many fun things. Work that put writing off, so I grabbed a book as often as I could.

I reread To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, I hadn’t since university. It amazed me (shouldn’t have) how relatable it was, how it’s themes are prevalent in so many books not to mention what I’m writing now. Women and what they have and what they want and when guilt and ambition that mash up against each other. The night when Mrs Ramsay wants so much to go to the beach with the younger people but feels torn and ends up staying home because she feels she should. I wanted her to go. I wanted Lily to paint more and not worry about Mr Ramsay. There is so much there and my thoughts are still whirling.

I’m also still recovering from not enough sleep; turning the clocks back but more from staying up way too late to watch the Grammy’s with Rory (totally worth it, they were amazing!), and then another really bad sleep. But the days are longer and it’s Spring and I choose to fully accept what that means. High temperatures and the possibility of snow in a month. New rainboots and chilly walks in my forest and having to juggle mitts and the dog leash to get at the mini eggs I hid in my coat pocket. It means perfect sun in the kitchen while we make dinner and being surprised when it’s already 8pm even though it’s still light outside. It means bursts of energy and making plans that might not come to fruition. This year is means signing up for Mama Earth Organics to deliver to our door every Wednesday, something I’ve been meaning to set up for years. Spring, so far this years, has so many thoughts of ‘has it really been a year.”

But it means time is passing and bringing us closer to vaccines and family visits and school in person! It means the latest and last Trickster book is out and that the new Lane Winslow will be out soon! It means for a few hours a week I open a window and will soon put the flannel sheets away. It means tomorrow we get to celebrate another anniversary of when we got together – this years it’s 23 pink fish for us. It means radlers and lighter blankets and finales of our favourite shows and thoughts of new fun takeout and ice cream. It means making plans, but taking things slow because that’s what we need and that’s always ok. For me, it’s going to be about finding a good balance between the guilt (worry) and reasonable ambition to get to my own lighthouse, as much writing as I can do in the upcoming months.

Lent Read #5

Oh the day last week when I read the short story Vittorio by Shirley Hazzard! There was no covid, no distance learning, no thoughts about what to have for dinner. Just me on a terrace somewhere in Italy in the sun, perhaps smoking my first cigarette.

I was watching an online event last week with Lily King and Ann Patchett and they reminded me of everything I love about books – talking about them! They got so excited getting to share their favourites titles with each other, and that’s when they started talking about Shirley Hazzard who I’ll admit, I didn’t know. Lily keeps Hazzard’s Evening of the Holiday on her desk at all times and when she squealed and held it up to show Ann and hugged it to her face, I immediately put in an order for it at my book store. Then Ann got so excited and talked about her favourite, The Great Fire with such joy that now I have it out from the library along with a gorgeous new collection of Hazzard’s short stories with an introduction by Zoe Heller. I am working my way through them and each time I open the covers it’s like sunshine pouring out from within. The details, the dialogue, the descriptions of Italy and spring in England make winter and everything else right now melt away. Her characters, the unspoken drama she leaves to be interpreted by the reader! Talk about spring fever!

It’s so wonderful to be reminded that lovely surprises can still happen at any minute.

Best Book Club (Lent Read #4)

Lily King’s The English Teacher has strong Olive Kitteridge vibes.

I’m deep into Lily King’s backlist. Now that my back is better, I’m not reading and quite the rate I was when I spent the day in bed. We are in a lovely routine right now with every one working on school the first half of the day while I’m writing. Lily King’s books are gorgeous and exactly the books I need to remind me why I love reading and writing so much.

One of the highlights of every day is still talking to my Nana. I’d recently sent her a picture of my new little office, beside my bookshelves in front of a sunny window. Her reaction was “how many books do you have!?” and she said she loved seeing that picture because it made her realize how I’m still the same kid she used to take to the library and the bookstore and we’d spend hours picking out the perfect thing to read next.

Our conversation took off and we talked about how, like so many woman my age, read Flowers in the Attic too soon. She told me she secretly read it while I was which I didn’t know and made us laugh. We talked about Judy Blume and how Blubber had made me cry because I hated how much the main character was teased. We talked about how it couldn’t be possible that Are you There God, It’s Me Margaret? is now more than 50 years old and that we want to read it again.

We talked about the gaps in our reading that we want to fill. Agatha Christie and more Jane Austen. She wants to read Jane Eyre. She told me that when she worked at the Whitby Public Library, despite the author being from Whitby, it took years for staff to order Dixon’s Hardy Boys or Keene’s Nancy Drew series because they were so badly written. Nana had to fight for finally get them on the shelves.

She told me – and I loved this – that when she moved to the new library – the library that is now the Whitby library – they had their first Young Adult display. She turns 94 next week and I’m going to buy her Gabrielle Moss’ Paperback Crush, as is described on the front as “the totally radical history of ’80s and ’90s teen fiction. I love my copy and it’ll be great to go through the pages and titles together during over calls and see which covers and authors she remembers. What stories they bring up.

We talked last night about how she was always tripping over me during my Harriet the Spy phase (which I like to think has never ended) and how she always knew by a certain joyful laugh that I was reading Anastasia Krupnik. We talked about my love of stories that took place in boarding schools and how my aunt in England would send my the Enid Byton Malory Towers series. How I would bawl over Jean Little’s sad stories of other kids with CP. It was the perfect sort of conversation you have when everything falls away and you’re flying, same feeling I get when I’m writing. It makes me so happy to be reminded that I have been so very lucky to have this consistent goodness in my life, books and writing, since I was so small. And that I get to share it all with her.

Lent Reads #3

Oh this book! This writer! I have her entire backlist on hold at the library. I am probably late to this party but I don’t care. This is the kind of reading I love.

I read Writers and Lovers when it came out last year and it was easily on my favourite of 2020. This one is so different – except for the love triangle – but also so, so good. I know, my book reviewing skills are rusty which is odd because this is a blog supposedly about things I read. I don’t care. Onward.

I’m trying to read as many books as possible during Lent. I took Instagram off my phone to read and write more. I miss it already but I’ll stick with the plan. I’ll start to read my fourth book today – New Book Day as well call is here, the day you are lucky enough to finish a book and start another. Such a good day.

I love books, like Euphoria, about women and science. I loved Ann Patchet’s State of Wonder (of which Euphoria is very reminiscent) and Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted. I loved Melissa Barbeau’s The Luminous Sea and Lauren Groff’s The Monster of Templeton and Chemistry by Weike Wang. The lives fighting to maintain their identify, their passion for their work often in danger of being sacrificed for the other part of their lives, loves, family. It’s the passion for their work that I love reading about, their tenacity, and why it’s so important to cling to – as if don’t already know.

**Added – The Signature of All Things buy Elizabeth Gilbert. I will forever love moss because of this book.

I’m Going to Write a Post

OK. I’m going to write a post that I’ve wanted to write for months. I am writing now in my new space while the sun at my window cheers me on. You might not love it.

I read another quote about mothers and how impossible the past year has been for us. So true. This morning I read this quote, from Betsey Stevenson, an economist at U of Michigan.

“People talk about how moms can lift a car off their children, but even though you can do it, it doesn’t mean you didn’t do damage to your body when lifting the car. 2020 was like lifting a car off your kid; 2021 is going to be ‘How are those women able to heal?'”

This is where I hear myself saying OK in John Oliver’s voice. It’s also forcing me to take a very deep breath. In no way am what I am to write discrediting anything that mothers have been through this year. In no way! Of course not. It’s been beyond the worst. Again, of course.

But. And here I’ll first take another deep breath. By the time the first NYT articles about the hell mothers were going through began circulating everywhere on social media, I had never felt so alone. Because if I’m being honest, what mothers were experiencing starting last March, I had been going through for years. Alone. With zero validation, or support, or a voice other than some posts here and on instagram that – if I’m honest – were always the posts that got the fewest amount of likes.

Mothers of children with special needs have lived quietly and alone, giving up jobs and social lives for a long time. But when I ever tried to speak out, I know people saw me as a whiner, ugh, what now? Before the pandemic, my son – as most know – was hit with the worst anxiety I could imagine, and fast, like he’d been skipping across a street and then hit by a speeding truck. Five years later, we are all still recovering from just that trauma, the whiplash. Life changed for him and for us overnight, literally.

We lost friends, I had to go on sick leave, eventually giving up a job I loved and had worked long and hard to get. As the mom, my job had to be the one we let go because it paid so much less than my husbands’ – sounds familiar, right? The writing projects I’d been working on went up in smoke. There was never a minute to myself and honestly, it was a two parent job, Scott worked from home whenever he could. There were no New York Times articles to fuel me, no bread tutorials, no time for netflix or neighbourhood self-distanced bbqs. No fun takeout or picnics, my son wouldn’t eat. No hikes in the sunny woods because he couldn’t leave the house, still can’t lots of days. There was no time for self-care or any thoughts of what I might need to heal let alone just be well. We didn’t leave the house for months except for doctor’s appointments, we missed our families, there was no school although we tried, every single day. Schools threw their hands up in the air early on and suggested homeschooling which wasn’t an option for us. We were lonely.

So, of course, everyone is suffering this year – of course. And I sincerely hope my readers know me well enough by now and don’t think I’m minimizing that. We still know how lucky we are, our troubles are still so much less that others – money isn’t a huge worry and we know how to advocate for our children, and we do. And we’re happy people, I think that’s one reason why others are able to push us away. Oh, they’re fine. But when this is over, the effects will go on for who knows how long. But getting back to normal – the afterwards – doesn’t look that different for us and I’m afraid we’ll be left behind again.

I’ve been biting my tongue not to write this and the reason the quote above finally propelled me to do so was these thoughts of after covid. My son it doing much better than 5 years ago, no question, life is different and we do takeouts and treats and all the good things. We will go on holidays again and see family. But we don’t know about school an we constantly are needing to adjust what we thought our future might look like. I have more time to write now but I’m years behind where I wish I was – I feel often like I’ll never catch up and am seen as just a wannabe. I have to idea when I’ll be able to go back to work/write full-time. And it’s fine, this isn’t about me complaining. I’m not, I’m good.

But I’ve been alone, and I’m sure there are so many other mothers of kids who have been doing some sort of hybrid online/in class mess for years before this hit. Mothers who were already struggling so much with no end in sight. And hopefully now that online school is a thing, it might be easier to help kids learn from home through the board. Who knows.

This isn’t a complaint or a cry for for help. Just another voice telling another side of the story.