Can My Blog be the Good Place?

I started writing this blog yesterday and I lost it, it’s somewhere out there, better perhaps than what I’m about to write now, but I’m doing it anyway.

I wrote about television. I wrote about how I am working through the lovely Kerry Clare’s My Blog School and I am writing about things that I love. Television in general doesn’t make me happy but certain shows do. And those created by Mike Schur are among my favourites.

We have watched Parks and Recreation and The Office (American) with our boys who are 12 and 14. There are plenty of jokes about poop and sex (which ignite great discussions) but it’s for the character development that we watch them. It’s the writer’s way of pushing their characters to be kind, that we love.

My husband and I are watching The Good Place by ourselves because somethings need to just be for the adults. The show has a podcast for each episode, it’s usually an hour or so of various actors and writers from the show discussing that week’s plot. My favourite part is the end tradition where everyone has to say one thing at the moment that ‘is good’. It’s always something small and often can lead to guests (and me) getting choked up. Sometimes even the men (if you can imagine!)

Mike Schur and his team tend to write characters who wear their hearts their sleeves and the show’s motives are rarely subtle. But it works right now, no games. One episode lately spoke to something I’ve been thinking a lot about. It was about the need to accept that people are not ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’. Take my neighbours, they despise us and prove it often with their words and actions, but they also foster and train guide-dogs and I can’t not see that. If we don’t start recognizing this gap between people, it’s going to keep growing.

I’m not talking about the assholes who speak in the name of ‘freedom of speech’ as a means of spewing hatred and all the phobias and punching down. I don’t know, maybe they foster hamsters on the side, I don’t think I care. There is obviously a lot of hatred that is hard to see past.

Obama lately commented that:

The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids. And share certain things with you.”

The Op-ed about Obama’s view on cancel culture was seen as being pretty ‘ok boomer’ and wrote he was basically telling young people their activism was equivalent to casting stones. I doubt it was as simple as this however even if it was I think it’s something we need to seriously think about. I can’t be honest and say I don’t sometimes feel a little smug for having beliefs I know to be the ‘right ones’. And even if they are right (and I think they are) should I be able to feel superior over others instead of keeping my head down (instead of my nose up) and just keep doing the work that needs to be done?

The good line lately on The Good Place was that things don’t have to be good or bad, what matters is trying to do better today than you did yesterday. Again, perhaps another overly simplified and ‘easier said than done’ sentiment however (and back to blogging) something I love is trying to do better each day and trying to keep seeing things from different viewpoints even when it isn’t easy.

Why I’m OK with the weather

I took my dog for a walk this week during the first snow. It was cold and sunny and the snow didn’t stop for hours. My mind, instead of becoming the usual mess of worry upon worry, was taken over with images of lit fireplaces, favourite blankets and sweaters, never ending mugs of tea, so many books and the new hat from my aunt that I was already wearing (and loving!) The quiet dark lets my family relax a little, we are more free to stay in and huddle together when we need to without the guilt that we should be out making the most of things. It means warmth and although I loved (loved!) this summer, and miss my swimming (I don’t have time right now to get back in a pool but oh do I miss it!) which made me feel strong, I know I am in need of a break and just some quiet, the kind that only snowy mornings and early evening blanketed in moonlight can bring.

Seasons

Both of my children we born on the cusp of seasons. When William was born after a very long labour at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto it was the end of May. It had been cool before but while I was still there, my husband showed up in shorts and it shocked me. There was a humidex! Two days away and summer had begun.

When Rory was born (12 years ago this week!) I was in the hospital in Kitchener for only three hours with my midwives. We drove home when he was only hours old through the first snow fall, hushed and heavy, of the season.

My neighbour died this weekend. Her story is her own and it was amazing. I loved her very much and I know she loved us and watching our children grow. Every summer, until it was difficult for William to go over, we swam in her and her lovely husband’s pool. That was their Christmas present every year – just call and we’ll unlock the gate. Our relationship, for eleven years, was mostly over a fence. Food was passed over, stories and hugs. She loved our dog and watching the kids on the trampoline. She never judged me for not keeping up the glorious garden in our backyard that she had enjoyed for thirty years. She never made me feel bad for that. I remember the day she hugged me and told me it would take time for things to feel easier after my Boppa passed three years ago. On the rare occasions I would run over and have tea with her and she’d tell me stories of her childhood, her siblings. She was only 82. I wasn’t over enough, I feel bad for that now, I knew I would some day. She always understood it was difficult for me to get away.

This weekend was the start of autumn. Clocks turned back and we woke up to snow this morning. I had the task today of buying a sympathy card – you’re never prepared to feel that first welling of pain for someone you’ve lost, in an aisle of a busy Zehrs on a Sunday morning. It’s going to take time for things to feel easier.

This is a caterpillar making it’s lovely, fuzzy way up the front of my house. I saw it yesterday, another truly gorgeous fall day. I can’t believe how many times I have said “this is the most beautiful Fall!”. I’ve said it many, many times and will be sad when I cannot say it again.

I’ve been away. Not from my home, but from the internet. I still read from it everyday, I just haven’t posted any of my own comments or photos for a few weeks. I’m not exactly sure why, there isn’t any meaningful reason other then a break just felt like the right thing to do.

My days right now, as I’ve mentioned as often as I comment on the weather, are filled with my family and taking care of my children and their stories. And that’s just it. Their stories are not mine to tell and at the moment, I don’t have many of my own. I could write and tell you about how when I gave up Instagram I used that time to read the glorious sequel to Olive Kitteridge as well as Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. I could write about having an ultrasound a few weeks back with my abdomen hurt so much I thought it must be gallstones or something worse but it doesn’t seem like it was (follow up in a month because it was nothing urgent). I could write how after days of that I was eating really well and trying to do better things to take care of myself (…it mama ain’t happy..blah, blah, blah…I know), and then I woke up one morning and couldn’t move because my neck was out like it’s done before and I was cooped up in bed (watching HBO’s Olive ) and began feeling really lousy because if I’ve been taking care of everyone and trying so hard to be good to myself and this still happens, geez, well, what then?

So I’m back? Maybe. My stories aren’t exciting, they sound pretty whiny even though I’m not. And 95% of the stuff in my brain most days I can’t write about. So I’m here at the starting line of Kerry Clare’s Blog School without running shoes (did I mention I sprained my ankle exercising last week ?!) or those wrist sweatband things that would be really cool but I want to push on and just start. And I will. I wrote this didn’t I, the equivalent of the caterpillar making it’s way along the front of my house, slow and steady hoping the wind won’t blow it down.

Fortress

I have bought a lot of books this summer. I always do, but I may have broken a personal best this summer. And I say best, because I buy these books without guilt (and yes, I do get the irony that I used to work at a library). I buy them mostly at my independent store, Wordsworth, but I’ll be honest and say that this summer many have come from Chapters and second hand shops. I build up piles everywhere and no one complains. They tease but never complain.

My Nana and I were talking about this the other day and she reminded me that I have always done this. I would pile stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club or Sweet Valley around my bed. And I know I did this, I haven’t stopped. All my life I have stacked books in piles around me, like a fortress, while reading them.

When I was small, I grew up a block away from my Nana and Boppa and I lived with my Mother and my younger sister. My mother always had severe mental health issues and it was hard. I can’t imagine not having my grandparents down the street to help, they did so much more than that. I should write a post one day about the ways they were always there for me, it would be my longest post ever.

My piles of books, then and now, aren’t meant to keep anyone away or even provide me with a safe space. I didn’t need that, then or now. Yet my caregiver role started early with my mom, when I was really young. As a mom now I know that’s never ideal. My grandparents around the corner did far more than their best. But those fortresses of stories (and those familiar, brilliant authors from Louisa May Alcott and Judy Blume when I was young to Ann Patchett and Meg Woltizer now) give me a place to retreat and rest before stepping back to my people who need me. Reading is where I go to readjust my armor.

I’ll Write for Hot Dog Love

Real Simple.

It’s after 10pm and I’m wearing the new pj pants I bought today for seven dollars at Joe Fresh and am reading the last installment of Jo Walsh’s Small Change trilogy which I LOVE. But I keep thinking about the hot dogs we had for dinner.

At the of end of a truly lousy day, the kids and I drove to pick up Scott and we went to the mall to look into buying new cell phones. I was done, we had no plans for dinner. I made a comment about hot dogs, which we rarely eat, and Scott said to get some, why not. Why not indeed, and we did.

We ate the hot dogs, with some chips and a salad I made and had a fun time. The reason I’m thinking so much about this is that before opening the package, I took a quick picture of the hot dogs and posted in on Instagram with some whiny comment about my bad day. I know hot dogs aren’t a preferred choice to feed one’s family, but after we’d had our fun and were feeling better, I picked up my phone and saw the hearts and comments people had left in full support. It’s so small but means so much.

I sometimes struggle with posting so much and writing this blog, but at the end of the day, I love it. Maybe more so right now that I’m at home and not as social as other times in my life. I really value the friendships I’ve made online. By ‘hearting’ my hot dogs, my load was lightened, and if that can go both ways, that’s more than enough of a reason to be here.

It’s the Little Things

We just got home from the mall. I had to return a few things, pick up some groceries. It turned into lunch with me and the kids which was lovely. We also walked through the bookstore and I got a coffee in the new travel cup I got yesterday in the mail from my cousins in BC. Their package had lots of treats, one or two things perfectly suited and chosen for each of us. My favourite part of it was hearing my kids recognize not only how thoughtful everything was but how much each gift shows how well our family knows us.

We had a great weekend as well. Scott made us amazing food, fried chicken, cherry cobbler, brushetta and pasta. I read a lot, I swam a lot! We went to our local outdoor pool and swam in the rain. I’m walking around sore after working on my whip kick. I drank more than one can of radler, my new favourite. We went to the market and bought peaches and corn and cinnamon buns for breakfast one morning. We slept in and played games. Scott and I watched season one of Fleabag which lives up to the hype, it’s amazing! He and I have swapped two of our favourite series to read. I’ve started Jo Walton’s ‘Small Change’ triology and he is reading Eden Robsinson’s Trickster books. We continue to watch The Office in the evenings with the kids, even if it isn’t as exciting now that Jim and Pam are together and the plots are getting extra silly. The kids still laugh so hard.

There are four weeks left of summer and a longish trip to Toronto still to look forward (feel free to send any thoughts of things to do and places to eat!) where we will be house and cat-sitting. It’s so easy to worry about September but it’s so much nicer to enjoy these little things together. So that’s what I’ve decided to do.