Archive for January 2011

The randomness of relocation preparation

January 20, 2011

In my filing cabinet – my green, four-drawer legal filing cabinet, which I bought when my partner and I lived out west and, much to his chagrin, packed into our suburban when we moved back to Ontario, refusing to leave it behind – is a file of story ideas. There’s also a file of column ideas, from when I was writing my Carrie On column for a community newspaper in Prince George, BC. There’s files for important things, too, like health and banking and receipts I may or may not need to keep for seven or nine or twelve or however many years it is you are now required to keep files for income tax purposes. And a file for maps, insurance, and one for each of my children, containing, I think, their birth registrations, immunization records, mixed in with paintings of their hand and feet prints from random stages of their growth to date.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’m about to relocate for what seems like the billionth time in my adult life. And each time I move, I attempt to clean out some of the excess from my beloved green filing cabinet. Because it becomes more and more full each time I move. And because each time I find myself in this position, I get not a little bit panicky that some of its contents, which I have most likely forgotten about, will be lost in the shuffle. Oh the horror of losing things I didn’t even know I had in the first place.

There is one other prized possession I coddle during the packing stages of my existence, and that is my kitty trunk (not for holding baby cats, no, it’s a square trunk, with a picture of two white kittens repeated on all five visible sides). I’m not even sure at what point in my life it appeared, but it’s always lived in my room, or in my closet, or in a storage area probably under the stairs where it acquires a mustiness as comfortable to inhale as an old pair of slippers are to slip tired feet into.

Inside the kitty trunk are my journals. I’ve always been enamoured by old books, and in my wildest fantasies (where I’ve actually already reached the status of a published author of fiction – never mind that I have yet to complete something that could possibly be published), these journals are discovered by one of my descendants, a child of my children’s children, and published posthumously (what an extravagant word).

For now, I would be appalled at the very idea of anyone reading them. I am in awe of my parents and my husband, who have never expressed even the slightest interest in delving into them (as far as I know). A sign of my own self delusion is that I imagine that others are dying to read my ramblings, when the truth is, those who know me best are already aware of my most embarrassing and hilariously not-so-secret secrets, and they probably would rather cut off a limb than be subjected to the torture of reading my diaries. But these journals are my dearest, oldest friends. So vulnerable – a single match would light them into oblivion in mere minutes.

I’m not a linear kind of a thinker. When I sit down to write, I often start with a writing exercise, a prompt, or questions for the characters I’m writing about. I’ll write a scene, then go over another I wrote in the past. I’ll look through my journals from my own time of life that corresponds with the time of life of a character I’m writing about. I’ll read articles on writing on the internet.

This may seem like a lot of procrastination. But it’s actually a lot like parenting. You start to empty the dishwasher, then get called away to wipe someone’s bum. You put the baby to bed, tumble into sleep yourself only to be woken 45 minutes later. You never did finish emptying the dishwasher. You never do manage to get what was known to you pre-kids as “a full night’s sleep”. But if you did tap away at the keyboard for even 10 minutes in a 24 hour period, pat yourself on the back! You got some writing done.

It’s painful and frustrating, more to the point, schizophrenic, this never-completing-and-always-just-barely-getting-into-a-project, but you make the appropriate adjustments in your life to accommodate your new routines. You have a glass of wine at 5 pm – one glass is all it takes to give the world a slight glow, and stops you from letting your fatigue erupt in fits of anger directed at your family. You lay down for 10 minute power naps, in the middle of the kitchen floor if necessary. Basically, you do whatever you have to do to function in your new life as a parent. The same principals apply for a wanna-be writer.

Oh yeah and then throw a move in there. Ah, a new life. Starting all over again, yet again. More fodder for my writing fire – discombobulated, haphazard, uncertain future and all. I embark on yet another packing mission amidst flying papers. Please, no one light a match.

New perspectives on old traditions

January 5, 2011

I have big news. We are moving – again! This comes less than a year and a half after our last move. As with the previous offer, this one is a wonderful career opportunity for my husband, and a new adventure for us as a family. So, as the new year progresses, I will be writing more on the topic of relocation.
But for now, I’d like to share my excitement about Christmas, 2010. We did something entirely new this year. We STAYED HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. My husband and I have lived in many different parts of Canada together, but wherever we’ve been, we’ve always made the very expensive journey home for Christmas (from Prince George, BC to Ontario, I remember it always cost us $1,000 each to get home…there must have been some help from our parents there – that’s how badly they wanted us! – because my now hubby/then boyfriend was a student at the time, and I was a reporter then editor at a community paper, and we were barely able to afford movie nights, let alone the astronomical cost of flights home!).
We prepped our families last Christmas. Over vodka shots at my in-laws’ house, my husband announced that we should make the most of our holiday time together in 2009, because 2010 would see us separated by a great distance. And at my parents’ place we had many conversations about how the kids and I would visit in the summer, but that we would not be traveling over Christmas.
As it turns out, we did our traveling before the holidays. My husband had some meetings to attend back in Ontario, so we decided to make it a family trip to introduce his parents to their newest grandchild (my parents came out after the baby was born in November, so got to meet him then; but both sets of grandparents, who only live an hour from each other, got to visit with us during this last trip).
So now we’ve had the opportunity to create our own traditions, do Christmas our way… and all I could think about, in the days leading up to the 25th, was my mom’s tortiere which she started making for Christmas Eve dinners when I was young, and the chocolate bread pudding she serves Christmas morning!
Is it still creating our own traditions if we copy those of our parents? I know the answer is yes, because that’s what “tradition” means. But still, we thought we were going to start a few new traditions of our own.
I made the bread pudding, which my kids wouldn’t touch. The cereal boxes, on the other hand, which were always a part of my Christmas mornings growing up, were a big hit (can’t go wrong with fruit loops and corn pops, especially when my kids are used to bran flakes!).
For my hubby and I, it was a big bottle of Bailey’s for our coffees, and the pure enjoyment of watching the excitement of our children as they indulged in treats and opened presents. Our son flew Buzz Lightyear around the living room every time he pressed the button that played the theme music, and our daughter danced around to her own theme music – that of the new CDs Santa brought her. The baby observed all the action from his bouncy chair, grunting and content.
We skyped with each of our families, and missed them. But as we listened to the news of airports being shut down over the holidays, we breathed a sigh of relief that we hadn’t traveled this year. And decided that while our kids are little, we won’t, for a while yet.