Amy (old posts, page 14)

Running? What?

So yeah, running. I haven't been. For a while there we were in a crazy deep freeze the likes of which I moved out of the prairies to avoid, and then I hurt my back, and... oh, I don't know, there's always something that comes up. Dishes! Dishes are the last straw for me, it seems; I can manage to do the housekeeping and look after the kids and go to choir and run and read and stuff when I have a dishwasher, but when I have to do dishes by hand it all goes to hell. How do we generate so many dirty dishes?

I did do a tortuous and pathetic 3K last weekend, which is better than the nothing I have done since.

But I think I'm okay with a winter lull. I would like, ideally, to run through December, just to counteract the holiday madness both psychologically and healthwise, but I don't think I would be too devastated if I took a break from running every January and February. It's hibernation time. That's long enough, though. Once March comes I will set a schedule and work towards running 5K straight through without a walking break.

Crappity Crap

If I had one of those blogs with a "mood" field, I would write "bummed" and put a little sad face. I just poked around the Queens and OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) websites and found out that because I got such crappy marks in university I don't qualify to get into their teacher education programs. I have no idea what I should do about this -- do I have to get another degree? Go to someone's office and beg?

It's extra ironic because I have a three year degree, so according to Queens that means I need a B average, but if I had a four year degree they wouldn't even care what my marks are. However, the reason my marks are so bad is that I was taking Honours (four-year) courses, which are harder than the three-year program courses. If I had been taking three-year General courses I would have been getting As and Bs instead of Cs and Ds. And Fs.

Also ironic because I am smart and I would make a good teacher (I think), and university was a million years ago — since then I have worked, travelled, become a parent — and how well I did or didn't do back then is so irrelevant to how well I would do as a teacher now, ten years later, that I am frankly shocked and taken aback that it would even come up. But they don't have any options for mature students; I am bound now by bad decisions I made when I was eighteen. Still. Again.

Stupid. I guess I will have to go meet with a registrar and see if they have any bright ideas.

First Two Books of 2007

We have finally beaten the house into enough submission that I can sit down and read a few pages in good conscience, thank god.

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life On The Inside by Katrina Firlik is the autobiography of a neurosurgeon. It's well-written and interesting if you're like me and are fascinated by the workings of the human body and the freaky things that happen to it. Sometimes I wish I had done something more brainy in university, and that I was something more impressive now, like a Doctor or a Lawyer (not really), but this book made me glad I'm not a neurosurgeon, or really any of the emergency-oriented medical specialities. I love my easy, predictable, homey life and I would hate to work long hours and be on call all the time. Although the saving people and being really important part would be cool.

I went to Katrina Firlik's website and found these funny little drawings of neurosurgery-related objects juxtaposed with objects in nature. Also the UK title for this book, Brain Matters: Adventures of a Brain Surgeon, is a hundred times better than the North American title.

Cockeyed: A Memoir by Ryan Knighton is another autobiography, this one by a guy who started going blind in his teens and is now completely or almost completely blind. It chronicles the hijinks that ensue when you mix normal teenage stupidity with unreliable eyesight, when you get a bunch of blind people together at Blind People Camp (blind Tai Chi, anyone? Blind canoeing?), and the deep, deep badness of going to South Korea to teach English with your girlfriend and pretend you're not blind.

This book made me laugh until I wept; I could hardly tell Blake what I was laughing at. Knighton is a brilliant writer and has a real knack for describing the inherent slapstick of blindness, without making you feel like an asshole for laughing at it. He is also unflinchingly honest about his own behavour and emotions, and the effect he has on others. I think I will try and find other stuff he has written and see how he deals with other material. I hope he has children and writes about them, actually, because I bet that would be hilarious.

Books Read in October and November

Since I last posted I have started making notes on the books I read in an old-fashioned paper-and-pen notebook, which is part of the reason I haven't posted about books; I feel like I've thought about the books quite enough between reading them and then making notes, I don't really want to face them again in the blog. So I am trying to decide if I should give up blogging about books at all. On the one hand I feel as if books are the only thing of substance I write about, and I sort of like putting my reading list out there and sharing the finds and the books to avoid; I know there is at least one person who gets ideas about books to read from my list. On the other hand I don't know if anyone else particularly cares what I read and what I think about it, so maybe it's not worth blogging about and I should stick to the paper book log.

Anyway, all that aside I would like to write about what I read in the rest of 2006, for completeness.

The Baby Project by Sarah Ellis is a young adult novel about a teenage girl who gets an unexpected baby sister, and how the new addition pulls the family apart and together.

SPOILER: Of course there is the obligatory tragedy which forces everyone to confront their demons and become better people. Tragedies in young adult fiction often seem to heavy-handed and morose and obvious. "We must have something terrible happen to these people to move the character development forward." As opposed to the tragedy happening because tragedies happen, which I suppose happens in life, but I feel like fiction should be a little more sensible. I don't know how an author finesses that fine line of having things happen to move the novel forward without it being obvious that this thing is happening to move the novel forward, but it's nice when they manage it. Which Ellis didn't here, but otherwise it's a good story with well-drawn characters.

Reading Series Fiction by Victor Watson seemed like a nice complement to the book about reading like a professor. It's about series fiction for children, which apparently is an under-studied genre in the world of children's literature. Watson gives a nice overview, with lots of analysis of various series, as well as effectively skewering Enid Blyton. This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in children's literature.

Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield is a book about how to get organized. I can't remember the layout or concept of this book, but I wrote down a bunch of good ideas from it, like keeping jigsaw puzzle pieces in big Ziploc baggies and getting rid of the boxes (which always fall apart, don't stack nicely and generally make life hard); keeping all dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, rice, etc) in Tupperware containers which stack neatly, rather than in the original packaging (of course I use cheap and cheerful Gladware instead). This was a useful book with lots of similar good ideas.

Johnny Kellock Died Today by Hadley Dyer is a young adult novel set in Halifax in the fifties. I don't remember much about this apart from a favourable impression and appealing characters, and another tragedy but a much more finely drawn and subtle one.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert is a book about what makes people happy. This is very nicely written; I enjoyed reading it not just for the content but for the author's voice. It's an interesting book about where happiness comes from, what makes us happy, how we deal with tragedy, and how to make decisions that will make us happy in the future. It's probably a good idea for everyone to read this book. Everyone who wants to be happy, anyway.

The Car and the City by Alan Thein Durning is an overview of how cars and cities work together, or rather how they don't work together, and how we can create cities which improve our lives and lessen our dependence on cars (which are pretty much synonymous in my mind). Useful book, easy to read.

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston and Autumn Term by Antonia Foster are both discussed in the aforementioned Reading Series Fiction book. Green Knowe is about a little boy who is sent to live with an ancient relative in a spooky old house, and the friends he makes there; Autumn Term is an excellent representative of the English Boarding School genre. Both are very good and I will suggest the girls read them when they are older.

I did not finish Allergy: History of a Modern Malady by Mark Jackson. I thought it would be more chatty, more lighthearted, but it turned out to be a dense discussion of the history of allergies in medicine, and I gave up after a couple of chapters.

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith and Cold Moon by Jeffrey Deaver were good easy reading.

The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy and the New Fundamentalism by Dick Taverne is a really nice comparison of anti-scientific doctrines and beliefs with the old religious fundamentalism. Taverne discusses the role of the media and post-modernist thought in the mongering of fear of such diverse bugaboos as multinational companies, pesticide, genetic modification, and modern medicine. His arguments are sound and this book is very thought-provoking. It's also nice to think that one doesn't have to go around being scared and cynical all the time.

Kindred by Octavia Butler is an awesome book. It's about a modern (well, seventies) black woman who is sent back in time to the slavery-era South to save a white man who will become her ancestor. Imagine the best possible book with that scenario, and that's what Butler has written. I am glad to have found this author because she wrote a lot, and you know I am always running out of things to read.

I didn't read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell because I wanted to, but because every else in the world has read it and I felt left out. I'm glad I did, though, because it's interesting and Gladwell is always a pleasure to read. It's more of that same brain stuff like in Stumbling on Happiness and The Paradox of Choice, and the more I know about how the brain works the more in control I feel, and the more I understand about the world.

The Fourth Horseman by Andrew Nikiforuk was really disappointing. It's a book about plagues and pandemics, and I love a good plague. One of my favourite units in History was on the Black Death. But in my notebook I wrote "A discussion of various plagues and pandemics through the ages, fatally marred by the author's disdain for doctors, technology, and facts." It's a weird book; at one point Nikiforuk talks with disgust about how underwear was originally worn to protect more valuable outer garments from body soil. Isn't that why we wear underwear now? I mean, except Paris Hilton, for whom outerwear is underwear. He also goes into a wistful reverie about the good old days when half of children born didn't make it to age five, and old people were really respected because there weren't so many of them. He speaks with disdain about the "germ theory" of disease, the radical theory that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases. And a cornerstone of modern medicine. I think Nikiforuk is a kook in journalist's clothing; this book was a jarring contrast the The March of Unreason.

Little People: Learning to See The World Through My Daughter's Eyes by Dan Kennedy is a book by the father of a little girl born with achondroplagic dwarfism, about his journey to understand why she was born different and what that means for her future and for the world she will live in. It was an interesting book and a good read. It was also fun to read the bits about the Roloffs, because I know you watch Little People, Big World every week like I do. Or at least you should.

Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs is better than the last one — she's back to her usual formula and it's working. Although I hope she resolves this husband/boyfriend love triangle thing, it's starting to drag on.

So that was a lot of books and it took me a really long time to write about them; was it worth it? I don't know; I'm just really tired.


People keep asking me if we're getting settled in, and until today I was getting pretty tired of it, because I really didn't feel all that settled. Today, though, we moved a bunch of boxes out of the living room and laid down the rug, cleared the upstairs landing, and unpacked a couple of big bins, and now it finally does feel like we're getting settled, like this is really where we live and not just where all our stuff is.

Of course we still have a million things to unpack, but we have been cleverly hiding boxes in the basement rather than face them, and we are managing quite nicely with the forty percent of our possessions that we have unpacked. I have a grand plan for unpacking the rest which involves a large box labelled "Garage Sale"; Blake and I will dig into that project in the New Year.

It's a crappy little house (in some ways, and in others it's wonderful), and sometimes I wonder why we bought it. The kitchen needs redoing, the bathroom needs redoing (not to mention there's only the one), the basement isn't done at all... this house is a money sponge capable of absorbing every spare penny for the next two decades. Why didn't we buy one of the shiny, renovated perfect houses with the dug-out, finished basements and the second bathrooms and the nice kitchens?

Money, for one thing; we didn't pay much for this place. But we're going to have to put more than the difference back into it to get it up to snuff. The burning desire to be knee-deep in plaster dust for the next five years? A passion to express myself through interior design? That can't be right.

I don't think that's the reason we bought the house. I think we fell in love with the oldness of it, with the perfect trim and the retro cabinets, and with the challenge of taking this beloved old house and bringing it up to date without erasing its character; deciding what to keep and what to take away. Taking what is in a sense a blank slate and making it our own.

We've got some pretty good ideas about keeping the character while still beating the house into twenty-first century submission. We're going to rip down a bunch of walls, but save the trim and cleverly use it elsewhere: we're going to use the trim from between the living room and the dining room to frame a huge pass-through between the kitchen and the dining room; we're going to use trim from one of the doors to create an archway at the end of the new front hall; we're going to use two doors to make a headboard, and another to make a mirror for the top of the stairs. We're going to salvage the doorknobs and line them up on a board to hang coats and hats on. We're going to patch the floors rather than refinish (or replace) the hardwood. And of course I want to do the kitchen in a style reminiscent of the fifties; I almost want the kitchen to look like it was installed in the fifties and impeccably maintained, rather than to look like a new kitchen with all the latest fashions and gadgets.

I think when we're done this first phase of renovations, the house will be modern and comfortable, with an open living space, lots of light and air, a large, usable kitchen, and new wiring and light switches in sensible places, but it will still retain the patina of age that we love.

December Slump

Today I ran for the first time in a month and a half. I signed up for the Resolution Run 5K on December 31 in an attempt to motivate myself to keep running through the winter, but I didn't count on the move joining forces with the cold weather to put me off lacing up my sneakers.

So between cleaning and packing and moving and unpacking and being busy and exhausted, I haven't been running. It seems there are things I give up on when I am very busy, and things I don't; the things I give up on are exercise, reading, baking and cooking complicated meals. The things I don't give up on are watching TV, sleeping, flossing, going to choir practice and seeing friends. And eating — I hear there are people who get so busy they forget to eat, but that's never been an issue for me.

I did, finally, go for a run today. After the collosal binge that is Christmas Day I was desperate to do something healthy, and I thought I should test the waters to see how well I can expect to do at the Resolution Run on the 31st. I did 2K today, and I didn't die; I made it through the first ten minutes okay, although I started too fast and almost wore myself out. I had to take a walk break in the second ten minutes, but only for half a block. I think I should be fine in the Run if I do five and ones or seven and ones.

Now that we are getting settled in and it's no longer imperative to spend every spare moment unpacking, I am going to try and go out for two 2Ks and one 5K every week.

We're In

We made it in, and back on the internet in record time (after the cable dude drilled a hole in our wall. All the way through our wall. With a really long drill bit.)

Moving day went pretty smoothly, all in all. It took way longer than I thought it would to move us over; we have a lot of stuff, which is funny because I hate stuff. I guess I don't hate it all that much. We weren't all moved until seven at night, and then we had a minor crisis because I wasn't smart enough to set aside pyjamas and toothbrushes and stuff, so we had to go digging through boxes before the girls could go to be. In fact they both went to bed in regular clothes because I gave up on their pyjamas.

Today Blake and I and Morgan worked hard building furniture and unpacking, and the place still looks like hell but we did manage to sit on our actual sofa and watch some actual TV this evening, and isn't that what it's all about?

Tomorrow the plumber comes to install our shower converter thing (not that exact one but something similar) and our super sexy bridge faucet (that exact one, I believe, although we didn't buy it from that supplier). Also the couch dudes come back to reassemble the huge couch in Cordelia's room, and then I think that's all for people coming to fix stuff. For a while, anyway.

I kind of love my little house. I knew I would. It seems to be holding all our stuff fairly well, even without buying new furniture and installing clever storage solutions and, you know, adding fifteen feet to the back. Although I am still trying to figure out how previous owners have managed without any kind of coat closet. I love the Deco fixtures, I love how it gets warm really quickly and stays that way (because it doesn't have a wall of eight-foot windows in every room), I love the neighbours, I love having rooms for the girls.

We are still getting used to the new noises. The floors upstairs are so creaky that our ten pound cat sets them off; last night poor Blake kept getting up because he thought Delphine was coming down the hall, but no, it was just Thomas. Tonight Blake and I spent some time figuring out the source of a weird pinging noise; turns out a floor joist in the dining room is attached to a duct, and every time you step in it it flexes the duct enough to make it ping. And now we think we can hear the neighbour's television.

Tomorrow is Monday; Blake is off work and Delphine is in daycare, so hopefully we can get a good pile of stuff done. Hooray!

Moving Day Minus One

Tomorrow we move. We move from a spacious tenth-floor condo to a tiny earth-bound house. We move from the longest street in the world to a tiny block in a sweet, domestic, leafy neighbourhood. From sky to ground, from noise to quiet, from city to... well, what used to be suburb, eighty years ago.

Everything is pretty well packed, apart from the stuff we will need today and tomorrow morning, and Delphine's toys which we left out to keep everything as normal as possible for her. We signed all the legal papers yesterday, and we should get our new house keys today.

The new house is going to be an adventure, perhaps more of an adventure than you necessarily want your primary residence to be. Between the no shower and the no dishwasher and the ancient stove... well, as my real estate agent keeps telling me encouragingly, "it will be like being at the cottage!" Without the beach and the ice cream stand.

Incidentally, yesterday I learned that "So are you all packed yet?!" is the "Still pregnant?!" of moving, and equally annoying and unhelpful. "No! Piss off!"

We're going to be offline for a couple of days; cable will shut down tomorrow and the cable guy isn't coming to set it up at the new place until Sunday morning. And I am frankly a little skeptical that he will be able to get it working; I don't think the cable company appreciates the depth and breadth of the non-cable-having-ness of the new house. (No cable. Ever.) We'll see. Anyway, the website will be down and we won't be getting email, so if you want to contact us you'll have to phone, except the phone will be shut off on Saturday morning. So you'll have to visit. We'll be somewhere on Davisville.

See you in the new house!