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Why a Communications Strategy is imperative

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Categories: Bad Mojo, Children, hockey, Just Wrong, piss in your eye, Porblems, Sad, Something or other but True, The Captain, When There's Weather, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Man, that sounds boring.

Bear with me, okay?

Whether you are running a business, employed as a writer or PR or communications staff, or whether you’re running or managing a minor sports team, a dance troupe, or a non-profit, you need a communications strategy. This might be as simple as “I have everyone’s email and will always send out notifications to a Bcc: distribution list”. It could be as complex as having dozens of staff monitoring social media, radio, print and television media, and providing official statements from the government. The reason why you need to have a communications strategy is because a good communications strategy will solve most problems before they become problems.

“Give me an example!” You demand.

All right.

Our hockey team, 2011One of our kids has been playing hockey in our town for eleven years. Last year, when he was injured (he had a concussion), he didn’t play contact hockey, but he did work as a referee with our local hockey association. The local hockey association has our contact information. They have our boy listed on registries and in databases and God only knows what else. After that year that he took off of contact sports, we didn’t receive any registration information for the upcoming hockey season (that being this year).

I vaguely remembered at the end of the school year that that was usually when he used to get registration forms sent home from school, but I wasn’t concerned when we didn’t receive one, because in previous years we had received registration packages in the mail. This year, though, the registration package never came. Our kid received his reffing stuff from our provincial hockey association, and he received emails regarding his reffing clinics from our local hockey association. No registration information, though.

Over the summer, we travelled and worked on the farm, and then came home so The Teen could play football on his home team. As happens with football, once September rolled around, we began seeing kids have conflicts with hockey evaluations and the like, and this brought up the question, “do you want to play hockey this year?”

I’ve never been the world’s biggest hockey fan, but I love watching our kid play. I have never begrudged the expense (registration alone is over $1100 this year; never mind equipment) or the time (we’re booked from October – April). I have only a few times begrudged sitting in a rink for most of my spare time, but the up side is that I’ve watched our son go from having to ask his coach to lift him up into the players’ box to being an aggressive, enthusiastic defenceman. He’s never going to play in the major leagues. He’s never even going to play in the junior leagues. Now that he’s midget age, he really only has two, maybe three years left of the excellent instruction and opportunity provided him by Saskatchewan minor hockey. We discussed this, and he registered, and was pretty excited to play again. Last year he was utterly despondent that he couldn’t play.

We missed the September 1st registration deadline, but we’ve missed that in the past and it hasn’t been a problem. The Teen doesn’t do evaluations because he doesn’t want to play on the Tier 1 team. He’s played Tier 2 and Tier 3 hockey his whole life, and is happy as a clam doing so. He’s passionate about hockey, but not…intense. He knows he’s never going to the majors.

The Captain, 2010Monday morning he received an email from the local hockey association telling him that they won’t accept his registration because they have enough players registered for the AA and Tier 2 teams. He doesn’t get to play hockey at home. Where he’s played for eleven years. With his friends. In his hometown jersey.

I was incensed. Disgusted. Angry. Disappointed. I started calling hockey teams all over our hockey zone, trying to find one that wants a Midget defence man. I’m still waiting to hear back. Our local hockey association gave me absolutely no help or direction, other than to tell me there’s a non-contact recreational league in the city The Teen can sign up with (not interested. Testosterone. Hitting. Roar). This led me to the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, who told me that he’s eligible to play for any of the teams in a 160km radius of our home. He told me if we can’t find a team in that area (to which it is feasible to drive a few times a week), The Teen can play in the city, but will need special permission to do so. This communication took five minutes.

Had I received an email or a letter or a frigging carrier pigeon from our local hockey association at any time this summer that said “our numbers for midget hockey are too low to sustain three teams; if you have a player who’s interested, please contact us”, I’d have contacted them. If I’d have seen anything that said “Registration is now closed for midget hockey as both teams’ rosters are full”, I’d have been disappointed, and a little frustrated that we’d never been contacted earlier to register. And mad at myself for not having checked earlier. If at any time I’d have received an email or a phone call or a letter or a goddamned interpretive dance that made me think that this association in any way gave a fiddler’s fart about my kid and his opportunity to play hockey, I don’t think I’d have lost my cool.

But I did. I lost my cool. I sent a pretty vicious letter. I understand why the board made the decision they did – they had the opportunity to put together a AA team that draws kids from all over southern Saskatchewan, and that’s really exciting. They didn’t have the numbers for three teams. They decided to put together two larger teams. I get their decisions. I really do. I don’t *agree* with them, because their communication strategy is apparently “let’s not tell anybody anything and we’ll make decisions that could potentially mean that a bunch of kids don’t get to play hockey in town this year. And in fact, let’s send them terse emails and not give them any information about how to play anywhere else because who in God’s green earth would want to play hockey if they couldn’t play for our team?” Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe their communications strategy is “we don’t need a communications strategy because we’re a minor hockey association and everyone who needs to know something can just find that information on our website or ask a board member”. Which is great if you know that every year you have to phone up the board and say “hey, are you going to have enough teams for my kid to play this year?”

I’ve never had that question before. I always just assumed that the purpose of having a minor hockey association in your home town is to MAKE SURE that all the kids who want to play hockey in your town kind of get to play hockey in your town. But whatever. I’m not on the hockey board. I’ve never been invited to be a part of the hockey board. After what’s happened this week, I will never be invited TO be a part of the hockey board. And frankly, I’m a little worried that because I wrote a critical letter and then kind of sorta talked to some news folks about what had happened, that my kid will suffer in his hockey or his reffing or what have you. I HOPE that would never happen, but I don’t know about these things. I don’t grok politics. I don’t grok power struggles.

But I *do* grok communications strategies. And this, my friend, was a truly sad, and ultimately cruel situation. We received no communication from our local hockey board other than to be told they can’t provide an opportunity for our kid to play hockey on his home team, with his friends, for his first year of midget hockey. That was it.

Bad form, folks. Bad form. I’m truly sorry our boy won’t be part of your association this year. We have given you a lot of our time, money, and work over the last eleven years. And we will do so again, I hope. But this year, you let us down. You let us down HARD.

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It’s been….

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Categories: dreams, When There's Weather, Tags: ,

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I dreamt of you last night. We were in the garage in your home town, sitting on an old brown couch with a bunch of our friends. Your sister was there – in fact it was her I was visiting, dropping off some of your abandoned things and collecting some of my own. A few discs, my old books, a scarf.

Then you showed up with your lover. We weren’t expecting you home, your family and I, and it was uncomfortable. Mostly I just wanted to leave so that you could get on with your life but it had been so long since I’d seen your date that I thought it would be best if we at least had a few minutes to catch up.

IMG_7787.JPGI tried to be nice, accommodating. I tried to stay out of your way. On the surface it was because I knew you just didn’t want to be near me, but deep underneath all the bravado and posturing it was because seeing you hurt. I couldn’t look at you because it hurt so much. And we hadn’t even been lovers.

You kept glaring at me until finally it was too unbearable. I rose to leave and made my farewells. I quietly said goodbye to you, looking away. “I talked to a few people from your past, you know,” you said. Your voice was clipped, your mouth hard-set.

“Pardon?” These were the first words you’d spoken to me in so long. I wasn’t prepared.

“Yeah. Chan told me all about how you treated him. I talked to Vin too, and Marie. I know your MO. You’re not as clever as you think you are.”

“I-”

“Don’t try to argue. That’ll just make you look even more pathetic. Just go. Leave me and my family alone. You’re a horrible person, and I’m sad I ever let you sucker me in to whatever that was.”

I opened my mouth; I was going to apologise, not argue. I knew you were right. I’d tried to apologise so many times, but some things can’t be fixed.

I woke knowing we are so far apart, even further than the distance between us. I woke with the sound of your voice resonant in my ears. Even though I knew I had done everything I could do, I woke thinking I should have done more.

What a shitty morning.

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Haze: a blog tour

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Categories: Books, Reviews, Tags: , , ,

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I know you remember when I did the blog tour for Aussie author Paula Weston’s Shadows. I have been waiting and waiting and waiting to read the next book in the series. Well. To be honest, I’ve just been waiting and waiting. I mean it SEEMS like a super long time, but really, it’s only been about a year. A VERY LONG REPHAIM-FREE YEAR.

HAZE-BlogButtonWhat happens when you can travel anywhere instantaneously? More importantly, what happens when you can’t? What do you do when you find out you’re not who you thought you were, that you can’t trust your own memories? And how do you know whose memories you *can* trust? These are some of the fundamental questions beneath Paula Weston’s Rephaim series – a mystery/romance about angels, demons, and an approaching war.

What did I love about Weston’s first book in this series? You know I have a soft spot for the angelic mythology. Some of this has to do with my involvement with “Kingdom Come”, a roleplaying game based in this mythos, but it’s also a folklore that’s always piqued my interest. (Which is probably one of many reasons I fell in love with the roleplaying game, to be honest.) Here’s what Weston does incredibly well: she presents a recognizable, but not overly “assplained” universe – which is to say, I never had the feeling that I was being coddled along, gently scooped up and spoon-fed a setting. Angels are real. Demons are real. There are…things…in between. Paula Weston set up a brilliant mystery in Shadows, with no spoon-feeding. This is a huge thing in YA novels – too many YA authors seem to think that everyone under the age of 20 is just a little soft in the head and can’t suss things out on their own. You won’t find any soft-headedness in Weston’s books.

I’m going to be honest. I prepared myself for disappointment with Haze. That’s a really horrid thing to say, but I didn’t know if Weston could match the pacing and narrative of Shadows.
I didn’t know if the mystery could be carried for an entire second book. I worried that the conflict between characters and within characters would become…old hat.

There is nothing old hat about Haze. I’m not even kidding – things are going DOWN with the Rephaim – the offspring of angels and humans. The more you learn about the history of the main character (Gaby), the more mystery unravels. Gaby as she tries to find clues about her brother Jude’s death a year after she woke up in hospital, close to death herself. She has solid leads and a solid companion…well. She has a COMPELLING companion (Rafael, who was Jude’s best friend) who’s helping her search.

Here’s what Weston continues to do well: the pacing. THE PACING. You know how when you’re learning how to write fiction, “they” tell you to think about the arc of your story? How quickly the action progresses and to make sure there are ebbs and flows, the wave motion of a narrative? Well, they do. Tell you that. And I think they learned it from Paula Weston. These stories are charged with sexual tension, psychological tension, physical conflict, and liberal doses of sarcasm and sparkling humour.

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As the story of who Gaby Winters really is continues to confound her (and the rest of the Rephaim who claim to know her), as Hellions continue to attack, as Gaby continues to try to will her body to stop reacting so strongly to Rafa, there’s no time left to unwind. No time to take a breath. Not even when you can travel anywhere in the blink of an eye. IF you can travel anywhere in the blink of an eye.

The only thing I don’t like about this series so far is that I don’t get to read it for the first time, ever again. Unless someone pulls a treatment on me like they did on Gaby…maybe Paula Weston can hook me up with whoever did that?

And let me just say that Paula Weston is a COMPLETE TEASE because the ‘read-ahead’ chapters of the third book in the series (Shimmer) have left me with absolutely no doubt about the third book. I’m going to encourage you to check out the walkthrough that Weston provides on the first leg of this blog tour, of some of the places that inspired scenes in her books. Follow Tundra’s blog tour, and sign up for the prize.

You can find Shadows and Haze at your favourite independent retailer; librarians and teachers can contact Tundra’s sales reps for class sets.

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Post-Script – I took the “Which Rephaim Character Are You” Quiz that Paula Weston put together, and it turns out I’m Daisy. I could tell you what that means, but it’s going to be way more fun for you to read the books and meet Daisy and see if you agree. I mean, you know ME, right? Which of the Rephaim do YOU think I am most like?

 

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Barbecue Sauce

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Categories: Recipes, Tags: ,

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BBQ Pulled Pork

A badly out of focus and exceedingly poorly lit photo of the BBQ pulled pork I just made with this BBQ sauce recipe.

Here’s the thing.

I’m not one of those people who has more recipe books than toothpicks. I have one shelf of recipe books, and most of them are from my mother and my grandmothers and my great-grandmother. In fact, all but one are “generational” recipe books. I have my mother’s entire collection of those coil-bound recipe books that were super popular in the 80s, but I rarely use them. I don’t like them much, because 90% of the recipes in them go like this:

Open a tin of stuff.
Add another tin of stuff.
Add some more tins of stuff.
Put some fake cheese in that.
Bake that shit.

I don’t have a lot of tins of stuff. I don’t use tinned vegetables or mushrooms because they taste like tin. I do use tinned soups from time to time, and tinned tomatoes (which are FRUIT, people. They’re fruit).

Probably the only reason I’m even keeping those is because Mum thought they were gold. I’ll most likely end up giving them to The Boys when The Boys leave home (an event I am already Very Concerned About, even though it’s a few years off yet).

The other thing about recipes is that I don’t usually follow them. I mean, I glance at them, and get the general GIST of things. But I don’t…really…pay close attention to that stuff. Unless I’m baking an angel cake or something.

Anyways. I accidentally made the best BBQ sauce on the face of the planet today. Since some of you asked what I did, I’m’a write it down for one’a’them…whattayacallems…posterities.

Saute some onions (I don’t know how many. Depends on how much you like onions, I guess. I like onions a lot, but the boys in my family are not fond of the allium family. Unless it’s garlic bread. They often like garlic bread. They’ll learn; they’re still in the prototype stage for the most part) in bacon fat. I suppose you could use some other kind of fat or oil, but why? God invented pigs so that we could cook things in their fat. It is so true. I’m sure it mentions this somewhere in Deuteronomy.

In a different sauce pan, simmer tomato paste mixed with an equal amount of water or stock. Add a shitload of spices. Here’s what I added: 1/4c honey or brown sugar  cayenne & chili pepper (in roughly the same amounts – about a tablespoon), turmeric, salt, and tabasco. Add a wee bit of cinnamon and allspice. And celery seed. You want celery seed all up in that shit. And a dash of cider vinegar. And some ginger.

Add some water to the gloriously sautéing onions (just enough to cover them), worcestershire sauce (I dunno, like, about half the amount of water you’ve just tossed in there), and some brown sugar. Uh. I dunno, a couple of tablespoons maybe? Also add about a cup or so of whatever your favourite kind of vinegar is. Stir that up and while it’s simmering, throw in some lemon juice, some more salt, and I’m forgetting what else already. OH YEAH. Dry mustard and cumin.

After the onion mixture has simmered for a few minutes, toss in the simmering tomato mixture. EVERYTHING simmers. Everything. If you’re not simmering, you’re doing something wrong. In fact, after you’ve mixed the simmering tomatoes in with the simmering onions, you’re going to want to simmer THAT shit for a while.

It’ll be done when you’re ready for it to be done. I suppose you could bottle this up, but why? Just eat it. Seriously. Just get a spoon and eat it. It’s the true way of things.

 

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Post-graduate paper

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Categories: Children, Family, The Captain, Tags: ,

EssayThis morning, #TheTeen and I got into a bit of a tiff. Mornings are chaotic, and as much as I have really enjoyed #TheTeen’s company this summer, when school starts up again and we’re under pressure, something eventually has to give. Here’s some background, although actually, the deets aren’t all that important. In fact, the deets don’t really matter so I’m not going to bore you with them.

The point is, it resulted in me screaming at #TheTeen for about fifteen minutes, over something that really oughtn’t be scream-worthy. When he left for school, we were on grumpy terms, and I hate that. Just as he walked out, he said, “why are you such a douche? Can you just answer that? Why are you such a douche?” So I thought about what I’d done and what had happened, and I thought the best thing to do would be to write a 1500-word essay about why I’m such a douche.

The essay ended up being just over 1700 words and includes a bibliography. Sorry if the citations are done incorrectly. I do them OLD SCHOOL, mofos.

Why I’m Such A Douche – the essay

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It’s been nine long years

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Categories: Children, Family, Just for You, The Captain, Tags:

IMG_1192Not really. Not really long years. Nine ridiculously short years. Nine years that feels like days. Nine years that passed in the blink of an eye.

Your brother was in his stroller. I clutched my go-mug of coffee with one white-knuckled hand and the stroller with the other. We took pictures of you out in front of the garage with your new backpack. Well. Your dad and Papa took those pictures because I couldn’t. We started walking across the street, and you reached up and took my hand as soon as I put my coffee in its holder.

“I’m scared, Mama,” you said.

“I know,” I told you. “I’m scared too. But I think it’s going to be okay.”

You with your round cheeks and your bright eyes. Your hands were still chubby-knuckled and you wore the sweater I’d knit for you with the Irish wool mum sent back from Kilkenny. I thought about how proud she would be of you. Then I pushed that thought as far away as I could because I’d already been sobbing for weeks about your first day of Kindergarten. Of COURSE all of the other parents were crying (well, some of them, who may have been on their fifth kid, pretty much just drove by and slowed down to let the little urchins out of the  car).

You were the only child I could see on that playground. I heard some of your hockey teammates call out to me, and I suppose I must have waved to them.

Your teacher came to greet us at the gate, and she knelt down and said, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay. Everyone’s a little scared on their first day.”

Then you hugged me tightly and took your teacher’s hand and you walked onto the playground. I stood for just a moment watching you, and in that moment felt so pleased. Yet letting you go was the hardest thing I’ll ever do. It will always be the hardest thing I’ll ever do.

Somewhere there is a place where all of the little pieces of mothers’ hearts go.

 

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A Gift of the Prairie

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Categories: Books, Just for You, poetry, writing, Tags: , , ,

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THE BOOK THAT MY POEMS ARE IN IS HERE! THE BOOK THAT MY POEMS ARE IN IS HERE!!

Extra points if you can name the reference there.

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It’s called A Gift of the Prairie and it is published by the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre. This was a project co-ordinated (and edited) by the inimitable Bernadette Wagner. The book features pieces by several kickass writers in the Last Mountain Lake area. I’d say more but I haven’t read the whole book yet!

You can find the book on the web here or here.

Please come to the first launch/reading series at 2pm on Monday, 1st September at the Lumsden Beach Hall, or to my reading on 20th October at 7:00 pm at Crave in Regina. Attend ALL the readings:

2 pm Monday September 1, Lumsden Beach Hall, Lumsden Beach.

2 pm Saturday September 6, Lumsden Library, Lumsden.

2 pm Sunday September 28, Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre, Regina Beach.

7 pm Monday October 20,Vertigo Series, Crave Restaurant, 1925 Victoria Avenue, Regina.

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It ain’t easy

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Categories: Something or other but True, True Stories, When There's Weather, Tags: ,

storm cloudsThis is a difficult post for me to write. To be honest, I don’t even know if it’ll ever get posted publicly. I’m not particularly good at this sort of thing, and the idea that people use their blogs to kind of…I dunno…bleed out all over the place gives me the squickies. So I don’t know why I’m even writing it. Maybe it’s just time for me to get my Internet leech treatment.

The past two years have been incredibly difficult. Probably this has to do with one a’ them…whattayacallems…big life changes. It’s been a time when many of the people around me – the people I care deeply about love have gone through some pretty intense periods of stress. And, I’ll be honest with you, I’ve gone through some difficult shite too.

I mean, we all do, right? This isn’t one a’ them …whattayacallems… calls for help or big neon signs flashing “pity me” or “soothe me” or even “look at me”. Feel free to stop reading now and go find something awesome to do. I encourage doing so without pants!

It started with the loss of a friend. It was silly, really. But here’s the thing – I’m one of those people who doesn’t form close relationships very easily (Depthless Gemini might tell you it’s at least in part because of my Geminosity), and so when something happens with a good friend, it kind of blows apart huge chunks of my life in psychologically astonishing ways. Actually, to be honest, it started with some pretty serious issues between His Nibs and I. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about that because there are some things I’m just never going to bleat about publicly. I will say that things were really, really shitty for about six months, and in that time, I was the loneliest I have ever been in my life.

(Which is saying a lot, actually.)

During that time, and the next six months, I had to work really hard to figure out what was most important to me. Also during that time, there was a strange …well it felt to me like an ostracism, but I’m sure that’s just because I was having a nervous breakdown. I’m sure it was more like a simple growing apart happening. A normal thing, the sort of thing that happens when relationships evolve and change. But to me, who was already feeling like the tiniest thing on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, it seemed like the camera filming my life panned out so far that you could see that it wasn’t really an ocean but an entire planet covered in water except for my wee rock.

Then I lost a friend. We had been very close – at least in my heart – and I don’t even really know what happened. It was like a switch was flipped and all of a sudden it felt like I was being cast aside. Glob almighty this sounds ridiculous. Anyway, I was really hurt. So hurt, in fact, that I couldn’t even talk about it for a couple of months. So hurt that I couldn’t even figure out what the hell was going on for a few months. Once I figured out that what was going on in my non-rational heart was “you’ve been dumped, dumbass”, I started to see that all my attempts at retaining that friendship were in vain. In all truth, our friends go through their own shite all the time, and assuming it’s our friends’ responsibility to shore us up in times of weakness really isn’t terribly fair. So I have a huge part to play in the loss of this friendship. I think I was needing or wanting something that my friend simply wasn’t able to give – through no fault of their own. But it was devastating.

Part of the fallout from my Troubles was that I refocused a lot of things. I pared back a lot of what was scattering my focus (again, as Depthless Gemini might mention, we Geminoids are particularly terrible for scattering our foci), and I started to really listen to what His Nibs needed, and to what our children needed. Not that I’d been ignoring them, but there came a time when it was pretty clearly written in the sand that they needed me to be much more present. Part of this refocusing was to stop having huge games at the house, to stop having guests one weekend every month. We (the children, His Nibs and I) wanted to have our friends over when we had time to visit, when we would have time to really make and maintain those one-on-one conversations that connect us together. I know that decision was hurtful to some of our friends. While on one hand, I was trying to rebuild the sanctuary we all needed, I was tearing apart the haven that so many of our good friends enjoyed.

I still feel bad about that, actually. Perhaps I handled our decision poorly. Perhaps I was unclear about why we made the decision we did and why it was so vitally important to us to make that decision. I know that for at least one person, the way I handled that communication really blew. He had no idea how bad things were, and I found it difficult to really *talk* to him, even though I desperately wanted to (and didn’t know how to tell him how much I needed him), because there were always other people around. And, this may shock you, I’m not very good at asking for help. Particularly when it comes to emotional stuff.

So to him, it must have looked like I just snubbed him and basically told him he wasn’t welcome in our family anymore. I didn’t even know how to deal with that when it happened, and was still so goddamned sore from trying to climb out of the loneliest hell I’d ever experienced, that I just kind of…well, I fucked it up.

Then all hell broke loose.

IMG_1129A good friend found himself in hospital in an unexpected mental health breakdown, and while I was trying to help him through that, one of my close friends, David, succumbed to mental illness and committed suicide.

I didn’t know how to deal with THAT, either. I still, a year and a half later, can’t believe he’s gone. I’ve lost people (even family) to suicide before, including a different friend four months earlier, but this one…this one hit really, really close to home. I couldn’t stop thinking about David. I couldn’t stop being sad.

During this time, I was incapable of reaching out. I was just numb all the time, and sad the times I wasn’t numb. I knew it would pass, and His Nibs and the kids were wonderful. It took a very, very long time to start feeling myself again. I don’t think it was until last summer that I started to. I remember hearing the news that I’d be getting a new baby cousin, and I got to know some pretty amazing new people in my family and I realized I was never really alone; I’d just been trying to grab on to something that wasn’t there.

By the time fall rolled around, it felt like things were just starting to get back on track, and then one of my best friends moved away (I miss you like crazy, MrGod). He had been a real rock, and an amazing confidant, and someone I could just be comfortable with. He didn’t move a little ways away, either. He moved halfway across the country, so hanging out is REALLY HARD.

Here’s what I don’t want to say: I have really needed a lot over the past two years, and I’m not the sort of person who asks for help. When I do ask for help, it’s usually understated, and it’s been very, very difficult for me to not take “rejection” personally. I put that in air quotes because I don’t really know what I mean. I don’t even know how to ask for …Christ, for attention I guess? Not in the “Bitches be givin’ out attention over there” kind of way, but more in the “hey, I’m really having a shit time of things and could really use a movie night” kind of way.

And here’s what I do know: there have been some amazing people who have shared their lives with me, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for all of you. Even those whom I have hurt, and especially those I’ve lost. For those of you who have gone out of your way to share your time and your spirit with me in the last year, I can never thank you. I just can’t. You have shared yourselves with me in a way I can simply never repay.

So there it is. A super long, really kind of rambly talk about how my life has fallen apart over the last two years, and how I’ve gone from being completely and utterly lonely to starting to discover that there really are folks out there who want to spend time with me. That looks really bloody stupid all typed out like that. Maybe sometimes it’s okay to look stupid.

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Design is not my strong suit

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Categories: Good Idea, Porblems, Renos, Tags:

Here’s the thing.

I want a writing studio. I want a space that I can come to where creativity is the THING. I may even do sewing here.

IMG_7381.JPGWhen we bought this house, it came with a really neat space above the garage. It’s been great to have games up here and shindiggery, but in the past couple of years, that stuff hasn’t happened and the loft has been…lonely. I half-arsed decided that this would be the year I’d put together some kind of studio.

But here’s my porblem. I’ve started cleaning out all the junk and I’ve decided to get rid of a number of easy chairs (we have five recliners and two sofa chairs, along with three chesterfields, a rocker, and two coffee tables up here) but I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to make this big, open space do what I want it to do.

IMG_7385.JPGI have two bookshelves, two desks, and an old dining table we use as a bar. I don’t want to lose the comfy visiting area because it really is a great place to hang out. I show movies up here too, projected on the wall.

But how to create a little sanctuary amid the madness.

Plus, there are memories. So many memories here. A part of me just wants to seal this place up and keep the ghosts up here.

I need an interior designer or a buddy to come and tell me where to put things. Someone who uses words like ERGONOMIC. But only ironically. I need this space to be fabulous and I feel like I’m an eighth of the way there. I love the sorta Mediterranean feel of the ceiling draped in scarves and the floor covered in rugs. But I need more.

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A time to sow, a time to reap

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Categories: Everything Else Drawer

2014-06-07 13.07.52I have a love-hate-ambivalent-hate-hate-love relationship with my garden. With the ACT of gardening. I think it’s probably also indicative of my parenting style, which pretty much makes me a terrible person. Here’s the deal. I’m sure most of the gardening gurus tell you that the key – the SECRET to a lovely garden is to plan it out well in the beginning stages. That is probably very, very good advice. And I do plan my garden. It goes like this: “I’m’a grow stuff!”

Then I go to a greenhouse. Usually at the beginning of spring, when your pores open up as soon as you walk in and your skin remembers what it is to be sun-warmed, and your whole soul lifts at least seventy degrees from the horizontal plank position it’s been in since December. I see all the seedlings, and the thing about seedlings, just like children, is that they are full of energy. Potential and energy. You can see what they could become. This one, a bushy green tomato, fruit hanging low from each vine; that one a dark green bush bean whose fruit hide under its umbrella foliage. That over there, a climbing, purple-bloomed clematis. A spray of heliotrope. Kisses of black-eyed susans trailing from hanging baskets.

IMG_5963I picture myself walking through my garden, flowers in full bloom, vegetables ripening to feed my family. I think about a soft carpet of clover and moss, of having a living wall, of vertical gardens and trellises and the whisper of wind through the leaves of the trees. This is when I buy all of the things. Trays and seeds and bulbs and trays of trays and things that aren’t supposed to grow here (“It will grow! I will love it and care for it and it will become verdant and amazing and all of the gardeners will say HOW DID YOU DO THAT and I will be coy, and tell them that sometimes, what grows in your garden is simply a mirror of your soul.”) and things that should grow here and things that are native to this part of the world and things that have become acclimatized to this part of the world.
I fully admit that a large part of what happens involves the sheer romance of the language of horticulture. Cultivar. Tuber. Pistil. LOAM. The seedlings do well in my house – the ones the cats don’t get. The ones that don’t get knocked over when we go to clean the table off to eat supper or to play D&D. I do strange, ritualistic things called “hardening off” and “transplantation”. I prepare my beds. I weed. I till. I mix in peat and compost and bone meal. I put those little effers in the soil “when all [read: most] danger of frost has passed” (which around here is usually bloody August). I pay attention to the phase of the moon and the weather reports. I weed.

The little seeds sprout, and I cheer them on. Yes, I cheer them on (“Go beans, Go! Yaaaaaay Beans! Go peas go! Yaaaaaaay peas! Go potatoes go! Yaaaaaaay Potatoes!”). I sing them little songs “I knew a tomato-oh-oh-oh so proud and red; she was the glooooory of the vegetable bed!” I keep the deer and the birds and the footballs out of their beds. I weed.

IMG_5967I water them. I cover them with sheets when it’s too cold for their tender fronds, leaves, and runners. I hill the ones that need hilling. I mulch the ones that need mulching. I build trellises. I weed.
So why. Why, tell me for the love of God why. Why do I keep doing this? I get some pretty lilies blooming. I get seventeen peas. I get more beans than anyone can shake a stick at. I get a half dozen tiny potatoes. I get more chickweed than Christ himself could muster on a hill full of people and only one loaf of bread and one fish. Where in the bloody stool does chickweed even come from? I only ever get it when I plant peas. I’m not even kidding. That crap doesn’t come up when I grow weeds. It doesn’t come up when I plant spinach and kale and carrots. But it chokes the ever-loving hell out of my peas.

It’s an exercise in self-loathing, gardening is. Because I always THINK I’m working hard enough, but I never really am. If I were I’d have planned the garden better, or I’d have not gone away for vacation that time, or I’d have weeded the day before the storm not the day after. The peas would have strong roots, and wouldn’t just pop out of the ground when a strong wind came through (poor peas). The potatoes would have straw mulch, not half-hearted grass clippings (sorry, tubers). The tomatoes would have got enough water earlier on and wouldn’t be all spindly and awkward-looking (I love you even when you look weird, tomatoes!). The peppers would effing bloom (I’m actually disappointed in you, peppers).

photoAwkward, isn’t it? It goes the same way with my family, though. I spent so much time with the kids when they were little – not that they’re not still little; they’ll always be my babies – and now that they’re mostly self-sufficient, I pretty much leave them to their own devices except to make sure they bathe fairly regularly, leave the computer screens to eat (I sometimes fail at this), exercise, and have nice manners. But for the most part, I just let them do their own thing. This is my philosophy about gardening. Give things a good start and with a little maintenance now and then, they’ll pretty much take care of themselves. But then I see my garden be a little sad and underproductive and I worry about my kids. Have I done it wrong? What if their leaves are full and they haven’t any bugs but their roots are weak and they can’t survive a strong wind?

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