Reading in OverDrive

I’ve read 26 books so far this year… a fact I know because I’ve been listing them in my beloved organizer. I’ve given myself permission to consider listening to a book on equal plane as reading one, so if that offends your sensibilities, I suggest you bail off this post now.

I never used to be able to listen to a book, my squirrel! quotient being high, but I found a secret – it’s OverDrive. Hubby mentioned it to me once and I didn’t bite – thinking it was a paid service and preferring to browse at the library, because like any serious reader, the cover art has to intrigue me – but OverDrive has it all. You sign up with your library card. You check books out, and get the motivation to read them as they expire like real books do. Ebooks and audio books aplenty, you can reserve and request books and the best part – no fines for overdue returns and they keep a list of your reading history!

The books I’ve read so far this year are as varied as they come – and for my future reference I’ve listed them below as not all were in OverDrive. Note I have given myself permission to periodically enjoy the literary equivalent of dill pickle Doritos (vacuous yet fun to tear into) and finished a couple YA series kid2 and I had started. I’m loving the time lost in characters, and the brain break of wondering what’s going to happen next in something made up, versus my swirl of domestic blurbliss. Reading is the original brain bleach, and variety is everything.

Read anything awesome lately? Hit me with your suggestions, I love having a huge list of characters and worlds to explore! Now that I’m this far into the year and this long into a list of books I’m going to go ahead and call my shot and say I want to have read 52 books by the end of the year. Onwards into the pages of something new!

Book List YTD

  1. Essentialism, Greg McKeown – pragmatic validation to focus on what matters
  2. ShadowHunters Bk 4, Cassandra Clare – angsty teens in supernatural escapades
  3. UnCommon Type, Tom Hanks – short stories, pleasant and matter of fact
  4. Origin, Dan Brown – loved it, influenced The Last Jedi and Marvel writers, am sure
  5. Artemis, Andy Weir – he can write no wrong in my book. Will be a movie for sure
  6. ShadowHunters Bk 5 – Cassandra Clare – more of the teens. Danger! Magic! Love!
  7. Still Me, JoJo Moyes – didn’t rip my guts out as hard as others, good to see Lou again
  8. The Break, Marian Keyes – sadly the only one of her books I’ve not liked
  9. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen – my boss gave me this to read, I loved it
  10. Queste – Angie Sage – a series that has Potter echoes. Fun escapism, YA
  11. Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery – like a hug for my spirit
  12. Anne of Avonlea, Lucy Maud Montgomery – like the hug includes kittens & flowers
  13. Planet of the Apes – The Forbidden Zone – stories from various authors. Excellent!
  14. Deer Life, Ron Sexsmith – a fairytale by a Canadian rocker. Fun tidbit of a book
  15. Immortal Reign, Morgan Rhodes – Canadian author, YA series that amused me
  16. Silver Bay, JoJo Moyes – I’m reading all her books. This one had dolphins.
  17. Anne of the Island, L. M. Montgomery – heart soothing spirit boosting
  18. Clade, James Bradley – bleak yet motivating to save our planet. Save the bees!
  19. Syren, Angie Sage – had to finish the series, found out this is not the last book :/
  20. The LightKeepers Daughters, Jean Pendziwol – haunting and gorgeous
  21. Uncopyable, Steven Miller – marketing book, reiterates and reinforces
  22. The Identicals, Elin Hilderbrand – the reason I obsess about seeing Nantucket
  23. Charlotte’s Webb, E. B. White – read it lately? It’s radiant.
  24. The Silent Sister, Diane Chamberlain – totally predicted it, but still a great story
  25. The Bookseller, Mark Pryor – Parisian Dick Tracey-type private eye
  26. ShadowHunters Bk 6, Cassandra Clare – teens in trouble, magic worlds in trouble

 

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Posted in Inside my head | 3 Comments

Mapping Memory Lane: Ice Storm Popcorn

Dance season is upon us. After months of preparation it all comes down to four competitive weekends where we roll into various towns, set up an ops centre (usually under ridiculous circumstances like 40 people in a 6 by 8 foot room), and execute tricky maneuvers like blacking out dancer faces only to have to reset them to pristine for the next dance, while picking up pieces of disappointed child when a dance doesn’t go well.
When you combine a dance weekend with an ice storm, things get really interesting.

Peterborough is a nice little town. Quirky almost, with it’s one way streets and vintage downtown. The Holiday Inn there is an interesting design, executed very well. The staff are amazing – congenial and helpful. Friendly, even as they patrol the halls and shoo people into rooms at 10 p.m. curfew. The halls are Shining. Had I seen a set of twins that weekend I would have run screaming in the other direction. Peterborough’s Showplace Theatre is a grand old performance palace and the dance we were seeing was all great. The other studios were lovely people, the theatre volunteers were gracious, we were having a terrific start to the first weekend of competitive dance, except for the weather.

Mother Nature was mad mad mad and it was coming down in icy sheets of pebbled sleet and freezing rain. All. Weekend. People started talking about staying an extra night as soon as we got there. The Friday drive up was dark, rainy, and a perfect example why lines on the roads are important – when you can’t see them, driving becomes tense. We had carpooled and my friend is a first responder. She had to be back for work Monday. I decided to Scarlett O’Hara the whole issue (worry about it another day) and get the competition over with first. Cue Sunday night.

We Tetris’d the gear into the car. Snugged the (incredibly successful, congrats again girls!) two dancers into the back seat. Tossed kid2’s giant mirror-blocking tutu into someone else’s van, and took a deep breath. There were several signs things weren’t going to go well.

First sign: Kid2 stole a donut. We hit Tim Horton’s for dinner. We were in a hurry and we ordered a cubic ton of food. As we poured out to the car I couldn’t figure out why kid2 was hanging back. I saw her ask the Tim’s employee* something. I headed back into the restaurant just as she was coming out, happily carrying a donut. “I got my donut!” she said. I asked her how she paid for it. “YOU paid for it…” she said. I hadn’t ordered her a donut. We looked at each other for a heartbeat. “Get in the car” I said.

Second sign: We got lost getting lost. Peterborough seems to have circles going around it. Spirals of intersections and cut-offs, that when roads are mere tire tracks and a storm is raging, are hard to navigate. I have to confess I get lost every time I go there but this wasn’t the day or road conditions to be messing around in. As I tried to turn around in a driveway, I got stuck. I could feel rage bubbling, knew the dent in my forehead was forming. I ordered everyone out of the car, to go stand way in front of it, which is ridiculous as all together they total a combined body weight of maybe 350 pounds. I needed to feel like the load was lightened though and I spun backwards out of the driveway then without issue. Of course we proceeded to get lost again. At this point I was chew-the-steering-wheel level of angst. I have a creepy kind of tense mood I hit which is like the Tasmanian devil pausing before starting to twirl. That’s where I was poised. That’s when I turned savage.

The final straw: Popcorn madness. We decided to stay driving in the wrong direction for a few kilometres as it was a main road and all the side roads were snow covered with no tracks. We were doing 50 km/hour and there was no one else on the road. Time to settle in for a long, slow drive. I was trying breathing exercises and wondering how damaged my friendship was going to be, for having turned savage when it happened; the final straw. Kid2 is a twig. She is grace and elegance as a dancer, and beautiful energy as a person. She’s also very feminine. That’s why hearing her croakretch in a demon voice escalated the situation to critical. Maybe it was the stolen donut. We’ll never know, but she was going to be sick.

I knew we had at least three hours ahead of us in the car. I knew where my patience and sanity were at, and with no bars left on either I flipped to crisis mode. “GIVE HER A BAG” I yelled at her friend in the back seat. She handed her a Tim Horton’s bag. Flimsy paper. The demon voice was still croaking, I knew the bag wasn’t going to work.

I should say a word about my friend who had carpooled with us. She’s a first responder, and excellent at her job. She’s super chill, hilarious, and a great mom. She had opened a bag of Chicago Mix popcorn that I had saved all weekend, for the drive home. I love the stuff, and was going to consider it, and the inevitable gastric distress it causes me as my reward for doing the crappy drive. I had just commented that the top of the bag was all cheese, and I wanted more caramel. I had just said how glad I was we had snacks. Then I yelled at her to THROW THE POPCORN OUT THE WINDOW so we could give kid2 the plastic bag. I saw her pause. I saw her emergency-handling reflexes weighing the situation. I repeated myself, saw her clutch the bottom of the bag tightly, put her window down and fling the contents to the wind.

Picking popcorn out of my bra later at home I suppose I could have handled things differently. My friend said she debated which would be worse, kid2 barfing and us smelling it, or me realizing I had no popcorn left. As it blew back into and all around the car I felt slightly amused for having thought you *could* throw popcorn out the window of a moving car. Kid2 got her bag, which as barf bags go, smelled lovely. The tension was broken and as we picked popcorn out of our hair the drive gradually improved and all ended well. I haven’t lost a friend. Kid2 gained some awesome memories, and we’re off to the next dance weekend, new bag of popcorn in hand.

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Kid2 and I in a happy moment, as we prepped to dance on day 1

*I would like to give full props to anyone who was working that weekend, in food service, at the theatre, and at the hotel. The weather conditions were apocalyptically awful but everyone was cheery and if they hadn’t been doing what they were, we would have been even further up a frozen creek. I will pay the stolen donut forward a multitude of ways and hope everyone appreciates the employees of such places, during such times. They’d rather have been home snug too, I bet.

Posted in Dance, Everyday Adventures, Kid Stuff, Mapping Memory Lane | 1 Comment

Very superstitious…

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Mind the cannonballs

…Except about Friday the 13th. These dates occur because the annual shift of days to calendar to leap years and so on means random Fridays fall on the 13th day of the month. Lots of smart people can explain that better than I can. Friday the 13th is not any one person thumbing their nose at the universe, or someone tempting fate – that’s when real superstitions come into play.

Shoes on a table – Guaranteed to let bad heebiejeebie into your space. How do I know this? Put shoes on your kitchen table and take a moment register the gross chill that goes through you. Don’t attribute it to hygiene, my house is far from clean but I still can’t stand shoes on tables.

Pointing at a shooting star – Immensely bad luck. I can’t remember who told me that but their relaying of it included a broken leg and some unfortunately timed nudity. Never point at a shooting star. Instead, make your wish and keep it (and you) safe.

Speaking of wishes, be careful what you wish for. Memere used to say this all the time, and while she leans to sardonic on the best of days, it’s good advice. Thinking any one thing or person or event will make us happy is a dangerous pursuit. I long ago stopped making transactional wishes on cakes and stars and now make wishes for other people. I’m never disappointed that way, and it puts a smidge more optimism and hope out into the world.

I wasn’t going to blog today, but the new blogging buddy system I’m doing with people at work meant we had to post something today. I’ve rattled this off in the app while pedalling on my exercise bike to reach my steps before driving several hours in the pouring rain to a dance competition. I trust no one reading this is offended (knocks on wood).

Note re: photo – is from photo booth at The Rec Room in Toronto, a fun and expensive place to hit up, perfect for kids of any age. We’re being attacked by pirates, but as you can see I didn’t need anyone to hold my beer.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Year 29

It’s a combination of how big the number is getting, and how many people our (now middle, pushing 50) age are starting to deal with their own similar situations of loss and transition. The howling winds today don’t help, they always give me heebiejeebie* vibes. Either way, I’m thinking about my dad today.

Having someone to remember with helps. Our family dynamic is not one for the books, but what we went through as teenagers put a certain lock on this day and so this text exchange with my older sister really says it all.

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So for anyone who doesn’t know how to help someone who grieves, let them know you remember. For anyone not sure how to handle someone relaying memories, worried about saying the wrong thing, just listen. For a guy who I didn’t really know as a person, but who as a dad taught us lots and whose laughter I remember, 29 years later – you live on.

I blogged on this day nine years ago, too. Read it. 

*heebiejeebie is fakeLatinsciencespeak for foreboding or dour feelings of gloom and pending badness.

Posted in Inside my head, Mapping Memory Lane, Onwards

Hats Off…

Similar to a random thoughts post, this is a sampling of people and places I want to tip my (new, gorgeous plum cloche) hat to, from the past few days:

  1. The Saucy Milliner – Art in the form of handmade, lovely hats housed in the distillery district in Toronto. If I could have tucked in a corner and just observed I would have been content. As it was we were on a tight timeline so I quickly bought a gem and now feel saucy indeed.

2. The guy behind The Vented Spleen – he’s why I’m back blogging. We dared each other to reinvigorate our blogs and it’s been strangely refreshing. There’s so much to do, sometimes the good stuff gets pushed to the side by shoulds… this is me pushing back.

3. Brian’s Record Option – I guarantee you’ve never been in a store like this. I’ll be back next month to pick up my National Record Store Day pick (Springsteen). This guy wrote an excellent piece about the store here. Highly recommend stepping in if you’re ever in Kingston.

4. Kingston Axe Throwing – it’s awesome fun – and even though kid1 beat me 18 to 1 (he went on to win the whole tournament), the thrill you get from sinking an axe in a bullseye (which I did, by total luck) is worth all the misses and hammy moments.5. Canada’s National Ballet. The performance of Sleeping Beauty is magnificent. The work of the dancers and artists to stage such a production boggles, and standing ovations make me teary, especially when I hear a man behind me yell “Bravo” and have his voice crack as he tells those around him his son was in the show.

6. My family – as I type this, kid1 is teaching kid2 how to play rummy. Hubby did his re-cert as my hero for taking care of me when I was super sick last weekend. I get to spend a lot of time with people who I think are wonderfully cool. How lucky am I? I think very.

7. Friends who like board games. We’ve come to know and love Catan, The Game of ThingsThe Big Bang Theory game and more, because of friends. We’ve laughed, blushed, pretended to be shocked, and mortified our kids because of these games. Friends share interests. Real friends throw down and play games together.

8. Ladies who stop to help – we play the alphabet game when travelling or to kill time. We have to find A-Z around us and were looking for a “Q” when a delightful older lady asked if we were lost, and if she could help. I told her what we were doing, she smiled and told us to “have a nice time, dears.” She made me smile. People are nice.

9. Yams – My sister makes mashed sweet potatoes but substitutes maple syrup for milk. Kid2 declares them Buddy’s favourite vegetable and as part of a meal where we caught up, laughed, and commiserated, they weren’t the sweetest thing of the night, but they were close. *sweetest thing was my niece making us place cards for dinner

10. People who get it – spent 48 hours in Toronto with friends and their kids. We picked totem spirits for each other at Gallery IndigenaGrace and Joy for the dancers, Honour, Joy, and Creativity for the moms. A little piece of art to reflect what’s in each of our hearts. It was a nice moment in an awesome weekend. 

Whether your thing is gratitude journalling, giving daily thanks, or if you haven’t stopped to ponder what you’re happy about lately, I strongly suggest you try supporting local, exploring art, making time for family and friends, and trying something new. You will find yourself with a list of moments to tip a hat to as well, am sure.

Posted in Inside my head

Mapping Memory Lane: Winter Thaws

The twins must have been about nine. My older sister about to turn 12. Our cottage was only accessible by boat – and in the winter, ski-doo. Not speedy, flashy snowmobile. Think orange twin track, single headlight, looked like a train, could go through anything-skidoo. Towing kids and groceries in a caboose as we disappeared into the woods for days at a time. It had snowed the night prior but the weather was starting to warm up. The ice on the lake was thick and safe. Dad made sure of that. The inches of slush on top didn’t bother him – his skidoo could go through anything! Except, as we were to discover, inches of slush covered by inches of fresh powder. We made it all of twenty feet.

Stuck on a lake with three kids, four days worth of groceries, an unimpressed wife, and no one around. What’s a guy to do? Get unstuck. To lighten the load, kids and wife were sent off walking. Our lake was long, our cottage in the very last bay. Dad said he’d pick us up when he got going – but we were to walk, because there was no point in standing around. And while we were at it, we could grab some groceries to carry.

This was the days of real skidoo suits. The ones you could zip from your ankle to your chin. Skidoo boots were all the rage then too, but had started to be replaced with cooler lace-up tan Cougar boots. I had mine on. Smart little leather boots. Great for prancing around. Not great to wear hiking through slush. After ten minutes the laces sported ice balls the size of grapefruit and my feet were soaked through.

We leapfrog hiked – or alternated forced marching depending who you ask. One person would push along the line of us, trading their grocery bag for the heavy bag of milk so that awkward load was shared. You would walk 200 paces or so, then get to rest, laying flat on your back so the slush couldn’t soak up to you. There was one of us every 50 paces, so as you walked you came alongside either a sibling or your mother before continuing on. The degree of encouragement you received varied based on who you were passing at a given moment… and so we continued on up the lake.

An hour later, when the cottage was in sight, we heard it. The skidoo sounded distinctly smooth, like nails in a blender. We turned, seeing the single headlight like a premonition of the Polar Express which wouldn’t be written for another three years. Dad was coming! I remember my smile crinkling the frost on my eyelashes. I recall my sister dropping the milk, sure it was the final time she’d have to carry it. I registered his speed as he drew near, excited for the wood stove and cookies. Dad yelled as he blew past us – “can’tstopwillsink” and the four of us turned in slow motion to watch him streak around the corner, standing stock still until the skidoo was turned off a few minutes later.

We thawed out. Our clothes dried and I went back to wearing felt-lined rubber boots. All in all it was an everyday adventure. I think of that day around this time of year, every year. Especially when the first melt hits and false spring arrives, or when anyone says “when I was your age…” because my kids have never toughed out such an afternoon. I think it contributed to the adoption of “onwards” as my motto and it absolutely influenced my belief that the shoes/boots should match the occasion.

A colleague and I are reinstating our blogs. He to rant, me to capture. I can’t believe it’s been two years since I published anything. I always write like no one is watching – but I do have to wonder if there is anyone still out there? It’s nice to be back, either way. 

 

Posted in Inside my head | 6 Comments

Two years later…

It’s picture night tonight at Quinte Ballet School. Ballerinas posing in their pointe shoes and strong legs, all smiles and quiet pride. Two years ago tonight kid2 and I had a moment.

Fast forward two years, I am experiencing a pang. It’s a good one, the kind where you sigh and your heart feels tender but you know it’s really just time marching on. In her third year of this camp she now stays over and messages us periodically. There’s always an adjustment the first few days, and some misty eyes when the cat walked in front of our FaceTime screen – but overall she’s happy and on picture night I’m thinking back… on a kid who’s learned to take a deep breath and roll with the punches. A kid I saw on Sunday for an hour who wanted to buy gifts for two girls on her floor who needed a boost. A kid who makes me feel like I get to see wishes come true when I see her joy at dancing in pointe shoes for the first time.

I hope picture night went well. I hope she had what she needed and felt strong and graceful and lucky to be there. And if she didn’t, I hope she remembers life is the imperfect pursuit of happiness, and that’s why we can still be happy even when things don’t go our way. Onwards to the next moment.

Posted in Inside my head