Category Archives: Homebody

Summer hit hard

Summer hit hard a couple days ago, with sun and heat and days that seem to go on forever.  At this time of year, I completely lose my ability to guess what time it is, because it’s just as bright at 6 am as it is at 8 pm. I also lose a lot of my ability to focus, so this blog post will no doubt wander more than usual.

Yesterday afternoon I biked out to the lake for the first time this season, and as another first, Mo came along:  Running next to my bike for an hour and a half each way, with a long swim in between!  We’ve been practicing this trick at the sports track of the local high school for about a month now, and I went at half my regular speed to ensure he didn’t completely exhaust himself.  It’s safe to say that he didn’t, since he then spent the rest of the evening bouncing around the yard as per usual.  What a dog.

I gave my mom this hammock when I was 13 years old, in that phase where I had enough income from babysitting jobs that I could afford to buy gifts for people but didn’t have much sense as to what they’d actually want so would just buy them things that I wanted.  Wait, am I still in the phase?  Hmmmm…  At any rate, my mother never used it, and gifted it back to me when Oats and I were driving back west from Toronto last fall.  It’s so comfortable, I can’t even describe it.  Mo likes to sit on me while I read (or while I take a million photos of him).

A couple weeks ago, during a big yard clean-up, we found a hazelnut tree, a currant bush, and a blueberry bush, all growing quite happily despite having been hidden by weeds and piles of brush.  They’re getting more sun now, and we’ve added my old grapevine nearby for company.  It’s glad to be out of its pot, and I’m glad to think that we’ll actually have some exciting fruit in the next few months.

What I’d really like to grow is a pistachio tree, but I think the climate is too wet around here.  In the meantime, my dad gave me this little jar of crema di pistacchio that he bought in Sicily, and I made it into the best gelato I’ve ever had.  I used David Lebovitz’s recipe from his blog (and then spent way too long reading every other recipe he has posted, and then ordering his books from the library).  My ice cream maker came from a free bin in my old neighbourhood, and though I can’t say I’ve used it more than a couple times, I grew up making all kinds of frozen treats in the exact same model of maker under my stepmom’s expert tutelage.  Maybe that’ll be my new hobby this summer:  Homemade gelato.  It’d sure be a great way of using up the jars of jam that have accumulated from the past four years of canning, and perhaps also my recent failed attempts at homemade yoghourt.

I’ve decided that the only canning I’ll do this year is teaching.  Due to the big move last fall, and spending most of the winter on renovations and house-arranging, my lovelingly preserved food was hard to access until a week or so ago.  I barely made a dent in last summer’s haul, let alone ate up the less popular remainders from the years before.  Now it’s all on shelves and a bit overwhelming.  The greatest lesson here is that I should test out each recipe at least once before making more than a single batch of it:  For example, I have dozens and dozens of jars of quince jam, and we all hate it.  Why did I make so much of it?!!

(Answer:  Because I had a ton of free quince, was under a time constraint, and wasn’t very creative)

But teaching is different:  I may only get to take home a  single jar (if that), yet at the same time I have more fun and enjoy a sense of satisfaction that’s a bit different from just doing it all myself at home.  Plus, it forces me to be more organized and plan ahead!  Though this isn’t always something I manage to achieve:  Last Tuesday I’d already reached the community garden where I was running my class, and it was due to start in 20 minutes, when Oats called to say that I’d forgotten one of the legs for my tripod propane burner… Aieeee!  I turned around and went back home for it, but remained a little flustered for the entire evening.  Not my best teaching moment!  Since then, I’ve made myself a little checklist of everything I need to bring with me.  I’ll get to try it out at this week’s class, which is at a high school, with their environmental club.

In other household news, I’m practicing being a grad school widow, in a precursor to Oats’ entry to an MFA program:  She’s painting a mural on the wall of the steps that lead from the street up to our house, and I have barely seen her all day, nor am likely to as long as this weather holds.

I’m only teasing, with the grad school widow schtick:  I think her art overall is fabulous, this mural in particular is totally fantastic, and I’m super-stoked that she’s so passionate about creating beautiful things.  It’s also quite rad that it’s doesn’t have much to do with me, because I’ve got my own million and one things to think about and do.

That’s actually our number one secret to a sucessful marriage:  We are both very easily entertained by our own funny minds, and while we do like hanging out together, we spend a lot of time doing our own things (sometimes while in the same room… for hours… without talking… I love it). Hey, am I allowed to give out marital advice yet?  It’s been almost 3 months, and we’re still together… That counts for something.

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Being tough on ourselves.

Not Regina... This is the view along the highway somewhere between Winnipeg and Kenora, December 2007.

I once spent the night in the Regina airport, after hours, in the time before it was open round the clock.  My dad had given me a free trip to visit him in Toronto, which turned into one of those adventures that involved many airplanes and stopovers across the country.  In Calgary, my friend Oldandmoldy drove out to the airport from his parents’ place and we spent an hour talking about music and his latest crush.  When I got to Regina, I sat down on a bench and did a sudoku puzzle while everyone else left.  Eventually a security guard told me I’d have to leave too.  It was past midnight, on a snowy November night, and I had no money.  The final leg of my trip was a 6 am flight to Toronto. He relented, but apologetically explained that I’d have to move to a bench where he could see me on the closed-circuit camera system, and that both the heat and the main lights would be off within the hour.

Sure enough, I was soon pulling out all the clothes I could layer from in my backpack, trying to stop from shivering.  On his rounds, the security guard apologized again, and offered to buy me a soft drink from the vending machine.  I thanked him but declined, figuring that the caffeine wouldn’t help much.  Instead, I distracted myself with a book.  It was pretty dim, but light enough to read by:  I tore through Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness from beginning to end.  To this day, whenever I hear about Regina, I think about that novel, about being different and being yourself.

***

Oats and I have been having hard conversations about finances.  No, I should correct that:  Not hard in that they’re difficult, but hard as in we’re being tough on ourselves.  Hard conversations that are also inspiring, really, because they are focused on big questions such as what do we want, where do we want to be, how shall we live our lives?

The terrible truth is that we’re living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, while carrying debt, and while I attempt to retrain in a new career and Oats works in a career that she does not like.  Basically, if we moved anywhere else, we’d be doing better.  In particular, if we moved somewhere with a low cost of living and where Oats could cheaply go to school for her masters’ of fine arts, we could get out of debt and Oats would stand a better chance at making a living as an artist, illustrator, art instructor, or whatever else she wanted.

So where are we looking at?  Regina, no joke.  Also, Winnipeg… And Windsor, Ontario.  Three cities neither of us barely know, but somehow seem to be logical places to hang our hats for a couple years.  It’s crazy, that we’d leave, considering how much we love where we live, but it feels like that’s the only way we could eventually live here and be more than just treading water, financially.

I’m not desperate to own a house or a fancy car or attain many other parts of the middle-class dream: I love our cooperative household and am so happy riding my bike all over the place.  At the same time, despite our very frugal ways, we’re paying a lot of money for basics while also paying lots of interest on student loans.  Oats can’t get paintings done let alone network with the local arts communities because she works long hours just so that we can stay afloat.  Our situation isn’t dire, but it’s not getting any better either.  I want to have kids, and to travel more, and for Oats to be working at something she loves, and it’s not really gonna happen until we ditch the debt.

So that’s the plan.  This next year, Oats is going to fine tune her portfolio, and send off a bunch of applications.  Then we’ll move, not this summer but the next, to some far off urban centre that I can’t even picture… Well, except Winnipeg:  I’ve been there a few times, and enjoy visiting… But to live is a different story.  It’s all rather romantic, really, which I find very appealing at the same time as completely terrifying.  I spent my entire twenties on this island, and am hoping that if I invest some of my thirties in the middle of the Prairies (or the Great Lakes?), I’ll be able to enjoy my forties, fifties, and onwards, here as well.

Economic geography, FTW.

Birth of a journey(wo)man

I finished school last week: Amazing, how fast the second half of my course flew by!  My mark on the final exam was 80%, which was lower than the rest of my marks and yet combined with them to give me an A overall.  I’m happy enough with this.  Besides which, it’s trade school:  Few people really care that I did anything more than pass.  I’m one of those few, of course… As much as I resented the competition of academia during my past years at university, it still trained me to feel rewarded by a high grade ranking.

I called up the local union hall yesterday, to ask to be put back onto the “active” list for job openings, and the admin person asked what term I’m at in my apprenticeship.  That word always reminds me of pregnancy… And I suppose it’s fun, to think of my four years of apprenticeship as a very long gestational period… Birth of a journey(wo)man electrician, ha! Anyway, I replied that I just finished my Year 2 course, but only have around 600 hours of labour registered (when I need 6000 to qualify for journey status), so am not sure where that puts me.  “You’re second term,” she told me.  Good to know.

So much has happened since I wrote last.  Well, small things, nothing big, but it all feels different.  I had a brief chat with my mom last night, and she asked if I’d found a job yet.  I just laughed.  In the week since I wrote my final exam, I’ve attended a multi-day conference on sustainable building practices, hosted as well as attended a few dinner parties, made and planted a garden, taught a canning class, and participated in steering committee meetings for two different organizations.  In short, I’ve been damn busy.

There’s still so many things around the house that I let slide during the last weeks of school!  I need to do more laundry, clean the fridge, cook some ready meals to store in the freezer, sort my clothes to remove the items that need to be repaired or given away, sew new canvas seats for the deck chairs, and generally turn my attentions to being a kick-ass hausfrau.  I’m still collecting employment insurance, which takes off a lot of the pressure to worry about finding outside work immediately. If the union doesn’t call in the next week or so with a job, I’ll probably run out of enthusiasm for domestic duties and get to polishing my resume for delivery to the various electrical companies in town.  Until then, though, I’m pretty stoked about getting shit done around here.

And you, reader?  I’ve been neglecting even reading blogs lately, let alone writing in my own… How is your springtime going?

I’m not very good at my job

This morning my boss returned from a 6-week leave. When we sat down to go over the status of all the projects I’ve been working on in his absence, my summary was that I’m not very good at my job and I think he should hire someone else.

Ha!

I kill me.

We had a good conversation, actually, including him saying that it shows great self-awareness to acknowledge one’s strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths:  Chatting with strangers, getting events/programs organized, coordinating people/ideas/objects, creating things, self-directed tasks within a team framework.

Weaknesses:  High-pressure sales, cold-calling, repetitive small tasks that don’t have an obvious impact on anything, loneliness.

Look at me, all full of self-awareness!

He asked what I’ll do instead.  I said I think I’ll go back to the trades.  Obviously, he has no idea that I applied for the apprenticeship with hydr0, nor that I’ve been doing my security clearance for the shipyards.  I did tell him that I did not want to sit at a desk alone in an office anymore, so that pretty much precludes staying here.

Then he started talking about virtual assistant services, how you pay a subscription fee to have a team of people do your administrative stuff for you.  “In Mumbai?”  I asked.  “Yes,” he replied, and then went into this whole thing about wanting to hire telemarketers too but being concerned about their accents.  Actually, I guess what he was saying was that people in the province would react badly to the accent he assumes these staff would have, which is more nuanced but still based on some offensive stereotypes.

So now we know that he’s already been thinking of outsourcing my job. Awesome!

(On this topic, I highly recommend the television show Mumbai Calling… General sitcom laughs aside, the way it skewers every day manifestations of race and colonialism is awesome food for thought.)

Tomorrow I’m meeting with him and my other boss/project head, and I suppose we’ll discuss it more then. I haven’t quit, and they haven’t fired me, and I haven’t thought this through very well, to be honest. I feel better though, having most of my cards out on the table.

Among the ones I’m still holding close to my chest is a meeting later this afternoon with a couple people from a local organic baby merchandise company, who are interested in my suitability as a sewing assembly person. I’d do it from home, and it’s piecework, but I’m aquainted with the woman who started the company and it sounds like it could be good. I used to assemble stained glass panels and lamps for a living, and find that sort of crafty labour meditative. Besides which, if it really sucks, it’d be easier to quit than my current gig. Isn’t it horrible, that that’s where I’m at: Evaluating the quit-ability of a job before I even have it? Yeah, I’m really needing some serious career inspiration here.

Oh wow! I just checked my email and found out that there’s a spot at the trade school for Level 2 Electrical, starting in two weeks! So… Maybe I’ll be going back to the classroom for a little while. That’s always good for gaining perspective… Not to mention blog fodder.

Snow day!

I woke up this morning to Oats muttering about inches, as she got back into bed after letting the dog out at dawn.  Each of our alarms went off, and I went into the kitchen and put the kettle on.  I had the oatmeal made and the bodum brewing before it really sunk it:  Inches and inches and inches.  Feet, even.

Snow!

Oats tried to take Mo to the park, but lost his ball in the yard and only got as far as the gas station on the corner, where she observed that traffic was backed up in all directions because cars were sliding down the hill.  So, she came home again, and we drank coffee in bed, and decided not to go to work.  There are very few plows around here, the buses are notorious for being unable to ascend slushy slopes, and even if people have snow tires on their cars, they’ve got no practice with driving under these conditions:  Staying home is pretty easy to validate as an intelligent choice.

Besides which, as we’ve established, I don’t like my job, and apparently I’m childish enough to act out by playing hooky as opposed to being a responsible adult and simply resigning.

Anyway… Snow!

K is unimpressed by the snow. Oats gave her and her sisters a lot of kitchen scraps early in the morning, Sum added extra hay to their coop, and I put in a bucket of hot water for them to drink and/or hug, so I’m sure they’ll get over it.

This is the first time Mo has ever seen this much snow, and it’s safe to say that he really likes it. He especially likes it when we kick snow up in the air, and he gets to try to catch it in his mouth, or pounce on it as it hits the ground.

We went for a walk: It was quiet, and cold, and fun.

Happy dog, with snowy whiskers.

Just a few days ago, I was looking at the snow pics Amak posted and getting all nostalgic about winter (or rather, a winter that’s not all about rain), so this weather is making me feel pretty cheerful. That attitude might change, because it’s not due to stop snowing anytime soon, and I suppose I’ll have to deal with getting back to my job and other practical concerns. At the moment, however, I’ve got some defrosted puff pastry that I’m going to go make into an apple tart, and plans to meet friends at the pub down the street for an early dinner, and Sum’s going to give me a massage later this evening… I feel like I’m on a sudden holiday, and it’s awesome.

I couldn’t remember the addresses for half of them.

Not one of my past homes... This is my sister's old apartment in Montréal.

I was completely slammed with a tsunami of hormones these past two days, rendered non-sensical and completely fucked up by my body’s insane battle with self-regulating its reproductive cycles. I’m feeling better now, though tired and worn and more than a little concerned: This was by far the worst it’s ever been, and I felt like I was losing my mind. It’s times like these that I think I oughtn’t even consider ever getting knocked up, because I don’t know how I’d cope with the shifts in internal chemistry. Huh. I worry about menopause too, for the same reason, though I like to think I’ve got another 20 years or so before it hits. I know, I know, I should get acupuncture and take these tinctures and remember to stretch and meditate and perhaps even talk to a physician… But it’s hard, when you’ve been sucked into an abyss. Afterwards, it barely feels real enough to address it.

In other news, I spent some time today filling out a very detailed security clearance document, which I need in order to work at the local shipyard. I’d been meaning to do it forever, but hadn’t really cared that much until I met this awesome welder who encouraged me. She was the subject of an interview that a comrade and I did, for a series on women in the trades, and I just adored her. “Come to the shipyards,” she said, “I might even be the coordinator of the apprentices this year! Plus, the electricians are all weirdo artsy types who do things like run a recipe exchange.” Okay, I’ll bite. Who knows if it’ll work out, but there’s not much to lose by trying.

Except, of course, for the hours it’s taking me to find all the required security data.

My favourite part has been listing everywhere I’ve lived in the past 10 years.  Being a Cancer, astrologically-speaking, a sense of home is extremely important to me.  In this city alone, that’s been 10 houses, without counting the times I crashed with friends or house-sat. I couldn’t remember the addresses for half of them, and had to do some intense sleuthing through ancient emails (which I then promptly deleted because really? Lovey-dovey messages to former lovers, giving them directions to my bedroom? Ick ick ick… Delete!). At the end of it all, I still have no idea what the address was of the very first place I lived in this town: I know where it is, and am half-heartedly thinking I’ll drive by this weekend, but really I might just leave it out. I was only there for 5 months anyway, and was subletting from another tenant, so it’s not like the shipyard security personnel can even verify it.

I’ve enjoyed the jaunt through time, though, focusing on each of these past homes. Some of them were so incredibly significant that it’s a shock to add up how briefly I was actually there: The first place I lived with friends (3 months), the battered punk house (4 months), the one bedroom I shared with my first real girlfriend (2.5 months).  At other addresses, I’m surprised to find out I lived for so much longer in than it felt at the time. In one place, I was there a year and a half, yet it felt like a blink of the eye… No doubt because of the roommates, since I was the one constant, while the other two bedrooms had revolving doors. Every other month, someone came or left, and the dynamic was always changing.  That was the last collective apartment for me, because I just couldn’t handle it.

The security clearance forms want hard details of when I moved in, and when I moved out, but my brain can’t just leave it at that. I search my memories for dates and times, and I’m reminded of all the stories, the drama, the way it was when I arrived at each home and the way it was when I left. Most of my past ten homes, I’m glad to say, I left happily and full of optimism, certain of a better future. Some, though, it’s hard to revisit, because they began or ended with heartbreak. I’ve lost lovers, friends, gardens, lovingly tended compost heaps… It’s enough to invite some serious melancholy, all this reflection, especially given my still-not-quite-stable mood.  At the same time, I feel a sense of… Is it too much to say awe?  Awe at the fact that so much time has passed, that what felt so intense in the moment is now simply the way it was, that I didn’t turn out totally bitter or ecstatically fulfilled like I always predicted I would with every new move.  Awe that I’m still here, and I have a great home, and I have no fucking clue how it all happened.

This rain is really getting to me

It’s been raining. I know, I live on the West Coast, also known as the Wet Coast: What the hell am I expecting from this season called winter? But it’s been grey and rainy all week, with a random slush-storm thrown in for kicks. Last weekend was nice, but then the week before that was drizzle and darkness as well. This morning as we drove to work, I said to Oats that I think I prefer snowy winters to rainy ones. “But then you’d not ever ride your bike, because there’d be snowbanks blocking the curb lanes,” She pointed out. “At least in this weather you’ve got the option of suiting up in rain gear and cycling.”

An option, I might add, that I have not been exercising for weeks now.

Taking a break from my task list at the office, I stared out the window at the downpour and the thick pillow of moss growing on the roof across the way. If I don’t get this position with the provincial electrical utility, what will I do? Keep working here, I suppose, and make the job into something that really fits my skills and goals.

Most days, I’m okay with that. It’s not ideal, but it’s do-able, and could be satisfying.

Some days, though, such as those that involve never-ending rain, I remember being elsewhere and I think about the possibilities.

My feet, Loch Ard Gorge, and the Southern Ocean beyond (Great Ocean Road, Australia, 2009)

When I went to Australia, I was running away from so much, and it didn’t exactly get better once I was on the other side of the world. With that in mind, please understand that I know a change of scene isn’t a cure-all.

And yet it sure as hell feels good, to imagine a place I’ve never been.

For a romantic dreamer such as myself, it also feels good to do a bit of research. So, now I know: I’m eligible for a New Zealand work visa for the next 6 years. And their dollar is at three-quarters of ours. Huh. Suddenly I find myself looking at the view from the webcams of NZ’s Antarctica division, and checking for employment opportunities with their facilities (there are none).

In reality, I love my partner and my animals and my home and my community too much to leave it all for a chance at adventure anytime soon. My plans for the immediate future involve things like having kids and getting a good enough career that Oats can focus on art full-time, not learning to get by in foreign countries and building new social networks.

Having said that, this rain is really getting to me and so is this job. Pretending that I’ve got other places to be seems like a better coping mechanism than all the other self-destructive things I could be doing, so I’m going to keep it up.