my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

July 4th, 2014

Highs and Lows

I don’t know how it happens. Months slip by, and my blog goes unattended. All of a sudden I look up and the season has changed. The cottage is open. And I’ve barely finished a book.

That said, there have been some amazing highs and lows, for all of us–the weather has been amazing. Warm so that your bones don’t ache, but not too hot to sleep. Perfect for biking, which puts everyone in my house in a good mood. My garden is mostly in–I have a sprinkling of Alpine strawberries this year but, for some reason, none of my bush bean seeds are coming up. I went a bit crazy with the cucumbers (I have 15 plants at the moment. I will have to cull)…. still, that I turn the earth, plant the seeds, and then food grows is a process I am forever awestruck by.

The highs of late–a wonderful opportunity presented to me by fate. DNTO was developing a story about crashes just as we had one, and so I was on the radio. Terrifying, but thrilling. I love the CBC so much. The podcast is online here. The best thing about being on the CBC, for me, is spending time with my friend Rosie, a producer there. She’s exceptional at her job, and I can get over my fear of, well, everything because it’s just she and I in the room talking. The part when it played on the radio was a bit difficult to appreciate, because you’re always afraid of acting, sounding, looking foolish. On the whole, definite high.

Then I had the distinct pleasure to be a part of The M Word launch in Toronto in the spring. Kerry’s wonderful book is starting conversations all over the place these days, and that moment, when I was surrounded by so many writers that I admire, made my heart ache. My husband and my boy were there–and he was the perfect “accoutrement” to my reading. Bounding up to me at the very moment I described his thrumming heartbeat in my essay, the response was a collective, “ahhhh.” Amazing high. Panicked and terrified throughout, I was glad it was over, and I was glad I faced that demon.

Over the last couple months, I’ve had very good news from the doctors–the disease is exceptionally stable right now, and I’m on the lowest dose of prednisone I’ve been on in over four years. But what that means is it’s time to face the music in terms of the state of my body–pummeled as it was by the one-two punch of prednisone and pregnancy–I’m woefully out of shape and overweight. I know the solution. I need to eat less, move more, and cut out the sugar, but the time and energy for both is simply not there. This is my low.

March 3rd, 2014

We Are Three, Indeed

We are so big these days. We speak in big sentences. Have giant ideas in our heads. Have an imagination that makes for conversations Seussian in nature, and yet we are still so very small. Hold on tight so he doesn’t go over the falls small. Hold on tight in the middle of the night because I hear his feet come racing down the hall at some unholy hour because the monsters in his dreams are chasing him. Hold on tight because for the VERY FIRST TIME since he started going to daycare, this morning, he did not turn to say goodbye to me, but had all his attention on his teacher–and it was brilliant. Because I can say that his tears become my tears, and his stress at drop-off leaves me feeling awful all day.

We are enjoying family things as of late. A music class that he attends all on his own. Trips to the library to pick out our own books, with our own library card. Not one but two concerts in the last little while, Totsapolloza and The Monkey Bunch. Helping all over the place, so much so that we burnt our fingers on the oven racks because we wanted to help so desperately. We are cheeky in our language and having some issues with “please” and “thank you” and thinking the whole world revolves around us. We want to play, play, play, play, play, and then I worry and worry and worry that he’s an only child and will grow up lonely and bored with two old parents as his companions.

There are tempers and tempers and tempers, and most days, they are handled, with time outs, and taking things away, and trying not to baby the behaviour, but we are strong, opinionated, and very stubborn. We are giving up our naps. But when we don’t, we are awake until the wee hours of the night. We’re watching, perhaps, too much television, but we went to see our first movie–if we can call it that–because we took an awful lot of bathroom breaks (four, to be exact) and then I missed the end of the movie. Every day is different. I wish we ate more interesting foods. I wish we weren’t so spazzy when we’re tired. I wish I didn’t lose my temper, because I feel awful when I do.

I never wish I didn’t love him so desperately. I always wish that I could remember every single conversation because they’re so endlessly interesting to me–the sheer idea that ears can fall off and then get stuck back on just because they can, that the whole world is busy being divided up and cross-checked and put into boxes of same and different–is amazing. Every. Single. Day.

The endless questions are sometimes frustrating. And then I have to take a deep breath because it’s all about understanding the world around him. That he hasn’t experienced it yet. Living isn’t old hat. Living isn’t something to be enduring. Every day is a giant jump into ever-loving arms. I wouldn’t trade that for anything either.

The other day, we were sitting, where were we sitting? At our kitchen table, at our dining room table, we may have been surrounded by family, or not, but I was struck by how much of a person he’s has become, and those elements of his personality that have been there the whole time–that steadfast, stubborn, intense but happy nature that belongs only to him–are flourishing these days.

This is what three is, three.

The M Word

Is almost here!

The book goes on sale April 15th, and I’m so proud to be one of its contributors–in company with some of our countries best writers–and we’re even having events. Events!

The M Word Events
Waterloo: April 14 Indie Lit Night at Starlight Social Club, 8pm
Toronto: April 15 at Ben McNally Books, 6pm
Kingston: April 16 at Novel Idea, 7:30pm
Winnipeg: May 6 at McNally Robinson, 7pm
Hamilton: May 7 at Bryan Prince Bookseller, 7pm
Everywhere Via Twitter Livechat: TBA

For those of you on Goodreads, there’s a giveaway

And congratulations to Kerry Clare for shepherding, steering, and pulling the whole project together brilliantly. What a spring it’s going to be.

January 21st, 2014

On Sarah Polley & Sitting For An Afternoon

My son went to my father’s yesterday, I dropped him off just after lunch, so he could spend the night. We had tickets for a Neutral Milk Hotel show at the Kool Haus last night (show = awesome; venue = not awesome) and my dad will drop our little guy off at daycare where I’ll pick him up after work. And I had plans for that time–I was going to write, read, rest, nap, and just unwind in a way I haven’t had a chance to do in forever. But by the time I got home, driving in some pretty icky weather, I was, well, let’s just say the only motivation I had was to drop my coat, boots and keys in the kitchen and head for the couch. Where I stayed for ALMOST FOUR STRAIGHT HOURS.

In that time, I did some work, I’m teaching the distance ed session of Publicity for Book Publishers at Ryerson this term, so it’s nice to be able to do it from home, although I do miss the classroom environment. But I also watched Sarah Polley’s amazing documentary, Stories We Tell. In a nutshell, Sarah Polley discovered, after the death of her mother, that her dad was not her biological father, and that led her to looking at how families tell stories, which culminated in her gathering hers to tell theirs.

Coming from an artistic Toronto family where her father was an actor (before finding steady work upon the birth of her two siblings), her mother an actress/casting director, and her family all involved in the business in some way or another, the context of Sarah Polley’s life seems rich with drama, literature, and words in general. It’s a personal documentary, something that’s a hybrid of many different voices–Michael Polley, the father who raised her, her biological father, her brothers and sisters, her “new” family once she uncovers her DNA–and the result is a symphony of tales that come together not so much to explore the truth but to examine the impact of loss. In as much as this documentary is about Polley finding a biological father, it’s also about the loss of her mother–and that’s what resonated so deeply with me. The dichotomy of loss/discovery plays out almost in every scene–all stemming from one simple question Polley asks at the beginning: “Can you tell the story how you remember it?” And everyone seems to remember different bits, snippets here, thoughts there–and the entire film is narrated by a wonderful piece of writing by her father, Michael Polley. How do you tell a story when the central character, Polley’s mother, has no voice–through the thoughts and memories of those closest to her. But, even then, it’ll never be the whole story, and I think that’s the point–that every honest, aching moment of truth isn’t a possibility.

So, I sat for an afternoon on Sunday before we went to see Neutral Milk Hotel, and just contemplated my own stories about my own missing mother. Realizing that while there’s no question regarding the origin of my DNA, there’s many unanswered questions when it comes to my mother. What were her disappointments? I know she must have had them. How did she manage with two kids being so small, and she being so young herself? Where would her life have taken her if it wasn’t taken from her? And I’m not a filmmaker, and for once I’d rather not even imagine. I don’t want to write my mother’s voice into a story and I don’t want to have to explain to my boy about how mommy’s mommy died–but I did, and I do, because, like all of the stories that came together, and evolved Sarah Polley into the fascinating person she has become, all of these stories have made me the person I am too. It’s just a shame that we see ourselves reflected so deeply in our children, at this moment, in the middle of that documentary, I simply wanted to see my own mother’s face smiling back at me. She had a spectacular smile.

January 3rd, 2014

In Response: “Generation X is Sick of Your Bullshit”

There have been a couple great articles in the last little while summing up the year, the usual best of movies, books, missed great culture, and blah de blah–but the two articles that got me thinking were these: 1) “The Year We Broke the Internet,” and 2) “Generation X is Sick of Your Bullshit,” which was written in response to this article on New York Magazine.

1) So, we’ve broken the internet… for once I’m thankful that a broken lede isn’t referring to the publishing industry, but to how f*#@ed up the internet has become. Referring traffic isn’t so much about driving discovery of great content anymore but damning us all to getting lost in a mess of tangled up wires masking themselves as a website. I’m one to blame–I use social media as a holding ground for all of the articles, notes, photos, thoughts, and bits and bobs of information that I’m trying to keep track of. I don’t read everything I post–I often post it to mark it to read later, because I think the header is interesting, and because I think it might be of interest to people in my circles. I’m doing it fast–scanning headlines and first paragraphs and often entire articles, and not thinking it through in some cases, but forwarding it along because that’s what you do. And every year I try to rid myself of the awful, voyeuristic celebrity gossip sites–but they’ve become an automatic response, something my fingers are doing the minute my mind becomes idle or I’m simply bored and need a distraction. I mean, do I need to know anything about Kim Kardashian? I’ve never seen an episode of her show–could care less about her rock, her fiance, her child, her thoughts on motherhood–and still, I click, and click, and click, and click. And I used to use the internet for good. Built great websites, wrote good content, and here we go again, another habit I need to slow down and look closely at–how to use the internet for good, again.

2) I loved this article so much:

But that’s okay. Generation X is used to being ignored, stuffed between two much larger, much more vocal, demographics. But whatever! Generation X is self-sufficient. It was a latchkey child. Its parents were too busy fulfilling their own personal ambitions to notice any of its trophies-which were admittedly few and far between because they were only awarded for victories, not participation.

But the one thing that struck me about the reply-rant, was the whole, “the first generation not to do better than their parents” refrain. And it’s got me thinking about how we qualify doing “better,” and what it means to be a parent, and the kinds of things that occupy your mind when you’re waiting for the TTC in sub-sub-zero weather. Because, while I’m certainly not monetarily doing better than my parents at my age, I don’t judge my life’s success in that way–my mother had two children by the time she was 24, wanted to go to university but didn’t, and spent her life doing menial jobs–sometimes two or three of them at a time (both she and my father worked all the time). Yes, they did a great job paying off their mortgage but my mother didn’t even have a chance to enjoy any of the benefits of her hard work–her car accident stopping her life short at thirty-four. She sacrificed her freedom, in a sense, so that I could have mine–two degrees, dancing around for while until I hit my own career path, not settling down until I was in my mid-twenties, and not having my own baby until I was much older, and while we haven’t got our house paid off, we lived the hell out of our years before we had kids. My mother was saving it up for later–a later she never got to experience. So, I guess I’m saying that it’s all relative. Money isn’t the guiding focus of our life as it was for my parents–in a sense. It’s not that I want to have an ‘artistic’ life or have been driving to be ‘different,’–but I always knew I didn’t want to live in Mississauga where I grew up (not that being one zip code away in Toronto is all that), that I wanted to travel, meet people, experience things in a way that was only made possible because my mother worked so hard to throw me out into the world and into the person I became. So, I don’t want the “glory” like the kids in the other article, and I’m not so pissed like the Sick of the Bullshit article, but it did get me thinking about what I’ll be leaving for my kid, and how hard I’m working now that it really matters, and one day I might get my house paid off, but I will always love the Beastie Boys, and be thankful my mother got knocked up when she did.

August 11th, 2013

Just a Thought. Just One.

I keep meaning to create a new post. To say something witty. To purport something wise. And then… silence.

 

Tricks of the Save

One of the hardest parts about money management, for me, is finding space in what I consider to be an already stretched and stressed situation. We, like many Canadian families, are working hard to get out of debt. It’s an ever-constant battle to go from paycheque to paycheque, then try to get ahead on top of that when you’ve got a small child in daycare, and the added pressure of working hard to keep one parent at home. There simply isn’t enough money. And then, because it’s so practical, you decide that you need a vacation. The easiest thing would be to jack your credit back up, just say flapjack it, and go… Or not. Coming to terms with having to pay more later would stress me out and end up voiding the whole point of a vacation.

Not this summer, but next, we’ve been planning a trip to Disney World. We all know the pitfalls, the insanity, the cliches, but my sister-in-law really wants to go, and our two families travel exceptionally well together. Plus, my son adores his cousins, and he’ll have way more fun with them there, then if we went on our own, just the three of us. We’re planning on spending a couple of days right in the park, and then a couple more on the outskirts, maybe cramming in some other fun spots–hoping not to completely overwhelm the kids along the way.

Florida in the summer might be exhaustive, but it’s actually a really good thing for us because it gives us a good year, and then some, to save. If you’re like me and find it hard to squeeze additional, “look-ahead,” money into your already tight budget, I find I have to trick myself into saving. The number one rule that I have is that we don’t touch emergency savings (that I’m just trying to build back up now after some legitimate emergencies).

Trick #1: Use the Chatelaine Example

A few months ago, Chatelaine had a great idea for extra savings–start with $1.00 the first week, and add a dollar for every week of the year. At the most you’ll be setting aside in one week is $52.oo, but at the end of a year, it’ll compound to over $1000.00. I’ve been doing this for 14 weeks so far, and it’s starting to add up.

Trick #2: Change in the Change Jar

It’s the oldest trick in the book–not spending your change (especially loonies and toonies). At the end of the day, empty your pockets into a gigantic jar or piggy bank (sealed, locked, away from prying hands), and it’s out of sight/out of mind. Check in every once in a while to roll it up and stash it in the bank in a super-hard-to-get-at bank account, and consider this your spending money.

Trick #3: Right off the Top

The easiest advice is to tuck the money away before you even spend it. The day your paycheque drops into your account, set up an automatic withdrawal, and shorten your budget by the amount. If you can only afford a few dollars, start with a few dollars. It just means you’ve got that much longer to go until you have your vacation stash. The reward will come in the form of a super stress-free holiday because you won’t actually have to pinch your pennies upon your return home.

Trick #4: Buy Your Tickets Early, Shop for the Bargains, Do Your Research

I know this isn’t necessarily related to how to save, but it’s more how to spend your money smartly. You’ll have more to splurge if you’ve done your homework (Butter Beer at Harry Potter’s theme park is expensive, I hear) and found a deal on airline tickets, hotel stays, and other such necessities. Start early. Make lots of notes. Use the internet to your advantage.

All in all, sometimes it’s hard to get started saving. To keep putting it off, to ignore the sage advice to “pay yourself first,” to dig a deeper hole because you need time away… But as someone who used to travel now and pay later, and pay, and pay, and pay, I’m much happier knowing that next summer we’ll be away with Mickey and his crew, and won’t come home to a pile of bills I’ll have absolutely no idea how we’ll pay.

May 29th, 2013

The New Normal

This picture has been sitting here, awaiting a post, for weeks. That’s the pace of my life at the moment–frantic. We were just lamenting this in the office the other day, a co-worker and I, how we missed

[And that’s where I started and left this post for a few more weeks.]

The inevitable pace of my life is such that I can’t seem to string two consistent thoughts together–they’re all in a jumble, each jumping up and down for attention, until my head feels like a pinball machine on speed.

[And here we pause again to get some work done. To have a meeting. To set up some meetings].

The whole point of this post, when I imagined it in my mind, was to talk about the new normal. My RRHB coined this phrase for me–and it’s been reverberating ever since. I’ve been deeply saddened, and having a lot of trouble coping with, the changes in my body/health post-pregnancy + delivery. The bits about the disease have been well worn on these pages, but I kept holding out hope that at some point, my body would rebound. But it hasn’t. For all intents and purposes, and this is happy, happy news–the disease is in remission. My bloodwork is stable for the first time in three years. My body is functioning. My body has a new normal. Getting used to living from such a depleted place takes some getting used to. At first, there’s the decided lack of energy (my kidneys not making enough red blood cells). Then, there’s the bloat and grossness from the meds (baby weight is now just “weight.”). There’s the rough eating habits that go along with not having enough energy (sugar, terrible, sugar). And this all equates the new normal, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m simply mad at myself. And this anger seems to be seeping into all kinds of parts of my life like a fog.

I like to think of myself as a problem solver. I can take a situation and sort it out. I can deal with just about anything, but lately, maybe I’m not quite sure how to deal with the new normal. Perhaps I have aged a century in a couple of years? Perhaps I really need to focus on the few things that I can control, and suss out some Oprah-esque platitudes, when I feel better, I’ll do better (with the diet).

It doesn’t help that we’re so busy these days that time moves at warp speed. When I’m home, my RRHB is working or running errands. When my RRHB is home, I’m doing the same. We are cramming our lives into the edges, and it’s tough–I am not going to lie, I miss lazy Sundays of watching movies (that are not Cars, it’s a great film, but I’ve now seen it 1,000 times), of reading a book in one fell swoop, of taking a long, leisurely walk with my child safely strapped into a stroller (and not complaining about it because, well, he couldn’t). My darling boy races along and we race after him. He’s charged and amped up, gloriously chatty, and deliciously energetic. This is coupled with readily exhausted, super-tantrum prone, and fiercely guarding his onslaught toward independence. He rode a bike the other day. A bike. He’s 2.5 years old. He’ll climb anything. Jump off of anything. Run into anything. He could solve our renewable energy sources if there was a way to project him into the power grid. He’s beyond amazing but with the new normal, I’ll never catch up. I only hope he never notices.

I’ve got a part-time job these days. I’m teaching publishing (publicity in particular) at Ryerson, and I’m finding that truly inspiring. It’s summer hours now, so the Fridays where we’re not going to the cottage, I can stay an hour or two later at work and write. I’ve got 30k words of a new project that’s fun. Oh, the places we are going these days. I just wish I could stop raging against the dying of the light in terms of the Wegener’s and accept my new normal. But it’s not in my nature. I’ve never met an immovable object I didn’t want to move–I’ve never accepted limitations before. I don’t know where to start. I wish I could regenerate like my perennials–have parts of my body pop up unannounced in my garden, and I’ll lovingly tend to them. There are ways. I know there are. I just need to figure out how to get there.

March 18th, 2013

Book Review #8 – The Blondes

In The Blondes, Emily Schultz has written a terrific, original novel. I think, in my perfect pop culture world, it’s exactly my kind of book. The writing is great, the story is compelling, and it’s fresh in its tone. Hazel, a Phd student in film, embarks upon post-grad work in New York City. She’s left behind a disastrous relationship with her faculty adviser, the aptly renamed Karl Mann (having changed his moniker from Dichlicher [sp]), and has just found out she’s pregnant. Accident or no, finding yourself up the duff at the very moment of an apocalypse, well, it’s not terrific luck.

The epidemic starts with just one or two incidents–blonde women losing it both literally and metaphorically as a result of a virus that soon turns the world into a place where any light-headed person, peroxided or not, could fall victim. Hazel, a natural light-haired red-head, soon finds herself face-to-face with the kinds of situations most familiar to people who have seen and studied Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. ┬áNorth America on lockdown, Hazel tries to get home, and she ends up at a government run containment centre with other women who may or may not develop the virus, SHV.

Government officials let her out, eventually. And this part of the book eerily reminded me of Blindness, the moment when the government fully admits that it no longer has control over the situation. She manages to get herself back to Toronto, to see her best friend, but then, from there, it seems that everyone, anyone will do what it takes to survive. I’m making the book feel more Walking Dead than it actually is–there’s great humour here, a lot of laugh out loud, smart revelations by the writer. It’s funny, essentially, the novel is epistolary in format, Hazel’s retelling the story to her unborn child. And she moves back and forth from events deeper into the past and from where she is at the moment–in a cottage owned by her ex-lover and his wife, Grace.

All in all, if you are looking for an intelligent mash up of 28 Days Later without the terrifically horror elements, with a dash of Blindness, as above, with a wholly original, satirical point of view, The Blondes is the book for you. I, for one, would love to see Sarah Polley make this into a movie, because I think it would be great fun on the big screen.

September 9th, 2012

Walking in the Rain

The weather yesterday morning was amazing. Piles of rain collapsed as if someone was actually pouring buckets down from the sky. I love days like that, have always loved the rain. I had a polka dot umbrella. RRBB had his Thomas attire. We stepped outside and walked around the neighbourhood until it was just too cold and we had to come inside.

There’s a moment, and I wish I could pinpoint it, when my son discovers something new–and it’s not even if it’s new truly, it might just be new that day–and he explodes with a sense of wonder that I wish I could emulate. The stairs we’ve gone up and down a hundred times, well, it’s the 101st that really matters. An airplane, awesome. A garbage truck? We might not survive the excitement. And then we come crashing down, clashing a little, the two of us, a temper tantrum, some screaming, dumping of an entire box of organic smoothie on the kitchen floor, and all wonder is lost in an attempt to hold on to your patience and capture just a little bit of understanding.

Because, here’s my biggest lesson this weekend–sometimes your kids will simply not do what you want them to do.

Sometimes they will do the exact opposite of what you want them to do.

(more…)

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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