In the Last Two Months

A lot has happened… and nothing has happened.

KRH was in the hospital at the end of January, which threw us all out of our element for a few weeks. He’s doing fantastically now, has had a couple of all-clear follow-up visits, and is eating and growing like a weed (he’s somehow put on over a kilogram – 2.2 pounds – since mid-February) and he’s walking and talking and leaving our worldly possessions in a stream behind him like a toddler tornado. He’s so much fun right now. I’m really enjoying the (somewhat scarce thanks to the day job) time we spend together, even if I often find myself longing for bedtime to come after an hour or so.

That’s more because I’ve been exhausted lately. I did whirlwind of a two day field visit in early January that, combined with the hospital visit shortly thereafter, has left me a bit ragged. I have a vacation coming up and, I’m hoping some R&R will improve things.

Because of the exhaustion, I haven’t accomplished much in the creative department. I’m knitting very little (see my aforementioned suspected RSI, which is slowly getting better), though I have picked up an old cross stitch kit that’s been languishing for a while. Writing has been happening very slowly, if at all. Running also hasn’t been much of a thing lately, and I’m sure I’d feel better if I got out and got moving. I am slowly picking my way through some household things that need to be completed, but I’m really hoping I’ll return from a slow, relaxing vacation in the warmth feeling renewed and energetic again.

Anyway, Daylight Savings Time started yesterday and it’s “late”, which means I should probably move in the direction of something approximating sleep. We fly out on Saturday, so there’s the added pressure of laundry and packing and errands and so forth, so this is going to be a busy week. But hopefully a productive one!

Off the Needles

It feels like it’s time for a knitting update. Ironically, this is because I think I have the beginnings of a repetitive strain injury and I’m on a self-imposed knitting break for at least a week. Which totally sucks, I have to say. I’ve actually been knitting more lately (possibly at the expense of my writing) and not being able to do it is kind of frustrating. So, since I can’t knit, I’ll write about knitting!

Some of these I knitted while pregnant. Some have come off the needles after a length of time I try not to think about. Some are (relatively) new.

Off the needles in the last little while, we have:

A cunning hat for KRH

 

A sweet sweater for KRH

 

Another sweater for KRH

 

Socks for Mark

Okay, these ones only took… three years. They ended up being a third anniversary present, when he was supposed to wear them to our wedding. I also recently finished his wedding present, which was also a third anniversary present – that’ll be it’s own blog post when it’s finished (it needs buttons!).

 

Hats for KRH, Mark, and my Dad

All my men got matching hats for birthday (KRH, Mark) and Christmas (Dad). This picture doesn’t really do them justice, but the sun was setting and I was in a rush.

 

Another hat for Dad

Dad needed another hat.

 

Not listed here are numerous dishcloths (which I knit when I can’t sleep), dish scrubbies (Christmas gifts galore now that I’ve discovered scrubby yarn), the socks for me (which only needed the ends woven in and sat in my knitting pile for an embarrassingly long time before I did it), mittens for KRH (they don’t fit and I can’t find them right now and never grabbed a picture), and crocheted snowflakes (for our nature table).

Wow, when you list it all out, it’s no wonder I’m working on an RSI! Hopefully I’ll get back to it soon.

A New Perspective

Being back at work has been interesting and enlightening. I come to my day job with a new perspective and a fresh eye and it’s serving me well right now.

The project I’m on was having some struggles and I was added to the team with the explicit goal of helping. It’s not been easy, because the project has been ongoing for quite some time and I have to get up to speed quickly. I’m trying hard not to step on any toes and be supportive and people seem appreciative of it. But it’s all just a matter of having the time and space to apply some tricks I’ve learned over the years.

It’s also really nice to just sit down for two or four hours and put on some music and really focus on something, without worrying about KRH or whether the dishes are done. I feel much more energized and productive than I was, and I’m even getting some writing in on the bus (I’ve edited 81 pages so far this month, which is the most I’ve done in probably two years)!

We’re still looking for ways to simplify and improve our life. Many of them are deceptively simple! My favourite was going out and buying all new socks. I know that sounds crazy but hear me out! I used to have about eighteen similar, but slightly different pairs of black dress socks. They were a pain to match after doing laundry and rarely ever matched. They were also wearing out and getting holes. So I tossed them all and bought eighteen pairs of identical socks! Now, when I’m rushing out the door and we haven’t folded laundry yet, I can just grab two pairs of clean ones from the basket and be confident that they match. Simple? Yes. But anything to reduce that mental clutter!

Organizing for Creativity

With a baby around, it probably won’t come as a huge shock when I say that I haven’t been creating very much lately. However, this is about to change! Last week, I returned to work, and my handsomer half has taken up the taxing job of being lead parent. I’m happy to be back having discussions with other adults and drinking my coffee while it’s still hot, and he’s happy to be away from the day job for a while. It’s an interesting reversal of roles, but I think it’s going well.

Now that I’m back at work I’ve got about 1.5 hours a day commuting time. I take public transit, so this could, theoretically, amount to creative time! There’s also, theoretically, a few hours a day after KRH goes to sleep. So, I needed to get myself organized.

Over the last eight months (I can’t believe KRH is eight months old already!), life has felt complicated, hectic, and disorganized. My husband and I recently agreed to work on changing that. My new motto for life is “Joyfully Simple” and I’ve spent the last month or so organizing and purging our home to get rid of the possessions that we no longer use and to make sure that everything had a home so that there were no more piles of things by the front door or all over the kitchen counters. As part of this, I finally completed the longstanding goal of turning an unused room in our basement into a sweet little playroom for KRH (and the cats).

That work is now done, and our house already feels so much more open, clean, and welcoming! There’s still work to do, here and there, and the never-ending chores of home ownership, but I feel so much more at peace in our house. Getting rid of some of the things that we no longer use has opened up room for our family to play and grow and be. Another upshot? I’ve found several uncompleted projects that I’ve started to complete – look for those to come up on the blog soon.

Now we just have to keep the house this way! We’ve agreed to spend a few minutes at the end of each day tidying up and putting everything back where it belongs, which is sometimes a feat with a busy little boy. Next on the list: sort out a routine and some habits to simplify our life and make sure that the important things get done while still leaving us time to raise our son, spend time as a couple, and create!

A Different Kind of Creativity

I need to find new ways to be creative, and that’s stretching me a bit.

Let me sum up:

 

We are now three (five if you count the cats), and have been for almost four months now. The time has absolutely flown by in a whirlwind of figuring out this small person (who shall be known as KRH) who has stolen our hearts.

As noted by the title of this post, this requires a certain amount of creativity, but a kind of creativity I’ve not used before. There’s the usual ‘try everything until we figure out why the baby’s crying’ creativity, but also a certain amount of flexibility is required to make our new family work, to give my husband and myself time to do the things that keep us sane and healthy, while making sure that KRH has everything that he needs to grow. Fortunately, we are really lucky that we have a supportive family and community backing us up.

It hasn’t always been easy, but we are slowly starting to find our balance there. It helps that KRH is (*knocks on wood*) approaching something resembling a nap schedule, which leaves me freer during the day to do the day to day stuff of life, rather than relying on my husband for everything (often literally spoon-feeding me in the early days). This, in turn, is starting to free him up to focus on his health and writing.

My creativity is being stretched in other ways, too, to figure out how to entertain this small person for an entire day by myself. KRH isn’t a huge fan of lying down on his play mat for long periods anymore, but can’t quite sit up or crawl yet, so he’s not able to entertain himself very well and there’s only so many times I can make funny noises or faces at him before I get tired. Still, we’re getting out of the house to activities and appointments and, once the weather gets better, I’d like to go for more regular walks and have some outside time.

I don’t intend to talk about KRH much on this blog, but I figured he deserved at least one post, so there you go. It’s not the same as knitting or writing, but he’s certainly stretching my creative muscles!

He’s also growing. A lot. (This picture is already a month old).

Welcome to the world, little guy! I look forward to writing you many stories. <3!

Huh

I have to admit, I’m a little surprised.

Back in… April? (it’s been a while) I submitted two short stories for a contest. It’s open only to people who are attending a local writers’ and readers’ festival/convention. My amazing husband submitted last year and was shortlisted. He didn’t place in the top three, but he did get his story published in a little chapbook and they did an event at the convention where the top ten writers read a bit of their submission. Afterwards, all the writers signed each other’s books and then the judges announced their overall thoughts of each finalist before finally announcing the top three winners.

They offer a critique of your work whether you win or not, and I figured: why not give it a go? So I polished up two short stories that I’ve had floating around for a few years and emailed them off to the editor for this year’s contest. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

I’m not very good at waiting. I had some consolation, though, in that two of our friends and my husband had also submitted. I had mostly forgotten about it until it was pointed out that, last year, my husband had heard back by late June. Then the waiting got even harder. Together we checked our email multiple times daily, waiting in agony, asking each other at least weekly whether any of us had heard anything about the contest at all.

Finally, a month later than we expected, we heard something. I found out on Saturday that one of my two short stories was among the top ten! I was pleased, but not really surprised, because I figured both the stories had a solid chance at placing. (And yes, I did jump up and scream and hug my friends and call my parents and all that when I found out).

What surprised me was the story that placed. Of the two I thought that the one that was selected was the weaker, and it was the one I suspected might not be chosen. Lucky for me, I was wrong! I guess there’s a home for every story and the second one might find its place elsewhere. In fact, I’m sure that it will.

But now, I have to write a biography for my first little short story to be published! Let’s hope that it’s the first of many.

I love you, and I forgive you…

On February 24, I had the rare pleasure of listening to Neil Gaiman speak (the event was free, but required tickets and it “sold” out in under a minute). Fortunately, I have a Mark who loves me and managed to get us two tickets. You know it’s true love, because he gave me the first one.

I’d never heard Neil speak before, except on videos on the internet, and I was impressed at both how good a speaker/reader he is, and how funny he is. He read three short stories and three poems, all with a rhythm and fluidity that made me want to listen to nothing else forever (if only his stories weren’t so far onto the side of creepy, I would happily listen to him reading me bedtime stories every night). It’s a style that I aspire to at some point in the future, because it was very easy to listen to.

That being said, some of the best parts were not what he had prepared, but his reaction to audience questions. The one I enjoyed the most was about the second best question he’d ever been asked (the first being “did you ever burp so hard that it hurt?”) by a young child a few days previously. I don’t really remember his answer (it was over a month ago), because I was laughing so hard at the burping. A great deal of what he said had me nearly in stitches, and I wish that there was a recording so I could re-live the event.

Something else that he said resonated with me, though. He had stumbled across some poetry that he had written when he was sixteen, and told us how laughably bad it was. He didn’t share it, but he did say something that stuck with me. He said: “I love you, sixteen-year old Neil. I love you, and I forgive you.”

It came up today at a meeting of our critique group, in relation to something that I started writing around that age, and how much it has changed and grown since then. And I kind of chuckled and self-depracatingly told sixteen-year old Candice that I love her and forgive her.

And it felt good.

It helped that the critique group agreed with me (nearly everything we do as a teenager that we think is great turns out to be laughably terrible), but it made me want to put that phrase on a poster somewhere that I will see it all the time. Because I’m unusually hard on myself, especially regarding past mistakes, but without those mistakes, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. And that’s worth remembering, because (most of the time), I like who I am and who I have become. So why should I be so hard on the person who I used to be? She’s me too, if a less experienced version of me.

Candice - 18

 

And I love her.

I love you, past Candice. I love you, and I forgive you.

Fortunate

I am very fortunate.  Those of you who follow me on twitter are probably well aware from my retweets that there was something bad going on in my city.  I live in Calgary which is on the banks of two rivers.  On Thursday/Friday, both rivers experienced a 1 in 100 year flood.  The results are devastating and left downtown, our zoo, and the Stampede grounds completely flooded, twenty four (I think was the final total) communities evacuated for over 48 hours.  Mine was one of the communities evacuated and it left me three days to think several very long thoughts.

 

I am incredibly fortunate that I have so many people who love and care for me.  Mark and I stayed with his parents, but my aunt and uncle would have taken me in and I had three separate sets of friends offer their houses as a crash pad.  Mark’s parents were in the process of moving, and weren’t really set up for guests, but they made every effort to keep us comfortable and happily fed.  It was actually a pleasant, if busy, weekend helping them move.

 

I am fortunate that my house was undamaged and didn’t even lose power.  There are many people in my city that weren’t so lucky.  Mark, the cats, and I were all fine, but I worried all weekend that the aquarium would lose power or that my basement would be ruined (since insurance doesn’t cover overland flooding).  Some of my fellow Calgarians (and southern Albertans) lost everything.

 

I’m fortunate that I live in a city where people who wanted to volunteer had to be turned away because there were too many of them.  And supplies that were donated weren’t needed, because there were too many of them.  I’m amazed that, of the 75,000 people displaced, only about 1,500 needed to use the evacuation centres, because other people, sometimes complete strangers, took them in.

 

I’m fortunate to have been able to watch as Telus offered free local and long distance calls to victims, Shaw opened up their usually locked WiFi points so that people had free WiFi, UHaul offered free storage, and too many restaurants and businesses to count offered food to evacuees and clean up crew.

 

My city will survive, and so will the people in it.  As far as I know, nobody from Calgary was injured or killed in the flood and the emergency management team was amazing in ensuring that.  There’s still a lot of cleanup left to do, but with the number of people already volunteering to help, I think that it will take less time than they forecasted.  “Come Hell or High Water” the Stampede will start on July 5 and the city will endure.

 

And we are fortunate to be able to say that.

Why I Didn’t Write This Weekend

Internet, I swear… I have a really good reason.

 

His name is Saffron.

 

Let me ‘splain.

 

Saturday was “annual kitty torturing day” at my house.  For those of you new to the party, that’s how my cats view their annual checkup.  It’s nothing horrendous: the usual listen to heart and lungs, palpitate abdomen, check eyes, ears, and teeth, stick thermometer up butt, and stab with a needle or two (vaccine SCIENCE!).  But, apparently, this is a really big deal when you’re a 14 pound cat.

 

I mean, I don’t enjoy my doctor’s visits either, but I have to shut up when he does most of the above (though the thermometer goes in my mouth because I’m a big girl).  I also have the benefit of understanding the importance of the visit; a bit of trivia I have not succeeded in imparting onto the cats.  So for them, this time of year is a REALLY BIG DEAL.

 

In fact, my boy kitty hates it so much that last year we had to drug him just to get through unscathed.

 

Fortunately, last year, it worked.  This year… not so much.

 

It looked promising, he took the meds easily and tolerated the wonderful tech weighing him to see if he’d lost weight like he was supposed to (he hadn’t).  He explored the exam room like a champ with slightly wobbly legs.  He even jumped onto my lap for a snuggle and attempted to get up on the exam table.

 

Then he saw his sister, who was hiding behind the black laptop like she does every year, trying to blend in and hope that, this once, we forget to examine her.  Apparently, this was a traumatic thing for Saffron, and he started to growl and hiss (the working theory is that he didn’t recognize her.  Or that he was being a jerk).  I thought it was still going to be manageable, if difficult.  The vet came in, did her essential oil magic (the cats smelled really good) and gave Saffron some (dried and fresh) catnip, which calmed him enough that he didn’t mind us being there, examining Socks, whom he was still growling at.

 

He started to get antsy so we ended up taking Socks to the back room (surgery) to give him a break with the lights out, and finished her exam there.  For various disgusting reasons involving glands needing to be expressed, it turned out to be a good thing that we’d moved.  Then we put Socks in her carrier in the hallway and went back to get Saffron.

 

Who had spent the whole time prowling and stalking and generally pretending to be a wild jungle cat.  We (the vet and I) had come in to get his vaccines to prep in the back room in preparation for the usual brief exam, stabby, and put kitty back in carrier when we made the unforgivable mistake of trying to leave the room without him getting out.

 

Internet… my cat bit the vet.  He ran into the hallway, clawed onto her leg, and bit her knee.  And when she tried to close the other exam room door (which was open to the front, where he could escape, he metaphorically lost his sh*t.  When I tried to help the vet, he attacked me.

 

I have to say, that having a cat claw in your bottom lip while simultaneously having your index finger bitten is not pleasant.  Nor is having a cat claw stuck in your forearm with said cat growling and hissing while you’re trying to contain the copious amounts of blood gushing from your lip.  My utmost support to the vet tech trainee who did what neither the vet nor I could do and caught Saffron underneath a quilt and held him there without getting a scratch.  At this point, he also literally lost his sh*t.

 

At this point, I decided that Saffron had enough and needed to take a nice, long nap.  So we put him in a box.

 

photo-4

 

And then we filled that box with gas (kitty nitrous oxide) and waited until he fell asleep.  Then we pulled him out and got on with many things we couldn’t when he was awake.

 

photo-3

 

It was a more thorough exam than I usually get, and included blood and urine panels (and faeces, fresh from the floor) because why not?  He’s the cat version of middle aged and he’s probably due for a good workup.  And it wouldn’t hurt to check his blood work since he’s overweight.

 

We plopped his doped up body into the cat carrier (he barely fit all splayed out like that), I nursed my wounds, hung around until he was more or less awake, paid up, and headed home.

 

Where I had a VERY snuggly Saffron.

 

photo

 

They warned me that he would be snuggly, but I was unprepared for how vocal he would be.  He spent most of Saturday sitting and crying, even when asleep.  It was kind of heartbreaking.

 

He also spent about two hours carrying a yellow toy mouse around in his mouth like it was his baby.  He barely put it down to eat.  And yes, my big macho cat cuddled with it.

 

photo-2

 

Even on Sunday, he was still pretty snuggly, which made it hard to get any work done.

 

But Internet?  With something this cute, I find it hard to justify doing anything else but cuddle all day.

 

photo-1

 

I’m sure you understand.