quick update

Life is beyond hectic right now as I work almost full-time at the library, work almost part-time at Wingspan, try to complete all the usual day-to-day maintenance and…(drumroll)…prepare to put our house on the market. We’ve found a very nice house on a lake about fifteen minutes away and are now in a desperate race to get this pigsty cleaned up enough to put up for sale. I’ll post more about it as I know more; at the moment nothing is definite so I don’t want to screw anything up by blabbing too soon.

My one refuge during all this non-stop activity is an hour of reading before bed every night. Thank God for books. I’d lose my mind without them. (I have to keep justifying – to myself and The Boy Wonder – the importance of books in my life in light of the possibility of moving approximately four and a half million pounds of them.) Anyway, I’m in a hurry at the moment, but there’s always time to be judgmental, right? Right.

First:

Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorceby Stacy Morrison. Now don’t get your hopes up, dear in-laws, because The Boy Wonder has not finally come to his senses and decided to divorce me. Not today, anyway. As far as I know. I read this book because it was recommended by a co-worker who has gone through a divorce and felt the author had an interesting perspective. Because I’m a horrible person at heart, I found her tales about how everything went wrong – seriously, one thing after another, it was uncanny – the most gripping part of the whole book. I guess that’s because I’m not divorced. Yet.

Falling Apart is very honest in that she doesn’t leave out any of the fits of weeping or feelings of humiliation or bad decisions, although she doesn’t say much about the fact her ex seems to be a selfish, childish, whiny jerk. Maybe the fact I now think he’s all those things is enough; maybe she was content to give that impression without ever coming out and saying it directly. I guess I was hoping she would just come right out and say it instead of being so gentle and understanding all the time. Jeez, I kept thinking, curse the guy out. Let loose. Stop being so mature and just let him have it.

Another issue I had with the book is Morrison’s continual mentioning of her career in publishing and current position as Editor of Redbook magazine.I understand her career is important to her and becoming the editor of such a successful magazine is a huge accompishment, but for Pete’s sake, enough already. She reminded me of one of those people – you know at least one too – who find a way to work their own achievements into EVERYTHING. I remember once working with a young woman the year she was getting married and she just couldn’t stop talking about it. Even when the topic wasn’t her wedding – and it was, plenty of the time, believe me – she always managed to steer the conversation back to it. Opening an envelope from a customer would get her going about her wedding invitations. A nice blouse on someone would remind her of the cut of her wedding dress. She even took to referring to her husband as “my husband” all the time despite the fact he worked right there with us, about two feet away. (My Star girls will doubtless know who I’m talking about.) So, to get back to the book, she brags about her awesome career in publishing A LOT and I found it a little distracting in that I had to keep rolling my eyes, but it wasn’t that big a deal.

Next:

Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich. The cover of this book caught my eye in the library the other day and since I like making things from scratch too, I had high hopes for it. And it was…okay. Not bad. The author is forthcoming about her own experiences in gardening, beekeeping, baking, antiquing, sewing, playing the fiddle and raising working dogs and angora rabbits, but there is very little information here to help the reader do the same. The author includes resources at the end for those who want to learn more and that’s great, but I didn’t feel I learned a whole lot from reading her book and could have just read the more informative resources instead. I’ll give it a “Not Bad” and say it’s best meant for someone who has never given a thought to self-sufficiency before. If you’re a regular (or even semi-regular) reader of Mother Earth News or Hobby Farms, however, you’ll want something meatier.

And finally:

The Incident Report by Martha Baillie. Fiction. I enjoyed this book a lot. The style is very spare and clean and precise and a pleasure to read. The book is structured in the form of numbered incident reports as produced by Miriam Gordon, a librarian in Toronto. Interspersed with reports of insane, drunk, hostile or pathetic patrons are tiny glimpses of Miriam’s personal life, mainly her troubled relationship with her father and her budding romance with Janko, an artist-turned-cab driver. Highly recommended.

two more recommendations

One good thing – the only good thing – about the horrible, stinking heat of summer is it gives me an excuse to sit and read instead of bustling around trying to keep things tidy. I just finished this:

This Cake Is for the Party by Sarah Selecky. The back blurb says only, “These ten smart, tautly written stories mark the debut of an exciting new voice in Canadian short fiction.” And it’s true. I’m always amazed by how skilled short story writers can fully render a character in so few pages and Selecky is a perfect example of someone with this ability. I found the stories ranged on a scale between poignant and downright sad, but I wouldn’t say they were depressing. Rather, they were sad in the way life is so often sad: people are lonely or unhappy or tormented or bitter or ill and there is no convenient resolution by the last page.

Selecky’s writing is so sharp and intelligent and evocative, it’s inspiring (as a reader) and intimidating (as a writer). My only complaint is the absence of quotation marks in scenes with dialogue. I know it’s probably a more modern, sleek way of writing, but my slow elephant brain had a hard time with it and I often had to backtrack to figure out what was dialogue and what wasn’t. It’s a minor point, though, and doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the stories.

Before Cake, I read this:

The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom. From the back cover: “…the magnificently hapless Israel Armstrong – a duffle-coat wearing, navel-gazing Jewish librarian who solves crimes, mysteries and domestic problems whilst driving a mobile library around the north coast of Ireland – finds himself on the verge of his thirtieth birthday and on the trail of a troubled missing teenager, the daughter of a local politician.”

I really, really liked this book. A lot. It’s smart and funny and completely entertaining – the type of novel I wish I could write. But haven’t. And probably never will. Sigh. Anyway, because I’m not terribly observant by times, I didn’t realize The Bad Book Affair is the fourth in the Mobile Library series when I borrowed it from the library and now I’m eagerly anticipating reading the first three books in the series. I’ll let you know how those go. Until then, don’t hesitate to buy/borrow The Bad Book Affair because it stands perfectly well on its own without having read the previous instalments.

And what are you reading these days?

vacation photo album

My apologies in advance for what will be a photo-heavy post; you know I just can’t help myself when it comes to a camera. Thank God for digital. Okay, here we go. Our annual trip to PEI.

The kids and Mia on the Caribou-Wood Islands ferry:

Charlotte striking a pose at the gorgeous Greenwich National Park:

One of the wild roses that line the trails at the park:

Anna and Charlotte on the beach at Greenwich National Park. Check out the sand dunes, which are at least twelve feet high:

Naufrage Harbour:

Lobster traps:

And fishing boats:

Here’s Charlotte at a quiet little beach on the north shore:

And Foster and Mia on the same beach:

This is the lighthouse at East Point, which was built in 1867:

Mia loving/hating the beach:

Ripply sand, just because it’s my camera and I can shoot whatever I want:

A snail:

Charlotte and a starfish:

Wool spindles at the awesome MacAusland’s Woolen Mills in Bloomfield:

Some old spinning machinery:

Another neat machine that plies the spun wool, I think. And look! A black rotary phone on the post:

Here’s Foster watching a snail:

As the tide was coming in one morning, the kids and I engaged in some super-high tech time lapse photography. Here they are, with Jam:

And here they are exactly ten minutes later (I’ll spare you all the photos taken at one minute intervals in between. And don’t ask me what happened to Jam. I think she got bored and wandered off.):

A crab shell, because why not?:

Mia in glistening evening light:

The obligatory sunset shot:

Here are the kids at Port la Joye/Fort Amherst:

And the lighthouse behind them:

A nice view from Fort Amherst:

The kids and Mia trying to distract me from the view:

A shiny shell:

An egg case, probably from a dogfish, which is a type of shark, so let’s say I wrestled this from a shark:

Bumpy clouds:

Foster after swimming in the ocean:

Anna and Charlotte also after swimming in the ocean:

Foster against the cliffs, which are blazing orange in the evening light:

Foster and Anna:

A purple jellyfish:

One of my better attempts at drive-by photography:

Everyone who knows me knows my love for PEI knows no bounds and I’m happy to report the kids are getting there too. Every year they’re a little more reluctant to leave and look a little more longingly at houses for sale, saying, “We could live there, right?” Hear me cackling and rubbing my hands together? My plan is working.

sad news

I'm sorry to say my cousin Justin died in a house fire yesterday. Here is the link to the CBC's story and the link to The Guardian's story and the link to the Journal-Pioneer's story. Such a sad, sad situation.

I’m sorry to say my cousin Justin died in a house fire yesterday. Here is the link to the CBC’s story and the link to The Guardian’s story and the link to the Journal-Pioneer’s story. Such a sad, sad situation.

book reports

Eight weeks into it, I’m happy to report I’m still enjoying my job at the library. It’s nice to get a regular paycheque, of course, and I get a kick out of people-watching, as always. It’s been a while since I worked with the general public and I’d forgotten people come in so many flavours. Every day is an interesting mix of the super-nice, the occasional super-snotty, the outright crazy, the harmless but clueless, the totally frazzled and the sickeningly entitled. I enjoy them all because they add to my mental database of character traits to be used, hopefully, in future writing. This is the nice thing about writing: everything is potential material. Even giant needles in the neck.

But the best thing about working at the library are the books. Books books books everywhere. It’s hard to not get all slobbery around them. I know perfectly well I don’t have time to read a fraction of what I’m slobbering over but still. It’s nice to dream. It’s also nice to come across books I wouldn’t necessarily have ever heard about otherwise. Books like this:

 Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos. From the cover: “In the summer of 1971, Jack Gantos was an aspiring writer looking for adventure, cash for college tuition, and a way out of a dead-end job. For ten thousand dollars, he agreed to help sail a sixty-foot yacht loaded with a ton of hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York City, setting sail on an expedition that eventually landed him in federal prison.”

Although this biography is for young adults, I really enjoyed it. Gantos is remarkably honest about his bad decisions and never makes excuses or asks the reader for pity. His tales of life in prison are just as interesting, if not more so, than the crime that got him there in the first place. Very entertaining.

Here’s another good one:

Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart by Syr Ruus. From the cover: “Things no longer look the same for 45-year-old Emmanuel Taggart. Thinking he has the flu, he leaves the office to embark on a road of self-discovery. Although nothing is medically wrong, Emmanuel becomes convinced that he has an undiagnosed terminal disease. Dispossessed of his normal sense of reality, Emmanuel begins to examine his own existence with unexpected consequences.”

I read this while I had the stomach flu last month and it says good things about the book that I was able to enjoy it despite feeling horrible. Emmanuel is a perfectly drawn character: he loves his family, but is astonishingly self-centred; he demands constant sympathy and attention, but is impatient and emotionally stingy with others; he tells himself he is searching for meaning in his life, but is too lazy to put in the mental effort required and instead mopes around feeling sorry for himself. Emmanuel has a whole lot of really annoying traits, but Ruus is skilled enough that he never becomes overwhelming. Very good book.

Another good one. Kind of. Depressing/good:

On South Mountain: The Dark Secrets of the Goler Clan by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths. From the cover: “The Annapolis Valley is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. Apple blossoms, lush farms and lovely, secluded beaches have graced photographs and postcards without number…Overlooking the Valley is South Mountain, a long ridge of hills covered by dense forests which conceal tiny hamlets and isolated clusters of shacks set in small clearings…(F)or most of the last two centuries it has been home to the “Clans” – thirty or so tight family groupings, living in their various Mountain enclaves. Many of them have survived the kind of poverty and deprivation associated only with the world’s poorest nations…Then one day, a fourteen-year-old Mountain girl told authorities that her father had been ‘using her as a wife.’ This revelation sparked a massive investigation which revealed a horrific tale of incest, sexual and physical abuse and psychological torture.”

I was attracted to this book because it’s a true story that took place in my stomping grounds, but hoo boy, I’ll bet long-time residents were not thrilled with its publication because nobody comes out looking good. Not the police, not the lawyers, not the judges, not the teachers or the doctors or the government or the residents of Wolfville or the residents of the Mountain – nobody. Huge failings all around. An awful subject, but well-written and quite gripping.

What have you read lately? Any recommendations?

maternal pride and some white-hot anger

The day after my last post, I accompanied Foster’s class on a trip to CFB 14 Wing Greenwood, where Foster promptly stole a parachute and tried to hijack the Hercules plane we were being shown:

That kid. Honestly. I can’t take him anywhere.

Two days later was this girl’s birthday:

Anna is twelve now. Twelve. Crazy. Because her birthday was a “marking day,” Anna had no school and instead spent the day going out for lunch and Frenchy’s shopping with Jam, then opening presents and going to Swiss Chalet for a birthday dinner with the whole family.

Two days after her birthday, Anna had a swimming/sleepover party with four of her friends. Yes, you heard me correctly: a swimming AND sleepover party. Are we not the world’s greatest parents? Yes, I think so. The Boy Wonder took Foster, Charlotte, Anna and four of her friends to the Acadia pool to swim for a couple hours, then they came home, decorated make-your-own pizzas for supper, ate homemade cake and then “slept” in the basement. I think I spent about eight solid hours just doing dishes that day. I won’t post photos from her party because I’m not sure how the girls’ parents would feel about that, but I can sum up my shots by saying the girls were JUST A LITTLE EXCITED.

Two days after that (see the pattern?) was the closing ceremony at Anna’s school, during which she won an Outstanding Effort and Achievement award:

Please forgive the photo; I was standing about a mile and a half away. That’s Anna to the left of the kid in the orange sweater. Her teacher is poking her head in between the two kids. The hoodlums in the back are the other Grade 6 teachers.

Anyway, this is what is printed on the back of her certificate (wording and random capitalization not mine, obviously):

This Award is presented to two students in each Homeroom

Who have Demonstrated an Outstanding Dedication to Learning.

These students have Shown Tremendous Intellectual and Social Development.

Both Exemplify the Academic Spirit and Work Ethic of

EMS to which All should Aspire.

Good God. I weep for the future. Seriously, people, just because you write something in italics doesn’t mean you can capitalize at will. I keep studying this little passage, looking for a pattern and I can’t find one. We have a few capitalized verbs, but not all. We have lots of capitalized nouns, but not all. I hate to be bitchy about it (not really, but let’s pretend), but shouldn’t EDUCATORS pay a teensy bit more attention to these kinds of things? You know, “setting a good example” and all that?

But maybe I’m just punchy because my medical situation has gone from bad to worse: a thyroid ultrasound I did about a month ago has revealed I have two nodules on my thyroid, one on the left side and one on the right. The good news is that the nodules aren’t necessarily cancerous and, even if they are, thyroid cancer is one of the easiest to treat. The bad news is I have to have a biopsy to find out for sure. Big needle in throat = no fun. So the revelation of this whole nodule thing combined with my whacked out hormone levels certainly helps explain my crappy health. Oh, how I’d love to take my ultrasound report and cram it down the piehole of that arsehole endocrinologist who said my problems were all in my head. Close, goofball – they’re in my throat, but better luck next time.