July 21, 2014

I finished my first screenplay--well, finished it enough to send it off to someone who knows enough to tell me what to edit first. 

I bought two dress patterns in celebration. (MonetaCoco.)

Laura and I are currently having a little sew-along; both of us are making Emery dresses. As of two weeks ago I have thrown myself on to the dressmaking bandwagon with no hesitation or decorum. 

I got a new shirt.

I got a new shirt.

I filled out my tuition grant application. 

I trimmed Simpkin's claws. 

I thought about fitness goals and ate with a mind to "making my macros". This fervent intuitive eater is test-running a switch to calculated nutrition. What can I say? Intuitive eating saved my sanity and helped me gain a healthy attitude toward food. Now I want to know that I'm eating in a way that supports the development of a stronger, abler--and yes, more attractive--body. I just want my abs to show up. Today this quest involved a smoothie made with 60 grams of whey powder . . . 

oregano flowers

oregano flowers

Thinking about fitness made me think about Allison. I suddenly wondered if I'd ever heard her sing. I looked her up on youtube, and promptly had a cry to this song.

I wrote a thank-you note.

I squished all visible worms on my cabbages. I transplanted about 20 chamomile plants from the driveway to the backyard.

I was envious of Glynis's morning project. So quotidian, specific, pertinent, consistent. It's extremely refreshing.

Tim and I are about to watch the last episode of the new Cosmos series. I'm going to try to knit the last couple inches of the second sleeve for this sweater.

coffee mirror

coffee mirror

 

Good night kids!

the ship has turned

I try not to complain too much in this space, but if you know me in person (ahem, Duchessers on the opening weekday shift), you've heard me air more than a few grievances over the last two-and-a-half years.  It has been really hard. By 'it', I mean all of it, or what has seemed like all of it. And by 'hard' I mean nigh on unbearable.

There has been the (naively unexpected) struggle to stand up under the weight of adult responsibilities. Owning, keeping, and renting a house is, it turns out, more than we signed up for. When mushrooms started growing out of the baseboards in my study last spring, I thought that I might have finally reached the end of my rope. Then the rain in August happened; we left in the middle of the night and over four months later returned home. I lost most of my garden last year. I almost lost my most important person. There has been the battle to keep our relationship healthy, alive, existent--and I spent much of the winter battling against Tim rather than for him. I did damage that terrifies me. There has been a five-year history of panic attacks, anxiety, and depression to start recovering from, and redeeming, and this has seemed like a doomed project. In January I wrote: the more I notice my problems, the more I delve into my own mind, the harder it is to act normal. I feel like I am giving body to a latent, restless ghost of craziness which has just been waiting in my head for me to fully incarnate it. There's been the daily pressure of living on a low income. There's been the daily impossible decision to try to produce creative work when I could be earning money instead. There's been this incredibly long, drawn-out quest for a bachelor's degree, and a point last August when I thought I'd decided I wouldn't finish it. There have been fucking long winters. There have been hopes and plans buried alternately under clutter, under snow, under raw sewage, under red tape, under the covers, under pages of lists, under my own hands.

--------

On Tuesday morning, Tim and I had just returned from the mountains. Tim's parents, who had been keeping Simpkin for us, were supposed to be delivering him home any minute. Tim sat down at his desk, looked at his screen and said, "Lizzie, you are really, really not going to like this". I knew instantly. A window screen had come off in the night; Simpkin was gone; they'd only just noticed. Tim's mum came to pick us up so we could search and call for him.

Is is my temperament, or the sympathy-enabling super-connectivity of the world, or a human penchant for rehearsing grief that made it familiar? I felt I could have been the one reading the email to Tim. I knew it all. I knew that within days I would be at a vet or the SPCA to identify a piece of roadkill that had once been the sweet, brave cat I once adopted. I would not have been surprised to see a bloody, furry lump on the side of the street in St. Albert where Tim's parents live.

Except that right now, Simpkin is asleep on our bed and has been all day.

When we got to St. Albert, we were out of the car and calling. I looked under cars, tried to look through the planks into neighbors' backyards, looked under bushes and porches. I circled the block. It started to get hot and I started to feel sick. There was a forecast for temperatures above 30 C. We searched the overgrown backyard again. The shed. The room downstairs with the open window in case he came back. Then I sat on the front steps and cried. Tim brought me water and made Simpkin an entry in a missing pets database. We decided to print off a poster with a picture Tim's sister had taken before Simpkin disappeared, then go home. The printer wasn't working. We ate bowls of Vector cereal and Tim went downstairs to try to print from the desktop computer. I went back outside. I looked under the shed again. Tim came out, holding a printed sheet. "I  don't know if this is any good--he looks black." I heard something and called, interrupting Tim. I heard it again. I called. Tim said, "I think it's a bird, but try again." A sad, cracking quack more than a meow. We thrashed aside raspberry canes. I went around to check the other side of the patch, and when I ran back Tim was holding a spitting, hissing Simpkin aloft. I ran inside for the crate while Tim pinned him down--Tim's mum had been watching from the window and was already handing it to me at the door of the bathroom. We let Simpkin into the crate and took him inside to recover. My anger and muteness toward Tim's mum had disappeared. Everything could be good again. We brought him home, cleaned his ears, sprayed him with water for heat exhaustion. Here he is. He is fine.

"I'm so glad I went back outside. He might have died of exposure--it was so hot and those bushes are so thick."

"Yes. It would have been sad to find a little cat skeleton out there in the winter when the foliage died back."

I almost howled at the thought.

--------

Of course, I was convinced that we had not only lost Simpkin, we were once again being made calamity's bitch. But I think there has been a change.

Today my grandparents on my mum's side stopped by to tell me that they are distributing some of the proceeds from the sale of their house in town. Later in the week I will be receiving several thousand dollars. First I thought: This is the beginning of the end. They are sharing out portions of their estate. On the heels of my premature feelings of fear and grief and (already) denial: an inappropriate, wild sense of relief. Something good has happened. And I thought: This is the beginning. The ship is beginning to turn. After this torturous year, someone has come to my rescue. Someone is easing this weight on me. Now things are possible. 

(It is characteristic of my grandparents to come to my rescue.) The money means that I can pay off my student loan and my credit card and still have enough left over to cover my next semester of tuition--because I am going back to school in September. If I get my usual grant from the government, most of the year's tuition will be paid for. I can almost certainly graduate without debt.

For now, I am reeling. I am tempted to chastise myself for these past months of bitterness and despair, but I mostly just want to share the good--fantastic, lovely, iridescent, delicious--news. Thanks for sticking with me. Sailing on.

xx Lizzie

one more thing

Our house--the one we haven't been living in for a month, the one the contractors still haven't started working on--got broken into last night. Who knows when we'll go back. Life keeps telling us to leave. This time we actually plan to. For the moment, I keep having to ask for help, and the people around us are wonderful, and help. 

July 19, 2013

It's only taken 22 years to get here, but: tonight, my own body is a pretty good place to be.

Today, like a lot of days, I spent about an hour cycling. I restocked the fridge at work carrying 24 litres of milk at a time. I ate lentils and drank rose-water soda-water. I slept outside wearing very little clothing. I squatted with an 85-pound barbell on my back, and I deadlifted more than my own body weight.

I swear I felt older when I was 13 than I do now. When I was 13, my body seemed to be breaking down--I was a disintegrating pile of angry red stretch marks and excess weight that had only brought an uncomfortable, overblown femininity and no new stamina or ability to speak of. The only salvation I saw was in shrinking myself down, becoming impossibly small and slight.

A few weeks ago, I saw a picture on a fashion blog of a tiny, gorgeous woman who was about the size and shape I'd always wanted to be. She wrote that she wanted to bulk up, become healthier because she couldn't lift a frying pan. 

mail!


A wonderful parcel arrived from Emily. Dandelion tea (which seems terribly new and romantic, in spite of our healthy crop outside). Springy red Australian wool yarn. A piece of linen in a muted print that will go on the low Japanese dining table that Tim is building. A giant red and white star of a quilted pot holder. A letter. 
Friends and mail are both kind of incredible, with their willingness to arrive in your life when you have shut yourself in, unable or unwilling to step out--arrive anywhere for anyone. Thanks, my friend.

I just wanted to say hello

Hello! If you can believe it, we had more snow this weekend. Friday, my bus driver made converstaion by asking me if I was ready for another 20 cm. Yesterday morning, I was bundled up in my imitation Uggs, parka, cowl, wool socks, and mittens. Snow was still falling today when I woke up at 5:30, but now, 12 hours later, I've just come in from my first tiny bike ride of the year. Things are melting fast, especially on the roads.

Tim made lentil curry and coriander rice, and I made a salad with cucumber, yogurt, garlic, and dill. After supper I slipped outside, pulled my heavy green cruiser out of the garage, put air in the tires, pulled her over the remnants of a drift in the driveway, and hopped on. It's still too slushy, sandy, and salty to ride Annalena. My green bike's pedals are smaller and less grippy; I can't fully extend my legs when I push down on them. The handlebars are so wide that I steer like I am playing Mario Kart.

I'm always surprised by how much I change every winter. Every spring, I find myself timid on the roads once again, running out of breath more quickly than I remembered, forgetting what I do in the face of an oncoming car in a residential street, self-conscious about how my bum looks when I stand up to pedal. Within weeks I'll be cycling in traffic again. I'll be on a racing bike, in far less clothing. My winter self can hardly believe it.

Tonight I have two British medieval morality plays to read for Tuesday--my second-last final exam. Tim and I are making strawberry ice cream. The grocery stores here are already trotting out fresh strawberries, though they hardly taste on their own and need sugar. It's a false, forced seasonality I don't love--it's somehow un-Canadian, at least for this province where we all know winter still hasn't finished with us--but we got four pounds free last week.

knitting things + more of the famous windowsill + new plant


The grey? is a sock. One of Hermione's Everyday Socks, actually.
The Ikea yarn has by now become three inches of legit fair isle. I'll show you tomorrow. 
Sometimes I feel apologetic about unintellectual knitting. 
But this is silly.

Notice the new and tiny tropical plant,
and the gemstones. They're on their way to becoming something else.

Today I'm making toasted-almond-allspice-and-marzipan biscotti for Easter.
I'm also writing my second of four final, final papers.
I'm trying to eat only food that tastes good, and I actually want
--less than I thought. To quote Geneen Roth,
"No one's hunger is bottomless".
I'm wearing pants for the second time in eight months.
They're army green; they sit low on my hips and cinch at my ankles.
After the last snowfall, it's gotten warm and the whole city is a lake.
I am wild to ride my bike again.
I'm bracing for the mountain of good work there will be to do once the snow is gone.
Last week I bought this from this talented woman.
I've received two letters as well. Plume and Glynis--thanks thanks thanks.
Heath emailed back. Plans are developing and I have a pile of money to secret away.
I am tired. But the daylight is growing.
I fully intend to wear shorts this summer.

And how are you? I would love to hear your day's news.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February is the oddest month. Last year in March I said, "It's February's fault". Much like last year, I've spent the past week arranging for new tenants upstairs. Right on cue, we have renovations on the brain again. A dear friend is getting married on Monday. For me at least, this is the month of new beginnings before I feel ready.

But--joy!--the Reading Week break starts today. As a student, I am granted the privilege of catching my breath. Today I am going to start the final (read: most terrifying) part of Tim's saddle shoulder sweater--the saddle shoulders. Knitting Without Tears is on the bed beside me, and it is now time to plot my attack. Have a lovely day, readers.

resolute: baking bread

- learn more about baking bread (to begin: read the lovely book Laura got me for Christmas)

120 pages into this book, the recipe section commences. Having read every one of the warnings against industrial bread (some of which I found reasonable, some slightly hysterical), nodded along with the author's defense of the pleasures and advantages of baking bread at home, and closely attended to the sections on bowl material, types of flour, water temperature, and kneading techniques, I felt the only thing to do was to start with the first recipe. 

So I did. "Basic Bread" came out of the oven yesterday, and I have a page of notes on it, and a small knob of dough sitting in the fridge, waiting to be incorporated into the next recipe, for "Old Dough Bread".  I aim to pull a Julie Powell, and, by the end of the year, bake every recipe in the book. (Thereby, I will translate a vague, qualitative resolution into an accomplishable, concrete sort of resolution.) Tim likes this plan a lot.  

At the same time, experiments on my own with the already-established sourdough:


Also: do you see that sun?

There is nothing like pausing every couple of hours to dissolve yeast in warm water, measure flour, punch down a cushion of dough, preheat the oven, pat and shape the loaves, check on their proofing, peek into the oven. (I don't want instant food--I want to coax glue to turn into bread.)

Happy Monday you all! 

As a reader?

"As a reader, I often feel I can detect the spoor of word processing in books, particularly long ones. The writers--no longer slowed by having to change their typewriter ribbons, fill their fountain pens, or sharpen their quills--tend to be prolix."                                                                 

- Anne Fadiman, from "Eternal Ink"

December 13, 2012

I am here at my desk eating homemade pea soup. I am here to tell you that the quagmire has been waded.

Monday, I woke up at 5 am. I showered, and by 6 am I was writing the first section of an 8-page final paper, due at 3pm. At 3:30 pm, I walked into class with the 8 pages clutched in my hand, summarized the paper for my class, and was in the campus bar with everyone else by 4 pm. At 4:15, I left. I came home, put on a pot of soup, washed all the dishes, and started assembling and writing commentary for my poetry portfolio, due Tuesday. At 11 pm, I finished. Up at 5 am on Tuesday, I spent the morning catching up on the 100 pages of my rhetoric textbook which I had yet to read. A few minutes before noon, I left for school. I handed in the portfolio, wrote my exam, came home, watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, and fell asleep. Wednesday, I worked at the cafe all day. This morning, I was up at 5 am once again, at school by 7 am, and writing my last exam by 9 am. At 11:30, I was done. I walked 40 minutes across my beloved river valley blasting La Roux through my headphones to meet Tim for espresso, Italian hot chocolate, and fennel biscotti. I'm done.

I cannot tell you how luxurious it feels to be alternating knitting a sweater sleeve with cleaning the apartment. No papers! No tyrannical to-do list! No JSTOR tabs open in my browser! I plan to read unassigned novels and math, bake pfefferkuchenplatzen, knit, work out, decorate the fig tree, practice programming, perhaps construct a paper chain.

(There is a part of me that cuts her hair, pierces various body parts, plans tattoos, swears, wants to be as tough as Lisbeth Salander. There is another part of me that spends her evenings curled up with double-pointed knitting needles and silk-wool blend yarn, bakes gingerbread squirrels, and feels a great affinity with Laura Ingalls.)

Jo March


The way hair-cutting features in literature is quite interesting--usually a symbol of liberation, or insanity, or self-possession after being spurned. It seems to work similarly in real life. If you want to change yourself, or publicize a change, you get a haircut. 

view from indoors

When it's this snowy outside, and the internet says -20 degrees, what do you do? 
Well, you buckle down and do homework--you write 1200 words of the progymnasmata for rhetoric class. 
You drink coffee with milk, listen to Ella and Louis Armstrong.
You shovel yourself and the cat out of your basement cave, and carve a path to the garage.
 You knit mittens, socks, and cocoons.


Cat! The cocoons are finally, nearly finished. Expect some mail soon.

stash


On Ravelry, one's 'stash' of yarn is a major fixture. It can be photographed, catalogued, looked up, and organized by weight, colour, fibre content. Some members have thousands of skeins ready and waiting. These are pictures from my own little 'stash'. For the first time, I have yarn for more than two prospective projects.


And it is beautiful yarn. Some of it was hand-dyed in France. The green skeins above are from an Irish spinning company; I'm going to knit Tim a cabled sweater out of them. Once I learn how to work cables, that is.



I have yarn for Christmas presents, for mittens for myself, for my first attempt at fair isle knitting. But this wool-hoard--with a wee bit of silk and alpaca and nylon thrown in--makes me uncomfortable. 


Buying this yarn, which I've done in a frenzy, all since August, has been as easy and pleasurable as sharpening my pencils or buying new notebooks. Or, for that matter, buying interesting ingredients from Superstore. Is there anything more appealing than provisions and supplies? It's easy to forget that the point is the writing and knitting and cooking, and afterwards, the reading and wearing and eating. 



And it's easy to get caught up in "learning", too. It's easy to spend hours reading forum posts, self-help books, lovely blogs. But it can be an ordeal to practice a new technique, to scribble shitty first drafts, to try to live some kind of good life. 

Mostly, I want to spend more time doing than preparing. It's quite hard.

settling

Things are settling down and I have a new laptop. And 3 days off. (Really off. No classes, no shifts.) I've got a clogging cold, but I'm taking it slow. The biggest items on the agenda for today?
- drinking tea 
- drinking hot ginger
- drinking water
- reading 160 pages for rhetoric
- baking cookies to console us and the tenants
- finishing this sock:


I think I'm getting better at coping. 

Before all the robbery drama, I had been meaning to show you yet another two images of knotted red yarn. This is something I finished during post-Thanksgiving video games at Tim's parents' house this past weekend:


I promise that subsequent knitting projects will be in purple or green.

Have a beautiful weekend!

P.S. Tim, Alice, Kathy, Peter, Carolin, Jim, Elliot--if you're reading this, Thank you.

Happiness is . . .

- Eskimo kissing a not-so-tiny grey kitten
- Handel's Messiah
- splurging on lovely, half-price skin care
- planning a pair of mittens
- emails
- filling a teacup with red and white Dutch licorice (Tim's family has converted me)
- cleaning out the purse/satchel
- an hour-long walk on during my lunch break
- workshopping the villanelle in poetry class this morning
- tidied finances
- the prospect of medieval history documentaries
- baking a loaf of caraway rye