Microblog Mondays: Terry Who?

I was eating lunch at the university today when I overheard something that brought me up short. Two undergraduates (both male) were sitting at the table next to me, and one of them had pointed to a poster showing an upcoming film. The words “Terry Fox” were uttered.

“Who’s Terry Fox?” said the other.

I just about fell out of my chair, as did the first student.

“You don’t know who Terry Fox is?” he asked, incredulous.

“Never heard of him. Is he a director or something?”

The first student then proceeded to give his friend a brief rundown of the Terry Fox heroic arc.

“I can’t believe you don’t know who he is,” he finished off, almost stammering in his shock. “We have a run in school every year. Everyone knows who he is.”

At this point I couldn’t help myself and jumped in to the conversation. “Saying you don’t know who Terry Fox is,” I said, “is like shouting to everyone in this room that you’re not from here.”

“I’m not from here,” said the second student. “I was born here but I grew up [in southern United State].”

We gave him the salient details: the cancer; the loss of his leg; the Marathon of Hope; the return of the cancer; his continuing legacy.

“He’s the ultimate Canadian hero,” I finished. “He’s an Everyman. He’s an ordinary man who set out to do something extraordinary, and even though he failed in his ultimate goal, his legacy has lived on. It’s probably even more powerful now than if he had made it all the way across Canada. He’s not political. It doesn’t matter what you think or what you believe, you can’t help but support him.”

“Yeah,” said the second student, by now completely on board with the Terry Fox myth, “if you were against him, you’d be for cancer!”

We all laughed, I said I hoped they had a nice afternoon, and I headed back to the library.

It was an interesting conversation to have the same day I read Mali’s post about the cultural differences between use of language. Right up until the American student opened his mouth it had literally never occurred to me that there were people out there who had never heard of Terry Fox. His Heritage Minute is embedded in my memory for life.

So, my readers, you tell me. If you are not Canadian, have you heard of our hero? If you are, is he as strongly embedded in your cultural consciousness as my own?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

Advertisements

15 Comments

Filed under Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: Associations

A couple of weeks ago, for reasons I won’t get into here, I bought a breakfast sandwich from Tim Horton’s.

It’s been years since I’ve eaten one of those (I can’t even remember the last time).

I opened up the wrapper, took a bite…and I was back at the clinic.

We used to eat them, you see, Q. and I, back in the IUI days of 2008 and early 2009. We’d arrive at the clinic as early as we could, and then Q. would go out to find breakfast after he’d done his bit, while I waited for it to be my turn for the ultrasound. It was our routine, a way of trying to attach some semblance of normalcy to a situation that was anything but normal. We’d sit side-by-side in the clinic’s waiting room, eating our breakfast sandwiches and drinking our caffeinated beverages (black coffee for Q., Earl Grey tea with milk for me) and listening for our name to be called, for our doctor to tell us that they were ready to try, once again, to get me pregnant.

They’ll never be ‘just’ breakfast sandwiches for me. In the same way that the transit stop where I used to get off to go to the clinic will always be associated with the clinic, even though I no longer go to the clinic when I get off there, those sandwiches for me will always taste of the waiting room, the early mornings, and our quiet, mounting despair that we might not ever get to be parents.

We did become parents in the end (although not from any of those early mornings). I no longer have to fight down a rising anxiety attack when I see the name of the clinic’s transit stop flash past. Outwardly, I look like I’ve ‘made it’. There’s nothing to mark me out as infertile.

But it only takes one bite of a breakfast sandwich for it all to come back.

Do you have infertility associations that have stayed with you?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

1 Comment

Filed under Anxiety Overload, Microblog Mondays

Accountability: January and February 2018

Since it’s now March (and how did that happen?), I thought I’d take a minute to assess how I’m doing with my various goals for 2018.

1. Conquer my lizard brain.

Hard to tell. E. has been on a pretty even keel these last two months, which has meant I haven’t been as challenged in my parenting. So I’m not sure whether I’ve made much progress. I am definitely working hard at keeping my cool during the hour between when I get home to relieve the nanny and when we eat dinner, which is total chaos every time, even with Q. prepping most dinners ahead of time. Both kids want all of my attention and it starts the second I walk in the door. It can get very overwhelming, but I’m trying to embrace it.

I think I’m doing ok, but I need a rough patch from E. to know that I’m actually making progress on breaking my cycle of responding.

2. Start getting ready for bed at 9:30 p.m.

Mixed results here. The good: Q. and I are getting ready for bed earlier and we usually manage to be in bed with the lights off by shortly after 10 p.m., which is a noticeable improvement over what was happening in December, and I always plug in my devices. I’ve also stopped hanging out on my phone right up until I go to bed, which has made it easier to fall asleep. The bad: I have failed to start making E.’s lunch (or snacks if he has a hot lunch at school) or my lunch ahead of time, and my desk is still in a constant state of chaos. The mixed: I am sometimes flossing, but not always (I was doing better in January), and I’m not 100% there with the litter box yet.

Definite progress, but still room for improvement.

3. Stop taking the phone to the bathroom.

Total fail. Still reading blogs in the bathroom.

4. Make the switch to manual and RAW on my camera.

Mixed success. Still not shooting in RAW and still not practicing enough. I have been making an effort to shoot more on Manual, but I get easily frustrated if I’m trying to shoot pictures of my kids and the light keeps changing. The course is interesting (although I’ve failed to share my homework with anyone). I think I need to start carrying my big camera with me when I go to work and take some time at lunch to take pictures (preferably things that don’t move so I can fiddle with the dials to my heart’s content.)

I did take a good photo of my cat, which wouldn’t have been possible on any mode but Manual because of the lighting (she was sitting in a sunbeam in my room). It’s not perfect- it needed a slightly smaller aperture to make sure both eyes were in focus- but then I would have had to change my shutter speed yet again and the cat had only so much patience. So there’s that (this is SOOC):

5. Read 75 books.

Exceeding expectations. I read 21 books in the first two months of this year, so I’m well up on where I would need to be to meet my goal. The reading frenzy was partly sparked by some interesting holds coming in, partly due to a conscious decision to read at night more often, and partly resulting from a ‘ready to read’ mind-set. I sometimes have periods where I don’t feel as much like reading, but during these past two months it was easy to make reading a priority.

I read some wonderful books and am hoping to write blog posts about a couple of them soon(ish).

6. Go on two dates a month with Q.

I forgot this was one of my goals. TERRIBLE!

We did get out for our monthly date lunch for both January and February, and we did go out for dinner in January, but I don’t think we managed a second date in February. I did go up to the main campus yesterday to surprise Q. (he was giving a brief presentation) and we had hot drinks and brownies afterwards, but I’m hoping I can still do better for March.

I did organize for Q. and I to have a night away in the summer as a wedding anniversary surprise (I’m taking him to one of the nearby theatre festivals). I booked the tickets and the accommodation and coordinated with my mother (who has very kindly agreed to look after the small fry), so I feel like I did make some forward progress with this.

Q. and I have also really enjoyed watching detectorists (gentle English village comedy- one of our favourite things) on Netflix this past month, and we’re currently watching Broadchurch (which feels like a Doctor Who reunion and is well done, if containing very upsetting subject matter). I think we’ve agreed that House of Cards was too stressful (we’re mired in the second season).

7. Work Stuff

At the time I wrote my goals post I didn’t yet know what I wanted to say about work, but later in January I figured out that I needed to edit 15 pages of the book manuscript a week in order to finish the editing process by the middle of June (which is when I’ve booked Q. to read it). I’ve been storming along with that goal- I almost immediately pushed it up to 20 pages to buy myself some more time at the end for more substantial reading/thinking/writing revisions, and some weeks I’ve managed to do even more than that. I’ve finished this round of edits on the first four chapters now, and I’ve been pretty consistently trimming the manuscript down by just over 20 percent (with the exception of the fourth chapter, which is a strong one and didn’t have as much fat to trim).

I’ve taken the view that any substantial changes (i.e., ones that require me to go and do a significant amount of further research) can be left at this stage to a later date (hence my shift to 20 pages per week). What I most needed was to get up a head of steam with the book and break the paralyzing voice of my inner critic. I feel I’m making real progress with this- I no longer feel like I’m going to throw up when I start work on it each week. I have a new file where I list the changes that still need to be done to the manuscript and I’ll start tackling those once I’ve finished this first round. I still tend towards panic, but I’m getting much better at repeating to myself ‘You don’t need to edit the entire book today, you only need to edit these seven pages’ until I calm down and can focus.

The deep work of editing usually takes me until lunch, if lunch starts late (I often don’t eat until 1:30 as I don’t like to break my concentration). I haven’t yet found a good way of using the couple of hours I have left in the afternoon once I’ve had lunch if I don’t have pressing work for my other big project (the edited volume I’m working on with Q.). I need to come prepared with something manageable to read (journal articles, maybe), as I don’t have the mental bandwidth left at that point to do more deep work. Another option would be to do teaching prep and/or marking to try to free up some of Tuesday morning to allow for some deep work on that day. So my work goal for March/April, along with finishing the first round of editing on the book, is to figure out how best to use the rest of my day.

My other goal for March/April is to go buy new running shoes as I’ve started the Couch25K program twice now and both times have had to stop when I hit the continuous running weeks. I have a dodgy ankle, a leftover from an injury when I was in elementary school, and it niggles at me. I’m hoping new shoes will solve the problem.

How are your 2018 goals coming along?

1 Comment

Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Books, Choose Happiness, Life after the PhD

Some Thoughts on the Olympics

  • I am an Olympic junkie. I love watching the Olympics. I prefer the Winter Olympics (smaller and cozier and where Canada usually does better) but I will happily watch the Summer Games too if they’re on. I will freely watch for hours during the Olympics (and become very passionate about) sports which I would never, ever, watch of my own volition at any other point (examples: biathlon, luge, pole jumping). Curling and figure skating I will watch at any time. I loves me some curling and figure skating. (I saw a hilarious comment in a newspaper article that said when it came to curling for Canada at the Olympics there were only three options: 1. gold; 2. gold; 3. witness protection. We take our curling seriously.)
  • The time difference makes it largely impossible for me to watch anything live. Bedtime and getting our lives back in order takes up most of the evening and then it just gets too late. At drop off today one of the other Mums was looking decidedly bleary and then she admitted she’d stayed up until 2 a.m. to watch the shoot out for the women’s hockey final. I would love to see some events live (Q. and I have watched the men’s hockey final live the last two Winter Olympics, once with friends in 2010, and once out for breakfast with E. in 2014), but sleep always wins. The first day I downloaded the CBC app I looked up the schedule for the men’s hockey final, which doesn’t even start until 11 p.m. on Saturday. So I’ll be learning about that result the following morning.
  • This is the first time E.’s been interested in the Olympics. It’s not surprising- he was still two the last time the Winter Olympics were on, and the most recent Summer Olympics were in 2016, when P. was a newborn and I was teaching a course online. I barely remember them happening and I don’t think I watched a single event. It’s been a real source of joy to watch him getting excited. We watch a few highlight videos on my iPad or phone after dinner before he goes to bed. He’s seen snippets of most sports, but his favourite sport, by far, is bobsleigh (with luge a close second- apparently skeleton is too scary because they go down headfirst). He even announced to Q. the other night that if he ever gets to be an Olympic athlete he wants to drive the bobsleigh.
  • I especially love that E. is getting into the Olympics because it reminds me of when I was a kid. The first Winter Olympics I can clearly remember were 1988 in Calgary when I was almost nine, especially figure skating (the battle of the Brians! Katarina Witt! Elizabeth Manley!). I watched a lot of the 1992 and 1994 games and got up at 4 a.m. to watch Elvis Stojko at Nagano in 1998. I thought I didn’t remember much from 2002, to the extent that I just had to look up where they were held, but as soon as I saw it was Salt Lake City, it all came flooding back, especially the two gold medals in hockey and the lucky loonie buried in the ice. I was in my final semester of my undergraduate degree and I watched both games live in bars with my friends. 2006 I was overseas in Australia and had been living overseas for four years, so I felt distant from the games for a number of reasons. But by 2010 – Vancouver – Q. and I were living in Canada, and I was hooked again.
  • Clearly some changes happened while I wasn’t as focused on the Olympics. There are all these sports I’ve never heard of (mostly in the snowboarding/freestyle skiing categories, but also, since when is there a luge relay or team figure skating?). Most evenings we have a conversation where E. wants to watch a particular video, slopestyle, say, or big air, and then asks me what that sport is and I have to admit I have no idea.
  • How has Norway won SO MANY medals??!! I read an article the other day that said that their budget for the wax for their cross-country skis at the Olympics was three million dollars (CDN, I’m assuming), so clearly they have deep pockets and they target particular sports (much like the Netherlands with speed skating). But I can’t get over how much better they’re doing than Sweden (currently 10 medals) or Finland (4 medals). I think of all of those countries as ‘winter’ countries. Maybe the Swedes and the Finns are busy drinking hot chocolate and playing board games while the Norwegians are out skiing 50 km every weekend during the long, dark winter months. Denmark has only ever won a single medal at the Winter Olympics (or so Wikipedia tells me), a silver medal in women’s curling in 1998, perhaps because of their culture of hygge?

How are you enjoying the Olympics?

3 Comments

Filed under Choose Happiness, E.- the seventh year, Fun

Seven weeks

Over the long weekend (the terribly named Family Day Monday here plus a bonus Friday off school for E.) we drove to see my Dad. The last time we’d seen him had been just after Christmas. The intervening seven weeks had been typical ones for us, filled with school and work, sunshine and snow, bedtimes and Netflix, crumbs on the table and Cheerios on the floor. P. had decided she loved colouring and had started sleeping until 6 a.m. before wanting to nurse at night. E. had performed in his winter concert and had brought home an excellent report card (his first one with ‘real’ letter grades). Q. had had a birthday. I had been to the dentist and the endocrinologist. P. had endured an ultrasound. E. had made huge progress in his swimming lessons, for the first time in three years.

Little things happened, bigger things happened, but I’d describe those weeks as ordinary ones in our lives. Ten years from now I probably won’t remember much of what happened, other than what I’ve written down in my five-year journal.

My father, as it turns out, hadn’t LEFT HIS ROOM since the last time we saw him.

Seven weeks in an ICU hospital room, watching television, reading email, Skyping. Not even able to easily look out the window because of how his room is oriented.

It broke my heart.

He could have left his room, it turned out, but only to drive his chair around the ICU, and he hadn’t seen the point.

While we were there, he was able to venture a bit further, and we saw first-hand how rusty he was at driving his chair and navigating doorways after close to two months without any practice. labmonkey asked some good questions about why Dad was confined to the ICU and what the doctors thought they were achieving by this decision, and hopefully he’ll now be better able to get out and about, at least within the hospital.

I’ve read a lot about the idea of post-traumatic growth, that people who experience a major trauma often feel like they experience personal growth afterwards, that the adversity faced becomes the catalyst for positive psychological change.

I know this has been true for me since 2016.

I am better able to appreciate my life, less inclined to stress about small things.

I get less agitated when driving.

I am ever more grateful for Q. and the life we have built together.

I am more likely to notice moments of ordinary happiness.

There is not a day that goes by where I do not look up while I am walking to notice the sky, the wind, the light.

I see more beauty in the everyday.

The sun glinting off the snow in the schoolyard when I drop E. off in the morning.

Bare trees against a blue sky.

Grey stone and wooden desks in the library.

There is very little that is ordinary in my life that does not now remind me of my father.

Shovelling snow.

Slipping on ice but catching myself before I fall.

Pulling my children on a toboggan.

Opening a book.

Eating.

Snuggling.

Breathing.

I would give up my growth in an instant, go back to being worried and busy and fretful and oblivious to the wonder that is my life, if it meant that he could have his back again.

3 Comments

Filed under Family, Grief, Loss

Siblings

In the car, at the tail end of a very long drive.

E. “P., can you say Mercury?”
P.: “Mur-ee!”
E.: “P., can you say Jupiter?”
P.: “Jup-er!”
E.: “P., can you say Pluto?”
P.: “Plu-to!”
E.: “P., what planet do we live on?”
P.: “Purple planet!” *giggles*
E. *laughing* “No, P. Not the purple planet! What planet do we live on? I’ll give you a hint- it’s the third one from our sun.”
P.: “Purple one!” *shrieks of laughter*
E. *laughing even harder* “No, P.! Ok. What planet do we live on that’s not purple?”
P. *long thoughtful pause and then, delighted* “Rubber boots!”
E. *howls of laughter*

Several days later, home again. P. and I are in the bathroom for her nightly “sit on the potty for 0.3 seconds” routine. On the floor in front of the toilet are E’s socks, both crumpled into little balls. E. abandons his socks as soon as he gets home from school and leaves them wherever they were peeled off. P. often retrieves them when she finds them hiding behind the couch, under the kitchen table, or on the floor of the upstairs hallway.

P. “Socks! Socks! Ee-mon’s socks!”
Me: “Yes, P. Those are your brother’s socks. Just leave them. I’ll get him to pick them up when he comes to bed.”
P. *picks up socks in one hand* “Yah!” *throws socks towards the toilet where they both land in the bowl*
Me: “No! No, P.! We don’t put socks in the toilet. We don’t put anything in the toilet except toilet paper.” *fishes socks out of toilet and drops them into the cloth diaper laundry bag*
P. *unrolls astonishing quantities of toilet paper the moment my back is turned*

She is the most disruptive force in his life, and he loves her fiercely.

2 Comments

Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Daily Life, E.- the seventh year, P.- the second year, Siblings

In My House

Conversations I’ve had over the last twenty-four hours:

Last night:
Me: *snuggling up to Q. after getting in late from teaching* “How are you feeling?”
Q.: *sleepily* “Not a hundred percent. I ended up stopping at the shops because I didn’t think I could stand to make the risotto like I’d planned.”
Me: “What’d you get instead?”
Q.: “I picked up some Atlantic salmon and chips.”
Me: “I bet the kids loved it.”
Q.: “I made some salsa verde to go with it. And I cooked extra salmon and then made rice for L. and P. tomorrow.”
Faced with the same situation, I would have fed the children some combination of the following: scrambled eggs, pancakes, toast, or cereal. ‘Breakfast for dinner!’ is my go-to when cooking just feels like all too much. Only my husband would consider making salsa verde from scratch to be an ‘easy’ dinner.

This morning:
Me: *sticking my head in the door* “Good morning, E.! I didn’t know you were awake already.”
E.: *looking up from his book* “Hi Mummy. I’m just reading until the big hand is at the six.”
Me: “Ok! Do you know what you want for breakfast?”
E.: “Pancakes with maple syrup please. Look at this!” *shows me page in space encyclopedia* “I’m reading about Ceres and the other asteroids. Did you know that mini meteorites hit Earth all the time? Maybe some are hitting the roof right now! They probably make noises like this” *makes clicking and popping sounds* “After school I’m going to climb up on the bridge I built to see if I can see any of them on the windowsill.”
P.: *from her room* “Peppa get up! Poopy!”

Slightly later:
Me: “P., come help Mummy get dressed.”
P.: “Unwear! Unwear! Unwear!” *stampedes into my room, pulls open the top drawer of my dresser*
Me: “Yes, I will need underwear. Do you want to pick for me?”
P.: “Purple! Purple unwear!” *digs through my collection of smalls until she finds the lone purple pair*
Me: “Thanks, P.! Can you give them to Mummy?”
P.: *firmly* “No! Peppa!” *drapes underwear artfully around her neck, closes drawer, stampedes back down the hallway*

2 Comments

Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Daily Life, E.- the seventh year, P.- the second year