Category Archives: Choose Happiness

Chasing Endorphins

I linked that NYT article on languishing on this blog already, but it was in my (spoiler-filled) post on TFATWS, so I’m linking it again here just in case you haven’t seen it.

When I posted it on my FB feed, saying that I was definitely languishing and asking who was right there with me, a friend commented that she had for sure been languishing but that getting vaccinated produced a huge rush of endorphins.

At the time, I thought that was a really interesting reaction, but didn’t think I would feel the same way. I wanted to get vaccinated, but I doubted it could have that big an impact on my mood.

Call me corrected.

Q. and I got the AstraZeneca vaccine the very next day, the day after my province opened it up to the 40-55 age group.* I had tears in my eyes as I drove to the pharmacy. I wanted to cheer when the pharmacist jabbed me. When my waiting period was up and I was allowed to leave, I bought a big bag of chips and drove home and then Q. and I drank cider and ate chips with the kids and we picked up takeaway for dinner and we turned it into a big celebration. We took a vaccine selfie and posted it on social media (they really do help counteract vaccine hesitancy) and it turned out that some of my best friends (some in other provinces) all got vaccinated that day too.

It finally, FINALLY felt like we were getting somewhere.

I felt AMAZING.

And I completely understood how my friend had felt.

The vaccine high lasted until about 9 p.m., when the vaccine side effects kicked in. I spent the night shaking and running a fever and hallucinating about rescuing people from Nazi prison camps and getting the shield back to Sam Wilson (I think they were related). I barely slept. Q. barely slept either, although he felt fine – it was just my tossing and turning.

The next day I still had a fever and shakes and just generally felt like I’d been hit by a truck (Q. had a sore arm). By the afternoon I could just about manage lying on the couch ‘supervising’ the kids. I slept fine that night though and by the following day I was mostly back to normal, both physically and mentally.

It made me realize how rarely in the past year I’ve felt that excited about something, how rare it’s been to have that flood of endorphins.

We’re languishing.

We’re in a holding pattern.

I was emailing with an academic out in Atlantic Canada about a book review and when she asked how things were going I told her it was like Groundhog Day, as we started corresponding about said review back in March/April 2020.

Really, though, that’s not correct. The situation’s much worse.

Our kids are back online (as predicted) and are likely to stay that way until September. Q. and I have finished the winter semester and are about to start the summer term, still teaching from our basement. We’re still staying at home, as much as we can, while the entire province implodes and the ‘government’ blames individuals while refusing to take responsibility for the situation they’ve created where the health care system is on the brink of collapse and they’re building field hospitals and training doctors how to tell families that their loved ones don’t qualify for life-saving care.

I was hesitant to get the AZ vaccine because in the (extremely unlikely) possibility I developed the blood clotting issue, I didn’t want to be going into the hospital system when it was so overloaded.**

So the endorphins have been few and far between.

And then last Sunday, my family did a virtual escape room to celebrate my Mum’s birthday and THAT WAS THE MOST FUN any of us had had in MONTHS. It was so much fun several of us had trouble getting to sleep afterwards! As a team we absolutely killed it. We got through the main storyline so quickly we got to do a bonus puzzle and then we blasted through the bonus puzzle in under ten minutes. It was so deeply satisfying (and labmonkey was for sure our MVP). We used Looking Glass Adventures which I am linking to here because it was so so so good and you can do a virtual escape room no matter where you are in the world and I am serious – get some friends or family together and chase the endorphins!

So that’s where my endorphins have come from recently: getting vaccinated, beating the escape room, and chasing fan theories about Disney+ Marvel shows down rabbit holes.

Where are your endorphins coming from these days? Have you been able to break out of the holding pattern, or are you still mostly languishing?

*Our story, like that of so many other people in this ridiculous Hunger-Games-inspired vaccine rollout, was about how privilege gives you all of the advantages. We got vaccinated because:

  • Q. and I had used our stable internet connection and web literacy to register online with one of the major pharmacy chains and had received confirmation codes via our mobile phones
  • I had read online that some locations of that same chain had been given permission to vaccinate 24/7.
  • I had the time to call one of those pharmacies to ask how the appointments would work (because we thought maybe we could go at 5 a.m.)
  • When the pharmacist said, “If you want a vaccine today, you should come right now because right now we have doses and no line ups but I think we’ll have run out by tomorrow”, Q. was able to drop everything and walk out the door, get into the car, and drive to the pharmacy.
  • When he got back home again, two hours later, I could drop everything and go up myself.
  • We had the time and flexibility to chase the vaccine, a co-parent to look after the kids, and jobs where no one would notice (or care) if we didn’t work at full capacity (or at all) the next day.
  • While Q. was waiting in line, a guy turned up who was obviously working on a construction site and had come over on his break. Even though there was almost no line, he had to leave to go back to work before he could get vaccinated. An elderly man with little English turned up too but was turned away because he hadn’t registered online to get a confirmation code (even though he said repeatedly he didn’t know how to do that). Q. was so mad – if he had had a smartphone he would have registered the man himself. The people who most need the vaccines have the most trouble getting them. It’s infuriating. It’s discriminatory. And it’s going to kill people.

**I underestimated how much my anxiety would affect how I felt about the AZ vaccine. I knew (and believed wholeheartedly) it made sense to get it, but I’ve been struggling a lot with irrational thoughts over the past two weeks. Now that I’ve made it to day 14, I feel a lot better, but I won’t be completely free from anxiety until it’s been four weeks, and I’m not going to complain if they start recommending mixing vaccines and I can get one of the mRNA ones for my second dose.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Choose Happiness, COVID-19, Family, Medical issues

(Super) Fan

There’s probably a lot of things I should write about it on here – it’s been six weeks since I last posted. But since my brain has been nothing but a Sam Wilson & Bucky Barnes stan account ever since the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier dropped on Friday, I thought I’d put up a post with my thoughts in the hope that I then might be able to think about something else.

Lots of spoilers, don’t read if you haven’t finished watching TFATWS (or if you don’t want to go down this rabbit hole with me)

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I have never cared about Bucky Barnes. Pre-2021 me was bored senseless by pretty much every scene he was in. Why did Steve Rogers (my least favourite Avenger) care so much? Blah blah, end of the line, blah blah, Hydra, blah.

Sam Wilson, I liked a lot. And the only times I found Bucky even moderately amusing were in his scenes with Sam (e.g., the car scene in TWS and the banter with Spiderman in Civil War).

So I wouldn’t have described myself as excited about TFATWS, in the same way I was excited about WandaVision, but I’d always been planning to watch it because, duh, new Marvel content.

Six weeks later, I’m a ride-or-die Bucky fan, so well played, Marvel and Disney+. Well played.

It didn’t hurt, at all, that Sebastian Stan looked really really good in this series, with the short hair, and the stubble, and the eyes, and the ‘Bucky goes to war’ outfit.

But really, what happened, was that, just like WandaVision, there was finally time for these secondary characters to shine.

And Bucky just lit up the world.

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I think WandaVision was a braver show, a more interesting show. Possibly a better show, although they’re so different and it’s tiresome reading social media posts comparing the two and criticizing one because of the other.

TFATWS needed eight episodes (at least). At times it felt way rushed. The Flag Smashers storyline was a mess (almost certainly because of the pandemic arc that they had to cut and reshoot because, COVID). There were too many villains who weren’t villains. Too many shades of grey. Walker gets rehabilitated in the final episode but Karli becomes irredeemable? I’m not opposed to Sharon Carter, Power Broker, but I feel like her history in the MCU meant we needed more backstory to believe her 180 degree turn. Zemo, I will broke no criticism of (except maybe having his guy blow up the Flag Smashers in that frantic rush to the finish). He was a (Turkish) delight.

The heart of the show, of course, was Sam and Bucky, and the writers rarely set a foot wrong with them. It’s so obvious from press tours in the before times (and virtual ones for this show) how much Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie like each other, and that came through in spades (please, please, release the thirty-minute therapy scene that Mackie has said is out there. If you can give us the #Zemocut, you can do this). Watching the growth, as Sam wrestled with and ultimately chose to embrace the complicated legacy that Steve had just foisted upon him in Endgame, as Bucky shed the Winter Soldier like an old skin, as their relationship shifted and deepened and shifted again, was marvellous. I think episode five is the best in the series (I would watch an entire show of Sam and Bucky fixing the boat and training with the shield and staring at each other and making smart ass remarks), and I am beyond excited that its writer (along with the show’s main writer) is tapped to pen the just-announced Captain America 4.

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Some random thoughts (mostly about the finale) to try to get them out of my head:

  • When Bucky gets knocked over the edge in the battle with the Flag Smashers – he lands in the stereotypical ‘hero’ pose (one knee, one fist to the ground). Pair that with Karli’s “give him someone to rescue” and the stunned look on his face when he does do the rescuing and people thank him for saving their lives, and we see what the MCU might hold for him. There was a lot of nervous chatter on social media during the show about the possibility that Bucky might be killed off – that the character development was being shown because his arc was ending. I’m so glad it didn’t – I think it’s so much more interesting to show Bucky determined to find a way in this new world than to give up and suggest that he’s an empty shell with no meaning once he’s been deprogrammed. (On that note, one of my few complaints about Bucky was handled was how short his final scene with Yori was – we should have been allowed to see more of what Bucky said.)
  • I kinda wish Sam and Bucky had been allowed to be mad at Steve. I’m not a “I’ll hate Marvel forever because Endgame ruined Steve’s arc” fan, but even I (with my limited interest in Steve and Bucky) recognized that Steve’s decision in Endgame was really weird [don’t get me started on the time travel/ alternate timeline issues]. And I get that Steve had five years of dealing with shit that Sam and Bucky missed because they were both blipped and maybe he was tired of all of it, but it never sat right with me that he finally got his friends back and then he just handed the shield to Sam and left. (I did feel very smug when Bucky confirmed in episode five that Steve told him in advance what he was going to do, because I’d always believed that had happened after Bucky said “I’m going to miss you” in Endgame.) The bit in the therapy session when Bucky says “and if he was wrong about you, then maybe he was wrong about me” and his voice breaks, was fabulous, and I wish there had been more of that. At the same time, I’m really glad we didn’t see old man Steve (or young flashback Steve) in the show. He was an imposing presence and both characters needed room to discover who they were without him. I loved that Bucky left the book with his (terrible, let’s face it) therapist – showed he truly was letting go of the past.
  • What do we all think Bucky said when he looked up at Sam and saw him in the Captain America suit (that, let’s all remember, Bucky ASKED the Wakandans to make)? My best guess (after much time spent studying the many, many GIFs of that moment) is “Oh, man!” (like whistling through teeth admiration). Many people want him to be saying “Sam” but I think the lip movement is wrong.
  • Did anyone else have a literal “Awwwwww” moment when you realized that Bucky asked the Wakandans to make another Redwing with Sam’s new suit? Even though he always complained about Redwing?
  • I love that the composer for TWS and Civil War (Henry Jackman) scored TFATWS. I loved hearing the echoes of the previously established themes. I love that Zemo’s theme came back, and the Winter Soldier’s, and the Falcon’s (which, as Jackman himself has said, was able to be expanded out to a full theme). But I think my absolute favourite musical moment was when Sam first came through the window as Captain America and the music did the two big beats that normally lead into the Captain America theme, and then the Falcon (extended) theme played instead. I thought it was so clever. I’d been waiting to see if Jackman was going to pull out the Cap theme, and then he teased it, and then he didn’t use music that would have made Sam into Steve Rogers’ shadow, but reminded us all that he is his own person. So I guess mentally I need to start thinking about the original theme as the Steve Rogers (Captain America) theme and the new one as the Sam Wilson (Captain America).
    • The ‘not my Cap’ brigade (aka the ‘shoulda been Bucky’) on social media are just gross. So gross. The Captain America twitter account changed its image on Monday to be the new poster just released by Disney+ and I can only assume this has provoked howls of outrage. But I LOVE IT. I love Anthony Mackie and I am so excited for him. And Sam Wilson proved over and over again in this series why he should be Cap.
  • I will admit I thought Sam’s speech was a bit much, and it was pushing the willing suspension of disbelief to accept that the US, after covering up what they did to Isaiah Bradley, would just turn around and make a museum exhibit telling his story for all to see, but I also want to recognize that I have NEVER seen a Marvel movie even try to engage with the issues that TFATWS repeatedly raised (the profiling scene with the cops in episode two where the cops ask Bucky if Sam’s bothering him was so important). So yes, the work isn’t done and it could have been done better, but there was (I think) a sincere effort here, and Carl Lumbly was spectacular.

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We have to talk about the ending (or, as I like to call it, the scene that launched a thousand fanfics). I don’t care WHAT Marvel and Disney thought they were filming, the sight of #sambucky walking off into an ACTUAL SUNSET with Sam’s thumb brushing against Bucky’s neck as he pulls him in closer will live rent-free in my mind until the end of time.

  • #sambuckysupremacy
  • #isawwhatisaw
  • #lovewins

Not gonna lie, all I want now is for Captain America 4 to have a very early scene where Sam’s at home, on the phone to someone, lots of ‘yep’ and ‘uh-huh’, ending with ‘right, we’ll be there soon as we can’ and then Sam hangs up and yells ‘Buck? We gotta go!’ and Bucky comes in with his shirt off or toweling his hair. Like they don’t need to make it a THING. They laid all the groundwork they needed to. Just move forward.

  • I know, I know, they’re not going to do this. This is Disney and Marvel, after all. This is “we’ve made 23 movies so far but the only LGBTQ+ representation you get is Joe Russo’s nameless cameo”. This is promising representation, hinting at representation, but chickening out at the last minute, again and again and again. So I shouldn’t expect anything but disappointment.
    • I recognize that even if my interpretation is completely off, it’s still a good result to have two men onscreen as friends who are that comfortable with each other. We need more of this.
      • But we need LGBTQ+ representation more.
      • And I just love the idea of them SO MUCH.
      • Did you SEE how Bucky looked at Sam in that final scene? And when Sam was giving his big speech? And when Bucky saw Sam in the Captain America suit for the first time? And even back in episode 5, when they said goodbye after training with the shield and Bucky was BITING HIS LIP while giving Sam heart eyes?
        • Ok, maybe this is just how Sebastian Stan looks at everyone?
          • But let me tell you, if Bucky looked at me like that??!!
      • You could do worse than finding somebody who looks at you like Bucky looks at Sam, is all I’m saying.

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The New York Times published an article last week that really spoke to me (and to many of my friends when I posted it). We’re all languishing.

These Disney+ shows have been one of the brightest spots in my week. They’ve been one of the few things I’ve been genuinely excited about. I haven’t had as much fun as I did going down the #sambucky rabbit hole this past weekend (because let me tell you A LOT of people read that last scene the same way I did) in months.

So yes, they’re silly shows about superheroes, but in a very real sense they’re saving me.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, COVID-19, Daily Life

‘Late’ Fans

I was a late-arriving fan for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The history of my chat thread with my sisters tells me that it was in November of 2018 when I pinged them looking for a fun movie on Netflix to watch on a rare day off. One recommended Black Panther, if I liked Marvel movies, and the second chimed in with Thor: Ragnarok, at which point the first changed her recommendation to Ragnarok as well.

I watched Ragnarok.

I liked it so much that by the time Endgame was released the following April I’d worked my through all twenty-one previous movies, including heading to the theatre (by myself) to watch Captain Marvel. And then I watched Endgame in the theatre four times, which at the time seemed both ridiculously frivolous and utterly necessary (I was in a bad space with work and needed the outlet for crying), but now seems more like a dream (an enclosed space with lots of other people – what was I thinking?!).

I recognize that Ragnarok as the gateway drug for the MCU is a cliché, but I think it came at just the right time in my life when I was a) ready to embrace a big new universe and b) old enough to no longer care about going to the movies by myself. Having easy access to most of the films via Netflix and/or the public library also helped.

I realized as I worked my way through all the movies that I had seen a couple of them before. I think Q. and I saw the first Iron Man in theatres in 2008, but Q. is not into superhero movies, which possibly was only made clear on that occasion, so we didn’t make the effort to see more (especially after E. came along). I maybe have memories of watching the first Avengers film on a plane (or possibly it was Age of Ultron). I hadn’t quite realized just how many Marvel movies had been made, until I devoured Ragnarok and turned my attention to the backlist.

And it was GLORIOUS.

So many films to track down and watch, in order, with a recurring (ever-expanding) cast of characters. So many great moments. I devoted myself to the MCU with the same fervor that resulted in me being able to identify every ST:TNG episode within the first forty-five seconds as a teenager. When I decide to love something, I am ALL IN.

I get that some people don’t believe that you can be a ‘real’ fan if you discover something late, and want to make it a thing about how superior their perspective is because they loved it earlier. I recognize that there is a difference between discovering something right at the outset and coming to it later, when it’s already complete (or nearly so). But both are equally valid, fabulous ways to love something. The people who watched Endgame who had been travelling with those characters since 2008 would have had a different experience than I did, the newly-minted fan. But their experience would have been different again from those people who had read the comics. Not better, not worse. Different.

It didn’t matter how we got to that theatre, just that we were there. And I, the newbie, cried just as shockingly hard as a seasoned fan might have (or perhaps harder, let’s face it – I’m a weeper). My opinions (*cough* should have been Hawkeye *cough*) might not have been grounded in years of speculation or decades of comic book narratives, but they were still valid.

I think we don’t celebrate this enough – how glorious it is to find something you love only after it’s been around for a while and there’s heaps of it to discover. I see the difference in E’s experience of the How to Train Your Dragon series (the books), which had all been published by the time he was old enough to read them and his experience waiting (and waiting) for the fourteenth book of the Wings of Fire series to appear. Burning through a dozen novels in the space of a few weeks (and then reading and rereading them, often out of order, for months to follow)? Fabulous. Awaiting that magical moment when the library shows how many copies of the book they have (and your position in the holds queue) rather than just “copies on order”? Also fabulous.

I’m now entirely caught up on the MCU content. I am a WandaVision super fan. I watch the new episode every Friday and then I go on Twitter to see what everyone else thought. I am thoroughly unaccustomed to having to wait for a new episode. On Netflix, I binge my way through anything good (unless I’m watching with Q. who has more restraint). Every week it feels weird (and somewhat uncomfortable) to reach an endpoint without actually reaching an end.

I don’t know how the MCU and I will get along in the future. Their universe is getting bigger and more complicated in Phase Four. Will I care about these new characters? Will it all get to be too much for someone like me, with minimal comic book knowledge and limited time? When will I feel safe in a theatre again?

Whatever the future holds, it’s been a glorious romp over the past couple of years, and I’m positive I’ve enjoyed the movies more than I would have if I had been watching them as they were released. They really reward a binge. And yet, I also think WandaVision works better on a drip feed, as if I had been able to binge the entire season, I know I wouldn’t have appreciated some of the moments which have stuck with me over the past few weeks.

Do you like to get in at the ground floor with new things or discover them once they’re already completed, so you don’t have to wait for the end? Are you also watching WandaVision?

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Filed under Choose Happiness, Daily Life

What matters most

Today is Q’s and my thirteenth wedding anniversary.

I made a joke in my card to Q. that of course it would be unlucky thirteen where we were celebrating during a pandemic. We usually do the traditional gifts, but this year’s selection (lace) utterly defeated me, and I ended up just saying to Q. in the card that at some point in the future, when we felt comfortable going into stores again, I would get him new shoes (which would have laces on them, get it?).

In the meantime, I’d arranged for my Mum (and my aunt, because she is still living with my Mum) to come in to babysit the kids for a couple of hours (since they’re in our social circle) so I could take Q. out for a surprise, gluten-free, contactless pick up dinner from a Mexican restaurant we discovered late last year. There’s a park nearby, so we could sit and eat our takeaway and have one meal where we weren’t interrupted constantly by our children.

That wouldn’t usually be a big thing, but after 108 days without a break from the kids (not that I’m counting), it seemed huge.

Q. forgot.

At lunch we were discussing the plans for the afternoon. I said, “Also, we have to decide when we want to do presents” and a look of ABJECT PANIC crossed his face.

He had absolutely no idea it was today. Wasn’t on his radar at all.

Q. is normally the one who comes up with the best presents on the annual theme, so this is very out of character for him and speaks volumes (I think) about his general mental state after 108 days without a break from the kids. He’s been fielding literally hundreds of messages from his sisters, who are trying to organize a present for his mother, who is having a significant birthday next week, and he told me he’d been thinking about my birthday (which is next month), and, as he said, “I just forgot there was another one before that”.

After lunch, I put the laundry up on the line outside to dry, and then drove downtown to pick up our bulk alcohol order, which I’d placed last night (I had to drive to a location I wouldn’t normally use because they had Q’s gluten-free beer in stock.). While waiting for the clerk to bring out my  (embarrassingly large – hopefully we won’t need to go back to the store until October) order, I overheard someone in the line at the other side of the store commenting on the approaching thunderstorm.

I pulled out my phone and checked the weather app. There was supposed to be a brief period of rain around 3 p.m., with total rainfall of no more than 0.1 mm. Barely a shower.

Right, I thought. I can get home before 3 and get in the washing if it looks threatening.

As I drove home the raindrops started to fall. By the time I turned onto our street, it was genuinely pouring (long before 3 p.m., I might add), and I’d resigned myself to leaving the washing on the line, as it would already be soaked through.

I pulled onto our parking pad, looked into the backyard, and breathed a sigh of relief.

There was no washing on the line.

I ran through the downpour to get inside and found Q. in the kitchen, just finishing arranging all of the laundry on the drying rack.

THAT’S why I married him.

I don’t need presents.

I don’t need cards.

Now, more than ever, what I need most of all is a partner. Someone who tag teams with me when our kids vomit. Someone who pushes the car through snowdrifts so I can get to work. Someone who notices when the sky turns threatening and remembers that there is laundry on the line that might need to be rescued.

Someone who has spent half of every single workday with the kids since we locked down in March because he believes that my work matters as much as his does.

I’m only not drowning because we’re treading water together, both of us keeping our little family afloat in this wild, chaotic, uncertain time.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, COVID-19

Say what now?

E. *calling down the hall*: “Mummy, I hear that P’s awake!”
Me: “Do you want to go in and say good morning to her?”
E.: “Yes please!” *gets stool from the bathroom, climbs up and takes latch off door*, opens door* “Good morning, P-Boa!”
I then had the joy of listening to the following conversation from my cozy warm bed.
P.: “I had a weak last night!”
E.: “What’s a weak?”
P.: “No, not a weak, a weak!”
E.: “A wee? You had a wee overnight?”
P.: “No, not a wee! A WEAK!”
E.: “But what’s a weak?”
P.: “No! Not a weak! A WEAK!”
At that point I got out of bed and joined them. P. meant, of course, that she’d had a LEAK overnight and her pjs and sleepsack were wet, but it was the most fantastic ‘Who’s on first?’ moment.

*We have a latch on the door to P’s room so that our mad cat can’t burst in there in the middle of the night and sit under the crib and meow until P. wakes up. She used to do this when E. was a baby too, which was when Q. first installed the latch. Our best guess is that she forgets I’m no longer in there- she loves to come in and hang out when I’m putting P. to bed and she’s not the greatest at retaining information. But it is always deeply frustrating when she wakes up in the wee hours, gets off the bed, and starts roaming the house yowling, only to return in apparent surprise when she realizes I’m in the bed ON WHICH SHE WAS SLEEPING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, E.- the eighth year, P.- the third year, Siblings

Read With Your Ears

I have a confession to make.

Prior to last year, I had never listened to an audiobook.

“That’s not for me,” I’d told myself. “I like the physical feel of a book too much. I won’t pay attention. It won’t work for me.”

Then I started following Modern Mrs. Darcy, who is a huge fan of audiobooks. She kept posting about great audiobooks. She enthused about the listening experience. Listening to audiobooks, she wrote, not only allowed her to finish more books, but it allowed her to read when she hadn’t been able to do so before (because she was driving, or folding laundry, etc.).

I decided it was dumb not to at least try them. I am not great at trying new things, but this is also something I am attempting to get better at (part of fostering a growth mindset instead of my deeply, deeply ingrained fixed one).

So I figured out how to download the Overdrive app onto my phone and how to link my public library account to the app, and off I went.

And, reader, audiobooks hooked me.

When I went back through my reading journal and tallied my numbers for 2018, of the 118 books I read, 17 of them were audiobooks. I’m sure that number will be higher this year.

I learned a few things as I experimented:

  1. I don’t like listening to books faster than 1.2x the normal speed. Anything faster makes me feel anxious and makes the voices sound funny.
  2. I don’t, for the most part, like listening to novels. I have trouble holding the story in my head, especially if I have to stop in the middle of a chapter. My favourite genre is memoir, especially when read by the author.
  3. I will absolutely stop listening if the reader’s voice bothers me or just sounds ‘wrong’ for the book.
  4. I have trouble turning the story off if I’m in the middle of a chapter, or near the end of the book, or at a very exciting part. Sometimes I have to be strategic about listening to a book when on my way to work.
  5. I can’t listen to audiobooks if I go out for a walk. I can pay attention to the walk or to the audiobook, but not to both. If I walk to the main university library downtown (which takes an hour) I tend to walk with my thoughts on the way there and walk home listening to the audiobook when I’m tired and ready to stop thinking.

It was one of the nicest surprises of the past year to realize how much I enjoy them.

Since my Terrible Tuesdays this semester involve a lot of time in the car (and a lot of walking to and from parking lots), I’ve had even more opportunities to listen. I was incredibly pleased with myself when I had the idea of checking to see if my library carried the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley on audiobook. It does and I gleefully downloaded the next one in the series immediately (no wait list even!). Although these are novels, I correctly guessed that I would love them on audiobook because I don’t actually care very much about the details of each volume’s plot. In general, I’m not a reader of mysteries and when I do pick one up I never try to solve the crimes before the narrator explains them for me. I liked the previous Flavia books I’d read, but only moderately so (as evidenced by the fact that the last one I read was in 2015 and it took me an embarrassing long time reading the descriptions to realize that I had already read #4 and needed to start with #5).

I could care less about the details of each case that Flavia cracks- what interested me was the arc of her character development. If I miss the finer details of the mystery on audiobook, it doesn’t matter. What happens to her and her family is what sticks with me.

I’ve already listened to #5 and #6 this month and am well over halfway through #7. Jane Entwhistle does the narration, and she is brilliant. I love how she captures Flavia’s self-satisfied glee whenever she’s been particularly clever. I still have three more to go in the series, so I’ll be well into February before I’ll need to start thinking about what to download next (although I have holds out on books by (and read by) Eric Idle and Michael Palin, as well as the first Harry Potter, as I’ve heard repeatedly that the audiobook versions are incredible).

Do you listen to audiobooks? Is there a book you’ve loved because of the person who reads it rather than the story itself?

 

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Filed under Books, Choose Happiness

This is love

We had a big blizzard come in yesterday. It started in the late morning and it didn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning. I took P. in a sled to the school when it was time to pick up her brother.

As much as I would have loved a snow day (today being Terrible Tuesday #4), there was no such luck: the snow stopped in enough time for most universities in the area to decide they could resume their normal operations by this morning.

And so, while I showered and got dressed and made tea at 5:45 this morning, Q. went out into the dark. He got the car ready. He shoveled the parking pad. He shoveled a clear path (as wide as the car) into the unplowed street until he reached the middle, where there were established ruts the car could follow. He ran along behind me until I reached the intersection, in case the car got stuck when I tried to push through the pile of snow left by the plow (which had only just made its first pass along that road).

The car skittered and jerked and slid, but I got out successfully.

Q. waved in my rear-view mirror, and then turned to tackle the 30 cm of snow the plow had just dumped on the sidewalk in front of our house. I know him- I know he was thinking that he had just enough time to clear that section of sidewalk (again) before going in to shower and get both kids up for the day. No one would struggle to walk in front of our house.

He made sure I would be safe. He made sure we all would be safe.

He is a good man.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, Daily Life

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?

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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?

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

Progress, Not Perfection

I have been having a difficult time getting back into a good rhythm with my research. Too much time off over the holidays has meant I’ve lost my momentum and my Inner Critic is back up to “shouting so loudly she’s hurting my ears” rather than the “nasty whispers under her breath” I’d beaten her down to by the end of last semester.

I learned last fall that the absolute, most critical key to successful academic writing (for me at least) was consistency. The more I worked on something, the easier it became to keep working on it. My weekly schedule makes this a challenge. Mondays I’m at home with P., and Tuesday nights I teach. This has meant that the work time available on Tuesdays (the morning and the early afternoon), more often than not, has been eaten up by class preparation and marking. I’m hoping this will improve this semester because I’m now into the section of the course that I’ve taught once before, so I already have PowerPoint slides and relevant assessment that can be reused.

The reality is that four days away from my research is too long. Every Wednesday I’d have the same inner battle with myself as I walked to the library:

Inner Critic: “I don’t know why you even bother. It’s never going to get published. No one wants to read your crap.”
Turia: “Shut up.”
Inner Critic: “It’d be so much easier to do something else. So much more fun too. Why not just read your novel? Or go for a long walk? Or answer emails? Or write a blog post? Or we could go eat some cake. Ooh, I love cake. You love cake too! You’ll feel better about yourself then!”
Turia: “Shut up.”
Inner Critic: “It’s so pointless. You’re so pointless. You’re such a fraud. If you actually send this to a publisher everyone will know you’re such a fraud.”
Turia: “SHUT. UP. Just sit down at the desk, Turia.”
*Some time is wasted by going to the washroom, setting up the desk, filling up the water bottle, writing a few emails, checking the phone, etc.*
Inner Critic: “You’re never going to be able to do this, you know.”
Turia: “SHUT! UP! Open the computer, Turia. Open the file. Start writing. Write for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen minutes. You can do fifteen minutes.”
*Fifteen minutes pass.*
Turia:
“Ok. This is going well. These are interesting ideas. You can do it, T. Keep writing.”
Inner Critic: “I’ll be back, you know.”

And she is back, every morning. She’s easier to silence on Thursday and easier again on Friday because by then I’ve picked up some momentum and I can remember what I most wanted to start with when I’d finished the day before. But she never, ever, truly goes away, and by the following Wednesday she’s back out in force.

I described this entire process to my friends in my writing accountability group at our meeting in December and they were both horrified. “That sounds terrible!” one of them said.

It is terrible. I guess I’m just so used to it it doesn’t even seem strange to me anymore. I’ve never written anything research-related without also engaging in a fierce internal war.

My work goal for 2018 is to try to break this cycle. The fundamental problem is that I’m a perfectionist with a very fixed mindset. I associate editing with failure- I didn’t get it right the first time. I confuse my work with myself, and feel that a rejection of my work would pass judgment on myself as a person. This leaves me paralyzed with fear whenever I think about submitting my work somewhere.

It’s a really unhealthy way to live, and I don’t want to model it for my children.

E. and I talk all the time about how “practice makes progress” and how we have to be willing to try and make mistakes in order to improve. When he’s worried about his dictée words, and is wailing about how he will “never get anything right” and how he will “make a million mistakes on the dictée”, I point to how much he’s improved every time he practices.

I knew it was sinking in when I heard our nanny say to E. “practice makes perfect” one day and he, rather irritably, corrected her that it was actually “practice makes progress because most things aren’t perfect”.

It needs to sink in for me too.

Walking to the library this morning, with my Inner Critic shrieking in my head, I resolved to make “progress, not perfection” my mantra for my work this year. And by the time I’d reached my second-favourite desk (annoyingly someone had already claimed my favourite desk), I’d realized that it applied to far more than just my writing.

It applied when it came to my photographs.

It applied when it came to my efforts to control my lizard brain when I’m frustrated with my kids.

It applied to anywhere in my life where I felt unsatisfied and wanted to make a change.

When you practice, you see, you have to make the time for something. You have to engage in it. And maybe the progress you make is incremental. Maybe it’s tiny, almost unnoticeable at first. Maybe baby steps even seem like big steps at first. But eventually, if you give it enough time, you will be able to look back and see just how far you’ve come.

I wrote on here that I hadn’t been able to come up with a good word to represent my goals for 2018.

It turns out I needed three words, not one.

Progress, not perfection.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, Choose Happiness, Who am I really? (Career Angst), Writing