The Obligatory Winter Blues Post

Every year I find myself writing about the winter blues — what I’m doing to cope, how well it’s working (or not). And why should this year be any exception? 😉

This year hasn’t been too bad so far. For starters, we’re having a really mild winter with almost no snow. Amazing what that does for one’s state of mind. Don’t get me wrong, I like snow, especially the proper crunchy snow that I grew up with and Toronto so rarely gets, but months of it will drag one down. And the cold, and the dark, and the post-Christmas, post-New Year’s letdown…okay, winter is still tough even without snow.

I’m doing all the usual things — taking extra Vitamin D, using a full-spectrum lamp, exercising (dance and yoga, with some walking here and there), focusing on coziness (blankets, slippers, tea, soup, comfort reads).

This year I’ve also added a couple … Continue reading

The Dreaded Middle

So Kit Campbell and I are working on a secret project for Turtleduck Press. It’s a novel that we’re co-writing, and you’ll hear more about it in due time, after it’s been made suitable for public consumption.

In the meantime, though, we’re wading through the first draft. Well, I can’t speak for Kit, but I’m wading. Or wallowing, maybe. I’ve passed the halfway point and am flailing around in the late middle, feeling rather as if I’m trapped in Zeno’s dichotomy paradox. I’m also fighting the deep-seated conviction that the story sucks (or my half of it, anyway — I’m not about to say that for Kit’s half!).

However, I’m not the only one. Check this out:

Small World, Redux

Last week, KD wrote about being stuck in a small world and taking steps to get out of it – to “expand” as she put it. She’s working on not hiding, on being social, on trying new things. She’s exploring.

I’ve been feeling much the same – stuck in a rut, coasting along on habits, doing the same things because they’re easy – and I’d like to make a shift

On the other hand, maybe November, with winter lurking (hello, 5 PM sunsets), isn’t the best time for a Canadian to try to “expand”. I have another friend who declared she was taking this month to unplug from Facebook and look inward, to honour the night. But maybe there’s a way to do both.

Goodnight, Garden

It’s nearly the end of another gardening season where I live. We’re lucky enough to have a longer summer and fall than the even more northerly city where I grew up, but it does eventually come to an end. (There’s a reason Canadian Thanksgiving falls more than six weeks earlier than its American equivalent…)

To be honest, I’m a bit relieved. Not because I like winter (I really, really don’t) but because I got overambitious this summer. I planted too much, had too many high-maintenance plants, and set my expectations for myself too high while at the same time feeling constantly behind. Problems came up and I didn’t deal with them effectively, or sometimes at all. Then what was supposed to be fun and relaxing became stressful instead.

Wait, was I talking about gardening, or…?

Anyway, some things … Continue reading

Time to Hit the Books

Happy September! Here in Toronto, Canada, we’ve just come off a sweltering Labour Day long weekend…but even still, whenever the wind blew, there was the faintest of chills in the air. Autumn is coming. The biggest sign of this: all across Canada, Labour Day means back to school.

Mind you, nobody in my household actually attends or works at a school. But I’ve never lost the sense that September marks a new year, a new beginning. (I celebrate January 1, too. Why not have an opportunity for two fresh starts a year?) Now is the time to step out of vacation mode (or “spend the glorious summer weekends pretending you’re on vacation” mode, as the case may be) and move into Getting Stuff Done.

The Two Sides of the Garden

Time for another garden update!

Here in southern Ontario, it’s the start of prime harvest season. Early crops like raspberries are over, veggies are coming into their own, and my partner and I just bought finished eating our first basket of peaches – my very favourite fruit when they’re in season.

What does that mean for our backyard plot? Well…to be honest, we’re having a stressful summer.

First problem: the tomatoes. In past years, we’ve been given seedlings by the elderly Italians next door, and planted them quite close together. This year we bought them from a garden centre and spaced them farther apart. Suddenly they’re sprawling out all over. The main stem of each is staked, of course, but what to do with all the branches with fruit sagging to the ground?

I’m slowly building a weird-looking system of multiple stakes for each plant and also trying to prune … Continue reading

On Losing One’s Way: An Update

Six months ago, I blogged in this space about how I had lost my way as a writer.

For the rest of the winter, I deliberately set writing aside. No pressure, no thinking about writing, just hibernating and reading and seeking out other fun things to do…and enjoying not feeling guilty about not writing instead. The absence of “shoulds” felt amazing.

When winter finally started to ease up – and it took a while – I tiptoed back towards writing. So I started some fanfiction. I outlined the beginning of a completely silly novel in a completely different genre than everything I ever write. I brainstormed worldbuilding and backstory for a second, collaborative novel.

But none of it is working.

7 Lessons from the Urban Gardener, Year Four

When my partner and I bought our house, one of the things I was most excited about was starting a garden. My father (who grew up on an honest-to-goodness farm) always had a vegetable plot in his backyard, my mother (and her mother) grew flowers, and my new next-door neighbours were a pair of elderly Italians whose entire backyard was given over to vegetables. I felt like I had truly arrived.

We’re now going into our fourth year of gardening. The first few were veggies only; last year, we finally had the backyard landscaped and added flowers to our repertoire. Here are some things I’ve learned…

1. The weeds are faster than you think. In early April the temperature was barely above freezing, and the frost date was still more than a month away, but the weeds were already up and going.

2. Easy = good. We’ve grown tomatoes and … Continue reading

Springtime in the City

It’s springtime here in southern Ontario, Canada. We’ve had a long, cold winter and everyone was heartily sick of it months ago, but spring took its sweet time getting here. A warm day now and again, and then the thermometer would dip once more. Such a tease.

Finally, this weekend, we had gorgeous sunny weather. I went out of town on Friday. (I was visiting Ottawa again. Only six weeks ago, it was a frozen winter city; now it’s warm enough for patio dining.) By the time I got back on Monday, the season had changed.

Imposter Syndrome: An Update

Two months ago, I blogged in this space about my struggles with imposter syndrome – the sense that you’re faking it and everyone else is more capable than you.

Two weeks ago, I attended a conference that was kind of eye-opening, and kind of healing.

It wasn’t a writing conference. It was a gathering for organizers of English and American folk dance, my other current passion. I’ve been doing contra dance for about five years now, but hadn’t been involved in organizing until last fall, when a volunteer friend talked me into taking the tiniest step: helping out with the Facebook page. Then this conference came up, a five-hour drive away, and he talked me into going to that too.

I took a lot of convincing – … Continue reading