It Gets Everywhere

The stars have aligned, friends, and I am finally taking a beginning drawing class at my local rec center. (I’ve tried to take this class a few times before, and it either gets cancelled, or it’s at an impossible time, or…)

It’s two hours every Monday for the duration of October, and apparently each month the teacher picks a technique for everyone to practice. This month we’re doing straight pencil drawings (which is good, because that’s what I wanted, and if it were charcoals or pastels or something I would be disappointed) and working on reproduction using a grid. Basically, you draw a grid on whatever you want to copy, and a grid on your paper, and then you painstakingly copy everything, square by square, to help you get everything in the right place.

We’re doing M. C. Escher’s Drawing Hands (just one hand, so as to not go insane). I mean, we are anyway, but it’s the thought that counts.

On one hand, I’m not wild about copying another picture, even one by Escher. It’s a good technique to know, I suppose, but I’d really like to learn more about how to draw in general.

On the other hand, I get two hours to myself to do nothing else but draw, which is relaxing and wonderful, and it really helps clear everything out of my brain.

So, you know, it evens out. Though I do really just want to learn how to draw, and shade. Specifically shade. I am …

Continue reading

The Summer of Not Gardening

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that my spouse and I have been doing a vegetable garden since we bought a house in 2012. In this climate, that means working the soil and sowing seeds in late April or early May, a mad scramble to buy and plant seedlings at the end of May or into June depending on the tenderness of the plant, and weeding and watering and harvesting up to the end of September or early October.

Turns out that’s a lot of work.

I was excited to finally have a house where I could garden, and I dragged my spouse into being excited too. But…problems abounded. We had too big a garden for our time and energy levels; there were hungry squirrels in the area who like to take one bite out of each ripe tomato; and the killer–an infestation of weeds that spread by underground roots and could never be completely eradicated.

So this summer, we covered over the vegetable bed with landscape fabric and mulch, and let it lie fallow for a year while (we hope) suppressing the weeds to some extent.

We thought we would buy some potted vegetables. We bought rosemary, which got used a little, and one cherry tomato plant, which was sickly all summer and produced very few tomatoes–just enough to keep the squirrels fed. One day I was out on our back deck, writing, and a squirrel picked the only ripe tomato and sat there …

Continue reading

Adventures in (Avoiding) Editing

Friday I stayed home from work. I had a touch of a stomach bug, enough that I definitely needed to stay home, so I wasn’t ditching work–I was just really glad that I needed to be home. I needed the day to edit.

Edited all day Saturday, excluding a grocery store run and probably some time wasted at some point.

By Sunday I was getting tired of editing. So I made a deal with myself–twenty minutes of editing, ten minutes of break. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been needing to do for a while, and I wanted to get some of it dealt with.

The first break, I cleaned the litterbox, then decided to light a candle to deal with the residual smell. I grabbed a candle holder, took an empty tealight shell out of it and crunched it in my hand, then dropped a new tealight in and lit it. Then I touched my face or something with the other hand, and scratched my freaking face deep enough to draw blood with a tealight shell.

I went back to editing.

Next break, I decided to see if switching the light bulbs in the track lighting in the kitchen would help anything. We hate the track lighting, but we’re not ready to have it replaced. Anyway–took a little longer than ten minutes, but I got the bulbs replaced and the kitchen is 3x a bright as it was, yay me!

I went back to editing. But before very long …

Continue reading

Starting a New Chapter in My Life

So, as you may or may not know, I was recently laid off from the job I’ve held for sixteen years. I was the Sales Secretary at a food brokerage, working with food distributors and vendors. It was a good job, and I was pretty damn good at it.

I’d had some inkling that it was coming, so I wasn’t completely blindsided. However, I didn’t know when and that added a whole new level of stress and complication to the mix. And, as time ticked down, the stress got worse and worse. So, as sad as I am to not be working there anymore, I am happy to be free of the stress, which wasn’t good for the fibro or trigeminal neuralgia.

I do want to say one thing, though. That place was like family to me. We had our rough patches, and disagreements, but at the end of the day, I was treated very well. And we were like a little family, the six of us. They had my back and I had theirs. Two of my former co-workers passed away, and both were good, decent people. One former co-worker retired. So at the very end, it was just me and my bosses.

I will miss them. It hasn’t been that long, and I already miss going there every day. Taking the bus. The vendor reps and buyers I worked with on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, I can’t believe that it’s over. But…things always change. My bosses were of retirement …

Continue reading

Comfort Reads for Troubled Times

Some days it feels like the world is really going downhill. Natural disasters (as I write this, Texas and India are still recovering from massive floods, large chunks of western North America are on fire, and another hurricane is gearing up to hit some vulnerable islands on the way to Florida), politics (’nuff said), bad days on a personal level…and if they all combine, watch out!

On days like this, one of the best cures is a comfort read. Simply defined: it’s a book you pick up because you know it will make you feel better. It’s by a favourite and trusted author. You’ve probably read it before (perhaps many times), or else you’ve been looking forward to reading it (maybe it’s a new installment in a series you love). Maybe you discovered it at an impressionable age and love it beyond all reason even though you know it’s not objectively the best book ever. It has stood the test of time…at least for you.

What books qualify as comfort reads? Obviously, the answer to that is very personal. Some people might crave works that are light and funny, or sweet and romantic, or even dark, so that they feel less alone.

Here are some of mine…

The Lord of the Rings

Yup, I’m one of those people. *grins* I’ve read the books multiple times. Most of those times were long ago, but I’m slowly rereading them now, and let me tell you, it’s a bit weird revisiting them for …

Continue reading

(Actually) Netflix and (Actually) Chill

I’ve been watching a lot (too much) of Netflix lately. I love documentaries, and they have a good number of things I want to see. And some of the “reality” shows… Here are some things distracting me from my brain of late.

Dino Hunt–two teams of paleontologists in different locations try to get an excavation done before the rains come, the tide rises, it’s time for the students to go back to school–some deadline, whatever they can come up with. It’s narrated like it’s a competition, but really it’s just interesting. Oh, and it’s all set in Canada. And Dan Aykroyd narrates it. The episode in the Bay of Fundy is especially cool. Site of (they said, I haven’t checked) the highest tides in the world, they had ten days to get their digging done. The one guy was collecting dinosaur tracks. Footprints, from a hundred million years ago…

Reno My Reno–people buy (mostly) cottages on lakes, start renovations and one way or another get in over their heads. Dave and his team come in and save the day. I like it because it’s reminiscent of my favorite home improvement show ever, In a Fix. They send off one part of the couple (in one show it was a friend of the single mom who had been trying to help with the fixes) and keep the other to teach them how to do the work that’s needed. I like it because they’re not doing fancy stuff like a lot of …

Continue reading

Trigeminal Neuralgia: 26 years

So if you’re been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I have been battling trigeminal neuralgia (an excruciatingly painful inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which supplies sensation to the face) for about four years. It went undiagnosed for almost three. The medication I take to control it stopped working around May, and my dose was increased. It did not help at all. So I’m pretty much back to constant pain again which frankly sucks.

Four years.

Very recently, I made a startling discovery.  I have been battling it for longer.

Twenty-six years.

Let me explain.

I had major jaw surgery to correct severe TMJ when I was fifteen—a nine-hour surgery where my oral/maxillofacial surgeon broke my jaws apart and realigned them, rearranged my face the way it’s supposed to be, and wired my jaws together for two months. As I’ve learned, surgeries like this—as well as routine dental work—can cause TN.

I had 28 pieces of hardware after the surgery. They took a “if it doesn’t hurt, don’t do anything” policy because taking them out would be another big surgery. They didn’t bother me, for the most part, for eleven years. Then, I started getting infections and rejections. So out they came. Oddly enough, most of the right side is still intact while the left is almost completely gone.

Throughout this entire ordeal, I keep asking myself (and anyone else who would listen) why it stayed dormant for over twenty years and then popped up. Now I know …

Continue reading

I Would Like to Be Neil Gaiman

My significant other recently brought me home a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats from the library, which is a collection of speeches he’s given or essays he’s written on various topics, because he was listening to the audiobook version and thought I would like it.

This book is massive. I am not getting through it terribly fast.

But what’s currently hitting me is that not only is Neil Gaiman asked to talk to people on a fairly regular basis, he can seemingly do so while being profound and not suffering from a nervous breakdown or imposter syndrome or crippling self doubt.

That sounds very lovely.

Of course, maybe once one has several decades of successful career behind them, it gets easier. Who knows?

Not me. I’m participating in my library’s local author showcase on Sunday (for City of Hope and Ruin) and 5 minutes in which to present myself and the book, and I’m a nervous wreck. 5 minutes! In front of probably not that many people, because I did one for Shards and, like, 10 people came. It’s not the end of the world if it goes badly.

But still…

It doesn’t help that my notes from Shards (which I was going to copy the formatting on) have disappeared into the nether.  Oh well. But a little confidence boost would be a huge help.

Done talks? Have suggestions?

 

Continue reading

Coming Home

This week, I am home.

Sort of.

I grew up in a largish but sleepy city on the Canadian prairies. Suburbs, car culture, indoor shopping malls, long cold winters with plenty of snow and sunshine, lots of festivals and a tight-knit arts scene, large university.
But for the last 12 years I’ve lived in Toronto – one of the three biggest cities in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal are the others).

I remember being amazed by the number of pedestrians when I first moved there. You don’t nod and smile as you pass, you avert your eyes, because there are just too many people for it to make sense to nod and smile at everyone. The sheer number of restaurants, of full subway cars and buses, that Toronto can support still astounds me. And the diversity — half of all Torontonians were born outside Canada. It’s hectic and vibrant and wonderful.

When I come back to the place where I grew up, it feels like home and not home. Familiar and strange – and stranger every time. The infrastructure is always changing – big box stores and suburbs continue to sprout up, and other businesses I remember have closed. There’s now an LRT (surface-level rapid transit) running down the nearest major artery to the house where I grew up. The streets look wider than I remember, even though they mostly aren’t. The downtown core doesn’t shut down at 6 PM anymore — people actually live there now, and the whole …

Continue reading

Diana Prince and the Thirteenth Doctor

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you will probably have heard by now that the Thirteenth Doctor will be played by a woman, Jodie Whittaker (British, of course). You may also have Opinions about this.

Well, so do I. But first I need to tell you a story…

I didn’t grow up reading Marvel or DC comics, but I do enjoy superhero movies, and this decade has had lots of them to enjoy. I loved parts of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman trilogy. I particularly loved Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. And at first I was quite excited about the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), especially once Joss Whedon got on board.

But…who are the women in these movies? The love interests. The sexed-up Russian super-spies (come on, I like Natasha, but she’s clearly written and dressed for the male gaze). The dead mothers. The side characters. Look, I have no problem identifying with male leads (see above), but I was really feeling the lack. (Though The Force Awakens and Rogue One helped. I tried Supergirl, too, but the tone of the series isn’t quite my thing.) I was drifting away from the superheroes, back to books, where I knew I could find as many female leads as I needed.

Then came Wonder Woman.

And the tone was pitch-perfect all the way through. The filmmakers took her seriously, as a character and as a woman. They put her in armour and that’s when I knew…this movie wasn’t about the male gaze. …

Continue reading