Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Locked in

Funny when I'm drawn here. When I have a good dream, or I'm stuck in my house, apparently.

Thing is, we're in the midst of a key conundrum. It's probably to do with my own aversion to keys -- how can something that important be so small, so lose-able? But it also has to do with our two-month-long effort to find suitable doggie care, a poorly-designed house, and a busy, irregular schedule.

The key worked to get me in, but it doesn't work to lock up. Sound like something from Alice in Wonderland? That's how it's been with our key conundrum. Last week I stayed in and read about Tiger Woods until Alex returned from school with a key and I could go to work.

And tonight, instead of going to capoiera while Alex is at wrestling, I'm stuck inside my house. My silent, messy house.

And what do I do: clean? sleep? cook? All logical choices. But not for me, not tonight. Tonight, I read.

I read Elizabeth Hay's Late Night's on Air. I choose it because my boss lent it to me and I'm scared that I will ruin it with spilled coffee or doggie something. Turns out, it was perfect for this evening. That's because it's February 9th, and just today I was marveling that it is February 9th and I haven't really broken down crying because my father died in February (16th, 2004). And Hay's book is perfect because it is filled with sadness and father moments, yet it's set somewhere I only dream of (Yellowknife). So it has a way of transporting me to a place that is both strange and familiar. And I love that.

Alex is home now, puttering in the kitchen because I asked him for some time to write. And I love that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writing down a dream

I'd been thinking this blog would die, now that I have a real, full-time, editorial job. I thought I'd be burned out from writing in the office all day that all I'd want to do was veg with my husband and walk the dog in my spare time. But last night I dreamt the kind of dream that can't go unnoticed.

It was in Whitehorse and Nelson. On buses and in kitchens. With old friends and (perhaps) long-lost family members.

Whitehorse was the best. Goats roamed everywhere! Huge ones that you could ride -- and of course we did. I'd arrived by bus, and was only staying an afternoon, but as soon as I arrived I knew that was a mistake. The harbour was beautiful: a mish-mash of dinghy boats and house boats. The streets winded, every corner revealing a new colourful home. I wanted to live there, and I knew I'd return.

Next stop: Nelson. Aspen, the little girl I lived with in 1998 when I went to college in the beautiful mountain town, was all grown up. Of course, math never works in dreams and here she was more like my 10 year old niece than the 15 year old she would be now. But I hgged her, and she hugged back, and it was amazing.

Then there was the time my real-life niece, in that same Nelson kitchen, warmed up her baby brother on the stove. She didn't burn him, but I freaked, then mom freaked, and the dream ended on a sour note -- must have been waking up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Once again, Foster provides wisdom on the run. Today he reminded me to enjoy the scenery, to stop and smell the roses... as he stopped nearly every block to smell the yellow snow. Soon I really was noticing flowers, in particular a few purple sedums freshly frozen in bloom along Primrose Street. And in my running bliss, I felt thankful that I'm learning all these new words, via my partner Alex and his horticulture friends.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Everything I needed to know (about running) I learned from my dog

Okay, so Runner's World and The Running Room have also given me lots of good advice over the years. But as I struggle with my running life -- to race or not to race, how to keep things moderate and avoid injuries -- I'm finding Foster, my new 1-year-old collie, is providing a lot of answers.

Firstly, it's a great way to channel angst. I've started to notice an increasing irritability with my partner (we live in a small apartment and he is, for all his strengths, a slob). It seems I always want to control where he puts things like underwear and dirt (he's in horticulture so there's a lot of soil around the house). While Foster doesn't care about tidiness, he does like to play with his Kong, and when he doesn't get his play time he gets jittery and whiney.

As I write this, after a snowy run by The Parkway, I'm feeling laissez faire and Foster is asleep by the door. Relief for all.

Secondly, well, you can't race with a dog or even (really) bring him out to watch. And I'm done with stress for the day. So there!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another Big Day: the Batizado

I got my first belt in capoeira over the weekend, and, as Mestre Chocolate was addressing the group, talking about the day he got his first belt, I realized I was experiencing all that nervous energy people expected of me on my wedding day.

In fact, ever since I got knocked on the head with a couple of flying legs in class a few weeks ago I've been second-guessing the role of capoeira in my life, and my future with it.

Maybe I take it too seriously, these sports. But I wasn't exposed to a litany of extra-curricular activities when I was a kid. There was skiing in the winter, canoeing in the summer, and I took up running 'cause it was cheap and an easy way to get out of the house on my own. I thought about dance and soccer, but by then sports were so tied up with identity I was a bit scared to shake things up. So I stayed within my boundaries and pushed on in my respective sports.

Fast forward to the present, and I've largely worn out my enthusiasm for the sports I really know. I skied my brains out in British Colombia, but because I tried to make a living out of that passion, whenever I visit the slopes now I just get over analytical, and over ambitious about the whole industry. Plus, I live in Ottawa so skiing means long travel, big money, and short runs.

Then there's running. SImilar story. Went at it with gusto, enjoyed an incredible few years of personal bests and finish line crossings, and now, well, I can't really "go for a run." It has to be part of a training schedule. And that training schedule often has to be modified for my chronic plantar fasciitis and shin splints. Gusto? Yes. Moderation? Notsomuch.

And canoeing? Every time I go to Hawaii I try to convince people to take me out on an outrigger. I'm holding out hope that it will be my athletic and social savior when I one day move to Molokai.
Maybe it's not completely landlocked, but again, paddling is not the easiest thing to access when you're broke in Ottawa.

So, after attempts at breakdancing (er, b-girling), ultimate Frisbee, soccer, and a few triathlons under my belt, I found capoeira offered the physical, spiritual, and psychological challenges I need in a sport.

Or did I?

Emotionally, it's tough. Hard to feel you're getting somewhere. Do I really want to invite this in my life? What if I never want to do it again, but I have this belt, this responsibility, to keep up?

I'm a runner, a skier, a mild-mannered paddler.

But here I was, getting my belt!

And then next day, after partying with my fellow capoeiristas, I went back for more, and I feel it in my system like never before.

So maybe I just have to follow my gut -- worked on the wedding day!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Missing the pitch

Sometimes it happens: you see the perfect story for a publication you're familiar with, at a time that hits the zeitgeist in a way that's a touch provocative, completely relevant, and yet not so out-there that it doesn't have mass market appeal.

And yet, something holds you back. It's a busy week. There are other stories. Or worse, you develop the pitch but decide to look at it again in the morning, with fresh eyes.

And then, when the morning comes and you step out to the porch to get the paper, you see your idea on the front page (teased -- I'm a "lifestyle" writer, after all).

It's easy to curse these moments, and yet, with more thought the situation can be seen in a more positive light. While I missed the byline and subsequent paycheque, in this biz I have to be a bit of a Pollyanna. So I've developed a few ways to remain optimistic at the whole missed pitch:

1. Confirmation of news judgement: If someone else thought of it, and you thought of it, and the story ran, then you're doing something right. (Just not enough of it.)

2. Getting on with the 'geist: Sometimes a story/ issue engages the writer so much that they think it marks some pivotal moment in humankind. It's rarely true, and often leads to fruitless searching for new ways to explore the issue, so missing a story might just a be an efficient -- if not financially productive -- way of avoiding all that.

3. No need to wait for that cheque: OK, I'm reaching here. A late cheque is better than no cheque at all, right?

4. Motivation for the next time I'm up to bat: Don't let it happen again! Fire off that pitch, follow up if you don't get a response, but don't let it happen again.

Don't blame your gumption (or lack of). Don't analyze the freelance budget. Just pitch, and pitch often.
(And always take your own advice.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good Hair

On the table today: Researching the new "So In Style" (black) Barbie and Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair.

Hoping to write a piece on hair weaves, chemical relaxers, etc. I've come a long way! Just last year a friend "revealed" to me her hair was a weave. I felt sooo naive. Or maybe I just wanted to believe it was real, and avoid all those questions that aren't a part of my particular ethnic make-up.

It is sometimes awkward, writing about a culture you're not a part of. But we do it all the time. And it would be cowardly to not pitch the story just because I'm afraid of some political incorrectness. So here goes!