Cara Reads: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

A couple years ago, I spent some time in a bookstore aimlessly wandering, trying to find new books to read since everything I seemed to read was Canadian Women Writers, and while there is a good selection, it wasn’t the richest tapestry. I grabbed Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper because I liked the spine design (you can’t judge based on the cover, but can you based on the spine?).

Fast forward a few years and I not wanting to read one of my usual Canadian Women Writers, I grabbed this book. That’s weird, I thought, I didn’t realize it was written by a woman.  Wait, is that an endorsement from Maclean’s, the Canadian news magazine?

My interests are SO diverse!

The fragmented narration of this tale makes it a quick read. There are flashbacks, letters and multiple narrators. Primarily, the story follows Etta, who, in her 82nd year, decides to see the ocean. She wakes one night and begins her journey on foot. Otto, her husband, and Russell, her neighbour deal with the fall out of her absence.

It takes a strange turn at the end — Etta’s dementia has her reliving parts of Otto’s life that she wasn’t present for — but is otherwise a good read. The aged woman’s quest for water as she loses her mental faculties and nears death is certainly not a new Canadian trope, but it was refreshing to see it through the perspective of someone who wasn’t generally malicious.

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Five Things Friday

My mother-in-law is horrified every time she asks me to remind her how early our day starts.

Me: I’m up at 5:45 for a workout. Scott’s alarm doesn’t go off too much after that.

M-I-L: When are the girls up?

Me: usually about 6:30.

M-I-L: oh, I just feel so bad for you. I always let the boys sleep in. That must be so rough.

Ah, the joys of working for yourself in a small town, where her commute was 5 minutes, and no one yelled at her if she was late*. But here’s the thing: it’s no rougher than when I was home with the girls and we had to get somewhere. The fights are all the same. The chaos is all the same. It’s just the time on the clock that’s different. If anything, I almost like it better. And not just because Scott takes the lead on the kids. Here’s why:

  1. When you’re tired, it doesn’t matter if it’s 5:45, 6:45 or 7:45 (especially in winter). It’s dark and your bed is warm and the world is harsh. As a mom of two, I never feel rested, even after an 8 hour sleep, so why not take advantage of always feeling tired and get something done?
  2. Sometimes Madeline is already up. It feels less early when she wakes at 6 and you’re usually up than when she wakes at 6 and you’re counting on another hour of sleep.
  3. C is never awake which is good because we can usually dress her before she becomes fully able to control her body and fight against whatever “roughily” (her word for not fleecy soft) outfit she chose herself last night (#threenager)
  4. I get to work anywhere from 10-30 minutes before my start time, so even on the most rushed days, I still have time to stop and grab breakfast, vent to a coworker, or zone out in front of my computer screen before I need to get down to business.
  5. We all are home by 5:15. 5:25 in a bad day.

Don’t worry. I know my mother-in-law means no judgment by it. We are both well aware we have different lifestyles and parenting styles. While they are still chaotic, rushed and feel too early, they work for us and that’s all that really matters.

*Disclaimer: my boss wouldn’t yell if I was late. She’d likely call me into her office to make sure everything is ok, because I am perpetually early and am often quoted as saying “if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re already late”

Categories: The new identity | 3 Comments

My Body is a Temple

It’s Ash Wednesday. The start of Lent. It was almost upon me before I even realized it was coming and considered what to give up. But it was also the first year that my Lenten challenge seemed obvious.

Lest you think this is a post related to spirituality, it is not. Oh heavens no. We are still here, second Wednesday of the month, for Workout Wednesday.

But I am going to spend the next 40 days (give or take a week, for reasons I’ve never understood) focusing on my body.

You see, I had a debate with myself as I stood in my inlaws bathroom with the only scale I allow myself to step on this weekend. I had over-indulged the night before on salty Chinese food, and under-indulged in liquids of any form. My fingers were swollen enough that my rings, usually swinging loose, had to be roughly forced on that morning. I knew the number on the scale wouldn’t be accurate, but how could I not step on it? I’m sure you can figure out the rest.

Since stepping on that scale, I’ve had no motivation to eat well, to exercise or to hydrate, because in that moment, it felt like all three of those things were futile. It wasn’t just a confirmation of one night of poor choices. It was a confirmation of the nagging voice in the back of my head that said my pants were tighter. My stomach softer. My arms weaker.

It’s one thing to be working out regularly. But it’s another thing to be working out effectively.

So I’m going to push myself. I’m going to see how far this body of mine will take me by moving every day. I’m not going to let myself use a good workout justify a day of poor eating. I’m not going to count Coke, coffee or tea toward my daily hydration tally.

I’m going to prove to myself that I am capable of much more than I’ve been giving myself credit for. I’m going to listen to my body more than the size of my pants or the number on the scale. I’m going to let it show me all it can do.

Categories: The new identity | 3 Comments

Not For Chickens – Fails

We’re getting pretty good at subbing out chicken in a lot of our recipes. Turkey and pork are pretty easy choices. We haven’t had much luck with non-meat options with the picky toddler, but it’s not often that we adapt a favourite and Scott and I don’t enjoy it.

Not often, but it still does happen.

For Scott and I, an old favourite has always been salsa chicken. Take chicken, a jar of salsa, a container of sour cream, some crushed taco chips and a handful or two of shredded cheese and bake and you get some deliciousness. So after missing it, we decided to try it with pork.

IMG_0113.JPGFirst, it took forever to cook. Then it didn’t quite pair as well with the rice and corn as we had hoped (disclaimer: in our youth, it was all we’d eat. We’d consider it a balanced meal on its own. Maybe supplemented with some additional taco chips. You know, for all the nutrients you get from those. And then when it was all done? The pork was too chewy.

We ate it. At least most of it. And we’ll likely hold off on messing with this one for a while.

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Currently: In February

It’s February! And it’s quickly moving too! How are we a week into February already? This month, I am…

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finishing: decorating our new wall unit. We moved our bookshelves into our office, and replaced them with my grandparents’ wall unit. We had so many books we didn’t really need any decor on the shelves, so now having nothing but shelves for tchotchkes and things. I’ve ordered a couple picture frames off Amazon, and I’m thinking I need a couple terrariums, and then I’ll be happy. For now.

…subscribing: hopefully to an online fitness group being run by my bootcamp coach. I like developing workouts, but I sometimes use “I don’t have anything planned” as a reason to skip a workout. It’s happening often enough that I am getting pretty close to pulling out T25 again just so I have someone other than myself screaming in my head to do more burpees

wishlisting: All the workout clothes. My in-laws gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday, and I’ve been creeping Amazon for weeks trying to decide how best to spend it. While it’s going to subsidize my decorating project, there are also a lot of new workout clothes on my wishlist now.

watching: Jets vs. Coyotes I managed to convince Scott that it wouldn’t be good for our relationship to listen to the game while we did the dishes, but I couldn’t convince him that instead of watching a live hockey game, we should watch a show that is available on Netflix

…hearting: the sweet sounds of “Mama” coming from my little M. She’s been saying “mama” intermittently for months now, but we’re definitely in the very clear, understanding phase where when she says it, I know 100% that she meant it for me.

Thanks, Anne, for another round of Currently!

Categories: The new identity | 9 Comments

C Reads: January

Our library book consumption dropped when I went back to work because about half the books stay at Nana & Grandpa Daycare. It also means I have even less control over what we read. Oh toddlers, and their random choices. This month was full of repeats and rejects.

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Hank the Septopus is part of the books promoting Finding Dory. Since C hasn’t seen Finding Dory, nor Finding Nemo so this book definitely didn’t do anything for her. Or me for that matter. Maybe it would have made more sense if we knew more about Hank?

Olivia Dances for Joy by Natalie Shaw and Patrick Spaziante is a repeat in this house. And I didn’t like it the first time. Unlike some of the other books based on the TV series, rather than the books written by Ian Falconer, there is at least a plot and a lesson in a rather straightforward fashion.

Olivia Says Goodnight by Gabe Pulliam and Farrah McDoogle is terribly named. Because it’s name is so unrelated to the book itself, I didn’t realize it was another repeat until I was about 3/4 of the way through it. Less of a lesson in this one, too. While I don’t think it’s the worst Oliva book I’ve read, it’s not a huge recommendation from me.

And rounding out our book picks was another fail. Angus and the Cat by Marjorie Flack was universally despised. It was boring. It was dull. I guess the illustrations were all right?

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Cat on the Bus by Aram Kim is definitely the best of the month. Sure, it took a while for C to get accustomed to this sparsely worded book, but the illustrations – which tell a heart warming story – are wonderful to look ati.

The Great Texas Hamster Drive by Erica A. Kimmel and Bruce Whatley was all right. Compared to the last set, this was good, but on its own, it doesn’t thrill me. It’s vaguely patronizing.

Two by Two by Barbara Reid bugs me. Barbara Reid generally bugs me, but this story starts out with a fire and brimstone god and then gets into terrible word play (“Space within was so restricted, Even the boas felt constricted” No. Just No).

Are You Sleeping Little One by Hans-Christian Schmidt, translated by Cynthia Vance and illustrated by Andreas Nemet was likely a pick for Madeline, which is great because she liked it. The book is a perfect bedtime book for her since she loved animals, and I love any book that ends with a baby snuggling his/her mama.

Categories: The new identity | 3 Comments

Five Things Friday

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I am weaning myself off sugar-y beverages and drink more water. You’ll also know that drinking 96 ounces of fluids (16 tea, 80 water) meant that I had to pee a whole lot that day.

Despite that very specific drawback, I’ve been enjoying keeping much better hydrated. Some of my favourite perks

  1. I walk more. Not just to the bathroom. I also walk more to fill up my cup, so between the two, I’m not sitting stuck in my chair at my desk for as long.
  2. My skin is cracking less in this cold weather. It’s still cracking, and I know I need to be better at moisturizing, but improvement is good!
  3. I’ve developed a love for warm water. Yes, the same beverage I mocked my mother-in-law for just a couple short weeks ago. But in winter? You can’t chug the ice cold stuff.
  4. I have no problem getting up in the morning, mostly because my bladder and my alarm clock are in cahoots.
  5. I don’t miss sugary beverages nearly as much as I did at the beginning of the week

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Categories: The new identity | 4 Comments

Creating Content

One reason I was pumped about setting an editorial calendar was because I was going to use it as motivation to get stuff done in my life. “I like making stuff!” I said and so I put “creative projects” as my 5th Wednesday. I even went so far as to unearth the scarf I was making myself years ago but didn’t finish. And now a month has gone by and it’s sat under the couch upstairs rather than the couch downstairs.

But I will keep trying, because every few days, it comes out from under the couch, if even just for a few minutes. And maybe I’ll even get it finished by next winter!

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What I’m Watching

When I decided to start using an editorial calendar for my posts, I thought; “If I post 3 times a week with 4 weeks in a month, I only need to come up with 12 topics that I can just repeat month in and month out!” and then cue January, with it’s extra week! Fortunately, I realized early enough on, I came up with a few extra topics.

While I don’t always view it as a priority, the amount of time I spend watching TV lets me know it is kind of a priority for me. Right now, I am…

…. marathoning: The New Girl. This had been on Netflix back in the day, and then moved over to rival Shomi. When Shomi went under, it ended up back on Netflix. Unfortunately, enough time has passed I don’t remember all of it, so I started back at the pilot (and wonder whether Damon Wayans Jr. ever regretted choosing Happy Endings over New Girl, even though it was a much better show). Right now, Jess and Nick are just about to get together and I’m strangely all for that (shhh…. don’t break my heart so soon! I know what’s bound to happen and I’m sure I’ll get there in a week).

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…PVR-ing: Murdoch Mysteries. This is a Canadian show about a police detective at the turn of the century in Toronto, as the city slowly becomes industrialized. While it certainly shows a high level of progressiveness (there is a female city coroner who employs females of colour as interns, a constable who dates a stripper, etc.), it also is quite tongue in cheek in alluding to ACTUAL scientific and cultural progress that is to come. And I just find Yannick Bisson and his fancy suits quite dreamy.

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… dozing through: Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Yes, I do also have a tendency to fall asleep while watching New Girl (I *may* have needed 4 tries to get through one episode one particularly tiring week!), but Brooklyn Nine-Nine is my watching-in-bed-on-my-phone show right now.  I’m so glad it’s on Netflix during its broadcast hiatus!

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…queuing: Grace and Frankie. Yes, I know I’m a generation too young for the target demographic, but sassy women are ageless. I haven’t seen the latest season, and I’m looking forward to getting tired of The New Girl so I can marathon through this one!

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What are you watching these days?

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Five Things Friday

C, our biggest little, is going through something. There is this nagging sense of anxiety about her and she’s frequently complaining of a tummy ache. It’s worrying, but at the same time, these moments never last long so it’s hard to be convinced that there is a seriously problem lurking under it all. Still, I spent some one on one time with her the other night to try to figure out what’s going on and while I can’t be 100% sure that I know the cause, we do know that she immediately perks up after getting some extra love. So this week, I thought I’d list my five favourite things to do with C

  1. Read books. She snuggles in, she sits still, and she listens so intently.
  2. Dance parties. Oh man, we don’t nearly have enough of these now that we aren’t making supper at a more leisurely pace.
  3. Singalongs. Right now, it’s Moana, but Frozen and Muppet Movie are favourites too.
  4. Colouring. We’ve each got our own colouring book and our own markers. And until yesterday, that was pretty great.
  5. Snuggles. It’s not often but sometimes she just wants to snuggle and chat.
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