Boing

There are a lot of posts and memes going around right now about how much we Gen Xers are showing quarantine/social distancing who’s boss. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety member of the older generation, it’s true. In our day we had to play with pet rocks for chrissakes!

Sometimes it feels like the kids of today have it all.

And by all, I mean things like devices that cost hundreds of dollars and provide endless hours of fun and excitement. When I was a kid, it was mind-boggling to have, like, Atari. (We never had Atari.) Even a game as low-budget as a Wonderful Waterful was pretty entertaining. (And honestly, I don’t know if we actually had one of those either.)

Remember these? My dentist used to give me and the sibs these to play with while he tortured treated us. My kids get to watch whatever they want on Netflix at the dentist.

Back in the heyday of the 80s, when you went over to a friend’s house, you played outside in the backyard. Completely unsupervised of course. My brother and his friend used to light GI Joes on fire using cans of Lysol spray to incinerate them.

But I digress. Back to the backyards. Many people had a swing-set. Usually one of those ordinary aluminum ones that threatened to come out of the ground if you got the swings going too fast. Others had fancier ones with monkey bars and slides.

If there was no play structure, then you just picked dandelions or did cartwheels in the grass or something. We really, really did have to make our own fun. Okay, sometimes there was a sprinkler to run through as well.

Occasionally though, you’d go to someone’s house and – wait for it – they would be in possession of the most fun, the most dangerous piece of backyard apparatus that existed. The trampoline.

It was such a rarity that I only remember jumping on one a few times in my childhood. Maybe I was just running with the wrong crowd. Naturally, there were no safety nets or padding on the springs. Without doubt, those things were the cause of any number of cranial injuries or broken limbs.

Somewhere along the line though, someone got smart about trampoline design. Now, you will basically never see one without netting around it. And you will see a lot of trampolines because everyone seems to have one. Not having one is also okay, because you can just go to a trampoline park, another amazing thing that didn’t exist in the 80s.

Last year, our lack of outdoor fun became a bone of contention between the husband and I. I decided I wanted to buy a trampoline for our very small, urban backyard. I’d put aside some money and wanted to spring for (groan, I know) a compact, quite expensive trampoline. Fun and safety together. My husband was more inclined to allow our children to play with rocks or dandelions.

My kids were not going to have the kind of deprived childhood I had. Although I knew it would pretty much fill the backyard, I did it. I bought it, it was delivered, and my husband put it together with only a modicum of complaint. (He deserves kudos for assembling it for us despite the weather, which if memory serves was a very sleety kind of rain.)

He thought that they would lose interest in it after a couple of weeks. But a year later, those dire predictions have yet to come true.

The trampoline is, along with ice cream, keeping everyone sane right now.

This terrible photo was taken through the back door, because it was probably 4 degrees outside. T-shirt weather!

“Go outside and jump on the trampoline for a few minutes,” is a phrase the kids have been hearing a lot of over the last few weeks.

What’s keeping you sane?

Juicy

Now that we’ve all got all the time on our hands, it’s a good moment to dust off that juicer that’s been suffering neglect in your cupboard. I’ve had this baby below for, probably, sixteen years.

Breville makes a durable juicer. Circa 2005?

When we’re going through health-kick phases, it lives on the counter, so that everyone knows what kind of a**holes we are when they come into the house. Otherwise, we keep it in an annoyingly inaccessible cupboard, making daily use impossible.

It’s back on the counter now! Because if the Internet has taught me something, it’s that celery juice can cure anything if consumed in the correct quantities.

Juice doesn’t have to be that hard. It doesn’t need to taste like grass to do you good. I usually just throw a bunch of stuff in there with carrot as a base. (Because cheap)

In these crazy times, food waste has become a cardinal sin. Making juice is also a great way to use up fruit and veggies that have gone a bit past prime.

Carrots, apples, etc. Whatever you want, really.

The biggest bonus of all is watching your children consume nutrition in a glass without even arguing, as beets = pink.

The other day, the kids and I made a juice, and then used the pulp to make muffins. I know, I am amazing.

I’ve made these before, so had a recipe in mind, but it was similar to this one.

The reality check of all this healthy living is that I ended up standing in the kitchen for two hours, making juice and cleaning juicer parts. And making muffins with a child on hand who wanted to “help” but basically spilled every ingredient before storming off in tears because Mummy is mean.

Stuck in the house though, what else have I got to do except clean up messes that my kids make? What are you doing to safeguard your health? Celery juice? 😂

Burnt Marshmallow

Is the best flavour of ice cream in the world. There, I said it.

And this stuff they make at our local, Ed’s, somehow manages to capture in its frozen goodness the essence of summer campfires. Without the mosquitoes.

Forget canned beans and frozen peas. A pint or two of this is essential. For mental health. Unfortunately, like many other things in the city, essential services like ice cream stores will have to be closed for awhile.

B stands for burnt.

Have we invented a word yet for the regret we feel for the things we failed to stock up on when it all got real?

In Uncertain Times

Hemingway didn’t say this exactly, but whatevs.

I normally roll my eyes at inspirational quotes, but there are times when they are just necessary, am I right?

Friends. I know.

I know that we’re all reeling from the turn things have taken, world-wide, over the last few weeks. And if you are fortunate enough to be in a place that COVID-19 has yet to invade, take a deep breath, and know that things may soon change very quickly for you too.

Or they may not.

That is the one given in life, its extreme unpredictability. In Toronto, two weeks ago, we were all humming along, going to work, school and play and touching every single thing in the world without wondering how long coronavirus can survive on a given surface. Now we are all figuring out how social distancing works. We’re isolated in our houses with the kids, squirting our home-made hand sanitizer over every available surface. And wondering how long the toilet paper will last.

We can only guess what the future holds. Right now, the media isn’t helping us. Yes, access to quality information is important, but each day that we spend glued to our newsfeeds, watching the case numbers tick ever higher, is a day that we’ve lost to fear.

I know how you’re feeling. I’ve read all the articles and I’ve had all the anxiety. I’ve woken in the night wondering if I do, in fact, already have the virus.

So, my family, like everyone else, are trying to figure out a new routine. A new way to be when our options are limited. This is hard for the Gen Xers and the Millennials. We’ve spent our lives with nothing BUT choice, opportunity, and freedom and now, as the economy tanks, we’re left wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

There are a lot of people in a lot of need right now. Many who don’t know where their next paycheque is coming from or how they’re going to feed the kids.

Despite my own anxieties, I know that, for now, I’m in a safe place. We’re not on total lockdown. We have enough to eat. We’ve got 20 rolls of TP stocked in the cupboard.

So I’m thinking about the things I can do to help. How can I help my own family? How can I help to keep small businesses afloat? How can I help to feed people in my community? (Please let me know in comments what your thoughts are!)

There was a time when we were the ones who needed help. Almost 10 years ago, my oldest, my son Bean, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. He went through an incredibly difficult chemo regime, which ended with three rounds of bone marrow transplant. From September through to January of the year 2010 – 2011, he barely went outside, in fact was confined to an isolation room at Sick Kids for months on end.

I was free to come and go, somewhat, but he had to stay, and we had to keep him safe. Safe meant no germs, no interactions with people. It meant sanitizing every single object that went into his room. Washing Duplo in boiling hot water and soap and wiping every piece of a jigsaw puzzle with anti-bac wipes.

Those days were very long. And very hard. Many people told me to take it “one day at a a time.” Which felt like such useless, bullshit advice. There is no other way to live your days. But the meaning is this: Just get through today. Just focus on the positives. Try not to dwell too much on what may come, but accept the gift of the now.

And we were given so much help. People were generous and true.

So those are the lessons that I’m remembering in this time of terrible uncertainty. Each day:

  • Health: Do something that is good for you, and for the health of your family.
  • Beauty: Find it anywhere you can. Create art.
  • Connect: Keep connecting with your friends. If you can go out, do a wave-by of someone’s house. Set up video chat for your kids and their buddies. Do an old-school phone chat.
  • Routine: Set up a daily schedule and stick to it.
  • Help: Figure out how to support those in need.

We humans are terribly resilient. We’ve survived famines and wars and disease. We’ve adapted and changed and grown. We will get through this too, though we don’t know what the world will look like on the other side of it.

Be well, my friends. Courage, my loves! ❤️❤️❤️

My Reading Mind

I want reading back. I want back the focus and joy I found in books, that was with me for the majority of my life, until recently.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” – Harper Lee

I can blame parenthood, sure. Aren’t our kids to blame for all of our woes? Weight gain, stress, sleeplessness. The offspring make good little scapegoats. #Mommybrain

Absolutely, I began to read less after the birth of Bean. There just weren’t enough alone-hours in the day to plow through many novels. But what I’m talking about is something more insidious than just feeling crunched for time.

There’s something about the way we all consume media these days that leaves little energy or focus for weighty tomes or long-form journalism. All the words are flying at us in jazzy little packages, all the time, and we tend to scroll past anything excessively wordy. Hell, every time I draft a post, the WordPress editor tells me to “improve readability” by making my sentences shorter. 20 words or less, please.

Tell the truth. How many times, of late, have you started reading an informative article about climate change, realized how long it would take to get through it, and then clicked away to read a Buzzfeed post entitled, “27 Totally Random Facts About 2000s Pop Culture Things That’ll Make You Do A Double Take.”

Up until a few years ago, I read a bit of a book every single night before I went to sleep. Daytime hours, too, would find me, in my preferred reading position, lying down on a comfy surface, arm crooked around my book. Somehow, over time, this habit shrivelled. The sad, painful truth is that my lifelong reading habits have been ground away by Netflix binges and Facebook updates.

The thing is, I have read a lot of books in my time. So I can still come off to others as a reader, perhaps even as well-read. The reality is that I now struggle to get through the one book a month that is required for my book club meetings.

I want my reading brain back. I want to stop consuming words, like Oliver Jeffers‘ Incredible Book-Eating Boy, and read actual, physical books. Printed on paper.

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers.

At the end of November, I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Neil Pasricha. He was there to discuss the ideas in his new book, but my main takeaway were his thoughts on reading and the importance of books. He wrote a fantastic article for Harvard Business Review about how to read more, and now, rather than reading only a few books a year, he manages to read one hundred books a year.

In 2019, I joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I set a modest goal for myself of 24 books. For those of you who are weak in the math department, that’s two books a month. Here’s how I did:

Pathetic 2019 reading results

I read a little over one book a month, so I didn’t exactly crush that goal.

For the 2020 Reading Challenge, I’ve set myself a goal of 36 books. Three a month!

In order to get there though, I need to change a few things about how I operate. I’m going to take some of Neil’s advice, and make reading more central in my house.

Here are some other things I’m doing:

  • I took a social media fast while on holiday for a week. I’m now being very particular about when I look at social media and for how long. Hours in the week freed up!
  • I bought a teeny book-lamp so that I can read at night without disturbing the husband
  • I’m getting an old-fashioned newspaper delivered on the weekend. More text, fewer screens.

Other suggestions? How’s your reading brain doing?