Author Archives: Autumn

Adjusting

Sparky’s beginner watercraft course is from 10 to 12 every weekday in Lachine. This means I don’t have time to come home again after dropping him
off. Well, I could, I suppose, but then I’d have to turn around and drive back. (Why Lachine when we live on the South Shore? Because they were the cheapest and have a terrific reputation.)

Yesterday I tried to set up in a cafe with my laptop to work. I had great hopes for this. People seem to have excellent success with this sort of thing, and it was my fervent hope that I could get work done while I had to be out there.

Reader, it did not go well.

I’d forgotten that standard chairs are all wrong for me. They’re terrible for my back, and cafe tables are all the wrong heights for typing. My energy was taken up feeling that my feet weren’t flat on the ground like they’re supposed to be for stability, my lower back was tipped backward and stressed the exact way every osteopath has told me *not* to do, the table was too high, my wrists were super awkwardly angled over the uncomfortably high keyboard. More energy was used trying to ignore the music being piped in despite having earphones and my own music, the unfamiliar food smells, the *people* all around… it was kind of nightmarish. I was very glad Sparky had an amazing morning. But if I kept doing this, I would accomplish nada this week because I would be coming home exhausted. I got next to nothing done in the cafe, and was so drained when I got home that I couldn’t work then either, let alone after picking Owlet up from camp. It was, in short, a disaster, and not sustainable.

I decided that today would be different. Last night I pulled out and prepped some SweetGeorgia BFL (Songbird! I’m planning a two-ply: one ply spun end to end, the other ply a four-repeat fractal!) and packed my spinning box. I would bring my small spinning wheel and sit by the water, spinning and listening to an audiobook.

My view across to the canoe club.

Finn! One of my comfort fibres to spin.

And that is exactly what I did. Apart from a tiny bit of social anxiety about spinning in public and possibly having to field people, it was lovely. I sat on a park bench that was the perfect height, right by the water next to an oak tree that gave me dappled shade. There was a perfect breeze. I listened to Pride & Prejudice. I finished the Finn I was spinning to make up the missing yardage for a cardigan (it’s only two or three years after I spun all the rest of the yarn; maybe I’ll even knit the sweater someday) then started the Songbird after sampling to see what whorl and drive and braking methods I wanted to use. I have come home relaxed, and psyched to attack the project I’m working on that’s due by the end of the week.

It’s such a major shift from yesterday that I’m really excited about this plan, and I intend to do this every day that it’s nice enough to be outside. Adjusting my expectations of when to sink energy into working for the maximum output has made an enormous difference.

I had forgotten how much I love the sound of water against jetties, buoys, and the sides of boats, and the smell of the lake, too. Part of me is already hoping Sparky will do this again next year.

Lammas Report

We are halfway through summer!

1. The Tour de Fleece happened. I co-captained the Clan Kromski team again, and while I feel I was not as engaged as in previous years thanks to work and kids, I got some nice spinning done.

TdF 2017 yarns!

2. HRH came home from basic training, and everyone was very happy. He did excellently, of course. Now he’s full-time at the unit for three weeks to finish up the last block of training, and if that goes well, he’ll graduate to being an official qualified naval reservist. Next up will be his ship training, which will probably be next summer, although there’s plenty of theory and study to be done along the way.

Dad’s home!

3. The kids have completed two two-week sessions of day camp. Sparky did guitar for the first session, including a lovely improv with the teacher at the open house, and violin for the second session, with a lovely solo performance with that teacher as well. Owlet is loving it, hugging every counsellor she passes there while protesting at home that she hates camp. Uh-huh.

4. Owlet is back at day camp for one extra week, while Sparky has started a two-week session of mornings doing an Intro to Canoe & Kayak course at the Lachine Canoe Club. He kayaked for the first time at the grade six sleepaway camp long weekend he did in mid-June, and raved about it, asking if there was some way he could do it again. He is wildly loving it. He’s never expressed interest in any sport before; he may have found his thing.

5. I was asked back for Part 2/the expansion of the scriptwriting project I handled this past spring. That was terribly nice. Although the can-you-do-this-by-the-end-of-the-week deadline wasn’t as enjoyable. I hit it, though, because I am awesome. And then had to rush to handle the stuff that had to be displaced on the schedule because of it. Sigh. My other ongoing contract carries on apace as well.

6. I now have green hair. Part of it is green, anyway. I did it for my birthday, and I love it.

Green!

La!

Halfway

HRH left for his three-week basic training course on 1 July, a week and a half ago. How are we doing?

1. I unstuck the basement windows, scraped down the paint and caulking clogging them, and waxed the moving parts so I can open and close them with no trouble.

2. Owlet has started to learn to read, thanks to the magical tutoring of Megan.

3. I took Sparky to Montreal ComicCon, and we had a lot of fun.

4. I’m about to replace our doorbell… once I have support from someone who can help me get the cover for the breaker switchboard off to enable me to turn off the circuit the doorbell’s wired to. (It’s too big for me to maneuver on my own without dropping it onto a bunch of expensive electronic equipment.) (Related: Who keeps smashing and breaking our doorbell?)

5. The cats are waking me up five to ten minutes earlier every morning for what is supposed to be their 5:00 breakfast. I am not amused. This morning it was 4:10; I refused to get up till 5:00. They were unimpressed.

6. It is perhaps not such a coincidence that I accidentally had a two-hour nap yesterday after I brought the kids home from camp. Or that I slept through my alarm this morning.

7. The Canada Day concert went brilliantly.

8. I am washing dishes a heck of a lot.

9. I can use the new vacuum I bought last spring when we thought HRH was going away for basic last summer! It is not a ridiculously heavy monster!

10. I am a few inches too short to use the reel mower properly; I just don’t have the right angle to push it effectively. I hacked at half the backyard despite this, then Jason kindly finished it. (And redid the half I massacred.)

11. The second week of day camp is about to wrap up. I have to figure out a way to see both kids do their guitar/piano things at the same time in different rooms on open house day. My current plan is to hand my mother-in-law an iPhone and teach her how to video one of them.

12. I am into the second season of Brooklyn Nine Nine, which I am watching while I spin at night after the kids are in bed.

That’s about it for now. So far, so good. Another week and a half to go!

Sparky’s Cello


When we last left Sparky on his resumed cello journey in January after two and a half years of hiatus, he had just started playing on a borrowed cello that needed work. One thing led to another, and we didn’t get it into the shop till a couple of weeks ago.

Readers, it’s dead. The strings buzzing on the fingerboard had gotten worse, to the point where he couldn’t play anything with the first finger in first position on any string. We thought raising the nut would solve it, which is a pretty straightforward and relatively inexpensive fix. He was doing a fantastic job playing through the sour notes, but as we all know, a bad tool creates obstacles that require energy to work around that could be better invested. The luthier took a quick look at it and said there wasn’t much she could do. The neck was warped backward, and to bring the fingerboard down to playable level plus add the necessary scoop would thin it out to a point where it would be thinner than a violin fingerboard. It would be very delicate. On top of that, without the stabilizing strength of a proper fingerboard of the usual cello thickness, the neck could very easily start to warp the other way. In essence, she said she could do the repairs… it just wouldn’t be worth the money.

Sparky began trembling and tears started slipping down his face. He had somehow bonded with this thing, which was somewhat disturbing because it was borderline abusive to him. (Passive abusive, but whatever.) I think part of him worried that this was it, he’d have no cello and would have to stop after he’d made the decision to start again and really apply himself. When I thought about it later, I wondered if he had embraced the imperfections because they would limit him by necessity; he wouldn’t have to worry so hard about doing everything correctly because there would always be this imperfection inherent in the instrument that made him feel safer somehow, and less stressed. Or maybe he felt a kinship with the imperfection. I don’t know.

Anyway, he randomly teared up about it now and then about it over the next few days; no amount of reassurance seemed to get through to him. I pinged a Kijiji listing for a 3/4 cello in the city, made an appointment, and we went to see it this past Saturday after our lesson. The guy selling it was studying music at university; he had a zillion guitar cases in his room, and this little cello that had been his as a teenager. It looks like it has been in the wars; it was secondhand when he got it, and it has all the bangs and nicks a school instrument would have. It has a crack or two, one repaired and one in limbo, but nothing horrendous from what I could tell. The neck was straight (ha, I checked, trust me). It didn’t come with a bow, but I have a fiberglass 3/4 bow left over from my first cello he can use until we get a new one. And coincidentally, this one seems about the same age, with the same clunky style of endpin mine had and a really old similar canvas case (sized for a 4/4 and way too big).

We came home with it. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s easy to play even in the high positions, and it makes all the sounds it’s supposed to make, which is definitely an improvement. I paid under what he had listed it for and still probably too much for it, but Sparky was starry-eyed, and the university kid was just terrific; and if he was studying music probably needed the money. I ordered a new set of strings (I think the set on it are cheap originals, yikes; they’re pretty dead) and a proper sized case. Sparky spent the first five minutes of his next practice session just blissfully playing the notes the last cello had choked. When I asked him what he was going to call this one, he said Oak. And he retroactively named the other one Buzz, which made me laugh.

Other than the limitations of the cello, he’s been doing great work. He’s progressing quickly through the pieces in the book, which I know is doing a lot for his self-confidence. At the rate he’s going, he’ll start the second book in the fall when lessons resume. He has chosen his recital piece (Rigadoon!), he works diligently on the hard bits of his part for the group pieces, and after I help him tune and review the homework notes I took during his lesson, I walk away and he directs his own practice. I’m proud of him. Hopefully with this new-to-him instrument, things will go even better.

Spring Concert Announcement

Half-metre of storm snow and impassable streets aside, it’s spring next week. And we are preparing a concert for you!

On Saturday 1 April 2017 at 19h30, the Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra will present a spring-themed concert, featuring Peter Purich as our invited violin soloist:

“Spring” from The Four Seasons – Vivaldi
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring – Delius
A Musical Joke – Mozart
Symphony no 1, “Spring” – Schumann

The concert will take place at our home base,  Valois United Church (70 Belmont Ave, Pointe-Claire, between King and Queen). Admission is $10, free for children 18 and under. The concerts usually last just about two hours, including the refreshment break. The address and map are on the church website. Children of all ages are very welcome.

We hope to see you there!

Five Things Make a Post

Or something to that effect. That’s how this used to work.

1. I have just signed a contract to work on a second edition of one my books that recently fell out of print after a decade. This is pretty exciting. It’s basically an update, tightening it up and refocusing it a bit for a new audience. It’s due back to the publisher around Easter, and will be (re)released this fall.

2. I am currently working on a different exciting project that I can’t say anything about because it Doesn’t Officially Exist Yet. It came about via networking (in other words, a series of instances where I was referred from one project to another and recommended back and forth); I don’t think I’ve written an actual CV in ages. Anyway, it’s forcing me to develop in a different direction, because (a) it’s scriptwriting, and (b) it’s not traditional scriptwriting. I’m learning as I go, and I’m so grateful for the support of fellow writer-friends who are also scriptwriting people. The scheduling is kind of blowing my mind due to the nature of the project; it’s… weird, and unlike anything else I’ve worked on. I can’t really explain without getting into specifics. This one is due out sometime this spring.

3. Things proceed apace on the three-year series project I’m writing for. A deadline every two weeks; it’s very steady. (If you can count to three you have just realized that I am working on three big things at once, and yes, if I think about it for too long I start to get panicky. For now it’s all balancing out very well, especially since the two most recent projects just revamped their delivery dates.)

4. I gave bullet journaling a try last fall and while it didn’t work for me in the popular trendy BuJo-ing sense, it does work in a simplified sense of keeping all my notes and to-do lists in one place. I just have to remember to take it with me when I walk around the house or go out. Also, it pleases my pretty stationery/fountain pen/office supply side.

5. Yesterday I saw my doctor for a follow-up to the increased dosage of my medication that she initialized a month ago. While I am generally feeling better, I told her that I wasn’t convinced this was the long-term solution for me because of other effects it was having. My doctor agreed; she said that those side effects wouldn’t fade, and that she’d been thinking of proposing a switch to a different, newer medication anyway. So three days of a half-dose of my current medication, seven days off completely to clear it out of my system, then two weeks of a half-dose of the new one, then increase to the full dose… it’s going to be a rough four weeks. And then it’s going to take four to six weeks for the new medication to settle, too. (For those of you keeping score… why, yes, this time period does overlap with working on three projects at once, two of them large and with Significant Deadlines.)

Thank goodness winter is almost over. Things will get easier in general to deal with as spring rolls in. WInter just takes so much energy to cope with.

Back Into Things: School and Music Edition

We’re one week into school and such again now that it’s 2017. Both kids were really ready to go back after two and a half weeks off, both consciously (“I miss my kindergarten,” Owlet sighed one day) and unconsciously (my children do not do well without structure for long periods of time).

Getting back into the rhythm of things has had some challenges, however. Sparky was struggling with organization, time management, and self-confidence at the beginning of the school year, and with work and support he’d gotten to a point where it was all mostly okay. Time away threw him off, though. During his first week back I saw him doing homework every night and figured he had things under control. It turned out he was doing homework due for the next day and not the extra work he’s supposed to space out over the week so it doesn’t drown him on weekends, though. So this weekend he had to create an outline, rough draft, and polished typed draft of an expository essay, do twelve pages of French, and a pile of math. The essay should have been done in increments, and the French as well; the math was all assigned on Friday and would have been fine if all he had to do was finish typing the essay out and do a page or two of French. He also had to finish a PowerPoint presentation on postmodern architecture, but forgot the handwritten research at school and he couldn’t get hold of his partner all weekend, so I wrote a quick note and he’s planning to finish it at recess this morning. It was a rough weekend, but he handled it all, and we worked through some anxiety and talked about breaking seemingly huge tasks down and nibbling away at them.

He had less homework time than he otherwise might have, too, because this weekend he started cello lessons again after two and a half years off! He had an hour on Saturday morning, where his teacher was delighted to see him. They worked to adjust the new-to-us cello (which has Issues; it’s going to need a new bridge at the very least, a new full set of strings, and possibly the nut and/or the fingerboard replaned because there is a nasty buzzing in first position, on top of paying the family who owned it previously for it) and reviewed the piece he’d last done in concert. This would be Long Long Ago, the piece he’s pretty sure he messed up so badly on in concert that he decided to quit because it was all too stressful. He was assigned his next piece in pizzicato, and given his parts for the group pieces. And then Sunday afternoon was his first group class.

I’m fascinated by how enthusiastic he is. At break during the group class we were laughing about how no one likes to practise when he piped up, “I love it! I love to practise!” And I find it really interesting that it was watching the last recital that made him decide to start again because he wanted to be involved in them, since it was increasing stress associated with recitals that led him to stop. He was cheerful through the entire group class despite being lost most of the time, and didn’t get upset during his lesson when he couldn’t magically do things right. These two years off have really helped him develop a better understanding of what he should expect from himself.

Now instead of Sparky being upset he can’t do things right the first time, it’s Owlet. She is angry that her violin does not make beautiful music as soon as she picks it up. She resents that she has to pay attention and focus on what she’s being shown. I’m really looking forward to a time when I can actually register her for lessons, because again, it will be so much easier when it is not a parent teaching her. And I’m restricted this time by what I know and don’t know; with Sparky I knew how to guide his practise properly. With the violin, I’m one self-taught lesson ahead of Owlet, and I can only do things like teach her the names of the strings, where to place the bow on the string (no, not between the bridge and the tailpiece, between the bridge and the fingerboard please), and reteach her the names of notes on the staff. There are times when she sits and just plays it, fooling around with rhythm and dynamics, telling a story with the music, and that’s great; I wish she would do more of that and associate music time with exploration. But that expectation of perfection right off the bat is an obstacle at the moment. I’m not exactly sure how to help her past it yet.

We’ll see what this week brings.