Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fall Sweater Horoscope


 ARIES: You're in a song-lyric phases, aren't you? One of those seasons when every song on the radio is about you, exposing your secret heart, no matter if it's Leonard Cohen or Justin Bieber. When all you want to do is drive somewhere alone, belting out songs at the top of your lungs, palming away tears or letting out those primal yips and howls that threaten to erupt morning to night. You know what, Aries? Do it. Get in your car and turn up the Top 40 and borrow the words to feel your feelings.
Recommended sweater: cardigan

GEMINI: The world needs more queeroes. We need more drag stars, more lipstick femmes, more dirty knees and torn fishnets. We need more rock stars who fuck their fans, more trans liberators, more random acts of affection between friends. We need less toxic masculinity and emotional labour. We need more glitter and more tenderness, more butch bears and more leather. We need the fringes, because that's where things really start to sway. Do you have enough fringe in your closet, Gemini?
Recommended sweater:
crop turtleneck

TAURUS: You always make me think of muscle cars! To me, Taurus is the most macho sign in the zodiac, a real emblem of butchness and posturing. I think of Brando in his silly hat. I think of McQueen from Cars. I think of cigarettes dangling from the edges of lips, scraped knuckles, whiskey straight and slammed back. Anyway, this is all to say: don't be a cartoon version of a person, a paper-doll outline of a 1950s detective, or a 1980s Aquanet secretary or a 2017 Tumblr gender nerd. Give yourself dimension and shadow. Don't pose.
Recommended sweater: fisherman

CANCER: I read an interview with Rashida Jones recently, where she talked about the difference between feminism (the goal of lifting up women within a patriarchal capitalist society) and the feminine. And I was like, "YEAH!" but then I realized I didn't really know where to go from there. I love being feminine, and being queerishly femme—interrogating what it is to be female in relation to both men and other women, in both a capitalist system and edging outside it. Cancers have a great gift for empathy; your goal this fall should be to channel that intuition into channels where the waters are murky.
Recommended sweater:
angora waist-warmer

LEO: Tap into your feline side this fall and stop working so hard. Cats sleep like ten thousand hours a year (Ed: not true?), and they also give zero fucks about other people's feelings (Ed: confirmed), so maybe it's time for you start gazing out the window in a tawny, "ask me again about the Edson file, Carl, I DARE YOU" manner, and then slowly pick the steak out of your teeth with a credit card before falling asleep at your desk. And if your current job doesn't allow for this, pivot until you find one that does.
Recommended sweater: sweatshirt with a cat's face on it

VIRGO: Last month, The Knife released their Live at Terminal 5 concert video, rife with weird instruments and highly choreographed dance routines. It's unclear, from watching the video, who exactly is in the brother-sister duo of the The Knife and who's doing support; the idea is that everyone would meld together into one cohesive entity. No backup singers, no stars. The world could stand a little less hierarchy, which makes me ask: are you upholding these less-awesome power structures, Virgo? Do you share your limelight?
Recommended sweater: sparklegoth capelet

LIBRA: Every time I think about Libras, I think of candles and altars, animal skulls and feathers. I think of my old friend the Libra, who had the most beautiful green eyes and who smoked like a chimney. I think of broken hearts and velvet ribbons—tactile gifts we give ourselves to heal and mend, to remind ourselves of old wounds. I think of how hard it is to be kind to those who have hurt us, and how fucking important is it that we try anyway.
Recommended sweater: Pendleton blanket wrapped just so

SCORPIO: Did you know that scar tissue is sticky? It binds together layers of our bodies—skin, the underlying muscles and fats, fascia and organs—into a mess of connection. This connection, which isn't really how our bodies want to work, causes pain and other side effects. Physiotherapists recommend scar massage, a process of poking and prodding these over-enmeshed areas to loosen the connections and work towards better health. It's a metaphor, Scorpio: don't let yourself become too connected, too enmeshed. Keep some layers in your life.
Recommended sweater:
Fair Isle

SAGITTARIUS: Can we talk about Winona Ryder in Stranger Things? Can we talk about how affirming it is that this messy, shaky, edgy, unbelieved character—who is so yelly and jittery for most of the show—is, by the final episode, whispering soothing salvations into our heroine's ear? And can we talk about how mothers have it so hard? To be jittery and jumpy is antithetical to the Earth Mama ethos; it's off-putting and not calming. But there she is, doing her mom job, despite being a total mess, and it made me feel SO MUCH BETTER about all the times I feel like my blood has been replace with carbonated iced coffee and I still manage to pull it together for my kid. It's possible. Thanks, Winona. I needed that.
Recommended sweater: v-neck cashmere blend

CAPRICORN: A short list of things I don't understand: why men get all the props in modern art; how I'm supposed to feel about Yayoi Kasura's infinite rooms (claustrophobic? agoraphobic? both?); how people who live in Toronto afford international vacations; what is included in an all-inclusive resort; how transfers work with TTC Presto cards; how vaping is "not smoking"; why I'm so puffy all the time. A quick Google search could probably clear about half of these, but I kind of like living with a little bit of mystery in my life. How comfortable are you with the unknown, Capricorn? Do you fight the compulsion to know every answer?
Recommended sweater: the one your ex left at your house two years ago

AQUARIUS: I've been thinking about manifestos a lot lately. What's the difference between a manifesto, and say, an artist's statement? A list of demands? An explanation? A poem? A manifesto feels to me both grandly self-indulgent and the act of carving out space in the cosmos, claiming space, demanding to be counted. For women and femmes, this act is not self-indulgent at all, but a moment of violence against the status quo. You may not be a woman or a femme, Aquarius, but I hope you count them as part of you allies and your inner circle. Read their manifestos. Stitch them on a flag and fly them from your rooftop.
Recommended sweater: oversized cotton blend with holes at the hem and the thumbs

PISCES: Many years ago, I went out for Nuit Blanche and ended up at OCAD very early in the morning. Wandering the pillars of the school, I came across their student exhibits—paintings, drawings, and a curious section devoted to the "curatorial" students. One corner was heaped with images of the Virgin Mary: candles, paintings, icons, sculptures, mannequins dressed in blue, so on and so on. I remember feeling a bit affronted, because, to me, curation has less to do with whole-hog collecting and more to do with editing: the careful inclusion of what matters, and fuck the rest. But maybe I'm wrong, my fishy friend. Maybe it's not about what gets put in, but what gets left out. After all, you can't have everything. Where would you put it?
Recommended sweater:
cable-knit

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Lucky Peach (Or: How I Learned To Be Myself and Eat)


Back when I was eighteen and becoming myself, I got a job at a Cool Restaurant. Or, what passes for a Cool Restaurant in a small town, and to a teenager, and to a person who has mostly read about Cool Things rather than experiencing them in person. It was a watershed moment, a summer of hangovers and weird sex, secret cigarettes and making five hundred tax-free dollars a week with no real expenses other than magazines and fun clothes. It was the last hurrah of high school and the first wobbly steps into adulthood, a summer where a Cool Job meant getting invited places I had no business going, and being too emotionally uncoordinated to know I didn't belong. 

It was a hole-in-the-wall joint that served eight or so dishes, not including daily specials, all of Asian extraction, cooked and served by white people who had read Hot Sour Salty Sweet and who were offering a bit of that Thai/Vietnamese/Japanese profile in our small Ontario town. When I say it was small, I meant it: six tables of two outside on the sidewalk, bar seating for six more inside. The walls were orange and green, the bathrooms decorated with a former server's photos from a trip through Southeast Asia. There was a big bottle of fermenting kimchi on the counter; in my protozoan foodie state, I avoided it assiduously. I waited tables, made smoothies, peeled carrots for fresh juices, ran the dishwasher, took takeout orders, and handled money. It wasn't my first job, but it was the first where I made real bank, where I could wear whatever I wanted, where I could name-drop it and people would say, I love that place!

Working at a Cool Restaurant had its perks. I was able to keep tabs on some of the most exciting boys from high school, who otherwise would have been distant figures at basement shows, house parties to which I was only peripherally invited, and 'zine launches. I started talking to adult men—the ones who worked in the kitchen and who dated the other late-teen and early-twenties girls who worked with me—and discovered that they were fuck-ups, nice guys, and destroying angels. They were more assured of themselves than the guys I had gone to school with, more confident in their opinions, but still underneath it all, they were the same basic animal as the boys I already knew. One wore wool socks and Chelsea boots and soft twill cargo shorts and cooked with his flames spiking to the ceiling; one listened to punk music and work black baseball caps and was kind and unbelievably handsome; one was skinny and slithery and funny and mean. They all invited their friends to come visit them at work, so there was a hall of mirrors of guys like them, but a little different. I don't know if I was too awkward, too young, or not pretty enough—all three might be true—but I was able to eavesdrop while they drank beer and listened to hip-hop music and scrubbed the grill, and I mopped the floor and cha-chinged the final count of sales. On a good day, fifteen years ago, we could move a thousand bucks worth of noodles in a night, and everyone would get a Tiger beer on the house.

My boss lent me his copy of Kitchen Confidential. I read it, and understood that the fuck-you spirit of Anthony Bourdain skittered off the page into everything those guys did. My small town has a prestigious cooking school; we have more than our fair share of swish restaurants and mid-20s guys who know about mother sauces and who wear foam shoes and drink too much. There is romance in cooking—at least, there is if you're a man, not some schlumpy home-cook woman—and what Bourdain taught me was that there's a yang to that yin. Cooking school dropouts and self-styled renegades can open restaurants too. With his travel book, A Cook's Tour, I learned that everywhere has a Cool Restaurant, but sometimes it's a better choice to eat in the shitty-looking diner, or the ma-and-pa pho joint, or the restaurant in the city's revolving tower. Cool can be on the move. Cool can be Formica tables and chipped bowls, or perfect soft-and-crunchy salad rolls from some unassuming local chain, or the fucking "sharing plates" at the hip new place in town. (Side note: a pox on sharing plates. Just serve me an appetizer or a main, not some five-bite platter that satisfies nothing and no one.)

Since moving to the big city fifteen years ago,  I've eaten in a number of nice restaurants and a bunch of Cool Restaurants, and they've ranged from fine to outstanding. But there's a certain punk spirit that's MIA, a middle finger that's quietly folded down. I think it has to do with where your weird comes from.

In a city, you can tap into a vein of weirdness, no matter what weirdness you're after. Get yourself to the right city, and you can find your people: goth sparklebunnies, jockey standup comedians, gay ballerinos, anarchotrans youth, whatever. Activists, artists, cooks, writers, musicians, fashionistas—the subcultures that make a city pennies compared to, say, its banking sector, but that indelibly flavour a place's broth. In a city, it's simmering along, ready for folks to find it. In a small town, you have to cook that scene up from scratch. You have to fill in some blanks—read about it and then muddle your way through a DIY version, watch a video on the internet, make do with whatever weirdos and losers you find along the way. You learn it from cookbooks, from travelogues, from homemade darkrooms, from crystalline tarot-card hippie girls, from drug dealers, from the nerds in your class who have taught themselves how to clone a Moog on their laptop, the beautiful girls who are comfortable with muse status, the sneaky ones who eavesdrop and write about it fifteen years later.

All of this is to say that when I found out that Lucky Peach, the culinary magazine, was closing down, I got to thinking about Cool Jobs in Cool Restaurants and how much that particular Cool Job impressed on me about food. I ration each issue of Lucky Peach; if I don't, I'm overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content (fuck, there are so many words in each issue!), and I'm overwhelmed by so many foodie feelings. I don't cook for a living—I never have, and I probably never will—but I like thinking about food. Lucky Peach takes food seriously, but also makes fun of it a little. They give the recipes but also the stories: inspirations, context, emotion. The magazine gives the strip-mall restaurant, the home cook, and the Cool Job place equal credit: good food can come from anywhere, be anything.

Food, along with fashion, is, I think, one of the great self-definers we can make for ourselves. The type of food we get nostalgic for, that we challenge ourselves with, that we reach for in moments of celebration or grief, the type of food we travel around the world to eat? There are a million ways food defines a life—the feeling of being in your parent's kitchen late at night, the food you ate at your wedding, the first meal after you gave birth, the only things that tasted good to your dying mother, the restaurant where your partner proposed, the snacks you pack in your carry-on luggage, the things you drank on patios in your twenties and in your sixties, the things you taught yourself how to cook, the flavours you love, the things you hate, the millions of bites that you took over a lifetime—it's all just as much who you are as your job or your clothes, your family or your hometown.

I have no idea where any of the folks who worked with me are now. I have heard that one went to prison and then rehab; I have heard that one married the owner of the local sex shop; I have heard that one went on tour with his band (and I have a vague memory of running into him at a sweaty basement punk show not so long ago). I don't know if any of them remember me—I doubt it, there was a rotating cast of pretty, mouthy young things behind the counter, and I was neither the mouthiest or the prettiest. I grew up with parents who had traveled extensively in Asia, and who could cook tonkatsu at home, or roll up maki on a Saturday night. I grew up with the same food as my Cool Job served, and then I got to serve it myself, and now when I'm nostalgic for that summer, or my childhood, or myself, I eat that food. I miss those weirdos, and my old, half-formed self, and the feeling of possibility that comes from the unending summer, the unopened magazine, the freshly cooked plate. I hope something comes up to replace Lucky Peach; we need that awestruck, educated, madly-in-love approach to food, refreshed quarterly.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Evicted

Evicted is getting a hand-written form under your door, unsurprisingly because your superintendent told you it was coming, but reading the crumpled pages for clues for what your life will be like now. Evicted is cinderblock walls and freight elevators up to a storage unit that is four degree Celsius, we're all shivering in April as we load in box after box after box. Evicted is passing your upstairs neighbour without saying hello, because they get to stay in their home and you're out like last night's pizza box. Evicted is wondering if there was anything you can go, how much fight you can fight, that little brainworm that wonders if this, despite paying your rent on time and never blasting your music and being generally pleasant, is somehow your fault. Evicted is house-hunting in a city with a 1.4% vacancy rate, where the average rent went up by $300 in 2016, where we've applied for three houses and gotten none of them. 

Evicted is also walking through your apartment, the apartment that was your son's first home, where he learned to eat and sit up and crawl and say his first words, where your husband would snuggle with a sleeping newborn while he watched horror movies and you slept, where there were dozens of sink baths and the baby's first Halloween, his first Christmas, his birth day and his first birthday, where you laboured in the shower and in the living room and over two interminable nights, where you meet this person who is now in your bloodstream, and evicted is weeping because you have to close the door on those spaces and never see them again.

Evicted is fighting with your husband because we don't know where to go, where to live, how to live, and because there is no union in your wants, there is wanting in your union. Evicted is dancing in your mother-in-law's kitchen, swinging the baby over your head with a smile on your face and then bursting into tears as you spin him low, because while her house is beautiful, it's not your home. Evicted is resenting her beige walls, not because they're beige, but because you don't have any walls of your own.

Evicted is grief, the loss of a home, a house, an address. Evicted is suspending magazine subscriptions and using your in-laws as a mailing address. It's suitcases on the floor, lined up and lids neatly flipped down so things look tidy. It's a milk crate that doubles as a bedside table, and a pile of things—books, cards, an iPod, a jar full of markers—that make you feel safe. Evicted is not knowing where you packed the library books.

Evicted is anger, rage, frustration, hopelessness. It's low morale and wild mood swings. It's spending rent money on things that might make you feel okay, because when you're staying with your in-laws, you don't have to pay rent, so it feels like there's some windfall. Evicted is thinking about ways to pay them back for a month (maybe more, hold your breath) of free lodgings. Evicted is hearing the baby cry in the middle of the night and getting out of bed as fast as you can, because you don't want to disturb everyone's sleep. It's whisper-fighting, it's long silences, it's sleeping on opposite sides of your double mattress. It's undereye bags and eye twitches. It's long walks to get out of the house. It's cooking in someone else's kitchen, keeping everything so clean, so neat, please don't notice we're here, please don't be mad at the space we're taking up.

Evicted is an unexpected rush of shame, of embarrassment. It's another thing in a line of things—sick parents, bad births—that make you wonder, "Is this a bad time, or do I have a bad life?" It's wondering if you have done something to deserve this, and if so, how to reverse it. It's trying to remember if you've stolen stones from scared burial grounds, and if so, which ones. It's thinking about how you will talk to your son about why you had to leave his first home. It's being blessed that people took us—him—in. It's an emotion so loud and unshaped, roaring and buffeting the inside of your head, that it deafens you everything else, joy especially. It is trying to figure out how this story ends, and not having an answer.

Evicted is more than storage units, more than boxes, more than crashing at the in-laws, more than moving. It is fear. It is heartbreak. It is rage.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Where We're At

My life is basically on fire right now: between 24/7 childcare duties, part-time work that is just a weensy bit unboundaried, being evicted, househunting, the snowstorm, a baby who is learning how to walk/unlearning how to sleep, and also the general day-to-day grind of it being almost, but not quite, the end of winter...I am tired. I think I'm actually doing okay, emotionally, right now, but I'm also looking forward to having my midlife crisis/breakdown sometime in the next 18 months. Once we get unpacked, of course.

Anyway, because this blog is my neglected friend who still loves me despite the fact that I never call and never write, and when I do show I'm all disheveled and distracted, I'm here to write a very haphazard list of things that are sustaining me, or non-mom things I'm thinking about, through this tire-fire of a financial quarter.

1. Soma chocolate. I keep some gingerbread toffee from Christmastime beside my bed, and every now and then I remember it's there, and I eat two glorious bites. (Don't be fooled into thinking I'm some sort of chocolate aesthete, though. I mainline a Cadbury's bar every other day. "Why can't I lose this baby weight?" It's a mystery, truly.)

2. The New Yorker. My ability to read any kind of book is basically nonexistent right now, so I lean heavily on The New Yorker to make me feel smart. Their arts writing in particular is such a luscious, nourishing slice of heaven—last year's profile of Michael Heizer, the recent profile of Catherine Opie, even the interview with Jack White (in which he talks about the talismanic power of three in his creative practice); all are helping me stumble forward in my own self-conception as an artist. I realize that this sounds self-indulgent at best and insane at worst, but after a decade of saying "I want my spaces to look this way, I want my clothes to tell this story," I'm starting to realize that I can recast all that as being in service to a larger through-line in life, and that feels pretty delicious.

3. I'm currently running a March Madness-style poll on my Facebook page, in which I attempt to goad my friends into narrowing a list of 32 films down into the Ultimate Feel-Good Movie. It's so much fun.

4. The third Baby Dance Party is coming up this weekend, and I'm getting a new phone from my earnings. Lord knows I've made my poor Galaxy Nexus suffer long enough. I will miss you, little friend. Remember that one time someone posted a picture of a spider on Twitter and it scared me so bad I dropped you on the bathroom floor and cracked your poor screen? And instead of replacing it or feeling bad, I then just thought of it as being "a reason not to take my phone if I got mugged"? That was very silly. Also, your camera was terrible.

5. I am feeling all these feelings about my body, which is basically: Okay, now I am a fat mom, so what am I going to to about it? Because right now, in this season of my life, I don't have the time or the space to work out. Normally, I exercise at home, but it's hard to do on a hardwood floor that creaks like a fucking horror movie all day long, because just breathing weird from two rooms over will wake this baby up, so forget about a floor that makes it sound like a pile of lumber falling off the side of a boat. And the snow and the cold make it very unappealing to do long summer-style walks. And I eat chocolate all the time. And muffins. And brownies. And I'm not exactly mad at it, but I am just very aware that the longer this shape and weight lingers, the tougher it will be to dispense of it. And I'm just so body-tired all the time. My back hurts. My wrists hurt. I am not in dance- or yoga-shape. I am unbendy. It's shitty, because two years ago I was in the best damn shape of my entire life, and I knew it, but I took it for granted. I can get it back. And now? I am...not. And I can't figure out which reserves to draw from to make the changes, because it feels like all my reserves are tapped.

6. Building on #2, Abstract, on Netflix, has been so inspiring and cool. I love how confident all these designers are; like, they show up, and they do their jobs—well, because they're at the top of their game—and they're pretty humble but not falsely so, and the stories that they tell are just astounding. I need a push, a change, a new direction. I love being a mom and being a writer, but I want to change the shape of the world. So: How?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Things That Happened in 2016


January: The big news this year was the birth of Noah Stanley Kochany Cinovskis, baby extraordinaire. He arrived at the top of 2016, January 25, six days late and after three days of fuckin' back labour that had me seriously questioning how many kids I want ("zero" no longer being an available number). I had an emergency C-section. I didn't poop for a week. The baby had trouble latching but we got him fed. It was cold but not insanely cold. So: solid B, overall.

The other big thing has been my father's recovery from his brain tumour, a metastatic melanoma that reared up three days before last Christmas. He had emergency brain surgery at the tail end of last year. The day before our baby was born, my dad started radiation therapy. My sister moved back to Ontario, quitting her job in Calgary to be here. M and I were useless and distracted with the final weeks of my pregnancy and Noah's birth. Also! David Bowie died.

In January, everything felt edgy and extremely emotional, which is basically the theme of 2016: Edgy and Extremely Emotional (E&EE).

February: I spend a lot of time thinking about moving to the forest and starting a commune. Every time I close my eyes, I'm picturing tiny houses, ringed at the edge of a field, each with a nook to sleep and a place to park a laptop, where the membrane between inside and outside is thin. This is the first time I think seriously about leaving Toronto, and the idea, in various permutations and executions, will be a motif for me this entire year. I feel so depleted, and the idea of recharging in this city seems totally impossible.

March: My parents housesit in Etobicoke and we spend a bunch of time in their white-leather living room, wondering who, exactly, decorated this house. I take the baby to the One of a Kind show and it's like going out with the Beatles in 1964. Women are elbowing each other out of the way to fawn over him. I leave with a dozen butter tarts and a newfound appreciation for personal space. I do a workout for the first time since NS was born and cry because my body feels so irrevocably unsame.

April: The days are all of the same: we sleep, sort of; we walk a lot; we eat a lot; we try to get the baby to sleep. Buds appear on trees and our jackets stay in our closets, but it feels like time out of time. Looking back at the spring, it feels like something we survived. New moms on Instagram who are seeing other people's beautiful babies and weirdly flat stomachs and fun brunches, while you have a screaming infant who doesn't sleep and who just pooped on your last clean pair of sweatpants? Take heart, you are not alone in feeling like you were sold a bill of goods. This is a tough era, the first three months. I kind of can't believe we got through it.

May: I launch The Stroller Derby, which is where I've been writing for most of the year. It's fun to have a different outlet—my mom voice, which is different from my Hipsters voice—but I also miss writing this blog, too. This year's creative output has been...compromised, shall we say.

June: Mike goes back to work. It's weird and hard to be alone with Noah all day, but it's also fun and easy, in other ways. His sleep is all over the place. Naps take so much energy to make happen that by the time Mike gets home from work, I am spent. He's also spent, because night sleep isn't much better. I miss him, but I'm also glad to have my alone time again—only now, they're snatched moments instead of hours. I spend a lot of time walking Noah in the stroller.

July: Sleep deprivation. Hard. Worse than anything. There's a moment where I go into Noah's room for the third—fourth? fifth?—time that night, and a tree taps gently on his window, and I am convinced and terrified that it's a murderer. I have panic attacks. I'm seeing things out of the corners of my eyes: a backpack in the corner transforms into a severed head. I feel utterly broken. Ultimately, we sleep train Noah, because we have to: I am really losing my mind. I feel so upset about this, though. I wanted so desperately to give him everything, to never hold myself back. But I can't give him my sanity, because he needs me to have it. I feel lonely and like my mom friends with judge me, so I get weirdly evangelical about the benefits, even if it's just to my husband and neighbour, both of whom sleep trained, too. This feels like such a dark time of the year.

August: I spend a week in Stratford, saying a slow goodbye to the place my parents lived for almost twenty years. It is time to sell that house. Five bedrooms is a lot of bedrooms for a family of two, but my siblings and I have a tendency to rotate home every now and then, and it feels sad to lose this huge house, surrounded by trees and friendly neighbours, in a small town studded with coffee shops and nice little bistros. Even though I haven't lived there in years, my parents' move feels like a real loss to me. I spend a few weeks obsessing about moving to a small town, walking the trails, working in a little shop or at a relaxed firm.

September: I start group therapy at Mt. Sinai, because my post-natal anxiety was pretty heinous. It was kind of a big shrug, if I'm honest, but it was nice to feel supported, and like I wasn't alone. Mental health issues have always been a rough area for me, but since my 20s I've been getting better at insisting on help, and refusing to feel any shame for needing it. Anyway, this was more of that.

October: We dress up like witches for Halloween and hit two separate kid parties. It feels very parental. I do some heavy emotional work with a friend with whom my relationship hit the skids right before NS was born, and it feels so hard that about seven different times I feel like saying. "Fuck it, let's not be friends any more!" but that's not the right answer. After a lot of emailing and some in-person talks, we feel more settled, but holy mother, that was hard.

November: I threw my first event, a dance party for parents and babies. I rented out Buddies in Bad Times, sold tickets, made a playlist...all the things you do when you're throwing an party. This was a prime example of "fake it 'til you make it," because I didn't even really think that hard about what I was doing; I knew if I did, I would start to second-guess myself and get imposter syndrome. So I just kind of did it. And you know what? It was awesome. I got some critiques (about hours, how to make the event friendlier to queer families, about the music), but I also got great feedback from parents who were like, "THANK YOU, I just wanted to go dancing one more time before my children graduate middle school." Also, Donald Trump won the 2016 American election, and everyone started barfing and panicking and have not stopped.

December: We host Christmas dinner. We fight a lot. We make up. We buy each other cookies. We let each other sleep in. We drink tea. We play Peggle. The baby gets his first cold. I make resolutions. I look at the baby while he nurses, half-dreaming, and I cannot even begin to tell you about all the different ways my life—my heart—has exploded and shimmered and ended and begun this past year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Your Season of Yes: Winter 2016 Horoscopes



Aquarius: Have you read Ta-Nehisi Coates's "My President Was Black"? I'm reading it now; it's a pretty powerful look at all the ways Blackness and authorship, narrative, expectation, self, America, Trump, racism, and power intersect. The usual stuff, these days. Your soul-assignment, Aquarius, is to read the things that challenge you to be outside yourself. If you go angry, read gentle. If you skew easy, read hard. Read things that make you put the book down on the edge of the tub and stare balefully at the floor for a minute. Pile up books beside your bed, tuck them into your bag on your way to work, read after dinner instead of browsing Netflix. Be different people, for a while.

Pisces: One of my friends has this marvelous tradition of buying his friends flowers when they graduate. I love this! It's so thoughtful and sweet, but also lovely because flowers aren't something you're beholden to. You don't have to find them a spot in your kitchen or pack them the next time you move. There's something to be said for ephemeral forms of friendship, you know? Maybe it's time to do a little floating in your own relationships, Pisces. Not get too bogged down in all the stuff.

Aries: The city of Toronto installed bike lanes on Bloor Street this past year, a victory for cyclists who had been asking for the protection for...a decade? More? They went whole-hog, too: nice big plastic bollards and a wide lane for cruisers and speed demons alike. I used to avoid Bloor Street when I was biking, but now, I head towards it, confident that I can have my own slice of the road. A city-sponsored slice, at that. It's kind of an amazing feeling: free, yet insulated. What are the things that you head towards that make you feel that way, Aries? And when was the last time you made the trip?


Taurus: Ancient Icelanders had a lot of different runes, but most of them had to do with the same few basic needs: sleep, warding off enemies, calming strife, healing from injuries. I love the power and mysticism embedded in a few lines, and the ancient runes are still in use today, albeit more often as tattoos and design elements than in actual spell-casting. But wouldn't it be amazing if a few shapes, drawn in dust or blood or snow or sand, had the power to change things, even if only in a few key areas? What runic magic would you invoke, Taurus? What lines would you draw?

Gemini: Over the past few years, my husband and I have bought each other gifts of comfort and caring: bike helmets, sweatpants, cozy clothes. Slipping into something fleecy and warm at the end of a chilly winter's day can be about as good a tonic as a cold glass of water in July, or an early-morning coffee after a tossy-turny night. We often underestimate the power of simple material comfort, like fresh sheets or a favourite shirt, but they can be so powerful in creating just a little bit of softness in a hard day.

Cancer: I bought the baby a book with a finger puppet crab in the middle of it, like a little orange softy poking out of the centre. It's pretty cute, as crabs go. It frolics on the beach, plays in tide pools, naps with its family. I mean, crabs don't really "frolic" or "nap" or whatever...but sometimes it's so nice to feel like even crabs are making decisions and engaging in self-care and just, like, having a nice day, you know?

Leo: The concept of forest schools is one that just fascinates me. Are you familiar with this? Basically, you pay someone a lot of money—like, a lot of money, Montessori-preschool amounts of money—to dress your kids up in rain gear and then go hang out in the forest. Sometimes there's structure, like going to check out a beaver dam or look for mushrooms. Other times, it's self-directed play: kids hanging out with each other, figuring out how to be human beings, together, in the forest. There are no desks, no reading corners, no math lessons. It's just nature. And you know what? It makes me wish that I, too, could attend a forest school. The thought of being out in the trees, on the beach, near the dunes, next to the escarpment, wherever our forest school would be, is so goddamn appealing that I barely have the words for it.

Virgo: Time to start your Fuck Off Fund, my darlings. Whatever is coming your way is going to heavy and mysterious, knocking you right out of your shoes. You need cash money to deal with it: to take the time off work, to make the emergency move, to eat out for a week because your fridge is under a foot of water or encased in ice or something. I hate to be catastrophic, but if you don't have a FOF, you're basically waving a red flag at a bullish universe.

Libra: In the wake of the US election, I've been thinking a lot about Woman Island. Who would I invite to this femme-topia? Solange, obviously. Anjelica Huston. Octavia Butler? Kate McKinnon! The women who surround themselves with undeniable female energy, who are powerfully, undeniably, unapologetically women. I mean, I have no problem with men—they're useful, to a point—but most of them lack that vivacious verve that comes from growing up in a system that either hates you or ignores you and deciding, Fuck it, I'm going to take the wheel anyway. Woman Island, man. Invite only.

Scorpio: We are nearing the winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Last year on the Solstice, my dad had a stroke, a brain bleed, a metastatic cancer episode, and it was so long, and so dark. He's still here—changed, yes, but present and himself—and the gift of him is all I wanted them and it's all I want now. Dark things happen in the dark, my loves. But the best thing about the Solstice is that it's as bad as it gets. Tomorrow, the day becomes longer, by seconds at first, and then hours. Darkness comes, darkness goes. We'll always have night time, and we'll always have some daylight.

Sagittarius: There comes a point, midway through every single knitting project I start, when I absolutely hate knitting. Doesn't matter if it's a pair of socks or a vest, I'm like I am having the worst time in the whole world, this is so boring and slow. And then I turn on a podcast and I keep knitting, and you know what? It continues to be boring. But at the end of it, I have whatever beautiful project I was working on, all done and blocked and tucked away in a drawer to be pulled out. And every time I pull those things out, I don't remember the tedium; I remember how damned proud I am of the finished project.

Capricorn: Death Valley is a horrible place, pretty much empirically. It's hot, it's barren, it's full of plants that want to stab you death and bugs with far too many legs. But every ten years or so, forces collide and the valley erupts in a "superbloom," a pointillist masterpiece of wildflowers. From a distance, it looks like a haze; these aren't the flashy blooms of, say, a Dutch tulip farm. This are delicate little buds, whose time only comes once in a while. If you're a fan of subtlety in your natural phenomena, make plans to be in places where tiny, hazy miracles happen every so often.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Heartbeats


A year ago, my husband and I walked with my parents beside a waterfall, working up the nerve to share our news. We hadn't written a script or talked about how we would tell them, and finally, more out of sheer nerves than anything else, M and I pulled them into a family huddle, four heads together, and whispered, "We're pregnant!"

The heart expands.

A year ago, my parents called me and told me to get M, and the two of us sat in the living room, holding hands like children, and listened as they explained that my dad's old melanoma had slipped between the healthy cells and made new homes in his lungs, in his soft places. Things would be different now.

The heart contracts.

There's an illustration that surfaces every now and then, that says, "Nothing in nature blooms all year," a reminder to go gentle on yourself in hard or fallow times. There are seasons when great wild things burst forth and everything is possible; there are seasons when the trees hold dead fingers against a gray sky and it seems that nothing will be possible again. And so it is with our bodies, with ourselves, our lives.

I am exhausted. The last year has been earthquake after earthquake until the ground beneath my feet is silt and I am drowning. My dad is sick. The birth of our son was such a trauma that I still cry when I think about it—my old dream of a big family seems impossible now. Money has been strangle-hold tight for months. I am overworked: even downtime when NS is sleeping or playing on his own is eaten up by my job. I am lonely. My family home is on the market; the farm where M and I got married will be sold next. Relationships have ebbed: starting back in November, I've been told by friends and family members that I'm mean, that I'm not grateful enough, that I don't share the conversational air, that I have shut them out.

And maybe I have. I sleep so little and I work so much. Some days, the only thing that keeps me alive is that, if I went, there would be no-one to feed the baby. It's hard to stay peppy and bright, it's hard to stay kind, it's hard to stay present. It's not all bad. There are moments of joy among the grief. But right now, it's a lot of grief.

Everything has changed. The deal I had with my parents—that they would never die—has been broken. The deal I had with my body—that it would behave and deliver—has been shredded. The deal I had with myself—that I would ask for help—has fluttered away on the wings of all the relationships I seem to have mangled. I know this all sounds so dramatic and over the top, but I'm really struggling to find good things right now. Add in the news, add in the heat, add in all the daily terrors of life.

Once, after another heartbreak season, my dad called me up and said, "Let's go to San Francisco for the weekend." I said "What?" and he said, "Come on, let's just go!" So we went to San Francisco for three days: picked over the bins at Amoeba Records, walked the Golden Gate Bridge, stopped into silly museums, watched No Country for Old Men, drank Fat Tire beer. On Saturday, we took the train under the bay and emerged in Oakland, the home of Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse, where we had dinner. But it wasn't Chez Panisse, exactly: it was the auxiliary cafe upstairs. And it wasn't dinner, exactly: we got the last seating of the night, so we sat down for a meal at nearly quarter to ten, on the cusp of the kitchen's last orders. I don't remember what we ate; I remember laughing as we ran, half-drunk, to the BART station in order to catch the last train back to the city.

Once, after another heartbreak season, I took my tiny son out in his stroller—his bright lemonade yellow stroller, so different from all the blacks and grays that I usually surround myself with—and we roamed around the city for a while, doing errands and meeting friends. On the platform of the bus station, as we waited for our ride home, I reached down absently and gently ran my fingernails up the soles of his feet. To my surprise and delight, he let out a giggle, and then a roar as I did it again. Soon, I was laughing, and he was laughing, and when I looked around the bus platform, I saw a dozen other people laughing too.

Nothing in nature blooms year-round. This week, I feel stuck and dirty and dire and alone. I know that my dad feels that way too—and my sister, and my brother, and my mom, all of whom carry this burden, and others. I am tired. I am lonely. I feel like the worst possible version of myself, and that everyone knows it.

Sometimes, when I nurse the baby, I imagine the two of us enveloped in a shimmering cocoon of white and purple light: a shower of love and safety for us. I imagine it for him, protecting him against the world, or at least softening the heartache when his own earthquakes start to roar. For now, though, I carry him over the cracks, and I hope that our shimmering love is enough to keep him safe. It's all I can do. I hope it's enough.

The heart expands, contracts, expands again.

Image by Esra Roise