Monday 18 December 2023

November/December redux

 Oof, here we are, winding down 2023.

I wanted November to be quiet. It mostly was. We all got sick with a nasty respiratory something mid-month. Other than that....

We have been very busy with activities, especially dancing. I waxed nostalgic today about my childhood memories; you can read that here.  Sometimes I get the urge to record things before they have slipped out of my consciousness and other people's, and my memories of my first ballet teacher feel like they are right on the edge of such a loss.  "Madame" has her place in history, but it feels like it won't outlast the people with living memories of her. Also that is why this will be a short entry. I feel like I have to write something before the end of 2023 but I already used up most of the creative energy.

December has been pretty simple, and should continue that way. The girls had their school Christmas concerts last week. Very cute. I did not video record them; I just watched and enjoyed the moment. We had a short visit from USA - mother-in-law this past weekend. Next weekend we are going to see The Nutcracker with our friends. I am looking forward to that. Other than that, no plans other than Christmas Day dinner with family, and whatever happens on my birthday the day after.

I think all the Christmas presents are bought. The cards are written, but have yet to be put into the post. Sometime this week. But apparently nobody else is any quicker than me, because we have only received two cards. Oh well. I am sending them anyway. I've sent Christmas cards for at least 20 years. Even though it's a lot of work, choosing not to send cards would involve making a decision and that feels like more work. 

No travel. I am grateful for opportunities to travel, but also grateful to....not. 

I am trying very hard to slow down this month and not pack every day with as many things as I can do until it bulges. Less bulgy days! I think I'm succeeding.

Some things are worth doing. I have a fitness membership (somewhat underused lately) and I had a birthday coupon this month. I invited a friend I don't see too often to come do something with me. She chose meditation. We did that last Friday. Sometimes I do something with/for a friend and it feels like I've really made a difference to them. It's a glorious warm feeling, plus the meditation was very well-timed.

We are missing the girls' last dance class because AJ has caught a minor (I hope) gastrointestinal something. But luckily I had my crocheted gift projects for the teachers done last week, so it doesn't matter much. Also, I wish kids' activities would end at the beginning of December. There's just so many other things to do; it would be nice if we had one less place to go on weeknights, and didn't have to worry about (not) practicing piano. My stepdance teacher (who teaches only adults) ended classes at the end of November. Brilliant. I love stepdancing but you know what, it's just nice to do less in December.

Oh well. It's not up to me and we made the choice for the kids to be involved in lots of stuff. It's still a good choice.

So far, this December is a helluva lot better than last year, which completely went off the rails. I don't even want to talk about it: writing out all the things that went wrong would give them too much energy, and I refuse to do that. But suffice it to say I have really good motivation to focus on health and mindfulness this year.

Crochet happiness:

One of the keychain shoes I made for the girls' and my dance teachers (unfortunately only photographed one of the them) This pattern is my own invention, and it's very easy once I figure out how to understand my own written instructions.

My interest this year is amigurumi

My ambitious project: a Ukrainian doll that will be a donation to January's silent auction (if it turns out: so far so good)

Next, I plan on making two ballerina bears for AJ and Dani, which are a somewhat simpler pattern, but still really cute.

My "going to bed" project, for myself: easy, comfortable and repetitive. Dark green triangular shawl.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Saturday 4 November 2023

October in the rear view mirror

My one wish for November (so far) is that it is quiet and boring.

October was not boring. The notable events:

Last summer AJ expressed a wish for a combined Halloween / birthday party. She felt very passionately about this so we agreed to embrace the project. It finally came to fruition the last weekend in October. We had Gothic lace, a big hairy spider with a strong resemblance to Dani, mini pumpkin painting, and an escape room in the basement with puzzles designed by Mr. Turtle.

Spiderweb lace:

How things looked before guests arrived:

How things looked after the party:

It was a great success. AJ said it was her best birthday ever and her friends enjoyed all the activities. The kids were great at socializing and nobody was left out. Some new friendships even appeared to form between guests. Having hosted parties at other locations and parties at home, I have to say there is something more friendly about home parties. You share something of yourself with your guests when they come to your home that you don’t share in other places. It was also exhausting. I’m not sure exactly when we will finish cleaning up, but maybe next week when we have some extra days off.

Also at the end of October: the new car was delivered. In the big picture of things, of course I was happy we could buy a new, reliable car, as my second hand 2006 car was coming apart bit by bit.  But I still wished I could have become the old lady driving her 40 year old car. I’m just not excited about change and leaving my comfort zone when it comes to cars.

But, though the first few drives were tense, I am (fingers crossed) adjusting to the new vehicle (a small SUV) and even liking it. It’s a cyborg car, which I’m not used to, but all the new features don’t seem too bad. I like the funny dramatic music it plays at the beginning and end of every drive. The lane assist and blind spot alarms make me feel like I’m driving with a nervous robot, but I’m a nervous person so we get along. My car is now in a relationship with my smartphone, which I don’t really see the point of, but humans are not consulted about these things. The most amusing feature is the  dashboard notification “The leading vehicle is driving away” which pops up if I don’t accelerate within a couple of seconds of the car in front. I laugh but we all know why this feature was invented, although I don’t text and drive.

Other events:
  • AJ passed another swim level
  • Dance and music classes continued. Girls appear to be enjoying themselves and so am I, mostly.  So far I’ve only missed 2 stepdance classes due to my illness or other people’s. I have a good time at my classes once I get there. But I sometimes dread the commuting.
  • At school, things have settled into a routine and the start-up work is completed. I’m very happy with my team and we are very organized and responsive to our group of learners. Students and teachers are learning and enjoying themselves, most of the time. What a difference from last year, when I had completely given up on collaboration and was reduced to asking for a work divorce. It makes a huge difference when the right people are in the right jobs.
  • The aches and pains I had during the summer finally seem to have gone away, and I feel pretty good in my body. Yoga might have helped. Exceptions: another bout of bronchitis, which has become annoyingly common (last one was beginning of the summer). Also, the darkening days of November make me want to find a warm hole to crawl into with a pile of snacks and just sleep.
  • Books/reading: I’m re-reading and enjoying Jennifer Homans’ history of ballet, Apollo’s Angels. This had to have been a very challenging project for her as it's not like there are recordings of ballets from centuries past, so she has to do a sort of combined social/political/artistic history and look at many facets of life and culture. But as a lifelong amateur dancer I relate to her writing: could easily be a whole other blog entry.
  • Media: I read several bloggers regularly, the most interesting of which avoid easy categorization. While not a blog, this recent article is an engaging analysis of the sort of topics that I typically read about, and goes some way toward explaining decisions I make in my own and my family's life. That is, in so far as such things are explainable (I think one should never over-estimate one's own or other people's power to explain anything).
  •  I’m also listening to my regular podcasts, but my most regular listening these days is the verse by verse reading of the Bible on The Whole Counsel of God. I have not had much success reading the Bible on my own but I really like the reading and commentary together in Fr. De Young’s enthusiastic, nerdy style.
  • It snowed a couple weeks ago and my streak of  getting the kids to school on time was broken. I will try to get back on top of it next week; between the party and the new car and coping with each day I had no extra energy and I was not giving up my ten minutes on the couch with a cup of coffee for love or money.
So, basically, it’s all good, but I’m going to aim to be under scheduled most weekends in November. Less plans, more spontaneity, just less in general. If that continues into December, I think I’m good with that too.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

And now it is October: ‘23

Autumn is so dazzlingly beautiful. We have been ignoring the yard work and enjoying the mellow weather and glorious colours.

AJ asked me: “Is there anything you don’t like about fall?” and all I could say is, It’s always too short.

Everything will be fading soon. Maybe it is already. But we are decorating for Halloween. And the day after the Halloween decorations go down, the Christmas lights will go up.

(By unspoken majority agreement on our street, there is no waiting to decorate for any holiday. Delayed gratification is not a thing. All the pumpkins, all the sparkle, all the ways to light the darkness.)

Friday 29 September 2023

That was September: short version

Well, we are back into the regular routine of things and maybe getting a hunch of how the rest of the year might shape up, whether you count that as the 3 months left of 2023 or the 9 months left of the academic year.

Seems like I’m often sick when I write in my blog, because that’s when I have the time and inclination to sit around writing. And this time is no exception. I think we had about a week of school before people started saying: “I / my child / my spouse / my students seem to have a scratchy throat/runny nose/headache.” Everybody made a heroic effort at denial and taking their Vitamin C. Well, I never got around to buying Vitamin C so I just doubled down on the denial.

But finally I took Thursday off and spent the day sleeping and watching Lord of the Rings. Today however Mr Turtle is also sick and it is a holiday (newly invented in Canada) so the girls are home. I’m doing a few chores, drinking large amounts of coffee and black tea to stay awake, and making a cursory effort to discourage the girls from taking the house apart. 

But other than the recent illness I think our first month of school went ok. The students who don’t have a ton of complicated and disruptive stuff in their lives have settled in. The ones that do have complicated disruptive stuff are of course less settled, and we are trying to figure out how to accommodate/support them. I’d say the biggest challenges this year are attendance, mental health, and low adaptive skills. Basically all the stuff that has no quick or easy fix. It’s early days though, and we have a very good team this year, so I’m reasonably optimistic.

Our family schedule appears manageable, and so far I have even gotten the kids to school on time every single day!  Our evening activities have been enjoyable. But it’s been very busy.

I wrote out in detail what our week is like and then decided I don’t want to publish it on the blog. In summary, the kids have two weekday evenings  of activities, and I have two weekday evenings of activities, and there’s a lot of moving parts to make it all happen.  I’m hoping that it all is relationship-, skill- and reality- enhancing. I’m still worried it could just be exhausting.

We also had out of town in laws visit for two weekends. And I have a few friends dealing with some major stuff in their lives, which challenges me to think of how to support them. 

We also bought a car, after a day of test driving where I pretended to be brave. Of course these days you don’t just drive a car off a lot. It should arrive early next month. Meantime fingers crossed my car holds out till the new one is here. The check engine light came on shortly after we chose the new car, so Mr Turtle and I exchanged cars. He doesn’t drive the kids around the city during the week so he can cope with a car that might break down any minute; I cannot/will not. But so far so good.

The weather has been very pleasant, if dry, and the fall colours are glowing. Halloween plans start soon. And we will try to scrape together the energy this weekend to keep making the story of our lives an interesting one.

Wednesday 30 August 2023


Slowly we transition back into school life and activities (not too busy yet, hurrah).

This photo is emblematic of the fact that all of us really love our morning routine, and me and the girls especially detest being rushed (which sometimes causes problems when we are trying to be on time for something.)

You just gotta have that time, you know?

Sunday 27 August 2023

Summer collage

It’s the last evening of summer (for me) and we are currently at our local rec centre waiting for the movie in the park to begin. Friends haven’t shown up yet and I forgot to bring my crochet, so….blog entry!

It’s been a good summer, although I’m also excited for the autumn and ready for the next thing….mostly, anyway.

Nothing particularly profound is coming to mind so here are a few bullet points. May add photos later.

What we’ve been up to:

Around the house:
  • Everybody has been hearing me brag about this all summer, and I make no apologies. I bought a tomato plant and a pepper plant from a fundraiser this spring, on impulse. They lived and grew real fruit! We have harvested/eaten three of the tomatoes and three more are on the plant. The pepper plant has a total of one pepper (I think the one bad hailstorm damaged its other flowers) but it’s still fun to see it grow.
  • We finally did some major decluttering, hiring a truck to haul away old broken things. We have a much a cleaner garage and storage room, and I am delighted….once I got over the strange anxiety that I experienced from finally doing this thing I wanted to do for so long.
  • I have been crocheting so many things this summer. Gothic lace for me and AJ, for Halloween. Navy and purple ponchos for the girls. A black lace ballet shawl for me, to wrap around my hips during my dance classes. I took a ballet class this summer and the teacher wore a shawl like that and I have to try out her style. Photos when projects finished/blocked.
  • I had an idea for a collage of the girls’ art, using big pieces of recycled cardboard. But I haven’t got around to it yet.
  • As mentioned above, I took an adult ballet class this summer which was great. I wanted to do something to be in shape for the start of fall dance season, but really I don’t need an excuse to take ballet. I deeply appreciated that it was within walking distance of my house so I usually walked there and back on the lovely summer evenings.
  • I also took a barre fitness class at the gym where we bought a family membership in the spring. Good for strength and getting my heart rate up! I think I can hold a plank for longer than I used to.
  • We did a lot of pool visits as a family. The girls are both getting confident in the water and AJ can swim independently, albeit she has more to work on for technique and stamina.
  • We returned to a favourite hiking spot.
  • The girls finally got back on their bikes. AJ was really reluctant. Last summer was difficult for me as we were transitioning my mom to assisted living and we never got out on our bikes at all. I just sort of forgot about it. So this year AJ had to learn to balance all over again and she kept saying she didn’t want to learn. I had to insist that she stick with it. It’s the less warm and fuzzy part of parenting. But she finally did and of course she figured it out and is enjoying it. Cycling is wonderful, so inexpensive and freeing so I want the girls to have that opportunity.
  • I gave myself a few aches and pains from weeding and working in our gnarly yard, and maybe also from enthusiastic participation in barre class. I recovered stronger though.
  • I got a nasty bug bite last weekend that got infected, but luckily it responded to medication.
  • Mr Turtle has been in much better health and has some decisions to make re: medications (as in maybe he can stop them or at least cut back on them.)
  • Sadly the health news from friends has not been so good. My former co-teacher, with whom I worked closely up till last year, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a strong advocate for herself and is getting good care, as far as I know. But it is upsetting as she is younger than me (just turned 40 and got married last year) and her mother died of cancer in 2020.
  • At the beginning of the summer, I received deeply disturbing news from an old friend. She had moved away with her husband in 2017, so our conversations are sporadic, though we are still in touch. But she shared the news that her husband, after some months of “breathing problems,” was in the ICU, in an induced coma, on a respirator….with an illness that had no diagnosis or explanation.  The good news is, he did get incrementally better and they are now back home.
  • I know I’m not super young anymore and maybe getting news like this goes with the territory, but I don’t know….it’s hard to wrap my mind around.  I still want the acceptance of mortality to be strictly theoretical, not applied and lived.
Family and friends:
  • The girls have had a good summer. We spent a lot of time just hanging out, and they also did two day camp programs, for a total of two weeks. (Sailing camp for AJ, a variety camp for Dani, and then music camp for both of them together.) They are both very excited for the start of school! And it’s such a good school, hurrah.
  • I used my kid-free hours to connect with friends, which was lovely (walking, talking, random shopping) and to work with Mr Turtle on our clean up project. We had a list of about 5 projects we could do and we had time and energy for one of them. We also ate at all our favourite brunch restaurants and went for long walks every day.
  • We saw a fair bit of extended family: family reunion in July, a week long visit from my mother in law, and a weekend trip North-ish in the province for an aunt’s birthday party where the girls got to meet two of their second cousins, who happen to be boys (most of the children in their generation are girls!). They got along awesomely.
  • I've been doing pretty good with reading this summer and actually finished 4 non fiction books. I may write about later on my other blog. There is a fiction book I want to read, so I may buy it for myself as a reward. 
I think that mostly covers it. Alas, I feel this entry is very scattered and probably doesn’t do justice to any of the things I mentioned, which are all very interesting or provoking to me in and of themselves. But anyway, I’ve marked time, which is moving on. Back to work tomorrow, which I feel pretty good about: compared to this time last year, I feel like I have less to worry and wonder about.

I am super excited for our dance season especially my new Ukrainian dance class. Both the girls are also joining new levels.  We are going to be very busy and active, but it’s good, for health and socially, I think. Plus, dance is magical.

The will and effort to find a new car continues, and the goal is to have one before it gets dark and cold and snowy. Driving has been a challenge for me lately, as in I have so much anxiety, though no more breakdowns or issues. It also feels like people are just awfully antsy and prone to do stupid things on the road: when I am frequently seeing accidents, even though not involved in them, it’s not doing much for my confidence.

Still, overall, stepping into autumn and the new school year with a reasonable amount of optimism and energy. Onward!

Wednesday 12 July 2023

New Era

Summer has bloomed, and we’ve begun it with visits and connections and tidying and delightful leisure opportunities. And there are a few rents in the fabric that lead to darker places, because that is inevitable. But, all that can wait for another post or posts.

Meanwhile I wanted to note the end of one era and the beginning of another.

Back in August 2015 I noted with a lot of relief that we had found 9 month old AJ a childcare spot. I was returning to teaching in September. I got the call while sitting on an airplane (AJ’s first flight) en route to visit my parents at their summer home (the only time we would ever go there with my dad, though we didn’t know that at the time).

A little over 3 years later, in December of 2018, I withdrew AJ from BrightPath. She was 4 years old, Dani was a baby and I was on maternity leave. I was surprisingly sad to leave behind her daycare community. 
As I wrote at length here, it was like leaving part of our village behind. But there was a hope of a continued connection in that Dani might attend the same daycare. 

Well. As it turned out, Dani did attend Brightpath. And she followed in her sister’s footsteps by thriving there. No words can ever fully express how much it means to have a place where I knew my children would not just get basic supervision but a stimulating, affectionate environment. Our trust never felt misplaced.

Because time does not stand still, it was time for another goodbye at the end of June. Dani goes to kindergarten in the fall. I remember what a big deal it seemed for AJ to go to kindergarten. This time around it feels more like known territory. But her preschool years are over forever.

Dani got to have a preschool graduation, which was adorable. And she was one of two students who led the group singing O Canada. That was probably my favourite moment, in addition to the other song number all the children performed. I didn’t know anything about preschool graduation when AJ was the same age, so AJ never got to do her ceremony (she left in December).

Before becoming a mom, I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of a preschool graduation. But I am very glad that the daycare held this event. It’s so important to mark time. Sometimes you don’t have a
choice about the way in which things end and others begin, but when you do it’s important to be mindful of it. My childhood was without most of these ceremonial markers. It’s very important to me that my children have a richer social experience.

As I described in my my earlier emtry, I have a copy of Dr Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go for AJ and I ask her teachers to sign and leave a message in the book at end of every year. The idea is that it will be a graduation gift at the end of grade 12. I also bought one for Dani this year and inaugurated it last month. Smile and sigh. (I also made the decision last year to not keep the books a secret from the girls as I want them to read the messages their teachers write as they grow up.)

On the second last day of June Dani and I took doughnuts, lemonade and a card to the staff. I think I needed to do that for myself as much as for anyone else. I couldn’t just walk away. We promised to visit. I think we really will try; after all the daycare is in our community and on our regular paths. But those paths are getting broader and busier as the girls grow up. 

It’s exciting. I love being the parent of older kids. There’s so much we can do and learn! They have so many questions and observations and they are getting really, really good at so many things! I also see their young years in an evolving way as they grow. It becomes more obvious how important it is for both parents and tiny tots to have support as new beings. Going back even to pregnancy and birth. I hired a doula for both births and I am so glad I did, because I believe she profoundly affected how I experienced each event and the beliefs and feelings I carry forward about them. Both girls’ births were challenging for different reasons but I don’t experience them as traumatic or even as a means to an end, but as a triumph.

My use of the present tense is deliberate. We are always experiencing and re-creating our memories; they are not static. Every day is like a piece of a story; and the beginning of the story doesn’t matter less as the plot progresses.

Anyway. I treasure the preschool memories and experiences and I think the girls will remember with appreciation all the people who helped them flourish. 

Wednesday 21 June 2023

More rain, more sunshine

I'm enjoying this writing theme, where I live my life inside of the pathetic fallacy, projecting experiences and emotions onto the weather and season.

Today is the first day of summer, and the sun is out again in a blue sky, after a very cold and rainy final day of spring. Here is the stuff of my life, in the rough order of Least Enjoyable to More Enjoyable.

Continued....Car Drama!!

  • Last Friday I took the day off, and had a Highly Organized Day where among other things, I finally switched my winter tires to the all-seasons. (The previously scheduled day, more than a month ago, was canceled because the car was broken down in another city.)
  • On Monday, another cheerfully sunny day, I loaded up the kids as usual for school and drove off. I noticed the car seemed to be handling a bit differently. Was it vibrating? I wondered if the tires were coming loose. Had I left getting my lug nuts tightened for too late?! Still, it took a few minutes of my short commute to convince myself I wasn't imagining things. But the vibrating was getting worse and I finally pulled over. Whereupon I saw that one tire was very, very flat!
  • Ugh! Luckily we were close to my school and the girls' schools. I walked them both to school/daycare then called the AMA, for the second time in the space of a month. Within the hour the technician had my tire changed to the spare, and I drove to the tire shop to have the flat tire repaired, which is fully covered by my insurance.
  • ....Except, the tire was too badly damaged to be repaired. So, I would have to pay for a replacement, which would also have to be shipped from another city, meaning it would take a day to arrive. Ugh! I was down on myself for a while, feeling like this was partly my fault. I usually am rather obsessive about my tires, checking them for low pressure, taking the car to the garage to have them checked every few weeks. The ONE time (it felt) that I didn't do that, the dang tire went flat and I didn't notice in time!
  • Tuesday was cold and rainy, and we cancelled our class picnic in the park. Which I was not overly sad about, since we had already gone on two other very fun and successful field trips this month. Still, it's kinda funny that despite a hot, dry spring overall, the days that we plan outdoor activities seem to turn out cold!
  • I then get a call from the garage telling me that, surprise! The tire they ordered is a) the wrong one, and b) the tire I need is discontinued, so c) I actually have to pay to replace all the tires.
  • Ugh, NO! I have already paid significant amounts of money this year to keep my older car functioning and safe, and we have agreed nominally to replace it this summer (not that I'm looking forward to that process, AT ALL.) So, instead I schedule an appointment to just put the winter tires back on again the next day.
  • Poor Mr. Turtle, after a period of improved health, is again sick with a bad cold bug (at least no IV antibiotics this time). He cannot help me with any of this tire foolishness. But it's fine. I drive home and load the winter tires back in the car. Whereupon, my phone rings. It's the tire shop. Surprise! They found the tire I need in their store display, where they had forgotten all about it. Can I bring the car back and they will replace it forthwith?
  • Yes! Side note, it's revelatory to see how quickly one's perspective can change. Before I knew the tire was discontinued, I was quite grumpy about having to pay to replace it. Like yes, please, take my money! I was just going to burn it anyway; I had no other plans. However, after hearing that my choices were down to paying $1000 for new tires, or using my winter tires through the summer and risking damage to them, paying the $250 for the suddenly discovered new tire felt like a wonderful stroke of luck to be grateful for.
  • I unloaded the winter tires and drove to the tire shop without incident (I was grateful for this too). The manager did a real life facepalm when I saw him. But they had my new tire on within 10 minutes and off I went to pick up the kids and arrived home without incident. Yes!
  • The conclusion (I assume and hope) to my Tire Drama AND the fact that one of my students gifted me a bottle of wine, caused me to assess my day as a Resounding Success, despite a sick husband and a sick Dani, who was sleepy and running a fever when I picked her up from daycare. But the evening was quiet and I peacefully made a chicken pot pie out of some left over drumsticks, feeling competently domestic as a bonus. And I ended my day in bed with a glass of wine! Yes!
  • I'm taking today off, hence the time to write in my blog. Dani is recovering, Mr. Turtle is recovering, and AJ decided she was sick too and wanted to stay home. She probably isn't, but ask me how motivated I am to drive her to school and back today. Right.
My body and my soul are both fully me....
  • I have written a lot about dance on this blog, because it is a central and happy part of our lives. I think that the fact that I have danced my whole life has greatly influenced who I am and how I see myself. I am, perhaps unusually for our culture, non-dualist in how I see myself. Obviously my brain and its electrical activity, i.e. "mind", is part of my identity. But I have been aware, for most of my life, that my thoughts are limited and are just as likely to be ridiculous and wrong as Real, Morally Right and Deeply Insightful. Here's a fun experiment to try: For a week, keep track of how many things, serious and trivial, that you are WRONG about, based on your own criteria. You will likely be shocked (and maybe amused).
  • My awareness of my flawed mind has almost always been paired with an awareness of my body and its abilities and basic goodness. When my body is active and healthy, I notice my mind is also more healthy. I have avoided, for the most part, mistreating or blaming my body because of some stupid idea that exists in my mind. There are some exceptions. Anxiety is bad for my body. Pregnancy was a hot terrifying mess, as well as the most amazing thing my body has ever done. (But pregnancy is not like anything else, in my experience.) 
  • I believe that lifelong dancing is responsible for my non-duality. Dancing requires the body and mind to work together in awareness of each other. It puts the body on display in a social setting and obliges the mind to deal with that vulnerability. Dancing also makes people beautiful. It doesn't matter how old or young they are or how they look, or their relative skills level, people are beautiful when they dance. I will defend this statement as a Universal Truth.  I know not everyone believes this about themselves, and that makes me sad, but I still think I'm right.
  • Dancing is Body, and Mind, and Culture, and when they come together, something divine happens, that is all of that, and more. As my one-time teacher Frank said, either a long time ago or a short time ago, Dancing is way bigger than us mere mortals. 
  • Now Dance News: My daughters have finished off their season with successful festival performances. As a board member in their non-profit organization, I have worked on building friendships and community. It takes me a while to warm up socially so this is an ongoing process. But I feel pretty good about it. And....
  • I made the decision this year to join the adult Ukrainian group! So I will be a participant as well as a dance mom.
  • I also intend to keep up my stepdancing with my other long-term dance buddies. So I am going to be in very awesome shape. I hope.
  • As part of my Highly Organized Day on Friday, I went shopping for new dance gear. This makes me extremely happy. I also plan to take a few barre classes this summer.
  • At least, that's the plan. I've wondered a bit lately if in addition to my car's functionality, I should be questioning my body's functionality. I did something (not sure what) that threw out my shoulder a few weeks ago. Rotating it causes pain. It almost heals, then I do something like, ahem, hauling tires in and out of my car, and the pain is back. I also did some gardening on the weekend, which I enjoyed, but which has caused a lot of soreness. So while I'm not sick like the rest of the family, I'm moseying about today with aches and pains. Oof. 
  • I'm still optimistic. The fitness centre I joined has a hot tub after all.
Well, that will be my life round-up for the day. The material, the spiritual, the insightful and the clueless all in one big pile. As always, I remain grateful for all of it and these hours I sometimes get to reflect and write. You may not get happier or richer, but you probably can always get wiser (a saying I came up with in my 20s to encourage myself. Still mostly true with the caveat that I've probably lost some brain cells along the way. It was worth it.)

Monday 22 May 2023

Sometimes rain that’s needed falls

It’s been an interesting few weeks. Certainly not all bad, but just a lot of mental load and long days.

  • Mr Turtle took a long time to get over the infection he developed end of April, though finally he is on the mend.
  • My province has been crazy hot and dry and hundreds of wildfires have broken out over the past few weeks, especially in the northern areas (none near me).
  • Last week I took the kids on a solo road trip to AJ’s dance festival (about a 3 hour drive away). Usually this would be a fun family weekend, but Mr T was on IV antibiotics and could not come. I took a deep breath and decided I could do the trip on my own. 
  • …..and all was going well until about half an hour from the hotel when my car broke down on the highway.
  • I kept my head and did all the right things, getting the car off the road, calling AMA, etc.
  • The weekend was still enjoyable in many ways. There was no wildfire smoke at the time (though it was unseasonably hot) and AJ’s performance went swimmingly. Gold medalist!
  • One of the nicest parts: thanks to my car trouble, we reconnected with an aunt and uncle of Mr Turtle’s we hadn’t seen in years. The kids were especially happy to meet this lovely new auntie after they had just had the stressful experience of getting stranded by the road in an unfamiliar place.
  • My father in law drove up to rescue us, yay.
  • Back in home city, we went out for a nice dinner on Mother’s Day with the recovering Mr Turtle. All was great, and then AJ woke up puking the following night. She recovered quickly though and nobody else got sick.
  • The wildfire smoke blew in with a vengeance last week, turning the air yellow on the worst day. The air quality index was 11, which sounds like a number somebody made up because 10 wasn’t bad enough.
  • Several of my students graduated this week. I think work is going fine. I can’t remember right now.
  • My car is still in the other city, but reportedly fixable. It’s getting expensive to maintain through, so probably will be car shopping in the future. Not exactly excited about that but better in summer than winter.
  • Mr Turtle is off the IV and able to do most things again. Yay!
  • On a day with no smoke, we met up with some friends in the park. The kids played, and we just did nothing and talked, then went out to dinner and talked some more. The sky was blue.
  • The smoke came back. It was hot. I couldn’t sleep.
  • I came down with a cold.
  • But most importantly…..

Not spitting, but a juicy downpour spiced with thunder, for several hours. I’d forgotten how good it feels to hear and see and smell rain. I think I believed it might never rain again. I’m typing up these ridiculous bullet points with my stuffy nose listening to the rain through the open window, and it makes me unutterably happy. I’m assuming it won’t lead to floods or other epic nonsense. But right now everything is just right.

(The title is from Painting By Chagall, by The Weepies, which is also Dani’s song in my mind)

Sunday 30 April 2023

Spring moments

It’s been a busy weekend, mostly in a good way. I took the opportunity to sit down and relax, and when I do that I can slip into contemplative mode. I think about how this blog started, about how unstable things felt when the future was in flux. The future can never be predicted or taken for granted, but when things settle a little, it does take on a shape. Then it seems like my work is to make a coherent story out of the past, present and future, because that story gives purpose to each day.

This weekend the sisters participated in their second spring concert since they started Ukrainian dance. It was great fun, and they did awesome work, although the celebration afterwards was marred by Mr Turtle feeling unwell. With his chronic illness there is always worry there but he should be on the mend soon. The girls and I ended the day with a nice dinner out with my mom and older brother. I feel hugely grateful that compared to this time last year, my mom is doing better physically and emotionally and that she is living in a safe, supportive place. I am hugely grateful for my eldest brother and all the support he gives her and me. I am grateful that I got to see my middle brother in January.  And the girls’ seasonal performances are a ritual that helps bring us together. So I am grateful for that.

We have become quite immersed in amateur entertainment and I am happy with that. I don’t miss professional entertainment at all. We did go to one concert in the fall (Natalie Macmaster, whom I’ve seen multiple times). I investigated other concerts once or twice  but like everything else they seem so much more expensive now. It’s not that I think the performers don’t deserve the money but I don’t want to go badly enough to pay so much for tickets.

Above: AJ and Dani shortly before their technical rehearsal, wearing their matching shirts. (I am wearing one too, behind the camera.) The exhibit featured huge model Ukrainian eggs and the yellow and blue one was designed by their dance organization. 

Although I did not dance with the girls yesterday, my leg muscles ache today as if I did. I checked my steps data from on my phone and apparently I climbed the equivalent of 8 flights of stairs on Saturday. I didn’t count how many times I ran up and down the theatre stairs but I know I was constantly on the move as a dance mom and volunteer coordinator, so it makes sense. 

That is life right now: constant motion and occasional moments of contemplation. Maybe I steal them or maybe something bigger than me insists I take them.

Saturday 15 April 2023

Visual journaling 1a

As a follow up to my entry on my sketchbook, here is some of the art I created on our recent family vacation

(Edit: I have no idea why the pictures frequently disappear from this particular post.)

Marshmallow roast, semi-realist. It was chilly at the cabin but we were able to have two fires and we ate an entire bag of marshmallows in one evening.

Marshmallow roast again, abstract. I really like this one. The words that weave through the fire are what the kids told me about their experiences.

The girls made a fairy garden with one of the little girls they met there. Again, I tried to create a realistic depiction. It was difficult because of all the detail and light and shadow in the photo I was using. But I kept playing with it and actually I enjoy the result. It is called “Nature did most of the
work” since that is how AJ described the process.

In the previous picture, I particularly liked how I drew the evergreen branches. So I did a piece just using that technique.

One morning AJ and Dani wanted to dance to “Frozen” music. This is my interpretation. Each wave represents a daughter and how I see them at this time.

What I learned:
  • I enjoy visual journaling 
  • I’m more likely to do art when there is no wifi
  • It works to start drawing as soon as I have an idea (do not overthink)
  • I’m inspired by life but I like to represent abstractly
  • I like playing with textures and patterns
When done, I will link to an entry with some of my other art inspired more by ideas.

Friday 7 April 2023

Birthgap Documentary

Recently I listened to an interview with Stephen W Shaw about his documentary “Birthgap.” From the interview notes: “Stephen is a British national who has studied and lived on three continents. He studied as a computer engineer and data scientist before starting his first film project, “Birthgap” at age 49. He is president and co-founder of the data analytics company Autometrics Analytics LLC.”

The interview was very interesting. I made the mistake of listening to it in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep, and I stayed awake for the whole thing instead of falling asleep in the middle like I usually do. So that made for a sleepy day the following day but with some provoking ideas to consider.

“Birthgap” is about the huge increase in unplanned childlessness around the world, why that might be happening and that consequences of it. 
Part 1 is available on YouTube . Update (April 8th) I watched Part 1 and I recommend it: well explained and enjoyable to watch. However, the interview (linked in next paragraph) perhaps gives a better sense of the overall structure and findings of the project, since parts 2 and 3 are not available.

This is the interview with Mr Shaw. He shares in detail about his research and some of his conclusions. Prof. Jordan Peterson, the interviewer, chimes in with his talent for sound bites and memorable bits of advice. Many people love Dr Peterson’s advice; many people find it infuriating and this interview isn’t an exception: there are a more than a few comments that could rankle sensitivities. I personally enjoy JBP's style, probably in part because I come from a straight talking family with a lot of discussion and debate. I don't find it offensive or insulting; I find it stimulating. (But consider that a trigger warning if needed.)

I continue to be interested in voluntary/involuntary childlessness because 1) in my peer group* and extended family, childlessness is more common than families with children, and 2) As a parent I think about how to approach such topics with my daughters. My own story / fate / wyrd is pretty much decided and I'm happy with it: I have little or nothing to gain by dwelling on "what ifs." But I have invested in the future and that requires some effort to understand it and plan for it. I balance this with reminders to myself that life is way more complex than any model, and that its not my role to control people or "change the world.” However, there is a role for curiosity and questioning, especially when accompanied by humility.

* I refer to long term friends from university or before, not friends I’ve made through my kids, who obviously also have kids. Of my friend group from age 25 or earlier (a group of about 10), only three women had children. One was an unplanned pregnancy; the others had children in their 30s / 40s. I also know a lot of people who had/have fertility challenges. All my current close mom friends accessed some kind of assistance. These are not people I met through support groups or anything like that, just through the normal channels. There likely is some selection bias at work though in that I am more likely to become close to people who share a defining experience. 

Monday 27 March 2023


I have been thinking about ways to respond to the books I have been reading, and other things I’m learning, in a way other than writing. I decided I needed a sketchbook.

Instead of adding to our already rather chaotic collection of art supplies, I went digging in the box today to see what I could find. I found a Trolls themed watercolouring book that AJ had barely used. Add some scrapbooking paper, lace, a hot glue gun and the strategic procrastination of more practical matters, and voila:

My own upcycled sketchbook!

All I did was turn it upside down to be able to access the blank pages. 

I never much liked Trolls, but Branch would be my favourite character of them all. (Thanks to the fact I ditched most social media more than two years ago, I will not be learning to embrace my inner troll.)

Let the spring break creativity begin!

Saturday 18 February 2023

Living inside stories

I realized the other day, several weeks past the anniversary date, that I’ve been writing in this blog for ten years. 2013 to 2023. This was my very first entry. I had nothing to write about, but I had to write something just to begin. I then found things to write about, not because anything very exciting happened but because I started, well, writing.

By April 2018, I had been writing for 
5 years and that felt like a long time. And I suppose it was, encompassing two entire new lifetimes: AJ’s and Dani’s.

Now ten years on, there is a lot of learning and change documented here. It is not a straightforward narrative either: I may be becoming more of a mystery to myself and others, rather than the opposite. 

I’ve alternated between raw confessional writing, journaling and personal essays. But I think the blog is a success because it still feels alive to me. And maybe that’s because it’s none of those things all of the time. My life is not dramatic enough to make journaling or confessional writing consistently interesting. Thank goodness! I am NOT into drama. But writing a sort of never-ending-Christmas-newsletter where I get more respectable and admirable and successful with every passing year would also be an exhausting conceit. And untrue.

I experience life as a cycle of coming home and going into exile. Sometimes I think I have it together. Sometimes I fall apart in ways that astonish me. I try not to stress over it. The pattern suggests things will come together again, and kinda make even more sense than they previously did.

I had a wonderful conversation today with a wonderful friend where we talked about how we have both felt pride or relief at certain points in our lives because we had almost convinced everyone around us we were normal people. And then we laughed and laughed and laughed because of course we know we aren’t, and the laughter was like coming home.

Anyway, among other things I’ve started 2023 thinking about the kinds of stories I find myself telling and living in. This is not a new theme for the blog, as I started to think deliberately about such questions a while ago, while we were still considering fertility treatments: namely, what kind of stories am I being told and what stories do I want to tell my children? I still think about those questions, albeit not in the context of fertility.

AJ and I have been periodically reading an anthology I owned as a child, which has a lot of traditional fairy tales, as well as whatever was considered contemporary a few decades ago when it was published.

I spent hours reading this book as a child, and many stories I have read over and over. It is interesting to share them with AJ, starting with my favourite fairy tale, “The Wild Swans.” I like seeing her reactions to things that are odd or surprising. It is important to me that the girls experience the more traditional versions of fairy tales, though they have been re-invented and inverted countless times. I try to keep my commentary to a minimum.

I also have tried playing stories from the podcast In A Certain Kingdom for the girls on road trips. They were riveted!

I haven’t listened to any of the analysis yet: again I like to allow myself and others to experience something on our own terms before going into the other layers. I’m always curious if I can find a way to understand and relate even to my presumably different experience. My observations on these fairy tales?

  • Lots of repetition: everything is organized into in 3s. Each event happens 3 times: the first two with very similar outcomes and the third time with a twist. It is a bit odd till I remember stories used to be passed on orally and if nothing else this would make them easier to remember.
  • I have kind of a fixation on 3’s so this was amusing. 
  • Random life lessons I have picked up:
  •  if you meet a wild animal on your journey, don’t try to eat her babies, not even if you are really hungry. 
  • Let your sisters marry whom they want: they probably know what they are doing. 
  • Always get lots of sleep, even under extremely stressful conditions. Example: you are living with a witch and she is hoping to put your head on a stake that next morning. But have a good rest and most likely a critter will help you out the next day.
Music: I try to expose the kids (and myself) to a variety of music. I don’t mind pop music but it feels like a very narrow slice of human experience. I don’t force anything though. It interesting to see what they gravitate towards. Lately AJ has really liked The Cottars, a group of (formerly) teens and tweens that performed Celtic and some contemporary folk songs. I think AJ likes them in part because the voices sound somewhat like hers (she is taking voice lessons) and also the tunes are very easy to sing along to: strong, simple melodies and arrangements.

Finally, we are trying to plan more family vacations this year and the next one is going to be to a resort with fairy tale cabins! This is the one we booked for next month:

I’m very excited and looking forward to planning our trip as the world wakes up into spring, which always feels magical to me.

Life is interesting right now, and I find myself inclined to be playful, and curious, and to do serious things while not taking myself too seriously.  Sometimes you can’t see reality by trying to look at it from the outside: you must crawl (or fly) right in and inhabit it. 

Saturday 4 February 2023

Art of '23

This is the third time that each person in our family has created an original painting around the time of the New Year. I think I truly can call it a tradition now because it was AJ who reminded me this year.

Left: AJ, Right: Dani, Centre: Mr. Turtle

The girls, of course, create art constantly: any time is the best time. It is as natural as breathing to them. Mr. Turtle and I need to be more deliberate about it.

Previous years: 2021, 2022

I was the last to participate. The idea that came to me was to do something organic, abstract and inspired by ancient cultures. Sometime completely different from last year's attempted realism and symbolism.

I started by collecting a few images, specifically from Neolithic Ireland and Mesopotamia. But it was after reading the beautiful essay Time Unweaved by Flat Caps and Fatalism that I felt I was onto something.

My creation for 2023:

My workspace before I tidied up:

I started with a pencil sketch, but didn't particularly like my sketch, so I painted a texture over the pencil markings, mostly covering them. Then I painted my spirals, which was a lot of fun. As I was painting I was listening to my Ancient Mesopotamia lectures about the peoples of early civilization working with plaster, clay, bronze, copper and gold, and the colours I was drawn to echoed those materials. After working on the spirals, I noticed I could still faintly see some of my pencil drawings, so I painted in those designs here and there, and also added new ones.
"If time is a directionless field for the email worker, a forward arrow for the mill hand, and a turning circle for the peasant, then what is it to the people who know how to stay alive? Perhaps it is the spiral, of which there are many prehistoric examples in Yorkshire.

"The spiral has the rhythm of agricultural time without the lie that we can return to the same point. It has the movement of mechanical time without the lie that it has a direction. It has the all-encompassing field of flat time without the lie that nothing will change. Perhaps we can sing a spiral song with the world awhile." --FFatalism, Time Unweaved

Saturday 21 January 2023

First new 2023 goal!

 After my last post discussing how I might, one day, make some New Year's intentions, and/or assess how 2022 went, I did start a blog post draft where I began writing down ideas. But this has already become a large collection of random thoughts, links to articles that appealed to me (but are major thought provokers in and of themselves) and memories and observations. It would take a large effort and amount of time to make all of that cohere into one blog entry, even though there probably is some order or pattern in it somewhere. Plus it is like a snowball rolling down the hill, picking up extra snow and other debris as it goes. I'm not sure it's entirely in my control anymore.

So instead what I will probably do is take pieces of that collection from time to time and see what I can do with them.

Today's piece is a dream I remember from my rather restless sleep last night. I had two dreams actually. In the first one our family was out camping, and we were having quite a good time, but then we had to pack up and my youngest daughter's boots kept getting misplaced.

Incidentally, this dream reminds me a bit of a recurring dream I had when I was younger. In the dream I had to catch a train, but would suddenly realize that I had lost my shoes. I would then spend a long time frantically searching for my shoes and miss the train. Eventually, I decided that if I was ever in such a situation, I would just get on the train in my socks. I then stopped having the dream. 

Anyway, after the camping trip the dream setting changed completely to the university from where I graduated, more than 20 years ago with my first degree (!). I was in the university as an adult, and my goal was to take some courses, just out of curiosity and interest. The only other criteria was that I really wanted to take a course that had a final exam, because I missed that experience.

The part about the exam must have been inspired by the fact that it is currently "exam break" in high schools. In waking reality, I have no desire whatsoever to take an exam.

But the notion of taking a course stuck with me after I woke up. The dream was so vivid. And suppose I really did take a course in something? There are plenty of things I am interested in. So I took a look at the websites of two local universities, just to see what was offered. Continuing education was mainly vocational classes with a certificate in this-or-that attached. I decided I do not want anything with a certificate or any kind of career application.

Then I took at look at the university's website for classics and religious studies. I have long wished that my education included more classical history and literature. Of course, there wasn't time to do everything, but if I could do it over, I would have made some different choices.

This was the blurb on the university website:

Hmmmmm, let me think about that. No, none of that actually interests me in the least. The website was full of this sort of aren't-we-so-relevant copywriting. I decided I do not want anything that attempts to be Relevant to Today's Concerns. If there is relevance to (my) contemporary life, I will find it out for myself, thank you. Just teach me about the thing.

This exhausted the obvious options for local education. If I was open to travel, of course there are many more options: short courses, conferences, retreats. But such things are also several orders more complicated to arrange, involving multiple negotiations and sacrifices and trade-offs that I don't particularly want to make or demand of others, especially not for a whim. The truth is that anything requiring my time and attention is complicated and difficult. That’s just the consequence of being embedded in family and work and my large web of responsibilities.

But, it’s still worth it to ask if there is something that I should do to grow or learn more. I also observe that in my life, transformative opportunities don’t present themselves as duty or necessity. They don't sound or look like: "This is The Way to Build Your Knowledge and Skills and Personal Network!"  They present themselves as joy and fun and exploration. It’s kind of like the universe poking me to see if I’m actually paying attention.

Who am I and what am I doing here?

So, well, that leaves (for now) online. I poked around a bit, exploring maybe 0.00000000000000001% of what the internet has to offer. I listen to podcasts regularly, so I want more than just audio. I don't mind spending some money. I want professional production.

Which brings me to my first new goal for 2023. I decided to try a course about history thousands of years old: the civilizations of Mesopotamia! It is offered through The Great Courses.

I got interested in Mesopotamia through The Lord of Spirits podcast and The Fall of Civilizations. I learned enough through those to intrigue me but I listen to them in bed so I also sleep through a lot. But ancient civilizations are fascinating to me, and while Greece and Rome are somewhat familiar through literature and movies Mesopotamia is less so. I have a total of 10 courses in my wish list right now but it seemed appropriate to start with the oldest history I could find.

I love the strangeness, the foreignness, the mystery. I love the fact that the people are all dead and there is no chance whatsoever that I can solve any of their problems. I love that they are humans like me despite their utter remoteness in time or space.  I am so excited to get to know them and the pieces of the puzzle that was their world.

The more mundane questions: How will I find the time and space to do this course with everything else in my life? Will I remember anything? That too is a mystery, and the only way to find out is to dive in.

I may use my other blog to record learning and progress. We shall see. For now, time to have a new experience!

Tuesday 3 January 2023

Hey 2023!

 So, 2022 has waned and passed away, and here we are in the new year.

My family and I welcomed the new year on an airport shuttle. That's a first for me! We had just completed a successful and mostly relaxing trip to the USA. The girls and I are lucky to have an extra few days of holiday at home, so here we are.

As I do my selective reading online, I see some truly impressive posts by people describing how they assess their goals and accomplishments of 2022, and set new goals for 2023.

I sip my coffee, nibble my breakfast munchies, and relax in the slightly sweaty comfort of my PJs, untidy hair and slippers. This will continue until the next hot flash, whereupon I will throw various articles of clothing across the room and pace about the house. In the meantime, I gaze into the depths of my mind and soul, as far into the murk as I can see, and I ask myself: Am I capable of assessing 2022 and setting some Intentions for the new year?

The answer comes back: Nope, let's not go there yet

Whenever I do feel like it though, I will be using these three posts for reference:

One month(ish) into 2022 (see, I never start early!)

Answering Lynnette's question (throughout my life, I have found it helpful to ask myself - and sometimes others - blunt questions and answer them as truthfully as I can, whether I like the answers or not. 

Seeds in My Mind (isn't it much more pleasant to reflect when it's nice and warm outside?!)

What I do feel capable of is setting some intentions, maybe even goals (!) for the next few days.

First, things I have already accomplished:

  1. Our first day back, with a medium-bad headache, I tidied and re-organized the girls' rooms. They were both in desperate need of such attention. I felt strongly that I couldn't and shouldn't put off this job since we were arriving (of course!) with Christmas gifts. I love exchanging gifts, but. Introduce anything new into a poorly organized space, and a chaos explosion ensues. I cannot handle that. So I worked very hard for a few hours while the rest of the family had screen time or napped (and were out of my way, lol). I am very happy with the result, and the girls were grateful for their renewed, cleaner spaces. Also the headache went away after a few hours, so I'm glad I powered through it. I feel pretty well rested and healthy, overall.
  2. Unpacking and doing laundry in a logical, calm progression. I've given myself permission to not unpack suitcases until I'm ready to do so. Because I'm a pretty well-organized person, I don't actually need the majority of what I packed, so there is no urgency.
  3. Put on a pot of bean soup to cook for dinner today. Mmmm, soup. Hot, delicious, full of fibre (travel and unfamiliar diet did mess a bit with my digestive system).
  4. Family trip to the zoo yesterday, enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather we were blessed to return to (the two weeks before Christmas were a deep freeze here, which added to the overall feeling of exhaustion and overwhelm).
Things I would like to do/continue doing this week:

  1. Teach the kids to maintain their newly tidy rooms. It's a process to learn the skills of organization, so I am keeping the expectations reasonable (I hope). It's easier to practice organization when starting fresh, however. AJ has been doing pretty well with her drawers, but her bookshelves were a mess. So I organized and labeled all the books by genre. She is very excited about this and is currently pretending she is a librarian. So, good start there. AJ also wants to keep a broom and dustpan in her room which I'm hoping will encourage her to not leave things all over the floor. Expectations are lower for Dani but with the new organization I can at least keep her accountable for putting away a few things at a time.
  2. Cook a few meals this week, maybe trying new recipes or even just renewing ones I've forgotten about. My cooking style is comfort food and January is a good month for that.
  3. Continue with cleaning/reorganizing. Part of improving the kids' rooms was to remove the majority of their stuffies. They do love their stuffies, and goodness do they have a lot. Right now the stuffies are in overflowing bins in the basement playroom, which is pretty untidy and ugly-looking. I have ordered some mesh organizers for the playroom and door hanging organizers for their rooms, so I'm hoping that those improve matters. 
  4. There are always soooooo many organizing jobs to do around our fairly small space. I can easily get discouraged trying to do too many things at once, or only seeing what needs to be done. I'm grateful for this week because I feel like I can tackle a few things at a time, but have enough time to see some progress too. So the goal is, do a few things frequently without attempting too much.
  5. Do a few errands outside the house. I really don't feel like going anywhere, I admit, especially after all the travel. But, well, we probably should. Maybe tomorrow.
  6. Spending a bit of time doing my volunteer coordinator work. I joined the board of my daughters' dance organization this year, which means some extra responsibility. 
  7. Continue re-reading Lord of the Rings and continue when done with The Silmarillion. Becoming a bigger Tolkien nerd sounds like a fantastic goal for January / February, and is easily the one I'm most happy about. I may also dip into a few other books on philosophy/spirituality, if I'm moved to do so, but I'm really following my heart with this one.
There you go, seven is a decent number.  7 X 289 = 2023. I may be back in late winter or spring to revisit and look at the bigger picture. For now, the picture is a miniature.

The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

- Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn't tell you which.
His beak is focussed; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.

"Sandpiper," by Elizabeth Bishop