Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Family, Life, and Rich Repercussions

Wonderful visit with my daughter, her partner, and their four-week-old daughter on the weekend. We (well, Pater) fed them, and we insisted they sleep or rest or go for a walk while we held the baby. I pushed away all thoughts of the work I was falling behind on -- after all, how many small-baby moments are there in a life? That smell, that warmth, that pliable, dense, luxuriant softness somehow fitting into the surface of your body, the tiny heartbeat and rhythmically rising and falling chest insisting on your own following suit until breath and heartbeat and feeling and being and deep, warm protectiveness are all that is important in the world. . . .

But now it's Tuesday, and the work matters. They left yesterday morning, and I had to teach two classes, and I did it, but I'm tired and today I teach another and tomorrow two more, and, well, you see how that goes. . . I'm not doing so well with the busy, at the moment, but I know I'll just cram this week full and then find a wee corner of downtime on the weekend. I can do it. I can do it. . . . If only this weren't the week that I scheduled two committee meetings in. And we host a Fall Feast for our department's students (and we cook for them! I'm supposed to make baked beans sometime tomorrow, which means I have to buy some of the makings today! Yikes!).

This is also the week that the Faculty's first Friday Colloquium happens -- I usually fit my yoga class in on Friday morning, but that will get bumped to Saturday morning, which means my long run gets bumped to Sunday. More importantly, it means that my one long-morning-to-myself is becoming a monthly, rather than a weekly phenomenon. In terms of guarding mental health, not so good. But the trade-off will be that I hear one of my colleagues present some of her research (on the poet Edward Thomas, of whom I've recently been reading because of his predilection for walking long distances) and enjoy some discussion with others. Mental stimulation, social engagement, also good for mental health.

And I wouldn't have traded last weekend's Busy-ness for all the quiet in the world. But it has ramifications, this Nana stuff. We got some news a few weeks ago, and my husband said, "Wow! Our lives are really changing, aren't they?" He was referring to the powerful effect of being grandparents, and I was rather tempted to answer, "Well, Duh!" Didn't, you'll be pleased to know.
And I did know what he meant. As obvious as it might seem that this newest generation would change our lives, I don't know that we could ever have predicted how drastically it would impact, for example, our day-planning.

I'm reminded of an afternoon back in 1985 or '86. I'd woken the baby up from his afternoon nap to load him into his car seat. His 3-year-old sister wiggled in next to him, got buckled in, and we headed off to pick up 6 and 9-year-old sisters, to drive them to, respectively, their skating and their piano lessons. The older two were already squabbling as they climbed into the car, but after the disagreement over who got which seat was over, the one who'd ended up in the back seat settled in to catching up with her younger siblings. All was fine for a block or two, but the play turned to teasing turned to howling by the baby, and I could only drive and cajole from behind the steering wheel. And I remember thinking, "I never thought this through! This is what it means to have four kids! I'm not entirely sure I can do this!" I might also have thought a little "HELP!" in there as well. . . .

And now, almost 30 years later, I'm still experiencing the consequences. And they are wonderful, rich, astonishing even. But sometimes exhausting.

The photo above? Well, relaxation this week has consisted of some knitting while I watch an episode or two of The Good Wife. I've been sound asleep by 9:30 many nights lately, but this little baby blanket in a Hudson's Bay Point Blanket pattern is proceeding apace. Simple garter stitch in a washable wool (Smart Superwash, I love this yarn which, though Superwash, still retains some wooly "crunch").  Someone new should arrive in a few months to snuggle in it -- lives are changing, as we speak. . .


Friday, September 12, 2014

In the Looking-Glass . . .

 "No Time. No Time." And that's without dropping my watch in my tea, Mad Hatter-wise. . . .

But I did snap photos two mornings this week, and I thought I might show them to you. Above and below, one of the simplest outfits (if such a simple combination could be called an outfit) I've ever absolutely loved wearing. The dress is in a heavy poly jersey; it's by Vince and it's such a delicious shape, really. Feels wonderful to move in, has in-seam pockets at the hip, a great pleat for slimming its generosity, length to suit an adult, and I believe it's pretty close to elegant for a dress that I can bike to the ferry in. With my gold Wendy B fleur-de-lis necklace, an arm party of favourite bracelets, my Hermès double-tour watch, and these simple Vince shoes, I will confess to feeling some of Lisa's oft-cited impunity. (The dress plays nicely with heels and hose as well.)
 The same kind of assurance turned up twice this week, which was quite a lovely surprise! Those yellow Gap pants, seen here and here, are earning their keep. Worn with the same Vince shoes, bracelet arm party, watch, fleur-de-lis necklace as shown above with my dress, I think the pants look great topped with this light merino J. Crew sweater whose loose draping matches their casual vibe without looking sloppy.


 This photo gives a better idea of the dolman-sleeve shape and the overall roominess -- but it also shows that my mirror might benefit from some vinegar and elbow grease. . . .
And it's very clear that the afore-mentioned Mad Hatter would say to me, as he did to Alice, "Your hair needs cutting." Indeed it does, as these photos testify. I had to cancel my appointment three weeks ago in favour of some newborn-sitting. No regrets there at all, but I will be very happy to have my layers trimmed today so that bounce gets restored. Between renewed bounce and retouched roots, I hope to present a much neater, fresher look for the weekend, all the better to greet my youngest granddaughter and her parents.

I'm noticing some happy repetitions in the outfits I'm wearing and posting recently. I sense that this is me, settling into a happy groove. What about you? As the season changes, are you noticing patterns establishing themselves in what you pull from the wardrobe? Or are you making changes? (check out Sue's post on "Turning" her closet for another perspective on seasonal sartorial habits). I'd love to hear your thoughts, if you have a minute.

I'm off to my stylist's now -- Have a Happy Weekend!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Summer Place. . . .

All is going well here, but between classes and meetings and markings and early-morning runs and collapsing in front of Homeland or The Good Wife at the end of the day . . .
Not much energy left for blogging.
Might do better this weekend, except that Daughter, New Baby, and New Baby's Daddy are all coming over for a visit (Daughter and New Baby will still on into next week so we can spoil them while Daddy heads back to work). Life is lovely and busy -- I know, I'm repeating myself, but it is. So busy. . .
























No wonder, then, I'm remembering summer days on the beach and dreaming about a little hideaway . . . Ah, summer. . . . You were so fleeting . . .
Architectural escape-dream inspiration courtesy, of course, of my clever granddaughter. Remember the richness of your childhood play? When the simplest findings supplied an elaborate imagination with whole worlds? Driftwood furnished a home. . . .Watching her play reminded me of how satisfying simplicity can be, and looking at these photos helps me keep that knowledge close. Perhaps they might do something similar for you, or at least amuse. . . She spent many happy hours putting her house together and playing in it. . . 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Another Monday, transitions

Waiting at the top of the parkade ramp for the gate to close behind me, I noted how dark it was, still, at 5:25. In theory, my decision to take an early ferry back Monday morning rather than battle the Sunday afternoon crush made sense. In practice? big yawns. . . And the dubious delight of a full moon peering through clouds at its reflection in English Bay....

It's 7:20 in the morning as I write this, though, and the sun is shining reassuringly on the blue water, a slight chop frothing up the occasional white cap. The distance is closing between the ferry and the island where I'll drive off the boat and continue up the hill to work. Two classes to deliver this morning, so perhaps I should grab a coffee on the way.

But in the time left before disembarking, I'm recognizing all the other reasons I might be tired this morning. Yes, waking at 4:50 might be part of it (although I was in bed by 9:15!). but so might cycling 20 kilometres to visit our new granddaughter and her parents on Friday, then taking said g'daughter for a 4-kilometre walk so Mom could feel some breathing space.

The two-hour round-trip drive to visit my mother-in-law in her assisted-living complex wasn't physically taxing, but the visit, while emotionally satisfying in so many ways, was also draining. Such extremes, to come from a wee infant just getting established in this world to someone who says she's ready to leave it. No wonder I napped after this, although Pater needed to discharge his emotions through another bike ride. I fit in a long walk, later, to do the same.

And then we had a fabulous meal at our son's, healthy, delicious, beautifully presented food, thoughtfully designed to support my run the following day. Accompanied with perfect wine chosen by our sommelier daughter-in-law. There's something quite wonderful about being well-fed at the table of a son or daughter.

The run with my sister Sunday morning is a major culprit in the fatigue stakes, but we took the 14 kilometres at an easy pace (something like 6:53, I think). She hasn't been training much, but was using the Coho Run to kick-start her preparation for the Big Sûr Marathon next spring. I could have run faster, but was just happy to have a chance to visit with my "baby sister." We both sport some hearing loss, so I suspect our chatter may have been noticeable but we were happily oblivious.

Again, a nap was in order, but I still had a g'daughter I haven't seen in weeks, so post-nap I walked across a bridge again (8 foot crossings of big bridges this weekend!) to meet the gang for some beach time. Hugs and big smiles and many kisses from two little girls made all the walking worthwhile.

But oh my, was I ready for some quiet screentime and an early bedtime. And now, as I catalogue the weekend activities, noting that somewhere in there I read the weekend paper and spent a few hours marking student work and preparing lectures....I'm exhausted all over again. Exhilarated too, though, at how full life is at this stage. Greedy, I am a bit, to grab as much of it as I can right now, while it's still in view, like that dramatic, full moon I viewed over the water this morning, peeking through the clouds, ready to disappear in the next hour...

Are you, too, surprised at how very busy this late midlife stage can be? And if so, how much do you think that final horizon has to do with the pace we set, and how much is simply circumstances, logistics, demographics? Do you savour some of the busy-ness even as it wears you out, and/or have you found ways to dial down the exhaustion factor without stripping your calendar of much that gives it meaning? You know, just a few small questions for a Monday morning...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What's Navy and Gold and Feeling very Busy . . .


Classes are going well, so far. I generally enjoy the first few weeks, the honeymoon stage, I sometimes call it, before they get their first assignments marked, returned...

A late October event I'm responsible for has me stressing about some must-do-right-now's that pose some fiddly nested tasks and deadlines. But it's going to be a great event that should involve the larger community, and I'm excited about that.

For now, I've come over to Vancouver to help with the new baby and to do the Coho Run with my sister. Paul and I are hoping to get out on our new bikes, but I'm also going to have to hole up in the condo at some point and write a lecture, plan a workshop, and catch up on my email. Honestly, I think I'm actually enjoying some of the busy, for now.

Tired though? Oh, yeah! Especially since I'm not only going from 0 to 60 in the work schedule, but am determined to kick my fitness routine into full fall functionality...

Yesterday morning, for example, I really wanted to fit in a run, but I also had to catch the 8:00 ferry....for an hour run, followed by a shower and something to eat, I had to be in my running gear and on the road by 6. Didn't make it out before 6:15, so I was really scrambling to get ready on time.

 Luckily, I'd laid out my clothes the night before, and I was showered, dressed, and finishing my toast and tomatoes by 7:45, leaving me a minute to snap this pic.
In the end, as I was running out the door, I caught a last look in the mirror, felt that the suede oxfords, comfortable as they are, were a bit too heavy for the look overall, and I swapped them out for a pair of navy-and-white slingbacks that I bought in Paris in 2007. I wrote about those slingbacks way back here in a post about why I didn't buy Louboutins when I had the chance. . . not sure I completely agree now with my choices at the time, but I do still like the slingbacks. . . .

Again, a somewhat scattered post, which I hope you find better than no post at all. . . . And again, I'd love your comments but have no particular questions to elicit them. The outfit, by the way, comprises a white Gap T-shirt, yellow Gap khakis featured, cotton knit striped blazer, by Nice Things, bought in Bordeaux a year ago, and Fluevog suede oxfords. . . 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Turning over that September Leaf -- New Routines. . . .

Today, the first day back to school, I defiantly pulled on my white jeans -- gasp! post-Labour-Day white -- and quickly found a good reason for the rule. Dirt roads + rain + bicycle = non-elegant mud spatters. No worries, those didn't appear until the ride home. Wore the white jeans with this J. Crew linen sweater and my Vince flats. Simple, 3-piece dressing with an easy punch, imho. . . .

Class went very well, considerable enthusiasm and the potential for lively class discussions is already evident.

Then the challenge of productively filling time between class and the 4:30-5:30 Vinyasa Flow class that I've identified as being the best possibility for bringing some strength and flexibility and meditative breathing into the early part of my week. I usually prefer to bundle everything up and work in my home office, but the yoga class is in town and I'm trying to create a new habit. As added incentive, I talked Pater into joining me for the workout, and today, at least, that was reason enough not to bail. . . .

Instead, I had 3.5 hours to catch up on emails, set up some important committee work, prep tomorrow's classes (including spending some time in the photocopy queue and fighting with the printer dialogue -- why, oh why must new software always be installed just before classes begin!). Except for my wanting to take an afternoon nap on my office floor (resisted today, but I did wake this morning before 5), I used the time well and can see this might shape into a decent schedule.

Got to the yoga studio in  time and was happy to see Pater walk in as I was setting out my mat. Afternoons aren't my preferred exercise time, but I was surprised at how good it felt to move through the flow after having spent a few hours at my desk.

Then a boatride across the harbour, the wind picking up as we docked. . . we cycled home where P had a great Puglian sauce of lamb and tomatoes simmering, just waiting for the pasta to be cooked, and a few cobs of corn to be boiled, a salad tossed. All of this eaten as we watched an episode of Homeland together.

And then this, just outside, shortly before 8, a sky that insisted on being admired. . . .

























Really,  I should probably just tiptoe away now -- what could I say worth uttering in the face of this beauty Nature tosses around so nonchalantly? But I'd love to know if your routines change with Fall, with Back to School. Sue posted on La Rentrée this morning, and like her, I'm curious to know whether you're trying to instill any new, productive habits, and if you've been wearing white after Labour Day, of course I want to know that as well. . . 

Monday, September 1, 2014

End of Summer Tears, Remembering Rome, Remembering Paris, Remembering Me. . .

As I ready myself for Summer's freer schedule being swapped out for Fall's more rigorous pace, what I'm really lamenting -- besides not having picked a single bowl of blackberries this year! -- is how many favourite photos and stories from June's travels haven't  made it to the blog. The one above, for example, taken just above the Pantheon in Rome, me fumbling to grab my camera out of my bag quickly enough to catch this dramatic column of black and white, topped by the cardinal-designating beanie, as its ecclestical wearer strode with powerful grace up the street.

I suspect my sense of loss, of the quickly fading opportunities that Summer takes away with her, was part of the alarming burst of tears that overwhelmed me in Shavasana Saturday morning. My first class in three weeks, thanks to wave after wave after wave of family visits and births and  baby-snuggling and granddaughter-playing. Undoubtedly, part of the release those hot tears arose from was muscular -- running is a good way to let go of stress, but it tends to crank my muscles tighter and tighter, and without yoga or Pilates or some disciplined stretching at home, the torque reaches a nearly audible level.

The heat pricked my eyes once or twice during class, but it wasn't until my newly-elongated back settled into my yoga mat in the final Shavasana that I felt tears form. One rolled from my right eye, then another from my left. I tried to ignore them, to concentrate on my breathing, but they didn't stop, and finally I had to wipe them away. And they kept coming, and I kept trying to wipe discreetly, and I had to shift my breathing to my mouth because my nose was clogging up, and I could feel my chest wanting to get involved as a tentative potential sob shaped itself.

Frightening as this was -- who likes to cry, unexpectedly, in a room full of people (albeit reasonably enlightened and supportive ones, albeit most of them prone, eyes closed) -- the moment reminded me of the tensions that impact my body, even as I keep moving, responding to all the external cues in my world. The external cues may come from beloved sources and attending to them may bring me joy in return for the energy they demand, but the internal will not be ignored forever.

I'm trying to figure out how to take that Learned-Once-Again message into the next few weeks. Trying to figure out how to fit the right kind of Me Time into a month whose days are already well marked up on the dayplanner. Not just trying  to get to, but prioritizing  yoga classes before my body gets uncomfortable enough to slow me right down in its own stealthy way, before the tears burst out in places less manageable than Shavasana pose at the end of a class . . . .

Sorting through travel photos, writing about them, writing connections between here now and there, then, this is one of the kinds of Me Time that satisfies me. You were wondering, were you, how I'd circle back to justify the photo, what a cardinal on a Roman street might have to do with a grandmother crying on a yoga mat in a small West Coast city. Just as much as this man below does, striding equally powerfully, gracefully, up a street in Paris' 13th arrondissement one hot June morning. This one I snapped the year before last, and I was reminded of the image as soon as I looked at the cardinal on the computer screen. Connections. Connections made by me. Random, perhaps. Even erratic. But somehow affirming me, the connector, the viewing eyes, the same eyes cleansed by those alarming tears. . .  
And since these photos skew rather patriarchal, here's another one, taken within days of the one above, but this time, if I remember correctly, in Paris 12th arrondissement, another very hot day, but look at that beautiful dappled shade, and the gorgeous colours of this woman carrying her plastic bag full of laundry. . . .



















In a world with more time -- more Summer, perhaps? -- I'd put this post aside for further editing, shape it into coherence more convincingly. As it is, rather than watch it languish in that sad folder of Drafts Forever, I pass it over for your perusal. I'll be curious to read your comments, but have no particular questions to invite them today. Meanwhile, enjoy your Labour Day!
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