Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Emergency Clothes Bag

I cleaned out our disgustingly filthy eight-months-of-winter-garbage van. Finally.

In the back we have a green bag. It's not pretty; its strap is broken, the sides are stained, but it holds a fair amount. It's a bag that twice a year I assess and update.

It's the emergency clothes bag.

And yes, it only comes out of the van about twice a year. Its job is to sit patiently in the event of its need, and it does its job well.

Inside it contains (for each boy):

- t shirt
- sweater
- jeans
- shorts that can double as swim trunks
- socks
- underpants
- old towel

This bag has existed in some form or another since the boys were babies.

Other things that have resided in the bag over the years:

- even more extra clothes
- pajamas
- extra hat and mitts (in winter)
- two dinky cars (one per boy, or one for each hand, depending on number of kidlets)
- wet wipes
- extra diapers (when they were small)
- receiving blanket (kind of like a panic towel, but magically made of flannel)
- change of shirt for me (back when spontaneous kidlet pukage was a more common event)

Our boys are currently aged 7 and 8, and this bag is still vital. Why? Because now that they're older we have more options of activities.

An unexpected swim? We've got it covered. Hip-deep in mud Have a spill and need to change? No problem. Decide to stick around for an unplanned bonfire? Here're some long sleeves. Weather not as cold as the meteorologists predicted? No biggie, put on these shorts.

And because despite being a planner I occasionally drop the ball find myself doing something spontaneous, and my OCD can't handle it I like to know I have this contingency bag packed. It's there, and I don't have to think about it unless something comes out, in which case I need to ensure a replacement goes back in.

Besides, I have a van. A van. A vehicle with enough room in the back to pack all kinds of emergency gear. I'd carry a porta-potty if it'd fit (true story: during the toilet training stage we had an extra potty in the back for emergency purposes. There was many a roadside stop).

So this bag? This bag is sanity, my friend. If you've got kids and enough room in your vehicle I highly recommend packing one for your family.

If you can think of anything else to add to the bag, feel free to let'er rip in the comments

Monday, May 19, 2014

THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger - Book Review

Rating: 4/5 -  A satisfying read that’s worth every word.
Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Author: Audrey Niffenegger

trade paperback, ebook


Genre: romance, science fiction, speculative fiction

Publisher: Vintage Canada

Landed in my hands:
purchased myself

Summary (from cover blurb):

When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity form his life, past and future. Henry and Clare’s attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it’s about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time.


This book has been on my To Read list since its publication. After seeing the film I needed to wait until my recollection was fuzzy before I hit the pages, and by the time I decided to give it a go I discovered I owned multiple copies—a hardcopy on my bookshelf and an ebook copy. Apparently I’ve been, uh, determined to read this title.

So glad I did.

Why? Well, because it’s that rare book that thanks to its concept is a different type of story than anything else on my shelf. The Time Traveler’s Wife has a circular narrative that questions fate, and analyzes the connection between two people; how a fundamental relationship that circles back and forth through time molds them into who they eventually become. A nature over nurture kind of thing with a dash of chicken or the egg philosophy.

I expected fluff, so I was pleased to discover this is a book that makes you think.

There were surprises in this novel, too. I was glad to see that Henry’s time traveling ability did not exist in a bubble. Yes, out of necessity he needs to hide it from many people, but it’s remarkable how many characters in the story are aware of it. There is a the supportive community that develops around Henry, and it's interesting to see how they are affected by his affliction.

I enjoyed the writing, too. Niffenegger has lovely authentic-feeling diction, giving the characters individuality, as well as lending warmth to the writing that makes you anticipate your next chance to return to the narrative; it’s homey, natural, and comforting.

It’s soft science fiction, and it’s romance. The Time Traveler's Wife is not some fantastical jaunt across time that relies on its readers to stretch the limits of their ability to suspend disbelief; no, it feels genuine—as if this story could actually happen, or is happening now (tomorrow? yesterday? heh).

I get giddy with the thought of this book's potential to be a gateway drug for women into science fiction. I’ve always read genres that defied so-called gender norms, and sadly I’m aware I buck the trends. Though the demographic of female speculative fiction readers is rising, these are ultimately genres dominated by male readers and writers.  

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a novel that will let realism readers ease into the waters of speculative fiction without causing a ripple of discomfort. It's my hope that with this book perhaps some female genre-snobs might be enlightened, realizing that good stories can and do exist outside of the realism label, and that maybe they’ll find something different that strikes heartstrings while sparking imagination at the same time.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The difference daylight makes.

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Yep. That’s my big secret.

It’s why I seem to be barely trudging along some days. It’s why I get quiet. It’s why the resting bitch face surfaces. It’s why I appear burnt out from seemingly nothing for days on end.

And yes, it’s why I can occasionally be found napping in my van in parking lots and appearing hungover randomly mid-week if the sky is grey.

That’s right. My life is not all glitter and rainbows. Shocker, yes?

It’s my understanding that SAD is only tangentially related to clinical depression. I can’t speak for those who suffer from depression because I’ve never experienced it (though I was monitored for postpartum depression, I thankfully never ended up with that particular cocktail of hormones bouncing around in my brain when R was born, despite freshly grieving my mother).

And it’s my understanding that that’s what clinical depression is (and postpartum depression as its child-bearing relative): a sequence of misfired hormones that create the ultimate of unwanted chemical stews in your brain.

Some of my favourite people suffer from depression, and if anyone out there reading this suspects they might suffer from depression, please do yourself the favour of realizing it’s not your fault. Get help. Get meds. Life gets better.

Anyhow. This is not a PSA about clinical depression.

It is, however, a mini one about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Unlike depression, Season Affective Disorder does not make me spiral with low self-worth. I do not suffer unexplained body aches. I can always get out of bed, and I can always get the big things done in my day. It’s the niggly bits that fall wayside, and all I want to do is curl into the living room recliner and doze.

People would describe me as bubbly and chatty. I’m social, but ultimately an introvert—which really just means I need to be mentally prepared to interact, and require downtime to process said interaction afterwards.

SAD brings out all my hermetic qualities.

My overall demeanor is flipped—it’s like someone switched off the light. I’ve shut down. Conversation takes effort. Remembering pleasantries takes effort. I’d much rather squint into the rain and pretend I didn’t see someone I know than expend the energy required to chitchat while waiting for our kids in the school yard.


My birthday was yesterday.

My birthday was yesterday, and I woke up to rain.

Dreary, grey, drag myself out of bed after hitting snooze four times because my body already knew that outside those closed curtains was goddamn, motherfucking rain.

In other words: my kryptonite.

But I am not allowed to call in sick. I refuse to call in sick (to what? Life?).

Firstly, I am not sick. It’s the weather that’s sick.

Secondly, I’d have to call my clients even though I’m not ill, and I value my reliability as a childcare provider.

Thirdly, Mr Lannis was at work so I’d still have to run the morning, getting our own kids ready for school and then settling into the bleary shape of my day—what difference is made by having a couple more kids along for the ride?

So I muddled through the early morning, the kitchen and living room dimly lit by our lamps. I had no choice but to function: L’s birthday party is on the weekend and despite having a few days left to prep, the forecast is calling for rain all week and I know that a string of grey days will make me drop balls in every direction if I don’t push myself to get at least a little of that To Do List finished. So I readied the boys for school and readied myself to get errands done out of town.

This does not mean I was successful overall.

I forgot to pack granola bars and Easter chocolate in the boys’ lunches (read: all the cool stuff was left out).

I forgot the previous night’s laundry in the washer and had to rewash it this morning thanks to the funky smell.

I forgot to post links on Facebook for yesterday’s scheduled post.

I forgot to grab the insulated freezer bags for groceries (I was shopping a 45 minute drive from home).

I drove all that way to Costco and forgot Mr Lannis’ number one needed item (enough egg whites to fill a bathtub), even though it was written at the tippy-top of the god-forsaken grocery list.

I forgot to tell my kids it was my birthday (this is apparently a level of parenting betrayal that cannot be duplicated. It’s bad, folks, trust. Worst mom ever).

I dawdled through my day with my brain fogged by grey skies and raindrops. I managed to get my errands done, but drifted through them without ambition. Despite allotting time to shop for myself with the intent to spoil myself on my birthday, I wandered aisles aimlessly and left empty-handed.

My brain was dull. No spark. Nothing.

It’s not that I can’t function. It’s that I can’t function on anything resembling an acceptable level.

And I want to be clear: yes, it was my birthday, but it wasn’t birthday blues. It wasn’t just a bad day—plenty of things went right yesterday.

I woke to a lovely hand written note from Mr Lannis wishing me a happy day (even though, at 5:30am, he probably looked out the window and dreaded my day for me as soon as he saw the weather... he married this beast and is well familiar with its turns). I went online and was flooded with well-wishes from family and friends (and via phone as the day went on), and the gift of smiles and laughter inundated me as the day went on. Two packages I’d been waiting for arrived via post. My kids were well behaved. Mr Lannis brought me roses, made dinner, and cleaned the kitchen for me.

I got to sit on the chair and doze.

It was a good birthday.

But it was one dampened by Seasonal Affective Disorder.

And I thought I’d had it kicked this year. I really did. Over our long winter—the typically worst time of year for SAD—I’d been fine. I’d been hitting the gym (exercise helps). I’d been taking my vitamins and Siberian ginseng regularly. I’d been getting lots of rest, eating well, and staying hydrated. Aside from the five day sleepless bender that was JordanCon, I’d been dry for months (thank god my liver has muscle memory!). Over the winter there was maybe one day where overcast skies dampened my mood, but nothing like this birthday gloom.

But that’s it, really: this past winter, despite record low temps, had been remarkably sunny. I’d wake to find my kitchen regularly bathed in sunshine—so much the atmosphere screamed summer and I’d itch to hang laundry on our seasonally-abandoned line outside.

I’d almost forgotten the deflating grip grey skies had on my psyche.

Until my dreary birthday.

Today it is sunny.

I woke—on my own, without the alarm—by 6:30am.

By 8am I’d gotten washed and dressed, made our bed, made the boys’ school lunches and their breakfast, emptied the dishwasher, browned three types of meat for tourtiere (that tonight’s dinner), sorted four loads of clothes and began the laundry, all while scribbling down the day’s To Do list.

In an hour and a half.

In short: I’d been reactivated.

That is the power of sunshine.

And writing this post is pretty much the only reason I’m sitting down today, and I don't even feel like having a nap! (gasp!)—there’s loads to do in prep for L’s 7th birthday party on the weekend, and the forecast is calling for rain tomorrow.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t suck me dry.