Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Skipping Away

Once again, I find myself packing a suitcase.

This time I'm off to California, for a combination of work and pleasure. I'm attending the ALA mid-summer conference in Anaheim, so I thought Why not? I'll bring Scott with me and we'll go to the Magic Kingdom and pretend we're kids again. 
I still haven't decided whether or not to torture him with a dose of the It's a Small World ride....

When I was thirteen I went to Disneyland with my parents and some family friends. I had never been before. And I had waited my entire life for that trip. We stayed with a houseful of family friends in Los Angeles, and planned the trip to the park for the second or third day after we arrived. I patiently kept my composure. The minutes ticked by each day until it was only one sleep away. I may as well have slept in the car that night so we could just start it up at dawn and hit the road. But a house of fifteen sleepy people does not get going at a respectable pace, especially at an uncivilized hour. Had I a whip, I would have done some cracking. 
At approximately 2pm, just when I thought we were on our way, just when I could imagine hurtling through the darkness on Space Mountain as all of my friends had done before me, just as I could see sunlight gleaming off the embossed letters on the plaque that reads "The Happiest Place on Earth", and just as I could smell the Disney churros on the rotisserie.....
Everyone. Took. A nap.

Well, everyone but me. How could I possibly conceive of sleeping at such a time?!? On an unforgivingly hot August afternoon in southern California, while Disneyland tempted me with promises of soaks and splashes! Had the house guests/nappers been my own flesh and blood, I would have unleashed a fury so damning, so sinister, they would have taken me there by rickshaw if it were the only mode of transport, even if they had lost their legs in the battle. But, to be appropriately polite, I concealed my quivering reflexes and retired to the backyard pool. And waited. Waited some more. Waited until I was beginning to seriously wonder if everyone in the household had forgotten to tell me that the Hale-Bopp Comet was on its way and they were all catching a ride (in a lapse of sanity brought on by my wretched nerves, I checked the dozers' feet for black high-tops).

Eventually, the nappers began rising one by one from the most inopportune siesta there ever was. We had lost precious hours. Afternoon had become evening. Morning was a distant memory. But off we went. Finally. 

You may think that as soon as my feet struck that magic pavement I would have bee-lined it for Thunder Mountain or the Matterhorn. Yes, one would think that. And bee-line I did - right after, that is - an unplanned detour into THE TIKI ROOM. Otherwise known as a sweltering tropical hut full of deranged singing parrots. The seats are just wooden chairs. And they're not the type of wooden chairs that are attached to a track that turns into a rollercoaster and flips you upside down or anything. They're just chairs. Kindling, even. I am sure, at that moment in time, I could hide my disgust no longer. 

Luckily, I ended up having the time of my life, and my family and friends got to keep all of their limbs. All was not lost.

But the irony of this sordid tale? The Tiki Room is one of the few attractions at Disneyland that welcomes women who have babies in their bellies. I shall find myself there once again, no doubt.

*The sketch at the beginning of this post was inspired by the words of my friend Dean. She wrote: "...when life runs along, skipping away dragging some tattered blanket..." 
For some reason that phrase got stuck in my head (I think it's beautiful) and transformed into this literal interpretation of its meaning. This one's dedicated to you, Deaner!


Friday, June 20, 2008

Make Every Word Tell

Friday, playing with my camera and a favourite book

This is one way to get me to pick up a book on English language usage....illustrate it! The Elements of Style Illustrated (Penguin Press, 2005) is the third edition of the 1959 classic by William Strunk Jr., later revised by E.B. White. Maira Kalman's whimsical watercolour illustrations visually complement a sampling of gramatical examples and often incorporate a subtle wit. One of my favourite pages is an illustration of a mid-century Mies van der Rohe-inspired living space that accompanies the idiom People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

In other news, I am incredibly excited about an invitation I received last night! I am the newest member of Spoonflower. I had to request an invitation from their website and after a short waiting period they sent me an account confirmation which means I am now able to upload my own designs to be printed on a bolt of fabric. I've ordered a sample with my deer illustration (from a few posts back) on it and I'll let you know how it turns out when I receive the finished product in a few weeks. Maybe the next quilt I make will utilize fabric of my own design!

In other other news, I was lying on the couch last night paying attention to all the wiggling going on inside. I lifted up my shirt a bit to expose my bare skin and, poke! I actually saw something moving in there! Someone is using the inside of my belly as a punching bag. Who are you anyway, little one?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Quilting has begun

I've started a crib quilt and thought I'd document the various stages here. So far all I've done is cut out the basic blocks 5 1/2 inches square. The next step is the appliqued animals.....I'll post my progress sometime next week....
I just loved neatly stacked fabric, don't you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This chain of days

I'm back from Toronto and Book Expo 2008. Before I left I spent two nights in Vancouver with friends and flew out early Saturday morning. Had coffee and a catch-up with Andrea, a fellow mom-to-be, on the corner of Davie and Seymour, then wandered around Yaletown for a few hours and revisited memories of living in Vancouver. The shopping, the dining, the Park, the dogs strolling along the seawall, the quality of morning light in mid-June. There are days when I sorely miss all these things.
And I always forget how stylish Vancouverites are. I've gotten used to the casual Victoria dress code, and it's not until I find myself walking down Granville Street that I realize I look like an urban pilgrim. What has become of me?!

The morning I left Vancouver was a comedy of errors that ended spectacularly well. I woke up at 5 a.m. and bid my hosts a sleepy goodbye. Only problem is, to get out of their building you need a scan key to use the elevator. So it was the fire stair for me and my 50 lb suitcase. Not an easy undertaking when you're pregnant! I hope the baby didn't mind the clumsy racket.
I opted for the express check-in at the airport and couldn't figure out why I didn't have a seat assignment on my boarding pass. Turns out, Air Canada down-graded the aircraft to a smaller one, so 17 passengers were without seats and likely to be bumped to another flight. I overheard one impatient traveller proclaim "I hate my life" in response to the situation. I, on the other hand, (looking for the positive) assumed the original flight must be doomed and that I had fatefully been spared from the impending disaster. Some of you are familiar with my flying anxiety, although lately it's been much better! Fortunately, of course, all flights departed and arrived without incident that day.
After walking a kilometer to gate thirty-eight I was given a credit for a future flight and also handed a boarding pass with seat 5E assigned. Row five, you ask? Business class indeed! And not just any business class. Nothing less than Jetsons-inspired aviatic pods with seats that recline into beds! And big screen personal televisions! and breakfast! and real cutlery and white dishes! and hot towelettes! two of 'em! phhhffftt. I am afraid there is a tragic flaw in all of this luxury....I am now simply too good for Economy class.

I arrived in Toronto that afternoon and Dayle, Andrew and I went to the CCBC Children's Gala at a restaurant downtown. It was a cocktail and appetizer affair, and an opportunity to put faces to dozens of emails sent along the cyber wires over the past few months; authors, illustrators, publishers, publicists, booksellers. I am learning how dependent the book business is on making connections.
A full day at Book Expo on Sunday, chatting up our frontlist to customers and setting up book signings with many of our authors. This is my favourite part, meeting the authors and illustrators; accomplished storytellers who I am innately curious to learn more about. I want to know about their life's bits and pieces that have ultimately lead them to this spot: sitting behind a stack of printed words, signing their name inside the front cover, sending a story out into the world. And truly, at last and without hesitation, when asked of their profession, they are able to say "I'm a writer." Which, for this reason and that, makes me think of Goethe's words:

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius power and magic in it. Begin it now."

We would all be wise to not forget this.

On Sunday night I had a fantastic French meal at one of Toronto's trendiest restaurants, Le Select. Myself, my co-worker, a Montreal-based author, and a bookseller from Victoria made for a lively and unique foursome. I missed my wine (do I ever miss my wine), and decided to avoid the Cock's comb dish on the menu (yikes!).
But it was the best kind of dining experience, long and drawn-out with just the right amount of attention to service. Most importantly, there was laughter, exchanging of personal stories and acknowledgment of those moments when you're enjoying the company so much that you don't want the hours to wane or the wine to dry up or the wicks to extinguish. And you can't help but feel grateful for whatever design caused otherwise independent paths to cross for dinner during a summer thunderstorm in Toronto.

And Monday, home...

West, through the quiet night, above the the congestion, beside the moon. I looked down upon the rivers and lakes of central Canada, the patchwork patterns of prairie fields and later, little flickering mountain towns nestled between the peaks of the Rockies. Over Kelowna and Vancouver, lower....lower, over a lone pair of headlights winding along a road on a Gulf Island which was surrounded by waters so dark and still, I imagined it was moonlit concrete.
Finally, Victoria. Dear, small, quiet Victoria.
I am privileged to have touched down in three wonderful and diverse places in three days, each offering equally wonderful and diverse people with whom to make acquaintance. And at the trip's conclusion, I am grateful to see it all from way above, all in miniature. All as if it is really that small, but also so immeasurable and total at the same time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bare-naked in Toronto and Vancouver

I am fit to be crowned Worst Packer of this great wide land. Last night I was trying to fill a suitcase with necessities for a day in Vancouver and two days in Toronto. No matter the destination, the duration of the trip, the weather or the growing limitations as to what clothes can actually accomodate my bump these days, I stand motionless in front of my closet and stare vacantly at an abyss of clothes, shoes, bags, scarves. Scott has warned me that if I keep it up, he will need to refinish the floor at my feet.

I am a clothes sorter. I am a re-folder. I am an organize-my-closet-by-garment-colour-when-the-mood-strikes-me kind of gal. I banish spring clothes to storage in the fall, and fall clothes to storage in the spring. I like this kind of system. It keeps me calm, if not obsessive compulsive.

But packing is my wardrobial tragic flaw. Shoes especially. I usually take with me more pairs of shoes than days I am away. Add two different climates to the formula (a heat wave in Toronto and the perpetual winter of '08 on the West Coast) and I've really got a calculus problem to solve. Find: the derivative of white shorts raised to the power of two heels, multiplied by a maternity top, all divided by rain. I stand. I stare. Flies fluzz by. Chestnuts roast on an open fire.

And inevitably, the morning of my departure is an exercise in haphazardly adding last minute items to my suitcase (and purging four-legged stowaways). Boots. toothpaste. pjs. Shit! pjs!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

strike three

cannot write today. have abandoned two posts based on each one's ability to bore me into a catatonic state, and therefore also any reader who comes too close. have eaten all the chocolate I promised myself I would store in my desk for future 3:00 fixes. feeling like a sloth. writing like a marmot. like a marmot who rode from Princeton to Port Alberni in the engine of a minivan. ouch.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Saturday night. June in Victoria (read: cold and windy). Fisherman's Wharf for dinner; shared outdoor benches, malt vinegar, bobbing houseboats and the sun low in the sky. Backlit silhouettes lined up to order and seagulls scavenging scraps from discarded baskets.

Earlier that day: a painting gone wrong. unexpected visitors. goose-bumpy legs. and a nectarine overdose.

Friday, June 6, 2008

"We Can Bridge the Distance"

This is one of my favourite photos of my best friend and I, circa 1992. Our version of a "talent" performance for our parents, sans batons and tiaras. Note my Bart Simpson pin which says "Don't have a cow, man." We're singing Tears Are Not Enough. I think Leah was feelin' it a little more than I was...