Happy bird-day

It’s my birthday.
I’m 52.
And while I do have days (like I wrote about in my last post) where I feel a bit conflicted about getting older or especially in being a ‘mature’ student, for the most part, I am quite content about the whole thing and really try my very best to embrace it. I definitely subscribe to the whole “older and wiser” mentality. I know I am a better mother, partner, teacher, student, researcher NOW at 52 than I was even 1 year ago because of my life experience, or more specifically because I have had the time to grow, learn and become.

This past Saturday night I ripped through Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography. It was one of those truly serendipitous moments of picking up the right book at the right time. In it, Levy, as the title suggests, writes a small section of her autobiography focusing on one specific year of her life where she was undergoing some major changes; a divorce, the death of her mother, the challenges of being a woman in midlife all alongside her struggles in her career as a writer. What spoke so deeply to me was her ability to communicate how those of us who have defined ourselves for so long as mothers, or, as partners to others so often end up in this kind of liminal place– between what we were and what we might become. After spending so much of our time and energy building a life for our family and/or investing in relationships, romantic and otherwise… of being the nurturer…taking care of others… The notion of being free to do what we want and to create our own independent lives may seem exceedingly difficult and requires equal amounts of patience, humour and energy.

What also spoke to me about Levy’s book was the bird theme that runs through it.  Birds! I have been thinking so much about birds lately and this further added to my feelings that it was fate that brought this book to me mere days before my birthday.
The kids has asked me a couple of weeks ago what I wanted for my birthday and I told them, without hesitation, a squirrel-proof bird feeder. I have beautiful feeder that they gave me years ago when we still lived in Vancouver and I was incredibly disappointed  when we first moved to hang it up only to have it pillaged by the hoards of squirrels that roam my neighbourhood here in Montréal. At birthday dinner last night (we celebrated a day early so I had time to prepare an extra special meal -haha!) they presented me with my coveted  squirrel-proof bird feeder. I was ecstatic. I quickly filled it and hung it outside just above my little St Francis of Assisi , patron Saint of birds and animals tile.

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I began thinking about all the symbolism wrapped up in birds not just for me personally but also in life generally and I was reminded of this by Hildegard von Bingen;

“Birds symbolize the power that helps people to speak reflectively and leads them               to think out many things in advance before they take action. Just as birds are lifted             up into the air by their feathers and can remain wherever they wish, the soul in the           body is elevated by thought and spreads its wings everywhere.” ~ from Liber de                 Subtilitatum 

The power to speak reflectively.

Yes. Without a doubt something that I have been pondering very closely for while now.

But the bird feeder wasn’t my only gift!

Sons number 2 and 3 also arrived to dinner with a gift that they had bought all on their own.

It was a scale. A bathroom scale— like, to weigh yourself with. An interesting gift to buy for your mother to be sure… everyone had a good laugh. And, of course I had to get on the damn thing. (not so funny) But! As I was already into some serious metaphorical -thinking about my birthday and the bird feeder I couldn’t help but think about…weight. As in there is a lot of weight in my musings on birds; the power to speak reflectively… yes, but, I was also thinking about freedom.  I was meditating  on birds and their ability to fly, to soar — the freedom inherent in gliding over and looking down on all that is below. The weightlessness of it all.

After dinner when the boys had gone home, the others were heading to bed and the ol’ man had finished the dishes (he’s good like that) I went to put away my good serving plater he had left on the table for me to put back in the china cabinet. As I was shuffling things around in there I picked up a china egg that had belonged to my mother-in-law. When she died 5 years ago, we ended up with a box of assorted knickknacks that, in all honestly, I hadn’t paid too much attention to. They were put away in the china cabinet and have sat there since. For some reason, last night this giant china egg caught my eye, mostly because I didn’t really remember it.

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When I picked it up I discovered it opened into two pieces, and lo and behold, what was inside but two little glass  birds. I had no idea there were birds in there. I took it to show the ol’ man and he also had no idea.
I brought it to my desk and carefully made a place for it— I think this egg and the wee birds inside need to hang out here awhile.

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There have been no visitors (that I have seen) to my bird feeder yet this morning but as I walked my son to school this morning we heard a woodpecker, some crows, a whole mess of chickadees and saw (and heard!) a bit fat robin. It is cold-ish (-2C) and there is still snow on the ground so Spring has not yet sprung here. I will keep watch over my bird feeder, eagerly waiting for the first (non-squirrel!) visitor, while the little glass birdies will keep watch over me as I continue to “think out many things in advance before [I] take action…” speaking reflectively and with weight.

Happy bird-day to me.

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Sh*t just got real…

OK- so I am not really sure that “the sh*t just got real” thing works in this context– I just really wanted an excuse to say that.

But, if it means that I need to really get my rear in gear– or my submission date is looming (September 29!!!) and I still do not have a full first draft… then yeah, sh*t just got real! (I tried typing it without the asterisk but couldn’t bring myself to leave it like that– I’ve got me some scruples, or I’m just an ol’ fuddy-duddy academic desperately grasping, and failing, to come off as edgy).

Because of my very full teaching schedule, today is the first day in months that I actually have the day (full work day) to write/work and of course, with that kind of freedom comes some trepidation– now I really have to do something. I am trying to go in with beginners mind— really just being present to what I am writing now and trying to not get ahead of myself or panic about all the work I haven’t done yet.

I am coupling that with a plan– mapping out what needs to be done. Got the white board wiped clean, new calendar pages ready to be filled in.

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I am walking into the white room  à la Twyla Tharp, ready to work, with a plan but open to surprises. And by surprises, I mean brilliant strokes of genius! Divine inspiration!

It’s real. 163 days… and counting. Let’s get this sh*t done!!!

Hello My Name is Mamalegato and I am a Procrastibaker.

I belong to a Facebook group for PhD and Early Career Researcher Parents- where,  we share the challenges of parenting while trying to navigate academia and just recently one of the members posted a photo of some adorable but labour intensive looking Easter themed cupcakes proclaiming herself to be a procrastibaker- I can SO relate, and while I certainly would call myself a procrasibaker in the most obvious sense of the word- I bake to avoid the mounds of writing and researching I should be attending to… I realized today, it goes much deeper than that. It hit me this afternoon as I got up from my desk after a particularly dismal day of fiddle-farting around and successfully avoiding the abstract that needs writing, the three separate student assignments that need marking and the script (for a show that goes up in 2 months) that needs re-writing- that my motivation for baking (or procrasti-baking) comes from two places; love and guilt. Love because I know the kids truly love walking in the door and racing up the stairs calling out their best guesses as to what the wafting baking smell is (“Chocolate chip cookies?” “Banana muffins… I knew it!”) And guilt for all the time I have spent away missing birthdays, school concerts, or just being there when they come in the door after school. Somehow- a warm muffin or chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven make ME feel like I am being some kind of good Mom and while neither makes up for time away- I feel like I’m doing just a little something special- while weaselling my way out of reading those 27 student essays… care for a muffin?!muffins.jpg

Sneakin’ one in…

A very brief update…

Had a couple of great weeks… feeling strong and goin’ long… but in the last week life’s been CR-azy and I am really just trying hard to maintain- Getting out for a few 5ks and a 8 if I’m lucky.

I even “snuck”  in a run today… literally… so much to do and on top of it, the ol’ man gives me much grief about being so selfish as to run when there are things to be done- he really doesn’t get the “I function so much better when I exercise” thing- so I just got back from a run that he doesn’t have to know about ’cause he’s not here!!!

I just gotta get through the next couple of weeks- fight to maintain and then worry about the rest later.

Run-iversary

I miss running. I miss running a lot. Lately as I been driving like a crazy woman to work and back, picking up and dropping off children, I will pass places that I used to run when I was training for the marathon. It is the “far away” places that get to me the most. I see them and I can remember how I was feeling. Pacific Spirit Park across form #’s 1 and 2’s school, The MacD’s in Kerrisdale that became a regular bathroom stop on long runs, the intersection of West 33rd and Granville…crossing Granville always made me feel like I was truly doing a long run.

I am too busy to run right now. I usually make an argument about this, knowing that I must always give myself that push to just make time- but I have less than no time… I’m fighting to stay a float here. Just a sampling of what is going on; I’m working 2 days (plus 1 short morning) a week, I am WAY behind in this for-credit university course that I am taking and trying desperately to catch up, we are full on in reno-hell here . Our downstairs is unusable, everything is jammed into the upstairs, there is dust and debris everywhere with a constant parade of trade guys coming through the house, and the ol’man goes to work and then comes home to work on the house which means that I have to do all the extra-curricular activities on my own, these include for this week 9 hockey times (games and practices) 2 piano lessons, 1 choir rehearsal, 1 1st Communion class, 1 Confirmation Class and 2 dance classes. I have not gone to bed before Midnight and I have gotten out of bed at 5:30 everyday. And then there’s the homework, (mine and their’s )and lunches and cooking for 8 people everyday. Oh yeah, and I’m taking the boys to U2 tonight and I have tickets to see David Sedaris Sunday. STOP THE MADNESS!!

I am really not complaining per say, it is more like I am trying to let myself off the hook for not getting out there to pound the pavement, because I do, for whatever reason feel a tad “guilty” for not running.

 

But mostly I just miss it. My body misses it. I just don’t feel right.

October 31st marks the anniversary of my Marathon journey. I cannot believe it was a year ago that I started this whole thing. In the back of my head I have a plan that would see me, on Nov 1st, starting it all over again. That is what I would like to do, I would however also like a nap. We’ll play it by ear.

“Long” run #1

Really, I think the hardest part of this training is going to be carving out the time to get the runs in. It is very complicated having to organize 7 other people (yes, I am including the other adult in the household as he needs much organizing!) Yesterday went something like this…

I was so worried about blowing my day with daycare that I had tried to plan and re-plan the day over and over- but as all Mothers know a plan is good but flexibility is even better when you are dealing with children and trying to get them out the door.

Woke up 5:15- after another crappy night with the baby (he wakes at least 4-5 times every night) had a coffee- and then start pancakes for the gang. It was a good day as I only had to make 3 lunches- as middle 2 are getting hot lunch every other Friday and I decide to give oldest 2 $5 each to buy lunch (as a treat… to myself)

My goal is to be leaving the house by 8- and I’m pretty much there despite having to fish baby out of the toilet (he’s obsessed with spashing aroung in the toilet, and who left the bathroom door open anyway!?) and packing everything that everone will need for the day including my running gear as I am to attend Mass at 9 am because the grade 5’s are in charge of it so I should be in attendance. Everything is running smoothly (ish) until it’s show time… I’m free- my plan was to change in the van and head out from where I’m parked near the kid’s school… but wait, I gotta pee… hmmmm… no problem- I’ll drive to the nearby community centre pee and change there, so away I go- I pull into the parking lot jump out of the van, grab my bag just to discover, I only have 1 shoe with me… AARRGGHH! Back into the van I go, drive home and I’m FINALLY running by 10:15.

The 4 miles, by the way were pretty uneventful. I had had hopes of running  down to the beach from the kids school but as it turns out my run through my neighborhood and then up and around Queen Elizabeth Park was quite lovely thank you, and not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. There were a few teeny tiny walls hit where, if I were feeling particularly pathetic I might have said “Aw, screw it” but all in all it felt great and I even had a bit of a sprint in the final 2 minutes (well at least it felt like I was sprinting!) And heck, so much planning and organizing went into getting out there that I truly would have been pathetic had I given up!

Today was rest day but the plan is to get another outdoor run in tomorrow as I have a small window of opportunity in the afternoon after hockey, church, and my parents coming for dinner, where there is someone home to watch the kids while I get out for a run.

Fingers crossed.