Writing About Not Writing.

I have always considered myself a writer. My friends and family and teachers always considered me a writer. “Oh, she’s so talented,” they’d say. It was just this thing. Like being right-handed or having curly hair. So, in times like now, I am gripped by a kind of existential angst, because I’m not writing.

I’m really not writing. I kept thinking, “I’ve got to start a project” all this month, and then not starting it. To be fair, I have been doing other things that take up my energy, but if I’d wanted to write, I would have been writing.  Prolifically.

So what if I’m not a writer? What am I, then? A teacher, an artist, a baker, a cook, a gardener? A girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend? A crossword doer, a reader, a photographer? No one ever gave me expectations about being those. Not like being a writer.

There’s a little part of me that worries I’ve used up all my writing juice. “That’s it, you’re done with writing,” it says. “Now you’ve got lots of other things to do, but not writing.”

I don’t know what’s happening with this not-writing thing, but I feel like I’m a woodbug that’s been exposed from under a rock: No idea where to go and I can’t see the bigger picture enough to make a plan.


Well, it took about six hours over the weekend, a cricked neck from stress, three crying episodes and one Drama Queen meltdown (“I just don’t have a lot of resources right now,” I mewled), but my taxes are done. Quicktax is the way forward!

I’m not getting a return or anything, and have to give the Government ninetysomething bucks for the traumatic experience. But this is the first year in a long time when I made enough that I didn’t qualify for a return, so I guess that evens out. Most importantly, I learned that I could totally do my taxes by myself.

Plus, when I was done, both yesterday and today, I had time to go out into the garden. I planted sunchokes and peas and made a little vegetable patch in the side yard. I did a little weeding, got the recycling taken care of, and had some pizza. Last night I got a little drunk and giggly at Erin’s.

Right now, E is nodding off on the couch beside me, and I’m off to google how to grow broccoli. All in all, it could have been a much worse weekend.

Tax Prep

It’s tax time again. I’m three parts scared and one part angry. Taxes=math. Math=scary. This is a double whammy, because I can’t do math and I don’t speak Government, so I get in a sweaty fluster at the very thought.

In past years, I’ve relied on my dad, and then I paid a friend in scotch to do my returns. But the friend’s bloody father (an actual accountant whose office and software we used) has relocated with his bloody girlfriend to bloody White Rock, and so that route isn’t an option. Even if I just sent him all my stuff, I couldn’t afford him.

So it’s me on my own. I’m thinking about doing one of those online returns, but I get worried even thinking about it. Which one to choose? How much should I pay?I’d do H&R Block, but they’re not really looking out for me in terms of getting credit for my bus passes or phone.

I get so angry about this because it’s the one area of my life where I’m a Helpless Female. That pisses me right the hell off. I HATE being helpless. But I don’t have a choice but to get in there up to my elbows and find some numbers that make sense.So I guess I will.

Hayulp! Any tax advice out there?


Recently, I found myself driving to Burnaby to buy garden supplies with my landlady. (As an aside, I love my landlord and landlady.  I told them, “I’m going to make a lawn in the backyard and get rid of  the buttercups and weeds and those yellow things we don’t know what they are”, and they said, “Awesome! How can we help?” Even though they never go back there and it is my private spider-infested domain.)

So we were heading to a discount garden center on Byrne Road, and I was giving the landlady directions.

“You seem to know the area well,” she observed.

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I used to have a boyfriend out here. We’d drive down to an old playground at the end of Byrne, and blow up pumpkins with firecrackers.” Which is totally true.  My ex loved blowing things up. It was a hobby for him. Very relaxing.

Aside from the periodic heroin addiction, I thought, and the fact that he couldn’t get over the fact that he’d have to live the rest of his life NOT a celebrity drug dealer, we could have had a wonderful life together.

I was quiet for a while. “Yeah. But for the grace of God, I could have been a divorced mother of two in Burnaby.”

“Wow,”  said my landlady. “You just never know what’s going to happen.”

Funeral Operation.

Bo and I are good at funerals now. We had a memorial service to go to today, for my father’s cousin.  Dad wasn’t coming because he can’t go into the old neighborhood without breaking down.  So Bo and I were there to represent. Usually it’s best if I go alone, because then I can slip in, make pleasant, and get out like a ninja, but it was nice to have Bo along to draw some of the fire.

My father’s cousin was a kind, patient, gentle man who put everyone at their ease. He was great for when we had to go to family functions on Dad’s side, because Dad hates most of his relatives and we never really got to know them. I sort of don’t mind this. Then again, they mostly think I am a lesbian because I’m not married. It’s handy to be a sometimes-lesbian, actually.

Anyhow, we’re on the bus on the way up there, and we crane our necks to see our old house.

“They painted it. It’s blue.”

“Huh. Looks fresh.”


I turned to my brother. “Look at us with the well-adjusted. High five.”

At the memorial, we made small talk with Ghastly Aunt and Bigoted Uncle and listened to people talk about the deceased, how kind and gentle and patient he was. Then I raised my eyebrow at Bo, he swilled the last of his wine,  and, like smoke, we were out of there. A textbook operation.

As he was about to board his bus downtown, Bo held up his fist. “Good funeral.”

I punched his fist. “Nice one.”

Yep. We’re very good at funerals.


When I am stressed out, I clean. When someone I love is having a hard time, my first reaction is to cook, and then give them what I’ve cooked.

I was telling my aunt how much I have been cooking, cleaning, and baking lately, and she wondered if the tradition of giving food to ill and/or grieving families was a Scottish thing. She assumes sometimes that everything even remotely noble in our impulses is a direct result of our Scottish ancestry, like our low, flat butts and inability to tan.

I explained how I didn’t think it was a case of genealogy, but that people who have experienced loss know what to do. Their neighbours and loved ones filled their freezers, did their dishes, made their beds, when tragedy struck them. Then, when they saw others suffering, they knew what to do.

The work also helps those of us who feel helpless. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Jet Li Jacket

It was hot today.  I dressed in my sweater and winter jacket, and had them stuffed in my bag most of the day. So tonight when I got home, I unearthed the Jet Li jacket, which is a lighter weight.

I bought the Jet Li jacket some time after my mom died.  It made me feel like Jet Li, ergo the name. It’s Chinese communist-grade, waterproof, has exposed zippers.  Even as a grieving white girl lugging extra pounds, I felt like Jet Li in it. And that was really good for me. Jet Li (or the characters he often plays) is tough, but kind. He feels the pain, but isn’t going to let it matter. He survives, and Gets It Done. Plus, he kicks ass.

I needed to feel that. I needed that in a garment. The confidence. The Get It Done. Tonight when I put it on, I realized I didn’t need that shell around me any more.  I didn’t need to be Jet Li. That’s how grief goes.  It weighs you down and you keep yourself buoyed up with anything you have to hand. And then somehow you find that you can buoy yourself up. That you can kick ass as yourself.

I might be in the market for another spring jacket. Maybe something in a colour.

Canadian Books

I campaigned hard, and I think I am on the verge of winning. I have been suggesting more Canadian content in the books at work and my boss has asked me for a list of Canadian books I think might be suitable to add to our library. Right now, we are heavy on the American Newberry and Caldecott winners.

I’ve been through the awards lists (Why do so many of them only go up to 1999, anyway? Els?) but these are, for the most part,  books chosen by adults for children and young adults. Even the readers’ awards draw on pools chosen for them by adults. It’s a very controlled experiment.

My question to my vast readership:  What are some Canadian books that you have enjoyed reading?  What have your children enjoyed reading? Anything: Fiction or non, awarded/nominated or not. High level, low level, whatever.  Actually, not just Canadian. Just not American Caldecott or Newberry winners.

I know, I know. I’m asking a lot of you. But I know all eight of the people who read this blog are avid literary types who want to help me subvert my student population. Excuse me, now. I have to go explain for the thousanth time that Malcom X was not, in fact, Canadian.

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