Precision: Slice of Life 22/31 #SOL20

Days before we all became aware of COVID19 and started practicing social distancing, we moved back into our house after nine months of renovations. While the world has changed so much so rapidly that I could almost swear we moved home months ago, we’ve actually been home for less than two weeks. And our builders only finished up two days ago – or maybe three? I honestly cannot remember.

The last thing the builders finished was the basement, and the renovations meant that we lost some of our attic storage space. Taken together, this means that we have not been able to unpack nearly as much as we would have liked to because we really needed the basement space for a) things that used to live in the basement and b) everything else. Mostly, we’ve been moving boxes to new temporary homes, cursing a lot, and swearing that we are just going to donate everything that’s still in a box so that we don’t have to make another decision. Things are so bad that I might have even taken that last step if only any of the charities were open.

Our house is still complete chaos.

While I am very, very far from a neatnik and can tolerate a fair amount of mess, I have realized over the last few years (ok, truth: after having children) that there is a level of clutter beyond which I get pretty stressed out. We have been there for weeks. No matter what I clean or move, when I turn around, more awaits me. Boxes are everywhere, taunting me, daring me to open them, their unknown contents laughing evilly, waiting for me to despair. My senses are tuned too highly: every noise bothers me, every touch sets my skin to alert (yes, I’m rashy); my tastebuds, oddly, dull & I sneeze often. Many days, I hide in our bedroom to avoid the onslaught. Sometimes I have trouble breathing.

Andre, however, is largely unphased. He spends hours in the basement moving things from the front to the back, from the floor to the shelves with dogged determination. He is calm, careful and confident, knowing that all of this will eventually be sorted out. He finds a happy medium between motion and perfection. He just keeps working, even when I try to pick a fight. He is measured where I am not.

This afternoon, trying to calm my senses, I steal a quiet moment in the sundrenched space of the new kitchen. I sip my tea, concentrate on reading, on writing, on breathing. At the other end of the room, hidden behind the kitchen island, Andre and our younger son begin a project. Andre tells him about the proverb “measure twice cut once.” They practice cutting; they roll something out. Oh! They are making a peel & stick chalkboard calendar for our family schedule. I overhear them measuring and measuring again. “Ok,” says Andre, “We need to cut at 24 and 7/8 inches.”

I am incredulous. 24 and 7/8″? Seriously? At this very moment in our house I cannot reliably find my bathrobe. Our kitchen things appear to have multiplied while in storage. Our younger son’s room is literally knee-deep in stuffed animals; the 18-year-old exchange student is on hour four of a “socially distanced” walk with his girlfriend (so let’s just acknowledge that there is no distance left there, thus undoing all of our work); I think my older child may have been playing video games for 48 hours straight; there are boxes in every single room of our home and, oh, yes we are in the middle of a global pandemic and my husband – a man I married on purpose – is cutting something with a 9-year-old so that it measures exactly 24 and 7/8 inches?

I start to chuckle deep in my belly. I feel a smile threatening to become a full laugh and press my lips together, hard, to stop it. My eyes crinkle as the smile fills my cheeks. Of course he is. In a world filled with chaos, Andre figures you might as well get the measurements right. When they get that calendar on the wall, it will fit perfectly, and it will stay there for years, I bet.

Suddenly, I can breathe a little more easily. Might as well finish up this post and then, I think I can tackle some of those boxes again. I’ll leave Andre to finish up in here. He’s got this under control.

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Abide: Slice of Life 21/31 #SOL20

I am struggling.

I am struggling to find something to write about. This is ridiculous because there is a very obvious thing to write about. But I am petulant and angry and frightened and I don’t WANT to write about it. Yet not writing about it seems unfathomable. Everything – everything – is touched by the thing I don’t want to write about. It is Voldemort in disease form: that which must not be named.

I am struggling to do the work for the course I am taking. Ten days ago I was interested, but now writing about assessment & evaluation in English courses feels ridiculous. I usually dive deep into research and learning, eager to improve my practice and my students’ experiences. Now it seems silly. Who cares how we assess listening when I cannot even see my students? Who cares about grades when we need to be reading the world?

I am struggling because we don’t yet have direction from our school board about how we are going to proceed Monday when our March Break ends. I mean, we know we are not going back for at least the next two weeks, but what then? Online learning? For how long? In what form? I miss my students (which is odd because it was technically March break). I want to give them some sense of stability, some sense that we are learning and moving together. 

I am struggling because so much of my family lives in the US and I live in Canada. And these two countries are not responding to the thing I do not want to write about in the same way. And I am frightened for the people I love. 

I am struggling because my parents are not reacting to this in the way that I wish they would. I want them to stay home, stay safe, stop working, have others do their shopping for them. I want them to understand that *they* are in the high-risk category. They want to make their own decisions, to weigh the risks themselves. I am struggling to remember that I am the child, not the parent. I am struggling to accept that we will all make our own decisions.

I am struggling because I am making choices for my own children and the child of another family who is staying with us this semester. I have just told the 18-year-old that he cannot go stay with his girlfriend. I have told the 9-year-old and the 11-year-old that they cannot play with their friends. I have told them all that they must take walks, find projects to keep busy, stop complaining. I have told them that they must follow rules that I used to tell them they could challenge. 

I am struggling to be kind to myself. To eat well and to exercise enough. To recognize that I am overwhelmed. I am struggling to focus. I am struggling to find the happy medium between acceptance and fear. 

Online, an old colleague used the word “abide.” The word felt calm and solid. I wanted a touchstone, so I looked it up. Bear with me here:

Definition of abide (Merriam-Webster)
transitive verb
1a: to bear patiently : TOLERATE
b: to endure without yielding : WITHSTAND
2: to wait for : AWAIT
3: to accept without objection
intransitive verb
1: to remain stable or fixed in a state
2: to continue in a place : SOJOURN

Calm and solid, yes, but not easy, this word, this abide. At first I thought that abide was nearly the opposite of struggle – and I am struggling. I despaired a little: I cannot abide. Then I realized that, in fact, the opposite of to abide is to give up, to quit, to leave. One can struggle and still abide. I can struggle and still abide. 

I want to write about moments and memories; pleasures and problems; issues and ideas. I have all of these things to write about. For today, however, I will abide. For today, I will acknowledge that, for me, to abide I will have to struggle. 

And I am struggling.

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On futons, spiders & memories: Slice of Life 20/31 #SOL20

Today we managed to get the futon frame out of the basement and into the guest room. Our “guest” is our exchange student from the Netherlands. His dad was an exchange student with my family when I was in high school. Given the current state of the world, this exchange is a *little* different than anyone was anticipating. The current state of our house isn’t making things any easier. Luckily, Pieter is very good natured and has not complained about sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor for a few nights. Unluckily, the futon frame – once we found it and got it upstairs – was very dusty and home to more than a few spiders. Pieter and Andre cleaned it up and put it together and then, over dinner, I regaled them with a spider story from possibly the craziest overseas trip I ever led – the time another teacher and I took ten students to Cameroon. 

After dinner and bedtime, I dug up the email I sent from that day, about twenty years ago. Here is a slightly edited letter from my past self to the parents who trusted me (age 20-something – aka *not old enough*) to take their children to Africa for a few weeks. Just re-reading it makes me gasp and smile. (The editing is that I removed the kids’ names, though I doubt any of them would care. We were two chaperones, ten kids from our school in the US, plus five from the local Cameroonian high school.)

Why hello there.  Did you miss us? Have you been sitting at home wondering what in the world your children have been doing?  Well, they are all alive and well and they are not bored.  Let me tell you about it…

As I recall, I left you at the end of the day Saturday – we’d been to the village and the lava flow.  Sunday morning we woke up bright and early and continued our exciting experiences of Cameroonian roads as we headed up to Bimbie, a town not far from Limbe. Our first order of business was hiking the Bimbie Nature Trail which runs through an old growth lowland rainforest – the only one left between Limbe and Douala. We split into two groups and made our way into the dark, humid interior. We walked by fig trees that have adapted to place their fruit on the ground so animals can get it more easily; we saw ebony trees and smelled their wonderfully aromatic flowers – and learned that you can eat the berries inside the flowers, though I found them bitter; we slopped through a mangrove and thanked the heavens once again for hiking boots that the mud couldn’t suck off our feet (though it tried); we saw a tree whose heartwood rots out leaving space for all sorts of creatures, including hundreds of bats; we even saw a four or five hundred year old tree. The hike was lovely and quite a success.

Upon our return to the road, we realized that the car that had been left for us was not big enough for everyone to get back to Camp Saker, the camp where we were staying in the rainforest.  So a LOT of people crowded into the first car, and the other half of us walked. Eventually, the car came back for the rest of us and we all got to the camp, sweaty but happy.

After lunch, we headed back into the forest with researchers from the Botanic Gardens and we learned how to do a wildlife transect to study a forest.  One student got to use the Global Positioning System (super-technology in the middle of the forest) and the rest of us served as recorders, measurers, tapers and spotters. We spotted lizards, caterpillars and birds’ nests as well as lots of crab holes, but we didn’t see much large wildlife because, in addition to the fact that we were crashing through the forest with about 20 people, these forests have been hunted to the point that almost no large wildlife is left.  Sad, but true. A few sweaty hours after we started our transect, we made our way back to the road and then back to camp.

We spent the early evening at the little beach near our camp. The Cameroonian boys all played soccer on the beach and some of our students joined in. Stella, our cook, was supposed to be making us dinner but, unbeknownst to us, our driver accepted a private deal and was, as a result, several hours late. So Stella was stuck in town, and couldn’t get to us. We realized something was wrong as we got hungrier and hungrier, but we really weren’t sure how to cook for 17 in a camp in the middle of the forest with only rudimentary cooking supplies. When I explained to the kids that we didn’t know what was going on, one of the Cameroonian girls stepped up and promptly took over, cooking a delicious bean stew over an open fire in an outdoor kitchen while I made rice (over a gas stove in an indoor kitchen). Let me just say how seriously impressed I was with her ability to take over and cook. Just as we began to serve, Stella arrived with soda (the height of luxury), and even she was impressed that we’d managed a delicious dinner on our own.

After dinner, some of the students organized a coconut feast (the guides had shown them how to get coconut milk on the morning hike). A few kids gathered the coconuts; everyone worked on opening them; one boy even used his baseball skills to throw coconuts at rocks until they burst.  We all loved the fresh coconut meat, which the kids observed tastes nothing like what you get in the grocery store.

Just before bed, I had to get help from my co-chaperone because a GIANT spider had taken up residence on the ceiling over my bed – not quite as big as my hand, but nearly…  I just couldn’t bring myself to sleep underneath it. He chased the enormous thing about until it gave up and dropped directly into my hiking boot – not my ideal outcome. As you can imagine, this made it very difficult for me to put my boots on the next morning. We decided to keep the spider incident quiet because we didn’t want to tell the kids and “creep them out” (many things “creep people out” around here), but then we learned of the lizard in the boys’ toilet and the various critters in the girls’ room, so we shouldn’t have worried. The night was also stiflingly hot, and Camp Saker doesn’t have air-conditioning – or even fans – so we all had a restless night and people looked a little worse for the wear Monday morning.

Today we are having a symposium (which I am late for as I type, so I’m about to sign off) and this afternoon will be spent at the beach with a beach barbecue for dinner. Tomorrow we have an optional hike to Bomona waterfall. It’s optional because it involves starting at 5 am and a 2 hour uphill hike – but the falls are supposed to be beautiful. As soon as the hike is over, we head to Yaounde. Thursday morning we will meet with the American Ambassador and show him our work painting the education center (which the embassy helped fund) at the Zoo and then we go to Douala. All of this is to say that I will probably email tonight, but after that I can make no guarantees. In addition, please limit your emails to your children to a line or two tonight as I won’t be able to get them the actual text, and this is probably the last time you should e-mail.

Hope all is well in DC and that you are out from under the snow.  More information as I can write.

Amanda

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Piano: Slice of Life 19/31 #SOL20

Today we decided we had to move the piano. We had to move the piano in order to set up the work area and plug in the computer. We have to plug in the computer because sometime soon we are going to have to start working from home. This week is our March Break, so everyone has been off; next week, reality will hit. We’re going to need that computer.

Unfortunately, the piano was here:

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You can totally see the piano, right? Just back there under the blanket. I mean, no problem at all.

Obviously, I hid upstairs while Andre tried to clear enough space to get it out. I got a lot done upstairs.

Eventually the path was clear and it was time. We tried to slip sliders under the piano’s feet so that it wouldn’t gouge the hardwood floors. Only it turns out that the piano has wheels. Great! Wheels! We maneuvered it away from the wall. Um… it was still leaving marks on the floor. Time to use the sliders after all.

“The backside is heavier. Let me just lift it up and then you can slide it in really quick.”
Groan, gasp, quick intake of breath.
“It’s ok, try again. It’ll fit, but that angle’s not going to work.”
We started to giggle. We are terrible.

After all our work, the piano rolled off the sliders during our first good push/pull. Now what? We looked around… carpet remnants! After another slightly naughty conversation and an awful lot of lifting and sliding, we got the piano’s wheels onto two carpet remnants. Now all we needed to do was slide it down the hallway and into the dining room.

Actually, let me amend that slightly: we needed to slide the heavy piano on two random pieces of carpet down a narrow, freshly painted hallway without marring the newly refinished hardwood floor.

Our 11-year-old, lured by the siren song of his parents struggling, came to perch on the stairs and watch.

With our first heave, the piano slid right off one of the pieces of carpet. Undaunted, we pressed our now-laughing child observer into action: his job was to squat between his father’s legs and keep the carpet roughly in place. Andre pulled; I pushed.

“3…2…1… GO!” Down the hallway we went, inches at a time, over the treacherous air intake grate, past the door frame, narrowly missing the bit of wall that juts out for no discernable reason.

“DAD! Your bum is in my face!” We ignored Thomas and pressed on.

Hours (ok, minutes) later, we were in the dining room and near-ish to the piano’s final resting space. We paused. Only one challenge remained: get it into the corner.

We pushed one side back, Thomas vigilantly ensuring the carpet remained in place. Then the next. Then the first side… the second… there! It was in. Now to remove the carpet. We held the middle and one side and tilted the piano a tiny bit and… voila! The carpet came out. The second side was even easier.

We stood back to admire our handiwork. Thomas cocked his head to one side and said, “You know, I’m not sure it really goes in this room.” Then he laughed like a maniac and ran down the hallway and up the stairs.

That piano is staying where it is.

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Reframe: Slice of Life 18/31 #SOL20

 

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Yesterday was *not* a good day. I felt a little better after I wrote it all down, but I was still all akimbo. And then, friends. After I posted, one of my friends sent me this message:

Renovations are horrible at the best of times!!! Adding the stress of this situation, not seeing a loved one etc etc is really easy to miss the accomplishments you achieved today! You were out w your kids, I saw you!, you journeyed, you spoke with friends, you showed your kids that a change of scenery and asking friends for help is real…i could go on. We are so tough on ourselves:( decrease your to do list to 2-3 max items per day and if you need a tea break we can have a social distance one together at the park!

I felt seen. I could begin to see what she saw when we walked by her family and waved. Her message buoyed me and, as I went to bed, I felt myself begin to be able to reframe – not to deny my worries, but also to see the other side of them. So today, a list.

Yesterday, reframed:

  1. We now know that both our fire alarm and our carbon monoxide detectors work (extremely well).
  2. Some of the guys on our construction team have partners whose work is tenuous or who have already been laid off; the guys working here still have a steady income.
  3. They are really good at their job & continue to renovate in a way that is both safe (because there’s a lot of crazy in our 120-year-old home) and beautiful.
  4. We have friends who let us use their house no questions asked – even if we have to scale a fence and break in to do it. They’ve even suggested that we continue to use it until they get home – and their cat will be overjoyed to see us regularly.
  5. The boys and I got out of the house several times. We even went to the local bakery – which is open & running with careful social distancing – and chatted with the workers who know us so well that they remember our account number. And the running tab means we don’t even have to use cash!
  6. When the noise was too much, I was able to take a long walk and talk to friends.
  7. My mother is safe at home – and has a safe home and people around her who love her and will take care of her, even if she lives alone. My sister – whose children’s school was cancelled until the end of the year – has lots of support and is starting a new routine. And her boys love to read.
  8. Andre let our exchange student drive on the way to see his girlfriend. He was *delighted* – even if we do own a minivan.
  9. We have tons of time to cook right now, but we ordered dinner from the restaurant where we held our rehearsal dinner 13 years ago – it’s Sri Lankan and delicious. They were so happy to see Andre that they gave him some of the food they’d had to put in their freezer. Our local businesses need our support.
  10. This moment in time is nerve-wracking – like watching a vase fall to the floor in slow motion: it’s not cracked yet, but we know what’s coming. Still, when I had a bad day, I was reminded of the strength of my extended community. And I have food and a (not *quite* complete) home. I am lucky because one good night’s sleep & the support of my friends and family allow me both the space to be upset and the space to reframe.

Ok, Wednesday: I’m ready for you!

 

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Over the edge: Slice of Life 17/31 #SOL20

It is only Tuesday. I had to double-check that after I wrote it. I checked twice. Still Tuesday. I’ve been holding it all together pretty well, but today has taken it out of me.

7:30am – after a restless night, the phone startles me awake. How am I still asleep at this hour? On the other end of the line, my mom is saying that she is going to go ahead and drive up for her planned visit. My grogginess disappears. I ache to see her, but she should NOT cross an international border (with corned beef and cabbage in the back seat, and a giant stuffie in the passenger seat) for a brief visit during a global pandemic. I know it sounds really obvious when I put it like that, but I really really want to see her right now, and I know she wants to see us. What usually feels like an easy drive with a quick pause at the border is insurmountable in the new reality of COVID19.

9:00am – Eric and Andre have made sausage biscuits (which I pretend is “homeschooling”). I post a picture online because he is so dang cute and immediately feel guilty because it’s basically all show. By now, all the construction guys have arrived and they have a LOT of cutting to do. For much of the day, one guy is in the basement cutting through the concrete with a wet saw (?), another is sawing and hammering something just outside the front door, and two more are either finishing siding – pound pound pound – or cutting through brick to finish a window on the second floor. Sometimes the whole house vibrates. I spend the morning trying to either a) convince the children to unpack their bedrooms or b) do some work for my online course. I am successful at neither.

Every few minutes, the noise crescendos and everything I am thinking about disappears. Eventually I cobble together enough thoughts to realize that I am living Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”; this would make a good slice, I think, but as soon as the idea takes shape, the pounding recommences, the walls shake, and the crew continues to work.

I try to unpack but run into the tetris conundrum: we can’t put anything in the master bathroom because they are cutting a window in the wall, so the bathroom stuff is stashed mostly in the closet which means that I can’t move the things from the bedroom to the closet which meant that I can’t… you get the picture. I call a friend. As we talk, the fire alarm goes off – for the first time.

At least the continuous bone-rattling clamour mostly prevents me from worrying about how to reconcile social distancing and construction work. In the precious seconds between chainsaw buzzing, I console myself that these men have been crawling all over this house for 9 months. They spend more time here than at their homes. And our house isn’t actually all the way finished, so we don’t have a lot of choice. We clean a lot and don’t hang out with them much. It’s the best we’ve got. 

12:00pm – I keep trying to work. I have essays that need marking, an online course that requires reading, and a blog that needs writing (that’s this one), but the more I try to focus, the more I feel sick. Am I feverish? I don’t think so, but my head hurts a lot. Our exchange student, God bless him, asks if he can go to his girlfriend’s house. I feel like I should say no, but Europe has closed its borders; Canada has all but closed its border; Ontario has declared a state of emergency; this pandemic could last for months, and this poor sucker of an 18-year-old is stuck in our nearly-finished house with a tween and a mouthy 9-year-old while the walls shake from construction. So we say yes, with strict instructions for them not to go out at all. He smirks and says that “shouldn’t be a problem.” Sigh.

1:15pm – The fire alarm clangs on and off for over an hour before they figure out what’s causing it. The furnace guy comes to check the furnace and then leaves again. My head is still pounding and now my stomach hurts, too, so I go for a walk in the neighborhood – nevermind the occasional “wintry mix” that is our weather. My heart falls as I walk past shuttered business after shuttered business. The coffee shops, restaurants and hair dresser, all closed. The playground in the park is abandoned. Only the local pot shop is thriving: the line stretches down the street. So this is what it’s come to.

3:45pm – I walk for a long time and my head starts to clear, but eventually I have to go home. I’ve just put in earplugs (as useless as getting out a broom during a tornado) and settled as far as I can from the noise, when an infernally loud beeping begins. It’s not the fire alarm; now, between shrill yips, a calm computerized voice says, “carbon monoxide detected” over and over and over.

We grab the kids and hurry them down stairs as the construction lead comes in and begins to open the windows. Clearly we need to get out of the house, but everyone is quarantined or social distancing. And while it’s not actively spitting snow/rain/sleet, the skies are ominous. I think on my feet and suggest our friends’ place – they’re still on vacation (in Mexico! imagine!) and their house is empty. We know the code for their keybox. We hurry down the street only to discover that their back gate is iced shut. The kids offer to scale it just as the wintry mix begins again. I text our friends; they are delighted to let us use their house. The kids find the key box & get the door open. 

3:55pm – we are in. No one is hammering or sawing or pounding. There is no fire alarm, no carbon monoxide. I don’t have my computer or anything to do. No matter: I sit in the glorious silence. Slowly my headache subsides. The boys are on the other side of the house, watching TV and I am just sitting. I have not done any of the things that needed doing. I have not read or marked or written. I haven’t unpacked or cleaned or cooked. I haven’t organized or even been able to think all day long. And I am so tired. 

I text my friend. I say that I am tired. He replies,

A move plus no school plus a deadly furnace plus a pandemic is a lot to happen in a week. 😦

6:00pm – as we walk back to the house, now free of smoke, carbon monoxide and sawing of any sort, I get a message from my sister: her boys are out of school until the end of the school year. She is panicking. My 9-year-old starts to say how awesome that would be when his brother hushes him. “This is really serious, isn’t it, Mom?” he asks. I nod. “Maybe I’ll start a journal when I get home,” he says quietly.

And then I know I am over the edge. I will need to sleep before I can think properly again. It’s a lot for one week – and it’s only Tuesday.  

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Ice, Ice, Baby: Slice of life 16/31 #SOL20

I grew up in southern climes. My father was in the Air Force and we lived in Panama, Texas and California before we settled in South Carolina. Even my “far away” university was below the Mason-Dixon line. As a result, until I moved to Ottawa, I had little experience with seriously cold weather. I refused to agree to move here until I had visited in the winter. My then-boyfriend now-husband was so anxious about this that, when I arrived in mid-February, he met me at the airport, bundled me into a taxi, looked at me and asked, with absolute sincerity, “So, do you think you can handle the cold?” I said yes. This is what love will do to you – even if you’re a Southern Girl.

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Ice ripples

I didn’t see snow fall until I was in the 5th grade. That summer, we had moved from California to South Carolina, not exactly a bastion of cold weather, but colder than what I knew. One day in February, someone yelled, “SNOW!” and we all ran to the window to see it until Mrs. Rish called us back in her quavering voice: “Sit down! Sit down, children! It’s not like you’ve never seen snow before.” I turned to her, eyes wide with wonder and said, “I haven’t.” Bless her for saying, “Well then, Mandy, you can stay there.” I pressed my face to the cold glass and watched in amazement for long minutes before I returned to my seat.

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Ice near yoga class

You can imagine my first few winters in Ottawa. I had to learn everything anew, not least of which was how to dress myself – and then babies – for cold weather. None of the coats I owned were even close to warm enough. I did not have winter boots. I was pretty sure that no gloves in the world could keep my fingers warm in February. Sometimes I tried to stay inside for days, despite Andre’s gentle insistence that going outside at least once a day was healthy.

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parking lot ice

 

Eventually, time and the kids got me outside. After all, I didn’t want to miss the fun of building snowmen or turning the back porch into an epic sledding ramp. When the boys started parent-child skating lessons, I went to the rink and tried to pretend that, like the other parents, I was mostly there to hold the kids up when, in fact, I was learning, too. Now I can lace skates – theirs and mine – stand up from a fall, and even race my kids down the frozen canal in February. I’ve come to love snowshoeing and have taken a ski lesson to get over my fear of downhill skiing. I still don’t love it, but I can get down a hill.

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This icy dragon is breathing fire

The more I played outside in the winter, the more I got used to the cold. Sure, I wear hats and gloves starting in October and straight through to April, making “real” Canadians laugh, but in last year or two I’ve caught myself “just running to the car” in slippers & a bathrobe even when the temperature is well below zero (Celsius – think maybe in the 20s Fahrenheit). Yet none of this prepared me for my recent fascination with ice.

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Ice stalactites from a roof

Canadian kids have some built-in knowledge about ice. They know which patches are likely to be slippery and which ones they can careen across without a second thought. My children tear down the sidewalk, sure-footed, running ahead while I slide my feet tentatively across every potentially slick patch, always unsure of what is safe. I am not ice-savvy; I’m not sure I ever will be. Perhaps this is why I started examining the ice all around me as I walked. It was as if my brain concluded “If I can’t intuit things about ice, maybe I can observe my way into this important knowledge.”

Much to my children’s disgust, instead of becoming a savvy winter walker, I’ve slowed down even further. The more I look at the ice, the more I fall in love. These days, I stop on the sidewalk, pause in parking lots and wander through parks, looking at the ice the way I once looked at the falling snow, in absolute wonder at the unexpected beauty of winter.

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