Tag Archives: home

dreaming of the edge of the world

Douglas Coupland wrote, in Shampoo Planet, that home is where you dream, that it’s part of your brain’s hard drive.  That we’re all hard wired for our dreams to be set at home.

I’m not terribly sure where I dream these days.  Many days my dreams do exactly what they should do, and parse through the mundane things that have happened to me each day.  Some days, they are pop culture references – TV, movies, books.  And then other days, I dream of my own home, of that corner of British Columbia I grew up in, took for granted and left.  I dream of Victoria.

With no close family left in BC, I’m unlikely to return, even for a vacation, because I know I’ll always prioritize the rest of the world over returning to that corner of it I know by heart.  And yet, every day, I think of random places and it catches my breath in sadness.  I’ll  be caught by a random memory of Oak Bay in summer, or I’ll look at a street in Manhattan and see the West End.  It is forever and ever part of my permanent memory, my own hard drive.

For the past year, since I said goodbye the last time, since I wept my way back across Canada on a red-eye flight back through Toronto last November, I have been trying to push back those memories and focus on my actual present in Brooklyn.  I love Brooklyn, after all – I love New York the way I loved Vancouver.  This is the most Vancouvery place I could have settled with my family, after all, with its hippie food co-ops, overpriced real estate, bike lanes and beaches.  New York City is ten times the size of Vancouver and yet I get it because I lived there.  And I chose to be here, and I work every day to stay here and I love it here.  And so, rather than focus on the past, I chose to push it away.  I thought that would be the smart thing to do.

The problem with the past is that it won’t be pushed away.  It’s been half a lifetime since I lived on the Island, a dozen years since I left Vancouver, and yet I still dream of home.  It’s taken me the last twenty years to realize that not everyone feels homesickness like I do, and not everyone has the emotional attachment that those of us born in the Pacific Northwest do to our homeland.  Maybe I should be celebrating that and shining that light into my own memories instead of drawing the curtain on them. Maybe I should choose to follow those memories for a few minutes each day – not enough to be lost in nostalgia, but enough to accept the sorrow and the joy that comes from spending the first twenty years of my life in a lost English colony on the edge of the world.

And so, I’ve chosen to spend a few minutes memorializing my own memories of Victoria.  The neighborhoods and streets are still there, and many are actually protected by heritage and building laws.  The Victoria in my memory is frozen in time between 1988 and 1998, in an era before the Internet had pictures, a time between when the natural resource industries crashed and the tech industry started, yet it doesn’t look much different than the city I said goodbye to in 2015.  There will never be skyscrapers in Victoria the way there are in Vancouver…but there will be condominium developments, and there will be growth, and there will be big changes yet to come.  When I remember places – a half-finished Songhees walkway, Vic West of abandoned industrial zones, an Oak Bay Marina with Sealand of the Pacific (yes, of Blackfish fame) – they are memories of places that no longer exist except in memory.

I have pushed back memory because I am afraid of homesickness, of the addiction of nostalgia and the past.  These are terrible temptations in stressful times.  I have questioned many times since I left the Island if my desire to go home was pure homesickness or just a longing to return to a time that was less complicated.  After all, wouldn’t everyone like to have the responsibilities of their nineteen year old self for a few days instead of the responsibilities of their thirty-eight year old adult self?  So it is with the fear of addiction that I risk reliving memories of British Columbia and choose to describe them.

So.  I remember Oak Bay, Victoria, the Island.  I remember Vancouver, the Lower Mainland.  I will allow myself to revisit the place I know by heart.  I will trust myself to accept the strange mix of loss and comfort that is growing up someplace that borders on the unreal in sheer beauty, and then having chosen to leave it, as every small-to-medium town kid does, to See the World.  After all, being able to call one single place home means that, as long as I live elsewhere, I am forever on a journey.

When I am self-pitying, that is when I tell myself I’m living in exile Off Island.

When I am hopeful, that is when I can see that journey as being a lifetime of adventure.

And living in Brooklyn, that is exactly the adventure I dreamed of as a teenager in Victoria. I do not need to convince myself of the sheer awesomeness of my present, I just need to come to terms with the contrast it has with my past.

 

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holy pickles, mama!

Recently, I decided to become an even bigger Brooklyn cliche by learning to can foods. This started when I acquired entirely too many peaches a couple of weekends ago, in the course of a visit to a farm in Dutchess County. In order to preserve them, I downloaded “Canning for a New Generation” to my Kindle, and began reading about how to can.

After a practice batch of peaches in syrup, I began to get the hang of it. I have now successfully “put up” a half dozen jars of peach jam (with apple pectin, of course), three and a half pints of classic cucumber relish, three pints of “Dilly Beans!”, and two quarts of Quick Kosher Dills, using apple cider vinegar. This eliminated a lot of the surplus produce from our CSA, who seem to be having a bumper crop year of cucumber and peaches. It also took advantage of local sales on seasonal vegetables.

But one thing I really wanted to make was real, honest to goodness brine pickles. Ben and I have discovered traditional pickles since moving to NYC. We both love pickles, and we are starting to really get into the fermented kind, rather than the commercial vinegar kind. Of course, our Quick Kosher Dills were tasty, but they didn’t have that depth of flavor that comes from the lactic acid on fermentation. Also, because the quick pickles were pickled in jars, I had to add a whole tea bag to each jar, instead of being able to add a few tea bags to a whole crock, and it was just too much tea for the pickles (Tannins like those in tea make for crisper pickles, since they slow the enzyme that breaks down cucumber cell walls, and since I don’t have fresh grape leaves to add, I used black tea bags. Problem solved with SCIENCE!)

So this weekend, I took advantage of a sale on Kirby cucumbers, and we put up a crock of pickles.

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Ben neatly stacked the pickles in the glass jar. I measured spices and made brine. And together, we made pickles! (Also, the bowl to the left of Ben is relish, in the process of soaking in salt water)

Two days later, the jar is starting to smell a LOT like pickles.

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Two more weeks, and we will be ready to put pickles in jars, pasteurize them, and prepare for distribution to friends and family. And, of course, eat them ourselves. Because, as Ben tells us repeatedly every chance possible, he loooooooves pickles.

And I’m not sure how it is I regressed into being an L.M. Montgomery character, despite living in Brooklyn in 2012. First I started baking our own bread, now I’m making pickles. If only I knew how to properly sew, knit and garden, I’d be all set to live in a PEI settlement circa 1890. As it is, I will just have to be a part time urban homesteader in New York City, in a very modern age.

wednesday recap: freelancing, cooking, seasonal sponge painting, and interviews!

I spent yesterday right where I am now: on the couch in our living room, with my newly upgraded laptop (I upgraded the hard drive last week ). I have actual work to do again. Of course, it is not of the paying variety of work, because everything is in “pitch mode”, or “rampup mode”, or some sort of mode that will take a lot of work to earn a paycheck. But I still like having work to do, and being a consultant definitely gives me more creativity than I had before. I have a completely free range of motion I didn’t have at my last agency, and I can propose anything I want without being limited by red tape.

I also managed to get dinner on the table right when Paul and Ben walked in the door. Ben comes home and yells “Mama!” and gives me a big hug, every day. Then he tells me, “I’m hungry. My tummy’s empty”. Last night, I had the timing down perfectly, and I was able to hand him dinner immediately. When I cook, I plan for a meal for myself and Paul, and then deconstruct it and modify for Ben. Last night, Paul and I were having braised chicken with fennel, mushrooms and tomatoes, over whole grain bow tie pasta. For Ben, I modified the sauce by pureeing the vegetables with some spinach and extra bottled marinara, added ground turkey, and handed him his pasta right when he got in. The kid plowed through two bowls of the mixture. It was perfect – he was just hungry enough to eat, but not so hungry that he was too grumpy to eat. THAT is why he needs dinner exactly on time, because my kid, like his dada, has too little reserve fat on him to be able to skip meals.

After dinner, Paul and I were trying to entertain Ben with some sort of craft. I hit on the bright idea of sponge painting. For those of you who were never in elementary school, this is when you use squares of sponges and paint to dab colors on paper. The sponge makes a print, and you can mix colors for shading and effects. I dumped some of Ben’s paints onto a paper plate palette, cut up a sponge, and immediately showed him how to dab-dab-dab paint into a tree shape. Then we learned about what colors you get when you mix other colors. And then Ben smeared the paint everywhere to make a giant smudge. Oh well. We started over, did more trees, added a pumpkin, and called it a Fall Scene.

ME: “Look, Ben! [dabbing red and yellow on a tree] The leaves are changing colors! What season is it when leaves change colors?”

BEN: [blank look]

ME: Oh. Right. SoCal baby. Not so much with the changing leaves.

Paul and I, having grown up with seasons, are used to doing Seasonal Crafts in elementary school. We did the colored leaves in fall, cotton ball snow in winter, tissue paper blossoms in spring. But Ben has NO FREAKING IDEA what’s supposed to happen in seasons because we don’t have them here. He knows it gets hot in summer, and rains a bit more in winter, and that’s it. I know he thinks snow is a local phenomenon, not a seasonal thing, because he’s seen snow in May in California. The seasonal craft concept is just a concept to him, because seasons are something that only happen in books and on TV. To be fair, even when I was growing up, seasons weren’t like they were in books, because we had so many evergreen trees, and it rarely snowed in Victoria. But in Ben’s world, “winter” is something that only happens when we visit Pennsylania or Canada. When we move someplace that isn’t L.A., he will have a LOT of adjusting to do for actual weather.

But overall, Ben and I came up with a really nice fall scene:

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And now, the good news: I have INTERVIEWS! One is with a full service agency in Pittsburgh, and the other is with a social media agency in NYC. Both are great opportunities that I’m super psyched about, focusing on social media, with a lot of room for growth and strategic thought. And both were flexible enough to arrange for me to have interviews with key personnel visiting the West Coast, instead of requiring me to fly to the East Coast for a day. The only problem is that their key people want interviews on the same day, next Thursday. No problem…except that one interview is in San Francisco. I’m asking to reschedule the L.A. interview to Friday, but I just love this. I love that I’m back at the in-person interview stage again, and that everything is moving forward once more towards gainful employment.

Week Two of unemployment

As many of you know, I quit my job this summer. August 26th was my last day. Of course, I expected to have my next steps lined up by the time I quit, because all through August, I was interviewing for a job with a NYC agency that I thought I would get an offer for. But the agency decided to go with an internal candidate, and now, I’m back to Square One of Job Searching. Bother.

More importantly though, this means downtime in my employment schedule. Because I really had expected to be working in NYC by now, I wasn’t job searching for most of August. I will now need to take a few weeks to move back down the path towards interviews with new prospective employers. It takes anywhere from two weeks to a month to get from initial screening calls to in-person interviews for the kind of jobs I’m looking for, because so many people at an agency are involved. But I have two initial phone interviews with agencies back East tomorrow, so I can hope to move back down that path soon.

I’m still kind of lost in the interim though. The last time I was unemployed, I had Ben home with me three days a week. Now, because we want to keep him at school in case I have to travel, he is still there full time. So I have fifty-plus hours a week to fill, and absolutely no routine. I have things to do, of course, but on an anti-schedule that is very different than the narrow windows i had on either end of a workday. Suddenly, I can watch the sort of basic cable daytime TV that I’ve never seen before, like the Today Show, or The View. I can go to daytime exercise classes. I can run errands and grocery shop during the week. But it’s taken me most of this week to re-assess my goals, my projects, and what are the new priorities now that I don’t have a full time career job to put so much time and energy into.

First of all, I need to find a job, and job searching is a Major Project that also includes a lot of self promotion. Keeping up my professional image across every social media channel possible is important, and that means continuing to blog, tweet, post to Google+, and update LinkedIn. It also means constantly searching for jobs or potential employers in our target cities, writing cover letters, and sending in resumes. It is a LOT OF WORK that I am currently procrastinating by writing this post.

Second, I do have a few freelance projects to work on. Former colleagues and connections who now know I’m free have looped me in on some of their work. It keeps my media planning skills up, and keeps me challenged, especially when it’s for small businesses where every dollar in ROI counts. It’s mostly local planning, so I can really integrate the SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) tactics that make up a solid local strategy.

Third, I need to lose weight before I go back into the interview process. Overweight women are less likely to be hired than their slender counterparts. But now, I have the time and energy to really invest in diet and exercise. I found instructions online for a program that trains sedentary people like me into runners, with day by day details (today I walked for half an hour, with 30 second running intervals every five minutes). I claimed a free week of yoga at Yogaworks in Larchmont Village. I plan to take my bike, which has been in pieces in the closet for three years, and tune it up at the Bike Kitchen next Monday when they’re open during the day. Then I can ride my bike to the Echo Park pool and train in lap swimming. I have Pilates and spinning and Pop Physique classes to use. I have enough exercise options to transform me into a much healthier, stronger, more toned version of myself. And I can do a couple rounds on the Fat Flush diet once I get the exercise routine down, and really kickstart the process.

Fourth, I’d like to work on my writing skills again. I used to blog almost daily, and I fell out of that habit years ago. I’d like to be able to write better, whether it’s short magazine style articles, or maybe even a novel. Maybe, during this time, I can work a little more on my writing, and return that method of expression to my life.

And finally, of course, I have time to be a better wife and mother to Paul and Ben. I can have dinner ready when they get home, so Ben doesn’t get over-hungry waiting for me to cook (this usually results in a hunger related hissyfit when dinner is actually served). I can take some of the household chores, like cleaning and laundry, off Paul’s shoulders. Actually, I can even take traditionally male chores over, like managing all the household finances and learning to do some of the repair work I would usually ask Paul to handle. I can research and put together better activities for Ben that help him learn and let us spend more time together, like more crafts child friendly cooking, or finding activities and events we can do on the weekends. I will still have the energy at the end of the day to take Ben to the park or the library, and give Paul a break at home. And I can make sure the boys get high nutrition, home cooked meals, three meals a day, which is something I always TRIED to do, but couldn’t always find the energy to execute on.

Unfortunately, none of the above will result in any financial payment in the short term. But obviously, they’re all long term reward programs. Job searching and improving my image, both professional and physical, will result in better job opportunities for me. Freelance work and writing skills could bring in some extra cash down the line, and help me improve my core competencies while I’m working on them. And investing in my family is ALWAYS worthwhile, because I love them, and want to do the best things possible for my men. While I have this time, I may as well use it to set these programs in motion. Besides, I think I have just given myself a brand new fifty hour week schedule…even if I didn’t mean to.