Lay off the soda.
If I’m being good, I take it black. Otherwise, one sugar.
Ah, June… Summer is at our doorstep, the days are (almost all of them) seeming to get a little bit longer, and for the second year in a row I am partaking in my daily blogging exercise, marginally focused along a theme I’ve simply called Those 30 posts in June. No planning. No writing stuff days ahead. Just this: each day a meanderingly vague prompt drives a meanderingly vague post… and today that post just happens to be:
June 15th // Something You Are Craving
I kinda hate to admit it, but having pretty much given up most (obvious) liquid calories and made a concerted effort to avoid refined sugars for the past three months, the thing I most miss — amongst the heaps of cakes, ice creams, cookies, candies, and chocolates — is a slurpee.
This has been the first summer in — well — the duration of my conscious life, when the arrival of sun, and heat, and longer days has NOT meant a wander over to the local convenience store for a litre of frozen, flavoured, sugar water known by a variety of trademarked names — slurpee, slushie, froster, squishee, etc — but generically as a delicious and thirst-quenching slush.
Insert a dejected, self-torturing, sucks-to-be-a-grown-up sigh here.
And what else can I add about that? I’m craving — craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaving — a slush right now. I mean, it’s not like they are overflowing with calories. It’s not like they are the worst thing I could be drinking. But there is a certain symbolism that bridges the perceptive gap between sugar water and fitness, and that bridge has a toll I’m not willing to pay — at least not right now and not regularly.
The problem is this: I have two stores within walking distance of my home, and to make matters worse when the other day I walked over to the downtown grocery store where I’ve been buying my apples I noticed there — across the street — a brand new 7-11 is under construction in a small business complex. Three blocks from my office will soon be copious temptation.
Sometimes life is just pesky like that.
Now, I could go on for pages about the injustice of this, but (a) this would turn me into a bit of a middle class whiner, and (b) it’s my own self-imposed pain here. Nothing is stopping me except some kind of random, willpower-based guilt. So instead this: I’m just going to state publicly, and for the record, that I’m going to provide myself with a simple struggle-versus-reward system. From now on, following any actual race I run, I’m allowing myself a reward for my efforts: a slurpee. Fair, no?
Or maybe just convoluted… whatever.
A “reloaded” post is a quick-clipped summary of a bunch of small things from the past few days. I want to write them down, but I am either lacking in (a) details or (b) time. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Enjoy.
On Paints and Beds
I was feeling a little blue. Literally. I was speckled all over my arms, and a bit on my face with a kind of greyish indigo. Eggshell. The direct result of that casual splatter often encountered by your everyday-average-homeowner turned painter when he stumbles upon the need to hurriedly add colour to a wall as a result of buying new furniture that (in opposition to the norm) is delivered weeks earlier than anticipated. Recommendations included in the lesson are that (a) Windex does not take paint out of carpet, (b) Frog Tape (TM) is awesome for creating geometric patterns on your walls in paint and worth the extra cost, and (c) guessing the square-footage area of your wall space from rough memory-based estimates on the way to the paint store means you will have way more blue paint than you will ever need… ever. The new bedroom set looks splashingly against the new feature wall though.
Retraining the Mutt
Occasionally it was, that in the deepest, darkest, coldest days of winter Sparkle’s grey matter would reach a tipping point. The consequence of breaking her training, being a “bad dog”, and just peeing on the floor in the middle of the night would weigh out, tipping the scales over being that “good puppy,” waking us up from our sleep through nudges and prods, and actually going out in the bitter cold and snow to do her business. But for some reason, despite the warm summer temperatures, the balance has tipped way too early this year: she’s decided that she’s just going to pee wherever she pleases at night. Not too often; Once a week or so. But it had happened often enough that we opted to get a little more strict and decrease her nighttime roaming area to a single room. Sparkle, of course, being that she is a dog and basically a creature of habitualization and routine, does not see this as a viable alternative. Our efforts at retraining her have been met with night-time whimpers and cries, pleading yowls for attention in the wee hours of the night… which one might imagine does nothing for my own routines and habitualizations, in particular around sleep.
My daughter is growing up. She turns four this week. Four! (Where did those years go? Insert your own time-is-moving-too-fast platitude here. *sigh*) Yeah: four. As such we hosted a small gathering of our friends and their numerous offspring, obligingly fed them copious amounts of sugar and carbohydrate-rich nutrient-weak foods, dizzied them all into a frantic whirl-wind of backyard parachute-based play and games, let them beat out their frustrations on a paper-mÃƒÂ¢chÃƒÂ©, candy-stuffed, smiling princess head with a wooden dowel, and then sent them back packing with their parents a couple hours later. Yes, we hosted a four-year-old’s birthday party on Saturday afternoon to celebrate (albeit early) the slow accumulation of time upon Claire’s young toddler life. She receive the “spider web” cake she so dearly requested, played the doting hostess greeting and thanking her guests just like we practiced, and burned a week’s worth of kid-power-energy-and-patience in a single three hour span. I made video: It’s going to be awesome.
The week being what it was, some kind of far-from-fatal but highly-annoying virus burning it’s way through the health of the general population (so much so that we can’t even be sure which our many sick acquaintances provided us with said samples) we all wound up a little ill on Sunday. I think we would have fared better had it not been for the epic week of exhausting events leading into Sunday, but needless to say we spent the day crashed — family-style — on the couch, watching lame television, stepping out in the front-yard for a bit of sun, playing video games, reading a lot, and generally having an extremely lazy day of it. I even skipped my running (which was bad news as I’m doing a race next weekend.) I suppose you just need those days sometimes. Time to reload, sorta.
I stopped at Starbucks for a coffee this morning, and while adding my single packet of sugar to my drink I watched the guy in front of me add at least eight to his. Uh. No thanks.
I was really trying to be proactive this year and not leave any posts until the last minute. But the company just left and it dawned on me I hadn’t posted yet…
Chris sent around an email this morning and turned a guys’ games night into a dinner party with the wives and kids. Thanks to some quick cleaning, shopping, and organizing we had nine people around the dinner table, and Matt, Chris and I (but only Chris and I after Matt went home — he has to work tomorrow) played couple of the new board games we’d acquired over the holidays.
I’d write more but it’s late and I’ve been stumbling through vast collections of complex rules for the last few hours on too much sugar, sporadic rest — and maybe even a little alcohol. So, despite promises for more elaborate posts this December, this will not be one of them. Right now, sleep is required.
In the meantime, I’ve uploaded LOTS and LOTS of Christmas photos here.
… but only if you don’t find yourself waiting in line at a store or mall.
10. Nurse your sugar-hangover from eating too many Christmas goodies.
9. Spend two hours hooking up various electronics and explaining to technologically illiterate relatives how to use the gadgets you or someone else gave them.
8. Sample from the variety of coffees and/or teas you found in your stocking the day before.
7. Hide from the rest of the family with a sympathetic brother-in-law to watch one of the numerous DVDs that showed up under the tree.
6. Download photographs for general family enjoyment.
5. Eat some more of the chocolates you found in your stocking, and then regret it a few minutes later.
4. Open one of the new board games you acquired for the holidays and attempt to decipher the rules and play at least one round.
3. Work on the obligatory jigsaw puzzle with some fruitless effort.
2. Hunt through dad’s liquor cabinet to see if he actually has something both festive and interesting to drink.
1. Remind yourself why you only do this once a year.
I was listening to a writing podcast the other day and they were talking about doing character development through the use of whitespace. That is to say, by filling in the spaces around a character, one is left with a vacant spot where the character would fit. At first I thought that it seemed like a good idea, but now I think it would be a very difficult thing to do. For example, define yourself through whitespace…
Those Random Vacancies Are Oh-So-Obvious, Yes?
The sheets were rumpled, pushed aside. By the time the sun rose and peeked through the gaps in the blinds, it shone free and unhindered on a tossed pillow who’s surface still bore the cratered impression of its missing skull. Just beyond, out a crack in the doorway, a trail of flicked switches illuminated the path from the bedroom to the kitchen. There the last few sips of a cup of gourmet coffee, the extra sweetness of the unstirred sugar lingering at the bottom, was still resting on the edge of the counter where it had been forgotten just moments earlier.
See what I did there? I’m not claiming license to some great masterwork, but you can probably read into the vague impressions of a whitespace silhouette, no? The idea is that the character (in the above example it’s me on a Saturday morning) is not so much described by what he’s doing, but rather by the traces of what he didn’t do or the vacancies he left; My pillow was empty. I’d left a half drunk cup of coffee on the counter. I didn’t really say much, but the reader is (ideally) given the impression of a nuanced character through the descriptions of NOT the character, but rather the things around the character.
As I said at the beginning, it IS quite difficult. I reworked that example five or six times, and I’m still not sure that I nailed it. But alas, I have been thinking a lot lately about particular kinds of writing exercises that might stimulate some interesting fiction over the next year or so — what with those crazy New Years Resolutions and all. This particular example caught my eye and I thought I’d share it.
Just one of those got-stuff-done, but didn’t do much sort of days. This included:
Slept in a little bit.
Made a pot of really good coffee.
Picked up a tree at Ikea after scarfing down a one dollar breakfast.
Vacuumed the living room twice, once before we put the tree in, and then again after to clean up the stray needles.
Gassed up the car.
Continued work on reconciling the family budget with a little bit of free software.
Played with the dog who is acting as though she’s neglected today.
Took some photos.
Made a pot of pear-flavoured tea, and added a single teaspoon of vanilla sugar.
Read a few pages from my ever-growing stack of magazines that seem to trickle in through mail.
Listened to a variety of new, old, nice, and bizarre Christmas music and danced around the living room with a fussing baby. Yes, it helped.
Ate a nice dinner of curried chicken.
Did some writing on my little project, and also did some back-end work on this blog.
Gave Claire a bath.
Still managed to wonder where the day went.
I’ve been conducting a little experiment for the last few-plus weeks. I’ve gone cold turkey on flavoured sugar water and have been drinking more water. In fact, I’ve trimmed my liquids down to the following:
– milk (1%)
– tea (unsweetened)
– coffee (black)
– wine (though my drinking buddy is dry right now)
– beer (on weekends)
Yes, I know the last one is a bit of a cheat — but you go make you own rules. The ease of this is a mix of (a) having a water cooler at work with lots of free, cold water, and (b) keeping a half dozen Nalgene bottles cooling in the fridge on a regular basis.
No expectations, really. I just started thinking I’d re-program a little bit. And it’s going good now for nearly a month. I’ll keep updated as the weeks wear on.
I was thinking about coffee this morning as, of course, I sipped a hot cup of my once-daily brew. It seems so odd that there is this stigma around certain beverages in most societies. And even more odd that those stigmas seem to get stronger around the consumption of beverages that take more human energy to produce. One might almost say that there is a direct relationship between the energy of production and the societal negativity.
You may think, perhaps, that coffee is a simple beverage. Au contraire! Think of the effort that goes into growing, importing, selecting, roasting, and grinding beans. Not to mention, we spend monumentous time and effort to build contraptions to heat water so that it can be dripped through a carefully regulated thermal absorption process to extract the perfect level of flavour and balance.
And with this comes the stigma. Karin, for example, will not drink coffee. This, of course, is too bad. It seems like a neat little thing to do, wander over to the cafe on a Saturday morning and share a brew over the newspaper. Idle. Relaxed. But chai tea is much more expensive than a small cup of java, so, we don’t, much.
Same thing goes for beer. The effort involved in growing, roasting, grinding, mixing, blending, fermenting, and filtering results in a glorious selection of flavours and textures. What goes along with that? Societal stigma. I know the alcohol thing contributes a bit. But, really. It often seems that most gals will choose a wine cooler over a Guinness any day. Voila: beer stigma? I think so.
You don’t see that same stigma with tea (dried leaves in hot water), soda (chemical flavours and sugar in cold water), lemonade (fruit extract and ice), or milk (purified bovine excretions). But with the art-ful drinks, those that seem to require a brewmaster or barrista to produce, there exists a calm sort-of resistance. It’s almost as if we’ve been trained to limit our consumption for fear that we’ll run dry. Private reserve? Maybe.
I think my news years resolution should be to work on my enunciation. Heck, I’m a writer not a speaker — but things being as they are, you know, self-improvement and the drive to better and brighter futures, I think it’s something I should work on.
For example, this morning…
This morning I wandered over to Tim Hortons for a cup of coffee, a semi-regular morning ritual. Sometimes I drink the office brew. Sometimes I brew my own. Occasionally, and mostly rarely, I stop at Starbucks and try one of their blends. But about once or maybe twice a week I cross the road to Timmy’s and get an extra-caffienated cup. This morning was such a morning…. and being as the Tim’s across the way is one of the busiest in Edmonton, regularly lined up out the door, a progressive, no-nonsense ordering system is understood by those who frequent. The line-up moves quickly as one is to step to the next available grumpy old woman working the register, state one’s order, pay, and step to the right to receive the purchased goods. Somewhere in that procedure the order is translated from me to the cashier and the cashier to the pourer, ultimately resulting in a cup of coffee less than thirty seconds after ordering.
I usually take my coffee black with one sugar.
I stepped to the counter this morning, said in (perhaps) a not-so-clear mumble: “Large coffee, one sugar.”
“One forty.” The cashier grumbled and I paid.
But then, as I was dutifully stepping to the right, she turned and said to the pourer (and I heard her clearly and distinctly, though it took a few moments to register) : “Large, four sugars.”
I hestiated. Blinked. Laughed a little private laugh, thinking who the heck would order a coffee with four sugars? And I took the cup and walked away.
Sitting at my desk this morning, one very cold walk later, I sipped the brew. It was a little on the sweet side.
Maybe I need to make the new years resolution to be a little more reactive to my environment. That would help, too.