Is chickenscratch really helpful?

Oh hey! It’s the first post to this site in nearly a year!

I started to write about why I don’t keep this site updated (OMG, yawn!) but then realized I was writing an even-whinier version of this post from 2015. So not only boring, but repetitively boring. So enough of that.

Just before my birthday this year, I told myself that I was going to make more of an effort to write. Online, offline, whatever. Just needed to write more. I have so much I want to say and I need to get it out. But first I need to get it untangled. Or I need to emotionally un-constipate myself. Or something. My birthday was at the end of August and it’s taken me nearly six weeks to get to a place where I feel like I can express myself. So here I am.

In mid-September, I signed myself up for some daily writing prompts. Just random topics for free-writing for a minimum of ten minutes a day. To build a writing practice. To loosen up. To play. And I’ve used exactly one of those prompts. They’re interesting prompts, so that’s not the problem. I just put them aside and think ‘when I have the time, I will write’. Then I never make the time. These prompts recommend longhand writing in a journal and I hate it. I found a nice journal and carried it in my work backpack to sneak in some time during my day: whether on my commute or during the work day itself (during lunch of course). And that has been a huge fail. I don’t feel right taking that time while I’m at work, and I can’t get physically comfortable enough during my commute. Then there’s  the longhand writing itself. I write fast and hard, and it either becomes tiresome on my hand or completely illegible. Often both at the same time. I know the point of these free-writing exercises isn’t to read or even remember the writing, but just to write. The one day I did do it (at the end of my lunch break at work, I wrote like I was on fire, and things devolved so quickly into worse-than-chickenscratch that I felt ashamed. Then the cycle of Not Writing began again.

So longhand evangelists: why is completing writing exercises in longhand so beneficial? Does it really help a writer’s growth? Is there any hope for me if I’m so terrible at it?

Weird things that make me happy

I recently read the blog post “Embrace Whatever Makes You Happy (Even If It’s Totally Weird)” on Cordelia Calls it Quits. I love this site and how Cordelia/Kelly thinks. This post talks about reveling in the random, weird things you like and owning those likes. More importantly, it reminds the reader that we all have random weird things that give us joy. You aren’t the only one that likes random, weird things and neither am I.

Here are some weird things that make me happy:

Doing errands

This sounds strange, but I really like doing errands. I like making lists of what I need to get done, then figuring out the most efficient plan of attack to get as much done in as little time as possible. Ticking off all the items and seeing a visual representation of what I’ve accomplished feels good. I like doing errands with Flora or Sean (or both, which is rare), but I like it even better when I get to go on my own. I have very few things that I have complete control over so I think this is my way of taking charge of things going on in my life.

Driving with loud rock music playing

When I’m driving alone, I’m a rockstar in my car. I crank up the radio (this my favourite radio station). I sing along. I laugh at the jokes. I tap on the steering wheel. I am that cliché you see out on the road and I’m okay with that. I love pulling into parking lots playing music that doesn’t scream “suburban mom”. I realize that there is no genre of music called “mom” (suburban or otherwise) but there is some sort of irony of Rage Against the Machine blasting on my radio as I pull into Walmart. This happened to me last weekend while I was doing errands. By myself.

Staring at the lake

I’ve lived either on or near lakes all my life. Gazing out into the water makes me feel alive and centered with the universe. Despite living close by, I don’t get down to the lake much these days. It’s good meditation so I think I need to start.

Tell me about the weird things that make you happy.

Priorities

On Monday, I did yoga for the first time in… a really long time.

I used the Yoga Studio app on my phone and chose a ‘Beginner Balance’ class. I felt angry and ashamed when I couldn’t do every move. I know logically that I was being too hard on myself, but that’s who I am. My inner voice is really mean sometimes.

Any tips on how to calm a cruel inner voice would be greatly appreciated.

As I wrote this, I thought back to this post from 2013. The whole post still resonates, but this part sticks out:

I know I need to move more. I’ve spent the last few weeks (months? years?) figuring out what I’d like to do to be able to introduce more activity into my life. Everything I want to do seems to have barriers: too expensive, not enough time, worry that I will look stupid in front of people who I wouldn’t give a shit about if I wasn’t feeling so vulnerable in front of them.

Monday’s yoga session, while frustrating at times, felt good and I’m glad I did it. Small steps to making my health and myself a priority in my life.

How I learned to drive

The comment I was writing on Rebecca’s post about learning to drive blew up and turned into its own blog post, so I posted it here instead.

1994-1996: Getting my G1

Growing up rural (I lived in a small town, then moved out into the country in 1996), I got my G1 as soon as I could. I was a nervous driver (even on country roads) and my mother was a nervous teacher so we didn’t drive together till I had some more practice – and lessons – under my belt. If I was going to be able to go anywhere on my own, I needed to be able to drive. I wanted that freedom – and a social life – so I learned to drive.

1997-2000: Not fully licensed, and not caring

When I moved to Oshawa to go to school, I had my G2, but didn’t have a car. My now-husband did and sometimes I rode with him. I always had a bus pass so I could get where I needed to go without relying on him since we were on different schedules.

2000-2003: Had my license, but rarely drove

Once I started commuting into Toronto to work after college, I was willing to let my license lapse – transit got me where I needed to go. The larger city roads and more aggressive drivers (never mind the 401!) scared the crap out of me. My mother insisted I get my license and I signed up for two batches of refresher lessons  (one in Oshawa, one in Belleville) when I was 20-ish. I got my full G license before my G2 expired, which was a relief – I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. I took my final G test in Belleville and not Oshawa because I was more familiar with those streets, having driven them on my own as a teenager. Those roads didn’t intimidate me. When the tester told me I passed, my first reaction was “ohmygawd, REALLY?’ – I had really messed up the parallel parking (something I’ve never even attempted since).

When we first moved into Toronto proper back in 2000, I didn’t drive. City streets still scared me and everyone was so aggressive! Sean had an ancient vehicle (a 1982 Chevrolet Caprice) that I was intimidated to drive as I had been spoiled by power steering and newer cars. I relied on the TTC and made Sean drive us places when we needed to go somewhere that was transit-unfriendly.

2004-2008: Getting braver

The Caprice was retired and Sean had purchased a 1994 minivan at the end of 2003 – nearly five years before we had our first child (we were lugging a lot of stuff around then I think). We were engaged to be married and had recently purchased our first house in Scarborough. I still relied on transit, but after a few successful trips to the grocery store in the van, I started to drive around my neighbourhood more. Errands got done with less nagging and everyone was happy.

2008-2012: Early Parenthood

When Flora was born in 2008, I stayed home with her for the first nine months. New babies are intimidating to take on public transit when you’re still dragging so much stuff with you (I wrote about my experience with that). We had a newer car by then (the minivan gave up the ghost in 2007) and Sean usually drove to work and I took transit. Once I was off work, I insisted that I get the car at least once a week so I could leave the house with Flora without it being a complete production. My driving radius got a lot bigger during this time. Necessity and boredom create bravery and Flora and I drove to the mall a lot. I drove the 401 more, but mostly heading out of the GTA.

2012-Present: Commuting again

We left Toronto in 2012 and were back to being commuters again. We bought a second car. Even though I commute to work by GO train, I do a lot more driving than I ever have. Short distances mostly, but lots of them. I drive to and from the train station, do my errands and get Flora where she needs to go. I’m not nearly as nervous anymore, but Sean is still the alpha driver at our house. When we can drive together, we do, but it happens rarely outside of visits to our parents. I drive the 401 when I have to, but I don’t enjoy it.

I guess I should thank my mother this Mother’s Day for forcing strongly encouraging me to get my driver’s license. Without it, I wouldn’t have the independence I do now, even though I live in an urban area. Thanks Mom.

Dimes

When we were packing to move into our new house back in 2012, I kept finding dimes. They were everywhere: in boxes, on the floor, in the couch cushions. I assumed that Sean wasn’t keeping track of his loose change but my mum had a different theory. She told me about the superstition of finding dimes in random places. According to the superstition, these dimes were signs from someone who had passed on. A little glimmer to catch your eye and remind you that they were there.

Sean and I both lost our fathers as teenagers. I lost my grandmother soon after that. If the superstition was ever been based in truth, we had people in the Great Unknown that could plausibly be thinking about us as we embarked on a new phase of our lives.

I didn’t give it much thought until we started to unpack at the new house and dimes started showing up again. Logically, it was because they had been packed with all the other things that make up our home, but they kept showing up in weird places. If the superstition was true, someone wanted our attention.

We settled into our home and the flurry of dimes also settled. I find the odd dime next to a pair of discarded pants or at the bottom of my purse. Sensible places that can be explained away. Sometimes I wonder, but mostly I don’t. Those dimes make sense.

I’ve recently started seeing dimes in odd places again. I see them most often on my walks from my car to the GO train platform and back again. I cross the street from one parking lot to another to get to the platform. I don’t see them in the same place every time. I’m usually deep in thought, but I catch the silver glimmer in the corner of my eye and I pause to see of it’s a dime or just a random shiny thing. I confirm what it is and continue on my way.

I’ve always followed the “find a penny, pick it up and all the day, you’ll have good luck” rule. I know it’s another superstition but I’ve always figured it can’t hurt to try to get some luck. Especially when the next line is “find a penny, leave it lay and bad luck you will have all day”.

I never pick up the dimes.

Maybe more dimes are showing up now that Canada has retired pennies and everyone hates nickels*. Maybe another harried commuter has holes in his pants pockets from all the loose change he’s carrying around. Maybe someone I care about is trying to make their presence known from the Great Unknown.

If that’s the case, what do they want?

* Does everyone hate nickels, or is just me? Ever since I was a kid, I’ll see a nickel overlapping a dime and think it’s a quarter. Then I look closer and see the smooth outline and I realize I don’t have enough change for the desired trinket of the moment. Quarters go in gumball machines and grocery carts. Nickels add to your worth in tiny increments. Nickels are obviously not useless but that beaver mocks me when I’m looking for a caribou.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.