Sizing up Eyes and Spies

School Library Journal gave a lovely review to Eyes and Spies this month. You’ll find it here, if you scroll down to the non-fiction section. The reviewer wrote: “‘Valuable’ is an understatement. A timely read on surveillance and mass data collection for public and school libraries.”

YAY!

I received the link from Annick Press just as I was drowning in the depths of Bellis Fair Mall. I was there as part of the annual family shopping trip that drives me to existential crisis. (Not that other things don’t.) It was perfect timing for a happy surprise.

If you’re interested in privacy and surveillance issues, and you can’t wait the couple weeks until Eyes and Spies arrives on shelves, check out the podcast Note to Self. They’ve just wrapped up a six-episode series on privacy and it’s fascinating. Apparently phone calls are protected in the United States partly because of a gambler who used phone booths to place his bets, got caught, and then argued for his privacy rights. Who knew?

I might have to write a second edition.

Snowpocalypse

It was complete snowpocalypse in Vancouver this weekend. We broke all the weather records. I shovelled the driveway three times on Saturday. The final time was at 8 p.m. and by the time I finished the driveway, the sidewalk was covered again.

This all would have been fine and fun and lovely (it was pretty) except that I was right in the middle of Eric Walters’ Rule of Three trilogy. In those books, the world’s computers go off-line and civilization almost immediately breaks down.

This meant that by Sunday morning, I was classifying our neighbours by their snow-shovelling habits. Those people across the street? The ones from Toronto who should understand about clearing the sidewalks, but apparently don’t? I’m not sure they’ll be amenable to sharing food and resources. The guy in the green house, on the other hand, was across the road helping his neighbour clear a path for his car. He’s definitely on board the community “lifeboat.” And what about the mysterious good samaritan who shovelled a clear strip down both sides of the block before anyone else was awake? We’ll need to meet him.

I’ve finished the books, but Silence is now deep into the first instalment. We’re probably going shopping for canned food and chlorine tablets soon. As soon as the snow melts, at least.

From the edge of the handbasket

Along with the rest of the world, I’ve been watching Sauron at work south of the border. But while the United States government is setting new standards for hate, the American people are setting new standards for democracy. Here are a few things which give me hope:

Whenever the apocalypse seems nigh, I’m going to think about those librarians.

Oh, and there’s the one other side benefit of the US debacle. Now when I spout off about our BC government’s war on public education being the first step toward fascism, Min can no longer call me paranoid.

Bright sides.

Parenting with public embarrassment

Usually, it seems to bother my daughter that we look nothing alike. She gets tired of people asking if she’s adopted. But lately, she’s seeing the upside.

Silence: If you watch my tennis lesson, you have to stand by the door. You can’t sit on the bench by the court.

Me: You know what I thought would be nice? If I came to the sideline and absorbed the energy of the players and reflected that back to them in an interpretive dance. So they could really see the emotional aspects of their playing styles.

Silence: That’s fine. I’ll tell them you’re the blonde girl’s mom.

Baby wipes: not as tasty as you might think

Min and Silence had the plague over the holidays. She went down on the 21st and mostly recovered by Christmas; he went down on Christmas Day.

On the 26th, Violence and I had cabin fever. I offered to take him for a tramp in the snow, but he said, “you’re not as fun as Daddy.”

I had to prove him wrong, of course. So we went for our walk, heading for Kidsbooks. The store turned out to be closed but that didn’t entirely matter because along the way I agreed to (a) scratch-and-win tickets; (b) Dairy Queen french fries; and (c) every-flavour jelly beans.

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That last one… that’s where I went wrong. I had assumed Violence would try them out with his friends or with his sister. But I’d forgotten about Silence’s braces and I was still working to prove I was capable of fun and somehow I ended up seated at the dining room table playing Russian roulette with jelly beans.

My first one was blueberry. Whew.

My second was baby wipes.

You wouldn’t think baby wipes would taste THAT bad. I am here to clarify that yes, they do. Not only are they horrible, bitter, disgusting, mothball-ish things, but jelly beans STICK TO YOUR TEETH in a way that I’m sure real baby wipes wouldn’t. It took me many gargles and a shortbread cookie to cure myself.

J.K. Rowling, inventor of every-flavour beans, has a sick imagination. But I am officially fun.

Happy New Year, and may your days be filled with all the best flavours.

Bonus pay

I spent the last few days working in Victoria, staying at the lovely Chateau Victoria near the Empress and the Parliament Buildings.

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I woke up each morning and ate breakfast in the top-floor restaurant while watching the sun rise over Mount Tolmie and the ocean. I wandered down Government Street and stopped in at Murchie’s and Munro’s Books before heading to my 9:30 meetings.

It was lovely.

I think organizations could cut costs if they only hired moms. Because really, they wouldn’t have to offer payment. They could just say: “King-sized bed. By yourself. Breakfast made. Dishes done.”

Sign me up, anytime!

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Reading. And reading.

I agreed to serve on a prize jury and have spent the past month reading. And reading. And reading. I read until my shoulders seize up, then I break for stretches, then read again, then break for this weird tiger-balm-like substance that makes my shoulders burn in a good way (sort of) instead of a bad, then read some more. I am slowly going blind. I am slowly losing the ability to think or ponder or judge.

And yet, at the same time, I’m itching with ideas. There’s something about constantly immersing myself in the creativity of others that makes me want to create something — anything — of my own. And there’s something about the restriction of my time which suddenly makes me treasure the moments I have free to write.

Shortbread

I always tell myself I’ll get some Christmas preparations done in November so December’s not such a whirlwind. Then the final week of November arrives, and I panic, realizing I’ve done nothing.

It doesn’t actually take as long as I think it will, once I set myself to work.

I’ve placed my orders with the photo site. I’ve bought my cards and (mostly) written our Christmas letter. And last night… I baked the first batches of shortbread.

My family arrived like crows in the kitchen as soon as they saw the butter softening in the bowl. By the time the first circle was cut, they were sneaking batter off the counter. And there were protests like the pipeline protests when I limited them to one cookie each after dinner.

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My shortbread is well-appreciated.

It’s actually my mother’s shortbread. I make it each year from a recipe emailed in 2000. “How are things in wedding land?” it reads. “Are preparations going well? Our basement renovations are done and Dad has hung his stupid singing fish.”

Which makes me smile every year because the singing fish was a gift from my husband and it was a particularly inspired fish.

A few years ago, a friend wrote a cookbook and included recipes from our whole crowd of families. On my family’s page, she listed the ingredients for shortbread: butter, sugar, flour, cornstarch. Under method, it says: “Just call Tanya. Trust me, it’s easier that way.”

They don’t know that my shortbread isn’t as good as my mother’s. Maybe I don’t knead it quite right. She’s demonstrated again and again how to mix the flour until the dough is just the right consistency and the cracks appear. Mine is still never the same as hers.

What that email from 2000 should say is: “Call your mother. It’s better that way.”

But the crows don’t seem to mind.

Emily

There is really nothing more annoying than when your child, the child who seems to read a dozen books a week (and so could obviously fit one more into her schedule), REFUSES to read a book that you’ve recommended.

After Silence loved the Borrowers series and the Oz books and Narnia and Anne of Green Gables, I suggested she try Emily of New Moon. Which she made no effort to do.

So, I bought her all three Emily books for Christmas.

She put them in her closet.

Now, I should maybe stop to explain that I LOVED the Emily books as a child, I still love them, and every writer I know loves Emily more than Anne. I considered duct-taping the books to Silence’s forehead until she agreed to read them.

I couldn’t find that chapter in the parenting guides.

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Finally, FINALLY, she was a little under the weather one day this fall and she downloaded the Emily of New Moon audio book from the Vancouver Public Library.

She loved it.

I was torn between peeing my pants with joy and tearing out my eyelashes one by one.

She’s now on book three.

I may steal the print versions and read them myself.

The real me

It was family getaway weekend. We picked up Min’s sister and headed to Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham, where my shopaholic daughter could bond with her auntie over the sales racks.

We do these trips once or twice a year, so I mentally prepare. Embrace it, I tell myself. Embrace the mall experience. And why not? I could use some clothes. Every time I have to leave the house for anything more formal than a pajama party, I have a wardrobe crisis.

But inevitably, this is what happens. I look at the first rack, then the second, then the third, and I think:

Who wears these clothes?
They don’t look like me.
What does look like me?
I have no idea.
Nothing looks like me.
I have no idea who I am!

Fortunately, JUST before I had to be checked into an asylum, I found myself.

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Yes, this is the tiger that saved me from existential crisis. He was electric, and we motored around the mall together. Min came along, too, on a giant bear.

Also, I bought a hoodie. It is perfectly appropriate for a pajama party.

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