Small Realities

Inside the mind of Lance Schonberg

Archive for the tag “family”

Being Comfortable in Your Own Skull

Isn’t always easy.  Life has a way of cluttering up your mind, throwing things at you that you aren’t quite ready for, and setting obstacles in your path you can’t see until you’ve already tripped over them.

A few months back, I wrote about how I haven’t been operating at peak efficiency for a long time.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve had to deal with a lot of real life things, some of them big and some of them small, at least to an external observer, but all of them somehow cumulative.  There’s nothing to be gained at this point by going into details, but my stress level just kept going up and up and I didn’t understand why for a long time.

I found myself obsessing over small things, little tasks that absolutely must be done right now and that would help me ignore the world for hours or days.  I’d obsess over whether or not new friends on Twitter were human or not or who to follow from mentions or shout outs that included me.  I’d spend hours crafting a brilliant blog entry and then not be able to post it.  I’d plot out the schedule for what I wanted to accomplish with my writing for the next five years and then delete it and start over.  Sometimes I’d feel so uncommunicative that I’d drop off the face of everything for a week or two.  Through it all, I’d smile and nod to the people around me, focus on what I needed to do at work or home, and keep on walking.

By summer last year, I felt like I was on edge all the time and things were piling up or building up or backing up in my head.  By fall, I was keeping so much bottled up I was probably half way to a heart attack or an aneurism.  Well, maybe not, but I knew something had to give, and soon, and up to that point I’d hidden things pretty well from pretty much everyone.

I figured out that for some reason I’d been holding onto all the problems and negatives of the past few years without regard to any of the good times.  And there have been plenty of good times, but they’d been swallowed by all the things I couldn’t control

So in early December, I made the completely sane and rational decision to turn off the world.  Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, anything remotely resembling news or current information, all gone.  All on hold.  I needed time to blow the cobwebs out of my brain and get rid of all the stresses in my life.  Re-focus on what I’ve always said is the most important thing: my family.

If I’m home and awake, I belong to my family.  Period.  Those of you with children will laugh because you know that’s not even remotely as easy as it sounds.  Laundry, dishes, chores, work.  Everything gets in the way even when you try hard not to let it.  That’s no reason to stop trying or trying to make life fun for all of them.

That’s been my focus for the past few months: family, fun, stress reduction and avoidance.

I feel better now, more human, though it’s taken a while, and I’m slowly switching things back on.  Brief forays into Twitter & FB.  Cleaning out my personal e-mail.  Now reclaiming the blog.  A little writing and a little polishing.  I’m back, but at a slower, more measured pace because the single most important thing in my life is my family and I’m not interested in losing sight of that for even a moment.

On the agenda for tonight: guitar practice with one child, karate class with another, and trying to tear the third away from an apparently highly addictive video game.

That’s today.  Tomorrow, I’ll start on the hard stuff. Slowly.


Ectothermic Life in Vaughn

Snuggled up next to a major road in Vaughn, part of a huge complex of strip malls (with pretty much all small stores, it’s hard to call it a power centre), there’s a strange little zoo known as Reptilia. And I only use the word little in comparison with something like the Metro Toronto Zoo. It has a much smaller geographic footprint, but as a specialty zoo without any large herd animals, doesn’t have the same kind of needs.

You might guess they specialize in reptiles. Other than food (crickets, frozen mice and rats, etc), the only non-reptiles I remember seeing are a few small poisonous frogs. Snakes, lizards, crocodiles in abundance. They run “touch and feel” shows once an hour with different feedings in between. If you like small furry things, you may not want to watch the snakes eat.

Everyone in the family had different favourites.

The Pink Princess liked to watch things eat, but otherwise tried to rush us through the zoo as quickly as possible. “Yes, I’ve seen that already, Daddy. Can we go now?” She did enjoy catching a few escaped crickets and getting to touch things during the shows.

Nature Girl has a snake fixation lately, but that’s mainly due to the fact that she desperately wants one for a pet. The pet store part of the zoo actually had a Snow Corn Snake, the variety she wants, but any kind of non-poisonous snake engaged in any activity held her attention pretty well.

Paleoboy would have a hard time picking a favourite, but drank in everything there. I think he was most impressed by Peaches, an albino python he and his sisters (as well as several other children) got to hold at the same time, and by the white crocodile.

My Wife isn’t all that keen on reptiles close up, but as long as they’re behind glass, they’re okay. The poison dart frogs probably held the greatest attraction for her. They’re small, colourful, and cute. If she were to keep some kind of non-standard pet, it would almost certainly be a tree frog but probably not any poison variety.

As for me, my favourite part of any outing like that is watching the kids discover new and exciting things. If I had to pick a favourite creature for the visit, it would probably be this cute little tree snake, brilliant yellow and no bigger around than my pinky. Also insanely venomous. If we went again tomorrow, I might pick something different, though.

What zoo would be without a gift shop. Reptilia’s also includes a pet shop. A variety of slightly domesticated reptiles available, including the previously mentioned corn snake. Among all of the stuffed animals, there’s a better quality variety of souvenir items including some artistic pieces and some very cool t-shirts

The entire structure of the place, including the shows and feedings, reminds me a bit of Little Ray’s in Ottawa. I haven’t looked up who’s been open longer, but Reptilia is definitely funded better or had a lot more starting capital. Little Ray is raising money to build a similar sized facility but I’m not sure where things are at.

If you’re in or near Toronto and have a positive view of reptiles at all, Reptilia is more than worth the visit. Two scaly digits up.


As a side note, this is blog post number 52 for the year, so I’m calling a win on this goal (#4).

Balancing on the Keyboard

Having brilliantly left the power cable for my laptop in my hotel room in Windsor, I’m unable to post either the blog entry I wrote while there or the one I wrote on battery power during the trip home.  Battery power that’s now completely exhausted.  It’s a sad thing to lose one’s mind so young.  During the four-day trip, I also got about 10,000 words in, half of which on my current novel project and the rest divided between three short stories, the first drafts of two now complete.  All locked in the laptop because I thought it would be easier than continually plugging and pulling a memory stick.  Well, done me.
Some of the writing I did get done in Windsor directly relates to Goal #2 for 2009 (It’s a New Year, but isn’t it always?).  I’m about 26k into this novel (if I remember the number right – the current version of that file is also on the laptop) and the first draft will be 70-ish, I think.  I’m closing in on the half way mark of the story laid out in my head, anyway.  Future drafts will put more meat on the bones and we’ll see what it’s like at the end of the year.
But relating to a different goal, this blog post is the only writing I’m doing this weekend.  I’ve more or less made the decision that when I have the actual Saturday-Sunday weekend off instead of some casino variant, I’m going to spend all of my spare time with the kids.  I can write on breaks at work and during weird times when they’re not home or awake, but if I’ve got an entire weekend to spend with them, something gets to give.  Right now they’re all getting ready to go bowling, so I’ve got a few of minutes to type.  We’ll see if it’s enough.
I guess that’s a big theme for writers who also have families: finding the right balance.  I could sit at the computer every moment I’m home and awake, ignoring chores, home improvements, wife, children, and life in general.  I’d be productive, prolific, and my writing would improve a lot faster.  But that’s not me.  Okay, I’m not very good at housework, but I already have a tremendous amount of guilt over how much I miss because of the weird hours I work, never mind my previous job where I slept several nights per week in another city – four years since I’ve left that job, but it’s still leaving a mark on my soul. 
Some writers stay up late, some get up early, some have schedules that are flexible enough to afford them time to themselves.  A very lucky few are able to pursue this addiction for a living and I both envy and aspire that.  Maybe someday.  But today, if I’m home and awake at the same time my kids are, they need to have unfettered access to Dad.  I’m happy enough to write in odd moments, during breaks at work, and in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep while I’m not.
Two sets of footsteps thumping the floor above my head tell me that bath time is over and I know the oldest is already out of the shower in another bathroom.  I think it’s time to make lunch before we head for the bowling alley.

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