Weighing Judgments

I can’t remember where I read the following quote (it might have been Brené Brown?) but it went something along the lines of: Care the most about the judgments of people who care the most about you.

(Side note: apparently both spellings are correct – judgements and judgments – though I’m still not sure which one looks “right”.)

This advice came at an opportune time; I have been ruminating over some unpleasant feedback I received relating to a tricky interpersonal situation. My tendency is to avoid conflict. At the end of the day I want to make – and keep – everyone happy with me. (Oh how desperately I want everyone to be happy with me!)

But here’s the thing, if someone is critical or hurtful or we simply don’t see eye to eye on a matter, I need to weigh my response in proportion to that person’s investment and overlap in my life.

I need to care the most about what the people closest to me say – what’s their feedback? Is the negative information I’m getting from a socially-distant person in line with what I’m hearing from those who love me, who have my best interests at heart, and whose input I most value?

In this case, the feedback didn’t align. While this doesn’t mean I should totally disregard the negative feedback (there are elements of truth to it, I admit), I need to weigh its impact on my decision-making accordingly.

Easier said than done, of course. But it’s likely wise, moving forward, to care the most about the judgments/feedback of people who care the most about me.


Header photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Laugh Easily – A New Life Goal?

A few weeks ago we went out for supper as a family. We haven’t done this very often since March of 2020. It felt “normal” (whatever “normal” looks like these days) and was an especially fun treat on a random Wednesday night.

When we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, John and Abby were talking about an inside joke song they had created about Abby’s new hamster, Meatball. It was nonsensical and hilarious. As I sat listening to them sing – with gusto, I might add – I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. A deep belly laugh.

After I finally finished laughing, I thought – wow, it feels so good to laugh.

Wouldn’t this be a great life goal – to be someone who laughs easily? (At appropriate times, of course; I understand laughter at the wrong time can be devastatingly hurtful!). Sure I can smile when I hear a funny story or silly lyrics. But why not take things one step further and muster up a laugh? It almost always feels extra therapeutic.

Your turn. Do you laugh easily? If so, do you have a go-to source of laughs (maybe a favourite sitcom, comedian, or family member)? Nate Bargatze is our favourite comedian and I also happen to be married to an extremely funny person who goes out of his way to make me laugh every day <3

Header photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Switching Storybooks

We’re home from our whirlwind trip with friends. The weather forecast flip-flopped enough to make my head spin, but it all worked out.

There was a lot of fishing and swimming and boating. We roasted hotdogs and made s’mores one evening and toasted toast the next morning for breakfast – my Dad hand-whittled pointy sticks for the dogs and marshmallows but has a metal contraption that allows someone to toast four pieces of bread simultaneously. With 12 people, we ended up with quite an assembly line of self-cooked items coming off the firepit.

We set off fireworks.

The kids donned old button-up shirts that hung down to their knees and painted rocks.

A small assortment of the many, many painted creations!

We caught frogs and sang songs and played games.

We had Tuck Shop each afternoon. This may be Nova Scotia/New Brunswick Bible camp terminology, but it’s the time each day at summer camp when kids are able to buy some treat – like a can of pop or a little baggie of chips. I think other camps may call this Canteen? I mentioned this term to an acquaintance and she looked at me like I had two heads! It’s all I knew growing up, and every camp our kids have attended have had a designated Tuck Shop timeslot each afternoon. Anyhoo…in an effort to make this getaway more like an official “camp,” Abby specifically requested Tuck Shop. I have to admit I quite enjoyed it myself – 3 pm signaled a delicious decision between mini chocolate bars, little bags of chips, or a handful of gummy bears.

I spent three nights in a tent. One night involved a downpour, but I stayed dry – though my air mattress went flat two of the three nights.

I drank lots of coffee.

It was lovely and busy and exhausting.

All of my pictures from the weekend involve kids and/or adults outside our core family group, but here are some gorgeous pictures of the night sky John captured one evening.

The rest of the week was a mixed bag. On the one hand, this summer has been a seemingly endless set of wonderful adventures. On the other hand, it has had some really hard moments. A family member made a great point earlier in the week about the stories I am telling myself lately.

For example, I’ve obscurely referenced an interpersonal challenge in my neighbourhood that has impacted my emotional well-being. Things temporarily improved when John started his sabbatical because I could literally – as sad as this sounds – hide away inside from the problem at critical times of day. Over the summer it has returned to being a near-daily stress point and, unfortunately, at this point there isn’t any clear resolution in sight. This has felt very hard. And I have to admit I have been re-reading a story aloud in my head each day. The title? Doomed To Have Conflict with Neighbours (see also).

But over this summer we’ve had neighbours that: came to watch our kids play soccer, offered us the use of their pool and lavished us with delicious produce from their garden. We have neighbours that check our mail and put out our trash while we’re on vacation. We have neighbours who gift our kids travel logbooks. Clearly – disproportionately – we have Neighbours That Love Us Very Much…but I’m not so good at telling myself this story.

How appropriate (for me) that picture books, once again, helped reframe a profound truth.

Mo Willems is brilliant and when we read Goldilocks and The Three Dinosaurs this week I loved it. It’s all about Goldilocks being misled by hungry dinosaurs. Spoiler alert: she eventually figures out it’s all a trap and leaves before they’re able to eat her. It was a great re-telling of a classic story. But the second-to-last page stopped me in my tracks.

And the moral is: If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.

I’ve been stuck in a rut of telling myself some very unhelpful stories this summer. In life (for me at least) it’s not always easy – or even possible – to close the book and walk away. Right now I can’t actually leave some of the hard stories. But maybe I can shut the cover and put that particular story on the shelf more frequently? And then make an effort to settle in with a more optimistic title?

Because the story I choose to focus on will have a big impact on how I feel.

This is all a major work in progress!


  • A long solo walk where I spotted these beautiful natural wonders hanging out by/on the sidewalk. Too often I’m distracted and miss gorgeous things like this.
These were literally spilling out onto the sidewalk. So pretty!
  • A hot shower. I’ve listed this as a source of joy many times now, but one rainy afternoon after spending hours sitting in the basement office I was cold and sore from hunching over a keyboard. A hot shower felt amazing!
  • John and I were puzzled by an odd noise late one evening. My stress hackles kicked into high alert – turns out it was just Meatball very enthusiastically running on his wheel. Bless.
  • Sipping a hot cup of coffee one morning while I tackled e-mails systematically. It was a deliciously productive morning.
  • Flipping over a new month on the calendar. It always feels cathartic.

That’s it from me this week. Happy weekending everyone!

Header photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Eventually, You Can Learn to Avoid the Hole

The first movie John and I ever watched together was Groundhog Day. In the film, Bill Murray’s character – crotchety weatherman Phil Conners – ends up trapped in a frustrating time loop. He wakes up each day to find himself reliving the previous day. Over and over and over.

At first he’s frantic, then furious (he tries increasingly drastic steps to prematurely end the day), before ending up resigned (stuffing himself with cake and guzzling coffee straight from the pot) to his fate. But, eventually, he redeems the situation by using his unique advantage to exchange cynicism and anger for compassion and love.

One of the most hilarious scenes is his interaction with Ned Ryerson (played by Stephen Tobolowsky). Phil wants to avoid Ned at all costs and ends up walking into a puddle filled with slush, which doesn’t help his already bad mood. But by the end of the movie not only does he interact with Ned cheerfully – remember, he encounters Ned day after day after day – he learns to avoid the puddle. (Watching the scene helps put it in context, starting around the 1.50 mark).

Several years ago I read Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in Five Chapters. We’ve all experienced the frustration of a seemingly endless loop of bad habits or self-perpetuating mistakes. But we’ve likely also found ourselves redeeming them – learning from them and learning to avoid them.

As a “quote” it’s a pretty long one, but worth every word.

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost…

I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit

My eyes are open; I know where I am;

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

Autobiography in Five Chapters – Portia Nelson

In life, there will always be holes – and there will always be other streets.

Header photo by shaquon gibson on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Still So Much Good

For someone who loves words, I’m struggling to articulate how this week has unfolded. In summarizing most of July/early August, I described it recently as feeling like I’ve been planning an evening out at a 3-star Michelin restaurant for months; when the big night arrived, I showed up in my fancy dress but with no appetite and a debilitating stomach flu. I tried to smile and be polite, but really I just wanted to be at home in my pajamas hugging a bucket. Which makes the whole situation even worse, because of the built-up anticipation and expectation.

I think a “flu” is easier to endure when you don’t have fun plans.

The above is not a fair characterization of my life. I know this intellectually. There has been so much good this summer, but last night a friend looked me straight in the eyes and said: Elisabeth, you don’t have to pretend you’re enjoying things right now.

And I really needed to hear that message.

I can enjoy things. I am enjoying things. But I’m also struggling.

Since I spend way too much time in my own head, I’m going to unpack some baggage in this space because a) it helps me to process how past experiences are impacting my current reality and b) sometimes I feel so alone when I see the facade of other’s lives where they seem to be keeping everything together perfectly all the time.

I’ve mentioned the underlying stress from renovations/repairs a lot lately, but some cogs clicked in to place this week when I was discussing the seeming irrationality of my overwhelm. It was a bit of a lightning bolt moment as I filtered back through a string of unsettling moments that have punctuated our living environments, many of which I navigated solo with little kids.

And I realized: home hasn’t always felt like a safe refuge.

The apartment we lived in prior to our current house was a wonderful spot at first, but ended up having some major challenges. We had a neighbour that had a medical exemption to smoke in her apartment, so we had to turn off our air circulation because it dumped the smoke into our living space. After six months of room-sharing with baby Levi, John and I started moving our mattress to the living room each night for over a year so everyone could have their own sleeping space. At one point a child slept in a closet (how very “New York City” of us). These dynamics were manageable but stressful.

Then there were the neighbours who would leave their windows open one floor above us and swear-scream at their child. It was awful. Just before we moved, multiple items were stolen from us (including John’s favourite surfboard and our air conditioner). This was very, very unsettling – particularly when someone wrote me to say: I see your stolen AC unit for sale on Facebook Marketplace! By the end of our time living there, I no longer let the kids play on our front lawn or in outside common areas because of the dynamics.

When we moved, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. Finally a place to relax and feel truly at home.

Within a week we discovered a broken sewer line (the line had been cameraed a few months before we moved in and all was good, according to the official report). This meant we couldn’t meet home insurance requirements on the necessary schedule. Things needed to get fixed and fast. I’ve already talked plenty about the jackhammering and excavating. But in the same mix was a truly horrific drainage company (franchised, well-established, supposedly very legitimate) – hired by the previous owners – that came into our house and told me our kids would be “just fine” despite the fact sewer fumes were entering our basement because of their faulty drainage system install. This experience was both infuriating and horrifying. Then there were my calls/trips to our lawyer to deal with layers of chaos, deceit, and confusion. There were hours and hours spent talking with insurance companies, organizing permits, calling by-law officers and inspectors.

I lost over ten pounds in a month and felt nauseous round the clock.

One night a few weeks before Christmas I was watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas with the kids (minutes after Abby lost a tooth eating boxed Mac n’ Cheese). I remember details from that evening so distinctly. The jackhammering was done, the giant hole in our basement floor was filled. Flooring was to be installed the next day. John was home from his overseas trip. That night we discovered a hairline crack that was allowing a tiny bit of water to enter one corner of a basement room.

For the first time in my life, I threw up from stress.

Then there was our horrible experience with a HVAC company (again, this was a company hired by the previous owner, so we used them because of an existing “warranty”) who told us they were going to put a lien on our house if we didn’t pay their outrageous bill. They couldn’t actually do this, but it was stressful nonetheless. In the end, they wound up damaging our heat pump unit.

Or what about later that year when, on his final day of work at our home, a subcontractor (who came highly recommended and did good work) told me in tears he had just been charged with a truly horrific crime and was likely going to face extended jail time. Thankfully my parents were temporarily living close by, but John was away on a business trip when this happened and I was so disturbed I left all our blinds closed and had trouble sleeping for weeks whenever I was home alone.

Or what about last summer when a subcontractor was verbally abusive. When we communicated (via an intermediary) that this subcontractor was not to return, that subcontractor proceeded to drive by our house slowly on multiple occasions. This was extremely unsettling and for months I was constantly on alert. When I saw him at a distance – randomly – at a yard sale this summer, I felt an incredible spike of anxiety.

And then last fall a very complicated situation opened up in our neighbourhood – an incredible, established area that we truly love – that has had huge impacts on our family (especially me). It has tangibly altered daily life on various levels for almost a year and has completely changed the dynamic of how I function in our neighbourhood.

So when someone asked why I find the current renovations so overwhelming (aside from the superficial, but understandable, reasons I listed last week: uncertainty, mess, expense) – when they are technically going smoothly – I didn’t have a good answer. I’ve been told at various times that “this is all part of home ownership.” Or “there will always be something.”

And maybe that’s true. But I think my struggle goes so much deeper than the uncertainty of renovations and having doors off their hinges before 8 am.

Because is having someone tell you about a criminal offence a typical part of home ownership? Is being threatened and bullied by subcontractors and companies “something”? Because, well, there has just been a lot to handle over the years. And renovations and our home (not our wee family unit, but the physical dwelling) just feel very triggering emotionally right now and I’m slowly appreciating the fact it’s all very…complicated.

(I do want to note here that our current contractor is wonderful, but just having people in my space is, at least subconsciously, bringing up distressing past experiences.)

My emotional state is further compromised by the fact that over the next month, we have two weeks (TWO WEEKS!) of overnight company. Four people for one week (all adults) and then 5 people (including three boys under 6) for another week. This will require me to function at a higher level than I necessarily feel I have the capability for right now.

Meanwhile, I have put my foot down on needing to pause renovation work while company is visiting, but this also means things will remain unfinished for weeks still to come.

And then last week was my most difficult period so far this year which left me feeling physically and mentally depleted. For those following along, I do have an appointment in September which is officially labeled as a pre-op for surgery. It could still be over a year before I hit the operating table, but it does feel like forward momentum. This is good but scary, too, if I’m being honest.

so much good

But then there is also so much good.

So much good.

And while it isn’t necessarily tipping the scales on my emotional state as much as I’d like, I’m appreciating these moments the best I can.

  • Levi napping in the back seat of the car after a beach day. His baby-ness seems to be slipping away, but how I treasure those glimpses of it even still.
  • Setting off fireworks on the beach at my parents home. It was a first for the kids and they loved the experience. (Gold stars to my brother for organizing this. It was definitely a highlight of my summer.)
  • Boating up a river one evening alone with my Dad. We saw a bald eagle and a kingfisher. The river was like glass. I had never taken this route before (it wound back and forth through swampy areas and looked like something straight out of Where The Crawdads Sing), and it was just a really special moment to share with him.
  • My first ever pedicure, gifted from a friend. It felt indulgent in all the right ways.
  • A delicious BBQ supper cooked by John when I didn’t feel functional.
  • Games, games, games. We’ve played so many card games over the last week. Golf – a simple game that involves two decks of playing cards – is the runaway favourite and teaches great math skills. Also Virus and For Sale, which my brother brought along.
  • Freshly washed sheets on every single bed in the house.
  • A hug from a friend last night; a long, tight hug that communicated I hear you, I understand you, I love you.
  • Completing some tedious work tasks. When everything feels clouded in overwhelm, checking off some to-do’s feels like a disproportionate accomplishment.
  • Time alone with Levi. Abby stayed behind at the lake, and while I haven’t been at my “best”, we’ve still had some really fun moments. He comes in each morning to snuggle. We’ve watched Meatball nibble on carrot slices. We’ve gone out for ice cream. We’ve played football at the beach.
  • Neighbours (almost like surrogate grandparents) who showed up to Levi’s soccer game to cheer him on. These same neighbours also had him come over to pick garlic he planted in their garden last fall, and all the blueberries he wanted fresh from their backyard bushes.
  • John bought me a tray of peanut butter fudge. This is a throwback to when we were dating when we regularly drove to a specific gas station that sold this fudge. We passed this location en route home from the lake and it has provided a delicious blast from the past.
  • Being at the lake with my brother and sister-in-law. Together for the first time in four years.
  • And the sunsets. Always the sunsets.

I’ll enjoy the moments I can, try to learn from the moments that are tough, and keep on keeping on. Life is good and hard and beautiful. Happy weekending.

Casual Friday + You Can’t Always Predict the Great Moments

Earlier this week someone told me, in a very loving way: “You’re feeling fragile right now, aren’t you?”

What gave it away? The compulsive lip chewing (a tell-tale nervous habit). Some tears (I swear I don’t actually cry that often). Ruminating over everything.

Yes, I have been feeling fragile and restless and unsettled for several months now. There are lots of reasons for this. Personality. The fact there are some big career decisions looming. An unstructured summer. Insufficient sleep.

And, over the last few weeks in particular, renovation stress. (Note: I keep calling them “renovations” which might conjure up visions of new kitchen cabinets and fancy whirlpool bathtubs but, for the most part, these are all quasi-necessary upgrades – we’ve replaced very old windows and a drafty door, added exterior insulation, excavated and replaced our foundation drainage, installed proper attic ventilation, removed a rotting entryway/carport etc.).

  • I’ve admitted overnight company stresses me out. It is not my thing. I love to see friends and family and I want to host them, I suppose, as a means to an end. But I really struggle having people in my space long-term. And during one of my “fragile” moments I realized – having contractors on-site relatively consistently over the last year (even 4.5 years) is a bit like always having company in the house. People are regularly in my space, but I don’t always know when they’re going to come/go or when they’re going to need me.
  • I thrive on structure, but I can’t predict what a day is going to look like. Sometimes the weather (or COVID, or a worker shortage, or supply chain disruption – pick your poison, there are just endless delays) means they can’t come. Some days they arrive at 8:00 am, other days it might be noon.
  • I hate making decisions. Renovations are just endless decisions. How high should the doorbell be on the wall? Do you want drywall return around the door, or framing? How wide do you want the step? Once, before Christmas, I spent THIRTY minutes standing outside in the cold answering questions about eavestroughs and downspouts. THIRTY minutes to decide how I want rainwater routed away from our house.
  • I hate spending money. Renovations are just endless expenditures of money. We have done things as frugally as possible, but this adds a whole other layer of complexity. We don’t just pick things without regard to cost, so I’m often ruminating over “Have we actually found the nicest, economical light fixture/baseboard.”

Taken in isolation, I can handle one or two of these stressors (say: unexpected rot that adds $200 to the bill + drywall dust tracked over my clean floors), but eventually, it all starts to feel like just too much overwhelm.

For example, last week our contractor came alone (his team was split between two jobs and his partner for our renovations had COVID and was isolating) which meant everything took longer. Friday our air conditioner stopped (see below). Saturday morning we had to be out of the house by 7:30 am while foam insulation was sprayed. On Monday morning, Abby emerged from her room, yawning and staggering (roused by VERY loud hammering at 8:00 am). She got to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and took a double take. “Mom…[long pause]…Um, where is our door?!”

Yup. By 8 am Monday morning, we had no door (this was temporary while they got all the drywall into place). Let’s just say I’ve learned to always be fully dressed before I leave my room in the morning.

We are nearing the end. The electrician still needs to come back. There is still staging on our new deck blocking the sliding door. We’re missing rear gutters. But there is drywall up. We have a step.

The door is back in place.

Feeling optimistic about the timeline for completing the project, we had left a pile of necessary supplies in the kitchen. A stack of flooring, light fixtures, a new doorbell, plugs and switches and covers. Monday I decided enough was enough. I carried everything to the basement (it took less than 5 minutes – why, oh why did I wait so long). I took all our shoes out of the kitchen and into the semi-finished entryway. And I mopped.

It felt like 100 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. Walking into the kitchen for two months to see that pile of building supplies and shoes…was a major bummer.

MORE WATER WOES | Long-time readers may recall our water incident just before Christmas. We were completing some exterior renovations (as we have been doing for approximately… forever – see above), when an old pipe was twisted too far and snapped. Water slowly dripped into a basement closet. I discovered this, miraculously, a few hours after the leak started. The only real casualty, other than a freshly mopped floor (the basement floors hadn’t been mopped in months and were deep-cleaned just a few hours before the leak. There has to be some moral to that story?!) – my piles and piles of wrapped Christmas gifts. Let me tell you, unwrapping sodden gifts a few weeks before Christmas is not as much fun as unwrapping dry gifts on Christmas. But it has made for a very good story.

Then there was the sink catastrophe when we were doing a family cooking competition that found me on my hands and knees in puddles of water on the kitchen floor minutes before company arrived.

So would you believe I have ANOTHER water story to share?

Last Friday afternoon John took the kids on a little adventure (including a stop at our all-time favourite NS destination, Peggy’s Cove). This left me with a few blissfully quiet hours to fill with work and leisure. I started working on Monday’s anniversary post and decided to look in our box of extra photos for pictures from the day John proposed. I set the box down on the floor and then realized, with horror, the floor was covered with water.

I thought it was a leak from our hot water tank; we have a service plan, so I called and a technician was out in several hours. Unfortunately (sort of – since any hot water tank repairs are free!), it was our heat pump/air conditioner. It is ducted in with our furnace and the pump that removes condensation from a drip tray stopped working. So water has been pooling INSIDE OUR furnace and spilling out onto the floor.

So in the middle of one of the longest, hottest heat waves in Nova Scotia summer history, we had to turn off our air conditioner. For days.

(And there is a chance our furnace has been ruined).

Two days later, a repairman arrived – the same day our door was gone – changed a part and left. I felt slightly less fragile now that I could cool down the house, especially since it was literally the hottest day with the highest Humidex of the whole summer.

All was well.

Until an hour after he left we discovered it was still leaking and had flooded the furnace. Again. So we had another fitful night of hot sleep (I went to the basement where it was cooler).

The repair company came back the next day and discovered there was also a clog in the discharge pipe, fixed that, and all is well.

For now.

I love having flush toilets and hot showers but sometimes really wonder if indoor plumbing is worth all the stress.

Some of John’s pictures from Peggy’s Cove, because it remains one of our favourite places in Nova Scotia!


That’s enough complaints about life. Here are some happy things from the week.

  • Our anniversary. I had no energy to book a babysitter or go out for dinner. I was a hot and frazzled mess. (This was the day with no door and no AC and the day I cried. And guess what started this same day. Seriously.) Soccer practice was canceled because of the heat – there happened to be a thunderstorm too – which was a welcome relief. But John turned the day around; he boosted my spirits, helped me work through some big decisions, prepared a lovely supper; we watched a documentary and some stand-up comedy. In the end it was…great. We mentioned the “in sickness and in health” part in our vows, but we missed the “in renovation and home repair” bit. While it didn’t seem like the ideal setting for a memorable anniversary, it ended up being a perfect reminder of how blessed I am to have such a wonderful spouse.
  • I ordered my parents anniversary photobook. Shhhh. Pulling everything together and structuring a book with so many words was daunting (I make 250-page photobooks every year, but they’re almost entirely pictures). I think they’ll be really happy with it though, and there was a 25% off deal, which would make them even happier.
  • A surprise pedicure (scheduled for next week), gifted from a friend. This will be my first-ever pedicure!
  • Going out for ice cream after Abby’s soccer game. There’s a petting zoo and playground at our favourite little local farmer’s market, and the kids licked cones and played in the fading light. The moment was practically perfect in every way.
  • We read some books. Nothing was incredible, but the ones pictured below were enjoyed by everyone. Levi was obsessed with Alice from Dallas. To me it was nothing special, but I had to include it since he asked me to read this at least a dozen times over the last week. I really needed to hear the message in the Worry-Worry Whale, and Lenny and Lucy was such a sweet story. Just Read was a nice rhyming book about…books. Always a worthy topic.

If you’d asked me at the beginning of the summer, what do you think the great moments are going to be, I’d likely have answered Broadway. Which was amazing. Or time at the lake. Which was lovely, too.

But my absolute favourite moment this summer happened last Tuesday. We had an impromptu hotdog and s’more beach bonefire, arranged an hour or so before with friends. We tossed chips and water bottles into the trunk, whittled some sticks from the backyard for roasting, and headed to the beach. The kids played contentedly. The food tasted amazing, as food cooked over a fire does. I fit in my 1-km walk. At the beach. With my best friend. We piled back into vehicles with mismatched sets of siblings for post-supper playdates. Bedtimes were ridiculously late. This is the unstructured part of summer I do crave and it felt…wonderful.

Happy weekending, friends. Here’s to memories and perspective.

Our basement, circa December 2017. Two weeks until company. Three weeks until Christmas. Joy.
Our front yard circa December, 2017
Our back yard, circa June 2018.
At least it provided the kids with some very large mounds of dirt to hop across…
The foam is in, the door is back, and the drywall – not pictured here – is actually up and in place. Now we just need lights, floor, baseboards…and, well, lots of things.

Casual Friday + Anxiety and Things Making Me Smile

I felt all over the place emotionally this week. But, at the end of the day, life’s good.

Saturday was tough. Sunday was wonderful. Monday and Tuesday I literally felt like my skin was crawling with anxiety – despite some onion ring-and-chocolate therapy. Wednesday? Felt great. Thursday? Hit-and-miss.

For better or worse, I function best when I have a concrete to-do list (even if that is: “Go adventure today”) and I’m recognizing how the lack of that structure is not a great fit right now.

I’ve been trying to attack the branches – and they have been thorny and annoying. A work “emergency” that materialized right before soccer practice one night (so it had lots of time to fester and worry me). Stress about renovations. Evening events that keep pushing kid bedtimes later than ideal. The (ironic) learning curve of “anti-diet” eating.

But to tackle the root, I need to get back to basics and force our casual summer into something (slightly) more structured. I want to get up earlier to fit in my daily walk first thing – this has been so much harder to accomplish now that the kids are home and we don’t walk them to school. I want to get back to reading my Bible every day. I want to finish drafting trip recaps. I want to get the kids to bed earlier. I want to eat more vegetables and have a bit more structure in my eating routine.

While I feel like I should love the flexibility of summer, I don’t always. And that’s okay (I say quasi-confidently).

Next week will be more structured as the kids are in a sports camp. It’s only partial days (9 am – 12:30 pm), but that will require a more formal morning routine and provide dedicated time for me to work in the office, drink a hot beverage in peace, and fit in some workouts (hopefully at least a few runs?)

Despite moments of sheer panic from feeling so “off” there were a lot of truly wonderful moments too – I’m trying to focus on those.

Some things making me smile this week

  • The beach. After church on Sunday we packed up and headed to a beach. Abby and John “surfed” (the waves were small and choppy so the surfboards largely functioned as giant boogie boards, but it was fun nonetheless). The kids played together in the sand, digging giant holes and trying to protect them from the incoming tide. It was a delight to see them so happy.
  • I e-mailed a dear friend (host of my Soup-and-Sandwich-Oasis) to unload some of my mental angst. As always, she was a supportive listener. But it was how she signed off on her reply that really made me smile. Love & hugs 24/7/365. Bless.
  • Friends we haven’t seen in years were visiting from Germany and came over for supper on Tuesday. Full disclosure: I was near tears before they arrived. I had been dealing with stressful work stuff all day, contractors were outside in the driveway (using jackhammers!), bathrooms needed to be cleaned…I was feeling frazzled and exhausted and very much not ready to entertain. And then they arrived and it was great. All the kids darted off to play as soon as supper was over; a neighbourhood gaggle ended up on our side lawn talking and playing soccer. With the kids entertained outside, the adults got to sit and talk for hours, largely without interruption. When the sun went down, the kids grabbed flashlights and played outside some more.
  • Renovations are re-started. Everything is bottlenecked because of supply and labour shortages, but we made some progress this week. Renovations really stress me out – the cost (more than anything! how I hate spending money), the decisions, the mess/noise. I think a big chunk of my anxiety this week was tied to the uncertainty of renovations and all they entail. But I’m also so thankful we have found someone we trust who does good work. They found a small amount of rot, but fixed it without difficulty. The house did not collapse. And all the activity provided built-in entertainment. Multiple times I went looking for the kids, only to find them mesmerized by decking progress.
  • Also making me smile – The fact we now have a deck. We have NEVER had a proper deck at our house (and neither of our apartments had balconies).
  • Friends (who our kids call “auntie and uncle” even though we’re not actually related) rearranged their schedule to come help us cheer Levi on in his first ever soccer game. Having them there really made our family smile!
  • Levi’s game. He was great offensively (and scored a goal), but quickly volunteered to be goalie and was amazing! It started POURING rain about 2 minutes after the game ended, which somehow made the whole experience even more thrilling.
  • A friend sent this and I had to laugh! Things have been 1000x times better for me with nighttime waking since I went to the osteopath, but I can still relate!
  • We are now a pet family. Abby has been waiting since April for this hamster. We kept pushing it off because of travel plans and I really, really wanted to wait until September, but she simply would not allow further delays. Fair enough. So…meet Meatball. We went through dozens of names (other frontrunners were Cheddar and Twizzler – I guess we prefer to brainstorm food-related names?), but Meatball really suits this sweet little guy.
  • Reconnecting with my bestie who was away at the same time we were road-tripping. We fit in a long morning walk and, per tradition, she brought me a new Trader Joe’s bag from California. She knows me well – waffles are pretty much a love language in our house.

Your turn. Any big ups and downs this week? I hope you’ve found lots of things that make you smile.

Keeping It Real – Onion Rings and a Chocolate Bar

This afternoon I had a moment.

We had just come back from another jaunt to the beach which sounds lovely – and it was – but I’m here to admit I have officially hit my summer angst mode.

I’m restless.

I miss routine and time alone.

(And I feel so, so guilty. Because my life is great. The kids are great. John is great. There is so much great and still I’m restless.)

This happens, to some degree, every year. I stop reading. I stop using my planner. I stop cooking vegetables and we eat peanut butter sandwiches or scrambled eggs for every meal (not really, but frequently).

We also get funny tan lines and savour ice cream and stay up late and generally make great memories.

But I also flounder a bit.

Adventurous Elisabeth has a blast, while routine-loving/creative Elisabeth sulks in the corner.

Back to today. The kids were getting cleaned up from the beach and I was sitting rather aimlessly at the table. I knew I didn’t have time to put in serious effort on a work task that will require concentrated effort (late tonight?). The rest of the afternoon felt nebulous. Levi’s invited to a friend’s for supper. Both kids have soccer. John was heading out for a run. We have company coming tomorrow for supper and the house is a hot mess but contractors are supposed to be here working during the day, so there’s no point in mopping floors.

And then, amidst the crazy, my mind decided to start catastrophizing about how I haven’t been running in two weeks. Never mind it has been several years since I ran seriously in the summer, and I know this isn’t the year to get back into that headspace. I turned down some running opportunities last week and, with minimal effort, could fit it in during the day since John is on sabbatical. It’s not for lack of availability. It’s lack of motivation which makes me feel…not so great about myself.

I feel stuck in a summer rut and, today, this mental spiral did not go particularly well. Because instead of putting on shorts and running shoes and using the treadmill, you know what I did?

I finished off a bag of Sour Cream Onion rings and washed those down with half a chocolate bar.

I guess that’s one response to not fitting in a run?

Does anyone else find the switch to summer routines tough? I love summer! I crave it and talk about it wistfully all winter long. And then it comes and I secretly start looking forward to the fall (at which point I complain about how cold it’s getting and lament it’s not summer).

Header photo by Tetiana Bykovets on Unsplash