Casual Friday + Sometimes You Leave The Party Early (and Sometimes You Stay).

  • Not for the first time during this pandemic, I wanted to “eat” my feelings this week. So I ate two cookies and didn’t feel even a smidge better. Not having learned my lesson, that same day I also had a bowl of granola after supper. With chocolate chips (and pumpkin seeds and oat milk so it wasn’t too crazy). But still. Sigh. It was a good week in many ways, but also tough in lots of others – that familiar roller coaster that just seems to be unavoidable during global upheaval.
  • Tuesday morning was…okay. I had been dreading the first day back to work, but tried to ease into it. One of the best things about Christmas break is the fact that so much of the world is on vacation. Unlike the summer, or any other major holiday in the West, when we get back from vacation there isn’t an obscene backlog of e-mails that threatens to undo any relaxation carried over from the time off. So on Tuesday morning I left John to feed the kids breakfast and retreated to the office with some very hot tea, popped in my noise-cancelling headphones and got to work. There was some inertia, but I got things done and am slowly feeling work brain cells reorienting for the tasks ahead. I had a moment of temporary panic one afternoon thinking I had sent something (time-sensitive) to the finance department dated January 4, 2021 and was shocked to discover that I had, in fact, labelled the date correctly as January 4, 2022. It’s the little things that brighten our days…like being an adult that manages to get the date right.
  • The kids were supposed to start school this Tuesday; that was postponed to Thursday and, on Wednesday, we received news that the first week (at least) will be online. I wanted to…I’m not sure? I didn’t feel like crying (but a few hot tears did quietly squeeze out at one point) and knew cookies wouldn’t fix anything. I just felt helpless. It was so, so hard to watch Levi struggle with online learning last year, especially because he THRIVES in school. Academically he’s strong and will be fine in the long run, but it just crushed his sweet little spirit to stare at a buffering screen with a whole bunch of primary students all trying to talk at once. I’m trying to be optimistic – a different class with older students and I know how to advocate better. Last year was tough, but it still felt…hopeful. Like: “If we can make it through this final slog with online learning, everyone will be vaccinated and then…then things will start getting back to normal!” I am so, so thankful we had the whole fall with such miniscule case numbers in our area (and that schools stayed open), but it still feels…deflating to be at this point nearly two years in. I know everyone else is tired too and so many have more dire challenges and pressures than I’m facing, so I’ll end my rant there…
  • We did a fun woods walk; I have been trying to fit in at least 1 km of walking each day. The kids weren’t overly enthused to join me (it was -15 or so with the windchill), but we trekked through the woods and came to a giant puddle that had frozen over. They sourced some rocks and sticks and went to work as human zamboni’s, clearing off bumps and pebbles while I – literally – walked circles around them to get my 1 km in; we all came home cold, but satisfied with the outing.
  • I finished reading Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee the other day; I tend toward minimalism and in terms of design asethetics gravitate toward white, black, and gray – which definitely doesn’t fit her brief. So imagine my surprise when a pair of BRIGHT purple Crocs showed up at our door on Wednesday morning. A belated Christmas gift from my husband (back-ordered because of the colour). I have been stealing his Crocs for years, prefering them to my own indoor footwear and had actually added “a pair of Crocs” to my suggestion list for him to gift me next Christmas. I would never have thought to order Crocs in a bright colour, but they make me doubly happy: first because of the pop of colour (which will admittedly clash with just about everything I wear) and, second, because my husband was so thoughtful, yet again.

on leaving the party

Not too long after my 17th birthday, I left home for university. The apartment we were considering fell through and my parents, rightly so, were feeling rather apprehensive about where their 17-year-old would end up. And that’s how I found myself boarding with Dorthy – Dot to her friends – an 85-year-old spitfire.

When I met Dot for the first time, in her sitting room covered wall-to-wall with brown shag carpet, I wanted to run in the opposite direction. She had this nervous habit of tugging at her earrings which I found unnerving; she was old and had lots of wrinkles and, the icing on the cake, she didn’t seem to like me (“I never take freshmen” she told my parents).

There was also a lot of shag carpeting.

But she did take me, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Things got off to a rough start; I moved in when she was away on vacation and ended up flooding the bathroom the night before an entrance exam, which culminated in me leaving the house an absolute mess. Of course, just like a scene pulled straight from the movies, I came home that night to find the house lit up, the dirty dishes washed, the clothes I had left strewn in the bathroom neatly folded on my bed.

Dot had come home early. Whomp, whomp.

We made amends – she got the issue with the plumbing fixed and I did oodles of dishes. I ended up living with Dot for four years – she threw me a graduation party, came to my wedding, and we wrote monthly letters to each other once I was married and left the province. One of the saddest days of my life was learning that she had passed away.

Dot made my meals and washed my clothes and left the light on for me when I got home late from studying at the library. Dot was like a grandmother – the cool kind that knows how to prepare fancy cocktails and belongs to birthday clubs and plays bridge and drinks gin with a whole houseful of guests before heading out to Thursday-night film club.

I’ll never forget when Dot, who definitely had some stories to share, told me how important it was to “Always leave a party before you’re ready.

How many times have the kids begged for five more minutes at the end of a perfect playdate and then it ends in meltdowns – with tears and toys flying through the air and loud pronouncements of “I’m never going to play with so-and-so EVER again.

We went outdoor skating on the pond again this week; we had a time crunch and I knew our window of opportunity was small. By the time everyone was geared up, we had less than an hour on the ice. There were collective groans as I lined everyone (I had 4 kids with me) up for the 10-minute debacle that is removing skates in the cold on the side of a pond and everyone agreed it was completely unfair we had to leave so quickly and how could I possibly perpetuate this injustice.

In other words – we left the party early. Everyone was happy with the adventure (and mildly upset with me); the timing was perfect.

And other times, the party ends at midnight, but you stay until the sun comes up (this is all proverbial because I neither party nor stay up all night – as you can tell from my 10:15 pm bedtime on NEW YEAR’S EVE, the one night of the year everyone seems to stay up late).

This week I took one last, long drink of holiday cheer. I have never, ever allowed myself to revel in the Christmas decor and music this far past Christmas. I just found December 25th crept up so quickly and then was over in a flash. I was tired from the year – the renovations, COVID, insomnia, company, parenting, cooking, COVID, work, life, health challenges, COVID.

Monday night I asked John if he would indulge me in playing one last Christmas record. I sprawled on the couch and listened to the scratching melody of Aretha Franklin belting out Kissing Under the Mistletoe, and I decided I was going to stay at this party until sunrise.

Because I’m an adult. I can give myself permission to leave our Christmas tree up even though I see a new green bundle at the end of neighbouring driveways every day.

I grabbed a blanket and some magic bags and snuggled in to finish reading Joyful. At one point I took my glasses off and just stared at the tree. The whole scene was very hygge.

Qualifying fact: I am nearsighted. Very nearsighted. So when I take my glasses off the lights all blur and then – and I wasn’t expecting this, or perhaps it has just been so long since I’ve indulged in this activity that I had forgotten – the lights started dancing.

Years ago I had to do a botany lab exam and at one station you’d sit at a microscope with a sample of pond water and have to identify and draw various diatoms; they looked like little diamonds skittering across the viewfinder. If I hadn’t been slightly terrified of the lab instructor, it would have been an almost pleasant experience.

And that’s just what the lights looked like. Tiny glittering orbs with flecks that danced in all directions. Trust me when I say this description does not do the scene justice. So, if you have vision issues like me, do yourself a favour and plug in a string of mini-lights, take off your glasses/out your contacts, stand back and prepare for a bit of holiday magic.

Because my iPhone DOES have 20/20 capabilities, I can’t actually reproduce the magic my vision-compromised eyes could see…

Ingrid Fetell Lee talks about “joyfinding” – looking with purpose to find things that add whimsy and joy to our lives.

Some of my JOYFINDING this week:

  • Seeing a friend’s baby. She’s starting to smile and babble (and, surely pure joy to my friend, finally sleeping through the night) – the time is flying.
  • Watching the kids play on a puddle of ice in the woods. So carefree, a snapshot of life where the tentacles of COVID couldn’t touch us.
  • Purple Crocs.
  • My very own botany lab – Christmas diatoms in my living room.

25 thoughts on “Casual Friday + Sometimes You Leave The Party Early (and Sometimes You Stay).”

  1. Aw! Love the happy moments and fun you’ve accumulated in a blah January amidst the pandemic. The woodsy ice-pond is surely a family memory for years to come. I liked your previous post on how “the days are long but the years are short”–I always seem to pair it with Jennifer Senior’s phrase “All Joy and No Fun”–but here you are finding both joy and fun in parenting.

    1. I found that book so insightful (and talked about it yesterday in the comments section!); I should re-read it.
      There can be both joy and fun in parenting, but it’s also just really, really exhausting (to me at least). It’s 10:15 am and there have already been tears (from the kids, not me), rolled eyes, and lots of sibling fights. Sigh.
      But we also fit in a family walk, checked the mail, started laundry, read out loud together, my 7-year-old vacuumed the floors, and I had the almost 11-year old scrub all the toilets, and now they’re watching a movie. When they wake up at 7 am, it’s amazing what gets done so early in the morning.

  2. Oh I love your Christmas tree and your comparison to the diatoms!

    This was so comforting to read. It helps knowing that I”m not the only one feeling a good pinch of despair these days. Your positivity and beautiful photos are definite mood lifters! Here’s hoping virtual learning goes as well (and as temporarily) as possible for you and your kiddos.

    1. I think people that aren’t feeling despair have got to be the tiniest minority these days. I often feel like I have heaping cups full of it lately. Practicing “joyfinding” when I can, and admitting that sometimes I need to wallow with a cookie or two. And realizing that life really is a roller coaster and these constant juxtapositions of good and hard, ugly and beautiful, uplifting and deflating, flow and frustration.

  3. sigh… covid disruptions continued. I felt the same when I learned that kids will be distance learning for two weeks (to allow returning teachers to quarantine) but now with the outbreak, I think distance learning will be for a while. I think taking walks with the kids is even more important to get out during this time. the nature has the magic to heal the soul.
    love your purple crocs. I also like minimalist/low profile clothing, but some pop of color is nice.

    1. I have been LOVING the Crocs. So comfortable and, with a pair of warm socks, very good for keeping my feet dry and warm inside during these cold winter months!

  4. Oh, I definitely want to read that book! I need to do some Joyfinding.
    I love how you left the Christmas tree up and enjoyed it so much! I’m thinking that next year I might take everything else down but leave the tree a little later- that way I can just appreciate the tree without the clutter.
    Sorry about your remote learning situation. I would also be very unhappy about it. My daughter really needs to be in school, in person. I hope this is short-lived, for you. I think omicron is going to sweep through the population quickly, and then maybe we can get back to…. normal? Not sure what that looks like anymore.

    1. It’s going to be a new “normal” of some sort, but I suspect there will still be lots of temporary upheaval for a while to come. Sigh.

      Yes, having the tree up longer was lovely. I HAVE left the mantle swag up for now, for a bit of winter cheer.

    1. Online school was really tough for us the first few times around; this time, I just don’t have the energy to help as much. I know the teachers are doing their absolute best, but with someone in Grade 1, especially, it feels like so much work on the home front to juggle codes and schedules. It is what it is, but we’re all dreading Monday!

    1. That’s the spirit! I agree. Sometimes doing something fun – even for a few minutes – gives you the same boost as doing it for an extended period. I find that with walking – even a few minutes outside can really do wonders for my mood/current outlook!

  5. Ha, I have to seriously squint to get that diatoms vision – but I love the comparison. And good for you “staying late at the party” (aka keeping up the tree a little longer – mine is still up, if you’d like to know 🙂 It just gives me too much joy.)

    1. Yay for extending the joy of the Christmas tree. Someone who lives close to me keeps their family tree up until MARCH (maybe the solstice)? I don’t think I could handle that, but have to smile when I see it in the front window when everyone else to hanging four-leaf clovers on the door.

  6. I love sitting back and admiring the Christmas tree, after all the hubbub has ended. I love the sparkling lights and the mystery (?) of not yet knowing when the last night of that joy and wonder will be. Alas, this year, as you know, I didn’t have that opportunity. ((sigh)) I’m grateful for the days prior, though, when I would catch a glimpse of the tree as I walked through the room or set the table for dinner. Let’s hope this time, next year, all (or most?) of the Covid stuff will be behind us. Anyways…the purple Crocks are awesome!

    1. You have the corner on colour! I can definitely see you using purple Crocs!
      Too bad you had to take everything down so early, but trading that in for warm weather (and maybe some real ‘croc’ sightings) seems like a good tradeoff.

  7. Ugh the covid disruptions seem never-ending. Our schools are mostly back in session. Yesterday was an elearning day for our district, mostly because they had a shortage of bus drivers and it was like -25F with the windchill so they didn’t want students waiting outside for long periods of time in those conditions. But school is back in session – for now. I”m hopeful that omicron seems less bad than other variants and more like a bad cold? So maybe things will burn out after this, but it’s hard to believe that things will ever be ‘normalish’.

    I was so thrilled to pack our tree away and get the house back to normal. I did not grab onto the holiday glow for very long… I think we gave the kids a decent Christmas. I think Paul was oblivious to how awful I felt for much of the month and how little energy I had? I hope? We just sort of slogged through it, but there were still good moments and I know he loved the presents he received and is especially loving having his own iPad! But it was not my favorite Christmas… :/

    1. I think it helps to voice the “it wasn’t the greatest Christmas for me.” They can’t all be wonderful and I think we have such high expectations of ourselves/events and it can feel deflating when things don’t go quite the plan. Also, certain seasons of life are just extra tough. We’ve had some very sick Christmases that were exhausting AND I felt “cheated” because of how tired I was but Christmas really is about the spirit of things which can be cultivated after the actual date. I’m glad you’re feeling relieved it’s over and the pressure of the Christmas planning and “ideals” of how it should be are behind you.
      And, I’m really hoping the new tubes will make a huge improvement in 2022!

  8. I took 11 days off work in December and it was so nice to come back to a relatively mild inbox! I wish it could always be like that, but alas!

    I love the advice of leaving a party before you are ready. I am usually pretty good at understanding when my battery is close to being depleted and have no problem leaving a party when I find myself waning. It’s my introvert superpower, hehe. I’m going to remember this advice, though, because it would also be good to leave just a bit BEFORE that happens.

    1. It’s all about that magic window of timing. I think about this A LOT with the kids. Just last night we left a “party” before they were ready. We were at friends for supper and had to get home earlier than expected to accommodate an evening work call. The kids were NOT happy about it, but on the flip side it meant that everyone was still having such a good time. It’s a hard balance as a parent, but the worst thing is kids having fun and then all of a sudden everyone starts fighting and they tend to forget the negative end to the event? I’m not always great at managing this as I’m often enjoying MYSELF with another mother/friend, for example.

  9. I think I would really have loved Dot. In hindsight, I almost wish I’d had that kind of housing experience in college! I eventually learned the same lesson in college, despite being Dot-less. I was roped in to several things that, in hindsight, were NOT for me. I wonder, sometimes, what my college experience would have been like if I had been less of a go-along-to-get-along kind of person. I still love my 2 college roommates, but we are all very, very different. But because I was a “go along” person, I joined (“pledged”) a group my freshman year that was ostensibly a national honor fraternity. Except those people were JUST as likely to party as non-members. So I spent 2.5 years going to parties that I did NOT leave early, when all I wanted were my pjs and a book. Sigh. My senior year was more what I wanted but I learned my lessons much later than you!

    And I am so, so sorry about COVID. I *hate* that you are experiencing such stress and anxiety and (I think) continued insomnia. I really hope things settle down soon, and that Levi is back in his classroom soon if not already (Given my late comment). And I hope that you are able to find some semblance of a balance soon. Keeping you in my thoughts. <3

    1. Dot was lovely; I hope everyone gets a “Dot” figure at some point in their lives.
      The insomnia is starting to clear up, thankfully, and we are back to in-person classes when this Canadian winter weather allows it!

  10. Oh you made me miss ice skating. Last year we finally could do it on one single weekend. We went out but only stayed on the ice for about an hour. It was a lot of snow and the ice was not very smooth. Having not been ice skating for a few years it actually was quite a workout. But we were so happy afterwards. So I guess leaving the party early is ok if you actually made it to the party at all.

    The thing you described with the lights reminds my a lot of my migraine aura. It is somehow beautiful but also very annoying if you can. not choose to have that view. But it does always remind me of a kaleidoscope.

    1. That sounds tough – getting to choose it is a different thing altogether from having it “forced” upon you by a migraine.

      We haven’t been skating again…lots of snow so I’m not sure what the ice surface will be like until we get rain again. I might take the kids to an outdoor rink sometime soon…or maybe not. We’ve gone outdoor skating twice and that might be all I fit in this season and that’s okay!

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