- 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.
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.