- Monday I woke up…not ready. John had left overnight for the airport and I didn’t feel prepared to face the day. I pushed through responsibilities – walked the kids to school, answered work calls, ate breakfast. By mid-morning I ended up taking a scalding shower and then crawled into bed for an hour. It was that sort of day. But then a friend stopped by with soup at lunchtime and I cried and she hugged me and I felt ready to move on. I systematically tackled work tasks, our teenage babysitter came over after school and baked with the kids. We ate my friend’s delicious soup for supper. Once the kids were in pajamas, we warmed up magic bags and snuggled on the couch with the mantle twinkle lights and talked until bedtime. A good end to a tough day.
- I really missed John this week. I can’t believe I used to solo-parent almost 50% of the time for the better part of a decade! Every time he went away it felt hard (in an additive way, really), but it did start to have an air of abnormal “normalcy”. But having him home virtually nonstop for 2 years (this was only his 3rd trip since March 2020) has made me realize how hard it is to be apart. Working together at home, we’re literally around each other almost 24/7 x 365; I don’t think everyone’s relationship could thrive in that environment. Yet I missed him more than ever this time when he was away. He’s my best friend, and brings me great joy (and yes, frustration, too – it is a marriage between two flawed people, especially me; thankfully we agree on the correct way to hang a toilet paper roll and other similarly critical matters). I have friends that have been widowed and others that are separated and I recognize how blessed I am to be in love with my spouse.
- As of last week I’m back on iron and hormone supplements to help offset my period issues, but they both come with side effects and I can’t decide which state is worse – life with or without them? Someone asked recently if my head is always fuzzy. It’s tricky to answer because I’ve grown so used to this resting state and I wonder if what I’m experiencing is actually normal? But then I remember the fact I can specifically pinpoint the last time I didn’t feel this way. It was an afternoon in late May 2021 when I was taking the kids to the zoo. We’d been cooped up for a month of lockdown and were a few days away from schools reopening. We booked a slot at the zoo and on the car ride there I suddenly realized I wasn’t tired. At all. Sadly, I woke up in my normal tired/fuzzy state the following day, but it does show me that there is a very real juxtaposition between my “normal” level of fatigue and how, I assume, many other energetic people feel moving through their days. And catching a glimpse of it definitely left me wanting more!
- I’ve talked before about our beloved water cooler. The only downside to this apparatus is the biweekly need to replenish our water supply. We typically do this at a nearby spring (price = free). But since it has been approximately 1 million degrees below zero, the last two weeks we have used a local filling station (price = $2/bottle = 100% worth it). Ever since we started carting around giant jugs of water I’ve been worried about them spilling. It has never happened and I was finally getting lulled into a false sense of security. Then BAM. Sunday we arrived home to a trunk FULL of water. The entire contents of the water jug had spilled out – much of it into the spare tire bay. The trunk mats were soaked and I spent 20 minutes in my church dress (new-to-me Ann Taylor, see below) and snow pants (very classy combo) bailing water out of the trunk with a blue plastic child’s IKEA cup. My hands were like solid blocks of ice by the end, but the trunk has never looked cleaner.
News from the week…
BUYING | I haven’t been to my favourite thrift store in several months and I convinced Abby to join me last Friday for a quick trip. It is a small store nestled in a little strip-mall; for the majority of the time we were the only people there (aside from the cashier).
For $23.58 (including tax) I got: 2 bathing suits (including one new with tags), an Ann Taylor dress, a belt, a pair of comfy capri pants, and a Star Wars t-shirt for Levi. Hard to beat. I really needed a new bathing suit; the black one is Roots and is in great shape but pretty boring. But…my parents lake has quite a bit of sediment and my last bathing suit – with lots of white – has not fared well. A practical black bathing suit felt like a very adult decision.
WATCHING | I almost never watch American football, or any sports for that matter. Growing up I was an obsessive Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) fan and for several years early in our marriage, I watched A LOT of Toronto Blue Jays (MLB). For the most part, though, I have moved on from sports. We don’t have cable and John does his own thing with checking stats, so watching sports is not on the regular roster. But on Sunday we were able to watch the end of the Rams vs. Buccaneers game.
I had heart palpitations, I kid you not.
I must have had extra anxiety to spare when I was younger, but I definitely don’t have the stomach for sports now. Important facts to keep in mind: outside of the last Superbowl, I have not watched a football game in several years. I didn’t know a single player on either team except for Tom Brady, and it’s not like we’re exactly on a first-name basis. In short, I had zero skin in the game and I STILL couldn’t stop involuntary sweaty-palm syndrome and high anxiety. It was an especially exciting and tense final quarter, but still…it’s a game. For a sport I don’t even follow. At all.
We started watching the Chiefs and Bills game but I had the foresight to go to bed long before it was over, thereby avoiding more damage to my heart. The experience gave me flashbacks to the nail-biter Stanley Cup final from 1999 when Brett Hull scored an (admittedly contentious) goal at 14:51 of the third overtime. Everyone else in the house had long since abandoned the game and went to bed but I was a big Dallas fan and sat rocking back and forth from nerves until the wee hours of the morning to see how it would all pan out. Clearly I had the same issue back then…I just had the option of sleeping in after a particularly stressful sporting event. I’ll have to pace myself with the upcoming Winter Olympics
We also watched Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski on Netflix over the weekend. A bit grittier than the previous art documentaries I’ve mentioned, but an incredible, crazy story…as they all seem to be. Tortured geniuses there are many – see below with my thoughts on Lucy Maud Montgomery.
WORK | Meh. Most of my work was not that exciting and had a lot of tedium to navigate (troubleshooting new upgrades to a custom software program I drive development on, creating meeting agendas and poking people on action items, and very boring but important budget discussions). Coming off feeling so productive the previous week, I dragged my feet more than I’d like. I got everything done that needed doing but it felt decidedly like “work” – which is fine, but not necessarily fun/motivating.
CHEQUE WRITING | An odd category for a Casual Friday, I know. I’ve mentioned several times how much I like writing cheques. I have two different sets of cheques to manage; business and personal. I was giddy because Monday was cheque day…until I went to write a cheque to a contractor mid-afternoon and realized I had written a series of cheques earlier in the day from the wrong pile (meaning, I wrote several business expenses on personal cheques). Facepalm. Thankfully there was no harm done because I discovered my mistake quickly, but maybe it’s time to hang up my cheque-writing hat?
EATING | This week was all about easy meals. With John away for work, I quickly reverted to even simpler meals than usual. Homemade mini pizzas one night, my lovely friend’s soup, pasta and more of those beloved green beans (equally delicious this week) to get us over the Wednesday hump; Thursday was supper out (I had thirds), and tonight is soufflé (Dutch/German) pancakes.
READING | It was a bit of a rough week for reading. First, I moved on to Anne’s House of Dreams. It’s still a great book, but is much darker than the preceding books; it contains lots of “hard” coupled with regular joyfinding, but I missed Anne’s group of friends and carefree life on the island.
This was made every harder by my ill-timed Google rabbit-hole searches about Lucy Maud Montgomery. I knew a tiny sliver of her biography but, wow, she led a tragic life – culminating in her death of suspected suicide via overdose. She was raised by grandparents (her mother died, her father essentially abandoned her), the man she loved died, then her best friend died, she lived through WWII, and she and her eventual husband were bitterly unhappy and plagued by depression for most of their lives together.
I made the same mistake after reading the Little House series; I read a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and let’s just say the books were very whitewashed; there was a lot of tragedy, mental illness, abject poverty, and deep family tensions behind-the-scenes. I can appreciate that their books served as a form of escape from their harsh realities, but it leaves me feeling so dreadfully sorry for these authors.
On another sour note, I read The Midnight Library. I know many, many, many people love this book. I could not stand it. The only character I felt I could tolerate was Volts, the cat, and even he had a sad part to play in this book. I did not find the premise engaging (reminded me a bit of the movies Inception, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Groundhog Day all rolled into one – an odd combination of films, I admit and all films I enjoyed). I found the ending predictable and unoriginal. The library itself seemed like a cross between The Matrix and the Hall of Prophecy from Harry Potter. And, I know this is nitpicking, but even the title character’s name irked me. Nora is lovely enough, but the last name of Seed? Somehow that just never fit for me. And I wanted to like Mrs. Elm, I really, really did. But I didn’t.
I wanted to go to the end and skip the middle, but I thought surely it must get better? Sadly, not for me. I found the book depressing and forgettable and decidely not fun. Bad timing for me, maybe? Or perhaps I am right in my assessment that most modern fiction is not for me. That said, I assume this book will be made into a movie at some point and people will rave about it.
I’m now slightly terrified to get The Lincoln Highway; after loving A Gentleman in Moscow so much and then really not liking Rules of Civility, I’m wondering if I should just call it a draw with Amor Towles?
On a lighter note, my mother does NOT read this blog and has no idea I have been recently discussing this very topic…but remember the gnashing of teeth over my father’s habit of skipping to the end of books. Perhaps some of you thought I was making this up. Check out this text from my mother earlier in the week (she group texts the whole family every day; it is adorable and I love these daily texts about everything and nothing):
- A solo walk last Sunday, complete with sun and flurries. To me the snow looked like little fluffy hellos from God. I’m not a big fan of winter, but it does blanket the world in white which gives it a feeling of hope and the longing for springtime renewal, which feels so relevant to me right now.
- I really enjoy talking with seniors (more than with peers much of the time) and as I was navigating a tricky patch of ice on the way home I stopped to say hello to someone I didn’t recognize (be kind to strangers!). The person happens to be someone from our neighbourhood who is 82 and has lived in the same house for 41 years. We talked about parenting in the modern world and winter weather and COVID. Seniors have so many insights about what we should prioritize in life and I always leave these conversations feeling inspired.
- I do loathe winter but have to admit our commute to school can be downright magical some mornings. We were running late and took a shortcut through the woods (header photo above), and I stopped to get a picture of Abby because it was Monday and if I was going to find joy I knew I needed to actively hunt for it and we all found it in knee-deep powdery snow.
- When Levi suggested reading to me. I had to sneak a picture while we snuggled. Soon he’ll be reading to himself and I don’t want to forget that watching your child learn to read is a joy and privilege. The fact that he still fits on my lap; those little fingers that keep getting bigger but still fit inside my hands – this is joy.
- When a friend knew it was a rough week and offered to bring over a meal and then hugged me when I started crying over both the kind gesture and my health frustrations. Mostly I can hold it together, but how joyful to have friends and family to hold you up when you can’t. It’s okay to cry, folks!
- When this same friend was up for a last-minute walk and then, the next day, invited us over for supper (this being the meal where I had thirds; homemade Mac n’ Cheese at it’s finest). She is a true gem, and a huge source of Joy (*wink).
- Cuddling a toddler and hearing him say “Wow.”
- Living in a town where I ended up walking partway home from school dropoff with my family doctor and we talked about kids and COVID and even my health.
- Coming home from our ski adventure and spotting this hot air balloon. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It was colourful and so fun to have it end up flying right over our neighbourhood. This isn’t wholly unusual – we see a handful each year – but in the dead of winter it was definitely an unexpected burst of joy.
- Tickling Levi at bedtime and listening to him laugh and laugh. Also, playing hallway soccer with him.
- Sitting on the couch and talking with the kids. They’re getting so big and they have a lot to say, much of it shockingly insightful and profound. I love when our conversations get deep and I take the time to really be there to hear their words and opinions.
- A last-minute meet-up with a friend at my favourite cafe (decaf Americano for her; Earl Gray for me, of course) where we had one of those conversations you never want to end. Also, embracing the joy of having friends at a different life stage; this woman has recently retired from a demanding entreprenurial career which happened alongside raising a young family. She has so much wisdom to share, but our discussions are also a lot of fun (and this time we actually discussed the specific topic of having fun).
SOMETIMES THE GOAL is to just show up
We got ski passes for the 2021/2022 season.
We are not skiers. I have been a total of 4 times in my life, ditto for Abby; Levi and John have skied 3 times.
To say I feel out of place – as we pull into a parking lot swarming with people confidently strutting around in ski outfits and gear I can only imagine cost roughly the amount of a house downpayment – is a dramatic understatement. We show up with our $300 (Total. For 4 people!) hand-me-down/thrifted gear that works just fine, thank you very much…well, it didn’t, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
First let’s rewind. The weather when we left home was a balmy -21 degrees Celcius. That’s -5.8 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Google, for any American readers. Plus windchill, of course.
I told John: I just want to get to the hill.
That was my goal. My goal was not to do 5 runs. My goal was not even to keep everyone happy. I just wanted to show up. Good thing.
Levi ended up having issues with his bindings that took a long time to sort out. While John tended to that, Abby and I did a few runs on the bunny hill to warm up.
Abby begged to take the chairlift to the top, so we navigated over and got on. Once we were in the air, she started shivering. A lot. It was -21, remember. Unfortunately, there is only one way to get back down.
At one point we went through a spot where they were making snow and it was like a whiteout (interestingly when we skied down this exact run below the chairlift a few minutes later it was clear and sunny on the ground)!
By the time we got to the top her eyelashes were partially glued together with ice (this is why she owns goggles but, of course, as the mother I know nothing about these things and the suggestion to use the goggles that are on top of one’s head is a ludicrous idea as they are clearly just meant for use as a helmet decoration – duh).
I was elated to get to the bottom in one piece, but Abby was crying by the time I caught up to her. Her feet were frozen, she said. Levi had just emerged from the lodge very toasty, and anxious to do some runs on the bunny hill. So the girls went to the car and defrosted toes and fingers, while the boys managed to fit in a few quick trips down the bunny hill.
It was a lot of work for a few runs down the bunny hill and one exhilarating, though freezing, trek from the top. There were tears and equipment hiccups.
But we showed up. And that was the goal. We worked out kinks. We got our POV stickers to go with our passes. We dug out the balaclava’s and we adjusted the bindings.
When I got home I searched my quotes document; I knew I’d written down a “just show up” message somewhere along the way. The example I had came from a Brené Brown book when she described her child (I might be getting the details wrong, but I think she had a neck injury of some sort?) who had been a competitive swimmer and was now impaired by injury. Brown said to her daughter: “‘What if your goal is to show up and get wet.‘ Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”
It wasn’t overly brave to go to the ski hill last week, admittedly, but when the goal was just to show up, it relieved a lot of pressure and I think this has broad applications to so many situations in life. I’m preaching to myself here…lest you think I’ve come anywhere close to mastering this wisdom.
How about you? Was it a good, bad, or medium week? Did joy find you, or did you have to do some hunting around to find it? Either way, I’d love to hear what’s making you joyful right now.
P.S. In case you were wondering, the only correct answer to how to place a toilet paper roll is with the trailing end over the top. For any Bible scholars out there, I believe this directive shows up in Leviticus somewhere…