Grab yourself a cup of something warm and delicious and let’s get started with some joyfinding, shall we?
- First up – electricity. Lights and hot water can be downright joyful, I tell you. We received the full force of a winter blizzard last weekend, officially dubbed a “bombogenesis”. I don’t know the technicalities of that term, but my shoulders are still sore a week later, so I’m guessing it means a lot of snow to be shoveled. All weekend I kept waiting for the lights to flicker and fade to black…and they never did. It really was delightful to see the twinkle lights on the mantle, the nightlight still glowing in the bathroom, and to be able to run a load of laundry. I take electricity for granted, but in the middle of a raging storm, it is joy.
- Our neighbours. On Saturday evening, when John was still storm-stayed at the airport, a neighbour came over to help shovel. I ended up doing fine on my own, but literally had tears in my ears when they stopped by. To know there are people I can turn to if the need arises is a wonderful feeling.
- These same neighbours put up an outside wreath and Christmas tree every year. It’s not obvious from the road, but I can see it from our living room and several years ago commented how I loved seeing it at night and would be sad when it came down after Christmas; they in turn left it up for MONTHS (basically for my sake). And they’ve continued to do this the last few years and even dug out the spotlight after the snowstorm so it looked extra beautiful.
- Those same neighbours came over on Sunday – when John was still storm-stayed, sigh – and dropped off a container of cookies. Now these are not just any cookies. These are the world’s best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies. I don’t even bother trying to make PB Chocolate Chip cookies anymore because my neighbour makes the best version. Full stop. She must use about a cup of chocolate chips per cookie and she always sends them over on some pretty paper plate and/or with a cheerful note. Last September she brought by a huge plate of cookies after the kids got off the bus on the first day of school. (One year for Abby’s birthday she made a gigantic bag of them after Abby repeatedly dropped hints about how much she would enjoy some of those delicious cookies again. To be fair, her birthday landed a few weeks after the first COVID lockdown and all her plans were unceremoniously canceled; a different neighbour made a COVID snowman, complete with a mask, holding a sign that said “Happy Birthday Abby” and then took a picture and sent it to us and then proceeded to pass her out a box of birthday chocolates through his kitchen window.) Those are admittedly “old” joys, but this is my space and I get to make the rules and I say memories of joys from days of yore count too. Amen?
- John coming home. Boy we missed him.
- The crossing guard at our school who is so relentlessly cheerful each morning despite the ice and snow and cold temperatures. And the bus driver who stops to talk to us each morning and then toots his horn and waves as he drives away. #TeamWolfville
- Sledding not just once, but twice, with two different sets of friends. Both times we left the party early. There was hot chocolate and rosy cheeks. And it was worth every ounce of effort to make it happen.
- Books. After some disappointing reading lately, things were definitely looking up this week. I have a great, albeit slightly daunting, stack.
First up was The Power of Fun by Catherine Price. This is the author that wrote How To Break Up With Your Phone, which I really, really enjoyed. The Power of Fun is, predictably, about the impact of fun in our lives and how most of us don’t have enough of it. Her definition of fun is: when playfulness, connection, and flow overlap. So if you get in a state of flow while cleaning out your linen closet (waving my hand like a crazy woman over here), it doesn’t count as fun (I beg to differ), but if you fold your towels into swans with a friend, it might be fun (I’m making this up – she never mentions towels a single time in her book). I do agree with her point that most of the time, fun experiences DO involve other people and I enjoyed some of her practical exercises for identifying what is “fun” as an individual. Price is also really, really funny. I laughed a lot at her dry humour and liberal use of witty footnotes. I rated this 4 stars on Goodreads and would recommend it but…have a few critiques. A) It felt too long. I contend that most books have 30% too much information/repetition in them and I would say this is the case for The Power of Fun. One of the reasons I loved How to Break Up With Your Phone was its short length and wish this book had followed suit. B) It felt slightly pretentious/unrelatable. I don’t think she meant for this to happen, but I got whiffs of this subconsciously. In this book the author talks at length about how she and her husband fly to a camp to take dance lessons for a week each summer and it’s SO MUCH FUN. Go her, but it just felt…not super relatable (sorry to any die-hard dance camp fans out there). She also talks about her weekly guitar and rowing lessons and, at one point, joining an improv group. None of these things sound like fun to me – which is fine, because everyone’s fun is different – but I just…didn’t quite click since I felt like we were working on different fun wavelengths. Also, many things felt like they required quite a bit of money (lessons, plane tickets, camp fees) + childcare (more money + logistical headaches). At one point she talked about how she and her husband moved back in with her parents during the pandemic so they would have childcare while she wrote The Power of Fun. Again, nothing overtly offputting about what she said…it just seems too far off from my reality. I’m not doing the book justice in this “review” – I really did enjoy it and took some good notes. But, if Goodreads would just give me those 1/2 stars, I likely would have rated it a 3.5. Worth a read, and maybe you happen to really love rowing and dance camp. Kudos to you.
The second book I read was When Time Stopped. I definitely judge books by their cover and, sadly, I almost didn’t read this book because of that very reason. The story sounded good, but I thought it must be B-level based on the cover. I rarely (RARELY) give books a 5-star review, but this one most certainly earned every star available to it. It’s an astonishing, heart-rending tale of a woman who sorts through a box of artifacts left by her father who survived the Holocaust. This is a very challenging topic, but she handles it with grace. I don’t want to give away details of the story, but will point out while there are some very sad descriptions, it is (overall) much less graphic than many other books I’ve read on this topic. The writing was masterful, her years-long saga of tracking down the truth after his death, and the incredible story of his life left me staying up past my bedtime to see how it all turned out. This was definitely a read-every-word sort of book; no skimming necessary. (It reminded me of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – another truly incredible book.) Five stars.
- A quiet moment at my favourite cafe (slowly) working through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
- Work (as in “work, work” not creative work) can be rather neutral or even decidely unfun. But this week, some elements of work felt joyful! The faculty of the university where I work went on strike (the poor, poor students; first a pandemic/online learning and now this), and I took some extra responsibilities on my plate to alleviate pressures elsewhere and it felt…good. I needed to draft a big report that is always tedious to put together. Done! I turned on my space heater, pumped out some tunes and got that baby out the door (which means I sent an e-mail because most of my working life is just sending and receiving emails; though I’ve started to call more colleague’s – via phone – and they always act startled. It’s like they’re wondering: “What is this crazy sorcery of a machine where I can hear your voice? I thought we were supposed to exchange 15 e-mails over 8 hours full of lots of Warm Regards, Best Regards, and Cheers to answer 3 questions that could be answered in one 2-minute phone call”). I needed to accommodate a software demo. Done (and gave the developers some great feedback, too boot). I needed to get on top of January business financials. Done. So…feeling productive and like I was “earning my keep” this week was a real boost.
- Reader (and blogger) sustainablemum listing so many natural favourites for January. In the comment section on Monday’s post, she listed the following: daily walk, the woodburning stove, knitting in the evenings, sunshine and blue skies and doing less. Sunshine and blue skies and doing less trumps a treadmill desk and grapefruit cleaning spray any day.
- You know where I find joy – in having friends where exchanging bags like this (contents: a pair of girls snow pants, a stick of deodrant, chili flakes, and a bag of tumeric) is completely normal. This same friend and I once met at a park and she gave me two carrots and a few stalks of celery; I gave her some cucumbers and zucchini. I’m not kidding. This was considered very, very normal. These bags (literally dozens and dozens of them over the years), and the friendships they represent, bring me joy.
- I walked in the house last week and the song Give Thanks by Zach Winters was playing on Spotify. I’d never heard the song, but had left a morning playlist blaring when we left the house for the walk to school and this is where Spotify ended up. The tune is very catchy and Jack Johnson-esque and I have been playing it for days (bonus points: the kids love it too). And then on Monday afternoon, arm-deep in soap suds washing out lunchboxes, I paid attention to the lyrics. If Be Kind is my motto for the year, I think this song captures the essence of what I’m learning lately.
When you wake up in the morning do you ever say thank you to God?
It’s easy to be worried, but it feels way better when you are not
Think about the way that the sun comes into your heart
It brightens up the window and it brightens up some of your thoughts
We don’t have to be sure of everything to give thanks
Just to notice a kindness as we go on our way
We all know the pain of living every day
But watch the world change colors when we give thanks
- Speaking of music, a friend shared a song via Spotify for Good News by Mandisa. I do not dance. I cannot dance. And I absolutely could not stop dancing (still washing dishes at the sink).
- Seeing this Jordan’s brand granola at my local grocery store (ON SALE no less) – that I have never seen in stock. I don’t each much cereal, but LOVE granola with chocolate. The only time I’ve had this brand was when John and I bought several boxes, along with giant tubs of blueberry yogurt, from Woolworths in Sydney during our week in Australia. Every day for breakfast we ate yogurt with granola (and every lunch was cheese wraps) – we travel on the cheap, my friends! That trip ended up being the catalyst for a huge turning point in our lives…so seeing this cued up a walk down memory lane. A very delicious walk. And, ironically, this cereal came into our lives at another potentially huge (and related) turning point.
- I was texting with a friend on Sunday morning and she sent me a verse as part of our discussion. Two hours later I was sitting on the couch watching the morning church service and guess what popped up on the screen – that same verse. I took a picture of the screen and asked if she thought someone had been reading our texts?! This was one of those “Oh. Hey there, God” moments, I’ve been really treasuring lately.
my Weekend summarized in WHATS-App messages (I’m the green bubbles, but you’ll figure that out fast enough…)
Summary: it snowed, my house smelled like smoke, I cried, and then drowned my sorrows in breakfast foods. John was delayed for 48 hours. Last weekend really, really sucked. Thankfully in the days since, I found lots of joy.
what would make this easy
On Sunday, at the tail end of my Very Awful Weekend, I found a scratch-pad (they’re everywhere) and a highlighter and posted this to the fridge: What would make this EASY? I desperately needed easy.
A few months ago I posted about one of my favourite Tim Ferris quotes. I’m going to paste what I wrote below…because that would be easier than trying to re-word a thought I’ve already articulated:
For many of us, the majority of our time is focused on maximizing – a situation, financial expenditures, time. Indeed, for some, life has become one giant experiment constantly being tinkered with as we’re coached to improve, iterate, and embrace the challenge. We channel our inner Sheryl Sandberg and “lean-in.” If life doesn’t feel overwhelming, surely we’re doing something wrong?
The “easy” way can seem like a trap.
For example, I’ll follow a mental path that goes a like this: “If I feed the kids cereal for supper one night…then I’ll become someone who feeds my kids cereal for supper every night.” Intellectually I know that’s false. My kids eat cereal for supper a handful of times each year; far too infrequently, I’m sure they would claim. They do not spontaneously combust these evenings. They do not wake in the night complaining of hunger pains. Child services do not knock on my door and declare me an unfit mother. In short, the kids are just fine. Literally nothing bad happens.
Self-discipline and hard work are great, and I’m not advocating laziness, but sometimes we just need to cut ourselves some slack. Several years ago I read Tim Ferris’ Tribe of Mentors. It’s a compilation of “wisdom” from a broad cross-section of creative, entrepreneurial, and athletic types. The quote that stuck in my psyche:
What would this look like if it were easy?Tim Ferris
While the quote had more to do with existential questions of purpose, trajectory and, for Tim Ferris, a self-declared mid-life crisis, I think there is reason to apply this principle to smaller aspects of daily life. I can ask myself – would it make my life easier if I:
- Put on a movie when I’m rushing to meet a work deadline and the kids are climbing the walls (mine literally do this, in the hallway, and find it quite a lark to touch the ceiling)?
- Had everyone use the same shampoo and toothpaste to make shopping, organization and general hygiene more convenient?
- Put the clothes in the dryer instead of hanging them on the line to dry?
- Served supper on paper plates, made the dinner party a potluck, or ordered in take-out for Thanksgiving dinner?
- Said no to that evening meeting that could be handled via e-mail in the morning?
- Bought some people on my Christmas list the same gift (instead of brainstorming and shopping for hours to find a different “perfect” gift for everyone)?
Or what if I…upgraded my computer to a 3-monitor setup, or made a single recipe for my lunches all week. Easier doesn’t mean lazy; a 3-monitor setup will make me more productive and efficient and we all need to eat. I like the word “easy” though because it feels more whimsical – and less clinical – than some terminology often associated with productivity.
An important step toward finding an easier way: identifying the problem – whether that’s a mid-life crisis, a long commute, or the frustration of having six different shampoo bottles in the shower.
Life is overwhelming. Sometimes it’s important to embrace the challenge, push ourselves to excel, and expect more from ourselves…
And sometimes, I just need to feed my kids cereal for supper.
Hi, it’s present-day Elisabeth talking again. Last weekend’s easy looked like:
- More screentime than I would have normally allowed.
- Cereal for supper Saturday night (Levi’s suggestion he literally said – as I was shoveling through a wall of rock-hard snow the plow had so kindly dumped into our driveway while his father was 1000 miles away – “It would be really easy, Mama.”) and cereal for breakfast Sunday morning.
- Sending them outside for “quiet-time” on Sunday so the house was actually quiet instead of the busy hum of regular “quiet-time” which always contains a disproportionate number of bathroom trips in an hour (my children’s bladders mysteriously shrink at quiet-time and bedtime and then magically expand during activities like video games or going out for hot chocolate).
- My clothes. Okay, this isn’t just something I just made easy last week (though I did prep a bag for consignment), but it really helps. This is all my clothing upstairs. 4 dresses, 3 skirts, 3 pairs of pants (2 of which are the same cut of black jeans), and 15 tops (sweaters, T-shirts, hoodies) + a drawer of long jogging pants/leggings + a drawer storing capri pants and summer socks (I also have 20 hangers in a downstairs closet with summer dresses/skirts/t-shirts and a few miscellaneous odds and ends). I wear the same clothes. A lot. It really does make life easier.
- Leftover waffles for supper one night. Delicious and very easy. I also made a batch of waffles for the freezer on Monday afternoon because that will make life easier for me this weekend.
And the kids survived, and I survived. It didn’t always feel easy, but I did my best to make it so.
Happy weekend everyone. Take it easy and do some joyfinding and I’ll see you here next week.