Casual Friday + Sabbatical, Day #1

It’s Friday! Let’s recap the week that was…another week with snow days (2) which I handled with increased levels of sighing. Sigh.

This too shall pass. Spring will come. Right? Sigh.

EATING | Chicken Pot Pie Soup – this is the kids favourite soup recipe and it tasted extra yummy this time; I made buttermilk drop biscuits to go with the soup and it made winter feel slightly less maniacal.

Bulletproof coffee. Coffee tends to upset my stomach and I’ve avoided it for months. But, with another snow day thrown into the mix and multiple nights of poor sleep, a creamy, delicious bulletproof coffee really did hit the spot.

READING|

Miss Benson’s Beetle: I couldn’t decide how to rate this book. I think it was a 3.5-3.75 star book, but since Goodreads provides neither 1/2 nor 1/4 stars, I rounded up and gave it 4 stars. It was nothing like I expected (though, honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting). The first part of the book had me mesmerized. I read every. single. word. But then other parts of the book were just so…long. And boring. (I don’t know how people don’t skim parts of books? Or maybe they stop reading?) I definitely skimmed some sections. But it was a captivating story, I found the main characters likable, and the plotline felt original. 3.75/4 stars

Floor Sample: I’ve read a number of Julia Cameron books about creativity and have appreciated both her writing style and insights. So it felt like a natural progression to move on to reading her memoir.

When will I learn?

A bit like learning about the tragic life of Lucy Maud Montgomery alters the reading experience of Anne of Green Gables, this memoir really coloured my interpretation of Julia Cameron’s work. She’s had a hard, sad life which is in such stark juxtaposition to her fame. It was frustrating to read about decisions she made that were so clearly damaging her mental health. She experienced a lot of trauma and addiction; the book often felt like watching a train wreck and it also left me trying to make sense of what she was writing at the time (creative advice) versus her personal reality. I finished the book, but wouldn’t read it again or necessarily recommend it to anyone else. The writing was fine but I didn’t find it overly cohesive. I tried to go by the prompts from Goodreads and would say “this was okay” which = 2 stars

PICTURE BOOKS |

For anyone who has experienced the heartbreak of dementia, The Remember Balloons was incredible. My kids really appreciated the message of the book and my voice kept catching as I read it while thinking of the various loved ones I’ve had that have been touched by Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory loss. Such an impactful, beautiful book about such a hard subject.

The Incredible Ship of Captain Skip is an interactive story. You actually build a little paper boat and then slowly modify it as you read through the book. The illustrations are also very whimsical. I think the writing could have been better, but the kids thought the hands-on aspect of the book was fun.

The Boy and the Sea had gorgeous illustrations and was another book that filled me with a bittersweet dose of melancholy (also exploring themes of aging).

For much lighter fare, Interrupting Chicken – suggested by reader Lisa – was a huge hit. Very, very fun reading!

PLAYING | Chess and puzzles.

THRIFTING |

I have thrifted more in the last month than I did in all of 2021! But the kids really needed some new clothes (both kids had holes in the knees of virtually every pair of pants which are hard to find second-hand…because other children have holes in the knees of their pants).

It was a great haul (Abby and I went together and it was really fun as she can now browse through clothes independently and I only have to offer feedback).

Everything was in like-new condition. As for prices: a Champion sweater ($2.00), Old Navy star shirt ($2.55), a Levi’s sweater ($2.00), jogging pants ($2.00), puffer coat ($3.85) and jeans ($3.95). No complaints on the quality or price!

No on to the exciting life change coming our way…

Sabbatical diaries: day one

Since John and I met, one Sunday morning during our final year of undergraduate study, there really hasn’t been much time for rest.

Somehow, through the whirlwind blur of our romance, we managed to finish our degrees. I headed into a summer of research while he went off to do fieldwork for a geophysical research company. In early July, I said “yes” to his big question.

At the end of August, I had exactly three days to pack up one chapter of life (tearfully saying goodbye to Dot) and head to another. Three days to recuperate from four years of intense work. (Note to self: gap years are a thing. Investigate.)

This also meant I only had three days to say goodbye.

We spent the next year engaged and apart. He worked, I studied. We called each other constantly. I got an unlimited phone plan. That worked for a while until I got a $250 phone bill. Turns out I had “exceeded reasonable residential usage.” I would call and then stay on the line while I worked on various projects, just wanting his silent companionship.

We got married – I took less than two weeks off; summer was my only opportunity for a field season. Work and study filled the next year. Suddenly I went from being tired all the time to being exhausted. There was a good reason! By the time I defended my thesis I was seven months pregnant, working full-time on a research contract, and working part-time for a local university. For his part, John was completing a Master’s and working full time.

And since then…

The last decade has been a blur. I don’t know how to encapsulate the crazy string of events and career developments that John has gone through. And, really, that is his story to tell. But it has been an exciting and wild and stressful ride.

And we signed up for this roller-coaster.

But, at some point, everyone needs a break from the amusement park rides – the constant excitement and rush of adrenaline can become a bit too much.


John often describes his work as functioning nonstop at 10,000 rpm (and we as his family, of course, get pulled along for the ride). Even at the dinner table, he has 25 “tabs” open in his mind. Leading strategic business globally for an Australian technology company (that has grown from 20 to 180 people in his 5 years there) means something is always happening in some time zone that he needs to be across.

We recently decided it was time for life to purr along at 2,000 rpm for a while.

While it is his job, not mine, as any partner to a person with a busy career knows, it becomes a “family business.”

There are tradeoffs. It means I have made multiple trips to the emergency room in the middle of raging snowstorms (during one of these trips I received a text from him – he didn’t know where I was – with a picture of him taking a client to a pro hockey game; not his fault, but I was more than a little bitter), overseeing contractors in the basement jackhammering our house foundation (he was in Japan), and just about everything in between. But really, the hardest of it all, is the day-to-day minutiae of maintaining a house and children during the many periods when I am the only one available. It’s being the doctor and the sheriff and the chauffeur and the chef and the nanny. It’s remembering to take out the garbage and receiving calls from the school about sick children. And most of these are glass balls I couldn’t drop.

About a month ago – during his work trip where I pitched my adult tantrum while stuck home alone in the middle of a blizzard with the kids – the next step seemed obvious.

While he has a generous vacation bundle, his own passion for success (and the thought of coming back to an avalanche of work post-vacation), combined with Covid putting a dampener on more enjoyable, carefree travel, has meant most of our “breaks” over the past 2 years have taken the form of long weekends.


A few weeks ago I wrote a post, and buried in the comments section Lisa wrote the following:

getting upgraded to first class or being able to pick exit row or bulk head seats isn’t an adequate trade off for what you give up. I will never have status with an airline again and I am THRILLED about that.

In our household, John’s airline status has made the miserable art of regular travel seem…slightly less miserable. Upgrades and concierges and all the other perks are nice.

But that status represents something else. To get that status it means he has dealt with jet lag over and over and over. He’s dealt with the agony of canceled flights and early mornings. That status means we’ve all been apart far more than we would have liked.

Status, of course, can take all forms. It could be airline status or it could be a fancy car or house or a big job. But, almost always, status comes with a cost.

We knew we needed an extended rest, but it can be hard to take the necessary steps. But we did and today marks Day #1 of a 6-month sabbatical; we’re so grateful that he works for a company that supports this.

Life will continue to happen during this sabbatical. The kids will go to school and people will need to eat. I still have my own work responsibilities to attend to; we have a personal work project to tackle together.

But there will be no work travel. No jet lag or delayed flights or weather delays (that aren’t shared experiences). No evening meetings. No fires to put out. No Slack. No Zoom. No e-mails. No “Shhh. Daddy’s on an important call.” No rushed suppers.

I wouldn’t change anything about our story. It has been a wild ride but we’ve ridden it together and learned a lot. I’m also aware that being able to make this decision is an enormous privilege.

But today, on Day 1, I’m so excited to take our foot off the accelerator and hop off the ride for a while. Maybe we can settle in and get comfy on a park bench and dig into an funnel cake while other people queue up for those adrenaline-laced amusement rides.


Happy Friday. Anyone else recently make some big decisions to step back…or “lean in”?

Header photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

30 thoughts on “Casual Friday + Sabbatical, Day #1”

  1. WOW- a six month sabbatical? That will be incredible. When you did your Day in the Life post yesterday I was thinking how nice it was your husband was available so much to help with the kids and meals- but of course I have to remember it isn’t always like that. When he’s traveling you have to do everything yourself. My husband has some really busy phases with work, but he rarely travels. I frequently find myself thinking “how do people do this all by themselves?” Anyway, now you won’t have to. I’ll be interested to hear all about this six month pause- I’m sure all four of you are thrilled!

    1. Ha! Yes, Tuesday was a bit “atypical” in the sense of how much John was available. It has been months since we’ve fit in a long walk together like that mid-day. His work meetings were already really slowing down because of the pending sabbatical. And it definitely is not always like that. In fact, there have literally been hundreds and hundreds…and hundreds of days where he has been out of the country (sometimes in a dramatically different time zone, as well)!
      In terms of “How do people do this all by themselves” – I think everyone finds ways to “do” what needs doing (I often see other families with oodles of extracurriculars and hockey tournaments every weekend and wonder how they do it and yet, they do!). Also, my trick has been to say “NO” to a lot of things others say “yes” to (for example, I couldn’t say yes to intensive sports because I knew I would have to take responsibility for those because of John’s regular travel).
      I think our family has managed to carve out a good path through the hectic pace that is entrepreneurial/startup life. But…it also does come with some big and exhausting tradeoffs and we are genuinely excited for this pause!

  2. How exciting for you and your family! Summer here is a downtime for my husband’s work and there’s something that’s wonderful about the month of June because my husband is so very relaxed. I hope that this brings all of your some much needed relief!

  3. I’ve never tried Bulletproof coffee, but I am intrigued. I just this last winter learned about Lucy Maude Montgomery’s sad life. I was shocked, but have come to see that Anne was her escape. I’m thrilled that you two will have a 6 month sabbatical. I wonder where it’ll take you in terms of your relationship and future work.

    1. Bulletproof coffee is…yum! Just good coffee, some butter and coconut/MCT oil (and coconut milk, cream etc, if desired) and then you froth it up. Some people use a blender, but I use a stick/hand blender and combine until rich and creamy and frothy. I add a pinch of salt and cinnamon too.
      Day #1 has been wonderful so far and we’re all very excited for the 6 months ahead.

  4. That is fantastic news for your family! Does it give you the opportunity for some planned family vacations in the summer?
    Your thrifting is awesome. I just don’t have the patience for thriving. I recognize the champion shirt – my son has one in blue (although he’s not quite 12 he is in men’s small so I get my clothes for him at Costco).
    Have a great weekend with days #2 and 3!

    1. Thanks, Shelly! And yes, we will plan lots of fun family adventures over the spring and summer.
      I have to admit I only like thrifting when I’m not desperate to find something…but when I’m just browsing with general needs in mind, I find it very fun 🙂
      Yes – a weekend. Friday evening is always my favourite, but by Sunday afternoon I’m dreading Monday. And while there is still lots to be done (including my own work), I think Monday is going to lose a lot of its sting for me now that we’re getting respite from that 10,000 rpm pace of John’s work!

  5. Wow, a six month sabbatical is a huge change for you all. I do hope it is everything you need it to be and more.

    I cannot drink coffee, I haven’t touched it for over twenty years it is the only thing, food wise, that makes me really very ill. I had a food intolerance test about twenty years ago and was told at the time not to touch it as I had such an extreme reaction to it. I do love the smell of it but don’t miss drinking it as it has been so long.

    I hope your weekend is a good ending to what sounds to have been a lovely week for you.

    1. When I had a Meridian Stress Assessment done I was told to avoid coffee (not caffeine, just coffee). If I drink it infrequently I’m fine.
      I don’t crave it, but when I have it…it really does taste good. But I drink it multiple days in a row it definitely does make me feel sick.
      Thanks for the weekend well wishes. Hope yours is great as well!

      1. I also don’t drink ANY coffee. Yucky!!! I just straight up don’t like it. I like black tea a lot though. I sometimes wonder if I could “learn” to drink coffee so I could “join the club”. But I’ve never attempted, b/c it tastes so bad to me! Besides, what’s the point. Haha. I feel like many people try to cut back on coffee, so why bother trying to start drinking it at nearly 40 years old?! 😉

        1. I’ve developed a taste for coffee later in life. My father is a HUGE coffee drinker, but no one else in my family is really into any hot beverages. I like black tea and/or tea with oat milk but never add sugar. Yuck. Coffee I will drink with creamer (again, no sugar), but never black. I DO like the taste of coffee, but can go months without it (it does hurt my stomach). That bulletproof coffee was absolutely delish, though (IMO)!

  6. wooo! that’s a big decision? does it mean who will work remotely? or completely not work for 6 months? that’s such a luxury. I am not sure I can ever do that, maybe take 2 months off from vacation but 6 months seem a long time. Sometimes I do envy people who has the freedom to choose to do that while I also understand the trade offs and extra work you had to do before to get there. I am a balance seeker and thrive best when I work but not in a stressful way.
    I can’t wait to hear more changes that come with the sabbatical.

  7. I’m glad you liked Miss Benson’s Beetle (since I think you got the recommendation from me)! I actually read every word, but I’m not a skimmer so that’s natural for me. I think my way of coping when books get a little boring is to read another one, which is why I often have 5 going at a time. When I get back to the original one, it’s less boring because it’s new again.

    Enjoy your husband’s sabbatical! The level of exhaustion you must have with all that travel is phenomenal. My husband works on Saturdays, so I have the kids all day, and even then I’m so relieved when Sunday comes around.

    1. I DID get the recommendation from you. I’m not sure what I was expecting – I didn’t read any other background into the book – but it was NOT what I was expecting.
      While he has been home a lot more during COVID, work responsibilities render him unavailable a lot, so it is so, so exciting to have this time to slow down to a more reasonable pace and fit in some unique adventures that just weren’t feasible with the level of responsibility he was juggling. I thought bouts of parenting solo would get “easier” as the kids got older, but I just think they’re different. It’s still just as hard, but different things are the pressure points now? When the kids were little I missed someone else to help wash clothes and change diapers and help out with those trips to the doctor…but now it’s being ready for bed at 7 pm and still having kids to get to bed and prep for the next day and answer big, tough questions the kids have.

      So, yes – we’re very, very excited <3

  8. Very exciting news!! Like Coco, I also can’t really imagine that…. Well, I think I can’t imagine my particular husband wanting to do that. Haha. Even though he complains about work sometimes, I think he really, really identifies with his job/work/succeeding at something etc. I truly think he would be unhappy if he were just home all the time. He even admits that he would NEVER have wanted to be a stay at home dad. Just not his scene! He’s great with the boys, but I think he likes the separation. Maybe it’s cultural too- in Mexico it would be literally unheard of for a man to not be working. Like, unheard of!!! Haha. (Maybe nowadays it could be changing- I’m not positive. But in my/our experience there has always been very stereotypical gender roles in that regard- the men always always work. Not working = lazy, I think, in his mind.. Men who don’t work (that we know, in Mexico, are usually drunks or something!! Lol.)

    My husband also came from a pretty humble background, so every day without working to him would mean a day without income! And he’s worked so hard to get to where he is now, that I just couldn’t see him ever willingly going unpaid. He is so happy to be earning well and living a very comfortable life, full of plenty of “luxuries” and not stressing about money.- especially compared to some of his family/extended family.

    Anyway! Your situation is totally different anyway as it is a sabbatical, not just quitting. But it was fun to consider the idea in general. 🙂 I don’t think I understand enough of your husband’s role/why he was gone so much/are there no options for him to work a more “normal” schedule?? I may have missed the explanation – sorry! I’m happy for you guys to have so much time together now and I also hope it’s very special and all you hope for!!! 🙂

    1. Yes, every situation is unique (I should get John to do a guest post on his work story because it is pretty incredible and would provide more context over our rationale for pursuing a sabbatical!) and we are all so excited about this next step and are going to look to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of this very special (likely once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity to prioritize recuperation, adventure, and time together as a family!

  9. I’m glad that my comment about status resonated with you. I often think that people who don’t travel for work look at airline status as something to be envious or jealous of. But unless you’ve done the amount of work travel that results in status, you don’t know how exhausting it – and especially how exhausting it for the person back home handling everything while the other person travels. I personally did not enjoy work travel. It was ok and something I needed to do and I made the most of it, but I was happy to be done with work travel and lose status. I stopped traveling when I had children and that was something I asked about before taking the job. I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it and now I really know I wouldn’t like it. I’ve done 2 trips since having my kids and both were hard – especially the first one which was in the month after I came back to work so Paul was 5 months old and I was pumping. Luckily my company paid for something called “Milk Stork” which is a company that provides these cooler boxes for your pumped milk and then over nights it back to your home. I was pumping a crazy amount at that time – like 40+ oz/day so it would have been a huge hassle to travel with it and deal w/ TSA (their treatment of breast milk is very inconsistent). But still. It sucked so much to be away from my baby. I just find solo parenting so difficult so don’t want to put that upon my husband, even though he’s make do. But the pandemic has really adjusted my company’s view on work travel and how necessary it is, so I’m not like a ‘second class citizen’ like I thought I would be if I didn’t travel…

    Anyways, I think this sabbatical will be really good for you guys. From the comments above, I think other readers might not understand the nature of your husband’s work… Your guys’ situation is so similar to my friend and her husband. He has also worked for starts up and started a few companies, one of which was acquired by Sales Force. He traveled extensively and worked insane hours so he took a sabbatical a couple of years ago to figure out what he wanted to do next. I was so happy for my friend because she handled so much in his absence for years! Like my husband and I would never take or need a sabbatical. We work hard but it’s not like working in an executive level position for a start-up where there is just no end to the day…

    1. Oh and I am glad that you liked Interrupting Chicken! I get nervous when I recommend books, even when it’s a picture book that takes so little time to read!! Thank you for sharing the picture books you’ve read and loved recently – helps me add to my hold list at the library. We have “The Dinosaur That Pooped the Past” right now and Paul LOVES it! He laughs so hard! So I have requested the other books by that author!

      1. It was great!
        Oh the Dinosaur That Pooped books are classic to my kids now. They laugh every time (and so do I).
        I love having an outlet to share these books we read and love!

    2. Work travel – especially in a relationship where there are kiddos involved – is hard on so many levels! I’m so glad you’re no longer travelling often and your take on being so glad to lose your airline status hit home for me!

      The friend situation you describe sounds like it has lots of parallels to our story. Unless you’ve lived the life of start-up culture and pace, there really is no way to understand how far reaching the demands are; there is NEVER a full vacation day (at least mentally). I think some people may think there is a switch that can be flicked to separate work and home, but to be successful at an executive level in bleeding edge tech/entrepreneurship, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s very, very hard to explain to people – even friends and family – so I appreciate your take on this. I think it’s a bit like being a parent – you leave your kids for a long weekend but still think/worry about them. It’s the same way with starting a company (we’ve co-founded two) and then being acquired/working at the top of larger start-ups (his current reality) Also, being the spouse of a person in such a big career is also hard to explain. Especially when your spouse is working from home and can be flexible. I think people have looked at our situation with envy, but just don’t understand how things often work below the surface from my end. During COVID it has been even tougher, in some ways. When he was travelling people understood the unrelenting pressures on me…but when he was home I don’t think people understand the “home-but-not-available” idea. Because he worked across so many time zones, work could (and did) permeate every time of day even with some really big boundaries in place.

      These aren’t complaints – we chose this lifestyle (though you can never fully understand what it means before you live it) and it has provided so many incredible experiences. But easing off on the gas pedal feels incredible (and, in this industry, sabbaticals are not uncommon among execs).

  10. While I don’t know the extent of your husband’s work life and how much it affected your day-to-day life with young kids, I am really happy that he’s taking a sabbatical and you guys can slow down the pace of your days for a bit. It will probably also help him evaluate what he wants his work life to look like/changes to be made. I couldn’t imagine having such a time-consuming job – I really value time off, work/life balance, and not making my job my identity.

    Congrats to your husband on this new adventure!

    1. Thanks, Stephany! We’re very excited; this afternoon we all went skiing. On a Tuesday! And there are no evening meetings tonight! Or tomorrow night…or the night after that. It really does feel like such a wonderful break for the whole family.

  11. What a lovely gift to your family at this time in your lives. I am so glad that your husband can step off the endless treadmill of working all day every day, and traveling more than either of you wants, to be home more. Your kids seem like they will be the perfect ages for this – old enough to remember, and treasure those memories forever. It sounds like you are already making them – and I hope the next six months are a series of adventures, laughter, love, and celebrating life. And what perfect timing – as we (finally) emerge from winter into spring, and shift towards summer… I just love this so, so much.
    And it’s such a good reminder that we never, ever know what others’ lives are truly like. You had alluded to his insane schedule but until you posted yesterday that he had after-dinner meetings I did not realize just how much his job had encroached onto your lives… So thank you for being open, and for sharing. I can’t wait to read along to see what the next six months will bring all of you. <3

    1. Yes – I think the kids are at a wonderful age and the timing is wonderful. We have a few months where the kids still have school, but then also the entirety of summer vacation.
      His schedule was very, very intense for 5 years and has been very intense (one less “very”) for 10 years. Sometimes early mornings, sometimes late nights (sometimes both), and pre-COVID, about 50% travel, almost all of it out of the country and much of it international. It has been exciting and scary and hard and good and so many things all rolled in to one, but it is nice to take a break for a while.

  12. A 6-month sabbatical. Wow. I am so glad you can make this work especially when your husband seems to be a very important team player at his company! I hope you can truly disconnect and enjoy this time as a family. Life is short and you never know what might happen, which seems never more obvious than right now… I am so thrilled you guys are able to take this time!

    1. Absolutely. We’re thrilled and so far it has been everything we hoped it would be and more! We just had old friends (haven’t seen them in two years) over for supper. On a Monday. This would NEVER have happened pre-sabbatical!

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