Casual Friday + The “Lights” Game

Hypocrite, thy name is Elisabeth.

Last Friday I wrote the following: “I will remain absolutely rigid about staying offline (for work purposes) all weekend.

Yesterday I wrote about how much I value margins.

(You can surely see where this is going.)


March, for all my talk of simplicity and white space, has been very hectic. Some of it is self-induced – wanting to cram lots of fun into these sabbatical days – and some of it is just…well, life has a habit of getting busy.

By Sunday, I felt utterly swamped and demoralized for the week ahead. John asked if I wanted to carve out some time to work in the office. On principle I said no, but then rethought the situation and decided that getting a few things off my to-do list would make the week feel so much lighter. Two hours later, I had drafted a dozen e-mails to send out first thing Monday morning, dealt with piles of paperwork that had accumulated by my desk, and generally managed to claw back some margin for my week.

I guess the moral of the story is this: I like margin, but sometimes have to bend my own rules to achieve it.


For years now we’ve played a game (for lack of a better word) around the supper table. (It ebbs and flows; we might go a month without posing these questions, or it might happen daily for weeks.)

We ask: What was a lowlight, what was a medium-light, and what was a highlight from your day?

Lowlights and highlights tend to be rather obvious, but we like to sneak in another opportunity for positive news. Medium-lights are things we enjoyed but that fall short of deserving the “highlight” label.

Once we spill the beans (the adults play too), we ask everyone to categorize their day as a low-, medium-, or highlight day.

So here, without further ado, are my answers for the week (I’d say it was medium-light week with lots of great highlights).

LOWLIGHTS |

  • A tough peripheral situation that cast a wide shadow.
  • PMS that has lasted almost two weeks. You know before you start an arm wrestle with someone you agree the other party can call mercy? Mercy.
  • A rambunctious game of hallway soccer (with a firm ball…not our beloved IKEA balls) got out of hand and a sconce shade fell and broke…which means if we want a shade again, we’ll almost certainly have to replace both sconces. Sigh.
  • Grating my finger. I’ve mentioned before how much I hate grating. I do everything to avoid this activity. So, one might ask, how did you come to grate your finger? Simply BY WASHING DISHES. I grated my thumb, badly, washing our microplane.

MEDIUM-LIGHTS |

  • Wearing sneakers on most of my walks. I’ve even ditched snow pants several times. Spring is coming (even though it’s currently snowing outside my window).
  • There was an error with my paychecks from January through to the end of February; I discovered the issue a few weeks ago and it finally got fixed. What a happy moment to have the back-pay show up in the bank account. (Yet another reason to track what money flows in and out. If I hadn’t identified the issue, it almost certainly would have stayed off their radar in the payroll office!)
  • My giant bowl of oatmeal Sunday night. I love oatmeal, though in truth I just view it as a vehicle for all the toppings; I prepared 1/3 cup of oatmeal and added about a cup of toppings – walnuts, pumpkin and chia seeds, chocolate chips, Greek yogurt, raspberries, banana, cinnamon, peanut butter, oat milk. It was so, so delicious.
  • We had a pirate supper – it has been years but the kids had a playmate over for supper and it was very fun and easy!
  • John taught me how to use the record player. The whole process seemed very intimidating. But now I know. And oh how I love listening to music!
  • Speaking of music, we finally moved a Google Speaker into the office. Since John and I share an office – and he was typically on work calls 8-10 hours a day – I couldn’t play music out loud, and defaulted to using my headphones. Now I am often working alone in the office and it has been such a treat to play music through a speaker. A tiny change, but one I’m disproportionately happy about.
  • Playing card games after supper one night as a family, with no evening meetings to work around! #Sabbatical

HIGHLIGHTS |

  • A successful birthday party for Abby. There was giggling and lots of special food and games. Hosting is not my forte, but I think it went well and everyone seemed to have a good time. I’ll share a few more details in another post!
  • The picture below is not going to seem like a big deal. But it is a VERY big deal. For almost a year we have had no blinds on our windows (renovations) and it made our main room into, as my father so graciously put it, a “fishbowl.” I dreaded the thought of shopping for custom blinds (it’s almost as painful as shopping for paint). We are so unhandy it’s laughable. But we did it and we re-used our old blinds (so this project was free) and they look great and, most importantly, it’s done.
  • Monday-night supper invites. We’ve started inviting people over for supper on Monday. Odd timing, I know – but it’s perfect. Guests come around 5, so we have enough time to tackle the post-school stuff that needs doing – lunchboxes are put away, homework is completed. I’ve made up a big pot of something on Sunday and just have to heat it up Monday for the crowd; one week it was soup and I set out two small bowls of crackers, this past Monday it was Chicken Mango Curry (the recipe is buried in this post) and I made up rice and a 1/2 batch of cornbread. It’s hard to get simpler than soup and crackers, but it has felt so nice to welcome people back into the house after COVID + John’s crazy working schedule. Definitely simple.
  • The Button Party. Abby and some friends have been collecting buttons from all sorts of sources. There are so many incredibly beautiful, unique/bizarre buttons out there! A mom of two of the girls involved in this button trading offered to host a Button Party. She sent pictures of the girls on the floor with their piles of buttons – it looked like a rainbow had exploded in her living room! So many colours and shapes. How fun!
  • Walking with Levi’s class to skating. When I cleaned the snow off the car (sad, but true!) and headed down, I was less than enthused. But it ended up being so much fun. Mostly because the kids loved having a parent there skating with them. Levi walked with me the whole way which was sweet. I’m so glad I said “Yes!” when the teacher asked and I’m so thankful the kids can do some of these pre-COVID activities, even if they do still involve masks and separate cohorts. It feels more like “normal” which I welcome for these pint-sized sweeties.
  • One of my best friends from university had an adorable baby girl – after what she described as an “accidental home birth” in her living room.
  • A few weeks ago I mentioned a situation I had been putting off; when I finally tackled the to-do, it was not. a. big. deal. Well, I did it again. At work, I had allowed a Tiny Job to morph (in my head) into a Very Big Job. One day I put on my big girl pants and just did it. Not surprisingly it ended up being a Miniscule Job and as silly as I felt for making it such a big deal, I was also elated I could cross if off my list. (What makes this even more ironic: to AVOID doing this Very Tiny Miniscule Job, I had put several hours of work into finding an alternate workaround which failed; had I tackled the Very Tiny Easy Miniscule Job first thing, I would have been so much farther ahead.)

reading

Ox-Cart Man is a classic. I love this book, and the mention of homemade maple syrup was a fun cameo. The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse is hilarious and I adore the illustrations. But my favourite of this set was Why Do You Cry. It is an excellent affirmation of human emotions – it’s okay for us to cry! even adults! – and the kids and I agreed it was a great book.

Straw is funny (we’ve already read Chopsticks and Spoon, the other books in this “series”?); I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has picked out Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch at the library (this time it was Levi who insisted we bring it home); Caps for Sale is a classic we return to once a year or so and No Fuzzball is hilarious and another re-read.

The Lincoln Highway. I consider A Gentleman in Moscow one of my favourite fictional books ever. I didn’t finish Rules of Civility. So I have had mixed results with Amor Towles and knew that his latest book – The Lincoln Highway – had elicited some strong opinions.

Overall, I loved the book. It was a bit too long (the circus situation, Pastor John, Townhouse and a few other characters and settings could have been eliminated, in my mind), but I think the character development was superb. And I liked the ending. 4.5 stars

A few quotes:

  • …a farmer with a mortgage was like a man walking on the railing of a bridge with his arms outstretched and his eyes closed. It was a way a life in which the difference between abundance and ruin could be measured by a few inches of rain or a few nights of frost. // But a carpenter didn’t lie awake at night worrying about the weather. He welcomed the extremes of nature. He welcomed the blizzards and downpours and tornadoes. He welcomed the onset of mold and the onslaughts of insects. These were the natural forces that slowly but inevitably undermined the integrity of a house, weakening its foundations, rotting at its beams, and wilting its plaster.
  • It’s just that every day at Salina was an every-day-day…Though Billy was just a boy, or maybe because he was just a boy, he seemed to understand that while there is nothing wrong with waking up or getting dressed or having breakfast, per se, there is something fundamentally disconcerting about doing these things in the exact same fashion day in and day out, especially in the one-thousand-page version of one’s own life.

You know what would be magnificent, Billy? You know what would be absotively magnificent?

Marking his place, Billy looked up from his book. What, Wooly? What would be absotively magnificent? 

A one-of-a-kind kind of day.

  • But why doesn’t the waiter mention it, if it’s the specialty of the house?

He doesn’t mention it because it’s the specialty of the house. That’s the way it goes with Fettuccine Mio Amore. Either you know enough to order it, or you don’t deserve to eat it. 

  • Questions can be so tricky, he said, like forks in the road. You can be having such a nice conversation and someone will raise a question, and the next thing you know you’re headed off in a whole new direction. In all probability, this new road will lead you to places that are perfectly agreeable, but sometimes you just want to go in the direction you were already headed.

And just like that, I’ve finished the Anne of Green Gables series. It was one of my 22 goals for 2022 and I have to say I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Rilla of Ingleside. This book didn’t pretend to be about Anne (like Anne of Ingleside which had Anne in the title…and then wasn’t about Anne at all). In the current world order – a global pandemic and with literal wars raging – it felt like there was so much to relate to.

When they mention the juxtaposition of one day feeling “normal” and the next day waking up to a world spinning on another axis…well that has been life these past few years.

And as much as I wanted to live in the fairytale that Montgomery’s life was as golden as her heroine’s, her life, like Anne’s, contained the bitterness of war and a son that never came home. This book made me better understand the life circumstances through which she must have processed writing this final book.

  • This had all come up with the blackness and suddenness of a thundercloud. A few days ago nobody had even thought of such a thing. It was absurd to think of it now. Some way out would be found. War was a hellish, horrible, hideous thing – too horrible and hideous to happen in the twentieth century between civilized nations.
  • [When Rilla starts caring for baby Jims]: “What must I do with it tonight, Susan?” // A baby by day was dreadful enough; a baby by night was unthinkable
  • [After Rilla learns Walter has enlisted]: “I cannot bear it,” she said. And then came the awful thought that perhaps she could bear it and that there might be years of this hideous suffering before her. 
  • “It seems hundreds of years since those Green Gables days…They belonged to another world altogether. Life has been cut in two by the chasm of war. What is ahead I don’t know – but it can’t be a bit like the past. I wonder if those of us who have lived half our lives in the old world will ever feel wholly at home in the new.”

And that’s it from me for the week! I hope everyone has a great weekend filled with lots of highlights. Now I’m off to maybe/sorta be rigid about staying offline for work this weekend?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

24 thoughts on “Casual Friday + The “Lights” Game”

  1. An accidental home birth…yeesh.

    Happy birthday to Abby! I hope she had a great day!

    We lived in our house for 16 years before getting blinds on the kitchen window. Our kitchen faces southwest so it was blinding at times. I don’t know what took us so long, but it was a life-changing event when we finally did it. I mean, we had window coverings on all other windows in the house, but the kitchen seemed to stymy us.

    1. We are so unhandy it feels like this enormous mental blocker to do anything DIY-related. And blinds are so fiddly. The combination of us being unhandy ON a fiddly job is a recipe for disaster.
      But it’s done. And thankfully it was more like 9 months. It will be so nice to arrive home and night and not be able to see right into our house…

  2. Happy Birthday to your daughter. It was a good day, yes? I like your kitchen table with matching wood chairs. It’s my dream to have our table and chairs match. You inspire me.

    We had a year or so when we didn’t have blinds on the windows in our home office. The windows face the street and I type on the computer with my back to the window. I felt so exposed. I get what a big deal it is to get blinds, finally.

    1. It was a great day (though I’m always relieved with birthday parties are over; they are not my strength)!

      The table is all IKEA. I have loved this table so much. It was about $400 and comes with two extra HUGE sections that store below. We almost always have it at the smallest setting. When we went looking for a table, we went to a furniture store and their “bestseller” was $6,500. Um, what now? I don’t put placemats down or anything. There are some scratches, but they blend in. This has been a great table to have with kids in the house. The chairs are also IKEA; $60 each, I think. So, so happy with the durability of this set. And definitely “simple!”

      Having the blinds up is such a relief!

  3. Ah, I like the idea of “medium-lights!” You have some good ones- and I agree about the oatmeal- the best part is the toppings. : ) It’s also funny how little things can feel so great- like listening to music without headphones. It’s nice to appreciate little things like that throughout the day because then you realize “hey, life is pretty great!”
    I haven’t read any Towles books and now I’m thinking I should start with A Gentleman in Moscow. “One of my favorite fictional books ever” is a pretty strong recommendation!
    Sounds like your week was good overall- spring is coming! Hang in there.

    1. It’s always a big leap to say “one of my favourite fictional books ever” and then have someone else read that and think the same thing. Gah. That’s a lot of pressure for a book, but I really did love it and think it is bound to become a film one day?! If you do read I’d love to know your take on the book 🙂
      Spring is coming. After a few days of cold – and even some snow – it was 15C today (rainy, but still).

  4. Awww! Happy birthday to Abby! And hooray for DIY projects that WORK!

    Here’s hoping your PMS subsides – sheesh. NOT COOL, BODY. And that the shadow situation resolves in the best possible way.

  5. I like that you balance your lowlights with mid- and highlights. Things can’t be wonderful 100% time, so if there is an equal amount of all, I’d call that a success! Isn’t it funny how things snowball in your mind? I do that too, I put things off forever and then when I finally force myself to do it – it was fine. You’d think we’d learn our lesson and save ourselves the stress!

    1. I think it might be hard to learn that lesson because sometimes small things end up being bigger than we anticipated? But still…I should have known better. I think I gave the excuse before that I “just didn’t feel like it” and this was yet another case of me dragging my feet? Also, it was a new situation and I had to learn a new technology…which in the end was a cinch, but I think the novelty of it made me wary?

      And yes to balancing the lowlights. We ALWAYS make sure we can find something as a medium or high light; sometimes it has literally been that the day is over and we get to restart the next day!

  6. There’s a window in our guest room that doesn’t have any covering on it. My husband and I have been ignoring it even though TWO separate guests have told us that the morning light just streams in there. There’s no bracket or anything and I just don’t want to deal with it, but I know we should for the sake of our future guests. Meanwhile, there’s also a bit of shoe molding in our dining room that’s been missing since we bought the house and it bothers me EVERY DAY and I haven’t taken any steps to fix it because I don’t even know how to start. I am not DIY and I feel your pain. That is all.

    1. Oh I feel your pain!!!

      You have mentioned this shoe molding before – I remember because the first two times you mentioned this I thought very guiltily about my own shoe molding that was missing a piece. We 100% cheated; when we had someone in caulking our windows (for someone else to paint) – we do NOT caulk or paint even though this seems to be the common DIY that everyone else can handle independently – we asked him to fix the issue (it was about 1.5″ missing and it was so annoying). It is now fixed. Also for about 10 months we had random strips of primed wall that needed to be painted. This only got completed last week.
      And I’ve shown you the whole in my ensuite bathroom drywall which has been there for OVER TWO YEARS. Like you shoe molding, it bugs me every day…but no one really sees it except our family and I just don’t feel like spending money on it. Plus, if we ever had an issue with the shower again, that hole makes it very convenient to fix!

      I love that you say you’ve been ignoring the window covering even though guests have mentioned this. If you don’t have guests often, I suspect they’ll live with a bit of light?? Or tape up a garbage bag (this is what I did over a skylight at my parents when the kids were little – they never got a blind for it, so I took masking tape along because early morning light and sleeping babies = the worst)…

      1. I’m laughing at myself that I have complained about this molding thing twice on someone else’s blog. I’m so sorry. I vow to never talk about it again!!

        1. Next can you talk about a giant hole in your bathroom drywall? Maybe that will convince me to deal with it?
          Don’t hesitate to lament about the molding. I. get. it. And eventually, you’ll get it fixed. Or not. Either way, it’s shoe molding!

  7. Happy birthday Abby! It sounds like she had a good day.
    I really like your concept of high-lights, low-lights, AND medium-lights. I think the medium-lights need a lot more attention because we sometimes forget that the medium-lights is what makes most days pretty good 🙂
    And isn’t it funny how sometimes we procrastinate and make things a much bigger deal than they have to me, and in the process making it hard to set up our margins?! I am taking notes here because I am clearly guilty of pushing things off when you know that once you get them crossed off, it opens up a whole new space in your brain (and small space in your calendar LOL).

    1. So true – the majority of the moments that make up a “full, happy” life are of the “medium” variety.

  8. Minnie is in love with Caps for Sale right now and tsks like the monkeys if I ask her to (AND I DO). I bought all of the Anne books because your foray into them inspired me. I bought the vintage editions I used to have and cannot wait to tear into them (but I always seem to have a pile of library books). Love the idea of medium lights and the button party– looking for ways to implement both of these.

    1. Yay for Anne books!!! I hope you post a picture of the vintage editions.
      I have a big pile of books from the library, but feel like I’m burned out on reading right now?! Hope it passes quickly, but I haven’t read much the last few days which feels…odd.

  9. OMG an accidental home birth! How terrifying!!

    We also read The Wolf, The Duck and The Mouse this week! We’ve been working our way through Barnett and Klassen’s works. They are both so talented!

    I’ve been asking Paul about the best part of his day or weekend lately. He has a tenuous grasp on day v weekend so will get a little confused, but it’s a good way to show him how to pay attention to the good parts!

    I’ve had to do some work the last 2 Saturdays while my colleague was on spring break. It was not the worst thing because sometimes – err often – working is “easier” than caring for the kids! But it was only about an hour each Saturday so not bad and then I did not check my emails after that although both weekends it probably would have been better to just take a look on Sunday morning to see if what I sent was ok (I was pulling data for a weekly newsletter that gets published on Monday morning). But in both cases, everything was fine and no one needed anything further from me, but I probably should have just glanced at email to confirm that! I try not to read my email on the weekend because I can easily get pulled into things or I will worry I will forget to follow up on something I read over the weekend.

  10. Oh, happy belated birthday to your daughter! I’m glad it was a wonderful celebration. Also love reading about the buttons! What a fun hobby.
    OXCART MAN! Oh, yay. Childhood favorite. <3
    And… the idea of medium lights is such an appealing one. So much of life is made up of the medium lights… ignoring them eliminates a whole piece of our lives from consideration and reflection.
    Finally, I like Rilla of Ingleside… but oh, the heartbreak rippling through that book. Knowing a bit more about LMM's life from your exploration of it helps, though – writers write what they know, and clearly heartbreak and pain were part of her life. Sigh…

    1. Isn’t the Oxcart Man just…such a gentle, wonderful book. It reminds me of Little House books, but even sweeter.

      YES! Medium lights do not get enough attention. I was just talking with someone about “negativity bias” this morning and it’s so easy to focus on what’s wrong or what’s not working and we miss out on…a lot of great stuff.

      Rilla is a heartbreaking book, but it just put everything into perspective for me this time in a way that I don’t think pre-motherhood/pre-COVID/pre-learning about Montgomery’s past would have had the same impact?

      1. You know, I didn’t think of Rilla and the parallels of the war heartbreak with pandemic heartbreak when I reread it (also during the pandemic) but you’re right. It has the same, hm, tone? for lack of a better word? that a lot of our own discussions/news have these days (overwhelming sorrow, seemingly endless runs of bad news, etc.). Maybe I should pull it off the shelf again and give it a bit more thought this time…

        1. I think it was the perfect combo of timing – with both world events, my own life situation, and having read the other Anne books + learning more about Montgomery’s biography. To me it read very powerfully in some places; I don’t remember it standing out to me at all when I read it over a decade ago – pre-pandemic.

  11. An accidental home birth?! EESH.

    When my brother and I were younger, my mom would always ask us what the best/worst parts of our days were at dinner. Sometimes we do it during our biweekly game nights, and it’s fun! Of course, my brother always tried to cheat and say that the “last bell of the day” was the best part of his day, hehe.

    Happy birthday to Abby! Glad it was a good time. <3

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