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).
- 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.
- 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
- 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.)
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?