Things I Know I Love

Years ago, during a particularly rough patch of solo-parenting (John’s work schedule had him away regularly), I flipped to the back of my planner and made a list titled, quite unoriginally: Things I Like. At the time I was most certainly not enjoying: feeding, bathing, and diapering little kids by myself. Bedtime was an exhausting trainwreck; mornings weren’t much better. So it helped, a bit, to be able to reference a list of things I actually enjoyed, including: thick blankets, hot showers, watching Blue Jays baseball, and eating sushi.

While I’m still no fan of solo-parenting, life looks a lot different these days. There are no diapers to change and mornings/bedtime are a lot more tolerable without an infant or toddler in the house. More generally, I’m being intentional about spending time doing things that I actually like doing (and finding ways, where appropriate, to avoid the rest).

So I don’t love fresh flowers or sweating or spicy food or rollercoasters…but here are some things I do love.


  • Photography. Taking photos, editing photos, looking at others’ photos – I love it all.
  • Tidying/Decluttering. Organizing a sock drawer, clearing out the fridge, sorting through old clothes in a closet – these are happy activities that both calm and energize me.
  • Reading. I’ve loved books my whole life and browsing at a library or looking over at my bedside table and seeing a stack of new books never fails to fill me with joy.
  • Writing cheques. I’ve talked about this quirk before, but I absolutely love writing cheques. Weird/random, I know.
  • Going to my favourite coffee shop. I don’t go often (an average of once a month?), and I always get the same thing (Earl Grey with oat milk), but I love this space. Sometimes I meet friends and other times I take a book or my laptop and enjoy solitude. It’s such a warm, inviting place.
  • Eating. While there are a few things I tend to avoid (cheese, spicy food, and quiche), for the most part I love all foods. I know many people enjoy eating, so this isn’t necessarily very original but, occasionally, I hear about someone who genuinely doesn’t care about how food tastes or looks (how, I ask?!) – or has a lot of food intolerances – and it just reiterates how much I love food and appreciate my ability to enjoy a wide variety of foods! Favourites: sushi, roasted sweet potato, peanut butter, eggs (any form but quiche), oatmeal, Twizzlers, cherry cheesecake.
  • Hot showers. While I’m not always a fan of getting wet – mostly because I find it a huge nuisance to deal with wet hair – I love long, hot showers. The long and hot parts are key. I don’t take one every day, but in the winter a hot shower is one of my favourite things to do when I’m tired and cold. (Incidentally, I loathe baths and often go years without taking one.)
  • Massages. I know some people don’t like the sensation of a massage (especially face massages), but I love them. One year we had an especially great insurance plan and I maxed out every penny of my massage allowance!
  • Opening curtains in the morning. Specific, I know, but opening curtains never fail to delight me – even if I’m in a hotel room. I crave natural light and find any space looks mildly (or, in some cases, majorly) depressing until the curtains and blinds are open. Thankfully we have a lot of windows in our house and once everything is opened up our house is very bright.
  • Closing curtains/turning on lamps at night. On the flip side, I love making the house cozy and warm in the evening. Shutting curtains and blinds and turning off overhead lights in exchange for softer lamp light makes for a satisfying evening transition.
  • Laughing. I love to laugh. John makes an effort to get a chuckle (or cackle, I have a range of equally awkward hilarious laughter sounds) at every available opportunity and he is usually successful. I’m trying to go out of my way to seek laughter these days. In terms of a specific comedian, Nate Bargatze is my favourite because of his deadpan delivery and the fact his material is family-friendly (I don’t enjoy crass humour, which seems to make up the majority of standup acts).
  • Behind-the-scenes. I love documentaries and memoirs. When I was in high school, I went through a major Tolkien phase. As much as I loved the actual Lord of the Rings movies, what I liked far more was watching behind-the-scenes footage – learning about costume design and location scouting or watching outtakes was the epitome of good entertainment to me.

I also love: going to art galleries or museums with John, holding hands with the kids when we’re out running errands, warm Magic bags when I’m cold, long walks with family and friends, washing dishes (if there aren’t too many and my sink will drain), the smell of permanent marker and, well, a lot of other things!

The older I get, the more I’m learning to give myself permission to be okay with admitting there are things I simply don’t enjoy. I don’t have to eat the melted cheese on lasagne or hop on a rollercoaster. I realize that saying yes to uncomfortable things can be fun and part of life’s adventure – to that end, there is a good chance I will end up on a rollercoaster this summer. I try to factor in the discomfort where it feels appropriate and a net-positive experience.

But other times, it’s okay to admit that life feels best when I’ve closed the curtains and turned on the lamps by 6 pm on a Saturday night. Closely followed by hopping in for a hot shower and putting on cozy PJ’s before sitting down to watch Nate Bargatze on an at-home date night with John.

Your turn. What are some things – big or small – you genuinely enjoy? Does anyone reading here like baths, leave curtains closed during the day, and feel apathetic about photography?

Header photo by Eddie & Carolina Stigson on Unsplash

Destination Georgia: Savannah

Everyone, it seems, either raves about – or wants to visit – Savannah. My brother always makes a point to coordinate a trip when he visits South Carolina; work colleagues told John it was a “must-see” destination in the South; Tripadvisor reviews are glowing.

Hmmm.

If I had to use a single word to describe Savannah, it would be “underwhelming”.

But then I’d be quick to provide lots of caveats. In retrospect, I think much of this underwhelm had to do with our inflated expectations, relatively short stay (a day trip), and some unfortunate timing/misinformation. Because it was a lovely day: my sister took our kiddos to the local zoo back in Columbia while John and I got to explore a beautiful city on foot.

Summary: I’m glad we went, but don’t think I’d feel the need to return on any subsequent trip.

highlights

*Credit alert: every picture in this post (except the header) was taken by John. I didn’t touch my phone while we were in Savannah!*

  • The architecture. Hands down my favourite part of Savannah was wandering the streets and seeing all the beautiful historic homes. Everything oozes character. It’s hard (especially on a first visit to a new location) to gauge how much time to prioritize for leisurely wandering vs. doing specific touristy things. We tried to strike the right balance, but if I ever do go back to Savannah, I would aim to spend the majority of my time exploring the quaint streets and marveling at the charm of the buildings.
I loved, loved, loved this. An old stucco sign peeling away to reveal the original brick.
  • Cobblestones. This fits in with my appreciation for the architecture; I loved seeing all the cobblestones and learning more about their history. In Savannah, most of the cobblestone streets were sourced from rocks used for ballast. Ships were landing in the area and unloading ballast stones right into the harbour which, for obvious reasons, isn’t sustainable long-term. Harbourmasters started forcing ships to unload their rock ballast (apparently the water would go rancid so they couldn’t use the same rocks over and over again) onshore, and those rocks were then used to pave streets. Since different source locations used different stones for ballast, it resulted in a range in the type of cobblestone streets. This all makes sense, but I was oblivious until I read a placard about it. In a few places, I actually saw old asphalt chipping away to reveal the original cobblestone beneath. So cool!
  • The squares. I think there are 22 squares total in Savannah and they were delightful. They’re scattered throughout the city and lend to it being such a walkable city. Vehicles have to constantly route around these squares, so there are no big lanes of traffic to navigate as a pedestrian. One square had a statue of John Wesley – founder of the Methodist Church and famous hymn writer (including Hark The Herald Angels Sing) – who preached in Savannah.
First Methodist Church
John Wesley statue

  • The Spanish moss. It adds so much charm to the area and everywhere we looked there were giant southern oak trees dripping with the stuff.
  • Sushi. Okay, this had nothing to do with Savannah, but we couldn’t decide what to do for lunch (we had looked at some local seafood places along the waterfront but nothing seemed overly appealing). In the end, we Googled “sushi” and found a nice, but inexpensive, spot about 400 m away from our current location. It was hot and I was thirsty and hungry. The combination of some solidly enjoyable sushi and bottomless ice water was so refreshing.
  • Old Sheldon Church Ruins. This was en route back to Columbia (located in Beaufort County, SC – so we were no longer in Georgia). What a hidden gem! Up until recently, it was believed this church had been burned by the British in 1779 (during the Revolutionary War), rebuilt in 1826, and then burned again in 1865 during the Civil War. In reality, the church may have been dismantled for materials during the Civil War. Either way, it was a beautiful spot off the beaten track which ended up being one of the highlights of the day.
About a decade ago they put up fences as people were stealing the stonework. Sigh.
This was so cool (pictures don’t do it justice). This stonework growing into the tree was something we just happened to spot on the periphery of the grounds.

medium lights

  • Fresh pralines. All along River Street, candy stores hand out free samples of praline. They were good, though a very big sugar high and a bit too sweet for me. It felt like an iconic food to indulge in, though, and we each bought one and ate it by the waterfront! (The kids would have lost their minds as each store had SO. MUCH. CANDY.)
  • The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. The architecture was beautiful.
  • Forsyth Park. Admittedly we didn’t explore absolutely everything in this park and it was very pretty…but mildly underwhelming. I think it is the #1 ranked destination in Savannah and I kept thinking, “We have parks as nice as this back in Canada.” Minus the Spanish moss which really is so hauntingly beautiful. I understand why it is iconic, but I was left expecting something more, somehow?
  • We stopped in at the world-famous Savannah College of Art and Design. There are a lot of different locations in the city, but we happened upon a store-front/gallery which is also part of the school campus. We love art!

low lights/UNDERWHELMING STOPS

  • We went to the Bonaventure Cemetary to see the statue made famous by the cover of Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil. And the statue wasn’t there. Whomp, whomp. Now if I had done sufficient research before the trip I would have been aware the statue has been moved to a museum (by the family whose plot contained this suddenly iconic grave marker, so this makes a lot of sense). The cemetery was huge and really quite beautiful but we didn’t stop to take a single picture. Oops. The cemetery is so large you can drive through it and we had someone behind us the whole way so it never made sense to stop. If we had planned to explore the cemetery more leisurely I think I would have really enjoyed this spot, but the air had gone out of my proverbial balloon upon learning the statue wasn’t there (which was the main point of our stop).

We did walk by the Mercer House (I haven’t read the book or watched the movie but this is a BIG tourist draw).
  • Chippewa Square. This square was made famous because it’s the location of the Forrest Gump “Life is like a box of chocolates…” scene. Except the bench built/used in the movie is now in a museum. Which was a bummer…couldn’t they at least build a replica?)
Forrest in Chippewa Square
Elisabeth in Chippewa Square (I found a bench, but should have posed in front of the memorial you can see behind Forrest)…
  • The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is closed for renovations until April 2023. Normally you can drive a 5-mile stretch and see lots of alligators (there is a part of the road officially labeled Alligator Alley). From what I’ve heard/read it is very beautiful, and there are some great hiking trails. Not being able to access this spot was a major bummer and the information online was ambiguous so we did swing by and can confirm – it IS closed/gated to the public right now.
  • The waterfront. We started our trip at Forsyth Park (nice, but underwhelming given the hype), and I was legit excited to get down to the famous waterfront. We wandered down through the city and suddenly looked up and saw an ENORMOUS container ship going right by us. We had arrived! (This makes a lot of sense; for many years Savannah was North America’s fourth-largest port for shipping container traffic!). Now the pictures of Savannah’s waterfront looked lovely (see the Unsplash header for this post by way of an example), but those views are taken from the other side of the Savannah River! I suppose if we had taken a river cruise we would have gotten to see a full view of the historic part of town, but from my viewpoint looking over to the opposite side, it was mostly just a lot of cranes, convention centres, and big hotels – a very industrial vibe, and not in a hip, trendy way.
  • Tybee Island. We went to Tybee Island to visit the lighthouse; this island is a major tourist draw and I think if we had been staying for the day and rented bikes it would have been a lot of fun. But parking was crazy and what we really wanted to do was wander around the lighthouse and read about the history of this lighthouse…but it’s all fenced off. To get on the grounds you have to pay (entry does include a climb to the top of the lighthouse, though). It would have been $12 USD each (so over $30 CAD total) to get entry and it just didn’t feel worth it. So that was disappointing. The beach was…okay. We wandered down to explore, but it didn’t have anything unusual that made it stand out to me.

A few other thoughts:

  1. If I was interested in American Civil War history, I think I would adore Savannah. History is everywhere with plaques about specific soldiers and battles which, frankly, all goes over my head.
  2. On a related note, locations celebrating Johnny Mercer (most famous for writing Moon River, but he received nineteen Oscar nominations and won four Best Original Song Oscars), Flannery O’Connor (born and lived in Savannah until she was 15), and the Mercer House (famous for Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil), would all be a lot more impressive if I was attached to these famous Savannah natives/stories. Apparently, some people base their entire trip around Mercer House tours and relevant sites. I think it’s a bit like visiting Prince Edward Island – if you’re not engaged by the Anne of Green Gables narrative, you’re going to miss out on a lot of the charm and touristy appeals.

While I’d rank Savannah as a solid B, I can see how to certain demographics/under certain conditions it would be an A+. We didn’t do a riverfront cruise, trolley car tour, visit local plantations, or rent bikes on Tybee Island. We weren’t there long enough to soak up some of the most charming elements of the area and I think the city at dusk would be stunning. So, given the parameters of our visit it was underwhelming but with oodles of caveats and still many, many highlights! Even as I’m writing this I feel like I need to go back and give it another try?!

Has anyone else ever been (or have plans to go) to Savannah? Thoughts?

Header photo by Tyler Edic on Unsplash

Casual Friday + We’re Home

There’s a lot to unpack – literally in terms of sand-filled clothing and proverbially in terms of memories – from our trip to South Carolina.

We arrived home in the wee hours this morning. It was incredible to see family and we loved soaking up every ray of delightful Carolina sunshine (though, despite best efforts and near-constant sunscreen application, everyone but Levi walked away with some iteration of a sunburn). Outside of my parents, I see family quite rarely because of geography, and COVID hasn’t helped. So it feels very, very special when we get to spend time together.

I’m old enough to realize that hello always necessitates goodbye and I’ve also learned it’s better to leave a party before you’re ready (thanks, Dot)…but still, I’m feeling pretty bummed and sad right now. I wish we were still lounging on the beach or heading to the pond for another fishing adventure instead of jumping back into the less exciting routines of life.

But that life is objectively wonderful (or so I tell myself in between reaching for my down-filled parka; the weather in Canada is…cooler). The renovations that were started while we were away progressed relatively smoothly. There are lots of fun school and work and summer sporting routines to ease back into next week.

Without further ado, a recap; it was one of those “highlight-reel” sort of weeks.

week #2 in South carolina

SATURDAY | We spent most of our day on Lake Murray. After a fun morning of wakeboarding, tubing, and swimming, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the boat while drifting in a cove. The water was warm, the sun was shining and it was just a lovely way to spend my birthday.

SUNDAY | We were up and out the door early, headed to Charleston for a two-day stay. We planned to start on the beach at Isle of Palms, but crowds were huge because of the long weekend, so we ended up reconfiguring our plans and headed right to downtown Charleston. We had a picnic lunch at the waterfront battery and then spent several hours walking around the city.

The most memorable stop for me was the John Rutledge House Inn. Years ago we found a framed sketch of this location for several dollars at one of our go-to thrift stores. We liked the aesthetic, bought it, and it has been hanging in our home ever since. So one of our main goals in Charleston was to visit the house in person.

Apparently, or so Google tells me, it is considered one of the best hotels/inns in all of Charleston. John Rutledge was a Governor of South Carolina and also signed the Constitution! The manager of The Governor’s House Inn – located across the street and previously owned by another Rutledge brother – saw us taking pictures and ended up coming outside to provide a free 15-minute synopsis of local history, especially as it pertained to the Rutledge family.

We went back to the waterfront and the kids + a cousin got soaked in the Pineapple Fountain (this was a sanctioned public spot for people to go wading).

Then we checked in to our hotel in Patriot’s Point. Abby spent a happy 30 minutes in the pool doing handstands for me to rate on a scale of 1 to 10. My sister brought all the fixings for tacos and we convened in their hotel room for a supper picnic.

I have yet to “master” the art of the selfie, but this one made me laugh because of Levi’s unintentional photo bomb.

Then we were off to the pier for fishing; Levi caught something on his last cast which was a wonderful turn of luck (in total the group caught and released 5 or 6 fish). While some of the group stayed behind to continue fishing, our family + my oldest niece walked the iconic Ravenel Bridge at sunset. It was stunning.

MONDAY | After making good use of the Continental Breakfast, we headed to the beach. We ended up skipping Isle of Palms (busy + paid parking) and ended up at Sullivan’s Island Beach instead. The kids had a wonderful time, and John told me earlier today this was the highlight of the trip for him. We found a live sea dollar, there was an alligator sighting (um, yikes), and Levi and my nephew dug a giant hole in the sand. John, Abby, two nieces and I walked to Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, the last lighthouse built in America and, at one time, the brightest lighthouse in the world.

A picnic lunch + some more fishing (John was the only one to catch something at this spot; it was high noon).

On our way back to the vehicle, we met up with a police officer who showed our group a picture of the 8-foot HAMMERHEAD SHARK he caught earlier in the day. From the beach right beside where we were fishing! Double yikes. We picked up a few souveniers and headed for home.

TUESDAY | My brother-in-law had to leave for work in Georgia, so we planned a lower-key day around Columbia. We took my nieces/nephew to Starbucks for a treat and then headed out for a very hot 18-holes of mini golf. It was a lot of fun, and a first for our kids. Mini-golf (or putt-putt as they call it in the South) had been part of our family “bucket” list for the summer, so it was great to check that off in the company of some very enthusiastic cousins. I was so, so bad (and it was so, so hot). But it was fun and that’s what counts.

Next up was a short swimming lesson in the neighbourhood pool (one of my nieces teaches swimming lessons each day, and worked with both my kiddos), followed by a movie night for the smaller kids at home while the adults + my oldest niece and her boyfriend went to see the new Top Gun movie. It was “$5-ticket-night” but the theatre had leather recliners complete with heated seats. This was actually one of the highlights of my trip; it was fun to do something adults-only and the movie was very entertaining.

WEDNESDAY | Our main focus was various stops around downtown Columbia. We visited some AirBnB properties my sister and her husband co-own (gorgeous!).

We wandered around the grounds of the State House, followed by a bit of shopping downtown (Starbucks and Mast General Store, the latter being very fun for browsing) and then a lovely but very, very hot walk down by the river. Park rangers told us there is an alligator that often hangs out on a specific sandbar along the river, but we weren’t able to spot him. We did see four deer, though.

The evening highlight was Levi catching a massive carp in the neighbourhood pond.

THURSDAY | And then it was time to leave. Not nearly as much fun as going, and what a day of travel it ended up being. We had three flights to get home and they were ALL delayed – the first one by four hours. The kids were absolute rockstars. Hardly a complaint in a nearly 24-hour day.

Levi in the Charlotte airport – he was out COLD.

Airport waiting it never fun, but we made the most of it. John and I each took solo walks instead of carting around luggage and kids. The kids spent an inordinate amount of time on moving sidewalks. Our delays meant free snacks and the kids…well let’s just say they really enjoyed the snacks.

We got upgraded to business class on our flight from Washington to Montreal which was such a fun experience for the kiddo’s (and only my second time in business class; the perks of frequent flyer status don’t match the benefits of this sabbatical, but wow are they nice). Huge kudos to John for being such a saavy traveller. I would have been in tears headed to Timbuktu by the end of the day if he hadn’t been around to take charge and coordinate things so masterfully.


And now we’re home. I have hundreds of pictures to sort through and so many great memories of our time away. I think I’ll do a few posts specific to the trip – Savannah, Charleston, Columbia and maybe a bit about some of the things we do to make travel (air or otherwise) with kids a bit easier?

But for now I’m off to do some more laundry.

Happy weekending everyone.

May Favourites

Another month, another set of favourites.

A lot of these are, admittedly, more general “life” favourites that aren’t specific to the last month. In fact, I’ve been using most of these items for years. In that case, I suppose it would be more accurate to say this is a list of enduring favourites?

cell phone cameras

Having a (high-quality) camera everywhere I go is a perpetual favourite. While it can be easy to get sucked into excess screen time, I’ve been satisfied with my overall usage lately (hovering around 45 minutes/day). And the one aspect of my smartphone use that feels overwhelmingly positive is the easy access to taking pictures to preserve memories.

nivea lip balm

Specifically, this Nivea lipbalm. I’ve tried the strawberry variety, and the SPF version, too. But this is my favourite and I use it daily.

sticky tabs

I’ll admit the horror expressed by some readers when I revealed that I regularly dog-ear book pages has led me to mostly rely on sticky tabs to mark my place. They’re great!

ARm band for running

I know there are divided opinions on this product (E Tronic Armband; I got mine off Amazon), but I really love it. It’s a zippered compression sleeve for carrying keys/a cell phone while running.

I ordered the medium but it was too tight (I’ve read this product runs small, but I also have large upper arms so I might be an outlier on their sizing chart). The company told me to keep the medium and then sent me a large which is very comfortable, yet stays in place well and I’ve been using it for several years now.

headBANDS

I have a handful of these ear coverings and wear them about 300 days a year Really! I have issues with painful inner ears (even on a sunny day in the summer it’s not uncommon for me to wear one because of wind).

These make exercise or even running to the store for errands so much more pleasant. I love that I can wear them if my hair is up, and they accommodate ponytails/buns so much better than a hat.

bottom-loading water cooler

At least once a week since we bought this appliance (2.5 years ago), someone in our family (or a guest in our home) mentions their love of our water cooler. It is sleek and tucks neatly into a corner of the dining/living room. It’s also so much easier to load since the water jugs fit in the bottom. I didn’t clean off the kid’s fingerprints before snapping this picture because #WhoHasTheTime…but it does clean up very well. In fact, I don’t have a single complaint.

EGGS

I know people are divided about eggs, but I love them. I consume eggs almost every day and consider them to be one of the most delicious and versatile foods. A perpetual “favourite” in my life.


Your turn. Anything stand out as particularly memorable or useful in May?

Header photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

I Did All the Jobs on My List. And Enjoyed Them.

I’ve already admitted that I’m no connoisseur of poetry. I like simple, accessible poems (especially Loveliest of Trees by A.E. Housman) – and for that, I have to look no further than The Orange by Wendy Cope.

Reading this poem makes me happy. And hungry.


At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.


I could give my own commentary on this poem, but why bother. It’s perfect just the way it is. I’m all about trying to find delight in ordinary things.

And no surprise on my favourite line:

I did all the jobs on my list, and enjoyed them and had some time over.

Have you heard this poem before? Anyone else think this sounds like a pretty awesome day? Sharing with friends (but not 100% equally which is okay, too!), productivity, rest.

Header photo by Dessy Dimcheva on Unsplash

Summer Break/Posting Schedule

It’s not actually summer yet, as the periodic frigid mornings are quick to remind me. But, in Canada, Monday (an observed holiday) marks the unofficial start of summer. The seasonal shops are opening, people are testing lawnmowers that have overwintered in backyard sheds, and I’ve loaded a tote with bug spray, a picnic blanket and sunscreen into the trunk of our car.

And me…well I’m going to use the onset of this pseudo-summer as an impetus to pull back from regular (as in five-days-a-week) posting. I thought of setting a MWF schedule, but summer is all about flexibility so I’m forcing myself out of my imagined comfort zone to say: “I’ll show up when I can. And I hope you stick around and continue to join me here!”

Our family has a happy mix of fun adventures and low-key home days planned for the summer and I want to savour it all. This too shall pass – the sabbatical, the kids being at this stage, the beautiful Canadian summer.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Casual Friday post and have something cued up for Monday and then…we’ll see where the sunshine takes us.

Thanks to everyone who shows up to this space and for supporting me (and the community of readers that gather here) with such practical and thoughtful comments.

Header photo by Rafael Cisneros Méndez on Unsplash

Recent Demerits (and Gold Stars)

Well. That was quite a weekend. It’s Monday and I’m ready for Friday and a good long nap. More about recent events – some fun, some funny, and some frustrating – later in the week. But, today, let’s chat about demerits and gold stars.


Listeners of Gretchen Rubin + Elizabeth Craft’s podcast Happier will be familiar with their weekly segment that involves sharing demerits and gold stars.

I’ve always enjoyed this section of the program because it seems so…relatable. But one thing has consistently frustrated/puzzled me: they always apply demerits personally and award gold stars externally. This failure to acknowledge positive momentum in their own lives is something I’ve never fully understood. In addition to being motivated to tackle “demerits” by giving them a name, I tend to learn just as much from the positive reinforcement of gold stars.

This got me thinking about recent demerits/gold stars in my own life. So, without further ado…

RECENT DEMERITS

  • Not going to the dentist. I don’t actually mind going to the dentist, but hate the bill. That alone is primarily responsible for my inertia, especially since I know most of the time there is nothing that needs to be done and a cleaning is…expensive. But it has been over a year and one of my remaining wisdom teeth has started to poke through. I need to put on my adult undies and just make an appointment. [Update: I’ve made an appointment but, whomp, whomp, couldn’t get in until June.]
  • Not snuggling with the kids for 5 minutes at night. I was on such a good roll with this habit and then…stopped. This coincided with John starting his sabbatical which meant, for the first time in years, night after night someone else was available to handle, or at least share, bedtime. But I really enjoy this special time with the kids. Want to hear one of my (ridiculous) excuses for this behaviour? I’ve been taking my watch off earlier in the evening, which means I don’t have a timer strapped to my wrist. And that 5-minute timer was a big motivator for me to carve out the space for post-bedtime snuggles (having a limit makes it feel more manageable because the kids want me to stay for approximately forever when I come to snuggle).
  • Eating too much dairy. I haven’t been eating that much dairy, but every time I succumb to a slice of cheese (I don’t even like cheese that much) or put a splash of cream in my coffee, I end up paying for it later. It seems to trigger allergy symptoms (sore/itchy throat, itchy eyes), and it’s never worth it. Sigh. Thankfully, butter doesn’t seem to have any impact, and I continue to enjoy butter on my favourite muffins daily.
  • Not drinking enough water. For YEARS I consumed huge quantities of water, but recently this has really dropped off. Some of it, I think, is the fact I’ve been trying to avoid bathroom breaks at night. I have a very large (~12oz+ of water) mug of tea early in the morning and drink several Yeti Ramblers full of water, but it’s still a lot less than I used to drink.
  • Taking so long to switch my watch band. I adore my magnetic watch band – being able to specifically dictate the fit on my wrist is wonderful. But, over time, the metal edges started to catch on my sweaters and jacket. Constantly. After living with this issue for over 6 months, I finally switched the strap (gold star?). But the left-hand cuff of my pink puffer coat will never look the same.
  • Going to bed with mascara on. I rarely do this, but then did it THREE times over the course of a week. It felt icky in the morning and it irritated my skin. I know better. Sigh.
  • Not buying new sneakers. Mine have carried me far more than the 500 recommended miles and I can tell they need to be swapped out for a new pair. But, oh, how I hate sneaker shopping. Just because I find a pair that fits in the store doesn’t mean they’ll be comfortable long-term. And there are also just too many brands and features. On a related demerit, I really should try using my orthotics again. I have a pair sitting in the closet. I never liked wearing them, but they might help relieve some of my recent discomfort. [Update: I’ve now worn my orthotics for several days; time will tell if this helps.]
  • Not getting a password manager. I really want/need to do this since I use approximately one million different sites that require unique logins (and some require regular password changes) and it’s a messy nightmare.
  • Stalled 50th-anniversary plans. My parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in August. I’ve started communications for a big photobook/memory-montage book (I put out a call for pictures/writeups from their siblings and friends), but then no one really responded and I’m, quite frankly, lacking the enthusiasm to continue (though I adore my parents and like creative projects).

GOLD STARS

  • Staying on top of clothes that need to be donated/consigned/discarded. I’ve been keeping a regular pulse on what is in everyone’s closets.
  • Photo organization. It’s not perfectly up to date, but I’ve been making an effort to categorize photos at the end of each month which expedites the photobook prep at year-end.
  • Shutting off my iPhone at night. When I catch myself falling into a scrolling pattern at night – when I can tell it won’t be productive or fun – I have been shutting down the phone completely and it still feels liberating! I’m proud of myself for sticking with this habit.
  • Cleaning up my work space at the end of the day. My office is out of the way, so leaving it cluttered and messy isn’t a big deal, but there is something so refreshing about showing up each morning to an organized space. I turn off my computer, put the pens and highlighters back into their holder, push my chair in under my desk; a minute of tidying provides a wonderfully clean slate for the next work day.
  • Using Magic Bags – a lot. I know I’ve talked about this topic more than one would think possible, but my love/gratitude for Magic Bags is unending. It is a nuisance to wait the 4 minutes and 30 seconds required to heat up my two favourite bags, so I often skipped this step until bedtime. But lately, I’ve been doing it 4-5 times a day, especially while working at my desk. One goes at my feet, another into my lap and it makes life so much more pleasant (I still use the space heater, too, but having something warm touching my body is such a help) when I’m warm.
  • Having a good attitude (90% of the time) for our Family Chopped Competition. More details on this Thursday, but over the weekend we divided into teams (John + Abby; Elisabeth + Levi) and cooked an elaborate 3-course meal for friends based on secret ingredients they selected. It’s a daunting prospect for me (cooking with the kids, three courses), but it ended up being a lot of fun.
  • Writing in my One Line a Day journal. I have loved doing this every evening before bed. I’ve forgotten a handful of times but just caught up the following day.
  • Making space for adventure. I spend a lot of time tired, but I’ve also learned that “I can be exhausted, or I can be exhausted with memories.” (And, thankfully, my energy levels have been better lately!) I’ve been carving out lots of time for rest/restoration, and then also trying to show up with a positive attitude for things like our trip to PEI. While John does much of the planning, it takes a lot of mental effort for me to be upbeat, especially if I’m worn down physically. So, gold star to me!

Your turn. Any demerits or gold stars you’re wanting to share this fine Monday?

Header photo by Crystal de Passillé-Chabot on Unsplash

A Health Update Circa May 2022

People have been so kind with their inquiries about my health and I thought it was time for a little update.

Things are (mostly) good.

It does feel a bit daunting to put this in writing because I occasionally succumb to thoughts like: “What happens if/when everything starts to fall apart?”

But that’s no way to live – so I’m acknowledging the presence of those thoughts before slipping them into my back pocket. I carry them around with me, admittedly, but I’m mostly able to keep my hands free to get on with enjoying life.


For new readers to this space, TMI alert: I have extremely heavy periods. I’ve had this issue since I was 12, but the fallout has been most acute in the last decade or so. Near-constant fatigue and anemia which culminated in iron infusions last year. I joke (though it’s not funny) that I average about one “good” week a month. I have at least a week of PMS symptoms, then a week of hellish period-life, and then a week to recover physically. In addition to impacts on my energy, it takes a mental toll as well.

Over the last few months, my mental health has improved significantly, my energy levels have nudged higher, and my sleep is…better (definitely still working on this issue, though).

I still tire easily, have to watch physical activity levels, and just generally pay close attention to my body. But I’m (mostly – this week has been especially tough, ironically) feeling a lot better.

things that are helping right now

  1. John’s sabbatical. I recognize the immense privilege of being able to make this decision. But I also can’t deny the positive impact it has had on both my physical and mental health. I’m getting better sleep, I’m eating more healthfully, the division of labour has shifted considerably, and everyone is more relaxed. In short – it has been wonderful. It’s impossible to know if some of the other changes listed below would have had as much of an impact without this unprecedented level of flexibility/rest for our family. Despite my diagnosed physical challenges, I think the exhaustion of being immersed in start-up culture for so long played a big part in my burnout.
  2. Making a decision about surgery. I don’t think I realized how much this was weighing on me. Some back story: my former OB/GYN was in favour of a hysterectomy (she moved), my family doctor has always been hesitant, and my new OB/GYN also discouraged this approach. Because of major scar tissue from my C-sections, the risks associated with a hysterectomy are higher for me. It also rules out the more obvious option of an ablation (which, regardless of scarring, doesn’t work well because I’m so young, and the procedure would need to be repeated before I reach menopause). Surgery has been on the table for years now, and it’s confusing when medical professionals you respect don’t necessarily find consensus. Having finally made the decision to go ahead with surgery (now I wait – it could take two years) feels like a major burden lifted.
  3. Trying/going off an SSRI. The end of 2021 was brutal. In December, I asked to try an anti-anxiety medication. I have always managed low mood/anxiety with various forms of behavioural/talk therapy. But starting in November, I was averaging 3-4 hours sleep each night and it was not sustainable. Unfortunately, the SSRI didn’t work well for me. I had panic attacks, lost 10 pounds in the span of several weeks, and felt sick around the clock. I am, however, so glad I tried this approach. Everything I try that doesn’t work takes one possible treatment off my radar which, for someone who can be paralyzed by choice, is very helpful. It was/is so hard to tease apart what is physical and what is mental. I consider these medications to be wonderful assets (and recognize, at another time, I might opt to try a different medication), but it wasn’t the right fit for me, which ended up being helpful in its own way.
  4. Going off hormone treatments – for good. I have been off and on hormone treatments (in a BROAD range of doses and applications) since I was 14. Yes, you read that correctly. 14. Not a single treatment has worked properly. If it fixed one problem, it created three more. Again, I love my team of doctors, but I eventually had to go with what my body was telling me and it was telling me…stop. So I stopped. Mid-treatment! What works for others isn’t necessarily going to work for me. And to get to the point where I say yes to the surgery and no to any other intervention feels liberating.
  5. CBD oil. I’m not sure how much impact the CBD oil is having, as I started using it at the same time all the other things were falling into place (#’s 1-4). I haven’t had a single side effect (CBD oil has essentially no THC) and I think it has helped – in subtle ways – with anxiety, sleep issues, energy levels, and overall physical discomfort.
  6. Removing a large work project from my portfolio. I tend to overlook this final development, but for the last five years I have been in charge of a project that required intermittent – but completely unpredictable – work. There was an underlying tension that I felt at all times, 24/7/365 about this project. It was an unreasonable response given the sheer amount of time I invested was quite low, but it’s the response I had nonetheless. Finally moving this off my plate has also undoubtedly played a role in my improvement.

So there you have it.

This week has been tough as I wade through the physical fallout from an especially awful period. But with so many big decisions made, it still feels like I’m moving in the right direction.

A huge thanks to everyone for the love, support, and inquiries about my health both in this space and from friends locally. It really does mean so much to me!

Header photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash