The gift of time

Snow day. Two words that come together so beautifully.

Last night, a lot of snow angrily swirled its way to the ground. This morning, I got a call at 6:30 a.m. saying our offices were closed because snowploughs couldn’t clear parking lots fast enough. Magic.

After lingering in bed over a book, I cleaned house, washed clothes, and ran errands. I put the crockpot on at noon, ordered Christmas gifts (fa la la la la!) and picked up the mail. It felt marvellously unhurried, yet efficient.

Part of me loved Toronto’s mild winters – I wore wellies through January 2013 – but in my six years of working there, there were only three total snow days. Yes, I counted.

As JF and I learned last year, winters in Simcoe County are cold and long. The shovelling gets tiresome. But our snowstorms deliver whole days where I do exactly what I want to do. And every time it happens, I’m so grateful for the gift of time.

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Early in the morning

Every career blog ever (and Wikipedia) has claimed early risers are more successful. These paragons of healthy living levitate out of bed, meditate for an hour, eat chia seeds, cure cancer, wash behind their ears, iron their shirts and still make it to work an hour early.

I must be doomed to failure because for as long as I can remember my morning “routine” has consisted of 33 hits on the snooze button, five-second showers, and yanking on mismatched clothes on my way out the door.

In Toronto, I would then run to the TTC, sweatily wiggle my way into a packed train, then hold an unnaturally stretched pose for an hour while someone’s muffled (and usually horrid) music rang in my ears. An evil cosmic law ensured I always got stuck standing next to unsanitary sneezers, large backpack wearers and loud talkers.

These days, my mornings continue thus: after running out the door, I hop into Tobias, drive on empty roads through lovely scenery for 25 minutes, park, walk 40 steps to my desk and start work.

This is probably the least talked about, but most life-altering perk to residing outside the GTA. The best parts of my traffic-free, insular and incident-free commute are:

  • Cranking my music
  • Singing harmony as loud as I can
  • Listening to Vague FM
  • Driving by the Elmvale Zoo and saluting the zebras
  • Taking my foot off the gas on the Horseshoe Valley hill
  • Admiring fields and trees – especially as they turn crimson
  • Planning my day
  • Making mental grocery lists

I’m still perpetually late. I’m still decidedly not zen. I will never be Benjamin Franklin. But I can honestly say the whole thing has made me a better employee and colleague. Thanks, low population density!

There are few photos of my commute because I'm, well, driving. But here's one of the zoo from a time when JF chauffeured me. Can you see the zebras?

There are few photos of my commute because I’m, well, driving. But here’s one of the zoo from a time when JF chauffeured me. Can you see the zebras?

‘Tis autumn

Fall is my favourite season by about sixty miles. I can see why summer-lovers adore our sunnier months, but to me they just can’t compete with rainbow-coloured forests, Blundstone-friendly temperatures, and hot apple cider.

This is my favourite sweater in the universe. It makes me look like a big burnt marshmallow, but it's delightfully warm and cozy.

This is my favourite sweater in the universe. It makes me look like a big burnt marshmallow, but it’s delightfully warm and cozy.

That weird and instantly recognizable autumn smell — like burning cedar or decaying leaves — was in the air this morning. This afternoon, I walked through a store filled with bright, plastic-wrapped binders and colourful crayons. I just pulled my favourite sweaters out of storage. Those things shouldn’t make me happy, but they just do.

I’ve been thinking about why and I suspect it’s because when I was little, September was the only month I got new shoes. Maman, Alicia and I would go to Naturestep at the Midland Mall and try every pair that might fit our feet. It was wonderful. Should I mentally accord so much importance to something so material? Probably not. But I honoured that tradition today anway and picked up some woolly flats.

New woolly grey shoes.

New woolly grey shoes.

As I sit at the edge of this season of renewal (on my couch, of course), I’m pondering where JF and I have been and where we’re going. Two things make this fall different from falls past.

One: we’re good and settled. I’ll take part in October’s Elmvale Fall Fair all weekend long, like a true local. I’m looking forward to buying mums from Ritchies. I even painted my front door a pretty blue that should go beautifully with pumpkins from Rounds Ranch.

Pretty blue door, complete with owly door knocker.

Pretty blue door, complete with owly door knocker.

Two: I’m gleefully employed in education. Last Tuesday, Georgian’s halls were filled with lost 18-year-olds in their best togs. There’s a happy sort of buzz on campus that reminds me of that time Anne said to Marilla “isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Autumn means small, every day excitements — my favourite kind. I’ve no doubt I’ll be cursing this season when I’m dragging a rake over my dying lawn. But for now, I’ll just flip through the scarf-filled catalogs they keep stuffing in my mailbox and enjoy it.

 

The end of uncertainty

Tonight, JF and I are quietly celebrating. I’ve just officially accepted a full-time, permanent position with a great employer. My heart is full to the top with happiness.

I’ve been at Georgian on contract for 11 months and I know it’s exactly where I want to be. My new role there comes with colleagues I love, and projects I’m excited to tackle.

I haven’t felt this kind of peace of mind in over a year. It feels kinda soft and glowy — so (for this evening, at least) I’m just going to bask. We’ve made dinner, washed dishes, and now we’re letting our brains settle into some tranquil TV zombie time. Perfect.

Thanks to the many friends who sent me job postings, mentors who coached me through, and family members who propped me up. I raise my mug of sleepytime tea in thanks to them all.

The end of funemployment

The good news is, I’ve just accepted an exciting contract position with the communications team at Georgian College — one of the best employers in Simcoe County. Thank all of the harp-toting angels in heaven because I will soon be earning my keep.

The bad news is, my adventures in funemployment are coming to an end. On August 26, I will bid farewell to leisurely Mondays, sweatpant Tuesdays, romance-novel Wednesdays, quiet Thursdays, and going-out-for-a-stroll Fridays. I’m really going to miss them all.

Me a few weeks ago, carefree and funemployed

Tobias and I a few weeks ago, carefree and funemployed

But to those friends who poked fun at my funemployment activities, I’d like to say my hours weren’t all spent eating ice cream while watching TV and scanning eBay. Many were, but not all.

While funemployed, I went to Wonderland on a Thursday with friends.

While funemployed, I went to Wonderland on a Thursday with friends.

Finding a job is really tough. Mostly on your brain and confidence. That self-inflicted pressure to find work is omnipresent. I woke up and went to sleep thinking about jobs. Every day, I either put together an application, prepared for an interview, or met a nice new contact — apparently Simcoe County is full of lovely people.

I also learned a lot about unemployment and job hunting these last 2.5 months:

  • Listen to everyone but your own brain. Try to enjoy your time off.
  • Don’t be shy about telling people you’re looking for work. You’d be surprised who will help you.
  • You don’t have to take the first job that’s offered to you, even if every practical part of you says you should.
  • Don’t apply for jobs you don’t want. You will end up getting them, debating madly with yourself, and then painfully turning them down.
  • Try not to let the process get you down. You will apply for jobs you think you’re perfect for and never hear back. You will also interview for jobs you want and won’t get. That’s okay.
  • Have faith that the right role will come.
  • Have faith in yourself.

Well, I’m off to enjoy a gourmet vegetarian dinner prepared by my mother. And red wine, of course. It’s time to celebrate.

Exercising Judgment

Long, long ago (about a month), my friend Michelle and I were going to morning gym classes twice a week. I would wake up at 5:30 a.m., be out the door by 5:50 a.m. and squeak into Body Pump for 6:30 a.m. — where Michelle, bless her, had already set up my weights and yoga mat.

After sweating, squatting, jumping, lifting and crunching for about an hour, I always felt fist-pumpingly triumphant. And towards the end of my gym career, I was looking trimmer and sleeping better.

 

Well, my GoodLife membership expired on June 20, and my body knows it. Just call me Jiggly Lefaive. So far the most strenuous exercise I’ve done since then is raise my remote control arm to change the channel. I’ve also undertaken such strenuous activities as walking to bakeries and lifting food to my mouth.

I’ve never exactly been a paragon of good health. I enjoy BBQ-flavoured chips, cookies and red wine. And even though I should be eating gluten free, most of my meals consist of something carby with cheese on top.

But here’s the thing. That’s not how I plan to live the rest of my life. A big part of what attracts us to country living is that we can stop at a neighbour’s place to buy fresh eggs and whatever veggies are in season. That and the non-availability of our two current dietary mainstays: C’est Bon Chinese Restaurant and Bhanjara Indian food.

We also love that there are dozens of reasons to be active outside. Simcoe County offers long trails for biking and amazing beaches for swimming. Wherever our house is, we’ll have access to two marshes, a Provincial Park and several forests.

JF and I like to go to Tiny Marsh, just north of Elmvale

JF and I like to use the trails at Tiny Marsh, north of Elmvale

So now that I am settled into my room at mom’s (five days and counting!) it’s time to get my shit together. My budget doesn’t want me to spend $50 monthly on a gym membership, so I’m going to do my best to use what Simcoe County has to offer to feel healthy again. Or my name will quickly devolve from Jiggly Lefaive to Flabby Lefaive.

Silver Linings

Still no house. And we’ve now officially eliminated Midland from our list of possible towns to buy in.

In other real estate news, there are no houses in Elmvale — the one location we agree on — that we both love. Ugh.

But even as JF and I continue to plod through real estate hell (at least we’re in it together!) there remains much to be grateful for. Unemployment has its perks:

  • Sitting comfortably on a TTC train, travelling opposite the rush hour crush
  • Reading a whole book in one day
  • Playing the piano loudly in the afternoon without worrying about neighbours
  • Staying in on rainy days to watch movies
  • Going out on sunny days to explore
  • Listening to CBC radio in the middle of the afternoon
  • Doing groceries at off peak hours
  • Wearing jeans or sweatpants every single day
  • Forgetting what day of the week it is

And that’s just the list I compiled these last two weeks. I feel like I’ve more everyday pleasures to discover.

 

I also have a list of things I would like to do this summer, assuming I don’t find work:

This is me at the 9th concession beach two years ago. I hope to do a lot of this next month.

This is me at the 9th concession beach two years ago. I hope to do a lot of this next month.

Much as I want an income, miss my old colleagues and crave routine, this whole no job thing isn’t so bad. You should try it sometime.