Tailspin

My life in Toronto was hectic. Between my beautiful friends, my busy job, and my volunteer adventures I was lucky if JF and I spent even two hours a week together on the couch. Weekends were filled with late nights that contributed to my sleep deficit with regularity.

The constant frenzy was part of why I moved. I thought maybe the city, with its americanos and office towers, was the root of the problem. I remembered – and yearned for – the slow and easy pace of my youth in Perkinsfield.

Toronto skyline from the ferry

Okay Toronto, I guess it really wasn’t you, it was me.

For awhile there, it looked it really had all been Toronto’s fault. Minus a month or two of frantic spackling and painting, I spent our early days in Simcoe County reveling in the luxury of an relatively empty calendar. “Aha!” I thought to myself as I watched home decorating shows, “country life IS slower!”

Then I joined a committee or two. Started singing in a choir. Signed up to help with Georgian’s variety show. Made new and awesome local friends. Took on some big projects at work. Began planning my wedding. Got a dog.

You get the picture. We’re back to the old non-routine. My weekends are booked into October. I’m rarely home, and when I’m in Elmvale I’m either:

  1. walking my dog
  2. cleaning stuff (because it’s usually been awhile)
  3. sitting at my laptop volunteering/blogging
  4. sleeping

Oh how I long for uninterrupted couch zombie time!

JF – the master of taking as much time as he needs – has always said that I made myself this way. That I choose to live in a tailspin. That I can opt out any time. That this probably isn’t healthy.

Why is he always right?

Why is he always right?

It’s time for me to admit that he’s right. My life, as it is, isn’t sustainable. I must slow down. I must choose to do less. I must learn to say no.

Confession: balance has eluded me since I was about 16 years old. For years, my M.O. has been run run yay run run busy run run run ok run CRASH OW BURN… cough… sputter…splat. And lately, the splats have been deeper and heavier.

I’d say I’m in a solid sputter phase right now. All my brain and body seem to want is sleep, snuggles and Star Trek – life’s trifecta of laziness. I’m functioning, but I’m exhausted. I can’t even be bothered to edit this unfiltered blog post. Looking down at my life from above, it’s pretty great. I know that. But when I’m like this, everything feels like a burden.

This is the face of a tired and whiny woman

This is the face of a tired and whiny woman

So friends, don’t be surprised if I can’t come to that volunteer meeting. Can’t hang out this weekend. Can’t commit to that cool project. It’s not because I don’t love you – I do! – it’s because I’m trying remember the grouch anthem, right this tubby old sinking ship, and bail myself out… again.

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30 gifts

Last January, in my usual post-holiday melancholy, I wrote a list of 29 gifts offered by the year 2013 – one for each birthday gone by. It was like sunshine on my face after days of cold and dark.

Sunshine on our faces.

Sunshine on our faces.

This January felt entirely different. After happily bouncing around Europe for a few weeks, I came home rested and excited about my engagement.

Now I’m settling into the usual winter doldrums. Brushing my car off every morning is killing my soul. My face hurts when I walk my (lovely and adorable) dog at 6:30 a.m. I’m dying of a vitamin D deficiency. Yadda yadda yadda.

This is us trying to embrace winter.

This is us trying to embrace winter.

So here it is, my cure for the murky, miserable winter blues.

In 2014 I…

  1. Played my first round of real Penetang bingo.
  2. Took on a new volunteer role with le Festival du Loup.
  3. Travelled to England to see dad and Nora get hitched.
  4. Survived the worst winter ever – barely.
  5. Bought a snowblower. We’ve christened it blowy.
  6. Tried and loved stand up paddleboarding.
  7. Hosted a few good shindigs.
  8. Met real witches in Salem on Halloween.
  9. Drywalled the kitchen ceiling and painted the attic.
  10. Sang and played in public – a bunch!
  11. Celebrated New Year’s Eve in Paris.
  12. Explored every high tea joint in Toronto, eating tiny sandwiches at every one.
  13. Started going to the gym again – kind of.
  14. Toasted my sister and her perfect partner at their wedding. 
  15. Became flexitarian.
  16. Checked out the Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival.
  17. Made the local papers a few times.
  18. Baked cookies with cousins.
  19. Kindled my passion for municipal politics by volunteering.
  20. Deepened my love of boardgames. For our wedding, we might register for Ubongo, Munchkin and Dominion.
  21. Celebrated a whole year of blogging.
  22. Was offered a fantastic permanent job.
  23. Kind of figured out the gardening thing – kind of.
  24. Got into the Elmvale groove.
  25. Went on another wine-fuelled trip with the Humber gals.
  26. Played my first round of golf and didn’t totally suck.
  27. Joined our local francophone community choir.
  28. Celebrated nine years with the world’s handsomest Franco-Ontarian.
  29. Dropped my 15-year Wal-Mart boycott and took vavo shopping.
  30. Got to know every inch of Tiny Marsh.
Maybe winter isn't so bad after all!

Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all!

Much love to all the beautiful people who made 2014 great. May you all enjoy 2015 as much as I think I will.

Letting my heart be light

I’m an optimist – and generally a pretty positive person – but the gloom of early winter gets to me. Sometimes the dark and cold sneak their way into my brain and leave me feeling totally zapped. Those days, I feel like I could just melt into the upholstery of my sofa.

That’s part of why I love Christmas so much. It’s a big, tinsel-covered excuse for celebration in the middle of the crummiest season. It cures most of my ailments:

  • Getting poor? Put what you need on your Christmas list!
  • Need a drink? Cure the doldrums with mulled wine!
  • Working too hard? Don’t worry, vacation is coming!
  • Want chocolate? Have one of ten billion holiday cookies on your counter!
  • Feeling glum? Try singing Deck the Halls five times!
  • Dark out? Switch on the Christmas lights!

But it’s not just the gifts, treats, and warm spiced beverages. Christmas lifts me up because of the way people come together. Friends clink glasses, couples watch old movies, families play board games, and organizations work to help their communities. Here are some examples from my life these past few weeks:

Work has felt particularly Christmassy this year. Every department at Georgian is doing something to make a difference. There are coat collections, mitten trees, toy drives, and silent auctions at every corner.

Last week, a dear co-worker met a student in the hallway who was bawling because some inconsiderate movers had bailed on her. She was out of money and short on friends. My boss rallied some of my (bigger, stronger, healthier) colleagues and a few hours of heavy lifting later, the student was settled into her new apartment. It was kindness as its simplest and best.

So as December chugs along, I’m resolving to be kind too. To myself, JF, those I love, the people I meet, and my community as a whole. It’s my cure for slush, wind and ice.

‘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.

 

Scrumptious summer

I’ve come to accept – almost enjoy – my hectic pace of life. I work hard, visit with many beautiful people, volunteer a lot, keep a cleanish house, maintain a decentish garden and try (rather unsuccessfully) to squeeze in time for JF, writing, exercise, reading and music in between.

Still, there’s something about summer that forces even the busiest of bees to slow down. I swear every time I hear the hum of a cicada or the whirring of a lawnmower, my shoulder muscles relax subtly. Here are some highlights from the last few warm and wonderful weeks.

Festival du Loup

After months of hard work, the Festival du Loup committee (of which I am a lucky member) enjoyed a successful few days of great Franco-Ontarian music, local food, and cool artisans.

More cheap stuff

In my latest garage sale haul, I picked up an original piece by local painter Ila Kellerman as well as an ancient croquignole board.

Garage sale treasures

Garage sale treasures

A little romance

When my calendar is filling up, the first item on the chopping block is usually date night with JF. But lately, I’ve been making and enjoying a lot more time for us. Here’s a shot from our visit to Penetang’s “World Famous” Dock Lunch.

Me, stuffing my face as I always do on date night

Me, stuffing my face as I always do on date night

Omazing Ontario

We’ve also hung out on Tiny’s Beaches, visited Awenda Park with our dear friend Pascal, and eaten a lot of fresh local produce. My avo’s garden is dripping with beans and it makes me such a happy camper.

La belle famille

But my favourite event was Thursday, when dear friends and family surprised me with a patio party to celebrate my “new” job. I was so touched, and so delighted to see everyone. Thanks guys!

Some of my favourite people

Some of my favourite people

My house may be a little dirtier, but at this moment I’m feeling refreshed and relaxed. And for that reason, I say long live summer.

Bog love

JF is enjoying summer solstice (i.e. drinking beer) in the beautiful Yukon this weekend and I’m sappy enough to admit I miss him terribly. So I thought I’d devote some cyberspace to a place we both love: Tiny Marsh.

We’ve been together nine years and marsh-goers for about six. It’s our favourite place for phone-free, brains-off time together. When we lived in Toronto, we’d often stop there to catch our breaths before wading into cottage-country traffic. These days, we visit it every two weeks or so.

Us at the marsh in 2009

Us at the marsh in 2009

Why do we love this patch of bog so much? Lots of reasons:

  1. Groomed trails
  2. No entry fee
  3. Minutes from home
  4. Fresh air – except in spring, when it reeks of hydrogen sulfide
  5. Many birds live there, some rare
  6. It’s beautiful

Though items one to four are handy, five and six are essential to any JF and Mik-friendly space.

You see, JF is a birder.  Not a birdwatcher, a birder. Because apparently, there’s a difference. For years, he’s trudged through forest, field and swamp to hear or see as wide a variety of species as he can – like a real-life Ash from Pokémon.

Personally, I think the whole thing is sweet and nerdy, just like him.  There are only two challenges with his hobby:

  • He doesn’t like to hike where he can’t add new birds to his annual “gotta see or hear ‘em all” list.
  • I find crouching over spotting scopes, peering through binoculars, and flipping through Sibley’s about as exciting as scrubbing my baseboards

Much as I aspire to JF’s level of nerddom, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m more like these two: 

Which is why the marsh’s prettiness is important. It’s filled with lovely things for me to admire and take photos of. There are shady woods, sunny fields and big wide vistas. We’re still finding new nooks and crannies.

Through the years, we’ve shared our love of Tiny Marsh with friends and family. Here are a few photos of people who have explored it with me.

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When JF gets back, I think I’ll request a boggy picnic. In the meantime, I might take a sentimental stroll down the dikes by myself.

Busy nothings

Life in sleepy Elmvale is ticking along quietly. The garden is now only 80% weeds. Slowly, slowly we are making progress on house projects. Barbecued broccoli is my new favourite food. And there are orange popsicles in the freezer.

IMG_3895

The beautiful thing about summertime is that there isn’t anything big and exciting to report. Instead, life is a series of non-events. Here are some recent ones:

Toby turned 100,000 kilometres

Can you believe my little Honda Fit, Tobias, has aged 40,000kms since I got him? I hardly know where the time and distance have gone. JF gifted him to me about this time last year, and my life has been infinitely more mobile since.

Tobias' widgets the other day.

Tobias’ widgets the other day.

I exercised a few times

Confession: my January health revolution never happened. Instead, I gained a remarkable 10 pounds over the winter. So, I’ve given up on self-guided fitness regimes, joined shame-inducing Zumba classes at No Borders Fitness, and started briskly walking with colleagues at lunch. I also do weekly lifts, squats and planks at Swift Fitness, the most sophisticated garage gym I’ve ever seen. And I hate burpees.

My choir put on a show

Le Choeur de la Clé, the francophone community choir I belong to, put on a love-themed concert late May. It was great fun. I even performed in a trio with my lovely cousin Nicole and dear old friend Joël.

My view, every Tuesday night during choir practice

My view, every Tuesday night during choir practice

JF and I went garage sale-ing

As you all know, there is nothing I love more than old or dead people’s cheap stuff — except maybe barbecued broccoli. Toronto garage sales are expensive and infrequent. Their Elmvale counterparts are far more fun and plentiful. Plus they often come with ¢25 cookies baked by little old ladies. My favourite find was the scarred wooden duck/target I purchased for a steep $2. I called him Ferdinand, and he lives on my front porch.

In the words of Fanny Price (movie edition), “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”